Our next contributor is a dear friend of Julie Miller's, Melody Martin. Mel has lived with cerebral palsy and all the struggles that a disability entails. She has endured the trauma of being hit and run over by a truck and has recently undergone two serious neck surgeries. It is through these times the Spirit has acted like an Energizer bunny and kept her going. She realizes it has been
God, the Eternal Life force within her, that has gotten her through all the hard times.

 

We know what we are, but not what we may be.”

― William Shakespeare

 

Who do I say that I am? This question is an essential question to be reckoned with throughout our lives. During the first twenty-some years of our lives one of our main tasks is to develop a sense of our identity.

 

We get a lot of input from outside sources on this topic from family, friends, coworkers, teachers and ministers… We usually end up with a sense of identity that is based on the roles that we have, what we are able to do and how we look. Look at how people introduce themselves: I’m name; I work as a job title at employer. I’m married with # of children.

 

 

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On one level we know who we are. Yet, on another level we don’t have a clue as to what we are. Some of you might be thinking, “That’s pretty easy. I’m a human being.” However, is that all we are? We could say we are energy that is vibrating at a low frequency. But, that feels too basic. We’re missing a key part of who we are.

 

In the Judeo-Christian tradition there is the belief that we are made in God’s image. What does it mean to be made in the image of God? How we answer that question will depend on how we define God and how we relate to God. For example, God as father, creator, judge, love, mystery, life force and spirit are a few of the ways I have related to God. Given this, I have identified myself throughout my life in various ways: a child of God, sinner, co-creator, beloved, mystery and spiritual being.

 

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Did you know that even in your darkest days, Jesus pursues you?

 

On this week's Connecting Faith, Jo Bender talks with author Kelli Worrall on her book, Pierced and Embraced.  Worrall says that Jesus spoke to and with women differently and that He still does today. 

 

 

Click here to listen to a podcast of Jo's conversation with Kelli Worrall or catch Jo live every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

As we continue our discussion on our Identity, we've invited our precious friend, Lisa Harrell, to add her voice from a single woman's perspective... be blessed dear readers!

 

Another single friend and I were talking recently and she recounted again her frustration about having to do everything herself.  “If I were married, someone else would at least be mowing the lawn or balancing the checkbook or getting the oil changed. Sure, I can do each of those things but it’s trying to keep up with it all while working a stressful full-time job, cooking, getting groceries, cleaning, doing laundry, working out, keeping up with friends, caring for my parents, and attempting to tend to my spiritual life and relationship with God that overwhelms me. Heaven forbid I should get sick or some other unwelcome emotional upset, relational conflict, or life event disrupts my life.  There is no one to share the load. I need a partner! I want a companion.” While it may sound strange to call this full, busy, often frazzled and overwhelmed way of living lonely, it can be excruciatingly so for a single woman – be she single by choice, a lack of choice, death, or divorce.

 

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Of course, the quick “Sunday school” answer often offered us single women (right after the placating ‘you’ll find someone’ or ‘there’s a good man out there somewhere for you’) is, “You already have a partner, it’s Jesus!” Okay, yes…but how do I experience this in regular life? I haven’t seen Jesus using spot remover in my laundry room lately nor has he surprised me by filling my tank with gas.

 

Who is Jesus to me, a sometimes lonely one who needs him so much? Who am I to him? At core, I am beloved, I am seen, I am understood, and I am sustained by him. He shares his breath with me. He hears me.  He weeps with me.  He laughs with me (though I so rarely notice it). He prays for me. He comforts and encourages me. All these things are what I need most and long for in a partner. But for lack of skin and bone presence, there are times I still feel lonely. After years of fighting, hating, being embarrassed by it, and bemoaning it, I’ve come to believe and accept that loneliness is actually my unique flavor of invitation from God, an invitation to come home to Him, to myself, to reality as it is (yep, along the way he invites me to let go of my demand for something better). And in coming home, I find that it is good, very good.

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We gals at Heart Matters would love to hear from you as we continue our discussion about our Identity.

If you'd please leave your comments - we will pray for you!

 

How do you view yourself?

How have you listened to the lies of the world?

If you are struggling with what you believe about yourself...what verses from God's love letter help you remember that you are loved?

 

 

 

LuAnn, Heidi and Julie

 

*Jo is on sabbatical...

