Good Thoughts – Good Memories ~ in 2020

2020 photo

What Are You Thinking On?

My mother had severe juvenile diabetes (type 1) in a time when the disease was a death sentence and insulin was a very new medical treatment. She grew up in the Ukrainian immigrant community where, at that time, there was tremendous fear of injections. My grandparents bravely decided that she should have insulin and she lived. Not only did she live, she married my father, had two children, and had a life. However, she was an exceedingly negative person all of her life. As a child, I didn’t understand her struggle, and I found her constant negativity painful. Despite my mother’s untreated chronic depression, she was a decent and ethical person who tried really hard to live her life and have a family. I understand that now, as an adult and how I think of her has changed a great deal. I now see her in a much more positive light without denying her faults.

My father was pragmatic, unemotional, bookish, and often withdrawn. But he could be very funny and for me that was some relief from the darkness of talking about every thing that was wrong or was about to go wrong.

I took after my dad in a lot of ways. I found refuge in books, and I’d make a joke out of whatever was upsetting and dysfunctional. That was when I was around other people. In private, I was more like my mom, focused excessively on the painful and the negative.

It wasn’t until my mid-forties that I first heard teaching on renewing of the mind and the importance of focusing on the lovely and the good. And by that time, I had  focused on the unlovely, the broken, and the sad so much, that I hardly had any good memories from my childhood, and even from my adult life. They’d all been overshadowed and buried by my rehashing of all the dark and negative moments.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. ~ Philippians 4:8, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

I married a man whose family was even more dysfunctional than mine…if that is even possible. My own immediate family and my extended family had PhDs in negativity. (See, I am still able to make a joke out of the gruesome.)

Well, one day there was great turmoil in my husband’s family. A lot of yelling in the kitchen and people running in and out of the house. So, I went into the living room and started surfing channels on the TV just to block the chaos out. It was a Sunday and I clicked onto this petite blonde lady standing behind a podium. Gloria Copeland. I thought she was preaching, but she is much more a teacher than a preacher. She was no-nonsense positive. Positive that God is a good God, is a healing God, is a loving God. She was intelligent, logical, and didn’t have big hair. That sealed it for me, and by the end of the program, I put my hands on the TV and got saved.

I am aware of true ‘Christian’ positive-thinking that first manifested itself in the 1950s, and that is good. But what I’m talking about is deeper.  It is a real and abiding belief that the power of the Word as written in the Bible is transformative and healing. It is the belief in the supernatural power of God’s living Word. I have to point out here that God’s Word in the Bible is not magical, not hokus-pokus, nor abracadabra. It is the belief that if the living Word gets deep-down within the heart and soul of the believer, it will start to heal those hidden, broken places.

Note: God’s Word in the Holy Bible has structure, context, and order. The Word of God can’t be ripped out of the Bible and thrown around as a quick affirmation for selfish purposes. Any phrase we wish to speak over our situation has to be understood in terms of what came before and after it in the chapter (and even in other chapters and in other books of the Bible). The Bible is a cohesive whole, pointing to and proclaiming Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One, the Savior.

That said, if you want to get rid of darkness and negativity in your life…if you want to start making some good memories, a good place to start is the Philippians 4 Scripture noted above. Take it apart and on purpose (even if you have to force yourself) start to focus on what is:

  • True
  • Honorable
  • Right
  • Pure
  • Lovely
  • Of Good Repute
  • Having or Striving for Excellence
  • Worthy of Praise

 

Vision Journal/Board vs Blessing Jar vs War Room ~ for 2020

Blessing Jar, Russel Stover

Several years ago (actually, January 2013), I started making a Blessing Jar in preparation for the new year. It wasn’t even a jar, but I’m sure God didn’t take offense. I had an old Christmasy tin I liked that had originally houses Russel Stover caramel candy. So, it became my Blessing Jar for several years. There are several ways to work with a blessing jar, but the way a writer friend told me she did it appealed to me. 1) Write a short, focused list of blessings I’m believing God for and put it into the jar along with Scriptures that support those blessings and place them inside. As I searched the web looking for ideas on making Blessing Jars, I found that many people wrote down their prayers for other people and put them into the jar. So, I did both of those. I wrote down a list of 5-8 things I was believing for with supporting Scripture. That took up three pages. I folded it and put it into the tin. On smaller pieces of paper I wrote down individual prayers for people. I’d read through these several times during the year and continue adding prayers for people.

