Thursday, April 30, 2020

Finding Peace in the Middle of the Coronavirus Storm ~ Guest Post by Ana Maria Blevins

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
Psalm 46:1


We ended up in the ICU with one of our children during the Coronavirus lock down. The week before, I had been having rapid heartbeat and chest pain as the spread of corona virus disease and failing economies were becoming a daily reality.  

I knew God was in control and hard times would come, and that even at the end of the world, Jesus Christ said there would be calamities. But facing a worldwide pandemic and the response that has isolated everyone in their home and brought nations’ economies down to their knees was overwhelming and felt kind of like a sucker punch. If I, a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Bible, and the God who has all power and authority have been shaken, I can only imagine how those who have no connection to eternity are feeling.

In the midst of this wave of ominous fear and uncertainty, we went into the epicenter—the center of healing—the hospital. We were assumed positive of the Covid-19 virus until negative test results could be obtained, and we were quarantined in an ICU unit that had negative pressure. The air we used was removed from the building as if we had something very dangerous and very contagious. 

Our guide on this journey into the epicenter was a most considerate, diplomatic, and professional nurse, named Phillip. He guided us into using the very stringent protocols, understanding our roles in health safety and recognizing our rights, as well. He was seasoned and extremely knowledgeable, and yet, very gentle. So, did God put an angel named Philip there for our child and for me? Surely He did! 

We could not leave the room, except once to get my medicine from my car in the parking garage. We had to observe the strictest measures. I had to stay donned, with the gown, mask, and eventually a face shield and gloves. If I pulled a curtain around my child and I was outside of the curtain, then I could take off my personal protective equipment, (PPE). 

We tried to visualize that my child was disseminating viruses, or more helpfully, “glitter.” The glitter was all over her, and we had to not allow the glitter to get on me or the staff. I could only take off my mask to eat and drink. If I wanted to talk to the staff, I would signal to them through the glass wall, and they would slide the door open. I had to stand on a certain square to assure that I was six feet away from the opening. Someone had to observe me when I left the room as I followed explicit guidelines on doffing or removing my PPE. The bathroom held the room’s cleaning supplies, which weren’t allowed to leave that ICU room. The last day we were there the guidelines had become even stricter, and we tried to keep up with the changes.

So, Phillip guided us as we experienced what it was like to be considered dangerously contagious. We got to see firsthand how somebody feels who has a microbe that can imperil the people around them. We also got to see how well-staffed the hospital personnel were, how caring, and how responsive. We were thrilled to learn that our hospital had developed its own Covid-19 test, and our child was a grateful recipient. 

Many hospitals are developing their own tests, so our Arts and Technology nonprofit rejoices in this initiative and success! Our test results came back negative right before surgery, so we were allowed to step down from the world of high alert pandemic protocols to the everyday protocols with our garden-variety microbes. What a relief. Our doctors and nurses were amazingly reassuring and comforting. God took us into the center of the storm, and we were so blessed to feel His presence and to see Him moving through other caring and dedicated professionals who have studied and trained to care for people. 

Coming home after the hospitalization of our child, I no longer had chest pain nor a rapid heartbeat. I can empathize with so many people who have been completely rattled and are having to face our mortality, from which our modern world has been removed in many ways. In spite of the invisible ban or spirit of the age that has directed people not to take faith seriously and not to consider eternity, the spiritual climate has really changed. 

Uncertainty rules, and this storm is revealing how strong of a foundation our individual houses, our lives, are built on. Praying that we will build our house on the rock, the rock of Christ and faith in God, the God of the Bible. And if we have built our house on a shifting foundation, that we will get up and move and relocate very quickly and build a new house on the solid rock, Jesus Christ! He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is Love, and He never changes. 

Ask Him to come live in your heart today!


Bio:  Ana Maria Salinas Blevins is the wife and teammate of Lyle Blevins. They have six other teammates whom they birthed and who make up their FamDream Team.
Lyle and Ana Maria enjoy faith, the Arts and Technology, and love to see hearts touched and transformed by God’s love. They have home-educated for 30 years, teaching Spanish, Robotics, and Music. They like to encourage parents who are in the middle of the journey with the vision of "Empowering tomorrow's professionals in a faith-based arts and technology community."  Families can do amazing things!


I am so thankful my dear, sweet friend, Ana Maria, shared her heart with us here.  She and I have been friends for years and served together as prayer action leaders for Concerned Women for America.  Her heart for God is precious, and she will forever be dear to my heart.


Holding Nothing Back ~ Ryan Stevenson

Ana Maria's testimony gave us a glimpse into what it is like for those who are hospitalized during this fearful time.  Let's keep praying for all who are being affected by the pandemic.  I must say, I am not so sure it is a good idea to open things up quite yet, but who am I to say?  GOD is ultimately in control of all of our lives, and the best thing we can do is put our lives totally in His hands and trust Him with all our hearts.  Keep looking up!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Jesus is Praying for You

"It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
Romans 8:34

Photo Source

As Zach was working on his Bible College coursework the other night, he said, "Mama, I have to send this to you."  Soon an email appeared in my laptop inbox, and this is what the subject line said.

"What is Jesus Doing at the Father's Right Hand?"

I clicked it open to read this—

"To make high priestly prayers for us.

Many believers feel the apostle Paul was the greatest and most spiritual Christian who ever lived. Certainly, he was a powerful and effective prayer warrior. When Paul talked with God, prisons were shaken, doors were opened, chains were loosed, and people were saved (Acts 16:25-34)! With all this in mind let us suppose that in the midst of your darkest hour of pain and grief the phone rings and the apostle Paul is on the other side of the line.

