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Nothing is more beautiful than

family and friends



Unemployed and facing foreclosure, Miranda feels she has nothing to lose by packing a bag and heading off to Route 66. But Joy has a hidden agenda for their Christmas joyride—and a hidden problem that could derail the whole venture.

When Judith refuses to decorate the bare spruce tree in their living room because her children won’t be home for the holidays, Stan’s only hope for saving the holiday is found in a box of handmade ornaments.


Available wherever books and ebooks are sold.

LIGHT UP THE SEASON IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE THE ‘THANKS’ IN THANKSGIVING WENT ONLY TO THE COOK, AND THE CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS WAS CROSSED OUT WITH AN ‘X.’ Imagine a world where there was no truth to hold on to, no divine love to shine on uplifted faces, and no grace to cover sins. Imagine a world where Jesus and the Holy Spirit were banned from the church for being too unruly, and the people were left to practice a religion without power. It’s not so hard to imagine such a world because it’s a world that many of us call home. Instead of getting depressed, stand up and turn on the Light! For the Light of the world is shining bright— right through our hearts and into the darkness. This Light came over two thousand years ago when a majestic God sent his son to live among his wayward people. But this son grew into a sinless man, a man who fulfill his destiny to become the sacrifice for sin so that whomsoever would believe, could not only have eternal life, but could live in a world where

FROM THE PUBLISHER we thank God for our blessings, and where Christ is still in Christmas, where there is truth we can hold on to and where God’s divine love shines on our uplifted faces. Because of this babe born in a manger so long ago, we can shine the beacon of hope to those lost in the shadows. Today is a day to shine that Light as we celebrate the reason for the season:

Joy to the World, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven and Heaven and nature sing.

As you breakthrough the noise of the season filled with parties and packages to read this issue of Leading Hearts, I pray that you will feel Hia peace invade every inch of chaos. and His joy invade every inch of sadness, disappointment or grief. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas Everyone! S Love, LINDA EVANS SHEPHERD PUBLISHER, LEADING HEARTS MAGAZINE

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EDITORIAL STAFF PUBLISHER.. ..................Linda Evans Shepherd EDITOR/ART DIRECTOR.....Amber Weigand-Buckley ADVERTISING. ........... Linda Evans Shepherd & Angelina Locricchio COPY EDITOR...............Julie Gillies EDITORIAL SECRETARY. ....Angelina Locricchio CONTRIBUTING WRITERS. ............................................. Nancy Alcorn, Rebekah Binkley Montgomery, Penelope Carlevato, Kathy Collard Miller, Michelle S. Cox, Dr. Edna Ellison, Sharon Norris Elliot, Pam Farrel, Rhonda Rhea, Heather Riggleman, Dr. Pete Sulack, Carol Swain, Jennifer Taylor, Lisa Troyer, Heather Van Allen, W. Terry Whalin, Karen H. Whiting and Joanne Viola

RIGHT TO THE HEART BOARD MEMBERS Linda Evans Shepherd (President), Dianne Butts, Sharon Norris Elliot, Dr. Edna Ellison, Karen Porter, Kathy Collard Miller, Rhonda Rhea and Carole Whang Schutter and Joy A. Schneider

INFORMATION Leading Hearts Magazine for Christian Women is published bimonthly by Right to the Heart Ministries 2015. ISSN 2380-5455 ADVERTISING | Display rates are available at By accepting an advertisement, Leading Hearts does not endorse any advertiser or product. We reserve the right to reject advertisements not consistent with the magazines objectives. MANUSCRIPTS | Writers guidelines are available at Leading Hearts | PO Box 6421, Longmont, CO 80501 phone: (303) 835-8473 | fax: (303)678-0260 email: MEMBER | 2015 Evangelical Press Association Award of Merit Winner All rights reserved. Copyrighted material reprinted with permission Photos courtesy of: Dollar Photo Club, ICON, Inlight Studios (Aspen Media), Integrity Music, Kerry Kara Photography /KLS Photos & Imaging, Mercy Ministries, Operation Care International, Provident, Reunion Records, Revell, Sparrow and Nancy Wilson


Text LEA D ING to 9 H EAR 5 577 Mob T S f ile S or F is ter REE ho o d Su ppor t!







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successfully completed my Red Cross lifesaving certification , and since I was so good with little kids, I was among the one of the chosen few volunteers asked to help instruct the beginner swimmers. And they didn’t just pick me to teach the kids to put their faces in the water and take the side-to-side breaths or do the flutter kick. I was at the back float station —where each little 3 and 4-year-old had to put their ultimate trust in my hands—a stranger they didn’t know.

FROM THE EDITOR would have with them for a lifetime. “Lay Back, I’ve got You. Just Relax.” Learning to float— it’s a skill that seems effortless, but sometimes it’s the most challenging to master.

I remember my mantra: “Lay Back, I’ve got You. Just Relax.”

However, a lot of the times in our spiritual lives you are trying to learn to float only in times of desperation—when you’re thrown in the deep end. You can’t feel the bottom of the pool, so the struggle takes over— water goes up your nose and the reality of gravity seems to overwrite the reality that the Creator­has you in the center of His hand. The effort to tread water on your own leaves you feeling exhausted and hopeless.

There was always that one little kid ... the kind that clawed you like a feral cat ... and no matter how hard you tried the kid felt his or her body should never be splashed by water.

The real breakthrough comes when we abandon our being to His holding. But we will have to relax in trust relinquishing our total selves—mind-body-spirit into the “habit of abiding.”

I would go to that extra effort of pulling them around the water in a circle, my hands secured at the tops of their shoulders. I would tell these scared kids to pretend to be an alligator sunbathing on their back just so they would relax and eventually lay back in the water. I held under the shoulders for awhile. then I placed a hand in the center of their back to pull them around the pool. Then the hand gradually went away and they were floating 30 seconds...then longer and longer...until I just lightly tapped their backs to keep them moving, but they were floating on their own!

Let’s not wait until we feel the weight of being heavy laden before we ask Him to give us rest. Let’s master the effortless skill of the floating and take joy and peace in the reality of whatever may come—because He is our Savior—because He readily volunteered to take our burdens long ago. Just recognize He is there with you even before you step into the pool.

The most challenging thing about my job was to get little kids to relax while they were laying on my hand in the water, and then assure them that when I took my hand away that I would not let them drown.

And when the day finally came when one of my students would call out, “Hey, teacher, look, I’m doing it,” each smiling face patted me on the back. I knew I had helped these little ones master a skill they

Praying through this issue of Leading Hearts will help you to embrace the ways God is wanting to break through in every area of your life, every day! S Peace!


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-continued from p. 9to Him humbly. We must be willing to clean out the muck and mire because He wants to fill us with good things. He wants to answer our prayers, but we also must get into alignment so He can do just that. Whether it’s unforgiveness or any of theisms--sexism, racism, classism. We’ve got to clean out the attic. We’ve got to clean out the basement. We must be as clean as possible and He can fill us up with all that good stuff. DO YOU HAVE A WAR ROOM AND WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE? KATHERINE: I have a spare room in my house that I go to spend my time in prayer. I go in there to make petition and cry out to God. I have always thought that I was really working it out in prayer in there. But, through this experience, in taking on the role of Miss Clara, I’ve realized that I was only scratching the surface of the power of prayer. I learned a lot. I understand more the gift that prayer is...the tool that it is..the weapon that it is. And that it is something that should be respected as a constant in our lives, not just something to go to when there in desperate moments. It is a protective fortress around our lives.

“Everyone’s always trying to leave Jesus out. which is one reason we are in the mess we are in.”

