Finding Answers at a Yard Sale

Finding Answers at a Yard Sale

 Angie Campbell

Angie Campbell

 I’m going to Africa! I know that I am because it’s been promised to me! Not by a friend, nor by one of my leaders. God has promised it! I had been praying for an answer as to whether He wanted me there or not. I knew that I wanted to go, but I wanted HIM to tell me if HE wanted me there! I also knew that He sends some people but others, He asks to stay and support. So, I prayed, and I waited.

One morning, I woke up with a Bible scripture in my head. I heard it loud and clear. That had never happened to me before. I wasn’t even familiar with the scripture. It wasn’t a common one that is used regularly, like John 3:16. No, it was one I had to look up. So, I reached for my Bible and flipped to John 6:13. It read, “So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” Confused, I thought, maybe I actually had misheard or maybe it was some weird part of a dream that I had, with bits of it filtering into my thoughts as I woke up. Like I said, I’d never been given scripture before.

I shrugged my shoulders and went about my day, thinking I’d just been so eager to get an answer that I made it up. I laughingly told a friend about it later, who suggested I read more of the story around it, to see if any of that made more sense. That afternoon, I came back to the scripture and read it again, but this time started at the beginning of that chapter. It was the story of Jesus on the mount, when He fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two small fish. The verse I’d been given was the part after everyone had eaten and they were gathering the leftovers. There was enough to fill twelve baskets! The meaning behind my scripture suddenly became crystal clear! God had answered my inquiry with a Bible verse! Not only would I be able to raise the money that I needed to go to Africa, but I would be able to raise more than enough, with the help of the others who would be going!

In contemplating how to begin raising the $2400 I personally needed to get to Africa, my friend, Jackie and I decided to have a yard sale at my house and split the proceeds. We asked our friends and family to donate unwanted items that we could sell at our yard sale. Then, began to stuff my car with these items over and over and then we stored them in my garage. Soon enough, my garage was literally filled to the brim with any and everything that was offered! We rejected nothing! As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. We had furniture, clothes, toys, Christmas supplies, beddings… you name it, we had it!

Looking through our available dates, the only Saturday we both had opened landed on Memorial Day weekend. I wondered if people would even come that weekend, since most people go out of town or make plans with their families. But, the date felt right, so we went with it.

Finally, the week of the yard sale arrived. I had just started working for my husband at his restaurant, and he’d unintentionally scheduled me to work that same Saturday as my yard sale, even though I had mentioned the yard sale to him in passing. I had to find my own replacement. Everyone I asked was busy or unable to help me out. It was looking more and more like I would have to miss my own yard sale. I started to become anxious. Then, I remembered Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” So, I prayed. Finally, the day before my shift, someone said they would be able to help!

The day before the yard sale, Jackie and I got together for final preparations for the sale. We made signs and hung up notices directing people on how to find us, as well as posted all over Facebook on yard sale websites and such. Then, I checked the forecast to see how the weather would be. My weather app said that there was a varying chance between 10-55% of rain all day! 

I asked Jackie if she wanted to put it off to another weekend. After talking about it, we both felt that this was our weekend and decided to see what the day held for us. We might get one good hour, we might get two. We’d find out, but we’d for sure sell as much as we could before the rains came.

That next morning, Jackie came to my house early, and we prayed a quick prayer to keep the rains away until 3:00 when our sale would be over. Then, we headed outside to start getting everything set up. We filled every inch of every table. We laid out blankets and put toys on them to easily tempt the children. We put up our signs that explained our mission trip, and a jar to collect the money. We explained to each customer that there were no prices on anything because everything was for a donation. They could give us whatever they wanted as long as it was a fair donation.

Half way through, I felt a drop on my shoulder. I looked at Jackie, wide-eyed and worried. Was this the start of the storms? Immediately, we stopped what we were doing and prayed against the rain! I never felt another drop! Our yard sale continued, as customer after customer arrived, some buying a little, others a lot. Some just asking questions and some not saying more than a hello. We even had some come, who bought nothing, but gave us a donation anyway!

At 3:00, Jackie said, “Let’s call it a day!” Then, began putting items away. At just that moment, the rains came pouring down! We dashed to get everything put away and out of the rain, laughing as we did so, at the craziness of it all.

Looking back, I can see that God not only answered my question once, using a simple Bible verse. He confirmed that answer by helping us overcome every obstacle that came against us! He even gave us a great start to our fundraising! We raised $526 that day! Jackie and I split the amount, which gave us both a burst of faith. This may only be the start of our fundraising, but I have no doubt at the success we will be having.

Where’s the fruit?

Where’s the fruit?

 Denise Horgan

Denise Horgan

As I sit here on my deck, yet again, during a summer rain shower, I have to ponder certain thoughts. Some of you may remember the old Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the Beef?”  In other words or meaning, where is the meat, the substance.  Today I’m asking where is the fruit as I look at my tomato plant!

For some reason this summer I thought it would be a fun experiment to grow one little tomato plant on our screened in deck.  Our back yard is full of wild animals and I figured the plant would have a better chance of taking root and bearing fruit up high away from its enemies. It almost sounds like isolation for this tomato plant, but in this particular instance it is only for the plant’s protection. This plant continues to grow taller than any tomato plant I’ve ever seen. I think it may be a bean stock instead of a tomato plant.  No matter what the plant truly is, I have to wonder where is the fruit?  Family and friends comment to me the following concerns:  the plant has to pollinate, it needs bees, it isn’t getting enough sunlight, are you watering it?  Well I don’t know if what they say is all true, but according to the internet, which is “never wrong”, it tells me the plant will grow and produce fruit where it is currently located, on my deck. It has definitely taken root, but where’s the fruit?

As the rain continues to softy pour down, I once again look over at the so called big green leafy tomato plant.  I’m wondering if the plant is simply building its foundation. It is preparing itself to bear the fruit once the vines are strong enough to hold a tomato.  Just like us, we have to build our belief system or our ideas according to scripture.  Scripture gives us direction and guidance to help us have a strong confident foundation to live by. For example,  the rain is coming down in a steady stream right now, but there are influences, like the wind. The wind will redirect some of the rain from coming straight down to a different course. Right now some of the streams of rain are being directed sideways resulting in a misty bath of rainwater on me. Humans are the same way. If we do not have a strong foundation of who we are from scripture, our thoughts and actions will be swayed from the worldly influences. We will steer off our course or be carried off into an unhealthy environment.  Our foundation may not be strong enough to withstand the culture we live in. Just like the plant’s foundation has not matured enough to hold its fruit. We need positive influences like reading scripture and level headed family and friends. In other words, we need good practices to help us bear fruit. We have to continue to nurture ourselves as well as others to see good results happen.

Nurturing ourselves comes through Jesus.  He should be who we look to for a strong foundation.

1 Corinthians 3:11 New International Version (NIV)

11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

I will continue to nurture this tomato plant to build it’s strong foundation. I do have hope and confidence that once the foundation is strong enough, the fruit will follow. Already I see flower like buds popping out along with the thickening vine of the plant as it becomes stronger and bigger. 

I think this scripture explains it the best:

Psalm 1

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.