“Fellow Christian,” he begins, “I just wanted you to know I am very much aware concerning your terrible sufferings, and therefore plan to spend the next 24 hours on my knees crying out in prayer just for you!”

What an incredible reassurance and comfort that would be! Think of it—the great apostle Paul, writer of half the New Testament, is praying for you! But wait! Amidst your tears and travail you now hear another voice.

“My dear child, you need to know I am fully acquainted with all your sad grief and despair. Therefore, I plan to do today that which I have previously done since the time of your salvation and will continue to do as long as you live, and that is to spend every single second of every single minute of every single hour of every single day at my Father’s right hand, praying for you'."

Would not this serve as a blessed balm to soothe one’s wounded soul? Would it not heal the raw hurt of the human heart? Indeed it would and should, for this is exactly what the Savior is doing at this very moment for each believer reading these words (Rom 8:34; Heb 9:25)."

What a comfort it is to know Jesus is praying unceasingly for us even as we pray to the Father in His name!  What would we do without Him in these troubled times?  To whom would we turn?  He is surely our only hope.

Speaking of prayer, today I feel I need Him even more, as it marks the 8th anniversary of my dear Mom's homegoing to Heaven.  Oh, how I miss her and Dad!  Especially, during times like these.  I miss their prayers more than I could ever put into words.  I miss being able to call them and pour out my heart.  I miss Mom calling me and saying, "Cheryl, the Lord gave me a Scripture for you, honey."  OH, dear Lord!  How does one ever stop missing a Mom and Dad such as mine?  June 5th will mark 20 years since my dear Dad went to Heaven.  I can't believe they have been gone for so long.  Passing time only makes me miss them more.


I often wonder what on earth they would think if they could see what is going on in our world and how things have changed since they left here.  I don't think they would be able to believe how far morals have slipped and how ungodly things have become.  They would be appalled to think of the pandemic and all that is going on.  This is one of the few times, I am GLAD they are already safe in Jesus' arms forever, nevermore to be threatened by a virus or any other of the evil in this world.  It comforts me to know they are safe forevermore.

As I thought of what Zach shared with me and Jesus interceding for us, my mind went to an old song Mom, Dad, and I used to often sing together.  I went through our crate of cassette tapes and, praise the Lord, I found it.  Oh, my goodness.  You can imagine how the tears flowed when I put it in our cassette player and hit the play button!  Dad was on there laughing, he and Mom were going back and forth about who would sing lead and who would sing tenor —they ended up deciding Dad would lead, Mom would sing alto, and I would sing high tenor.  Oh, the memories that flooded over me!  I could hardly bear it for a little while.  Then I got the nerve to play it through and record it on to my laptop.  I apologize that the sound quality is very poor and glitchy, but I thought I would go ahead and share it anyway.  I hope you enjoy it.



As I miss them, the precious Holy Spirit comforts me with words like these,
"As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you."  Isaiah 66:13
"When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take care of me."  Psalm 27:10
"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."  Deuteronomy 33:27

Happy 8th Anniversary in Heaven, dear, sweet Mom.
You will never know how much I miss you and Dad!

I trust all of you readers are staying safe and healthy continually.
"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost."
Romans 15:13

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Calmly Trusting Our Shepherd ~ Guest Post by Laura Lane

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. 
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
John 14:27


Dear friends,

 They are all looking at you—looking at me. They're watching to see what we do, what we say, whether we are stressed, or whether we are peaceful. Many people are watching to see if this Jesus thing is real to us. Family, friends, strangers, co-workers are all watching. So, is this Jesus thing real to you?

 When you face a crisis of any kind, first words matter. Are your words of hope? Of fear? Of thankfulness and praise to God? Of despair? Only you can control what comes out first and what comes out most often. Others will use your reaction to judge Christianity and God. Make sure that your first words and all words are life, hope, peace, and joy.  When we are pressed, we are not crushed. We have a father God who loves us and provides what we need and heals us. Do we believe that?  I do. 

  I am an older woman. I've had years of experience with hard times both financial and health challenges. That's an advantage I have over many who are facing their first big challenges with this Covid-19 threat. 

 I've seen God provide when my husband's income was cut in half, because the company no longer wished to pay his salary. He was forced to quit. I've seen God supply when we had a long period of unemployment when my children were little. I've seen God supply when we closed a business and didn't have income for four months while my husband was looking for a position. God always supplies our needs. I've learned to pray and trust him. The trick is to do it without worrying. There's a lot of scripture about that. ~smile~

 God has brought me through pneumonia three times, two of which I was hospitalized. He's brought me through more surgeries than most families have had in total. Lately, he's brought me through breast cancer. I have evidence that Holy Spirit will never leave me nor forsake me. I just have to keep paying attention and praying and praising and worshiping. My faith has been deepened by the numerous trials in my life. I have been refined. 

 We're all dealing with the virus in one way or another. I encourage you to speak life, speak truth, speak hope, speak faith, speak the Word of God. Now is a time to draw closer to Him, and He will draw closer to you.

 Keep calm and pray on!
 Laura Lane

Bio:  Laura married her high school sweetheart thirty-three years ago. You might say they're going steady permanently.  She makes her home in Carthage, Missouri and has four adult children. Two of her daughters live at home and attend college in the next town over. She met Jesus when she was fifteen, and her life has never been the same. She enjoys writing, knitting, sewing, quilting, crocheting, baking, cooking, making jam, and making soup. Her recipes have been included in Gooseberry Patch's Hometown Christmas, Grilling and Campfire Cooking, and Secrets from Grandma's Kitchen.  

