CHRISTMAS RECIPE FOR HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

A good friend and I chatted the other day about “toxic relationships,” buzz words that jumped into our vocabulary a few years ago and have taken up permanent residence. Who coined the term anyway? Silliness aside, there are several reasons to identify relationships as toxic. Here are a few:

  1. Diminished joy. Sapped  energy;
  2. Erosion of self-esteem and confidence;
  3. Demand for time and attention, often while giving nothing back;
  4. Increased stress;
  5. Judgment, criticism.

Wow! Quite a negative list! And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Because my mind works this way, I wondered about the opposite of toxic relationships. Here’s the upside—what positive, healthy relationships include:

  1. Respect;
  2. Encouragement;
  3. Humor;
  4. Inspiration;
  5. Time apart.

Notice the stark contrast to the toxic list?

Okay, now we have two lists, and they’re all well and good, but what does the Bible, God’s word, have to say about relationships? A treasure trove! Feel free to find more, but here’s a few to enjoy:

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35, NIV)

Greater love has no one man than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I have learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:13-15, NIV)

So then, we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. (Rom.14:19, NAS)

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. (Prov. 17:17, NIV)

Bottom line, want a balm for toxic relationships?  Want to enjoy healthy ones? Follow Jesus’s recipe:

  • His relationship with His father was one of constant communion. We need constant, committed time with God.
  • His relationship with His disciples and friends included instruction, rebuke, time apart and together, and always pointed the way to God. He reclined with sinners, friend and foe, and the poor and rich alike. We crave honest, fun, relaxed time with and apart from others.
  • His relationship with His adversaries was forthright and public. He exposed their motives, corrected, and showed love. During His trial, He remained silent and then paid the ultimate price—death on the cross—atonement for the sins of all mankind. As Ecclesiastes says, there’s a time for everything … a time to hold our tongues and a time to speak. Knowing the difference is wisdom.

Some of our greatest disappointments and joys come from relationships. Jesus said, and I paraphrase, this isn’t easy street, folks. You’re gonna have trouble in this world. (John 16:33) Ah, but there is a balm: He has overcome the world! So nothing, including relationships, is impossible with Him!  🙂

By Amre Cortadino

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEEING ABOVE THE CLOUDS

If you believe enough or are righteous enough, will God take away your suffering?

When my 24-year-old daughter discovered she had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and a tumor the size of a man’s fist pressing against her lungs and trachea affecting her every breath, one of her friends told her that she didn’t even want to know the name of the cancer because it was going to disappear. The friend declared that she was praying for her, and if my daughter would just believe enough, God would heal her.

The friend meant well enough, but she put the burden of being healed upon my daughter, that it would be her own fault if she weren’t healed.

God doesn’t guarantee to heal our every wound on this earth, and He doesn’t promise us a life without trials.

A quick look at the biblical Hall of Fame shows us that. For example, Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers and then imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, probably wondered if his life would ever amount to much, before God opened the doors for him to be second in command to Pharaoh. In the midst of the shackles and the cell, Joseph couldn’t see God’s ultimate plan.

The Apostle Paul was beaten, stoned, hungry, thirsty, shipwrecked, imprisoned, etc., and it had nothing to do with a lack of faith or a lack of righteousness. God never promised our paths would be easy, but He promised to work it all for the good. He will turn the ashes to beauty.

Romans 8:28 tells us “And we know in all things that God works for the good of those that love him and who are called according to his purpose.”  God doesn’t say that we’ll be immune to suffering and loss. He promises to work everything out for the best and for His glory.

Our lives with our brokenness and tears blended with our faith, joy, and hope in Him are His masterpieces. He can use the bad that comes into our lives to make us stronger and grow us deeper than we ever imagined possible. We can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves receive from the Lord (2 Corinthians 1:4).

One of my favorite things about flying in an airplane is being 25,000 – 30,000 feet above the earth and seeing the sun above thick swirls of white clouds. It reminds me that the sun is always there, even when I’m earthbound, and  storms block my view.

We do not know His plans. We cannot see above the clouds.

God sees the whole picture. The wonders of His plans are beyond our comprehension.

He is there with us every step of the way, even in the darkest of nights. He will never fail us.

And for those of you who are wondering, God worked through the chemo and His healing power to remove every trace of cancer from my daughter’s body. She has been in remission for 18 months, and she now leads a cancer support group Bible study seeking to support and comfort others.

