Heart of the City

By Cindy Galdal-Ruperto

Quenching Your Spiritual Thirst

“As the deer pants for water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, Where is your God?” Psalm 42:1-3

Rush, rush, rush. Here in this hectic city we are so used to getting things done in a hurry; we can easily forget what it means to linger in the presence of the Lord. If we don’t have time to do something, there are many services available to do it for us. Too busy to do your laundry? Just drop it off and pick it up a few hours later. No time to cook? Pick up the phone and order in. Hosting an event but don’t want to be bothered with all the details? Hire an event planner to do all the running around for you. Are you too exhausted to clean your apartment? Get a housecleaner to do the work for you.

You can even “hire a husband” to do repairs around the house, tape bedtime stories for your child (to listen to on his/her ipod when you can’t be there), TIVO what you don’t have time to watch on TV, and shop for whatever you might need on the internet without ever stepping into a store! Aw, the many conveniences of the modern world.

But there is one thing we can’t take a short cut on or hire someone to do for us–that’s spending time with the Lord. A sign in my local coffee shop always reminds me of this truth (even though the sign may not be intentionally spiritual): “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” Here is the setting for it. The shop’s décor is cozy and inviting with low lighting and comfortable seating. As people rush in and out with their beverages, they can’t help but be tempted to sit down and relax awhile. The goal is to get them to order one more cup of java or one more chocolate chip muffin before rushing back out to the rat race. The owner knows what he is doing. The more they tarry, the more they buy. Right in the center of all the hustle and bustle is the huge sign with this quote by Socrates.

Have you ever experienced that kind of emptiness? Your social calendar is full, your job is consuming, and you attend church as much as you can, yet something is missing. Deep down inside you have a hunger that can’t be filled by activity. Ignoring it will affect your entire life. Nothing can take the place of a daily quiet time with the Lord. What could be more important than spending time with Him? Everything we have or ever hope to be comes from the Lord. Prayer gives us the strength to meet each day with all its varied challenges. Reading His Word renews our mind and helps us to focus on His truth. What the world takes out of us, God can pour back in.

When you feel that spiritual hunger don’t ignore it. It is God Himself calling you to His side. Your life may be filled, but it will not be fulfilling unless you make time for the Lord regularly. Don’t give Him the exhausted left overs of your day; give Him the first fruits. Rise early and soak in His presence, His power, His wisdom. You’ll notice a difference in how you handle stress, interact with people, and prioritize your life. Putting God first helps you put things into proper perspective. Here are some Christ-centered events to remind you of that.

Summer is a wonderful time to slow down from our hectic lifestyles and draw closer to the Lord. Take your Bible with you when you head to the beach; enjoy praise music on your ipod in the park, and pack some teaching CD’s when you go on vacation. Remember that nothing can quench your soul’s thirst for God, except being with Him in His presence. There is no more important appointment to keep, no better place to be, and no one that can do it for you. Isn’t it amazing to know that the Creator of this entire universe desires to fellowship with you? When you hunger for Him, it is because He is calling you to Himself. Never be too busy to listen.

– Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, June 2008.

A REALITY CHECK FROM THE GOSPEL

Don’t you sometimes find that you need a spiritual reality check? I can get so used to thinking with my old, unregenerated thought patterns that I forget to put God into the equation. One morning the following devotional really set me straight by revealing the lies I had been living under. I would like to share it with you so that you will have the opportunity to do the same. Enjoy it and allow the Holy Spirit to show you how these liberating truths apply to your own life:

‘If I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice.” Philippians 2:17

Don’t be surprised if there is an attack on your work, on you who are called to do it, on your innermost nature—the hidden person of the heart. It must be so. The great thing is not to be surprised, nor to count it strange—for that plays into the hand of the enemy.

Is it possible that anyone should set himself to exalt our beloved Lord and not instantly become a target for many arrows? The very fact that your work depends utterly on Him and can’t be done for a moment without Him calls for a very close walk and a constant communion of spirit. This alone is enough to account for anything the enemy can do…

It costs to have a pure work. Not for nothing is our God called a consuming fire.

Don’t be surprised if you suffer. It is part of the way of the cross. Mark 9:12 says, “The Son of Man must suffer much.” If we follow in the way He went, we also must suffer.

You will find this truer every year as you go on. And anything is easier. Scourging is easier…

Have you ever gone through your New Testament, marking the places where suffering in one form or another is mentioned? It’s wonderfully enlightening. The Book is full of joy, bit it is also full of pain, and pain is taken for granted. “Think it not strange,” “Count it all joy” (1 Peter 4:12; James 1:2).

We are meant to follow in His steps, not avoid them. What if our suffering is caused by those whom we love? Was His not caused by those whom He loved? Oh, what a Book the Bible is! If only we steep our souls in its mighty comfort we can’t go far wrong; we shall never lose heart. “For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

You will find that the joy of the Lord comes as you go on in the way of the cross. It was the One who had nobody all his own on earth who said, “If I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice.”

It is no small gift of His love, this opportunity to be offered upon the sacrifice and service—something you would not naturally choose, something that asks for more than you would naturally give.

So rejoice! You are giving Him what He asks you to give Him; the chance to show you what He can do.

-C.R.
Amy Carmichael (Devotional from His Victorious Indwelling, July 17, Nick Harrision, Editor)  August, 2010

THE IMPORTANCE OF EVANGELIZING OURSELVES

“We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.” 2 Cor. 4:7

Every once in a while I have to evangelize myself. I find myself fretting over something and before I know it I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, my response is the same once the pressure heats up. I resort to my own strength and try to work the circumstance to my advantage. I know I am depending upon myself when I end up physically and mentally drained. The other day in the midst of just one of these episodes the Lord reminded me that He could take care of it Himself. I took a deep breath and shut my mouth. I knew that He was right. Why hadn’t I thought of that?

I realized that I have to “share the good news” with myself more frequently to avoid slipping into a spiritual abyss. I am very good at remembering that I will enter into Heaven when my life here on earth is through, but I am not good at remembering that Heaven has entered into me. When I was saved Christ came to live inside of me to empower me for whatever comes my way (Col. 1:27).

When we’re caught in the struggles of our lives it’s important to rest in the knowledge of our relationship with God, and trust Him to work on our behalf. We do that by taking spiritual inventory of all that He has done for us. I like to remind myself of the many ways that He is involved in my life. Here are just a few.

God sought me before I even knew Him. He pursued me because of His great love for me.

He has a specific purpose and plan for my life, whether or not I see or understand it. He is the One who will bring it to fruition, not me.

God is conforming me to the image of Christ Jesus. Each circumstance that comes my way will be used to accomplish this goal.

He has invited me to make all my requests known to Him. He wants to help me and is concerned about every detail of my life.

As the years go by I realize more and more that I have a choice to make each day–not just each day, but each moment of the day. I can remember who I am in Christ, or I can forget about all my spiritual blessings in Him. Even for this I must look to Him.

Do you need to be reminded of the full message of the Gospel?

Have a wonderful month as you build your life moment by moment on the good news of the Gospel. Regardless of what you may be going through, God is going through it with you. He is the One that woke you up this morning, fills your lungs with air and is at work in every detail of your life. This is the full Gospel message. God paid a very high price so that we could be reconciled with Him and bask in His love for us right here and now. We don’t have to wait to go to Heaven to be with God. Heaven has come to us.

-C.R,
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, June 2010.

FACING EACH DAY WITH CHRIST AS OUR LIFE

“I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” John 14:20

When my dear friend Linda’s husband of 50 years passed away, I prayed about how to minister to her. She lives in the midwest, so I knew I couldn’t visit with her. I couldn’t even attend the funeral. I decided to send her a devotional that focuses on praise and comfort. When we talked on the phone each week she would share her grief and her experiences of learning to live alone. I knew how she was used to doing everything with her husband. They had one of the best marriages I had ever witnessed. They truly were soul mates. Over 50 years they had raised two wonderful sons and welcomed six beautiful grand children into their lives. They were a strong Christian family, heavily committed to their local church.

During our weekly phone conversations I was delighted to hear about Linda’s spiritual journey as a widow. Even though she had been raised in a church and a regular attendee all her adult life, she had not realized an important truth about Christ. She stumbled on to it in the devotional I had sent her. That verse was John 14:20: “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” She had never realized just how close the Lord was to her in her everyday life. She had viewed Him as being far off and distant. I listened to the excitement and relief in her voice as she talked about learning about her inseparable union with Christ.