Laura is the author of Harvest Lane Cottage where she writes about encouraging others in their faith in Jesus, homemaking, books, and thrifty living. She is a breast cancer survivor since 2017.



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Laura's Blog has been a source of comfort and encouragement to so many for so long.  She is truly an inspiration to us all!  I hope you will stop by and visit her!
May the Lord draw each one of us closer to His side.  May we turn to our Shepherd in every moment of fear, anxiety, and worry.  Truly He is our only hope.  As Laura's testimony proves, He is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother, and He never fails.

Keep your eyes on Him.

Monday, April 20, 2020

What Are You Doing, God? ~ Guest Post by Gentle Joy

 "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee."
Psalm 56:3


    We are living in a time of uncertainty and confusion that goes way beyond anything most of us have ever seen before. The news is grim, the attitudes of many people are hateful and frantic, businesses are closed, jobs lost, and the threat of sickness hovers. Then there are the words of those wondering what is really going on in our world.  Is someone at fault? Will our freedoms be lost forever? And more….   So many reasons to fear and panic as we wonder what the truth is, will things ever get back to normal, and will we lose someone we love?

    Years ago, our 2nd son was born with medical problems. It was a time of great fear as his life hung in the balance.  There was much uncertainty as we learned to trust God in a new way, and those lessons have continued. With six kids, four of them boys, there were many times of fear as someone did something daring and got hurt in some little or big accident that happened. Though I tried to control things so that no one ever got hurt, that just didn’t work because sometimes kids fall off bikes or do things that don’t turn out as they expected. God was teaching me more ways to trust Him even as I was teaching my kids to be wiser.

   In the last couple of years, life has presented further challenges that severely tested us, and I thought at times there was no way through it. Much of that is still a day to day walk in unknown territory and again, God is teaching us to trust. More recently, we had a big unpleasant surprise bill after my husband’s retirement said they overpaid him and that we would also lose many thousands in all future checks. After we figured out it was for real, the panic set in, as we live our frugal lives and don’t have lots extra. 

We quickly started selling what we could to pay the mortgage payment and cut costs where possible.  We were still waiting for word on that when the coronavirus stuff happened. I sell things in two shops in antique malls and was able to help make the house payment with help from our kids and others, also.  Then my husband was laid off from his current job because of the coronavirus crisis. My shops also had to close. 

Hmmm… what to do? Fear?  Panic?  Yes, those certainly visited, but God is again teaching us to trust Him, and we are.   Over the years, God has shown Himself utterly faithful in every situation, and my faith has grown more and more, sometimes quite painfully.

Many years ago, I was a college student working to finish my degree in Elementary Education.  I also worked several hours a week to help pay college expenses. Knowing I would have six weeks of student teaching at a school quite a ways away, I saved as much money as I could from the little I made, to pay for gas, food, and other expenses for those six weeks. I was thankful I had been able to save $200 and figured that would be plenty if I was careful with it. Saving that much was a big relief to me, and I felt all ready to do the time of teaching, though I was still nervous to face the new responsibility.

   Just before the six weeks started, the brakes on my little blue Chevette gave out and had to be fixed. The bill came to $200! Not $199.95 or $210, but EXACTLY $200, which was what I had saved and was counting on. It felt like God was saying to me, I want you to trust ME not your own plans, and it was a lesson that has stuck with me.  It was also a lesson I have been reminded of many times in life, though it wasn’t a lesson I only had to learn once. Sigh….  God has reinforced it many times.  I did get through the student teaching just fine and don’t remember the details of how, making me wish I had recorded the ways God provided at that time.  I do better at doing that now. 



 So, here we are in this current frightening time, and all of those lessons over the years are bearing fruit. We are trusting God and reminding each other to do so, though we have to adjust our thoughts sometimes, also. God is always faithful, and He has our future all mapped out, with reasons for what He allows. 

   In this current time of owing the retirement company money, having many thousands less a year of retirement payments, losing my husband’s salary, losing my ability to sell in the shops or on Craigslist, and yet still having bills coming in, we came up with a plan. We decided to reduce our living expenses even more and get a big garden planted which we have started.  We are keeping lights minimal, plan to dry some laundry outside, do canning this summer, and lots more. We are counting on our peach trees, apple tree, blueberry bushes, eggs from our ducks, herbs, and more. Then today,  after many days of beautiful spring weather, we are getting an ice storm, everything is coated in ice, and it is below freezing.  Another blow…. and we wonder, What are you doing, God? You know we love You and are trusting You. Why is life so hard?


In my thoughts I hear those words from long ago, “I want you to trust ME, not your own plans.”  As my husband and I walked to view the damage so far, we hugged and were reminded that God has a plan, and we need to trust Him. His plans are perfect. He is my hope, my strength, my strong tower, and though I am weak and can panic or worry, He lovingly draws my attention back to His promises. It is amazing that when I affirm my love for Him in thankfulness, when I focus on the blessings He gives, and trust Him, those doubts and fears are not nearly so big.  I continue to grow and am so thankful for His lessons for me, although I would not want to go through them a second time!   
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”  Job 13:15

   So, in the midst of more trouble, I am reminded that we are to put on the whole armour of God. The attacks of the enemy will come, but we can walk in belief and trust in the goodness of our God, knowing that He has a plan for our life. If bad things come, He will walk through them with us and give us strength.  God is good, and His ways are perfect. 