Then in 2016 I got creative and made a Mason Jar/Blessing Jar that I hand painted. I did all the same things. Wrote out three pages of blessings that I was believing for and also on smaller pieces of paper prayers for others. I added prayers throughout the year. Only my list had become a formal Prayer of Petition, involving thanksgiving, and seeking to ask for whatever vision, desires, and inklings I prayerfully believed God had put into my heart. That year I signed my Prayer of Petition and took communion at home over it.

War Room

The Christian movie War Room came out in the Fall of 2015. My dear Christian writer friend Beth Glash (writing as Jenna Victoria, Beth Ellen on Facebook) and I went to see it. From time-to-time during 2016, we talked about having a “war room” or space in our own homes. By 2017 my Blessing Jar had become my “war room.” I kept my formal Prayer of Petition in the Blessing Jar but prayers for people went up on the side of my refrigerator where I could see them every day and continually pray for people. The photo above is the beginning in January 2017. By the end of the year the refrigerator’s side was covered in prayers. I also wrote out . My war room.

As early as 2014, I began learning about Vision Boards, the Christian kind as taught by Terry Savelle Foy and a few others. I knew about Terry because it was in her father Jerry Savelle’s ministry that I found the clearest teaching on The Prayer of Petition. I had kept a spiritual journal since the late 1990s and it was not difficult get separators and make the back of my journaling notebook into a Vision Journal. I like the vision journal because it allows me to see that God is indeed moving in my life. For example, in 2014, I taped a few words onto my journal page that I found in a magazine, “Blessed With A New Car.” I kept the old car in excellent running condition and in 2017 was blessed with a newer car, a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I blessed my oldest daughter by giving her my 2009 Dodge Journey. I believe God wants to bless us, but part of that is He wants to bless us so we can bless others. As you can see the pages (above) are worn, handled. I’ve looked at them many times and prayed for my vision, thanked God for my blessings, and marveled at how He works in my life.

So, which is the best? Blessing Jar? War Room or Space? Vision Board or Vision Journal? I heard it preached that Oral Roberts was once asked which is the best scriptural prayer to pray. He answered, “The one you need at the time.” That’s kind of how I view Blessing Jars, personal war rooms, and/or vision boards and vision journals. Do what work for you. Do, what you will stick with throughout the year and into future years. And let it spiritually evolve as the Lord leads.

I pray that all my subscribers and visitors to this blog will be mightily blessed by the Lord. May you have a healthy, happy, prosperous new year.

Trinity Widows Group ~a much needed time

Trinity
Trinity Baptist’s large foyer, widows group meets in Next Steps room.

support, laughter, food

My “Florida sunshine” friend Deborah asked me if I’d like to meet her this afternoon at Trinity Baptist Church for it’s widows group. I immediately said, “YES.”

I’d been feeling down in the dumps. Another dear friend who I’ve known for many years (since my time in NYC) is battling cancer and she’s just moved. Packing up the old house, a cancelled flight and an overnight at an airport hotel, arranging for another flight…and when she arrived in Texas, she was hospitalized. She and I had been texting back and forth for over 24-hours and I was emotionally drained.

My husband passed away three years ago on December 8th, so the holidays are bittersweet for me. Even still, on the very year Joseph died, Christmas was a comfort to me. That year, my house had been decorated since the day after Thanksgiving. So, when I arrived back home in Florida after the memorial service in NYC, my little two-bedroom house had its halls fully decked out…and Christmas enveloped me and comforted me. I know it’s not that way for many who have lost loved ones during the holidays, but the spirit of Christmas held me in its arms that year…and it did last year, and I expect it will this year. Of course, this was Jesus expressing Himself in a gentle and tender way through the symbolism and spirit of the holiday we believers choose to celebrate His birthday.

So meanwhile, back to today…when I got to the church Deborah met me in the parking lot. Inside, the tables were decorated with Pilgrim salt and pepper shakers and there was an informal Thanksgiving buffet. The turkey had been ordered, but all of the other dishes were prepared by the women. When we got to our tables, the very first topic of conversation was how good it was to cook again. Nearly every woman at our table, including me, said she hardly cooked anymore since it was cooking only for one. The ladies had enjoyed breaking out cooking chops again and preparing a dish for a large group. I was really a good cook once, and I feel my skills in the kitchen have diminished from lack of use. I do find that disturbing but it is what it is.