 

I see you dressed in white
Every wrong made right
I see a rose in bloom
At the sight of you
Oh, so priceless
Irreplaceable, unmistakable, incomparable
Darling, it's beautiful
I see it all in you
Oh, so priceless  

King and Country

 

 I opened the package that had just been delivered with enthusiasm. I order so much online I often forget what it is I have ordered, or I wonder which item it may be.

 

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This time an adorable accent pillow peaked out at me from the packaging I tore away. With it’s muslin fabric, boldy-stitched saying, soft fringing, and earthy colors, it was definitely my taste and something I would have ordered. Only…I hadn’t.

 

I sat confused. I was getting older to be sure but didn't think I'd traveled that far down memory-loss lane. I looked at the address on the package. Yes, it was addressed to me. I called my daughter and asked if she had ordered it. It didn’t look like her style, but maybe she had ordered it for a gift. Nope. Dead end.

 

Then the light bulb went on.

 

I went to check my credit card bill. It took awhile for me to find it in the overflowing fountain of junk mail and bill payment notices. And sure enough… This was not the only package “I” had ordered. My identity had been stolen. Lucky for me, the novice thief had forgotten to change the delivery address on this particular item. So I made a call to my credit card company and started the process of getting my identity back.

 

I’m not alone. Last year 15.4 million Americans had their identity stolen. Financial fraud with stolen account information was at a record high to the tune of $16 billion (2017 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy & Research). And regardless if your identity was stolen, we all pay for it in the form of higher prices and interest rates. 

 

But actually, I believe we have all had our identity stolen. And the effects and reasons are much more insideous.

 

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Are you ever overwhelmed with the challenges of parenting? 

 

On this week's Connecting Faith, Jo Bender talks with best-selling author Gary Thomas on his book, Sacred Parenting.  Thomas says that while God is helping us to raise our children, He is also raising us along the way. 

 

Click here to listen to a podcast of Jo's conversation with Gary Thomas or catch Jo live every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS 

AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

Today you are You, that is truer than true.

There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

—Dr. Seuss

 

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

Oscar Wilde

 

I love walking through a field of wildflowers. Every season there is something new to surprise and delight me.

 

As summer shifts quietly to autumn, the wildflowers change too. Gone are the purple columbine, the yellow primrose, and the red poppies. They’ve been replaced by purple asters, and yellow goldenrod with a few straggling red cardinal flowers thrown in for good measure.

 

God has painted our world with a vast variety of flowers in every hue. Anne LaMott in her book Grace Eventually speaks of God’s creativity this way, “The meadow was a crazy jumble of flowers, giddy experiments of a Painter trying ideas out together: How about this with this? Isn’t it wiggy?”

 

If God saw fit to bless this world with such unique beauty and variety, it is only fitting that he created you and I uniquely beautiful in all our diversity.

 

In fact, David wrote Psalm 139 in awe of how intimately God made and loves us…

 

13You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. 15 You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! 16 You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book! 17-18How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly! I can’t even count how many times a day your thoughts turn toward me. And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking of me!

 

The thing is, I didn’t always believe that. Most of my life I struggled like crazy to conform to other people’s expectations: to be thin, not chunky (as I was often called in childhood), to be stoic, and not so emotional. To be strong, and not weak. To be ambitious, not a daydreamer.

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Rejected. Unloved. Failure. Outcast. Whether we realize it or not, the names that we call ourselves have the power to shape our identity and form our beliefs.

Do you believe the truth about yourself? Or are you believing the lies?

On this week's Connecting Faith, Jo Bender talks with author Allison Allen about what it means to find our identity exclusively in Christ. She tells us how exchange the false names that we have believed about ourselves for the true names God has given us. 

Click here to listen to a podcast of Jo's conversation with Allison Allen or catch Jo live every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS 

AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

God’s angels are watching over us.

David Jeremiah

 

Aren’t all the angels ministering spirits who are sent to serve

those who are going to inherit salvation?

Hebrew 1:14

 

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Do you believe in angels? Oh, I’m not talking about those cute little chubby cherubs that you can buy in the stores. Or even the D’Amico angels, which I collect. No. I’m talking about ministering angels that appear on earth to guard and protect us.  

Forty years ago this past August, I had an encounter with an angel...at least that’s what I believe.

It happened when I least expected it, but, when I most needed it.

I was nineteen at the time and living in the city. It was Friday and I was eagerly awaiting my work day to end. I had made plans to head north for a fun-filled weekend celebrating my eight-year-old brother. After a quick stop at my apartment to change into more comfortable clothing, I hit the road.

About halfway to my destination, my life turned upside down. Literally.