I pray that all of our foundations continue to be built on firm ground. That we develop strong biblical roots that will produce fruit. Also, may we have positive influences in our lives to guide us as much as scripture does.  God, impart Your wisdom for us to be able to decipher between the worldly wants and our biblically needs that are laid out before us through scriptures. Lord help us to stand firm on Your teachings and not to dilute Your Word to accommodate our worldly wants. Show us how to live righteously and to bear fruit that will bring You glory. Come Holy Spirt, invade our lives. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

P.S. God....thank you for the first tomato that finally popped out!!!

Denise Horgan

“In The Waiting Room”

“In The Waiting Room”

 Lisa Waltamath

Lisa Waltamath

I’m in a waiting room (as I refer to it) in various area of my life right now. I’m waiting for my future career to take off, I’m waiting for my future husband, and I’m waiting for my health issues to improve and be healed. During this “waiting room” time, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect. I’m journaling, praying, and trying to listen to what God is telling me.  When I pray, I’m asking Him to help me learn to be accepting of this time as I wait for my dreams to come to pass and that I gain wisdom on what to do in areas of my life. This is a learning opportunity for personal growth and spiritual growth for me. I used to pray for the waiting time to be over with, but now I am learning that it truly is HIS timing, not mine.  

Waiting on my career to take off: I’ve been applying for jobs and praying to find the job of my dreams since I’ve graduated college. I’ve been applying for years (literally) at one particular company because it’s been a dream of mine to work there. I’m still going to keep applying for jobs at this company, because I’m not giving up on my dreams. I might have to take a detour and work somewhere else before getting hired at this company, but I’m not giving up. Just because some things take longer, doesn’t mean they aren’t meant to be. I’m going to be positive, keep applying, and trust God to lead me where He wants me to be.  

Waiting on my future husband: I’ve gone to so many weddings in the past few years, but I love weddings! I love the rituals of it all, of watching the bride walk down the aisle with her father, and watching the groom tear up over his bride walking towards him. It makes me cry. Not because I’m sad for them. But as selfish as it might sound, I feel sad for myself. I wonder “When is it my turn? Why do I have such a desire to be married and I’m not? Will it ever be my turn?” Will my groom look at me like that with tears in his eyes?” Well, he better tear up as I walk down the aisle, or I’m cancelling the wedding at that moment! (Just kidding).

Pastor Ryan had a series recently called “Guardrails and Pitfalls” where he talked about guarding our hearts. He also preached about looking at what’s in our hearts. He mentioned a variety of things we can have in our hearts and how to change what’s in there. For example: rather than be jealous of someone’s happiness, celebrate their joy! But it’s hard for me to celebrate the newlyweds when I’m in the “waiting room” wondering when it will be my turn to be married? Dating has been quite an experience. There’s a lot of lies and inconsistencies with the dating world followed by cultural norms that aren’t God’s intentions of intimacy and relationships. It’s important to stay to your values, who you are as a person, and not to compromise. When it comes to relationships, just because something is common in society, that doesn’t mean you have to follow the same common theme. Seek what God says about relationships and intimacy and follow that.

I’ve been cleaning out our attic and I found baby and children clothing that my mom had saved from when my siblings and I were little.  I had negative thoughts, “Should I just donate these? I don’t know if I’ll find a husband and have kids, why keep these?” Then I thought, “Nope, get those negative thoughts out of here.” So I organized all the clothing, keeping them for when I have children. If I can’t have children, then I will adopt or be a foster parent. Just because things aren’t happening in your planned timeline of events, doesn’t mean they’re not going to happen in God’s timeline of events for you.  

So, as I reflect in the valleys that I’m in during my life right now, I have to be patient and trust in God. He has me in the palm of his hand, although it feels like I’m drowning sometimes, I’m still in his hand. He’s got me (and he’s got you too). My struggles will continue strengthen me. They keep me humble, and help me to value and appreciate my successes because I’ve been through the failures. As my life feels overwhelming at times with so much uncertainty of not being where I thought I would be in life at this age, I have certainty in God to carry me through. No matter how many times I’ve failed, or felt like I disappointed Him, He’s still there. His love for us is unconditional. No matter what you’ve done, you will be forgiven, you just have to ask. Stay in faith. Fight for your dreams. Pray for your future spouse. If God put that desire in you, you’re most likely meant to live out that dream, regardless of any negativity someone says to you. God has a plan for you and your life, plans of goodness and to prosper you.  

There’s a song from the group Unspoken called “Lift My Life Up.” One of the lyrics is, “…All my dreams, all my plans, Lord, I leave it in your hands. Have your way in me.” If you feel that you’re in a “waiting room” like me with your life, here’s my advice: take a seat, stay in faith, do your best each day, take this time as personal and spiritual growth to stay close and connected with God, be positive and trust in God to fulfill your hopes and dreams. “Seek His will in all you do and he shall direct you on which path to take” Proverbs 3:6.

The Outer Limits

The Outer Limits

 Kelli Kohake

Kelli Kohake

I’ve been reviewing abstracts for an upcoming conference, and this puts me fully back into nerd mode. I love science, learning, math and statistics, and evidence-based research. This, along with another interesting finding, have precipitated my thinking about outliers a lot lately. One definition of an outlier is “a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set.”

In statistics, an outlier is an observation point that is distant from other observations. An outlier may be due to variability in the measurement, or it may indicate an error in the process, or – it’s just an unusual finding. When utilizing scientific methods like biostatics, you’re taught to throw out, or discount, the data that are outliers – the ones that do not fit the norm. You are looking for results that are constant – that can be repeated with a high percentage of probability that you will get the same result.

Well – I hope I haven’t lost you yet – but I think what is most fascinating about studies, research, data collection, and observations are the outliers. You cannot anticipate the outliers – they just occur. Are they anomalies? Are they mistakes? Are they real? When I consider the outlier, I look to the limits of the study. Setting limits can be a very good thing at the right time and right situation, but today I am challenging myself – and you – to remain limitless and open to other possibilities.

I have been guilty of limiting. I am preparing to go on my third mission trip. I have never asked anyone to partner with me financially for my mission trips, until this third trip. One of our goals for fund raising is to give other people the chance to be involved in God’s work from home by supporting those that are on a GO Team. I was challenged to reach out to others with the prospect of partnering with me. Extending this opportunity to others is new for me --- I felt like I was asking for a hand-out to get there. What if I asked, and no one responded? Does that mean they don’t like me – or that I did not ask in the right way? Or any other hot button issue that would come to mind.

I had limited what I was willing to do to get there; I limited my expectations of what others were willing to do to serve along with me financially, and had limited God’s abundance, love, and opportunities for me.

We are told repeatedly (in the Bible) that God can do things that we cannot comprehend or even fathom. Job 11:7 says, “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?” Job 5:9 says, “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” In Psalm 145:3 it says, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.” I just didn’t understand how limited my thinking had been previously.

