Get Ready to Rejoice

As a little girl, when Billy Graham was on television, the whole family sat and watched.  I really do not remember anything he said but I remember watching the Altar calls to the hymn, “Just As I Am”.  Through the years, one thing that always stood out to me was how Billy Graham watched his reputation.  He would never be alone with a woman other than his wife.  If he was on an elevator and a woman got on, he got off.  He wanted to make sure he was a good representative for Jesus.  Also, he always said, “the Bible says” when he quoted Scripture.  He wanted you to know these words were God’s authority, not man’s.

When I heard that his son, Franklin Graham, will be in Wilmington on October 5, I was so excited!  Then I was even more excited when I learned the Franklin Graham Decision America Tar Heel State Tour will have a prayer meeting at Pine Valley United Methodist Church!  Last night my mom and I went to Leland to the counselor training to learn to pray with those who are making the decision for Jesus Christ.  I went knowing that I will be out of town on October 5 but also knowing I could learn something.  The team equips you to effectively share your faith with others both in daily life and as counselors during the event.  I was so excited by the time I left that I filled out my volunteer form because I am going to volunteer at one of the six crusades in NC!  Franklin, as the team calls him (and they refer to Billy Graham as Mr. Graham) told us that women pray with women and men pray with men.  No exceptions.  They cannot afford for someone to make an accusation that is a distraction from God!  Also, Franklin says “the Bible says” before each Scripture reading!

My tears started in the first five minutes - now if you know me, I cry easily but these were tears of joy!  The Franklin Graham team wanted us to see when the prayer counselors go forward and what we are to do.  So the video started at the end of the crusade - just like I remembered as a child!  Franklin, who looks more and more like his father, was doing an Altar call.  Of course, the hymn “Just As I Am” was playing.  He would tell people if they did not know if they were going to Heaven to come forward.  If they were not 100% sure they were going to Heaven to come forward.  This went on for a while.  He explained why they should come forward and make a public commitment.  Every time he said something we saw people going forward by the droves.  And what touched me was to hear the crowd cheering for them!  Every time Franklin said something and more people came forward the crowd would cheer louder and louder!  The crowd was so excited.  The Christians were so excited as they encouraged the nonbelievers to go forward and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior! It still chokes me up.  WOW!  Isn’t that what we are supposed to do?

There is no better description of becoming a Christian than in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  A second birth is needed.  Obviously we have our physical birth and then we need a spiritual birth.  2 Corinthians 5:19, “...that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”  God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We are Christ’s representatives - His ambassadors.  We do not represent ourselves. We represent Jesus.  

Everyone seeks peace - just like the droves of people going forward at the crusade.  Peace can only be found in a relationship with God.  We have an opportunity to be part of something so wonderful for Jesus Christ.  They need people to serve in many ways whether being on the promotional team or serving on site.  We all need to be in prayer for this event.  The Billy Graham Evangelical Association is asking us to pray for laborers.  Matthew 9:38, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Luke 10:2, “He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  God said if we do that it will not come back void.  Isaiah 55:11, “ is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent.”

At the end of the evening, someone asked about security at this event and the team shared a story from a recent crusade.  When the prayer counselors were being briefed and getting ready to pray right before the event started, they noticed a handful of protestors.  They prayed that the protestors might feel God’s love.  The evening began with Jeremy Camp singing, “Overcome”.  All of a sudden they noticed that a few of the protestors had left.  By the last verse the last protestor rolled up his poster and left!  We were reminded of David taking up his lyre and evil not residing where worship is.  (1 Samuel 16:23) 

Being a part of this Decision America Tar Heel State Tour is just another way to see what God is doing!  1 Timothy 2:4, “...who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Luke 15:7, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”  Get ready to rejoice!

Learn more about the Tour and check out how to volunteer at: The tour will stop in Wilmington on October 5. Pine Valley UMC will host a prayer service for the tour on September 9 from 7 to 8:30pm.

“The After People”

I have been through some things in my life that I needed help with.  It is hard to ask for help. I am a high energy person with a strong faith so I should be able to handle life, right?  Not! We all have burdens and sometimes we need others to be there. I am blessed to have a close knit family who I can go to but sometimes you need an outside person to confide in.  “You do not want to burden your loved ones” is what we tell ourselves. I believe Jesus sends people into our lives during these times. Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Here at Pine Valley United Methodist Church we are blessed to have Stephen Ministers.  

Stephen Ministers are the “after people.”  “Stephen Ministers are there: ...after the phone call you hoped you’d never get…...after the divorce papers are served and the bottom falls out of your life….after the funeral, when everyone has left, and the emotions you’ve held at bay come crashing in on you…..after the doctors says, ‘I’m sorry, but there’s nothing more we can do.’...after the nursing home director shakes your hand and says, ‘Welcome to your new home.’....after the last child honks the horn, waves, and drives away - and the house suddenly seems empty…..after the gavel goes down, the handcuffs go on and your loved one is led away….after the baby arrives, demanding more of you than you ever dreamed possible….after you find the pink slip with your final paycheck….after your family and friends have heard your story one too many times, but you still need to talk it out.”  

The mission of the Stephen Ministries organization is based on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.   Ephesians 4:12-13, “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”  There is extensive training - usually 20 weekly sessions of training that teach them how to provide Christ-centered emotional and spiritual care to others. They come alongside a hurting person and meet with them on a weekly basis. They listen, care, encourage, pray, and provide emotional and spiritual support.  Men are paired with men; women with women. Stephen Ministry is entirely confidential - no one knows the identity of a care receiver except for his or her Stephen Minister and the leader who paired the two together.  

Someone shared with me the close, personal friendship that their case turned into.  When someone was going through the death of a spouse they requested a Stephen’s Minister.  A true friendship developed. When the spouse was diagnosed and nearing the end of their life, the Stephens Minister was still there.  This person would introduce her Stephen Minister to her family and friends as her Stephen Minister. There was no embarrassment, just pride that the church showed support in this way.  This person had a close family but they found it easier to talk to someone else.  

Because it is hard to share a story due to confidentiality, I will share these I found on the Stephen’s Ministry website.  “‘I began to feel God’s love again.’ A young woman describes how her caring relationship with her Stephen Minister allowed her to experience Jesus in a personal, tangible, life-transforming way.”   “‘I’m so grateful for Stephen ministry!’ A man shares how he and his Stephen Minister built a high trust relationship, apart from his regular circle of friends, so that he could move forward through a tough time in his life.”     “The story of an army captain who lost his foot in an explosion in Iraq, trained as a Stephen Minister, and later returned to Iraq better equipped to care for the soldiers under his command.” “‘A steady reminder of God’s presence.”  A woman tells how having a Stephen Minister, during a family crisis, gave her a spiritual anchor and the opportunity to focus on her own needs.” One concern the Stephen Ministry has here at PVUMC is that there are few men coming forward for help.  Needing a Stephen Minister is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of courage to recognize you have a problem and that you need help. There are male and female Stephen Ministers waiting to be assigned to someone in need. They want to walk with you in love, listen in confidence, and love you unconditionally.  

Jesus showed compassion and Stephen Ministers attempt to exemplify this compassion.  Matthew 14:14, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him…”  If you need hope, help, or healing please contact Ray Holder, the leader of PVUMC Stephen Ministry.  Your call will be confidential.   

