A SECOND LOOK

‘Friends always show their love. What are relatives for if not to share trouble?” (Proverbs 17:17).

Sometimes we need to give a friend a second look.

Jimmy and I were three years old. He came to my house every day because my mother took care of him to help pay the bills.

We dug holes in the sand and ran through the grass and told each other our secrets. I loved telling Jimmy my secrets because they made him laugh. But one day I spoke when his back was turned, and he didn’t pay attention. So I told him again. When I still got nothing back, I yelled at him. Then I screamed.

After many tries, I realized Jimmy did not hear me or anything else.

Jimmy could not hear.

I dashed into the kitchen and grabbed my mother’s knees.

“Mommy! Jimmy can’t hear! Jimmy can’t hear!”

I buried my face in her skirt and shook her knees with my sobs. “Jimmy can’t hear, Mommy! Mommy? Jimmy can’t hear!”

A few months later, we moved to Michigan, and Jimmy stayed in Wisconsin. I never saw him again.

At 78, I’m almost as deaf as Jimmy was when we were three.

I wonder where Jimmy digs holes in the sand, who shares his secrets.

And I wonder how well do I know the friend who laughs beside me.

by guest author David Parks

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SEASONS OF THE SOUL

Ever wonder why the author of Ecclesiastes wrote. . .“to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven?” (Ecc. 3:1, KJV) What had he experienced that provoked such thought?

The author goes on to ponder the highs and lows and futility of life. After a significantly pessimistic conversation, light dawns. He recognizes God. God—the giver of life. The just judge.

Sometimes we glide through seasons with effortless grace. Thank God for each! Yet the seasons that draw us closer to God usually don’t  come from smooth sailing. They’re borne from times of desperation, loss, or tragedy. In those times, we question God. Much like the author of Ecclesiastes. Where is He while we’re in the “waiting room?” When we feel our prayers go unanswered. Our plans are derailed. While we’re sitting on the sidelines struggling, holding our breaths, and waiting it out.

The beauty of a song forged by heartache sometimes lies masked behind the strength of its title. It is Well with my Soul is one such song.

Horatio G. Spafford’s life surged from one heart-wrenching season into another. After losing a fortune in the Chicago fire of 1871, he and his wife planned a much-needed family vacation to England. No wonder he wrote the lyrics with such an encouraging title.

Not hardly. . .

While he concluded urgent business, his wife and their four daughters set out across the Atlantic.

Sometime after his family departed, Horatio received a telegram from his wife. A tragic shipwreck claimed the lives of his four girls.

One account asserts that as the ship carrying Horatio to England neared the place where his daughters perished, the lyrics to this song welled inside him. He didn’t give in to a season of despair. Instead, he gave us a song in the night. A song of victory.

Imagine such faith!

From this point, we’d prefer to think Horatio’s life went on in an idyllic manner. Heaped with blessings he couldn’t contain. . .

Several years later, his three-year-old son died of scarlet fever. Financial loss compounded unbearable grief. Then the community of believers Horatio worshipped with turned their backs on him.

What did Horatio do in this season?

He pressed closer to the Lord, initiating prayer meetings in his home. In fact, he and his wife were dubbed “the Overcomers.” He then established an American colony in Jerusalem, adopted a boy there, and by the time Horatio died of malaria, he was loved and respected by the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish community.

From seasons of suffering, Horatio proved that with firm faith in the Lord, It is Well with My Soul.

By Amre Cortadino

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REMEMBER THE INVITATION

When my hubby and I arrived at a “by invitation only” outdoor wedding years ago, he patted his pockets in vain. In our hurry to attend the ceremony, we’d left the invitation at home. Violin music drifted toward us through the wrought iron fence while we watched guests chatting and tuxedoed wait-staff circling with gleaming silver trays of hors d’oeuvres. Once my husband related that his sister was the bride, and his father was summoned, we breathed easy—a bit embarrassed but grateful to join the celebration.