Women shared a lot about their grandchildren, trips taken to Israel, Ireland. And then we got to how even years after your husband’s death…you’re going along…and out of the blue something blindsides you and triggers the old feelings of grief. Of course you knew you weren’t over it…but you thought you’d tucked the worst of it away…and then Pow!

It wasn’t a discussion group. Just a gentle back and forth and it was good and it was healing.

‘A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.’ ~ Psalm 58:5 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

Trinity Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fl  904.596.2400

Trinity Baptist College, Jacksonville, Fl   904.596.2351

Trinity Christian Academy, Jacksonville, FL   904.596.2460

Patterns and People that Bind ~ negative soul ties

Gate, Old City, Jerusalem
A remaining gate in the Old City, Jerusalem

 

And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. ~ Acts 3:2, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

 

We all have (or have had) patterns in our lives and relationships with people that bring (or brought) no, or very few positives into our lives.

This man in the Scripture was lame all of his life and was carried every day to the Gate they called beautiful in order to beg. He could not go into the Temple because he was not whole and in those days there were strict rules about wholeness and health. He had no access to what ‘normal’, successful people had access to, the inside of the Temple.

Usually we look at the man himself, but I wonder who were the ones who carried him every day to beg for alms? Were they corrupt greedy men who got a portion of what alms he acquired every day? Or, were they family and friends who could only see him as lame and with good intentions brought him to do what they thought was the only thing he was able to do? In either case, these were enablers with negative soul ties to the man.

This man had a negative pattern. He allowed himself to be carried to the gate to beg. Jesus came to him to break that pattern that had him bound. We all have or have had patterns that bind or have bound us. For some it’s alcoholism, gambling, pornography, self-mutilating, allowing physical abuse to continue, over eating (something prevalent in the church), anorexia, compulsive spending, overwhelming credit card debt. For others it might be excessive cleaning, or excessive running every morning even though pounding the pavement is injuring legs and feet. In these last two, the operative word is excessive.

What people do we have in our lives who enable us to be less than, support a very limited self-concept of ourselves? What patterns do we have that put walls up around us that might even look like a safety net, but keeps us bound. We all know, or secretly suspect what those things are. And before we take a step and do anything about them, we should ask the Holy Spirit to clarify who and what they are. We should pray about this, and whatever steps we take to get free of the limitations placed on us by others and the limitations of our own negative patterns should be done under the leadership of the Lord. And that will mean, there will be Scripture that supports what direction we feel led to take.

If a person has one of the patterns listed above, it’s quite possible the Holy Spirit will lead you to break the behavior off immediately and to speak with your pastor or a trusted leader in the church. The Holy Spirit may lead you to a treatment program, to Alcoholics Anonymous, to a weight loss group, to an accountability partner in the Church, or the like. Go, go, get help to break whatever pattern/habit/addiction is binding you. Take a step and then another step and then another out of bondage.

In the case of people who are enablers…if you are an alcoholic and a person is giving you alcohol, tell them to stop. If they won’t, cut them off. The same applies if you’re addicted to pornography or gambling, etc. and all your friends are into it too. Cut them off. These are super-negative soul ties. The end of the road with these ‘major’ addictions is sad, very sad. Often it’s jail, insanity, or untimely death. If you’re bound by one of these major addictions you must take immediate, firm, committed steps to get free. You also should have a human support system and the Holy Spirit can lead you to a good one. Please do NOT expect perfection from your human support system. Expect very human, caring support, capable of mistakes or being in error…while they hope they are supporting. There will be people in support groups who have become Pharisaical. Just pray for them.

Forgiveness is key. I’ve had to forgive people who were enablers, manipulators, and controllers in my life, people who sought to use me, people who were toxic. I’ve had to forgive them to be set free of them. This will be a constant. We will also have to forgive good, supportive people we add to our lives as we grown. They are only human. Remember, the final word on situations in our lives are not people, not matter how supportive. The One with the final Word is the Lord.

For perfect love and guidance turn often to the Lord.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ~ Matthew 6:33, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

The Spirit Believes ~ the flesh doubts

Cel Sisterhood Bracelet

The Great Commission

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. ~ Matthew 28: 16-17, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

These are Scriptures I’ve read many times, over the course of the years I’ve been saved, probably heard it preached from the pulpit or on Christian television shows well over a hundred times.

Last night I attended a Sisterhood Workshop at my church, Celebration Church in Julington Creek, FL. The subject was “Unwavering Resolve: Surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” I even got a sisterhood bracelet, pictured above.