By guest author Sherry Shindelar

https://www.facebook.com/historylitgirl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S

Rotten Fruit & Itchy Ears: The Real Pandemic Infecting The American Christian Church

I think we can all agree that the year 2020 is a weird time to be a person. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said that.

2020 has felt like an earthquake opening up chasms. (Sometimes literal earthquakes.) Shattering a landscape that was familiar. Revealing all the layers of mess and division that existed under the surface. Bubbling, molten anger and fear.

If being alive is weird now, being a Christian is even weirder. The very people called to be peacemakers. The very people called not to fear. The very people called to unity are fractured and divided. Each a chief of their own tribe at war against all the other tribes. Unwilling to bend or collaborate or listen. Grasping for power.

The things the world should recognize us by:

Love
Compassion
Patience
Faithfulness
Joy
Peace
Kindness
Gentleness
Self control

..the very things that should distinguish us, are vanishing from sight. And it is breaking my heart.

I’m seeing something happen in the church, something that’s happening to pastors that I want to reveal.

As a pastor’s wife, here’s what I see:
* People are being discipled by things/voices that have not earned the privilege to disciple them.
* Christians are being discipled by things and people that do not care for them or have their best interest at heart.
* Christians are being discipled by people who do not even know Jesus.

Why are we allowing this to happen? It caters right to our fears and insecurities and sinful desires.

2 Tim 4:3 has come to mind over and over again throughout the last several years. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

How can we put more trust in something on the internet or saw on a biased news source than in the people God placed in leadership in their very own living, breathing community? I’m not calling people to put blind trust in their pastors, not at all. Discernment and wisdom are important. Not all pastors are worth following. (That’s a whole other post for someone else to write. In fact, they already exist.) BUT what I’m seeing is a considerable lack of trust happening here.

Brothers and Sisters: what are you letting disciple you?  A political party or Twitter feed or YouTube channel? Does that discipler love and know you?

Will you allow the pastors God has placed in your very own church community the opportunity to teach you? To challenge you? To lead you in the way of Jesus? Then approach your interactions with those God has placed in leadership with humility, love, and compassion.

People of Jesus: the world knows we are disciples of something. May they clearly see the one whom we follow. May they see our love. May they see the fruits of the Spirit. May they see Jesus.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Gal 5:22-23

By guest author Grace Cramer

https://gracecramer.wixsite.com/mysite

EVERYTHING AND THANKSGIVING

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1, NIV)

We’ve breathed this verse countless times, maybe even sang it. And, to be honest, the words roll off our tongues with greater enthusiasm and velvety smoothness when all is well in our lives.

But just as in 1621, few people today would say all is well. Conflict between ethnic groups then and now? Check. Disease, poverty, fear? Yep. Dawn of the winter season? Same. Reason to gather together and celebrate? The 1621 people of Plymouth would give a resounding yes.

Contradictory reports vary the number of settlers, including the number of men, women, and children, and the number of native Americans who celebrated the first three-day Thanksgiving feast. The month in which the first feast took place is even in question. What we do know to be true is that two  different groups of people came together, shared what they had, and enjoyed themselves. Thankfully, those three facts are indisputable because we have several near-four hundred-year-old, eyewitness, handwritten accounts.

How will history record our Thanksgiving feasts? While we may be distanced from each other this year, we can keep the gift of thankfulness alive. And like the first Thanksgiving, rather than dwelling on differences and obstacles, let’s enjoy the blessings we’ve been given.

To capture the essence of this holiday, and to remember what’s most important, I asked friends new and old to contribute their Thanksgiving stories. I hope you hear the love and joy each memory evokes…

One of my funniest Thanksgiving memories had to do with my mother’s fantastic rolls. They were rising everywhere – even on a living room sofa. A cousin who shall remain nameless, but his initials are P.B., came in our house and sat on them. All bets were off after that and, as I remember, we laughed the day away (while we ate, of course)! Fun times! (by Erma Ullrey)

When I was a little girl my mom and her entire family shared one Thanksgiving together. She had six brothers and sisters, and they all had children. There were so many of us we extended the tables and chairs into the garage. It was the best Thanksgiving. (by Susan A Lamb)

A different time. But we all looked forward to high school football on Thanksgiving Day. Some we won some we lost. Just like the wishbone between brothers some he won, some I won. But I don’t remember the wishes. Oh yes, there was one. I wanted to marry I Dream of Jeannie … sure disappointed. But I still to this day believe in Santa. (by Don Demarest)

