Find Comfort in
A APRIL PRIL -- JJUNE UNE 2017 2017
Message From The EDITOR
CHURCH CONNECTION Volume 7 No. 2
he clocks have been moved forward. The trees are blooming. The grass is growing. Spring is the time of year that things are on the move. There is no busier time throughout the year than spring in my household. The fast paced life our culture has adopted seems to be even faster this time of year. I try to remind myself that if we can just get to Summer break when the kids are out of school and the activities they are involved in slow down a bit, then we can slow down enough to manage all the things that get neglected when we are overly busy. It is just extremely hard to get everything done during this time of year. In fact it seems downright impossible!
The question I find myself asking is whether or not I am getting done the things that really matter. Are my priorities where they need to be with my more limited time? Is it possible to manage my spiritual life, my family life, my work life, and still have a little “me time” on top of it all? These thoughts remind me of the verse in the book of Mark chapter 10 verse 27 which reads, “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”(NIV) The verse is in reference to Jesus being asked about how anyone could enter into heaven based on the things they do or don’t do. In other words, the things they get done or don’t get done. Is it possible to prioritize your tasks of everyday life in a way that earns your way to heaven? Jesus is clear that it is “humanly impossible” so stop trying, but the good news is that “with God”, all things are possible. In other words, it is not about what you get done or don’t get done that allows you to spend eternity in heaven, but rather what Jesus already did on the cross for us all that pays our way to salvation. As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Easter, let’s remember that no matter how busy we are and no matter how big our problems seem, or how stressed we allow ourselves to get with our day to day attempts to humanly manage our lives, that we serve a God that has proclaimed that with him all things are possible. When we prioritize time spent with him over all the other noise we put in our life, those possibilities will become much more apparent. To start making God a priority in your busy life, please find a local church in our community and get involved with others that are striving to do the same. Our local churches are filled with many others just like you that want and need your help in continually seeking all the possibilities that we can accomplish in this life with God. You will be amazed at how the things that used to seem so important suddenly seem insignificant relieving a lot of stress from your life. Happy Easter! Cover Photo: Alumni Chapel at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky
Photographer: Thomas Causey
For more information, please contact Chuck Thompson firstname.lastname@example.org • www.localchurchconnection.com
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The Fountainhead Of Life By TREY DICKERSON
aints, the Word of God obviously has a lot to say about our hearts. No, not that muscle that you have in your physical body, but that intangible part of you that God is looking at (1 Samuel 16:7).
In Proverbs chapter 4, we have a very important verse that teaches us the importance of guarding our hearts: In Proverbs 4:23, the Holy Spirit inspired King Solomon to write these words: “Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Notice, first of all, what Solomon says comes from the heart: He says “out of it spring the issues of life!” Now the words “spring” and “issues” give us a word picture that I believe is extremely helpful in understanding the significance of our hearts… The word “issues” was oftentimes used in those times to describe the “outgoings” or “goings forth” of a body of water. In other words, this word “issues” described the “channels” that come from a larger body of water. So then when you combine this definition of “issues” with the word “spring,” we have the picture being painted of water that flows up out of our heart like a fountain or a spring. So these “goings forth” of water are what outflows from the heart like a well spring. But it is not water that Solomon says flows from our heart; he was saying that the issues of life are what flow out of our heart. You see, many times the condition of our life is directly tied to the condition of our heart. That was a powerful statement right there! Let me say it this way since we are talking about a spring of water: The purity and satisfaction of our life is determined by the fountainhead of our heart. That’s right, if our heart is corrupt and impure then our life will be corrupt and impure. It is that simple. Therefore, the currents and channels that come from a large body of water are symbolic of the influence (i.e. currents) and direction (i.e. channels) of our heart.
“... out of it springs the issues of life!”
