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Freedom

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Today is the Fourth of July ~ Independence Day for Americans. It’s a day when we honor our country and celebrate the freedoms gained over 200 years ago. It’s also a time to spend with family and friends, celebrating with cookouts, picnics, festivals and fireworks.

As I reflect on the freedoms I have as an American my mind also wanders to the freedoms I have as a child of God.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then,
and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.    Galatians 5:1

We are born as slaves to sin. Our very nature is to question authority and want to do things our own way. But this sin separates us from God and keeps us from spending eternity with Him in Heaven. The immediate sense of satisfaction we have by exerting our   independence in doing things our own way keeps us from an even better reward after our time on earth is done.

Thankfully Jesus came from that incredible Heaven and lived a sinless life here on earth.  For anyone willing to submit to God’s will for our lives and trust in Jesus to lead us in His ways we receive freedom from our sinfulness and so much more.

We are free:

  • from guilt and shame 
  • from bad habits 
  • from believing the lies of the evil one!

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  John 8:36

Wouldn’t it be something if we celebrated our freedom in Christ as jubilantly as we celebrate our country’s freedom?

Happy Independence Day from me to each of you!

blessings and peace…
Paula

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It’s Your Choice ~ Words Worth Remembering Week #17

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…
But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15b-16

God has been talking to me about choices lately and brought this verse to mind recently in my time with Him.

My first reaction was to say, “Yes, Lord. I choose You. I serve You.”

And He replied something like, “Are you sure?”

It reminded me a little bit of the conversation He had with Peter in John 21 when He asked three times if Peter loved Him. I imagine Peter losing patience with the Lord a little by the third time to think that Peter didn’t love Him. Hadn’t Peter walked with Him all those years? Peter even tried to keep the soldiers from arresting and killing Jesus. Of course Peter loved Him!

Was Jesus really asking Peter simply if Peter loved Him, or was it whether Peter chose to love Jesus more than other things in his life? Did Peter love Him more than his zealous pride? Was Peter willing to forget about what the other disciples were doing or who was the most important to Jesus and love Him more than all else?

Thus God’s question to me.

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He wasn’t questioning whether I serve Him but instead whether I choose to serve Him over other less significant things.

God has a mission for me. A role for me in His kingdom. Do I choose this role over selfish desires? Am I choosing to use my ‘free’ time in a way that will please the Lord or do I waste it on things that have no significance?

Do I choose to serve Him or my own whims and ideas?

Do I even think about whom I’m serving or how I spend my time?

How about you? What do you choose?

Whom do you choose?

blessings and peace to you as you choose and serve this weekend.
Paula

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Follow The Leader

It’s one of the most iconic images we all know and love…

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The image is one of trust. These ducklings instinctively know their mother will only do what is best for them and will take them to where they need to go as safely as possible. She will teach them to swim and to fly, show them how to find and identify food and to know a predator from a friend. She might have to push them to do things that frighten them because she knows they can and the result will be what’s best for them.

What about us? Who do we follow?

Society would have us follow those who are rich or famous. The suggestion of following in the footsteps of someone who has ‘made it’ even comes in some Christian circles. There is occasionally a notion of promised wealth and happiness if a certain formula is followed. Unfortunately even some Christian leaders pick and choose from God’s word to create a message that people want to hear and willingly follow.

Consider for a moment this photo:

ducks follow chicken

While I found it adorable it also caused me to pause as I considered that this is not a great example of leadership. While the chicken has much to offer these ducklings, chickens cannot fly (for extended periods of time) and HATE water. She will not be able to teach these little ones to swim or to fly away from those who wish to harm them. In a sense (if you will forgive the pun) she is teaching them to be sitting ducks.

So how do we know who we should follow?

As Christians Christ is our leader and the ultimate example for us to follow. Through Christ we have also been given the Holy Spirit to lead us when we are uncertain of what God’s word is saying or if we are on the right path. The first place we should go is to our knees to seek God’s will for us and follow His direction.

Thankfully we are not alone on our journey. God has given us advisors to walk with us and at times lead or even  push us when we are stuck. They can help us see what we cannot and get us turned around if we are headed in the wrong direction.

In the Bible Paul gives us the ultimate identifier of a good earthly leader. He was bold enough to say:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.     1 Corinthians 11:1

In all that Paul did his aim was to follow Christ. Those who followed him knew that he would not intentionally lead them astray because his eyes were set on Christ and his guidance from the Holy Spirit. When we see this in those we follow we can also be assured they are good leaders.

What kind of leader are you?

Before you say that you are not a leader, look ‘behind’ you. Is there anyone following your example? If so, then you are a leader. You may not stand before large groups of people or teach a class but if you influence anyone you are a leader.

Hopefully we can stand with Paul and boldly encourage others to follow us as we follow Christ and His example. We won’t be perfect (we are human after all) but when we aim to point others to Christ our leadership will be sound.

I am thankful for the good leaders and advisors that have been placed in my life and I hope those who follow me will see Christ in me.

I pray that each of you have the same aim.

blessings and peace to you today as you follow your Leader!
Paula

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When You Can’t Go On…Go To God

Elijah was a great prophet and had seen great success through the power of God.

