Christians are not “better” than anyone else…

…they’re just “better off with Jesus”.  ~Pastor Anthony Milas, Granite United Church

 

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Photo Cred:  Mountain Toppers

Profound words from an awesome and ever-engaging Pastor!  I have been attending Granited United Church for over nine months.  It’s been the most amazing experience of my life.  Why, you might ask?  Well, first, I have Jesus.  He is first and foremost in my heart and I welcomed Him as my Lord & Savior without a moment’s hesitation, doubt or fear of the unknown.  Additionally, to help me in my Christian walk, I have the passionate and heartfelt guidance of G.U.’s Lead Pastor, Anthony Milas as well as my Campus Pastor, Courtland Holloway and their lovely wives, Christy and Kara, not to mention my entire G.U. Family.  One of the first things I learned when I walked through their doors was that there are “No Perfect People Allowed” at Granite.  Outstanding!  I’m about as far from perfect as a person can be!

October is “Pastor Appreciation Month” and I can’t thank my Pastors enough for the way they pour into us each week.  They don’t walk in front of us, nor behind us, but beside us so that we may lean on them as we lean into the Word to better know and love Jesus.  So “Thank You” to all of the Granite United Pastors and their wives for helping us all on our respective Christian journies.  You are well-respected and well-loved!

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Photo Cred: LittleThingsAboutGod

As duly noted by Pastor Milas yesterday, as Christians, we need to say, “NO to the world and YES to the WORD”.  It’s not as difficult to do as it may seem.  Stick your nose in a Bible if you’ve never done so.  Perhaps start with the book of John.  When you read the gospels, you’ll see that Jesus didn’t come here to teach us about religion; He came to save us.  He wants to have a personal relationship with each one of us.  All we need to do is call upon His name, ask Him to forgive us of our sins and to be our Savior.   If you’ll take a leap of faith and do so, you’ll know the joy, peace and eternal love that salvation brings.

Sometimes, it’s not an easy path to walk…it can be lined with naysayers, those that may ridicule, judge or reject.  That’s okay, they’re not the ones I’m trying to please; only Him.  Do I completely understand EVERYTHING in the Bible…not even remotely, but it’s a work in progress; I’m a work in progress!  With the guidance of a very loving and devout Christian woman, who teaches my Bible Study class (shout out to Nancy Susan Salois!), I am learning and growing every time I immerse myself in the Word.

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Photo Cred:  www.mybible.com 

O Come to the Altar’ By Elevation Worship…. (an excerpt) of very POWERFUL lyrics!!

Are you hurting and broken within?
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin?
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well?
Jesus is calling
O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ
Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling
Oh what a savior
Isn’t He wonderful?
Sing hallelujah, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him
For He is Lord of all
Bear your cross as you wait for the crown
Tell the world of the treasure you found

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Photo Cred:  Soul Shepherding

To not share the Good News and the peace and joy of loving Christ would be like not grabbing and pulling back on the arm of a toddler who’s about to step off a curb into traffic.  Why would I keep this all to myself?  Why wouldn’t I want my loved ones, both family and friends, to have what I have?  I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and know that God has a plan for everyone.  He’ll do His work, and I’ll continue to do mine.

Granite United is a church that extends grace, not shame or criticism.   I’m so THANKFUL to have found this wonderful community where I get to worship, pray and be taught the Word of God in an awesome, very cool, and hip way (and by cool and hip, I mean “TOTALLY COOL AND HIP!”)

Again… a huge THANK YOU to Pastor Milas and ALL of Granite’s Campus Pastors!  Without “you”, we wouldn’t “be”.

Luke 15:3-7 – [3]So Jesus used this illustration: [4]”If you had one hundred sheep, and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one until you found it?  [5]And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders. [6] When you arrived, you would call together your friends and neighbors to rejoice with you because your lost sheep was found. [7] In the same way, Heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!”

 

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

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In Honor of My Father and All Navy Veterans…

dadnavyMy Beloved Father – Petty Officer 3rd Class / Machinist Mate – 70 Years ago

 

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The U.S.S. Wilkes-Barre
Photo Cred:  http://www.rtcol.com/~oakland/cruisers/indexcruisers.html

 

Happy 242nd Birthday to the Navy! 

The United States Navy observes its birthday every year on October 13th.  The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is currently the largest, most powerful navy in the world, with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage. The service has over 340,000 personnel on active duty and more than 71,000 in the Navy Reserve.

