The Unbeaten Path

I turn 30 in a few weeks. I can’t believe it. It feels kind of surreal to realize that I won’t be twenty something anymore. However, although I can say that it definitely has me doing some reflecting and evaluating of my life, I feel pretty peaceful about it. 

When I look back on my story, I am struck by the overwhelming theme of God’s faithfulness and his good leadership over me on many “off road” paths. From the standpoint of what man may call ideal, there is a lot about my story that was the opposite or shouldn’t have worked; but I am so glad that with God nothing is wasted and that He makes something beautiful out of the unlikely.

So as to not rehash my whole life and make this the longest post ever, I will start at high school graduation. When I graduated high school, my plan was to attend a four year college for pre-med. I would work my butt off and then be accepted into medical school. I had been accepted to Houghton College in a super small town in upstate New York after putting all my eggs in one basket and not having applied anywhere else. They had a reputation for being strong in the sciences among other things.

I started college full of gusto and enthusiasm and thoroughly enjoyed my first year. Sophomore year is when the struggle got real and I delved deeper into my major courses. I soon realized that although I loved science, my high school education had not prepared me well for college level science courses and I started to fall behind. I somehow managed to keep my head above water though and spent many long days at labs and getting extra help. Junior year began, and I was already feeling a little burnt out, but I continued on as the work load increased and tried to balance it by hanging out with an unlikely “carefree” group of people. Midway through Junior year, other realities started to hit. It had always been a stretch and a sacrifice financially for me to attend this college. It was an out of state private school and not cheap. However, God always seemed to provide exactly what I needed just in the knick of time. 

This time was different. I was on winter break when I received a phone call from financial aide stating that if I didn’t come back with about the $3,000 that I owed for the semester that I could just stay home. We were able to get the money together but about two weeks after the semester had started. Back up to New York I went and scrambled to catch up the rest of the year. Summer was a very welcome break, but cue fall of Senior Year. Again I am short on funds for the year and this time have to wait a whole month into the semester to return. My professors were gracious enough to still let me enroll after the cut off dates even though I had missed a lot. After my late start, my grandfather died, and I went back home for a few days to be with my family for the funeral, etc. That was the breaking point. I fumbled through the entire rest of the year emotionally and academically. Even after working as hard as I could, it was clear that I wouldn’t be able to finish all my credits in time for graduation, so I decided to take a May term. Again things did not work out according to plan, and I came home instead, never having finished about six credits.

I returned home feeling utterly defeated after what seemed like the grand derailing of my life. I took a job at a local tearoom, which was a fun change of pace but didn’t pay very much, and it was the only thing I could find. The tearoom closed after my six months there, and I spent another six looking for another job to finally land one at a doctor’s office. Hooray!!! Things were looking up, I thought. Fast forward through two hard years at that place and many steep learning curves about boundaries, integrity and once again following Jesus in less than ideal circumstances. I was able to quit after my husband and I had our first baby in the summer of 2014, and I have yet to return to work outside the house.

Here I am on the doorstep of 30. After looking back on the start of my twenties, do you know what I feel??? Gratitude. I am so incredibly grateful because in all of the derailing of my plans, in the less than ideal, in perceived failure and hardship, God was in it all. He never left and He has and is making use of everything. He broke me down, and the things I was looking toward to save me in order to build a deeper relationship with Him and to create greater tenacity. Both of these things I would need for the financial struggle, difficult pregnancies and brokenness in relationships that would come later. I have found God on the unbeaten path and the road less traveled, in questions and unfinished journeys as much as in the joys of life. So here’s to 30 and the myriad of experiences it will bring. With God, life can be quite the off road adventure. Where are some places in your story that you can see God’s presence with you on the detour?

--Sophia Howard


Numbering our Days

It was a small, friendly church in a small, friendly town.

When the doors were open, my family was there. Everybody knew everybody.

So it was big news when the new family marched up the aisle one Sunday morning, filling an entire pew on the left-hand side of the sanctuary near the front. I remember counting the children who slid down the row in size order. “…five, six, seven!”  We were all amazed at the clean-cut, well-behaved mob of kids that self-consciously peeked over their shoulders to size us all up.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, that’s the Sunday morning I met my husband. He was kid number two. Sometimes, I can still see them just like that: a clannish, fun-loving bunch of siblings, all seven born within a nine year span of time, crammed together on that uncomfortable wooden pew, making every attempt to tease and bother each other and not catch their mother’s watchful eye.

It’s hard for me to think of them then…and now. Number three and four are gone--empty places on that pew in my mind’s eye. My dear husband has lost a sister and a brother to cancer in the past couple of years. Thankfully, we have an unshakable confidence that, indeed, they are not truly “lost.” Because both Carolyn and Jerry each had placed their faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, we know they are with Him in heaven right now. What a comfort!

And that brings me to the point of this blog.

I sat at the funeral service of my dear brother-in-law just days ago, tears of joy and selfish sadness spilling down my cheeks. Person after person stood to honor Jerry, this straight-shooting pastor who had relentlessly pursued them, sometimes annoyed them, but always loved them. He unapologetically confronted them with the truth of the Gospel. He had encouraged them, by faith, to surrender to King Jesus, to be rescued and forgiven and set on the path leading to eternal life with the Father. And they did—lots of them.

Jerry would have been embarrassed by all that was said about him that day. For him, from the time he finally turned his life over to Jesus, it was always all about the One who had mercifully saved him. But he left behind quite an amazing living legacy, an untold number of precious people also rescued and transformed by Jesus and now part of His Kingdom. Like us, they all will miss him. He was one memorable character.

As I pondered all of this that dreary morning, the question that replayed over and over in my mind was, “What will be your legacy, Eileen? What will you be leaving behind when your life is over? Or who?” I can’t stop thinking about it.

I am not the evangelist my brother-in-law was, but I can care enough about the folks in my life to make sure they know about my Jesus and how He has graciously rescued me. I can be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in me. I can pursue knowing Him and daily seeking His Presence by immersing myself in His Word and humbly praying. I can make sure I am using whatever gifts God has entrusted to me to bless His body and to advance His Kingdom. I can love others well. That will be a start.

And we all can start somewhere. Isn’t that what every Christ-follower can do? Hasn’t God even promised to help us when we try? We all are leaving some sort of legacy. It’s time to make certain it’s a good one, don’t you think?  

Because the second thing I thought about at Jerry’s funeral was the urgency of working on that legacy, of doing those things I mentioned before in obedience to our Father, of actually being who He designed for us to be in whatever time He has wisely allotted us. Do any of us know with any certainty how much time we have here? Do we make the best use of the precious moments and hours we have been given? I can honestly say I don’t always. And I am not proud of that.

Kenny’s siblings were just over 60 when the days planned for them were over. We all know of many dear friends and family members whose lives were much shorter even than theirs.  We simply don’t know how long any of us will be here on planet Earth, do we? Our Sovereign and All-wise Father has withheld that information from His children. But it begs the question, then, what are we doing today? Are we frittering away the unknown quantity of time we do have? We aren’t promised tomorrow.

I am so very thankful for my brother-in-law’s life--one lived with an almost singular purpose. His vacant seat in our lives brings deep sorrow and many tears. But his legacy challenges me to consider my own with urgency. How about you? Does it challenge you too?

However long or short our years, we can make the most of our days. I close with a prayer for us all from John Piper, Pierced by the Word.

Father, teach us to number our days

and to get a heart of wisdom.

