Friday, November 24, 2017

Simply Believe

"Oh, that my words were now written!
Oh, that they were printed in a book!"
--Job 19:23, KJV

The impassioned plea of Job to be heard, to be understood, and for his words to benefit generations to come is the heart of every writer. 

Job had no sense that this would happen as the art of "printing" was unknown, but he placed his hope in his Redeemer, and God was faithful.

Job's words, now published in the best-selling and most widely distributed book of all time, stand as an everlasting testimony of his hope and faith, and the faithfulness of our God.

Be encouraged.

Now it's your turn. What are you working on that you want to see in print one day?

I always welcome your comments.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Paper Chains  


O give thanks unto the LORD;
for he is good: because his mercy endureth forever."
—Psalm 118:1 KJV

As Thanksgiving approaches, our homes and activities begin to reflect past family traditions. We spread tables with old family recipes, decorate trees with heirloom ornaments, send long-distant relatives and friends sentimental greeting cards, and gather loved ones to watch It's a Wonderful Life and the immortal A Christmas Carol for the trillionth time. 

Who can forget that chilling visit to Scrooge from his dead business partner, Jacob Marley—his ghostly spirit bound with chains? Condemned to wander Earth weighted down due to his greedy and self-serving life, he’d returned with the hope he could spare Scrooge the same fate. 

“You are fettered," said Scrooge, trembling. "Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the ghost. "I made it link by link and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” 

Life gets heavy. Sometimes the heaviness is a direct result of carrying chains we’ve forged for ourselves, while at other times we’re weighted down by circumstances beyond our control. Some people bear physical chains, while others struggle underneath mental and emotional ones. 

The Apostle Paul was unjustly imprisoned and held in iron chains, yet his spirit roamed free. He professed he was “in chains for Christ.” He chose to lighten life’s load by thanking God in his trials and focusing on his blessings. We can do the same. 

Perhaps a part of your family’s tradition has been to make paper chains in anticipation of a special event—summer vacation, a holiday, or someone’s birthday. As family members took turns tearing off links, you counted down the days till the celebration. If you’ve never participated in this meaningful activity, November would be an excellent time to start. But, instead of counting down—let’s count up. Let’s use the links of our chains to count our blessings daily as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones. 

To create a Thanksgiving chain, cut fall-colored strips of paper or use the web address provided to print out decorative strips for links. Cut the strips apart and ask family members to write each day something they’re thankful for. Then tape the links together. By Thanksgiving Day, you’ll have a festive decoration to hang near your table or to use as a table runner. Before your meal, pass around the chain and have each person read one of the blessing links. Continue to pass it around until all are read. Then with grateful hearts, thank God for the blessings he provides—blessings that connect his heart to ours and ours to the hearts of others. 

Now it's your turn. Share a holiday tradition your family enjoys? 

I always welcome your comments.

Happy Thanksgiving! Starr

(To access the chain printable, click the following link: http://ow.ly/MkXj30fbVaQ. For a more colorful chain, print images on both sides of the paper.) 


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Keep On Keeping On

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time 
we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." 
Galatians 6:9-10, NIV

Is God's promise of reward enough for us to keep on keeping on? In light of our human frailty, the answer is no

We must look beyond the promise. The hope of God's promise serves as our motivation, but the Promiser is the only way to persevere. Christ gives strength to the weary and enables us to reap the harvest of well-doing. 

The promise is never enough, 
but the Promiser is always more than enough. 

When the lives of Joseph's family members hung in the balance (Genesis 45), he was able to provide for them. Since he'd kept his eyes on the Promiser, his storehouse was full. 

Don't come up empty. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith, and claim the abundant harvest he has in store. 

In seedtime and harvest, God is faithful. Keep on keeping on as if your life and the lives of those around you depend on it...because they do!

Now it's your turn. What are some ways you fix your eyes on Jesus when the going gets tough?

I always welcome your comments.

Blessings,
Starr

Monday, March 13, 2017

This Way or That Way?

