You may have plans for new beginnings in 2012.  I do.

My list includes numerable good intentions to take better care of myself under the heading: “Personal”.    The list grows quite long under another heading: “Family”.    New beginnings in “Ministry”, and “Office/Administration” are listed and now just reading about what I intend to do in the new year makes me tired before the old year has ended!   “Relationships/Friends” are important, and this list fills out yet another page.

So.   I have decided to focus on one thing, seeing how that is the Biblical thing to do. . .  and I quote:  “Martha, Martha,” the Lord said, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.”  [Luke 10:41].

Jesus said it!   I believe it!  That settles it!  Gracious sakes, He even used my name.   Yes, he was speaking to another Martha, at another time and place, but He has my attention, and since only one thing is needed I will focus on “Spiritual Renewal”.    This heading will encompass all of the others, and I share it with you to see if it will give you a jump-start on 2012 as well.

  1. Serve others with my words.  Protect people’s reputation and speak well of others as a way of serving them.  Kind words are great deeds.
  2. Serve others by letting them have “space.”  I sometimes overwhelm people or consume their time or usurp their freedom with my expectations.  I will make a concerted effort to give people space.  I will ask them what they want to do or if they want to be alone, or if they are free to talk before imposing my expectations upon them.
  3. Read my Bible every day.  Don’t “try” to do it.   Just do it!  Begin the day and end the day in God’s Word.  I will choose my strategy and fill my heart and mind each morning when I wake and at night before I sleep – without fail.
  4. I will talk about my faith in Christ Jesus with a relative or close friend.  I sometimes neglect to do this with the most important people in my life!
  5. Take God with me wherever I go.  I will make a special effort to be a “tabernacle” where God dwells.  I will cooperate with God to bring good wherever I go – in the neighborhood, at the office, at home, while shopping, at church, everywhere.
  6. I will practice the service of hiddenness.  I will look for ways to do a kindness without being asked, and without expecting recognition.
  7. Continue to gain confidence in the promises of God in Christ.   I will look for His promises in His Word and claim them for myself and for others.
  8. Cultivate integrity in my speech by focusing on what is true and pure in all that I say.  I will watch for guile and deception, which can creep into what I say in subtle ways.  I will be ruthless in seeking to tell the truth in everything.
  9. I will secretly and silently pray for the unsuspecting – those I know, and complete strangers as well.   Standing in line, driving in traffic, wherever, whenever.
  10. Stop wanting what someone else has that I do not.    That is ‘coveting’ and leads to turmoil.
  11. Purge.   I have too much, and I keep getting more.   If I get something new, I will get rid of something I already have.
  12. In my prayer life, I will be more conscious of the Holy Spirit.  I will ask the Spirit to intercede when I cannot find words to express myself – my concerns, my needs, my joys.

[some of my Spiritual Renewal ideas came from “A Spiritual Formation workbook, Small Group Resources for Nurturing Christian Growth; A Renovaré Resource for Spiritual Renewal”, James Bryan Smith with Lynda Graybeal; 1991, Harper Collins Books.]

 

Written by: Lt. Colonel Martha Jewett

We find ourselves at the cusp of Christmas day. The anticipation of the season will culminate and we will enjoy time with family, gift-giving and the celebration of Christ’s birth.

The awareness of the enormity of this moment in history has become more and more significant to me over the past few years. I was blessed to attend Chris Tomlin (Praise and Worship artist) and Louie Giglio’s (Pastor, speaker) Christmas tour when Tomlin’s Christmas album was released. I knew what to expect out of a time with these two amazing men of God, but to incorporate the depth of the Christmas story into a worship event was beyond description for me. In the midst of what some would call a “worship concert”, Louie came out to speak. My view of the Christmas event was completely blown wide open and the reality of John 1 became tangible…

Everything was created through him;      
nothing—not one thing!—      
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,      
and the Life was Light to live by.   
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;      
the darkness couldn’t put it out.
John 1:3-5 msg

“It’s the greatest story ever told. Completely unforeseen, yet long awaited was the voice of God breaking through the darkness and four hundred years of silence with the cry of a baby. And not just any baby, the gift of God. God’s people, having waited generations for their Creator to reveal Himself, never would have imagined that rescue and redemption would come in the simple, vulnerable form of a child, a baby born under the radar and into the chaos…” *

The anticipation of God had gone on so long before Christ came into this world, so many had given up hope of a Messiah ever coming!  The darkness seemed to overwhelm the world to the point of no return….

but God shattered the darkness when Jesus Christ, the Messiah was born!