I am also reminded that this world is not my home, and I have a home waiting in heaven. Many do not know Him and don’t have that home waiting.  I am truly blessed, and my heart aches for them.  
It is good to give thanks to the Lord. 



Gentle Joy's Bio:  
I am a Christian wife and recently "retired" homeschooling mom after homeschooling all six of our kids k-12. (Does a homeschooling teacher ever REALLY retire?)  I write two blogs about herbs, gardening, recipes, health and nutrition, saving money, projects, topics to inspire and make us think, photography, and more. I love the Lord and He is continuing to teach me and help me to grow in my walk with Him.

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You can find Gentle Joy's homemaking blog at Gentle Joy Homemaker, and you can visit her photography blog at Gentle Joy Photography where you will find beautiful photos like the ones included in this post.  I hope you can take the time to stop by and visit her and subscribe to her posts! Each one is packed with Godly wisdom.
I love hearing these stories and testimonies of how God delivered and provided and brought His children through.  Revelation 12:11 says, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony."  There is great power in telling what God has done for us, and it brings much-needed encouragement to others, especially in these trying times.  

We would love to hear your testimony of God's goodness, too!  If you would like to share in this series of posts of encouragement, please email your submission to homespundevotions@gmail.com.  
Someone needs to hear your story.  We hope to hear from you!

Keep looking up!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

A Biblical Prescription for Troubled Times ~ Guest Post by Annie Dahlin

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Philippians 4:4-8


I have always been a bit of a worrier.  If there were a queen of worry, I’d probably be it.  Even before COVID-19 completely turned our world upside down there was plenty I was tempted to worry about.  All of us have been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another.  If you have been feeling anxious and worried during this crazy time, you are not alone, sweet friend. 

During my morning quiet times I had been praying for the Lord to help me conquer my worry and anxiety.  I know He tells us not to worry and be anxious, but I was really struggling with how to put that into practice.  I started reading verses in scripture about worry and anxiety and there are quite a few.  Even in the Psalms we are told not to fret.  In 2 Corinthians 10:5 we are told to take every thought captive.  But HOW do we control our anxious thoughts when they are are running around in our head like a pack of wild hyenas that can’t be tamed?! Philippians 4:4-8 tells us! 

First, we are told to rejoice. And not only are we to rejoice, we are to rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS.  It doesn’t say rejoice in the Lord only when times are good.  We are to rejoice when things are hard.  I know for me, when I choose to rejoice and focus on all the Lord has done for me, even when times are hard, it helps my heart to not be so anxious.  

Second, we are told to pray and pray with thanksgiving.   God wants us to bring our worries and troubles to Him.  He wants us to come to Him with our needs.  But we are to come to Him with grateful hearts for all He has already done for us.  I know for me, when I am focusing on all the things the Lord has done for me and given me, my anxious heart starts to calm down.  When we bring our worried hearts to the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving, He calms our fears and gives us peace.  He doesn’t promise to take away what is troubling us, but He does promise to give us peace and it really is peace that passes all understanding.

Third, we are told to think on what is true.  A sweet friend of mine calls Philippians 4:8 the Bible’s prescription for good mental health, and I couldn’t agree more.  So, what is true?  The Word of God is truth.  We need to be filling our minds with the truth of God’s Word.  If we neglect reading the Bible, then we are leaving our hearts and minds wide open for anything and everything to get inside that might not be true.  

Also, thinking on what is true means we aren’t worrying and fretting about tomorrow.  In Matthew 6:34 Jesus tells us to not be anxious about tomorrow.  Our “what ifs” about tomorrow aren’t true because tomorrow hasn’t come yet.  Today is what is true.  Today is what the Lord gives us grace for, and when tomorrow arrives, He will give us grace for tomorrow.  

Focus on what is true about today.  Today all the bills are paid, today we have a roof over our heads, today we have plenty of food in the fridge and pantry, today there is gas in the gas tank, today we have our health, etc., etc., etc.,… and tomorrow, if any of those things change, we will bring our need to Him with thanksgiving. 

So, sweet friend, when your heart is anxious, and you feel like your world is caving in I encourage you:

REJOICE
PRAY and bring your worries and needs to Him WITH THANKSGIVING. 
FILL YOUR MIND WITH THE TRUTH of God’s Word and choose to not fret over tomorrow            but focus on and be thankful for today.     

Let the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. 
Love,
Annie 

Verses to meditate on when your heart is anxious:
Matthew 6:25-34
Psalm 94:19
Isaiah 41:10
1 Peter 5:6-7
2 Timothy 1:7

Bio:  I live in beautiful North Idaho with my husband and 10-year-old son.  I love Jesus and am thankful everyday for his grace in my life.  I love the mountains, hiking, camping, gardening and just being outside in general.  When I’m inside I love cooking, baking, sewing, crocheting, blogging and basically anything crafty.  








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Such wonderful, comforting wisdom for us all to apply to our anxious hearts in these distressing times.
Please visit Annie's blog at Growing in Grace where you will find sweet encouragement, recipes, and beautiful stories about Annie's everyday life.  You can also connect with Annie on Instagram.