Abundantly, Exceedingly Above

In Pastor Tim’s sermon, “The ‘More’ We Are Looking For,” he used Ephesians 3: 19-20.  I do not ever remember hearing, “exceedingly abundantly above”. It brought to mind the hope Mike and I had for years to sell our business so when the call came in we could not help but get excited.  On the day of the meeting, I stayed home and prayed. I asked God if it was His will to open all the doors and let it be a no-brainer but if it was not His will then to slam those doors shut and do not let us mess up!  Let us know one way or the other and it not be a stressful decision. The prayer was answered when the offer was a "no way!" At that time Mike's father died and we were very busy and moved on. About a week later Mike was called again.  This time Mike asked our accountant to sit in with him and again I stayed home and prayed. I asked God, again, to show us without a shadow of a doubt what we were to do. I asked Him if it was His will to show off! If not, let it be another, “no way!”.   I asked Him to give Mike the courage to ask for what he wanted. I will never forget that phone call from Mike and our accountant. They both had the giggles. God had showed off! But God kept showing off - showing us what He could do when we trusted Him to be in control.  Mike was offered a job, wonderful insurance, and a new truck! God was going abundantly exceedingly above!!!

In the last few years I had been thanking God for what He was going to do with our business.  Notice I said, “years”. It was God’s timing. I also did not ask for specifics because I have learned God can exceed my wildest expectations.  No matter your circumstance. His blessings will be abundantly exceedingly above! 

While I shared a story about “stuff”, God wants to bless us exceedingly abundantly above with His gifts.  He wants us to know we have greater hope than we could ever think of! He wants our walk with Him to be exceedingly abundantly above anything we can imagine.  I have prayed for healing and been healed abundantly exceedingly above!  I not only lived to tell about it but He healed me emotionally - from thinking about it daily.  He healed me spiritually - our relationship went to new levels! He showed me so much love that I cannot try to tell you how much I love Him!  I love Him abundantly exceedingly above and I still cannot outlove God! We will never be able to out love or out give God!

I can share many stories about how God has blessed me during rough times.  He gives me that peace that surpasses all understanding. Philippians 4: 7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  He doesn’t give us a little bit of peace. He gives us peace that makes no sense so we know it comes from Him. 

Jeremiah 32: 17, “‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.’”  Because I love creation and see God in it I like this scripture. There is truly nothing too hard for God. We can be reminded of that everyday! Look at how vast the ocean is, the billions of galaxies containing billions of stars or look how wondrous our bodies are made.  All of this reminds us of how powerful our Creator is.  

God wants us to ask Him to do what we cannot do on our own.  God puts people in impossible situations to show His power and glory.  Abraham and Sarah were physically well beyond the ability to conceive children.  Sarah laughed at the idea that she would conceive. Genesis 18: 14, “Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”  She did conceive Isaac - just like God promised.  

God directed Moses and the Israelites to leave Egypt by a route that had the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian army behind them.  I am sure that seemed impossible! Exodus 14: 13, Moses told the panicked people, “… ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.’”  Miraculously, the sea opened so the Israelites could pass through. The miracle did not stop there! God closed the sea over the Egyptian army! Nothing is impossible with God.  

God is able to do far more abundantly beyond what we ask or think. We should pray for that which will further His Kingdom.  God loves you exceedingly abundantly above anything you can imagine! Christ wants to bring your walk with Him beyond your wildest expectations!  

Foundations Are Forming

I had heard a story of a proud grandmother and I reached out to her to hear her story.  Her  granddaughter, Caylei, goes to PIne Valley United Methodist Church.  Here is her story:

“A few months ago when the family was visiting us in Statesville, we went to church and Caylei went to her class as she always does.  When I went to pick her up she told me that she had won the Bible knowledge game.  There are some very bright students in the class and they’re taught well, so I was beaming that Caylei had won.  I also have realized how much she learns in her Sunday school classes at PVUMC.  I am so grateful for the teachers who take the time to care and teach the children.  I prayed that this family would find a church where they were taught the Bible.  I didn’t get the chance to learn all the Bible studies and stories growing up as a child so it’s important that my grandkids do.  I can already tell that a foundation is forming for Caylei in her life.  (She knew about Jesus calming the storm when the hurricane was coming.)  Teachers, thank you from the bottom of my heart for teaching my grandkids!”

I agree with Caylei’s grandmother.  I am proud of our kids and how much they learn in Sunday school!  To the teachers:  thank you so much for helping form these important foundations in our children and youth. I believe these teachers would tell you that they are blessed by teaching the children.  It is like the gift that keeps on giving, watching the kids grow up and grow in their faith.  I still remember my Sunday school teachers!

These statistics put it in perspective!  Half of people will believe in Jesus by age 12.  By the time a child is 9 years old their basic moral foundation has been formed.  By age 13 a child has formed their basic beliefs about God, Jesus, the reliability of the Bible, and the existence of afterlife.  We have a huge responsibility to these children.  The seeds we plant in these children will stay with them for life.

Do we not all want our children, grandchildren, friends and relatives to know that God loves them?  That God will never let them down?  That God has their whole future in His hands and wants what is BEST for them?  As they face challenges in life they will be more equipped to deal with them because God’s Word is in their hearts.  Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

So why should we teach children’s Sunday school?  Because we were told in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Matthew 19:14, “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”

1 Thessalonians 5:6-8, “I pray that my children would always be joyful and rejoice; that they would pray continually; and be thankful no matter their circumstances because this is your will for them God.”  At PVUMC, let’s pray that all children would always be joyful and rejoice; that they would pray continually; and be thankful no matter their circumstances because this is your will for them God.”  To do this, we need servants who want to carry out their Master’s will.  We need servants to pour the truth into these little hearts and minds while they are most open to the Gospel.  

Remember, God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called!  The children need you!  If you say yes, God will do the rest!  Please let Terri Kesler or the church office know if you would like to have the honor of helping form the foundation in God’s little children.

“Where Are The Men”

After hearing about how Pine Valley United Methodist Church needs Sunday school teachers, I remembered I had seen this man at church camp and then again at vacation Bible school.  I saw him stand and sing the camp song the Sunday after camp.  I saw him stand and sing with the vacation Bible school kids.  When I was at camp, I knew he was having fun.  And the kids love him!  So today I had lunch with Greg Willett.  Greg is a lot of fun and outgoing, although he told me he used to be shy!  As soon as we were seated, the server brought us bread and oil.  Immediately, Greg made a smiley face with the vinegar.  He laughed and said, “and that’s why I like working with kids.”  That is Greg! I had seen Greg at camp - for the whole week and then at VBS - for the whole week.  I told him when I heard we are in need of Sunday School teachers, I thought of him.  Why does he do all that he does with children?  Greg cannot believe more people do not teach the little children.  He said, “and where are the men?”  He said he is 73 years young and “does not want to stay inside, sitting in his easy chair gaining weight.”  He wants to be out and stay fit and healthy.  He says the kids help him do that.  

Greg helps with VBS, camp and children’s church.  He works with the grounds committee and other things but his heart is with the children.  His face lit up as he told me about working with the children.  His face also lit up when he told me that he has a new family that moved in next door to him.  They have three little girls and they love to come over and play with his grandsons when they are visiting.  His grandsons are not there now but the little girls still come over to play.  Yesterday, the three and five year old girls rang the doorbell and asked his wife if “Mr. Greg could come out to play”.  After he told me, he smiled and said, “what a blessing!”  That is Greg! 

In Greg’s words, he works with kids because he loves to but then he realizes it is helping Jesus.  He also said when you work with preschool through first grade you are smarter than them so he can teach.  You do not have to be a Bible scholar!  He said if anyone is wondering if they should teach children they need to come and talk to him.  One thing he loves is that even though he goes to the 11:15 service he gets to know a lot of the younger families.  When parents drop their kids off at camp he gets to know them and the siblings. He loves getting to know these families and watching the children grow up. 

Being a servant is carrying out the will of our Master.  We are told in Matthew 24:46, “It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.”  When we are God’s faithful servant we get to share in His success.  We get to watch these kids grow up and know the seeds that have been planted.  Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus was our example of unselfish servanthood.

1 Thessalonians 5:6-8, “I pray that my children would always be joyful and rejoice; that they would pray continually; and be thankful no matter their circumstances because this is your will for them God.”  At PVUMC, we should be praying that all children would always be joyful and rejoice; that they would pray continually; and be thankful no matter their circumstances because this is your will for them God.  To do this we have to have servants who want to carry out their Master’s will.  We need male and female servants to pour the truth into these little hearts and minds while they are most open to the Gospel. 