Forbid that we join the world in forgetting

 the certainty of our death.
Don’t let us play with the preciousness of life.

 Make us ready to die well by helping us live

 well by helping us trust You well.

Don’t let us be surprised by our suffering.

Don’t let us be surprised by being cut off early from this life.

 Don’t let us balk at the betrayal of friends

and the blast of enmity.

Help us to embrace our lot and count it all joy,

 And say with Paul, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

In Jesus’ name, Amen.


--Eileen Hill

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Consider This Encouraging Resource

This week I would like to introduce you to a very good source of encouragement. Dr. Karl Benzio, founder of the Lighthouse Network, writes a devotional regularly that can encourage us in our walk with God. Dr Benzio is a Christian Psychiatrist and is intentional about helping people integrate faith into their healing and growth process. This particular article focuses on the question: “What Motivates You the Most?” As he addresses this question, what he is aiming for is those things that tend to hinder our “life-giving practices” with God. He also offers us good practical considerations to regain our connection with God. I found it encouraging, and I hope it is so for you too. To read the article click here.


Do You Want to be Made Well?

And Jesus asked him,

 “Do you want to be made well?”

John 5:6 (NKJV)

Years ago, I had a friend make a wall hanging for my office that had the above words on it. They are powerful words that Jesus spoke to one man, only one, at a Pool called Bethesda in the story found in John 5:6.  Words that I never understood very well before I became a counselor. Here’s why… 

It always confused me why Jesus only interacted with one man at this pool, a pool that the bible says that many people who were lame, paralyzed, blind or suffering from some sort of brokenness, laid around. They all were waiting for the key to their healing that took place at this pool. You see, the bible says that during a certain season an angel would come down and stir the waters. The first person that entered the pool would be made well of their diseases. On this particular day, Jesus goes over to this certain man and asks him the question, “Do you want to be made well?” The man goes into an explanation of why he can’t get into the water first but Jesus doesn’t get caught up in the reasons about why he can’t. Jesus goes to the heart of the matter and asks the guy if he wants to be made well, tells him get up and the man does! He just does what he is told to do! Let me say that again. The man does what Jesus tells him to do!            He was healed. Later, as the story unfolds, we find something interesting in verse 14. The man encounters Jesus in the temple. The identity of Jesus is made known to the man and this is what happens:

14 A little later Jesus found him in the Temple and said, “You look wonderful! You’re well! Don’t return to a sinning life or something worse might happen.” (The Message)

Whoa! That’s pretty heavy! Interesting, huh? Here are some of my questions this passage has evoked over the years, as well as other questions I get from quite a few people. Maybe they echo some of yours.

  1. Why did Jesus only talk to the one man?
  2. The story also says later on that the man didn’t even know it was Jesus!
  3. Practically speaking, this man had been an invalid for 38 years...38 years would cause his legs to be atrophied, bones fragile, etc. And he didn’t question this guy who says “Get up”?
  4. Does verse 14 mean that our sin issues can contribute to our diseases?
  5. Does God make us sick as punishment for our sins?
  6. The invalid must have BELIEVED the man who told him to get up off his mat.

I always say I get 3 kinds of people in the counseling room:

  1. The ‘Yes’ People- when asked the same question Jesus asked the man, they answer a wholehearted YES! I want healing and BELIEVE Jesus can do it.
  2. The ‘I Don’t Know’ People- they are usually silent for a minute or so. Having to weigh their answer of what the cost will be, what the responsibility will be, how hard is it going to be and the exhaustive list goes on and on.
  3. The ‘I Don’t Deserve It’ People- they step into the role of God and judge themselves, using their veto power to reject the work that Jesus already did on the cross for them. The bible says we are healed by His stripes. Amen. This group of people doesn’t understand that verse yet.

In working with folks, including myself, I think I have part of the answer for my number one question: Why did Jesus go to the one man? I think it’s because he desperately wanted to be healed, had no excuses and was willing to GET UP! He BELIEVED he could be healed, and he wanted to be healed. Plus, he was willing to do the hard work of walking out that healing without excuse. What is Jesus telling you to do regarding your brokenness??

As far as the other questions go, a big resounding ‘Yes’ to question #4. Our sin issues can perpetuate our diseases. We can be lazy about doing exercise, eating right and establishing good sleep patterns in order to help in our healing process. On the other hand, a big resounding ‘NO’ to question #5. God does not punish us with sickness. All of the punishment we deserved for our sins was put onto Jesus Christ when He died on the cross and came back from the dead on the third day so we too can have eternal life with Him when we say ‘YES’ to Jesus!  That is the good news, folks!

The big point I want to end with is this: It is absolutely, absolutely imperative that you BELIEVE Jesus can and desires to heal you. Jesus heals in many ways, three of which I have listed.

  1. Instantaneously
  2. In a process
  3. When we see Him face to face.

I pray for the grace to accept His answer to my healing. I always want an instantaneous healing and am willing to do my part in the process of healing, but will still praise Him if it won’t be until Glory. In Scripture I find Jesus asking people all the time, “Do you Believe?” They respond ‘Yes, I believe He then says, “Your faith has made you well”. Folks, there is something very important about BELIEVING Jesus can do it!! He can BREAK EVERY CHAIN!!! Check out this video Tasha Cobbs, Break Every Chain. Worship with it, watch the expressions of Worship in the video. Ask yourself, “Do I Believe Jesus can really BREAK EVERY CHAIN off my life?” I would encourage you to check out John 5 for yourselves. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what He wants you to understand in the passage.

Be blessed, friends

--Lois Robinson


A Big Black Bird

Have you ever seen God reach down and change a circumstance in a way so unnatural that you were sure you were feeling His very presence?

My grandparents lived in Vincentown, and my brother and I spent many happy hours roaming around town; Great-uncle Ed had a candy store! And Great-aunt Helen lived down on the corner (now a funeral home) and she had a plum tree in her yard! Everyone in town knew who we were, so we were pretty free to go anywhere.

But we had a favorite place to play, seldom visited for fear of getting seen by someone who would tell our grandmother! I don’t know if it’s still there, because I haven’t been in Vincentown for years, but Stokes had a tomato canning facility right on the other side of the road out of town closest to ‘home’, and it was great fun. The canning season was over; no one was there, and there were wonderful things to play with. We were not allowed to cross that road, so, being inventive kids, we found a way to go under it! There was a creek, and a bridge, and under the bridge were narrow concrete walkways on our side. We would go around our barn and down into the meadow, and then cross under the bridge with our backs to the wall and come out right near the cannery. Of course, we never hurt or destroyed anything, or went inside, but there were long racks covered with metal rollers made for moving cases of cans, which worked just as well with us in a box! And we played hide and seek and counted cars going by and climbed on things and just had fun.

And that’s where we were one afternoon, without having any concept of how much time had passed. The day was pretty well gone and I was hiding inside a crate, and my brother couldn’t find me. He looked in all the familiar places, but I had found a new one. I was getting tired of waiting for him to discover me when suddenly, with a noisy rush of wings, a HUGE black bird flew right in front of my hiding place, TWICE! It was likely a turkey hawk or some such, but it scared me to death! I started to cry, and finally looked outside and saw that it was gone, and I raced to my brother crying, and said, “I want to go HOME!” We RAN, to the bridge and under the bridge and up through the meadow and into the house. And there were my grandparents and my mother and a FIREMAN! My mother was in tears, and no one was mad at us, and they seemed like they were really glad to see us!

