FROM THE PUBLISHER
LINDA EVANS SHEPHERD
A WORD TO INSPIRE YOU AS SOON AS I FINISHED MY TALK ON PURPOSE, A CROWD OF PEOPLE STEPPED INTO LINE TO CHAT WITH ME. One woman waited until it was her turn, then shared, “I’m so afraid I’ll miss my purpose.” Sue burst into tears. “Sometimes I quake inside thinking I’ve already missed it.” I took Sue’s hand. “When it comes to stepping into purpose, all you have to do is take it one step at a time.” Sue wiped her tears and laughed, her face glowing. “Of course, you would tell me that. That’s exactly what I tell the girls at the college where I work.” I grinned. “Wait, you encourage college girls at work?” She nodded. “Think about it. Encouraging young women is a very important purpose.” A light dawned in Sue’s eyes and she smiled. “I guess it is.” “Have you ever considered that maybe you’re already walking into your purpose?” Sue beamed. “I never thought about it like that before. Maybe I am!” Living into your purpose doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a professional career as a minister. In fact, you may never have to preach, work on a mission field, write a book, sing from the stage or speak to thousands. You can do these things if you’re called, of course. But like many, you can actually press into your purpose with the quiet encouragements you give to the others in your life.” As I told my new friend, “The most holy purpose I’ve ever lived was not the talks I’ve given or books I’ve written; my most holy purpose was being a mother to my children.” “Your daughter was disabled?” she asked. “Yes, she was. And Laura lived a life of love, peace and joy. Serving my disabled daughter was my divine purpose, a purpose I’m glad I didn’t miss.” And that’s the word for my opening: the word “purpose.” Purpose is taking the next step and living a life of love. Purpose is being courageous and saying yes to God in each moment, and not being discouraged when you have to take a detour from your routine or celebrated cause. I’ve learned that detours will never sidetrack you but help provide a more direct route to where God wants to take you. That’s because purpose is living your life one day, one divine interruption, at a time. It’s like Philippians 2:13 describes, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (NLT). It pleases Him that you want Him to lead you. Now all you have to do is trust that He will. In this issue of Leading Hearts, each of our writers will bring you a word that inspires them, a word that they are trying to live into this year. So be encouraged by their words and be inspired by their testimonies. Let their words, through the power of the Spirit, go from their hearts to yours.
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VOL. 6, ISSUE 6
LEADING HEARTS EMPOWERING CHRISTIAN WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP
PUBLISHER. .......... ............. Linda Evans Shepherd EDITOR/ART DIRECTOR......... Amber Weigand-Buckley LAYOUT EDITOR.................. Tom Young COPY EDITORS. .................. Breanna Berry & Tom Young ADVERTISING..................... Linda Evans Shepherd CONTRIBUTORS. .... ............. Breanna Berry, Penelope Carlevato, Michelle S. Cox, Saundra Dalton-Smith, Pam Farrel, Edie Melson, Karen Porter, Janell Rardon, Rhonda Rhea, Cynthia L. Simmons, Jennifer Taylor, Heather Van Allen, Karen Whiting, Shea Wilbur.
Right to the Heart Board Members Linda Evans Shepherd (President), Dianne Butts, Linda Goldfarb, Edie Melson, Karen Porter, Rhonda Rhea, Carole Whang Schutter and Joy A. Schneider
Leading Hearts magazine for Christian Women is published bimonthly by Right to the Heart Ministries 2020. ISSN 2380-5455 ADVERTISING | Display rates are available at leadinghearts. com. 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 leadinghearts.com.
CONTENTS FEATURES 8 BREANNABERRY
Real Church Ladies: Cynthia L. Simmons
5 Tools to Survive the Sting of Conflict
A Simply Beautiful Word
Shea Wilbur: Keeping It Real
39 KARENWHITING A Light to My Path
42 RHONDARHEA Packing a Peace
COLUMNS 12 KARENPORTER
In the Lead: God Is Looking
Finding Peace in Life’s Journey
What’s a Leader to Do?
30 BOOKSTOREAD 31 CYNTHIALSIMMONS The Big Question
MEMBER | 2015-2016-2017-2018-2019 Evangelical Press Association Award of Merit Winner — Christian Ministry Digital Publication
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Copyright ©2020 Right to the Heart Ministries. All rights reserved. Copyrighted material reprinted with permission. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
When God Calls the Heart to Diligence Health Tracks: Boost Your Confidence Prayer Circle: Praying Into the Vision
38 MUSICREVIEWS 40 SHAEWILBUR Leading Lady
FROM THE EDITOR
THE GIFT IN
YOUR PRESENT I’VE BEEN SITTING HERE FOR THE PAST WEEK WITH A VIDEO ON REPEAT.
It was January 4, 2020, my father-in-law John Buckley’s last birthday. At 91 years of age, he was surrounded by my husband and daughter, his wife and friends as they sang “Happy Birthday” round the table. Glasses raised, smiles on faces. Who would have known this would be the last time he would wear those paper crowns from those traditional British Christmas crackers or the last time he would ask Mum if she wanted cream on her cake? No one knew it would be the last time we saw him blow out his candles. And right now it seems like one of the most precious moments in the world to me that I have caught on video. As I write this, it’s just a week since we received the phone call from Mum that he passed away peacefully at home — with a beautiful smile on his face. If I have relearned anything in the first few months of 2020, it’s this: It's those little things that mean so much when the big things of life forever alter the present. To appreciate the present, we must realize it’s just that — a gift that will do no good if we don’t take all those little things out of the box and meaningfully make time to enjoy them. And that is so hard to focus on when you are going through life simply checking off a daily to-do list. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Numbering my days is not just a gigantic countdown on my clock; it’s adding value to those days, making each day count for something bigger than checking things off that list. And, that’s hard to do when you have so many roles to fill in the business of just doing life. But this one week was another reminder. God, please help me acknowledge the treasure of the past and see the “present” in my present and open the box with my mindful presence. That means pushing to-do lists to the side and mindfully connecting with others, acknowledging the treasure they impart into my life. Leaving this world with a smile on your face. Not just because of the heaven you’re going to, but the beautiful reflection of a life mindfully focused on unwrapping each precious present with loving kindness, compassion, serving and of course, laughing. I hope this issue of Leading Hearts inspires you with words to help shift your perspective in the year ahead so that you might gain the greatest gift in your present. LOVE,
EDITOR, Leading Hearts Magazine
My goal in the series is to talk about how pursuing God is the same thing as pursuing gold. If you value the Lord and things of the Lord, then youâ€™re going to be better off.
BY BREANNA BERRY | INTERN
Cynthia L. Simmons PURSUING
A WIFE. A MOTHER. AN INNOVATOR. A BELIEVER. CYNTHIA SIMMONS IS ALL THIS AND MORE, all of which can be seen through her acts of service as an author, speaker, media coach, radio host and nurse. To help others pursue God, Cynthia shares her experiences and love for history to teach and guide everyone toward Scripture. Q: I understand that you do a podcast for young mothers and homeschool mothers. Tell me about your intentions for that and what exactly the podcast entails. CYNTHIA: Every week I interview someone and talk about all kinds of topics that women need and talk about. Last week I did one on how to dress and be out the door in 15 minutes yet look really great. I did one on how you can have joy in
every circumstance, regardless of going through hard times. I’ve talked to women about how to get through hard times with your kids, how to teach them, how to stay in touch with your husband. I interview all the time. Q: Does this podcast relate to what you call your “Cynthia Chats”? CYNTHIA: My Cynthia Chats are short videos, 6 to 7 minutes. I take a passage of Scripture or something out of Psalms and just give some advice or guidance about being a mom. They’re short and sweet. From those I’ll be doing a curriculum for kids. I can give moms more information that they can expand with their kids. They can go into science or history or whatever else. I have five kids, and I homeschooled for over 20 years.
