Freedom to Laugh

Your love has given mine great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.  Philemon 1:7

 Dali put the finishing touches on her dinner table. “Digger, can you fill this water pitcher with ice, put some ice in these glasses, and then refill this other pitcher with ice and water, pleeeeese?” She looked at her husband with that ‘you’re the only person in the world who can do this for me’ look.Key West Sunset

Digger laughed. He knew his wife and knew that everything had to be just so for this dinner party. “Why do you fuss so?” he asked but he already knew the answer. Their friends loved to come to her dinners and she knew that having things just right was part of the attraction. But the other part was the fun she created. No two dinner parties were alike.

“You know why. Besides, I have put a lot of trouble into this meal and I want the presentation to be as appealing as the taste of the food. These are our friends and I want them to feel as if I find them important enough for me to care about the details.” Dali continued to straighten this and that before beginning the finishing touches to the food. “Would you light all those candles? Everything is ready and they’ll be here any minute.”

Dali went in search of the game ‘Catch Phrase’. They hadn’t played this game with these particular friends and she wanted something fun for them to do after dinner. That’s what this evening was all about…fun.

Dali and Digger had a great time when they invited friends over. Some of their meals had a theme, some were eaten just with their hands and some were elegant and formal. They laughed, kidded one another, but before the evening was over, they prayed for each other

Dali and Digger took the words in Philemon seriously. They had fun and they refreshed each other before calling it a night. Their home was one of laughter most of the time and they wanted to share some of those good memories with friends in order to make them feel special and loved.

When was the last time you invited someone over for some stimulating conversation? Do you know how to have a good time with some good clean fun? You may not have sparkling crystal to grace your table but do your friends feel welcome when they sit down and do you do the best you can to refresh them when they visit?

Father, help me refresh the people in my life when we are together. Help me find interesting ways to share Your love with them, to help them enjoy simple pleasures. AMEN.

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Freedom from Jealousy

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph. 4:32

 Betsy choked back the cruel remark just in time. She almost felt the color green wash over her as she listened to Ann describe another Christmas gift she’d received just that morning. Betsy knew Ann wasn’t bragging, just marveling at the kindness of the people in her life.

best sunrise pictureAnn was a widow, living alone in a small two bedroom home. Her health was not so great. In fact some days, she could hardly walk. But nevertheless, whenever someone needed her to decorate a table for them, cook a meal, or supply them with cookies, Ann would do so. When her hands were hurting so bad that she thought she’d scream, she still put a casserole together to welcome a new neighbor, or a new baby into the church family. Ann knew how to be kind. She also knew how to graciously receive kindness too.

Betsy wanted to shout, “I don’t want to hear about how people give you so many gifts,” but she didn’t. She wanted to tell Ann not to phone her anymore but she didn’t do that either. Ann was the only one who phoned her on a regular basis. Ann was her friend and Betsy could not afford to lose the only friend she had.

Two lives lived in complete contrast; one woman, kind and compassionate while the other a loner, looking after her own needs and wants with never a thought for anyone else. The Bible tells us to be kind to one another, reflecting Christ to the people God brings into our lives. For Ann this was as natural as breathing. Betsy, on the other hand, hardly ever thought about what she could do for someone else.

Is there someone in your neighborhood who could use a visit? Do you know of a person who’s not well and could use a card or a phone call? There are many ways we can show kindness or receive kindness. Either way, the person on the giving or the receiving end will be blessed.

Father God, please take away my selfish attitude. Make acts of kindness, random, and as easy as breathing. Give me Your Spirit of kindness as I step out for the first time to do something for someone else. Give me a new habit, Lord. AMEN.

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Freedom to Hope

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God and not trouble? In all this Job did not sin in what he said.  Job 2:10

 Jeri mechanically filled the dishwasher and turned it on. She moved toward the laundry room on wooden legs and placed another load in the dryer. The foundation of her world had cracked wide open leaving a gaping wound that she was sure would never heal. It was as if an earthquake had shattered everything she held dear.

