Precious Gifts from God

God’s Gift of Love ~

Our oldest daughter and her husband have recently moved to Iowa after ministering in Kenya Africa, and most recently in Amman Jordan. It is the joy of my heart to drive my car six hours and come to rest in their Iowa driveway.  They are newly attending a church and while there we were invited to the Starting Point Café: hosted by the church, providing an opportunity for new and visiting people to feel welcome. Sitting at a table with two young single parents, I began a conversation, discovering they were new friends with five children under nine between them. These “single parents of courage” had packed up their children, belongings and driven from a very dangerous part of Chicago to Iowa to better themselves and their children. Listening to them I was struck by the courage that took, and the intense love they had for their children.  I won’t forget these souls; one growing stronger in the Lord, the other rekindling her love of Jesus.  King David wrote in Psalm 56:3-4 “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me”? This from a king! Surely these young parents were fearful: strangers to Iowa, the city, no connections, little money but somewhere deep in their heart their knowledge of God and His gifts of love and courage guided them.

God’s Gift of Courage ~

Am I Courageous? ~ Can I say this? Am I spending time in God’s Word; cultivating my relationship with Him?  Have I the courage to do what God leads me to do?”

Look at what God has been teaching me about courage and strength that you can soak up from His Living Word. Remember David and Goliath? Jon Bloom writes “David’s courage was a derivative virtue. It was being empowered by something else. What fueled David’s courage was his confidence in God’s promises and God’s power to fulfill them.” I encourage you to read Psalm 57 then focus on verses 7, 8, and you will become aware that “David was not self-confident; he was God-confident.” I was totally wordless for a minute, God-confident! I went on to read “Courage is always produced by faith.” Over and over I read these words of David asking myself if I have faith and full confidence in my God to claim these words from my own heart. I concluded that this is what I want to be able to say but I seem to forget the confidence that is available to me through my Lord and Savior Jesus.

Oh precious Father I pray that throughout each day my faith will be strengthened producing a God-confident awareness within my soul.

Nancy Bjorklund

Nancy visits the Titus II Ministry blog throughout the year with inspiration and poetic writing. She lives in Nebraska with her husband, Bob, and they are the parents to four grown children as well grandparents and great-grandparents. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nebraska in education. Her much loved verse comes from Proverbs 3:5 and 6, “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths”.

It’s Not Really Ours

What is a past experience where you can see now that God was testing you?

So many come to mind for me. I look back and see where God was testing me in patience, trust, and obedience. These were all hard lessons to learn in the moment, but I needed every single one of them. I can also tell you that it took more than once to learn them and often I need a reminder lesson.

Here is what I have realized: we are always being tested. This develops character. Our response to everything; people, success, problems, disappointment, etc, is always being watched by God. He watches everything, even the simple gestures.

One of the most important tests we are put through is how we act when we can’t feel God as close. We are no less or greater than Hezekiah, “However, when ambassadors arrived from Babylon to ask about the remarkable events that had taken place in the land, God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart.” (2 Chronicles 32:31, NLT)

Character is tested when we are left alone for a time. Mind you, we are never left alone, it just feels that way. God will use this time to reveal weaknesses that we may not have seen and to prepare us for more responsibility. Understanding that life is a test and nothing is insignificant in your life makes this time easier to walk through. Challenges can be faced head on and endurance grows.

Good news: God wants us to pass all the tests of life. Because He is rooting for us, He never allows them to be greater than the grace He gives you to handle them. “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT)

Trust. We have to learn to trust God. Not just with the “yes” but with the “no”.

God has entrusted us with every gift of Spirit and possession. He has entrusted our relationships, time, intelligence, and all resources to us. Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” (NLT)

This means that we don’t own anything. We are just trusted to take care of it and do it well. The Bible gives us some questions to think about in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that the God hasn’t given you? And if all you have is from God, why boast as though you have accomplished something on your own?” (NLT)

Ouch! Makes you think of all those things you took credit for that really never would have happened if God did not allow or give you the means to do. As Christians, we do all things through Christ who gives us strength and ability, knowledge, money, etc.

