Category Archives: Parting Words from The WORD

Parting Words From The WORD . . . Music to Work By

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

As you may know, we’re in the homestretch of preparations for the 2016 Christian Communicators Conference, which begins next Wednesday, August 24 and goes through Sunday, August 28 at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. And even though it’s a week of little sleep and lots of heart work, it truly is the highlight of my year. It’s the week I look forward to more than anything . . . once I get there.

I must say, I don’t look forward to the weeks leading up to the conference. They’re hard, long, and involve multiple, endless To-Do lists. Needless to say, some things that aren’t related to CCC just don’t get done. You may have noticed that the past couple of weeks.  :-(

These are the weeks I’m reminded how thankful I am that God created music and gave me ears to hear it. (Well, actually He gave me a solitary ear to hear it with, but He did allow that one ear to hear it very well!) Throughout the day, whether I’m working on emails or appointment schedules or novels or teaching plans, beautiful music, His music helps me stay focused, calms my spirit, and keeps the fiery darts away.

But it can’t be just any Christian music.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t listen to music with words when I’m creating. It doesn’t matter if it’s an email, an appointment schedule, a novel, or a teaching plan, my creativity is stifled by words in music. It’s as though I can’t create words when I’m listening to words others have created.

Which bring me to the topic of today’s post: Music to work by.

Perhaps you’re like me. Perhaps you like to have beautiful music–without words–playing in the background while you work. But perhaps you’ve had trouble finding it. Here are my two favorite sources for tender, soothing, music to work by. I hope their music blesses you as much as it does me.

Soaking.net

(Scroll down to Streaming Music Players)

and

 

Bethel Music – Without Words: Synesthesia 2015

 

My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Psalm 108:1 NIV

Now go. Create.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . Are We Listening?

Bird over the lake at sunrise PixabayI love spending time on the front porch at the lake. Each morning is similar in that I take our little four-legged baby, Chloe, out to potty. Then I go straight to the coffee pot and fill my mug with piping hot coffee.

Chloe knows that we then go out on the front porch to spend time with the Father. It’s a precious, precious time. At first, I simply sit and sip, allowing my heart and mind a few moments to begin unwinding. I listen to the quiet and the birds for a bit and then listen to a few songs of worship music, taking me to a place of rest and communication with the Father. And finally I open His Word so I can hear His message to me. Each passage is a personal love letter specifically for me.

Last week while I was out on the porch listening to the quiet, I recalled how I used to sit outside with my young grandchildren, trying to count how many different bird “voices” we heard. Way back then, we were amazed at the variety of birds shouting their praise. The birds had obviously been there all along, but we didn’t hear them until we got quiet and allowed ourselves to listen.

As I sat listening last week and remembering those precious times with my grandchildren, I decided to see how many unique bird voices broke through the silence. I listened intently as one, two, three, then four and five voices floated on the breeze. I concentrated even harder and focused my hearing, tuning out everything that wasn’t the language of birds. I had to want to hear them.

Six, seven, eight, and nine spoke to me as I sat, drinking my coffee, and listening for the birds. Then I turned to my scripture reading for the day.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry . . . . James 1:19 (NIV)

A new lesson touched me . . . at a much deeper place.

I realized that if I want to hear the words of my Father, I had to do the same thing I did to hear the birds’ voices. I have to be quiet and listen. I have to concentrate with everything I have and tune out everything that’s not the language of the Father. I have to want to hear Him.

How many times have I sat in my quiet time, half-heartedly listening for His voice as my mind wandered to the day’s To-Do list, the emails I need to respond to, the bookkeeping I need to catch up?

It was a beautiful truth, spoken from the Father’s heart and straight into mine.

What about you? Are you able to hear the voices of the birds? Are you able to hear the voice of God? If not, perhaps you’re like me and need to make listening a priority by “. . . being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

Praise His holy name!

Vonda

 

 

 

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . Reach Out in Ministry and Receive

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

(Before you wonder if I’ve lost my mind and converted to a “prosperity Christianity,” please hear me out. This post is far from it.)