History:

On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the first American naval force.  Thus began the long and prestigious heritage of the United States Navy. Between 1922 and 1972, the Navy’s birthday was celebrated on October 27th, the date of Theodore Roosevelt’s birth. Designated by the Navy League of the United States for Roosevelt’s foresight and vision in elevating the U.S. Navy into a premier force, the celebration of the Navy’s birthday has always been one of pride.  The change to October 13 was seen as a more relevant date in line with the first official action legislating a navy.  Since 1972, October 13 has been the officially recognized date of U.S. Navy’s birth.

A heartfelt “thank you” to all who have served, sacrificed their lives, and those that are currently serving.

 

~Let Love Lead the Way~ TP

 

 

That Unmistakeable High-Pitched Scream…

 

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Photo cred:  123RF

I was in my kitchen recently, the window over the sink open about ten inches as it was unseasonably warm for a beautiful fall day.  I was making my umpteenth cup of coffee, when all of a sudden I heard a young girl’s high-pitched scream. It seemed to have lasted for about three days, but truth-to-tell, it was probably only ten seconds.  It wasn’t an “I’m in danger and someone’s trying to kidnap me” scream.  It was that high-pitched, girlie scream, most likely the result of a young boy trying to put a spider in her hair, or trying to get her to hold his pet snake.

Whatever the cause of her high-pitched emission, I was immediately brought back to my childhood and in my mind’s eye, I remember a neighborhood boy handing me a clump of something that was covered in sand and he told me to squish it in my hand, in between my fingers.  Never one to back down from a challenge, I did so, only to realize it was cat poop.  All of a sudden, without thought or exertion, my mouth opened and then it happened.  Out of my little girl mouth came that high-pitched screaming and squealing that sent shock waves throughout my relatively quiet neighborhood.  The young boy started laughing and I went from screaming to being infuriated (although I’m sure at the time I had no idea that there was a name for that emotion).  That squished cat poop covered in sand wound up being smeared all over his jacket, a moment that I was very proud of at the time; now, not so much.  But hey, I was just a kid, doing “kid stuff”.

After hearing that girl scream (followed by squealing in delight and laughing), I wondered, “When and why do we lose that?”  When does screaming and squealing in delight leave us because it’s socially unacceptable as an adult?

Can you imagine pushing a grocery cart through a store when all of a sudden you see a spider the size of Rhode Island crawling around on a cantaloupe?  As a seven year old girl, that high-pitched scream would cause the soup cans to fall off the shelves, but as an adult, you’d gulp that scream down, jump on the back of the cart, downshift into second gear and high-tail it out of the produce section.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Youth is wasted on the young.  How true that is.  I’m not sure that children are aware of how lucky they are in being able to scream and squeal as necessary.  I’m envious.  Sometimes, I don’t want to “adult”… I want to be a carefree kid, running and playing and not having a care in the world.  I’m trying to remember the last time I “girlie-screamed”, and the sound I now make as it relates to “critters”, more reminiscent of a fire truck barreling down the street with its siren on…. “Woooooo OOOOOO Woooooo”, doesn’t count.

I don’t think my adult vocal chords could produce a high-pitched scream like I heard from that girl the other day.  Lord knows I’d like to give it a try, but at my age, it would most likely cause no less than four squad cars, a fire truck and an ambulance’s arrival at my door step.

So young kids out there…enjoy your childhood and go ahead and scream and squeal like there’s no tomorrow because someday, you’ll grow up and society and your vocal chords will preclude you from doing so.

 

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

I Miss You, Daddy

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My tears are flowing without control today.  Just when I think they’ve stopped, they come again.  They seem to have a life of their own, separate from me…from who I am.

It’s as though there’s a hole in the top of my head, and someone is pouring a bucket of water into it. The water’s only release is through my eyes and it’s gushing out.

I know that it won’t always be like this, but I also know that it’s going to take time for that hole to close up… for the water to stop cascading out of my eyes.

There’s also a hole in my heart. Bigger than I could have ever imagined, and yet, it keeps beating, allowing me to be thankful for another day.

I tell myself that I’ll be okay and eventually I will be.  I need to stop being so hard on myself; he’s only been gone for such a short time and yet, it feels like eternity.

The greatest thing about love is that it never dies.  It remains forever, throughout time and space.  When we lose someone we love so dearly, even though we can’t see them anymore, the connection of love is eternal.