We were given a worksheet. So, this morning I sat down with my spiritual notebook and my Bible and looked up the first Scripture they’d given on that worksheet which was Matthew 28: 18-29.

18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, [NASB]

As I usually do, I went up a couple of verses to Matthew 28:16-17 and started reading and something hit me…doubtful. These were the eleven disciples after the resurrection. They’s spent three years with Jesus,  knew He had in fact died on the cross, had been prepared for burial, was sealed in a tomb, and as reported by Mary Magdalene, three days later He was risen.

Here they were seeing the risen Lord, Jesus the Christ, and yet some doubted. When preachers I’d heard over the years got to that verse, they often preached it in a scoffing or judgemental tone. That some of these disciples were at this point somehow spiritually less than or deficient.

Then it hit me with such power…the question…What had changed? How did all these men later become on fire for the Lord? And it came to me, on the Day of Pentecost they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

We need the Holy Spirit to live a life surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit to believe. The flesh doubts, the flesh is weak, the flesh is afraid of seeming foolish, the flesh has fear of man, the flesh wants to take control and run the show according to desire or investment in mental ability. There is no use and it makes no sense to castigate ourselves when our flesh doubts. What else would it do???

When that happens, if we want the life of joy and peace and blessing that Jesus offers, we must seek the Holy Spirit and let Him guide us to a better space for ourselves. That place is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The more we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives, the less we will doubt, the less we will fear, the less we will harshly judge and condemn ourselves. The more we will be free, unbound, joyful, and content in our blessings. The more we will live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

GATHERING SHADOWS (Finding Sanctuary, Book 1) by Nancy Mehl ~ a review

Gathering Shadows

Romantic Suspense, Old Order Mennonite, Mystery

I received GATHERING SHADOWS in 2014 from the publisher (the other two novels in the series followed). That was the year my husband began getting sick and these stories along with a great many other WONDERFUL works I hoped to read went on a shelf that became my To Be Read (TBR) list. I’ve finally gotten to this novel and I’m so glad I did.

Sanctuary is picturesque and inviting, but it’s a sleepy little Mennonite town chock full of secrets. Nearly every resident is hiding something, it seems.

St. Louis TV news reporter Wynter Evans hopes to propel herself into the anchor’s seat at her station with a human interest story on unusual Missouri towns. However, her station manager has told her to stay away from Sanctuary.

Those plans change when she is handed a photo of an Old Order Mennonite family living in Sanctuary whose teenage son closely resembles what Wynter’s brother, who had been kidnapped as a child, could look like now. Wynter is also hiding something…her real name.

What I like so much about Nancy Mehl’s writing is that she makes difficult, painful, even horrific incidents come alive on the written page that do happen to actual living people. This is true of Wynter/Emily Evans when she deals with a painful past that has come crashing into her present life and confronts implied threats that are confusing and don’t add up to any real leads in the case. I felt her frustration, disappointment, fear, and anguish.

This is a page turner. When I finished it, I immediately picked up the next one in the series, DEADLY ECHOES.

Purchase GATHERING SHADOWS on Amazon

Magnolia Storms (A Coastal Hearts Novel) by Janet W. Ferguson ~ a review

Magnolia Storms

Romance, Christian Fiction

With Hurricane Dorian bearing down on the Bahamas as a Cat 5 this Labor Day weekend, I decided to finish reading this emotional novel of devastation, hope, and love.

The author skillfully achieves a sense of foreboding from the very beginning. Hero and Gulf Coast river bar pilot Josh Bergeron attempts to board a cargo ship in rough water and his foot slips off of the rung of the metal ladder. I am mostly a detective story reader and/or action-adventure. The most exciting parts of this novel for me were Josh’s scenes out on tumultuous seas.

Later in the story, we learn that heroine Maggie Marovich’s father, also a bar pilot and Josh’s mentor was swept away and lost during Hurricane Katrina. She left the Gulf Coast, never to return, but now her sister Cammie’s horrid accident and hospitalization forces Maggie back to their childhood home as another hurricane looms.

As a Christian reader, I appreciated the Bible verse that kept repeating: “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in Him.” Job 13:15

All of the characters were highly likeable and well developed in this emotional romance story. I’m not a romance reader and didn’t absolutely and totally fall into their lives. My favorite character was Aunt Ruth. I do recommend this novel to romance readers who enjoy a realistic, exciting clean read.

Purchase Magnolia Storms on Amazon