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30 Years

Today I celebrate the 30 years that are my son’s life.  He is a talented artist going to college and living in a small apartment near campus. He gets terribly embarrassed when I brag about his talent.

Yesterday we had a b-b-que to celebrate. It was good to see the people who love him come together. Friends from the Lion’s Club, the blind center he volunteers at, from college and even his Sunday School teachers from when he was in the 1st grade came together to talk and laugh and share stories about how he has touched their lives. It was a very good day.

It was an answer to so many prayers over so many years. If you ever wonder if prayer works, I can tell you….it does.

Danny with his Great-great grandmother.

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Tiffany Gaskin

 

 Every now and then you run across someone who makes you think “I could be friends with her”. Tiffany is that girl. You”ll wish she lived down the street and could drop in for coffee more often. This mother of 4, with another on the way, is friendly, funny and inspiring just being herself and living the life God’s given her. 

 

Building Walls 

Many of my acquaintances do not know this, but I am a master mason. I excel at building walls. Brick by brick, stone by stone, I set myself up in a cozy tower of walls, built for one. But being alone surrounded by a staggering height of stones can become claustrophobic. It can be stifling. They are much harder to tear down than to build, yet I continually build them up just to destroy them later.

That is where I am at right now…in the demolition process. I hate tearing down walls. It is a messy and dusty business. Of course, it is my own fault for building them to begin with. That is my one major vice: wall construction. Some of you may understand how easy it is for a wall to go up. For others, I will try to explain.

The evolution of the wall begins where everyone starts-on a foundation. The foundation can be different  per person or even per wall. Some are built on sinking sand and tumble sooner than others, or they may be stacked high on a rock solid surface. I am afraid most of mine settle on the rock, a loathsome material I have been carrying around all my life called self-reliance or even selfishness. Yes, there it is, I said it. I admitted it. I am a selfish person. I have this part of me (the hermit part) that enjoys solitude so I shut myself off to the world. I dodge calls, skip replying to emails, and hide from my neighbors. This isn’t just some much needed downtime. My break from society starts as a single snowflake of a missed email and turns into an avalanche of months of not wanting to be around people. It is disgusting, I know. It is a nasty habit that goes against what I stand for as a Christian. It is something I battle on a daily basis. Brick by brick.

The current wall I am tearing down reached a staggering height, acquiring stones and mortar over the span of eight months or more. It began with our abrupt move to Ohio. I frantically scrambled for bricks in a need to protect myself against this sudden change. I had to protect my heart which, as those closest to me know, can be very tender when exposed. I had to secure my need for the familiar which only seemed to be my own self at the time.  So as each day passed, I laid another brick on the wall.  Another excuse to not talk to my neighbor. Another reason to just say a platitude and move on to those at church or even in my family.  Another moment of feeling resentment, being neglectful, and harboring fear. Another day when I slowly turned from seeking God’s word and truth to seek out my own. Foolish, I know.

A few weeks ago I was overwhelmed by a sudden sense of loss and loneliness. I was alone. My only company was the hard, cold stone surrounding my now withered heart. Having blocked out most of the light, what else could my heart do but shrivel up? I was killing myself under the weight of my own protection. I carried around a burdensome weight in my chest. Know the feeling? The despair of experiencing those walls closing in around you? The worst part was that I had put them there. It is a bad habit of mine and I should have recognized the signs immediately and took action to prevent it. But a part of me reasoned that I needed familiarity and comfort in that tumultuous change. So, like a fool, I allowed myself to be cornered.

The most tedious part of any construction job is demolition. The removal of the old, rotten parts is never something to be taken lightly. It involves too many upheavals….and emotions. Cutting away the dead flesh never feels good. So, as I endeavor to break out of the tower for one, I find myself growing weary. The only thing that is keeping me going, keeping me energized is the small light I see at the top of the wall. The light of the Spirit. The light of Christ. He is the only who can tear down these walls. I am willing and He has been ready. The process will be long and will take much effort on my part. My need for air, love, and the light of God will keep me motivated to demolish the brick and mortar from my life.  I am praying that I will soon retire from being a master mason.

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David Felts

Today’s guest blogger is an old friend. I first met him around a “campfire” in a land of Warriors and Beauties far, far away. The wonder of the internet makes such things possible. On the eve of releasing his first book I ask you, dear readers, to get a big cup of coffee and settle in to read the story and heart of David Felts, God’s 1st Knight.