Of course, what had happened was that we had been gone a very long time, and no one in town had seen us, and the fireman was there because they were getting ready to drag the creek for our bodies! We only knew the full scope of things much later, but we had to confess where we had been and how we sometimes got there, and our horrified loved ones absolutely forbade us to EVER go there again. Which we obeyed.

My mother told me, when I was older, how she had prayed for God to send us home. She didn’t know then that He did it with the frightening presence of a big black bird.

I still can see that bird swooping so close to me. I had nightmares for a long time. But I never gave God credit until much later, after I had found Christ and fully understood the reality of His love and power and presence.

I wonder how many, many times God intervenes in our lives to save us, or redirect us, or cause us to see or do something we might otherwise have missed, perhaps not with the drama of a huge, frightening black bird, but always in love, with a strong hand and a good purpose. What a wonderful, wonderful God we have!

--Norma Stockton


The Heart of a False Teacher: When the Lord Jesus Puts the Squeeze on the Pharisees at Lunch

Just prior to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in late 2017, I preached a message from Luke 14:1-24 entitled “The Heart of a False Teacher: When Jesus Puts the Squeeze on The Pharisees at Lunch.” Instead of writing a summary from this message, I am simply going to include the link and encourage you to listen to this timely message on false teachers. You don’t have to listen to it all at once - feel free to listen to it in parts. When we came home from church that particular Sunday, my wife Lisa said to me, “I had no idea there was so much history and so much to extract from that passage. I would have just read it and moved over it quickly without a second thought. There’s so much more there than I first thought.”  She is so right!

Good exposition of the Scriptures takes a lot of time. Many dozens of hours were devoted to preparing this particular message. It took me much time and research and labor; and I took my time chewing on it until I had it just right. Truth teachers want to herald the message that the Lord gives exactly; false teachers, instead, usually pervert and twist many things that God says. While the LORD Jesus always says the things that the Father wants Him to say; the Pharisees try to squeeze Him until He quickly squeezes them back. What happens in Luke 14 is a classic and repeated example of our LORD not giving the Pharisees the upper hand in many situations, ever. And the Squeeze is on.  

Please enjoy this sermon and may His Word always encourage you, build you up in the faith, and exemplify our Beloved Christ Jesus, Who cannot be squeezed - but Who Squeezes back at just the right time.

-Thor Knutstad


All Things Beauty? All in One Place?

I've walked past this store in the mall many times, and plenty of times I've felt that something not right is being 'shouted' from the advertisements in the windows. It makes me feel sad.


I'll tell you why.

Over and over I've seen messages in the ads in the windows that say beauty is found outside of a woman. 

For example:



It's like these ads are shouting to anyone who walks past that women need something outside of themselves to attain beauty. That bothers me. "All things beauty. All in one place." Beauty is found in a place. "21 days of's our most loved semi-annual event!" Beauty is found through buying enough of the right things at an event. "Bring the beauty." "Makeup: Report for beauty!" Beauty is found in products.

I don't believe that beauty is found in a place, in an event, in a product. I don't believe that beauty is outside of a woman, and she needs to strive to make sure she has it. I don't believe beauty is outside of a woman.

I believe that beauty is found already inside of a woman. 

It's not her PLUS makeup, clothes, a perfect hairstyle, a skinnier body...any of that stuff our culture has shouted to us.

A woman already IS beautiful. 

She doesn't have to become beautiful.

A woman is beautiful because she has a Maker who, though it might sound a bit odd to our ears, is Himself the most beautiful One ever. And He wanted to give us a reflection of the way He He made women to display His beauty.

She's not beautiful just because she herself is so amazing, but she's made to reflect back to the world a message about the One who made her. The way she is (but also women collectively) images God. 

Her beauty tells a story to the world about the way the Maker is.

So that's why I feel bothered by those ads in the windows. They're trying to sell me, and every woman walking by, the lie that we need something outside of ourselves to GET something we REALLY WANT: beauty. The heartbreaking lie is that beauty is found somewhere outside of a woman...that a woman can be beautiful if she does enough to become beautiful. But a woman already is beautiful, without doing anything, without adding anything, without needing anything. She isn't beautiful because the culture says she is, or because she measures up to some cultural standard of what we've defined beauty as, but because she has a Maker. Her Maker has decided that one thing all women would carry around in their physical body would be beauty. It's not a choice, it's not something they have to attain or earn or strive for. It's just a part of who each woman is. Yes, the beauty of her personality is part of it, but physical beauty, beauty you can see with your eyes, is just essential to what it is to be woman. 

And what makes it all even more sad for me is that those ads are pretty much shouting out that lie about it's me PLUS something else, but we don't even notice that they're shouting because we've all heard that lie, our whole lives, without questioning it. We've grown up on a diet of lies about what beauty even is, and who has it, and where it's when there are images that say "Beauty is found in a product," we don't even think twice. Not many of us have had anyone in our lives to tell us the truth, or to point out the lies. 

So I guess I write this blog post, for myself, and for anyone who stumbles upon it out there in the huge world of the Internet. You can't find beauty inside of Ulta. It might feel like you can...that's because we've all grown up learning and believing that those are the places where beauty is found: a 'beauty parlor,' 'beauty salon,' 'Ulta Beauty.' But it's not found out there, in striving, in adding. It's already in who we are, in being crafted and formed by a God who wants to speak a message about Himself through seeing us. 


--Sarah Howard


Embracing My Limits: Lessons Learned While Slowing Down

There is nothing quite like being forced to slow down. And there is nothing that halts me in my steps and redirects my pace quite like pregnancy. This third time around you would think that I wouldn’t be surprised by the necessary change in rhythm to accommodate my limitations, but alas it has caught me off guard again.    

I feel as though I am living what might have been deemed the “time of my confinement” during medieval times (haha) as I am forced to rest for long periods of my day. Some might think, “How heavenly! Forced rest.” However, I have found it to be challenging. First of all, I’m not just talking about a nice pregnancy nap here and there, but something more along the lines of bed rest at times where I need to have someone come and make my girls lunch and play with them so that I can sit for a while (aka hours). It’s not easy for me to sit still with a toddler and preschooler running around needing attention and making messes that I can’t clean. However, what has felt more difficult is not just having to be still but having to let go of my ideals of being super mom and housewife and having to “trim the fat” off my schedule. Everything not 100% necessary has been placed to the back burner including extra involvement at church.

Having to cut back on things has been revealing to me again my tendency to believe that I have to perform in order to be valued or that part of my identity is in what I do. I have wondered about what people might think about my decreased participation in things at church right as my husband has started a new position there. The questions start to roll around in my mind. Should I push harder to be more involved? I feel like I am missing out on things God is doing. What do I tell people I have been up to when they ask? Sitting on my couch and being a wife and mom to my best ability?   

The great thing about wrestling with questions during this season has been having the extra space to process them before God. Here are three things that He has revealed to me as I bring my questions and feelings to Him:

1. It is RIGHT for me to embrace and make adjustments to live within my limits.   He has never asked nor expected of me to be HIM essentially. He doesn’t expect me to have super human strength. Although this season won’t be forever, learning to embrace my limitations will. They are God given, and they do not surprise Him. I don’t have to push past them and do more.

2. I have nothing to prove in all of this waiting and “down time” and I AM NOT missing out on what He is doing. This one is HUGE for me. My identity never was and never will be found in just what I can do. I have nothing to prove to others. I am not failing by recognizing my weakness and need to take breaks. I AM NOT missing out on what God is doing as if He only exists to be glorified in the tasks I complete for Him in formal ministry. He doesn’t remove His presence in my life until I can jump back on the bandwagon at church. What He is doing isn’t just OUT THERE. He is at work in our home and my children and me. That is no small thing.

