God’s Consistent Goodness

By Kathy Pollard

May was kind of a difficult month for us. We attended my first cousin’s memorial. Our youngest son was in a serious motorcycle accident. And my brother-in-law was admitted to Trauma ICU. It seemed like every week I was asking for prayers on behalf of our family. May has always been my favorite month of the year. Spring is in full force and we celebrate Mother’s Day, my birthday, and our anniversary. I usually want the month to go by slowly so I can enjoy it to the fullest. This year, though, I couldn’t help but feel a little relieved when it was time to turn the calendar page.

May also contained reasons for rejoicing. My sister came for a visit. Neal and I celebrated 29 years together. And our youngest son got married. Sometimes God’s blessings shine brighter during times of trouble. I hadn’t seen my sister in ages and was extra grateful to spend time with her. Carl’s marriage to our beautiful new daughter-in-law was especially joyful in light of his recent accident. But as I thought back over last month’s events, it dawned on me that God’s goodness was evident in more than the obvious ways. We also saw it through the many prayers offered on our behalf. We were blessed by fellow Christians offering to house family members visiting the hospital. Brothers and sisters were checking in with us and letting us know they cared. We were given many words of encouragement and love.

Things may not always go the way we expect. Sometimes happy events are interrupted by the trials of life. Loss, fear, illness, trauma, disappointments…even in these we can see God with us. We can be reminded that we need each other and can ask for help. We can grow closer to God as we lean on Him or cry out to Him. We can see God’s goodness in the Family He gave us. And we have a unique opportunity to look within ourselves and see if we are as quick and willing to reach out to those in need.

May has passed but the troubles haven’t. I know people struggling or suffering, and so do you. I thank God for His consistent goodness even through hard times! May we always see it and share it.

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” -Psalm 34:8

“Oh, how abundant is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You and worked for those who take refuge in You…” -Psalm 31:19

“The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made.” -Psalm 145:9

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” -Psalm 27:13

Janelle snapped this precious pic of Emily and me praying before the ceremony.

Heaven is Better

By Emily Moore

The three-word phrase at the top of this article has become my personal catch phrase this year, and here is why. Our lives are made up of both good, prosperous, times and hard, not-so-prosperous times. If we made it through life without a single trial, our faith would never grow. But if our lives were filled only with trials, we would probably lose our minds. So, God, in His infinite grace and wisdom, provides for His children’s needs (Matthew 6:25-34), and He also allows us to experience growth-inspiring challenges (Hebrews 12:3-11). 

Now, with these thoughts on your mind, think back to the phrase “Heaven is better.” The truth is whether you find yourself in a peaceful life season or in the midst of the most difficult situation you’ve ever faced, you will find a needed dose of perspective in remembering that Heaven is better. Like Paul in Philippians 4:12, when he says, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound,” we can all better remember to glorify God in any season of life when we remember that, ultimately, our actions in this life should be motivated by the eternal life hereafter.

As humans, it seems that staying focused on our end goal can be equally difficult in both good and hard times. Are you currently in one those wonderful phases of life in which your family and finances are all in order? Remember that Heaven is better than any level of temporal happiness or security we experience on earth. Praise God for those blessings, but remember that He has an even greater blessing waiting after this life.

It could be that you are on the opposite end of that spectrum, facing the hardest physical, financial, or spiritual circumstances you ever have. If that’s the case, take heart in knowing that Heaven is better, and faithfulness to God will lead you to an eternal life filled with nothing but peace and glory in God’s presence. 

It’s true. Shouting “Heaven is better!” when you find yourself struggling with materialism or going through hardships won’t immediately eradicate the problems in your life or change your level of earthly prosperity. But keeping your mind on the glory of Heaven will completely change, for the better, your perspective of life on earth. In the best or worst seasons of life, may we all remember that Heaven is better!

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Dear Chelsea

By Chelsea Pollard

Kathy’s article two weeks ago really got me thinking. Since leaving home I’ve frequently thought, “I wish I knew this when I was younger.” I know this is something everyone’s experienced! While it’s nice to have the knowledge, it’s quite frustrating. I could have saved myself from so much heartache, embarrassment, anger, regret and pain. 