Back to my nerdy stuff. We know that most people have three cones (color receptors) in their eyes, who are referred to as trichromats—meaning they see colors in the RGB (Red, Green, purple/Blue) color range. Those with only two cones are dichromats, and are known as being “color blind.” There are a small number of people who have four cones, tetrachromats, who possess color receptors for the red, green, purple/blue, + yellow frequencies. It is referred to as “super human vision,” allowing those with 4 cones and a trained eye to see 100 million colors (100 times more colors than most people). While the estimation is that anywhere from 2-12% of the female population are tetrachromats, very few can actually see the additional colors. There are millions of color spectrums to behold, though most of us are limited in our ability to see them. However, the myriad of color wavelengths exists. There’s not a time that I see a rainbow that I do not marvel at the intensity of the colors. I love knowing there are even more colors that are beaming toward me beyond my own limits of vision and comprehension. In Ecclesiastes 8:17, it says, “then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.” And in Job 26:14, “And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” The NIV version says “outer fringe”; another version uses the word “outskirts.” The outliers. Our God is a big God who can do things we cannot imagine or understand.

Isaiah 55:8–9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. In Romans 11:33–34, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" Job 15:8 says, "Do you hear the secret counsel of God, And limit wisdom to yourself?” At church we’ve been challenged to not accept the status quo – being content with how things are, limiting ourselves to only what we can see, and hear, and currently understand.

God wants good things for us; to be connected and in community with one another. His supernatural gifts for us can aid in living a more robust and full life. I love to go on mission trips to serve, but I have been limiting opportunities for myself and for others to serve alongside me. I have been severely short-sighted. Romans 12:5-8 speaks to the importance of being in community, and in sharing our collective “gifts” in serving. “so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  6  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  7  if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;  8  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

And so, for this mission trip to Kijabe, Kenya, on the continent of Africa, I asked for financial partnership and prayers. I reached out to friends and family. I sent emails, attached letters, I posted on facebook, I talked about it with friends, patrons, and wine reps at the wine shop (where I work/volunteer), and in other social gatherings. It takes me completely out of my comfort zone to do this. Yes, at times it has been flat out uncomfortable, but mostly it has been rewarding in a way that prompted me to want to share this with you. People have responded, most generously. Not all, and not some that I would have anticipated to do so – and that’s ok. But there are others who had donated money for my trip expenses, and/or for the building materials for the house we will be building while there. I haven’t reached my fundraising goal yet, but I’m getting close. Every single donation has made my heart full in a way that I had not known in a very long time. I had been thinking that others cannot know the impact their financial partnership with me has made for me, in me– but then again, it made me smile to think that I was, once again, limiting the effect it may have for others and/or their estimation of what it means for me.

I realize that I have used a LOT of bible verses in this writing; it’s not typical of me. But that’s a pretty cool irony, I think. So – I’ll end with this one, and I’ll keep looking for and expecting the outer limits, ‘cause they’re out there. Maybe someday they will no longer be outliers for me – but rather, a part of my norm. My supernatural norm.

Luke 11:8-19 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

On the subject of time and wasting it…

On the subject of time and wasting it…

 Ryan Detzel

Ryan Detzel

A self-proclaimed slave of Christ said this in the scriptures:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. - Ephesians 5:15-16

The days are evil?

Whatchutalkinbout’ Willis?

Random person: “Oh hey Ryan, how have you been these days?”

Me responding biblically: “The days are evil my friend, and I hath been residing in them.”

I find it interesting that Paul, who has been divinely inspired to write these words, would say “the days are evil”. After all, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to say that the days themselves are evil. Sure, the things we fill our days up with could be evil, but the days themselves? It’s almost like saying the sky is evil…or breathing is evil…or little baby kangaroos are evil. It just doesn’t make sense.

But sometimes God doesn’t make sense at all does He?

Most times, little old me forgets that God lives outside of time. I forget that our entire existence as the human race isn’t even a single tick on the clock that He’s created. THE TIME is fixed. THE TIME is a measured, allocated season. THE TIME is my life. We can’t know how long it is exactly, but most lifetimes are pretty similar…somewhere around 50-100 years.

Time is evil because we don’t have much of it.

And so it’s got me thinking about the way I spend MY TIME. We do spend it don’t we? It’s currency.

Someone once said, “No one who can rise before dawn 365 days a year fails to make his family rich.” This rich man has spent his time cultivating that wealth. He may have money for his family, but I bet he worked himself out of a deep and meaningful relationship with them as well.

The days are evil. We’ve only got a short time to fill them up with things that are wise and worthwhile.

I’d like to invite you to leave a comment on this post. All you have to do is copy the sentence below and fill in the blanks with whatever it is you want. Feel free to do this a few times if you need to.
 

I’d like to spend less time __________ so that I can spend more time __________.

May your evil days be filled with glorious things.

Night Vision's

Night Vision's

 Rose Gebhard

Rose Gebhard

Job 33:15 ESV In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, while slumbering upon their bed....

God loves talking to us so much He continues to talk to us as we sleep. I have had dreams of all types since I was a child but it wasn't until 15 years ago that I started to realize that situations I would dream about would actually happen. It would feel like a deja vu feeling and then I would remember parts of a dream during my day or upon awaking. Then I started to pay more attention and knew my dreams had to be from God. He's the only one who knows the future.

Rev. 22:13 NIV “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”

Now when I have a dream, I look, or start to process the colors that I saw in the dream. Then I research  them in the  bible or look at my color chart to check the meaning of a particular color. Names of people have meanings also that can help with the interpretation.  For example, in one of the dreams I had, I have a red sports car and Matthew is with me. Red is anointing, and power.  Matthew means gift of God.  The meaning of a car can represent your job or ministry, because it's a vehicle.  The vehicle or car is something that you drive and it gets you from one place to the next . When I interpret the dream that God is giving me, I noticed an increased anointing and the dream contents will happen quickly. I started journaling my dreams, but still didn't know what to do until I heard a teaching from one of my favorite authors, John Paul Jackson. He talks about dream interpretation. In the teaching, God explains that He communicates with us through dreams. This is very exciting! God can share so much information in dreams for instance, instructions, warnings, prophecies, prayer, healing, deliverance and callings.   For myself, God has given me an encouraging word for my family members who were going through a trying situation.  God's word of encouragement strengthened them and renewed their hope of a good outcome! It is also very important to pay attention to how you felt during a dream. These are all messages from God that can help with the interpretation.  If you feel something is not correct, it could be your spirit talking to you telling you this is not from God. This is where you need to press into prayer for confirmation and leading from the Holy Spirit.  For me personally, dreaming has opened  a deeper connection with God.  This connection has also allowed me to influence and  help others through the interpretation God gives me.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit reveals the meanings right away and other times I need to pray about it and then key information is then shown to me to share with others.

Daniel 2:19 NLT Then was the mystery revealed to Daniel in a night vision. And Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

Joel 2:28 NIV And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh, and your son's and your daughter's shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.

I know there are dreamers out there. Are you one? What is God showing you as you sleep? I encourage you to start journaling your dreams and ask God what they mean. You won't regret it! Lord I pray for all who read this to receive your dreams - visions of the night that will encourage them and bring them into deeper connection and intimacy with you in Jesus name!

Rose Gebhard

What Are You Good At?

What Are You Good At?