Just the day before, her area had been hit with the biggest snow storm she had ever seen. The large amount of snow caused multiple problems for her home. She had never been faced with a situation like this by herself. She said that just knowing that Christ lived in her, and she in Him, made all the difference. She realized when the workmen were in her home making repairs, she would have normally been very stressed. Instead, she found herself resting and relaxing in the Lord’s care. Rather than feeling alone she felt safe and secure in Christ.

As we celebrate Easter we remember why Jesus was crucified, buried and rose again. He did it all so that He could be with us. As believers, our sins are forgiven and we are free to spend not just an eternity with the Lord but also to enjoy a personal relationship with Him here and now.

Have a blessed Easter as you remember the price that Christ paid so that He could live in your heart. If you have received Him as your Lord and Savior you will never be alone. Keep that in mind as you go through your daily routine. God is not just far away in the heavens waiting for you to join Him one day. Of all the places He could be right now, He has chosen to be with you. Jesus said, “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” What then shall we fear?

-C.R,

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Col. 3:1-4

On the day of our recent singles event I found out that my guest musician had been snowed in and couldn’t get back to New York. That was just a few hours before the start time! So I made a phone call and God provided someone else. I also needed a sound system which the Lord provided through some one else. I was amazed at how quickly these kind people were willing to help out at the last minute. The event was well attended, even though we just had a blizzard a few days earlier. I was relieved that so many people came. We were filled to capacity. Everyone had a wonderful time.

You would think that, as a singles leader, I would be thrilled. After working hard for a few months with our many volunteers it is a relief to have seen it take place and know that it was a success.

But rather than dwell on the faithfulness of God, I found myself stuck on two negative comments someone had made. I realized that the enemy would rather I focus on anything other than the goodness of God. Negative thoughts produce negative feelings, and make us lose sight of all the blessings that God has bestowed upon us.

God has commanded us to set our mind on things above, and it is worth our time to do that. We will have to develop the habit of examining our thoughts and rejecting the ones that are not glorifying to God. How can we do that? Here are some practical tips.

Memorize your favorite promises of God and expect them to be fulfilled in your life. When problems arise, look for God to do what He does best. Don’t worry about what you can’t do; focus on what God can do. The Bible tells us that nothing is impossible for God. Believe that and build your life on it.

Recognize that God is your source of Life. You may know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, but do you know Him as your Life? He is our Source, in charge of everything, and in control of everything. Don’t be dependent on yourself or others.

Remember that your life is now hidden with Christ. You are not on your own anymore to face this fallen world in your own strength. What does it mean to be hidden with Christ? It means to be protected and cared for.

Do not be ignorant of the schemes of the enemy. He wants you to dwell on your circumstances and worry yourself sick. God wants you to be heavenly minded so that you can have peace and assurance as He brings you victoriously through tough times.

Regardless of what we may be facing, it’s important to carefully guard our thoughts. We should never just think about whatever pops into our head. Attending Christ-centered events is another strategy for helping us set our minds on things above.

This month remember to practice setting your mind on things above. Read your Bible each morning and keep a prayer journal. When worries pop into your mind, quickly turn them into prayers and release them to God. Worry never solves anything, it just creates anxiety. Rather than dwell on negative comments, pray for the people who say them. You’ll feel better. Don’t let the enemy steal your joy. Negative thoughts produce negative feelings. Take time to count your blessings and welcome spiritual peace.

-C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, March 2010.

LOOKING FOR LOVE? LET THE AUTHOR OF LOVE LEAD THE WAY

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”Psalm 119: 105

All summer long the New York newspapers were filled with pictures of the Yankees battling it out for the World Series. They also made a big deal over the romance between actress Kate Hudson and Alex Rodriguez. The media went so far as to call Kate the new mascot for the team. They were photographed everywhere together, even house hunting. But what happened after baseball season was over? It seems that Kate Hudson herself was the only one that thought this would last.

I wonder, what was she thinking? Hadn’t she seen his pictures splashed everywhere over the years with various women? It was highly publicized that his marriage ended because of his many indiscretions. The proof was in the pudding—or should I say the many photographs.

Wouldn’t it be great if all singles could have adequate knowledge about the people they want to date? Or at least some kind of guidance along the way? Christian singles often complain about how difficult dating is, but rarely tap into the spiritual resources that are available to them. As believers, our prayer life should be at the core of everything we do. After all, that is where the power comes from–God’s power, that is. We’re not interested in just what we have to offer, since we have already realized how limited and faulty that is. Emotions have a way of clouding reality. We have no way of knowing what God knows. He doesn’t just see the whole picture, He actually paints it.

Here are some practical tips for putting God in charge of your social life:

•Go to bed early and rise early so that you can spend quality time in His word and in prayer.

•Surrender your will to His will. He wants much more for you than you could ever want. Unless you realize that you will never be able to rest in His care.

•Be prayed up before you attend social events. Don’t worry about what you will say, ask God to give you the words. Make Him the focus of everything you do. View everything as a growing experience in your Christian walk.

•Talk to a variety of people, not just the ones that look good, or that talk to you. Attend events not just as a single person, but as a minister of the Most High God. Ask Him to anoint your mouth with words of encouragement and healing for those you speak to. Remember, that you have a much higher calling on your life than just mixing and mingling.

•Ask God to protect you from the devil’s counterfeits. The enemy would love nothing more than to bring pain and heartache into a believer’s life through the wrong person. Learn to shake the dust off your feet quickly and move on when this happens. Recognize spiritual warfare when it enters your life and put on the full armor of God.

•Realize that rejection in dating may be a token of God’s mercy! Trust Him to know what is best for you. That may mean taking time to heal, knowing that God’s plan for your life has not changed. He is still in control, not the person you were dating.

Valentine’s Day presents a valuable opportunity for Christian singles to reevaluate their “love life.” Isn’t it crazy to look for love without consulting the One who is the Author of love? The Bible defines God as love. Is He not the ultimate matchmaker? Tap into His infinite wisdom, and let Him lead you into what He has for you. You may have to shift time zones and grow a little patience, but it will be worth it. There is no point in rushing into something that is not His best for you. Let Him take His time and do His special work, not just in you but in the one He may have for you. Even though dating is a bumpy road, His Word will be a lamp to your feet, and a light to your path.

-C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, February 2010

“Be sure your sin will find you out.” Numbers 32:23

You can’t go too far these days without hearing about Tiger Woods. “How the mighty have fallen!” His story is everywhere and more details keep surfacing. One of the consequences of fame and fortune is the public’s scrutiny of a star’s life. It’s amazing that Tiger thought he could keep his secret life hidden. He abandoned his wife and his children more and more with each of his transgressions. He let them down in ways that will have a profound impact on their lives whether they remain a family or not.

The Tiger Woods story sheds light on the many different types of abandoners there are in society. My childhood friend “Kim” was greatly affected by the loss of her father after he abandoned their family. Her mother had to go to work to be able to even barely feed three daughters. They lived hand to mouth in their tiny apartment over a store with hand-me-down clothes. She always told me how much they missed their beloved daddy.

After Kim turned 18 her father contacted her and asked if she would like to visit him. She and her older sisters jumped at the chance; so out from Brooklyn to the suburbs they went. The minute she entered their spacious home and backyard she realized that her step sisters had been living the life she had always dreamed of. She couldn’t take her eyes off the swing set. All she could think about was her mom sitting on a folding beach chair on the sidewalk in front of their door. (She was so tired when she came home from work on the weekends that was all she could do. She died of a heart condition at an early age; Kim swears it was broken). When Kim realized her father had waited till she turned 18 to contact her, she knew it was so he would not have to pay child support. Her view of him changed forever. His sin caught up with him.

Men are not the only abandoners in our society. It’s sad to see how many grown children abandon their elderly, frail parents. The director of our local senior’s center says that she has a very difficult time tracking down the children of their senior members. Often times she must call them to report that their parent is wearing their clothes inside out or not able to function on their own anymore. Their children haven’t seen them in years and have no clue that they are aging and in need of care. Or perhaps they do but they just don’t want to take the responsibility and help them. I’ve heard it said that one mother can raise three children, but three children can’t take care of one mother.

Are you an abandoner of any kind? Perhaps you have wondered why you haven’t been able to experience the peace of God. Could it be that He is trying to tell you something? Do you need to make something right with someone, or do you need to ask His forgiveness? Seek Him in prayer and He will guide you.

The new year is the right time to get a fresh start. The Tiger Woods story shows us all that “our sin will find us out” (Num. 32:23). Have you abandoned anyone in your life that needs you? Perhaps you haven’t left them physically but just emotionally. Do you share a home with your spouse and children yet remain detached from them? You can start fixing that right now by confessing your sin to God and to them. Perhaps you have neglected your parents or your siblings by ignoring them because you are just “too busy.” Is that really the way you want to live? Is that the way God wants you to live? If you have been unhappy but you couldn’t figure out why, ask the Lord to convict you of any selfishness. The One Who will never abandon His people is ready to change every receptive heart.

