Thanksgiving Thoughts to Prepare Your Heart 

 

...all which we behold
Is full of blessings...
William Wordsworth

 

Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, — a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.
—George Herbert

 

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O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.
—William Shakespeare

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Sometimes we might feel like God is not finished with us yet, or that we are too broken to be of use to Him. No matter what stage we are in, God has crafted us to bring Him glory. 

 

God wants to use our stories to reach others with His love, grace, and truth. But all too often, we get in our own way and limit what He is trying to do in and through us. This week on Connecting Faith, Jo spoke with author Holley Gerth on the importance of sharing our stories with others.

 

Click HERE to listen to the podcast of Jo's interview with Holley Gerth. Listen to Jo every Friday at Noon on AM 900 / 90.7 FM on Faith Radio Network / KTIS

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When you grow up in the church, you know at a young age that you’re a child of God just as easily as you know your full name and can recite your home phone number. But it wasn’t until I started having kids and becoming a parent myself that the relationship between God the Father and me as His daughter took on technicolor meaning. And now, this correlation is all I see in my everyday, parenting moments.

 

For instance, no matter how long I’ve been potty-training my three-year-old, he still has accidents. And in those moments when I’m looking at his sorry face and rummaging through the drawers looking for clean underwear (again), I think of how God shows us the right way to live in His Word, but time and time again, we have accidents. And yet, every time, how patient He is with us.

 

Or when Oscar says thank you when I give him a snack, I light up, and as a mom trying to teach my kids to mind their p’s and q’s, I’m so proud when he says that on his own. Which leads me to wonder how much more does our Heavenly Father’s heart soar when we acknowledge the gifts He’s given us and actually take the time to thank Him.

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It is an unfortunate human failing that a full pocketbook often groans more loudly than an empty stomach.

—Franklin Delano Roosevelt

 

Let the poor and hungry among you come and harvest the crops that spring up in your fields. Whatever is left over, the beasts may eat. Do the same thing with your vineyards and your olive groves.

—Exodus 3:11

 

My first introduction to real poverty occurred when traveling with a friend to spend a little fun in the sun at a resort in Dominican Republic. My friend, Nancy, had tried to prepare me. But, there’s no way to prepare oneself for what I was about to see.

 

We had barely driven away from the airport and onto the road when the gravity of poverty hit me full force.

 

Scattered along the roadside were makeshift shanties made of whatever materials folks could gather. Children hung about in various stages of undress. Dirty. Big-eyed. And no doubt hungry.

 

As we continued our journey we passed beautifully manicured lawns that led to gated resorts. Palms trees waved. Coral-colored condo’s and high-rises peaked out above the palms. As well as snippets of white, sandy beaches and the sparkling, blue ocean as wide as the eye can see.

 

I tried to absorb the dichotomy. Desperate poverty just outside the gates of incredible wealth.

 

 

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When we arrived at our destination, Nancy took me on a tour of our new abode’s beautiful grounds. There were tropical flowers like the bright blue Isabel Segunda, the crazy-looking Bird of Paradise, and flaming red Delonix regia, better known as Flamboyants, that I had seen only in magazines. Not to mention pink Bougainvillea’s and bright orange Penta’s. It was breathtaking.

 

But, I was haunted.

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Many of us don’t have a problem with talking, but listening might come as a challenge. 

This week on Connecting Faith, Jo spoke with author Becky Harling about how listening can help us build stronger relationships and deeper connections with our loved ones.

 

Click HERE to listen in as they discuss How to Listen So People Will Talk: Build Stronger Communication and Deeper Connections

 

Catch Jo live every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

 

“Life cannot be sustained without hope.

That is what is so remarkable and intriguing about this tiny word.

It has a mysterious and generous quality.

We know hope when we have it and feel miserable when we don’t.”

Meg Meeker

 

 

 

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My preschooler has suddenly—and repeatedly—added one word to his vocabulary: Monsters.

 

We have no idea how it happened. One night, we were tucking Oscar into bed and turning off the lights, when he panicked and blurted out in the darkness, “There’s a monster in my closet!” My husband and I gave each other the exact same look, Where in the world did he even pick that up?

