Excerpt from Christmas Charity by Susan G. Mathis:

Mabel opened the door and noticed the darkening sky. “Come in, Susan. Looks like a Nor’easters a building. Might have snow by nightfall.”

Susan entered the elderly woman’s abode. Neat and tidy with lots of memorabilia, just as Susan had imagined. Mabel led her into the kitchen. “I was just making tea. Care for some?”

“Yes, please. How are you, Mabel?”

“I’m just fine. Been praying for you and that girl of yours a fair bit. How’s it going?” Mabel stopped pouring the tea and stared into Susan’s eyes. “Tell me truthful-like, ya hear?” She tilted her head to accentuate her command.

Susan dropped her eyes to the oilcloth-covered table. “Not good. She won’t let me in. Patrick says to give her time, but…”

Mabel sat down next to her and rubbed her braid like her mama always did. Susan turned to make sure she wasn’t dreaming that Mabel was her mama just then.

“But what? Her father let’s her get away with too much? She has free rein to be prickly?” Mabel grunted. “My brother did the same thing when his wife died, and now my niece is unbearable. I know the signs.”

Susan nodded. “So what do I do? I love Patrick. He’s a kind man but he’s too kind sometimes.”

“Pray, dear girl, and pour on the charity.” Mabel sipped her tea before continuing. “Thomas Aquinas said that only God gives us power to show charitable love to another. He says that it’s the most perfect way to love. It’s love that’s given by choice, by your will, not expecting anything in return. True charity not only touches the heart of another but once you pour it out, joy and peace will also fill you up.”

“But…if I can’t even talk to her or touch her or interact with her in any way, how can I show her charity? I don’t understand.”

Mabel gazed at the wall for several moments before answering. “God has to show you the specifics, dearie. The love chapter in Corinthians gives us some ideas. Part of it is having faith and hope that God will give you the answer. It has nothing to do with her accepting you or even liking you. You can talk to her all you want, but if you don’t show her charity, it’ll sound like a noisy, irritating gong. You have to choose to pour on the charity expecting nothing in return.”

Susan felt her brow furrow. She bit her lip until it hurt, trying to understand Mabel’s words. Mabel patiently sipped her tea and let the sounds of silence fill the room. Susan heard the wind howl and the clock tick, until the quiet comforted her. But she still had questions.

“So, it has nothing to do with her? I have to choose it, no matter what she says or does?”

Mabel smiled, patting Susan’s hand. “Exactly. But you can’t do it in your own strength. You have to let God fill you with charity and then you pour it out. Like this pitcher.” Mabel took the little, white creamer and demonstrated as she poured a little cream into her tea. “Just like that. You don’t make the cream. You just pour it out. You’re a vessel, girl.”

Susan G. Mathis is vice-president of Christian Authors Network. She’s a multi-published author of stories set in her childhood stomping ground, the beautiful Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River in upstate NY. Her newest novella, Christmas Charity, her first novel, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, her Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, and her novellas will take you to a time and place few have gone. Susan is also author of two premarital books with her husband, Dale; two children’s picture books, seven stories in compilation books, and hundreds of articles. Visit her at www.SusanGMathis.com.

 

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All of us have dreams of what we want to do with our lives. Sometimes those dreams get sidetracked by the reality of life. Sometimes they’re so long in coming that we tend to give up and think, “What’s the use?”

How do we make those dreams come true? Whether the dream is about a career choice, a place you want to visit, or something you would really like to do, the dream can come true.

Fulfillment depends on attitude and faith. By attitude, I mean surrounding ourselves with the resources or the tools and information we need to pursue the dream. Faith, of course, means trusting the Lord.

Dreams don’t come true overnight. Often life gets in the way and dreams go by the wayside. We make excuses for not following through and keep putting off doing something about it.

To follow your dream, stay focused on that dream and what the Lord wants you do. Don’t let age, insecurity, or doubt creep in and rob you of the desire God has placed in your heart. Grab it, hold on to it, and never stop dreaming. God has plans for you! Remember that those plans are not to harm you but to give you hope and a future (see Jeremiah 29:11). He won’t steer you wrong.

Four “P’s” to success: prayer, planning, patience, and perseverance. Without these, we will have a more difficult time seeing our dreams fulfilled. It’s time to stop making excuses and start looking at what we can do to help that dream along. When we bathe our plans in prayer and we have the patience to persevere in pursuit of those plans, they will succeed in God’s timing. Maybe they won’t be exactly what we expected, but the result will be the best—because it’s God’s plan for us.

Martha Rogers, a multi-published author, writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. She and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas. They have three sons, eleven grandchildren, and four (soon to be five) great-grandchildren. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years experience teaching home economics and English at the secondary level and eight years at the college level, supervising student teachers and teaching freshman English. She is director of the Texas Christian Writers Conference held in Houston each August, a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and a member of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive. Find Martha at www.marthawrogers.com or www.hhhistory.com. Twitter: @martharogers2; Facebook: Martha Rogers Author.

 

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We think that your marriage is a wonderful forum for instilling values, beliefs, principles and morals. Society sometimes just doesn’t know what to do with great men, great women, great dads, great moms, and people are often baffled by the wise, well spoken,  and well centered children focused parents produce.

We were very proactive in our parenting. We share the details of how we raised our kids is in 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make. The main point is that all along the way we prayed specifically and planned intentionally. We developed a Learner and Leader Plan with a yearly Farrel Family Fun Day and on this day each year we negotiated privileges and responsibilities. We gave them a gift that applauded their calling each year.