He Will Hold Me Fast ~ Keith & Kristyn Getty

May the Lord bless each one of you dear readers.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Lord is Almighty ~ Guest Post by Andy Castro

"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." Psalm 91:1  (KJV)

Just a note from Cheryl before you read Andy's article —
"For years, I have loved and found great comfort in the 91st Psalm.  Especially during this current COVID- 19 pandemic, I have been speaking it over my family and me on a daily basis.  I wrote about it HERE.  Lately, I have been thinking how wonderful it would be to delve into this chapter and write a series on it, breaking it down, verse by verse.  Imagine my surprise when I received an email from a brother in Lord who is a fellow writer on the Free Chapel Writing Team telling me he would like to submit something for this series, and the subject matter is a study he is beginning on Psalm 91!  I was so thrilled and amazed at how God works and orchestrates every detail.  I am so thankful Andy chose to share this with us, and I know it will be a blessing and comfort to you!"
Strong's Definition of Almighty
Comes from the root word "sh√Ędad"
A primitive root; properly to be burly, that is, (figuratively) powerful (passively impregnable); by implication to ravage: - dead, destroy (-er), oppress, robber, spoil (-er), X utterly, (lay) waste.

I love the definition of the word "Almighty."
It doesn't give way to making our God sound weak.
I need God to be "Almighty" in my daily life.
I am comforted with the reality of God's ability to be powerful and cause severe and extensive damage to our enemies.

One thing about the Father is He repeats Himself in the Bible. He doesn't slack, reminding us of His absolute dominance.
For instance, Psalm 27:1-2. (AMP)
"The Lord is my light and my salvation— Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the refuge and fortress of my life— Whom shall I dread? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell."

This scripture tells me our enemies don't have a chance against our God.
Jesus had something to say about God's power in John 15:5 (AMP).
"I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing."
"Apart from Me, you can do nothing." Let that sink in a little bit. 

Of course, this also means the enemy can do nothing apart from God.

Where does this information put us in the grand scheme of our life here on earth?

Romans 14:7-8 (AMP) states,
"None of us lives for himself [for his own benefit, but for the Lord], and none of us dies for himself [but for the Lord]. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. So then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's."

1 Corinthians 7:23 (AMP)backs this up stating;
"You were bought with a price [a precious price paid by Christ]; do not become slaves to men [but to Christ]."

We, as followers of Christ, are to live for Him and Him alone. If we cave in to fear, worry, and dread, we have turned ourselves into the hand of the enemy and walked away from all Jesus has done for us in His death and resurrection. 

Scripture tells us in Romans 8:6 (AMP),
"Now the mind of the flesh is death [both now and forever—because it pursues sin]; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace [the spiritual well-being that comes from walking with God—both now and forever].

This statement, "But the mind of the Spirit is life and peace" is the kind of experience the Father intended for us to live all along.  If we purposely walk in the Spirit, we can dwell in the secret place of the Most High and abide under the shadow of the Almighty. If we focus our life on Him, He protects us from those who hate us.

If we can grasp a portion of how mighty God is, we can be secure and rest in Him. We can live a fearless life of peace and walk in the ways of the Lord.

Any time you are facing fear, you have the right to run to the Father and be comforted with the reality of God's ability to be powerful and cause severe and extensive damage to your enemies.
Fear not, for the Lord is "Almighty."
I'm going to sit under Him.
Will you join me?

Andy

Bio: Since recommitting his life to Christ in 2000, God has changed Andy in such a way, he hardly recognizes himself. Andy is a story of God's grace and mercy.

He now writes and speaks as a voice of inspiration to encourage people to "find the call" for their life and to fulfill their God-given purpose. He writes to help you in your pursuit.

You can connect with Andy and reading his writing at Live As If.



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I hope you have a chance to stop by and visit Andy's website!  It is packed with encouragement and spiritual edification.


The God of Angel Armies ~ Chris Tomlin

Continue to dwell in that "secret place" of the Most High, dear friends.
There is no safer place than to abide under the shadow of the Almighty!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

What the Pandemic Can Teach Us ~ Guest Post by Deborah Montgomery

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."
Psalm 90:12


I wanted to share why I am feeling optimistic during this time of great uncertainty and fear and why I think many good things can come out of this if we pay attention to what the Lord is trying to say to us.

Now, I do not think the Lord caused this pandemic. We live in a broken world and bad things happen when things are broken. We have a very real enemy who loves to kill and to destroy. But the Lord can use what was meant for evil for our good.

Of course, I don’t want in any way to minimize the very real struggles that are going on out there. I don’t want what I’m going to say to sound insensitive to those burdened with sickness, financial insecurity, stress, and isolation.

But I still feel that there is great reason for hope. Here are some of the good things I think can come out of this and we can do.

Trust in the One Who is in control of all things.

Even though we know better, we usually act as if we were in control of our lives and circumstances. We plan and schedule and make lists, and then we go out and try and make things happen. This pandemic is another reminder that there is very little in this life that we can actually control. 

But how comforting to know that the One Who created us has all things in His Hands. We can trust Him. It is a relief to let go of the reins and trust the One Who cares for us and knows the big picture.

Yes, we wash our hands and practice social distancing and act prudently. We don’t shirk our responsibilities and the things that we can do. But we let go of our planning and worrying. We rest.

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."
 Psalm 20:7

Spend more time in prayer and in God’s Word.

Nothing drives us to our knees faster than hard circumstances. After we realize, yet again, that we are not in control, we pray to the One Who is.

Focused, intentional prayer can be hard work. I found that during the first week of isolating at home I was too distracted to pray much. Not really anxious, but scattered. Everything was happening so fast it was hard to settle down. It was easier to sit and distract myself with Instagram, for example. 