Arche – the beginning! The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. (John 1:14 msg)

“As we celebrate Christmas and the Word’s incarnation John reminds us that Christ has been around all along. It’s not as if He was uninvolved and then hears about us, only to arrive late. He’s been in on the story since moment-one, working His purposes even in a world that has made itself hostile to His voice. The Word speaks through the clanging noise of the fall of humanity and makes itself understood again.” **

Christmas Challenge:

Please, take a some time to ponder this astounding moment in the history of humanity –

Darkness. Isolation. Confusion.
SHATTERED!
Light. Love. Messiah. Christ-Child.
Redemption. Joy. Peace. Belonging.

After Louie Giglio spoke at the concert, we sang accapella, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.  It was the most intimate, beautiful moment I have ever experienced in that type of atmosphere, amongst hundreds of people.

Christ is come…for you. You have the opportunity to invite Him in to you life – the dark parts and the lighter parts. As you read through this song, pray for God to invade your every day and bring His joy, peace and love.

Come thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a Child and yet a King.
Born to reign in us for ever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

May you have a blessed Christmas!

Written by: Kim Touchton

________________________________________________________

* http://268store.com/store/product/734/The-Twelve-Words-Of-Christmas/

** Portion found in The Miraculous Journey by Marty A. Bullis, pg. 103

My Soul Magnifies the Lord
words and music by Chris Tomlin, Daniel Carsen

Good news of great joy
For every woman, every man
This will be a sign to you
A baby born in Bethlehem

Come and worship, do not be afraid

A company of angels
Glory in the highest
And on the Earth peace among
Those on whom His favor rests

My soul, my soul magnifies the Lord
My soul magnifies the Lord
He has done great things for me
Great things for me

Unto you a child is born
Unto us a Son is giv’n
Let every heart prepare His throne
In every nation under Heav’n

Of His government
There will be no end
He’ll establish it with His righteousness
And He shall reign on David’s throne
And His name shall be from this day on
Wonderful, Counselor, Everlasting Father

As you read through Luke 1: 25-38, you get to eavesdrop on the conversation between Mary and the angel. It ends with angel saying,

“For no word from God will ever fail.”

And then Mary responds,

“I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me according to your word.”

These few words changed the entire world! In this short encounter with an angelic being, Mary changed from beaing fear-filled to confident in her calling! WOW! Think about the reality of such a moment!

Mary’s life is turned upsidedown by a few words, a belief that God’s word will never fail and the reality that she will be with child. ‘”God has a surprise for you!” is the angel’s word, as we read it in The Message. God is coming into Mary’s life, will grow inside her. She will be pregnant with God.’ * Pregnant with God!

And as we continue into Luke 1: 46-55, we read Mary’s confirming song:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has been mindful of His servant.”

Such an amazing affirmation of God’s care and rule over Mary’s life!

Does your song to God sound like Mary’s? Have you recently been faced with a difficult reality? Have you been able to say to God, “may it be to me according to your word”? I think most of us can say those words would be hard to say honestly. If we take time to look and really examine Mary’s example of faith and trust in God, we can learn what it means to put our life in His hands – our whole being into His care.

Christmas Challenge:

Pull out a journal or a few sheets of paper, write an entry in which you summarize the Christmas story without looking at the text. After your summary, focus more specfically on Mary. Try to imagine what it would have been like to face what Mary faced, made decision Mary made. Write down your thoughts. Lastly, read through Luke 1: 46-55. Challenge yourself to write down your version of Mary’s song.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
* Excerpt from A Miraculous Journey written by Marty A. Bullus.