"Then you will know which way to go,
since you have never been this way before.”
—Joshua 3:4, NIV

Are you constantly on the move yet at the end of the day wonder what you’ve accomplished? Do you spin your wheels only to find, you're stuck? Like me, You may have  days when you question if you're even moving in the right direction?

In Alice’s pursuit of the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland, Alice said to the Cheshire Cat:

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where—" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

At times, I’m directionally challenged, but unlike Alice―I do care where I’m going. It’s frustrating when my GPS takes me miles out of my way, or the directions someone has given me are wrong. Sometimes, we need a good old-fashioned road map, or better yet, someone to follow.

Years ago, I was driving my car down a narrow two-lane road. Fog and rain made it difficult for me to see, but I spotted a tractor-trailer pulling out from the intersection ahead. Typically, I don’t want a truck in front of me, blocking my vision and slowing me down, but that night, I was thankful the truck was there. It was easier for me follow its taillights along the dark and winding road than to navigate the route alone.

In Joshua 3, the Israelites camped along the east bank of the Jordan River at the edge of the Promised Land. They were waiting for God to instruct Joshua on when to move out and claim the territory for themselves. As they faced the raging Jordan River and an area occupied by the enemy, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. He reminded him that he would go with them and would never leave or forsake them.

The same applies to us. As believers, God calls us to do his will. Although the way is not always easy to discern, he doesn’t intend for us to chart our own course. He’s given us his Word as a roadmap and has sent the Holy Spirit as our guide. We have everything we need to navigate the perilous roads ahead.

God cares where you’re going. Wait for him. Place his Word before you and thank him for his guidance. He’ll lead you safely to your destination.

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it'" (Isaiah 30:21, NIV).

Now it's your turn. I always welcome your comments.

Blessings,
Starr

**This article was first published in Thrive magazine, March 2017


Monday, February 20, 2017

God Mends Cracked Pots

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18, NIV

The art of kintsugi, which means “golden joinery,” is a Japanese repair process that turns ugly breaks into beautiful fixes. The method goes beyond making a broken piece of china as good as new; it makes it better than new.

Allegedly, the art began when fifteenth-century Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke his favorite tea bowl. Distraught, he sent it to China for repair. When the bowl came back, he was horrified by the ugly metal staples used to join the broken pieces, so he instructed his craftsmen to come up with a more appropriate solution. By adding gold dust to an adhesive resin and filling the cracks with the blend, they not only transformed the broken bowl into a useful vessel but into a beautiful work of art.

Kintsugi proposes that repair can be beautiful. “Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated,” says Christy Bartlett in Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics.

Life has a way of dealing some mighty hard blows—events that not only shatter our hopes and dreams but chip away at our sense of self-worth and purpose. By looking back over some of the most difficult times of my life, I’ve seen that God has counterbalanced my hardships by supplying family and friends to take the role of “Jesus with skin on.” As they lovingly walked alongside me in my brokenness, counseled me, prayed with me, and encouraged me, they hastened my restoration. God used them like gold in my life to fill the cracks of my brokenness and illuminate my darkness.

Don’t hesitate to let others see the cracks in your facade. We’re all earthen vessels in need of repair. When we don’t attempt to hide the damage, broken things can become blessed things—beautiful works of art in the hands of a loving God. If you’re in the midst of a crisis, remember Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and often uses others to assist him.

Begin the process of your restoration by handing the broken pieces of your life over to God. Then pray and seek someone trustworthy to confide in. Allow them to walk beside you, giving God the opportunity to use them like gold to fill the cracks of your brokenness.

When God does the mending, his repair illuminates our lives, and in time, he’ll use us like gold to fill the cracks of others.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:38, KJV).

Now it's your turn. Has God used someone as gold to fill the cracks of your brokenness? Take a moment to drop them a note of thanks.

I always welcome your comments.

Blessings,
Starr


**This article was first published in Thrive magazine, February 2017


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

WATCHWORD WEDNESDAY: Sing

"But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord's praise, for he has been good to me."
 —Psalm 13:5-6, NIV

The gray days of winter can dampen our spirits, especially when we fail to maintain a healthy focus.