But prayer takes us out of ourselves. It grounds us. It causes us to focus on the Lord and His great mercies that are new every morning. It keeps us focused on our neighbors’ needs as we bring each one before our Heavenly Father. It reminds us of our blessings. It is powerful and changes things. It changes us.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:6,7

Reading Scripture is calming. Encouraging. Life-giving. I have to remind myself to open my Bible and not my news feed. One is life-giving, the other can be fear-inducing.

Love our neighbors better.

People are finding new ways to love their neighbors during this pandemic. Calling and checking on each other. Dropping off groceries. Collecting food to donate to those less fortunate. Sewing face masks. Singing out of balconies to cheer each other up. Allowing seniors to shop before everyone else is allowed in the stores.

Even though we have to keep apart, there are so many ways we can love and encourage each other. We’re all in this together, and it’s heartwarming to see stories of neighbors caring for neighbors.

Let’s not forget each other when we’re on the other side of this.

Love our family better.

I know from talking with moms of young children in my church that home life is chaotic at the moment as everyone struggles to find new routines and new ways of living at home together 24/7. Family life can get potentially worse if we spend our time fighting with each other out of frustration. I pray that a spirit of peace and forgiveness and tolerance will descend on families who find themselves in this situation.

I pray we would all feel a real appreciation and deep love for those with whom we live. How when everything else is stripped away we realize that our loved ones at home are more important than anything else. Petty arguments and disagreements fall away as we realize that all we have is each other. An appreciation of sitting down and eating together. The family dinner has almost disappeared in many American homes. What a blessing to everyone if we will all realize the gift of slowing down, looking into each others’ eyes, and listening! Of sharing a simple meal together. We’ve missed so much!

Create a simpler life.

This winter I have been experimenting with putting on false eyelashes. It’s been both fun and frustrating and I’ve probably spent way too much time fussing over this. There’s nothing wrong with this, or with many of the little “fun” things we do day by day. But all of a sudden, false eyelashes are the last thing on my mind, and seem rather silly at this point.

Even though I have lots of time to practice with them now, it seems much more important to call a loved one or to make a batch of homemade soup. Extraneous things become just that.  Life becomes simpler; the important becomes clear.

I feel like I’m thinking like a homesteader. What can I use up in my pantry? How can I make food stretch further? What can I substitute for ingredients I don’t have on hand? I’m finding myself being much more creative and less wasteful and it feels good. We are finding out that we can improvise, cut back, and live much more simply than we have.

Our Western culture is awash in materialism. And I am, myself, much more than I’m willing to admit. Too many material things become a burden and a distraction.

Most people’s lives are so busy. No one has time to stop and smell the proverbial rose. To take a deep breath and think about what really matters. To have margin in their lives. Being forced to slow down, to have our calendars cleared, strips away the unimportant and lets the best things shine forth.

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I don’t think all these good things will automatically happen because of this pandemic. We need to purpose to look for the good. To not give way to fear. To not go back to business as usual when this is all over. To learn the lessons that we can. To not waste the suffering.

Will we learn? Will we grow? We will come through this changed for the better? I’m preaching to myself here. Lord, teach us what you have for us in this. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear. And thank You that You never leave nor forsake us. Amen.


Bio:  Deborah Montgomery is a full-time homemaker. She has been married for 39 years to Scott and is mom to three children, whom she homeschooled, and grandma to one darling grandson. She has written a book entitled Help for Depression and mentors young moms in her church. She writes at The Beautiful Matters.







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I hope you can take some time to visit Deborah's blog where you will find so much that is beautiful, uplifting, and comforting.  I so enjoyed the thoughts she shared with us today, along with all of the other wonderful, inspired posts that have been coming in.  I trust each post is a blessing to you, too, and helping to keep your spirits up!


Stand firm in your faith, and keep praying!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Under His Banner ~ Guest Post by Lauren Zaubi

"So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, And His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him."
Isaiah 59:19 (NKJV)

Source

For many years there was a house in our small town that was occupied by a definite, hard core Pittsburgh Steelers fan.  The house displayed Steelers flags in the windows and on the flag pole.  The owner’s black, pick up truck proudly displayed Steelers emblems with multiple flags in various sizes mounted to the truck – flapping in the wind for everyone to see as he drove through town.  There was a slight problem though.  We are a suburb of Chicago . . . a town that is crazy for its various sports teams!  But this guy didn’t seem to care.  He was proud to be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and he wanted everyone to know it!  As I was reading God’s Word one morning last week, I thought of this guy.  I’ll come back to this.

The Scripture passage I read was Psalm 60.  Israel was in a bad state.  David says the land was ‘torn open,’ fractured, and quaking.  The people were living in ‘desperate times.’  Sound familiar?  We are all living in various degrees of desperation, some worse than others.  But like David, we need to recognize what we as Believers have for ourselves and have to offer to those who are struggling through these desperate times.

In verse 4 of Psalm 60 we read, “But for those who fear you . . .”  I always love when I come to the word “but” in Scripture.  It speaks of an exception.  We live in this same fallen, torn open, fractured, and quaking world BUT . . . those who fear the Lord have something that should give us great courage in the midst of the turmoil we find ourselves and the rest of the world in.  

Verse 4 goes on to say, “. . . you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.”  We see this word ‘banner’ at various times in the Bible.  As I studied this word I found it comes from the Hebrew dagal which is a reference to a military standard or flag. We’ve all probably seen the old war movies where the army would march forward while carrying the flag of their country at the front of the soldiers.  The flag showed who the advancing army was fighting for.  It declared where their loyalties lay.  Our local Pittsburgh Steeler fan displayed his flags for all to see where his sports loyalties were placed.