She sat on the sofa and sobbed great tears of sorrow at the loss of innocence and the feeling of betrayal by the very God she’d chosen to follow. He was supposed to protect her family from just such a tragedy. She wanted to hide, find a mountaintop away from prying eyes, and never again talk to anyone.Key West Lighthouse

Jeri was traumatized as are many people, day in and day out, who live in this fallen world. We never know when someone or something is going to shake us out of our comfortable existence, take us for a ride down the slide of sorrow and shame. We can do all we can to prevent a child from making wrong choices but in the end it’s up to them. We can seek all the medical advice available and still a husband keels over with a massive coronary.

God’s enemy, the one who would infuse himself on the throne of heaven, is also our enemy. By hurting us, his hope is to hurt the God we love. During times of trials and hurt, God is sometimes the only source of comfort. As long as we keep our eyes on Him, whatever we are going through will be bearable. It’s when we focus on ourselves and how bad we feel that the problem looms large and the solution unattainable.

Job knew this. He knew that God never promised us a rose garden. In fact, His Word tells us that living as a Christian in this world is hard. He also said He’d walk with us through any trial as He did for Daniel in the fiery furnace and in the Lion’s den.

Do you have a fiery furnace to walk through? Are the lions nipping at your heels about to devour you? Turn your face toward heaven, as Job did, and watch how God will take this situation and teach you, refine you, and mold you to more clearly reflect Christ to your world than ever before.

Father, I love You. Save me from the fiery furnace but Lord, if that’s not your plan, then walk through the furnace with me. Help me become more sanctified, more Christ-like through this situation. AMEN.

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Freedom to Love One Another

Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.  Romans 13:8

Years later, it seemed kind of foolish but back then the hurt was real. Benny remembered his father’s distance, his contention that he loved both his sons but Benny also remembered his father’s actions that spoke louder than words to the contrary.

When Benny had raced on the school varsity team, his father was nowhere to be seen. But he’d shown up for Joel’s schoolSt. Simons Lighthouse 3 play. When Benny had earned the role of lead in his senior drama, his father had been too busy at work to take the time off opening night but when Joel had earned a medal on the swim team, their dad was cheering for him from the bleachers.

The memories no longer had the power to hurt because Benny had resolved not to let them control his life. He’d forgiven his dad a long time ago and now had an easy relationship with the older man, one that would not have been possible if Benny hadn’t made the choice to forgive.

The Bible talks about us not letting a debt remain and in this verse the debt is anger, hatred, and unforgiveness. Our only debt is to love one another. Jesus spoke of this commandment when he told his disciples that after the first command to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, the most important one was to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our neighbors are anyone who lives on this earth with us; our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and everyone else.

Are you harboring anger toward a deed long forgotten by the one you are angry with? Do you hold unforgiveness in your heart and have you discovered that the only one hurting is you? There’s a reason God asks us to forgive. Most often, we are the only ones hurting when we hold a grudge and it destroys us from the inside out. Those feelings can control where we go, who we share our faith with, or not as the case may be, and so many other things that hurt the kingdom of God Almighty.

Entire church bodies split when unresolved anger flows through the congregation. Our example of Christian love gets blown right out the window and non-believers question why in the world they’d want what we have to offer. Love is important, not a feeling but an action. Who do you need to show love to today?

Father, I ask Your forgiveness first for being angry with_______. Give me the strength to go to this person and seek their forgiveness, not because they deserve it, but because of my love for You and Your love for me. AMEN.

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Freedom to Know God’s Will

Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go for to You I lift up my soul.  Psalm 143:8

Dix marveled, as she looked around the rally. Two years ago, she’d never been on a motorcycle. Now, she was part of a biker group who not only attended rallies but also helped the organizers handle security and clean up garbage, anything to make the rally a success. Remembering her transition to this state, Dix shook her head. She’d wanted to go home so badly when they’d first moved.

“I miss the family,” Dix swiped at large crocodile tears of self-pity. “I want to go home.” She moved toward a box, one of many that she’d still not unpacked.