3. Life is found in walking with God and doing what He requires of me, NO MORE and NO LESS. This is another big one for me because I think I can confuse what I think God is asking of me with what my desire is to do for Him or what I think people’s expectations of me are. When I try to prove myself and do more than what He has asked, I get burned out. When I do not step out to do what God desires even when it feels stretching then I get stuck. He gives us rhythms and limits not to cramp our style but to bless us and reveal new things about Himself. He is GOD and is fully capable of using anything and everything for His glory not just the tasks that I deem good enough. Thank goodness!

I want my life to speak of the greatness of God by embracing my limitations and not pushing past them to control and prove myself. I want my children to grow up knowing that God is near in all situations and not just the ones that we consider big and exciting. They don’t have to strive and burn themselves out. I can literally be still and know that God is God. The world hasn’t stopped because I have to slow down and neither has He. That is comforting.

--Sophia Howard


Behold, The Fear of Knowledge is the Root of All Sorts of Problems

I was once told that my relationship with God cannot be based on simply knowing about him, but must also be based on experiencing him. I was in high school, and while I felt like I had a pretty solid relationship with God, this youth leader proceeded to point out that I was not very emotional or expressive about my faith. What I was passionate about (that he didn’t seem to notice) was learning about God. I spent several years after that discussion wondering what was wrong with me. I could look around and see people having these wonderfully expressive and emotional spiritual experiences, but I could never really get all hyped up like they could.  

If you know me, you know that I am not an emotional person. I once teared up at my grandfather’s funeral, but that’s only the second time in my adult life I remember almost crying. It’s not that I think emotions are bad, I just tend toward analytical processing over emotional. This has given me a unique perspective in my spiritual journey, one that that youth pastor couldn’t relate to.  

It also allows me to offer this “mirror” warning: Your relationship with God should not be based solely on experiencing him, but also on knowledge of him. And I honestly believe this is a problem in the American church. We have made Christianity all about the experience, at the expense of pursuing knowledge. We are afraid, perhaps, that too much information will spoil our buzz.

Ask the average American Christian about their faith, and they will almost certainly tell you about God’s love for them, their love for God, how their faith makes them feel hopeful, secure, joyous. Ask them about Calvinism (for example), and you’ll be met with blank stares. I’m not suggesting the first answers are bad, nor that everyone should have a deep understanding of Calvinism, but when a huge percentage of a population has knowledge as deep as a frisbee, we are bound to have problems.

I know that Joel Osteen is an easy target, but he’s familiar, so I’ll go with it. The reason he has such mass appeal, and the reason he makes some people’s ears melt (including mine), are the same. He preaches (if you can call it that) a Prosperity Gospel that is all about how you feel, and is utterly devoid of substance. Even late night comedian Stephan Colbert, when asking him about his book, The Power of I Am, expected it to be a reference to God as the “I Am”. He was quickly corrected by Osteen, who went on to tell him about how powerful positive thinking could be in your life, no need for theology.

I believe that this over reliance on emotion and skepticism of knowledge has even deeper ramifications. It relieves Christians of the need to think for themselves, and replaces it with a herd mentality that we can just do what all the other Christians are doing. I can go with the flow as long as I get to hear some encouraging words on Sunday. Not so sure you agree with what that pastor, politician, or Christian TV personality said? Oh well, don’t worry about it. He listens to worship music too, and it’s not like we have anything objective to judge it against, right?

Thankfully, there are opportunities to build your knowledge. At LFA, we have Truth for Living classes, Alpha, and events like the Parent Summit where we can gain useful knowledge and begin to think critically about what we’ve been told. Information and understanding are not to be feared, nor is it a waste of time to study theology, science, global politics, etc. We need to stop “dumbing down” Christianity in the American church. Faith can begin and be expressed through emotional experience, but it is grown and strengthened through knowledge of God’s word and his plan for humanity.  Emotions come and go, but knowledge tends to stick around.

--Jeff Hyson

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Choices for 2018

Well, it’s not quite light and I’m snuggled up on my couch. I’m watching the lovely snow dance and swirl around the trees in my woods--then settle, exhausted and silent, on the frozen ground. Now, normally, I would be filled with delight at its beauty and its accompanying solitude, the unexpected gift of a day interrupting the routine. But I am supposed to be in my car, on my way to celebrate Christmas with my southern belle granddaughters in Durham tomorrow. And one of my wonderful grandsons is graduating from the College of Missionary Aviation on Sunday in Florida. Instead of clicking off the miles heading south, I am clacking away on my laptop going nowhere. Rats!

Life doesn’t always go according to my plans, even my good ones.

But now I get to choose. Will I choose to be angry? Will I let my frustration and my disappointment control me? Will I then lash out at Kenny or be short and rude to my dear in-laws (who now live with us)? Will I be uptight and anxious and make myself feel physically rotten? Will I kick the dog—if I had one? I am disappointed and frustrated, there is no doubt. But I do have a choice.

Author Max Lucado, in a preface to his devotional, Grace for the Moment, addresses this idea of choosing. I think you will appreciate his thoughts as much as I do. This is something I aspire to as I greet an unknown and uncharted 2018.

Each Day…

 It’s quiet. It’s early. My coffee is hot. The sky is still black. The world is still asleep. The day is coming. 

In a few moments the day will arrive. It will roar down the track with the rising of the sun. The stillness of the dawn will be exchanged for the noise of the day. The calm of solitude will be replaced by the pounding pace of the human race. The refuge of the early morning will be invaded by decisions to be made and deadlines to be met.  

For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day’s demands. It is now that I must make a choice. Because of Calvary, I am free to choose. And so I choose.



No occasion justifies hatred;

no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love.

Today I will love God and what God loves.



I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance.

I will refuse the temptation to be cynical…

the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see

people as anything less than human beings, created by God.

I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than

an opportunity to see God.



I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.



I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of

cursing the one who takes my place, I’ll invite him to do so.

Rather than complain that the wait is too long,

I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clenching my

fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.



I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone.

Kind to the rich, for they are afraid.  And kind to the unkind

for such is how God has treated me.



 I will go without a dollar before

I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast.

I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.



 My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not

question my word. My wife will not question my love.

And my children will never fear that

their father will not come home.



Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle.

If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise.

If I clench fist, may it be only in prayer.

If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.



I am a spiritual being…

after this body is dead, my spirit will soar.

I refuse to let what will rot rule the eternal.

I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy.

I will be impassioned only by my faith.

I will be influenced only by God.

I will be taught only by Christ.

I choose self-control.


Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,

goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

To these I commit my day.

If I succeed, I will give thanks.

If I fail, I will seek His grace.

And then, when this day is done

I will place my head on my pillow

 and rest.

 It’s still snowing and the wind is relentless.  There is no way we should be out in this. A bit reluctantly, I am choosing patience. I am trusting God, who is not surprised by this blizzard- wannabe nor the thwarting of my plans. It has been a good morning to write, reflect, and pray, a special gift of unexpected time from my Dear Father who knew just what I needed. 

It feels good, doesn’t it, to make the right choices, to walk in the Spirit, making decisions according the Holy Spirit’s guidance and acting with the spiritual power that He provides? I wish I could say my life always bears fruit like this, which is pleasing to God.