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-continued from p. 9The youngest was disabled, so I have a lot of experience teaching different kinds of kids. I have all kinds of ideas on how to teach kids stuff. Q: You have also been working on this trilogy series. The first book, Pursuing Gold, is out now. The other two are in process. What is the overlying theme for this series, and how did you try to convey that, especially with Pursuing Gold? CYNTHIA: Well, Pursuing Gold is all about the history of money, especially in the Civil War era. Until about 1860, we mainly used coin rather than paper. My goal in the series is to talk about how pursuing God is the same thing as pursuing gold. If you value the Lord and things of the Lord, then you’re going to be better off. The last one will be Reflecting Gold because we have gold, and now we’re going to reflect that to the world. It’s all about a pursuit of God and living by Scripture so that your life is better, and you can minister to other people. Q: So, was being able to pursue God what drove you to write the trilogy? CYNTHIA: I’ve been interested in money and the history of money because I love history. I started playing around and I found out more and more and more. In fact, I’m still learning, but I thought this was a good lesson I can teach. I mean, why study history if you’re not going to learn from it? Anytime I can take history and use it as a lesson, not only have I taught history, but I’ve also taught someone to love God more and live according to the Scriptures. Jesus told stories, so why shouldn’t I? Q: A home school curriculum just came out, Pursuing Gold: A History and Critical Thinking Curriculum. How exactly did you design this for home school mothers? CYNTHIA: Well, having done it for 100 years, or at least what felt like 100 years, I kind of knew what kids liked and what they were interested in. For each chapter of Pursuing Gold, I pulled something out that would be interesting and told a little history of everything through the story. I also gave little things for them to do, like puzzles and word searches. I also taught critical thinking. There’s just
so much stuff out there with the media and there’s just so many messages that we’re getting. You have to teach kids to look at them and think through them. I was always teaching that to my own kids. At the end of it, I put in a little section on how to handle money and debt and how to study history with your kids and give them a sense of time. Q: Cynthia, you are someone who I think falls under the category of an innovator. What inspired you to do what you do? CYNTHIA: I married a very godly man, and we had such a beautiful family and beautiful home. It was largely because he was leading us and teaching us Scripture. I also learned much while homeschooling, and I want to share what the Lord gave me. That’s what motivates me. My little mantra is offering the elegance of God’s wisdom, but in a way, I kind of want to be a spiritual mom to these young mothers that are just getting started. Q: Growing up, did you ever imagine that this is where you would be at in life? CYNTHIA: No, I didn’t. I enjoyed the idea of writing, but I planned on being a nurse. I did become a registered nurse and pediatric nurse for years. I just didn’t expect to be doing all of this, but I discovered that I like to talk and I think I have a gift that I know how to get the message across. Q: Who would you say has been your biggest supporter throughout all of this? CYNTHIA: My husband and my kids have all been supporting me, standing behind me saying, “you can do it.” Q: If you could give a word of advice to close on, what would you say? CYNTHIA: Well, I think about what David said, “I have been young, and now I am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25 KJV). I would say to young people, “You’re going to be so much better off if you live according to the Word than if you just do what feels good. It works out better in the long run.” I’ve learned that from experience, and I’ve seen that so many times in other lives. I really believe that following God is the best way to go.
LOOKING KAREN PORTER | KARENPORTER.COM
Will I be a leader who looks to God before I strike out to lead others? Will I be a person who will point others to Christ in a winsome and loving way?
WHEN I WAS A LITTLE GIRL, MY DADDY PLAYED SILLY GAMES WITH ME AS MANY FATHERS DO. He sang a nonsense song with a catchy tune. I was looking back to see If you were looking back to see If I was looking back to see If you were looking back to see If I…. As the song went on and on, we sang each line with greater enthusiasm. I giggled and he laughed. What fun we had. I’ve been thinking about a verse for 2020. The number almost begs us to adopt a theme using something to do with 20/20 vision and how this year can be the year we get a clear view of God’s will and purpose. Then I thought about Psalm 14:2 which is kind of like the song my daddy sang.
INTHELEAD The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. Psalm 14:2 NLT
marriage? Look for Him in the middle of everyday life and tragic situations and in little ones who are growing and wondering and in the stressed-out people in your home. Look for Him; you will find Him.
God is looking down to see if I’m looking up to see.
If we leaders commit to seeing God in all of life’s situations this year, we will not only see His power at work, we will be compelled to join in and become part of His plan.
The verse leads me to the biggest question for 2020. Will I seek God this year? Will I be the one who God sees when He looks at the entire human race because I will I be looking up to find Him? The idea is really all that matters in this new year. Will I be a leader who looks to God before I strike out to lead others? Will I be a person who will point others to Christ in a winsome and loving way? How can we live out Psalm 14:2 in 2020?
Look for God at Work In her study series, Groundings, Candie Blankman says we are grounded in Christ when we are “noticing God at work in ourselves and others, and opening ourselves up to being part of what God is doing in and around and through us every day.” God is at work. Are we looking for it? Candie continues, “In Groundings, we like to say that Christ is present and powerfully at work in every square inch of the universe writing the Kingdom story. The only difference is whether we notice it and whether we offer our story to be a part of the bigger story of God’s Kingdom work in the world.” Is God at work in the person in the cubicle next to you? Is God at work in the homeless man on the street corner? Is God at work in the children in your home? Is God at work in the tense situation in your
Look at Others Kindness and attention to others go together like a hand in a glove. Make it your goal in 2020 to notice others, especially those who are new to your group or seem timid. Meet them. Tell them your name. Ask their name. Find out what is valuable and important to them by asking questions because you genuinely want to hear the answers. You will meet the most interesting people this way. Introduce them to others in your group. Remember their name. Determine that you are going to be the best at searching the room for people you’ve never met before. Paul said Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10 ESV We would all love to have 20/20 vision in our eyes and in our day-to-day life. Most of us need glasses or contacts to see clearly, and as we consider the future, we can’t always be sure we have focused on exactly what will happen. But when we look to God and we see that He is looking right back at us, we can be sure that His vision is always perfect. Will you be the one who is looking?
When confronted by the mean words/actions of others, yield immediately by praying three words: God help me.
5 TOOLS TO SURVIVE
THE STING OF CONFLICT JANELL RARDON | JANELLRARDON.COM
STANDING IN AN OLD CORNFIELD WITH NOTHING BUT A SLEEVELESS BLOUSE AND JEANS TO PROTECT ME, THOUSANDS OF BEES BUZZED AROUND ME. “Should I be nervous?” I asked Greg, my novicebeekeeping-pastor, who graciously invited me into his world of beekeeping. Knowing I was working on a manuscript centered around the concept of spiritual unity, he wanted to show me a few things he had learned by observing his bees. “Oh, no,” he said. “Just stay out of their flight pattern. Move a little to the left and you'll be fine.” “They have a flight pattern?” I gazed about. “Yeah, sure. See? You can see them coming in for a landing. Straight to the hive.” “Got it,” I said. “Let me get out of their way.”
He smiled. “As long as a bee doesn’t feel threatened, everything is OK.” Greg’s words were the aha moment I’d been waiting for. “Wow, Greg,” I said. “You were right. Your little bees do have a lesson for me and my readers.” It seems we are all OK until a threat enters our “perceived flight path,” i.e., our domain of home, work, family, relationships, ministry or leadership. When We Are Threatened In the “real world of humans,” getting in the flight pattern of someone is often referred to as “relationship discord,” or if really intense, “relational aggression,” i.e., bullying others through mean words (verbal), actions or attitudes (non-verbal). We are human, which means we will be imperfect, and as Dr. Sandra Wilson writes in Hurt People Hurt People, “Hurt people hurt others because they themselves have been hurt. And each one
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-continued on p. 15of us has been hurt to one degree or another. As that damage causes us to become defensive and self-protective, we may lash out at others. Hurting becomes a vicious cycle.”