Her husband Gary’s sad face spoke volumes. “I accepted this transfer with your approval. We could have stayed where we were but you enthusiastically talked about our new adventure. You knew we’d be away from the kids and grandchildren, but you’d insisted you were okay with that,” he reminded her.

“I know. I know. I didn’t expect to miss everyone so much. Didn’t we think you’d be the one homesick?” Dix looked toward him with pleading eyes, begging for his understanding.

Gary understood but couldn’t do a thing about it. He’d burned his bridges when he’d accepted this job offer.Tybee Lighthouse

Dix prayed long and hard the morning they attended their new church for the first time. God told her that home was where He was. She could hardly believe the peace those comforting words brought to her soul. God reminded her of the most important thing, His unfailing love.

Dix proceeded to set out in faith and trust that they were where God wanted them to be. Her home sickness vanished the minute she walked into the church and felt the very presence of God Himself. She was home.

Since then, they’d made a point of searching to see where God wanted them. They’d joined the church but somehow God let them know that since Gary enjoyed riding a motorcycle that there was work to be done for Him in that culture. God changed Dix’s heart toward bikers and moved them to the secular rally sites with His blessing.

Dix and Gary learned that as long as they trusted the Lord, God would show them the way. Do you trust God for your next move, next decision, or next step? As long as you trust in your own intellect or your own capabilities, you’ll miss out on the adventure of a lifetime. You never know what God has planned for you unless you take that step of faith and follow Him out of your comfort zone.

Father God, thank you for bringing me where You are so I can walk where You want me to walk. Thank You for showing me how to serve others and giving me the opportunity to share my faith with whomever I collide with along Your path. AMEN.

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Freedom To Know Truth

If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.  John 8:31b-32

 

Fay was a trusting person, or at least, that’s the excuse she gave when Tyke left her in the middle of the night a week ago. He’d told her he loved her and wanted to marry her as soon as they could so she moved in with him. Now he was gone and he hadn’t even said good-bye.

“Joan, I don’t know why I let myself get into these situations?” Fay dropped her head into her arms that lay crossed on the kitchen table. “I trusted him. I loved him, I think, but I never thought he’d leave.” Swollen eyes looked beseechingly toward Joan, a friend who’d recently come to know and love Jesus.

Joan cleared her throat. Would Fay listen this time? “Fay, I don’t know too many people I’d trust the way I trust my Lord.”

“What do you mean? You can’t even see Him. How can you trust someone you can’t see?” Fay hiccupped and then blew her nose.

Joan settled back into her chair. This could take awhile, she thought. “Jesus is alive and I have faith that He loves me and died for my sins on the cross. I know he’s real because I’m not the same person I used to be. Remember how I used to smoke, drink, chase the guys?”

St. James Island Lighthouse“You mean like I do?” Fay sniffled.

Joan grinned. “Yeah, like you do. Anyhow, I hate the smell of smoke, I don’t need no booze any more, and I look at the guys we hang with through the eyes of Jesus. They aren’t all that good for us. Most of them don’t even have a full time job. All they do with any paycheck is blow it on booze and drugs. Like Tyke did.”

Fay sat back in her chair and eyed her friend. She knew Joan was telling her the truth. Why couldn’t she have known that Tyke wasn’t trustworthy? “Does this God of yours give you smarts so you know who to trust and who not to?”

Joan’s eyes widened. Finally. “Fay, God has provided us with a large book called the Bible. In it is all the truth we’ll ever need. Do you want to ask Jesus to come into your heart and change you into the person He wants you to be?”

Fay nodded. “Will he help me get a new boyfriend?” She chuckled. She knew she wasn’t ready for another relationship and from now on, she’d consult God’s truth before committing herself to another man.

Fay later learned that God would get her a new boyfriend, a new girlfriend, and many other new relationships as she walked in His truth, shared her faith with others, and waited for His timing and His direction.

Are you making choices, trusting people all too quickly and landing in hot water more times than you care to? The world’s version of trust fails miserably most of the time because that trust is based on the wrong things. If we trust because of God’s love and God’s provision, because of what His word teaches, then we have some facts at our fingertips on which to base our trust in another human.

