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Fear

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My oldest brother walked up the sidewalk to his car and drove away, leaving my friend and I home alone. Being middle-schoolers, we were excited to have the place to ourselves. But a little later we heard a thump. "What was that?" We looked wide-eyed at each other. The rest of the night, we went back and forth on whether our imaginations had grown the size of the old farmhouse itself, or whether we had every right to have palpitating hearts and frozen limbs. As the night wore on, we became convinced we were not alone. At the pinnacle of our terror, we decided we needed to take some sort of action and face the latest noise head-on. As we cautiously moved towards the noise, my brother jumped out from the shadows, terrifying us. He had indeed not left for a night on the town! After relief...
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Gifts

Gifts
His weathered hands, watery blue eyes and salmon-colored lips poured out stories; then a pause came in the outpour, like a thermos pouring coffee, interrupted. His look pierced me across the table and he said, "You have the gift of encouragement." After initial surprised silence, I tumbled out messily, "Ah, yes... I believe I do... How did you know?" I had just met this precious elderly couple about 15 minutes ago and had only gotten in a few sentences. (Yes, I had injured my foot. Yes, I was familiar with and loved staying at the Wilderness Prayer Cabins where his son managed…) My question was just out of my mouth when he replied, smiling confidently. "Holy Spirit told me. Praise the Lord. Thank you Jesus. He is good." Then he went back to his story as if nothing of significance had ...
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Sidelined

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"No matter how much we may love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around..." May Crandall, Before We Were Yours The new slalom ski sliced through the water spraying water all over my face. I laughed and vigorously shook my soaked head to see better. It was fast and it was fun. Little did I know that in a few minutes, my summer would be flipped upside down. My daughter continued to give me the thumbs up as I cut back and forth, seeing what this new ski would do. My hubby moved his arm up and down to warn me of big waves coming. I wasn't worried. I had hit plenty of those doing water sports through the years. The waves hit. My ski pushed right and forward but the stiff new boot ...
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Heavenly Children

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"You are supposed to destroy the works of the devil and stomp on hell for a living. The cross is the revealing of your value. If you get who you are because of what he did, it doesn't matter what people have done to you." Todd White Our world is in chaos. And many of us feel defenseless. So many voices are shouting to be heard. Often their messages are different, outright contradictory, depending on their experiences. How do I respond as a believer? I honestly don't have all the answers. There are a few words that keep landing in my brain though, like the cotton from the trees that keep landing on my porch, clinging: listen, pray, serve. Fight for righteousness and the innocent. In other words, be more like Christ. As these thoughts were circling in my head, I ran into a friend as I was dr...
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Healing Father

Healing Father
A grenade exploded. COVID-19. And through the embers and debris, our world became almost unrecognizable. Like I had entered an episode of The Twilight Zone. In this new world, people's stories swirl in my brain in a never-ending cycle. A friend whose pain is growing almost intolerable because she no longer has access to her physical therapy. A young farmer dressed in a soft blue flannel and cowboy hat in tears as he loses the farm that has been in his family for generations. Nurses and doctors in New York in their scrubs, exhausted and overwhelmed. Just when they think they have the treatment for this new virus figured out, another precious life slips away. A dad sits outside crying, pain in his eyes, as he shares with the world how his son just took his life from the isolation and despair...
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Easter Hope

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Suicide rates are climbing. Uncertainty fills the air like a bonfire on lighter fluid. The air swirls heavy and dark around us, smothering at times. We breathe deeply to steady ourselves. Then fear comes at us again, like a wasp that won't leave us alone. Or like an evil character in a nightmare we try so hard to escape from. For some, it is fear of the virus itself. Of losing our health. Or fear of losing a dear loved one whose systems are already compromised. And for some, this fear becomes a reality and their world will never be the same. Others watch as their business they had been dreaming about building since their young days, pouring their aspiring ideas and overflowing energy into, evaporates away like dew on grass. Others find themselves trying to work their job fro...
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Stephen: Liquid-Gold Truth

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They were embarrassed. So they looked at each other with an evil glint and a nod of their heads. Their pride had been slashed with a sword. A sword of truth. "None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke." So they went after him. Stephen, this wise truth-teller who was selected to help run the early church because he was "full of faith and the Holy Spirit." Their pride wounded, they persuaded men to lie about Stephen, saying he was speaking against the law of Moses, the Temple "and even God"; the people, including elders and teachers of religious law, became so angry they arrested him. They dragged Stephen before the high council, but all they could do was stare at him "because his face became as bright as an angel's." Fi...
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Lovely Ragtag Church