PVUMC needs men and women to teach children’s Sunday school.  You have heard the saying, God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called!  You can do this!  If you say yes, God will do the rest!  Please let Terri Kesler or the church office know if you would like to have the honor of teaching God’s little children.

Home Sweet Home

After a vacation I was thinking of how good it is to be home. Whether I am in North Carolina, Myrtle Beach, Oregon, Europe or South Africa, it is good to go home. There is always a comfort when I touch down on American soil.  There is a special feeling of returning home after being away.  It is good to hug our loved ones, sleep in our own bed, get back to eating like we are used to, and just having the sense of "being home".  When my bags are unpacked, the laundry washed and put away, I find myself increasingly grateful for the simple things like sitting in my favorite chair and getting back to my mundane routine.  I return home with an attitude of gratitude for all the blessings that surround me.  

While it is nice, today, to be in my dwelling place I know this is not my forever home.  I am reminded of our sermon series, “Encounters” as I think about my final home.  The joy to come to my home in Wilmington is a real but temporary joy.  Psalm 84:1-4, "How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.  Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.  Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you." 

By acknowledging our real home and anticipating it, we will increase our joy.  Titus 2:11, "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.” It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Charles Swindoll said, "Home represents our point of identity, our base of operations, our primary realm of responsibility. Home gives life its roots, its sense of purpose and direction. Even with the hammer blows of pressure, stress, and struggles, home is the anvil used of God to forge out character in the furnace of schedule and demand. We count on it over the long haul and thereby develop security, stability, and consistency."  And if that is what our earthly home represents then think about our heavenly home. 

Scripture tells us there is a longing of the soul for home.  Home is where God dwells.  Psalm 84:2, “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”  This yearning is what is in the soul of every human being - even the atheist who does not and refuses to understand it. This will be the ultimate encounter with Jesus!

God wants us to come home. Genesis 28:15, "I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”  Today is the day to start the journey back home.  Put your hope in God.  Ask God to show you the way.  He will light your path. Encounter Jesus!

Are you on your journey home?  

Through the Eyes of a Child

“Aunt Jill, don’t you work at the church now?  What do you do?”  Those were the questions from my ten year old niece, Ella.  When she asked again, I told her she should come to work with me one day.  She quickly told me she was available the next day.  She and I arrived “at work” around 8:15 the next morning and settled into my office.  The first question came before I unlocked my office when she saw the beautiful flowers in the hall.  I explained to her that two ladies make the bouquets and others pick them up and take them to people who are homebound.  She has visited rehab centers so she understood this concept.  She wanted to look around so we took a tour.  I showed her the medical equipment room explaining that people donate this equipment and then we loan it out to people who need it.  I told her people come every day for medical equipment!  She knew one of her grandmother’s neighbors who had just donated equipment.  When we got to the kitchen the Egganizers were making egg salad.  They told her how they make it for the Good Shepherd House which feeds the hungry and shelters the homeless.  They also shared that they need more hard-boiled (Must Be PEELED) eggs!  While she was working on a project to help Ms.Terri, she saw a boy, close to her age, picking up crutches from the medical equipment room.  A little while later the prayer shawl ladies came in my office and asked about me doing a story about chemo caps.  Ella learned that all of my stories show what God is doing.  They explained to Ella about their prayer shawls and showed her some.  Later we visited upstairs to see the pillowcase ministry.  She was so surprised that there was a huge sewing room upstairs.  She thought the bolts of butterfly fabric and all of the colorful ribbons were beautiful.  She saw the ladies making them; cutting, sewing and ironing.  They explained the Bible verse on the pillow case and who they go to.  On the way back to my office Ella saw my stories printed for people to take.  She took the one I had written about camp - which she attended.  She read the story and told me she was going to share it at the supper table that night.

All through the day, Ella thanked me for letting her come to work.  While I worked she read her book.  Before her mom came I asked Ella what she had learned about Pine Valley United Methodist Church.  She told me she had learned a lot starting with, “a lot goes on here.”  She loved the flower ministry, medical equipment, prayer shawls, chemo caps, pillowcases, stories and Egganizers.  We were talking about her wanting to be a teacher one day and I asked her what she would want to do at church.  She quickly told me she would want to teach children’s Sunday School.  And she wants to make prayer shawls.  She also added that she wants to be a camp counselor.  “One of those who is very nice to the little kids and always says, ‘I’ll see you again next year!’”  

After Ella left I kept thinking about her response to all of the things she learned.  I asked her why she thinks those people serve.  Her answer was that those people have a passion for helping people. 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”  While Ella may not understand the concepts of mercy, love and grace like a mature Christian, she knows the importance of their service.  As she grows in Christ, I believe she will see it as a passion for Jesus.   

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Ella witnessed servants' hearts.  Philippians 2:5-11, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”  She witnessed people doing for others in the name of Jesus.  They were serving others to bring glory to God!  She saw people using their gifts to serve others.  1 Peter 4:10-11, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Ella may not understand her own callings yet but she sees me living out mine.  She understands that I always loved to write and now I love being in the ministry and writing about God. So many of our stories can be traced back to God working in our lives before we knew it.  I shared with her how I wanted to write a book when I was a little girl.  I just never knew what I wanted to write about.  I had not found my passion.  We talked about how God knew before I was born that I was going to write for PVUMC!  She understands that God has a plan for our lives.  

Through Ella’s eyes I was reminded of our great responsibility to children. We must share the good things that God is doing in our lives and around us!  Her desire to be a part of those things warmed my heart.  God is already working in her life.  When she sees a homeless person, a person with a chemo hat, or visits a rehab center and sees the flowers, she will be reminded of the servants who bring glory to God.  Psalm 78:4, “We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.” 

Hearing about what Ella saw reminded me of a song we sing in the 9:45 contemporary service called, “Way Maker” by Sinach. It begins, “You are here, You're moving in our midst.  I worship You, I worship You.  You are here, You’re working in this place.  I worship You, I worship You.”  God is moving in our midst and, like Ella, we only see a glimpse of what all HE is doing!  God is working in this place!  Through our many ministries, hearts are being connected to Christ and one another!  

Connecting Hearts Far and Wide

Some years back I was in Sunday school and we were reading Scripture. A friend I had known for years got out his phone!  I was blown away!  This man teaches Sunday school sometimes. He certainly knows better than to have his phone out.  I think having phones out during conversations, dinners, meetings, etc. is rude. Those things can wait. The next Sunday he did the same thing again!  I am sure I missed some of the Word because I was worried about someone else being on their phone!  You probably know where this is going.  He had a Bible app on his phone, and he was reading along with the others.  I was the one not paying attention! 

There are times that I really appreciate technology but there are often times I remember a simpler life!  Most people will agree that life continues to get busier and crazier!  We have information at our fingertips - more information than we can process.  We have news, tweets, blogs, commercials, apps, programs, ads, games and music.  And most of us have more than one electronic device with which to do these things! 

I remember when I was a little girl and Billy Graham’s crusades were on television. He conducted 417 crusades in 185 countries and territories on six continents. Our family would sit and watch him on TV.  Look at all of the people he reached!  There are lots of good things that come with these technological innovations like keeping in contact with friends and family who live far away.  Sadly, sometimes, we are so busy that technology is how we keep in touch with own neighbors and community!  We can send out prayer requests, let people know we are praying for them, bank online, order flowers, order pizza, book a vacation, and even chat with a doctor instead of going into the office!  And yes, we can even read the Bible on our phone!

I spoke with Kathy who had raised her three kids as a member of our Pastor Tim Reaves’ former church in Bladen County.  Her kids are now grown and spread out with her daughter and granddaughter being in New Zealand.  She starts out telling me how thankful she is for technology.  Even though her granddaughter is in New Zealand, she is able to see and talk with her! She said another reason she is grateful for technology is that she is able to watch the Pine Valley United Methodist Church  service online. 

She was raised feeling like she would get struck down if she did something wrong.  Her son became a quadriplegic at 16 years old in 1995.  That July she moved to Bladen County. Their family continued to experience much devastation.  Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” In 1997 Pastor Tim came to their church. She said Pastor Tim was the common thread in the spiritual life of her and her three kids.

While Pastor Tim had earned the love and respect of his congregation, Kathy tells me, numerous times, that she is not a “Pastor Tim follower” but a “Jesus follower”. He was never in your face but there if you needed him.  Pastor Tim facilitated her relationship with God through his genuineness and his sermons.  Isaiah 32:8, “But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand.”  He continues to touch her family in many ways.  It started out when she wanted them to watch a specific sermon and now she has everyone watching weekly. Hebrews 2:12, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.” Kathy says her son in Florida, her sister in Maryland, her brother in Pittsburg, another brother in New Jersey and, of course, her daughter in New Zealand, all are watching PVUMC online!  She loves how technology can bring people together! 

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I mentioned to her that the first time I came here I felt the power of the Holy Spirit when I walked in the gym door.  I asked her what made her feel connected to PVUMC?  She said even though she is not physically here, she feels the power of the Holy Spirit reaching through the technology of the computer to her!  1 Corinthians 12:7, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”  This service keeps her grounded spiritually.  She said people want what she has and that is joy!  God is using PVUMC in a mighty way to connect hearts to Christ and one another - over many miles!  Mark 16:15, “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

Lighting The Way

When my daughter, Ivey, was little she loved to “serve” communion to herself and others. As she served her “congregation” she would say, “this is the body, broken for you; this is the blood shed for you.”  She dipped Hawaiian bread in grape juice.  Prior to serving she would quote, “Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart.  We have failed to be an obedient church.  We have not done your will, we have broken your law.”  At this point she rambled but always finished with, “through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”  I never thought much about it at the time but I am thankful that she was exposed to the traditions of the church.  When my girls were young they both served as acolytes.  Ivey had paid a lot of attention to these things.  Even though some of it did not make sense to her at that time - those words were embedded.  Deuteronomy 11:18-19, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

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Our traditional services have acolytes which is usually a young person who assists in the worship service.  They serve by lighting the candles on the altar table and carrying the light out into the world at the close of the service.  Mark 10:13-16, “People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’”  And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”

I had the pleasure of corresponding with Karen who was an acolyte at Pine Valley United Methodist Church from 2003-2006. Karen shared her story with me.  Although she had been an acolyte at her prior church, she attended acolyte training here at PVUMC.  That is when she met Marlyn Dempsey.

Here is Karen’s story: 

“Everybody called her ‘Mama Acolyte,’ and she was a wonderful, beautiful firecracker of a person.  I don't know if a description could do her justice.  She loved all her acolyte children with a heart of gold, but she was pretty strict about exactly how we did things. She would definitely let you know if you did something wrong!  It was through her passionate teaching that I came to understand the importance of what light represents in a church service, the responsibility of carrying that light, and respect for the symbol that it is.  In many ways, it was like learning how to carrying the American flag properly.  The light represented the Holy Spirit in the sanctuary, and it was not to be carried upside down, or low to the ground, or carelessly allowed to go out.  Taking the light out of the sanctuary at the end of the service represented us taking the light of Christ out into the world.  Once I understood its importance, being an acolyte held a lot of joy for me.  In a way, it was kind of like my first job: I had scheduled days, and it was my responsibility to switch with someone if I was unavailable. I had certain tasks I was responsible for during the service, and if problems arose, I had to figure out a solution.  It made me feel like an important part of the worship service, not just a kid who was there because her parents made her come.

“I'm not sure that everyone who served as an acolyte felt the way I did about it.  I'm pretty sure most of the boys who did it were just excited to get to carry an open flame in and out of the sanctuary.  And there were definitely Sunday mornings where it was just something to do to stay awake!  But my experience stuck with me, and whenever I see candles in a church service, they hold deeper meaning for me.  Most churches don't have acolytes anymore, and it makes me a little sad, because those young people are missing out on an opportunity to actively serve during worship, and to learn about symbolism in our church services.”

According to the Bible, children are a part of the body of Christ.  During the Feast of Tabernacles, all of Israel would come before the Lord to hear the reading of the Law so that the children would hear it and learn to fear the Lord. Paul considered children a part of the church that he was writing to.  In his letters to the Ephesians, he gave instructions directly to the children to obey their parents. When children are part of the service they learn more about the shape, structure and flow of liturgy and worship traditions.  Faith cannot be forced but we can bring our children to a meaningful task that hopefully helps them explore and fall in love with their faith journey.  

PVUMC is in need of acolytes for the 8:15 and 11:15 am services.  Even if you attend the bridge (9:45) service please consider having your child be a part of this important tradition several times a year.  If you are interested please contact Karl in the church office.  

Nightly Encounters with Jesus


As Pine Valley UMC continues the sermon series Encounters with Jesus, I am reminded and thankful for what my mom shared with me.  She told me if I wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep, then it may be the Holy Spirit waking me.  Also, if I wake up in the night with someone on my mind, then I should pray for them because that could be the Holy Spirit nudging me to pray.  On the radio this morning, I heard the end of a conversation between a Christian songwriter and a DJ.  The songwriter was saying that the words of the song had come to him in the middle of the night.  The DJ said that was biblical.  He quoted Psalm 42:8, "By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life."

As a writer I know that I do a lot of my writing in the middle of the night.  I first noticed this when my girls were young.  I decided that was the only time God could meet with me and it was quiet and my mind was clear.  In the middle of the night the subjects, the words and the stories from life come to me so clear.  The majority of the first book I wrote was done in the dark while I was quiet and still in bed.  Years ago I used to hear people say, "I want to sleep on it" when making big decisions.  I thought that meant they wanted to pray about it overnight.  There is an old proverb about the pillow being the best counselor.  I believe it all comes from God wanting to find us quiet and talk to us.  I believe these are encounters with Jesus!

Most people are frustrated and some furious when they wake up and cannot go back to sleep.  We probably think this comes from anything but God.  We feel like what could be more important than one more hour of sleep?  I am not referring to people with sleep issues.  But, let's face it, if you are going to be awake anyway.....spend that time with God.  I believe He wants to share with you, tell you something special and spend time with you.  Maybe He wants to have a heart to heart with you.  Maybe He just wants you to know how much He loves you!  I can tell you that the nights I was up with Him I was not tired the next day.  I was refreshed.

“Night time”, “before dawn” and “fourth watch of the night” are mentioned many times in Scripture.  Matthew 14:25, "Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake."

Jesus urged Peter to come out and walk on the water with Him.  He did it because He loved Peter and wanted to encourage his faith. Peter was changed by this encounter with Jesus.  He repented of his sins and followed Jesus.  Imagine if Peter and the other disciples rolled over and went back to sleep.  Imagine if Jacob had refused to wrestle the Lord in the middle of the night until the breaking of day. There would be no “Israel.”  Samuel heard his name called not once, but four times, in the middle of the night. 

1 Samuel 3:7-11, "Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.  A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”  Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.  The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”  Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle."  Can you imagine the Lord saying that to you?

Do not miss out on an encounter with Jesus.  A true encounter with Jesus sends us out to tell others about Him.  We, like Peter and Samuel, will encounter Jesus joyfully and become changed people, following Jesus and connecting hearts to Christ and one another.  Next time you lie in bed awake say, "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening."  Then listen!  You may be getting ready to have an encounter with Christ! 

Close Encounters of The Best Kind

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After a long weekend of wedding festivities my friend mentioned she was exhausted and she was not getting up the next morning for church.  Then she said, “It does not take much for me not to go.  I do not get anything out of it."  This person was shocked that I said I was going because she knew we were tired also.  I went on to explain that I get excited to go to church.  When I walk into church on Sunday morning I feel the power of the Holy Spirit and I truly worship.  When I leave I feel I have been refreshed and ready for the week.  My spirit has been filled.  

When we worship we are giving back to God - for all that He has given us.  If we keep all of the blessings He has given us for ourselves it will rot, like the manna did when it was hoarded.  Exodus 16:20, "However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them."  God will never allow us to keep spiritual blessings all for ourselves.  We must give back to Him and He will use it to bless others. 

Genesis 12:8, "From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord."  “Bethel” is the symbol of fellowship with God;  “Ai” is the symbol of the world. Abram “pitched his tent” between the two.  We need to "pitch our tents" somewhere in the middle where we can still have quiet time with God while living in this noisy world.

Worship can turn bad times into wonderful times.  In the book of Acts we read of Paul and Silas, who were beaten and thrown into a cold, dark, stinking dungeon for preaching the gospel. But at midnight Paul and Silas began singing praises to God. They worshiped the Lord. As they sang, an earthquake came, and the entire prison fell apart.  Your faith during worship can lift you above your circumstances!

When we worship we take our focus from ourselves and our problems to God.  Even if our problems do not immediately go away like Paul and Silas' did, our problems don’t seem as significant. When we worship we reevaluate things.  We are reminded of the Lord's glory, His power and His love. We worship God in spite of our circumstances, God created us to worship Him.  Psalm 40:3, "He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him."  The more we honor God and are aware of His presence, in and around us, the more we recognize His presence.

Hebrews 10:25, "...not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."  Theodore Roosevelt once said, “You may worship God anywhere, at any time, but the chances are that you will not do so unless you have first learned to worship Him somewhere in some particular place, at some particular time.” Worship is a commitment. 

Church is part of God's plan - He came up with it.  Matthew 16:18, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."  We have all heard someone say, “Well, I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.” That may be true but it is far removed from God's plan.  We need corporate worship so we are not hardened by sin's deceitfulness.  Hebrews 3:13, "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness."  Ephesians 4:14, "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves,and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming."  We become better grounded, spiritually, when we serve within our church.

The result of being in God’s presence is joy!  We encounter Christ up close and personal!  The fellowship is sweet for those who walk with the Lord in obedience and faith.  It is not a fleeting fellowship.  It sustains us even during the tough times.  Nehemiah 3:10, "Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is Holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” In James 1:2, James wrote, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds”.  Trials produce faith and develop perseverance. After times of perseverance we prove to ourselves that our faith is real and our sense of God's presence increases, along with our joy!

I am refreshed from worship because I have encountered Jesus!  He is there waiting on us. Don’t miss out on a close encounter of the best kind!  Will you show up?

Preparing The Table

A friend of mine was in charge of Altar Guild at church and I would go and help her.  My daughter, Ivey, was around five and she loved to go.  She was intrigued by the white gloves we wore.  It was not long before Ivey was in the pulpit preaching!  Long after Barbara and I were finished we would sit in the pews listening to the sermon!  I never thought much about it at the time but I am thankful that she was exposed to the changing of the Altar Guild and that she paid such attention to Communion.  Even though some of it did not make sense to her at that time - those acts and words were embedded.  Deuteronomy 11:18-19, “‘Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.’”


A small band of dedicated volunteers are responsible for preparing our gathering spaces for corporate worship.  They change the large banners on the walls, change the parament (liturgical hangings on and around the altar and the cloths hanging from the pulpit and lectern) colors according to each liturgical season, decorate and undecorate the Chrismon trees, hang the wreaths, pull the stamens out of Easter lilies so people do not sneeze (who knew?!), fill the candles with oil, purchase the bread and juice for communion and then set the table with those elements.  These are just a few of the things they do to honor and glorify God.  

I talked to one of our Altar Guild servants and told her I needed a story to bring awareness to this ministry and hopefully get more volunteers.  Here is what she shared with me:  

“Knowing we need volunteers for Altar Guild I decided to look for a story to help with this important ministry. After reading Jill’s blog highlighting other ministries I began wondering how Altar Guild shows God’s love to others outside the church.  Then God brought a story to mind along with an invitation for me to share with you. 

I thought of one of our Altar Guild members who joined PVUMC about two years ago. She is married but her husband doesn't attend church. She and I lift him in our prayers every time we go to God. He is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. Always ready and willing to help. He consistently reaches out to his neighbors when they are in need, but let me tell you what he does here at church. This man doesn’t feel worthy. He doesn’t yet understand that none of us are worthy or deserving. He comes to help change out the wall banners. He fills the candles. He helps change the paraments. He goes to the store and purchases the bread and juice. He helps set the communion table. He loads the fruit and vegetables we use to decorate the altar for Thanksgiving in his van and delivers them to the Good Shepherd House the day after Thanksgiving Sunday. He helps put the small white candles in their plastic holders for Christmas Eve services. Yes, he does these things and many others because his wife is a member of the Altar Guild and he is supportive of her. But I believe that through our prayers for him, and because he is experiencing what service to God is and how his wife performs these acts with reverence and how she considers it an honor to prepare the elements for communion, we are carrying him to the cross, one step at a time. We are laying him at the feet of Jesus and asking Him to enter his heart. A quiet ministry can be effective too. The Bible says in Matthew 6:6 ‘But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’”  

None of us are worthy. Scripture tells us that.  Romans 3:10-12, “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”  But here is good news!  Ephesians 2:8-10, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  All we have to do is believe that Jesus died on the cross for us.  John 3:16, “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.”

This is another way of how the Holy Spirit is moving here at PVUMC!  Hebrews 6:10, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”  We were made to serve and to show others the love of God.  Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  If you would like to be a part of this Altar Guild team please contact Mark through the church office.  They need your help and so does God.  You never know how God will use you! 

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“You Helped Jesus Find A Lamb That Day”

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NOTE: This is a follow up blog to the June 21 Blog “In God Nothing Is Too Extreme - A PINE VALLEY UMC Ministry Story about the 2019 IGNITE Music in Mission visit to Henrico County Regional Jail East”. IGNITE is Pine Valley UMC’s Youth Worship Arts Ministry. Each year they minister through song, skits, and dance and take the show on the road. This year’s trip was to Virginia and included a visit to the Henrico County Regional Jail East. 

For those of you who were blessed to see Pine Valley United Methodist Church IGNITE’s “Search and Rescue” program you may remember there was a skit called “Sheep On The Lam” (Sermon On A Stage) about the one lost sheep.  The gist of the skit is that a Shepherd had lost one sheep and the lost and found department did not see the need in looking for ONE lost sheep when He still had 99!  As the Shepherd was leaving the clerk asked, “if you already had 99 sheep, why’d you really waste your time looking for just one?”  The Shepherd told him that that sheep was the most important.  The clerk was confused wondering if it was because he had the fluffiest wool or worth the most at the market?  The Shepherd answered, “No. He’s the most important because he was lost.” 

Matthew 18:12-14, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”  Luke 15:4, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”


This week PVUMC received a letter from an inmate, John, who saw “Search and Rescue” when IGNITE visited the jail he is in.  These are his words, “...I am writing you this letter to thank you and those wonderful young adults who came and performed drama skits and Christ with us.  Your mission team had me in laughter and in tears.  You guys reached me...made me rethink my life and understand that that moment was a time I could just start over again in Christ.  You all helped Jesus find a lamb that day...I want to thank you all for helping me start the process of coming back to Christ and starting over.  I pray for your safe travels and your ability to reach others through your missions.  You guys were awesome!!  I have been locked up now since August 4th of last year and that was the best day I have ever had since I have been here.  Many of my friends say hi and thank you….at our feelings and focus meeting person after person talked about how you touched them that day….I just wanted you guys to know you are reaching people through Christ.  Thank you.  Enjoy yalls summer!  I’ll be released July 9th in 16 days so I plan on going back to church giving up the alcohol and becoming the man God needs me to be.”  “P.S. Timothy 1:15-17, ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.  Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.  Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.’”  

What a praise report for PVUMC to receive. I am so touched that John took the time to send us a letter and share his testimony.  We are to share our testimonies according to 1 Chronicles 16:8, “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.”  What a praise report for our youth who visited this man in jail.  Matthew 25:39-40, “Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” 

We are all prisoners to something.  Some of us may not sit behind physical prison walls like this man does but we all spend time in “prison”.  We can all be set free of the shackles through Jesus Christ.  Psalm 107:14, “He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.”  We have all been in captivity, in darkness, in misery and in chains due to our rebellion against God.  God humbled our hearts and we find ourselves in a situation where we have come to the end of ourselves.  We are finally ready to cry out for help.  Sometimes there is no one there.  But when we cry out to the Lord, He is there to save us!  I believe God knew before John was born that on June 19, 2019 he would be in jail and each one of us (he knew our names) would be there to show the love of Christ.  God had been humbling John’s heart - and many others.  John was ready to give up and call out and The Good Shepherd was there to pick Him up and celebrate his coming home!

And while John plans to give up alcohol he will probably face temptation. Romans 7:24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”  We all have temptations towards sin and pride.  In the middle of temptation we can pray, “Lord Jesus lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  Each one of us are God’s chosen.  He laid down His life for us.  He has always loved us and always will.  He never changes so it will always be this way.  Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”  He is ready to meet us just where we are.

The greatest joy of all is that this sheep is with the Shepherd. Let’s rejoice with God on finding His lost sheep and let’s pray for John.  I believe many people encountered Jesus that day.  May we continue to go out and connect hearts to Christ and one another.  IGNITE, you helped Jesus find a lamb that day!  1 Corinthians 3:8, “The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.”

Let Freedom Ring

July 4th means I put extra flags in my yard and on the boat - I always have an American flag flying at my house.  We usually spend the day with friends or on the boat with friends and grilling out on the island.  Our dogs, like many of yours, do not like July 4th because of the fireworks!  We have had neighborhoods who have parades and parties.  People wear red, white and blue that weekend.  Many people get an extra day off to enjoy cookouts and fireworks with friends.  This is all good, but the one word that comes to my mind is freedom.

July 4th commemorates the day in 1776 that our nation declared itself to be an independent nation and no longer a colony of England. On that date, a number of our leading citizens signed what is known as the Declaration of Independence. July 4th is Independence Day and we celebrate the tremendous freedom we enjoy!  

I try not to take freedom for granted.  We live in a country where we can voice our opinions freely and can vote for the people of our choice.  We can worship freely.  The American flag means so much to me.  I have generations of family members who have served and are serving for our country.  Because of their contributions for my freedom, I proudly display my flag!  

While July 4th is not a religious holiday, I do think it is a time to reflect on God’s goodness to us as a nation. Molded into the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia are the words from Leviticus 25:10, “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.”  The ancient words of the Psalmist are still true: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12a).  While we look with gratitude to the past on this July 4th, may we also look in faith to the future. Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.”  

If we want true and eternal freedom we need to commit our lives to God and His will. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,...”  Jesus died to pay the price for our sins.  He took my place and He took your place.  Because of His death, we are made free from the death penalty of sin. We are washed clean and can stand righteous before God.   

Jesus was buried.  Romans 6:4, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  Through faith we died with Jesus and we are dead to the power of sin over us.  We can choose to live Holy lives. 

“That He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4) tells us that His death, alone, could not save us.  It was the resurrection that gave us the power of salvation.  


The American flag represents freedom.  Jesus also represents freedom.  He is like a banner flying over us, protecting us, and shielding us.  Psalm 3:3, “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”

Let freedom ring this July 4th!  Let the freedom Jesus gives ring out in our hearts today!

“Lord, We Lift Our Praise To You!”

I was blessed to spend two days at Camp Singletary which had been transformed into CandyLand! Making my way into the mess hall I could smell the cotton candy!  Candy was everywhere - giant “candy” hanging from the ceilings, on the walls, jars of candy all over and desert after lunch was, of course, candy!  Every kind of candy!

I first visited the elementary girl’s cabin where it was nicely decorated!  Pretty lights hanging and their “carpet squares” (to wipe their feet off before getting in bed) were pretty and one said, “Good morning, gorgeous!”  Decorative pillows on the beds and cute pillow cases.  The cabins are judged for cleanliness and their cabin was ready.  

I heard loud music from a cabin and Chase and Conner invited me in to the boys cabin.  A little less “homey” than the girls cabin. After talking with the counselors, camp is very simple for the boys.  No need to bathe - you swim in the lake.  Life is too simple for the clean cabin award - they make a mess and don’t worry about it.  On the last day they clean up!  

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MAC stands for “met at camp” and consists of one high schooler or middle schooler and one elementary student or sometimes one more camper.  Everyday there is time to do MAC things together (Lunch, Swim, Dinner, Party). I saw the older kids helping the younger kids get their food and bonding. Instead of being intimidated by the older kids they are becoming friends with them!   After dinner each night, the MACs go to vespers, a time of worship and prayer together, on the lake pier.

Each group has “Bible” with an age appropriate lesson. Their singing is led by cool young counselors and, of course, Pastor Tim!  One special thing, to me, is how our kids interact with Pastor Tim.  They know they have a pastor, not just a pastor for their parents.  I think this makes our youth feel special. 

I worked in the kitchen part of the time and let me tell you - that is a well oiled machine!  Several of the team could run it on their own (and have) but we have all of those gifts and knowledge in one kitchen!  And it works!  In my opinion that is the hardest and hottest job!   

There are many other parts of camp like crafts, Bingo and singing with the nearby rehab center, senior night, Jesus-in-Action awards, etc.  

Some of our camp servants came here as kids.  Some were here the first year of Pine Valley’s Summer Camp in 1988.  They love getting to know different ages!  I heard “tradition” many times.  This is their tradition so they keep coming!  Some of the servants take a week of their vacation to come to camp.  They know the importance of camp.  In 1 Corinthians 12, the church is compared to a human body. Just as our bodies are made of many parts serving specific functions, the church is made up of people with different skills and abilities.  Some in college, some just married, some are parents, some are working, some are retired, some are grandparents. But there is one thing in common for them to come serve in this heat!  They are on fire for Jesus. Burning up for Jesus!

After being with IGNITE and seeing the spiritual side last week, I wondered what the big thing would be about camp.  One difference was what were tear-stained notes last week were sweat-stained notes this week!   As I sat back to pause and reflect I quickly realized - fellowship!  You do not go to Camp Singletary for the luxurious accommodations, crystal clear water, and great air conditioning. You go for the fellowship. You take home more friendships of all ages, more memories, and more Bible knowledge!  Most importantly you take home God’s love!   

Our kids were “unplugged” for this God-filled week, just enjoying God’s creation!  I believe Jesus was smiling down on Lake Singletary, watching His children have fun while learning Good News!  He listened as the whole camp sang praises to Him!  “Sweet Camp Singletary, where skies are blue.  Sweet Camp Singletary, Lord we lift our praise to you!” to the tune of “Sweet Home Alabama.”  Jesus watched all ages laugh and play in the lake - a way to cool off in the heat!  I believe He enjoyed painting gorgeous sunsets behind the cross, as our backdrop, for Vespers each night.  He saw new friendships being made - many for a lifetime - friendships that help us grow spiritually.  He witnessed encouragement!  Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  

Psalm 145:4, “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts”  I believe God looked at these servants and said, “well done, good and faithful servant!”  Everyone comes back from camp exhausted but with a renewed spirit!  Many have moved out of their comfort zones and God has increased their faith by revealing their new potential.  New potential that benefits them and our church - all for the glory of God!  

“Sweet camp Singletary! Lord, we lift our praise to you!”

“You May Be The Only Bible Someone Reads”

Recently, I attended the new member’s luncheon as a staff member and I learned a lot.  Pastor Tim asked the new members how they found Pine Valley United Methodist Church.  The coolest part was listening to those answers.  One of the ladies said that she had recently attended a funeral for a coworker and the choir meant so much to her that she decided to visit and is now joining.  Another lady said her neighbor asked Pastor Barry to call her because her husband was dying.  Pastor Barry did and that meant so much to her that she is now joining.  And the most touching story to me was a young girl who said during hurricane Florence she was without water and power.  She heard that PVUMC was feeding people and she came.  She was so impressed with that ministry that she is now joining!  The Holy Spirit is all over this campus!  We never know what our actions mean to someone else.  We never know who is listening.  I like the saying “sometimes we are the only Bible someone will read.”  

A young Timothy received instruction on how to be a leader from his mentor, Paul.  1 Timothy 4:11-5: 2, “Command and teach these things.  Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.  Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.  Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.  Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers…Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

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As church people, we need to make a difference to our families, to others, and to our community.  As Christians we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  God has given every one of us a gift to use to further His Kingdom.  These gifts can be faith, mercy, leadership, giving, prophecy, service, etc.  Romans 12:6-8, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

You are the only Bible some people will read, and as I recently heard, “you are the only Jesus some people will see.”  The Lord is calling you to serve him by serving others.  Galatians 5:13, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  Service is a great way to put our self-centeredness aside.  We begin to start seeing the needs of others.  Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  We are not to live for ourselves but to serve others. Matthew 25:40,  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

I have read many times that studies have shown that volunteering is good for the mind and body.  It can ease symptoms of stress and depression. Serving can build self-confidence, energy, and strength.  God does not want to only work through you - He wants to also work in you!  Do not miss this encounter with Jesus! 

In God Nothing Is Too Extreme

When PJ Bolduc, our Pine Valley United Methodist Church Children & Youth Music Director, mentioned that IGNITE was going to a jail to do their Search and Rescue concert, I knew I wanted to go!  IGNITE is the PVUMC Worship Arts ministry for youth. Prison ministry has always had a special place in my heart. IGNITE’s concert Sunday morning at 9:45 in the Bridge was such a blessing!  

Tuesday I arrived in Newport News to see IGNITE do their concert at the Five Loaves Food bank where they put on a carnival earlier in the day.  After the concert, Brother Tim, a Franciscan Monk, had a healing service for 13 year old Riley, who is very sick and has lived years past his prognosis.  Brother Tim had not seen him in a year and he showed up Tuesday night!  Brother Tim asked anyone who needed healing to stand and whoever felt led to pray to go pray with someone near you.  The girl next to me, Holly, had been crying so hard she was shaking.  I stood with her and she could only say, “emotional healing”.  As I wrapped my arms around her to pray with her I shared her tears. God was breaking my heart for what breaks His.  IGNITE had a raffle and called so many numbers!  I was cheering for Holly’s number to be called and she said, “I already got a gift...the best gift...being here tonight!”  Miracles were seen Tuesday night.  Our youth were mingling and making friends!  Aubrey shared with me what Edna, her 94 year old friend, meant to her.  Aubrey nor I will probably ever see Edna or Holly again but we will never forget our encounters. As we ate dinner, Brother Tim (not Pastor Tim) shared his story of being in prison for three years for drugs before He changed his life.  He shared what God could do in your life and God’s amazing forgiveness.


Wednesday morning when the 120+ inmates of the Henrico County Jail walked in, there were already tears by many of the females.  Not only do the inmates not get to see youth, but also a few if not many have children this age and do not know if, or when, they will see their children.  I am sure there were lots of feelings of regret, shame, heaviness, etc.  As soon as our youth started singing there were more tears, smiles, moving to the music and clapping.  When the words, “I needed rescue, my sin was heavy, but chains break at the weight of Your glory,” were sang, they started yelling in praise to God as I believe their chains were breaking.  As we sang, “You rescued me so I could stand and sing, ‘I am a child of God!’”  You could just hear them yelling, “thank You, Jesus” and “Amen”.  One lady, on the front row, could hardly contain herself.  Joy was radiating from her!  When she heard, “And when the tears of pain and heartache are pouring down my face, I find my peace in Jesus’ name” she grabbed her arms and told her friend, “I have chills!”  She could not stop smiling or cheering.

When the words, “From my mother’s have chosen me” was sung there seemed to be another “release” of tears. “I’m no longer a slave to fear” brought shouts of praise!  My notes are tear stained as I prayed for these children of God to know they are chosen and know they are forgiven!  “East to west their sins were gone!”  When the last song was sung and the words were, “Three days later, my Jesus is alive,” I witnessed true celebration.  We don’t praise THAT much on Easter morning!

PJ thanked them for having IGNITE and told them even though we do not know them, as a Christian community, we love you.  They all yelled back, “we love you!”  Pastor Tim reminded them how much God loves them.  He said if any of us need to accept forgiveness, transformation and power in our lives to say yes. There were no eyes shut and no heads bowed - they were all yelling, “YES!”  Pastor Tim closed with, “let us receive, believe and walk in that mercy today.”  I could just picture Jesus smiling, so proud, arms outreached to welcome back the lost sheep!  I know he was so proud of the youth!  1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

As the men filed out, they were yelling, “thank you!  We love you!”  As they walked out they looked lighter from burdens being lifted. There were smiles and they looked hopeful!  As I mingled with some of the women, I asked what I should tell our church about this concert. One lady told me that her 15 year old daughter sings in an all county chorus and these youth inspired her- thinking of her daughter singing Christian songs! Several told me that for a little while they forgot where they were!  Wow!  One lady said, “y’all opened up moments of grace for me.”  For me too!  The lady who oozed joy told me that she had needed this for a while.  She and her friend had been talking the day before about needing to feel God.  Her friend said, “just yesterday I yelled, ‘God where are you’?!”  As she wiped the steady stream of tears from her face, they both laughed and she said, “and then today here y’all were!”  They felt part of a miracle!  IGNITE was an answered prayer for so many hurting sheep!

A few inmates got to answer questions and share their story.  One shared that she had a good childhood raised by strong Christian parents and grandparents.  When she went to UVA she had freedom with no one to answer to.  She could do whatever she wanted and her partying progressed.  Later, as an alcoholic, she chose to be irresponsible and drive with her baby and she found herself in jail for 36 months.  She said this was a blessing - she could have killed her son and innocent people.  She reminded us not to follow the crowd.  You know what your parents instilled in you!  Another lady told us she did not wake up one day wanting to be a bad person. She turned her back on everything she knew. Instead of seeking God she sought drugs.  She was leaving that afternoon and did not know where she would be.  She would get her sentence in court the next day.  She was grateful she saw IGNITE before she left!  Another miracle!  Even though she did not know what her future held, she said she knew God will never leave her or forsake her.  She thanked IGNITE for reminding them that God IS in the jail!

Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  And as IGNITE tells you, that is great news for anyone who’s ever drifted out to sea or wandered away from the flock.  “If you feel like a hurricane is blowing through your life, a storm of debt, depression, sickness or grief, if you feel like your life should be declared a disaster area, look to God, who is able to keep you in His eye.  He put His Son Jesus Christ on search and rescue duty, and if we trust Him, He will provide a place of peace for our soul.

IGNITE stands for “In God Nothing Is Too Extreme” and that was proved this week!  And I will close with another lady’s comment to our youth, “you are all so beautiful!”

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Labor of Love

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I was reading this article by Billy Graham and thought, this sounds like it was just written.  I went back and looked and this message was from 1955!  He describes problems that are sadly similar to those of today.  He writes, “many Christian parents are becoming fearful that they cannot properly train their children in this lawless and wicked age...We have taken God out of our educational systems and thought we could get away with it….Many of our educational leaders sneer at the old-fashioned idea of God and a moral code. Movies feature sex, sin, crime and alcohol... Newspapers have played up crime and sex until they seem glamorous to our young people...Instead of publicizing the good and constructive things that teenagers do, we have played up the sensational lawbreaker….”  

Mr. Graham went on to say, “If you are a parent, Christ can help you to rear your children in the fear and nurture and admonition of the Lord. If I were not a Christian, I would despair of my children in the moral climate in which we have to rear them….Get the Scripture and its principles ingrained into their souls—“precept upon precept; line upon line;” teach them “here a little, and there a little” from the Word of God (Isaiah 28:13). Get them into the habit of going to church every Sunday, of praying daily and of saying grace at the table….That will solve 90 percent of the problems you have with your children.”

Every problem, then and now, has the same answer - Jesus Christ.  Thankfully, at PVUMC you have lots of opportunities for your children to grow in God’s Word.  As I think about how so many churches slow down for the summer all I see is PVUMC revving up!  We are so blessed to be looking at such a full calendar of events coming up.  I am blown away as I sit in the staff meeting listening to all of the logistics.  I am amazed, but not surprised, at the ongoing commitment from our staff!  They truly have servants hearts!  They are called to do God’s work sharing the Good News! 

Three big events are coming up including Ignite’s music and mission trip, summer camp at Singletary, and vacation Bible school!  What important experiences these are!  I have wonderful memories of Bible school and church camp and so do my girls. I am grateful that our church knows the importance of these events for our children and youth!  Just to show you what a labor of love these weeks are, Ignite music mission trip is made up of 100 people!  Summer camp is made up of 140 people!  Vacation Bible school is made up of 425 people!  As you can tell it takes a lot of servant hearts giving of their time to pull this off.  All of this is done to help further the Kingdom of God! 

As I have said before, please remember that God does not call the qualified but qualifies the called. 2 Timothy 3:17, “ that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  The kids need love and we can all do that.  When we put our arms around the kids, we will put their arms around God’s Word!  You may experience the toughest kid on day one and that same kid may be the one hugging you the hardest on the last day!  Matthew 19:14, “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 

We need servant hearts for Vacation Bible School July 8-13.  If you would like to laugh, be inspired with creativity, appreciate the small wonders of life and experience unconditional love, please register on the church website or contact the church office.

Leaving a Legacy

As Father's Day approaches I think of lot of my dad and how much I miss him.  I have so much to be grateful for.  My dad left me wonderful memories of quality time spent together.  He left me the love of salt water and all that it entails!  He left me a positive attitude trying to always see the glass half full.  He left me the love of the American flag and all that it stands for. I share the same tears he shed when I hear the National Anthem. He left me lots of laughs.  He left me lots of life lessons and unconditional love.  Most importantly, he handed down his faith and his love for Jesus.

While my dad did not leave me millions of dollars, he left me something better!  An inheritance is something you leave.  When an inheritance is left, it causes temporary happiness and satisfaction.  A legacy is a movement.  The spiritual inheritance I received is priceless!   Proverbs 20:21, "An inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end."  While money is a nice inheritance, parents can leave enough to their children and grandchildren to be helpful without leaving them so much it hurts them.  Matthew 19:24 explains, "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

Proverbs 13:22, "A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous."  When we realize that stuff and money are temporary, it pales in comparison to a legacy of faith and love.  My dad's godly character, integrity and trustworthiness taught me so much.  These qualities are passed down to the next generation when the person has already gone to heaven.  2 Timothy 1:5, "I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also."

We have such a huge responsibility to our children.  We need to leave a legacy behind!  We must let our children know about God's power and the wonderful things He has done.  Psalm 78:4, "We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done."  We need to teach our children about God's faithfulness.  Isaiah 38:19, " The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness."  Our children should know that in our house we will serve the Lord.  Joshua 24:15, "... But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

As a Christian, what more should we want for others than to have the promise of eternal life?  We are told in Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."  What an awesome promise!  Whether we are the birth parents or not, this is our commandment.

When we hear inheritance we should think of God's promises of inheriting eternal life with Him!  God has graciously given us an inheritance.  Psalm 37:29, "The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever."  Jesus quoted from this psalm when he said in Matthew 5:5, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."  What will our children inherit from us?


As we celebrate Father's Day let's thank God for the legacies that were left behind from those men who were influential in our spiritual lives.  Let us also ask God to help us to leave a spiritual legacy behind for many.  Happy Father's Day to those who have gone on to be with the Heavenly Father and to my family and friends here on earth!

Gifts, Getaways, and Grace

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When Mike and I got married he or I messed up our vows - not enough for anyone else to notice.  Anyway, Mike has always teased me that he could get out of the marriage because of that.  He also likes to pick on me saying that when he said, "I thee wed" he really said, "I be dead."  A real comedian, huh?  I remember I had the word, "obey" taken out of our vows. Obey sounded so harsh!  I also kept my maiden name hyphenated with his name.

As Mike and I celebrate our 31st anniversary I find myself thinking of what anniversary really means.  My first thought is of gifts and getaways.  Sometimes it means you have raised two daughters who you love and are so proud of.  Sometimes it means you have persevered through the tough times.  Sometimes it means the diamond he put on your finger last year and said he was more excited buying this one than the one 30 years ago!  Sometimes it means building a prosperous business.  Sometimes it means we were struggling financially.   Sometimes it means we made it through sickness.  Sometimes we made it through health without knowing what a blessing health is!  Sometimes it means hearts breaking.  Sometimes it means mending hearts.  Sometimes it means full hearts.  Sometimes it means burying your parents.  Sometimes it means devastating news.  Sometimes it means great vacations together.  Sometimes it is just sitting in God’s beautiful creation together.  Sometimes it is just being comfortable sitting together quietly.  Sometimes it means tough seasons.  But all the time it means we are in it together!

As I think about our upcoming sermon series on Encountering Jesus, I am reminded of how Mike and I have made it through the highs and lows of marriage.  We could not do this without encountering Jesus!  The biggest blessing in our marriage is that there are three in our marriage.  We don't always show that but we do know it.  With Jesus we can go through the tough times and come out stronger!  We have been through things that many people would have split up over.  I thank God for His grace that helps us every day.  God has blessed both of us and our marriage with His grace...over and over!

My thoughts have changed so much through the years - maybe I gained a little wisdom along the way.  I still like my maiden name.  I don’t  introduce myself with both names but I always write it.  It’s my name and I am proud of my family because I come from good stuff.  However, today I would confidently say, "submit or obey".  Before my girls, and many of you, have a fit, please finish reading.  Ephesians 5:22-23, "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior."  Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."

Wives, if your husband is trying to love you like Christ loved the church, then you have nothing to worry about!  He will be a godly man and not "boss" you around.  The verse is for the women so it is hers to obey and not his to demand.  Spiritual leadership means that the husband has the burden of responsibility.  It is not for him to do what he wants to do.  It is empowerment for him to do what he ought to do.  Paul explains that submission in marriage is a gift God designed to help us grow and become more like Him.  He is not diminishing our worth but inviting us to reflect Jesus in how we submit to that leadership.

The Bible tells women to honor and respect their husbands.  Ephesians 5:33, "However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."  Men gravitate to the place where they receive honor and respect.  While studying this, over and over, I saw that if we treat our men with utmost respect they will want to live up to what we see in them.  Marriage thrives in an atmosphere of praise.

Long-lasting marriages don’t just happen. They need a maintenance plan because constant maintenance is required.  You need a plan in place from the beginning.  Our first plan was that divorce was not an option so we knew we had to work.  (Although I do believe there are times when divorce is needed.)  Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."  There are things we both just have to get over or bitterness and resentment will take over.  We need to cover each other's faults and focus on the strengths.

Anniversaries are about honoring God for what He has done.   Think about how God has brought you through.  God can help us love our spouse as Christ has loved us. We need to meditate on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails..."   Thanks be to God!