Maybe you are in the flight pattern of someone, right now. The sting of disunity is causing a big red welt of emotional angst in your heart. You need an antidote and have no idea where to look.
These unhealthy behaviors happen in all types of “hives” — the home, workplace, school, community activities and even in church. Sometimes it is blatant and in your face. Sometimes it is hidden under the facade of well-meaning suggestions, advice or counsel. Sometimes it is wrapped in sarcasm or ill-fitting humor. Other times it the result of differing opinions, world views or personality types. This hurt can be intentional or unintentional. No matter how they are delivered, these behaviors leave a very painful sting of disunity.
I’ve been there, and if I am honest, I’ve delivered the sting of disunity, too. As a result, I realized the first place I needed to look was my own heart. Thousands of books and resources have been created around solving this problem, but I found one great piece of advice that helped me the most. Tucked in Leviticus 19:17-18. “Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
TOP 5 TOOLS OF UNITY Knowing I would need a lot of practice in this area, I created an Emergency Response Plan, which I lovingly call “The Unity Tool,” based on the words of Leviticus.
understanding as I interact with others on a daily basis. There are many systems available. Just find the right one for you.
1. Use your voice. In my work, I equate
Gunderson advises, “Be concise when confronting someone. If not, you lose power. Being concise means, you stick to one issue. You use facts, not feelings. Be specific about the issue at hand.” This will take practice, but eventually, it becomes second nature.
“voice” with “value.” When you know your Godbreathed identity (Genesis 2:7), i.e., your value, worth, and dignity, you behave accordingly. Take the necessary time to develop your own healthy behaviors and communication skills. Learn how to respond, not react. You are the only person you can change, so start there.
2. Nourish your soul. During my own
emotional health crisis, I found another passage in Ecclesiastes 4:6, “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” When we move through life from a posture of exhaustion, fatigue and emotional depletion, we are more likely to have less emotional reserve. Take good care of your heart, mind and body.
3. Increase your relationship skills. A real game changer in my own capacity to get along well with others is understanding that each individual has different personality traits, opinions and ideas than myself. This allows me to be more
4. Take the direct road. Writer Garrett
5. Yield the confrontation to God.
When confronted by the mean words/actions of others, yield immediately by praying three words: God help me. It is my automatic go-to mental mechanism. Viktor Frankl suggests that “between the stimulus and the response, there is a space,” and I call that, “a sacred space,” in which we choose to react or respond. That choice makes all the difference. Always remember, though, that sometimes, no matter hard we try to keep the peaceful spirit of unity, personalities clash, perceptions differ and painful encounters happen. If this is the case, remember the wisdom of Paul in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
l u f i t U O e Y B
BEAUTIFUL WORD PAM FARREL | LOVE-WISE.COM
WE ALL WANT A SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL LIFE, RIGHT? In my book 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success in Keeping It All Together, I share about my “Word of the Year” process that I have been doing since I was a college student. Every. year — yes, 40 years of selecting a “Word of the Year” to focus my walk with God. And it is not just one word; it is the myriad of things God has laid upon my heart to weave the word through my life so its impact can be maximized throughout the year.
It is not just one word; it is the myriad of things God has laid upon my heart to weave the word through my life so its impact can be maximized throughout the year.
Selecting a “Word of Intent” in January, then practicing it each day, has helped me: Reach goals; Press on during tough times; Enrich relationships; Clarify my calling; Improve the inner me and Shrink the outer me! I speak, teach, coach and mentor women on gaining a Simply Beautiful Life using tools like the “Your Best Year Ever!” worksheet (available in a Women’s Version and a Couple’s Version). This is a worksheet I first created for me as a poster that would be a reminder of key elements of my “Word of the Year” process: My Word of the Year: Narrow it down by asking, “Who do I want to become?” or “What do I want/need more of?” Verse of the Year: Select a Scripture that captures your word in a way that resonates with your soul. Motto of the Year: Create or grab a phrase that motivates you (something you would put on a coffee mug, T-shirt, or bumper sticker).
Song of the Year: Find a song with your word in the title or better yet, over and over in the lyrics! Now I create a playlist of several songs that worship God with my selected “Word of the Year” that I play on my morning prayer walk Fragrance or Essential Oil of the Year: There are so many scents that can connect to your word. Having a scent you can smell all day reminds you of the path you have chosen to walk with God. I wear the perfume, lotion or essential oil. Clarifying Question of the Year. This is the most vital part of the “Word of the Year” process because you will ask yourself this question over and over each day all year to stay focused and obedient to the plan God is laying out for you. Let me give you a few recent examples: BeYOUtiful: I wanted my life to reflect the beauty I saw in nature as our Creator intended.
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-continued from p. 19Verse of the Year: “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Symbol/Art of the Year: I made a mixed-media painting, bought a workout tee, mug, plaque for my window, makeup bag, journal, a necklace and bracelet — all with BeYOUtiful on them. Clarifying question: Will this choice make me, my life, my home and my relationships more beautiful? Adventure: I wanted to trust God more, expand my borders, live braver and bolder. I thought this meant God would send us on more overseas ministry mission trips or assign some grand new book to us to write that might cause a movement or revival — nope. That was the year God called us to downsize and sell (or rather give away to people in ministry) almost all our possessions, sell our home (and office and ministry building on our property) and move on to a 42-foot BOAT! We needed to move to care for Bill’s now 90-year-old parents. My motto was “The Adventure Awaits,” and I bought all things sailboat as a symbol of keeping that spirit of adventure on the dull and depressing days of sorting, packing, selling and moving. My clarifying question became, “Will this help me hold on to my adventurous spirit?” Strong: I always begin praying about my “Word of the Year” Thanksgiving Day. I like to allow God to speak His plan to me in the reverence of the Christmas season. I never press myself to have a word by Jan. 1; sometimes it is early in January that God lays out His word for me. One year, I had started the year making wise health choices, but I began to cheat, (Thin Mints® have the word THIN in them, right?) I also began to be lackadaisical and was “too busy” to track my food and calories, wear a pedometer (before the days of Fitbit), and too busy to walk my 10,000 steps a day or exercise much. In late November, I was speaking up in altitude and I had an “episode.” My heart began to race then beat out of rhythm. I got dizzy, had a splitting headache and was out of breath. The wheels were coming off my lazy bus! Early that next January, I attended the Wellness Week that I always attend through First Place 4 Health. There they do encouragement, equipping and inspiration for a healthier happier life; they also run bloodwork. The nurse called me in a panic. “Did you know you are diabetic?” “I was aware I have been borderline.” “You are well past any border. You need to get to a Doctor ASAP!” Well, I was out in the back pastures of the lovely cattle land of Texas, so I decided to phone a new doctor. He was a ministry friend, but I had not yet gone to him for medical treatment because my insurance didn’t cover him. But I thought, “If I am dead, I can’t spend that money — so I am investing in my wellness!”
