Eggciting

Last Easter, a few of the ladies in my Bible study and I celebrated Easter with the women and children at our local women’s shelter. The message we shared was about the three eggs of Easter.

The first egg was empty. It represented the empty tomb.

The second egg had a marshmallow chick in it. It represented the sweetness and fullness of God’s love and new birth.

The third egg was a chocolate egg that was wrapped in gold foil. It represented restoration. After empathizing with the women concerning their current situations, and encouraging them that God could and would restore their lives, my friends and I handed each of the women a golden egg. The Holy Spirit moved hearts and tears began to fall. It was a beautiful experience!

The way I celebrated this Easter was very different from last year’s celebration. Instead of meeting with abused women in a park, I spent the weekend with my pastors and church family at the Yellow Rose Ranch. The weekend was so amazing and life giving it would take many blogs to share about it, so I will just refer back to the three eggs of Easter,

The empty egg: Although there was no Easter sermon, the message of Easter was everywhere as relationship with Jesus and the victories He has given us were present in every conversation.

The full egg: The sweetness and fullness of God’s love was mirrored in action as each person considered others better than himself/herself and truly loved his/her neighbor. Serving one another was easy because it was out of love and not duty. Protecting one another was natural because we truly cared and wanted what was best for each other.

The golden egg of restoration: There were some precious times, usually around the camp fire, when we spoke words of encouragement to one another. My church calls this “kisses from heaven”. As we affirmed each other and made agreement with the restoration God has for us, the Holy Spirit moved hearts and both laughter and tears fell. It was beautiful!

Two different Easter experiences, but the same three eggs: Victory in Jesus, the fullness of His love poured out to others, and the beautiful restoration that He brings to our lives.

Because the tomb was empty, our hearts are full!

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters”(1 John 3:16 NIV).

You

While sitting in church one Sunday preparing to take communion, the Lord spoke to my heart. He said, “Lift up your cup.” As I raised my hand to eye-level and studied the small container of red liquid in front of me, I could clearly see the lines and swirls of my fingerprints pressed against the clear plastic. It was then I heard in my Spirit “When I was on the cross I saw your fingerprints. I knew that you would be, and I knew everything about you”

Up until that day I had acknowledged Jesus as my Savior, but I saw myself as just a speck in a crowd of millions of people. I didn’t realize that if I had been the only person who had ever lived Jesus would have died just for me. But that is exactly what He did. Jesus gave His life only for me. He also gave His life only for you.

When Jesus was dying on the cross He saw you; not just as part of a collective body of humanity, but you individually. He knew you before you were even created. As He hung on the cross in agony, He looked through time and saw you and knew that He was taking your place. As He breathed His last breath, He saw the day when you would take your first breath. He knew and loved you then, and He knows and loves you now. Do you know Him?

One of the lies that kept me from enjoying the Lord was that I thought I somehow had to earn my salvation. Realizing that it was only God’s free gift of grace and not my good works that saved me, took me off of the roller coaster of daily wondering whether I was heaven assured or hell-bound.

Have you exchanged your sins for the free gift of grace Jesus gave you when He died on Calvary? If not, then I would encourage you to pray the following prayer with me: Sweet Jesus, I need you! I am I sinner. Forgive me for all I have done. Thank you for washing away my sins and dying in my place so I can live with you for all eternity. Thank you that from this moment forward I am in

Sweet Jesus, I need you! I am I sinner. Forgive me for all I have done. Thank you for washing away my sins and dying in my place so I can live with you for all eternity. Thank you that from this moment forward I am in relationship with you. Be Lord of my life and reveal your heart to me and daily lead and guide me in all ways. In Jesus’ name Amen!

If you have given your life to the Lord but have been riding the I hope I am going to heaven roller coaster it’s time to get off. Thinking that we are responsible for our salvation is a hook of the enemy to make us feel unworthy and keep us in pride. God adores you! Take hold of His grace and walk in the joy of your salvation!

Have an amazing Easter as you reflect on Christ’s loving sacrifice and His glorious resurrection!

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV).

 

The Good Friday Journey

I haven’t yet had the privilege of walking where Jesus walked, but the contributor of today’s testimony has. I pray you will be blessed as you read  Mary Zatkalik’s eye-witness account of a “Good Friday” celebration in Jerusalem.

I will never forget my three-week stay in Israel and specifically, the time spent in Jerusalem.  My husband and I chose the Windmill Hotel because it offered a Seder experience at sunset on Passover.  Also, we could walk to the Old City of Jerusalem, just blocks from the hotel, and sightsee.