God trusts us with all that is His and we have to make sure we are able to prove that we can be trusted. This is why we are tested. Tested to be trusted. (1 Corinthians 4:2)

Think about this: If you lived as if everything you “own” is really just on loan from God, how would that change the way you feel or treat your possessions?

Until next time,

Tara DeMaris

Tara is the founder and president of Titus II Ministry as well as a contributing writer and speaker. She is the wife to David, eighteen years, and the mother to their five children. Together, they make their home in Missouri. She is a graduate of Crown College and most passionate about reaching the hearts of women globally through mentoring, friendship, and God’s Word. She is also the co-author of Journey In Faith. “Make history with God and He will make history through you.”

Improving Life

I recently took a life assessment. Not one of those cute little ads on Facebook that you can share on your personal page, but an actual assessment that evaluates your heart of hearts and accurately assesses areas in which you need to improve in life to live happier, freely, and more devoted to your purpose.

It asked questions about social, financial, physical, spiritual, vocational, intellectual, emotional, marital and parental areas of my life. I answered as honestly as I could. The assessment says that if you get a score between 1 and 3 in that area, that signals an area where you are struggling and need to improve. I can tell you that right away I knew the one area where I struggle the very most – physical. I was surprised that even this area was not a 3 or lower, but it was close, too close.

There was a potential of 12 points for each area. I did not get above an 8 in any area except social. That area did surprised me because I am generally a person who keeps to herself. Yes, I have friends and I am social, but it is a rare occasion for me to have adult only social activities or to “hang out” with my girlfriends (probably because I don’t live close to many of them and we are all busy).

I noticed some areas where I definitely want to improve. I realized that I worry about a lot that I can not control. I am so happy with my work at Titus II Ministry, but I have been feeling a lack of impact on my part. This is something that I struggle with. When I started Titus ii, I wanted to encourage as may women as possible and it has grown to much more than just encouraging women. It is a daily devotion and encouragement to men and women and we are more than just local or state bound – we are global. That is amazing! And still I struggle to feel like I impact lives at all.

This assessment got me thinking – a lot! If I am feeling that I have areas in life that I need to improve on, who else is feeling this too? I can’t possibly be the only person. So…I am going to do something about it. I am going to help myself and anyone else who may want to help themselves as well. It won’t have cookie cutter answers and it won’t be easy. Let’s face it, some of us need to be pushed to help ourselves.

Coming in January, I will be doing a four-week course to help improve areas of life where we each struggle.  Worksheets, private Facebook community, accountability, and Scripture – these are a few things you can expect. You will need to be honest with me and yourself. I am your accountability partner in this. Trust me – I need you too. I will be honest with you about my journey of improvement as well. It’s a short course. You won’t have your perfect answer in four weeks. It will require you to continue on long after the course, but the accountability will still be there.

If you are interested in making 2019 a better and happier year for yourself and those you love (because you will be with them every single day – for the most part) and you want to improve using a biblical path, join us. You can go to our Facebook page to sign up (https://www.facebook.com/titusIIministry/). I will be creating videos for you to watch and worksheets to fill out. These will be delivered to you by email or in a notes section in our private Facebook community.

Our first video will be available January 7th. This means that you have a little time to pray and decide if you can commit four weeks to a course that can potentially better your life in several areas where you might be struggling. You get to decide. No once can better your life except for you. I hope that you will join me.

Deadline for sign up is December 31st! That’s right, New Years Eve! What better day to make a commitment to one’s self than the end of the year and starting of a new one? This is a launch program and because of that – “seats” will be limited. This will be free to you. All materials and videos and accountability partnering is free. You pay nothing. We can all use a little discount on life things sometimes! Men and women are welcome. Come and join the community.

See ya soon,

Tara DeMaris

Tara is the founder and president of Titus II Ministry as well as a contributing writer and speaker. She is the wife to David, eighteen years, and the mother to their five children. Together, they make their home in Missouri. She is a graduate of Crown College and most passionate about reaching the hearts of women globally through mentoring, friendship, and God’s Word. She is also the co-author of Journey In Faith. “Make history with God and He will make history through you.”