I first phoned my husband and asked him to pray. Then because it was too late to call, I prayed, God speak to me Your encouragement — even as I sleep. At 5 a.m. my cell went off with a text message devotional that read: Get up! God has set His alarm clock, and it is time to overcome every weight, every infirmity, every sickness, every bondage that has tried to strangle the physical, emotional and spiritual life out of you. It doesn’t matter how long you have been bound, stop hitting the snooze button and GET UP! —Ron Parsley, World Harvest So, guess what I did. I GOT UP! I called my husband and said, “I am choosing STRONG for my “Word of the Year”. And the verse is Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do” (NET). Bill said, “Let’s team up and both have STRONG for our ‘Word of the Year’!” Then I called my new doctor. He told me to only eat lean meat, lots of green veggies and very little fruit and no grains until I could get into his office 4 weeks later due to my speaking schedule. I was given a “Stay Strong” tee by my First Place 4 Health friends. I added “Stronger” by Mandisa to my playlist and Vitalize essential oil to my defuser. Our clarifying question was “Will this make me, my marriage, my family, my ministry and my life STRONGER? At the end of that year I had lost 50 pounds (which I have kept off) and all my health numbers returned to healthy! With powerful results like this, I am looking forward to my year of CHARA — that’s Greek for JOY. Last year I co-authored Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience. I learned chara, or joy, is in the New Testament more than 100 times; one of the meanings or definitions of “joy” is my motto for 2020: Calm Delight. The reason I love that meaning is it is also a great clarifying question for me to use on those very stressful days of deadlines, caregiving elderly parents, and travel hassles. All I have to ask myself to regain my joy is: What will bring calm to me? What will calm the situation? What will bring delight to me? What would be a delightful distraction? How can I delight myself in the Lord right now? I am looking forward to seeing how God fulfills his promise. My verse of the year:
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.. —John 15:11 It’s going to be a joy jubilee in 2020!
If God has something for you, thatâ€™s something you have regardless of your abilities
BY JENNIFER TAYLOR | MUSIC CONTRIBUTOR
KEEPING IT REAL
KNOWN AS A TV HOST, CASTING PRODUCER, STYLE EXPERT AND MORE, SHAE WILBUR HAS GRACED THE STAGES OF THE REAL, THE WENDY WILLIAMS SHOW, E! NEWS AND MANY MORE SHOWS. These days, however, the multi-talented star is reconnecting with her musical roots and reminding the world of her stardom as a singer/songwriter. As the daughter of musician Joel Chernoff, Shae grew up around music and remembers being on stage with her father as young as 8 years old. “Music was part of my life from the beginning. My dad was a worship pastor and a musician. I have early memories of him playing the piano in our living room and me sitting next to him while he was playing these songs. So, music was really part of my upbringing in a pretty big way,” she said. “I always knew music was something I was probably going to be called to do. I didn’t know if music was going to be the only thing or part of it, but I grew up with the knowledge that music would be a big part of my life in one way or another. It has turned out to be a big thing.”
Her passion for music eventually led her to audition for American Idol, where she was a contestant on season eight. The show opened the doors for her musically and also as a casting producer. “I have found so much joy with going to work with American Idol and helping people achieve their dreams. I can relate to them and connect with them being in the spotlight and knowing all the struggles from being on the show myself. I know what it feels like,” she said. “It has really been fulfilling for me and I truly love it. I’ve been able to watch them come from the middle of nowhere in Louisiana, playing in little restaurants, and suddenly, they’re on the Idol stage where they’re able to become a household name eventually. It’s pretty cool.” In 2019, Shae released her new Unmovable EP and invited her fellow season eight contestant Danny Gokey to sing on the title track with her. “Unmovable was written out of a really hard time that my husband and I were going through here in LA. It was kind of one of those seasons where we were asking, ‘God, why did You move us here? Did You move us here? Did we hear You wrong? What are we doing here?’ It was a very low point for us. We were ready to pack up our apartment, move
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A Spectacular Guide to Intercessory Prayer Linda Evans Shepherd,
an award-winning author, successful speaker, and media personality, guides you on how to bring your burdens to Godâ€”and expect answers.
N 24 leadinghearts.com
Shae noted there are many doors that close, and that can lead into a spiraling questioning of everything. She loves the verse because it’s a reminder that God will open or shut the doors according to His will and regardless of her or man’s ideal. “I think in this industry you may be constantly putting yourself out there and auditioning. This girl got the job, and I didn’t get the job. Why didn’t I get the job? Did I not do good enough? Was I not myself enough? You tend to think it’s all about you,” she said. “So, if God opens those doors for me, regardless of how I did or didn’t do, it would have been mine. And I think that applies for anything in this world. If God has something for you, that’s something you have regardless of your abilities.” Shae encourages everyone to go after what God has called them to do. “The Bible says He will give us the desires of our heart if we delight ourselves in Him, if we seek Him first. So, I would say go after your dreams and do what you can,” she said.
-continued from p. 23back to Florida, and go about our lives. It was really tough,” she said. “We felt like we were getting attacked from all angles. A lot of times it’s hard to find the words to say to yourself to flip that switch in your mind so you can focus on God and what He is really saying to you and finding that strength. Sometimes you have to speak out those words or go to the Bible and find those verses that give you the strength to take the next step and wake up the next day. The song was birthed out of that whole sentiment.
“I would encourage people, go after your dreams wherever you are, whatever city you are in. If you want to start doing music, start doing music. Start playing around where you are. Start posting on YouTube. Start using your Instagram to build a following. If you want to do TV, start trying to get into your local market. Don’t wait for other people to come alongside you and give you opportunities. You have to create opportunities for yourself. That’s what I’ve had to do in my career, along with a lot of prayer and guidance from God, as well as help from my husband and his wisdom. Go after it and do it wherever you are.”
“Lyrically, I was writing what I was needing to say to myself at that moment. I pray the song will help people the same way it helped me to refocus my heart and mind on God and remember that everything is a season. Thank God!” Since Shae and her husband, Joel, moved out to LA they have clung to the words of Isaiah 22:22, “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open” (ESV).
IN LIFE’S JOURNEY PENELOPE CARLEVATO, RN | PENELOPECARLEVATO.COM
DO YOU EVER HAVE DAYS WHEN YOU ARE EXPERIENCING ANYTHING BUT PEACE? Life seems disjointed and
aimless? Many days I feel overwhelmed by all the things on my to-do list. I want peace and joy, but instead, I feel anxious and worried. What’s a girl to do? Immediately my thoughts go to Matthew 6:33 — “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” He is the answer as we will never entirely elude this world’s turbulence, but we can be safe with Him. It’s like joy. We won’t have a place where there is no trouble or heartache, but we can obtain peace and joy amid life’s journey. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
Jesus has already promised us peace that is vastly different from what the world offers. It is not fleeting or superficial. 26 leadinghearts.com
Our pastor’s first message of the year was on peace, which also happened to be my “word” for the year. I guess I’m not the only one seeking peace. Anxiety is rampant in our society. The National Institute of Mental Health reports occasional anxiety is part of life, but when it doesn’t go away, it can interfere with our daily activities, work and social interactions. Barnes and Noble announced there is a massive surge in the sale of books about anxiety. It becomes a problem when it goes beyond worry and begins to take away our power to reason and cope with stressful situations. With over 7 million people affected by anxiety in the U.S., it made our pastor’s sermon more relevant than I thought. I pray that many in the congregation have new hope. One of his main bullet points was peace is a practice, focusing our reliance on God. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Jesus has already promised us peace that is vastly different from what the world offers. It is not fleeting or superficial; it’s real and can transform the everyday activities of our lives. It’s a choice to habitually look to the Lord for our peace and practice seeking Him and the peace He offers. Here are three daily practices I am implementing to create and cultivate a life of peace and joy:
Spend time with Jesus. As a believer in Christ, we already have the promise of peace in our lives. He is the Prince of Peace. Our peace doesn’t depend on what we do or what happens in our life. We decide every morning to have peace because of what Jesus did on the cross. Stop over committing. We tend to think we can do more than we really can. We rush around doing the urgent but miss the best and important things. Stop trying to do what God has never called you to do. Keep this saying in mind before saying yes: “If the devil can’t make you sin, he will make you busy.” Set goals and prioritize time. Our lives probably aren’t going to get less busy, but we can choose what we do and keep a healthy schedule. There will be some busy times in our calendar, but make sure ½ cup green pepper, chopped it’s doing what God has called you to do. Ask God for guidance as you invest in what is most important ½ cup chopped celery ⅓ cup shredded carrots and not urgent. 1 tablespoon A.1.® Sauce Breaking old patterns is hard. I need to heed the Salt and pepper to taste call Christ has on my life daily. Only then will I have Mix all the ingredients well. Press the meat mixture the life I always wanted — Peace and Joy. into muffin tin. One of the many things we do each day is to Top each one with a small amount of ketchup or prepare meals for our family. I make out a meal barbecue sauce. plan for the week and make sure I have all the ingredients on hand. It’s a simple task that I can Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. do on Saturdays and avoid those last-minute trips Makes 12 mini meatloaves. to the grocery store. Meal planning helps manage my time better and makes meal preparation easier. Serve with a starch of your choice and a tossed green salad. It also answers the nagging question, “What’s for dinner?” There is a lot of peace in knowing the answer! My daughter shared this idea of having mini meatloaf for dinner. This recipe is perfect for a weeknight dinner as it cooks quickly and is excellent as leftovers.