-C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, January 2010.

“Shhhhhhh! Quiet Down…It’s Christmas”

“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. ‘And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”Luke 2:8-14

When we were little we spent our summer vacations at a farm in the country. It was quite an adventure for us since it was so different than where we lived in Brooklyn. We enjoyed riding horses, swimming in a lake and roasting marshmallows by a campfire. One year my mom decided to have us stay in a secluded cabin rather than at the main house. That lasted for less than 24 hours. It was fun during the day to be by ourselves, but then in the dark it was very dark. We looked up into the sky and saw more stars than we even knew existed. What a spectacle! That was the only good part. The howling wind sounded like someone was knocking down our door. We got so scared my mom took us up to the main house to sleep. That was the end of that; it was just much too quiet for us city folk!

I am reminded of that quiet as I prepare my heart for the Christmas season. What a joy it is to cultivate solitude since there is so much noise around us. There seems to be turmoil everywhere you turn. People are frightened by the worsening economy, the jobless rate, and how pending health care reform will affect our lives. The news reported that for the first time in years the majority of toys being sold will cost just $10. Stores will not be well-stocked because they don’t expect to do a good business. People just aren’t able to afford the basics they used to. Travel agencies are preparing for a dismal season as well. Many people will be staying home rather that jetting off to vacations or even driving long distances to visit family. If you are fortunate to still have a house to celebrate in, you are in a better position than those who have lost theirs to foreclosures. Those numbers also continue to rise steadily. The economic stimulus package hasn’t managed to stimulate the economy or people’s moods.

In the midst of all this, we need a little quiet. I can’t help but think back to that first Christmas in the distant fields where the shepherds were. Can you picture them out on that secluded hillside, minding their own business and tending to their flock? I have often wondered why God chose this simple spot to showcase His majesty. Maybe it was because there were no distractions. What was it like for these humble workers to witness a host of heavenly angels burst on the scene praising God? Breathtaking I am sure. This first Christmas teaches us a valuable lesson about celebrating. The majesty of the Lord should be the center point. Sometimes we need to let go of our traditions to be reminded of His glory. Rather than shopping, shopping, shopping, we should be worshipping, worshipping, worshipping!

This year forget about what you don’t have and focus on what you do have. Put Christ in the center where He belongs and you will experience a renewed sense of wonder and joy.

Celebrate this joyous season all month long by reading through the book of Luke in your devotional time. Go to bed early and wake up eager to linger in the Lord’s presence. Ask God to show you how to turn down the noise of city living and rest in the quietness of His Spirit. This time of the year there is no better place to be than praising the Lord and proclaiming: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men”!

C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, December 2009.

The Biological Clock

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27

It has been said that the male equivalent to a women’s biological clock is the fear of going bald. Although I must say, men seem to have a much better attitude toward their hair loss than women do to the loss of their fertile eggs. Guys just shave off what’s left of their hair, and go with their new bald look. For many women the thought of never conceiving and giving birth to a child is unbearable. I can empathize; as a childless woman in my forties, I have also gone through that emotional agony, the deep sense of loss, and regret. Yet, after processing this grief you can’t help but wonder what else God has in store for you. Here’s the thought process that helped me make that journey.

First, I began to think about all the women praying for babies and all the children praying to be adopted. I knew that God was in the middle of that somewhere. Why else would He define pure religion as caring for orphans? Could it be that there is an even higher calling than bearing your own child? Or at least one equal to it? If God Himself is love, wouldn’t He want unloved children to be loved? Wouldn’t He want barren women to be moms? Even if it wasn’t in the manner that they had expected?

Over the years as a Singles Director, I have heard countless men and women describe their loneliness and fear of being alone. Many have suffered heart-breaking rejection from dating relationships or marriages. All they want is to belong to someone once and for all. I have seen orphans speak of the same type of pain. Foster children are often shuffled from home to home, longing for a family to call their own. I am amazed at how young children are so in touch with their feelings. They can clearly communicate their deep desire to belong. I have seen children as young as 5 years old talk about how much they want their own bed or room or toys or mommy or daddy. I recently saw a 17 year old boy on television that conducted an internet search for a new family. His mother had mental illness and could not care for him. He had bounced back and forth in foster homes for years. Then an empty nest family took him in and sent him to college. They love him like their own. Here is pure religion at its finest.

Thanksgiving is a good time to be reminded of what religion is really all about. An attitude of gratitude helps us realize our lives are not as barren as we thought they were. Indeed, we are among the more fortunate. We can choose to wallow in what we don’t have, or we can ask God to use us to bless others. This is where true joy comes from. Take the focus off of yourself and put it on the Lord and watch what He will do.

Prepare your heart for Thanksgiving by counting your blessings all month long. Ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to others. Never be afraid of the barren areas of your life. Surrender them to the Author of Love and the Author of Life. He has great plans for you, even when yours fall through. Discover the joy of practicing pure religion by remembering the less fortunate. There are so many ways to do that. You can adopt a child or a pet, regularly check in on your neighbors who are seniors or become a volunteer. God is more than able to fill the emptiness in your heart. Will you let Him?

C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, Nov. 2009

How Singles Can Plan Ahead To Have A Joyous Holiday Season

‘To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under heaven.”Eccl. 3:1

Ever since I got a new watch battery I’ve noticed that I’ve been on time more than usual. Things are a lot less hectic because I don’t have to rush at the last minute. I’ve been laughing to myself, wondering if my jeweler inserted a special mechanism into my watch that gives me the power to do what I haven’t been able to do before, and that is to be early rather than late. It’s a wonderful feeling. I finally figured out what my jeweler did. He simply set my watch 10 minutes ahead! It’s been said timing is everything and now I know why.

Nothing can be truer when it comes to planning ahead. Timing is indeed everything. Over the years I have heard many singles complain about how lonely they feel during the holiday season. As a singles director I have seen the importance of planning ahead to avoid that happening. I suggest that you “beef up” your social plans now so that you have some new-found friends and activities. Here are some ideas:

Attend a home group meeting. These groups usually host holiday get-togethers and provide a wonderful environment for celebrating. Find one now so that you can have time to build relationships with new people. I suggest focusing on friendships rather than just scoping out people to date. Life encompasses more than just courtship and you will find that the holidays will be more meaningful if you have friends to share them with.

Become a volunteer. Ask your pastor where you can help out in the church. Volunteering will give you a new sense of purpose and compassion. It will help you focus less on your self, and more on others. These are important qualities all year long, and even more so during the holiday season.

Be friends with married as well as single people. Singles tend to be very transient. When they meet someone special, they drop out of sight. Although you cannot fault them for that, you also can’t depend on them to be there for you when you need them. That’s why it’s wise to develop a well-rounded social circle of people you can rely on. Married people can become like a second family to you. During the holidays that is even more important. They are more likely to entertain in their homes and cook large meals. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be part of that.

Don’t be afraid to open your home for the holidays. Many singles are waiting for a mate before they invite people over to their home. This is a big mistake. If you plan ahead early you can invite friends over to help you decorate and then have a potluck meal. Thanksgiving is also a wonderful day for a potluck dinner. You would be surprised how much single people enjoy showing off their cooking. If they prefer, they could also pick something up.

Reach out to people you would usually pass by. That would include neighbors and co-workers. Invite them to church over the holidays and share Christ with them. This is the best time of the year to evangelize. Don’t miss this valuable spiritual opportunity by dwelling on your single status. Beat the holiday blues by sharing your faith with those around you.

Also, remember to attend as many Christ-centered events as you can so that you strengthen your faith. After all, the best way to celebrate the holidays is by remembering that Jesus is the reason for the season. Here are some events you can attend this month to help you make some new friends and grow in your spiritual life.

This month remember that timing is everything. Plan ahead now to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years’ with a new attitude. Get out there and enjoy making new friends and finding new purpose in your life. You will be glad you did!

C.R,
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, October 2009.

AN ABUNDANCE OF GRACE

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8

When I attended my friend’s husbands’ funeral, I was touched by the tears that she shed. They made me cry. I had sat with her through many teary sessions during the support group we attend for caregivers. Did she really have any tears left to cry? Her dear husband had suffered from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease for ten long years. She had given him excellent care at home with the help of a live-in health aid.

Anyone who is a caregiver knows the overwhelming weight of responsibility that comes with it. We often wake up exhausted, even after a long night of sleep. To remain in a crisis mode for years takes an enormous toll on your body, mind, and spirit. Many caregivers even dream about their loved one; I know I do. We often feel so helpless, struggling with wanting to do more. There are no words to describe what it is like to watch someone you love suffer and deteriorate slowly over the course of time. It’s a difficult subject to write about, yet more and more people I meet are facing the challenges of caring for a family member.