Father, Your Word has all the answers and will take me where You want me to go, whether in a new relationship or in a new direction. Help me be patient to learn what I need to learn before I make the wrong choice. AMEN.

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Freedom From the Past

Therefore do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Cor. 4: 16-17

 Rachel grasped the piano leg, waiting for the next blow. Her father’s leather belt had a large shiny buckle that bit into her skin every time it made contact with her bare legs. Rachel tried not to care, tried not to feel, and tried not to cry. Crying usually made the beatings worse.

Thus was the childhood of Jeremy’s mother. But he never knew that about her. His mom was the kindest, most gentle woman he knew. He knew a few women from school who were not so kind. His mom tugged at his hat, making sure his ears were covered before he went outside. He blushed, sometimes wishing she’d not fuss so much, but then he’d hear about some of St. Augustine 002the moms his friends had and was thankful all over again for her fussing.

“”I love you Jeremy.” Jeremy peeked through his half closed eyes to watch as his mom waved toward him. He tried to appear not to notice but smiled all the same, feeling the warmth of her love course through his body. He skipped down the sidewalk.

Rachel had been abused from the time she was three months old. How she survived is anyone’s guess but survive she did. Some days, she’d ask God to take her to heaven, to rescue her from a house where drugs and alcohol, parties and orgies were the norm. But God never did or so she thought way back then.

Now, she knew better. God had rescued her. He’d rescued her mind, body and soul for His purposes, renewing her into the person He wanted her to be. Today she was a mom and a great wife. At least that’s what her husband told her once in a while, teasing that he didn’t want her to get a swelled head. She loved being a mom, cherished the memories that her little family were making each day and supported her husband in the dreams he had for his life.

Do you harbor memories from a less than perfect childhood? Did your home depict the seedier side of life? God can take what you see as something that will destroy you and turn it into something that transforms you into the child He wants you to be, if you’ll let Him.

Father, thank you for rescuing me from my past. Thank You for changing me through my circumstances and drawing me into the comfort of Your Grace and Love. AMEN.

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Freedom From Worry

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him.  Matt. 7:11

Josh was in trouble. He’d tried to stop his wife from leaving, grabbed her arm, and now he was sitting in jail, charged with spousal abuse. He had one phone call.

“Dad, I’m in jail. Melly filed a charge against me for abuse. She left me and took the kids. I tried to stop her and…” His voice shook. His fear was a tangible force that covered the distance between the jail and his parent’s home.

His dad spoke slowly; making sure his words of comfort could be heard. “It’s okay son. We’ll be there as soon as we can.Ponce Inlet 006

Josh sighed in relief. His parents would know what to do. His wife had taken all the money in their bank account so he didn’t even have any to post bail. A tear slid down his cheek, one that he quickly wiped away in case someone saw him crying like a baby. It would take a few hours but his parents were coming.

Josh’s dad dropped whatever he was doing, loaded the car, and drove hundreds of miles to support his son. Josh knew that whatever he asked them to do, his parents would do to the best of their ability. He felt secure in that knowledge. However, Josh’s dad had limits. He was human and basically a sinner, just like Josh.

God is our heavenly Father more capable than any human father. He gives to His children all that He has so they can succeed in carrying out the work of spreading the gospel, whatever form that takes. When we accept Christ’s gift of eternal life, walk where God wants us, He will provide the resources and the physical strength to carry our His wishes. We don’t have to wonder if whatever comes into our life will destroy us. God loves us so much; He knows about our needs before we need them. His resources are limitless.

Do you wonder where your next meal will come from or where you’re going to find the money to pay the debts you carry? What about an illness? Does the worry about it keep you from finding any joy in your life today? God loves you more than is possible for human parents or friends. Walk secure in that knowledge. Keep your eyes on heaven and walk where God places you, in confidence.

Father, thank You for giving me access to Your resources, for loving me so much that I can depend on You to provide for my needs. Help me keep my eyes focused on You today. Help me trust in Your love, Lord. AMEN.

