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Believe, Trust and Move On

“Mommy, when I was a baby my eyes were purple, right?”
As I looked down into the big beautiful brown eyes of my then 3-year-old firstborn, Alena, I felt my own eyes begin to fill with tears.
Kaitlyn, our 2nd baby girl, was born with crystal clear gray eyes. By the time she was six months old they had morphed into sun dusk green and had become a normal part of conversation amongst family, friends and even strangers. I have to admit, mixed with her caramel complexion, they were shockingly eye catching. However, the amount of attention they caused was a little overwhelming and awkward for a mom of two equally beautiful girls.
Alena, being the oldest, had unfortunately become privy to hearing and seeing the attention that her sister’s mere physical difference had caused. Already having a heavy heart and intentional awareness of this, I knew exactly what she was looking for when she finally approached me about her eyes.  Her three-year-old heart was digging for something deeper, something that had nothing to do with a color.
What I heard in her voice was the search and longing for what we all desire.
Mommy, am I special?
Am I pretty?
Is it ok that I am different?
Am I enough?
“But the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:30-31
I wish I could have opened her heart and literally placed these words inside of her. I could not.
I wish I could have looked at my baby girl and answered her doubts and fears with one instant swoop.  I could not.
I felt my eyes fill with tears because I could not.
I grabbed her into my arms. I held her close and I began to tell her how special God made her. How she was fearfully and wonderfully made. How much I loved her, and yes, how beautiful her brown eyes were.
Within seconds she ran off and continued to play as if nothing had happened and as if nothing I said even mattered.  She was over it.
I watched in amazement. A few affirming words and it was over. She trusted, she believed and she moved on.
God’s word became truth in her heart when my voice could not.
Whether we are three years old or 35, the need to feel special, loved and valued will surface on a continual basis.  This desire is nothing to fear, but looking to other people and other things to answer this question can be very destructive.
Just like my brown eyed 3-year-old, we are simply seeking affirmation.
Whether on our jobs, in our marriages or with our appearances, we want to know:
Am I special?
Psalms 139:14: I will give thanks to You, For I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.
Am I pretty?
Genesis 1:27: God Created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Is it ok that I am different?
1 Corinthians 12:4;11:  Now there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit… But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
Am I enough?
Titus 3:5: He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.
Who have you opened your heart up to and what have you allowed to be planted inside of it?
Let God’s word grab you close and tell you how beautiful you are. How special He made you and how He is more than enough for you.
Believe His word, trust His truth and move on.
I wish I could say that six years later our brown eyed, green eyed dilemma has disappeared. It has not.
Actually, with an added set of twin girls, the awkward conversations have gotten increasingly more awkward. I find myself having to reaffirm my girls in who God created them to be, often. Sometimes it sticks immediately, sometimes it doesn’t.
Regardless of how long it takes, I am committed to teaching them that God’s truth is all that matters.
Allow God’s word to plant itself in your heart. No one else canMorgan 3

Walking into Parenting

As a dad of two girls, I’ve rarely had the advantage of accidental parenting. That’s because I came at this thing with some rather hefty handicaps: I grew up surrounded by boys in a family that’s only time together involved staring at the TV and eating microwave dinners.
Yet God, in His great sense of providential humor, gave me two pink-loving, doll-swaddling, nail-painting ballerinas.
As you might imagine, there have been some bumps along the way. Taking out ponytail holders, for example. Who knew how much of an art that is. And the proper way for a stuffed monkey to act at a tea party? Yeah, that’s a learned skill, too. (Hint: Think British.)
But I haven’t had to relearn or bumble through everything. In fact, you could say that I traipsed my way into something that proved quite the powerful parenting tool. And all I had to do was walk.
Pedestrian Power
My wife and I have enjoyed casual strolls since before we got married. The sweltering days of the American South give way to not-quite-so-sweltering evenings. You just have to escape the air conditioner for a moment, if for no other reason than to appreciate it more when you drip your way back into the house later.
But there’s more to walks than simply pounding the pavement, and that has become even clearer now that we push (or sometimes drag) the girls along. God said training children while walking pays off (Deuteronomy 6:7), and He’s right. Here’s how it has for us:
Family Time – Walking has the curious effect of being slow. You don’t get somewhere quickly. You don’t zip by landmarks and pump up the radio to drown out squabbles in the backseat. No, you move slowly down the street. And as you’re moving slowly, you start to notice the people walking with you. And as you notice the people walking with you, you start talking to them about their days and lives. Suddenly, this strange beast called laughter pops out. It’s quite safe, but definitely contagious.
Conversation – Kids don’t always have an innate sense about how to have a conversation. Ours didn’t. They’d stare blankly when people asked them how they were. So, during our walks, my wife and I started by modeling a conversation for them, explaining how there’s a give and take. Then, we started involving them in the process. We’re still showing them how a simple “yes” or “no” can bring the whole thing to a screeching halt. But our walks mean plenty of time to practice.
Discovery – We’re blessed to live in the country, which means our walks often include the flurry of deer charging back into the woods, striped turkey feathers, and a sky filled with things called stars. We’ve also lived in the city, and even surrounded by cracked concrete, there was no absence of amazing things to see. Nothing compares to your child examining leaves and architecture and ladybugs up close.
Love for Our Neighbors – Given the option, I’d probably never meet my neighbors and my interaction with them would never make it beyond that furtive wave that barely leaves the steering wheel. But walks tear things down. You—and they—can’t hide. Now, not all your neighbors will come running to talk to you, but take your kids, and you’ll see doors open. (Really. Sweet little faces do that.) Our walks have given us a chance to meet, learn about, and take things to our neighbors. And the girls get to help, which is the best part.
Faith – Honestly, all of the other benefits of walking really go back to this: faith. Our evening walks with the girls give us a chance to disciple them, to teach them about the Christian walk (and, yes, the pun is absolutely essential). We learn about creation through the wonders around them, the Fall through the impact it has on our world (kids have to know why that bird died, after all), and redemption through our stories about what God did in our lives. And all that from a Tuesday stroll.6400-walking