I am praying it will be my pattern for this year.

How about you?

- Eileen Hill

Eileen - Blog Photo.png

How Will You Walk in 2018?

These days still afford us the opportunity to consider how will we walk out our lives in this new year. The Apostle Paul challenges us in the letter to the Ephesians (chapter 5) to examine our walk. Click here and consider three important ways we are called to walk in. As you do so, you will also be reminded by Scott Hubbard that the "Christian life is not a sprint. It is a journey of ten million steps.” 

May God give us all grace so that our walk will bring glory to His Name.

- Diego Cuartas


The Holidays: Not the Cover of Better Homes and Gardens?

What are we supposed to feel and think about the holidays?

Ahhh, THE HOLIDAYS! For some it is an, “AHHH, I can’t wait until the holidays are over!” And yet others say, “AHHH, Yeah!!! I can’t wait for the holidays to be here!” Whereas others say, “I’m numb, and it really doesn’t feel like the holidays because of very significant losses that have happened.”

I admit I have experienced all of the above to some degree. But usually I find myself getting very self-focused and wanting to experience a form of utopia.  Sometimes I am literally expecting that picture on the front of the magazine where all the family is gathered in the beautifully decorated BIG home, fireplace aglow, and all smiles with little appetizers in their hands, laughing. The table would be set with more silverware than I would know what to do with, the huge delectable turkey in the middle of the table and everyone holding hands, thanking God for His blessings. Dinner would be wonderful! No uncomfortable silences, everyone engaged with each other, not a cross word would be exchanged. We would all connect in meaningful ways. Then the coffee and MANY pies would be served. More laughing would occur as we moved into the huge living room with the fireplace (can’t leave that out!) as we began to play games as a family. Fully knowing each other, connecting and engaging. AHHH, the holidays!! Oh, and we can’t leave out the six inches of snow that spontaneously began to fall as well!!!

FUN WOULD BE HAD BY ALL!                          

Well, I can honestly say, I have never really experienced that scenario with my family. What I have experienced is some of the above...the fireplace all aglow, some laughing, many awkward silences, forced conversation with some, ministering to some, holding my tongue with others, and at times tactfully rebuking inappropriate behaviors demonstrated by the Christians in our family. I believe my family represents a microcosm of the world.


Why is this?? Aren’t the holidays supposed to be celebratory? Hmmm...yes! But we must remember what we are celebrating!

Is Thanksgiving a time when we engorge ourselves, say thank you out loud for everything we have but make sure you keep it short so the food doesn’t get cold? Laughing and getting a buzz...  kick back because “darn it...we deserve a break from all the stress!” Christmas has it’s own scene going on, and unfortunately it doesn’t involve the manger scene...that gets squeezed in where it can fit. It has become a HUGE event that the advertisers enjoy showing more and more commercials of what we need, what to buy so we can be cool of course, and where to get it. Pipe in the Christmas scents through the store ventilation, play the music and put up the Santa so people will help us make more money for the stores revenue! YEAH!

Friends, is that what the holidays are really about?  NO!

Thanksgiving is a time that we celebrate what we are thankful for. In the Christian faith, we are primarily thanking God for who He is, what He has done through Jesus and how He has provided for us. It’s not about us.

Christmas is about us celebrating Jesus. Yes...Jesus. He came to save us from our brokenness, our broken families and our broken lives. Even our broken hearts when our idealistic holiday picture didn’t happen the way we imagined. He came for the picture I described my family to be.

I wonder what your experiences are with the holidays, where you are in your life. What you are looking forward to, what you are dreading, or the fact that you may just want to wake up when it’s all over. I don’t know where you are, but I know where I want to be. I want to keep focused on the One the holidays exist for. I want to be a part of the holiday where I can be used by the Savior Himself to bring about change in a broken world, a broken family, my own broken life. I know the Bible says in John 12:32 Jesus said,”And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

I would encourage all of us to be focused on this verse during the holiday season. I do believe that when we live that verse out, we will actually get closer to the picture I dream about. Hmm, new thought...maybe that desire I have is actually from God...when we get to the Great Banquet in Heaven:) A promise for all those that have placed faith in the One we celebrate, Jesus Christ.

Blessings My Friends,

--Lois Robinson


Delays, Waiting, and a Longing Fulfilled: Remember These Things, Servant Stewards of LFA

When I came to Living Faith Alliance Church (henceforth and affectionately known as LFA) almost 7 years ago, land development in raising a new building structure had wisely been put on hold. The Governing Elders and the pastoral leadership team had made the decision to not move forward at that time. It was, as you now witness, the wisdom of wait. There is so much wisdom in waiting.

We are not a patient people by any means, and we hate to wait for things. We rarely say no to ourselves, and we have not mastered the desire of the fleshly sin nature to push ahead in action and execution of our plans. But the LORD's plans are purposes are always higher, better, and long lasting. Many look at the new sanctuary and worship center for LFA as a future tool - I see it as a labor of love that connects this beloved church body to the past. Men and women of God, with every effort to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit, have led well, have given much time and resources and prayer to this, and have continued to do ministry in spite of imperfect circumstances (this staff ministry team labors weekly to serve and love the people of the church and those in community who are met by others on mission). They have worked hard for your sake and for the sake of the Gospel of Christ. He, our Beloved Jesus, Immanuel, God Incarnate who is with us, is building His Church. This building will serve His purposes and His plans.

As a shepherd who provides biblical counsel and who teaches at many levels of church leadership, let me remind everyone that we will STEWARD this facility for WORSHIP - for we do not celebrate or worship a facility, but The LORD our God.  Let's remember how faithful our LORD Jesus has been to each and all of us. We are not owners; we are STEWARDS of this Great Entrustment called the church of Living Faith Alliance, at this 1987 South Lincoln Avenue, Vineland. May we build beyond these warm and welcoming walls to reach South Jersey and this region and beyond with your Gospel, as wise STEWARDS.  The facility of LFA as a building sanctuary of worship, God-glorifying music, sermons of truth, training, discipleship, youth, celebrations (weddings) and memorial services (funerals), and various kinds of ministry must be MANAGED WELL by faithful STEWARDS. These stewards (you and me) must envision the further expansion of Kingdom work throughout the region. Celebrate, yes. Dedicate, yes. Steward, even more so, yes. We joyfully do this, but I am not without warning in this.

These urged, loving warnings include the following:

1.  We will not get lazy with people ministry because we have a new, gorgeous facility. We want people to come; but we want also to live on mission and go to them. We are SERVANT STEWARDS in our respective ministries as the body of Christ, the church. So, we still, GO, and make disciples of others - out there, not just in here.  

2.  We will STEWARD well this blessed resource for Kingdom Advancement. This facility with not be used for everything. I am not speaking on behalf of the leadership team, but I can confidently say this - this building will not be used for anything and everything. Wise stewards will say "yes" and "no" to certain things as GOOD MANAGERS AND SERVANT STEWARDS. This building doesn't in any way decrease the work of the leaders here at LFA; it actually increases it. Pray for these servant steward leaders as their hearts are to manage this building well.  They have undertaken this venture very seriously and have invested hundreds and thousands of hours of input and adjustments for this new facility. If you are a leader on that team, you are prayed for. Follow the LORD biblically as you SERVE & STEWARD this tremendous facility blessing.

