Trending Now

By Janelle Pollard

My husband and I don’t watch much TV. We have shows we watch on demand, but we never watch the news or even the weather. If there is a tornado headed our way, we are more likely to find out from friends or by a slight feeling that the house is starting to shake somewhat. Some may see this as choosing to be ignorant but we simply don’t miss it. Life seems a little less stressful and chaotic with fewer scary headlines displayed on our TV screens. And for a recovering worry wart like myself, I don’t want to add to the problem!
While chatting with my mom last night, I found out just how out of the loop we are. She mentioned that the Super Bowl was going on and I didn’t even know it. Not only that, but this may be the first time I didn’t even know who was playing. Growing up with a dad who loves football, I at LEAST knew who would be playing in the Super Bowl that year. But these days, life is busy and the Super Bowl has dropped many notches from my list of things to pay close attention to. (That is probably also influenced by my husband not being big into TV or the NFL, ha!) With this realization of how out of touch I have become with the goings-on of our current society, I decided to see what types of things people are searching on Google these days. Some of the top currently trending searches included Britney Spears, Tom Brady, The Bachelor, and of course, the Super Bowl. I became curious how words like “Christianity” might compare with “Super Bowl” and found that Google offers a nifty little tool for this exact comparison (see below). Of course, over the past 90 days, as it got closer to the day, the “Super Bowl” has been increasing in popularity. However, I noticed that, in general, it is always more popular than “Christianity.” At least in Google searches. This isn’t surprising but it is disappointing. (I would like to add that I don’t write this article while sitting on top of a very high Clydesdale horse! I have searched countless words on Google that have nothing to do with Christianity and I don’t believe this makes me a bad person or “un-Christian.” However, I do think it can help us to re-focus our thoughts!)
This is a good reminder that the world needs a Savior! And that is obviously Jesus. So, how can we help our non-Christian friends and acquaintances be aware of this? The book of 1 Peter gives us some insight…
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16).
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:9-11).
The Cliff Notes:
  • Be obedient to God
  • Don’t be like you used to be before becoming a Christian
  • Be holy in ALL of your conduct, like Jesus
  • Proclaim the greatness of God
  • Remember that, as a Christian, you have received mercy and are part of God’s people
  • Stay away from things of the flesh, things that will tempt you
  • Be honorable in your conduct
We may not get it right every day, but we must try our best! And while trying, may we cause others to want to know more. Let’s always remember to pray that our being different isn’t for our glory, but for God’s. And that it will lead others to Him!

Managing Stress And Anxiety

By Kathy Pollard

I wish I could title this post, “Getting Rid of Stress And Anxiety,” but I don’t think that’s very realistic.  With the exception of perhaps childhood, each new phase in life presents its own unique set of challenges.  Maybe you find yourself in one of the following situations:

  • New marriage, new baby, new home, new work.  While these are exciting and wonderful, they also call for stamina and courage and wisdom.
  • Long-term care of an aging parent.  In addition to the physical exhaustion is the emotional turmoil of seeing your loved one suffer.
  • School/ work load.  I know some students right now who are being stretched in more ways than they ever expected.  Perhaps you’re in the midst of a project or job requirement that’s been going on for so long you can’t remember your last decent night of sleep.
  • Poor health.  After months or years of battling whatever is attacking your body, you wonder if you’ll ever simply feel good.
  • Financial worries.  Finding a job, paying your bills, wondering about retirement, health care…whether you’ve accumulated a mound of debt or you just long for financial security, money can be a very real and daily stressor.
  • Rocky relationships.  Perhaps your marriage is just barely hanging on.  Or you’re worried about your grown-up children or a spiritually wayward relative.  The people we love most can be a source of great anxiety.

Sometimes stress is temporary and we know it.  We can see the light at the end of the tunnel and we’re just trying to get through it.  Sometimes stress is ever-present and overwhelming, and we find ourselves trying to survive one day at a time.  Whichever we find ourselves facing, there are a few simple, proactive ways to manage stress and anxiety.

