Blessings in Christ

New friend, Sheri Harris

Several years ago, Cindy Colley presented a Bible study method called “Soul Survivor’s Guide” to the ladies at PTP.  What I appreciate about it is the fact that it begins with the blessings found in Christ, and that creates a desire for someone to want to be IN Christ.  The study covers about 10 specific blessings mentioned in Scripture that are only for those who are in Christ.  I always point out that it’s by no means an exhaustive list.  Further study would reveal even more blessings!  One of the blessings I cherish the most is meaningful relationships.

Does God understand our need for support and companionship?  Oh yes!  There are over 50 “one another” passages in the New Testament.  (I have a list, if you’re interested).  God shows us how to love, respect, and forgive one another.  He encourages us to give preference to one another.  What a contrast to the shallow, self-seeking relationships found in the world!

Churches that place an emphasis on fellowship are loving and united.  Christians that make the effort to take advantage of those opportunities for fellowship are strengthened  by the support found in a unique bond.   We’re tied together by the precious blood of Christ, and that’s a relationship that can’t be found anywhere else.

In addition to the constant joy found by being with your local church family, you can find that same level of closeness with Christians you meet all over the world.  You can run into old friends (like the picture below, taken at PTP), and it doesn’t matter that you’ve been separated by time and distance.  You can quickly make new friends (like the picture above, also taken at PTP), and it feels as if you’ve known each other for years.  You can even travel to foreign countries and fellowship with brothers & sisters in Christ, and it feels as if there’s no language barrier at all.

How can we keep this unique blessing to ourselves?  Those in the world are CRAVING meaningful relationships, which is evident by the number of social networks, dating services, bars and clubs.  Last weekend, Tami Roberts spoke at Bear Valley’s ladies’ retreat.  She talked about the fact that God created in us a natural appreciation for beauty.  She said when we act as we should in the Lord’s church, it’s a very beautiful thing.  If we’re loving, honoring, respecting each other as God commanded, the world will be drawn by that beauty and come knocking at our door!

Prayer for Today:  May I nurture and protect those meaningful relationships found in Christ, and may I look for opportunities to share that blessing with others.

With sweet sisters, Mary Parrish, Rose Crayton, & Cheri Deaver

PTP

Listening to Dan Winkler

PTP stands for “Polishing the Pulpit,” but could very easily stand for “Power to Persevere!”  Over 2,300 Christians spent a week together in the most spiritually uplifting environment imaginable (this year there will be at least a thousand more).  If you’ve never been to PTP, here are some highlights to interest you in making plans to attend next year:

-SPIRITUAL GROWTH- There are literally a dozen or more classes offered every hour, covering a wide variety of topics and texts.  Speakers from all over the country presented lessons that boosted our faith and reignited our desire to make a difference for Christ!

-NOURISHING FELLOWSHIP- Oh boy.  Thinking about the nature of God’s family, and the close bond we enjoy when thousands of us get together, warms my heart and strengthens my soul.  We caught up with old friends and made new ones.  Our 3 sons enjoyed hanging out with a large number of  like-minded teens.  There were many moments of giving & receiving encouragement, and many moments of refreshing laughter.

-POWER IN NUMBERS- Nearly every time we left the event center, someone in town would notice our tags and say, “Are you with that large church group?”  We had many conversations with strangers about the conference and about the Lord’s church.  It was fun, and it was easy, because there were so many of us.  It made us want to bring that same “visibility” back to our home town.  It made us more determined to create opportunities to tell others about the Lord’s church.

-A TASTE OF HEAVEN- I’ve always loved singing with the saints.  It’s special and meaningful.  Singing with thousands of saints is a downright goose bump-giver.  How beautiful were songs like “It is Well with My Soul” and “Holy, Holy, Holy!”  I heard many folks state my own feelings…”Imagine what it must be like in Heaven!”

My family is very grateful to all who put in countless hours of planning and work to make PTP happen.  Our cups our full and our hearts are thankful.

Prayer for Today:  Thank you, Lord, for the time of concentrated study and fellowship I’ve enjoyed.  May I carry these feelings of renewal and determination “into all the world.”

Summer Supper Recipes

I’m so thankful for my “baby” sister.  In addition to being a genuine Christian, Kristy is beautiful, witty, and just plain fun.  We laugh till we cry when we’re together.  She has always been one of the greatest blessings in my life.