3.  We will not allow the enemy to divide us over the use and uses and rules and best practices related to a new facility. We will respect each other's giftedness and STEWARD accordingly how this new worship center is managed. Many have given and served to build this beautiful structure. It is warm and inviting and technologically advanced. Manage and steward it well. We will not be upset if something gets spilled or broken because usually it can be fixed; but we will also honor the rules of stewardship that serve to manage this facility the best. We will also not be upset by that other person who finds what is broken or cracked or stained and SERVES in STEWARDSHIP to rectify this. It takes a body of people to manage this well. But it will not divide this beloved people, the church. Rather, it will UNITE us as ONE BODY to reach people in this community and region.

4.  We will not be proud of this great work, but will HUMBLY BOW a bended knee before the One Who Has Provided it. It's HIS; not ours. It's HIS. Don't forget this, ever. This is His Church.

5.  We will not forget those who have given and labored before and thus far. The gratitude toward one another should permeate our conversations. One of my first impressions of Pastor Nate many years ago was that a spirit of thankfulness and gratefulness permeated his heart and his conversations and his encouragements to others. Thank one another. Often. SERVANT STEWARDS should thank one another; and often. Thank you. You have made a difference by the work that you have done for this church and for the community and for this facility. Appreciation without pretense is a hallmark of simple maturity, spiritually speaking. If you have given or served here at LFA, in any form, you have my full appreciation. Thank you very much for being an instrument in Jesus' Hands.

6.   We will not be surprised when the dynamics change at LFA. NEW PEOPLE ARE COMING, OLD PEOPLE. I'm not speaking to us who are over 45. I'm talking to the old crew of CORE SERVANT STEWARDS here at LFA. Get ready, folks. LFA is gonna grow in number, and spiritually. Multiplication is inevitable. NEW PEOPLE ARE COMING. How can you serve them well? Welcome them as you would do so into your own home. Represent Jesus well. Love genuinely all who attend and visit. This isn't the job of any particular greeting team. It's the job of all to welcome those who come into the new facility with that "ON MISSION MENTALITY" of HOSPITALITY. Hospitality extends way beyond your own home, old people. It's one of the UNSEEN hallmarks of a church that causes people to want to return. In 2018, seek the lost or lonely person or family who finds their way into our new worship center facility. Engage them. Share your story as the Lord leads you. Hospitable and charitable hearts will engage as they live on mission.  Be the best HOST you can be. For some of you, this is your gift. Use it.

7.  The commitment to live on mission, to engage others in Gospel conversations and love others well must remain PARAMOUNT & PRIMARY for SERVANT STEWARDS. I love that this church is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; and lives on mission to fulfill the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 to make disciples of Christ Jesus. He really is building His Church, isn't He?

Needless to say, what the LORD had planned, He has done. Look at Isaiah 46:8-14:   

Remember this, fix it in mind; and take it to heart you rebels.

Remember the former things, those of long ago.

I am God, and there is no other.

I am God, and there is none like me.

I make known the ends from the beginning,

from ancient times, what is still to come.

I say, My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please...

What I have said, that will I bring about, what I have planned,

that will I do.

I am bringing my righteousness near, and it is not far away.

My salvation will not be delayed.

The beauty of something new begins with a reminder to remember former things. Our LORD, as The Chief Servant Steward of us, declares this: "I make known (Me) and there is none (like Me!)" (v. 9-10). His purposes stand and He does all that He pleases (v. 10b). The LORD continues to remind the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah that He the LORD does what He plans, and He does what He says "What I have said, that will I bring about. What I have planned, that will I do" (v.12). The LORD keeps His covenant promises. He does exactly what He says He will do. Always. Every time. All the Time. I love how this passage ends in verse 14 where the LORD declares this, "My salvation will not be delayed." What a promise! What a commitment to come near to people with His eternal hope!  What a gift we have in this same God giving Himself in the person of our Lord Christ Jesus! He didn't grasp tightly the throne that is His, but took the nature of a SERVANT STEWARD; yes, our Messiah, the Anointed One, Jesus. This same Jesus who even became obedient unto death on a cross said, "I will build my church." And that is what He is doing through the work here at LFA. Jesus is building His Church, using us as instruments and tools in the lives of others so that they will embrace Him and His Gospel truth. Praise Him, as your SERVE AND STEWARD well the instrument of this new building, for purposes and plans that God determined long ago. And Merry Christmas blessings to all of you who have lovingly and graciously entrusted me through the years to the process of pastoral biblical counseling. I am grateful to those who have come; and to those who refer others for help; and to those who will come in the future. Every one of you is a treasure before the LORD, and may He bless you and your family at the end of this 2017 and during this Blessed Christmas Season.  

—Thor Knutstad


Jesus Doesn't Wish That Someone Else Was Their Parent

I've been struggling in my parenting this week. More like these weeks. Maybe if I was fully honest, I'd say 'I've been struggling in my parenting these years...since my children were born.' Because isn't that really the truth? Parenting is often wonderful, but more often hard.

The need is so vast. SO VAST. That's what I've been wrestling with recently. 

My kids need so much. They need someone to manage conflict between them. They need someone to provide a home that's a peaceful refuge. They need someone to help them understand their emotions. They need someone to enjoy them and let them experientially know their worth. They need to be led and they need to learn to follow. They need to learn how Jesus is for every emotion, every situation, every moment, not just 'church-y' situations. They need someone to teach them how to care about friends. They need to learn responsibility. 

I could go on and on. There are an infinite number of little steps, little lessons required to lead someone through all the stages of childhood into adulthood. And the need is so vast. The task feels too big. 

And I'm so ill-equipped for the task. I'm still myself broken from my own wounds; I'm still immature, unsure how to deal with conflict, uncertain how to lead. I haven't figured out my own mess...and I've been handed this huge task, with this vast need staring me down.

This past Sunday, I was reminded of a story that I think I need to start reminding myself of each morning.

It's a story that's recorded in each of the Gospels. Jesus is with this huge group of people: five thousand of them. They hadn't had food, and they're hungry

Jesus turns to His disciples and He tells them, "You give them something to eat."

That's why I need to remember this story. It's just like parenting. The need is so great, and Jesus pretty much turns to me, the parent, and tells me, "You give those kids something to eat. You guide them. You mold them. You have the talks. You give up what you'd rather be doing to show them affection. You muddle through your own mess to figure out how to 'parent.' You give them something to eat."

So the disciples look around, and they come up with a boy who has five loaves of bread and two fish. Not nearly enough for the vast need.

Just like me.

I don't have nearly enough for this vast need. I don't. I really have next to nothing to offer in my parenting. Especially when faced with the vast need.

But what does Jesus do?

He doesn't sneer at the gift.

He doesn't ask for someone else better to step in with a better solution.

He thanks the Father for those five loaves and two fish.

Just like me.

Jesus doesn't despise what I have to give. He doesn't wish that a different adult was in my kids' lives, or that someone else was their parent. I would be willing to say that He doesn't even wish that what I have to offer was more, or better. He thanks the Father for what I have to give, who I am as a parent.

So then, in the story, as the disciples obey, and start passing out the little they have to the many, there is enough. Not because they have enough. But because Jesus multiplied it. Jesus did the miracle.

May this, as well, be my story.

That as I do my part, and show up in the face of the vast need, with my little bit to offer, but relying on Jesus, that Jesus will do the work that only He can do: the miracle of multiplying, the miracle of changing my children's hearts, the miracle of providing for the needs and saving. 

Because it's really His miraculous work that provides for the needs in the end. Not the little I have to offer. But He uses the little I have to do His miracle. 