As Christians, one of our responsibilities is to reach out to others and minister in His Great Name. The concepts of ministry and outreach are repeated throughout His word. From Israel’s Old Testament patriarchs to the New Testament teachers, we receive the continuous message to be the hands and feet of Christ, shining His Light into this dark, dark world. We’re instructed to care for widows and children, feed the hungry, visit those in prison, and love the unlovable.

Reaching out is not simply a concept to consider, it’s a command to obey. Jesus Himself said we’re to not only love the Lord with all our being, but to love others as we love ourselves. Bottom line: Christ-followers MUST be in ministry through love and compassion.

On the surface, it’s easy to see the benefits of service. Through our efforts, the poor and rejected receive food, clothing, help, encouragement, and love . . . all in the Name of Christ. And we feel good when we do what we’re called to do.

But what about when it doesn’t feel good? What about those times when we want to walk away?

Perhaps that’s when the ministry is as much for our benefit as it is for theirs. Perhaps that’s when God plans to teach us something through our serving. Perhaps we’re the ones who need to receive–new lessons.

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:3 (NIV)

So if the time comes when you’re ministering, but just not feeling it . . . maybe it’s time to ask God what He wants to teach you.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . Do We Have Instructed Tongues?

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Since you’re reading this blog, it’s likely that you feel called by God to be a writer or speaker. So when I found this powerful verse in Isaiah, I knew I had to share it with you!

The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. Isaiah 50:4

At first glance, this looked like a great verse for us to claim as speakers and writers. But after doing some research, I found that Isaiah 50:4-9 (some commentators say 50:4-11), is the third of four Servant Songs, foreshadowing our Savior, Jesus Christ. And it fits Him so perfectly!

But I must admit I was disappointed that it looked like we couldn’t claim the verse for ourselves.

In the verses prior to verse 4, God is chastising Israel for not recognizing His omnipotence, His power, and His love for Israel. He reminds them that He was not too weak to protect them from their enemies, but that they were the ones who turned away from Him. After generations of rebellion and defiance, God had had enough and had allowed them to suffer the consequences of their choices.

But He also provided the answer to those choices—Jesus, the One who knows the word that sustains the weary. Praise Him! Praise His Holy Name!

And the good news is, as followers of Christ and students of His Word, we are directed to be like Him, which means to shine His light, and to share His saving grace with this lost and dying world. In other words, as we study, as we pray and seek His face, as we confess our sin and meditate on His promises, several things happen:

  • We DO receive an instructed tongue
  • We DO know the Word that sustains the weary
  • We ARE challenged to listen to and follow His words
  • We ARE taught by His Holy Spirit

Praise Him! Praise His Holy Name! So follow, study, shine, pray, confess, and meditate. Then go, write, speak . . . and share the Word that sustains the weary.

It is a verse for us today.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . What I’ll Say To My Children If I’m Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

(Friends, I’m honored to have permission to share this poignant, beautiful post from Cheryl Morgan, a pastor’s wife, mother of six, grandmother of one, and–for eight years–a caregiver for her sweet mama. As a caregiver for several loved ones with Alzheimer’s through the years, I couldn’t hold back the tears as I read her precious writings. Like Cheryl, I’m concerned for my own brain and memory quite often. She wrote this piece for her children and I’m sharing it with mine . . . and with you, sweet friends. Thank you, Cheryl.)

What I’ll Say To My Children If I’m Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

By Cheryl Morgan

I was skimming somCheryl Morgan and her mome other dementia blogs lately and a reader had written in saying, that though she felt guilty about it, she wished her mother would die in her sleep and not have to continue living through the pain and indignity of dementia. I’ve heard others say things like, “I’ve told my kids if I ever get Alzheimer’s just shoot me.”

I understand where these comments are coming from, but they make my heart heavy. I feel like these attitudes devalue my Mom’s life right now. Even though they are not specifically referencing her, they are in effect saying that people like her are better off dead. It is hard to see Mom changing and confused and upset. But she still has sweet times of love and joy, too. And God still has a purpose for her life.

He is growing our patience as we care for her. He is developing our tenderness and mercy. God is giving us opportunities to show love to a dear mom who loved us all so well when she was able and strong. He’s sending us smiles and laughter with Mom’s quirky ways and funny words. He’s challenging us to love faithfully when she is angry and difficult.