I was inspired by all the thoughtful touches woven throughout the funeral service for this beloved husband, father, and uncle. Careful attention had been given to each detail, just as it had been given to his care while he was alive. I couldn’t help but think of the stark contrast between this Alzheimer’s patient and another one I had read about in the newspaper. An elderly woman suffering with dementia had been abandoned in the mall to fend for herself. Since she could not be identified she was given a new name and admitted to a nursing home. How horrific it is to even think of! A disoriented, elderly person taken out of their familiar surroundings and not even being called by their own name. Who could do such a heartless thing?

Make no mistake about it; there is a price to be paid for being a caregiver. The patient is afflicted with the disease; the loved one is assigned to it. The sacrifice goes far deeper than just time and energy–and so do the rewards; they are numerous. It’s like the peace that comes from doing the best you can even though you feel it is never enough–especially when the diagnosis is something like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or MS where there is limited treatment available. The focus becomes comfort care, because not much else is available. It is easy to become discouraged unless you have a Biblical mindset.

There may not be many resources available in the natural, but there are in the supernatural! They begin first and foremost with God’s grace. I couldn’t help but think of that as I watched my friend struggle through her husband’s funeral. God had brought her through his illness, and He was bringing her through his funeral. And the Lord will continue to sustain her.

If you are a caregiver, remember that God will give you an abundance of what you need to do the good work you are doing. Take time this month to attend Christ-centered events so you can be reminded of that.

I would like to acknowledge all the readers we have who are caregivers. Remember that you also have a Caregiver. Take time each day to mediate on God’s love and provision for you. Wake up early to read His word and pray. Bring all your cares to Him because He cares for you. Release your loved one to Him, and ask Him to minister to them–Spirit to spirit–regardless of their cognitive ability.

Comfort care begins and ends with the God of all comfort. Realize He loves your loved one even more than you do. Don’t put pressure on yourself by thinking you are in control of their life when God is. Rest in the knowledge that He is pouring His grace out so that you will not only have what you need to do this good work, but that you will have it in abundance. I was reminded of that as we sang “How Great Thou Art” at the end of that funeral. We can praise Him even in our darkest moments knowing that He is sustaining us.

C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, September 2009

THE COMFORTER HIMSELF IS OUR COMFORT ZONE

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12: 1, 2 (HCSB)

The older I get the more I realize that I hate change. You would think I would become more flexible with time, and learn how to adapt to situations, but just the opposite is true. My flesh craves stability and consistency. It doesn’t sound like there is anything wrong with that, but there is. For one thing, change is part of normal life. Try as we may, we just can’t avoid it. For another thing, growth is part of the Christian life. Often, God needs to take us out of our comfort zone to mature us in our faith. When everything around us is shaken, we realize that only God Himself is unchangeable. He becomes our Rock when everything else around us is crumbling.

In difficult times I have always sought solace in prayer. I realized recently that this practice is faulty as well. I would plead with God not to change my situation. Surely, I felt, I was doing my duty in making my requests known to Him. But then I realized I was limiting God by telling Him what I wanted rather than seeking His will. This, of course, was rooted in my fear of the unknown and lack of faith. I wanted everything to stay the same so that I could have peace of mind. But peace shouldn’t come from our circumstances; it should come from God. Our invincible comfort zone is the Comforter Himself.

Life has taught me that the deepest cry of my heart must be that God’s will be done. I came to that conclusion when I realized I wasn’t capable of properly assessing my life. After all, I am only privy to limited information. It has been very enlightening for me to realize that I am not the Alpha and Omega; I will never know the beginning from the end. The Bible puts it a little more gently in Isaiah 54:8,9: “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

God knows what is best for us and the Bible promises us that He is working all things out for our good. The problem is that it may not always feel that good; growth can be painful. But we can always trust His purpose and His plan.

We will have to stop trusting in our strength and walk in the Spirit, rather than the flesh. You will know the difference right away as you let go of your need to control and surrender your situation to God. The fruit of the Spirit will replace worry and turmoil as you begin to rest in Him.

The first step to this liberating way of living is to change your mindset. Proverbs 3: 5, 6 instructs us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding: In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” We need to trust the Lord above and beyond anything that may be happening around us. Where do we go when we need help to do that? We go right back to Him–the Author and Finisher of our Faith. Are you starting to notice a pattern here? That’s right, it’s all about Him. Here are some wonderful Christ centered events to help remind you of that. Events, events, events. Have a wonderful month as you remember to seek God’s good and perfect will for your life. Don’t be afraid of change. Instead, learn to recognize it as God’s calling card. Whatever He calls you to He will equip you for. Build your faith by staying in His Word each day and spending quality time in prayer. Remember, it’s all about Him.

C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, July 2009.

 A SHINING LIGHT ON BROADWAY

THEATER REVIEW

IRENA’S VOW

Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 West 48th Street; 212-947-8844

I wasn’t feeling very well the day I was asked to attend this Broadway play and write a review. But I wasn’t comfortable saying no to an opportunity to serve God. Who was I to shut a door He might be opening? Little did I know that two days later I would be sitting in the theatre feeling like myself again. After all, I had been determined to go however I was feeling. Funny, what God will do if you give Him half the chance. Funny, but that’s just what this triumphant play is all about.

Irena’s Vow tells the inspiring true story of a courageous Polish Catholic woman who risked her life to save twelve Jewish refugees from the Nazis. How she did that is nothing short of a miracle. This riveting 90 minute production keeps you on the edge of your seat, afraid to breathe because you might miss something. Don’t ask me how, but humor also finds a way in. I wonder if the reason they forego the intermission is because no one can even move. The intimacy and design of the theatre makes you feel like you are on the stage right in the middle of the action. And there is plenty of action.

The actors haven’t just prepared for their roles; they seem to have morphed into them. We are simply taken out of this current point in time and dropped into the hellish era known as the Holocaust. Yet we have the distinct privilege of being onlookers rather than participants. Make no mistake about it, we are not just simply there to be entertained; we are there to be changed. And changed we are.

You can’t help but be deeply moved by this epic tale. Great insight is given as to how evil is perpetrated. That alone is worth the admission fee. It’s like an advanced class on spiritual warfare. In one chilling moment a German army officer confides how–in rapid fire concession–freedom was slowly taken away from the Jewish community. So slowly that they hardly noticed. First they weren’t allowed to walk their dogs in the park, then they weren’t allowed to walk in the park. Before they knew it they had to get permission to do anything. Every time the Nazis got away with something, they raised the bar higher. To say that this play is relevant today is an understatement. I couldn’t help but think about the war on unborn babies slated for abortion and the demise of family values. Did you ever think we would live in a society like this? It didn’t happen overnight.

Irena is more than just a World War II heroine; she is a shining example for all of us. This devout nurse could have chosen to live a selfish life. She would have been busy enough simply trying to keep herself alive, but she chose to take responsibility for twelve other lives. In the midst of it all she looked to God for everything. Imagine what it was like to be a young woman all alone, ripped away from your family. She became a forced laborer during the German occupation of her homeland–Poland. For two years she worked as the housekeeper of a top German officer. She used her favor with him to hide these desperate souls right under his nose. It is almost too amazing to be true. But it is. You have to see it to believe it.

This life-affirming production unfolds with one surprise after the other. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that this critically acclaimed Broadway play promotes Judeo- Christian values. That rarity is reason enough to go and see it. That and the fact that it will be one of the most memorable evenings you’ve ever spent. At the end of the performance, Irena’s real life daughter comes out for a brief question and answer session. Her mother died a few years ago, but her memory lives on. And so does her story. Go and experience it for yourself. You’ll never be the same. I know I’m not.

C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, June 2009.

REDISCOVERING THE JOY OF CHURCH

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25

A few years ago my friend, Jason, was going through a difficult time. His mom had just been diagnosed with cancer a few months before his wedding. Then his fiancée broke up with him suddenly; he was overwhelmed with grief and sadness. When we talked on the phone during the week he would end up in tears. He was really suffering. However, I was amazed on Sundays to see him standing tall and worshipping God with great joy on his face. It seemed as if he would get a reprieve from his pain at church. You could tell by his outstretched arms that he was desperate for God. Make no mistake about it, God met him there. The Lord truly does inhabit the praises of His people.