Going 60 miles-an-hour in the left lane on a major highway, my car suddenly jerked left toward the median. The tires hit the gravel and spun my car around 180° to face the oncoming traffic. The skid sent my car back into the gravel and in a blink of an eye, my car was flipping in the median over and over. 

It was surreal. The windows blew out. Glass shards flew, as did I. (There weren’t seatbelt laws back then.) The next thing I knew, I was being slammed upward onto the roof of the car, then into the passenger door, where I was left crumpled in a pile when it came to rest.

I panicked. All I wanted to do was to get out of the car. Thankfully, three young men were ready to yank the door open and we're able to catch me as I lost consciousness.

The next thing I remember I was laying on my back in the grass with grasshoppers bounding over me.

My mind whirled, my heart raced, but, my lips were dumb.

Just then a gentle-faced man leaned in close to my own. He slipped his hand in mine and whispered, “Julie, my name is Jerry _____. You’ve been in a car accident. You’ve been placed on the ground to keep you stabilized until the ambulance comes for you. Do not be afraid. I am here. Try to rest quietly.”

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Do your thoughts sometimes turn destructive?

 

We can’t control every thought that comes into our minds, but we can control what we choose to do with those thoughts when they come our way. This week on Connecting Faith, Jo Bender talks with Donna Gibbsas she shares helpful advice as a board certified Christian counselor on how to take destructive thoughts and replace them with the truth of God’s Word.

 

Click here to listen to the podcast of Jo's show, or join Jo live every Friday afternoon at 12 noon on Faith Radio Network on AM 900 KTIS.

A beautiful letter from a daddy to his 1st child as he heads off to school...

 

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My hands paused for an extra moment this morning; hovering over the shoes that would carry you off to Kindergarten. For a fleeting moment I thought if I waited long enough I could turn back the clock. Perhaps time would settle into stillness long enough so I could revisit all the times I've rushed you out of childhood and forgotten you are still beautifully wrapped in innocence and wonder.

 

My throat tightened the way it always does before the tears start to fall. Your feet danced back and forth with excitement, this new beginning pulsing through your body. Your sister and brother helped you with your new backpack and asked you questions you were too excited to hear. As the oldest you not only forge this path for yourself, but you also make a way for them when their time comes.

 

I felt myself slipping towards shame, replaying all the moments I've gotten it wrong, all the moments you deserved more of me, all the moments I'd wished for a do over. I could have wallowed there in the shame and guilt, but instead I received a simple gift of grace. I looked down at my hands again and remembered. I remembered how they'd received you on the day you were born. They were gentle with you and held you close. They protected you and provided for you. They comforted your hurts and pains. They tickled you until your belly was full of laughter. They did whatever they could to reassure you that you belong.

 

So my son, as you begin this new adventure take a look at your hands. Think of all they will help you create, and all they will help you do. Some of your creations will earn you gold stars and the praises of your teachers, but there is something even more important that your hands can do. They can be a gift to your classmates. Think of they way your hands could receive the lost and lonely ones. Think of how gentle your hands could be towards the hurting and the broken ones. Think of how your hands could protect the most vulnerable ones.

 

As you gave us your final hugs before skipping into your new classroom you whispered in my ear the phrase you've learned to repeat whenever we part ways, "I am good, I am loved." I smiled through the emerging tears, hopeful that you were beginning to understand that there is nothing more true about you. And so from that place you are sent out. You get to go, and dream, and play, and learn, but you also have the chance to do whatever you can to reassure your classmates that they belong. And when you start to forget what's most true about you, or you start to live too deeply into shame and guilt my hands will be gentle with you and hold you close all over again and whisper in your ear what's most true about you; "you are good, you are loved."

 

Godspeed my little adventurer. I'll be waiting at the bus stop.

“The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new name which the mouth of the LORD will designate.”

Isaiah 62:2

 

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What’s in a name? Brings me back to my elementary days and the homework assignment to research your own name. My deskmate already knew hers and leaned over to enlighten me that the German variant meant beautiful and, in Icelandic, meant princess. After that, boy oh boy, I couldn’t wait to learn mine. It had to be just as good, if not more wonderful!

 

Well, noble was too lame a word for a 2nd grader when it was pitted against the beautiful princess sitting to my right. And my middle name? Meadow. I couldn’t believe it. A grassy field? As if I needed an identity crisis at age 8. My face was rightfully red in utter embarrassment when I had to present my findings to the entire class the next day.

