faith, Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Confronting the Darkness in July: Not Strong Enough

Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

(Matthew 9:2, NIV)

Sharon’s life looked perfect on the outside. She was married to a godly man who loved her deeply. She had three beautiful, healthy children. She worked part-time in a job that she found fulfilling.

But still, Sharon couldn’t shake the depression that followed her around. She didn’t understand why she was depressed. She’d had a great childhood with loving parents. She’d never suffered any significant illnesses or diseases. 

Still, she struggled to get out of bed each morning. She felt guilty for being depressed. “You don’t have a real reason to be sad,” she reminded her reflection in the mirror.

One day, her husband gently suggested Sharon should see a counselor. 

“I feel like I should be strong enough to overcome this on my own,” Sharon said.

“You don’t have to be,” her husband responded. “Just like the paralyzed man needed people to carry him to Jesus, sometimes we need people to carry us. Let me help you. I’ll go with you to see the counselor and support you every step of the way.”

God, when I can’t do it on my own, send sweet friends and a loving community to wrap their arms around me. Let me feel their support and care each step of this journey. In the name of Jesus the Messiah, I pray. Amen.

faith, Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Forgiveness in June: Not Getting Even

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

(Genesis 50:20, NIV)

Joseph was one of the first victims of human trafficking. His jealous brothers sold him, and he was taken to be a servant in a foreign land. 

The fear he must have felt as he traveled to a strange country had to be overwhelming. But what could he do? Thousands of miles from home and without any money, he had no options.

So, Joseph became a servant. He worked hard, and it wasn’t long before other people began to notice. Because God was with him, Joseph quickly advanced to his master’s right hand man. He was in charge of everything Potiphar owned.

Potiphar’s wife took special notice of Joseph and began harassing him on the job. When he continued to decline her advances, the woman eventually claimed that Joseph had assaulted her.

Joseph was sent to prison without a trial or defender. But even there, God was with him, and Joseph prospered. Eventually, Joseph became the second most powerful man in Egypt, serving directly under the Pharaoh. 

Years later, Joseph’s brothers were worried about retaliation. They came to him promising to be his slaves, and Joseph was finally in a position to pay them back. He could have ordered them and their families to be executed. He could have sent them to prison for what they did.

This is his moment for retribution, but Joseph never takes it.

That’s a simple way to tell if you’ve forgiven someone. Ask yourself, “If I had the opportunity to repay someone for the evil they’ve done to me, would I take the chance?” 

God, let me be like Joseph, who never sought to hurt his brothers for the evil they’d inflicted on him. Instead, let me focus on You and Your plan to redeem this situation for Your glory and my good. In the name of Jesus the Messiah, I pray. Amen.

If you liked this story, you might also like the sweet second chance romance novella Believe in Me, by Mishael Austin Witty. Available now on Kindle for only 99 cents!

faith, Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Forgiveness in June: Completely Faithful

The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

(Hosea 3:1, NIV)

One of the most striking examples of forgiveness in Scripture is the story of Hosea. Hosea was a prophet living in Israel during a time of great unrest. 

The king on the throne frequently changed due to various assassinations. The Israelite people were being heavily taxed by another nation and lived in fear of being conquered.

But God had a message of hope and restoration for His people. That’s why He commanded Hosea to marry. But He didn’t want Hosea marrying just anyone. Instead, He instructed Hosea to wed a prostitute by the name of Gomer.

After being with Hosea for some time and bringing kids into their union, Gomer leaves Hosea. Hosea goes searching for and buys Gomer back so he can restore her to a right relationship with himself. 

This was done to illustrate that while Israel (and by extension those who love God) may be unfaithful at times, God (much like Hosea) is completely faithful. He loves you, even when you are far from Him, and there’s no price He won’t pay to bring you home.

God, You have stood with me through everything. You surround and protect me, caring for me always. Thank You for Your constant faithfulness! In the name of Jesus the Messiah, I pray. Amen.

If you liked this story, you might also like the sweet second chance romance novella Believe in Me, by Mishael Austin Witty. Available now on Kindle for only 99 cents!

faith, Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Forgiveness in June: The First Martyr

Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

(Acts 7:60, NIV)

Stephen was a Christian living shortly after the ascension of Jesus. Though little is known of his life, he first appears in Acts 6. At the time, some of the widows within the church were being neglected.