I will always be so thankful for the man who taught me everything I needed to know about life and love.  Who assured me, as I sobbed at his bedside when he was dying, that “You don’t need to do that because you’re stronger than you think.”

I’ll never forget those loving words… that beautiful gift he gave me.  He was an amazing man and I will always, ALWAYS treasure my memories… my 50+ years of memories in which I knew every second of every day how much he loved me and what I meant to him, and what he meant to me.

This isn’t the end.  I know that when my heart stops beating and I take my last breath, he’ll be there, waiting for me with his arms spread wide open, and he’ll wrap them around me in a loving embrace.  He’ll be just as happy as I will in that moment and the love and light will shine so brightly.  Our souls will be together and finally…FINALLY…I know that my tears will stop flowing.

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~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

He’s Got My Baggage

 

 

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Photo cred:  Macy’s

Little did I know that I had “baggage”.  I thought I was “good”; perhaps toting around a small carry-on bag containing a few trinkets of regret, shame, embarrassment, guilt, etc.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized I had considerably more than a carry-on bag.  I had that, plus two of those big suitcases with the wheels and retractable handles, a garment bag, a duffle bag and a backpack.  Seriously?  Where did all of THIS come from?

I was simply “doing” life on my own…without help, without guidance and without purpose.  I thought I was managing things in a reasonable fashion.  I thought I was just like everyone else…sucking it up and moving forward.  Oh, I was, alright… I had my head down and plowed through everyone and everything, ignoring what was in my heart… knowing that something of enormous proportions was missing.  But what was it?  What was it that I was missing on my solo flight through life?  There was “something”!  It seemed to be on the very edge of my heart and mind, but whatever it was,  it seemed so elusive and mysterious.

I was plugging along by myself for over fifty years.  I had my beloved family and friends, my dogs, my job, a few hobbies, and my life “seemed” to be okay, average, “normal”… but ALWAYS, something seemed to be missing.

As I reflect back over the last five decades, I did start out with a small carry-on bag, no doubt, but over the course of time, the rest of my baggage crept in, almost imperceivably, and the next thing I knew, I had one of those hotel-dollys stacked high with the rest of my baggage. I hunkered down behind it holding on to the cold, brass rails in a defensive lineman’s stance, with all of my weight on the balls of my feet so I could reluctantly push it.  I pushed it uphill most of the way, only once in a while, when my life seemed simple, fun and carefree, did I take the opportunity to jump on the back of it while it careened downhill… going faster and faster….. Woooooooo Hoooooo!  On those rare occasions, that baggage dolly would inevitably come to a crashing halt, tipping over and spilling my regret, embarrassment, shame and guilt all over the ground.  I’d painstakingly gather everything back up and stuff it all neatly into my baggage, and I’d hunker down again and start pushing.

I was EXHAUSTED.  This down- and uphill battle was killing me…breaking my spirit into a million pieces.  How could I POSSIBLY go on any longer in this fashion?  How could I even entertain getting my life “under control”?  Who was going to save me and redirect my life so that I could live peacefully, joyfully and without guilt and shame?

And then it happened.   That elusive and mysterious component missing in my life showed up.  All I had to do was stop pushing that dolly full of my baggage, open my heart and my mind and ask for help.  I knew I couldn’t do this alone any longer.  I needed help, I needed rest.  I needed Him.  Only He could take this load off of my nearly broken back and shoulders.  When He offered to take my baggage from me and told me to follow Him… I couldn’t do it fast enough!  Without a moment’s hesitation, I started to transfer my baggage from that dolly to Him.  Each time I ladened Him with yet another bag, He stood tall, His knees never buckeled, His stance never wavered.  His pile was getting bigger and heavier by the minute and mine was getting smaller and lighter.  By the time I finished, He had it all…

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Photo cred: Pintrest

He reached over and took my hand.  As I stepped into His love, light and life, I never looked back.  I’ll NEVER be able to thank Him for what He’s done for me.

We all have baggage…some loads are lighter than others, but we ALL have it, nonetheless.  When you’ve had enough of doing this life on your own, He’s waiting for you…

God is greater than the burdens you are carrying.

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Photo cred:  Proverbs 31 Ministries

 

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

The Only Thing My Dad Didn’t Teach Me…

IMG_0098.PNGMy father was an amazing man…I realize that this statement is not unique in the least or even remotely exclusive to him.   I’m sure there are millions of people on this planet that would say the very same thing about their own fathers.  How truly blessed I was, along with anyone else who feels, or felt, the same way about their own father.