AMAZING GRATITUDE

I have come to the beautiful setting of Stuhr Museum of the Prairie just south of town. I am surrounded by wild ducks and geese parading along the banks, late fall blue sky mirrored in the lagoon, water grasses flourishing in the dampness, a funny little duck with a tufted head-piece peaks out from her secret place in the rushes; all around the creative beauty of God’s creation inspires me.

It is November! Turkey Days, Black Friday, Harvest Time; gratitude journals abound, and Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving movie surfaces in homes around the nation.  Pop culture attaches many terms to this very American holiday. In spite of that how do we reflect thankfulness daily? God commands us to be thankful in everything, in all circumstance. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) With that in mind I went on a quest to find scripture verses that would renew ways to mix thankfulness into my daily activities. I don’t know about you but in my heart when my Lord speaks conviction to me I head for His word. For some time I have been Art Journaling memory verse cards. You see, I am a creative soul; a visual learner, therefore, incorporating scripture with colorful images seems to take hold in my brain. For the first time in decades, I am retaining His word and I give full glory, praise and honor to my Lord Jesus for this creative bent He has given me. Each of us has God given ways to “Hide His Word” in our hearts and mind. Please don’t let God hear you say – I am not creative, I can’t do that, I have tried and failed.

I am just sharing what has finally worked for me. I am not expecting you to use my memory verse approach. I am encouraging you to rekindle the desire God has for you to “Hide His Word” in your heart. (Psalm 119:11)

Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

1 Chronicles 16:34 ♥ Colossians 3:15 ♥ Colossians 3:17 ♥ Colossians 4:2 (one of my favorites) ♥ John 3:16 ♥ Psalm 34:1 ♥ Psalm 100:4 ♥ Psalm 106:1 ♥ Psalm 95:2,3 ♥ 2 Corinthians 4:15 ♥ 2 Corinthians 9:11-12 ♥ Psalm 118:1-18.

These verses reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. Carve out some time to pray and thank God, read these verses out-loud, and seek ways to incorporate thankfulness into all your daily circumstances.

Nancy Bjorklund

Nancy visits the Titus II Ministry blog throughout the year with inspiration and poetic writing. She lives in Nebraska with her husband, Bob, and they are the parents to four grown children as well grandparents and great-grandparents. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nebraska in education. Her much loved verse comes from Proverbs 3:5 and 6, “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths”.

Thankful Reconciliation

“God I just want to meet my grandma before she passes away.”  This was the simple prayer I can still see written in my Barbie diary in second grade over twenty years ago.  It was a miracle I was asking Jesus for. I had just figured out the connection of what step family really meant in the sense that I didn’t really know who my dad’s mom was even though I deeply loved my step grandma and uncle and still do.  I prayed often that same prayer off and on for the next four years waiting for Jesus to do the miracle.

In sixth grade my dad received a letter from his cousin on his mom’s side wanting to reconnect after not seeing him for over thirty years.  As they reconnected through letters she suggested that my dad try to reconnect with his mother.  She had her address and spoke to her often.  I was so excited to hear that my grandma was still alive and prayed even more that the possibility would happen.

My dad wrote her a letter waiting to hear back first.  This was a huge step for him especially since he hadn’t seen his mom in thirty years at that point.  I will never forget watching the process that God took my dad on of trusting God to heal his heart from years of hurt; forgiving his mom and hoping that she would want to meet in person as she wrote back. And then they got to talk on the phone back and forth several times for about a year.

During Thanksgiving break of 2000, we drove down to Arkansas where my dad finally got to see his mom after thirty years; where I got to meet my grandma and her husband; where they got to meet my mom as well.  God had answered my prayer and I got to see my grandma!  It was an amazing break even though I could tell my grandma was struggling with the emotions and guilt of not seeing her son for so many years; missing out on so many things.