Muffin Tin Mini Meatloaf Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease muffin tins 1 pound ground beef or turkey ⅓ cup oatmeal 1 egg, beaten ¼ cup milk ⅓ cup ketchup 1 garlic clove, minced ½ cup onion, chopped
Find great recipes like this in Penelope’s book: The Art of Afternoon Tea: From the Era of Downton Abbey and the Titanic. Available autographed from penelopecarlevato.com
SOCIAL MEDIA & MINISTRY WHATâ€™S A LEADER TO DO? EDIE MELSON | EDIEMELSON.COM
MINISTRY IN THIS DAY AND TIME LOOKS VERY DIFFERENT THAN EVEN A FEW SHORT YEARS AGO. It’s almost impossible to have a growing ministry without a component of social media. And yet social media often feels like the very opposite of ministry. On the surface it feels shallow, self-serving, and sometimes even evil. Most leaders I know have struggled with whether or not their calling extends to this online frontier. I’ve even had many confess — in a longing for the good old days — that they feel they were born in the wrong time. We all need to be reminded that God didn’t make a mistake. Oh, we don’t say that — we would never accuse God of making a mistake. But in the secret recesses of the soul, that is at the foundation of our struggle. There’s no doubt that ministry today carries a heavy workload. Just a few of the things we are told are the need to do to reach people: •
Have a platform.
Keep your numbers growing.
Build an email list.
Start a blog.
Build a website.
Grow your social media.
The list goes on and we get buried deeper under the weight of all we do. We feel pulled away from our purposes, distracted and discouraged. But maybe we’re not as far from God’s call as we think we are. Maybe we’re right in the middle of where we’re supposed to be. If that’s the case, why is it so hard? Why couldn’t we have been born in another time or place? The truth is, it’s always been hard to follow God — whether as a writer or something else. And it’s hard to follow God’s calling because we are in the middle of a war. For us, our weapons are our words, our pens and laptops, and the books, articles, and blogs we write.
Make no mistake, our leader — our God — has called us to a purpose: bring His light to a dark world. When we head out on that mission, we draw enemy fire. But we are called for such a time as this. It’s no mistake that we were born in this time and place. On the day Facebook became a way to connect, God didn’t smack His forehead and say, “Oh wow, I completely forgot about social media. What was I thinking?” Just like Esther, we must have a Malachi who reminds us: “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 ESV). God is perfect —
in His plan for us,
in His preparation of us, and
in the time where He has placed us.
God’s Word is clear that we are called to be a light in the dark. There’s no place darker than the world we see around us. We see it every time we turn on the news or go online. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to save the sick, not the well. There’s not much sicker than the half-truths and twisted concepts of God and the world than what we see on social media. He told us to go out into the world. Folks, for us, that includes the World Wide Web. He warned us that the world hated Him, and it would hate us too. Is there any wonder that it’s so difficult to spread His message? For the first time ever, we can reach the world without leaving home. No wonder Satan wants to convince us it’s too hard, too meaningless, too much work. He’s trying to handicap us with fear because He’s scared of what God can do with a few committed believers willing to make a difference through the tools He’s given us IN THIS TIME AND THIS PLACE. Now is the time to step up to the ENTIRE call God has issued to each of us. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. What we must decide is if we’re going to sit on the sidelines or join Him when He calls.
BOOKSTOREAD BOLD VISION #1
JESUS IN SHORTS
PURSUING GOLD CURRICULUM
BY LAURA L. PADGETT
BY PENNY COOKE
BY CYNTHIA L. SIMMONS
Jesus in Shorts is a wonderful collection of short stories, each with a special divine message. I love Laura’s humility, humor and honesty as she recounts her life experiences and the special insights God has given her along the way. I especially appreciate the reflection notes at the end of each story because they encourage me to go deeper and apply these lessons to my own life. Simply put, Jesus in Shorts is one of those rare books that not only entertains, but also transforms the reader. It is a book to give as a gift to a friend and to keep on one’s night stand to be read and reread. Praises for Jesus in Shorts!
I’m enjoying this fresh new study of prayer, and I’m using some of the author’s ideas for intentionally improving my prayer time. Pursuing Prayer is well organized with four lessons per week, a review lesson and an optional “Digging Deeper” lesson. As I read, I feel like the writer is talking to me and leading me to deeper study with Scripture, guiding questions, stories and practical examples. This book would be excellent if you are new to prayer, yet it is challenging enough to help all readers deepen their understanding. I recommend it for individual or group study.
The History & Critical Thinking Curriculum by Cynthia L. Simmons to accompany Pursuing Gold is a wonderful way to bring the family together around a good book. It asks key reading comprehension questions, offers wonderful historical insight into the setting and details of the book, and asks questions designed to challenge students to think deeply about historical and spiritual issues. It’s a wonderful tool to help your family experience history and literature in a deeper way and is sure to spark some wonderful discussions!
—NMK, Verified purchase on Amazon.
—Jeannie C. Waters
—Bonnie Rose Hudson
THE BIG QUESTION Q: What verse or phrase did you choose to motivate you for 2020? Psalm. In the first two verses of Psalm 32, King David expressed joy over being forgiven for his sins. He probably wrote this right after he sinned because he describes his guilt in verse three and four “…my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer...” What a great word picture. That reminded me of times I have done or said something inappropriate and felt terrible afterward.
Sta cl y ose
with Cynthia L. Simmons WWW.CLSIMMONS.COM
I CHOSE “STAY CLOSE.” LET ME EXPLAIN. MOTHER PASSED AWAY ABOUT 11 YEARS AGO, BUT I HAVE HER BIBLE. I’ve learned a lot about her heart from the verses she highlighted and notes she left in the margins. She marked Psalm 32:8 and quoted it often. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye (upon you)” (NKJV, parenthetical added by author). What an amazing promise! Early in January, that verse came to mind as I was seeking direction for 2020. Like Mom, I wanted to know more about how I could live so God would guide me, so I decided to look at the context of the
Next, David explained the cure. He said, “I acknowledged my sin … and my iniquity I did not hide…” How wonderful to feel that load of guilt evaporate when we humble ourselves and confess. In verse six of Psalm 32, David recommended the righteous man run to the Lord rather than wallow in guilt. Plus, he listed the benefits. First, God protects you. “You are my hiding place…you surround me with songs of deliverance.” Second, in verse eight, God promised guidance—Mom’s favorite verse. Here comes the great part. In verse nine, God said, “Do not be like the horse or mule whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check.” Think about that. The bit goes into the horse’s mouth and when the rider tugs on the bridle, the horse feels pain. However, that action makes the horse obey. In essence, the Lord wants us to stay close to him so he won’t have to apply pressure to get our attention. And if we hang around God, we won’t sin. I love that! This lesson is perfect for me because I stay busy and drift away from God even though I’m trying to serve him. Finally, like chocolate syrup over ice cream, here’s another promise from verse ten: “…he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.” Wow! The Lord offered guidance, protection, deliverance and lovingkindness. Mom would be proud because I’m staying close to Jesus in 2020.