Sometimes I feel like I don’t have any wisdom to offer since I’m still in my early 20’s and I’m not a mom (unless you consider Bear to be my child, because I do #dogmom). But I’ve often thought about things I wish I knew growing up and about what I could’ve done differently.

Here’s what I would tell myself:

  • Your parents are more than likely trying their best. I am ashamed to say that I was maybe 20 when I realized that my parents are people, too. They have their own struggles, whether it’s sin related or mental or physical health. Or all of the above! They’ve been through their own trauma and have to cope with it while raising a child. They are trying to figure it out and they’re not perfect. Show them grace and patience. Recognize what they do for you and thank them every now and then.
  • Take time to ground yourself where you are. We all struggle with this, but focus on the now. Stay out of the past. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.  Stop creating scenarios in your head. Spend time with people you love and be present.
  • For the most part, your current trials are temporary and likely won’t matter in a year or two. That does not make them any easier, but putting them into perspective and keeping a positive outlook will make a world of difference. 
  • While this is sometimes used as a cop out, there are times when “you’ll understand when you’re older” is a legitimate statement. There are some concepts that you can’t fully understand until you have life experience. Get that through your head, young Chelsea. 
  • Take your relationship with God seriously. Have your own faith. If you have questions, please ask. If you can’t find the answer, keep trying! The answers are out there. Finding your own faith is liberating and exciting! There’s nothing like having a personal relationship with your Creator. 

Learning these things the hard way is unforgettable, but often costs so much more. Some mistakes can live with you your whole life! It might not be glamorous or fun but your adult life could be 70 or 80 years longer than teen and young adult years. Do your future self a favor and remember that your parents are likely doing their best and have troubles, too. Enjoy the present. Your current trials are temporary, and being positive will you make an even stronger person. Accept that there are some concepts we can’t understand until life widens our perspective. Most importantly, challenge your faith and make it your own. Learn from my mistakes and your future self will thank you!!!

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Letting Go of the Past

By Janelle Pollard

My husband, Dale, and I went on a spontaneous hiking trip this weekend a few miles from our home. On the way back to our car, I started to notice what looked like tiny daisies all around us. As this wasn’t someone’s manicured flower garden, I could only assume that these pretty little “flowers” must actually be weeds. Despite this, I began picking as many as I could in order to make a little bouquet for our kitchen. When we got home, I put them in a small glass jar, added water, and couldn’t have been more pleased with this free “floral” bunch. Who would have thought that a bunch of weeds could bring so much delight?

As I pondered how such an unwanted pest as a bunch of weeds could so easily make my day, I couldn’t help but think about how God sees us as lovely flowers instead of pesky, unwanted weeds. He is able to use us despite our broken past. Mistakes, scars, and all. I couldn’t even count how many young girls and women I’ve heard say at one time or another that they don’t feel worthy. Or that they must be too broken to make a difference. Or that they feel defined by their mistakes, unable to see their worth, unable to forgive themselves and let go of the past. The truth is, we are all weeds. As humans, we have all messed up, all made mistakes we wish could be taken back and erased. As much as I wish I could say I had never sinned, never done things before that I wasn’t proud of, I just can’t. God knows this about us all. In Romans 3:23, Paul tells us that all have sinned: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Does that verse say, “some” or “very few” have fallen short? Nope. It says “all.”

Now if God knew that we would ALL sin, would he expect that to be the end of the story? Would that be the end of our hope for redemption? No way. God is loving, forgiving, graceful, merciful, patient, and kind. Because of who He is, and Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, we don’t have to be defined by our mistakes. And how thankful we are for that truth! What God wants us as Christians to know is that we don’t have to be guilty. We don’t have to dwell on our past. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we should go on continuing to make those mistakes. (Paul speaks on this in Romans 6:1-2: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”) But if we have repented of our sins (not just being sorry or sad about the sin, but a complete 180, leaving it in the past, turning towards God and away from the sin), we can be guilt-free and serve a much greater purpose! If God couldn’t use people who have made mistakes, imagine how different the Bible would look. And if God couldn’t use us after we sinned, then why did Jesus die on the cross?