 

Maybe it was at preschool or on a playdate, but thanks to one mention, one story, and one kid, my son is now convinced of the boogey man—and his fear is real. The alarm I see in his eyes is distressful and the fright I hear in his voice is unsettling, and my first response was shock, with an underlay of outrage.

 

“Oscar! No. There are no monsters, there is no such thing. There is nothing to fear. We are here, you are protected and you are safe.”

 

Unfortunately, this pep-talk did not dispel his fear. The very next day, we pulled into our dark garage, and Oscar whispered, “It’s scary in here.” And then later, when we were playing with trains, he pointed to a closet and said, “Monsters are in there.” And when the sun went down and bedtime rolled around, he pointed to a shadow in the corner and said, “It’s a monster, mama.”

 

I felt the same indignation rise up from the night before, and I shook my head so hard. “Oscar, that is just a shadow. There’s only clothes in the closet. The garage is just dark, not scary. We have nothing to fear. I am here, God is here. We are protected and we are safe.”

 

Later that night, as I was laying in my own bed and left alone to think, here was my own train of thought: “Oh Lord, this is just the beginning. I’m so scared of all the things my kids will pick up and experience and suffer through in this world… Which reminds me, that friend with the lump in her breast. I’m nervous she has cancer. Oh, and my annual scan is coming up—what if I have cancer?” As I thought about the future and a handful of worst-case scenarios, my spirit was suffocating with fear and I was desperate for comfort.

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Will simply talking about our own faith help our children to better understand theirs? How can we best equip our children to embrace their faith?  

 

This week on Connecting Faith, Jo spoke with Natasha Crain about how encouraging our children to know God on a personal level help is the first step to lasting faith. 

 

Click HERE to listen in as they discuss Talking with Your Kids about God: 30 Conversations Every Christian Parent Must Have.

 

Catch Jo live every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

 

We were all in our twenties at one time. That place of struggling to find out who we are and where we fit in the world. McKayla has been a guest writer in the past and we love her honesty. I find that I always learn a thing or two from this spunky young woman. And I'm sure you will too!

 

 

 

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Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

John 15:4

 

“McKayla, why do you try to produce good fruit?” 

 

“What on good earth are you talking about?” I asked my roommate. She has been someone that has poured a lot of truth, love, and wisdom in my life but with this question out of the blue, I thought maybe a little too much paint from construction next door had seeped through the window and was affecting her brain. 

 

“You heard me; why are you straining to produce good fruit?”

 

“I honestly have no idea what you are talking about,” I replied.

 

She began explaining that it was a metaphor from a sermon she heard from one of our favorite God-fearing speakers, Dan Mohler. “God has already defined you as a good tree. All you need to produce good fruit is to remain rooted in him. You are striving and struggling for the by-product when really you need to be striving for intimacy with the Lord, and the good fruit will grow forth naturally.” 

 

Identity is defining ourself in the truth:

 

-We are not defined by our struggles in the past or in the present or by our sins.

-We are not defined by the devil’s lies.

-We are not defined by the shallow labels that society, family, or anyone around us identifies us by.

-We are identified by the creator. He identifies us as heir to his inheritance. He identifies us as having the authority of heaven on earth. He identifies us as righteous, infinitely loved and forgiven.

 

Gandhi understands the importance of belief with his quote, “A man is but the product of his thoughts, what he thinks, he becomes.”

 

One day in my journal, I felt the Lord prompting me to understand my beauty and my identity in him and wrote this short poem:

 

“You are a flower… you are not a rock, a shrub, or a barren seed. You are a flower, so just be. Choose life by knowing your beauty. Choose to live by believing your Kingdom-given identity. When he died on the cross, he gave you all the authority. To radiate true life, overflowing love, and his glory."

 

When I was going through a dark time, I questioned whether Jesus was real in my life and whether he really loved me and made me righteous. I started to believe the lies that because I was craving sin, that I was sin. With my mindset, my identity was defined by my struggles and my sins; it became a prison and the habits were impossible to break. 

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Think you have nothing to offer? Or that choices from your past prohibit God from using you? No one knows that storyline better than Rahab. 

 

This week on Connecting Faith, Jo spoke with Aaron and Elaina Sharp about how God is in the business of redemption. Click HERE to listen in as they discuss The Most Important Women of the Bible: Remarkable Stories of God's Love and Redemption.

 

Catch Jo live every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

 

 

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.