One of my favorite Christmas movies, musicals for that matter, is White Christmas! There is something sweet, charming and transcendent about it. Bing Crosby’s warm, sensitive voice; the banter between the main characters; the dancing and the schmaltzy scenes.  Soo good!

But truly, what makes it my favorite, is the scene when Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Bob (Bing Crosby) “just so happen” to want a late night snack at the same time. They talk and then he sings her a song to help her sleep…

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds

If you’re worried and you can’t sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings

Written by: Irvin Berlin

Everytime I hear this song, it helps me realize how blessed I am.  There are hard times, there are moments in your day when you might want to shut the door to the world and say, “I’m done.”  But…we must never forget how much God has blessed us in our lives!

Christmas Challenge:

Wake up tomorrow and once the fog has lifted a bit, begin to thank God for each thing, person and event that you encounter.

For example, walk to the bathroom for a warm shower, thank God for the roof over your head, the warm water, toiletries and towel you are able to use.  Start the coffee, thank God for the coffee beans and the electricity that provides the power.   Get into your car, thank God for the car, the gas to get you to work and the ability to even be driving the vehicle.  You are at work or maybe running errands, thank God for your co-workers, yes both the ones you like and the ones you do not, and the computer or iPhone that keeps you organized throughout the day.  You get the picture! You may even want to keep a running list.

When it is time to settle your mind and body in your bed, pull out your list or think back through all of the blessings you thanked God for throughout the day.  Even those moments when you were stuck in traffic, or you were cut in line at the store, those are moments you can thank God for…they guided you right to the moment you walked out of the store, saw a long-lost friend and were able to catch up.

Be mindful of what God has given you, and give praise and thanks right back to God who is so deserving of it. During this Christmas season it is so easy to get lost in the shuffle. Let this challenge bring you back to counting your blessings!

Be Blessed this Christmas Season!

Written by: Kim Touchton, Women’s Ministries Program Assistant

Christmas Bells
written by: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”*

During the Civil War, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was stricken with the loss of his wife, Fanny, and his son, Charles who chose to go to battle without his father’s permission. Charles was severely wounded a year after Fanny’s death.  It was a dark time in Henry’s life and during the first Christmas after Fanny’s death, Longfellow wrote,

“How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.” A year after the incident, he wrote, “I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.” Finally, on Christmas Day of 1864, he wrote the words of the poem, Christmas Bells. The re-election of Abraham Lincoln or the possible end of the terrible war may have been the occasion for the poem.**

A few years ago, the band Casting Crowns recorded the now popular Christmas carol, I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day, which is based on Longfellow’s poem. The lead singer of the band, Mark Hall, found the story behind the poem and was struck by the sadness and the hope portrayed in the poem. He knew they must record the song.

As you begin this Advent season, you may be dealing with tragedy – loss of family, struggles finding a job, illness…  Peace seems a futile dream, a concept that no longer can be grasped.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!
And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
Luke 2: 8-15

We can find peace in the Messiah, Christ Jesus.  He came to this earth to be amongst us, to build relationships with each of us.  We can find the peace to move forward and the hope to take each step knowing there will be brighter days.

Christmas Challenge:

Take the time today to read through the Scripture passage in Luke. Imagine being in the shepherds’ place, being visited by God’s angel – His messenger of hope.  Journal the verses and your thoughts to bring yourself into the Christmas story.

Once you have meditated on this passage, listen to  I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day sung by Casting Crowns. Be Blessed this Christmas Season!


* Written during the American Civil war, the above poem can be found in:

  • Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. The Complete Poetical Works of Longfellow.Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1893.
  • Stevenson, Burton Egbert , ed. The Home Book of Verse for Young Folks. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915

** Quoted from http://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Fellowship/Edit_I.Heard.the.Bells.html

Are visions of sugarplums already dancing in your head?   We haven’t celebrated “Turkey Day” yet, but Christmas arrives early, doesn’t it!?    Tis the season to gather together with family and friends ~ those who love you and whom you love. Tis the season for expressing gratitude to God for all of His provisions.  It is so good to give thanks!

 

“Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices!”