 Matt Martini

Matt Martini

What are you good at? It’s ok, you can admit it. It doesn’t mean you’re bragging or sound arrogant. So what is it? Maybe you are a hard worker. Perhaps you can play an instrument. Or maybe you make the best lasagna? We are all good at something. So if your answer is “nothing” or “I don’t know,” then ask someone who’s close to you. No one will know better what you are good at than the ones you spend the most time with. And if, after consulting them, you are still struggling to come up with something then maybe you should work on your self-esteem and find some new friends. Now I don’t mean to sound cheeky, it’s just that the Bible tells us we are created and God’s image. And of course God is good at lots of things so I’m sure you are good at something too.

And if you are good at something it’s probably safe to say that it comes easily to you. This may not have been the case at first but now that you have the hang of it, it has become as natural as breathing. You don’t even really need to think about it. But here’s the thing; when something comes easily to us, it’s hard for us to relate to someone who’s not good at it. If you are good at picking out the perfect outfit for any occasion, it can be tempting to roll your eyes at the person with the brown belt and black shoes. If you can bench press two hundred pounds, you might be inclined to call someone who can’t bench fifty a wimp. Do you find it bewildering that your coworker is always late? Does your blood boil when you read facebook posts or emails that are full of spelling and grammar mistakes?

Let me propose that what you are good at is a God-given gift. Whether it’s something as profound as always knowing a bible verse for a particular situation or as trivial as having a knack for picking out the perfect paint color to complete a room, you are good at something and you are created by a God who loves you and wants the best for you. And what we must try to do, no - strive to do, is avoid the temptation to use our strengths as a weapon against other people.

I have a theory that the enemy (a.k.a. the devil) will take whatever our greatest (and God-given) strengths are and try to turn them into our weaknesses. We’ve heard it said that something is “a blessing and a curse” that it cannot be both at the same time. In actuality I would argue that it is a blessing or a curse. It’s all a matter of how we use it. And the blessing or curse, as we are referring to them, isn’t necessarily on us. More often it’s on those around us. For example, I know many people with an amazing charm and charisma. And some of them utilize this gift for the benefit (i.e. to bless) others by inspiring, connecting, and bringing people together. Meanwhile, I know just as many who use their social skills to manipulate, persuade, and fulfill their own self-interests, essentially “cursing” others with their gift.

So I mentioned earlier that the enemy will turn our strength into our weakness. This might leave you wondering how or why would he do that? Well, there’s a lot of theology there, more than can be unpacked in a blog post. But for now, let’s focus on one verse, Ephesians 6:12. It tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood (in other words; people) but against the spiritual forces of evil on earth and in Heaven. Now if you have been coming to Vineyard Westside for a while then you’ve probably heard this verse a time or two. We bring it up all the time because we need to be reminded of this all the time. In fact I personally needed such a constant reminder that I had it tattooed on my arm so that a day never goes by that I am not reminded of what our real battle is.

And believe me when I say that while we may need reminding, the devil does not. He is well aware and is doing everything he can to fight back. And one of his most effective tactics is to trick us into using our greatest strengths to fight against flesh and blood rather than against him. For example; if God blessed you with high intelligence, the devil may try to trick you into making everyone around you feel stupid while simultaneously convincing you that you are somehow better than everyone else.

And if you are a Christian this does not make you immune to this type of attack. In fact I would argue that you are more susceptible to it. After all, how many non-believers feel like Christians think we’re better than everyone else? And how many of them are driven away from the Church; not by God but by Christians? The hypocritical Christian is universally recognized by non-believers which begs the question; are the atheists just blind? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the Christians. Maybe it’s us that can’t see. Maybe we can’t see the hurt that people feel, the judgement, the condemnation. Maybe we don’t see the invisible hand slapping others in the face when they hear a sentence that starts out with “the Bible says…” Maybe we don’t feel the helplessness and hopelessness of forever being told how wrong we are. We may never know the guilt triggered by the sight of a WWJD bracelet. But maybe if we did, maybe if we felt the shame, the guilt, the pain, maybe we would turn away too. Maybe we shouldn’t blame them. Maybe we can’t blame them. Maybe if we start to get it, start to understand where they come from, why they believe what they believe, then maybe we can start to connect with them. To build a bridge instead of a wall. Maybe we can demonstrate God’s love instead of His judgement. Our God is a God of Justice and of Mercy. They’ve seen the Justice, now maybe they can experience the Mercy.

Now listen, I didn’t write this to guilt-trip anyone. Guilt is also of the enemy. He uses guilt to disempower revelation. God doesn’t reveal things to you to guilt you but to empower you. It hurts to have a blind spot revealed but when we know about it we can do something about it. Guilt prevents us from doing that. So if you feel that God is revealing something to you right now, whether good or bad, then thank Him for it. He is revealing it, not to scold or punish, but so you can be set free.

 THIS IS HOW I FIGHT MY BATTLES

THIS IS HOW I FIGHT MY BATTLES

 Tracy Winkler

Tracy Winkler

Back in the day, when I was just a wee lass, I watched a cartoon called Popeye the Sailor Man. If you remember Popeye, it probably means that it has been a while since you were a young n’. Popeye was a good guy who always tried to do the right thing. I would say he had a strong “justice” leaning…..righting the wrongs he encountered. But being strong did not come naturally to him. He needed a supplement to get his strength and it wasn’t a steroid. It was spinach!

Every time that Popeye needed strength, he would gobble down a can of spinach and his muscles would get ginormous and he would defeat the bad guy! How awesome is that? (Actually, I think this cartoon may have been dreamed up by some spinach farmers. Genius marketing!)

I like that this nautical little guy knew what tool he could reach for to help him fight his battles. What do you reach for when things get tough? When life throws you a curveball?

Psalms 84 says this….
4 What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. 
5 What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
6 When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs.    The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
7 They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.


So, if you’re looking for a secret weapon against your enemy, look no further! The secret has been right in front of you all along, “4 What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises.5 What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord.”

Praise God and you will get strong! Your faith muscles will get ginormous! You will have the ability to fight off your enemies, bad thoughts and temptations! You will have super strength to fight your battles!

I love the song, “Surrounded”. It simply says, “This is how I fight my battles. It may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by You.” I encourage you to listen to it here. Seriously! I double dog dare you to sing this song….out loud! And then sing it again. Praise Him! Worship Him! Pretty soon your muscles will grow, just like Popeye’s and you will be prepared to fight your battles!
 

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

 Denise Horgan, Executive Pastor

Denise Horgan, Executive Pastor

 

Probably many individuals who go to our church do not even know how much prayer goes on continuously in the background at Vineyard Westside. I started out at our church on the prayer line along with running the Connections Desk with my husband, Kevin.  I’ve always been a big prayer warrior as far back as I can remember.  Being brought up Catholic we had to memorize prayers.  To this day most of those prayers are still ingrained in my mind.  I’ve prayed in times of crisis, sickness, and in fear over the years.  As I’ve grown deeper in my walk with Jesus my prayers have switched from the previous mentioned types of prayers to authoritative and thankful prayers.

