Category Archives: Thoughts from the Porch

Pack Lightly

Jim and I enjoying a football game and seeing old friends at Bowdon High School, Bowdon, Georgia

Jim and I enjoying a football game and seeing old friends at Bowdon High School, Bowdon, Georgia

A couple of weekends ago Jim and I headed to Georgia for a long weekend. This weekend involved in being at several different venues during the course of the weekend. As always I struggled to discern on what clothes I needed to pack and what really didn’t need to go.  Progressing into the weekend, I realized I didn’t need to take as much as I took.

over packing for a trip.

We have all been there. We are planning a trip and we over pack. We over pack because we are afraid we won’t have the right outfit for a dinner, or something could happen and we need that particular item. Thus, we pack everything but the kitchen sink and take it with us.

over packed car

The result in packing everything but the kitchen sink is that the room in the car is limited. Our car has been so packed full at times that I was not able to recline my seat back. When Drew was young and still in a car seat there were trips where there would be just enough space for his seat.  I look back on it and laugh and yet I see it as sad, too.  Sad because we got so caught up in the packing that we didn’t look forward to the trip.

We didn’t look forward to the trip because we were exhausted from packing.  And, we were dreading getting to our destination because we knew we had to unload it all and then pack it all up and take it back home. It makes me tired just thinking about it now.

let go of the world

In this world we are on a journey. On this journey we tend to over pack. We over pack by carrying burdens we do not need to carry. Our over packing involves living with not forgiving someone or even sometimes forgiving ourselves for something. In other words, we stuff our lives with baggage of shame, guilt, and with what the material world says we need to have.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28-30 that God wants us to pack lightly as we journey through life. He says:
Come to me all you are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

In other words, we don’t need to carry the burdens, unforgiving hearts, ways of the world and all other things that weigh our hearts down. I love what Rick Warren says in Purpose Driven Life “God created us for his enjoyment”  Do you think he enjoys seeing us continually stuffing things down in our souls and carrying it wherever we go?

worry fear guilt

We stuff these things down in our souls and hearts because of fear. It is just like over packing for a trip, we are fearful that we may need it at some point or we are afraid of what might happen if we leave the item behind.  Then, as we journey in life we are exhausted, we dread what is ahead of us and we miss the blessings that God has planned for us.

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Our journey is before us. May we begin to sort out what is and isn’t important. May we seek forgiveness where forgiveness is needed. Let’s no longer hold on to things with the fear that we can’t be without it. Instead, let’s lay our stuff at the feet of Jesus and begin to enjoy our journey and look forward to our destination.

Our destination is heaven. God says to pack lightly because all he needs us to bring is our hearts to him. There is no need to arrive exhausted and weary.

jeremiah

Until next time, may you enjoy the journey and experience God’s blessings.

enjoy the journey

 

 

STOP EVALUATE AND PRIORITIZE!

Originally posted on Thoughts From The Porch:

 

STOP! EVALUATE! PRIORITIZE! What is really important to you?  Deadlines, agendas, meetings, or family and time with God? When was the last time you allowed your soul to simply be still?

It is Monday! There is the week ahead of us, lists of things to do, appointments and meetings to make and you feel like you are not caught up from last week. You just feel like saying “TIME OUT!”.  Your soul is crying to be still and your schedule is putting you in that weekly routine of having to conquer that list in front of you.

I know this feeling all too well. Several years ago, I was on that track of trying to keep up with lists, working, volunteer commitments family and keeping up with family out-of-town. Until one day, I came in and just collapsed in a chair. I realized that trying to stay on this…

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Pretty Little Apples

English: Apples on an apple-tree. Ukraine. Рус...

This next week the small group that I participate in will complete a study called, No Other gods” By Kelly Minter. Over the years we have done many studies but this one really touched the heart of the matter for me. This study has shown what we may think are simple collections and likes can be in the way of being a blessing for God and God blessing us.

no other gods

In my previous post, Seek God’s Beauty,  I share how the material world gives us the superficial promise that certain products will make us beautiful. These products and their creators will change our lives. Yet, as Christians we know that the only ONE who can change our lives and make us beautiful is our Creator/ Father.

kelly minter quote

Along with the superficial promises of making us beautiful are the lies that we all buy into that promise to make our life complete. In Exodus 20:3, God does not beat around the bush by telling us that we should NOT have any other gods. Yet, we all have them.