The Old City boasts of archaeological history and its narrow streets feature vendors selling beautiful gifts, colorful fresh produce and braids of freshly baked bread.  We learned where the various gates to the city were located to allow us entrance, and we prayed at the Western Wall.

I will forever remember the Friday afternoon which happened to also be Good Friday.  After lunch in the hotel, we meandered over to the Old City where we entered through the gate and immediately we were swept up into a whirlwind.  I felt out of control when my feet barely touched the ground because a mass of people carried me with them to their destination.  I still remember the panic on my husband’s face because he, too, was taken away by the crowd but at least it looked like we were headed in the same direction.

The event taking place, “The Way of the Cross,” sometimes refers to the “Stations of the Cross.”  A fancier name, the “Via Dolorosa,” depicts the suffering journey of Jesus as He walked down those narrow streets of Jerusalem to face his crucifixion and death on the cross for the sins of mankind.

Catholic churches offer the Stations of the Cross in their Good Friday services.  As a child, I remember the quiet reflection and prayer times with my mom where we physically moved from one station to the next within the sanctuary of the church meditating on the journey Jesus took from The Last Supper to His death and burial.

For clarity, these are the Biblical meditations:

  • Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples
  • Jesus in the garden
  • Jesus betrayed by Judas, then arrested
  • Jesus condemned by the Sanhedrin
  • Jesus denied [by Peter]
  • Jesus judged by Pilate [sent to Herod Antipas, then returned to Pilate]
  • Jesus scourged
  • Jesus took His cross
  • Jesus helped by Simon
  • Jesus crucified
  • Jesus [temporarily] prepared for burial
  • Jesus placed in the tomb

It’s one thing to sit in a quiet church and recite prayers at each station, but it’s a whole different experience to be there with passionate believers where history approximately took place about 2000 years ago.  I heard the sounds of voices crying out in worship and I stared at the cross carried vertically above the crowd.  My heart gripped with emotion that Good Friday.

I am ecstatic to have had the experience of being a part of that passionate movement that day.    I tasted the excitement of Via Dolorosa.  The roar of a crowd at each “station” gave me an appreciation of not only the scene but the original journey on that road to Calvary.  I am not only thankful to have participated, but thankful that I survived!

Mary Zatkalik

Stand to Serve

In my last blog I mentioned that in 2012, the Lord took me off the beaten path into a season of care giving for my parents and special needs sister. I would be lying to you if I told you that my heart and attitude were always right. My patience was often severely tested, reminding me that God is more concerned about our characters than our callings. Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, I now realize that it was His loving faithfulness that took me off the beaten path—and even into the wilderness for a season, not just to care for my family’s needs, but in order to bring me more revelations of His love and cultivate the fruits of the Spirit in my life. While my flesh often cried out, “I can’t do this! And sometimes even “Get me out of here!” My spirit cried out, “Jesus, make me more like you!”

I often felt as if I were in a tug-a-war. The reality was that I was. I wasn’t aware of the intensity of my battle until one Sunday while I was listening to a sermon about serving. The pastor talked about how during the Passover meal Jesus stood, stripped, stooped, and served. I took his words to heart.

When you and I are in challenging situations we often want to stand and run, instead of stand and serve. After hearing the sermon, I realized I needed to take a different kind of stand. When I returned to my parent’s house that afternoon I changed my prayer from release me to reveal more of your love through me. My prayer for revelation helped me to release the rope, receive peace, and gave me the grace to continue to serve.

Maybe you can relate. Have you been taken off the beaten path into a place that is difficult for you? Have you wanted to stand up and run away? If so, I would encourage you to join me and pray the following prayer:

Lord, humble me and help me to stand for you. Continue to strip me from what hinders me and empty me of myself. Gird me with Your strength and help me to serve with a willing heart.  Teach me to love by filling me with more of you! Thank you, Jesus, for doing in me what I am not capable of doing. In Jesus mighty name…Amen!

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” John 13:2-5 (NIV).

 

 

 

 

 

Off the Beaten Path

In 2012, I moved to Maryland to help my daughter with my grandsons while her husband participated in varied military operations. That June, my mother ended up on life support for meningitis and pneumonia. I flew home to stay with Mom and to be her advocate, as well as helping dad with his business and with the care of my special needs sister. When Mom was transferred to a rehab facility I flew back to Maryland to resume my life.