I REMEMBER ONE SCENE WHERE YOU ARE TALKING TO PRISCILLA’S CHARACTER AND SHE IS COMMUNICATING THE BUSYNESS OF HER LIFE THAT PREVENTS HER FROM DEVOTING TIME TO PRAYER AND YOU RESPOND THAT SHE SEEMS TO HAVE PLENTY OF TIME TO ARGUE. EVEN AS LEADERS, WE OFTEN GO INTO CHURCH TO SERVE, SERVE, SERVE—HOW CAN WE REPROGRAM OUR DAILY LIVES TO FOCUS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER? KATHERINE: We have to stop. We have to understand God’s place in this process and we have to elevate Him in our hearts and minds to His appropriate place. Oh, the busyness of our day is not going to help us move. You’re going before Him, behind Him and blocking Him—preventing Him from doing what He wants to do in our lives. The Bible says He wants us to seek His face. And that means a lot. When you seek His face, you are looking at Him eye-to-eye—that’s intimate. He craves that intimacy with us. We’re not being intimate when we lay down a list of what we want and boom we’re off with our day. We must desire intimacy. It’s time we started making

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time to get to know Him intimately and listen to what He wants to say to us. TELL ME ONE THING THAT CHANGED IN HOW YOU APPROACH PRAYER FROM YOUR TIME DOING THIS MOVIE.

“To win the fight, you’ve got to have the right strategy and the right resources, because victories don’t happen by accident.”

KATHERINE: I want the priority in my life to be directing people back to Jesus. We must direct people back to Him. To do this we need a constant open communication line with the Lord, and it needs to be our priority. To get this we MUST take Him off the clock. HOW WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE SOMEONE WHO IS SEEKING GOD TO BREAKTHROUGH AN AREA IN THEIR LIFE THAT THEY HAVE YET TO SEE AN ANSWER? KATHERINE: Breakthrough happens on so many levels and it is continuous. Sometimes it doesn’t always look like what we want it to look like because breakthrough will ALWAYS be God’s will transforming us so that our hearts and lives come into that perfect alignment with Him. Keep pressing through. Make Him priority and obediently listen, don’t just talk. “Lord, my heart’s desire is to know you up close. Nothing less. I rest in your infinite love and faithfulness to work out the details.” S - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -{11.} ------ -----------------------------------------------------------------------------





many who come from homes that were chaotic, dysfunctional or where host to abuse or neglect this time of year can be filled with challenges of strained or broken relationships. However, regardless of how we were treated, we can decide to love and live differently! We can forgive and live in freedom— and we can even learn to bless those who are not much of a blessing to our own lives. In 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman, I share some practical principles that make relationships work better. When we love like Jesus, we become more like Jesus in the way we live in all areas of life. We become better, freer, more loving people when we love like God. God gives us some specific commands to bless and be a blessing so we can live free:

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. . . . Live in harmony with one another. . . . If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” —Romans 12:14–21, (NIV)

When I read these in a quiet time with God as a young mom, I knew even though I had already forgiven my alcoholic and abusive dad for every hurt and pain I could remember, God was calling me to be a blessing. I knew God wanted me to write a blessing, a tribute— that would share the love of God with my dad, and open the door of grace and mercy for him should he become ready to walk through into the loving arms of the God who could finally give peace to his soul. So I prayed, “God I am having a hard time recalling a happy memory or moment on which to write a blessing. If you help me remember one, I will write a blessing and give it to dad for Christmas.” That night as I dreamt, I remembered a precious day when I was a very young girl. The next morning, I got up early and wrote the blessing. I had it framed, then prepared my heart. I knew I had to give the blessing expecting nothing in return, and I should even be prepared for a negative response because Dad was so difficult to please. I was doing this “unto Jesus” (1 Corinthians 10:31). On Christmas Day, I called Dad aside so it was just he and I, then read this blessing to my father:


It was a sunny Saturday morning. Excited children piled out of cars, baskets in hand. It was the day before Easter, the day of our small town’s big egg hunt. I was nervous and excited, as were all the other preschoolers. I held tight to my dad’s hand. The whistle blew, and the race to find the prized golden egg was

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on! I picked up a pink egg and then a green one, and I placed them gently in my basket. But what I really wanted was that golden egg. The hunt seemed as though it lasted a lifetime. It seemed that no one could find the golden egg. Dad said, “Come here, honey.” He bent down and whispered into my ear and pointed at the ground. I looked down at a disgusting sight—an egg smashed and broken from being trampled upon by tiny feet.

“But it’s broken!” I said to my dad. “What color is it, Charlie?” I shrugged my shoulders. “Look close. What color do you see?”

I tried hard to find a piece of shell big enough to discern its color. I picked up a small fragment and whispered, “It’s gold! Daddy, it’s gold!” But how was I supposed to get it over to the judges? “Pick it up. Moms and dads can’t touch the prized egg. You have to carry it.” “Ick! It’s too yucky, Daddy! I can’t.” “If you want the prize, you have to pick it up. But I will help you carry it.” We bent down and I scooped up as much of the egg remnant as my tiny hands could carry. It felt awful. Dad slid his hand under mine, and together we carried our broken treasure to the judges. I was awarded a huge basket brimming with Easter goodies. Dad was proud of me, and I was proud of him. In the years since, I have often thought of that day. It is a picture of our father-daughter relationship. My dad is a lot like that broken golden egg. He has often felt inadequate to be all that he wanted to be as a dad. His heart is like that egg—full of prizewinning potential but cracked by the heartache of broken dreams. Dad has a heart of gold, but it often goes unseen by those around him. Words fail him. Sometimes his actions fall short of the feelings he’d like to express. But I’ve always held on to that prizewinning potential, just like that small piece of golden shell. I’ve held on to the golden moments that Dad and I shared. And when times are hard, I sometimes hear that whisper, “If you want the prize, you have to pick it up.” So I gather up the pieces of life and carry I’m required to carry.

No, Dad is not perfect, but neither am I. So I hold tight to that less-than-perfect treasure because all that has happened—the good and the bad—God has used to make me the woman I’ve wanted to be. I have become a woman who can look at a bad situation, find the gold in it, and go on. I’m a prizewinner in my daddy’s eyes, and his love is a golden treasure to me. As I handed him the framed blessing, he began to weep. A man who had never read any of my writing (that I knew of) and never heard any of my speeches, blessed me back: “Charlie, thank you for using your fine words to say such nice things about this good ol’ bad ol’ boy. If you think sharing our story might help other folks, you just share it then, Charlie girl.” He gave me a rare hug and wiped away his tears. Not many weeks later, I couldn’t get dad on the phone so I called the Sherriff ’s Department of his community and asked them to do a drive by to check on him. They had gone by on other occasions because he had been suicidal and they also knew he had a heart condition. This night however, about midnight, I got the call that my father had passed from this life. I was the executor of the will, and had his house key, so immediately, I met my siblings at his home. When I walked in, though his body had been taken by the coroner, I could tell where he had spent his last hours. There at his desk was the stack of Christian books and videos each of the family members had given him. The resources had been read, dog-eared, and watched. Sitting on top of the pile was a Steps to Peace with God booklet. (We later learned a neighbor had given to him a day or two before he died.) The booklet was opened to the prayer of surrender. Pulled forward, as if he had been reading it moments before he entered eternity, was the tribute, The Golden Treasure Blessing, I had written him. When I read the tribute, one last time to him, as I placed his ashes in the cold Kansas ground that winter, there was a sense of peace and freedom there because I knew I had done everything I could to show Dad the love of God . . . and I believe he finally gave in to the persistent love of God and our gracious God ushered him to heaven to finally live in peace. S

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espresso, cheap, expensive — it didn’t matter. Hot with two carefully meted out teaspoons of half-and-half was all that was important. I glimpsed of my rather haggard reflection in the bathroom mirror. Yikes! I looked like a hard night! I’d slept crooked and my hair stood up every which way, my face was as lined as a relief map of Arizona, and my mouth tasted like I’d been sucking on a sweat sock. I knew I should really stop and tend to myself before I scared the cat out of several of her nine lives, but there was only one thing on my mind: coffee. Downstairs, I impatiently heated the water, stirred in the magic crystals and cream, and took a big swallow. Ah, yes! Now I could face the day! Then it was time for devotions, but an uncomfortable thought crossed my mind: Did I crave Jesus? Did I long for Him — even half as much as I did my first cup of hot coffee?