WHEN GOD CALLS THE HEART TO DILIGENCE
MICHELLE S. COX | WHENGODCALLSTHEHEART.COM
The path to fulfilling God’s plans for our lives often isn’t easy, but the results are always worth it ... if we’ll be diligent to our calling.
THE MERRIAM-WEBSTER ONLINE DICTIONARY DEFINES THE WORD DILIGENCE AS “STEADY, EARNEST, AND ENERGETIC EFFORT.” I can’t think
of a better word for the year than diligence — for us to put steady, earnest and energetic efforts into serving God. For those of you who have seen Hallmark’s When Calls the Heart television series, you know that Elizabeth Thatcher experienced many moments when she had to decide whether or not she was going to be diligent. This young woman traveled west in 1915 to become a schoolteacher. Before she even arrived in Coal Valley (as it was called then), she was the victim of stagecoach robbers. When a bedraggled Elizabeth finally arrived, she was taken aback by the hardscrabble coal town, and she received anything but a warm welcome from the women there. She could easily have chosen to go back to her affluent lifestyle and the home of her wealthy parents, but she was diligent and stuck with her calling to teach. When she accidentally burned down the house where she was staying, and when she discovered that her classroom was in the saloon, she could certainly have been excused for returning to her old home — but she stayed and became a rock-steady influence in the lives of her students. Elizabeth was kidnapped and tied up. The church caught on fire the day before her wedding, and then her beloved Jack died shortly after they were married. It was enough to make most of us say, “I quit.” But after mourning her husband’s loss, she went right back to what she’d been doing — loving on the folks of Hope Valley (the new name of the town) and teaching their children with earnest effort. Elizabeth was diligent despite the ups and downs of her life and besides her heartaches. And her
efforts made a difference in countless lives. Faithful diligence makes a difference. Just as Elizabeth was called to teach, God has called each of us to the purpose He has for us. Our experiences will be different from Elizabeth’s, but we will also face difficulties, discouragement, situations that seem promising and then fall apart, and moments where we even question what we’re doing. Sound familiar? The path to fulfilling God’s plans for our lives often isn’t easy, but the results are always worth it … if we’ll be diligent to our calling. God gives us some great examples in the Bible. Moses stood at the edge of the Red Sea. He saw the water before them and the soldiers behind them, but he was diligent and trusted God. Because of that, Moses and the Children of Israel watched in wonder as God parted the sea for them to cross to safety. When Abraham was called to go to a land he’d never seen, he was diligent to set out in faith, believing that the God who had called him was completely faithful. A young shepherd boy was called to face down a giant — a task that grown men had turned down with fear. But David was diligent. Armed with God and five smooth stones, that young lad slew the giant. When called upon to go before the king (which might possibly cause her death), Esther was diligent to do what God wanted her to do — and the Jews were saved. Sweet friend, are you being diligent when it comes to the tasks to which God’s called you? If God has called you — and you will remain diligent — you can trust Him to provide all that you need to be successful. Michelle S. Cox is the co-author of the When God Calls the Heart devotional book series. To learn more, visit www. whenGodcallstheheart.com.
5 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR
DR. SAUNDRA DALTON-SMITH | ICHOOSEMYBESTLIFE.COM
Being confident is not the same as being conceited. Unlike conceit, self-confidence is independent of unhealthy comparisons with others.
YOU SHOULD LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF (MARK 12:31), BUT WHAT IF YOU HAVE NOT LEARNED HOW TO LOVE YOURSELF? Self-worth is a needed asset for anyone who desires to love others well. It requires a biblical understanding of self-value as one who is created in the image of God. You must first be confident of your God-worth before you can fully grasp your self-worth. It also requires the ability to overcome the emotional and mental battlefield daily threatening to reveal all the ways you seemingly don’t measure up. Everyone has setbacks. Even the best laid plans can end up in ruins, but that does not mean it has to ruin your self-esteem. Disappointments are opportunities to repair, regroup and restart. Learning how to maintain a consistent level of confidence will help you be able to bounce back quickly when things don’t go as planned.
GET STARTED TODAY! 1. Practice your strengths. Not knowing
your strengths is one of the main problems in women with low self-esteem. Everyone has something they are good at. If you are having a low-confidence day, find time to indulge in those things you excel at. Spend time discovering and appreciating the natural talents you have. Be creative; there are many types of talents. If you have a gift for encouraging others, send out an email of encouragement to a few friends. If you excel at baking, cook one of your culinary delicacies to take to your co-workers. Allow your strengths to show you just how much you have to offer others.
2. Visualize yourself succeeding. What
you think about yourself matters. If you dwell on your past failures they will begin a boomerang effect, daily resurfacing to haunt you. Imperfections are common to us all. No one always succeeds at everything. When you allow fear to prevent you from starting, the fear wins. Visualize yourself getting out of your comfort zone and doing those things you feel insecure about. See yourself getting beyond your place of weakness and succeeding. Allow your mind to open wide to receive the possibility that your weaknesses can be strengthened to a place of personal success.
have a go-to outfit that looks good on her at any weight. These are the ones you wear when you need that extra boost of confidence for a job interview or a special event.
4. Let go of perfectionism. Confidence is
the assurance that you matter and the belief that you are not defined by your weaknesses or failures. Perfectionism is the enemy of confidence. When perfection is the goal, you often set yourself up for disappointment. Let go of the elusive pretense of perfection and embrace your own level of personal success. Learn how to forgive yourself, love yourself and affirm yourself.
5. Affirm yourself. We are often our worse
critiques, so why not also be our biggest fans. Instead of mentally cataloging the things you do wrong, spend time daily recalling those things you did right. Write down positive affirmations and post them at various places you visit like the bathroom mirror, office computer, and on the steering wheel of your car. Every time you visit one of these places you will see a reminder of your personal value. Some of my personal favorite positive affirmations are: “My contributions are valuable to those I interact with.” “I am successful at being uniquely me.” “My presence is required, so I will live in the moment.”
Boosting your confidence requires spending time learning who you are and what you can do, outside affects how you feel on the inside. If you accepting your unique qualities for the gifts that are feeling down, have a few special outfits in they are and forgiving yourself for being imperfect. your closet that bring a smile to your face. It may Being confident is not the same as being conceited. be a blouse with a bold print or a pair of skinny Unlike conceit, self-confidence is independent jeans. For some it may be 4-inch stilettos, and of unhealthy comparisons with others. When for others it could be a simple business suit. someone is confident in who she is, she can Just make sure this confidence building attire is celebrate the success of others without feelings of something that accentuates all of your positive envy. A confident woman is one who is secure in physical attributes, not something that makes her own self-worth and at peace in her relationship you criticize your body. Every woman should with God.