Intercessory prayer goes on weekly at our church on Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m.  A group of prayer warriors meet and pray over the church and listen to whatever God is trying to tell or show them.  I’m fascinated by these people.  Their team has grown and I love hearing what they have received from the Lord during their prayer times.  Many times they receive confirmation from attending the second service from the prayers they have prayed or what they have heard from God.  Their prayers will line up with either worship and or the message. 

For a while, a feeling of heaviness and depression was felt at the church by individuals who come and go at the church during the week.  Through weeks of pressing into praying about these feelings, a definite shift in the atmosphere was felt by several.  One Sunday morning during our pre-service prayer, which is separate from the intercessory prayer, someone mentioned a lighter feeling in the “air”.  It was confirmed by a few others in the room.  Everyone was relaxed, happy and had a bubbling up in their spirits. The devoted praying and fasting of several prayer warriors aided in the positive break through that was felt by many.  Instead of feeling darkness and negativity, a light airiness was felt.  The determination, drive, and believing in what God can do made the break through happen.   There is no complacency or apathy with individuals who have expectations to break down the barriers or walls that the enemy tries to set in our paths.  Expectations of positive thoughts and working towards something that you know is pleasing to God, will break the strongholds of complacency and apathy.

I had to look up the meanings of complacency and apathy because many people were using them interchangeably.  If I could find one of them to be a little more positive than the other it would be complacency.  However, complacency will still separates us from God.  When complacency sets in, one’s expectations diminish.   Here is the definition of complacency followed by scriptures to give us a clearer picture.

com·pla·cen·cy - a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one's achievements.
ex: ”the figures are better, but there are no grounds for complacency"
synonyms: smugness · self-satisfaction · self-approval · self-approbation · self-admiration · self-congratulation · self-regard · gloating · triumph · pride ·

Luke 12:19 New International Version (NIV)

19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’


2 Chronicles 20:33 New International Version (NIV)

33 The high places, however, were not removed, and the people still had not set their hearts on the God of their ancestors.

Apathy on the other hand feels more dark, depressing, and disconnected from everything and everyone including God.

ap·a·thy - lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.
ex: ”widespread apathy among students”

synonyms: indifference · lack of interest · lack of enthusiasm · lack of concern · unconcern · uninterestedness · unresponsiveness · impassivity · passivity 
 

Ephesians 4:18 New International Version (NIV)

18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

Romans 12:11-13 The Message (MSG)

11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Satan loves apathy. It is a form of isolation, which is a playing field for the enemy especially when we are living through hard or difficult times.  We must never lose the sense that God is always with us and in us. This Romans scripture especially reminds me of the intercessory prayer folks.  If they were to become complacent by the first accomplishment of an answered prayer and loose expectations for more, we would not continue to see break throughs. Apathy tends to follow complacency if we are only focused on our self-accomplishments and not what God is doing.  Think of complacency as the bait for apathy.

Just like in the Romans 12:11-13 states, “don’t get burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.”  I think all of us go through seasons or periods in our lives where life becomes uneventful.  I know for myself life has been super busy and I find myself just going through the motions.  I look for something to spark my energy again.  Search for the extra boost of what I do and where is God in the process.  Paying attentions to the little things, the little moments, help keep me grateful and my heart aflame for God.

Recently we had a change in leadership for our Panera Bread Ministry.  One season ended for a couple, The Eckels, and a new one began for another couple, the Sarvers.  On a Sunday morning as I’m making my rounds through the church, I noticed these new serving trays in the kitchen filled with yummy pastries.  It is funny how something so simple can spark a moment in time and refuel you.  The Sarvers had big shoes to fill and they are knocking it out of the park.  They are not being complacent, but owning the ministry.  Communications are great and every time I see them they are smiling and appear to be enjoying the new adventure. They are making little changes that are showing ownership and responsibility.  I am thankful for what the previous leaders have done for the ministry and what the new leaders will do for it.  How can something so simple as new serving trays touch my heart?  It is really simple when you stop and think about it.  The leaders have a heart to serve others and God just as I do.  The excitement of expectations, owning something and being responsible are contagious and have a way of refueling many.  God continues to intertwine lives to keep us going and not to become a victim of the enemy with complacency or apathy. 

Own it! Go after it! Be responsible! Expectations of positivity and excitement! Serve others as you would serve God. Holy Spirit protect our hearts by connecting us with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Take us out of our comfort zones and allow us to live and experience life with You.   I pray this over all of us, in Jesus name. 

Shalom,

Denise

All Heroes Are Afflicted...

All Heroes Are Afflicted...

All heroes are afflicted...

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Joy without ever experiencing pain or suffering would cease to be joyful. Light cannot be seen without darkness. Heroes, or “the good guys” all have something in their lives that causes them to strive for their heroic acts. If we think of Batman in this sense, we can look back into his past and remember that his parents were killed when he was just a boy. This horrific event planted a deep seed of justice in the young Bruce Wayne and also gave him an authentic hatred for crime in general. His courage, outstanding achievements, and noble character were all birthed out of affliction. Pain and suffering throughout his childhood created Batman…a solution, or personification of justice.

He remains afflicted because no matter what the motives, no matter how good he is, no matter the number of criminals taken off the streets, he is still portrayed as a bad man to many in the public eye. Even if you’re killing bad guys…you’re still killing. To quote Batman from the 2008 film, The Dark Night; “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Bruce Wayne, Batman – afflicted by circumstances.

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Wolverine, also known as Logan…which happens to be my little boy Finn’s middle name. It’s hard to see past the affliction present in the life of Wolverine. He was born with the ability to heal at uncanny speeds, which also slows down his aging process. Match that with another human mutation – razor sharp claws that protrude from in-between his knuckles, and you can see how the government might want to turn a freak like this into a weapon. Logan is afflicted by the longing and desire to just be a normal guy, but he knows that he’s genetically wired for something far more aggressive. Read the comics and a catch-phrase bubbles to the top of who Wolverine really is; “I’m the best there is at what I do, but what I do best isn’t very nice.” Logan, Wolverine – afflicted by design.

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Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and suddenly develops super-human strength, speed, and agility…not to mention a spider sense that can warn him — not unlike when I try to stomp the Brown Recluse I see crawling across the carpet. Spiderman is afflicted not only with superhero issues, but also the fact that he’s a teenager struggling through feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and being obsessed with himself.

Already an orphan being raised by his Aunt and Uncle, Peter Parker gets a heavy dose of reality when his carelessness leads to the death of his Uncle Ben. How fitting, that the very same uncle tagged the famous line; “With great power there must also come great responsibility”. Peter Parker, Spiderman – afflicted by irresponsibility.

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Superman, Ironman, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America — the list goes on and on and the afflictions follow right behind. But once you reach the end of the pages, or the credits roll…the hero has saved the day. They’ve got problems, and so do I. Sometimes I can get wrapped up with all the crap that I’ve got going on in my life and I can forget the battle that I’m fighting. Each of these characters come out victorious because, although they’re afflicted, they’re also reminded of the battle they’re in. They fight because they’ve identified that there is something worth fighting for.