Lovely Ragtag Church
When strangers walked through my front door along with a diverse mixture of people I knew, I wasn't sure how this would go. My daughter had organized this gathering, feeling strongly that those of us who are Christ-followers and also passionate about digging below the surface of what is really going on in our world, should meet. We gathered our tea and snacks and then I ushered them into a small sitting room with glass doors overlooking the lake. As we talked, the sky turned black as quickly as water going through my Keurig. At one point the man across from me got a funny look on his face as he looked past me. "It can't be that time." His wife's mouth shot open and her eyes became large buttons. I craned my neck around to look at the huge metal wall clock hanging behind me. No way it ...
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Goals

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New Years. A time of year we observe that God did indeed make each of us one-of-a kind. One friend says, "I never make resolutions," and laughs carefree. Another will pull out her latest New Year's Resolutions typed in serious Arial or Calibri on 90 lb. bright white paper from her nicely-labeled folder. This year I observed some cementing their 2020 intentions on Facebook. Others reflected on the woes of the past year. Still others looked forward to the new year with the same excitement they did when pumpkin spice lattes came out in the fall. I love this diversity. But some of you may be feeling New Year's stress or ambivalence; I hope some of the following thoughts are helpful.​ When is not important. Self-reflection and goal setting are beneficial, but when can be what makes sense for yo...
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Mrs. Made-New

Mrs. Made-New
by Jani Lippert Promnitz Joyous Living FB When we feel like we can't hold it all together, we begin to start thinking on the right track. Because we can't and never will. But, we can rest in the promise that he can and always will. I recently had a birthday. Did I hear a happy birthday? Awe, thanks guys! Don't worry if you wondered if I celebrated; believe me, I did and still am. Anyway, my mom wrote me a sweet birthday card as moms do. In the card was a list of all the past year's highlights: coaching volleyball, teaching a year of 5th grade, delivering Joy to the world, resigning from teaching and coaching, becoming a full-time wife and mom, celebrating Jon and my one-year anniversary, and finally moving to a new town, church, and home. These were all good things, but that...
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Faithful Friend

Faithful Friend
I want to be a fall girl. Like my friends. I really do. They wrap fall around themselves as beautifully as the burnt-orange and brown-colored scarves they pull out of their closets and drape loosely around their necks. "Isn't flannel shirt season the very best?" They ask me in delight. "No. It isn't." I shake my head emphatically to punctuate my dissent. They sip on their pumpkin- and maple-spiced lattes in frothy bliss. (In their flannels of course.) This only deepens my consternation. My daughter and her friend have their Christmas music blaring. "Are you kidding me?!" I exclaim. "On the second day of November?" "Well, I feel it's technically acceptable once we have our first snowfall, and we have already had that," my daughter explains. This reminder that this did indeed take place...
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Josiah: A Boy King

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​We are not our family history. We are not our genetics. We are not our age. We always have a choice. King Josiah wrapped this truth around his life like the royal robes that adorned his body. God's Holy Word shows us that Josiah became king at the tender age of eight. This happened after his father, Amon, was murdered by the officials who worked for him. (2 Chronicles 33:24)  What emotions and thoughts were swirling through young Josiah as they placed the crown of authority and responsibility on his small head? Was the weight of what it represented heavier to his soul than the weight of the crown to his head? Was his mind and heart still reeling with trauma from having his father murdered? Although having his father alive was maybe just&nb...
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Unfailing Love

Unfailing Love
Isn't that what each of us is ultimately seeking? To be loved unconditionally and unfailingly? Our heart's cry at gut-level? To have our inner heart's yearnings and dreams understood. To have our ugliness exposed and received in love's care, with no worries of being shunned or discarded. We have sought this love in other people. And it fell short. Well below the mark of what books and movies promulgated, the fabrications spun. I want to know this unfailing love that the prophets and kings so often regale in the Bible. God's unfailing love. Our Creator. Our Father. David especially grasps this (NLT): I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul. Psalm 31:7 Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,...
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Balance

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Today when the sky stopped its flow of tears, several people in a white boat decided to take advantage of the lake's unexpected quiet demeanor. The water was smooth as bamboo linen and most people, like me, were still huddled behind their walls. I was drawn to look out my windows and then walk out onto my deck by sounds of cheers and clapping. I watched as the lean white boat carved gently to just the right distance away as the man in the water adjusted his rope, body and board. I quickly realized it was a newbie trying to figure out the whole wakeboard thing. At first he broke at the waist, leaning his torso too far forward, and the boat pulled him right up and over; head first into the water he plunged. Then again. And again. The people in the boat would cheer as the boat pulled him...
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Wrestling with Evil and Redemption