After building the temple in Jerusalem, Solomon gathers the people of Israel for a celebration and prays to the Lord. He prophetically instructs his people on what to do when wronged, defeated by the enemy, and drought, famines, or plagues come. Then he outlines sins that separate us from God—and what to do about each of those.

At the end of his prayer, his tone changes and he addresses the Lord God Almighty. This is what Solomon asks:

Now arise, Lord God, and come to Your resting place, you and the ark of Your might. May Your priests, Lord God, be clothed with salvation, may Your faithful people rejoice in Your goodness. Lord God, do not reject Your anointed one. Remember the great love promised to David Your servant. (2 Chronicles 6:41-42, NIV)

Please don’t miss this. Solomon asks God to :

  • Come into the home he’d built
  • Clothe the priests with salvation
  • Let the faithful rejoice in God’s goodness
  • Approve of Solomon
  • Remember His great love toward his father David

When was the last time we welcomed the Lord into our country, our church, our town, our neighborhood, our homes?

Have we prayed for our pastors, missionaries, leaders, heads of household?

Rejoiced in God’s goodness rather than bemoaning our circumstances?

Realized the need/asked for His blessings on us?

Reminded God of His great love toward His people through the generations?

Look what happens next!

When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the offering and sacrifices, and . . . listen to this . . . the glory of the Lord filled the temple!

Want to see God’s glory? Want it to fill not only the place where we worship but our very lives?

Through His shed blood, Jesus extends the invitation and calls for a response. Let’s do what Solomon did so long ago – invite God in.

By Amre Cortadino

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CAPABLE

Does the name Obed-Edom sound familiar?

First Chronicles records genealogies. Lots of them. And every once in a while, an amazing nugget of truth pops up. This one would make Indiana Jones eat his heart out!

Obed-Edom was first mentioned in 2 Samuel. Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark of the Covenant and God displayed his wrath against him. Yet, Obed-Edom stored the Ark in his home for three months and God blessed him and his family.

Ever wonder why God seemingly blesses some folks and not others? Let’s be honest – ever wonder why God blesses them and not us? Aren’t we just as deserving, faithful in our walk with the Lord, and every bit as humble? After all, how much would it hurt if the limelight occasionally shone on us?

Maybe those thoughts hummed through Uzzah’s mind when he felt he needed to prevent the Ark from toppling.

That’s when everyone ran and hid. Everyone but Obed-Edom. He opened his front door and hollered, “Sure, bring it on in.”

Imagine what the neighbors thought! For Sale By Owner signs popped up everywhere.

God knew Obed-Edom was the right curator for the Ark, the symbol of His presence. He blessed Obed-Edom with eight sons and numerous grandsons. In fact, his sixty-two heirs became temple gatekeepers. The Bible says “…they and their sons and their relatives were capable men with the strength to do the work…” (1 Chronicles 26:8, NIV)

God knows our hearts. David asked God in Psalm 139 to search his heart.

When God looks inside us, will He find us grumbling, seeking the praise of men, or capable of serving with the strength that only comes from joy in Him?

Written by Amre Cortadino

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STARS and STRIPES FOREVER

An interesting story exists regarding William Driver, whose early years were less than stellar. In fact, he ran away from home instead of going to Sunday School. However, at age twenty-one, he was promoted to captain of a ship bound for the South Pacific. His mother and wife made him a flag, which he proudly hoisted on the mast. At the sight of his flag unfurling in the breeze, he exclaimed, “Old Glory.” Captain Driver served his country well, and his words became an affectionate nickname for our flag.

On July 4th, many Americans enjoy picnics in the park, family barbecues, fireworks, and display flags to commemorate our independence from England. The people of the United States of America have endured many hardships—wars, diseases, natural disasters, financial and economic downturns, civil unrest, and terrorism—to name a few. In recent years, our flag, a symbol of freedom, has come under attack.

Our founding fathers envisioned a country based on “liberty and justice for all,” a detail incorporated in our Pledge of Allegiance.

