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Charlotte’s Garden by Shirley Johnson

Posted by Julie on October 19, 2017 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons |

Charlotte’s Garden

By Shirley Johnson

 

Charlotte loved to work in her garden in the morning. She could hear the morning birds greet the day with a song. The refreshing dewdrops found rest upon the garden. The flowers seemed to smile back at the sun.

 

Charlotte worked hard at maintaining the presentation and growth of the garden. She knew with the proper care it would not only look beautiful, but create a peaceful atmosphere for those viewing it. From childhood, she knew which of the elements and garden intruders can interfere with the presentation and growth of the garden and which are harmless.

 

The garden often ministered to Charlotte. She embraced the seasons of the garden. It often shared reflections of life and whispers of hope.

 

While working in the garden a ladybug crawled on her sleeve. There was a time many years ago if this happened she would have panicked. She smiled and laughed to herself. She thought back to when she was a very small child. She was with her mom visiting at their friend’s home. The porch provided a favorite play area. Somehow a ladybug crawled right where she sat. She cried out to her mom for help.

 

Charlotte’s mom came running in response to her cries. While Charlotte saw a big intruder, her mother saw a simple little ladybug. “Oh, Charlotte.” “It’s okay,” said her mom. Her mom had gardened a long time and knew the difference between a harmless bug and dangerous ones. “This is just an innocent little bug that somehow landed in the wrong place.” She calmly scooped up the ladybug with her gentle hands, opened the screen door, and let it go.

 

Life’s seasons have a way of presenting itself with different problems. There are times when we have real problems, big problems that we need to face, address and solve. Sometimes though, we have little irritations that invade our space. They land right where we sit in life. They have us talking, repeating, agonizing and spinning our wheels. They interfere and distract us from the purpose and plan in our lives. They “bug” us.

 

When those little irritations land in our space,

look at them and determine how big they are.

Perhaps there are times when we too must open the screen door and let them go.

 

ABOUT

Shirley Johnson shares inspiration and encouragement through her writing. She is a member of SCBWI and ACFW. She loves to read and has volunteered at her local Public Library as an Adult Literacy Tutor. She shares her writing on her blog. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

https://twitter.com/shrlyjohnson

https://www.instagram.com/shrlyjohnson/?hl=en

https://www.facebook.com/shrlyjohnson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So You Want to be a Sheep? Maureen Hager

Posted by Julie on October 13, 2017 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons |

So You Want to be a Sheep?

By Maureen Hager

 

Sheep are mentioned in the Bible more than any other animal; symbolically they refer to God’s people. All the sheep that belong to the shepherd are of one flock.

 

God has many names; each one describes an attribute of His character. A favorite name is Yahweh-Rohi – The Lord, Our Shepherd. Here is the description of the relationship our God wants with us. The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).

 

What a beautiful picture of the rest we have in Him. Are you stressed today? Find rest in the green pastures of His finished work. Find hope and restoration as He restores your soul.

 

The Lord tells us in Isaiah 53:6 that most sheep will go astray and follow their own way. Are you a stubborn sheep, straying on the wrong path and in need of guidance and correction?

 

A shepherd’s rod redirects and corrects the sheep. The staff is used to lift and restore the sheep.  Trust and hope in the Good Shepherd to lead you out of the pit of despair.

 

I once traveled on the wrong path. This misguided search led me into a painful journey of drug addiction and life in a motorcycle gang. I was that stubborn sheep that got caught up in a violent gang war and became a broken victim. Crippling bullets forever changed my life.

 

Eventually, I encountered the hope and healing of God’s transforming love. A victorious life in Him is meant to be lived on the paths of righteousness and not in the past.

 

So why would you want to be a sheep? Like sheep, we need only to trust the Lord and follow Him. We need Jesus, our Good Shepherd to lead and guide us, to care for us, and to protect us from the enemy. What contentment and sufficiency we can have in Him.

 

Yahweh-Rohi leads us home. He lovingly rubs the healing oil on our broken and wounded hearts. The Shepherd knows our needs. He will restore us when we are broken, pick us up when we fall, and strengthen us in our weakness. Now that is a love I can trust!