The Charitable Giving Deduction and Churches

The tax deductibility of gifts to churches and other charities continues to be an issue of high interest on Capitol Hill. In the 2012 presidential race, both candidates proposed capping the charitable deduction—so this is hardly a partisan issue.
Even though supporters of churches are generally more committed to make charitable gifts as compared with those who give for other charitable purposes, any reduction in giving incentives would not be good news for churches.
The recent hearings conducted by the House Ways and Means Committee provided more evidence of the interest of Congress in tax deductions claimed by those making charitable gifts. Forty-three representatives of nonprofit organizations made their way to the Hill on Valentine’s Day to share their ideas on this issue.
Some of the positions shared with the Committee by those presenting testimony:
  • Non-itemizers. Presently those who do not itemize deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040 do not benefit from the charitable deduction. There was some sentiment expressed for expanding access to the deduction to all taxpayers regardless of whether they itemize deductions or take the standard deduction.
  • Charitable deduction floor. For those who currently itemize their deductions, charitable gifts are deductible from the first dollar given. Here is how a charitable deduction floor would work:  Only gifts above a certain dollar floor, let’s say $100, would be deductible. So, every itemizer would “lose” a deduction for the first $100 they give each year to charity.
  • IRA rollover. The Individual Retirement Account (IRA) rollover is a provision givers have enjoyed for a number of years, but it is not a permanent provision in the tax law. The benefits must be extended from year to year. Conrad Teitell, noted charitable tax attorney, urged Congress to make permanent the provision that allows direct tax-free distributions from IRAs to charity. Unless Congress acts to extend the provision, it will expire at the end of 2013.
What may come from the current debate about the charitable deduction? Only the Lord knows—literally—but while it is unlikely we will see the charitable deduction disappear, it is very possible that changes could be made as a part of tax reform, resulting in a reduction of incentives to make charitable contributions.
In Mr. Teitell’s recent testimony before the Committee, he warned against tinkering with the current charitable giving deduction. He said we should beware of salami tactics which Congress might use with respect to the charitable giving deduction. The term “salami tactics” was coined by Matyas Rakosi, a Hungarian politician in the 1950s. Mr. Matyas said:
If your opponent has a salami and you want it for your very own, you must not
grab it—because he will defend it. Instead take for yourself a small slice and he
will not notice it. Or, if he does, he will not mind very much. And then you take
another slice, and then another slice. And slowly but surely, that salami will pass
from his possession into yours. 