3. Dress for success. How you look on the
LINDA EVANS SHEPHERD | LINDASHEPHERD.COM
WHAT’S THE CRAZIEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE TO FOLLOW AFTER GOD? Was it to raise your kids, teach the teenage class at church or read your Bible through in a year? All good pursuits, but have you ever dared to leave your comfort zone behind and dive headfirst into the unknown because you felt God put an idea before you? When I was a young Christian, I made up my mind to always say yes to God. Yes, I will serve you. Yes, I will go where you send me. In those days I thought God was sending me to seminary to study how to become a youth director. So, after I was accepted into a fine seminary, I never dreamed I would face a roadblock. When the seminary president wrote me, “Because you married an engineer and not one of our pastoral students, we are canceling your seminary enrollment,” I was shocked. I responded to the seminary president by letter, reminding him, “Jesus did not kick Mary out from sitting at his feet.” The president wrote back, “We don’t want Mary, we want Martha.” Ouch! I ended up getting a job as a technical writer, translating what engineers said into written how-to manuals. But my spirit was crushed. I had wanted to follow the Lord, not work on boring projects. It wasn’t until one New Year’s Eve nine years later that God gave me a renewal of vision when I heard God’s still, small voice. “I want you to write a book.”
I was shocked once again. “Me? What do I know about writing or publishing a book? If this is You, please give me an education in writing for publication.” That year, I attended the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and begin to learn everything I could about book writing. In the meantime, I continued to volunteer with the youth at my church. That next New Year’s Eve, I found myself complaining to God about one of our church kids who landed in a cult. “Lord, someone needs to write a book that will uncover the enemy’s traps so the kids don’t fall for his same-old tricks.” In the stillness of my heart, I suddenly realized this was the book God wanted me to write. Once I had the vision, I soon found an editor who wanted the project and wrote the first of a two-book series for teens. The books went on to sell over 24,000 copies, and surprisingly reached more teens than I would have ever reached as a youth director in a 30year career. These two books became the first of over 36 books I’ve written for the Kingdom. I hope this story reminds you to first; always say yes to God and second, be very patient when the vision is slow to come. For God will bring the vision; ask Him, and he will make it clear. Dear Lord, I say yes to You. Give me Your vision and the patience to follow it, even in roadblocks or delays. Keep me on track to do all You’ve called me to do.
MUSICREVIEWS BOOKSTOREAD BY HEATHER VAN ALLEN | LH —MUSIC CONTRIBUTOR
SIMPLE HYMNS SONGS OF COMMUNION VARIOUS ARTISTS
Releasing his 22nd album, Behold Him, Paul Baloche, acclaimed artist known for “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” “Above All” and other songs that have helped shaped the world of contemporary worship music, continues to lift up the name of Jesus in song, drawing people into the presence of God.
Songs of Communion, the fourth album in the Simple Hymns series (January 10, 2020), through Venture3Media, is 10 tracks featuring well-known worship leaders Pat Barrett (Housefires), Kelly Minter, Joanna Beasley (“American Idol”), Gabe Wilson, Dave Fitzgerald and more.
Justin Rizzo, known for leading worship at the International House of Prayer, in Kansas City, Missouri (IHOPKC), has released his first EP, Paid It All, through Spotlight Music Group (January 17, 2020).
As a reflection of the friendships God has brought into his life over the years as a worship leader, Behold Him features various other artists, including Kim Walker-Smith (Jesus Culture), Kari Jobe, Matt Redman, Chris Brown and Steven Furtick (Elevation Worship), Leslie Jordan (All Sons and Daughters), and more.
Focusing on the theme of Communion, the record offers fresh approaches to classic hymns, along with a selection of intentionally hymn-like new songs.
Speaking of a certain consistency between then—20 years ago—and now, Paul says, “It feels like the same heart cry—a desire to really see the Lord—to behold Him. I don’t want to lose sight of what God is doing in my life and in this generation. I want to see Him, hear Him, and follow Him.”
“Simple Hymns is a response to those that long for a return to a richer and more lyric focused worship expression, combined with a simplicity of musical instrumentation,” says Venture3Media president and founder Steve Nicolle. “Worship music shifts in style from decade to decade, along with shifts in lyrical themes and focus. What makes the hymns so unique and special is their ability to stand the test of time…. Hymns give us that anchor and remind us that God’s love and His nature are unchanging.”
PAID IT ALL
Justin’s vocals are clear and easy on the ears, blending well with the touch of electronic flair and slightly ethereal melodies that characterize the first three songs, “Love Won’t Stop,” “You Are My Treasure” and the title track. The four-track EP finishes on a mellow, understated note, with a reprise of the title track as an acoustic version. One of Justin’s favorites to play at IHOPKC, “Paid It All” is a blending of two songs written by a friend. “I heard them both one day and said, ‘We need to combine parts of each song together,’” Justin says. “It quickly became one of my favorite songs to lead, not only because of the theology and message, but also how it engaged congregations to sing along, declaring the worth of the blood of Jesus.”
A LIGHT TO
KAREN WHITING | KARENWHITING.COM
“I PRAY THAT HE WOULD UNVEIL WITHIN YOU THE UNLIMITED RICHES OF HIS GLORY AND FAVOR UNTIL SUPERNATURAL STRENGTH FLOODS YOUR INNERMOST BEING WITH HIS DIVINE MIGHT AND EXPLOSIVE POWER” (EPHESIANS 3:16 TPT). Certain Scriptures guide me and keep me focused, especially ones I believe God wants me to use for my career and for each year. At the start of each year I look up my life verse, Ephesians 3:16, in a different translation. This year I used The Passion Translation. This New Year I felt impressed with Zechariah 2:5. God wanted the Israelites to rebuild the temple. He declared that He would be a wall of fire (protection) around the temple and its glory within. Wow! Where is His temple today? Paul makes it clear: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV). I am the temple of God the Holy Spirit; God will be my wall of fire to protect and refine me. God’s glory also dwells within me. So, for 2020, I will focus on the word “glory,” including in my life verse. The last part of 2019 I realized how blessing others and writing reveals God’s glory. When people see us and watch our actions, we glorify God. That allows people to glimpse God’s glory, the source of unlimited riches or blessings. The Old Testament words for “glory” are “kaved” and “kavod.” They refer to honor and matters that are weighty, substantive, intense, severe and massive. Glory here implies a weight like a rock so big it provides shade for people. It also means unmovable like our unchanging God. “Kavod” also described how God made Pharaoh’s heart unmovable. For Israelites the more “kavod” (or weight) attributed to someone, the more the
person became respected and worthy of honor. Glory is also a reference to God’s presence. The Scripture draws me closer to God. I’ve seen God flood me with inner strength with divine might and explosive power. God’s power is so explosive that He created the universe. I’ve prayed this verse to be inspired with God’s creative power, strength to write, and more. Praying the verse has changed my life and helped me do so much in writing with creativity. People remark about my creativity, but it all comes from God. I believe God is helping me look deeper to see more of His glory and to focus on letting others glimpse that glory through what God has empowered me to accomplish. I’m excited about how this may direct me to consider my readers and the possibilities of letting others see God’s glory. What do I do with my life verse (Ephesians 3:16)? •
I read it often and pray it.
When I feel I can’t do something, I trust God will pour out His strength and power in me.
The word “unveil” in the verse implies time and continually getting to understand God more. That inspires me to continue looking deeper into Scriptures so I can understand God and God’s glory more and how to use the power He gives me.
This year’s verse (Zechariah 2:5): •
God’s glory causes me to desire to be holy and pure, for God cannot abide sin.
My reading each year is through the lens of the word God gives me. One year it was “hope,” and I saw that in all God did. This year I will view life and work through the lens of God’s glory to share God from a fresh perspective.