receiving the appleWe laugh and say “if Eve had not listened to the snake and eaten the apple, we would all be better off.” Satan convinced Eve that pretty apple was good. He convinced her that she would have wisdom. “Oh, go ahead Eve, take that apple, take a bite and taste its sweet juices.”  Oh, go ahead, one more cookie won’t hurt us.” “Who cares if it isn’t on sale, I deserve this and I want this item.” “You know I have a collection of these and I don’t have this one particular one and I NEED it to make my collection complete.” ” I have worked hard and I have earned this shopping trip.” Any of these statements sound familiar? We have bought these items in hopes to be in with the crowd, to keep up appearances, to impress or because we are promised that life will be better.  Marketing experts will tell you that the biggest consumer in our society is the woman.

woman shopping

Look around your home for the pretty little apples you have bought over time. What are these things doing? Are they bringing you joy or are they an annoyance because you can’t walk into a room because it is so full of pretty  apples that you have bought over time? Are these items a dreaded item you have to pick up to move each time you dust? Maybe there are apples around you that now as you look at them you wonder what you were thinking when you purchased them. Last but not least, have these items brought you closer to God? Have they brought you blessings? Have they made you any wiser?

simple is the new black

I have noticed that my son and daughter-in-law’s generation is not into things. They seem to want the basics. My son and daughter-n-law are more interested in investing in other people. They invest by volunteering to help in the community through their church and work. They invest by spending quality time with family and friends.

lady cleaning

These days I have been cleaning out and getting rid of clothes I have not worn, items I have not used and things I hate to dust. As I do this cleaning out, I feel my soul being cleansed and my eyes are being opened to the greater picture of God’s kingdom and the blessings he has planned for me everyday. I have come across some things that at one time were a pretty little apple  and now I ask myself what was I thinking? It is no longer pretty to me.

the-glory-of-god-in-christ-jesus-271x300

As I worked on the last week of the study, No Other gods, a song by the group Kansas came to mind. The song is called The Wall.  For those of you who don’t know, Kansas was known for their Christian music/lyrics before they crossed over into the pop/rock scene. Today, I read some of the lyrics. These words struck a chord for me ( no pun intended); “blocking out the light and blinding me from what I ought to see.”  “Its a travesty.”

Butterfly God's Blessings

Things. Pretty little apples.Collections. Clutter. Eating in excess. All of these things are blocking what we need to see and that is the light of Jesus Christ. When we are caught up in our pretty little apples and busy collecting more, we miss the blessings God has planned for us. We miss the opportunity to invest ourselves in someone else. In those missed opportunities we potentially miss the opportunity of inviting someone to join us in God’s kingdom. We deny God of our blessing him.

I love the words of Psalm 17:8-15:

Keep me as the apple of your eye;

hide me in the shadow of your wings

from the wicked who assail me,

from my mortal enemies who surround me. 

They close up their callous hearts,

and their mouths speak with arrogance.

They have tracked me down, they now surround me,

with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.

They are like the lion, hungry for prey,

like a great lion crouching in cover.

Rise up, O LORD, confront them, bring them down; 

rescue me from the wicked by your sword.

O LORD, by your hand save me from such men, 

from men of this world whose reward is in this life. 

You still the hunger of those you cherish;

their sons have plenty,

and they store up wealth for their children.

And I-in righteousness I will see your face.;

when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness..

The next time you are tempted by  pretty little apples and think life will not go on if you don’t obtain it, remember that the only apple God is interested in is you. He is interested in your heart, and he is interested in where you are investing your heart. May we be more concerned with upholding our value of being the apple of God’s eye instead of seeking our value in the pretty little apples that the world tells us that we need to have.

apple of God's eye part two

Take time to listen to the video below. Listen and read the words carefully. What pretty little apples do you need to be rid of?  Ask yourself; what is more important obtaining things or spending time with God and investing in other people? Then, say a prayer or write a prayer to God asking him to help you to get rid of the pretty little apples and to open your eyes to the blessings he has planned for you. Then, go and seek where you can invest in his kingdom.

heaven

“The treasures I seek are on the other side.” There is NO loss.” (Kansas) In other words;

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.                                                                          Matthew 6:19-21

watch the video…..

Seek God’s Beauty

model of beauty

“Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.”

I Peter:3:3 The Message

As I go about my daily activities around the house, the television plays in the background. Though the television is on, I find myself caught up in my own thoughts. Yet, I hear the words of a testimonial from an infomercial; “his product really changed my life, ” I feel better about who I am.” 