“So it could be with the charitable tax incentives—a slice here and a slice there. Caps can be lowered, floors raised and credits reduced. And before you know it, our nation’s unique tax encouragement to charitable giving would disappear,” Mr. Teitell testified.
In the light of the discussions about reducing charitable gift incentives, what should churches do? Here are just a few of the basics:
  • Inform congregants to take advantage of the current charitable giving incentives:
  1. Gifts of cash (and checks). Cash gifts to churches are deductible up to 50 percent of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income.
  2. Gifts of stock. Gifts of publicly held stock to churches that have been held 12 months or longer are deductible up to 30 percent of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income.
  3. Gifts of real estate. Gifts of real estate that have been held 12 months or longer are deductible up to 30 percent of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income.
  4. Rollovers from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). An individual age 70-1/2 or older can make outright charitable gifts from an IRA—including required minimum distributions—of up to $100,000 each year to a church (or other public charities) and not have to report the IRA distributions as taxable income on his or her federal income tax return. A charitable deduction is not allowable for the amount transferred to charity from an IRA, but the donor is not taxed on the amount transferred. Not being taxed on income that would otherwise be taxable is the equivalent of a charitable deduction. This benefit is available even if the taxpayer does not itemize his or her deductions.
  • Encourage generosity toward God. If Christians use the charitable deduction as the sole basis to support their church, they are acting more like the rest of our culture. Generosity toward God should not be not dependent on a charitable tax deduction.
As my friend Wes Willmer says, “Scripture consistently reminds us that if Christ is not first in the use of our money, He is not first in our lives. Our use of possessions demonstrates materially our spiritual status. Is it possible that our checkbooks are a better measure of our spiritual condition than the underlining in our Bibles?”


10 Essential Truths about Christian Giving

Very often, people ask or wonder “what are the basic biblical principles for Christian giving?” As we seek God’s answer to that question and as we contemplate our own giving to the Lord’s church in response to the clear teaching of His Word, perhaps it would be wise and helpful to review those principles here.
First, let us go to the Word of God itself, without comment:
Matthew 6:1-4 Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.
2 Corinthians 8:9-15 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it. But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality – at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; as it is written, “HE WHO gathered MUCH DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH, AND HE WHO gatheredLITTLE HAD NO LACK.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

In our review of these four New Testament passages, we find at least ten principles for Christian giving.
1. The Lord Jesus expects and requires us to give. Jesus said to His disciples, “when you give” not “if you give” (Matthew 6:2)! Hence, Christian giving is not optional, but rather essential. We often hear folks say: “in the Old Testament they had to give, but not in the New – now we only give if we want to.” This is clearly not Jesus’ teaching. He expected all His followers to be givers. Christians will give. Are you giving?
2. The Lord Jesus wants us to give for the right reasons. Jesus warned His disciples not to give for the sake of being admired by men. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them,” He said (Matthew 6:1). When we give, we must be careful to examine our motives. We ought to give for the glory of God and the good of His people. We must desire His approval of our giving, rather than the praise and admiration of people.Are you giving for God’s praise or man’s?
3. The Lord Jesus wants us to practice benevolent or charitable giving. Jesus said “When you give to the poor . . . .” (Matthew 6:2-3). Jesus is specifically teaching about “alms” in this passage: aid, charity, or benevolent offerings for the needy. Do you give amply enough to the Church that she can be generous in benevolent giving?


Precious Lord, I’m weary after a long day

Precious Lord, I’m weary after a long day. Fill me up afresh and restore my soul. Help me to release my cares into Your hands and wrap myself up in Your promises. Surround me with Your tender mercies ’till I know in my soul that more rests on Your shoulders than on mine. I can rest in Your grace and trust in Your love. Help me to sleep deeply and sweetly tonight and wake up full of expectancy, ready to face the day tomorrow. Amen.
~ Susie Larson ~


Home Faith Faith Giving Prayer Parenting March 14, 2013 SAVING OUR CHANGE

March 14, 2013 SAVING OUR CHANGE
When it comes to money, some of us try to save our change so we can accumulate more money over time. Some use it for mad money to spend on something we couldn’t usually afford. Others put it in the bank to allow our savings to grow. While others of us use it for everyday things because we don’t make enough for our spending habits. Rather than saving our change for this last reason, we need to change our saving habits. We need to learn to spend less than we make, have a spending plan, change our habits and save those changes so we are controlling our money and it is not controlling us. God wants us to have a plan when it comes to handling our money.
Proverbs 21:5 “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” (NLT)
Dear Lord, we know that we sometimes don’t do what we should with the money You give us. Help us today to change. Help us today to be more aware of what we do with our money so we can change our spending habits rather than worrying about saving our change. Help us to have a plan and to put You first in our giving and allow You to help us control our spending. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
~Frances Copeland Lucas


Jesus Calling

Jesus Calling
DO NOT HESITATE TO RECIEVE joy from Me, for I bestow it on you abundantly. The more you rest in My Presence, the more freely My blessings flow into you. In the Light of My Love, you are gradually transformed from glory to glory. It is through spending time with Me that you realize how wide and long and high and deep is My Love for you.

Sometimes the relationship I offer you seems to good to be true. I pour My very Life into you, and all you have to do is receive Me. In a world characterized by working and taking, the admonition to rest and receive seems too easy. There is a close connection between receiving and believing: As you trust Me more and more, you are able to receive Me and My blessings abundantly.
Be still and know that I am God.
~ Sarah Young ~
2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 3:17; Psalm 46:10

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