 

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.                     John 10:27-28 (NJKV)

 

ABOUT

Maureen Hager is an author, speaker, and blogger. Her passion lies in empowering women to receive hope and healing from their brokenness through the love of God. Her testimony of deliverance and restoration has impacted women of all ages. Her book, Love’s Bullet is available Fall, 2017. Website: www.MaureenHager.com  Blog: www.OutoftheBrokenness.com

 

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Got Five Minutes by Letitia Suk

Posted by Julie on October 12, 2017 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons |

Got Five Minutes?

By Letitia Suk

 

“Take five minutes to pray for your work each day and see what happens,” was the challenge proposed by our pastor to the congregation years ago. I remember thinking something like, “Duh!” Of course, I already pray at least five minutes a day for my work…don’t I? Surely all the praying-on-the-run I did each day for all the flying curveballs added up to more than five minutes.

 

The nudging continued so the next morning I grabbed a timer on the way to my prayer chair, set it for five minutes and began to pray specifically for my work. Wow, that timer took a long time to ding! Challenge accepted—I was ready to see what would happen.

 

Like many of us, my work is multi-faceted. So I decided to give a minute to each of the five areas for my day-to-day projects. It seemed like one minute would be easier that five. I know, wimpy, right?

 

The first minute I gave to my coaching clients. They invested time with me to bring focus and intentionality to their lives and I wanted to give them my best work. My writing got the next minute. The current projects, the longed-for projects, my skill and wisdom in putting words on a page. Good thing the timer rang because it was easy to zone off into work mode instead of praying.

 

Speaking ministry was next. Events already scheduled and those I wanted to schedule. For my communication skills to grow and for lives to be changed. A lot for one minute.

 

My part-time chaplain work got minute #4. Patients, sensitivity, staff and overall blessing for the hospitals.

 

The last minute I saved for specific work stuff on that day’s agenda: marketing, blogging, networking. This time the five minutes flew by.

 

He was right—things happened! I felt more partnered with God in all aspects of my work. Not just that I was working for Him but with Him as I laid the concerns out each day. I saw clearer productivity and greater results.

 

All these years later, I still set my timer most days. My work depends on it.

 

Each day holds 1440 minutes…hard to claim a legitimate excuse for not finding five of them to invest in prayer over your work. You might be amazed at the return.

 

P.S.—The same five-minute principle works for other areas of your life too!

 

ABOUT

Letitia (Tish) Suk, www.letitiasuk.com, invites women to create an intentional life centered in Jesus. She blogs at hopeforthebest.org and authored Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat) and Rhythms of Renewal. She is a speaker, personal retreat guide, and life coach in the Chicago area. Find Tish: https://www.facebook.com/Letitia.Suk.Author/

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Five Tips for Flexible Family Faith Time by Stephenie Hovland

Posted by Julie on October 11, 2017 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons |

Five Tips for Flexible Family Faith Time

by Stephenie Hovland

 

Guess what? There is no such thing as a perfect Christian family! That means there isn’t one perfect way to devotions. In fact, I’m thinking the word “devotions” might need to go. Think of this as family faith time.

 

Let’s go through five tips to make your family faith time work. Remember to revisit these ideas regularly. As your family grows and ages, you might need to change how this works.

 

  1. Purpose: This is a time for your family to meet around God’s Word. Your family and circumstances may dictate what time of day, where, what materials, how long it will last, etc. You are not trying be a theology professor or expect perfect participation from every family member every time. Just start with something (the Bible or a kids’ Bible story book, for example) and run with it. Make changes later.

 

  1. Plan a little: Don’t worry about it being perfect, but make a few plans. Or, if you’re like me, plan a lot! I am not spontaneous, so I need to have several options. You can evaluate how it went after you’re done, so the next time is a little better.

 

  1. Pray: I hope you pray with your family, but say a quick, private prayer as everyone gathers. That personal prayer time will help you to take a breath and let God handle things.

