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.

 

 

Songs

When my oldest grandson was four my daughter called so he could sing me one of the songs he had just made up. But when I asked him to sing for me, there was silence.

“Rhett,” I coaxed, “are you going to sing me one of your songs?”

After a little sigh, he answered in a serious tone, “I cin’t, Mimi. My songs are all gone!”

At the time, I couldn’t keep from laughing, but later in the day, as his childish reply rolled over in my mind, I began to think about times when I felt as if my songs were all gone.

Last week I attended a Bible study where the leader had asked those in attendance to share their favorite songs and the stories behind them.

As the music played and songs were sung, often, karaoke style, my brothers and sisters in Christ shared their stories and their hearts. Many of the behind the song accounts were about how God had met them in dark and desperate times—times when their songs were all gone.

I fought back tears as hearts were exposed revealing how,in a single moment, the goodness of God had collided with the ugliness of life through music and worship. Hope invaded hopeless as tragedy, grief, despair, and desperation were shifted to peace, comfort, acceptance, and adoration.

These beautiful life-changing encounters inspired me, challenged me, and reminded me of how God had met me so powerfully during times when my songs were all gone.

I couldn’t help but think about when Paul and Silas were imprisoned. Being beaten and thrown into a dark, smelly cell with your feet shackled would definitely be a moment to quit singing. In the midst of their pain and prison the songs of their own understanding might have been silenced, but instead of shutting down they shouted up and exchanged their sorrows and suffering for new songs—God’s songs. In Acts 16: 25-26 the Bible reads About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose” (NIV).

Wow! Talk about a heavenly concert! Praises were lifted, foundations were shifted and ALL the prisoners were unshackled.

The other night, as I heard the testimonies of my sweet friends, praises were lifted, foundations were shifted, and shackles were broken. We were once again reminded of how our loving heavenly father invades our worlds and moves our hearts with His songs, especially when our songs are all gone.

I don’t know your current circumstances. But God does! No matter what you are going through, be assured that He has a new song just for you.

May you be abundantly blessed as your heart is lifted and your eyes are shifted to the one that adores you and sings over you!

Jeannie Boatright

The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV).

 

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

You’re Somebody

This morning I was reminiscing about a particular afternoon when God gave me a revelation of His love. I was sitting at work with the Dean Martin’s song You’re Nobody till Somebody Loves You blaring over the speakers in the lobby. As I thought about some of my past relationships I felt rejection and pain. By the end of the first stanza, I was wallowing self-pitty. “What is wrooonnng with me? Will someone eeveeer love me?!” my heart cried.

I began to think about how my hunger to be loved and valued had led me into deception and caused me much heartache. Then, Suddenly,  without even realizing what I was saying, I blurted out, “No! That song is a lie!”

The Lord then sweetly spoke to my heart, “Somebody does love you. I love you!”

Although Dean continued to sing in the background, I was hearing new lyrics: You’re Somebody Because I have Always Loved You

Most of us have experienced times when we have felt unnoticed, unheard, or unloved. If you can relate, I pray that as you read the following verses, you will be reminded of how much God loves you.

You’re Somebody Because I have Always Loved You

You’re somebody because I have always loved you.

You’re somebody because I have always cared.

You may not think you are lovable or worthy,

But I’m crazy about you and have so much love to share.

 

The world is not the same and you can change it.

Let my love flow through you everywhere you go.

You’re somebody because I’ve always loved you.

So find someone with whom you can share my love.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV).

                        Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie Boatright