These testimonials echoed in my head and in my heart this morning. I thought about how we have put such emphasis  on outward appearance these days. Infomercials tell us what products we must have in order to look and feel better. Other social media avenues such as Pinterest and Facebook have all the different fashions all put together for us as a blueprint of how we are to look as we head out to run those errands.

fashion

It is my fear that we get so caught up in what society defines as beauty that we have forgotten the true beauty God created. Society telling us what to do, what to use and defining beauty is no different from the Pharisees were with their rigidity of the laws that they had added to God’s commandments in order to be right with God.

relationship with God

The Pharisees missed out on the relationship that God wanted to have with them because they were so wrapped up in the laws. We miss a relationship with God and with others because we get so wrapped up in how we look and assessing others on how they look. Not only do we miss the relationship, we miss the blessings God has planned for us when we are wrapped up in ourselves instead of focusing on him and those around us.

True beauty is a matter of the heart. It is allowing God’s light and Holy Spirit shine through us and sharing that light with others.  As we see others, we need to see them as Christ’s sees them. He sees beyond the outside and sees the heart.

seeking the heart

The words, “his product really changed my life” really hit a nerve for me today. The only one person who can change your life and make it more beautiful is accepting Christ into your heart. It is when you accept Him into your heart, walk in the footsteps of his grace and love, and begin to really seek the heart of others, we experience the beauty God meant for us to experience.

heavens gates

Think about it….when we reach those pearly gates, God  is not going to make sure we are in the latest suggested fashion before letting us into his kingdom. However, he is going to look at our hearts and how we shared His grace and love to others. God is going to see how we lived our love for his son, Jesus out loud.

I challenge you in the days ahead to look beyond the appearance of people you encounter. It is going to be in these experiences you are going to experience the beauty of God and his love and grace.

“Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray-and shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God. And I want women to get there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.” 1 Timothy 2:8-10 The Message

Seek God’s Beauty. It is all around you.

audrey hepburn beauty

Keep The Faith

English: Daniel in the Lion's Den, as in Danie...

“So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. Then the kind said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you serve continually rescue you!’”

The other evening I was writing in my journal.  Along with writing  in my journal, I will randomly find a scripture to read to close out my day and to give me food for thought.

As I was preparing to make this entry the other night, my bible fell opened at the book of Daniel. In my reading through the book and different scriptures my eyes were opened. They were opened to the fact that the times we live in are not much different from Daniel.

In recent days, our nation has faced a shut down of government. This shut down has affected everyone in varying ways. Along with the current events of recent days, we see prayer taken out of school, prayer taken away before a game and now no one can shake hands for good sportsmanship after a game. Yes, it is a time of testing for all of us.

Let's prayYet, despite these rights being taken away, there are those who are bold enough in their faith to stand up for what they believe. There are many stories circulating on Facebook and Youtube sharing these stories/testimonies of the ones who are not letting the rules keep them from sharing their faith. They are following the example of Daniel.

"Lord, listen to your children praying."

“Lord, listen to your children praying.”

Daniel remained faithful to God despite all that was going on around him. He prayed daily, He didn’t let people stop him from having a relationship with God and from talking to God. For the non-believer I am sure that it was quite intimidating and maybe an insult to them. Daniel stayed strong and consistent in his faith.

Our world is rapidly changing. Rules and laws are changing. Some rules and laws are changing for the good. Then there are other rules and laws that are changing that make  us shake our head in disappointment. In place of shaking our head in disappointment, we need to kneel and say a prayer. It is in these times we need God the most. We have heard that actions speak louder than words. In these days and times our actions need to speak out our faith in all that we do 24/7.

Keep the faith

Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den because of his faithfulness to God. It was also a test by the king to see if Daniel would remain loyal to God and to see if God would save Daniel. We know the rest of the story. God did save Daniel from the lions’ den.

When our rights to pray publicly, to shake hands and when we can’t even say the word, “God” in fear of offending someone, we ourselves are in that same lions’ den. People are testing our faith. They are seeing how faithful we are to God and how faithful our God is to us.

stay faithful

The question I ask you today is this; ” How are you handling being in the lions’ den? Are you running from the lions as fast as you can but not asking for God for help? Maybe you have just given up and decided to join the lions so that you will not be devoured up by them. Or, are you holding tight to God’s hand, leaning on him for strength, help and encouragement with the knowledge that he will eventually save you from the lions’ den?

I like what the notes say in reference to Daniel 6:21-23 in my Life Application Bible;

The man or woman who trusts in God and obeys his will is untouchable

until God takes him or her. To trust God is to have immeasurable peace. 

