Saturday, December 15, 2018


by Tim Howard

Opening presents at Christmas is fun for children and adults but there’s one thing that remains a joy killer! It’s opening a present that needs batteries and none are included. Even worse is opening a present, only to find that it’s broken.

A few years ago at Christmas, my wife opened a beautifully wrapped box only to find a gorgeous colorful glass vase broken. Even though she was careful to unwrap the gift, the pedestal was severed in three distinct places.  The end result was — Broken!

Hopefully everyone has a Christmas present under their tree this year but we tend to forget that people are gifts as well. Especially our family and friends! What we may not realize, however, is that every person surrounding and supporting us is broken as well.

You and I live in a world of brokenness. Marriages are breaking up at an unprecedented rate. Broken families are everywhere and our society is experiencing long-lasting ramifications as a result – much like the aftershocks of an earthquake.

That’s why Jesus came to heal the sick, free those who are bound, forgive all who have sinned and restore that which is broken.  I like what the old prophet Isaiah said in chapter 42 of his book. “God won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant.”

Jesus came to restore – not to discard and dispose of the broken!

My reaction to the broken vase was quite different than my wife’s.  I immediately decided to throw it away and purchase a new one.  From my point of view the decision seemed rational and logical. After all, it was broken – not valuable – and should be thrown away.

My wife’s response, however, was not quite so rash.  She carefully studied the vase from every angle for several moments.  She studied it as though she were a scientist in search of a cure for a rare disease.  Finally, she announced to me with great conviction, “I can fix it.”  And she did. 

If you find your life broken at some point, don’t believe the lies that tell you – you’re beyond repair! You’re not worth restoring or nothing can be done.

You may remember the Nursery Rhyme that says:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Here’s some good news that will bring great joy to all who believe! Jesus is the King of Kings and He is willing and able to put you back together again. All you need to do is ask!

Luke 2:10-11 “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” NIV 

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Making Room

by Candace Cortez

Nobody would ever confuse me for a domestic goddess. I have been known to fold laundry on my dining room table and pick articles of clothes from that very pile for a few days until the pile magically disappears. It’s ok, you have permission to judge me. I try to keep my kitchen and living room “ready for company” but I would warn any random pop in visitors to not visit some of the rooms on the edges of my house! I’m a clutter bug. I blame my overly creative brain.

However, out of the basic laws of house management, there is one area that gets cleaned out more than most: my refrigerator. Around once a week, I find myself pulling out leftovers, checking labels on bottles, and generally making sure there isn’t anything hidden in there that may scare me the following week. I pretty much can’t handle mossy foods and feel responsible to make sure my family is safe from whatever can happen after vegetables start getting slimy. Now before you start believing there is some hope for my domestic lifestyle, I must confess the primary reason I keep things clean-ish is to make sure that when I bring in fresh groceries, there is room for it all! Gathering groceries is a big enough chore, I don’t want to have to clean the fridge every time I purchase a new bundle of produce, milk, and eggs.

As we are in full swing in the holiday season, my question for you, myself, and for my family, is this: is there room for Jesus in our lives? In our hearts? I talk very regularly to my young children about how Jesus really is the main reason we have Christmas. He’s the main reason we get to have fresh beginnings, hope, and peace in this life. He’s the source of all things good, and the redeemer of all things rotten. I do not have a problem understanding these things to be true in my thought process. But is this evident by how I make space I my life to point to Him? When the Holy Spirit gently asks for me to move, is there room in my schedule to make that happen? When the Spirit of the Lord gives me something new to take care of, do I just add it to the pile of old things not taken care of in a timely manner?

