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Chicken Delight

~ Written by Cindy Bushen

I’ve been told that I’m lacking in the laughter factor; that I take life to seriously. When my daughter suggested that I knit vests for their six chickens for Christmas, I thought, “Ok, that’s funny.” I imagined my son-in-law, who finds humor in the smallest of things, would be delighted with this Christmas gift. He was.

As the evening was winding down at our Christmas gathering, with just a couple friends and family remaining, Mike brought in a chicken to model a vest. The chicken appeared to be quite pleased with her new attire as she strutted around the family room. But true to a chicken’s nature, in just a few minutes there was a mess on the floor to clean up. My daughter headed upstairs to gather some paper towels to take care of the task. Mike disrobed the chicken and perched her on his arm to return her to the coop. Just as he reached the stairs, he stopped to comment to a guest. My daughter was coming down the stairs. Her eyes widened as she proclaimed, “Mike, this chicken is going to lay an egg! Seriously, it’s laying an egg!” Her eyes were three times wider than normal. We all participated in deep hysterical laughter that occurs when the totally unexpected happens.

Psalm 37:4 is a favorite passage of mine. The verse reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your hear.” While it may be a stretch to apply it to my chicken story, I believe that God orchestrates turns of events into unexpected humor for our delight.

This passage states that the desires of my heart will be given if I delight in the Lord, but I am certain that God delights even more when observing us enjoy (even to the hysterical point) the opportunities for laughter He creates. Only a close daily walk with the Lord will keep our hearts light and ready to observe what has been placed in our path for the purpose of delighting us. Today, slow your pace, observe the commonplace with an eye for the unexpected. God has a delightful experience just waiting for you.

   

~ Written by Cathy Simms

Have you ever thought about how you treat people when you enter your church on Sunday? Do you enter your bank or grocery store and treat others the same way? How about your friends and family?

Philippians 2:4 (NLT) says, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” It begins with taking “me” out of every situation and putting “others” in its place. When we have the mind of Christ, we are able to see others as Christ sees them.

The word “servant” is defined as “one who serves others.” Galatians 6:3 (NLT) says, “If you think you are too important to help someone in need, you are only fooling yourself. You are really a nobody.” It is in small acts of serving or looking out for others’ interests that we grow like Christ. He specialized in menial tasks that everyone else tried to avoid.

Small tasks often show a big heart. Having a servant’s heart is revealed in little acts that others don’t think of doing. Sometimes we need to serve upward to those in authority but sometimes we need to serve downward to those in need.

So I challenge you, don’t wait until Sunday to think about how to help someone. The people God puts in your path today need to know somebody cares! Who will you be willing to serve today?

~ Written by Cindy Shuler

Enough! How much pain should I endure at the hands of those I love? That’s been my heart’s cry recently. With each infraction, I struggle to forgive, find hope and keep on loving. But when is it enough? Is it okay to place a protective shield around my heart? I’ve wrestled with this. It’s often what I want to do, but is that what’s best?

In a recent conversation with a friend, we talked about this very thing. How did Jesus respond when those he loved responded in ways that brought pain, both physical and emotional? I heard myself say, “He remained open to the pain for the sake of the relationship.” Honestly, that’s not what I wanted to hear, especially from my own mouth! I wanted to justify my protective shield. Still, as I reflected on it, I knew God was inviting me to a new level of trust.  

In Hebrews 12:2 we read of Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” Because he understood the redemptive power of his Father’s plan, Jesus was willing to endure the pain and shame of the cross. Could it be that in willingly opening myself to potential hurt, I could have a small part in God’s work in the lives of others? Do I trust my Father’s heart enough to endure the pain so the relationship isn’t damaged, at least from my end? 

As I’ve chosen to lower the protective shield, I’ve caught glimpses of God at work. Yes, I still get burned and have to fight the urge to withdraw, but I’m also learning to trust God’s desire to reveal himself through my openess. Too, there’s a joy that surfaces as I surrender my comfort for his purposes.

A New Year

~ Written by Viki Rife

The other day I ran across a list of instructions for the one million individuals who plan to crowd into Time Square to watch the ball drop. A huge amount of the list is dedicated to safety tips. It sounds like it’s a bit risky to make the attempt.

Some play it safer—all over the world one billion more are expected to watch electronically as this annual phenomenon takes place. Each person watching is looking for excitement, something to give them a few hours of satisfaction. In past years I’ve been struck, as I watched from my safe living room, by the emptiness in the eyes of some of the participants, despite their raucous laughter.

