laurabennet:

Bill has been the most inspiration to me as I’ve struggled with chronic illness due to mold sickness. His gracious, honest perspective in the face of such a tremendous physical challenge, encourages us all to examine what is most important in life. Thank you, Bill!

Originally posted on Unshakable Hope:

I’ve been thinking a lot about quality of life issues lately. More specifically, I’ve been trying to figure out why some people that (in the natural) possess virtually everything we think would make for a good quality of life, yet they’re miserable. Conversely, many others have almost none of the ingredients that we think must be in the mix for a good quality of life, but they seem perfectly content.

I think about this issue more and more as life with ALS becomes an even greater challenge. If ALS takes its natural course, the victim will die of respiratory failure. The muscles needed to breathe become weaker and weaker to the point where you just can’t breathe anymore. Oftentimes the flu or pneumonia are just too much for those with advanced ALS and can speed up this respiratory failure.

I had a severe case of the flu in February, and…

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True Confessions


He told me everything I ever did.”

Samaritan woman at the well.   John 4:39

Remember this was the woman who Jesus took the time to converse with when she went to draw water, hoping no one would be around.DSC_0186

 

Jesus offered her “living water” or a life of freedom, abundance and no condemnation.

And after their little conversation, in which Jesus revealed that he knew the truth about her messed up life- that she had been with a number of men including those not her husband and she had been hiding out in shame – she realized that he was someone special. Important. A prophet. Or better yet, the Messiah!

She had believed that someday the Messiah would come, and when he did, she was ready.

There was no condemnation in Jesus telling her the truth about her life, only freedom.

Isn’t it a relief when something we’ve hidden comes out in the open?

We don’t usually think of our sin or shame being uncovered as a good thing. But Jesus confronts us to free us, not to shame us.

Because of everything I had done and everything done to me, I was entangled and trapped by every kind of fear.

Recognize any of these?

  • I was afraid of making people mad and what they would say about me.
  • I was afraid of not being loved.
  • I was afraid of a failed marriage. Again.
  • I was afraid of never being good enough for someone.
  • I was afraid of making mistakes.
  • I was afraid I wasn’t submitted or committed enough to live up to God’s word.
  • I was afraid of being abandoned.
  • I was afraid of losing my children because I couldn’t support a family on my own.
  • I was afraid nothing in my life would ever turn out right.

Quite a list, huh? My fears kept me so stuck, I couldn’t see the truth.

Like the woman at the well.

So when Jesus plainly spoke truth, she breathed a sigh of relief. And couldn’t wait to tell people!

Francine Rivers has a new book out, Bridge to Haven, in which the main character, Abra lives this very battle. Circumstances create lies in her young mind and heart, and she clings to the lies rather than believe the truth. Because of those lies and the fear they create, she makes choices that entangle her even more, until her life is such a mess, she can’t imagine it ever being worthwhile.

I can relate.

Next week, I’ll share a couple of other things that kept me stuck in a mess. But until then, may I pose a few questions?

What are you afraid of? What truth do you need to see or hear? Has someone who loves you tried to tell you, but you were stuck or unable to see?

See you next time for more True Confessions.


Recently I had the privilege of interviewing John Mark Miller, a musician and writer who leads worship at First Baptist Church of Sunset, Texas. John Mark inspires and encourages other Christian artists with his blog and has recently been showcasing various artists. I was blessed to be on his list.

What I admire most about John Mark is his genuine love for the Lord, music and fellow artists. He exudes grace and kindness. I hope you enjoy getting to know him as much as I have.

Hi, John Mark. Thanks so much for spending some time with us today. I’ve appreciated reading your blog and interacting with you through comments and emails. I guess we’ll jump right into the questions I have for you.

First, let me ask when did you first know you were born to be a singer and a writer?

I was born singing, and I caught on to writing as soon as I could! When I was just a toddler, my mom remembers finding me rolling around the back yard on my riding toy, singing a hymn that she and my dad had sung in church that morning. She was impressed that I remembered the melody perfectly, and started to encourage my musical gifts. I sang my first church solo when I was five years old and started taking piano lessons when I was seven years old. I honestly cannot remember a time when music wasn’t an important part of my life, and here I am all these years later, still making music and teaching others how to join in!