One of my best Thanksgivings ever, I soaked in a tub and read a book while my kids made the entire meal. They were in high school & junior high & only asked me to set the table. LOL. I figured I finally worked myself out of a job! My kids (5) are all foodies & loved to cook, so they took over the entire meal. It was fabulous & still is. My job since is only to set the table. Thankful for a house full of great chefs! (by K Denise Holmberg)

They run together, but the gist is big family dinners with the football game afterward. There was the year some very young second cousins ran their fingers thru the frosted cakes. (by Mary Pat Johns)

My mom was in the kitchen basting our turkey. My very fussy Aunts and Uncles were in the living room. Our house was the Old Homestead where my dad and his sisters were born… I went into the kitchen to help mom when the turkey slipped and fell into our new puppy’s basket next to the stove. Thankfully the dog was not in it… I ran to tell my dad that Mom needed help in the kitchen … at that point my mom was in tears … my dad stepped in, grabbed the bird, put it under running water, and gave it a bath. He told my mom to just put it back in the pan and keep basting. Well my fussy Aunts said it was the best turkey ever. We still have a good laugh on the day my mom and dad saved Thanksgiving. (by Cathy Singer Dolan)

A couple of years ago, we saw my husband’s brother and his family for the first time in almost a year at Thanksgiving. We’d never gone that long between visits. They stayed at our house for a couple of days before moving on to other family. We played games, went to an escape room, and ate a lot of food. Our kids are close and we all had the best time together. (by Hilary Hamblin)

So many fond memories of my mom and dad and our entire family together for a fabulous Thanksgiving Dinner! I wish I could go back even for a minute to just enjoy the moment. I carry on the family tradition with all the Holidays and Sunday dinners! When I was young and living on Jackson Ave. my mom invited my Aunt Kitty Cornetto and Uncle Sal and their 5 kids for Thanksgiving!! Well…the fight over who got the legs of the turkey got so out of hand my mom and aunt had to scream and yell to calm all the kids down!! It was really funny! (by Bernadette Bargiel-Zisa)

I would have to say my favorite Thanksgiving was the year 2015 when our son and his wife hosted and when we went around the table to say what we were thankful for. Our daughter and her husband said they were thankful for baby number 4 on the way! Surprise! (And it definitely was!) But oh that sweet Miss Jubilee Plum has just stolen our hearts! (by Sue Ronning)

Thank you, friends, for sharing your Thanksgiving stories with us. Happy Thanksgiving!  God bless American and God bless you.

 

By Amre Cortadino

To leave a comment, please click on the title above EVERYTHING AND THANKSGIVING and scroll down. Thank you!  🙂

THE GOD WHO NEVER SLEEPS

“My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:2-4, NIV)

When speaking to a new friend online late one night, I had to end the conversation early because I was sleepy. This new friend of mine wanted to know all about me and my work. I asked her if I could answer her questions “tomorrow” because I was sleepy now. So we said “Good night” and I went to bed. As I drifted off to sleep, I thought how grateful I am that I serve a God who never sleeps!

The Bible says in Psalm 121:4 that God will never “slumber nor sleep.” That means that not only is He wide awake and alert 24/7/365, but He’s always active in our lives, working everything out for our good (Romans 8:28).

As a human being, a mere mortal, there’s only so much I can do to help people until either my resources run out or I need to rest. And as a human with limited resources and a need to sleep every night, I can become exhausted and want to give up on a situation that’s not being resolved. But thank the Good God Almighty that HE never gives up on humankind! His resources are unlimited and He never becomes exhausted in His mission to not only help us but to save our souls!

The Bible says in Psalm 121:1 that our help comes from the Lord who is the Maker of Heaven and Earth. It’s important to remember that God made everything that exists and He knows exactly what we need! The Bible says in Philippians 4:19 that God will meet ALL of our needs!

In closing, I encourage you to go to the God who never sleeps and trust Him to take care of you!

Before you go to sleep tonight, listen to this beautiful song about Psalm 121.

By guest author Alexis Goring

Image result for alexis goring

https://alexisagoring.jimdofree.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THINK before the Holidays

We’ve been encouraged many times throughout the Bible to take every thought captive. What we think and then say has benefits and consequences—both for us and others—because words have power. The power to destroy or to heal.