And doesn’t the Bible teach us this same principle elsewhere? Proverbs 23:7 teaches us that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. What this means is that we are, in our life, a reflection of the way we think on the inside. And there are many other Scriptures that teach us the importance of how we think, what we meditate on and what we allow to come into our hearts. Now let’s go back and camp on the first phrase in Proverbs 4:23- “Keep your heart with all diligence…” The word “keep” here literally means “to guard, watch, protect and preserve.” It describes keeping something in a safe, secret place, and then, guarding that place. So Solomon was saying here that we are to keep our heart in a safe and secret place similar to how we would keep our jewelry or other valuables in a safe and secret place. Did you know that in the world, an extremely valuable jewel is oftentimes placed in a high security vault with all kinds of motion detectors etc.? And they do this for a rock which only has temporal value! How much more should we apply this same kind of diligent watch over our hearts which have eternal value? Amen? But then notice what Solomon goes on to say in this phrase: He says that we are to guard our heart “with all diligence.” (continued on next page)
Now the word “diligence” describes “keeping or guarding; to keep in custody or to imprison.” In fact, it is actually translated as a “ward” most of the time in the original King James Version. So that’s right- It has the same meaning as the word “guard” at the beginning of this verse! So what the first portion of this verse literally says is- “Guard your heart above everything else you guard!” In other words, the Holy Spirit through Solomon was saying that the most important thing you and I have to guard is our heart! Therefore, we ought to guard our heart more than we would guard our most valuable possessions! Amen! So allow me to give you a great example of what Solomon was saying in Proverbs 4:23: In the Middle Eastespecially during the days of Solomon- fountains and wells were watched over with special care. Why? It was because if the source of their water was contaminated, then their supply of water was useless. You see, there were not many sources of water in those days, so they protected the ones that they had at all costs. It was vital for them to do that! Likewise, the part of us that all the issues of our life stem from must be protected at all costs, lest we allow the enemy to contaminate our life. Therefore, with this understanding, we should strive to protect our hearts with at least as much tenacity as they protected those wells thousands of years ago. Amen? My friends, if we want to experience the life that God has for us, we must start on the inside and learn to guard our hearts like we would our most prized possessions. Friends, I cannot fully convey to you in this article just how important the condition of our heart really is! Please do not miss the truth that your spiritual heart is just as important to your spiritual life as your physical heart muscle is to your natural life. Now that is the gospel truth! And that is why I highly encourage you to get a hold of this new series that I just released entitled “Guarding Your Garden.” It is an audio series that I am offering to you for a gift of any amount (suggested donation for this 9 CD series is $40). We strive in our ministry to be a blessing and to get the good news out! In this 9 CD series, you will learn: 1. More on just how important our heart truly is. 2. Practical ways in which we can guard our hearts. 3. The characteristics and remedies for all four different conditions of hearts from Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, including: a) How to not be conformed to the world and how to break up the fallowed grounds of our hearts. b) How a Christian can have a hardened heart and what the remedy is. c) How to deal with the thorns that attempt to choke the production of God’s Word. d) What are the three ingredients of the good ground that will produce fruit. Trey Dickerson serves as the Pastor of High Point Church located at 2963 Hollis Rd, Macon, GA 31206 and is also President of Living Logos Ministries Inc. If you would like more information or materials from Pastor Trey’s ministry, you can visit the following websites: www.treydickerson.com & www.highpointmacon.com. You can also contact Trey via phone @ (706) 207-4337 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MIKADO BASKETBALL CAMP July 9-14 1st-6th grade Nightly basketball camp with championship high school coaches (Cost $60) 6751 Houston Road • Macon, GA • 478.781.2324 email@example.com • mikadobaptist.org Awana for 2 Years-4th grade • The Bridge for 5th-6th grade Elevate youth ministries for 7th-12th grade College/Career discipleship and small groups 15+ Sunday school classes, called Life Groups. Based on a person's age, these classes are designed to connect a person with others in their life stage. Service Times Sundays - Life Groups: 9:00 AM, Worship: 10:30 AM & 6:00 PM Wednesdays - Family Meal: 5:15-6:15 PM; Discipleship, children, youth: 6:45 PM; Bible Study: 7:00 PM. Upcoming Event: First Responders Sunday - March 19 (A day where we recognize first responders in our community. Everyone is invited to participate, especially those in law enforcement, EMT, etc.)