The apostles recommended that seven trustworthy men be chosen to distribute goods to the widows and care for them. Stephen was one of the seven chosen, and the writer of Acts notes that he was

“a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”

(Acts 6:5, NIV)

Stephen performed several signs and wonders among the people, most likely because of his close relationship with the Lord. Although others tried to debate his theology, Stephen was known for his wisdom.

Because he carried so much wisdom, some members of the early church were unhappy with him. They put him on trial, bringing his case before the Sanhedrin (or counsel).

Stephen eloquently defended his beliefs, but he was dragged outside. As his accusers began to throw rocks at him, Stephen looked to Heaven and called out for Jesus to receive his spirit.

Then he made a humble plea:

“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” 

(Acts 7:60, NIV)

At that moment, most people would be tempted to make a different request. Perhaps, “Lord, avenge me,” or “Lord, deliver me.” But Stephen, knowing the full power of God, did not ask for vengeance or deliverance.

Instead, he accepted his death, and his final thought was not of himself but of those who were hurting him. What a beautiful testimony to his faith.

Jesus, when others are hurting me, help me not to focus on how I can get even. I long for others to come to know You, no matter what the cost is to me personally. In the name of Jesus the Messiah, I pray. Amen.

If you liked this story, you might also like the sweet second chance romance novella Believe in Me, by Mishael Austin Witty. Available now on Kindle for only 99 cents!

faith, Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Forgiveness: Welcome Home

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”

(Luke 15:13, NIV)

Jordyn was the daughter of a wealthy businessman. One day, she approached her father and demanded her portion of her inheritance. She wanted to live it up while she was still young, she told him. 

Though her father’s heart was saddened by his daughter’s decision, he still gave her the value of her inheritance. He texted her each day she was gone, hoping for a reply. He followed some of her antics in gossip magazines, watching as she seemed to morph into a different person.

One morning when he texted Jordyn, he was surprised to receive a reply. It was short and got his attention instantly: I messed up, Daddy. I know that now. Can I come home?

With shaky hands, her father texted her back: Yes.

When Jordyn told the taxi cab driver to turn down her street, she couldn’t believe what she saw. There, on the front lawn was the biggest party she’d ever seen. As she stepped out of the cab, her father rushed to embrace her. 

Jordyn sniffed and stepped back, “Who are you throwing a party for?”

Her father gave her a watery smile, “It’s for you, baby girl. Welcome home!” 

It can be tempting to believe that you’ve gone too far to be redeemed. But you don’t have to hide out. Your Heavenly Father is waiting to welcome you home, beloved!

God, thank You for Your grace! When others discover Your love, let me be the first to join the welcoming committee! In the name of Jesus the Messiah, I pray. Amen. 

Will Sin Make You Lose Your Relationship with God?

If you liked this story, you might also like the sweet second chance romance novella Believe in Me, by Mishael Austin Witty. Available now on Kindle for only 99 cents!

faith, Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Forgiveness in June: Who Is This Man?

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.”

(John 8:3, NIV)

Since her father had died, caring for her sick mother and younger siblings had fallen to Adina. She couldn’t keep her grades up while working as a waitress. So, she dropped out of school and struggled to make ends meet for her family.

Then one day, an older woman ordered a latte and stayed around to chat. She was dressed in beautiful clothes and carried herself like she was wealthy. 

Then the older woman told her about a way to earn more money. “It’s like being a girlfriend for an evening,” she explained. “You just go to dinner with wealthy men, and they pay you for your company.”

Young and innocent, Adina didn’t realize the con until it was too late. Now, she was trapped in a life as a teenage prostitute. 

When a hotel room door opened and she was dragged naked into the streets, she closed her eyes. Shame burned in her, coloring her cheeks. She hadn’t meant to find this life. 

Thrown into the middle of the town square, she heard a booming voice, “The Law commands we stone her. What do you say?”

Adina opened her eyes, wondering who the judge before her was. She held her breath and waited for his response. Instead, He just wrote on the ground, seeming to ignore the whole scene.

When he was asked again, the man turned and softly said, “Let those without sin cast their stones.” 

Adina watched as the crowd around her slowly melted away. But still, she waited. Who is this man who stood up for me? she wondered.

After a moment, he spoke, “Where are your accusers? Have they condemned you?”

“No, sir.” She whispered the words.

“Then neither do I,” the man said, “Go and leave your old life behind.”

God, thank You for Your grace. You have compassion on me always. Help me to extend that same compassion to someone else. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d like to invite you to join my free private Facebook group where mothers can connect for support and encouragement in the Lord.