In Charles Spurgeon’s Treasury of David he says, “Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee. Their afflictions had led them to exhibit holy fear, and then being fitted for the Lord's favour, he gave them an ensign, which would be both a rallying point for their hosts, a proof that he had sent them to fight, and a guarantee of victory.”  Like soldiers united under their flag, we are to be animated with life and courage for the battle.  

I find great comfort as I rally with other Believers (virtually for now) under the banner of Christ which not only comforts me at this time, but it animates me with life and courage for this and any battle I am called to fight in.  Like Paul, I want to say, “. . . I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

These afflictions we all face today should cause us to fear God, to turn TO God in our need.  We are reminded how fragile this life is, how quickly our comfortable lives can be turned upside down.  May we use this as an opportunity to unfurl the banner of Christ’s love and display to everyone we see Who it is that we serve.  May we unfurl the banner of Christ’s love and BE Jesus to those around us who are hurting.  Let us unfurl the banner of Christ’s love and declare where our loyalties lay.  And let us remember that we have the victory through Christ Jesus!

Bio:  Lauren and her husband Matt live in a suburb of Chicago.  They have three grown children and are expecting their first grandchild in May.  Lauren serves in children’s ministry at their church where Matt is on staff.  She is an avid sewer and crafter and loves all things vintage and retro.  She is a ‘beach girl’ at heart, LOVES summer and looks forward to the day (Lord willing) that she and her husband can ‘retire’ to the South!  







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Please take a few moments to visit Lauren's blog, where you will find a ton of crafting inspiration in a comforting, Christian atmosphere.  I always leave her space inspired and encouraged!

I am SO thankful to know we are marching under the banner of God's love beneath the shadow of the old, rugged cross.  There is no safer place to find ourselves in these troubled, perilous times.
May these thoughts bring comfort to you today.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Inner Views of Melissa Evans

"And these three remain: Faith, Hope and LOVE, but the greatest of these is LOVE."
I Corinthians 13:13

The
of
Melissa Evans




Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself.  

Melissa:  I am a Harlan County, KY coal miner's granddaughter.  I was born in Harlan, Kentucky, but raised in East Tennessee.   My parents were high school sweethearts and married right after they graduated.  A little over one year later, I was born.  Three years later, my brother Curtis was born.  My Dad was a wonderful mechanic, and he loved to buy old automobiles and fix them up.  Some of my earliest memories were sitting on the engine handing my dad tools while he worked and my Mom reading bible stories to me.  We attended church every time the doors were open.  My Dad's parents moved in with us, and my parents started having problems. When I was in the 2nd grade, my parents divorced.  My Mom remarried a few years later to a wonderful man, "Pop."  My childhood was filled with lots of love and laughter. Pop loved to laugh and make others laugh.  He was an amazing storyteller, and he took us on many adventures.  He taught me how to play ball and besides my Mom, he was my biggest cheerleader.  In elementary school, I started playing basketball, softball, volleyball, and running track.  My teenage years were spent on the field, on the court, and on the track.  I LOVED sports and being outdoors.  My childhood was filled with love, laughter, and Jesus!

Cheryl:  What are the details surrounding the beginning of your Christian journey?   

Melissa:  When I was 5 years old, our pastor gave an altar call, and I remember walking down the aisle at Greenvale Baptist and accepting Jesus as my personal Savior.  I remember my heart pounding so hard, and I couldn't stop crying.  I asked God to forgive me for my sins and asked Jesus to come live inside me.  A few weeks later, I was baptized in a river.  It was in the Fall, and the water was so cold.  I felt an immediate change take place when I came out of the water.  

Cheryl:  When did you first realize God has gifted you with the talent to sing?

Melissa:  I have been singing since I was a small child.  In high school, I was in Chorus for four years.  It wasn't until my mid twenties that I realized the talent God gave me to sing and worship Him.  

Cheryl:  Please share with us about your musical journey.  

Melissa:  I started leading praise & worship at church as a young adult and in 2005, I became the lead singer in a Christian rock group, "Face Like Flint."  We traveled and sang regionally, led praise & worship in numerous churches, and ministered in prisons and "Celebrate Recovery."   In 2015, I was asked to "fill-in" for one of the singers in a southern gospel trio, "Sacred Harmony."   I was blessed with the opportunity to travel and sing for almost a year.  When my time with "Sacred Harmony" ended, I prayed for direction and felt God pulling my in a different direction—solo career.  I released my first project, "I Will Sing" in 2017.  I have been traveling, ministering, and sharing God's love through song.  I am currently working on my next project and scheduled to go into the studio at Chapel Valley Records in mid April.

Cheryl:  What are some of the most memorable things you have experienced while ministering the Gospel through song?

Melissa:  1.  As a young child, the Rambos came and ministered many times at our church.  I remember how beautiful Reba Rambo was and how I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.  In 1992, Reba Rambo McGuire and her husband Donnie came to minister at my church, and I had the opportunity to meet and talk with her.  

2. My step-brother made a wrong decision that took him down the wrong path.  When he was 20 years old, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  He was paroled after seven years, and when released, he made another stupid decision that put him back in prison and he was deemed a "habitual criminal."

He was finally released from prison, and one month later, he died in a tragic motorcycle accident.  Just one year later, "Face Like Flint" was asked to come and minister at the prison where my step- brother had spent the majority of his adult life.  I can't explain the feelings that flooded my soul while being there and sharing his story with the inmates.  Giving an altar call and seeing the inmates accept Christ was amazingly powerful.  