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Take My Home And Let It Be By Loren Rae Grace, LPC of HOPE Foster Care, a Ministry of The Methodist Home
ne of my favorite hymns is “Take My Life and Let it Be,” which was written by Frances Havergal in 1874. The song begins, “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee.” The beautiful design of the Body of Christ is that each of us can sing that prayer, in light of the clear mandates of scripture, and hear a different answer from the Lord as to how He will use us! The differences lie not in the asking, for we can all sing and pray those words together. No, the diverse answers from the Lord are fantastically creative, unique, and needed because our Creator God has made the askers, His people, diversely gifted by design! Throughout scripture, God instructs His people to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, care for the orphan, and be generous to visitors in our city. Children who enter foster care often meet all of those categories at once. Due to no fault of their own, our community’s most vulnerable children have experienced abuse, neglect, hunger, the need for shelter, and the need for a temporary place to live in the context of a safe, loving, and compassionate family. The second verse of the hymn says, “Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love; Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.” These children, made in the image of God, need families in Middle Georgia to answer the call to become foster parents so they may know the love of Christ in their time of need. Could your hands be designed to share love with these children? Could your feet carry you down the path where vulnerable children find restoration while in foster care? Not everyone is called to open their home to fostering, but everyone can use their individual gifts to address this particular need! The third verse of the hymn says, “Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee.” One powerful way each congregation can engage with foster care it to consistently proclaim God’s heart for His vulnerable children, the need for foster parents, and the commitment to stand beside those called to foster. Imagine if every church in Middle Georgia raised up just one foster family while others in the church supported them through babysitting, meals, gift cards for date nights, or in other ways. What a difference could that make for these children who so desperately need the stable members of our community to care for the fragile ones until they can be stable again?
“... proclaim God’s heart for His vulnerable children...”
“Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold; Take my intellect and use every power as Thou shalt choose.” If you are not called to be a foster parent, your gifts can still be used! I guarantee if you have a gift, it can be invested in the life of a foster child! Tutoring, transportation to appointments, laundry or yard work for a foster parent, teaching life skills, such as cooking, wood work, sports, buying much needed clothes or school supplies, or simply being another caring adult in the child’s life. When I skip to the final verse of the hymn, “Take my love, my Lord, I pour, at Thy feet its treasure store,” I am reminded of the potential for healing, hope, and growth for hurting children who are welcomed into homes where love is poured into them. What if a child who enters your home in grief, leaves full of joy and restored to a newly defined future with their birth family or other permanent, stable family situation? What a joy it would be! As a foster and adoptive mother, I have known the joys of fostering first-hand. I have been blessed by supportive churches, family, and friends who have helped me be able to say, “take my home and let it be” used by the Lord through foster care. Through working for the private, faith-based foster care ministry of The Methodist Home, HOPE Foster Care, I also have the honor of recruiting, training and supporting others who desire to foster as well! If you would like to learn more about fostering or using your gifts to minister to foster children and families, I would love to hear from you! I am also available to speak to churches and groups on this topic. Please visit www.HopeFosterCare.org or call 478-464-3025 to learn more!
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Spring Is Here By David Duncan
pring is here and that means Easter is just around the corner! It’s a lovely time when we think of bunny rabbits, brightly colored eggs, and new outfits for church on Easter Sunday. It’s a BIG deal, especially for Christians! The Christ follower celebrates by remembering the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and proclaiming that we serve a living Savior! Easter is precluded by a season of Lint. I always thought this a little odd but I save the lint from our dryer all year and then place it on the coffee table for this time of reflection and repentance. One year, Shirley had surgery and was doctor ordered for complete bed rest as her healing regiment. Of course, the compassionate church ladies called and wanted to bring over their infamous spiritual gifts…covered dish casseroles! I was absolutely thrilled! So, since Shirley was bed ridden, I opened the door and invited the ladies in to our humble abode. I guess they were not used to celebrating Lint because they just stared with mouths gaping open at the huge pile of lint on the living room coffee table. LOL. I made absolutely no explanation as they did not ask. I think they just admired our spirituality. :) Later, when Shirley came into the kitchen, she spied the lint collection and asked me what in the world? I explained how the preacher said it was time to prepare for Easter so I placed the lint before us for repentance. Well, it’s difficult to explain what happened next. But, in a split second, Shirley looked again at the lint, then at me, then at the casserole dishes from the church ladies, and almost blew her stack right there in the kitchen in front of God and everybody!!! All I am gonna say is that when she realized those prissy, holy, uppidity church ladies had seen that coffee table covered in lint, she had a hissy fit, a caption, and a spell all wrapped up into one!!! (It was not purty, peeps!!!) Lord Jesus! Don’t you know I learned the true meaning of lint that day…I did some quick repenting!!!! LOL.