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Sometimes my hand with the pointing finger is stronger than my hand that holds a mirror. I extend grace and excuses to myself while my pointing finger pronounces judgement on others. How could they? Who would do that? What are they thinking? As the Bible describes it, pointing to the speck in another's eyes while ignoring the plank in my own. (Matthew 7:3-5; Luke 6:41-42) Other days, the mirror reflects with too great a clarity my human state and yells loudly. How come you did that? What were you thinking? Why did you say that? And the accuser lying around my neck like a noose tightens and turns up the volume in my ear, calling me unflattering, unseemly names. (Revelation 12:10)  Where do I find the stable walkway across this swamp? Of accurately recognizing and naming the evil I see ...
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Unfamiliar

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I am dancing to a song I don't know. Is it in the key of C? I'm not sure. I don't recognize the tune. I don't know the song. I stumble along. Awkward. Disjointed. I have no idea what is coming next. Should I shuffle right, left, dip, jump, kick or twirl? I don't know. This is all new. I'm trying to figure it out. It is a new song. It is a hard song. Shouldn't I be catching onto the rhythm by now? Does anyone recognize that I don't know this song and am stumbling? Sometimes life finds us trying our best to dance to a song we don't know. And maybe don't want to. We'd rather be dancing to a different song. One we know. One we are familiar with. A happy song. But we don't always get to choose the song we dance to. Not in this life. A wayward child. Sick parent. Cheating spouse.....
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Faith or Fear

Faith or Fear
Reading through the book of Numbers, there is a story that keeps playing in my mind reel. Moses and his scouting team. He sent twelve leaders from the Israelite community to check out the land the Lord had promised them and bring back a report. What kind of food grows there? What is the soil like? Who lives there? How many? What are the towns like?... Well, ten came back saying one thing... But two came back saying something entirely different. This is what the ten had to say: "We can't go up against them! They are stronger than we are! The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there… Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that's what they thought, too!" But here is what Caleb and ...
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The Hard Stuff

The Hard Stuff
I love that all-powerful, all-knowing creator God is also an intimate, patient, loving Father. That the One who spins a caterpillar to butterfly, knows my heart. And he cares. Just the other day he reminded me again. I was reading through the Bible by my fireplace when I hit a road bump. I said to God, "You know, this is why I don't like reading through the Old Testament. Some of this I just don't get. You're hard to understand. Like killing the first-born Egyptian sons. What is that?" Yeah I actually said that to God. I know. Seems a little nervy on reflection. But he didn't turn me into a pile of dust.  Awhile later I put my Bible aside and picked up one of my devotionals and turned to the page where my bookmark was. It was about how Moses req...
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Rebekah

Rebekah
I don't know about you sister, but I'm not a big fan of detours. Roads diverted. Plans foiled. Life interrupted. If I'm travelling to Iowa, I want to end up in Iowa. (You Iowa haters, hold your comments.) No blown tires. No destination changes. I don't want phone calls blowing up my to-do list. Friends cancelling a night out. Last-minute project demands. A job in Minnesota when I want to live in Texas. I have my plans. You know? That's probably why when I was reading in Genesis and stumbled on Rebekah, I had to do a double take. Who just packs her bags and leaves her family and country with a stranger? In one day. And for the purpose of marrying a stranger? I mean seriously. Who does that? Abraham's servant was staying with Rebekah's family, having just met them the night before, when...
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Beyond the Glitter

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​When we create fantasy images in our heads, we slay the beauty in our lives.– Emily Ley, Grace Not Perfection It helps me to remember Martha this time of year. Had I lived nearby and in her time, we would have been pals. I'm sure of it. Instead, I view her from afar and learn from her story (Luke 10).  Martha was scurrying around, thinking she was doing all her guests a favor. "Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made." And when she went to Jesus to complain about her sister Mary not helping, who instead "sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said" Jesus spoke truth to her. "Martha, Martha...you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken a...
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Look Up