  • He declared there would be no rain on the land for several years until he spoke again. (1 Kings 17:1)
  • He saved a widow and her son through a few drops of oil and a handful of flour. (1 Kings 17:12-16)
  • He  had proven that His God was more powerful than Baal when he called down fire on a drenched altar. Then all the prophets of Baal had died at his hands. (1 Kings 18:20-40)

 

But despite all God had done through him Elijah spent. He was exhausted and afraid. He didn’t want to go on.

“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. (1Kings 19:4b-5)

Have you ever been there? You believe you’ve followed God and seen some wonderful successes. But suddenly you’re so tired. You have had enough and don’t feel like you can make it through one more day.

God met Elijah there in the wilderness where he had run. God allowed Elijah to rest, fed him and gave him water to refresh him.

Then God spoke to Elijah.

He took him up to a mountain and told Elijah the presence of the Lord would pass by. There was a mighty wind. Then there was an earthquake and a fire. But God wasn’t in any of those. Next came a gentle whisper…the voice of God. Tender and loving, meeting Elijah in his distress.

God listened to Elijah, then spoke to him a promise of help…and sent him on his way.

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God listens to you too.

He hears every time you cry to Him. In the times you don’t understand and you don’t think you can go on you can expect to hear from Him. If you listen, God will feed you from His word, refresh you through others, and promise you help.

Then God will send you on your way. When you are refreshed and empowered by His Spirit you will go forward and see wonderful things happen once again.

Things more wonderful than you can imagine.

 

blessings and peace…
Paula

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“WHERE’S HEIDI” Book Review

This is a highly anticipated book for me. I am blessed to be part of a writers’ group with the author, Lisa Buske and was treated to glimpses of the manuscript as this incredible book took shape. That being said, my relationship with the author does not automatically grant her a positive review! But the truth is, I do love this book as much as the author!

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“Where’s Heidi, One Sister’s Journey” gives us a unique view into a tragedy we only get a glimpse of through news reports. One Easter morning Lisa was awakened to the sound of a ringing telephone. Soon the voice of her aunt on the answering machine plunged her into a tragedy that would impact the rest of her life. Lisa’s only sister, Heidi Allen had been kidnapped.

When a child disappears or is kidnapped the news reports primarily reflect the loss of the parents, grandparents and other adults in that child’s life. The siblings are wisely protected from the media and news reports. While this makes sense it also leaves out an important piece of the full picture. It often causes us to forget that siblings have lost a companion, a confidant…a best friend. With this book Lisa closes that gap for us as she takes us on a journey…her journey of the hours, days and years that followed Heidi’s disappearance. She bares her heart to us to see and feel the tragedy first-hand. Her story is compelling and draws each reader in to what became her reality.

Thankfully Lisa’ story is not without hope. Heidi’s disappearance is unfortunately still a mystery. But through her journey Lisa has found the ultimate Hope in the saving grace and overwhelming love of Jesus. And ironically enough, this gift was offered to her by a child.

You’ve got to read it for yourself!

Purchasing Information:

Where’s Heidi? One Sister’s Journey will be released, April 3, 2013. Lisa’s book will be available at Amazon.com for your convenience. Additional bookstores and locations will be posted on her website once confirmed.
Lisa will be hosting a “scavenger hunt” as part of her TOP’S Tuesday blog series in the month of March to reveal a mystery location and book signing on April 3, 2013. There will be a limited number of books available at this location but more will be available at the book release party at The River’s End Bookstore in Oswego, New York later this same day.
More information will be posted as it’s determined.
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About the Author:
Lisa M. Buske’s sister, Heidi M. Allen was kidnapped on April 3, 1994 never to be seen or heard from again. God has taken a tragic instance of her life and transformed it into a life-saving occurrence. She writes with passion and out of obedience for the God who saved her knowing others need to hear her story. Lisa’s relationship with Jesus opened the door to a hope and healing she didn’t think was possible.
Lisa’s husband, Ed, daughter, Mary, and her parents serve as Lisa’s team as she writes and speaks. Lisa’s faith in God and dedication to family motivate and inspire her to do and be the best woman, wife, mother, and sister she can be. Her life proves it is possible to survive when God is part of the equation.
In addition to writing and speaking, Lisa works as a teacher’s assistant for her local school district and serves at different capacities within her church.
Contact Information:

To learn more about Lisa M. Buske or to follow her writing and speaking:
Facebook: “Where’s Heidi?” book page and “Lisa M Buske” author page
Twitter: @LisaBuske
AIM: Lbuskewriter
Writing for Him…to keep Heidi’s memory alive with prayers to heal those affected by abduction.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

A time to be born and a time to die.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1 -2 (NIV)

 

 

Please take some time to stop at Lisa’s blog and pre-order this book. You won’t be sorry you did!!
blessings and peace…
Paula
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What’s The Difference?

Stories of people making a difference in the lives of others are so inspirational. They are everywhere – television shows, news stories and radio spots all about these amazing people. They tell of millionaires who give money to those in need, weight loss coaches training people to lose incredible amounts of weight and others who save lives, remodel homes for returning soldiers…so many who change lives through their actions and deeds. Every time I encounter one of these stories I am touched and motivated to go out and do the same.