All of us are filled with deep, inexpressible yearnings. Sometimes, we can’t even put a name to them, yet we try to satisfy them in a variety of ways. We overeat, drink too much, talk too much, gamble, go on shopping sprees, engage in illicit and immoral activities — all searching to satisfy a yen for something. Job said it this way: “Is there iniquity in my tongue? Cannot my taste discern perverse things? (Job 6:30) The truth is that we are searching for Somebody. Our overindulgence is a desperate hunger is for the Bread of Life and our thirst is for the Living Water. Jesus knew. As He told the thirsting woman at the well, if we satisfied our longings with Him, our souls would never be hungry or thirsty again. The Psalmist said it another way: O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusts in Him (Psalm 34:8). S .


SUSIE JENNINGS — THE LEAST OF THESE “It all started in Dallas with God telling me, a widow, to give a homeless man sitting under a bridge a blanket.” says Susie Jennings founder of Operation Care International. “I didn’t even like homeless people,” Susie admits with candor. “When I was a girl in the Philippines, the homeless would beg and my mom would feed them. We were a large family and I felt like they were eating my food. But then God told me to help them. To give them blankets.” From that simple act of obedience, a ministry grew that now serves hundreds of thousands worldwide. “Operations Care International has reached nearly 24,000 children in nine countries and over 130,000 homeless men, women and children in the Dallas Metroplex area,” Susie explains.

In 2004, Susie felt God’s direction again to give the homeless a Christmas party and her team launched Operation Care Christmas Gift, an event held at the Dallas Convention Center to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. But just 30 days before the first party, the ministry still needed $100,000 to pay for it. But Susie trusted God and He miraculously provided! “I learned when we ask God in specifics, He will often answer far more abundantly than we ever dreamed.” “Has God called you to do something that you thought was impossible?” Susie asks. “It’s so exciting to see what God has in store for us if we listen to His voice and exercise unconditional obedience when we hear Him. Nothing is too big for the Lord if you give it to Him. Honor God and He will honor you!” S

NANCY WILSON— REACHING THE GLOBE Across the globe, people have incomplete or inaccurate perceptions of a loving heavenly Father. Nancy Wilson, a Global Ambassador with StoryRunners, a mission of Cru to unreached people groups, has found those people are still searching for the love of ABBA, “daddy” which can only be found in One. In 30 years of ministry, Nancy served as Associate National Director of Cru High School (formerly Student Venture), the high school and junior high outreach of Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ International). Nancy travels extensively and is a frequent speaker to all ages in the U.S. and internationally. She has spoken to thousands of young people and challenging them to passionately pursue a relationship with God and become an ambassador for Jesus Christ. She also does StoryWave Trainings to equip believers all over the world how to use stories as a bridge to share the Good News of Jesus. “The heart of our heavenly Father is reaching out to touch each of us with His love and reveal how incredibly precious we are to Him,” says Nancy. “As a Global Ambassador, I get the opportunity to meet so many beautiful people every day. (Pictured Above) is a family group that invited us to sit and talk with them. As I shared with them and got to know them, it became so clear to me that these precious cousins of ours, the Muslim people, are eager to meet and talk. I believe with all my heart that this is a season of unprecedented harvest!” S - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -{15.} ------ ----------------------------------------------------------------------------








This is especially the case if you’re tired, which is 99% of the time for most moms. But have you ever thought about the fact that your wild and crazy house might be the only love-filled nurturing home that some kids will ever experience? I know that from experience, from both sides of the aisle. My parents divorced when I was little. My sister’s death was the final blow for their already troubled marriage. My mother had many deep emotional issues and our house was often not a good place to be. I can’t tell you how much I treasured going to homes where I could feel the love, where I felt welcomed. On the flip side, I spent 30 years volunteering with children, teens, and college-age singles. Quite a few of them were scarred from growing up in messed-up homes where they weren’t loved. I watched many young men and young women blossom from a simple encouraging word, or a hug and an “I hope you know I love you.” Yes, there were times when things got broken at our house when we had a gang of them over for an evening. Yes, I spent hours cooking meals and cleaning up before and after they left. But you know what? I gained so much more than I gave. That’s the beauty of compassion and hospitality. A little goes a long way. And as parents, we might not realize it, but our children are watching what we do. They’re patterning their lives after the way that we live. Open your heart and your home to a child who needs some love. All of you will be blessed by those moments. S

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Abandoned to His Plans

IT IS HARD TO TRUST GOD— THAT EVERYTHING WORKS TOGETHER FOR GOOD—WHEN YOU ARE REELING FROM GRIEF AND BARELY FEEL THE STRENGTH TO STAND OR EVEN DO LIFE AGAIN. LIFE ISN’T EVER THE SAME. IT WILL NEVER BE. AND LET’S FACE IT, IT’S NOT MEANT TO BE. THESE MOMENTS SHAPE US FOR A LIFETIME. But it doesn’t mean God isn’t working...or that He ever left. The real struggle is to worship Him still. In fact, Worship Artist Kari Jobe recently found herself sharing this place with sister Kris. The two were reveling in the joy of being pregnant at the same time, looking forward to having their children grow up so close together. However, tragedy struck the family when Kris gave birth to her stillborn son at 31 weeks. Kari shared her raw, real grief with her social media followers, the next day writing, “I’ve never experienced or been a part of a more painful or grievous loss. Some things in life make no sense. Thank you for all the love and prayers you’ve given us already—this is harder than words can explain. My tears are mostly for my sister- I’m heartbroken for her and husband Michael Laymon. And that James and my baby won’t get to be newborns together.”

Trusting God

Though it’s hard to walk through this time, Kari continues to worship and hold on to the truths she knows. In a recent worship experience, she shared with the audience, “I believe in God with all my heart, and I believe He is The One who brings breakthrough.”


disappointed,’” she said. “You get all these questions that start rising up but you know the thing that brings breakthrough is worship and just trusting even in the midst of not understanding.” She quotes Proverbs saying that we are to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don’t lean on your own understanding,” and reminds us that it’s our human nature to want to understand something. “We might not ever fully understand, but in the midst of it all, if we draw closer to the Lord, our faith becomes stronger and it’s like a kingdom exchange. It doesn’t make any sense to the world. You know the world says to medicate yourself or try to get answers.”

Deep Waters

The tragedy of the past few weeks have brought Kari’s worship to another level. “I think when you are broken on stage, and you are really vulnerable, people find permission to be vulnerable back,” Kari says. I told one of my friends that I didn’t realize how many women have walked this road and lost babies. It’s just real pain. It’s more real than anything that I have ever felt.” She realizes that nobody wants to be completely honest and say that at times worshiping is hard because they are concerned about judgement. But Kari sees differently now. “I think if that’s the truth of where you really are, I think that’s a beautiful thing because God knows anyway,” she says. “I feel like I am more vulnerable and more real with the Lord than I have ever been because I have just really had to get on my face.”