If you struggle with guilt, despite repenting, spend a good amount of time in 1 John. And after that, spend more and more time in the Word and in prayer. Ask God to help you let go of the past and to see yourself how He would have you. Read the story of King David and Bathsheba and learn how that wasn’t the end of his story. Read about Peter denying Jesus not once, but three times. Was that where it ended for Peter? If you truly seek God, you will learn and grow in knowledge about Him and learn to let go because you’ll see that He already has! It’s my hope and prayer that no longer will you see yourself as useless or guilt-ridden, but as you truly are: lovely, redeemed, and still full of purpose for Him!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Cor. 5:17

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What I’ve Learned About Parenting Since My Kids Left Home

By Kathy Pollard

Neal and I became official empty nesters in late June 2018. I knew it would take time to adjust to the new norm. I anticipated moments of sadness because it all went by way too fast. And I had already been warned that you never stop worrying about your kids. What I didn’t expect was that I would learn some significant things about parenting. Here is what I know now that I wish I knew then.

Family traditions are important, but maybe not the ones you think. There were some traditions we intentionally created. We had nightly devotionals with our boys. We had the same breakfast every Christmas morning. The birthday boy always got to choose what was for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I thought that was pretty much how traditions were made, but now I know it was more than that. Anytime our sons come for a visit, I try to make some of their favorite dishes. Recently, one of them said, “Did you use a different peanut butter or something in that icing?” I had. Also recently I made a chocolate cake and one of our sons put his slice in the fridge to eat later. I asked him if he thought it tasted better chilled. He said, “No, that’s just how you always used to serve it so that’s how I want to eat it.” They don’t want me to change things up because it’s just not the same. This tells me that family traditions don’t necessarily have to be so planned. They are created in the daily living that goes on in the home. One of our intentional traditions was watching “A Christmas Carol” (George C. Scott version!) every Christmas Eve. We found out none of them even liked that movie. 

There is no such thing as too much communication. We home schooled our boys and I was a stay-at-home mom. Perhaps I assumed those two choices would’ve guaranteed plenty of openness and watchfulness. I thought I was pretty aware of all that was going on in their lives. Now that they’re on their own, our sons have been sharing stories of their shenanigans while growing up. My reaction is often, “You did what?!” In fact, one of our sons used the word “clueless” to describe my parenting. Ouch. He wasn’t even being mean because he was laughing so hard when he said it. In addition, I’ve heard our sons refer back to times of sadness or emotional struggles. My heart aches to know I wasn’t even aware of some of them. I want to rewind the clock and have a do-over. I want to have a heart-to-heart with the young mom I used to be. Truly, it is so important to do whatever it takes to develop closeness, trust, and openness.  Take the time. Put down the phone. Keep your eyes open. Have the conversations. 

God helps fill in the gaps. I knew there were aspects of parenting that I could and should have done better. And now I can add to that list as I’ve learned of other areas where I dropped the ball. But as I look at my sons today I can’t help but thank God for His goodness. He loves them even more than I do and always will. I wasn’t a perfect parent but I was a praying parent. God always saw the big picture and helped my boys along. I have never been more thankful for His grace. I am thankful for the love and grace from my sons, too. Perhaps you feel like you are falling short or have made mistakes. Just keep trying and loving and going to God’s Word for guidance. He only wants you to do the best you can to turn the hearts of your children over to Him.

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Living on Leftovers

By Emily Moore

Eating leftover meals for lunch or dinner is a great way to save money on groceries and save time preparing food after a busy day. There are countless ways to get creative with leftovers, like turning them into casseroles or soups. Nonetheless, the leftovers all get eaten after a few days, or your family gets tired of them and is ready for different meals. Sadly, leftovers don’t last long! As a soon-to-be wife, learning how to work with leftovers has definitely been on my mind. But I also started to think about how easily the idea of “living on leftovers” creeps into our spiritual diet.