But then I stop short.

I can’t make that kind of difference!

I’m not rich, I don’t have special skills to teach others about losing weight or overcoming other obstacles in their lives, and I don’t have the vacation time or the resources to travel somewhere to assist with disaster relief. I could never be like one of those people.

It can be easy to stop there, believing that since I may never be able to impact the world with my difference I am unimportant and shouldn’t even try.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.           1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10 NIV

We may not ever be in the news for the difference we make. But the reality is that we don’t always know the difference we are making in someone’s life when we allow God to reach through us. When we dismiss our abilities and the way the Holy Spirit can work in our lives because we don’t think they are important enough we are tying God’s hands and hindering Him from blessing people through us. Whatever gifts we are given God can and will use when we release them to Him.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38 NIV

And for those of you who are convinced that you don’t have gifts that God can use? Let me ask you a few questions…

1. Can you pray?  Our prayers have more impact than we will ever know, at least this side of Heaven. When we offer a prayer for a friend, family member, or even a stranger we release the power of God through the Holy Spirit to work in their life. Your prayer may be the lifeline for someone who feel they have no strength to go on.

In addition to praying for family, friends and other known needs I have formed a habit of praying when I hear a siren. I don’t always know if the siren comes from a police car, fire truck or ambulance but I pray for the people who are helping, and the people being helped. Truly someone’s life may be saved because of your prayer.

2. Can you smile? I work in a medical office at the front desk. I spend most of my day answering the phone and checking in patients. It’s not the kind of job where I’m changing lives or making life-altering decisions that impact others and it is easy to slip into the attitude of thinking my role is unimportant. But that thinking would be wrong. I can smile. I can be kind to those I encounter. This is not a small thing.

Think about the difference when you go to a store, medical office, etc. and the person at the counter is crabby, just doing enough to get through the day but certainly not happy about it. Now think of the last time the person in this position smiled at you and was pleasant throughout your interaction. What kind of difference did that make in your day? We in turn can make this difference for someone else.

3. Can you write/type? The art of letter/note writing is fading fast. It is fun to get an encouraging note via “snail mail” as too often the only thing we find in the mailbox is bills. But whether you handwrite a note or use e-mail or Facebook to deliver your message, a few minutes to say, “hi” and let someone know you are thinking of and praying for them can lift their day and make a difference.

Some days we are blessed by being told of the difference we are making in our little corner of the world. But even when we aren’t told we need to trust that God is at work in us and through us when we allow Him. The ultimate reward will be when we stand before Him one day and hear:

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!                                                                                             Matthew 25:21 NIV

blessings and peace to you as you make a difference today!

Paula

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Bucket Full of…

This summer I have becoming very familiar with buckets. Mind you I haven’t filled one with berries, used one to build a sandcastle or to carry worms to the fishing hole….yet. I have however put many under the eaves of the house while praying for rain to fill them.

Our water supply comes from a well and every summer we have bouts of running low, or out of water. This requires creative solutions such as ‘showering’ from a bucket and heating buckets of water on the stove for dishes. Activities that my parents recollect from their childhood only in modern times. We are thankful for laundromats, bottled water and family and friends who have enough water to spare.

I don’t tell you any of this for sympathy. It’s really just an inconvenience and reminds us of all the blessings we have and perhaps how much we take for granted. And it’s fun to play in the rain when the buckets are filling up and need to be emptied into jugs so they can catch more! For me it’s also nostalgic, reminders of trips next door to the farm for showers as kids and learning from my grandpa to brush my teeth using a glass of water instead of water running from the faucet.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about buckets, and being filled. I’ve been thinking about how each of us needs to be filled every day. Not only our physical needs but mental, emotional and spiritual spaces in our hearts and lives that need filling.

How do I choose to fill these voids?

Am I filled by what others believe about me, or say to me each day?

Am I filled by what I read, listen to or what I watch on television?

Am I filled by what I believe about myself?

To some extent the answer to all of these questions is, “yes”. Our lives are impacted by outside influences every day. The question is how much do we rely on them and how much do we depend on the Lord and the truth of scripture to fill us from within?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6 NIV

No one can know everything about us except God, and no one understands our deepest needs the way He does. God gave us others for friendship and fellowship but He did not intend for any human to take His place in meeting our deepest needs.

Our friends may abandon us when we’re going through a rough time because they don’t know what to say or how to ‘fix what’s wrong’ with us.

God promises that He will never leave us. (Deuteronomy 31)

Family and friends may say hurtful things to us that make us question their love. But God tells us:

“I have loved you with an everlastinglove;

I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

We need others around us to support us, to challenge us and to bring joy to our lives. But the truth is, when we rely only on humans for our needs we will ALWAYS be disappointed.

The Lord is waiting to fill you with whatever your needs are today….a listening ear, a pat on the back, or the assurance that you are loved more deeply than you can know. May you reach out to Him and allow Him to fill you, pushing out the noise around you that may go against His truth.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV

May your bucket be overflowing with His love, blessings and peace today!!

Paula