Interestingly enough, it was my dad who honed in on my gift for writing. He read some of the stories I wrote for spelling class and told me that he thought I had real talent. He was a pastor, and before I knew it I was writing articles for the church newsletter and helping him prepare Sunday School curriculum and church publications. One weekend as we drove to a funeral, he realized he needed a poem to recite for the Graveside Service and told me to write one on the spot! I did… and thanks to his belief in me as a writer, I’m still at it!

It’s great that your parents were so encouraging and helpful in fostering your God-given talents. Perhaps that’s one reason you are so great at encouraging other artists.

So, along those same lines, what is your favorite worship song?

My all-time favorite worship song is “Before the Throne of God Above,” but I also find great inspiration in “Give Me Jesus” by Fernando Ortega and “All of Me” by Selah.

I love that song by Fernando Ortega as well. A few of his CD’s spend time in my player!

And how about favorite books?

Where books are concerned, I’m going to have to break this down into categories! I would say that my favorite devotional book is “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers, my favorite fictional book is “The Robe” by Lloyd C. Douglas, and my favorite biography/memoir is “Rocket Boys” by Homer Hickham.

That’s quite a nice collection. I read and re-read “My Utmost for His Highest” over a three year period, and it literally changed my life. What do you feel most inspires your creativity?

I feel most inspired when I spend time outside, either walking for exercise or just sitting and drinking in all of God’s beauty. Taking time to notice the splendor of Creation helps me to quiet the distractions, focus my prayers, and allows me to listen for His still, small voice. It has been during these quiet moments of reflection that many of my greatest ideas have come to me.

It’s amazing how even a little bit of time outside can bring out the creator in us!

Now this may seem like a strange question, but I think you can tell a lot about a person by their favorite “working” drink. I tend to stick with water or tea. How about you?

I absolutely love a steaming mug of hot tea (either Earl Grey or Vanilla Rooibos) while I’m working on a project. The warmth is comforting, and the aroma stimulates the senses. I’d have to agree with C.S. Lewis, who said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me!”

That’s a great quote! I might have to add it to my bulletin board. When is it that we would find you nursing that steaming mug of tea? Are you most productive in the morning or at night?

Though I’m married to a night owl, I will forever be a hopeless morning person! Much to my wife’s dismay, I wake up bright and early and ready to work. My best work takes place early in the morning, and I’ve noticed that my writing is much stronger and more focused after I’ve spent some quiet time with the Lord.

I so agree with you. Spending time with the Lord makes the difference between a good and rough day, writing or otherwise. Do you have a “life verse?” How does it influence your creative endeavors?

Since high school, my life verse has been John 15:5: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” I used to get very nervous playing the piano in church, to the point that my fingers and pedal feet would shake uncontrollably and cause the entire piano to have tremors! I remember sitting in church waiting for my turn to play, and reading this verse on a small index card. It was comforting to remember that without God I could do nothing, but with Him behind me I was guaranteed to bear good fruit. I have clung to this through the years, and it’s just as helpful to me now as it ever was!

That’s a verse my husband has been meditating on lately. It’s so true that whatever we produce comes from Jesus working in us. It’s a great reminder. What would you say is the most important message you want your listeners or readers to take away from your work?

The sole purpose of launching my blog, The Artistic Christian, was to help people realize that the beauty of God is all around us. There is such rich beauty in the midst of the most everyday moments, and all of it declares the truth of Who God is. Psalm 19:1 says “the heavens declare the glory of God,” and each aspect of nature tells us something about God’s character. Immovable mountains declare His strength, soft rose pedals declare his tenderness and beauty, and so on. Not only this, but anytime an artist creates he or she is imitating God, since we are all made in His image (Gen. 1:26). Because of this, artistic works also point us to God, since they reveal the divine spark which lies in each of our hearts.

I hope that by reading my work, my readers will have their eyes opened to the beauty and splendor that lies everywhere they look, and realize that all of it was designed to draw our hearts toward worshiping God. And once they begin to see this, I want to remind them that if they will seek God with all their heart, they will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

I certainly get that from your blog. Where can people find your work? Can they purchase it yet?

I am still working on getting a book published, but my reflections on art, culture, and life can be found at my primary blog, The Artistic Christian, at http://theartisticchristian.wordpress.com.

Also, my sermons and thoughts on Bible Study and church life can be found at my self-titled devotional blog, at http://johnmarkmiller.wordpress.com

Finally, readers can keep up with my thoughts and latest releases by following me on Twitter: @JohnMark_Miller

Thank you so much for investing this time with us today!