Jason has since married someone else and started a family. But during that heart- wrenching time in his life he found refuge in his church. That can’t help but remind me of when my older sister was battling alcoholism after the death of her baby. She called me from her home in London and asked for help. She couldn’t stop drinking even though she had a toddler to take care of. I advised her to find a church to attend; then, I called the pastor and explained her situation to him. He told me to assure my sister that she should go to their Overcomer meetings regardless of whether or not she was sober. So she went. They loved her and they ministered to her there. My sister has not had a drink since. It has been 18 years now. The leader of the Christ-centered AA meetings in my local church says that there have been times when drug addicts and alcoholics have had to lay down on the floor for the entire session. But the leader didn’t care; he was just happy to have them under the influence of the Word of God. Church can be an amazing place.

My mom who has had Alzheimer’s for over eleven years now still falls under the anointing when we go to church. There are moments when we can’t reach her, but God always can. The minute the church door opens and we roll her in the sanctuary in her wheelchair, she lifts her arm in the air. The music ministers to her before we even find our seats. She falls asleep a few times during the service, but when she wakes up she knows exactly where she is. She has always loved being at church. Tears fill her eyes and she smiles from ear to ear. Sometimes strangers come up to tell her the anointing is all over her. But we already know it; that is why we came.

What a joy and privilege it is to attend a Bible-teaching church. We couldn’t for awhile because I had trouble finding one that was wheelchair accessible and within walking distance from our home. I prayed and God made a way. We go to church to linger in His presence and to fellowship with His people. No matter what season it is in your life, it is important to participate in corporate worship and prayer.

Years ago, when I visited my sister in London, she took me to the largest church I had ever been to–Saint James. I had seen it on TV when Princess Diana married Prince Charles there. I was amazed at how many people from around the world were visiting it. When I was in the gift shop, an announcement came over the PA system–first in English, then in several other languages. It was an invitation to those who are in Christ to receive communion. I must say that it turned out to be one of the highlights of my life. As I sat in the inner chamber of the altar, surrounded by believers dressed in their native garb, I realized I wasn’t just partaking of bread and wine; I was enjoying a foretaste of what is to come. Isn’t that what church is all about? A little bit of heaven right here on earth. Go to church this Sunday and be reminded of this hope.

C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, June 2009.

SHARPENING OUR SPIRITUAL FOCUS

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning,
like men waiting for their master to return.”Luke 12:35-36

The current economic climate can’t help but remind me of my upbringing. Throughout our childhood my mother taught us to live by our values and not by our circumstances. She conveyed that not just by her words, but by her deeds. These life lessons were caught as much as they were taught. We always lived rather simply in good times and in bad. On the few occasions that mom lost her job, we would not find out about it until after she began a new one. She would leave the same time every morning and come back the same time in the evening. We never knew she was out job hunting.

Every summer we left Brooklyn to visit my cousins in the suburbs for a week. One year when my sisters and I were old enough to go on the greyhound bus by ourselves we did. My mom had just started a new job and could not take vacation. That was when we found out she had lost her former one.

When my mom came home from work, she would lie down on her bed for half an hour and then make dinner and help us with homework. I always knew my mom was a hard worker and was tired, even though she never mentioned it. That never stopped her from taking us out every Saturday and Sunday after chores. We went on picnics to the park or to the beach at Coney Island. We never had a car so went everywhere on public transportation. Every Saturday evening she put out our church clothes and we got up early on Sundays to go to church. Every Sunday. We were active members and supporters of our church. It was just as important as going to school.

As a single mom my mother stretched the budget and taught us to save our money and not squander it. She packed our lunches wherever we went. We rarely ate out the way people do today. We lived on simple, wholesome food with sensibly sized portions. Our sandwiches were a few pieces of cold cuts with lettuce. Not at all the size of today’s deli heroes that can barely fit in your hand or your mouth.

Why does that matter? Because balance is important. As I have grown up, I’ve been confronted with the different tempting choices the world has to offer. Recently when I attended a workshop on nutrition the dietitian taught that a regular portion is the size of a closed fist. Most people eat much more than that today. Mega portions are one reason for the rise in obesity in our culture. If we don’t set limits and have priorities for ourselves then we are not living according to our values. These difficult economic times help us shake off what’s frivolous and get back to basics.

Every week when we went to Sunday school, my mom placed an offering envelope in each of our hands whether in good times or bad. That was non-negotiable. Giving was our financial priority. My mom didn’t wait ’till Saturday night to figure out what we would give. She worked that out all week when she planned our food, clothes and living expenses. As I grew up I saw where her priorities where. You could see them clearly in her values which she passed on to her three daughters. During these difficult times I carry these values with me. Inflation has tightened our budget, but it hasn’t sidelined our priorities. I know where the money comes from in the first place. It isn’t provided by the government; it is provided by God. As we put Him in the center of our lives everything else falls into place. He needs to be our focus regardless of what is going on around us.

This month be more vigilant over your time and money. After all, they go hand in hand. Does your lifestyle match your core values? Turn off the TV and open your Bible. Study Luke Chapter 12 and ask God to sharpen your spiritual focus. Recognize that churches and ministries need financial support even more during this economic downturn. It is our responsibility and our privilege as Christians to support the work of Christ. After all, everything we are and everything we have comes from Him.

-C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, May 2006.

He Came Back from the Dead, and He’s Coming Back for Us

“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into Heaven.'” Acts 1: 9-11

There is so much talk these days about whether the new president or the new economic stimulus package will save us. And if so, when? All eyes seem to be on the stock market and the white house to find out about their latest plans. People are fearful of what the future will hold. The Bible clearly tells us that the Lord Himself has given us a plan to believe in. It came to my mind recently, during a difficult day, when a stranger walked up and said “Keep the faith.” Without even thinking I answered “Actually, it’s the faith that keeps me.” In our darkest hours, even if we lose hold of what we believe in, the One we believe in will always keep us in the palm of His hand.

It’s easy to forget this security during such uncertain times. People are struggling with many different hardships right now. Questions can weigh on you: How can you find a job? How can you keep the job you have? How can you put food on the table? How can you keep a roof over your head? How can you pay the bills?

We find true comfort in the truth of God’s promises. One of the promises that He shares with us is Christ’s triumphant return to earth. The Lord gives very clear details of it in the above verses so that we can be prepared for it. He wants us to know that He has a plan for His church. And He wants us to comfort each other with this hope (1 Thess.4:13-18).

It can be challenging to rise above the noise of the world and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. As we prepare our hearts to celebrate Easter this month, try to imagine what it was like to have been there when He was crucified. Everyone thought He was dead and gone forever. Skeptics viewed Him as a real fake who talked a lot of nonsense that never came true. No one could have imagined the outcome. After watching Him humiliated and beaten and slowly tortured to death, it must have been easy for those around Him to lose their faith. If He was who He said He was, why didn’t He save Himself?

Even as His own followers grieved and lost hope, Jesus carried out His Father’s plan. It was probably just as hard for His first disciples to believe that He would return from death as it can be today for us to believe He will return to earth. But the Bible tells us that He will return. His resurrection was prophesied, and so was His Second Coming. Just as we believe in and hold onto the truth of His triumph over death, we can believe in and look forward to His triumphant return!

In the midst of whatever you may be dealing with these days it is vital to remember that God is the Planner. He has not left you alone. He has a plan for your life. This month take time to attend events to help you focus on that. Here are some wonderful ways to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, ascension, and return.

This Easter remember to celebrate not just Jesus’ resurrection, but also His return. Don’t stress out

worrying about the President’s plans for the economy when you can experience peace by focusing on God’s plan. After all, He is the One who has it all under control–and not just for the next four years. His reign began before time did and will last throughout eternity. There is no better reason to keep looking up!

C.R.
Easter article; The Christian Life-Times, April 2009

 A Bright Light in The Darkest Hour

“And the people asked Him, saying, ‘What shall we do then?’

Jesus answereth and saith unto them, ‘He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.’” Luke 3:10

Experts predict declining sales may force several malls to close. These days people are browsing rather than shopping. Many restaurants have closed or cut their prices. Due to the highest unemployment rate in 35 years and a worsening recession, many people are barely able to pay their bills.

The current economic climate provides a wonderful opportunity for us as Christians to minister to each other and to the unsaved as well. Are we willing to open our church doors to help our neighbors in their hour of need? Here are a few ideas: Families that can’t afford to take four kids to a flick might be thrilled to attend a wholesome movie or game night. You might give the parents a break by having separate childcare or children’s track.

Flea markets may offer attractive discounts, but churches could make an even bigger impact by following biblical guidelines on giving. What if we invited everyone in our congregations to bring in gently used appliances, clothes, toys and furniture that had outgrown their usefulness? Every few months we could host a “Give Away A Blessing Day.”