Our North Carolina winters are mild. There are seldom days when people are housebound due to inclement weather. Personally, I’m a homebody and can stay secluded in my home for a week and never develop cabin fever. Thankfully for me staying in is still a choice. I might respond differently if circumstances such as illness, tragedy, or personal loss dictated my actions.

People who suffer from depression in the winter months, a condition known as SAD (seasonal affective disorder), can experience anxiety, fatigue, and weight gain. Though the causes, symptoms, and severity of SAD may vary, researchers agree that those who suffer have one thing in common—an acute sensitivity to the lack of light.

Although there are other ways to lessen the effects of SAD, I’ve listed a few below to aid in your return to happiness.

o   Go outside as much as possible. Sunlight generates the production of Vitamin D, the body’s natural antidepressant. If physical circumstances limit your ability to go outdoors, sit by a window as much as possible or invest in a sun lamp equipped with special fluorescent tubes that mimic the sun’s beneficial rays.

o   Exercise. Yes, it's that dreaded eight letter word, but regular exercise is a natural and healthy way to counter feelings of depression. Vigorous exercise releases a hormone called endorphins which elevate your mood and make you feel happy.

o   Avoid coffee. Caffeine can cause you to feel stressed and anxious. Green tea, a natural antidepressant, is a healthy alternative. Loaded with antioxidants and nutrients, it improves brain function, fat loss, and potentially lowers the risk of cancer, Type II Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Drinking a cup of green tea an hour or so before bedtime will serve as a wholesome sleep aide and relax you.

o   Eat plenty of fruit and fiber. Fruit is also a natural antidepressant. Whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat pasta are all good choices as they aid in the release of serotonin, a brain chemical that plays a significant role in mood, anxiety, and happiness.

And lastly...

o   Sing. Yes, I said—sing. A 2013 article in Time magazine stated that singing has been scientifically proven to lower stress and reduce anxiety. When we sing our brain releases endorphins and oxytocin, both hormones found to relieve depression. The additional good news is...you don’t have to be a good singer to reap the healthy benefits of singing.

Scripture substantiates the fact that singing is an excellent antidote for depression. In Psalm 42:5, David is in a mental and emotional battle to rise above his negative emotions.

“Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God” (MSG).

David spoke to his soul, reminded himself of his hope in God and returned to praising him.

I have a dear friend who has a unique way of measuring her level of despondency. Though times in her life may be tough, I often hear her say, “But the little bird in my heart is still singing.”

Is the little bird in your heart singing today? If not, help it out. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord and watch your spirits soar.

Now it's your turn. What is one way you counter the winter blues?

I always welcome your comments.

Praising Him,
Starr

Monday, January 16, 2017

Transformed


Prayerfully selecting a verse for the year and narrowing it down to one word has been my New Year's tradition since the year 2000. It's not only amazing to see the verse or word pop up throughout the year and the ways God speaks to me through it, it's remarkable to see the timing of its appearance. I'm always blown away.

Now it's your turn. If this isn't a tradition for you, I challenge you to make it one. It's never too late in the year to select a verse and/or word that is meaningful to you to see what God will do with it. Once you've made your selection, please share it here.

I always welcome your comments.

Happy New Year!
Starr

Sunday, January 1, 2017

In The Beginning


“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Genesis 1:1, ESV

My husband and I recently visited the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky as well as the Ark Encounter, its sister attraction.  As we strolled through biblical history, we observed man’s amazing interpretation of God’s original creation—a picturesque universe—vast, unspoiled, and serene.

Genesis 1 conveys how God spoke the world into existence in six days. At the end of each day he looked over all he’d fashioned and “saw that it was good.”

Sadly, it’s impossible for God to observe today’s world and say it’s good. Thanks to the first man, Adam, and his lady, Eve, life in a perfect world is no longer an option. In fact, our world’s corrupt condition bears little resemblance to its idyllic beginning.

As an artist, I can't imagine placing my finished work, my masterpiece, into the hands of a small child. A child who has no appreciation for the time, heart, and emotion I’ve invested into the creation process. However, God did exactly that. The Master Artist crowned humanity with his glory and entrusted the work of his fingers into our hands—hands of mere children.