1.  PRAY

Prayer is probably the first reaction when something causes stress, and I don’t think God resents that.  We find many passages reminding us to turn to God in our distress.  We’re told to cast ALL of our cares on Him (1 Pet. 5:7).  Prayer brings peace in the midst of anxiety (Phil. 4:6,7).  When stress is long-term, our prayers can fade or turn sporadic.  A renewed desire for God’s listening ear can go far in calming anxieties.

2.  MEDITATE

I’m not encouraging “getting your Zen on, man,” but rather committing to quality time in Bible study.  I like the quote I ran across the other day– “Meditation is not an emptying of one’s mind, like some religions teach, but a filling of our minds with the truths of God’s Word” (Jen Thorn).  The Scriptures are powerful (Heb. 4:12) and strength-giving (Eph. 6:10-17).  Neglecting this crucial practice only exacerbates stress and anxiety.

3.  BOOST YOUR HEALTH

It’s common knowledge that long-term stress takes a toll on our health.  Is there an area of your physical well-being that’s taking a harder hit?  See if you could make some small changes for overall well-being:

  • Exercise.  It strengthens the heart, clears mind clutter, and boosts stamina and self-esteem.  Take a walk in the morning and try yoga at night.  No one ever regrets making time to get the blood flowing.
  • Water.  The benefits are endless.  How easy it is to replace empty calorie drinks with water.  Add lemon for even more vibrancy.
  • Sleep.  Who hasn’t been robbed of some zzz’s?  Sleep is essential for mental clarity and emotional stability.  Young moms, get over your guilt and take a nap in the middle of the day when the opportunity presents itself.
  • Cleaner eating.  Bad food equals yucky mood.  Studies are now linking a healthy gut to an overall sense of well-being.  The last thing we need when anxiety is churning in our gut is to add processed foods or sugar to the mix.  Seriously, while it may not be fun to talk about, better eating choices are important when it comes to dealing with stress and anxiety.

4.  UNPLUG

We are attached to our devices, aren’t we?  They’re everywhere and in every room.  Unplugging for a while each day will allow us to focus on those around us, re-appreciate moments of quietness, and even remove some additional anxiety (unpleasant posts on social media, disturbing news, etc.).  It’s good to give our eyes a break from any kind of screen.  Unplug and listen for natural sounds instead like the wind blowing, leaves rustling, birds chirping.

5.  UNCLUTTER

Speaking of devices…we can remove some from our sleeping space for a more peaceful and relaxing environment.  Clearing counter tops of paper stacks and junk also helps clear our minds.  Taking the time and trouble to make the bed and straighten up makes it easier to drift off to sleep later.  Messy rooms add to a feeling of anxiety.

6.  UNWIND

Yes, we could probably use that half hour to cross an item off the to-do list, but sometimes the wiser choice would be to intentionally unwind.  Don’t think of a soak in the tub as a luxury but as a way of promoting peace and health.  Discover the calming benefits of chamomile tea.  You might have to develop a taste for it, but consider it an all-natural anti-anxiety medicine.  Light a candle, rub your feet with lotion, and take deep breaths.  Even a few minutes of slowing down makes a big difference in a trying day.

7.  LAUGH

Laughing relieves stress, lifts the mood, and burns calories!  Have you laughed today?

8.  LOVE

Looking for tangible ways to show our love for others will ultimately lead to our own happiness.  Giving feels good.  It allows us to step outside of our cares and focus on bringing joy to others.  In the midst of your crazy schedule, do something even crazier like adding in a visit to a shut-in or making a homemade, unexpected surprise for someone.

Hopefully these ideas for managing stress haven’t added even more stress.  You might be thinking, Who has time for any of THAT?!  Some of the tips can be combined, like sipping tea while studying the Bible.  Or praying while going for a walk.  It’s probably unrealistic to try to hit all 8 tips every single day, but we can be more intentional in handling our anxieties.  It will be good for us and for those around us.  God has given us many ways to combat stress.  We could even add singing, looking for beauty, and counting our blessings.  What tips do you have?

“In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul” (Psalm 94:19).

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Choose or Refuse to Live in Fear

By Janelle Pollard

Each new year brings with it excitement and hope. While 2020 was not without countless blessings, it will forever be remembered as a time when fear gripped the lives of millions. “What if I get COVID-19?,” “What if someone I love gets it?” These are just a couple of questions many of us may have asked ourselves. I believe it’s completely natural to be afraid to a point. I doubt many people can truthfully say that this virus hasn’t caused them any fear whatsoever. We are only human and tend to be somewhat fearful of the unknown. However, as Christians, what really matters is what we do with that fear.