The colors and symbols carry the same meaning from the first to the current flag. The brilliant field of blue represents justice and perseverance. Fifty stars, one for each state of the union, gleam as bright as those in the heavens, placed by God’s design. Thirteen bold red stripes symbolize valor and courage, honoring the original colonies.

America’s flag stands for the hope of a new nation—perseverance, innocence, and purity—and the promise of justice and freedom.

Have we as a nation achieved the ideal of “One Nation Under God?” Not by a long shot. Wrapped in human frailty, we miss the mark.

But the God who created the vast blue skies, who secured the twinkling stars in the heavens, and who sent His son to bear our stripes, beckons. If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV)

God bless America, and may we ever remain the land of the free and the home of the brave.

By Amre Cortadino

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ONLY BELIEVE

“Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.” (Luke 8:50, 52-53, NIV)

Jesus had just healed a demon-possessed man in Gerasenes, an occasion that should have been marked with great celebration. Instead, the people of that region “were overcome with fear” and asked Jesus to leave! (Luke 8:37, NIV)

Fast forward and Jesus is now in Jairius’s home. This synagogue ruler’s daughter was gravely ill and died while Jesus was en route. Wouldn’t you think that when Jesus explained the girl was just sleeping, the crowd would have rejoiced?

These Galilean’s had a similar reaction to the Gerasenes. But this time, instead of Jesus leaving, he sent the mockers away.

So, why would Jesus need to tell Jairius not to be afraid? After all, Jairius himself asked Jesus to come heal his daughter. He was there when the woman with a twelve-year long blood disorder was healed. He saw Jesus’s healing power. Didn’t he?

Though accounts vary, the Bible mentions “fear” more than 300 times. Then, as well as now, fear plays a major role in our lives. Fear inhibits our ability to believe. Until Jairius believed Jesus, his daughter continued to sleep.

Notice what Jesus said . . . “she will be healed.” He didn’t say maybe, might, let’s hope. His words demonstrated that fear and belief oppose each other. He punctuated the promise of healing—if we’ll just believe.

Put yourself in Jairius’s shoes. If seeing is believing, his only, beloved child looked lifeless. Looking at our own situations today, things look impossible. Hopeless. No wonder the Bible addresses fear so many times. We need supernatural strength.

God can heal our lands. He can heal our homes. He can heal our minds. He can  heal our bodies. He can heal our finances.

Can we just believe?

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:25, NIV)

Like this verse, the chorus below emphasizes the power of God. When we only believe.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Only+Believe+Chorus&FORM=VDMHRS

By Amre Cortadino

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THE PLEASURE OF THE KING

“I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:38,  NIV)

Jesus said this about his cousin, John the Baptist. Within days, John’s head would be sawed from his body.

For the pleasure of a king. A man who lived to gratify himself.

Our King is like no other king!

You and I will enter Heaven’s gates, we’ll glimpse Jesus and fall to our knees, and cast our crowns at His feet. And worship. Worship the One who set us free. Worship the One who paid the price. Worship the only One worthy to be praised.

For all eternity we will worship the Lamb of God who traded a palace for a manger, who suffered humiliation and pain like no other.

For the pleasure of the cross. And who will stand with arms wide open to welcome rescued sinners.

Lyrics to a popular song says, ”You didn’t want heaven without us”—a truth this side of Heaven none of us can fully grasp. Unconditional, selfless love isn’t modeled for us in our world today, so how could we know the depths of what God’s love did for us? But we can accept, believe, and live our lives each day…

For the pleasure of our King.

Below is a link to, “I Can Only Imagine,” a song that beautifully captures some of our thoughts about Heaven. I pray you’ll worship King Jesus as you enjoy the music.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=i+can+only+imagine&docid=608008420731912957&mid=B4A10ACFE804D786CAFFB4A10ACFE804D786CAFF&view=detail&FORM=VIRE

By Amre Cortadino

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THE SOUL OF AMERICA

These are the times that try men’s souls. This quote comes from The American Crisis, a collection of articles written by Thomas Paine in an effort to encourage the American Revolutionary Army. America has gone through a number of crises and, during these times, history records Americans asking for divine help.