Many of us walk around thinking that all we see in front of us is all there really is to the story. I’m glad Jesus didn’t do things that way. Jesus Himself was afflicted with the knowledge of what He would have to endure to “save the day”. He remembered that there was a very real battle going on all around him and He didn’t ignore it. Jesus faced that battle head on realizing full well that He was going to be killed in the process…but He found that fight worthwhile.

Because He was fighting for us. We were worthwhile. We were worth dying for.

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I’m afflicted.

I’ve got stuff just like you do, and if you think you don’t…ask someone else what your stuff is. They’ve probably been wanting to tell you.

And so we fight.

1 Timothy 6:12-16

12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Don’t ignore the fight. Press into it.

 

 Ryan Detzel, Lead Pastor

Ryan Detzel, Lead Pastor

Are You Worthy???

Are You Worthy???

                Matt Martini

               Matt Martini

 

I’m guessing that for many of you this question made a memory instantly pop into your head. Depending on your past, this memory could be a good one or a bad one. Either way, this memory probably holds a strong influence over your answer. I confess that for the first forty-five-ish years of my life (I’m 47 now) my answer would’ve been “absolutely not!” Or at least that would be my answer if I was being totally honest. But over the last couple of years I’ve been starting to wonder if perhaps that isn’t true.

Now I must tread lightly here. I don’t want to come across as conceited but I also don’t want to fall into the trap of self-deprecation as a false form of humility. But it’s really easy for me to say that I don’t deserve the blessings that God has granted me. In fact, I’ve got a whole slew of memories from my past that can effectively demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt why I most certainly am not worthy. But this then begs the question: why have I received those blessings? The obvious answer is of course that God loves me. While this is absolutely true, this answer presents a conundrum of sorts. The thing is there are times when I either don’t get blessings or no longer have blessings that I used to have. Following the same logic as the answer to the above, I become tempted to believe that during those times God doesn’t love me. Or, at the very least, doesn’t like me all that much. After all, if good things are a demonstration of God’s love, then bad things (or lack of good things) must be evidence of an absence of that love. And if He loves me sometimes but not other times then these changes of heart can only logically be attributed to me and my actions. I mean who’s kidding who? God is a lot of things but He is definitely not fickle. But therein lies the problem. God’s consistency pretty much debunks the entire logic of this argument. Jeremiah 31:3 says “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” So much for that theory.

Here’s another catch-22: our God is a god of justice. The bible says that “the wages of sin is death” and wages are something that we earn. Spoiler alert! I’ve sinned. Therefore I have earned death. My paycheck is in the mail. But wait! In the very same sentence the bible also says “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Here’s the sentence again, all together: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our lord” (Romans 6:23). How can this be? How can I receive eternal life if my wages – i.e. what I’ve got coming to me - is death?

Some would say that this is why my “earthly body” has to die. The trouble with this thinking is that it basically means that “life sucks and then you die.” It says that I have sinned, that I am worthy only of death, and that I am doomed to a life of toil and struggle. I’m a dead man walking with no more appeals and my sentence is imminent. It says the best I can hope for is that it will be a long way off and not hurt very much. But is that really God’s desire for us?

Ephesians 2:10 tells us that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do.” In some translations it actually says that we are God’s masterpiece. Now I admit there are times where I’ve read that and thought “is that really the best He could do?” But then again, maybe God knows something about me that I don’t yet know myself.

Ok, so we’re all thoroughly confused. Now what? How do we obtain eternal life while justice is still served? How are we to be God’s masterpiece even though we all fall short and deserve a death sentence? Paul gives us a hint in Romans. In this letter he helps to address this apparent justice/grace paradox. And what it all boils down to is this: we already died. Yep, true story. If you are reading this and have accepted Christ and have been baptized then you, my friend, have died. You’ve received what was coming to you. Justice has been served! See for yourself:

“Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may have a new life.” Romans 6:3-4

How cool is that! He goes on to say that while we were once slaves to sin, when we die we become free. That was how slavery worked back then. Technically you were only a slave while you were still alive. It takes the phrase “till death do us part” to a whole new level! In chapter 7 Paul explains it another way:

“By law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if the husband dies she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man. So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” Romans 7:2-4.

And God doesn’t just stop at freeing us from sin. Heck no. He loves us way too much for that. Watch what happens in chapter eight:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined he also called; those he called he also justified, and those he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30).

Let that sink in for a minute: “those he justified he also glorified.” Paul is referring to you! To me! To all of us! Think about that ramifications of that. We are predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus, the King of kings! To be His brothers and sisters! And you know what siblings of kings are called? Princes and princesses. That’s right. You, my friend, are royalty. You, my friend, are worthy.

Now, I dare you to say “I am worthy” aloud right now. Really, say it. Now say it again. Again with more feeling! Keep saying it, over and over. How ever many times it takes until it sinks in. You’ve been predestined. You’ve been called. You’ve been justified. Now I challenge you to accept your title and become glorified.

 

 

 

Smart Girl vs Silly Girl

Smart Girl vs Silly Girl

                Tracy Winkler

               Tracy Winkler

In just a few days, I am hosting 2 big events at my home. In preparation, I have been mulching, pulling weeds, painting my fence and painting my shutters. It’s a lot of work having company over. I want my guests to feel welcome, like I really want them there! I am determined…..I WILL BE READY WHEN COMPANY ARRIVES!

I have seriously put in a good 20 hours of work so far and I am only half way done! I got to thinking, how much time and effort do I put into preparing myself and my home for Jesus? I know for sure that I have spent way more time prepping for this party then I have worshipping this past week. I think I might have this thing backwards!

In Matthew 25, Jesus shares a parable about some smart girls and some not so smart girls (you could say they were knowledge poor). Here’s the story from the Message version…..                 25 1-5 “God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep. 6 “In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bride-groom’s here! Go out and greet him!’ 7-8 “The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’ 9 “They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.’ 10 “They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked. 11 “Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in.’ 12 “He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’ 13 “So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.  

Listen! When my guests arrive at my house, I want to be ready BUT I really want to be ready when Jesus shows up! I want him to recognize me. I want Him to say, “Tracy! It’s so good to see you! I really love our talks everyday. I especially love that you think of me so often and are always trying to learn more about me!” Yeah. I am not going to be a silly girl and let my oil run dry! Never! How about you?

Methodical Trees

Methodical Trees

                  Denise Horgan

                 Denise Horgan

Methodical Trees

I recently took some time to sit on my deck on a beautiful day staring at the woods which line my backyard. Even my sweet puppy dog, Ruby girl, decided to join me on the deck to soak up some of the sun rays. I recently rearranged my deck furniture so that all of the seats face the woods instead of having our backs to the trees. Why would we not take the time to enjoy the scenery that is right on our property? Rearranging the furniture makes perfect sense.  If any of you really know me, you know how much I rearrange furniture to freshen up a space.  The truth be known, it helps to relieve my stress. It is very therapeutic and calming. Rearranging gives a  fresh outlook in my life and could also be viewed as a distraction from whatever is currently nagging at me.  All that said, trees are interesting in what they behold and how they change from night to day. I’m now content with how I rearranged my deck furniture and that I have the chance to experience time with the Godhead while enjoying His nature.