Two months later, when I was taking a walk in Maryland, the Lord told me to get off the path and head in a different direction. He then spoke to my heart that He was going to take me off the “beaten path”—so far off, I wouldn’t understand. As I walked on, I came up to a sign saying “bumps in road ahead.”  The Lord told me that I was going to be hitting some bumps. Before I finished my walk I was also led to pray in front of both yield and stop signs. As I lingered at each sign, the Lord deposited promises and warnings into my Spirit, and when I returned to the house I knew I would be in Corpus Christi for the Holidays helping my parents.  I just had no idea what the season would look like—I couldn’t have had an idea!

It ended up being a longer and more challenging season than I ever could have imagined. Two months turned into four years. I quickly transitioned from changing my grandson’s diapers in Maryland to my mother’s depends in Texas—from cleaning up toys to cleaning out closets— from waking up in the night with crying babies—to waking up throughout the night to administer care and meds to aging parents.

It was a season of daily dying, serving others, and major growth. As I faced the reality of nothing being as I had expected, I had to keep in mind that everything was as God knew it would be.  As I held Momma in my arms, I continued to hold onto the promise of going to the nations in my heart. As I helped Momma walk, I learned to walk in a foreign land—the land of caring for aging parents.  As I reorganized the house, God reorganized my priorities. In the process, I had to learn to listen to His guidance as to when to walk, when to yield, and when to stop. I also had to rely on His amazing grace that cushioned me when I hit road bumps.

The day God told me to leave the path He was setting my feet in a new direction. Neither the timing nor the season was as I had expected them to be, but they were everything that He wanted for me. Some of the road bumps seemed gigantic, and I didn’t always want to obey the signs. But God kept me and grew me and brought me back into alignment. He also abundantly blessed me in ways I never would have imagined!

Even though I often didn’t know where the next bend was going to be, I was thankful that God had forewarned me. That has not always been the case. In November, God took me on another off-road adventure. This time I had no warning. I returned to my father’s house to care for my sister for a week while he went to a wedding in California. The day before the wedding, Dad fell and broke his hip. He had to have surgery and go to rehab. He then stayed with my older sister for awhile, but ended up back in the hospital and then rehab again because of other health issues. He is now back at my sister’s house. He might make it back home this month. Only the Lord knows.

Through both experiences, I have learned that life can change quickly. However, what looks like a detour is really a divine set up. As I have daily walked with God through yet another unexpected journey, once again, I am thankful for the changes He has made in me and through me. I am also thankful for the blessings He has given me—blessings I would never have had had He not taken me off the beaten path.

How about you? Have you found yourself taking a divine detour? Is what you are currently experiencing looking far different from what you had expected. If so, remember Proverbs 3:5-8. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct[a] your paths” (NKJV).

Our part is to trust. God’s part is to lead. As you and I acknowledge the Lord in all things and lean on God instead of on our own understanding, He will guide us down the paths He has chosen for us. These paths might be less traveled, but they are strewn with blessings!

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

Leaves

For a few hours the other day I raked leaves at my father’s house.  About 30 minutes into my task, memories began to flood my mind, and I started praising God. Years ago, when I had emphysema I constantly prayed to keep breathing. As I bent to scoop up a pile of leaves I took a deep effortless breath and once again thanked God for miraculously healing me.

When I began to rake up another pile of leaves, I thought to myself, “Wow! My shoulder isn’t hurting!” In 2012, my doctor and physical therapist had given me little hope for a full recovery. I now have full range of motion and no pain.

“God, I don’t thank you enough,” I voiced. “I take so much for granted!”

As I kept raking and bagging leaves, I remembered other situations where God had met me in hard times. I continued to thank Him: “Thank you, Lord, you have done so much for me! Thank you, Lord, for healing my body and my heart. Thank you for your provision and faithfulness. Thank you for restoring my mind. Thank you for restoring relationships. Thank for freedom from fear. You are amazing!”

Raking leaves was no longer a chore. It was a privilege. With each stroke of the rake, choruses of thanks rose from my lips. I continued to give thanks and praise the Lord for the next two hours. Sixteen bags of leaves later, I set down my rake and thought to myself, “Wow! God really has brought good out of everything the enemy intended for evil. In that moment, I was fully aware that it’s only because of His mercy and love that I have truly been able to leave my past behind!

What a mighty God we serve!

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NLT).

“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3, ESV).