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Freedom From Anger

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is not law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Gal. 5:22-24

St. Augustine 002Sherie’s face was fused with the red hue of anger, loud obnoxious, out of control anger. Saliva leaked from the corners of her mouth as she spit hateful words towards her son. His body crumpled, shoulders sagged, and his eyesight flew in all directions looking for a place of reprieve.

“But mom…”

“Forget it. I don’t know how I could have given birth to such an ignorant boy.” Sherie spat the words and stomped off to her bedroom sure that if she stayed in that room one more minute, she’d strike. She would not abuse her child as she’d been abused.

Sherie didn’t realize it, or maybe she did but was not about to admit. She did abuse her son verbally, every time she treated him in this manner. She also believed that her Irish heritage was responsible for her angry outbursts and there was nothing she could do about it.

Sherie had a host of excuses after each incident. She was a Christian and knew that God wanted her to stop yelling and parent in a calm manner but, “This is just how I am,” she’d say.

One day, a friend was visiting. Her son walked into the house she’d just cleaned with muddy boots. Sherie was livid. This time she didn’t hide her anger. She just let it fly. Her friend was astounded.

“Sherie, stop. Do you know what you just said to Justin? How can you treat him that way?”

“What? Did you see what he did? I can’t let him get away with that. What kind of parent would I be?” Sherie huffed, crossed her arms over her chest and stood as if waiting for her friend to apologize.

“Aren’t you a Christian?”

“You know I am. The Bible says…”

“Yes, the Bible says we are the branches tied into the vine of Holy God Almighty. We are to produce the fruit of…”

“Yeah, yeah. Patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. But I get so angry. It’s that Irish blood, you know. We’re hot heads.”

“You can stop. What do you think happens to the Holy Spirit, residing in you, when you spout off like that? What do you suppose is His purpose in your life anyway?”

Sherie sat down hard. “I know that I grieve the Holy Spirit when I get angry. I want to be a Godly woman but every time Jason does one of his stupid stunts, I see red.” Tears began to filter through her long eyelashes. “I hate the look on Jason’s face when I lose control.”

“Then when you feel yourself getting angry, stop. Get down on your knees and throw yourself at the foot of the throne of Grace. You are grafted into the power of God through the Holy Spirit so you can do anything He sets your heart to do with His help.”

Sherie listened to her friend that day. Slowly over the next year, she practiced praying instead of blowing off steam. She became a calmer woman and Jason began to hug her once in a while as he’d done when he was little. Their home became more peaceful.

Have you excused poor behavior as part of your heritage, or because it’s expected of you? How often do you abuse the very ones you love the most by shouting obscenities or hateful words expecting it to bounce off them as soon as you’ve calmed down. It doesn’t bounce off. In fact the Bible talks a lot about the damage our tongue can do. Let the Holy Spirit produce His fruit in your life. It’s your choice.

Father, I am so sorry for grieving the Spirit with my anger. Please forgive my bad behavior. Holy Spirit remind me, every time I feel anger rise, to stop and seek Your help. AMEN.

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Ann Mock Brings The South Alive in Latest Book

Romance and suspense come alive in this uplifting Christian novel set in the South in the 1870s.Front cover (2)

 The reader will fall in love with the intriguing story of Laura who overcomes personal tragedy, and is forced to hide a secret that, if revealed, will cause her great heartache. Amidst the revitalized social scene of a South recovering from the War Between the States, Laura has to sacrifice one of her most precious desires in order to protect someone she loves above all else.  Yet as the world around the Malcolm family improves they are also forced to overcome numerous challenges. Sitting on the banks of the Mississippi, Oak Grove, the ancestral home of the family, and the oaks that shaded it symbolize the Malcolms courage, resilience, and strength. Can Laura make her enemies become allies as she confronts her secret and finds the strength to forgive as well as to love again?

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Ann Mock lives in Florida with her husband Dave and her faithful companion, Happy.  She enjoys ballroom dancing, and cruising on oceans and rivers in both Europe and the United States. Some of her favorite trips were on Mississippi steamboats that visited many of the areas mentioned in this book.

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/AnnMockAuthor

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1495249263/

Leave a Comment for a chance to win a free audio version of the book.

 

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