Tag Archives: Christianity

He Was There All the Time

31 Aug

He Was There All the Time copy

My Take

DiVoran Lites

Author, Poet and ArtistSometimes I write down what I think the Holy Spirit is saying to me. It’s as if I were sending God a letter. At other times I sit and wait to hear what He says back. Yesterday I wrote out 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” That was, of course, exactly what I needed to hear.

After I had thought about it for twenty-four hours I felt like writing some more. I don’t pretend to have any answers, and I’m sure I make mistakes, but here’s what I wrote: (I write in second person because it makes the message more personal. Perhaps you do this too.)

Beloved, I felt God say, sometimes you recall hard things in your life that you wish had happened differently. You feel sorrow that you had to go through those experiences. You try to reconstruct ways in which outcomes would have been better if circumstances had been different. None of that does any good. Do you know why? It’s because I, The Father, set up those circumstances or, at least allowed them for my purposes.

My dear child, wouldn’t it make you angry to think I had set you up for hurt — that I deliberately ruined at least a part of your life?

More likely you think I wasn’t even there and that you caused everything yourself. It is so easy for you to come up with the wrong perceptions. It’s as if there were a part of your brain that insisted on lying to you. It’s a trickster, a devil, a demon, the flesh, the self, the carnal nature. It makes up stories about your life and then you cling to them. It says seek always, but do not find. It desperately needs intimacy with you in order to feed itself. It is false. Only I am true.

You have always had choices. Sometimes the choices you made were less than productive, but I didn’t leave you alone on dark paths of fear, bitterness, and greed. I went with you. I buffered the cold winds when I knew something would be too much for you. I worked always to bring you to my side

Could the same scary things have happened if you had made right and good choices? Yes and no. Every choice sent you down a different path so that every one of them had a potential for a different outcome.

Remember, dear one, your life in Me is a finely choreographed dance. You need to rehearse with me so that our steps will match. I have plans for good for you and not for evil. Remember, you need me and I need you. I have always loved you and I always will. Nothing you could ever do would change that.

“He Was There All the Time”

The Trouble with Church Music

6 Aug

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

I'm a winner

Just mention church music in a group and you will see a variety of responses ranging from a shrug to a terrified shiver. Our enemy is having the time of his life ripping churches apart using this beautiful gift from God. If this were a game show, on the one side you have those who love hymns pitted against those who insist on a praise band with contemporary music. In the end, Satan is the only winner.

I have been mulling this for some time and decided to add my thoughts to the conversation.

Everyone in a congregation is a not singer. I once loved to sing, but my vocal cords no longer make a pleasant sound. A long singing session bores me. There I said it. Feel free to label me shallow.

Singing the same chorus over and over does not make me feel more spiritual. Do you remember the Beatles hit song, Hey Jude? It has three minutes of interesting material and the rest is just repetition.

Older persons in the church may be wearing hearing aides to better understand the pastor’s message and the feedback from praise bands going full blast creates misery for them. (I don’t wear one….yet. But my time is coming.)

Younger members live in a fast-paced world and find the slower tempo of hymns b-o-r-i-n-g.

So what can be done to use music in the church the way it should be, to unify the body of Christ in praise of their Savior?

Consider shortening the song portion or breaking it up throughout the service. Experiment until you find the amount of time that fits your congregation.

Become more creative in how we sing. I love Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone. By mixing the beauty of a hymn with a more contemporary sound, he created a moving and inspiring piece of music. I love it when the song director flows the music from one song to another telling the story of what Christ did for you and I  

Sometimes the praise band at our church would begin a song, but then the instruments were silenced and the incredible sound of voices praising God was so beautiful, I would stop attempting to sing and listen to the pure sounds of the congregation’s voices. I think if those with hearing devices knew they could expect something like this each week, it would give them a time to look forward to, rather than dreading the whole singing portion.

One of our larger local churches tried to solve the dilemma by having two services based on music choice. The obstacle to this was who has to get up early? The young people like to sleep in and the older folks take awhile to get moving in the mornings. My husband and I had to declare Saturday a day of rest and refrain from any heavy physical labor so that we could get our achy bodies to cooperate on Sunday morning!