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV

 

 

A Written Proposal

Contributed by James Bennett

I started a letter to God in 2013 with thanksgiving and praise as I had been taught in my discipleship class. As I wrote, the Spirit of the Lord came upon me. His presence was closer and more evident than any time before, and different than any time since. The atmosphere was sweet and romantic, yet very intense. My body responded. I was weeping uncontrollably. Fallen tears soaked the pages and spotted my jeans. Struggling to breath, I resolved to write. What began as a letter of request had dramatically turned into the most honest love letter I had ever written. My heart broke open, and feelings I had never known before gushed out. Because it was a love letter, I will keep details personal between God and me. However, I will share that repeatedly, and in various ways, I expressed how I wanted God’s companionship in all areas of my life. I asked that He free me from the worry of lack of money. I longed for stability.

The original purpose of the letter was to request what I wanted in the following year. I was going to ask that God grant me more income for financial stability, a permanent home, and a wife. Yet, I was so moved by love that I forgot to include the details.

Actually I did not forget anything. I was intensely focused on what was important, and the small details were not. In fact, those types of details that you and I have all planned in life are really solutions on how to live without God. As I wrote, I was so moved by God’s love that I could only request that He meet my needs.

The following year, 2014, did not look like I thought it would, however, all of my needs were met. I took an $80,000 decrease in pay and could not plan 2 meals ahead. Instead of bringing me more income to free me from financial worries, God took income out of the equation altogether. He made it very easy for me to witness His provision, so that I could not miss where true provision comes from. He did this repeatedly over and over that year. I no longer worry about money. That does not mean I have an abundance of money. In fact, there are often times where I lack what is needed. Worry in these times has been replaced with a sense of wellbeing.

The beginning of 2014 started with me owning my own home, and ended with me having to sell it. God showed me how my home is not in what surrounds me, but what is in me. The Kingdom of Heaven is my home and home is where the heart is. No matter where I am living physically, I have access to this home that transforms the atmosphere around me.

I longed for companionship, yet I did not get married that year. I felt more alone that year than any year before. Like with income, God removed companionship with people from the equation so that I could clearly see Him. That year my relationship with Him grew deeper and deeper, as I imagine it would for newlyweds that relocate to a new city with no money.

The experience I shared with the Lord when writing that letter in 2013 changed me. I had never known Him to be so real. He later revealed to me that the letter was a proposal from my heart to His. I proposed to be married to Him and His ways forever. I also proposed to build a life together. This may not have been my intentions when starting the letter, but when we are in His presence our desires are purified. The solutions I originally sought after were displaced by the only true solution, the love of God.

 

 

Magnify

Psalms 34:3-4 “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.  I sought the Lord, and he heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. (NKJV)

 

In the book of Joshua the Israelites were instructed to build a pillar of stones so their children would remember the miracles of God. I have discovered that journaling often accomplishes the same thing, for us as well as for our children.

Today I found this stone of remembrance from 2001. God knew that would need it now as much as I did then.

God always knows what we need and when we need it. Recently, while worshipping at church, the Lord shared a revelation with me that changed my perspective. I was feeling particularly discouraged over some situations going on in my family when suddenly the words of the song we were singing seemed to leap off of the screen. They were about magnifying and lifting up the name of Lord.

In the midst of the song, it was impressed upon my heart that the reason I was so discouraged was because it was as if I was looking at my circumstances through a magnifying glass. The Lord then spoke to my spirit, “Look up! Magnify me instead!”

As I literally lifted my head and shifted my magnifying glass upward, I began to experience the awesomeness of God. I was so overwhelmed by the revelation of His magnificence and power I stumbled and almost fell backwards. In the midst of glimpsing who He was, my present circumstances seemed small and insignificant.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by your present circumstances? If so, lift up your eyes and your heart and magnify the Lord. You will be amazed how your circumstances will pale in the light of His majesty and glory.

I pray God’s blessings over you today. May He comfort you in your distress, calm you in your fears, reveal His glory in the midst of your circumstances, and flood you with joy.

Psalm 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (ESV).

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie Boatright

When Feelings Don’t Matter

 

When Feelings Don’t Matter

Have you ever felt unworthy? I used to feel that way daily. One morning, many years ago, I woke up thinking, “I’m such a mess. What can I possibly do for God?” I continued to beat myself up, listing all the reasons why I was unfit to do what God was calling me to do. I fully expected Him to agree with me and push me away. But instead, He drew me close and reminded me that whether I felt worthy or not, made me no less lovable or able to be used by Him. My worthiness was not based upon my beliefs about myself or in my abilities. I was worthy strictly because of what Jesus did for me and who I was to Him.