While there is nothing wrong with being fearful of contracting a deadly virus, there IS something wrong with allowing that fear to control our lives. As a nurse, I have taken care of many patients with the COVID-19 virus. I know it’s real and I know that people are losing their lives from it. There is no doubt that this is a scary time, but we, as Christians, have something that the rest of the world does not. We have the hope of heaven after this life. We can rest in the fact that as Christians, we no longer have to fear death. When we remember that this world is not our home, we realize we don’t have to live in fear of dying. I’m not suggesting that there will no longer be any fear in our lives. But I am suggesting that when we remember Who is in control, we will be able to get through these times with a few less stomach ulcers.

Living in peace amidst a nation living in fear brings attention to the Christian. For those who aren’t Christians and don’t know that kind of peace, it may seem unnatural. They are likely to become curious. “How are you not afraid? How are you not constantly worried to leave your house?” When we look and act different than everyone else, the world is intrigued. Especially during a time such as this, people are naturally drawn to those who are joyful, peaceful, and less anxious. Let’s remember that non-Christians are in desperate need of a Savior. If we can use a horrible situation to bring others to Christ, why wouldn’t we?

Here are a few things we can do to lead others to Christ during a time of fear and uncertainty:

1. Instead of talking about the latest number of those with the virus, let’s talk about the number of visitors we’ve had at church lately. Let’s share—with our co-workers, friends, social media, etc.—how exciting it is that many people have been showing up to visit our congregation lately. This takes the focus away from the virus and places it on the excitement of church growth. Non-Christians have become accustomed to hearing so much negativity lately, more so than normal. Hearing people talk about how COVID has brought blessings will most likely cause them to stop and want to know more.

2. Let others know that we would like to pray for them and/or their family by name at our church. What a breath of fresh air to someone who isn’t used to being prayed for. (And don’t just ask. Remember to pray!) Take these names to your elders. Ask if they can be included in the bulletin or prayer list. Let your friends know that you and your congregation have been praying for them. Ask for updates. That way they will know it wasn’t just something that “sounded good in the moment” and that you genuinely care.

3. Use social media to post Scriptures about trusting in God and His faithfulness to His followers. Some people on our friends list may have never heard some of these Scriptures. Reading something so comforting will hopefully cause others to want to know more. This is a time when people are searching for something they can hold onto. Let’s lead them to the only One who can give this kind of life-changing peace. Here are a few great examples:

  • Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way…Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
  • Isaiah 41:10 “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
  • Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

4. Ask God to give us peace and take away our fear. God never promised that the world wouldn’t be scary or that we wouldn’t go through hard times. But He does promise that He will always be there for us. Let’s take comfort in knowing that!

Janelle lives in Huntsville, AL with her husband, Dale. She is a Registered Nurse and works on a cardiac step-down unit at Huntsville Hospital. Janelle enjoys painting, traveling, and spending time with her family and friends.

It’s Not About Me

By Chelsea Pollard

We don’t like hearing this, do we? I certainly don’t. Living in an individualistic world, I often find myself only thinking about, well, me. “I just want to be happy.” “I want to do what I want to do.” “This is inconvenient for me.” Occasionally, I have to be mindful of the fact that it’s not about me.

My husband, Gary, was preaching this past Sunday on 1 Peter 4:7ff. I’d like to share some thoughts on the topic of suffering for a purpose.

The end of all things is near” (v. 7). Our lives are very short (James 4:14), which is why Peter gave us commands for how we are to respond when coming under fire for our faith. We are to be alert and of sober mind. This means we need to be rational instead of reactionary. When we come under fire for our faith, it’s easier to stoop to their level. If someone is being ugly towards you, it’s easy to be ugly back. As Christians, we need to be calm when dealing with persecution, so that we may pray. This is essential in order for our prayers to be heard by God.

Above all, love each other deeply” (v. 8). He is emphasizing how important our love for one another is. When we are dealing with persecution, we need to love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and rely on them. Having a strong and supportive church family can make all of the difference for a Christian who is just going through it, whether they are under fire from family, friends, or coworkers.