This past weekend, I heard of a creative solution to the music issue. A largish church in Georgia holds two services simultaneously in separate buildings. One service begins with hymns and the other contemporary. The pastor preaches one sermon in “the flesh” (couldn’t resist that) and he is viewed on a screen in the other building. He rotates each week so that a group has him up close and personal twice per month.

It seems like months of thinking on this would have generated more ideas .My grandfather belonged to the Primitive Baptist and they don’t use any instruments at all. Maybe they are on to something. I’m sure you have some thoughts. How about sharing what your church has successfully done or ideas you have?

 

South of the Border~Part 5

13 May

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

Bill Lites

 

Once all the dedication ceremonies were over, it was time for the teams to relax and celebrate. OSM had made arrangements for a cookout at the John 3:16 Church and we were all ready to do our part to help eat everything in sight. This was another opportunity for the entire group to praise God for His continued love, protection and provision toward us during this entire project

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After we finished eating, several of us headed over to the Carpenter’s Shop to help assemble and setup some new equipment that had been recently donated. The young boys were especially excited about the new tools, and were wanting to know what each tool did and when they were going to get to work in the shop.

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Early Saturday morning, after breakfast at the hotel, we packed up the vans and started the long trip back toward San Antonio. Our caravan took a short break just before we got to the border to visit the market in Piedras Negras, where I bought DiVoran a 4-foot long Rain Stick. It makes the most wonderful sound (like falling rain), and she still uses it every Sunday, when she sings with the Praise Team, during our morning church service here in Titusville.

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Our border crossing was uneventful this time, and we arrived at the Kennedy ranch in time to enjoy a real American dinner (our first in a week) and boy was that a great meal. Some of us took time to wash some really dirty clothes, and enjoy the quiet surroundings of the ranch, until it was time to head back to the Retreat Center for a good night’s rest.

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 Sunday, after breakfast, we drove a short distance over to attend a church service at a Cowboy Church (I can’t remember exactly where), which was quite an eye opener for me. It had to be one of the most informal and unusual church services I’ve ever attended. They really know how to praise the Lord in that church, and without any pretensions.

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 Then we started working our way toward the airport by spending a short time at the beautiful River Walk, where we had a great lunch at one of the many nice restaurants located there along the San Antonio River. By the time we finished lunch, it was time to head for the airport, say our final good-bye’s, and get checked in for our flight back to Orlando.

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I can say, I feel like that was one of the most rewarding weeks I have ever spent in my life. There is nothing like seeing the appreciative look on people’s faces when you hand them the keys to a house that they would never have been able to afford, or that they ever had expected someone would give them. If you can, you should try it sometime. I guarantee you will love the experience, and it will absolutely change your life forever. Our God is good, all the time.

—–The End—–

  

If you, your church or civic group would like to help the OSM with their ministry to the needy people of Mexico and Haiti, you can visit them for details on their website at www.onlyaservant.org or call them at 830-228-4809.

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Minute Mediatations~4

10 May

SUNDAY MEMORIES

Judy Wills

JUDY

OBEDIENCE… What a hard word that one is. We have to obey our parents when we are young. We have to obey our teachers in school. We have to obey our boss. We have to obey the rules of the road – that one can be really dangerous if we don’t obey them!!

1There are rules in the military.

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There are even rules in the games we play!

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We keep thinking, “I’m the master of my own self! Why do I have to obey anyone?” But it just doesn’t work that way, does it? No man is an island… isn’t that what the bard said? Well, it’s true.

So many people criticize Christianity as being a “crutch” for life. I hate to disappoint them, but they have some sort of crutch as well. Their crutch can be a job, a spouse, a significant other, money – or love of it, booze, drugs, etc. And if depending upon God and His love requires my obedience to survive in this world is my “crutch” – then I’m all in. Fortunately, God’s “yoke” is very easy and light. He gives us so much leeway in what we do, and all He asks is that we let Him take our heart’s desire and turn it His way. Have you noticed that, when you become God’s child, that your desires change? You no longer want to do those things you did before. They frequently become distasteful to you, so you stop doing them. You want to please God with your actions.