God, who delivered Daniel, will deliver you.

The question this same study note leaves us with is:

Do you trust him with your life?

If we wholeheartedly trust God with our live, have relationship with him and stand for what we believe despite what others may think, then the lions can try to devour us but they will not succeed.

“What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Until next time, keep the faith!

Let this be our prayer:

What Is It I Really Need?

April:

Sharing from my archives today. May your week be filled with blessings from above!

Originally posted on Thoughts From The Porch:

1009740_546283838745989_553677898_nThis past Sunday, our minister spoke on the topic of Simplicity.   Today’s economy is  pushing all of us to evaluate what is and isn’t important when it comes to spending habits and even how we spend our time.  We are all having to simplify in our lives.  He encouraged us not only to evaluate and see what we need to get rid of in the material sense but he encouraged us to present ourselves and empty ourselves before God.  Thus, allowing God to fill us with what we truly need.

Blessing from God

Last night, before going to bed, I bowed in prayer. First, thanking God for all the wonderful blessings He had sent my way,  asking for forgiveness for any wrongs I may have done, asking for His protection over loved ones near and far, and to lay a healing hand on those who were sick.  Before closing my prayer…

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Our Journey

Different Directions

Jim and I have lived in the same town for twenty-three years. We have lived in the home we are in now for about eighteen years. Yet, when we leave the house to go to church, the grocery, out to eat, or whatever errand we must run, it seems we always have the same conversation when we start.

April: You know we are going to the grocery don’t you?

Jim: Yes, I know we are going to the grocery.

April: Then, why are you going this way. I always go down such and such 

street to get there. 

Jim:  Well, I like going this way to get there because there are less traffic lights.

April: Well, I like the other way because it has traffic lights and it is easier to get out in traffic.

Even though we have this conversation time after time, we still get to our destination. Jim has one way he likes to go and I have another way I like to go. Our Christian journey is pretty much like Jim and me taking different streets to get to the same destination.

Settle Memorial

One example of taking different directions are the choices we make in where we worship. Our son, Drew was raised Methodist. Yet, when he went out on his own, he chose another route to grow in his Christian walk. His dad and I encouraged him to find a church home and when doing so to make sure it stood on firm biblical principles. We also encouraged him to make sure that it was not only a place where he could/would grow in his own spiritual walk but a place where he could encourage others and invite others to join him on the journey.

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Not only are there different places and styles of worship for us to choose from on our journey. We all have different backgrounds, stories and experiences. It because of these experiences that we may see things a little differently from someone else who is  heading towards the same destination but on a different route. No one is better than the other. It is all a part of the Master’s plan in molding us and preparing us for that final destination. We are all different so that we can learn from one another, teach one another and see how the grace of God is at  work in many ways and  in many lives.

traffic light

On our journey, we have choices to make. Some of us take the streets where there are traffic lights that make us stop and look before merging into traffic. In other words, we stop and look to see where we need to go, who we need to help and see where we fit into the big picture. Then, there are others of us who simply like going on the streets where you don’t need to a light to merge into traffic. It is more comfortable for us to put the metal to the pedal and jump right in and go!

Young woman reading bible

As I sit with my bible in my lap, I turn the pages. In these pages I see the maps of the journeys that different ones took to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. No one journey was alike just like none of our journeys are just alike. Yet, we have the same message to share to those we encounter on our journey. The message is that God sent his Son so that all can experience and receive his marvelous grace. We must continue to share the message of how Christ died for ALL not just for some.

the journey

As we travel this road we call life, may we be ready to stop at the traffic lights and listen to the Father to lead us into serving God’s children. And, may we to be ready for those times when He doesn’t give us a light but He just says; “go!” and trust Him. Last but not least, let’s make sure we invite others to join us on the journey.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus

had told them to go. When they saw him, the worshiped him; but some doubted.

Then Jesus came to them and said. ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been

given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them in the

the name of the Father and of the Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey

everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the

very end of the age.’  

Matthew 28:16-20

May we feel his Holy Presence as we continue our journey.

do not go where

Blessings

 

God Heals All Wounds

Originally posted on Thoughts From The Porch:

hand.

“Wounds do heal, but there are times to allow the Great Physician to perform surgery so that they will heal right.”

Nancie Carmichael

Over time, many of us encounter being hurt and wounded. Sometimes, the hurt comes from another person possibly someone we admire or even love. Other times the hurt may be from something tragic that happens in life. No matter how the wound occurs, it does cut through the heart like a knife. Thus, leaving questions to God and sometimes even questioning God. We may even feel like God has moved away from us.