Being pregnant at the same time, she says walking through this has really caused her to seek Him and trust Him so she does not fear for her baby. She knows she cannot rely on doctors, sonograms or anything. Kari has learned to rely on God’s peace and trust that He has her baby. That He is going Kari shares that she has been brutally honest and asks to heal her sister, and He has a plan for this, even the Lord tough questions. “I have even personally just though it doesn’t make any sense. had to say, ‘God, I know You are with me, but I am so -continued on p. 23-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -{21.}

“Packed with prayer and promises, this book will free you to experience the POWER of GOD’S PEACE.” —LYSA LYSA TERKEURST TERKEURST, New York Times bestselling author of Unglued and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries


he true remedy to stress, Linda Evans Shepherd says, is prayer. In this inspiring book, she shows you how to recognize God’s continual presence in your life and yield your troubles to the Prince of Peace. Through captivating stories, explorations of fascinating biblical characters, and examples of deeperthan-ever prayers, she brings within your grasp the peace that passes understanding. If you are overwhelmed by all of the urgent demands on your time, this book is your lifeline to true peace.

Also Available from LINDA EVANS SHEPHERD




-continued from p. 21-

Authentic Comfort Kari has also learned that Christians’ first instincts are to say that God is going to work it out and to quote encouraging Christianese phrases. “But right in the middle of the pain that doesn’t bring any kind of comfort,” she says. “The only thing that brings comfort is just someone saying, ‘I’m so sorry you’re in pain. I’m praying and I know God is near to you.’ So it’s more of like staying in the present moment with someone in their pain than try to paint a pretty picture of what you think it might end up looking like.” Kari realizes that you have to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. “Sometimes that is the answer. You just have to walk with somebody through something, and if you don’t have something to say, it’s okay.” She wants to encourage those who are searching for their breakthrough now to put their hope in Jesus. “He never disappoints. Take it one day at a time. I think when we get our eyes set to try to figure it all out at once and wanting the results right now, that’s when it feels overwhelming like it’s too much,” says. “I think of my sister when she gets too overwhelmed in this season that she’s in right now. I just tell her, ‘Kris, just take deep breaths and just keep trusting God with every breath.


kari on:

You are closer today to being more healed than you were yesterday. So just keep doing what you are doing. But in all of it, keep your hope in Jesus.” S

worshiping through to breakthrough

Kari shares that her powerful ballad “I am Not Alone” was inspired by the words of Exodus 14:14: “I will fight for you, you need only to be still”. However, it also comes from Isaiah 43: “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. When you walk through the deep waters, they will not overtake you. You will not be overcome.”

S is saying that you are going “I wish that Scripture said if but it says when, which means God to walk through some things that are difficult, but my promise to you is that I will be with you. We may feel alone in something that we are walking through but we are not.”



Dr. Edna,

You may not know me, but I’ve loved your advice for years. I finally got the courage to volunteer to lead women in my church. I LOVE Leading Hearts Magazine! I enjoy learning about personalities in the leadership team and how to handle troubled leaders and help them move to the work at hand. I have only one question: What is the work at hand? Exactly what do I do when I direct the leadership team? I always start with your devotional and end with your final discussion questions, but what do I do in between? —Confoozed in Maryland I prayed after I got this email. Where did I go wrong? Women in serious ministry in our churches are working hard, struggling to be good leaders, panting as

they run from one set of directions to another, but they have missed the point of our ministry.

Pray now—wherever you are—to know what our leadership focus should be. Are you thinking you don’t have time to design and publish a full set of training manuals on FOCUS so your leadership can be well-trained before the end of the year? Stop right there. Clear your brain. You know your main focus is to love Jesus with all your heart and soul and mind and strength (Mark 12:30), and then to love others as you love yourself (v. 31). First, crave God! Lord, Help us to fall before you as

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humble as we know how, to breathe your Spirit as we breathe air, to gasp and grasp for your Holy Word (Matt 24:35) and to yearn for your Presence every second of every minute of every day till eternity! Amen (Ps. 25:4-5). Second, ask God how to show others how much you love Him, how much you desire to surrender to Him, to sacrifice your will to His, and to serve Him like a slave because you are willing. How can you and I do that? We can center our lives around HIM, nothing else (Ps. 89:1). Third, make sure that every plan, every event, every ministry your leadership team has on the agenda follows the basics above. Don’t worry about a 5-year plan for your women’s ministry/missions. Don’t worry about sophisticated manuals and how-to’s. Start simply. Love God. Love others.

How to we do that? Good news. We have great opportunities in the next two months: the holidays. We are the only nation that has a national day of thanksgiving to God! Our nation began that first Thanksgiving by thanking God for His blessings of harvest to sustain them through the winter. The Pilgrims didn’t thank the Native Americans for bringing the corn to the Thanksgiving table. They thanked GOD!

Do you get it? That’s the work at hand. Do something simple. Ponder how good your life is in Him.

“But Edna, I have no social life, I mean NO SOCIAL LIFE until November. Then every friend, every family member and every group I belong to invites me to a party. I’m so busy dressing correctly, speaking correctly, and smiling my plastic Christian smile that I don’t have time to worship the Baby Jesus in that manger!” Whether your leadership meets at church or on a social network group, ask them to ponder the real meaning of Christmas: Jesus. In the middle of the shopping, the hanging of the greens, and the children’s choir rehearsal tell just ONE person about our Savior. Find a way to show His love to one new woman this week.

Do good. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me” (Matt. 25:40).

Celebrate Christmas! Let that celebration spill into your neighbor’s life. “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Ps. 126:3).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: 1. As an introduction, select one Scripture in this article and tell your leadership team what it means to you as you ponder the real meaning of Christmas. 2. Ask for ideas about creative ways your church can carry the theme of Thanksgiving through the month of November. It’s not too early to even start dreaming for next year. 3. In what ways does your ministry team relate to “Confoozed”? Talk about the issues and give the ladies the time to provide feedback.


4. Go over the “To Do” priorities in your women’s ministry calendar and decide how to accomplish the items in the most simple way 5. 6. Explain the significance of the season and taking time to reflect on the significance of Baby Jesus in the manger. Pray for each other and your church. 6. Using Psalm 126:3, help your leadership team embrace fully the blessing of the holiday season ahead. Make sure to extend prayers for a blessed Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to each lady. —EDNA ELLISON S

Got a Question for Dr. Edna? Email her at





Some people think that whatever pops into their heads is what they have to think about. That’s a recipe for disaster. Thinking is a choice. Just as you exercise control over your body and how you behave, so God expects you to exercise control over your mind and what you think. You choose your thoughts the same way you choose to forgive or choose to say yes to Christ. It takes your will saying, “yes” and then your actions supporting that choice. The Holy Spirit gives you divine encouragement and empowerment to think the thoughts you have chosen to think—His thoughts, not ours. John says, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Ditch the Baggage




People who live by their passions and feelings are by definition out of God’s will. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:7, ESV). So here’s what you do: Find the volume knob on your emotions and turn it way down. If your emotions don’t agree with the Word of God then they are speaking lies to you.

A commitment to Christ is not about how you feel. It is by faith. Inside of you is a faith muscle. The Bible calls it the measure of faith (Romans 12:3). Just like any muscle it takes time and practice to isolate it, flex it, and feel it working. Soon you realize you’re gaining strength. Your feelings and emotions will take notice. Everyone likes a winner, and after they see that faith muscle flexing and growing they will get on board. Your desires and attractions and opinions will actually change. This is why the Bible says so clearly for us to take an active role in choosing our thoughts:

At this point, your emotions will scream like a little child because they are used to controlling your mind. They used to set the agenda; they used to run the show. Paul said, “We all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3, ESV). {26.} - -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

None of the above Scriptures mention accommodating your feelings or going wherever your emotions take you. It’s impossible to accommodate your feelings and walk in freedom. It’s like making a peace treaty with the devil and hoping to come out of it alive. Remember that the enemy has been empowering your negative, lying emotions to try to take your mind captive again. He wants to cancel the power of that commitment you made to Christ. When he sees you’re serious about kicking him out and choosing your thoughts rather than entertaining everything that comes into your head, he will probably try to make a deal with you for partial control. The demonized people in Jesus’s day always did this when Jesus came around. They shouted, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Luke 4:41). One team of demons even begged Jesus to let them go into a herd of pigs rather than leave the area (see Mark 5). It seems possible that the demons hoped He would leave them alone if they declared who He was. But there’s no such thing as a peace treaty with the devil. He’s just postponing the battle until a later time.