When I wrote a piece for a magazine a couple of years ago, I tweaked an old carpentry adage-measure twice, cut once-to apply to our words: think twice, speak nice.

While we’re at our busiest during the next several weeks, we can be at our best if we learn this new  habit:

I’ve often wondered if the “i” in the middle of this word doesn’t bring a smile to the Lord’s lips. If we can mind our tongues, if our speech can inspire, it benefits us!  Let me make it personal: If I can mind my tongue, if what I say can inspire, it benefits me too!

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14, NKJV)

By Amre Cortadino

To leave a comment, please click on the title above THINK before the Holidays and scroll down. Thank you!  🙂

 

THE SUMMER SOLDIER AND THE SUNSHINE PATRIOT

Unsuccessful in England and a newcomer to America, Thomas Paine penned a fifty-page pamphlet shortly after the 1775 Battle of Lexington and Concord. His words inspired hope and rallied patriotism like no other author of his day.

Here are some of his more famous, oft quoted lines from Common Sense:
These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Before that time, no one had ever heard of a summer soldier or a sunshine patriot. Exactly who was Paine talking about and why was his battle cry so effective? Let me digress for a minute and, hopefully, we’ll see ourselves through his eyes.

Motivation to exercise during glorious days of spring and summer comes easy. Warmer weather aids our desire to get outdoors, to become more fit. We might even perform acts of service – volunteer at Vacation Bible School (VBS) or feed the homeless in the park. Then come the cooler autumn days. Who can resist when crisp air and flaming leaves beckon hikes or long walks?

Ah, but winter breezes usher frosty weather. Our skin chafes, the temperature plummets, and roads and trails become icy. Comfort food, holiday parties, warm fires, and Hallmark movies turn us into couch potatoes.

We’ve left the sunshine, our summer soldiering, for the familiar, the comfortable. Oh sure, we’ll donate to rescue missions and cheer on the occasional spandex-clad runner or biker as if we’re one of those warriors too. After all, we’ll get back into it when more conducive weather returns. No cold noses, frozen feet, or windswept hair for us.

The author of Hebrews might have met a few summer soldiers and sunshine patriots too. These new Christians excitedly proclaimed their faith. But, like us, with the first hint of a storm on the horizon, they needed a reminder to hold fast. That’s why the author says don’t lose what you’ve worked so hard to gain during summer. Keep up the good work. And while you’re at it, encourage someone else to serve and love more too.

In this season, a virus has threatened our comfort, there’s chaos in our streets, and our Republic seems destined to fail. Yet Jesus’ words offer year-round motivation:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb.10:23-25, NIV)

By Amre Cortadino

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TURN THE TIDE

When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them. But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory. (2 Samuel 23:11b-12, NIV)

Tucked in the aftermath of one of David’s battles against the Philistines, we meet Shammah. David and his men had just won a huge victory and were weary from the battle. The people came, plundered, and left.

But there were lentils growing in the field and someone had to guard them. So, a small company of soldiers stood watch.

But, the remaining Philistines rallied.

When we hear the word Philistine, our memory tracks to David and his victory over the giant Goliath. If all Philistines were giants, the sight of these mammoth men would strike immediate fear.

Threatened by sword-wielding giants, this tiny band of Israelite soldiers chose their lives over the beans. Everyone but Shammah fled.

The Bible doesn’t say he vacillated or considered his options. He took his position in the middle of the field. Shammah had made a commitment, one that didn’t depend on the task or how many stood with him. No matter the outcome, he would stay and fight.

We don’t know the number of Philistines he fought against. We do know the Lord brought about a great victory! God gave him the power to wipe out every one of those predators. He honored Shammah’s commitment and showed Himself faithful!

A single man turned the tide.

It’s hard to fathom how the name Shammah, which means waste or appalling desolation, came about. One piece of information indicated the name was given due to the mother’s significant suffering during childbirth. Can you picture a mother holding her newborn and saying, “I think I’ll call you waste?”

Ironically, from God’s attributes, we know He redeems and makes everything new. Why do I say that? When I examined the Hebrew names of God, tucked in the list you’ll find Jehovah Shammah – God is there. What a turnaround! From an unpleasant name to one of comfort, hope, and joy!

Shammah wasn’t alone when he defeated the enemy. We are not alone in this Christian walk. An army of one can turn the tide because Jehovah Shammah is right beside us.