My brother, Bill wrote about obedience. Here are his thoughts:

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Obey His commands. What does that mean? Jesus was asked that very question in Matthew 22:37-39. Jesus answered the Pharisees: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

In other words, if we keep our eyes on God, then everything else falls into place. Obedience to God becomes easy. Not that everything we do on this earth will be easy, but with God’s help, obedience to Him becomes our life’s goal.

South of the Border~Part 4

6 May

A Slice of Life
 Bill Lites

Work had progressed great the first two days, but then Wednesday night the rains came, and the dry parched earth turned into a quagmire. That kind of rain is seldom seen in that part of Mexico, and the rainwater does not sink into the soil there like it does in our Florida sand.

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Even though the rain had stopped by Thursday morning, when we arrived at the work site, the mud really slowed down the day’s operations. Some of our vehicles got stuck in the mud more than once that day, and much valuable time and effort was spent pulling them free.

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The mud was so thick that we had to be very careful walking through it because it would suck the shoes right off your feet, and your next step would be in that mud in your stocking feet. An added disadvantage of all that mud was that thick globs of it stuck to the bottoms of our shoes, and we tracked it into the houses every time we came in, and more time was required to scrape it off the floors. This also got in the way of any activity going on above the floor level.

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Because of the high summer temperatures and “zero” humidity, once the rain stopped, the area dried up fairly rapidly. Then once the water had dried up, the deep mud ruts hardened into sharp ridges in the streets, which could cut a truck or van tire if the driver wasn’t careful where he was going.

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In spite of the rain and all that mud, the work pretty much got back to normal. We were able to continue with most all of the unfinished work on the two houses (doors, windows and final trim) and included getting the mud and debris cleaned up. The electrical lights and switches were wired up and tested, so everything was ready for a final inspection. This allowed us to completely finish the two houses by the afternoon of the third day.

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On Friday, we drove to the building site, and once the final inspections were completed, and the work areas were cleaned up, we gathered the colonia (unregulated settlement) dwellers at one, and then the other of the new houses, for a prayer and dedication service for each. Pastor Santos (Pastor of a local church in Nava as well as the John 3:16 church there in the colonia) officiated at these services with our own Diana translating his words for us.

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The Mayor of Nava and his wife attended the dedication service, to praise OSM and all the team members for their continued service and support of their city of Nava and especially the people of this colonia.

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And then, each team had their picture taken, standing in front of the completed house they had built, to remind us all of just how much can be accomplished when a group of people get together and put their effort into a worthy project.

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One of the most memorable and gratifying things I have ever been honored to be called upon to do, was when I was selected to be the one who presented Jose, Estela and their family with the keys to their brand new house. They were overwhelmed with gratitude, and it was a special thrill for me too!

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Of course, not every family in the colonia can have a new house today, but it has always been OSM’s goal to provide this kind of housing for as many of the colonia families as possible, as workers and funds became available.

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By 2010, OSM had provided almost 100 houses for Nava’s colonia families. Unfortunately, in the last few years, the drug wars and terrorist activities in many parts of Mexico (including the Nava area) have curtailed the house building activities for OSM, along with many other organizations who participate in these, and other much needed humanitarian projects.

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—–To Be Continued—–

Heaven

4 May

My Take

DiVoran Lites

Author, Poet and Artist

For most of my life, I’ve been wondering what Heaven is like, or will be like for me personally. One of the first blogs I Stairway to Heaven with MLKwrote was about the time, when I was five-years-old, that I saw the neighbor on her way to Heaven. I may have dreamed it — doesn’t matter if I did or not.

Anyhow, I saw her walk down to the end of our street and up a staircase and I knew where she was going. Later that day Mother told me the neighbor had died and gone to Heaven. Sorry, I don’t know the doctrine in this story. I do know that seeing people go up a staircase is not uncommon. I Googled it.

In college, I wrote an essay wondering what Heaven was like and the class discussed it until the teacher brought us back to earth.

I read a reliable “doctrinal” book called, Heaven, by Randy Alcorn that I enjoyed, but I still wanted to know more.

Finally, a tiny flame started to flicker in my imagination and I came up with an answer that satisfies me. I take no responsibility for whether this is true or not and when you get there, don’t blame me if it’s nothing like I’ve thought up. Ask God for your own vision of Heaven.