People with dementia are still people. And God still has a plan for their lives. Even when they are bedridden and can do nothing at all, maybe their very life keeps us clinging to God more. Maybe their very existence draws us closer to God as we seek Him and cry out to Him.

I fear having AD someday myself. (My mind already concerns me too often.) But if that day comes I’m not going to tell my kids, even jokingly, to just shoot me.

What I would say to them is this . . .

Pray and trust God to guide you. Get as much help as you can. I don’t want you to sacrifice your life plans or family for my sake, but I want to always be part of your life.

If you need to find a nursing home for me, I understand. Pray about it and seek wisely. And then visit me often. Even if I don’t seem to know you, believe in your heart that part of me does. Hold my hand and talk to me. Tell me all about your life. Sing to me and read the Bible to me, please. Brush my hair and tell me memories of your childhood.

If I’m still able to chew be sure to bring chocolate. (You know your mom.) And hopefully I’ll have some adorable grandchildren to marvel at.

And don’t forget to take some time to just sit quietly next to me. Hold my wrinkled hand and let God whisper to your soul. I’m so sorry you have to go through this painful journey with me, but God will give you strength and grow you through it all. Hold fast unto Him. Sink deep into His love.

Everything will be better in heaven. Meanwhile, when I can’t talk anymore; just know that I love you forever and that being a mom to you was an honor and the delight of my life.

That’s what I’d say to my children. Oh, and I might throw in a “Be nice to your brother” for old-time’s sake.

Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. Acts 3:21 NIV

Cheryl Morgan headshot

Cheryl Morgan is a Jesus follower, pastor’s wife, mother of six, and a new grandma! She’s also a caregiver to her mom, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s for eight years. She writes about this journey at God’s Grace and Mom’s Alzheimer’s because she feels compelled to, and is blessed when she hears from readers that it ministers to them.

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . Handling The WORD

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

 

As writers and speakers, it is our responsibility to learn, to prepare, and to be the best we can at whatever God has called us to be. At a time when good words are often twisted by wolves, we need to be sure that what we say is what He means.

Do we use verses out of context in order to prove a point?

Do we use good truths to rationalize poor choices?

This week’s verse is a good reminder that as we’re studying how to handle the writing of words, it is even more imperative that we learn how to correctly handle The WORD.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

 I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . Freedom Isn’t Free

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

 

As we consider the celebrations of this week, let’s not forget two important things:

1) No man can truly free us.

and

2) Freedom isn’t free.

Let’s look at #1. Meditating on the concept of freedom, I’m reminded of the words of Jesus, penned by John:

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 (NIV)

No army or weapon or a leader can free us. The only way to true freedom…from slavery, strongholds, and eternal death…is what? The truth. Yes, only the truth can set us free.

But in this day of situational ethics and questionable evidence, what is truth…really?

The answer is found again in John:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NIV)

Jesus tells us He’s the Truth that can set us free and take us to the Father. Yes, He is the only One who can free us.

And point #2: Freedom isn’t free. These verses make it clear:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)

Freedom isn’t free because Jesus had to pay. Yes, our freedom cost Jesus His life. He knew what it would take, knew what He would endure, and yet He went to the cross for us.

True freedom only comes through Jesus. And He paid the price.

Oh, what a Savior!

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . Jesus Says Some Choice Words About Satan

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Last Sunday, my pastor said something has stayed with me this week. He said, “No matter what the enemy does, our God is faithful.”

That statement was nothing new to me. It’s a known, simple truth among us Christians, and yet, I have to admit that sometimes I act as if my life depends on what the evil one does or says, rather than what our Father promises.

It’s as if I trust the words of the evil one over the words of God.

Satan says we’re unimportant . . . God says we’re so important that He sent His own Son to die in our place.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NLT

 

Satan says no one cares . . . God says to give our cares to Him.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. I Peter 5:7 NLT

 

Satan says we’re not worthy of salvation . . . God says even though we’re not worthy, eternal life is His gift to us.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 6:23 NIV

 

Satan goes to and fro looking for people to devour . . . God says Jesus came to save us.

For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. Luke 19:10 NIV

 

Satan says we have to look out for number one . . . God says we must serve others.

Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35 NIV

 

Jesus shares a few choice words about Satan in the New Testament. He calls him the evil one (Matthew 13:38), the enemy (Matthew 13:39), the prince of this world (John 12:31), and a thief (John 10:10). In John 8:44 Jesus says there is no truth in Satan, that he’s a liar, the father of lies, and a murderer.

But at least seventy-five times throughout those same pages, Jesus Himself says these words: “I tell you the truth . . . ”

Yes, Jesus tells us the truth. And the truth is, Satan is a liar.

Jesus came to seek and to save. Satan came to steal, kill and destroy.

When times are hard and we feel alone, who do we believe? The choice is ours. I pray we choose to know and believe the words of Jesus, because knowing and believing the truth is the only way to recognize a lie.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . I Could Sing of His Love Forever

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

I love to sing worship. I love the music and the words. But most of all, I love getting to that place where it’s just Jesus and me as I sing my praise to Him.

Sometimes I envision Jesus on the throne and I’m a tiny speck in the throng of worshipers surrounding Him, and yet He makes eye contact with me…and smiles. I see myself and millions of others dancing before Him, celebrating that we’re in His presence.

Other times I’m bowing at His feet with a heart of confession, singing the words of repentance from a contrite heart.

And still other times I can’t sing at all. I’m simply in awe, speechless in the confidence of His presence in my life. Of His grace, mercy, and love…in spite of my sin.

As the song says, “I could sing of Your love forever.”

Quite different from the services I grew up with. Four hymns, three verses each–the first, second, and fourth, of course. We stood for the first three songs, sat for the last.

Always.

Nobody dared change or challenge the tradition.

Nobody dared get emotional or feel the words or shutter over conviction. And the service had better end on time, or else. That’s the way it was done. Period.

And yet in John’s vision of the Revelation, he reported:

Day and night they never stop singing: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, who is, and who is to come.” Revelation 4:8b (Good News Translation)

I have a feeling that when we’re there before Him, we’ll be singing more than four songs, three verses. I have a feeling we won’t be standing for three songs and sitting for one.

Instead, I have a feeling we’ll be on our faces one second…and dancing the next, mere specks in the crowd of worshipers. And through it all, Jesus will be making eye contact with each of us…individually…

And smiling.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . Thanking God for a Dead Computer

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Perhaps you’re like me. Perhaps you’ve heard the stories of Jesus’ miracles from the time you were a little tyke. Perhaps that means you’ve been hearing the stories for many years, too. Yep, we know our Jesus stories.

Or do we?

It wasn’t until I was truly saved that I realized the power of His written Word. Stories were no longer just stories, they were lessons on life, on how to relate to one another as the Body of Christ, and on how to reflect His Light in this lost and dying world. They were messages from God.

This week the message came through the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. And the story of my dead computer.

My Christian Communicators partner and co-director, Carolyn Knefely, and I were headed to a meeting with our conference coordinator, Cynthia Owens. I was telling Carolyn how years ago God had shown me that in the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 men (not counting all the women and children) with only five loaves and two fish, He never asked God to multiply the food. He only gave thanks for it.

That insight had rocked my world way back then. After all, I’d heard the story all my life, but I’d never heard anybody share that little detail. Jesus didn’t ask God to multiply the food. He didn’t cry out on behalf of the people. He simply gave thanks.

Several hours later our meeting was over and Carolyn was unexpectedly taking me and my dead computer to the Apple Store. During the meeting I had–not once, but TWICE–dropped my computer on the hard tile floor. Carolyn drove while I whined about my computer and how difficult everything was going to be if the geniuses at the Genius Bar couldn’t get it restarted. I fretted over the expense of getting this very old, no-longer-under-warranty computer repaired, or worse–having to buy a new one.

In the middle of my whining, God spoke to my spirit, reminding me of the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000; of how Jesus didn’t complain about the situation or whine about how difficult things were going to be if they didn’t have any food for all those people. He simply gave thanks.

I stopped my whining and–out loud–thanked God for how He was going to handle this computer issue. His peace came over me.

A few hours later, I walked out of the Apple store, my old computer back to her usual self. And they didn’t charge me a cent.

Thank you, Lord . . . again.

And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. Matthew 14:19 (NIV)

I pray His blessings on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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