 

Officers, Soldiers, and friends of our Army are in the throes of Christmas preparations.  Thank goodness for the reminder to give thanks in the middle of all this busy-ness!  Will you pray that Thanksgiving’s interruption will be a time for reflection and renewal for us all?   Everyone needs  it!

God may want to bless you in a brand new way this Thanksgiving.  He is full of surprises!  In recent months I have been God-surprised by street people.  The homeless. It is startling and beautiful to see the glory of God in the eyes of His children who are weather worn and beaten down by life, but lifted up by God’s Holy Spirit!   It is a revelation.  And revelation is God’s specialty.   Ask Him to surprise you and see what happens.   You will be surprised by joy in the people around you.

Perhaps someone reading this needs a personal revelation.   Discouraged? Faithless?  Self-absorbed?   Cantankerous?  Anxious?  Lonely?  Bitter?  Depressed?  Fearful?  Overwhelmed?  Lonely?  Distraught?  Unhappy?   Well then, try this antidote:  Practice recognizing God.

Ask Him to help you see Him in others, in your circumstances, and where you cannot see, to trust.    You will begin to find yourself in alert expectancy.   You will begin to see opportunities to bless someone else with God’s love.   And suddenly you will recognize that God has provided.   He is so faithful.   That’s a promise.

Your love, God, is my song, and I’ll sing it!

I’m forever telling everyone how faithful you are.  I’ll never quit telling the story of your love.”

Psalm 89 The Message

Questions for your Quiet Time
1. Are you  Discouraged? Faithless?  Self-absorbed?   Cantankerous?  Anxious?  Lonely?  Bitter?  Depressed?  Fearful?  Overwhelmed?  Lonely?  Distraught?  Unhappy? If you feel you fit one of these descriptions, pause for a moment, take time to understand why you feel this way. If you have the opportunity, journal your thoughts.

2. Read out loud and write down the Scripture above. Look it up in different versions to help you make these words your own.

3.  Try this antidote:  Practice recognizing God. Be willing to acknowledge Him in every aspect of your life. Pray for God to reveal Himself in the days to come, especially as you anticipate Thanksgiving day.

Written By: Lt. Colonel Martha Jewett, Florida Director of Women’s Ministries

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive.
He could show up any minute!

Philippians 4:4 msg

Celebrate God all day! Revel in Him!

I must confess I LOVE going to Walt Disney World! I have a pass and I go as often as I can. The thrill of just driving onto the Disney property immediately puts a smile on my face and a lightness in my heart. Watching children experience Disney for the first time is even more of a joy. I do revel in my Disney experiences!

Even more so, I yearn to revel in my day to day with God! Every day should be a celebration if we are living out our walk with Christ!

Webster Dictionary defines revel as:
verb: to take intense pleasure or satisfaction
noun: a usually wild party or celebration

I love these definitions! The idea that we should be living each day partying wildly in who God is sounds so irresistible to me. I know it may not be all party hats, balloons, and chips and salsa, but it is the pleasure of being in His presence, the joy of experiencing this crazy world through His eyes and His heart and the anticipation of the special guest arriving at any moment.

And while you are living this “party” life, do you not think that others will notice and want to know how and why? Everyone yearns to be joyful and satisfied in this life, and you or I could be a light in someone else’s life just be living a celebratory life style!

Questions for your Quiet Time

1. Can you think of a place or experience that you truly revel(ed) in? Picture it and write down all that you are seeing and experiencing in this memory.

2. Have you had an experience with God that brings joy to your heart? Again, picture it and write down all that you are seeing and experiencing in this memory.

3. Make an effort to write this Scripture out, take notes on the sections that speak to you and memorize it for moments when you need encouragement.

To be satisfied in Him, only Him, is the best celebration I can think of!

 Written by: Kim Touchton Divisional Women’s Ministries Program Assistant

I have “Caught the Joy”. Major Susie Erickson has been sharing the Joy of Women’s Ministries in our great Florida Division with me. Recently she and I did a road trip to the Territorial Women’s Ministries Conference attended by fellow Divisional Women’s Ministries Secretaries and Assistants. For eight hours as we drove to Atlanta, Susie and I were lost in plans for Women’s Ministries, including everything from Girlfriend Road Trips to Women’s Ministries Retreat.