Change, Life’s Little Surprise Bringer

 

You know there is one thing in this life that shouldn’t surprise us, and that is that change is inevitable.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at a picture of yourself when you were younger and then go look in the mirror.  No matter how much we whine, cry or complain, change is coming for us, so we better just embrace it and make the most of it.

In the past 47 years, I’ve experienced quite a bit of change, some of it great and some of it not so great.  The one constant thing regardless of whatever life has brought me, which I have, really only come to realize in the past 20 some years, is that Jesus is my Lord and Savior.  And regardless of whatever happens, He never changes.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  (Hebrews 13:8) Of course it is what “we” do with change that will either makes us or breaks us.

 As a way of showing you what I mean, let me share one of my stories about change with you.  The day was Tuesday, April 6, 2010.  My bride of 23 years and I were preparing to facilitate a class about marriage at our church that evening, something the two of us were very excited to have the opportunity to do.  She had returned home from work to pick up our two children, April (15) and Noah (13).  The plan was for them to babysit any kids that came with their parents that night.

When Cheryl arrived home, she went into the house and called for the kids.  My daughter came out of her bedroom and was asked where Noah was.  She said she didn’t know, and they both went outside to look for him.  He loves climbing trees, so they thought he might be up in one.  When they couldn’t find him, they became a little concerned, and going back into the house, Cheryl stepped into his bedroom, where she found that he had hung himself in his closet.

The next couple of days are a blur in my memory.  This is not to say that I don’t remember every vivid detail, and at times certain things will bring them flooding back to my remembrance with a vengeance.  Suffice it to say, change had come to the Felts family, and there was nothing good about this change.  Let me explain to you here also, that Noah was not depressed, nor were there any warning signs leading up to the decision to end his life.  In a moment of extreme emotional turmoil, Noah made a rash decision and then acted on it.  All of it happening in just a few minutes.  He never thought his actions through to their conclusion; otherwise he would not have done it.

I know beyond a shadow of doubt that my son Noah is in Heaven with Jesus.  And yes, that does bring a little comfort, but I’m here to tell you if it had not been for Jesus and my relationship with Him I don’t think that any of us would have made it through that horrible, awful time.  The devil is a punk, and I know that one day he will pay for the destruction he brought to our family and many, many others just like ours.  And please, if you are reading this and you feel that there is no other way out except for suicide, let me tell you now that the damage you will bring to your family and friends is not worth it.  Talk to someone right now and if you don’t have anyone, call me.  (918-636-0049)

Listen, change can be difficult if you choose to let it be.  What most people spend their lives doing is trying to figure out what happened, and why the change showed up, or they just run from it.  I understand those desires, I’ve experienced them, but what I’ve learned is more important than that, is the knowledge that we have a choice to make, and what we decide to do with that choice is what will help us to overcome or be defeated.

I’m reminded of this scene from the movie “The Lion King”.  It’s where Rafiki shows up to help Simba find the path back to his rightful place in the circle of life, and to stop living only for himself.  Here is the transcript of that interaction:

Rafiki:             “Ahh, change is good.”

Simba:           “Yeah, but it’s not easy.  I know what I have to do…but going back means that I’ll have to face my past.  I’ve been running from it for so long.”

Rafiki:             [Whacks Simba on the head with his staff.]

Simba:           “Ow!  Jeez, what was that for?”

Rafiki:             “It doesn’t matter.  It’s in the past.  Ha ha ha!”

Simba:           “Yeah but it still hurts.”

Rafiki:             “Oh, yes, the past can hurt.  But the way I see it, you can either run from it…or learn from it.”  [Swings staff and this time Simba ducks.]

“Ah – you see?  So, what are you going to do?”

Simba:           “First, I’m gonna take your stick.”

Rafiki:             No, no, no, no!  Not the stick!  Hey where are you going?”

Simba:           “I’m going back!”

 

That is how we need to be in life.  When change comes, we need to learn from it and then apply those lessons we have learned to help us walk away from the change better people, ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us.  And I’m living proof that it is possible.  People tell me all the time that what my family has gone through is the toughest of all possible things.  I don’t deny that, but the only reason this change didn’t destroy us, is because of our relationship with Jesus and the knowledge that God is only “for” us and not against us.