“... He still moves stones!”
Easter is also a time of great joy! One of the things that brings extra, abundant joy to my heart is when I bring out my holiday jelly beans. I have had them for years! :) They are in a special can and when you shake the can it sounds like the can is half full. Everyone that sees the brightly colored canister just has to have one delicious, delectable jelly bean! :) So, I just place them in a conspicuous spot in the house. Every year, Shirley will pick up the can and open them to enjoy her special treat. Instead of jelly beans, a giant spring jumps out like a snake and she screams bloody murder!!!! LOL. This blesses me so much that I cannot explain it!!!! :) The other thing that causes me tremendous celebration is when I come in from buying groceries and Shirley is snooping in the bags to see what I’ve bought that I shouldn’t. :) (I have learned to put the candy and doughnuts in the trunk and retrieve them later!) Sometimes, she helps me put away the groceries and I MAKE SURE to leave the eggs out so she will put them inside the refrigerator. <wink> Well, those eggs DIDN’T come from the grocery store! Nope! They are special eggs and I like to make Shirley think she is going crazy by taking them out and leaving them on the counter repeatedly. Shirley comes in through the kitchen and huffs and puts them BACK into the fridge. After about 10 times of this reoccurring act , Shirley has had ENOUGH! (Men…do you know what I mean when I say a woman has had ENOUGH!!!) Well, Shirley asked me what was going on, had I lost my mind, so I grabbed the eggs and she grabbed the eggs and we had a good ole’ throw down about those eggs. I made sure that in the ‘push n pull’ that the egg carton opened and all those eggs went crashing down on the kitchen floor! Shirley gasped and jumped back so the eggs wouldn’t splatter on her clothes! The look on her face was one of disbelief and horror but I just died laughing! LOL. You see the eggs were fake and Shirley did not know it! I will say that it caused me to get a lot of exercise as Shirley chased me around the house trying to send me straight to Heaven, a little early! :) Pray for Shirley and her temper, please. :) I hope you all have a wonderful Easter and realize that it is so much more than just chocolate and the bunnies. Jesus is risen! The best part to me is that if you are facing a problem today, then remember that He still moves stones! He can open up your tomb and set you free from the brokenness, the hurt, the pain, and destruction of your life! I know that Truth personally and want to tell you that nothing is impossible with God. Trust Him for your miracle today! In His Love, David Duncan Contact me on Facebook or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FCA Christian Coach Spotlight By April Cassell
ody Heath is currently in his seventh year of teaching at Rutland High School in Macon, GA. He is the CTAE department chair, and he is the advisor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He is also an assistant coach for the varsity baseball and softball teams at Rutland High School.