As I look at the trees blowing in the summer breezes I feel the troubles of the day start to melt away. Have you ever watched the leaves and branches move in unison as the wind blows through them? The limbs bend back and forth according to the strength of the wind.  They dance in sections perfectly orchestrated.   With the slowing of the wind, the branches slow their movements and settle back to their original positions.  The lasting bit of breeze blows the leaves into a gentle soft flowing wave.  The wind reminds me of the Holy Spirt blowing in the much needed refreshing breaths to revitalize, regenerate, and restore our spirits.

John 3:8 New International Version (NIV)

8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

As I watch this methodical movement of the dancing, rhythmic waving of the trees, it reminds me of God patting His children gently on the head and saying, I have this, do not worry any longer,  you will be ok.  Trust in me.  Nothing is too big for me to handle.  I love hearing from God through nature. It is when I least expect it, when I become still or free of distractions.  This is when He can grab my attention with the simple things in life to comfort and reassure me.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 New International Version (NIV)

Praise to the God of All Comfort

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

After watching this gift of nature as I see it from our Creator, the next phase of healing and strength becomes evident. Jesus is here! My worries or troubles are erased and washed away.   The overwhelming feeling of confidence that everything is being taken care of and that I am loved. I do matter, I am worth it, and I am ok. 

Psalm 52:8 New International Version (NIV)

8 But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.

It appears to me that my four legged friend, Ruby girl, has finished her sun bathing and that also means that I need to get back to reality.  My precious time with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is finished for now.  At least until evening time.  Have you ever stared at the trees at night time on a warm summer night?  It is the pièce de résistance to the end of a summer day! The activities of the day have settled down and the tweeting of the birds have become quiet. The chirping of the crickets grow louder. Night life in the woods becomes mysterious and almost scary until the lightening bugs or fireflies illuminate the trees.  It is the most magnificent light show ever!  The hotter the evening the more lights in the trees I see.  Some fly around like shooting stars.  One of God’s natural fireworks are displayed.  A gift to treasure. 

James 1:17-18 The Message (MSG) 16-18 So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

My prayer for all of you is to enjoy the nature that God has created for all of us.  Connect with God by letting Him speak to you through your everyday experiences and trust in the unexpected gifts from Him.  Allow the wind to blow healing into your life and restore your body, soul and spirit.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

Safe and Unsafe

Safe and Unsafe

                  Ryan Detzel

                 Ryan Detzel

Safe and Unsafe

I aspire to be a safe person. I also aspire to be an unsafe person.

False-community is prevalent. We've all been let down in a time of need when we thought our friends/family/church/ were going to be there for us. People who you thought you could share your "stuff" with turned around and hurt you with that very "stuff". Someone you trust turns out to be someone not-so trustworthy and all of the sudden gossip is spreading like a cancer.

This is the area that I desire to be a safe person.

To be a person someone can spill their guts to without the risk of rejection, without the pain of judgment, without the chance of lost confidentiality. This is difficult because everyone wants to have the scoop on someone else. We all want to feel more important or as if we have a leg up on a subject over someone else. It's a part of our nature to want to gossip, whether it's in the form of a water-cooler discussion, or a prayer meeting.

Do you know how important it is for someone to have a solid rock friend in their life?

 

Not only is it important to BE that solid rock, but it's also a MUST to let them know. If people haven't trusted you with something, they have no idea if you're a safe person. I want to inform as many people as I can that if they need to talk, I'll be there...and I'll keep our conversation close to the vest. And I want to hold to that promise. In this, I shall be called safe.

On the other side of the coin, I am relinquishing my desire to be a safe person. In the context of complacency and mediocrity and the status quo...no thanks. I don't want to be like everyone else. I don't want to wake up in the morning, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to sleep, wake up to do it all over again. Should my biggest desire in life be to just get through it all with a half-smile hoping to maybe own a boat? Bah.

This is a tough thing as well. Everything in me wants a motorcycle, tattoos, adventure, and danger of all sorts - but society reminds me that I have a responsibility to stay safe. I have a family to look after and apparently you are not able to do that unless you're planted firmly on the sofa with a remote in your hand. Growing up you think you'll be an adult when you turn 18 years old, only to learn that everyone considers you a "kid" until you turn 30...or 40. Well, this kid isn't going to do it the way it's been done before.

Not me. I'm going after the prize and I'm not turning back. I'm going after radical authenticity to spread realness and transparency around me. I'm going after insane and unsafe grace towards those who don't seem to deserve it...because we've all blown it at some point and need a second chance...or a seventeenth. I'm going after a life that is unusually safe and ridiculously dangerous at the same time.

Who’s with me?

 

 

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God's the Father of Mutts

God's the Father of Mutts

 Sue Knisley - Guest Blogger

Sue Knisley - Guest Blogger

God is the father of mutts. He’s also the Father of all those other folks on the planet who seemingly have their life together, all their ducks in a pretty little row. This story isn’t about them. I’ve always considered myself a ragtag mutt in God’s kingdom. A grateful pooch, because wiser people clued me in… I am welcome in God’s family! There’s room at His great big table for ME. 

I’ve got this mutt mentality going on. Sometimes I slobber when my excitement runs away, with me trying to rein it in. God has lovingly assured me it’s OKAY that I’m daffy. I provide hours of entertainment for Him and the angels when things are quiet in Heaven, some days.

Sometimes I quiver because seriously can I do this thing, can I be a follower of Christ and his mission? I know sometimes it’s just feeling inadequate, but man, I'm a head job. I'm not certifiable, I have been checked over by professionals, they assure me I fall within the scope of normal. I’m not always sure I believe them, but they’ve gone to school for these things, hopefully they should know. 

So I come before God and I say, “Lord I don't know what part of me you can use but I'm here. I'm offering and if you’ll lead me, point out the person I'm supposed to minister to, I'll do it. I accept if you lead me to that person you're going to equip me to have what it is I need to carry out the mission.” The Bible backs me up on that.

16 Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another - showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. 
Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 MSG

Makes me feel kind of like one of those adorable cartoon St Bernards who bound to the rescue with a keg of rum attached to their collar. I don’t have rum but I do have God’s message of hope. That lasts a whole lot longer than a keg of rum anyway!

Here’s a crazy thing He clued me in to some years back… my St Bernard self and that keg of God’s promises and leadings is needed at home before I go galloping off to save the world. I was so busy thinking the goal was to save the planet that I didn’t see my world starts at my front door. I had people and four footed creatures here hemorrhaging for love and attention. I was actually volunteering at an animal shelter (how noble) cleaning cat cages, but hadn’t scooped out my own kitty’s litter box in weeks. Yeah, I know. GROSS. 

Did I hear a whisper, “Hey, Super Dog, they need you to be there for them too. It’s good to be My hands and feet for everyone you meet, but don’t forget those closest to you.” I have to admit, Susie St Bernard fell woefully short in that category. I think I told you in my previous blog, I snorted busyness on a regular basis. I saw an anagram once for BUSY:

B - Being

U - Under

S - Satan’s

Y - Yoke

True, dat. True, if I’m using busyness to not minister to those God first puts in my path.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:14‭-‬16 NIV

Save the world. Pop on your Underdog cape if you must and conquer injustices. Just don’t forget the little doggies, the kitties and your family at home.