So as I ponder this story and these parenting thoughts each day I'll probably pray something like this...and I'd invite you to join me on my journey and pray it with me:

Jesus, today You've given me these two daughters and You tell me, "You give them food." Help me first to not turn away for their need because it's so great and because I don't have what it takes to feed them myself. Help me to see the vast need even when it hurts, even when it overwhelms. 

And Jesus, I have nothing to offer them. I know it deep inside, but sometimes I try to pretend I have enough to feed them. I admit that all I have is five loaves and two fish.

I offer my five loaves and two fish to You, and I turn and offer them to my daughters. 

You don't despise my parenting. You don't wish I was a better or different parent. 

Would you do a miracle in my home in these days? As I see the needs and move towards them with the little I have, would You do Your work in my children? Would You multiply it? Amen.


--Sarah Howard


To God be the Glory

This is long story but bear with me. I want to speak up and share our story of the last few months as I feel it is unique and glorifying to God to be shared in full. We found out that we were expecting our third baby sometime in late August of this year. Knowing that pregnancy was a possibility and yet wanting to take medicine for a headache, I decided to take a pregnancy test while we were out on a date that night. And…surprise, it was positive! So, no meds that night, but I didn’t care. I was over the moon. We both were. Trying to make it through the corny movie we had already paid for after that was a challenge. Haha.

Fast forward a few days, and I was having mild pain, which I figured I would fill my doctor in on. At the time I wasn’t worried as this was common to my other two pregnancies, but I figured that I would play it safe. I left a message, and by the time they called me back they were about to close and couldn’t see me, so they suggested that I go to the ER to get looked at. I was annoyed because I wasn’t trying to make a night out of it, but I complied and went anyway.

To summarize the visit, it was a disaster. I went in for right-sided pain that ended up not being addressed when they did an exploratory ultrasound. The reason was that they had found something suspicious on my left side that couldn’t be ruled out as a possible ectopic pregnancy (which means there is a pregnancy growing in the wrong place), even though it was too early to be certain. Upon this discovery, the recommendations started flying with the least drastic being to follow up with my OB in a few days. Confused and dumbfounded, we left with heavy hearts and waited to hear what the doctor would say in a few days.

Two days later, I followed up with my doctor who wasted no time telling me what my options were. The assumption was that there was no doubt that this was an ectopic pregnancy even though I was only five weeks or so, and if I didn’t act now my tube could rupture and I could bleed out. Did I want to take a pill that would cause me to miscarry? Did I want to have surgery to remove the suspicious blob in my left fallopian tube and remove all contents of my uterus with it? Or did I want to be conservative and have surgery to see what was happening on the left while keeping what was growing in my uterus. I felt God lead me in that moment to not be quick to rid myself of what was so uncertain at the time, and I chose the third and most conservative route. However, after feeling bullied toward a certain decision, we went to Philadelphia for a second opinion.

After two long visits to the same hospital, we were told in no uncertain terms that this pregnancy would absolutely not turn into anything. We were told that it was not a baby but the product of conception, which could be anything at this stage, and in this case an empty gestational sac. The doctor asked if we wanted to stay and have the procedure performed that night while mentioning that if she performed it, she would just go ahead and take everything at once. After determining with the doctor that my life was not in immediate danger, God gave my husband and I wisdom again to hold out a little longer because I already had the exploratory surgery scheduled for two days from then.   

The surgery came and went and you know what??? They didn’t find anything suspicious in my left fallopian tube, and so they left everything where it was. We had a little glimmer of hope. Cue tons of follow up blood work and ultrasounds and a follow up from my doctor again. During the visit, she went over the symptoms of miscarriage and informed me that it wasn’t likely that anything would form after surgery. Repeat ultrasound number one; the tech couldn’t see anything. The sac was still empty. Ten days later was repeat ultrasound number two and our last chance to hold out before the doctor would want to intervene again. I got to the dim room and my world stood still. 

Up to this point my husband and I had kept some key people and family in the loop and had been prayed for on top of all the praying and seeking God we had done ourselves. We talked on our way to this ultrasound and reaffirmed that we were there for each other. I was prepared to say goodbye that day (to what was always a baby to me) if the Lord had again decided that He wanted to display His glory in my life by having me walk through something really hard. He had in a lot of other parts of my story. However, I had decided that no matter what I would not hold my heart back from Him in bitterness. I had built too much history with God up that point to even entertain the thought that He wasn’t good, even in this. I had just finished a huge chunk of the Old Testament as well and was reminded that often when God came through in the biggest ways, He first allowed every man-made attempt to fall short. When it looked as if all the odds were against His people and they were staring at their enemies, BOOM! He came through. No one was able to deny that it was all God. I prayed with that in mind and humbly asked for a miracle this time.

I laid there on the table and didn’t try to look at the monitor and figured I would just wait. She moved the wand around and took a lot of pictures in silence, but right before she moved on to check some more specific things she said, “Oh, and so you aren’t worried, there is your baby, and there is the heartbeat.” WHAT?! I couldn’t believe it. She immediately started to print a bunch of pictures. There on the screen was the most beautiful flicker I had ever seen. Joel squeezed my hand and we cried. 

Once things slowed down and I was able to process a little more what had happened, I was floored again. It wasn’t even just by the fact that God had worked a miracle for me (which is no small thing) but the realization that nothing in my life had been wasted. I got to reap some of the fruit of following Him into all the previous difficult parts of my story. He had shown me that before just by the immediate perspective that comes from being on the other side, but it was different and new in this experience. Amongst the tears of uncertainty and pain of bad news, there was always an undercurrent of peace and strength from years worth of testing and getting to know His vast and mysterious goodness. I am not blessed just when I receive everything I want. Everything up until now has been worked out to bless me and bring God glory. He has and continues to dig deep trenches in my heart that increase my capacity to receive more from Him. To God be all the glory! I am now 17 weeks.


--Sophia Howard


What is Worship About?

I had a conversation recently with someone about worship music.  They were talking about how worship music, whether in church or on the radio, makes them feel good and lifts their spirits on a bad day.  Since the early 90’s, worship music has been big.  Big in evangelical churches, big for Christian artists, big on Christian radio, and big for Christian music labels.  The lines have blurred where concerts have become worship events, and church services have become impressive performances.  I know I’m not the only one thinking it, but I’ll say it.  I don’t quite get it.

Maybe it’s my analytical nature, or my often-skeptical way of looking at things, but does anyone else feel a little uneasy about paying $25 for a ticket to see a famous performer in an arena worship Jesus?  Perhaps all that money is going to charity and not into making the performer rich, I get that.  And this is not so much a critique of the industry or the big names, but the fact that it even is an industry gives me pause.  Industries arise to fill needs.  Whose needs?  I don’t think it’s God’s needs, so it must be our needs.

And I know it makes you feel good, I’m not disputing that.  I often enjoy Sunday worship with its collective appeals to the truth of the gospel or its call of yearning for the presence of God.  But I have been in situations where I feel like a spectator, where the singer, between songs, will say random breathy god-isms with no context or meaning, or an emotive change of key seems to magically usher in the Spirit, and I can’t help but thinking… is this all about me?  Am I supposed to be the center of my worship experience?  Do we consume worship music simply because it makes us feel good? 

If I sound a little harsh, I apologize.  This is not intended to be a treatise on the evils of worship; far from it.  What I am attempting to do, ahead of this season of Advent, is to unmarry our tendencies toward consumerism with our experience of worship.  Worship is about one thing, be it through study, song, or prayer, and that one thing isn’t me.  My experience does not determine the quality of the event.