Jody has been married to his wife, Karen, for twenty-four years. They have two kids, Kaleigh who is 20 and Jackson who is 13. Jody and his family attend Lawrence Drive Baptist Church in Macon. Jody and his wife teach Sunday school in the AMP student ministry in the church. Before he began his teaching career, Jody worked for Cintas in 2008. His youth pastor at the time suggested that he should think about teaching high school. Once he thought about it, God opened the doors for him to start his teaching career. Jody had struggled 20 years earlier about deciding on either a business or education degree, and he chose to pursue a marketing degree. Growing up, Jody lived with his grandparents. He credits his grandfather, D.C Neal, for being one of the godliest men he has ever known and having a tremendous influence on his life. When Jody was 8, he performed the typical “go down front” young Baptist ritual, but it wasn’t until 1989 at the Jay Strack crusade in Macon that what he had heard his entire life in church actually clicked in his head and became real. He accepted Christ during that crusade. Jody became involved with FCA during the 2015-2016 school year when he worked as co-advisor with Coach George Collins. Coach Collins retired at the end of last year, and Jody became the advisor. Through his experience as an FCA advisor he has learned “if you feed them, they will come”. He relates this to both a literal and spiritual “feeding”. One of the goals of FCA is for the students who attend the huddles to take initiative and lead their classmates in spiritual discussion. Jody has encouraged this, and his students have taken a large role in leading their peers and teaching them how to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jody’s influence doesn’t just take place in early morning FCA huddle meetings on Fridays. He strives to be a Godly example to all the students he teaches and coaches. He realized very shortly after entering education that he may be the only Christian male that a lot of those students will ever encounter in their young lives. He feels that this is important because it helps the students to be more confident in their faith and helps them to see that it is possible to be a Christian in a very secular society. Jody will be taking his softball team to their first Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ camp this summer at Georgia Southern University. This will be a camp where they can not only work on developing as a softball player and coming together as a team, but a camp where they will be taught by college huddle leaders on what incorporating a relationship with Christ into their lives can do to change their lives, their team, their school, and their community. We are fortunate to have Jody leading FCA on the campus of Rutland, but we are even more fortunate to have him teaching kids about what can change their lives for eternity!
CHURCH CONNECTION believes that
Celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus this Easter! 18
Jesus is Enough By Marti Sullivan Tidwell
am supposed to speak to a group of teenagers tomorro morning and I’m a little nervous.
Today’s teens seem oddly confident and that bewilders me. I’m 40 years old and, as earlier stated, am a complete and utter mess most days. There is no other way to describe it. It’s all I can do to keep all my plates (barely) spinning…the hubs, the baby, work, the house (clean and beautifully decorated, please), shopping (from batteries to Baby Gap to, oh yeah, ALL THE FOOD), staying relevant and fashionable, keeping the figure (somewhat) in check, exercise (what?)…the endless (and exhausting) expectation that we have to have it all perfect and all figured out and everything in place and I JUST DON’T. But by the grace of God, somehow it keeps coming together. Some days are prettier than others though…
Surely I am not alone. I think that what my 40 years has afforded me is the confidence to say all of that that out loud, to own my shortcomings and not feel the need to apologize for it. I don’t have it all together. I get frustrated and I get angry and I get anxious, but then I do my best to get up tomorrow and give it my best once again. Only my best, though. What this world demands of me is unreasonable and I reserve the right to do the best I can and not apologize for it. My closets are a mess, my baby all of the sudden has decided to stop sleeping through the night, my husband rarely gets the kind of big, home-cooked meal he loves anymore, and I can’t even talk about the laundry. Just don’t mention it, okay? It’s hard to stay fashionable and relevant when you can’t find time to shop. I stay barely one step ahead at work, and this article? It was due a week ago. Bless me. Does this all bother me? Does it ever get to me? Heavens, yes. Will I let it define me, disarm me, derail me? No. Because, here’s the thing… Jesus is enough. I know this for sure.
For whatever we can’t get right, Jesus is enough.