We reinforced good choices with a Teen Relationship Contract, Education Contract, Driving Contract, and as media developed, we added in a Media

10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make; Got Teens; 10 Questions Kids ASk About Sex

Contract. We added in plenty of fun like, father son trips and individual time with mom enjoying their favorite activities with plenty of time for deeper conversations.

At sixteen we gave them car keys with a verse on it, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;  that each of you should learn to control your own body  in a way that is holy and honorable,”  (1 Thes. 4:3-4 NIV) .

We also gave each son an ID bracelet with that same verse on it that they wore on dates.  Then as they prepared to launch into their own life, we have a walk into manhood inviting all their mentors to a celebration.

We also have a Freshman Foundation Dinner and Dialogue which is a series of five sets of discussion questions we used to talk through critical areas as our children went away to college. (All these are available at our Love-Wise website).

Farrel family

Sometimes people say, “Bill and Pam, you are so intense”.  We agree, we are intense—and intentional. Parenting is hard work, but the only thing harder is to not do the work and have to do much more repair work later because you didn’t spend the time sowing right thinking into your children’s lives.  We just elected to do much of the hard work early so we could enjoy the fruit of having kids making wiser choices as they grew up. One mentor said to us, “Pay now or pay later—but you will pay.”

Bill and I found working and planning together as parents drew us closer as a couple.  As a grandmother, I helped author, Raising a Modern Day Princess, because I was motivated to also

Raising a Modern Day Princess
Focus on the Family
Tyndale Publishers

help my granddaughters (and  grandsons) make wise choices.  As grandparents, we want to back up all the important wisdom our now grown kids will be passing on to their own children by reinforcing the

values mom and dad are sharing.

We know God’s desire is for us to be proactive in passing along our values:

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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates (Duet 6:6-9)

10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make

We encourage parents to leave their trademark on their children ™

T- Traditions, the things you do yearly to pass on your faith and values.

M- Memories, the special once in a lifetime events or activities that build into your children.

So talk together about what you hope for as your children journey with you. What traditions, what memories do you want to plan in order to pass on your belief system?

Lord, help us be proactive in preparing our children well for the life journey you have for them. Give us wisdom and creativity as we plan traditions and memories. Amen

Pam and Bill Farrel are the parents of three godly grown sons, who each married God-honoring wives, and are raising 5 grandchildren to love and serve God too. The Farrels have penned several parenting books including 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make and 10 Questions Kids Ask About Sex. (Harvest House Publsihers) The Farrel family loves to gather on Bill and Pam’s live aboard boat in Southern California.

Pam and Bill Farrel
and family

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The handmade collection of misshapen guitars, ukuleles, and banjos  made me wonder. Is the museum desperate for displays?

About half of the instruments hanging on the walls were painted barn-red. Others had obviously been pieced together from two or three different types of wood. But the story of the man who crafted them changed my whole perspective.

In the 1960s Arkansas farmer Ed Stilley had difficulty supporting his wife and five children. One day, while plowing his field behind a donkey, he thought he was having a heart attack. Lying on the ground with no one around to hear his cries for help, he prayed and received a vision of God telling him to make guitars and give them to children. If he did, God promised to take care of him and his family.

So Ed did what God told him to do. He didn’t make excuses for his lack of musical training, nor did he wait until he could afford the “right” materials. Instead, he scrounged for wood and other scraps, using what he had on hand. He built instruments out of old door hinges, Masonite siding, circular saws, marbles, and even an aluminum pot.

He wasn’t embarrassed by the amateurish look of his instruments. He simply did what God told him to do. It’s believed nearly every child in the county received a guitar, each inscribed with this message: “True Faith. True Light. Have faith in God.”

Ed Stilley’s obedience inspires me to do what God tells me to do. No excuses for my lack of ability or training. No waiting for inspiration to strike with the right message. No hiding my work because it’s not professional.

Lord, make me an instrument…that plays the melody You’ve chosen for me.

 Mary L. Hamilton is the author of four novels, including one adult mystery. Her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series for middle-grade readers was inspired by the years she lived at a camp growing up. Besides writing, she enjoys photography and traveling with her husband.

 

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If hacking hasn’t happened to you, it will.

Hackers are on the rampage. Facebook posts, emails, tweets are compromised. “Share” posts contain hidden lewd images. Links illegally access your profile. Banks, hospitals, even government entities are not immune. It seems there is no firewall strong enough.

Our souls are not immune to being hacked. Call him what you will…the devil, the evil one, Satan, the father of lies. Trust me, as soon as you begin to do God’s will, this hacker will show up. Big time!

Satan knows the places where our “firewall” is the weakest. He wiggles in with a negative suggestion and clouds our positive viewpoint. God didn’t mean for you to take this on. Everyone does it. That verse doesn’t pertain to today. God will never forgive you.

Soon, like a virus, it begins to affect our thoughts and actions, even our prayers or desire to pray. Step by step, we become more and more vulnerable to his fiery wiles.

Where is your spiritual firewall the most vulnerable? How can you make sure your soul is unhack-able?

Paul shared the algorithm two millennia ago. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12). Prayer is the best defense against becoming compromised. Scripture is the best method to detect hacked messages.

A joy-filled attitude that knows without a doubt God is faithful and true and loves you is the best way to have uninterrupted power.

Julie Cosgrove

Julie Cosgrove is an editor and writer for Cru Canada’s internet ministry, Power to Change. Her income, like any missionary’s, is dependent upon prayer and financial partners. She is also a professional speaker and a multiple award-winning author of ten novels with four more under contract.

 

 

 

 

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