In John 10:10, Jesus states it pretty plainly that our enemy, the enemy of all mankind, the devil is only out to steal, kill and destroy.  He follows that thought with the fact that He (Jesus) has come to bring us life and that life is to be full.  There are your job descriptions for Jesus and the devil.  If anything is stolen, killed or destroyed in your life, it is because of the devil.  And if there is anything good in your life, it is because of Jesus.  That’s a pretty simplistic view of things, but you know, that is what gave me the ability to live through the death of my son and not be crushed.

If you have experienced some change in your life that didn’t make sense, then I hope that my writing has helped to bring you a little more clarity.  And if change didn’t cause you to be confused, it is my prayer that I was able to add to what you already believe to be true.  Regardless of where you are at, it is my prayer that you meet this Jesus that I talked about.  Deciding to make Him my Lord was the best thing I’ve ever done, and I’d love to tell you more about Him.

If you would like to know more about Jesus, I would be happy to send you information, just email me at godsfirstknight@yahoo.com and I’ll send you some materials.  Thanks to Lana Vaughan for allowing me this opportunity to guest write for her blog.  Strength and honor for the Kingdom and the King!

 

You can order David’s new book “God’s 1st Knight: In Service For The King” directly from David’s website and

you can follow David’s blog at http://allinaknightswork.blogspot.com.

Don’t miss what God’s saying through His knight! 

 

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Lisa Tuttle

Today’s guest blogger is my someone you’ve already met on my blogs. She has recently taken on the role of un-official driver and chief motivator on The Blogger’s Bus. You can catch her daily at Hey Sparky! What Time Is It? Lisa is the person most likely to be on the receiving end of my impulsive mailing habit. 

 

I’ve lived a lot of different places in my life, each one with its own vibe.  I was born and raised in small town Ohio, however, and though I can assimilate into almost any American culture, it would be fair to say that for the most part I am Midwestern to the core.

You know “Midwestern”, right?  Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.  Respect your elders.  Meat and potatoes.  4H projects.  Go to church.  Do the right thing.  And above all…be nice.

Be nice.  There’s probably some Midwestern anthem, and the totality of its lyrics are “be nice”.  In my mind I can hear it, set to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus:

BEEEee NIIccee!!  BEEEee NIIicce!  BE NICE! BE NICE! BEE NIIIice!

That tune played loudly in my brain most of my life.  When someone else behaves badly, be nice.  When you are hurt, be nice.  When you don’t get what you want, be nice.  When someone disagrees with you, or is just plain disagreeable, be nice.  When your relatives give you underwear for your birthday, be nice.  Being nice was the answer to everything from muddy footprints on your floor to poorly seasoned food to dealing with jerks.

I was well into adulthood when I started to realize that being nice wasn’t quite serving me the way it seemed it should.  It had its perks, but not to the extent a dedicated Nice Person would hope.  And somehow, I felt vaguely off kilter.  As if something was missing, something crucial.  As if I wasn’t quite the person I was designed to be.

The answer came to me through scripture, as answers often do.  I didn’t see it for years, though it was there in every single translation I visited.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;

against such things there is no law.  -Galations 5: 22, 23

This is a list of the attributes and qualities that grow in you when the Holy Spirit is active in your life.  Look how high nice is on the list!

What?  You mean nice isn’t even on the list?

I was a bit shocked when I discovered this.  Even more so when I realized that nice was actually an act of human flesh and will, which means that the Spirit hadn’t been manufacturing the nice in me.  I had!

But then relief began to flood through me as the lights turned on.  God doesn’t want me to be nice; He wants me to be kind!  God doesn’t want me to be nice; He wants me to love!  God doesn’t want me to be nice; He wants me to live in peace!  And even better—He’s going to produce all this stuff in me Himself!  Being nice is small compared to having God’s attributes in me so big and strong that they flow out of me and onto others.

I also began to understand why being nice was so unsatisfying.  Being nice blocked my entrance into the life God had for me.  It kept me from being fully me as He intended me to be.  I am wired to see and speak things that are offensive to nice.   I am to speak them plainly in love.  Not in nice.  In kindness, but not in nice.  In gentleness, but not in nice.   Given room to play, nice will water down love every time.  It will fake kindness and produce false peace.  Nice is too afraid to really speak truth.  Nice means well but is never real or lasting.  Only that which is produced by the Spirit is real and lasting.