I don’t know who will greet me or what that will be like, but it will be a warm welcome, I know that much.

In the song, “Amazing Grace,” it says, “When we’ve been there ten-thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.” So, theology (and practicality) aside, what’s going to keep us entertained for ten thousand years and more?

Here’s my take on it. I will never be alone unless I want to be alone. I’ll be with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as well as the people I have loved, love now, and will love when I meet them. Much of our time will be spent in celebration and praising God.

That leads me to the next phase of my fantasy. I will have challenges (and success). I will learn every song I ever wanted to know, play every instrument I ever wanted to play, and see every sight I ever wanted to see. I will learn, do, and share everything I’ve ever wanted to know, experience, or contribute. Life will be full of awe.

Bill and I aren’t in any hurry to go to Heaven. God is so good to us now. We do everything we can to stay healthy and happy. We try to listen to Him and we ask Him to empower us to do the work He sets out for us. We have accepted Christ’s death on the cross for our sins. That means that when our spirits split out of their cocoons, we will go to Heaven. We will fly free of all pain, confusion, and sorrow. Rejoice now. Rejoice later.

“When we all Get to Heaven.”

Heaven, by Randy Alcorn

SMH Prayers

30 Apr

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis
I'm a winner

Have you noticed that garage sales have moved online? It seems many towns now have a Facebook page, moderated by an individual, dedicated to buying and selling.  I joined one in the hope of finding a used refrigerator and quickly posted what I was looking for. After that I scrolled through the timeline and noticed no one was looking for anything. It was all for sale or iso. Now for sale was easy, but what the heck was iso? The post would read something like this:

iso kids clothes, good condition size 6.

I had no clue what that meant so finally, I asked. The Facebook page was for our town in North Carolina and I figured I didn’t know enough people there to be embarrassed. The answer came quickly….iso means in search of. I guess looking for is just too much to type. Which leads to my next puzzle.

Working as a publicist for Rebekah Lyn Books, I spend a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook. I noticed SMH attached to tweets and Facebook comments and again I had no clue. Did it mean social media hottie, so many hormones, shake my husband? This time I discretely questioned a friend who explained. SMH means shaking my head. This one I could relate to because I find myself shaking my head-a lot. In fact, I SMH so much I have decided to  connect the head shake with a prayer. I’m trusting that praying as my head shakes will turn my thoughts on His solutions rather than my human frustration.

Head banging computer GIF

Yes, I know this poor lady isn’t shaking her head but it was so funny it had me ROFL

ps I am still iso a fridge for my garage in good working order at a reasonable price.

South of the Border~Part 3

29 Apr

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

Bill Stars Plane

 

Tuesday morning after breakfast, we drove to the building site, where our visiting group was split up into two teams, with two Kennedy Team Leaders in each team to keep us on the right track, and we got started. Each team was assigned to build a house on their pre-finished slab, and the race was on to see who could finish first.

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It was amazing how organized the Team Leaders were, as they assigned the various tasks to our team members. There were materials coordinators, wood cutters (my main job), wood shapers, painters and builders all working smoothly together at one time. A lot of the wood materials had been ordered cut to length, so the assembly process was fast and fairly easy.

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The 2”x 4”walls were assembled on the slab, and then each was raised and braced in place, while being attached to the slab floor with pre-installed j-bolts, nuts and washers.

Next the joists were built (I had a hard time keeping up with all the angle cuts for our house on the chop saw) and the corrugated galvanized tin roofing was nailed in place. Once that was done, a plywood loft was built over the rear half of the house, where smaller family members could sleep. As you can see in the photo below, the tail-end of the joists were pre-painted (on the ground by the painters) to save time and reduce the use of troublesome ladders after assembly. As I mentioned earlier, this was also done with the soffit and fascia boards as well as the window and door trim.

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Then heavy insulation was fastened in place between the joists, under the tin roof, and covered with plywood to help keep the loft area from getting so hot. A sturdy and child-safe ladder was built to give access to the loft area.

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While the roof and loft work was going on topside, another team was drilling holes and running electrical wiring in the wall studs. Once that was done, the exterior plywood sheeting was nailed to the walls and gables, the window and door holes were cut, and the windows were installed.