What about the many churches that are hurting financially themselves? Perhaps they could consider starting a day care or after school program to help supplement their income and also meet the spiritual needs of their community. Now is the time to tap into the unemployed people in your church. They may be willing to start a new career. Begin a networking group so they can receive prayer and find out about new ministry or employment opportunities. You may be able to implement programs you couldn’t before because you lacked the help.

And what about Saturday night? Why are so many churches shut on the one night everyone wants to go out? How about hosting a spaghetti dinner with a delicious chocolate sheet cake from one of the large wholesale stores? Your praise and worship team could provide the entertainment and throw in a couple of sing-alongs that everyone knows. Even if you charged $5 a person, it would be a good deal and a great outreach.

Whatever you decide to do, remember to get the word out. Free advertising is available in most local papers in the community section. There is usually no charge for posting events on town websites either. And don’t forget about flyers. Hang them on bulletin boards in coffee shops or laundromats and on store windows. Go to parks and hand them out to parents playing with their kids. Target needy areas and put flyers in the mailboxes. Remember to follow up each person who attends. Rather than sending a tract, send someone to pray with them or just to say hello. A friendly phone call goes a long way, too.

Christian witness becomes an even brighter light in the darkest hour. Don’t be discouraged by the grim headlines regarding our economy. Recognize them as a call to action. God has not only promised to meet our needs, He has commanded us to meet the needs of others. If you are unemployed remember this—your services may no longer be needed in your job, but they are always needed in the church. Use this season in your life to bring glory to God. Every believer has something to give whether it be time, material goods or simple kindness. Ask the Lord to show you how He wants to use you. Malls and restaurants may close their doors, but God’s house never will.

-C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, March 2009

Learning To Be A Good Lover

“God is love.” 1 John 4:8

This month the country turns its attention to love—or the world’s definition of it—because of Valentine’s Day. Make no mistake about it, love is big business. Single people everywhere want to take cover until it’s all over. The truth is that love is available to everyone. Maybe not the heart shaped boxes of chocolate, or sweet smelling roses but love– real, authentic love. The Bible tells us that God is love. Jesus displayed God’s character when He walked on this earth, so He was love in action. Jesus came to reveal God to us. Read through the Gospels and see the many times Jesus poured out love to people. Never once did He try to draw love out of people. He was focused on giving and not receiving. I have noticed that people that live this way are happier and more fulfilled than people who live the other way. Are you a giver or a receiver?

This Valentines Day, instead of sitting around and thinking about the love you don’t have, why not give away the love you do have? Do you believe that God is love? Is He living in your heart? Then why not give Him the opportunity to love through you? Here are some practical ways to do that.

Become Active In Your Church. You will get more out of it than you ever put in. Ask your Pastor where your help is needed. If you are too busy to help other people then you need to re-prioritize your life. Even just an hour a week would allow you to visit a shut in or fold church bulletins.

Adopt a Pet. When you adopt a cat or dog from an animal shelter you are saving a life. The first year can be a challenge with a puppy, but it is worth it. I am convinced that my dog, Chester, was given to me as a gift for 16 wonderful years by God Himself. The bond between a pet and his human is sacred. Ask any pet owner and they will tell you the same thing.

Visit a Nursing Home. Call ahead and ask for the names of seniors who receive the least amount of visitors. Pray and ask God to use you to bless them. The loneliest people I have ever seen are the frail and elderly who have been neglected and forgotten by their loved ones.

Seek Out People That Need To Be Talked To. Forget ice breakers at singles events. We are Christians. We should be dispensers of God’s love. Greet people to comfort and cheer them, and to give something to them rather than get something from them. Ask them about themselves and let them talk. Let it be about them and not about you. Ask if you can pray with them about a specific need.

Use Your Phone As An Outreach. Call people you know that are going through a rough time. Make a list and call one a day. Be prepared with encouraging Bible verses and allow God to minister through you. The current economic climate is perfect for leading troubled souls to a saving knowledge of Christ. Follow up by bringing them to church.

Looking for love? God is love. As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, remember that long after the red roses and candy boxes are cleaned out of stores, God’s eternal love will remain steadfast. The One who calls Himself love is the author of your life and you are His workmanship. Every moment of every day He is pouring His love into your life. Are you allowing His love to reach the people around you? You’ll be surprised at how good it will make you feel when you do.

-C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, February 2009.

“Seeking Wisdom in The New Year”

“But of God you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”1 Cor. 1:30, 31

I don’t know much; I’ll tell you that. As I get older I realize how little I really know. Not just about big things, but about everyday life. This realization is very sobering and yet very liberating. It just makes me more dependent on Christ.

I look back over the past 11 years of caring for my mom since she was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and I see that it was God working through me that brought us through, and continues to do so. I also give the Lord credit for my wonderful marriage and teaching me what it means to be a wife. It’s a learning process because it is all still so new to me. We will celebrate our 2nd anniversary at the end of this month knowing that it is God Himself that we rely upon for everything.

The New Year reminds me that life continually brings us new circumstances, challenges, and adventures for which we are not always naturally equipped. But if we are in Christ, we can draw from our relationship with Him to get the wisdom and understanding we need. As believers our victory is dependent upon knowing our position in Christ. The mere fact that we are in Christ implies a union from which we can live.

One of my favorite authors, Andrew Murray gives practical insight on how to do just that. In his classic book “Abide in Christ,” he wrote: “Abide in Jesus as your wisdom. Seek to maintain the spirit of waiting and dependence, that always seeks to learn, and will not move but as the heavenly light leads on. Withdraw yourself from all needless distraction, close your ears to the voices of the world, and be as a docile learner, ever listening for the heavenly wisdom the Master has to teach. Surrender all your own wisdom; seek a deep conviction of the utter blindness of the natural understanding in the things of God; and both as to what you have to believe and have to do, wait for Jesus to teach and to guide.”

A new year presents many new opportunities, challenges and turning points. You can be sure that there will be plenty of temptation to trust in your own abilities to bring you through. Whether in good times or bad, one thing remains the same–everything we need can be found in Christ. As Andrew Murray further explains, “Remember that the teaching and guidance come not from without: it is by His life in us that the divine wisdom does His work. Retire frequently with Him into the inner chamber of the heart, where the gentle voice of the Spirit is only heard if all be still. Hold fast with unshaken confidence, even in the midst of darkness and apparent desertion, His own assurance is that He is the light and the leader of His own. And live, above all, day by day in the blessed truth that, as He Himself, the living Christ Jesus, is your wisdom, your first and last care must ever be this alone—to abide in Him. Abiding in Him, His wisdom will come to you as the spontaneous outflowing of a life rooted in Him.”

C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, January 2009.

Christmas…Brought to Us by God

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” Micah 5:2

Life can be so overwhelming; it’s easy to live from one problem to the next. I find myself making that mistake often. Once you solve one crisis, ten more pop up to take its place! Sometimes it feels like I don’t even have a chance to breathe. It’s like playing tennis and trying to keep up with the ball. Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh. One challenge comes after another and always in rapid fire succession. No time to take a deep breathe and just sit back and enjoy life.

I know in my heart that that is not how God has called us to live. But, how can we calm down and handle what comes along without getting consumed by it? The answer is faith. The Lord has not just invited us to live a peaceful lifestyle enveloped by faith; He has also made every provision for us to do so. He asks us to bring all our concerns to Him in prayer and leave them there. We don’t have to carry them with us and obsess and worry until we wear ourselves out!

The question is how do we turn our fear into faith? We are more than acquainted with everything we are afraid of. We spend so much time thinking about things that frighten us, such as our circumstances, our problems, and our weaknesses. We need to focus more on feeding our faith rather than feeding our fears. The way to do that is to fix our minds on the object of our faith—God. We need to see everything as beginning and ending in Him (Isaiah 26:3,4). He is in control which means that we don’t have to be.

Take Christmas, for instance. Did you think the Little Town of Bethlehem originated with the creative team at Hallmark? Not quite. Did you know that Bethlehem means “house of bread”? Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). Bethlehem was prophesied as His birthplace seven centuries in advance (Micah 5:2). When you see all the images of that tiny babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, remember why He came. He was on a very special mission ‘The One to be Ruler in Israel.’ Where did He come from? ‘His goings forth are from old, from everlasting.’ What does that mean to us? The Spirit Filled Bible gives us this lovely gem to ponder throughout the holiday season and beyond: “Though the Messiah’s lineage could be traced back to His royal ancestor David, His roots go all the way back to eternity.” Hmmm……

The Bread of Life gives us food for thought. Feed on Him and watch your fears fade away. Take time out of this busy season to worship Him and fill your heart and mind with the truth of who He is. Here are some festive events to help you do that.