My Dad taught me the importance of being a good person and in being humble, generous, kind-hearted, loyal, hard-working, faithful, dependable and most importantly, loving…to ensure that those you love KNOW it… without question or doubt.  There was never an endless pursuit of “I love you’s” in my house when I was growing up…quite the contrary, and I brought that with me into my relationships.  Not just with my husband of 32+ years but with my children, my friends, their friends, my dogs, veterans and the elderly, just to name a few.  It’s in my DNA…from him.

My Dad taught me many things…how to be self-confident and outgoing…how to be comfortable in my own skin, even if I had to ‘fake it, to make it’, sometimes.  He taught me to be grateful and thankful and to never take anyone, or anything, for granted… especially a day on ‘this side of the grass’.

Yes…

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~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

The Greatest Man I’ve Ever Known and Loved

 

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With the passing of my beloved father eleven days ago, I’ve been going through his belongings and came across the following letter that I wrote for him at Christmas in 1999; nearly 20 years ago.

“Things remembered…

I could write an endless list of things that I have remembered over the last 30+ years. I’ve been blessed with a memory that can take me back to when I was not much more than a toddler.  It is with heartfelt joy and remembrance that I share these with you, Daddy…

  • A metal lunchbox with a note left on the kitchen table stating that it was “in the fridge”…
  • A Christmas tree that had to stand outside for a couple of days to “fall”, while I waited as patiently as I could until the day we could bring it in the house and decorate it, albeit, with “clumps of tinsel”…
  • Our first summer family vacation at Alton Bay, taken in the middle of “March”, or so it seemed, even though it was June.  The weather cold and rainy and an almost 5-year-old insisting that she had to go swimming.  The musty smell of the cabin, and Steve losing his fishing pole at the bottom of the lake and the man who was scuba diving found it and returned it to him…
  • Standing behind an overstuffed chair, combing your dark brown hair, but only for a few minutes, as a six year old can unselfishly commit to…
  • Hearing your footsteps on the back porch after you’d been working all day and seeing you come through the back door, pink-cheeked and smiling.  Happy to be home after a long day…
  • A trip to Mac’s Farm when I was eight years old; a wild ride from the lower pasture when the pony I was riding decided to hightail it back to the barn, and tossed me on my behind.  Big tears and scared out of my wits, I was adamant that I didn’t want to get back on.  A kind, but firm insistence on your part, you encouraged me to get back on that pony, lest I’d never ride again.  So I did…and later on (when I was fifteen), it cost you, big time, when you bought me my own horse on the day of your and Mom’s 23rd wedding anniversary!…
  • “Tess… could you come in here for a minute? “, and I walked into the living room, wearing my strapless mint green prom dress.  The Mills Brothers’ eight track tape paused on the stereo.  You hit the play button, took me in your arms, and we danced as they sang in perfect harmony, “Daddy’s Little Girl”.  I remember crying, and you were trying so hard not to, but you did anyway.  I thanked you by leaving make-up stains on the shoulder of your shirt…
  • Sitting in the back of the church as my soon-to-be-husband anxiously awaited my arrival down the not-so-long and narrow aisle.  Hearing the organist begin to play the “Bridal March”, and you taking my hand and me slipping my arm through yours as we walked down the aisle.  And when the minister asked, “who gives this woman…” hearing you and Mom answer, in slightly quavering voices, “we do”…
  • Finally beginning to comprehend what you and Mom went through when you lost Stephen, as you looked at your firstborn grandson, and knowing that our relationship would change somehow from that moment on because I was now a “parent”…
  • Watching  you with your youngest granddaughter, calling her “Papa’s little girl”, and being uncertain that she knew exactly what it meant and just how special it is to be your “little girl”.

Merry Christmas, Daddy.  I love you more than you’ll ever know.”

I knew the day would come when we’d have to say, “so long, for now”, but I also knew that I’d never be “ready”.  Some have said, “Well, he was ninety…he had a long life…he had a good life”; true, but that also means that I had him for a really long time, making it that much more difficult to let him go.  I am blessed…my family and his friends are blessed to have had him in our lives for as long as we did, no doubt, but as I sit here in his chair at his kitchen table, in the only childhood home I’ve ever known, the memories come flooding back, washing over me like a tidal wave.