—Shae Wilbur WWW.THISISSHAE.COM
As the host of E!’s Steals on the Reel, CCM artist Shae Wilbur has the inside scoop on many great products that love back. Here are a few special leading lady lifehacks close to her heart because they make many lives (as well as hers) a whole lot sweeter. 40 leadinghearts.com
LEADINGLADY #lifehacks FRESHEN YOUR HAIR & FIGHT HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Dry Shampoo has become a hair care staple for many of us these days. And what’s better than a dry shampoo that really works to keep your hair looking fresher longer? One that helps to fight human trafficking as well! I love this coconut cleansing powder by Missio Hair. It’s formulated with natural oil absorbing powders and has fresh grapefruity/mint scent that I can’t get enough of! Missio Hair uses beauty to restore hope and fight human trafficking… which is a cause so close to my heart. www.missiohair.com
GET SHOES & GIVE SCHOLARSHIPS
HAND & HAND CRUSADE FOR CLEAN WATER Between the many diaper changes and hand sanitizing moments I have chasing after a 9-month-old, my hands are constantly in need of some extra TLC. I absolutely love this set by Hand in Hand. It comes with a bar of soap, a hand scrub and rich lotion. They contain natural ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil and exfoliating sugar which leave your hands feeling super soft and moisturized. For every purchase made, they also donate a bar of soap and ONE MONTH of clean water to a child in need! Since 2011 they’ve donated over 3 MILLION bars of soap! How incredible is that?! www.handinhandsoap.com
I don’t know if it gets more on trend than a metallic mule by Sseko Designs. As a mom constantly on the run, I have come to really appreciate a shoe that just slides on. I love this pair because it’s comfy, practical and still makes me feel put together! In addition to all of that greatness, Sseko is a company that began as a way to generate income for high potential young women in Uganda and help them continue on to university. The company quickly grew and now they’re the largest footwear exporter in East Africa, which has majorly increased the number of scholarships they can provide. www.ssekodesigns.com
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HOW IS IT FOR ANY GIVEN TRIP, I CAN OVERPACK AND UNDERPACK AT THE SAME TIME? HOW?
CSB). Not just peace of mind, peace of world! At the cross, Christ himself became our peace. “For he is our peace…He came and proclaimed the good news of peace” (Ephesians 2:14, 17 CSB).
It’s so weird when I arrive at a destination and open my suitcase. Thirty-eight scarves for a three-day event. But no toothpaste. Two sleeves of snack crackers? And that running shoe. I guess I thought it would be funny to pretend I might go running. But how did I think I could even pretend with just one? Then there’s the dog’s stuffed ducky. OK, that one probably wasn’t me. Still, I’d never be surprised to open my bag and hear myself saying things like, “What’s this Roomba doing in here? I don’t even have one of those. Where’s my hairbrush?”
And now today, because of the redemptive work of Jesus, we can have peace that reaches all the way to the heart. The indwelling presence of Jesus offers peace from the inside. It takes away our need to stew or worry. No need to wait for the other running shoe to drop. Jesus said, “My peace I give to you” (John 14:27 CSB).
I’m packing today. I’ll be gone two days and I’m having to sit on this suitcase to close it. This giant suitcase. So many details go into travel plans. Ninety-eight percent of my brain space is occupied with the zillion other travel particulars that don’t include the suitcase. One percent goes to the packing. If there’s a percent left over it’s probably thinking about a burrito. Burrito or no, there’s a curious peace of mind that comes with feeling you’ve packed everything you could possibly need. I think I could experience that peace of mind more often if I appropriated a larger percentage of my brain in the packing process. Have you ever noticed the peace theme that runs all through Scripture? It’s packed in there, as it were, from beginning to end. There was peace on earth before the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. At mankind’s choice to sin, peace was interrupted. But when the angels announced the birth of Jesus, their message was “peace on earth to people he favors!” (Luke 2:14
Our future? Peace! Jesus will come again. He’s coming in His role as “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). We’ll have eternity with Him, a perfect, forever peace. Past, present and future — peace! What a privilege we have while we’re here. We get to pass it on. In Matthew 5:9 Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (CSB). Sin is still in operation in this world, upsetting peace for so many. But for us as Christ-followers, the role of peacemaker is a great honor. We get to represent God’s gospel of peace to the world — to pack it up and take it to every place on the planet that will receive it. I want to dedicate more brain space to appreciating and appropriating real peace. Lugging around baggage of unnecessary worry seems silly when I contemplate all God has done to bring peace. I’m still working on necessary versus unnecessary baggage of the physical kind. My last trip, I discovered I packed a half-eaten burrito in the right pocket of my carry-on. I don’t know what I was thinking. Because shouldn’t I also have packed an emergency backup half-eaten burrito in the left pocket?
CONTRIBUTORS meet the publisher
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, and son, Jimmy. www.Sheppro.com
meet the editor
AMBER WEIGAND-BUCKLEY @BAREFACEDGIRL is managing editor and art director for Leading Hearts magazine and brand manager for AWSA. She is a writer, speaker, and multiaward-winning editor, having spent 23 years in the magazine industry. Amber is the owner of #barefacedcreative and provides branding, graphic design and communications and support for authors, nonprofits and missionaries. She and her Brit-native husband, Philip, live in Missouri with their three daughters: Saffron, Imogen and Penelope. www.barefacedgirl.com
BREANNA BERRY is a senior and aspiring writer at Evangel University in Springfield, MO. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism. PAM FARREL is the author of 48 books, including bestselling Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, and her newest collaborative Bible study: Discovering Joy in Philippians (Harvest House). Pam and Bill Farrel are relationship experts and co-directors of www.love-wise.com. JANELL RARDON, national and international speaker, author and relationship expert, is a board-certified Advanced Christian Life Coach (AACC) in private practice in Virginia. Janell and her husband have three grown children. www.janellrardon.com RHONDA RHEA is an author, humor columnist, and TV personality. Her newest release with co-author Kaley Rhea, Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated is available on Amazon. www.rhondarhea.com JENNIFER TAYLOR is a reviewer and profile contributor for Leading Hearts magazine. KAREN WHITING, international speaker and author of 25 books, writes to help families thrive and desires to help families put God center in their lives. Check out her family book, 52 Weekly Devotions for Busy Families. www.karenwhiting.com
PENELOPE CARLEVATO is the author of The Art of Afternoon Tea: From the Era of Downton Abbey and the Titanic as well as Tea on the Titanic, First Class Etiquette. amd her latest, The Tea Lover’s Journal. www.penelopecarlevato.com MICHELLE S. COX is an author, speaker, and the creator of the Just 18 Summers parenting resources and products. Visit her parenting blog www.whencallstheheart.com and on Facebook www.facebook.com/just18summers. SAUNDRA DALTON-SMITH is an internal medicine physician, author and speaker. She is the founder of the I Choose My Best Life ministry. www.ichoosemybestlife.com EDIE MELSON—author, editor and blogger—is a leading professional within the writing industry, as well as a popular instructor and mentor. www.ediemelson.com KAREN PORTER is an international speaker, the author of six books, and a successful business woman. She is president of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, serves on several boards, and coaches aspiring writers and speakers. She and her husband, George, own Bold Vision Books, a Christian publishing company. www.karenporter.com CYNTHIA L. SIMMONS is an author and speaker as well as radio host and producer of Heart of the Matter Radio. She and her husband have five grown children. www.clsimmons.com HEATHER VAN ALLEN is a music reviewer and profile contributor for Leading Hearts magazine. SHAE WILBUR, internationally known recording artist and songwriter, is the style expert for the Emmy-nominated talk show The Real. Her latest release is her Unmovable EP. www.thisisshae.com