Offer hospitality and use your gifts to serve others (v. 9-10).  If you can use your words to help others, do so. If you can serve others, do so. Don’t hold back for your family!

So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (v. 11).  It’s not about me. It’s about Him! It’s about loving and serving your Christian family so that God may be praised in all things.

Chelsea lives in Bowling Green, KY, with her husband, Gary, and her dog, Bear. Chelsea and Gary have been married for five years (woo!) and Bear was rescued from a swamp. Chelsea works at Western Kentucky Heart and Lung. She enjoys quiet nights in with her husband and playing all the card/ board games she can with family, even if she loses (sometimes).

A Recipe for Helpfulness

By Emily Moore

Have you ever tasted something so delicious that you try recreating it yourself? The problem is, if can’t find a recipe, there is no way of knowing exactly what the dish needs. Thankfully, God gives us recipes when it comes to helping others. Paul’s first letter to Thessalonica is filled with practical instruction about helping other Christians in their walk. 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Paul provides a key ingredient to helping the church: give each person what they need. Each person is different, but it’s easy to fall into the habit of generic outreach. We develop these blanket statements for whatever need arises such as, “praying for you,” “let me know if you need anything,” etc. There is nothing wrong with these phrases, but we have to make sure they are specific to the person’s need. Prayer is for every situation, and people need to know you’re there for them. However, our outreach is more effective if we tailor it to the individual’s circumstances. The hardest part about this task is figuring out exactly what the need is. Three things will help you determine a struggling Christian’s personal need. 

#1 Watch…In our fast-paced society, it’s easy for others’ lives to become a blur as we fly through our own. Next time you are at worship, a fellowship gathering, work, or anywhere else in the world, step outside of yourself and be on the lookout for those who seem down, stressed, or lonely. Noticing external cues is a major part of picking up on opportunities to help. 

#2 Ask…Too often, we fail to directly ask people about specific challenges and how we can help. In 1 Thess. 5:14, Paul mentions specific groups: “the idle,” “the fainthearted,” and “the weak.” Spiritual weakness or faintheartedness can be masked by a smile or humor, and many people are reluctant to express need for fear of seeming selfish or weak. We all need help pushing past spiritual plateaus or discouragement. Think about how much stronger others or you would be if someone asked to carry the burden too. Asking others about their struggles takes courage, but think about how much courage you’re challenging them to have by confiding in you. Ask people to share their trials with you! It will help you as much as it helps them.

#3 Listen…It’s a simple concept, yet so hard to do consistently. Take a lesson from God’s example. He gave us numerous verses on prayer. Our Father wants us to tell Him everything we are going through, grateful for, happy about…He wants to hear it ALL. Notice how many of those verses mention Him hearing us. He listens, and so should we. People should know they can come to us (His people) when they need help. Whether someone comes to you on their own or you ask them to share their life with you, listen. This act alone is a ministry!

These principles should be applied not just to Christians but to any and everyone who needs help. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone…” (Gal. 6:10). Love and the good news of the gospel are two needs that apply to EVERYONE. Watch for those in need; ask them about it and listen for ways to help.

Alive After the Suffering!

By Kathy Pollard

Luke opens the book of Acts with a bang as he presents Jesus as the risen Savior. It makes me think of the words of an old hymn, “He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!” How thrilling it must’ve been for Luke to pen the words, “He…presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3)! The reactions of Jesus’ followers are recorded for us to enjoy. Some women and His disciples show amazement and joy. Thomas needed a little more convincing but ultimately believed. Jesus’ comeback made an impact.