I spoke with our Youth Pastor today about teens today and asked his opinion on what I need to share with these teenagers…what do they need to hear from me, how can I help? And that is all he said to me, all they need to know… Jesus is enough. For whatever we just can’t get right, Jesus is enough. For whatever we hope for, yearn for, Jesus is enough. For whatever we need, we desire, Jesus is enough. For whatever we stand to lose, or are afraid we will never gain, Jesus is enough. For whatever we fear or dread, Jesus is enough. For all the ways we just don’t measure up, we don’t feel like WE are enough...Jesus is enough. Some of you know exactly what I mean. For the rest of you, let me say this. As a teenager and young adult, I don’t think I clued into the depths of God’s love for me, the truth that He has a story meant just for me. The boundaries He sets for me, for all of us through His Word, are in place for my protection and blessing, so that I could live out this amazing story He had just for me. What these kids need to know is that there is a plan over their lives. Yes…life can hurt and adulting is often hard. Hearts get broken and feelings get hurt along the way. Plans don’t work out and passions fade. Unforgiveness festers and bitterness sets in. Fear steals our joy and eventually our hope…because this world will hurt, there is no getting around that. But, truly, what I want them to hear is there is a plan and great purpose beyond themselves (continued on next page)
awaiting their lives and amid all of that…Jesus is enough. Without Him, we are truly NOT enough and we lose our way. But with Him? There is no stopping us. He is the prize, the constant, the sure thing. The author of our best selves. He is the one thing I can’t stand to lose and the only thing I never will. Even as my heart may break I can trust him in the journey, knowing that no hurt, no disappointment, no weariness, no fear signifies the end of the story. Life marches on and He is beside us, ushering us into the next season with victory. In Him, hope and joy always rise to the top. It always finds us. Always. When He is our Savior, our Lord. Our true heart’s desire. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. - Psalm 37:4 They need to know that through it all, if we will just look to Him, apply His Word even when it’s hard, and keep moving forward there is a beautiful story to gain…or lose. A story more beautiful than we could ever imagine or dream ourselves, a story bigger than ourselves. A story that blesses others and fulfills purpose. A story that builds a life that truly matters. The choice is ours… If you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, and you want all of this for your life, I’d love to talk with you. You can find me on Facebook at Martha Sullivan Tidwell or on Instagram and Twitter at @martidwell. It would be my honor to share with you all the ways Jesus has been enough to me, and continues to demonstrate that faithfulness to me, day after day and year after year. Ephraim. He is MORE than enough for me.
LIBERTY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH 6511 Houston Road • Macon, Ga. 31216
VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL June 19-23, 2017
9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. 20
Love God, Love People, Serve Others Joe S. McDaniel Pastor 5430 Hwy 341 North Musella, GA 31066 (478) 836-2936 www.musellabaptist.org
Musella Baptist Church 22
Finding HIS Strength By Estelle H. Herndon
eing invited to Rock Springs Church by dear friends many times, Robert and I finally attended with Amber, my granddaughter, son Joel and daughter-inlaw Angie, never realizing God had plans for me beginning at this church.
Usually Robert and I are the teachers but this day we sat in on a class led by Karen Allen and her husband Lindsey.
Essie and Robert
As Karen spoke, she made a statement that resonated deep in my soul. She said, “Everyone has a story” and encouraged everyone to write their story down. The hairs on my arms seemed to stand straight up. What a moment! Walking out of that service I told my husband I must write my story. This is how my book, Finding HIS Strength”, began.
Mind you, I have spoken to many groups and have been asked by psychiatrists and Christian counselors to co-write a book with me. I just thought about it but never did. A friend who read the book said God was preparing me all of my life to share His Strength. I just didn’t pay attention.
You are His and He is yours always and forever.
The “Finding HIS Strength” book is a ministry to help those whose past and even present is holding them down. You know you can go a long way on anger, hate and bitterness. Don’t let the past have the final say in your life! The enemy wants us to feel rejected, left out, lonely and “less than” but God’s Grace covers us, wiping out these thoughts that try and bind and control us. You are His and He is yours - always and forever. “Trust Him” and Him alone. “May the Lord bless you and protect you; may His face shine on you and be gracious to you: May the Lord show His face to you and give you peace.” Number 6:24-226 NIV. Philippians 4:13 says “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength”. Even writing this is “His Strength”. As a 76 year old, I thank Him for His power in my life to be able spiritually, mentally and physically to spread HIS WORD. Again, everyone has a story. Maybe this letter will encourage you to write what GOD has done in your life. Come join me in spreading HIS WORD and the freedom found in His Strength. My book can be ordered on Amazon.com or pre-pay order Barnes and Noble Book Store, River Crossing mail. My other request is that you let Amazon.com know your thoughts concerning this book. HUGS as always, ESSIE You may contact Estelle H. Herndon via email at: email@example.com
KARSTEN & DENSON HARDWARE STORE Johnny Davis
Owner/Manager firstname.lastname@example.org Phone (478) 745-3306 2323 Ingleside Avenue Fax (478) 743-7555 Macon, GA 31204 Monday-Friday 8:30am-6:00pm Saturday 9:00am-6:00pm
By Kelly Philbrick
any years ago, my daughter stayed home one day from school with a very bad chest cough. Throughout the day we tried several remedies to help her feel better such as cough medicine, a vaporizer, gurgling with warm salty water, cough drops, Ginger Ale, etc. Nothing seemed to work. When she went to lie down for a nap after lunch, she continued to cough violently.
by a series of thoughts.