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While all the time these activities were going on, the shaper team was busy at work cutting scalloped trim boards, and the painting team was busy painting window and door trim boards and the completed (ventilated) soffit and scalloped trim boards. The small (3’x 3’square) shower enclosure was plumbed (cold water only) to provide the much-needed hygiene that most of the colonia (unregulated settlement) dwellers did not have access to. I understand that a latrine system was used by the colonia families, but I don’t remember seeing it or being told about it at the time. The only toilet I ever saw or used was located next to the John 3:16 Church, and it was very small. A kitchen area was not designated in these houses, as the colonia families were accustomed to doing most of their cooking outside their “homes” and would most likely continue to do their cooking outdoors when the weather permitted doing so.

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—–To Be Continued—–

 

Minute Meditations~2

26 Apr

SUNDAY MEMORIES

Judy Wills

                     

What is happiness? Or better yet…..what is your IDEA of what happiness is? Is it just a state of mind? Is our happiness determined by our circumstances?

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A pastor said once, that when we are God’s child, happiness is what resides in our hearts and minds always, and that joy or sorrow can’t really touch it; that the circumstances where we find ourselves do NOT determine whether we are happy or not….we have God’s abiding happiness within us.

 

Filling our hearts with God’s love gives us permanent happiness, that allows us to be happy, or content, in whatever situations we find ourselves.

My brother, Bill, wrote about this very thing. These are his thoughts:

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Can we see just how God wants us to look to Him for our happiness? No matter what happens, with God in our hearts, we can depend upon Him to give us the answers we seek to ALL our earthly problems. He is true and faithful to His word.

South of the Border~Part 2

22 Apr

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill Small Red Plane

 

Monday we were up early for breakfast, after which we loaded up the vans and began the 175 mile drive to the border. Our caravan of vehicles stopped at Eagle Pass, TX for lunch (our last American meal for a week), and then it was across the border (Passport & luggage check) and on to our destination in a small colonia of Nava, Mexico which is located about halfway between Del Rio and Laredo, TX.

         

We had been supplied with detailed lists of things to take and not take (to help speed us at border crossings), as well as “Cautions” about not eating any food or drinking any water not provided by our hosts. This was to help keep the visiting groups in good working condition and keep us from coming down with a case of “Montezuma’s Revenge.” It was a long (but uneventful) trip, except for that short delay at the border crossing (I think the guards were looking for a “donation” to let us pass). The rest of the time was occupied with lots of singing and laughter in our van.

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When we arrived at the colonia (small unregulated settlement), it was rather shocking for our visiting group to see the utter desolation and primitive conditions most of the local people lived in. The area had been picked clean of any possible building/covering material (no matter how small or flimsy) and used for shelter. In many cases, there didn’t seem to be any way to keep the weather (hot or cold/wind or rain) out of their shelters.

 

 

I had heard of people living in cardboard shacks, but as our hosts drove us around the area, explaining the basic layout, I mentioned to the woman sitting next to me, “It’s hard to believe people can actually survive in conditions like this!” All she and her friend could do was shake their heads in agreement.

After our long drive from San Antonio, it was getting late in the afternoon, so our hosts showed us some of the support structures they had built to help the local people and the colonia maintain a decent lifestyle. First there was the John 3:16 Church, where many different types of services were held each week, and where we would eat our lunch meal each day.

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Next was the Dorcas House sewing center where some of the local women and girls were taught how to use the sewing machines, and the materials they were supplied with, to make clothing for their families and to sell.

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And then there was the Carpenters Shop where some of the local men and boys were supplied tools and wood and taught how to build furniture for themselves and to sell. As a side note, I was interested to learn that all of the tools, wood, sewing machines and materials the local people have access to, have been donated to OSM for use as part of their ministry to help the colonia support itself.

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After the tour, we headed to the small town of Allende where we checked into our hotel. Once we were checked in, we were taken to the local Methodist church where the gracious church members had prepared dinner and music for us.   The food was great and we all had a wonderful time getting acquainted, with lots of relaxing laughter, music and singing. After the festivities, a bunch of us strolled the streets of Allende, and even found an ice-cream parlor for some desert. Then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

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—–To Be Continued—–

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