 

After that, I kind of gave up on the whole “what’s in a name” thing. That is, until recently, when I had a son to name. I belabored on google searches, skimmed every baby name book I could get my hands on, and talked with trusted family members about their opinions and ideas. I didn’t want to decide on Rudolph, Bing, or Troy just because it settled well, like I would with a dinner menu and a slab of meatloaf. I wanted meaning. I wanted SIGNIFICANCE. I knew I turned out fine with the equivalent of meadow as my name, but what if there was something more for our baby?

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Is it possible to commit to sexual purity, even in today's world? This week on Connecting Faith, Jo Bender talks with Abby Ludvigson on how to remain sexually pure until marriage.

 

Abby is an author, speaker, and teacher who discovered she had a deeply rooted desire to better understand the issues bombarding our young people today and a passion to be an active role model for sexual purity. In 2015, she produced a film series entitled Sex by Design and is a contributor to the book by Dr. Juli Slattery Sex and the Single Girl.

 

Click here to listen to the podcast of Jo's show, or join Jo live every Friday afternoon at 12 noon on Faith Radio Network on AM 900 KTIS.

As we prepare our hearts for autumn...

I thought a reprise of this old devotional I wrote might be would be just the ticket we need to refocus our thoughts as the blustery winds blow in.

 

I am like a deaf man who cannot hear…

Be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord.

Psalm 38:13a / 35:22b

 

The wind blew strong all through the night, rattling windows…and my nerves…and today it blusters still. Even as I sit here, it howls and hollers. Our neighbor’s screen door slams open and closed, being pushed and pulled with each stiff gust. Leaves scurry and scatter across our lawn in every direction. The typical sounds of a neighbor’s dog barking or of traffic hurrying along the nearby highway are muffled, if not silenced, by the wind’s boisterous behavior. 

But, it is not just the wind that has been blustering of late. My mind feels tumultuous as well. Unsettled thoughts have been clamoring noisily in my head; yet, the more I try to pull them together, the more strewn they become. The worst part of it is I cannot seem to make out God’s voice over all the confusion. I cry out to Him, but my words just echo off the walls. 

“What’s wrong with me, Lord?” I ask. “Is there some sin issue in my life that is separating us?  Is that why I am struggling so?” I lay my heart out before Him and confess my sad propensity to stumble; yet, the tumult continues. I wonder then if the enemy of my soul is behind this menacing disruption between my Savior and me; perhaps he is the one creating this disturbance in my mind. I whisper a prayer of protection and thank God that He is greater than anything the enemy can hurl at me…still the blustering continues.

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Have a blessed and rest-filled weekend dear readers!

 

LuAnn, Heidi, Jo and Julie

 

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A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.

—Proverbs 16:28

 

Recently I watched gossip about two people sweep through a group of friends.

 

It reminded me of the tornado that passed through our town a month ago. In the tornado’s wake I observed mangled tree limbs hanging precariously from tree trunks, yards littered with leaves and branches; thick roots from stately old trees and surrounding ground uprooted, laying on their side like opened lids on cans; medium-sized trees lay in power line hammocks, docks’ metal twisted like candy canes, pontoons doing back floats and torn-up roofs were letting heaven’s tears fall into its rooms unprotected.

 

The gossip tornado left behind destruction in its path also: distrust, loss of friendships, disappointment, anxiety, and anger. It was just as mangled a scene.

 

I even got swept up into the wind’s current for a moment. I thought the person speaking to me was doing so out of deep concern and love for another. Thankfully, some choice words revealed a deeper motive of self-interest that woke me up and gave me the insight to turn the conversation around and then leave the starting storm before I was swept up in it.

 

Unfortunately, this person just went on to the next person and then the next, and the next, and soon a tornado was in full force.

 

Words have no wings but they can fly a thousand miles.Korean saying

 

Words have the ability to speak life...or death. 

 

Gossip damages not only the person who it is directed at, but it damages our spirit when we get involved in it. We are shading someone’s view of someone else without that person’s say or explanation. And I think deep down we know this is wrong. We are grieving Holy Spirit residing in us when we use our tongue this way.

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There’s no real way to avoid conflict in marriage.  It is possible, however, to properly resolve disagreements as they arise and actually build a stronger relationship.     

On this week's Connecting Faith, Jo Bender talks with author and Christian psychologist Dr. David Clarke about how to best address conflict in marriage.