Celebrate the season by renewing and strengthening your faith in Christ. Take time to read through the story of the first Christmas in the book of Luke. Be filled with the wonder and promise of who He is and why He came. Remember that He is the author of not just that majestic story, but also the author of your faith and of your life. Put your fears to rest and rest in Him.

Wishing you a peaceful Christmas and a victorious New Year.

– C.R,
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times

FILLED TO THE BRIM WITH HIM

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matt. 6:25, 32, 33

I recently saw a woman on a talk show that was about to lose her home due to foreclosure. She was shocked that her life had come to this. A well known financial expert studied her budget to find out where she had gone wrong. The analyst was amazed at all the trendy material possessions she had purchased. Among them were 98 pairs of designer jeans.

The financial downfall in this country signifies more than just a downturn in our economy, it exposes a very accepted modern lifestyle of over indulgence, greed, and deep rooted emptiness. Where do you think the need to own so many things comes from?

Why is it more desirable to charge purchases rather than save up for them? What happened to the simple yet profound joy of building a savings account? How satisfying is it to have an overstuffed closet filled with the latest trends that won’t even be in style next year? Obviously not very because the experience needs to be repeated regularly. A shopping high doesn’t last very long. It’s like trying to feed a bottomless pit.

Jesus said life is more than food and the body more than clothing. He cautioned not to worry about acquiring them because there is so much more to focus on. And God will provide our needs anyway. The question is why are we so obsessed with our material desires?

What will really fill this insatiable materialist appetite that is so prevalent in our society? Jesus clearly tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. My paraphrase would be “Fill up on Him and you won’t be so hungry afterwards.” It takes 5 minutes to make a whimsical charge card purchase that could take 5 years to pay off and it will cost quite a bit more when you finally do. What are you really trying to acquire when you buy material things? A sense of well-being, self-esteem, purpose, joy, security, social standing, identity, comfort? Look to God and allow Him to give them to you.

Hopefully the current financial climate will serve as a wake up call to all Americans. We all need to begin to rebuild our lives and shift the emphasis to experiencing true fulfillment and meaning. Having a personal relationship with Christ is only the beginning. We need to be careful to walk in the Spirit rather than in the flesh. It is easy to be enticed by the things of the world. As we abide in Christ these temporal things become less attractive. Attending Christian events will also help put our focus where it belongs.

This month as we celebrate Thanksgiving begin to change your priorities from acquiring material things to nurturing your relationship with God. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude for what you have and let it be enough. Pay down your debt before you purchase anything new. Don’t live outside your means. If you must scale back on your lifestyle then make the necessary changes. Brown bag your lunch, rent DVD’s from the library, and wear last season’s clothes. You can be sure that you won’t be the only one making these changes. The latest trend in this country is cutting back just to survive.

Remember, that no matter how difficult things get the Bible tells us not to worry. We are commanded to trust in God and look to Him for what we need. Just make sure you know the difference between what you need and what you want.

– C.S.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times

Trusting God in These Troubled Times

“No king is saved by the multitude of an army; A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, On those who hope in His mercy, To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us. Just as we hope in you.” Psalm 33:16-22

The headlines certainly are disconcerting aren’t they? They include large financial institutions hitting rock bottom, massive layoffs, and homes facing foreclosure at alarming rates. What could be next? These certainly are uncertain times. It’s easy to lay awake at night wondering what you can do to protect your assets or even just to keep your head above water. What would be your strategy if you lost your job or couldn’t pay your bills? How could you make ends meet? What would YOU do? How would YOU react?

I can remember going on important job interviews and agonizing over exactly what I would say. It is one thing to be prepared, yet another thing to rely on self-effort to the point of excluding God from the situation. Challenging situations can put the pressure on us to perform. It’s then that the Enemy tempts us to trust in ourselves and not in God. Have you ever thought of temptation in that light?

The next time the Enemy wakes you up in the middle of the night to think about a list of “what ifs” think about this. The devil’s goal is to try to get you to manipulate your circumstances in your favor. He would love for you to lie awake for hours formulating plans to save yourself from whatever it is you’re dealing with. If it’s a difficult co-worker, he’ll try to get you to come up with a way to out smart him. If it’s your finances that are troubling you, he will give you every worse case scenario so that you fearfully try to figure out what to do. Regardless of what it is, his goal is the same. He wants you to depend on yourself, rather than on God.

Often we don’t even realize that when we are mulling something over in our minds, we are taking control over the situation rather than releasing it to the Lord. In these difficult times it’s important to understand how the Enemy wants to undermine our walk with God.

This month take a break from reading the headlines and get into the Word of God. Don’t mediate on the problems of this world; mediate on the promises of the One who loves you with an everlasting love. Break the habit of trying to manipulate situations in your favor and release everything to God in prayer. As the psalmist said, “Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” Your steps will become steady as you take a deep breath and let your Help and Shield handle the pressure.

-C.R. Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, October 2008

Freedom from Fear

“I have been crucified with Christ—[in Him] I have shared His crucifixion; it is no longer I who live, but Christ, the Messiah, lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith—by adherence to and reliance on and [complete] trust—in the son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me. [Therefore, I do not treat God’s gracious gift as something of minor importance and defeat its very purpose]; I do not set aside and invalidate and frustrate and nullify the grace (unmerited favor) of God.” Gal. 2:20,21 AMP

What visuals come to mind when you think about someone in captivity? Do you imagine the person locked in a small prison cell or in an enemy camp in the deep, back woods of some hostile country?

Recently, I started having such intense anxiety attacks that I felt like I was held captive by them. It had been many years since I had experienced that kind of anguish. I also started having trouble sleeping, which (as we all know) is no fun at all. When you are up at night because you can’t shut your mind off, you are exhausted the next day. Anxiety, stress, and fear can affect more than just your mental health; they can also take a toll on your physical health. I realized I had to make changes. It was time to build up my faith and tear down the stronghold of fear. I know from experience that it is very difficult for fear and faith to co exist.

I began shutting off the TV and listening to worship music. I had been so busy for so long that I had finally given myself permission to relax. I knew that I had no choice. I didn’t realize it would feel so good. I have three drawers full of praise music that haven’t seen the light of day in a long time. It was great to start enjoying them again. It’s funny how you starting singing the same songs you have been listening to. Is it a coincidence? I don’t think so. The songs are ministering to you deep within your spirit. One day without realizing, it I kept singing “Holy and Anointed One” over and over again where ever I went. I realized that my worry had been replaced with praise.

I also began reading the Psalms each day–one in the early morning, one at mid day and one at night. In my busyness I had forgotten what a luxury studying and lingering in the word of God is; it is a double edged sword that I can feel cutting right through to the deepest part of me. The Psalms remind me of how much we all need God moment by moment. We are such a needy people created to be dependent upon Him. Meditating on His Word reminds us that He is able to meet all our needs. When we are worrying we are focusing on our needs, rather than on the One Who can meet them.

I kept asking God to deliver me out of this state of fear. I knew that He was the only One who could set me free. He showed me how the Enemy was lying to me. I did not want to live enslaved to worry, but I knew I did not have the power in my own strength to overcome it. As I asked God to build up my faith, I filled my mind with teaching tapes every chance I could. Whenever I sat down to eat, I fed my spirit as well as my body. My anxiety was an indicator that my spirit was malnourished. I recognized it as a symptom of a lack within my spiritual life.

So often when we are feeling empty or blue or scared, we take ourselves shopping or to the movies or to the spa, when what we really need is something much deeper and more meaningful. Only the things of the Spirit can minister to our spirit. The Deep calling unto deep needs to be answered. I am feeling much better now psychically and mentally. My peace is being restored. Only the Prince of Peace Himself could do that for me. I needed to spend more time with Him so that He could do that. Have you ever felt that way? Attending Christ-centered events is another way to regain our spiritual focus.

As the summer winds down and fall approaches, take time to do a spiritual inventory. Sometimes we get so caught up with our well meaning responsibilities that we forget to nurture our inner life. You may be a busy mom, or a hurried student, or an exhausted professional. It doesn’t really matter. If you neglect spending quality time with the Lord and growing in your faith, you will suffer the consequences. Don’t accept stress and fear as part of living in this fallen world. Allow God to set you free as you draw closer to Him and learn how to trust Him again.

-C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times

God’s Ultimate Intention

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30

When I was a child we used to visit my cousins in the suburbs. It was fun to leave Brooklyn for what we viewed as the country. One evening at dusk I took their dog out for a walk. I turned the front porch light on so that I could find my way back. About a half hour later every porch light had been turned on and every house looked identical! It was quite a challenge for me since all the lawns had the same shrubs as well. Eventually, I made my way to the right house, but I will never forget the feeling of being lost in a strange place.