It’s easy to bring the past into your present and assume it’s good.  But is it?  What if it’s just nice?  What if you have a core value that actually opposes what God wants to grow in you, but you’ve assumed He’s cool with it because it’s nice?

Let that tweak your brain for a while.

 

 

 

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Jack Lynady

This is the first in a week of guest bloggers. I asked a few of the bloggers I know if they would come up with something to share with my readers. I’m excited for you to get to know them. The first is Jack Lynady. I’ve followed his blog for about a year and I think you will enjoy what he has to say. 

 

 

     It’s 6pm Sunday. I am on the back porch having a glass of wine at the close of what was an amazing weekend. And      as the sun is setting, I sense this stirring deep within me. Then a word comes to the surface…unquenchable.

     What?…Unquenchable?…Yes.

     What’s unquenchable?…Your heart.

      It was an unexpected statement that took me back because I was enjoying the moment. I wasn’t having a pity  party (which I throw from time to time). I wasn’t desiring or thirsting for more from life. I was, in fact, thanking Him  for my life. And my heart, in that moment, was satisfied.

So, what do we do?

How do we handle our hearts knowing they are “unquenchable”?

Well for starters, I think it’s worth noting that Jesus isn’t opposed to our thirsting. Too often, we hammer ourselves for desiring or thirsting for more.

Be honest. Most of us believe an “unquenchable” heart is a bad thing. A few years ago, I would have given myself a stern lecture, put the wine up, and crawled into bed after hearing something like that. But I’ve learned that Jesus is fine with it. He’s okay with our longing for more. In fact, I believe He wants us to thirst for more.

Why?

Because He loves inviting us to His well. His desire is to give us “an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” (John 4:14) He literally wants to become that wellspring of Life within us.

So, how do we handle our hearts knowing they are “unquenchable”?

The simple answer…we don’t. We don’t beat ourselves up over it. We don’t try and deny it or quench it ourselves. Instead, we take it to Him. The ultimate thirst quencher.

 

For more on Jack or to follow his blog check out: Jack Lynady

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9-9-11

As a nation we have adopted the 9-1-1 phone number as a call for help. It was no co-incidence that the largest terrorist attack was on September 11th. Somehow our defenses being breached and strangers being killed lowered our individual barriers and brought us closer to those around us. But we didn’t stay close. We, as a nation, moved past our shock and grief. We became annoyed at the increased security at the airports and the cost of a war we didn’t win before the Super Bowl. Most of us didn’t know anyone who died that day and so it wasn’t as personal to us.

This weekend the media will be over flowing with tributes and retrospectives. Will we watch? Will we remember the fear and the sorrow? Have we learned anything in the years that have passed? Will our churches be filled once again with people praying for strangers who are lost or wounded this weekend?

9-1-1…in case of emergency. One of the papers to fill out at the beginning of each school year is a blue card with emergency contact number. The card asks for three people to contact in case the parents or guardians of a student cannot be reached. Who do you call in case of emergency?  Who can you count on to come for your child? Who can you turn to when your world comes crashing down around your ears?

And who turns to you?

 

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Building

I have spent some time today working on the background stuff of my site. There is so much I do not know that I don’t know where to begin.

Next week I have five guest bloggers who I enjoy reading and who inspire and motivate me in some area of my life. Just the step of setting up the guest blogs has involved me growing as a WP user.

 

What have you done today that moves you closer to the goals you set for your self and the dreams hidden in your heart?

(And where do I find the “internal link” button?”

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10 years ago today…

…was a Friday. Most people were probably looking forward to the weekend. Some were heading out of town for that post-Labor day trip to the beach. School was in session and kids were complaining that it was too soon while parents were grateful for the routine to begin again.

Do you remember where you were that Friday? Who did you spend time with? If you’re like most people you may not remember very clearly. It was just another ordinary Friday night. Just like today is another ordinary Wednesday.

But I’m pretty sure you remember where you were four days later. That was the day our generation will never forget. It joins the collection of dates that mark great upheaval in our personal lives and in our national journey. The day Kennedy was shot. D-Day. Black Friday. Kent State. Neil Armstrong. Just the mention of these words bring back powerful memories for some and for others a blank reference.