In addition to enriching my life with her sparkle and wisdom, Kristy often enriches my palate with her creative cooking.  Every time we go to Oklahoma for a visit, I come home with at least a couple of new recipes jotted down.  For instance, did you know you can make homemade sherbet with just a 2-liter bottle of orange soda and a can of sweetened condensed milk?

A couple of weeks ago I posted some pictures on my facebook wall of a meal I made which I called “Summer Supper.”  The pasta dish was invented by my sister.  Not only is it delicious, but you can easily adapt it to suit your tastes.  Here are the recipes:

Garden Pasta with Chicken

I’ll describe this dish by layers.

Bottom Layer- Cook your pasta of choice, such as spaghetti, penne, or bow tie.

Sauce Layer- Saute some shallots (or onion) in a little olive oil, then add your favorite jarred sauce.

Veggie Layer- In olive oil, saute whatever fresh vegetables & seasonings you like.  I chose zucchini, squash, artichoke hearts, banana peppers (because they were ready to pick from my garden), scallions, and garlic.  I seasoned it with Cavender’s All-Purpose Greek Seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, salt & pepper.  Saute till crisp-tender, then toss in some fresh basil ribbons.

Chicken Layer- Marinate some chicken breasts in whatever floats your boat (I used pesto), then grill and slice.

To Serve- Top the spaghetti, sauce, and veggies with sliced chicken and shaved parmesan.  Garnish with fresh basil.

Variations:  Instead of doing a skillet saute, you can throw the vegetables on the grill (as Kristy does) along with the chicken.  Also, Kristy recently made this dish using leftover parmesan-crusted chicken.  Yum!

This is the Artisan Bread I served with the pasta dish.  The recipe can be found at:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Artisan-Bread-in-Five-Minutes-a-Day/

Prayer for Today:  Thank you, Lord, for the heart-filling warmth of dear family, and the belly-filling comfort of good food.  May I never take your constant blessings for granted.

Unexpected Beatings

Hail in the cilantro

We’ve been enjoying late afternoon showers, but about a week ago we experienced a surprise attack.  Several folks described the start of the hail storm as “someone throwing rocks on the roof.”  Since it was a sunny afternoon, we weren’t expecting walnut-sized ice balls to start battering everything in sight.

Clover surveying the hail in the yard

We had minimal damage involving a couple of tomato plants, but some families lost entire gardens.  Others now have to repair damaged cars, windows, and vinyl siding.

Neal holding the summer hail

This unexpected hail storm swooped in on a sunny day, did its damage, and left almost as quickly as it came.  People were stunned, and as they swapped stories, they said, “Can you believe it?  It was out of the blue!”

Someone close to me would’ve been celebrating 40 years of marriage today if some storms hadn’t swooped in nearly ten years ago.  We’ve all experienced unexpected beatings:  sudden job loss, a diagnosis of cancer, a car accident, betrayal.  The suddenness of it can knock you senseless, and leave you feeling disoriented, confused, and sometimes, alone.  I’m sure Job felt all of those things when he experienced the unthinkable.  Yet he was able to declare, “As long as my breath is in me, and the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness.  Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.  My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go” (Job 27: 3-6).  Job knew that God was bigger than even death itself.  No matter what terrors or afflictions he experienced, Job’s faith kept him grounded.  “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You” (Job 42:2).  After the shock, fear, weeping, or anger, the next step is often the hardest.  Keep trusting in God.  How?  Serve him faithfully.  Maintain your righteousness, one day at a time.  Our God is bigger than any unexpected beating, and He has promised to carry us safely through.  “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’  So we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5,6).

Prayer for today:  May I daily build my faith, so that when the unexpected happens, my foundation will not be shaken.

A Fun Way to Study

Treasure Hunting

A couple of years ago I took a class at BVBID called “Biblical Exegesis.”   Denny Petrillo was our instructor, and that class opened my eyes to a whole new way to study the Bible.  Periodically, I’ll share with you some of the things I learned.  My favorite part of the class was the homework assignments in which we were to find observations in a text.  This can be done in two ways:

1.  Choose a verse and list as many observations as you can possibly make from that verse.  For example, our very first assignment was Acts 1:8, which states, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Even though it’s such a short verse, the task was to find a minimum of 30 observations.  The observations had to be strictly from the text, so no interpretations or applications could be used.  My first three observations were 1) “But”- ties it with vs. 7; 2) “you”- the apostles; and 3) “Will receive”- future promise.  Once you’ve stated all the obvious observations, you go back and keep looking.  I remember patting myself on the back for coming up with 34 observations, until Denny told us he found about twice that amount.