Am I a faithful steward of his creation and the days he's entrusted to me? Are you? As we stand on the threshold of a new year can we look back over 2016 and say it was good?

America just weathered the nastiest election season in our nation’s history. I dare say all of us, irrespective of our party affiliation, would eagerly shout with one resounding voice, “good riddance” to 2016. But let’s look at the year from a personal perspective.

Perhaps you’ve experienced blessings that far outweigh your sorrow. For you, releasing the year to an unknown future is difficult. For others who’ve experienced great sadness, personal tragedy, and loss, you’re more than happy to bid a hardy farewell to the last 365 days.

None of us know what 2017 has in store, but its days spread out before us like a primed canvas. Unspoiled by human touch, it offers us the hope of a brand new start. How can we be faithful with the time God’s allotted to us and use it for his glory?

In 1 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul communicates that a builder must be careful how he builds. “No man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (v.11).

If we establish 2017 on the sure foundation of Christ, we’ll be able to look back at the end of the year and say, “It was good because in the beginning, God. . .

Oh, that I would trust him as much as he trusts me.

Now it's your turn. What is one aspiration you hope to initiate for "good" in the new year?

I always welcome your comments.

Happy New Year!
Starr

** This article was first published in Thrive magazine, January 2017


Thursday, December 8, 2016

I Matter

"God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well." —Voltaire

Today, December 8th is my birthday. In my quiet time with the Lord this morning two scriptures came to my mind—2 Samuel 7:18 written in the photo above and Psalm 8. The Psalm, I selected for my birth day.

3When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
When we look at ourselves in light of God and the vastness of his creation, we feel small. However, we need to see ourselves as God does. God looked over all of his creation and saw that it was good. Humanity was the pinnacle of his handiwork.
From the dust of the earth, God created us in his three-fold image—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, giving us a three-fold nature—a body, a soul, and a spirit. Then, he breathed life into us.
Our spirit man most reflects his image. He’s given us the capacity to know him and to reflect his character so others will see him and realize their value in his sight.
The next time you question your worth as a person, remember God ascribed a high value to you. So much so, he sent his Son to die for you so that you can spend eternity with him.
Don’t let anything mar the image of his glory in your life. It matters. I matter. And so do you. 

Now it's your turn.

I always welcome your comments.

Blessings, 
Starr

Monday, November 7, 2016

Take Heart

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13, NKJV


Friday, November 4, 2016

Write the Vision

"Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it."
— Habakkuk 2:2, ESV

Now it's your turn: What are you working on? I'd love to hear.

I always welcome your comments.

Happy Writing!
Starr


Monday, October 31, 2016

Psst!

"All too quickly the Message is crowded out by the worries of this life,
the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced."
Mark 4:19, NLT

Remembering God's sovereignty is key to the surrender of our days.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Pause

"So teach us to number our days,
that we may present to you a heart of wisdom."
Psalm 90:12, NAS


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Forward . . . March!


"Feelings are real, but they aren't always based on reality 
so don't let them lead you." Jennifer Rothschild

God freed the Israelites from captivity, but the enemy was relentless. Pharoah was in hot pursuit and threatened to return them to a place of bondage. 

Moses prophesied over God's people. He told them not to be afraid, to stand firm, and to see the deliverance of the Lord. He assured them that the Lord would fight this battle for them. 

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? tell the Israelites to move on."  Exodus 14:15

The Israelites were not to lift a hand to defeat the enemy. God had set them free, and he was calling them to move on...to walk in the freedom he'd provided. 

Don't let the enemy strike fear in your heart. Let the sound of your praises and the pounding of your feet on the pavement before you drown out the rattling of sabers and the clamoring of the enemy behind you. God's got your back. 

What has God called you to do? Get busy with his plan for your life. Trust him and move forward. He's got your future too.

Now it's your turn: What are some ways you choose to move forward when the enemy is in hot pursuit?


I always welcome your comments.

Blessings,
Starr