2020 was a year like no other. We try to focus on the blessings, but there is no doubt there were plenty of challenges. Many endured the loss of loved ones, financial ruin, relationship strain, or physical distress. It was rough. How did Christians hold up? How did the world see us? Maybe we could’ve done better, I don’t know. But I do know that opportunity awaits! Our neighbors, friends, and co-workers are still watching and, like Jesus, we can show them that we are “alive after [our] suffering.” The text says that Jesus used “many convincing proofs.” While we can’t read hearts or perform miracles like He did, we most certainly can follow His example. Notice two “proofs” He did that we can do, too:

“Appearing to them over a period of forty days…” Jesus went out among the people. He sought out His disciples. He appeared to crowds. He spoke with individuals. After His great suffering, He didn’t stay away. He didn’t barricade Himself in the safety zone of heaven. He went out among weak humanity, including those who let Him down. This challenges me! With the political turmoil, worldly agenda, fear and suspicion, it’s tempting to hole up somewhere safe until things die down. But so many around us are suffering in the worst way, trying to live without Jesus and navigating the darkness on their own. They need to see the risen Savior and the only way to do that is for His people to put in an appearance. Perhaps on this first day of the year, there are those who are ready for something new and whose hearts are open to change. It’s exciting to think we have this fresh open door of opportunity to show Jesus to our community!

“Speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God…” Jesus went out among the people and made the most of those encounters by giving them hope. He met two individuals on a roadside and “explained to them the things concerning Himself and the Scriptures.” He touched their hearts and they said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” And then they “got up that very hour” and went on to tell others, “the Lord has really risen” (Luke 24:13-35)! Jesus opened their eyes (v. 31) and helped them see that He truly was alive after the suffering.

Perhaps one of your New Year’s resolutions is to be a better Bible student by committing to daily Bible reading or participating in a Scripture writing plan. An easy way to “speak the things concerning the kingdom of God” is to determine to verbally share something you read that day. Did something strengthen you in your reading? Did a phrase intrigue you? Were you challenged to do better or make a change? Whatever it is, look for a way to share it with someone, every single day. It could be as simple as saying, “That reminds me of something I read just this morning…” What will you be doing? Offering hope. Leaving people better than you found them. Helping others see Jesus.

This can be a great year for Christ. Let’s get out there, encounter the people, and speak of the only things that are real and lasting. A simple phrase here, a little thought there, a post about the Bible…let’s show the world that Christians are ALIVE after 2020.

Four Faithful Friends

Text: Mark 2:1-12

I love the story of the four men who carried a paralytic to Jesus. The crowd was so thick around Jesus that they were “unable to get to Him.” They went up to the roof, dug an opening, and let down the pallet to where Jesus was. Jesus was moved by their faith and healed the paralytic. This account is shared in three of the gospels but none of them mention the relationship between the four men and the paralytic. Were they related or just good friends? When reading this text, I tend to focus on how we should be willing to go to great lengths to get people to Jesus. I recently realized, though, that theirs isn’t the only example we should follow. Equally important is the fact that the paralytic was willing to let others help him.

Consider this account from the paralytic’s viewpoint. He must’ve felt such hope and anticipation when those four men offered to carry him to Jesus for healing. I imagine he also felt a moment of discouragement when he saw the crowd. Apparently no one made way for him to get through. But his friends were determined. What was going through his mind as they started lowering him down through that hole in the roof? Was his heart pounding? Did he think his friends had lost their minds? At the very least, it had to have been an uncomfortable situation, maybe filled with some anxiety.

Sometimes we need to ask for help.

Pride, discomfort, embarrassment, awkwardness…we can allow any number of things keep us from seeking help. But what’s a little discomfort if it will bring us closer to Christ? If I am struggling with something that is overwhelming me, I need to ask for help. If my heart feels disengaged but I can’t quite figure out why, I should find someone who can help me.

Sometimes we need to be humble enough to accept unsolicited help.

We may not even realize we need help. What if there’s something in my life pulling me away from Jesus and I’m not even aware of it? I will need help seeing it. I will need someone to point it out. Faithful friends will gently show me I’ve developed a bad attitude or a complaining spirit. Or they may need to mention some decisions of mine that show I’ve become self-absorbed or worldly. I might not realize that I’ve come dangerously close to compromising my faith or that I’m playing with fire. A good friend will remind me to do a heart check and will ask me if I’ve welcomed sin into my life.

We need others to care enough to be honest with us. There’s a time for building up and encouraging but there’s also a time for loving rebuke (Prov. 28:23). Then we need to be humble enough to accept it, without making excuses or getting defensive or being sensitive. We need to accept it with gratitude.