Thank you for interviewing me. It’s been an honor.

Go visit John Mark Miller on Twitter and his blogs. I guarantee you’ll be blessed and glad you did!

laurabennet:

John Mark Miller, Christian artist, musician and author has done a remarkable job showcasing various Christian artists. Thank you, John Mark, for this amazing blog post!

Originally posted on The Artistic Christian:

Laura Bennett Pic

“Words well used reach deep inside and stir our hearts…testimony overcomes the enemy.”

Laura Bennet

Christian writer Laura Bennet knows a thing or two about miracles. Though she has lived in California for most of her life, her husband and three youngest children claimed Australia as their home until just recently. “Brendan and I met online, Skype dated and married five and a half years ago when he moved with his children here. I have four grown kids, so together we have seven children and eight grandchildren!” The remarkable story of the way God drew this family together from across the world inspired Laura’s first book, The Miracle of Us: Confessions of an Online Dater.

Though Laura has spent most of her career working as either a teacher or a homeschool mom, she loves reading and has always wanted to write. “Books take us to another world where we…

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We’re continuing our series on becoming free…

I recognize women who have tried to protect themselves by denying the truth of their past sexual abuse, domestic violence or a spouse’s sexual addiction. Denying the lie they are living and the part they play. It’s excruciatingly painful to face the truth head on. To acknowledge the depth of dysfunction, and the stuck place we can’t seem to get out of. But the cost down the road, if we don’t, is so much greater than our current pain. Europe 228

I wish I could tell them.

These women see the consequences of their broken lives in themselves and in their children and are in despair, but they are afraid to look at the truth. How they got there and why they stay. They are lost in a hurting, hopeless world. I know.

I was one of them.

I believe the woman in the Bible, the one at the well, was one too. But when Jesus sought her out and spoke truth to her, she glimpsed a glimmer of hope.

‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’” (John 4:19-20)

She believed he was a prophet. Maybe he could untangle the mess that was her life.

Was she ready for that?

I wonder if she was trying to change the subject, or if she was trying to prove how “good” she was by telling him what she knew about religion. Often, when the Lord whispers some truth about our lives that we aren’t sure we want to deal with, we focus on a past or future circumstance – well, it was like this… – or another person’s issues instead. Maybe we bring up someone else as a comparison to alleviate our shame, or to evaluate how good we are based on how bad they are.

And how many times do we respond based on what we think God (or someone else) expects?

Or maybe this woman wished she could have a relationship with God, but because someone told her there was only one way and one place, she felt excluded. Besides, the shame she felt was enough to make her exclude herself from any kind of worship. Don’t we often deny ourselves from connecting with God?

How could he want someone like me?

Jesus declared, ‘Believe me, woman…true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.’”

The truth is, Jesus is happy to have us come to him any time, place and way, if our hearts are sincerely directed towards him.

The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’” (verse 25)

This woman clung to what she knew. Someday Jesus was going to come and explain everything. That was her hope. I can imagine her wistfully looking towards the mountain, picturing how Jesus would make everything in her life right again.

Someday.

Can you imagine her astonishment when Jesus said,

‘I who speak to you am he.’?”

The same shame-filled woman, who had earlier avoided the crowd, now went eagerly to find them. She couldn’t wait DSC_0020 (2)to share how simply being in the presence of Jesus had transformed her life.

And God has the same for us.

When we worship, when we take in his words spoken to us through the Bible, when we engage with Jesus, he transforms our life. No matter what it looks like. No matter what we’ve done or what’s been done to us.

So, what if this is the year we face our life? What if this year we let him transform us?

What Is Joy?


2014 was a rough year.

Continuing illness from our house with mold, landlord issues, lack of employment, moving across country, saying goodbye to friends and family, and then a job loss took its toll on our family.

So when our pastor, Matt Keller, at Next Level Church here in lovely, balmy Florida began talking about choosing joy during his holiday sermons, you can imagine my divided thoughts and emotions. Yes, I know God’s good, and in all of it, he has done incredible things.

But we were challenged to choose joy. In every setting. You know the verse in James, “Count it all joy, brothers…”

REALLY??

Interestingly enough, around the same time, I was contacted about Margaret Feinberg’s new book, Fight Back With Joy. Would I be willing to write an honest review if I were provided a few chapters?

Naturally I said yes.