Whenever you question what one person can do, please remember you are not alone. He is there.

Written by Amre Coradino

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ROOTS OF LOVE

A recent article featured a conversation between two women. While one explained how easy it was to grow a houseplant from a clipping, tears pinched my eyes.

I’ve tried this, you see, with disastrous results. My latest failure was with an avocado pit.

I followed the instructions to a T! Careful to submerge its bottom, I used three toothpicks to prop the avocado pit in a glass of room-temperature water in a warm area. Once a week, I changed the water, replacing it with strictly room-temperature water. Then I watched and waited.

At some point, a root should have grown. For the pit and me, that significant event never occurred.

After the disappointing experience, my hubby gently uttered words of comfort. “Maybe plants aren’t your thing.” Gulp. You think?

Sometimes the truth, even spoken in a quiet, loving manner, stings. Could it be our roots aren’t deep enough and the rebuke, no matter how kind, eats at our core? Or is the problem one of expectations? Instead of failure, success and contentment-okay, and maybe a bit of praise-should have followed.

Elijah experienced a similar difficulty. After summoning the prophets of Baal to Mt. Carmel, Lord God Almighty gave a clear, victorious, and obvious answer that He alone is God. Then, with the appearance of a rain cloud, Elijah may have expected King Ahab and Queen Jezebel to acknowledge the One True and Living God. Perhaps they’d humble themselves and, who knows? Invite His prophet Elijah to dinner at the palace?  🙂

As the story unfolds, the queen didn’t send an invitation but a threat, and Elijah ran for his life. He ended up under a scruffy shrub, wishing he could die.

So, what went wrong? In the face of obvious truth, Elijah thought, wanted, hoped the king and queen would have a change of heart. Not an unreasonable expectation. But, as with my avocado pit, the overarching answer is that God is in control.

What does that mean for us today? We keep loving, we keep praying, we keep pointing the way to the cross. We cultivate our roots so they grow down deep, so that … “Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him.” So we’ll know, “feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself.” (Eph.3:17-19, NIV)

Written by Amre Cortadino

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RIGHTEOUSNESS

I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness…
Is. 61:10a

When we invite Jesus Christ into our hearts and ask Him to be the Lord of all, He clothes us with His righteousness. A costly gift – for free!

Please don’t miss this: righteous, made right with Him, isn’t our own doing. We will never deserve or do anything to earn it. Righteousness comes entirely by God’s design. His plan of salvation paid for our righteousness.

Let that sink in for a minute. Nothing we’ve done or could ever do earns an iota of righteousness in the Bank of Heaven!

Here lately, many of us walk through the hall of our home to our office. Some of us may go out to work, to school, to the grocery store, or to church. And, we’re dressed for the occasion. When we’re fortunate enough to stay home, we can relax in our jammies a little longer. But going out of the house necessitates a different type of attire.

An invitation to dinner or to a party might again mean a different type of clothing. So, we dress for those occasions. And that’s a good thing!  🙂

But God never changes. He wraps us in an amazing wardrobe through the shed blood of Jesus Christ!

Our enemy, the devil, has many tactics but only one mission: to kill, steal, and destroy.

Today, if you’re questioning your righteousness, please recognize the deceiver’s whispers and menacing words. He’s happiest when you doubt what you have in Christ Jesus. Flick him off like the parasite he is!

Here are a few verses from God’s word to bless and encourage us as we meditate on Him.

I put on righteousness as my clothing… (Job 29:14a, NIV)

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24, NIV)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV)

This song, Build My Life sung by Housefires, emphasizes the righteousness of the Lord. I pray you enjoy it.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=holy%2c+there+is+no+one+like+you&view=detail&mid=A4BDD245DFDCFA78A7C8A4BDD245DFDCFA78A7C8&FORM=VIRE0&ru=%2fsearch%3fq%3dholy%252C%2bthere%2bis%2bno%2bone%2blike%2byou%26form%3dQBLH%26sp%3d-1%26pq%3dholy%252C%2bthere%2bis%2bno%2bone%2blike%2byou%26sc%3d8-30%26qs%3dn%26sk%3d%26cvid%3dADE4CBBF86EB4604ADBFD8BAE56F38FF

Written by Amre Cortadino

To leave a comment, please click on the title above RIGHTEOUSNESS and scroll down. Thank you!  🙂