2.  Choose a short passage and print it off  triple spaced on a piece of paper.  This will allow you plenty of room for marking up your paper.  Then start treasure hunting!  Look for key words or terms, commands, contrasts, comparisons, -ing words, repetitive words, transitional words, prepositional phrases, etc.  Highlight, circle, underline, or draw boxes around the things you’re finding.  For example, one of our assignments was John 1:5-7.  The word “light” is used several times, so that would be circled in yellow.  The word “darkness” is used a couple of times, so that would be circled in black.  Marking up the text makes ideas stand out.  Once you’re done, your paper should be marked all over the place, and then you can draw some conclusions and write them all over the margins.  My margins on this passage have these notes:

The message:  –we heard (from Him); –we declare (to you)

Contrasts:  walk in darkness vs. walk in light

God= no darkness at all; Walk in darkness= no God (fellowship with Him)

In the light= fellowship with Him; Walk in the light= fellowship with one another

Several years ago, I taught a lesson using Jeremiah 13:1-11 as my text.  I wanted to use some of the same material for another lesson so I pulled it out.  I decided to print out the text and mark it up to see what I could find.  It was exciting to find all kinds of truths from a text I thought I had already studied and was very familiar with!

Denny Petrillo said, “The Word is like a well.  We’re dipping our bucket down into the well, and drawing out what it has to say.”

Prayer for Today:  May I ever be diligent to search the Scriptures to understand the eternal truths found in Your Word.

Sunday Morning Challenge

Gorilla at Fort Worth zoo

We visited this gruff-looking gorilla on a beautiful, mild day this past spring.  He did not look happy.  I decided I was grateful for the safety barrier, as I would not want to get too close to this grumpy guy.

When I was growing up, my dad often reminded me that when my face isn’t smiling, I look cold or even stuck-up.  That was good to know since I usually didn’t feel those things at the time.  The last thing I want to do is give the impression that I’m unapproachable.  Naturally there are times when I look grouchy because I am (just ask Neal).  But I just have one of those faces that looks unfriendly if I don’t consciously make the effort to look friendly.

Sometimes we put care into what we wear to worship, but forget to put CARE into our expressions.  Lottie Beth Hobbs wrote, “An approving, encouraging, cheerful, or loving look can do so much to lift the heart.  It can speak volumes without a word.  Just one look often has the power to cause a heart to soar or to sink.  Countenances–looks, eyes, expression–speak so loudly to instill doubt and discouragement, or courage and comfort, in the heart of others.  What do our looks say?”

“The light of the eyes rejoices the heart” (Proverbs 15:30).

Prayer for Today:  When the saints meet, may I never be guilty of reserving my warm face for my circle of friends, but instead greet every single person with eyes that light up and a sincere smile.

Revived

Thrift store rockers!

Had I seen these rocking chairs when by myself, I would’ve passed them by.  They looked worn and dreary to me.  But my friend Sheryl, who has the ability to see potential, pointed them out.  So I purchased the chairs for $2.99 each.  The plan was simple:  sand and paint.  I picked out a paint color the same day and envisioned getting the project done in one afternoon.  Ha!  Even with all of my guys pitching in, it took several days just to complete the sanding process. And then it took a couple more days to give the chairs two coats of Dolphin Gray paint.

Front porch rockers

We think the time and elbow grease paid off.  The chairs have been revived and now add a welcoming touch to our front porch.  Neal and I have already passed some time there drinking coffee together.

I’m so thankful that God sees the potential in all of us.  We might find ourselves feeling worn and weary because of past mistakes or sins.  But our God makes all things new (2 Cor. 5:17)!  We might find ourselves in a spiritual rut, lacking enthusiasm for Christian fellowship or desire to save souls.  But our God is able to revive us in His service (Psa. 51:12)!  The word revive means “to return to life; become active or flourishing again; to restore from a depressed, inactive, unused state” (Merriam-Webster).  It might take some time, and it might take some elbow grease (a.k.a. refining), but God can restore those who turn back to Him.

Prayer for today:  “Revive us again.  Fill each heart with Thy love.  May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.”