It took four friends and Jesus to help the paralytic. There’s no shame in letting others in. That’s what the church is for. That’s what family is for. Surround yourself with people who love the Lord and make it easier for you to stay close to Him. The beauty of it is that it can influence others for good, too. Notice what happened when the paralytic allowed people to help him:

“He got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this'” (v. 12).

Thankful for good people in our lives! (photo credit: John Moore)

What Friendliness Looks Like

Warm.  Friendly.  Welcoming.  These are the words we hope visitors can use to describe our church family.  We discuss ways to accomplish this, like stationing greeters at each door or creating a “Welcome Center.”  A few months ago Neal and I moved to a new state to worship with a new congregation full of new faces.  We’ve been welcomed with invitations to lunch and housewarming gifts.  But one young lady really stands out in our minds.  Her name is Sydney Elkin and she has managed to make even the auditorium feel warm.  So here are some things I’ve learned from a 9-year-old on how to be friendly:

Seek Out the New Faces

Not long after we moved, I was sitting in a pew by myself near the front of the auditorium.  A sweet girl walked up to me and smiled.  She looked me in the eyes and said, “I just wanted to come talk to you.”  I couldn’t help but smile back and say, “Oh!  Well, thank you!”  We chatted for a minute or two.  When she left, I kept smiling.

How simple was that? I’ve since learned that Sydney and her family sit in the back half of the auditorium.  She made the decision to walk all the way up to where I was and meet me.  The introvert in me is really impressed with her bravery!  Sydney’s not a “greeter” but she knows how to greet.  I learned from her how impactful it is to go out of your way to talk to someone.  Instead of just saying hello to those we come across as we make our way to our pews, we can take a few minutes to seek out visitors or anyone sitting alone.  They will definitely feel welcomed by someone who walks over to them with a warm smile and a handshake.

Get Other Members Involved

A couple of weeks ago after a worship service I was standing in the aisle chatting with a few people.  Sydney walked up to me with four other young ladies and said, “We just wanted to come talk to you!”  I laughed in delight and said, “You did?”  Sydney led the conversation by asking questions like, “What are your plans for tomorrow?”  I had the sweetest time with those five girls as they stood in a little arch around me for several minutes.  I still felt the warmth as I told Neal about it on the way home.

Aside from the fact that Sydney is obviously a remarkable young lady, what a wonderful thing to do!  All four of those other girls are equally sweet but may not have been comfortable going to talk to someone on their own.  Sydney encouraged them to join her and I benefited from it.  It’s such a good idea.  When we see a visitor, a loner, a shy person, a teen, or a widow, we can round up a couple of folks and say, “Let’s go say ‘hi’!” It will certainly make anyone feel special but it will also help the members being pulled in.  It will gradually create a culture of congregational warmth and friendliness.

Add a Thoughtful Gesture

This past Sunday morning, Sydney walked up to Neal and me and handed us an envelope.  It contained a handwritten note with some sweet compliments.  She also wrote, “I would love to help you with anything I could.”  Have I mentioned she’s NINE years old?  Our hearts melted.

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Sydney knows the meaning of follow-through.  She keeps thinking of ways to engage us and make us feel welcome.  Now we have a colorful note that will make us smile every time we see it.  All it took was a little time from a thoughtful soul.  A local jam or muffins, some wildflowers from your yard, or even a cute sticker (why not?)…there are many creative, tangible ways to bring a smile.  It’s a second-mile gesture that sends a big message:  You’re special.  You’re thought of.  We’re glad you’re here.

I’ve learned a lot about friendliness from Sydney.  Nothing she did felt awkward or scripted or forced.  Her enthusiasm didn’t come across in an overwhelming way.  She just shared her sweet self in a natural way.  It was genuine and just right.  I’ve started praying that I will be more like Sydney.  Thank you, God, for this mighty example from a tender heart!

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Look at that smile!

 

 

 

How Long has it Been?

By Kathy Pollard

What is it about the holidays that feels so bittersweet?  “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” And yet, if you’ve lived long enough, this time of year can be a little hard on your heart.  If you are missing loved ones, the sentimental tunes on the radio flood you with precious memories.  If you have strained relationships with family members, you’re thinking back to happier times before whatever-it-is happened.  If you’ve experienced a big change in your life, you find yourself longing for the way things used to be.  Whatever it is, sometimes this time of year can give you a bit of the blues.  I know you’re doing your best anyway to make others happy.  That’s the right thing to do, and focusing on others always bring real joy (Phil. 2:1-4).  Keep up the good work!  But here’s a little something for you…a gift from God, if you will, from His heart to yours.