Because of this guilt, even though my dad had forgiven her, she spoke to him some after that meeting, but then cut off communication other than a few cards here and there for the next several years.  Then my junior year of college, as I was praying yet again that she would want to keep in touch and be a part of our lives, I felt like I should write her a birthday card.  My husband suggested I send her a Christmas card, as that would be less personal since everyone sends Christmas cards to those they care about in December.  I sent it in hopes of hearing something back.  God surprised me again when my husband and brother-in-law went to check the mail one day, about a week later.  My husband hands me the mail sitting down to watch my reaction as I sifted through it.  When I got to the bottom of the pile there it was, the Christmas card from my grandma!  I couldn’t believe it.  She actually wrote me back!  God wasn’t surprised though, because He had used my husband’s suggestion to bring my grandma back into my life. Because of this, she also was brought back in touch with my dad as well.

See, here is where I should have known better than to be surprised. God had already answered so many prayers in this family relationship, but I was struggling to trust Him to do it again even when I knew He could.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”  I love how the New Living Translation puts this verse.. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen..”. This is such a huge point, because when we pray we need to trust that God will come through for us.  He will answer our prayers!  It may not be in the way we want Him to answer, but He will take care of us and knows what is best for us.  Sometimes it’s hard to wait for God to answer our prayers.   I am personally still waiting on God to completely answer the prayers for my grandma and the rest of her kids, to include my dad’s sister and my aunt.  Praying that they all not only will first be reconciled to God, but also to each other.  I am praying that there will be forgiveness and healing and restoration.

What are you waiting on God to do in your life?  Maybe it feels like He has forgotten you.  I am here to tell you that He has not forgotten you.  He loves you!

Maybe you are asking God to help you forgive someone who has hurt you.  Ask God to give you a heart for that person like His heart for them; to love them like He loves them. This will help to see those around us like He sees them and begin to heal our heart and help to restore things that have been broken.

Jesus, thank You for helping me to share this story of how You brought reconciliation into my family and forgiveness for hurt.  Thank You for helping me to be transparent so that whoever is reading this article may find hope and encouragement that You can do the same in their lives.  I pray for those struggling to forgive hurt. Help them to see people like You see them no matter how they have wronged us. Jesus help us all to have faith and trust You as You continue to do what You have started in each of our lives!  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Mikayla Winafeld

Mikayla has a heart for student ministries and seeing lives transformed as well as a passion for worship ministry. Mikayla and her family make their home in Ohio. As a couple, Mikayla and Joey, volunteer at their church in student ministries and Mikayla is also a member of the worship team. Her heart shows through in all she does and that is how she is seen; with a huge heart for people. Mikayla is a graduate of Central Bible College with a bachelor’s in Children’s Ministry and a minor in Music. Her favorite verse is Proverbs 3:5-6 and says, “Trust in the Lord with all Your heart, lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”

Forever; Eternity

Why eternity? Why does God want us to last forever?

It’s our reward. It’s our place of eternal refuge. Our eternity is not hear on this earth. Our eternity is in Heaven. This life is not all there is.

As Christians, we can look at our life here on earth as a preparation for the next life – in eternity. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes “God has planted eternity in the human heart.” (3:11, NLT) We all have this longing for immortality. No one wants to die, but it is inevitable. This earth produces death, but as believers and followers of Christ, we know there is something far greater waiting for us.

Eternity offers two choices: heaven or hell. I know this isn’t the topic that a lot of us like to hear about, but it needs to be discussed, especially since we are exploring the topic of purpose. Rick Warren says, “Your relationship to God on earth will determine your relationship to him in eternity.” We have to learn how to love and trust Him while we are on earth to be invited to spend eternity with Him. Then there is the other choice, spend eternity away from Him by rejecting Him.

We spend so much time worrying about what won’t last and not enough time preparing for eternity. Why? Why do we not live for eternity?

When we live for eternity everything we do changes. Our relationships, daily tasks, and even our circumstances change. We start to think of those things that seemed to be so big and beyond us as trivial and not worthy of so much attention. “The closer you live to God, the smaller everything else appears.”