The days, weeks, months and years to follow will bring tears of sorrow, smiles and laughter in remembering him for the nearly perfect husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend that he was.  I know I’m biased, but I’ve never known anyone who met him to think that he wasn’t the greatest guy…ever.

He was humble, thoughtful, kind, generous and most importantly, loving.  I never doubted for a millisecond how much he loved me, and I take great comfort in knowing that he was fully aware of how much I loved him and what he meant to me.

The night before he passed away, my sister and I were with him at home as he was transitioning.  Sometimes he was “here” with us, and sometimes he was “there”, smiling and waving to loved ones that were waiting for him.  During a quiet moment, as I was stroking his hair, I rested my face in the crook of my other arm and began to sob.  In a very lucid moment, he reached up and touched my arm and said, “You don’t need to do that…you’re much stronger than you think.”  A moment that carried me through the days following his passing…through his wake, the funeral procession to the church and all the way up through the very last line of his eulogy when I squeaked out, “Anchors aweigh, Daddy…rest in peace”.  He was a Navy Veteran and very proud of it.

I’ll never be able to thank him enough for the wonderful, blessed and loving life that he gave me (to all of his family).  No stone unturned…no regrets…no doubts.  Love was the greatest gift he ever gave me and it is eternal.

~Nehemiah 8:10 – “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

~1 Corinthians 13 – “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

 

 

 

Whaddya mean, you want me to *SERVE*?!?

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Photo Cred:  Illinois Baptist State Association 

After I joined my local bible-based Christian Church, Granite United, I kept hearing chatter about “serving”.  Being new to the church, I was unclear as to what that meant.  As I continued attending service each week, the notion of “serving” began to unfold and before I knew what I was doing, I had filled out a “Connection Card” checking off the box for “Kids Ministry”.  Wait a second…”Kids Ministry”?  What could I, as a new Christian, possibly “teach” these kids about Jesus?  They probably know way more about Him than I do.  They’ll probably teach me a thing or two.  But okay… I committed to doing it…and so it began.

Easter Service…my first time in KM.  These little bright and shining faces looking at me like I knew what I was doing (I was as nervous as a tortoise trying to cross Route 93), but I just “went with it”.  I mean, these are “just kids” after all, right?

We played some games and did a lesson followed by an Easter Egg hunt.  I watched as one of the sweetest little girls on the planet handed over the “golden” Easter Egg that she had found to a boy who happens to be blind.  As I watched this transaction transpire, the waterworks came on and I was sobbing like a baby.  I had just witnessed a four year old angelic-looking girl gladly, graciously and lovingly give up the coveted golden Easter Egg to a boy who, although he couldn’t see it, knew it was a “big deal”.  He squealed in overjoyed delight, jumping up and down with a smile on his face that went from ear-to-ear.  I stood there placing my hand on the little girl’s shoulder and bending down to her level, told her how “very proud I was of her for giving him the golden egg and that was such an unselfish thing to do.”  Looking up at me with her big, beautiful blue eyes and an ever-present smile, she beamed, “I know!”  Being such a little girl, this was, in no way, a self-serving or self-aggrandizing statement.  It was “matter of fact”, as if she simply knew that what she had done was a “good” and “kind” thing.  :::I was still crying at this point, but reined it in a little so as not to alarm them:::

As we wrapped up the Easter Egg hunt, service had concluded and parents were arriving to pick up their kids.  Hugs all around and heartfelt “good-byes” ensued.  For those that know me well, know that sometimes I’m overcome by emotion and this day was no exception.  I got in my car and as I drove the 15 minutes to get home, my heart was so full of love and happiness over these kids, I continued to cry, barely being able to see where I was going.

So I’m a few rounds into KM and let me share with you how it’s changed me and what I’ve learned.  I’ve “taught” a couple of lessons… Noah’s Ark & God’s Rainbow and the Last Supper & Communion.  I’ve watched these kids be engaging, kind, selfless and loving.  I always used to jokingly say that I could never “run a daycare” because by the end of the day, when the parents would arrive to pick up their kids, they’d either find them hanging from the ceiling fan or duct-taped to the wall, suggesting that I’d never have the patience or wherewithal to “deal” with kids.  All joking aside, how wrong I was!  I am so thankful to be involved in Kids Ministry and knowing that it’s a committed process to teach children about Jesus in a fun and loving way; without it being too overwhelming for them.