I don’t think this was a coincidence. Joy seemed a struggling commodity in our lives this past year. I wanted joy. I need joy. Maybe my word for this coming year should be “joy.”

Margaret says in her book that she always thought of “…joy as a natural byproduct of a life well lived.” I think that is what I believed too. But if that was the case, then I hadn’t lived well the previous year, had I?

Was joy the measure of whether my life was good or bad?

It couldn’t be. And if joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life, something God grants me then couldn’t I have it for the asking? Couldn’t it be cultivated in my heart?

What is joy anyway?

This is what Margaret Feinberg reveals in Fight Back With Joy.

And she goes a step further, showing how she chose joy in the midst of a diagnosis of cancer. Say what? Who does that?

In her typically engaging, lay-it-all out there way, Margaret shares how her life-threatening challenge created a compelling platform for discovering and communicating what true joy is and what it meant in her darkest time of need.

Defiant joy that declared darkness would not win.

We are encouraged that joy doesn’t deny hardship. It doesn’t sugar-coat our trials and pretend they are easy. No,

…joy is a weapon we use to fight life’s battles.”

Wow. It seems my battles have been joy stealers. The concept that I can choose joy to fight gives me hope and fills me with – joy!

Margaret goes on to explain all the ways God gives us joy. Such as through embracing his love for us, looking for joy in each good thing, being blessed by people God sends to refresh us (like Philemon for Paul in the Bible) and choosing to create moments and situations of hilarity. Those are only a few of the thought provoking and uplifting discoveries this encouraging author offers.

I nearly cried when my first few chapters came to an end.

This is a book I needed. And I have the inkling that many others do as well. We need this honest look at how to deal with the trials of our lives. Life, especially these days, is rough. Not everyone is facing cancer, but as Margaret acknowledges, every one of us has dealt with or is going through some difficult situation.

And God intends for us, enables us to live in joy.

Even in the darkest, most heart-wrenching of times. Not putting on a fake smile of “Everything’s great!,” but existing with something deeper and stronger in the midst of pain or sorrow.

I for one need that.

Thank you, Margaret, for sharing your story. Thank you for showing us how to fight in life with true joy.

Farewell 2014


In the distance, fireworks staccato an overture to 2015.DSC_0033

As this year comes to a close, I’m reflecting on all the difficulties, the challenges and the blessings of the previous year. Through it all, the good, the bad and the ugly, God has been faithful to heal, discipline, restore and redeem. Nothing is wasted with God. No trial too small or too big. No delight left unanswered. No heartbreak left unattended.

So, with all the pain and joy, it has been a good year.

A very good year.

And I want to thank you, my readers and comrades in this life journey for walking with me, offering encouraging words and prayers, supporting me and allowing me to speak into your lives with words that I pray have come from the Lord.

Will you celebrate with me over these milestones?

  • I published my first book, The Miracle of Us: Confessions of an Online Dater. Yippee! And people like it. I am humbled and grateful beyond words.
  • I welcomed grandchild #7 and #8, a seven month old granddaughter who lives with mom and dad in Poland, and a grandson born one week ago yesterday. I have yet to meet Liwia, except on Skype for now, but we will become friends that way until I get to hug her in person. In two weeks, I will have the pleasure of holding my youngest grandson, Zion.
  • I finished writing my first novel, A Voice from the Past.  Double yippee! Looking for an agent, but may end up with another self-publish. We’ll see…
  • We got out of the moldy house!!!!!!!!! Feeling so much better, but still on the mend.
  • We moved across the country from California to Florida, and we all love it here. God has answered so many prayers with this move. (Though I sorely miss my family and friends – especially grandkids #4 & 6 – they grow so fast!)
  • My husband has 2 great jobs now which we pray will soon stabilize us financially. Thank you, Lord for provision.
  • I’m homeschooling our youngest two children in jr and sr high. I love having them around, and they are growing remarkably in every way.
  • I’m working on a new e-book which should be out in about a month or less….(you’re curious now, aren’t you?)
  • I’ve started work on three other projects: a non-fiction sequel called Beyond the Miracle: When the Fairy Tale Becomes Reality that follows the lessons learned in our first six years of marriage ; a biblical historical novel Rachel’s Son, and a suspense novel Silk Stalkings. Only God knows in what order they will be completed.

Thank you all for your wonderful support in every way. May God bless your coming year with fruitfulness and joy.

What are some of your highlights of the year?

 

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