God has told us that there is a place for us and He has prepared it. “However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ – the things God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NIV)

God has purpose for you here, but you need to realize that it doesn’t end here. Psalm 33:11, “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” (NIV)

This life is preparation for eternity, just as the nine months inside our mother’s womb was preparation for this life. There is no fear in death. Why? Because it opens the doors to eternity for a Christian. It’s like our birthday into eternity. That is so exciting to think about.

Think about this: What are you doing today to prepare for eternity?

Until next time,

Tara DeMaris

Tara is the founder and president of Titus II Ministry as well as a contributing writer and speaker. She is the wife to David, eighteen years, and the mother to their five children. Together, they make their home in Missouri. She is a graduate of Crown College and most passionate about reaching the hearts of women globally through mentoring, friendship, and God’s Word. She is also the co-author of Journey In Faith. “Make history with God and He will make history through you.”

Living the Jeep Life

Life is meant to always go smooth… right? If everything in my life is going smooth then God must be absolutely pleased with me. If one or more flustering events happen in my life then God is against me. Believe it or not, this is how many people view Christianity.

A few weeks ago, I was having one of those “really God?” moments. It all started as I was driving home on the highway. It was a rainy night and the traffic was backed up. I was cruising right along when out of nowhere I see brake lights. I slam on my brakes hoping to stop before hitting the vehicle in front of me. I fishtailed onto the shoulder and heard my brakes grinding. No, I didn’t hit the vehicle in front of me, but quickly found out that my brakes were shot (as a matter of fact the pad was completely gone). About a week after getting my brakes fixed I noticed that my speedometer was starting to act up and my check engine light came on.

Annoyed and frustrated, I decided that it was an excellent time to go car shopping with one of my friends. We went to a few car dealerships and I was starting to feel much better about the possibility of trading in my vehicle at one of the dealerships… wouldn’t you know it… we were riding along one of those congested construction areas and my Jeep decided to completely die in the middle of the road. You’ve got to be kidding me???? I started it back up and got it a few more feet until it died again. After about four times of doing this, we made it into a parking stall in the nearest lot and waited for a tow truck. My Jeep sat in the driveway for a few days. I was completely fed up.

Mikayla, my wife, watched every time I walked passed it, irritated, and gently tapped the left side bumper… I was torn. Mikayla looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Joey, I know God can heal your Jeep, the question is do you want Him to?” My face must have been priceless because I honestly didn’t know. I wanted to say yes, but I also wanted to just throw in the towel and get something new.

What I didn’t realize at this point was that God was in the process of doing something. After sitting in the driveway for a week, some of my friends came over and ran some diagnostics on it. It’s quite humbling when asked when the last time you checked the fluids in your vehicle was because, well, one of them was completely dried up. We ran to the store, grabbed the fluid and filled up the tank. It was so great to hear my Jeep. I thought I was maintaining it to the best of my abilities. It fired up and no stall, but that wasn’t good enough for me because the check engine light was still on. The check engine light was tested at Auto Zone and you wouldn’t believe what the print out showed. I was expecting a long list of problems because that’s what it seemed like everything was amounting to. On that list was one simple error that I already knew, my speedometer wasn’t working.

I sat in my Jeep later that night rubbing the steering wheel with my music blaring saying, “God, I just don’t understand.” In God’s unique, still, small voice I felt him saying, “Joey, I needed you to slow down because I was wanting to do something.” Sometimes when God speaks you know exactly what he is talking about. In this moment, I knew exactly what he was talking about. We can have the whole debate and argument over whether the Jeep is fixed or not and yet completely miss what God is doing. I was so easily distracted on wanting a new vehicle and ditching what “I felt” the problem was that I almost missed God slowing me down.  Behind the scenes, God was orchestrating, in his loving way, to show me what is valuable and what isn’t. He was showing me that my vehicle, my relationships, friendships and my life was in his hands. My world looked like chaos and frustrations, but when God slowed me down I saw people who cared and got more accomplished than I thought was possible.