Over the next few days there will be countless blogs and article and special programming about 9/11. But it’s today I want you to remember. The ordinary days of our lives that slip by too quickly unheralded and unmemorialized.

Someone died today leaving behind loved ones who don’t know how they will keep breathing. Someone was born today. A blessing beginning with a cry of joy and pain changing so many lives just by being alive. Someone got a job at last and someone worked their last day.

Firefighters across the nation are racing toward the danger today. Texas is blazing. Parts of the northeast are still underwater from a week ago and people in Joplin are still facing the aftermath of the tornado months later.

There is nothing ordinary today, dear reader. It’s just too precious to let slip away.

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Reading

I love reading. I always have. I average a book a week. I trend toward informational books or classics more than fiction or essays lately.

I am currently considering thinning my book collection. My bookcase is 8 feet wide, 12 inches deep and 8 layers high. It covers one entire wall of my office. I was looking at it yesterday and realizing it’s stagnate. Most of the volumes haven’t moved in a while. So I started wondering why I still have them sitting there. Especially the ones that no longer match my reading taste.

Last week I cleared out a 1.5 cubic ft box of clothes from my closet. I guessing there may be 3 boxes of books about to join it in the holding room waiting to go to Goodwill. One of the things I’m pretty sure I’m ready to let go of are the Beth Moore teaching series that I’ve already done. If you are interested in moving these to your library let me know. I’m sure we could work something out.

One shelf that I am looking forward to filling is the shelf for authors I know or have helped in their publishing process. This is probably my favorite section. Something about knowing the story behind the story makes it a real treasure. Always room for those.

The next one I’m waiting to add is by David Felts. David will be a guest blogger later this month. Also holding space for Laural Armster’s 10 part historical series, Emarie Willings sci fi, a historic epic by a pirate and what will be the first of many books by a new author out of Colorado.

Other than the stuff you find on the computer screen, what are you reading? Why are you reading it? Would you read it again? Would you recommend other’s read it? What’s the best thing you’ve ever read?

Just wondering, dear readers.

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Broken Links

The little photos on the side of my page don’t show up like they used to. I broke them somehow. They were set up by someone who knows programming and was kind enough to help me with the transition from the pieces of old sites to this one. The site is still very far from what I want it to be but he gave me a great start and got it up and running nicely.

Then I tried to change one of the little squares on the right hand side. I thought I understood how to do it. I thought I could do it myself. It made sense when I started but then something happened and the little pictures don’t work. The links are broken.

Over the past couple of years there have been some little links in my life that have been broken. Let me start by saying I didn’t mess with them. I didn’t try to change them or fix something. Someone else did.

Someone decided to turn off Guiding Light after 72 years. 72 YEARS! I know it was just a soap opera but in my life it was one of the most consistent and stable links I had. No matter where I lived or what my circumstances, for an hour I could find familiar characters and enter a world where I knew what was going on. Shortly after that lost As The World Turns was cancelled in it’s 54th year. More “friends” and familiar faces gone.

Seven years ago I stumbled upon a ministry out of Colorado. I bought the books and recorded messages. I went to the retreats. But the thing that made the most difference in my journey was the other people who had somehow been drawn to the same ministry. Most of the people I never met face to face but through the ministry forum they became friends. They were people I cared about and who cared about me. Last year as I was losing GL and ATWT the ministry decided to close the forum. Another link broken.

Yesterday I was emotionally prepared for another era to come to an end. I told you last week about my connection with the MDA telethon and Jerry Lewis. I had my dvr set to record the seriously truncated telethon and was really planning on sitting there and crying through Jerry’s last appearance. My heart was in no way prepared for the sudden announcement that Jerry would not be on the telethon at all. A quick search of the internet gave me little information other than there had been an abrupt and unexplained parting of the ways between MDA and Jerry that seems to be initiated by MDA. Searching their site they have removed Jerry from the history of the telethon entirely.

There are very few links left in my life that go back more than ten years. A handful of relatives, two long distance friends from one of the 5 high schools I attended, and three long distance friends from a church I attended more than a dozen years ago that I hear from a couple of times a year.

I read somewhere that “it’s easy to make new friends but very hard to make old friends”.

I guess I need to get my little picture links fixed. I’m starting to think it will be easier on my heart to learn code than to restore the other links that have been broken.

 

P.S. I didn’t do my Christmas cards. They are sitting on my desk unopened.

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