If you liked this story, you might also like the sweet second chance romance novella Believe in Me, by Mishael Austin Witty. Available now on Kindle for only 99 cents!

Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Celebrating Moms in May: Redemption in Progress

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

John 9:2 (NIV)

Sheryl’s son was diagnosed with autism when he was five. After that, Sheryl spent a lot of time online looking for causes. She made appointments with the best specialists in the world. But even with all their medical knowledge, the doctors couldn’t explain exactly why her son had the medical condition.

A few days after another disappointing doctor’s visit, Sheryl was waiting in line at the coffee shop. The woman behind her struck up a conversation, and they both discovered they had children with autism.

Sheryl felt relieved to connect with someone who understood her family’s struggle. “I keep trying to figure out why this happened. I want to know what I did. I must have done something wrong, and God has punished my son for it.”

The other mother smiled at Sheryl sympathetically. She shared the truth of John 9.  “God didn’t send autism to punish you or your child, but He can use it for His glory. What was meant to hurt and destroy your family will become a beacon of light that calls others toward God.”

God, help me to remember that You can redeem any illness or disability. Please take the painful parts of my life and use them to draw others closer to You. In the name of Jesus the Messiah, I pray. Amen.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d like to invite you to join my free private Facebook group where mothers can connect for support and encouragement in the Lord.

Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Celebrating Moms in May: A Faithful Mother

A couple of days ago, I shared the story of a doubting mother who learned to have faith in God. Today, I’m going to share the story of a mother whose faith in God never wavered … even in the midst of pain and uncertainty.

In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

1 Samuel 1:10-11 (NIV)

Hannah was the favorite wife of Elkanah, despite her being barren. Elkanah’s other wife, a woman named Peninnah, had several children. (Check out this post for the story of another unfavored wife who had more children than her rival for the affection for their husband).

Each year when it was time for their family to attend the annual feast, Peninnah would taunt Hannah. She would bring up her lack of children and keep tormenting her until Hannah cried.

As the feast was ending one year, Hannah went to the temple. There, she prayed that God would grant her a child. She promised that if God would do this for her, she would not consider the child hers, but His.

Later, when God gave her a beautiful baby boy, Hannah held the child close. She was with him, night and day. She never wanted him to leave her arms. She treasured each smile, coo, and kiss.

Then when her son was weaned, Hannah took him to the temple. She introduced the boy to the priest, Eli, and explained that he was to be a servant of the Lord all of his days.

Hannah was faithful to God’s plan for her son Samuel’s life, even though it broke her heart to send him away. Sometimes, a mother must make a difficult sacrifice to raise godly children. But those sacrifices are never in vain, for God sees your faithfulness.

God, help us to be faithful like Hannah was. We want to raise godly kids who seek You. Please give us the strength and wisdom to do that. In Your name we pray. Amen.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d like to invite you to join my free private Facebook group where mothers can connect for support and encouragement in the Lord.

Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Celebrating Moms in May: Doubting Mother

“Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.”

Genesis 21:2-3 (NIV)

Sarah had once imagined sticky handprints on the walls, bedtime cuddles, and Saturday mornings spent with a child. But the years had slowly turned into decades, and there was no baby.

She had cried more tears than there were drops of water in the ocean. Eventually, she reached a place of painful acceptance. She let go of the dream and accepted that a child would never come from her womb.

But, one day, she overheard her husband, Abraham, talking to two strangers. Angels the Lord had sent who promised that she would bear a son.

Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought:

“After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

Genesis 18:11-12 (NIV)

Sarah’s laughter revealed her inner doubt. She smoothed her hand over her flat belly and sighed. She was no nearly ninety, and her youth had faded long ago. Yet her doubt didn’t stop God from giving her a son.

Sarah’s story proves that God can still work a miracle even when we struggle with doubts. His miracles are not dependent on you or what you do, for He is the Eternal God. 

God, forgive us for our doubts. We trust in You to redeem all the difficult situations we face in Your way and in Your timing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d like to invite you to join my free private Facebook group where mothers can connect for support and encouragement in the Lord.

Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Celebrating Moms in May: One Mother of Faith

“Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months.”

(Exodus 2:1-2, NIV)

Jochebed, the mother of Moses, lived in a heartbreaking time. By the decree of Pharaoh, the sons born to Israelite women were to be drowned by the midwives.

But when Moses was born, Jochebed hid her son for three months. She must have heard the stories from other mothers, seen their empty arms, and wept with them as they whispered the names of the children they would never see grow up.

So, when she could no longer hide Moses, she put him in a basket and sent him down the river. Then she left and returned home, leaving his sister Miriam to watch from a distance.

What faith that must have taken to leave her little boy in the arms of God. Her trust was rewarded when a few hours later, she heard her daughter calling. Moses had been rescued from the basket!

As a mom, there may be times when you have to place your child in God’s arms and trust what He is doing. Perhaps your daughter has struggled with an addiction for many years. Maybe your chronically ill son needs yet another surgery.

It’s not easy to walk through these situations. But rest in the knowledge that God has a beautiful plan for your child’s life, and He can fulfill that plan – no matter how dim things might look right now.

God, please help me to trust You with my baby. Let me be like Jochebed and trust You in all things, even in the moments when this mother’s heart is breaking. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d like to invite you to join my free private Facebook group where mothers can connect for support and encouragement in the Lord.

Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Celebrating Moms in May: Two Defiant Mothers Blessed by God

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in the first chapter of the book of Exodus — that great adventure book of triumph and tragedy, and of faith and folly. This particular story is one of faith — great faith, and obedience to God.

“The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.” (Exodus 1:17, NIV)

The Israelites had lived in Egypt since the great famine in which God, through Joseph, saved the entire country (see Genesis 47). But, as the years passed, a new Pharaoh came into power. This new guy didn’t remember Joseph or the contributions he had made to the Egyptian society (Exodus 1:8).

All he saw were the descendants of Joseph, his father, and all his brothers multiplying at (what was to him) an alarming rate (Exodus 1:9). So, he sent a decree to the midwives in the land. Any baby boys born to Israelite women were to be killed on the spot (Exodus 1:16).

But two midwives named Shiphrah and Puah chose to defy Pharaoh and allowed the Israelite children to live. Eventually, word reached Pharaoh, and he demanded to know what was happening.

The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” (Exodus 1:19, NIV)

Wait a minute! The women LIED to Pharaoh … and God was okay with that? We don’t know for certain that what the women told Pharaoh was untrue. Maybe they delayed going to the births on purpose. Maybe the Hebrew women really WERE that vigorous … or maybe it was only true for that particular time.

At any rate, we know God DID bless these two defiant women greatly. Because of their brave stand against the selfish ruler of Egypt, God granted both Shiphrah and Puah families of their own. These two women became defiant mothers.

It’s not easy to stand up to evil. It’s risky and, in some cases, it could be deadly. But these two women didn’t let the threats stop them. They were faithful to God anyway, and He rewarded them for it.

God, when I’m tempted to ignore evil, give me courage. Remind me of the bravery of Shiphrah and Puah. Help me to speak up for the oppressed and protect them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d like to invite you to join my free private Facebook group where mothers can connect for support and encouragement in the Lord.

Author Interviews

Author Interview: Sheila Deeth

I’m connected with Christian author Sheila Deeth in two (or more?) online writing groups. So, when she said she was looking for people to host her to promote her newest book in the Five Minute Bible Story Series  (all of which, by the way, are just fabulous!), I readily agreed.

Here’s my interview with the lovely Sheila Deeth.

1. How would you describe Bethlehem’s Baby to someone who has not yet read it?

It’s a chance to imagine yourself in the world of the first Christmas: walking the streets of Nazareth, Bethlehem, and an unknown village in Egypt; meeting shepherds and kings; hiding out from King Herod; avoiding Roman soldiers; and wondering if God told Zechariah to “Hush!”, and that’s why he lost his voice. It’s a set of forty, five-minute, read-aloud, kid-friendly, Bible-based stories with plenty of history and science thrown into the background.

2. Is there a message in your book that you want your readers to grasp?

I hope kids will realize the Christmas story isn’t a fairytale. It’s about real people in a real historical world, interacting with a very real God.

3. If Oprah invited you onto her show to talk about your book, what would the theme of the show be?

Why we need to let our children imagine and ask questions, even about things where we think we know all the answers.

4. How much of the book is based on real life (either yours or someone you know)?

I took the best research I could find to help me imagine the real world of Jesus’ birth, and, of course, the whole thing is based on the Bible. There are Bible references with each story, and author’s notes at the back of the book to explain the things I learned along the way. As for the characters I’ve imagined in the story, they’re based on all the various kids I’ve known—the noisy ones who always ask “Why?” quiet ones, thinking deeply and drawing the wrong conclusions; wise ones who think they know it all; and happy-go-lucky ones who don’t even want to…

5. How did you get the idea for the book?

It’s actually the sixth in the Five Minute Bible StoryTM Series from Cape Arago Press. I used to tell stories to kids in Sunday school and for children’s sermons. When I lost my job I started writing them down—something I’d always wanted to do. Somewhere along the line I realized I was working my way through the Bible, which is kind of cool because I remember reading the Silmarillion at college and wishing there were Bible stories that would seem as fun and exciting to the reader. After all, the Bible’s full of fun exciting stories—it’s just we don’t seem to read them that way.

6. Which came first, the title or the book?

The earlier books all have two-word titles, so I wanted something with two words. I think I’d settled on Bethlehem Baby or Bethlehem’s Baby almost as soon as I started writing. Now I’m working on Nazareth Neighbors, Galilee’s Gift and Jerusalem Journey.

7. What scene or bit of dialogue in the book are you most proud of, and why?

That’s a good question. I like all the stories, but maybe my favorite is the one with a little boy making too much noise in the Temple. I guess my boys had a habit of making too much noise—I just enjoyed giving him that surprise insight that sometimes grown-ups talk too much for God as well.

8. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about your book?

I think there’s a typo in there. In fact, I’m sure there must be more than one. But I remember my sons being told in school about prayer rugs always having a mistake in the pattern, to remind the pray-er that only God is perfect. My book’s not perfect, and maybe that’s just as it should be.

9. What inspired you to write your first book?

I’m trying to think what would qualify as my first book. There was the one I wrote in elementary school with a multi-colored pen. I wrote each chapter in a different color then tied it all up with string. I think it was inspired by those stories I told my brothers every night on summer holiday—if the brother’s annoyed me I’d threaten, no story tonight. What an evil sister I was!

10. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

I’ve just looked back at how I answered that question when I visited your blog a year ago. I wouldn’t change a thing… Typing is still way easier than holding a pen. There’s still many a slip twixt thought and keyboard. And editing still feels like sculpture or art, or tuning an orchestra maybe since these stories are meant to sound right when they’re read aloud.

11. Considering a book from the first word you write to the moment you see it on a bookstore shelf, what’s your favorite part of the process? What’s your least favorite?

Honestly, the most fun part is the time I spend writing and editing. It’s like drinking rich, smooth, chili-tinged chocolate—a treat to be savored, that rolls around the tongue, and makes you believe that everything’s right with the world. Then you send it off to a publisher and realize everything else is stress and panic.

12. What genre have you not yet written but really want to try?

I’m sure there’s some genre I’ve not written, or at least, not written seriously. But I’m not sure what it is. I just love writing.

13. What book are you reading right now?

Right now I’m reading and reviewing four books—one on kindle, one on kobo, one in a pdf file and one on real paper. I’ve just finished reading Alexander McCall Smith’s The Importance of Being Seven just for myself.

14. What’s up next for you?

My highest priority at the moment is finishing Nazareth Neighbors for Cape Arago Press. I have a romantic novel that’s listed as “coming soon” on another publisher’s website, and a spiritual speculative novella waiting for a reply. My middle grade fantasy keeps reminding me two unpublished books don’t make a series, so I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. Plus I’m reading and reviewing tons of books.

15. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Just write. Celebrate rejections with chocolate and look forward to a feast when things go right. Enjoy baby-steps.

16. Is there anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Only that I hope you’ll like my book, or one of my books, or some of my books… And thank you for reading this interview. Thank you for interviewing me too, Mishael!

>>It’s my pleasure, Sheila. It’s just been delightful!<<

Bethlehem’s Baby Blurb:

Meet the Emperor Augustus’s advisors, the quiet research student helping wise men study stars, the shepherd whose granddad keeps complaining, an Egyptian fisherboy, a Roman soldier, and more in this set of 40 5-minute read-aloud stories based around the events of the Christ Child’s birth in Bethlehem.

 

Links:

Find Bethlehem’s Baby at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EY172MA/

More of the Five-Minute Bible StoryTM Series on the publisher’s website: http://capearagopress.com/Five-Minute.html

 

Connect with Sheila at:

Sheila Deeth: http://about.me/SheilaDeeth

Blog: http://sheiladeeth.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sheila.deeth

Fan page: https://www.facebook.com/SheilaDeethAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sheiladeeth

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2853735.Sheila_Deeth