After a few minutes she came downstairs with her arms open wide for me to hold her. She squeezed my neck with her arms and wrapped her legs snugly around my waist. We headed upstairs together to lie down and rest. As I sat on the side of the bed holding her, I was struck
My holding her was the first thing all day that really helped her feel better. While I was sitting there, she was no longer upset and temporarily quit coughing. It warmed my heart to know that my closeness brought her so much comfort. I wondered how it must please the Lord when we run to Him with arms open wide to rest in His care. I wondered how many times I try remedies to comfort my heart while God is waiting patiently for me to look to Him. I cherished the closeness I experienced with my daughter, and I know the Lord desires that closeness with me, His own child. Many years have passed since that day with my daughter, and I have experienced life's joys and sorrows. Most recently, it seems grief and loss have far outweighed the good, and I find myself re-examining my trust and faith in God. How many times throughout the course of our lives do we need to be reminded of His unconditional love for us, no matter how far we've strayed.
... God is waiting patiently for me to look to Him.
In the past two years, in addition to the passing of 3 pets, I've experienced the death of my grandmother, my step-father, and recently my husband of 29 years. My son and daughter live hours away, and my mother-in-law who lived with my husband and I for the past 12 years has relocated to New Jersey with the family cat. From a dynamic house full of life and energy, I have now come to be alone. So what happens to me now? Do I still believe the Lord is faithful? Am I reassured He will comfort me when I feel like life has disintegrated before my very eyes? Where do I find comfort? Do I run to the Lord to rest in His care? The easy answer is, "Of course." But we all allow to some extent our own shortcomings, fears, and hurts to pull us away from God. Whether intentional or not, when darkness overcomes us, it can be difficult to turn first to the Lord for our comfort rather than trying to rely on our own power and control. Yet from the moment of our creation by our most wonderful and holy God, He has proved His faithfulness in ways beyond imagining. He has comforted through excruciating pain and buckets of tears. His arms have been and always will be open for us. We have the choice to rest in them or not. He will never falter, even when we do. I have fallen into His arms and received His care but not consistently. I have allowed suffering to overtake me and have temporarily forgotten to turn to Him with my struggles. But I know that my true peace and healing can only come from Him. He loves me unconditionally, and He has promised everlasting salvation through the gift of His son, Jesus Christ. Nothing and no one else will satisfy. It's the greatest blessing to see the Lord use circumstances in our lives to reveal His truth. I am amazed and humbled by His faithfulness, and I pray that we all may come to Jesus Christ, moment by moment, to find comfort in His loving embrace. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NKJV)
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The Gift of Forgiveness
By Shirley Duncan
had to do some last minute shopping at Walmart to complete the Christmas shopping for Hephzibah Children’s Home where I work. Standing in line in front of me were a mother and father with a shiny new bike. They were discussing how excited their son was going to be on Christmas morning to find a new bike. Suddenly my mind went back to Lumberton, NC where I was born. I don’t remember why or how or what occasion it was, but I was around 10 years old when I got my first bike. It could not have been for Christmas because my step-father would not allow my mother to buy me anything for Christmas. He was an alcoholic and very mean when he was drinking and mean when he was sober. I was not his biological child. I had a stepbrother and a step-sister. He was not as mean to them as he was to me. They would have a little something to open, but not much. My mother didn’t have anything for Christmas. I got a present from my Sunday school teacher and a brown paper bag full of fruits and nuts with a big candy cane from the Church after the children’s Christmas program. I hid my present and bag of fruit from my step-father. If he saw it, he would destroy it. Since mama didn’t get anything for Christmas, I would share with her.
Allow God to remove the sting of bitterness and anger in your heart!