I have also had that feeling in my life many times. I have often wondered to myself, “Where am I?” and “How did I get here?” “Is it really necessary for me to go down this road?” “What good could ever come of these circumstances?” I felt that way as a child of divorce. I felt that way when I grew up and watched everyone around me get married and start families. And I feel that way now as I experience the heartache of caring for my mom who has advanced Alzheimer’s. Why does she have to suffer? Why do I have to suffer?

As a child I can remember looking at my friends daddies in amazement. Why didn’t I have one? I grew up to realize all the good that God brought out of my childhood. I appreciate the many sacrifices my mom made to raise three daughters on her own in the turbulent decade of the ‘60’s. My mom’s Alzheimer’s has taught me to appreciate everything we had, rather than dwell on what we didn’t have. And we had a lot.

In my 20’s and 30’s my biological clock seemed to tick so loud I thought it would explode! Every baby dedication I watched made me cry. When, God, when, will it be my turn? Now that I’m married I continue to long for a child. I don’t know anyone who has wanted to be a mom more than I have. It feels very strange not to have realized a dream that I have carried with me for what seems like my whole life. But right now I’m on a road I never expected to be on. I have other responsibilities. As I care for my mom and help her through the daily struggles a degenerative disease presents, I know that now is not the time to consider having a child.

We have our dreams, we have our circumstances and we have our God. When we find ourselves on a road we didn’t expect to travel, we have our spiritual compass. No matter where we are and no matter what we go through, God is working all things out for our good–whether or not it feels like it. His purpose is to conform us to the image of Christ. When we look at our lives from that endpoint we begin to realize God has different objectives than we do. Surely, we always want to take the easy road, but how will that enable God to accomplish His ultimate intention?

Keep that in mind as you attend Christ-centered events this month. Find comfort in His Lordship over your life. Focus on what He is doing, rather than on what you thought you would be doing.

This summer take time to do a spiritual inventory of the tough times of your life. Make a list of the good that has come out of them. In what ways did they make you a better person? Read through the Gospels and study the attributes of Christ’s character when He walked on this earth. Those are the same qualities that God is building into you. Christ’s life was marked by surrender, service, suffering and sacrifice. If we are being conformed into His image won’t we need to share in these experiences as well? Romans 8:28-30 promises us that when we travel down the darkest roads His Light will lead us to His ultimate intention.

-C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, August 2008.

Politics and Dating

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” Matthew 7: 15-20

The political scene reminds me of the dating world. Candidates pride themselves on dressing well, being charismatic, making promises and winning people over. How often has the better speaker won a political office even though his opponent could have been a more effective leader? After all, it’s much easier to say things than to actually do them.

It’s the same thing in the dating world. Talk is cheap, but promises run deep. I’d be rich if I had a dime for every person I’ve talked to that was “devastated” after meeting someone who promised to call but didn’t. Men and women are equally blown away by this breech by a total stranger. When I ask them why they are so hurt they always say the same thing. “Cause I trusted him/her. And I felt a real connection.” “Oh,” I say. “Why didn’t you give him/her the pin number for your bank account?” They look at me shocked and ask me if I’m crazy. “Why” they ask, “would I do something that stupid when I don’t even know them?” Exactly. You don’t know them.

Will they make the same mistake again? Probably, if they allow their emotions to overrule their judgment. That is not in their best interest. You see, trust is earned not by what someone says but by what they do. If you don’t know someone, you can’t trust them. Not with the big things anyway–like your heart. That’s why it’s so important to pace your relationships.

Slowly, over time you allow the person you are with to prove himself/herself to you. You give them more of your trust each time they earn it. You start with little things, like what time they will meet you and where you will go. You find out how reliable a person is before you simply assume that they are. And if you realize that someone isn’t who they say they are or who you hoped they’d be you acknowledge that rather than live in denial.

Unfortunately, many people remain in relationships hoping the person they are with will change. Of course, the biggest mistake of all is marrying someone and believing they will magically “morph” into the human being they always wanted them to be. Surely, the ceremony, the ring, and the commitment, will help them overcome their shortcomings and enable them to develop the character and relational skills they lack. If you believe that then go ahead and book your honeymoon on Fantasy Island!

Here’s a better idea. Remember to use discernment when you meet new people.

The Bible tells us that we will know people by their fruit. Actions speak louder than words. Sweet talk, good intentions, and promises are nice for a season but they must be backed up by the real deal. Keep that in mind when you attend gatherings. Be careful of who you are drawn to. Sometimes the smoothest talkers and the best lookers are incapable of deep, emotional connections. The opposite is just as true. Sometimes the socially inept are the most tenderhearted and committed. Which one are you?

-C.R. Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, July 2008.

Tips For The Caregiver

“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price…” 1 Cor. 6:19, 20

USA Weekend reports government statistics state that about 25% of American families take care of an aging family member, friend or neighbor. I have been caring for my mom, who now has advanced Alzheimer’s, for several years. She was first diagnosed about 10 years ago. I have learned many lessons over that period of time and would like to share a few with you. It is my desire that these practical suggestions will make your daily responsibilities lighter and help you gain a new perspective on your helping role.

1. KNOW WHO YOU ARE. Caregivers spend much of their time learning about their loved one’s illness and how to care for them. It is important that you realize that you also have a Caregiver. As a Christian, you are not your own. You have been bought with a price and now belong to the Lord. He has taken the responsibility for all that concerns you. You are not alone. God loves your loved one even more than you do. Take time to memorize and meditate on Psalm 23. Spend a quiet time with Him each day and allow your Shepherd to lead you beside still waters.

2. UNDERSTAND THAT NEGLECTING YOUR OWN NEEDS WILL NOT MAKE YOU A BETTER CAREGIVER. In fact, just the opposite is true. Even Jesus took time away from His ministry to the multitudes to draw close to the Father. We all need to refuel spiritually, emotionally and physically to avoid burn out. You’ll return with more energy, patience and peace.

3. PACE YOURSELF. Caring for ailing parents is more like a marathon than a sprint. There is a difference between helping someone through a weekend flu and caring for someone over several years.

4. MAKE ENJOYMENT WITH YOUR LOVED ONE YOUR FIRST PRIORITY. In the midst of each day’s challenges it is easy to lose sight of what is really important. Be sure to connect emotionally with the person you are caring for by holding their hand or stroking their hair.

5. KEEP A DAILY JOURNAL. This will enable you to look back and determine when behavioral, cognitive, or physical changes occurred. Log how your loved one is eating, sleeping, etc. Include changes in medication, diet, or routine. Don’t just leave it up to the doctor to figure out what is going on with someone who may not be able to communicate when something is bothering him/her. Keep the print out from new medications in the journal and be on the look out for possible side effects.

6. PRACTICE ANGER MANAGEMENT. When you are stressed, it is much easier to lose your cool. Caring for someone means dealing with lots of different personalities, cutting through lots of red tape, and taking on a lot of responsibility. Recognize the Enemy as he tempts you to react emotionally rather than neutrally. Drama is a waste of your much-needed energy. Meltdowns don’t relieve stress; they add to it. Focus on finding solutions rather than dwelling on problems. Pray rather than worry (Phil. 4:6,7). Avoid dealing with difficult people by asking to speak with their manager.

7. EQUIP YOUR HOME TO ACCOMMODATE THE CHANGING NEEDS OF AN AGING PARENT. Consider the benefits of a hospital bed, chair lift, seat lift commode, or safety rails. Surgical supply stores sell many products to help arthritis sufferers. One of the largest and most comprehensive ones I found is Dermer Pharmacy and Surgical in Brooklyn (718-377-4900), they deliver. Find out what insurance will cover. If your loved one has dementia introduce changes slowly, if at all. Visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at: http://www.alznyc.org or call their 24 hour helpline 1-800-272-3900.

8. RESEARCH IN-HOME SERVICES FOR THE HOMEBOUND. Fox Rehabilitation offers geriatric physical and occupational therapy at home ( 877-407-3422 ext. 228; http://www.foxrehab.org). Call your local senior center to see if they provide meals on wheels, visiting companions, or shopping services, etc. Ask them to tell you about other resources in your community.

This month as we celebrate Mother’s Day, we celebrate the many seasons of our parent’s life. Each one is precious and will give us memories to cherish. In your role as caregiver, remember to look to your eternal Caregiver to meet your ultimate needs. Also, seek the support of His people by sharing your situation with your Pastor and church leaders. As caregivers, we need all the help we can get. Never be afraid to ask for it.

-C.R.
Reprinted by permission of The Christian Life-Times, May 2008.

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