3. In 2019, I was honored to be "Horizon Award-Female."  



4. In February of this year, I ministered at a small church in KY on a Sunday evening.  The church had been praying for a young lady for over a year.  She had walked away from God and had been running.  That morning I had a severe gall-bladder attack (yes, I need surgery, but I am believing God for healing) and was sick all day.  Two hours before the evening service, I was not feeling any better; vomiting, etc. and asked my husband Robert to please pray with me.  I was going to have to cancel but needed peace about it.  After we prayed, we looked at each other, and we knew I had to go minister.  Robert said, "Someone needs to hear your testimony and songs tonight."  During the altar call, the young woman the church had been praying for came forward and  shared how she had been compelled to come that evening, and she rededicated her life!  We serve an amazing God!


Cheryl:  What do you most hope to accomplish through your ministry?

Melissa:  I want to see souls saved and lives changed!

Cheryl:  As a busy Christian wife and mother, how do you find balance?  

Melissa:  Do we ever really find balance?  Honestly?!  I ask myself that question  everyday.  It is imperative to spend time with God everyday.  Reading His word and talking to Him.  On the days that I find myself putting other things before God, those are the days that I fail in every aspect of my life!  In the midst of the situations on those days, I ask," Lord what is going on, why is this happening today?"  Immediately, I am reminded that I didn't take the time to spend with God.  I'm not saying if you spend time with God you won't have problems or situations beyond your control.  However, when I put God first, I handle the problems and situations much better, and the solutions come faster!



Cheryl:  What advice would you give to the woman who is struggling to maintain Biblical priorities while serving her family?

Melissa:  Spend time with your Heavenly Father.  Get up a little earlier than your family or stay up a little later.  It is worth the loss of sleep!

Cheryl:  Describe one of the darkest times of your life.  How did your faith in God sustain you during that time?

Melissa:  After the birth of my third child, Skylar, I suffered from severe postpartum depression.  I was so ashamed that I wasn't a "strong enough" Christian to handle my baby or life in general.  My thoughts were dark, and I felt so alone. Many times throughout the first year, I packed my clothes in a suitcase to leave, and I actually made it to the car a few times before changing my mind.  For the following two years, my memories are a blur.  My daily routine consisted of praying, crying, screaming, REPEAT.  When Skylar turned two years old, I was overcome with guilt for the things I had said, done, and thought.  At this point I suffered from insomnia.  I would lie awake at night and cry and beg God to forgive me for the horrible thoughts in my head.  I continued to pray and ask God to deliver me.  Looking back now, I realize God needed me to persevere so I could help others through.


Cheryl:  As you look over the past and all God has brought you through, who are some of the people He has most effectively used to encourage you in your Christian walk?

Melissa:  I was blessed to have amazing Christian women in my life.  My Mom has always been there to encourage me, my grandmothers, (especially Mamaw Amy), and my Aunt Vickie.  

Cheryl:  Are there any special prayer warriors God has placed in your life who have supported your ministry?  We would love to offer the opportunity for you to acknowledge them and express how much they mean to you

Melissa:  Yes! Leestown Gospel Church, Pastor Tim Jumpp, and my dear friends, Roger & Dianna Barkley, my long-time friend, David Frost, and my home church, Gray United Methodist, Pastor Dennis Flaugher, and Mary Scott (Mother Mary).  Anytime day or night (sometimes middle of the night) I have needed prayer, these folks have taken the time to stop what they were doing and pray for me and my family.  Many of them have driven hours just to come and pray with me!

Cheryl:  As you travel and work among Christian circles, what do you identify as being one of the most pressing needs among the body of Christ today?
Melissa:  Unity among the body of Christ!  We need to truly love one another and stop judging each other's differences.  

Cheryl:  What are some practical ways we can individually make a difference and meet those needs?

Melissa:  By recognizing that we are a "work in progress."  We say things like, "I'm not perfect, but can you believe so and so?" Really?! We have to stop looking at others to be our example.  God gave us the perfect example to follow, and His name is Jesus!  He LOVED the world so much, He gave His life for it!  If we truly walk in LOVE, God can change the world!

Cheryl:  What are some of your favorite hobbies and things to do during your time off?

Melissa:  I love to be in the mountains and on the water.  I love all sports and fishing!  There's only one thing better than fishing, and that's catching! lol

Cheryl:  How can readers find your music, learn about your upcoming singing dates, and get to know you better? 

Melissa:  My music is on ITunes, Apple Music, and all the major sites.  My singing schedule is on my website.

Cheryl:  What are your musical dreams going forward?

Melissa:  My "Pop" passed away in 2016 from a massive heart attack, and I made him a promise before he died to NEVER stop singing for the Lord!

Cheryl:  To the soul who is tired, discouraged, and ready to give up in defeat, what would you like to say?

Melissa:  God loves you!  He gave His son to die for you!  God IS real, and I have felt His presence many, many times throughout my life. No matter how dark the day is, He is right there with you if you just ask.  He will never leave you, nor forsake you!   

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you?

Melissa:  Pray that God will continue to open doors so I can continue to share His love.



Thank you, Melissa, for sharing with us here!

As everyone knows, musical artists are not able to hold concerts right now, and this is really impacting the income they are accustomed to bringing in.  

How about stopping by Melissa's website and checking out her products for sale?
You can also connect with Melissa on Facebook.
Here is a sample of her beautiful music.


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