When I got my bike, I remember how excited I was. It was purple and so shiny and I couldn’t wait to ride it; my very first bike! I was outside trying to learn how to ride my new bike. My step-father came outside and started cursing at me to get off the bike. Give me that------bicycle. I got off. He grabbed it and started walking down the path that led to the canal. I started asking, “Where are you going with my bike? What are you going to do? Stop, it’s mine.” He turned to me laughing and cursing at me. I started yelling, “I want my bike, I want my bike!” By this time mama was running down the path yelling at him to stop. He took my bicycle and threw it in the canal. I was screaming and sobbing and tried to crawl down the bank and get my bike. It was too deep. I sat there and watched my bike float down the canal until it was out of sight. He kept laughing and laughing. He pulled his brown bag from his back pocket and opened the bottle and turned it up to his head. He kept laughing! My little heart was so sad. I walked slowly back to the house wiping my tears from my face. Mama didn’t want me to cry in front of step-father because it would make him even madder. The couple paid for their bike and walked on out. I was behind them. They were thrilled to be buying their son this bike. They were talking about how surprised he was going to be to get it. I spoke up and said, “He’s going to be so thrilled!” Yes, he is, it’s for our son! Why I did what I did next, I don’t know. I said, “I remember getting my first bike, but it’s not a good memory. The mother asked, “What do you mean?” I said, “My stepfather was drinking and he took it and threw it in the canal near our house and I watched it float away.” The mother grabbed her heart in disbelief. She asked did you ever get a new bike? I said, “Yes, but not until I became a resident at Hephzibah Children’s Home back in the 70’s.” This mother was ready to take me back into the store and buy me a bike. I expressed to them that this had happened many, many years ago and I was free of the anger and bitterness I had carried for so long in my heart. I said, “He didn’t know Jesus! He’s deceased now, but I didn’t make peace in my heart until about four years ago standing over his grave.” If you want to move forward and have peace in your heart and be healed of your past, you got to “Let things go!” You can’t hold on to the past!” The husband with tears in his eyes looked at his wife and said, “I got to let some things go that I am carrying about my upbringing!” They both agreed that they needed to let go of some things. They thanked me for sharing. We wished each other a “Merry Christmas!” (continued on next page)
I started walking to toward the van and burst into tears. I got inside and I prayed out loud, “Thank you dear Lord for your Love, Mercy and for your Grace and for healing me of my past!” Maybe someone reading this is holding onto something that is painful about your past or carrying something that you can’t let go. Do yourself a huge favor and give yourself the best gift ever; the gift of forgiveness. Experiencing peace in your heart is a wonderful gift. God gave His one and only son for us! What a tremendous gift. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as Christ has forgiven you!” Allow God to remove the sting of bitterness and anger in your heart! Wishing you a Joyous and Happy Easter! In His Love, Shirley Duncan Shirley Duncan is an author and speaker and travels all across the United States. Shirley was born in Lumberton, NC. She is an American Lumbee Indian. Her life story and infectious sense of humor is treasured by all who hear her wonderful story of her brokenness at the hands of a cruel alcoholic stepfather and God’s glorious restoration and subsequent forgiveness and freedom. In her book, “I Will Go On”, you will meet the cast of characters that God used to shape her young life. Shirley serves Hephzibah Children’s Home as Director of Public Relations and has been on staff for 27 years. Shirley was removed from her home and placed in foster care at the age of 11. Through a miraculous series of events, she was placed in Hephzibah Children’s Home where she lived until she graduated from High School and College. It is a joy and her passion to repay the debt that someone once paid for her while growing up as a resident of Hephzibah Children’s Home herself. Shirley graduated from Central High School in Macon, GA and then continued her education at Southern Wesleyan University in SC. Her years of first-hand experience with foster children, teen mothers, and troubled youth has earned her the honorary ‘Masters of Mercy’ degree. What has been poured into her, she delights in pouring into others. Her life story is one of broken being turned into beautiful! Shirley is married to David Duncan, a gifted inspirational speaker in his own right, and they have three beautiful married daughters AND three AWESOME grandsons, Blake, Thomas, and Ayden.
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