 

  1. Physical: Be physical. Hold hands when you pray, hug when you’re finished, and try to touch members of your family in a loving way when you talk about and with God. We want to be Jesus “with skin on” in a sense, so we should touch. Jesus did.

 

  1. Play: While family faith time works great around a dinner table for some, others find it easier to focus on faith talk when they’re more active. Maybe you need to take it outside and shoot some hoops while you explore God’s connections in each family member’s life. Or, perhaps you start or end your time with play. Dancing helps get the wiggles out, so it might be a great way to start your family faith time. Or, maybe after a quick devotion and prayer time, you play Candyland together as a family.

When it seems like it’ll never work, please don’t give up! Try not to force your way. Change elements of your time together, and see if something else might work better. (I say this from much experience.) Keep trying. Keep praying. God is there for you and your family.

 

 

ABOUT

Stephenie Hovland loves reading and writing devotions. She also writes rhyming Bible stories for children and resources for teachers. You can find her work at Concordia Publishing House, Creative Communications for the Parish, and many online bookstores. Visit her Facebook page: @StephenieHovlandWriter and on Twitter:@StephHovland

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Walking in Your Own Shoes by Kolleen Lucariello

Posted by Julie on October 5, 2017 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons |

Walking in Your Own Shoes

By Kolleen Lucariello

 

Here in my home state of New York, October ushers in the fun of pumpkins, apple picking and salmon fishing season. There’s also the beauty of leaves peaking, apple cider and cozy sweaters. Among the many things October has to offer, it has also been designated as Women Walking in Their Own Shoes month: a global call for women to say yes to their purpose, passion and power.

 

If you’re like me, fall also means it’s time to shed the flip-flops, put away the sandals, and slip your feet back into a pair of shoes. Preferably comfortable ones—it’s never enjoyable to spend a day in shoes that don’t fit.

 

Once, while visiting my parents, I slipped my feet into a pair of my mother’s shoes so I could retrieve something from the car. Immediately, I noticed we walk completely differently; she walks on the inside of her sole—I don’t. My feet in her shoes didn’t work well. Come to think of it, I’ve stood in the clearance section trying to squeeze my feet into the wrong size shoe all for the sake of cuteness. I’ve also clomped around in shoes too big out of convenience. Neither were comfortable. Did you know it’s possible to cause serious harm to yourself by wearing shoes that don’t fit properly?

 

Serious harm can also happen when insecurities keep you from walking in your own shoes. Just as there’s comfort when we slip our feet into our own shoes, comfort can be found when we slip ourselves into the purpose, passion and power God has given us.

 

Paul wrote, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone” (Ephesians 1:11-12, MSG).

 

When we say yes to Christ, we say yes to purpose because we discover what we are living for. We say yes to passion because we recognize who we are, and we say yes to power because we understand the kingdom of God is not based on talk but on power (1 Corinthians 4:20).

 

Cinderella was the only one who could wear the glass slipper.

 

You’re the only one who can walk in your shoes.

 

ABOUT

 

Kolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, the author of the devotional book, The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am, resides in Central New York with her husband, Pat. You can connect with Kolleen at www.speakkolleen.com as she pursues God’s heartbeat to change our identity—one letter at a time.

 

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Character Interview: Embracing Hope by Janell Butler Wojtowicz

Posted by Julie on September 28, 2017 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, Writing |

Character Interview – Drew McKinley

 

I’m visiting with Drew McKinley about how God transforms people to serve and glorify Him. Drew has a heart-wrenching yet inspirational story that people who are hurting need to hear. Drew, please share how God transformed you into the man He could use for His purposes?

 

Drew: I’m going to start with a verse that sums up what I and two others have experienced. Roman 12:2, ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.’” I know some have heard that verse so often that it has become passé, but believe me, eventually they’ll find personal application and comfort in it.

 

How has your life exemplified this verse?

 

Drew: At one time I focused on what the world wanted me to be, not on what God wanted me to be. He had to knock me upside the head to renew my mind. And how He did that was painful—excruciating actually.

 

Yes, I understand you lost your wife.