Americans observed a National Day of Prayer on May 7, 2020. Again on May 26, 2020, Anne Graham Lotz invited American women to pray for one hour. And while we are thankful for these nationwide calls to prayer, we can “come boldly before the throne of Grace” any day, time, or place, seek the Lord, and ask for His help on behalf of our country, our leaders, our souls.

May this prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi humble our hearts and turn to Him.

By Amre Cortadino

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JESUS IS THE ANSWER

Greetings everyone,

My spirit won’t let me keep silent…

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1Samuel 16:7

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

“A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

The verses above are just three that God have brought to mind as I think about the horror that has been inflicted on the Floyd family and our nation. Fear and anger and hurt are powerful emotions.

People need to see hope! I believe it’s time for us as The church, whether your skin pigmentation is yellow, brown, red, black, white, or blue to rise up and be heard! To be seen united in prayer and fasting whether in small groups, our leaders meeting six feet apart and praying together at the tomato bowl, we pray on zoom, messenger, in our homes and teach our children not to hate. To trust and seek God.

As it stands right now, I’m a black mother and grandmother striving to teach my descendants about God’s love on one hand, and reminding them to put their driver’s license and insurance card where they are easily accessible.  Stop in a well-lighted area if you are stopped…

Good cops are being lopped in one category with those who are doing wrong. That’s not fair. Their families wonder if they will come home safe each night.

Kids just want to wear their style and are profiled.

We can’t fix this by ourselves.  Yes we want justice!

But also peace and equality with fairness.

Jesus is the answer for our world today. Instead of exchanging angry taunts at one another, let’s prepare our hearts to hear what God wants us to do as individuals and as a city, and a nation.

Blessings!

Written by Sharon Simms

To leave a comment, please click on the title above, JESUS IS THE ANSWER, and scroll down.  Thank you!

P.S.  As a special treat, please copy the link below into your web browser to listen to Andrae Crouch’s song – Jesus is the Answer.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=did+Anrae+crouch+write+the+song+Jesus+is+the+answer&ru=%2fsearch%3fform%3dMOZLBR%26pc%3dMOZI%26q%3ddid%2bAnrae%2bcrouch%2bwrite%2bthe%2bsong%2bJesus%2bis%2bthe%2banswer&view=detail&mid=B24D9F4432589ECFF82EB24D9F4432589ECFF82E&rvsmid=FF5113DB3E070B78A9E2FF5113DB3E070B78A9E2&FORM=VDQVAP

 

JUST DO YOU

“That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being —Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” (Johns 4:23-24, The Message)

Once as an aspiring writer—still aspiring—a speaker set me free with the words, “just do you.” I struggled for years, not knowing what to write. After teaching Bible study for a long time, fiction seemed trite and unimportant, except it had been my go-to since childhood and probably contributed to my sanity more than anything else.

Those closest to me wonder about the sanity-part.

When I did decide on fiction, I didn’t know what genre to choose. So I went through the list. I don’t dislike Sci-fi, but not a huge fan either. Fantasy requires too much world-building. Much of Mystery/Suspense/Thriller involves guns and serial killers. Nope. Not there yet. No YA or children’s lit, although I enjoy it from time to time.

That left Romance. Who? Me? I have to admit, I didn’t have a high opinion of romance writing, but those are the only ideas that come together for me. The only books I’m able to write from start to finish are romances.

Then I realized that romance, along with a million other things, remains stereotyped and has a bad rap. Probably because there is a plethora of poorly written, bad stories out there.

But I write the kind of romance that I want to read. In other words, I “just do me.” Stories with truth infused through the pages. Light. Humorous. Fun.

If God is mainly interested in us being ourselves, and He is, then it’s perfectly acceptable for me to write romance. Especially since nothing else works.

On a larger scale, though, he wants me to “just do me” all the time. I don’t need to hide or put on a mask. I’m fine with the God who created the universe.

I check myself often to make sure what He says is fine … is fine with me.

By Mary Pat Johns

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