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Our path was layered with thousands of red, yellow, brown, and orange-colored tree tears. My friend and I started to climb yet another steep hill whose sometimes calf-level leaves hid all manner of tricksters—branches, deep ruts, prickly vines, stones in sandy soil, loose pebbles, and slippery mud. Our eyes were glued to our path, our forward motion in the leaves making an amplified cereal-smacking sound. Suddenly we heard commotion above and to our left from the high barren trees. We stopped in our tracks and swung our heads around just in time to see two beautiful eagles swoop up and away from their secluded nests. After the eagles were out of sight, their glory no longer ours to observe, my friend said, "We need to look up more! Just think about how many birds up the...
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Freedom

Freedom
I read something this summer, and I couldn't get it out of my head. It was a "light switch-flipped-on" moment. You know the ones. Where the truth of it sinks into your inner soul while simultaneously making you wonder how you never saw it before. Here were the light switch words: "Our freedom of choice is so valuable to Him that He restrains Himself from manifesting His presence in a way where our freedom of choice would be removed…when He reveals Himself in fullness, even the devil and his demons will declare that Jesus Christ is Lord." —Bill Johnson, Encountering the Goodness of God He restrains himself. Wow. That's how important our freedom is to him. How important it is that we choose him. It makes sense though, doesn't it? We are made in his image and don't we want to be cho...
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Delinquent Daisy

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While the dogs were running around at a nearby park thick with surrounding woods, I called to them as it was time to skedaddle. Work to do. A growling stomach to fill. As usual, one was delinquent. This time it was Daisy. I'm pretty sure that every night after I go to bed they do rock, paper, scissors—a doggie version of course—to determine whose turn it is to tune me out. So my 90-pound newfie mix and I trudged back to the car. I gave Mia her treat for listening and got her settled comfortably in the car with the windows down. I called again to Daisy and was about to get in the car to drive closer when she bounded out of the woods. She came to a baseball diamond fence, however, and was just not sure what to do. The fence was standing between her and me. She looked at me expectantly across...
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Hidden

Hidden
As I was heaving the watermelon out of the cart into my mini black SUV trunk on a sweltering summer day, tiny silver hoops on a white card caught a glint of sun's rays and flashed a hello up at me. So I finished unloading the rest of the bags from the cart, slammed my trunk door, rolled the cart to its nearest holding tank and made my way back into Walmart with my errant earrings. I scurried to the nearest self-checkout. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a Walmart worker coming my way. So much for trying to remain unseen. I figured she was probably wondering what was up. As I began to explain that my earrings had been playing Hide-and-Seek, I realized she didn't want to hear about it. Instead I was being chastised for not waiting in line. There was a line-up for self-checkouts? Who knew? W...
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Dear Younger Me

Dear Younger Me
Dear younger me: Grasp and consume God's insatiable love for you. Understanding whose you are will help you to know who you are. When you get your identity from God, you won't need your identity from others. It's the only way you can begin to see people as God does and love them without subconsciously seeking to get something in return (e.g., approval). It's the only way you will risk and not worry about failing. It's the only way you will dance like no one is watching. It's the only way you will fight Satan's lies. You know; the ones where he whispers that God is disappointed in you. That a true Christian would never think those things or stumble like that. That what you are doing isn't good enough. He has already given you everything you need for godly living. You can stop...
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The Heart Matters Gals

  • Julie

    Julie

    I’m turning 62 this year. I can hardly believe it myself. But, I’ve decided that I no longer want to live comfortably. I want to live with a spirit of adventure like I had in the past. To be unafraid of what’s new or different. I want to remain so open to the Spirit of the living God that his love compels me to go wherever he leads me.
  • LuAnn

    LuAnn

    I am passionate about people leaning into all that Jesus is. You. Me. Us. Journeying together with God. This is my greatest blessing. And now that my kiddos are out on their own, I’m learning to navigate my new normal. And I am finding there is life after little ones and teens after all!
  • Emilie

    Emilie

    I am currently finishing my degree in relational communications and plan to graduate in the spring of 2020!! I am thankful I have had time to grow, heal, appreciate a slower pace of living, and to invest more time into relationships with family, friends, and God. Through this process I am learning what I want to prioritize in my life and figuring out ways to make that happen. Most of all, I am figuring out that life is all about process, taking steps closer to where I want to be and celebrating the little victories but also accepting that there will be setbacks and disappointments along the way.
  • Sally

    Sally

    Sally Cranham is a singer and writer from the UK. She uses biblical narrative and her own experience to write deeply into the heart of the human condition. She currently works as a volunteer for SourceMN as their Arts Outreach Coordinator and has lived as a Residential Volunteer at Source’s anti-trafficking transitional annex alongside women who have come out of the life of prostitution.
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