 

Drew (sad smile): Tragically, suddenly, seemingly without reason. The anger I felt toward God … I’m surprised He didn’t strike be down with lightning based on my thoughts, words, and behavior. I had never faced tragedy in my 30 years. Life was almost perfect. (Chuckle) Except for a slightly over-bearing father. I attended a prestigious college; married a beautiful, talented, Christian woman; and had a lucrative career at a renown Christian university. But in one moment all that meant nothing.

 

How did God transform your mind? It sounds like before her death there was some, well, based on what I’ve heard about you, I’ll be blunt: conceit.

 

Drew: Your bluntness is accurate. And after her death came hopelessness, and even hatred.

 

Wow, I understand hopelessness, but hatred?

 

Drew (pulling his hand through his hair): Raw hatred. I hated God. I hated people who had hurt me and those I loved. I hated myself.

 

How did you overcome that hatred and hopelessness?

Drew: Through three people. First and most importantly, God. Despite my feelings, thoughts and actions, He never abandoned me, and He had every reason to wash His hands of me. But in His grace and mercy, He opened my eyes to others who were hurting; who needed guidance; who needed forgiveness. Second, God placed a wonderful woman in my life who had been through her own loss and hopelessness. She was strong, compassionate and insightful, and she showed me how to go after hope, not just sit around waiting for life to get better. Then God plopped an arrogant young man in my path who tried my patience, disappointed me, and even broke my heart. God was adamant that I forgive him. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do, even harder than grieving my wife. But in the end, God used them to renew my mind—my heart. I acknowledge that everything the three of us went through—everything—is what transformed us for God’s purposes and His glory.

 

What you’ve learned is something all of us can apply to the times when we lose hope or fall into the trap of what the world wants us to be. What do you say to encourage them?

 

Drew: Even though it may seem impossible at the time and against everything you feel, God will take you safely through the storms. Yes, it’ll hurt and you’ll have questions and doubts, but the healing will come from the Lord if you seek Him. The answers can be found in the Bible and through the power of the Holy Spirit. And don’t be afraid to seek out help, whether it’s a pastor, close friend, mentor, or a counselor, which is what I did. I’ll close with one of my favorite verses, also found in Romans, 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

 

About Embracing Hope

Christian college dean Drew McKinley mourns his dead wife and still wears his wedding ring. He stumbles on a desperate journey to understand God’s motives for her tragic death. Crossing his perilous path is Allison, a graduate student and new employee in the dean’s office. Even as she deals with financial hardships, she recognizes Drew’s unresolved grief from her own loss. Putting up a roadblock is Chris Whitney, the handsome but egotistical student senate president. He carries the secret burden of a dysfunctional family and a below-the-surface temper. The road Drew must navigate is fraught with career upheaval, a reawakening heart, substance and domestic abuse, a violent assault, and the struggle for forgiveness and restoration. Will Drew finish his journey to embrace the hope God offers, the love Allison shares, and the guidance Chris needs, or will he turn his back on all three with catastrophic consequences?

 

Author Bio

Janell Butler Wojtowicz, born and raised on an Iowa farm, was one of those kids who loved to write the dreaded “What I did on summer vacation” essay. It’s no surprise that she has spent her entire 30-year career in writing, including newspaper journalism, Christian higher education and nonprofit public relations, and local government public information. Much of her writing has been the “people stories” of trial, tragedy and triumph, which are reflected in her debut novel, “Embracing Hope.” Janell is a freelance writer/editor, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She and her husband, Frank, live in New Brighton, Minnesota. She has two step-sons, a step-daughter-in-law and three step-granddaughters.

 

Links

 

Twitter – @janellwoj

Blog – http://janellwoj.wordpress.com

Author Facebook – www.Facebook.com/janellbwoj

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16046310.Janell_Butler_Wojtowicz

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Embracing-Hope-Janell-Butler-Wojtowicz/dp/1988422043/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479298376&sr=1-1&keywords=janell+butlerSmashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/682248

Barnes Noble Nook – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/embracing-hope-janell-butler-wojtowicz/1125151446?ean=2940153857114

kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/embracing-hope-1

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/682248

 

 

 



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