 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?[a] And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, Luke 12:6-8 English Standard Version (ESV)

Joey Winafeld

Joey Winafeld is a bi-vocational  Associate/Youth Pastor at True North Church in Minerva, Ohio. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Youth Ministry & Pre-Seminary Christian Counseling from Central Bible College and is an Ordained Minister with the Assemblies of God. Joey and His wife, Mikayla, live in Canton, Ohio and have two incredible daughters that love to serve alongside them in ministry. Joey is a lifelong learner that is dedicated to training and equipping students of all ages in discovering their gifts and talents in order to reach their world for Christ.

Praying the Paths

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

THOUGHTS from the PATH ~

I was walking the antiquated stone paths in Corinne’s Garden this morning.  I would like to think they have stories to tell; the young and the old, the good and the bad, the hurts and the healings they have looked upon. I loved the Wizard of Oz – especially the “yellow brick road”. It was to lead Dorothy and her friends to good things, (“a course of action that a person takes believing that it will lead to good things.(http://www.google.com)  We all love good things ~ of course we do. In reality the Jesus follower’s life is just as challenging as a non-believer. The comforting difference is that we know for sure that “the Holy Spirit delights in coming alongside us as our comforting counselor to remove or administer strength for the difficult situations as well as the “good things” (Intimacy with God; Drawing Ever Closer to the Almighty. Dr. Benjamin A. Sawatsky. Book Villages 2011). The garden is welcoming fall to my prairie and as I walk these leaf strewn paths Psalm 25:4 comes to mind, “Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths.”(NASB) Then I recall Psalm 119:35, “Make me walk in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.” (NIV)

STAYING IN STEP WITH JESUS

These are verses you can pray as you walk down your country road, winding through your neighborhood, following walking trails or just around your yard or home. God’s presence is with you and He loves to hear you praying His word back to Him.  Try It!

Proverbs 2:20, ”So you will walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous.” (ESV)

Psalm 81:13, “Oh that My people would listen to Me. That Israel (all people today) would walk in My ways! (ESV)

Ephesians 5:2, “and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (NIV)

So often we neglect what God has to show us in His Old Testament, but the examples and Godly solutions are every bit as relevant as they were then.

Jeremiah 18:15, “For My people have forgotten Me, they burn incense to worthless gods and they have stumbled from their ways, from the ancient paths, to walk in bypaths, Not on a highway.” (NIV)

Jeremiah 6:16 has this to say: ”Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls; but they said, “We will not walk in it.’” (NASB)

(Please read this entire chapter to see who God was speaking to through the prophet.)

Pull these verses up on your phone. Record them so you might listen as you walk. A small card is always a handy tool; be creative – you and your walking partner can share a verse. You and your children can enjoy this way of learning God’s word. There are so many ways to “hide God’s word in your heart”.  Can you pray back this verse to God in truth?  Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Nancy Bjorklund

Nancy visits the Titus II Ministry blog throughout the year with inspiration and poetic writing. She lives in Nebraska with her husband, Bob, and they are the parents to four grown children as well grandparents and great-grandparents. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nebraska in education. Her much loved verse comes from Proverbs 3:5 and 6, “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths”.

Gather In

It was the Gathering Place for every moment that meant something-Grandma’s house.  Dad, Mom, my sisters and I would pull up to the old house with the free-roaming ducks, high-strung dog (that only seemed to love Grandma), and the bunny barn.  We chased the ducks, avoided the dog, and ran to the barn to snuggle the baby bunnies. And after the animals had been properly greeted, we ran to the house.  The door opened directly into the kitchen where culinary aromas would tease the senses upon arrival.  Grandma’s modest kitchen was nothing short of a miracle-making place.  It may be argued, however, that the more significant miracle was in the sheer number of people that managed to gather in that house.  Or more specifically, the kitchen.  But somehow there was always just room enough.

My father’s family is not small.  He has one brother and three sisters.  And their spouses.  And their kids.  The house would run amok with cousins while Grandma fussed in the kitchen and Grandpa entertained with his Iowa farm-boy banter.  It was a lovely place to be.  It was the only place I wanted to be.

But there was more.  Because among all the blood relations, there was yet another crowd gathered in that kitchen.

In addition to maintaining a bustling extended family, she also worked in a recovery program. Grandma spent every day working with desperate people aspiring to overcome addictions.  And when the holidays came around, some of them could not go home.  Some of them did not have anyone who wanted them home.  And some did not have a home to call their own.

But Grandma saw fit to make sure there was room at our family table.  The old house did not feel so big during the holidays.  We often devoured holiday turkey, potatoes, and pies with elbows pressing together, yet hearts overflowing.  There was sweet contentment in knowing that someone had saved a place for me.  And not just any place.  An incredible place at Grandma’s table, where a feast lay spread in anticipation for all who would come.  And everyone at the table was invited and important. Nothing was required, but to come.  (Unless you were one of my hunting uncles where fresh deer jerky was absolutely a requirement for the feast.)

There are so many people who do not have such a place. Or maybe you are the one without a place.  Here is the good news: There is already a place prepared and the invitation has already been extended.  And there is always room at the table.  God looks on you with delight and invites you to sit at His table, breathe in His presence, and taste of His glory.  The one who knows your name has also prepared a feast of extraordinary things for you.

You are invited to come and gather at the table of God’s unimaginable grace, where there awaits a seat with your very own name.  Come freely.  Come expectantly.  Come quickly.

As we enter into the season of thanks and giving, who can you invite to the table?  To God’s table?  To your table?

“… ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.’  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  John 7:37b-38

Kelly Havemeier

Kelly is a mother to four sweet girls, wife to Lee, and lover of Jesus. She lives on a little acreage, deep in the heart of Iowa, where she can often be found greeting the sunrise on the back porch with a fresh cup of coffee. Kelly is deeply passionate about speaking to the hearts of women in every season of life. She holds an Associate of Arts degree in Youth Development and Bachelor of Arts degree in Church Leadership. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

What Drives You?

Everyone is driven by something.

Have you ever asked your family or close friends what they think drives your life? I bet their answers would be very interesting and you would learn a lot about yourself in the process.

There are so many things that can drive us. Memories. Fears. Belief.

Guilt. We run from regrets and hide in shame. This is when we allow our past to control our future. This is the ultimate “I’ not good enough” response that drives everything we do.

Rick Warren says, “We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” God does not limit you by your past. He redeems you from it. I mean, Moses was a murderer and God used him to deliver His people from slavery. Redemption is the fresh start that God specializes in. “Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean.” (Psalm 32:1, MSG)

Fear. This is a self-imposed prison that keeps you from being all that God created you to be. How do we defeat fear? With faith and love. 1 John 4:17-18 (MSG), God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.”

Approval. Expectations of others controls our lives. We try to earn the approval of others our whole lives, but there is only One we need to seek approval from. “Those who follow the crowd usually get lost in it.” (Unknown Author)

You can be sure that you will fail if you try to please everyone all the time. It’s impossible. “No one can serve two masters.” (Matthew 6:24, NLT) Nothing can compensate for knowing God’s purpose for your life.

Why are we not driven and guided by the purpose of our lives?

Purpose gives us meaning and we were made to have meaning. When we have meaning, we can bear almost anything. Hopelessness is a tool that Satan uses to make us feel as if there is no meaning to our lives. BUT GOD is hope and gives us hope. Hope gives us meaning in our future and purpose. Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (NLT) This should give us all the hope we need in our purpose because God already has is planned out.

Think about this: What are some habits, hurts, or fears that keep you from beginning to live out and ENJOY God’s purpose for you?

Until next time,

Tara DeMaris

Tara is the founder and president of Titus II Ministry as well as a contributing writer and speaker. She is the wife to David, eighteen years, and the mother to their five children. Together, they make their home in Missouri. She is a graduate of Crown College and most passionate about reaching the hearts of women globally through mentoring, friendship, and God’s Word. She is also the co-author of Journey In Faith. “Make history with God and He will make history through you.”
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