“How long has it been since you talked with the Lord
And told Him your heart’s hidden secrets?
How long since you prayed,
How long since you stayed on your knees ’til the light shone through?
How long has it been since your mind felt at ease,
How long since your heart knew no burden?
Can you call Him your Friend, how long has it been
Since you knew that He cares for you?

How long has it been since you knelt by your bed
And prayed to the Lord up in heaven?
How long since you knew that He’d answer you,  and would
Keep you the long night through?
How long has it been since you woke with the dawn
And felt that the day’s worth the living?
Can you call Him your Friend, how long has it been
Since you knew that He cares for you?”

(Mosie Lister)

We sang this in worship last Sunday and the words have been with me all week.  No matter the loss, burden, or regrets, it is enough that He cares.  It is more than enough that He cares!  Think about that when you’re feeling a little lonely.  The One who knows what you’ve been through and what you’re going through is still with you, and that is something that will never change.  How long has it been since you (really) knew that He cares for you?  Let this truth strengthen every smile you offer this season.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us

(1 John 4:16)

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That Perfect Married Couple

By Kathy Pollard

Do you know that perfect married couple?  They look happy together.  They’re always holding hands and seem to have it all figured out.  People look to them for advice.  They’re the hashtag-relationship-goals of social media.  I could name some couples that fall into this category for me.  I’m grateful for their example of marital bliss, and their PDA posts make me smile.

Neal and I are not that perfect married couple.  A superficial glimpse might make it appear that we are.  We do hold hands.  We do say nice things to and about each other on social media.  We’ve been asked to teach the occasional marriage seminar.  And so every now and then someone will remark on our relationship as being “exemplary” or some other thoughtful description.  I thank them because I appreciate their kindness but inwardly I cringe and think, “Far from it.”  We agree to teach about marriage because we can study what God’s Word has to say about it.  After nearly 27 years together, we can share some lessons we’ve learned from experience (some of them the hard way).  But we have had our own struggles and are still learning and growing, one year at a time.  We’ve hurt each other and let each other down.  As a wife, I’ve been guilty of lying, betraying, sulking, and manipulating.  Some of those hurtful things I knew I was doing in the moment.  Some of them I only realized later when I looked back over my behavior.  Our marriage has had rocky times because of the pressures of trials.  And our marriage has had rough patches because of the consequences of our own choices.  We’ve had to practice forgiveness, patience, and grace.  No, we are not that perfect married couple.

But we are a married couple and our God is perfect.

I’ve been reminded of this truth a couple of times this week.  Take a look at these “perfect” couples.

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I met this couple last night.  They got married at ages 15 and 17, and have been married for 55 years.  I asked them separately what has held them together for over half a century, especially since they started out so young.  Without hesitating, each of them said, “God.”  For them, it was as simple as that.  When they were standing together again, I pointed out that they each gave the same one-word answer.  She laughed and said, “Without God, I would’ve kicked him out a long time ago!”  They went on to add other advice, like the importance of giving 100% instead of 50/50 (and making that determination each new day).

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I met this couple two nights ago.  They’ve been married for 67 years!  It didn’t take long to figure out what has held them together.  She told me their first date was at Mammoth Cave.  He nodded and said, “I should’ve left her down there.”  He shared their secret to commitment:  “Divorce never crossed our minds.  Murder did, once or twice, but divorce was never an option.”  We all laughed and they looked at each other with a twinkle in their eyes that gave me a glimpse of the young couple they once were.  I loved their sense of humor and strong faith (made obvious by supporting a gospel meeting on a weeknight).  I imagine 67 years has given them a few stories of hardships and struggles but they are still together, still sharing some laughs, and still holding hands.

These are the real, perfect married couples.  I don’t know them well enough to see beyond the superficial.  But I do know that they’ve entrusted their marriages to their perfect God.  How blessed we are to enjoy life together, find reasons to smile, and keep holding hands despite our imperfections!

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us (Eph. 3:20).