The Children of Honduras

The Children of Honduras

                    Matt Martini   matt.martini@vineyardwestside.com

                   Matt Martini

matt.martini@vineyardwestside.com

I’m gonna try something a little different this week and invite you to contribute to this post. In Matthew 18 Jesus instructs: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” So I implore you to invest a few minutes of your weekend in a quiet place, away from distraction. Grab a cup of coffee. Take a minute or two per photo and just look, pondering what Jesus might have meant when he uttered those words. What do you see? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Boundaries

Boundaries

                     Denise Horgan

                    Denise Horgan

 

Recently I’ve been dealing with boundary issues concerning my family that I grew up with.  Generally speaking for me, life is like an onion.  There are many layers to peel away.  In my younger years my boundaries were destroyed by a trusted adult.  I’ve had to learn healthy boundaries over the years and for the longest time thought my boundaries were good.  Then life throws me a curve and makes me wonder all over again, what just happened.  Did I miss something? Did I change again? Is this another layer to the onion? 

I’m thankful for what I have learned and where I am in my Christian walk.  I know I am called to forgive others.  I know how important this is, because it is a release for me and a protection spiritually from spiritual darkness and their activities in my life or my loved ones.  After multiple confrontations over a family issue, I could see myself and my family doing the dance of anger and I didn’t want to participate in it any longer.  I had to break the cycle.  We were not getting anywhere.  We kept going in circles with our conversations.  I was feeling angry, hurt, lost, and becoming resentful.  All of it felt horrible to me.  I knew I needed to lean on God even more.  I had to release these feelings.  I repented to God for my part in all of the family dynamics and forgave the others and myself.  I wanted to be free of all resentment.  I gave it all over to God.  Immediately I felt a release, and the heaviness left.  The enemy had to go, because of my prayers of submission to God and using my authority to rid myself of the negative feelings and thoughts. 

I put time and distance between myself and certain family members.   This time of space and quietness was needed to clear my head and to clearly see what to do next as I consulted with God about my next move.  I set a boundary for myself.  Setting good boundaries prevents resentment, stops the dance of anger, and closes the door for the enemy to come mess in your life.  God continues to enlighten me and peel back the onion.  Deep patterns of our childhood often carry through our adulthood.  We act automatically out of memory instead of growth.  We have to move from the under the powerful hold of how we grew up into the relationship of God being our Father.  By turning from our old patterns we stay out of resentment.  We learn to love with proper limits and at the same time stop evil behavior.  Family dynamics can pull you back into old patterns in a second.  Awareness is key, and self examination is not easy.

Matthew 7:3-5 New International Version (NIV)

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

In my situation these verses pierced me. I was focused on how wrong they were and I didn’t realize my lack of boundaries were allowing me to be pulled back into familiar dysfunctional patterns.  I lost control of my personal property. My boundaries were being violated.  My needs were not being fulfilled by the family.  I had to face the reality of my deficit and the need to be filled by the wrong people.  Trying to win a fight or to hear sorry come from someone can be exhausting.  Hope seems to fade away while we are trying to fix it on our own, and at the same time, the enemy is wrecking havoc in our lives. 

Proverbs 13:12 New International Version (NIV)

12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life

God is the one who can fill that need, and bring hope.  I had to break the patterns, the old cycles with clear boundaries.  It leaves one to wonder what to do next, but God is showing me my path.  Sometimes it feels like I’m in slow mode, but I know He is teaching, equipping and healing me.   I’m laying down old thought processes, habits, and the way I look at loved ones and situations. 

The difference between responding and reacting is a choice.  When you are reacting, you are not in control.  When you respond, you are.  Boundaries are best done with love.  We can still love the ones that we have to put a strong healthy boundary around.  In the process we are gaining freedom to love.  Boundaries help us get to that point. 

Let’s pray,

Father God, I pray for self awareness for all of us.  Break the unhealthy cycles, patterns and spiritual holds from our pasts.  Holy Spirit come! Fill us with wisdom and the purity of visions to remedy broken relationships.  Jesus guide us in our relationships with truth and honesty.  Thank you for helping us to grow in freedom and love.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen. 

I Am Lioness

I Am Lioness

 Sue Knisley -Guest Contributor

Sue Knisley -Guest Contributor

 

Iron Man, Black Panther, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Superman

Lioness is who I’d be in the world of superheroes.

Before I knew Jesus, even way after… when I looked in the mirror, I saw a scared little kitten. I acted out what I saw. Going through my days, remembering to pray once in awhile, when it suited me, or when I needed/wanted something.

What a pathetic, empty life it was. Void of joy, serenity, confidence. I ‘hid’ a lot. That’s what kittens do. All that time, Lioness waited in the wings. Jesus surrounded my very being 24/7. I may have made Him an afterthought, intentional or not, but I was never an afterthought to Him.

I let so many things get in the way of my relationship with Jesus. Food was my primary drug of choice. Busyness also got snorted on a regular basis. Parts of me feel tears while writing this. I didn’t use illegal street drugs. Well, they DID give me fentanyl when I got a spinal epidural. Isn’t that stuff for horses? Booze didn’t do it for me. But junk food? Watch out. I stayed numbed out for years.

Different times at church, Ryan would say something that struck a nerve or piqued my interest. I might join a life group, volunteer, even crack open a Bible. Who knew God was talking to me all those times? He had time for me, a scared kitten?
Yeah, He did.

Whenever I’d draw near to Him, He’d welcome me with a huge, squishy hug. It would bring me to tears of gratitude, relief, puzzlement that He could love even me. Me, who’s done some awful things, really bad stuff.

When Jesus came down to Earth and chose to die on the cross to pay the ransom for all our sins, we got this amazing gift of forgiveness and the promise of Heaven.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

This was such a boatload of freedom to me. I spent so many years of my life paying lip service to those Scriptures, but not truly believing them for me. I felt like I made God shake His head and walk away in disgust when He looked at me.

That was a lie of the enemy, one of many, and I believed it for a lot of years. Here’s the truth: God loves me! I am not a scared little kitten anymore. Yes, I’m still human and I’ll always have imperfections while I’m on this side of the grave. Yet, accepting Jesus’ forgiveness of my sins and believing who I truly am in Christ…

Psalm 139.14 I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

I am Lioness! More than able to carry out God’s message. Hear me roar, take THAT puny enemy. Get out of my way.

Here’s the thing: just like my heroes Iron Man, Super Man and the rest of the gang, if I choose to be on my own, I’m just a scared kitten. I have to stay connected to my power source, Jesus Christ, if I want to be Lioness.

Be the scared kitten or be the Lion or Lioness...meow or roar...it’s your choice

Why I Go

Why I Go

"You reap what you sow" is a concept that exists in every culture and every period
throughout history. We paraphrase this concept in lots of ways that are familiar to all
of us...

"WHO WAS GRACE AND WHY WAS SHE SO AMAZING?"

"WHO WAS GRACE AND WHY WAS SHE SO AMAZING?"

"You reap what you sow" is a concept that exists in every culture and every period
throughout history. We paraphrase this concept in lots of ways that are familiar to all
of us...