Throughout this holiday season, I will try to bear in mind that it is not primarily about me.  If I worship through giving, it’s not so I feel good.  If I worship through singing, it’s not for the emotional high.  Those things can be secondary effects, but making God the center of worship is what worship is about. 

--Jeff Hyson

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The Thanksgiving Stand-off


“Are you sure it’s done?” Daddy asked, doubtfully. My mother was clearly annoyed. She angrily jabbed the turkey with her big cooking fork and a pink-tinged liquid dribbled down the golden breast and into the roaster. Tension filled the air. It was a Thanksgiving stand-off. I held my breath.

“I think it needs to cook a little longer,” Daddy said, quietly.

“It’s done,” my mom insisted, tersely. “I read somewhere that if a turkey leg can be easily pulled off, the turkey is done.” To illustrate, she grabbed a hot leg with a pot holder and yanked it. It didn’t budge. Embarrassed, but too proud to admit defeat, she wrapped two hands around the leg and strained with all her might to remove it from the rest of the bird. Not just pink-tinged liquid oozed out now; it was clearly bloody. Mom didn’t seem to notice, and I tried not to gag. She was adamant. That turkey was ready to be carved.

With a final tug for good measure, the stubborn leg snapped, propelling the roasting pan, half-cooked turkey and all, along the table top and onto the floor with a fearful crash!  The hapless turkey took one big bounce and skittered across the linoleum.

I’ve never seen my dad react to anything so quickly. In warp speed, he scooped up the sizzling turkey, wiped the bottom with a dish towel that magically appeared from the drawer, and set it on the waiting platter with a bang. “Well,” he replied, gently, his back to us as he turned to the sink. He ran cold water on his already-blistering hands. “You’re the cook.”

Our mouths hanging open in wonder, my mom and I glanced incredulously at each other. What had just happened? We stooped to mop up the spattered turkey grease that dripped from everything in the tiny kitchen. Mom began to sob uncontrollably. In response, Daddy knelt beside us with a rag. He patted my mom’s back tenderly. He looked over at me, huddled with them on the slippery floor and said, evenly, “We’ll keep this to ourselves, won’t we.” It was not a question.

Tension diffused. Battle averted. Stand-off over.  

That messy, cozy kitchen, overflowing with delightful aromas and steamy warmth, was suddenly filled with an incredible, almost tangible, peace.

The bird went back in the oven. Dinner was late. And the turkey still wasn’t cooked.

Later, I sat at the crowded table with our once-a-year family, doubling up on the savory stuffing and creamy mashed potatoes. I hoped no one noticed I had skipped the meat. Looking at my parents at the other end of the table, chatting and smiling, I felt an incredible warmness spread through me. I couldn’t have named or explained it right then, but it felt…wonderful. I think I had just been given a first-hand, real-live glimpse of grace.

It could have been a very embarrassing day for my mom. The kitchen could have become a war zone with more casualties than the turkey. Or it could have become the North Pole, filled with icy looks and cold shoulders. What could have been a miserable holiday for all of us, was, instead, instantly transformed into a delightful, memorable, and hilarious family story we still love to share more than fifty years later. What a special Thanksgiving blessing! I will always be grateful.

I’ve wondered through the years about that grace, the unearned and undeserved favor Dad poured out all over my frazzled mom that chaotic Thanksgiving morning. Had he not been the recipient of that same kind of grace from the heavenly Father, would he have been able to so freely and quickly extend it to Mama? I personally don’t think so.

Because my dad understood how much the Father had showered grace on him— a willful, sinful man—he had the capacity, ability, and the desire to do the same for my mother. The grace of God that had saved him had also instructed him to live in a new way; a way consistent with the character of the God Who now resided in him. Over and over, God’s grace had expressed itself to my dad in the forms of love, kindness, gentleness, patience, self-control…and that is what he was able to pour on my mom. That beautiful grace birthed peace in our home. We all felt it. Our greased up, slimy kitchen had become a cathedral that Thanksgiving morning. And God Himself was our guest.

He didn’t care that the turkey wasn’t done.

May that same grace and peace be with you and yours this Thanksgiving Day.

Won’t you, won’t I, be thankful?

--Eileen Hill

Eileen - Blog Photo.png

What Our Eyes See Is Often Not The Big Picture

Let me start by saying that what the title of this blog does not imply is that this is one of those things we often realize after the fact, not when in the middle of it.

I remember before my wife and I got married, we were faced with the possibility of not being able to have children of our own. This possibility however did not deter us from entering our marriage covenant. We were confident at that time that God had a purpose for our relationship and that He would give us the wisdom and grace to navigate what may come ahead of us in terms of having a family. It was not until almost nine years after our official marriage that God brought a wonderful nine year old girl into our lives to become our daughter! Not certainly what we saw back around the time of our engagement. I can also say this is not what we saw when we had a miscarriage or when family services approved us as we considered adopting a child. What we saw was certainly not the big picture!

In these days, as I read the biblical story of a special lady called Esther, I see that what she and her uncle Mordecai saw in the moment was not the big picture either. Esther was taken away from her tiny family and was enlisted among the virgins to enter the unofficial queen contest, or if not chosen, to perhaps become one of the king’s concubines. Well, I say you should read the rest of the story to learn about the many moments, some marked with high-level risks, which led to Esther becoming a queen at a time when her people, the Jews, where going to be destroyed by the king’s edict. What Mordecai and Esther did not see at some earlier point is that God would use her to deliver her people from being destroyed.

What are you seeing with your eyes in these days? What brings you fear or hopelessness? What leaves you empty or discouraged? What is eclipsing the preferable future God has promised to you? Be honest; I am sure there is something challenging or blocking some of your life’s expectations.

As you reflect in these questions, I encourage you to lean on stories like Esther’s. Not because the story lines are cool or intriguing. But rather because the one who wrote her story had a bigger picture in mind, and He is the one also writing the storylines of your life. I like one expectation God clearly sets before us in 2 Corinthians 3:18. Here the apostle Paul states:

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

So even though you and I do not see the big picture today, God is really moving us from one degree of glory to another degree of glory. As we fix our hope in Jesus, we are guaranteed to obtain what is of most good and value. So don’t allow your eyes to trick you!

--Diego Cuartas



Growing up, I was never taught what healthy boundaries were, therefore I experienced a lot of pain, hurt and abuse. In order to learn what healthy boundaries were and how to set them, I sought out a Christian counselor and attended weekly sessions for several years.

Now, being a Biblical Counselor myself, I see many people in my office each week who grew up like me in regard to boundaries. They never learned what they are nor did they learn how to set them, so their lives tend to be full of frustration. They're either overworked or underworked, depending upon if they are a doer or a taker.

In this video, Dr. Henry Cloud does an excellent job explaining what a boundary actually is and why they are so incredibly important in our lives. Grab a pen, pencil or crayon and a piece of paper. His explanation and drawing makes it very clear. Enjoy!

--Lois Robinson


The God Who Sees When We Cannot

As universal as the experiences of suffering, poverty, love, beauty and others are, so it is our human experience regarding our inability to see what God sees. I was moved by the story counselor Julie Lowe shared via her blog earlier this year. In her blog, Julie relates her experience of not seeing what God can see as her son experiences a life-time disability. Click here to read her blog and be encouraged through her experience. More over, by what God revealed to her through his word.