I can’t help but think of Revelation 1:7: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.” I find myself hoping, “Maybe 2017 is the year we will see this fulfilled.”

Sadly, this will not be a party time for everyone who sees Him come. There will be fear and weeping by those who do not know Him. The ball drop in Times Square will seem completely insignificant compared to this event. Are we prepared? How fervently are we praying for those who will miss out on the joy of His coming? How willing are we to share boldly what Christ has done for us before it’s too late? My resolution this year is to take more risks to help people see what really matters. Will you join me in making this a priority? 

The Christmas App

~ Written by Viki Rife

“You have an app for that?” my friend laughed as her 80-year-old father whipped out his phone. Someone had mentioned, “I wonder what size that TV is” as we set up for an event in a room we had reserved. Sure enough, he had a way to measure the screen! 

It seems there’s an app for everything. One I recently heard about helps people who are non-verbal because of autism communicate their thoughts. The person selects images in a sequence that the app then interprets into a text message. 

In that context, I’ve been thinking about God’s Christmas app. He sent us images that resonate with what our hearts can understand. A virgin mother helps us understand that God can override the laws of nature, and that Jesus is human, yet also God. Angels filling the heavens with light and song help us understand His glory. Wise men making a pilgrimage to follow a star helps us understand belief and perseverance. Our compassion for a baby in a manger helps us understand His compassion and willingness to sacrifice for us.  

Thank God, He has chosen to communicate in a way we can understand. Enjoy exploring His app this Christmas season. May you truly have a merry Christmas! 

Offensive Love

~ Written by Cassie Harris 

“You give people the ability to offend you. You don’t have to do that.” 

My friend’s words stuck with me throughout my career working in the homeless community. My culture told me I had a right to be offended by a lot of lifestyles, addictions, and belief systems I saw. Even more so, it seemed as if my culture was telling me that when I became offended, no one would blame me if I stopped reaching out to my offender again. 

There’s a problem with that approach, though. Walking away (and never returning) because I was offended by something said or done short-changed my ability to show Christ’s love to a hurting world. So, I had to learn how to cling to my identity in Christ in such a way that when I came up against a disagreement, I could walk away unscathed.  

In today’s day and age, we as Christians need to stop only hanging with the acceptable crowds, the less offensive crowds. With how marginalized Christianity is becoming, if we hide in our comfort zones, our spheres of influence will only become smaller and less powerful. 

Look at Jesus. He stuck to His convictions while surrounded by people who did terrifyingly offensive things. Not once did He not love those He disagreed with. What if we did the same thing? 

Which Life?

~Written by Erin Shuler

There it was—the full blow! It was time to make a choice. Was I in or was I out?

For a long time I have had an idea of where God was calling me. I was so excited to follow it and see what would come of it! God placed a desire on my heart to leave the comforts of home as I know them and pursue Him through caring for and loving on orphans in Africa. After visiting Africa for the first time, I came home ready to leave everything behind and dive right into the life I felt I had been called to live. But time passed, and even though I knew my calling hadn’t changed, I felt myself wishing it would.

Driving down the road one day, I realized for the first time how alluring the idea of the American dream was to me. I didn’t realize how hard a fight it was going to be to walk away from ideas that had been engraved in me since birth. I finally realized the impact of what a decision to move across the world was going to mean. It was no longer just giving up a career I didn’t want anyway or money I could have made. I was missing out on all the big and small things that would happen in the States while I was absent. It meant possibly missing my siblings’ weddings. It meant missing the birth of future nephews and nieces. It meant losing the chance to be a part of the lives of people I suddenly realized I wanted desperately to be a part of. It meant risking relationships I already have and can’t imagine not having. It meant no house with a white picket fence, no being one of those soccer moms, no elaborate thousand-dollar weddings or expensive car. 

I realized for the first time that day I had spent my entire life filling my head with ideas that matched the American dream. When I pictured my future, I never saw myself in Africa. I saw myself in America with the “perfect home and family.” So could I still do it? Was I willing to give up what was asked of me?

The truth is the life I have is not mine. It was given to me with the intention that I use it to bring God glory. My purpose is not to live the life I dream but rather the life I have graciously been given to further the kingdom of Christ. Christ has loved me and I in return will love. I will fall in love a hundred times over with every smiling face and every child I hold and touch.

I will love well because Christ has perfectly loved me.

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