Click here to listen to the podcast of Jo Bender's interview with Dr. David Clarke. Or, join Jo live every Friday at Noon on AM 900. Listen to previous podcasts of Connecting Faith on myfaithradio.com

A silence fell over the group that went on…and on…and on. So, I started to talk. I chatted on like a radio.

Carole Mayhall

 

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I’ve been reading through the book of Job from the Bible this summer. It really is a painful little book. It’s painful, not only because of the horrific catastrophes that happen to Job. That is excruciating enough to imagine. But, to have to listen in as his closest friends carelessly prattle on and on as Job suffers…well, that just breaks my heart.

Poor Job even tried to stop his friends after their droning deluge of words and pleaded with them, “You think you are wise. But, my spirit is broken. If only you would listen carefully to my words and let this be the way you comfort me.” (12:1-2, 16:2-3, 17:1 and 21:1-2) Unfortunately, the droning continued. His friends just didn’t get it. 

Some folks never do.

Proverbs 18:2 tells us that a fool “only wants to tell others what they think.” 

That’s precisely what Job’s friends intended to do. In response to his pleas, they said things like, “I cannot keep from speaking.” Or “Listen to what I have to say.”

The minute I meet some people, I know how the conversation is going to go. No matter how hard I try with some, a whirlpool sucks us in and we swim in never-ending circles…”

Carole Mayhall 

Job’s friends desperately needed a class in Listening 101.

When we listen, really listen, we pay thoughtful attention to our friend; we hear what is being said and unsaid, in order to fully understand what’s on her heart.

But listening is hard work. Especially when our friend grows quiet. Some of us are uncomfortable, nervous even, with silence. We feel the need to fill the air with words.  

I love the quote by one of the Desert Fathers, Arsenius, who said, “I have often repented of having spoken, but never of having remained silent.”

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Give light and people will find the way.

—Ella Baker

 

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The sunroom in the condo where we’ve stayed in Big Sky, Montana the last couple of years overlooks a small lake hedged in by the small ski village. The village sits at the base of Lone Peak. And the view at sunrise is breathtaking.

 

But, the view at day’s end is equally spectacular. As the sun slowly slips out of sight, the lights of the village begin to flicker on, polka-dotting the mountains darkening silhouette with a warm glow. Dusk paints the sky in broad strokes of watercolor pinks, purples and oranges.

 

It’s a scene I rarely miss. I tuck myself into a comfy chair and breathe in the beauty of God’s unfolding majesty.

 

As nightfall descends, and with it the waning hours, one-by-one the lights of the village go out.

 

Save one.

 

A solitary light shines out against the deepening darkness from Lone Peaks starry summit.

 

From my bed, I can look out the window and gaze up at that light. It is strangely soothing to me. Like the words that Galadriel spoke to Frodo in the book, The Lord of Rings. “And for you, Frodo Baggins, I give you the light of Eärendil our most beloved star. May it be a light to you in dark places when all other lights go out.”

 

The light atop Lone Peak is a light in dark places when all other lights go out.

 

As my thoughts begin to tumble one-upon-another in my head, I quietly slip out of bed and back into the cozy chair that I love, and give freedom to my thoughts.

 

I scribble down the first three words that spring to mind as I gaze up at Lone Peak: Protection. Direction. Comfort.

 

I stand to look out the window and scan the horizon from east to west. It may seem crazy, but, the mountains seem to all but disappear in the blackest darkness.

 

Protection.

 

I imagine a light brightly shining from the tallest peak in the region would surely be a blessed gift of protection, especially for pilots. Think of the tragedies that would occur if the light atop Lone Peak went out. Like the light on top of transmission towers and skyscrapers, the light atop Lone Peak warns pilots of impending danger and thereby safeguards against loss of life and cargo.

 

When I ponder further, an old saying whispers to my heart, “I’ll leave the light on for you.”

 

What do you think of when you hear that statement? (Besides Motel 6.) Close your eyes and think about it for a moment. When someone leaves the light on for you, what do you expect to find when you arrive?

 

We happened to arrive quite late to a friend’s house last spring, but, they didn’t just leave the light on for us, they waited up to welcome us. When someone leaves the light on for you, you expect at the very least a safe place to lay your head.

 

I pray that the light I bear will also be a beacon of protection, a safe place for people in this ever-darkening world.

 

You are the world’s light—a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all.

Matthew 5:14-16

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b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_0503.JPGWe Heart Matters gals are really excited to share our latest devotional with you! So, please mark your calendars! We'd love to see you!!