Everyone experiences those seasons of life where you have such a full plate (pun intended) that feeding your soul becomes very difficult. It’s in these times that we often start trying to spiritually survive on leftovers. When a week has been stressful or exhausting, think about how a refreshing worship service on Sunday or one hour of mid-week Bible class will keep your soul full and thriving for the other five days of the week. But what happens when an evangelistic opportunity appears or when you’re hit with a conflicting decision or when you suddenly find yourself having doubts or temptations you’ve never before experienced? When these situations arise, it doesn’t take long to realize that leftovers aren’t enough. A fuzzy recollection of Bible verses here and there or a small excerpt from a sermon heard way back when will not be strong enough to sustain spiritual strength. Of course it is good and useful to remember those things, but just like babies mature and require more than a few ounces of milk, so we must continue to grow and ensure that our soul’s appetite grows with us (1 Peter 2:2).

As Christians, constant renewal, growth, and learning are essential to survival. Think about the idea of renewal in Romans 12:2…

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Renewal is a perpetual process; it takes time and intentionality. If you’ve been scraping by on spiritual leftovers, here are a few ideas for feeding your soul throughout the day:

  • Pray everywhere (1 Thess. 5:17; Jam. 5:13)–At work, while driving, on your lunch break; you can also set reminders on your phone to pray for specific people.
  • Sing (Psa. 13:6; Eph. 5:19)–Singing or listening to hymns in the car with the kiddos or by yourself is guaranteed to bring joy and encouragement to a new day.
  • Listen to podcasts or an audio Bible (Psa. 1:1-2; 119:16)–A car ride, lunch break, or any free moment can be filled with the Word.
  • Set aside time each day for in-depth Bible study (2 Tim. 2:15; Jam. 1:5)–Alone time with God and His Word is the heartiest meal for the soul.

**If you’d like suggestions for podcasts or Bible study tools, feel free to email me at emnem317@gmail.com.

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A Season of Renewal

By Chelsea Pollard

Spring is an amazing time of year. Flowers are blooming and life has a fresh start! Spring is a time of renewal when the dead, brown look of winter is replaced with vibrant life. 

Our relationship with God is like spring, only it doesn’t have to be limited to a single season! If we’re doing our part, God gives us new life. 

When David was confronted over his sin with Bathsheba he wrote, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). David asked God to correct his flaws and accept him spiritually. “Renew” was a word that meant, “Go back to how it used to be.”  David didn’t want what he had currently to be his relationship with God. He wanted a pure heart and he wanted to return to the spiritual life he had before. 

God gives us a physical example of spiritual renewal with Spring. We can watch the earth bloom into new life. Just like the old, dead person we used to be is replaced with a new, living spirit! We are told to throw away our old selves because that way of life is corrupt. We have to have new minds and new behaviors (Eph. 4:20-24) because that’s more like God. 

We have new minds and behaviors when we encourage people instead of using our words to tear them down. Misusing our words actually hurts the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:29)! 

We have new minds and behaviors when we get rid of negative thoughts, feelings, and actions (Eph. 4:31). We replace those bad qualities with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness (Eph. 4:32). 

Many climates get new life during Spring, a big contrast from all of the death in Fall and Winter. When we show kindness, compassion, and forgiveness and we’re trying to be faithful, God makes our souls new like Spring (Eph. 4:32, 1 John 1:7-10). We renew ourselves because our ultimate goal is to be where “new” is the only thing we’ll know (2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1, Isaiah 65:17, Romans 8:18-24)!

As we watch the flowers bloom, the gardens grow and the earth return to its green, beautiful state, I know I’ll be humming to myself, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Spring Cleaning

By Janelle Pollard

The first of spring is always an exciting time for many. For those of us who aren’t fans of the cold, it is such a happy feeling to be able to spend your day outside without as much as a light jacket. While I try to keep our house clean through the winter, once spring arrives, I have this strong urge to start cleaning. And thanks to the excitement of a new (warmer) season, I have the energy and motivation to do just that. While cleaning the house, I also like to get rid of things we don’t need. Throughout the years, we collect all kinds of extra “stuff.” Some necessary and important for our day to day lives, but some not so much. These extra things may have seemed to be a necessity at the time but now they just take up space. Being married to a self-proclaimed minimalist has inspired me to have less. I love that about Dale. He doesn’t have to have “stuff” to be happy. He knows that when we leave this life, we can’t take it with us when we go, so there’s no need to collect all kinds of extra stuff (that will most likely find its way to a shelf or a stack of things to be stored later). Of course, there is nothing wrong with owning and enjoying our earthly possessions, as long as we aren’t making these things our whole life. This could lead to idolatry and the Bible teaches that this is sin.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10).