Suddenly I looked down at my gas gauge and was shocked to see it was on empty. My “smart car” informed me that I had seven miles of gas left. With my worry wart personality came images of Susie and I walking miles on the interstate to a gas station and then back to my car. Susie in her usual positive attitude kept saying she didn’t wear her walking shoes, she wore her cute shoes. At the next exit I pulled off in rural Georgia only to find two closed down gas stations. And so as we drove back onto the interstate, Susie sensed my panic and heavy breathing and said, “Do you want me to pray?” “Yes, please,” I responded. And so she prayed and I drove. Finally we came to another exit that had a gas station. “Please Lord, let it have gas.” My car’s computer said I had 3 miles of gas left. “Thank You, Jesus” was our prayer of thanksgiving as I pumped gas.

At a time when Major Erickson and I were busy with The Salvation Army’s business, God suddenly got my attention to look at my gas gauge. That is so relevant to our lives. Often we are busy doing good work and suddenly God gets our attention. It might be through sickness, death, an accident or a word of prophecy spoken through a fellow Christian friend. Often we think we are doing God’s work because it is good work. But is it what God wants? Have we sought His guidance? Are we letting Him lead us or are we going our own direction?

Proverbs 3:5 & 6 tells us “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”(NIV) The Message says it like this: Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God!

Questions for your Quiet Time

1. Has there been a time in your life when you have been busy doing “good work” and God has revealed Himself in a surprising way?

2. God is constantly speaking into our lives – through His Word, friends, circumstances. Pay attention over the next few days, journaling each day to help reveal God’s presence, and maybe even guidance, in your life.

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go.

Written by: Major Christine Smith, Women’s Ministries Secretary of the Florida Division

“Beauty is only skin deep”…..

I can still hear my mother echo those wordsas I go through my morning beauty ritual of moisturizer, foundation, concealer and color.  I began wearing makeup as ayoung teenager in an attempt to hide the blemishes of puberty.  Now, it’s an attempt to hide the signs of aging. A battle that I am quickly losing, but I am not about to hoist a white flag of surrender just yet!!!

As a teenager I had no idea what these words meant, along with other southern quotes and antidotes to life that rolled off my mother’s tongue as if they had come directly from the Bible.

However, these words brought new meaning to my spiritual journey during a recent trip to the Estee Lauder counter for my stockpile: artillery for this battle we call “aging graciously”.

As I was making my purchases, I caught a strong whiff of Estee Lauder’s Beautiful perfume, which was accompanied by the words, “I want the largest bottle of Beautiful that you sell.”   Now here was a woman who was making every attempt to be beautiful.  She had perfect hair, nails, make-up and a great tan.  Yet, as she turned to face me, her beauty artillery could not hide her severely deformed body.  Just like me, she was applying makeup to something that wasn’t going to change, or quite frankly, matter in eternity.

In that moment I finally got what my mother was trying to instill within me.   Man looks at our outward appearance, but God looks at the heart! 

I really think that many of my mothers’ sayings were taken from the book of Proverbs, but with her southern translation you have to read between the lines.   In Proverbs 31:30 we read, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”

The book of Proverbs begins with the command to fear the Lord (1:7) and ends with the picture of a woman who fulfills this command.

So, do you want a large bottle of beautiful?   “The fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”

“Though the Lord is
very great and lives in heaven, he will make Jerusalem his home of justice and
righteousness. In that day he will be your sure foundation, providing a rich
store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. The fear of the Lord is the key to
this treasure.”
   –  Isaiah 33:5-6 (NLT)

Questions for Your Quiet Moment:

  1. Do you have a part of your beauty regiment that you cannot pass up before you leave your house for the day? What part would that be?
  2. When you think of beauty, what comes to mind?
  3. Read and write out Proverbs 31:30. Instead of writing “a woman” from the verse, write your name. When you put together the idea of beauty you wrote in the second question with this Scripture verse, how do the two differ? How are they similar? How does it affect you to see your name in the Scripture?

Written By: Major Susie Erickson, Assistant Divisional Women’s Ministries Secretary