As I continued to pray, in my mind, I saw a little caterpillar, and I heard the phrase of a familiar old hymn “For such a worm as I”. I thought to myself, “I am that worm. God could just squish me.” But instead of seeing an all-powerful foot ready to stomp, I saw all-powerful hands reach down and gently scoop up the little insect and cup it as if in a chrysalis. The hands then opened back up and a beautiful butterfly took flight.

God is relational and full of compassion. He understands our hearts and our feelings. He laughs with us when we are happy and cries with us when life hurts. He calms our fears and holds our tears in a bottle. He cheers us on in our victories and even in our defeats. He understands when we are angry, and He holds us close when we are lonely.

He cares about what we feel and why we feel it. Through both triumphs and tragedies, many times, I have heard His tender voice say, “It’s OK. I know how you feel.” But the day I felt so unworthy I heard Him speak something quite different. As I saw Him release the butterfly, He tenderly spoke to my heart, “It doesn’t matter how you feel, for you are worthy, my child, just because of my love.”

May you always remember that you are worth more to God than you could ever think or imagine!

Isaiah 49:15-16

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me” (NIV)

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie Boatright!

Cantaloupe Story

 

When my friend Karisma shared the following story with me I was in awe of God’s individual love for His children. I pray it will bless you as it has blessed me.

One morning, after spending time with the Lord, I was stirred with the desire to bless a couple I knew. I was excited at the possibility to do something special for them from the Lord. Since I felt that it should be food of some sort, I went to the supermarket. As I walked down the aisles, I eagerly inquired of the Lord what it was that I was supposed to get. I thought, “I want to give them the best because that’s what they deserve…an expensive steak perhaps. Only the best.”

As I continued walking up and down the aisles, I kept asking the Lord what He wanted me to give them. Then I heard this answer: “Cantaloupe.”

I thought, “Cantaloupe? That can’t be right. Cantaloupe is not expensive. Besides, I don’t even know how to pick a ripe cantaloupe. I must have heard wrong or something.” So I continued walking down the meat aisle and again asked the Lord what He wanted me to give to them.

Again I heard, “Cantaloupe.” So I thought ‘okay’ and walked over the to the produce section and one by one began picking up cantaloupes and smelling and thumping them, all the while telling the Lord that I did not know which fruit to pick and asking Him if He was sure about this. As I was smelling and thumping about the 6th fruit I heard, “This one.” So I put said fruit in the basket and walked through the store asking the Lord, “What else?”

I didn’t think that just one thing would do so I thought, “Now…I should get that steak or something along that line.” But instead, I heard the Lord tell me to get vanilla ice cream. My response to Him was, “What?!? You have GOT to be kidding! Vanilla ice cream?” But I knew that I had heard the Lord, so I walked to the freezer section and stared at the vast choices of vanilla ice cream. There were about 5 or 6 different flavors of just vanilla ice cream!

I stood in front of those glass freezer doors and asked, “Which one?” His reply came, “Vanilla Bean.” I opened the door and pulled out a gallon of Vanilla Bean ice cream, put it in the basket and wondered, ‘Okay…now for the steaks.” “That’s all,” said the Lord. I sighed and said, “Okay,” and headed to the checkout counter.

It seemed strange and a little sparse to me, but that is what the Lord wanted to give to this couple. Immediately, I drove over to their house and knocked on the door. When Margie answered, I handed the bags to her and sheepishly said, “This is from the Lord,” and quickly made my exit. I am quite shy by nature and I was hoping and praying that I hadn’t completely blundered what the Lord wanted to do.

About an hour or so later I received a call from Margie. “How did you know?” I was taken by surprise and replied, “What? How did I know what?” She said, “How did you know that it is Ernest’s birthday?” I was stunned. “It’s Ernest’s birthday? I didn’t know,” I replied. Margie went on to explain, “This morning Ernest was spending time with the Lord and told Him that all he wanted for his birthday was cantaloupe and vanilla ice cream. He didn’t have the money himself to purchase it, but that was what he wanted.”

As she told this to me, I was filled with such a wide array of emotions. In fact, I am tearing up right now as I am recanting the story. Jesus is so good…from giving very specifically, to being blessed, to knowing how and why I was used, and so many things in between! I left that conversation praising the Lord and being so humbled and thankful that He would use me in such a specific way!

Contributed by Karisma Luke