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf” (Proverbs 11:28).

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).

While Spring is still officially five days away (and some parts of the country probably don’t feel like winter is even close to being over yet), here in ‘ol North Alabama, it feels like it’s already here! Spring is a time to refresh and renew. While I am cleaning my home this Spring, I want to make sure I am also, and more importantly, refreshing and renewing my spiritual life. If we have too much stuff, or we are allowing it to become more important to us than it should be, let’s ask God to help us let go of it. If we have things in our lives that are getting in the way of putting or keeping God first, we must get rid of those things. Let’s let this season be one of refreshing and renewing not only our homes, but our priorities and relationship with God, first and foremost! Happy Spring!

Faith-building Questions

By Kathy Pollard

There are many passages in the Bible that describe God’s character, and I’m thankful for that.  Anytime I read about His mercy and compassion, it encourages me.  His power and might created everything, yet His love is expressed to me personally.  What a beautiful truth!  It reminds me that I have worth.  His holiness demands purity and goodness, yet His grace covers my sinfulness.  This makes me want to try harder to live as Christlike as possible.  How blessed we are to love and serve our great God!

Gather around the table with your family and look up the answers to these questions so you can be encouraged together. Or just grab a cup of coffee and your Bible and spend a few quiet moments soaking up some reassurance. God is good and always is, no matter what’s going on in the world.

1.  How is God described in 2 Cor. 1:3?

2.  What three character traits are ascribed to God in Exod. 33:19?

3.  What does God abound in according to Exod. 34:6?

4.  What words do Psa. 86:15 and Psa. 103:8 have in common?

5.  Can you memorize Psa. 116:5?  😀

6.  What is God’s compassion compared to in Psa. 103:13?

7.  What all did God do for the one who waited patiently for Him in Psa. 40:1-2?

8.  What do we learn about God’s lovingkindnesses in Lam. 3:22?

9.  What should God’s mercy cause us to do, according to Luke 6:36?

10.  What can our High Priest do, according to Heb. 4:15?

Wasn’t that a faith-building study?

Praise God for Problems

By Emily Moore

Problems, situations, and trials that seem irresolvable happen to each of us. Running into a situation that you don’t know how to fix, likely even a situation you can’t fix, is inevitable in this life. The beauty, however, of encountering these challenges as a Christian is that we don’t have to face them alone, and we are actually expected to place our anxieties and issues into someone else’s hands: God’s hands. Before you keep reading, take a moment to think about the last trial or problem you experienced. What was your first thought? How did you react? What did you do to take care of it? As humans, often, our first thought is “Oh great,” which is then followed by something like “What am I gonna do?,” which is then followed by “Okay, here’s what I’ll do to fix this.” Do you notice what’s missing from this process?… GOD! Those thoughts may come naturally as humans, but as Christians, our first reaction to any challenge should be to bring it to the all-knowing Creator.

In scripture, we see three steps in the process of coping with trial’s as a Christian. 

First, start by praising God. James 1:2 instructs us to “count it all joy” when we have trials because they are opportunities. Our lowest points inspire us to grow in the Word, depend on our God, and see His glory in the midst of it all. So, when a problem arises, thank God for it! Thank Him for the opportunity to grow and the help you know He will provide, and thank Him for all of the other blessings you still have. 

Second, pray to God. In Hebrews 10:32-39, the writer talks of Christians who “joyfully accepted” when their own property was plundered. In verse 39, the audience and Christians today are encouraged to keep trusting in God regardless of circumstance: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” When you face hardship, allow it to bring you closer to God by pleading to Him for help.

Third, praise God. Yes, praising God was also the first step, but every trial should begin and end with praise. We begin with praise to thank God for blessing us with a growth opportunity and with help to endure. We end in praise to thank Him for His continued faithfulness in past, present, and future hardships.

Praise God for your problems, pray to God for your solutions, and praise Him again for your deliverance. 

“I will call upon the Lord,  Who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

Psalm 18:3