One of my hopes for this season is that our community would make space in their hearts, schedules, and spirits for the Lord to do something incredibly special in their lives. There have been times when I know the Lord has asked me to wait, or give, or do something just out of the ordinary, but I didn’t make space in my schedule or my level of faith. I do believe that I may have missed out on miracles because I didn’t make space for Him to work in me and through me.
Here are some of the things I regularly need to evaluate and potentially get rid of in order to make room in my heart and life for the Hope of Jesus.
1.     Old habits. Some habits are great for life. Some habits are great for a season. Some habits are never great. Looking at the repetitive routines in your life as unfixed is important. Not everything you do has to be done. Not everything that is important right now will be important forever. For example, when my husband worked nights, I developed a habit of staying up way later than my mornings should have allowed.  This habit cut out morning devotions, morning peace, and my patience with my kids as we got ready for the day. Recently, the Lord has asked me to go to bed earlier, to make room for His presence in the mornings. Do you have a habit or choice you’re making regular that keeps you from saying yes to Jesus?

2.     Unhealthy relationships. I am very rarely pro getting rid of relationships in your life. I am, however, pro shifting what shelf of importance or influence those relationships carry in your life, and time=influence. If I am not strong enough in my walk with the Lord to overcome the negativity or yucky habits a person brings with them, then I have to decrease the influence that person has until I am more full of the Spirit.
3.     Lingering doubts or misunderstandings about who/how God is. Life can teach you a lot of things incorrectly. Sometimes if a child prays a prayer to the Lord, and does not receive what they ask for, they doubt the goodness or power of our Heavenly Father, and potentially stop asking for big things. It is good to keep discovering who God is, how He is and moving out the old doubts about His character. 

Make room for the Lord this holiday season. Don’t let the mold creep in. Never get too busy or full of old ways for God to hand you another blessing, another call, another bit of who He is.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Divorce Day

by Andrew Cromwell

This week I learned the first business day in January is known in some circles as “divorce day" because of the number of divorce filings that happen on that day. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out why. The holidays are some of the most stressful times of the year. Beginning with Thanksgiving and running through Christmas and New Year’s, the last two months of the year are ripe with opportunities for relationship hurts, family drama, and offense. Whether we are hosting events in our own home or visiting relatives, the stress tends to lead to short tempers and sharp tongues. We are often not at our best even as we are trying to look like we are.  

It doesn’t take long and we find ourselves frustrated with our spouse: wounded by their looks or words and adding up the offenses. Throw in our tendency to avoid real conversation until a “better time“ and you have people holding on just so they get through the holidays (because no one wants to have that difficult conversation in the middle of what is supposed to be a happy season). By that time, many couples are so frustrated and so fatigued they begin to believe the only way out is divorce.

Don’t let it happen to you!

As we roll into this holiday season, I’d like to encourage you to not become a statistic. I believe by intentionally doing three simple (but not necessarily easy things), your marriage can become stronger in spite of the stress.

First, expect that things are going to be stressful and that you and your spouse are going to react in less than perfect ways. Stop idealizing and romanticizing the season. While the holidays present us with amazing opportunities to enjoy family and friends, they are also riddled with land mines waiting for one small misstep. So don’t be caught off-guard this season. Prepare for things to go less than perfectly. Anticipate that your spouse is going to run out of patience at some point and they are going to look at you cross-eyed and maybe even say something hurtful. OK, now that you’re prepared, decide right now to extend extra grace and forgive. Instead of getting your feelings hurt just forgive and move on. That one little decision can save your marriage.

Second, keep the air clear between you and your spouse. This will require you to make an effort! Check in with your spouse in the morning or in the evening (or even both). Ask them how they’re feeling, let them know how important they are to you, and even ask for forgiveness for being a jerk that day (because you probably were). Talk about the calendar and the stress and the kids and the gifts and the expectations. Remind yourself that you are on a team together. This proactive move will keep you connected to each other and help you to come through the season united and ready for the new year.

Third, ask God to help you! Don’t ever underestimate God’s power and desire to help your marriage. He is ready and willing to help. Ask Him to change your heart, help you to forgive, help you to serve, and help you to love better! Ask Him to bless your spouse and your marriage. Invite Him in and then go and walk in His strength.