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Photo cred:  Kids Matter Kids Ministry

Kids Ministry has taught me patience, to be able to see Jesus through the wonder-filled eyes of children.  It’s taught me about giving my time, willingly and lovingly, to assist these kids in learning about and coming to know Jesus.  After all, I’m a “Baby Christian”, so I’m learning right along with them.

Since kids can sometimes be unpredictable, there have been a few moments where things were going a little “sideways”, but through the loving hand of Jesus Christ, I found myself de-escalating a situation that otherwise may have ended with a ceiling fan or duct tape.  (Just kidding!)

In all seriousness, I never, in a million years, would’ve thought that I would be where I am today…completely devoted and ever-faithful in following Christ and serving in Kids Ministry.  These kids have impressed upon me their desire and willingness to know the Lord, and by His mercy and grace I will humbly do my best to help them on their journey.  I’ll hold their hands and take this walk with them, knowing that if either of us stumble, Jesus will be there to pick us up and help us continue on our way.

If you’re a part of the Granite United family and haven’t yet served in Kids Ministry, I urge you to do so.  Not only will you be helping kids learn about Jesus, you will be rewarded in ways you never could’ve imagined!

Matthew 18:2-4 [2]”And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [4]Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven’.”

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

 

 

Eternity DOES hang in the balance! Where do you think YOU’RE going?

 

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Photo cred:  Indian in the Machine

All of my life I’ve never wavered in thinking that after we “die physically” we still continue to exist.  In being raised Catholic, I was taught about heaven and hell, but always believed that if I were a “good person”, heaven awaits!!  My bag’s been packed for years, not that I’ll need much in heaven; after all it IS heaven, but just to be on the safe side, my bag includes my Keurig machine, my favorite “Dog Lover” coffee mug, a never-ending supply of Peet’s Major Dickason K-Cups, Hershey’s Chocolate and Caramel creamer, as well as my iPad and wireless keyboard…after all, I’ll HAVE to blog about heaven when I get there!  As I trudged along in my humble worldly life, I truly thought that I was “good to go”…landing in heaven for all eternity because I believed in it and I certainly didn’t want to go to hell.   I mean, isn’t being a kind, humble, caring, selfless person enough?  Nope.

John 14:6 ~ Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I always thought the aforementioned verse meant that as long as I “believed” in Jesus, I was all set…Red-carpet-roll-out upon MY arrival into heaven!  Whoop whoop!  Ummmm… “no”…that’s not what it means.  :::Insert ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look here:::

Luke 16:19-30 tells the story of the “Rich Man and Lazarus”.  The rich man was just that in his worldly life…rich… he had every worldly possession his heart desired, but refused to repent and turn his life over to God.  The poor man, Lazarus, covered in sores, [21]who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.  [22]The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, [23]and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  [24]And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ [25]But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. [26]And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us. [27]And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— [28]for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ [29]But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ [30]And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ [31]He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

EVERYONE needs to know that there is a heaven to gain, but there is also a hell to shun!  Poet Willam Arthur Tell wrote a thought-provoking poem about this; well worth the read.

At service yesterday, our Lead Pastor reminded us that “Good people don’t go to heaven…FORGIVEN people DO!”  Asking Jesus to forgive us of our sins and to be our Lord and Savior means we ARE forgiven.  This is a life-changing commitment; the difference between spending eternity in heaven vs. hell.

I know that for many years I thought I was all set and that heaven awaits me when my time on this earth ends.  I was pretty confident in that belief; I didn’t know anything to the contrary.  I never opened a bible when I attended Mass; it was something that the Priest opened up and read the gospel from.  I thought, “I’ll never understand or be able to comprehend it.  Does the Word really pertain to ‘me’?”  Oh, “yes”, it does!  I’m in His Word EVERY day.  The Bible is a living document, directing me where I need to be EVERY time I open it.  He knows… it’s by his mercy, grace and favor that I humbly live.  Jesus IS the truth, the way and the life and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ve grabbed ahold of his hand and I’m NEVER letting go!

I’m not special, not in the least.  But I am FORGIVEN and I am SAVED.  That’s all fine and good, but what about those that aren’t?  Don’t they deserve to know that their eternity hangs in the balance?  “Leave no man behind”.  Seek and find; bring those you love (and even those you don’t) to Jesus.