During my lifetime, I have encountered such hurts. In the past, I have questioned God about why certain hurts took place.  I have also felt like God moved so very far away from me. But, in the end, I came to realize that God is there in the midst of all the hurt and questions…

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A Little Bit Country and Little Bit Rock and Roll

music

In previous posts, I have shared the joy music brings to my heart and to my husband, Jim’s heart. Jim and I are music lovers and our interest in music is not one specific category. Yet, there are times when Jim will lean more into one direction of a particular artist and style that is not really my thing but I respect what he likes and will listen with him.  In return, Jim does the same with me. When these moments occur I recall the Donny Marie show where they would sing “I’m a little bit Country and I’m a little bit  Rock and Roll.”  

Donny and Marie

Jim and I have learned to respect each other’s heart and taste in music. It is through this respect of musical tastes we have learned more about each other and there are times when we will come to like a particular artist or song that the other likes. The times when we come to like one of the other’s favorite artist, song and/or genre comes out of that respect we have for each other. It is through the listening to the song that we learn about the other’s soul and what fills their heart up with joy or simply makes them happy.clarinet

In today’s time we have Traditional and Contemporary Worship Services. No one particular service or music is better than the other. It is a church’s way of offering to feed the many needs of the soul. When I think of the differences in worship, I think of the Donny and Marie show when they would sing; “I’m a little bit country” and “I’m a little bit rock and roll.” We have those who like the old traditional hymns and those who like the latest song that is hot on Christian radio. And, there are those who are like myself that just love it all.

Music of love.

It is in the feeding of the soul through music is where it is important to realize that as musicians who are leading in song no matter if it is Contemporary or Traditional that it is not a performance for the congregation to see but it is a leading of song from the soul. In other words, when we sing as musicians it is important that we are singing to praise God and it is from the soul and not a weekly performance that we feel obligated to get up and give. It is a time of  putting self aside and allowing the Holy Spirit fill us  up and to spill his wonderful joy and grace out in song and encourage those around us to lift their voice in song.

Tyler Perry

This past weekend, Jim and I watched two Tyler Perry plays at home. We love his plays because of the messages that he gives through his characters in unconditional, love,  forgiveness and simply that God is the Master of our life.

Not only do we love the message of Tyler Perry’s  plays,  we love the music. There were a couple of times when watching the plays this weekend and listening to the music in these plays  that Jim and I had tears in our eyes because the music spoke to our hearts and souls. Though the people were playing certain characters in the play when it came to singing it went beyond performing. The words they were singing were  written in a script for them to sing. Yet, they were singing from deep within the soul.  They believed what they were singing.

music is shorthand

As you journey in the days ahead, don’t look at the music leaders and/or choir in worship as a time of performance, instead, listen to the words they are singing. Allow the lyrics to touch your soul and fill you up with the Holy Spirit. If you are a worship leader and/or choir member, don’t look at that worship hour as one thing to check off your list. Instead, feel the lyrics you are singing from your soul, ask the Holy Spirit to shine through you so people will feel God’s mighty presence and will want to join you in song.

Ephesians

Realize that it doesn’t matter if you are “a little bit of country” or a little bit rock and roll.” What matters is that you know that you are standing in the presence of God and you are allowing him to feed your soul through music. Not only is your soul being fed but you are also witnessing to those around you your belief in a Mighty God.

“Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD, praise his name;

proclaim his salvation dad after day.

Psalm 96:1-2

Watch and listen to this video from start to finish. Chris Tomlin does a beautiful job of incorporating the traditional in with the contemporary. 

An Angel Corner of Fifth and Daviess

Originally posted on Thoughts From The Porch:

Location of Owensboro within Kentucky.

“No!” I don’t want to move back to Kentucky!” These were the words I screamed to Jim in the Spring of 1990. We had been living in Athens, Georgia for the past two years.  I loved living there because I got to be with my grandmother the last two years of her life, there was family there and I finally felt like I had some sort of roots.  As you read my ‘About April’ page (http://aprilhawk.wordpress.com/welcome-to-april-hawkins-faith-thoughts/), you will see I grew up in a Methodist Minister’s home which meant you moved every four or five years.  So, I was planted and ready to stay. 

Though I was wanting and ready to stay, God had other plans for our family.  The doctor in charge of the private practice that Jim had been working with was having some health problems and decided he needed to size down which meant closing the practice. …

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