You can’t say, “My household serves the Lord” while you’re renting a room to the devil in your thought life. He’ll never stay put. He’ll start by raiding the fridge and running up your bills, then create division in your house, giving away your stuff and creating an atmosphere of suspicion and hatred, violence, and lust. There is no way to rent him a room without eventually giving him the whole house. He’s not content just to be a boarder. He’ll invite all his friends over, just like the Bible says (Matthew 12:44–45). Getting God’s perspective means serving an eviction notice to the enemy and making a firm commitment to choose what we think. Then we begin to renovate our minds in specific, practical ways.

Meditating on the Truth How many Christians do you know who are saved and go to church but who “walk in the counsel of the ungodly” in their social lives or the entertainment they consume or the kinds of conversations they have at work? To walk in freedom, we must walk in the counsel of the godly in all areas of life. If you do that, you will make your own way prosperous and you will have good success. Do you trust God to direct your paths? Do you meditate day and night on His Word? I have met a lot of people who grew up under legalistic systems and had people beat them up with the Word of God. Just because someone abused God’s Word does not mean God’s Word is bad. If we don’t meditate on God’s Word with the Holy Spirit guiding our understanding, we will be susceptible to the devil’s twisted presentation of Scripture. If you have only a surface knowledge of the Bible, it’s like taking a pocketknife to a modern battlefield. Get real—Paul said, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (2 Corinthians 10:4, emphasis added). The weapon is in your mind and your mouth. It’s called the Word of almighty God. By rightly handling the Word of Truth we experience freedom, healing, and restoration. Even when God uses His Word to bring correction, He does it in such a way that it doesn’t tear down or wound but builds up and heals. The key is to immerse ourselves in the Word. It says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). We need to hear it over and over again to remind ourselves of who we are in Christ.

Living in freedom and getting God’s perspective means hiding God’s Word in your heart with regular, passionate meditation. and memorization. S


Excerpt adapted from Ditch the Baggage, Change Your Life by Nancy Alcorn (Charisma House, 2015). Reprinted with permission

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THE AIR OF THE SEASON HAS BEEN INFILTRATING STORE AISLES SINCE BEFORE HALLOWEEN. THE COUNTDOWN IS IN FULL SWING. They’re talking tinsel, turkey, and wreaths, and you’re white knuckling a pencil because you aren’t sure how to get through this the holiday season. While God and the world say “rejoice” your heart screams retreat. No matter you’ve managed to find yourself curled up, there are tips to get through the holidays whether you’re struggling with depression, divorce or some other major trauma. The most important thing to remember is God sees you. He’s holding your heart in his hand and he is healing you from in the inside out. Like a blanket of perfectly fresh snow, know there’s something happening underneath.

Here are 12 tips to Make it Through Holiday Blues: 1. Do something for yourself that isn’t necessarily “seasonal”, that recharges you. Instead of treating yourself to a pumpkin spice latte, get a tan. Start a tanning schedule. Get a haircut or make appointments to get gel nails with fun colors. This is one way to take care of yourself. 2. Focus on the meaning of the holidays isn’t about the tinsel and gifts. It’s about salvation, the fact Christ came as a man-child to save our souls. Begin practicing a list of gratitude. Practice the list until Jan. 1 and then celebrate the ways you find gratitude. 3. Plan meals in advance and freeze them. Think of meals that are comforting on cold days. This

allows you to feel like dinner is taken care of when you feel overwhelmed. 4. When scheduling holiday activities, know your limits. Love yourself enough to say no. 5. You do not have to do everything. Remember the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus even said that Mary had chosen the right thing to sit at His feet. Say no to extra needs and demands, use that time to sit on Christ’ feet in a way that’s meaningful for you. 6. Take time to observe your family or loved ones. Watch them interact. Watch them play in the leaves or snow. If you’re alone, go for a walk or take the dog with you. Taking the time to observe the calm in your world helps soothe the soul. 7. Alter your image of an ideal Christmas. Instead of the way Christmas parties may have been in the past, create a new tradition. Think simple and small. Many people create a picture in their minds of what the “ideal Christmas” (or holiday) looks like. More often than not, this vision is probably based on idealized memories of childhood Christmases. Then, when they can’t reproduce this vision, they feel dissatisfied with their current reality. 8. Go through the motions. Taking action is one of the best ways to beat the blues. Make a list of several Christmas activities that you enjoy and make yourself participate in them. For instance, go out for a drive at night and look the Christmas lights. 9. Shift your perspective. Instead of focusing on the consumerist aspects of Christmas, think of what the holidays are really about. Christmas doesn’t come from a store or bustling parties, it comes from the quiet moment when a babe was laid in the manager. Consider watching “The Nativity.” 10. Stick with a routine. No matter how much the bed is calling for you, stick to your daily routine. 11. If possible, do something with family. Offer to watch nieces and nephews so the family can go shopping or have a nice date. 12. Pray. Each morning pray a simple prayer to want God more than anything else during the holiday season. Journal what you sense He is speaking to your heart. Do this for 30 days. S

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— t h g u o h t r o f d foo LIFE BYTES





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I have lived in four different locations since that first tea, but God always gives me the “go-ahead” and each tea is uniquely different and amazing. I encourage anyone to step out in faith and open the front door to share Jesus, one teacup at a time. We have a responsibility, as we see our culture changing, to reach out to those women who God places in our path…” for who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 (NIV).

The first agenda is always prayer: for the right date, for the women who will respond, and for the message shared. This is an opportunity to bring a neighborhood together, meet new neighbors and share the true meaning of Christmas. Whether you are the “newbie” on your block or have lived in the area for many years, having a Christmas Tea brings eternal rewards. The logistics are routine, like any other social event; the invitations, planning, baking and decorating, but the Christmas season creates an easier venue for the gospel to be shared in a non-threatening way. Depending on your own style of hospitality, the tea can be very casual or an elegant affair. If you have Christmas dishes, teacups, or even red or green dishes, get them ready to use on your table. Plan the menu according to the time of day and your budget. In 25 years, I have tried a plethora of ideas and recipes, but something I always make is the traditional English mincemeat tart. It goes with any kind of tea, any time of day, and is loved by the ladies.

Mincemeat Tarts 2 c. flour ½ tsp. salt 1 Tbsp. sugar 2 to 3 tsp. iced water 1 jar mincemeat filling mini muffin tins

Combine the flour, salt and sugar with a wisk or fork, and then add the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the water slowly until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water. Put the dough onto a floured surface and pat it into a ball. Divide the dough in half and form into two balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out the dough between two sheets of wax paper until about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into rounds that are slightly bigger than the muffin tins. Place the rounds into the muffin tins and form to fit the tin. Place one teaspoon of mincemeat filling into each dough-filled tin (about 2/3 full) then top with a pastry star that you have cut from the dough. Brush the tops with a little egg wash (1 egg beaten with a couple teaspoons of water) and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400º F for 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack then dust with powdered sugar before serving. These freeze well. S

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— p u g n i shap LIFE BYTES





body burden that you encounter each and every day. It’s toxins in the food, air and water. It’s chemicals in processed foods. It’s sitting too much and not sleeping enough. It’s focusing on the negative while ignoring the positive. It’s hormone disrupting chemicals in cleaning and personal care products you use every day. You can’t avoid stress! But you can develop habits that help your body become more resilient to those stressors. Now, especially since holiday party hosting is full swing, it’s important not to get stressed out same old, same old. Consider taking a fresh approach that won’t leave you or your party guests stretched to the brink in body, mind or spirit. Here are some suggestions to get your party moving in the right direction. #1. You Got to Move it, Move it! Sitting is the new smoking, so parties, where everyone sits playing Pictionary or watching a movie are last year’s news. Instead, build a theme party where you do some old fashioned activities like bowling, roller or ice skating and dancing. Have an expert at the party who can teach guests the fox trot, line dancing, disco, or whatever goes along with your party’s theme. In fact, build the party around the movement…even better!

#2. Generosity raises positivity and energy, so consider a charity-themed party. Guests could make holiday cards for members of the military. Give instruction at different “stations” on how to stamp, cut, and assemble the cards; and have a list of addresses to send them out. Go as a group to sing carols at a nursing home or assisted living facility. Have the words and music printed off for each attendee and when the “work” is done, everyone reconvenes for food and drink. #3. Since food is a source of major stress during the holidays, keep it simple and clean. Sugar, in particular, stresses every system of the body. From creating a leaky gut to reducing immune system function to increasing your chances of Alzheimer’s, sugar is the modern culprit in body stress. Added sugars are present in at least 74 percent of processed foods, so pick simple receipes with as many fresh ingredients as possible. One idea: have a “soup” party where everyone brings a different homemade soup and a muffin tin. Ladle up the soup into the muffin tins so everyone gets a good little taste of all the delicious varieties! Added bonus? Everyone takes the dirty dishes home with them. Score! #4. Drop the alcohol. I know, to some this sounds like blasphemy. I mean, what’s a party without some libation to loosen everyone up? Alcohol has kind of a riptide effect. It actually takes away more than it gives. When some people (inevitably) drink too much, it can stress everyone else out. Most alcoholic beverages are highly processed and contain toxins that destroy gut health and immune function, plus they are full of empty calories. Find other ways to make guests comfortable. Fun music, a karaoke machine or pulling out finger paints for a giant team built Christmas poster will do it.

You can do this! You can create a magical holiday party without stressing yourself or your guests out. All it takes is the commitment to a healthful lifestyle and a little creativity to add a new less-stressed twist on the season! S {32.} - -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

— e m i t f o r e t t a am LIFE BYTES




from a new perspective. • Seven to eight hours of sleep replenishes resources drained during the day. While sleeping, the brain consolidates memories to reorganize thoughts. This process can generate new associations that lead to solutions. • Time outdoors in natural environments restores the mind and soul. It’s called ecopsychology. • Long hours or work that includes new input is labeled cerebral congestions. Like a traffic jam in your head, it can block creative thinking. Breaks help with relieving those jams.

TAKE A BREAK IS MORE THAN A FREQUENTLY REPEATED PHRASE. It’s needed for creativity and problem solving. Studies continue to reinforce the connection between rest and increased memory and creativity. There’s a circuit in our brains that comes to life when we daydream. It’s called the default mode network, or DMN.

Remember when you slept on a problem and woke up with a new idea? That’s not a fluke. Studies show that sleep helps our memory. That’s why we can wake up refreshed and finish yesterday’s uncompleted work. When we sleep our mind continues to function more than keeping our breathing and heart going. It continues to process input and problems.

• The neocortex is the newest part of the brain and focuses on creative thinking, visioning, problem solving, and strategy. Rest reduces stress and allows more energy to go to the more creative part of the brain. • The reptilian part of the brain is the oldest part and focuses on survival and instinct. Mindful meditation reduces the reactivity of the reptilian part of the brain and stimulates the neocortex to allow more creative thinking. MRIs show that people who have made meditation a routine practice show higher levels of brain growth (gyrification). • Above the reptilian part lies the limbic system that processes emotions, motivations, and memories. If this gets busy from distress, the brain won’t allocate as much energy to neocortex.

Take advantage of rest and what works best: • Power naps of twenty to thirty minutes sharpen concentration, improve performance, and are short enough to avoid the grogginess of longer naps.

• Since 1990 and the advance of electronics, the creative quotient (CQ) scores of Americans have fallen, especially in younger Americans. That’s because our lives are too busy and we need more rest.

• Small breaks of walking away from a task or problem distance you from it so you can return

So relax to let your creative juices start flowing! S

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Unleasing the power of

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THERE WAS A TIME IN MY LIFE WHEN I EXPECTED GOD TO MOVE ON MY BEHALF SIMPLY BECAUSE I BELONGED TO HIM. So when difficulties and hardships became my companion, I have to admit that my feelings were hurt. But truth be told, the number one reason I couldn’t get past my difficulties was because of my own prayerlessness. I just wasn’t sure how to bring my problems to God. After all, it didn’t seem as though it was my place to command God. That seemed like witchcraft. And begging God seemed wrong too; especially as God already knew my troubles.

1. Be sure you know God!—This knowing God starts with a simple prayer like, “Dear God, your son Jesus was punished on a cross for my sins. He died in my place then rose from the dead. He did this to conquer sin so that I might receive your forgiveness. I receive your forgiveness and turn away from my sins so that I may walk with you. Lord, come into my life; fill me with your Holy Spirit. 2. Talk to God— Stop overthinking prayer. Prayer is as simple as telling God how you feel, asking for his help, thanking him for your blessings, asking him for wisdom, healing, peace, joy, victory and breakthrough. In other words, the secret of prayer is actually praying.

It was a horrible car accident that put my baby into a coma that moved me to search the secrets of prayer. My search helped me to reach out to God and watch in amazement as God reached back to me. Not only did my daughter awake up from her yearlong coma, I discovered the sweetness of God’s presence as I finally learned how to pray. Now, when a person comes to me in a desperate search for a prayer breakthrough, I start with this two-step prescription:

Now that we have set the baseline for prayer itself, let’s push deeper and discuss ways to push through your prayer roadblocks. -continued on page 37-

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When God calls you to pray,

what will your answer be? In Called to Pray Pray, Linda Evans Shepherd shares dozens of inspiring true stories of people who have heeded God’s call to pray and the astonishing results of those impromptu prayers. Through accounts of people being protected from harm and rescued from danger, of needs being met and hearts being encouraged, you’ll see that God is involved in an active and dynamic relationship with us—and that we can be part of his plan to bless others.


Available wherever books and ebooks are sold.

that you can’t hear God, feel the joy of his presence, or find your prayer breakthroughs. To find healing from trauma and grief, try praying, “Dear Lord, I lay my trauma and grief at your feet and exchange it for your peace. I cast out the spirit of trauma and grief that the enemy would use to suffocate me. Heal my broken heart, restore my traumatized soul, in Jesus’s name, Amen.” • Oppression – We can open portals to the enemy with lies, unkind words, demonic media or sexual books, TV shows and other entertainments. When the enemy has an open portal into our life, he can not only create confusion, he can make it harder to press through in prayer. To eliminate this kind of oppression, try praying,


-continued from page 35-


First, don’t get discouraged or offended and don’t give God the silent treatment. While you wait on God’s answer to your request, consider eliminating the following roadblocks: • Unforgiveness – If you harbor unforgiveness, try praying, “Dear Lord, I lay my bitterness at the foot of the cross. Even though it may seem impossible, I choose to forgive through your power so I can experience your peace and answers to my prayers.” • Trauma or Grief – Please know that it’s not wrong to feel traumatized or to grieve after heartache or tragedy. However, the enemy, the devil, loves to use trauma and grief to wound your soul, scarring it so

“Dear Lord, I confess my sins to you. Please forgive me and give me the power to turn away from any activity that is opening doors to the enemy. Forgive me for these open doors! I ask that you purify my soul with the blood of Jesus, and also shut and lock the enemy out. Please open my eyes to evil objects I have in my home, like Taro cards, idols or things that though not possessed by the devil, may attract darkness into my home. Show me how to clean not only my heart, but my residence. I invite you to inhabit my home and life and renew my mind through the reading of the word and praising you. Thank you for helping me take out my spiritual trash. In Jesus’s name, Amen.” Now, all that’s left to do is to give God your battle and wait for His answer. Remember to praise Him while you wait and don’t forget this; his answer will come, it may be “YES,” “NO,” or “LATER,” but it will come. In the meantime, keep your eyes open so you can notice the miracles He’s already orchestrating on your behalf. Trust the Lord of the breakthrough, and you will soon see how he will turn your circumstances into a breakthrough for you. S To receive a free Prayer Toolbox filled with warfare prayers to pray over you and your loved ones, text LEADINGHEARTS to 95577.

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cle or we become withered, wimpy semi-believers who shrivel at the slightest pressure. It’s true, if we want to keep our spiritual muscle operating at full capacity, we have to consistently pray, thanking and praising Him, loving Him with our thoughts and words, trusting Him with every need, struggle and hurt, staying ever open and transparent before Him. Allowing “prayer” to become merely a “churchy word” can happen all too readily. It’s easy to let it become more about what we want, or what we want others to think we’re doing, or what we say we’ll do, or even what we intend to do than it is about communing with the Heavenly Father. It can become a ritualistic, empty religious duty in our hearts and minds rather than the enormously high privilege and sweet exchange that it truly is meant to be.


open a jar, he comes back with a blunt instrument. What is it with guys looking for any excuse to crank up the chainsaw? Okay, so I do understand a chainsaw is not a blunt instrument. Unless, of course, you use it to try to pry open a pickle jar. I admit I personally have an extremely underdeveloped jar-opening-muscle. It’s withered away from lack of use. That’s because I’ve been married all these years to a really great jar opener. When Richie is out of town for any length of time, I’m in a real pickle, jarwise. Not a pickle jar. A pickle. Jar-wise. On the spiritual side of the story, however, I’m all about opening up. I never want to neglect to exercise my faith by keeping a prayer connection with the Father open and active. We need to build spiritual mus-

Anytime we find ourselves stuck in a prayer funk, we need to give ourselves a little tap on the shoulder—a reminder of our vital need to open up those lines of communication and to see our intimacy restored. Paul said in Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer.” We need to get extreme in that devotion and to stay extreme in our desperate desire to faithfully connect with the Father, heart to heart. Romans 12:11-12 says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Dictionaries further describe that zeal as enthusiastic devotion and diligence, tirelessly passionate about a cause, idea, person or goal. That’s the kind of passion we want to take with us every time we enter our prayer closet. A sluggish or apathetic spirit may squeeze out that passion now and again, but if we want to please the Lord and fruitfully live in His joy, we need to be all about getting right back on track in opening that prayer closet door. That’s one thing we can always open on our own. With a grateful and expectant heart. Our breakthrough so often waits for us just inside that door! And it’s the sure way out of any spiritual pickle. Of course, now I’ve gotten myself all hungry for pickles. Guess I’d better call my husband. Somebody’s got to open this jar. S

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BOOKS TO READ 31 DAYS OF MOUNTAINTOP MIRACLES by Susie Y. Jennings & Allison Bottke Susie Jennings has had an extraordinary life. In this highly engaging book, 31 Days of Mountaintop Miracles you will quickly discover her life has not been without tragedy. Yet Susie has learned not to see difficulties as problems but challenges for God to overcome. Each chapter will help you gain fresh clarity for your own life. The book is organized into five sections: Miracles of God’s Promises and Plans, Miracles of Answered Prayers, Miracles of God’s Perfect Timing, Miracles of Obedience and Miracles of God’s Provision. Through the excellent writing of Allison Bottke, you will be challenged in your own spiritual journey. Whether you read the book cover to cover or use it as a daily devotional, 31 Days of Mountaintop Miracles is worth reading and highly recommended. — W. TERRY WHALIN

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CALLED TO PRAY by Linda Evans Shepherd There are times when each of us have needs pressing on our hearts. We are called to pray and know specifically how to pray. Then there are those times, we feel urged to pray without certainty of the need, or knowing why. In her book, Called to Pray: Astounding Stories of Answered Prayer, Linda Evans Shepherd explores these very times. How are we to respond when urged to pray? Do we pray without hesitancy, with the assurance God will be active and quick to respond? Called to Pray is a collection of stories about circumstances in which prayer was a dire need. Each story shares the astonishing outcome as a result of prayer. This book is a wonderful read for when we encounter a season of doubt. It will infuse your heart with faith to keep on praying. Each story will encourage us all to pay heed to those times we find ourselves awakened to pray. — JOANNE VIOLA / READ THE FULL REVIEW @ DAYSNTHOUGHTS.COM

DITCH THE BAGGAGE by Nancy Alcorn Nancy Alcorn, the founder of Mercy Ministries International, has written a much needed book and study guide for those who suffer from personal trauma stemming from abuse, neglect, or rejection. Ditch the Baggage, Change Your Life is an easy to readable book offers a wealth of information about how individuals can apply 7 biblical keys to finding freedom and relief from self-defeating behaviors. Using personal anecdotes and examples of changed lives, Nancy shares the healing approach that has contributed to the success of Mercy Ministries, an organization she founded three decades ago. Topics include forgiveness, how to change unhealthy thought patterns, how to break free of generational curses, how to overcome the fear and oppression many people experience . Ditch the Baggage provided me with a different perspective about obstacles I have had to overcome. I especially liked the strong reminders about God’s grace and his power to transform our our lives. I highly recommend, Ditch the Baggage, Change Your Life. It can be purchased along with a study guide and videos for small groups. — DR. CAROL SWAIN

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MUSIC REVIEWS PLANETSHAKERS #LETSGO From Integrity Music comes #LETSGO, another offering in an impressive line of live worship albums from Planetshakers. Recorded live at their Spring 2015 “Awakening” conference in Melbourne, Australia—and featured as part of Planetshakers Live!, a Daystar Television Network event (broadcast in Dallas, Texas, and simulcast in the Philippines)—#LETSGO is a high energy album full of handraising exuberant praise, with peaking moments of pop-backed celebration, and closing with adoring worship. The mostly upbeat, fast-paced songs, are laced with some gospel soul, drawing crowds of people closer and closer to more intimate worship as you move toward the last few tracks of the album. #LETSGO is an encounter with God, an opportunity to press into Him without having to be at a service. It serves as a reminder that we can worship anytime, anywhere. RATING: 4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS

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TIM TIMMONS Awake Our Souls In a video about his new album Awake Our Souls, Tim Timmons says, “It’s really this invitation for people to move past the theology of what the Kingdom of God is into the practical.” Continuing, he describes a process of asking himself what it looks like to seek first the Kingdom of God in daily life. His constant desire is to put his pop-mixed-with-worship songs, he calls prayers, into action, and he encourages his listeners to a similar goal. For Tim, surviving, by God’s grace, a 14-year-old diagnosis of an incurable cancer that should have taken his life nine years ago, according to a doctor’s assessment, the album represents a new perspective—even in the midst of sorrow and calamity—that he hopes his listeners will grab hold of. It’s in surrendering to Jesus that we awaken to the fullness of God and a joy that is deeper than our circumstances. RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS

JASON CRABB Whatever the Road Grammy award-winning artist Jason Crabb considers his new album Whatever the Road his most personal album, having co-written seven of the 10 tracks. Spanning country, southern gospel and pop with his strong vocals, and pouring himself into the songs, he offers a message of hope. He reassures us that God is always with us, whatever directions we head in life, and “He knows what he’s doing.” Whatever the Road may have some crossover appeal, with tracks such as “It’s a Good Life” and “Mysterious Ways,” that use the straightforward storytelling approach and musical style common in mainstream country music. Jason’s voice is a great fit for that genre, too. Whatever the Road is real-life music wrapped in comforting encouragement. RATING: 4.25 OUT OF 5 STARS

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• The majority of magazines accept this kind of article. If you gathered up the magazines in your home, you’d be surprised how many have them; you just may not have noticed. • A personal experience article can tell someone else’s story. After writing my own story, I found other people who had good stories to write about. You can find leads from newspaper articles, friends, and even celebrities. One day I was reading the newspaper and read about a woman who had an organization helping people with the same disease she had. It sounded like she was a Christian and I wondered whether I should write about her. But I felt hesitant, not wanting to be rejected. Thinking my husband would give me an excuse because he wouldn’t think it was a good idea, I asked him what he thought. He immediately said, “Sounds great. Go for it!” Oh no, now I would have to do it. And I did. I interviewed her, wrote then sold it.

n the podcast




Acts 4:20 says, “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” That is how most of us feel: I can’t not write this! My own writing career began with an article of how God delivered me from being a child abuser. That article, which was the first I ever sold, has been reprinted six times. I’ve also rewritten that story from different angles for five other articles. In addition, those stories have been reprinted numerous times. And my story was the basis for my first book!

An article telling your story might open doors for speaking. Many events feature someone sharing their testimony. When someone reads about yours in a magazine, they might contact you for a speaking engagement. Your article can be a promotion for your book. If your article is a part of one of your books, you can include that it’s adapted from your book. Even if it’s not, your bio, which most magazines have, can include your book’s title. The main goal of personal experience articles is to give glory to God for His work in your life. Such stories cause the reader to think, “If she can go through that trusting God, then I can trust God with my problems.” What a thrill that will be for you to know you made a difference in someone’s life. S —KATHY COLLARD MILLER


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Unbeknownst to you, the power shut off for two hours during the night, so your alarm didn’t sound, and you overslept. You hit heavier traffic since you left later, and that, added to your long commute, made you late to work. An unexpected lunch meeting stole your opportunity to take a much-needed break, not to mention the need to eat a decent meal. Several stressful client calls filled your afternoon, a bad accident slowed highway traffic on your way home, and it feels like you’re coming down with a cold. Once home, your college-age daughter calls needing money for two textbooks and lab fees, and you receive a frantic call for the women’s ministry director reminding you that the budget for the upcoming women’s conference (you volunteered to be the ministry treasurer) has been slashed by a third, but you’ve already booked a much sought-after speaker. Your husband and young-

er kids then arrive expecting dinner to be ready, the kids need help with their homework, and the husband is winking amorously hinting, “Later, okay Babe?” Then there are times when individual days may not be “bad” in and of themselves, but we could be living through prolonged personal issues. Perhaps we’re praying for an adult child’s deliverance, a parent’s healing, or some financial relief. No matter how hard we pray, there’s no change. Be of good cheer. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “To everything there is a season.” Of course, I can’t tell you when it will happen, but the good news that comforts the child of God is the fact that times do change and breakthroughs do happen. By the end of Joshua, chapter 21, after all the children of Israel had been through, they had finally taken possession of the land God had promised to their forefathers. Verse 45 says, “Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.” This reminded me of another verse. Psalm 84:11 ends by saying, “ good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

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Here are other verses about a “good thing.” • Psalm 34:10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing • Psalm 92:1 It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High: (KJV) • Proverbs 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD. • Jeremiah 33:14-15 ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah: ‘In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David a Branch of righteousness; he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. • Philemon 1:6 ...that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. • Hebrews 13:9 Be not carried about with divers and


--------strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. (KJV) Since God created us all with individuality, the “good thing” He supplies to me may not be the same as the “good thing” He supplies to you. The timing of the receipt will also vary, but that’s okay. To me, a good thing is yet another great book idea, but the publishing of that book could take two years. For you, a good thing might be a hike in a lovely forest and you can take that hike this weekend. Either way, the good thing and the timing of its enjoyment are supplied by God at His pleasure. Worship God today by faith knowing that your good thing—your breakthrough—is on its way. S


NANCY ALCORN established Mercy Ministries of America in January 1983. God had called Nancy to help hurting young women find freedom and have their ives transformed. The organization has grown beyond the borders of the United States, including locations in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada. EDNA ELLISON wrote Friend to Friend, a Philippians Bible study for church leaders to use as a short devotional at the beginning of planning meetings—or for a mentor to use with her “merea” (Hebrew for “dear young friend”).

meet linda

LINDA EVANS SHEPHERD @LINDASHEPHERD is publisher of Leading Hearts magazine. She is also a best-selling author, an in-demand speaker, and president of Right to the Heart ministries. She is founder of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA). She lives in Colorado with husband Paul, daughter Laura and son Jimmy.

PAM FARREL along with husband Bill are speakers and authors of 40 books including their newest: 7 Simple Skills for Success for Men. For more information visit RHONDA RHEA is an author, humor columnist and radio personality. She lives in the St. Louis area with her pastor-hubs and has five grown children. HEATHER RIGGLEMAN is an author, multi-award winning music artist and songwriter. JENNIFER TAYLOR is a music and profile contributor for Leading Hearts magazine.

meet amber

AMBER WEIGAND-BUCKLEY @BAREFACEDGIRL is managing editor and art director for Leading Hearts magazine. She is a writer, speaker and multi-award winning editor, having spent 19 years in the magazine industry. When not working on Leading Hearts, she provides communications and social media support for non-profits and missionaries. She and her Brit-native husband Philip live in Missouri with their three daughters: Saffron, Imogen and Penelope.


PENELOPE CARLEVATO is an author of Tea on the Titanic and First Class Etiquette. She speaks on hospitality, historical entertaining, and etiquette and manners for all ages and all occasions. Penelope lives in the Denver, CO. area and is the grandmother of 11. MICHELLE S. COX is an author and speaker and the creator of the Just 18 Summers® parenting resources and products.To visit her parenting blog go to and SHARON NORRIS ELLIOTT’S engaging yet challenging messages touch hearts and tickle the funny-bones of her audiences, making her a popular, sought-after speaker. She and husband James enjoy their empty nest in Southern California. KATHY COLLARD MILLER is a speaker and author whose newest book Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today released in January. Find her at REBEKAH BINKLEY MONTGOMERY is author of Faithprints. Find her online at PETE SULACK is the founder and majority owner of one of the largest chiropractic clinics in North America. His studies on the effects of stress, coupled with testimonials from patients and attention in medical communities have garnered him the title of “America’s Leading Stress Expert.” HEATHER VAN ALLEN, music review columnist for Leading Hearts magazine, finds some tunes in her earbuds to be a great way to get into the writing zone. She writes from her home in Springfield, MO. KAREN WHITING is an international speaker, award-winning author of eighteen books and former television host. Check out her book, The One Year Devotions for Active Boys, that helps engage boys and sparks creativity.

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Leading Hearts November/December 2015 Issue  

Do you need to break through the noise of the season filled with parties and packages to receive fresh insight for your life or ministry? Ar...

Leading Hearts November/December 2015 Issue  

Do you need to break through the noise of the season filled with parties and packages to receive fresh insight for your life or ministry? Ar...