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The good news is, is that HEAVEN is FOREVER, but we must not forget that so is HELL.  There’s no bargaining your way out of hell.  There’s no begging for forgiveness then… it’ll be too late.  There is NO WAY out of HELL…EVER.

There are people in my life whom I desperately want to turn to Jesus.  Deep-rooted in the back of my mind (until now) has been the haunting thought that, “They’ll never do it.  They’ll never repent and be forgiven and saved.”  Shame on me.  My Pastor said yesterday, “Don’t answer somebody’s “No” for them.”  AMEN!  Who am I to assume they can’t or they won’t?  It may seem like an impossible task for ME, but nothing is impossible for God and with His love, faithfulness and guidance, I will continue to ask them, I will continue to pray for them, and I will continue to let them see Jesus in me.

Romans 10:9-10 ~ “[9]because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [10]For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

 

Love my enemies? You’re kidding me, right?!

IMG_0055.PNGPhoto cred:  Bloor Landsdowne Christian Fellowship

 

Old Me:  “Shut up, Matthew!”

New Me:  “Okay, I get it, but this is NOT gonna be easy!  Just sayin’…”

I’m in the Bible every day.  I know that the greatest second commandment is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” ~Matthew 22:38

Ugh.  I keep reminding myself that I’m only human.  That when someone is against me, slighting me, undermining me, the “old me” rears its ugly head and the venomous feelings of revenge surface, and I know exactly who’s behind it.  The enemy.  I momentarily entertain the “old feelings”… of who and what I used to be and when I reflect back on the times I would’ve gladly engaged in a WWE smackdown, taking pleasure in “giving someone what they had coming”, I’m so ashamed.  Embarrassed, too.

That was me… really?  Yes, it was, right up until I turned my heart and life over to Jesus.  Not gonna lie… this is the one that I struggle with the most.  REALLY struggle with. Not that I was, by any stretch, a bad person, but if someone intentionally hurt me, I was all over them like “white on rice”.   There was NO way I was going to “let someone hurt me, and get away with it.”  Since becoming a Christian, I feel as though I’ve been “turning the other cheek” so often that I’ve got whiplash.  True story.

I’ve always considered myself to be humble, kind and thoughtful…UNTIL someone came at me.  Then it was “game on”.  The humble, kind and thoughtful me went out the window and was replaced with the “Terminator”.  Yuck.  It pains me to even acknowledge it and write it “out loud”.

Each day I pray for God’s mercy, wisdom, grace and favor.  I ask Him for His strength and guidance in my Christian Walk.  I pray for those who are suffering, who are less fortunate, for those who don’t know Jesus and “yes”, I pray for my enemies.  By the time I “get to them” in my prayers, it’s more like a “footnote”; a perfunctory recognition of their existence.  Oopsies!

I realize now that when I pray for my enemies I need to do so in a truly loving and forgiving way.  Praying for those against me initially was contrary to everything I felt and believed… it’s not easy… not in the least, but it’s what I NEED to do… it’s the RIGHT thing to do.  I recently shared the following post on FB by Pastor Joel Osteen:

  • Bless Your Enemies… Jesus said in Luke 6:27-28 “Bless those that curse you, do good to those that hurt you, pray for those that mistreat you.”  One test we all have to pass is being good to people that have not been good to us.  It won’t make sense in your mind, everything in you will will say, “Hold a grudge, talk bad about them, look for ways to get even.”  Your job is not to pay people back.  Your job is to bless your enemies.

Challenge accepted, Pastor Osteen.

To my enemies, ga’head “bring it”.  I’ll be waiting for you, with a heart full of forgiveness and prayers for your well-being.  Because at the end of the day, I’m living my life as Jesus did, to the very best of my ability, and, quite frankly, the simple reminder to myself is, “What would Jesus do?”  He’d bless them, forgive them and love them.  He’s so awesome.  I thank Him every day for blessing me, forgiving me and loving me.  I’m a sinner; not unlike my enemies.  If He can forgive me, I can certainly forgive them.

~Matthew 5:44 – “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

Okay, Matthew… message received loud and clear and I’m sorry that the “old me” told you to “shut up”.  The “new me” will keep reminding myself of this message every day, until I no longer have to “think” about it; that praying for and loving my enemies will come as second nature to me and I’ll do it willingly, gladly and with nothing in my heart but love.  Consider me a “work in progress.”

~Matthew 6:14-15 – [14]For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.  [15]but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP