Tuesday, May 26, 2015

EMPTY NETS



 Part of my job as a point-of-sales associate at a Jacksonville department store was to solicit store credit. Right or wrong, my employee evaluation is based upon how well I convince customers that a credit account is just what they need. Every store has its quota, and management keeps close tabs on credit totals. Most days, I met my expectations and maintained a top-ten score.


But not that day.

Due to special sales promotions, the store was hopping with customers. Associates were sounding their successes all around me. Congratulations went over the com system to everyone, it seemed, but me. I felt worthless. I’d done all I knew how to do and my nets were empty. To make matters worse, a supervisor came to my register. “Let me show you how to get credit.”
I wanted to quit…to close out my drawer and go home.

Then a little girl came by the register. She looked at me and smiled. The joy I felt through interacting with her reminded me of the many blessings my job offered…a chance to minister, to lighten a load with a smile and a promise to pray. God reminded me that my worth in His eyes has nothing to do with quantity, but rather availability. My spirits soared with the thought. 

Had I not been down, I would not have known the joy of being lifted up.


God reminded me about the apostle Peter’s bad fishing day. I imagine Peter was a fisherman among fishermen…noted for his big hauls. Not this day.  In Luke’s account of Peter’s call, Jesus saw the two boats. Perhaps other fishermen made fun of Peter’s empty nets.  

Then Jesus came and a large crowd followed him. He asked the fishermen to put the boats out a little from shore where He preached to the throng. When He said what needed to be said, He asked them to go to deeper waters and cast their nets. I suppose Peter thought the request was absurd. “We’ve been fishing all day and have caught nothing.”

But, because it was Jesus who asked, Peter reluctantly set a course as directed. 


Imagine his surprise when he caught so many, the boat nearly sunk from the weight of his haul. Then Jesus said something even more amazing. “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Peter realized His worth to God did not equal the number of fish in his net. God had a more important role for Peter. And he dropped his nets and followed Jesus.

The thought occurred to me, that if it had not been for empty nets, Peter would not have known how wonderfully God can fill them.  


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me(2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Bucketwish

I would like to share with you about a great program called Bucketwish. Here are the particulars according to a very special person and links for further information. 



Who are you? My name is Raquel Steffens and I am the creator at Bucketwish.com. Since I was young I had the desire to create something that would help others. Being an American that was born in another country I always heard about the American dream and once I finally moved here permanently I decided that a wish of mine was to build an online platform that would assist others with getting their own wishes out there for a higher chance of getting them fulfilled by friends, family or anyone else that came across it.




Your company and why is important to you? Most of the time wishes and dreams don’t come true unless you have the help and assistance of others. In my case, I was fortunate to have partners that believe in the idea and wanted to join me in this entrepreneurial adventure. That is how Bucketwish.com was born.
Bucketwish.com is an online networking platform where you can share your goals, wishes and bucket lists with your friends and family with the purpose of making them come true. It is very user friendly and we also have partner giveaways often, all you have to do is “like” the giveaway to participate. 

How can your service benefit the Christian community? I am a Christian and one of my top priorities in life is to give back. The users of Bucketwish can benefit because the more you share with others what you hope for you are opening the way for that wish to come true sooner or later. You can wish for things individually or even as a group.

We are currently assisting non-profits to list their needs so their community is aware of the specifics and are able to help them in an effective manner. Sometimes all they ask for are simple things: a new printer, cleaning supplies, children toys, etc.

I can also see churches with programs that assist others being able to use Bucketwish.com to list their itemized lists there.

As a team, we offer guidance and support. All you have to do is contact us at: startwishing@bucketwish.com


Our website: www.bucketwish.com

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Loyalty that Springs from Spirituality

Loyalty Springs from Spirituality  

“Our loyalty is due not to our species but to God…
it is spiritual, not biological kinship that counts.” C. S. Lewis


           
Although statistics indicate a slight downward trend in divorce, marriage rates are significantly decreasing. More and more people shun pledging fidelity to one person for a life-time. Perhaps this is one more symptom of a society that is devaluing loyalty, even those who claim the name of Christ.

Loyalty is defined as a state of adherence to a sovereign, government, leader or cause. It connotes the feeling of devotion, fidelity or allegiance to a cause beyond self-centered living.

Loyalty Cards are a popular business tactic. These swipe cards promise the consumer rewards for loyalty such as a free hotel stay for every ten booked by a certain on-line travel agency or flight advantages for using a particular airline’s credit card. However, out of the 75 percent who claim satisfaction with their providers, only 34 percent say they are "truly loyal." It would seem then that a customer remains loyal as long as it is cost effective to do so.

Unfortunately, this same mentality is creeping into our personal relationships as well as the church family.

 We are loyal as long as the relationship benefits us. It seems our choices depend more upon what others can do for us, rather than what we can do for others.


I am reminded of the story of Ruth and Naomi. Ruth must have felt tugged between logic and loyalty. She wasn’t a Jew. Why should she give up all that was familiar to stay with Naomi and face uncertainty? Didn’t Naomi encourage her to go home? But Ruth’s loyalty prompted her to beg Naomi to reconsider. Ruth’s pledge to her mother-in-law is still included in many marriage ceremonies: “Where you go I will go and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God…” (Ruth 1:16 NIV). And so began one of the greatest love stories in the Old Testament, about a woman who would become a great-grandmother to a king. A story birthed from loyalty that lead from poverty to blessing.


The story is told of a young soldier’s prideful confession to his chaplain. “I never cheated on a girl who lived fifty miles from me.” 


Seemed his loyalty extended to an hour’s drive. How far does your loyalty extend?

“Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6).


Friday, May 8, 2015

Wonderfully Made

We are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made


Consider the giraffe.  


 Logically, the giraffe should not survive. It is an awkward animal and too gangly. Because its head is so far removed from the heart, by reason, the giraffe should collapse from the pull of gravity. But, the Creator designed the giraffe’s physiology to support its unusual height and build. Instead of low blood pressure like most mammals, the giraffe has high blood pressure, normalized by its superior heart construction.


I admit, I’m a pouter. I tend to mourn what I lack rather than accept and rejoice in what God has ordained for me.

 I forget that I am made exactly as He chose me to be though often His design for me makes no sense. He calls me to look at the creatures of land and sea. And He reminds me that each creation bears its own mark upon the earth, though their feats seem impossible.


How can anything as big as a whale propel itself through the water and into the air? 

What we fail to realize is that God has designed all living things according to His good pleasure.


Like humans, lesser developed animals such as fish and birds have been found to have side dominance. Fish tend to use one eye more than another as they search for predators. Since there are more right-eyed fish, they swim with the school to avoid danger. However, left-eyed fish flee in the opposite direction, their behavior confusing to their enemies. I imagine God revels in their flight.

Only humans, those He made in His image, defy God’s design. We shake a fist at the Creator and say, “Why did you make me this way?” Does the giraffe ask God why he isn’t like the horse? Does the left-eyed fish tell God he wants to swim with the other fish? Does the whale take issue with the Almighty for the ups and downs of its life?


Years ago, teachers were advised to “retrain” children who tried to write left-handed. They believed that allowing this physiological aberration would impede the child’s ability to read.

Psychologists now believe that left-handedness, in actuality, provides an advantage. This is seen in the sports world by legends such as golfers Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson, baseball’s Babe Ruth, and boxing hero, Gentleman Jim Corbett. Some studies indicate that left-handed people tend to have higher intellectual capacity, thinking outside the norm, as evidenced by Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Benjamin Franklin.  The website, “Anything left handed” provides a list of famous lefties from all walks of life. These people learned to embrace their difference, to see the abnormal as opportunity.

I wonder if the church has not become like the well meaning teachers who believed left-handedness should be discouraged.


 Do we sometimes chastise a fellow believer because they think or act outside established church protocols? Do we sometimes think the believer who swims away from the school of the scripturally learned is lacking in faith? Perhaps God has designed some of us to stretch our long necks and feed from the topmost branches or push from the depths into the air, spouting with enthusiasm. 

Perhaps, like the oddities of his creation, God has instilled all believers with a unique stamp for His good pleasure? “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;” (Psalm 139:14a NIV).


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Introducing fellow Lighthouse of the Carolina's Author Carol Heilman






Introducing fellow Lighthouse of the Carolina's Author

 Carol Heilman




WHO IS AGNES HOOPER?

She is a spunky, out-spoken widow. Her husband, Charlie, died two years and three months ago, but she still asks his advice. Agnes lives on their small tobacco farm with her pet pig, Miss Margaret, until a kitchen fire forces her to live with her daughter, Betty Jo and her husband, Henry.


After mother and daughter agree they cannot live together, Agnes moves to a retirement home, Sweetbriar Manor. That's when the fun, the trouble, and the 'shake up,' begin.


Through the eyes of Agnes soon after coming to the Manor:


I walked to a window, where I pulled back one velvet drape, and stood looking out for a good long while. I'd acquired the habit on the farm. Before retiring, I'd rest my eyes on shadowed fields or the darkened tobacco barn or the cedars along the fence row. I listened for a hoot owl's call or a raccoon rummaging in the night. My heart grieved for all those things.


 Backcover Excerpt

Summer's steamy haze coats North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, but feisty Agnes Marie Hopper discovers the heat isn't the only thing causing her blood to boil. After a kitchen fire destroys her home, Agnes moves in with her daughter, Betty Jo. Three months later they come to an understanding. Neither can tolerate living with the other. So on a sultry August morning Betty Jo drives Agnes and her few belongings to Sweetbriar Manor, a local retirement home and a former house of ill repute.


With no intention of staying, Agnes devises a scheme to sneak out of the Manor and find another place to live. Before she can make her exit, she runs into her best friend from high school, along with some other quirky characters. With a nose for trouble, Agnes learns some of the residents are being robbed, over-medicated, and denied basic cable and Internet access.


Armed with nothing more than seventy-one years of common sense and a knack for pushing people's buttons, Agnes sets out to expose the unscrupulous administrator, protect her new friends, and restore Sweetbriar Manor's reputation as a "rewarding and enriching lifestyle." But the real moment of truth comes when Agnes is forced to choose between her feisty self-reliance and the self-sacrifice that comes from caring for others.


Carol Heilman, a coal miner's daughter, married a farmer's son, her high school sweetheart, over fifty years ago. She and her husband live in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Their children and grandchildren live near the east and west coasts where they often visit. Carol enjoys traveling, reading, writing, hiking, and cooking for friends. She is a recipient of two Carrie McCray Awards for writing excellence.  Visit her at http://www.carolheilman.com/sweetbriar-inspirations


Twitter: twitter.com/CarolHeilman



Sunday, January 4, 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR

What are your new year's resolutions? Mine are the usual...weight loss, healthier eating. But this year I added another goal, to be able to jog three miles. I really hope this is the year I'll be able to do a short race with my daughter! Hopefully, I'll be able to sign up for one of the cancer fundraisers later this year.

Enjoy this article. Remember there is a difference between the Shoulds and the Wants. Blessings for a great New Year.



Should vs. Want


“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16: 13).

I know the drill. I hear it from my doctor with every visit. Lose weight, eat more nutritiously, and get more exercise. After my physician has kindly reminded me of the benefits derived from healthier life-style choices, I make well-intentioned promises of changed behaviors.

I vow to decrease my caffeine intake while increasing my fiber. I promise myself I will lose 50 pounds, do aerobic activity for 30 minutes a day, drink eight glasses of water, and consume the requisite servings of fruits and vegetables. I pride myself on my good intentions.



With gusto and determination, I dust off the treadmill, put motivational stickers around the house, and keep a diary of my new healthy ambitions. Sadly, however, my behaviors slowly drift back to my comfortable unhealthy choices within a few weeks. “I just don’t have enough will power,” I tell myself while pouring my fourth cup of coffee.

Is my inability to change due to lack of motivation? Am I too weak of spirit? “Why,” I reprimand myself, “can’t I do better?” 

Perhaps it is because I suffer from the shoulds. I should drink less coffee; I should exercise more; and I should lose weight. Every magazine I pick up has more than half of its content devoted to the shoulds.

The problem in compliance is a lack of the wants Attitudes regarding change are shaped according to whether we desire the change out of a feeling of guilt or whether the change is motivated due to a conviction. The shoulds are a result of guilt; the wants are born from conviction.

            Guilt is laden with self-loathing, causing disappointment and sometimes depression. Guilt may propel us into action initially, but the momentum is difficult to sustain. When we fail, we convince ourselves there is some intrinsic flaw within us that dooms us to a cycle of attempts and failures. 



When we truly want to change, we are convicted toward change. Conviction alters our perspective, renews our energies, and drives us toward a positive outcome. Even if a first attempt is unsuccessful, we will keep trying until we experience ultimate success. 

What of our spiritual lifestyles? We believe we should read the Bible more, attend church regularly, and give a tithe unto the Lord. Every devotional article we read reminds us of the benefits when we do these things. Yet, our striving toward these goals wean as life’s mundane needs erode our best intentions. 

God does not desire us to follow a blind pattern of religiosity. Pursuing good deeds merely because one should do them will produce meaningless exercise that does little to uplift the believer. 

God has provided the believer with the Holy Spirit. It is The Spirit’s working within us that will bring the believer to conviction. He places a hunger within the believer that propels us toward God’s word. Rather than condemn our past, He uses it as a lamp to show us what our future could be when we walk in obedience. As we grow in our desire to walk more closely with God, we no longer pray simply because that’s what a Christian should do. We pray because our day is incomplete without spending time alone with Him.




Thursday, December 4, 2014

MAMA I CAN'T TAKE A BATH THERE'S A FISH IN THE TUB


In honor of Dad's Birthday.  He has since gone to Glory and I'm sure in Heaven, the big ones don't get away!

 

 


Fishing with my father was anything but boring, but my mother dreaded every fishing season.  “Your father is a veritable Mr. Hyde when he fishes,” she would say, generally including an emphatic gesture like hitting Dad with the newspaper, pretending a fly had landed on his shirt. “It’s safer to cuddle up to a rattler than be stuck in a boat with your father.”
But over time, my mother learned the wisdom of patience in dealing with my father’s idiosyncrasies. “When you’re married to a man for over sixty years, you forgive these sorts of insanities. Your father’s done a lot of crazy things that challenged my patience, but the craziest thing was the day he brought home that trout he caught at Butternut Creek.”
Dad squeezed Mother’s hand. “I suppose she’s right.”
They shared the tale that symbolized their sixty plus years together.   
“Butternut Creek is probably the trickiest place I ever fished in,” Dad said. “Why it’s so narrow you could toss a stone from one side to the other. And the trees like to hold hands across the creek.”
My father first cast got a hit. “By the force of the pull, I knew he was a big feller.”   
Downstream, Eddie, Dad’s fishing buddy, was about to cast when he saw Dad struggling to hold his line. “Looks like a keeper, Cal,” he shouted. “Better use the net!”
“I left it in the truck!” 
“Your father is always forgetful,” Mother interjected.    
Dad could see the truck in an open field about a quarter of a mile downstream, but it might just as well have been two miles away. As Dad battled the beast of the stream, Eddie splashed his way toward the truck. Long minutes later, he plunged into chest-high rapids. For an agonizing second, Dad thought his amazing catch of the day would become catalogued with the other trillion stories of the one that got away.
“Got him!” Eddie shouted as he emerged triumphantly. They stopped at the water’s edge and shared that kind of emotional moment between men sans tears and embraces. Eddie simply stated, “Got to have a picture of this one, Cal.”
“Well, I don’t own a camera,” Dad moaned.  
            “Cal, we’ve got to have proof. Nobody’s going to believe we actually caught this fellow.”  
            “Well, neither one of us has one. At least we know what we caught.” The men trudged home with no lasting memento to herald their deed. 
As much as Mother despised fishing, she understood what this catch meant to my father. “Put the fish in the tub,” she said. “I’ll find us a camera.” The next day she borrowed one from her employer, and the picture found its way into Dad’s brag book.
When I think of what true patience in marriage embodies, I am reminded of this story. How my mother’s love transcended my father’s child-like need. I believe that human quality is but a shadow of God’s perfect patience. Knowing our foibles, His Patient Love surpasses the worst of our human frailty.