Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Vacation Blessings

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 128:1-4)

       The adage “God is watching over you” is truly an understatement.
       This past week my husband, son, and I enjoyed a vacation, a college experience, and a celebration of my son’s early acceptance into Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP).
       My son (a soon-to-be high school senior) enjoyed a weeklong stay at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., where he attended a business leadership conference. He learned about all aspects of business and how a company works in today’s economy. He roomed with a high school buddy of his in a dorm, met new friends, and learned firsthand what it would be like to live away from home at college. Just this morning my son said, “I can’t wait to go to college. I’m so excited!”
       While he was away, my husband and I enjoyed our own getaway. We drove to Virginia, where we soaked in the sun on the beach and at the pool, and wined and dined each evening at Catch31, one of the most popular fine-dining restaurants along the Virginia Beach shoreline. The live entertainment wasn’t so great this year as it was two years ago so we didn’t hang around to listen to the bands. 
       I took loads of pictures of our road trip to and from Virginia, while at the beach and the pool. I even took some video. I wish we could’ve stayed in Virginia longer than just four days, but we had to go home to prepare for our trip to Indiana. We took a different route to IUP this time, which was shorter and more direct. We attended what’s called Early Decision Day, where you take a tour of the school and learn that day whether or not you’re child has been accepted. After the 90-minute tour and a complimentary lunch, we picked up a letter at the admissions office. We were all thrilled to learn he was accepted! The school is absolutely beautiful, everything from the campus grounds and office buildings to the library, fitness center, and dorm rooms. It all makes me wish I were young again so I could attend this school and get my college education. But the Lord quickly reminded me that I enjoyed my opportunity to go away to college years ago and that this is my son’s turn. And what a blessing it is.
       Our vacation was hard-won. I prayed earnestly for it in light of the fact this is the busiest time of the year as editor of my company’s nutrition magazine. Due to the workload, I didn’t think I’d get the chance to take a vacation this summer. But God answered my prayers by providing me with extra help to make my vacation possible. And God gave me the wisdom to prioritize my work to get it all done. I owe it all to Him who sits high and lifted up, to the one who sits on the throne. Without Him, none of this would’ve been possible.
       I encourage everyone who might be in a tight situation, a seemingly impossible circumstance to find promises in scripture that relate to what you’re going through, claim them as yours, and pray through them first before taking action. That way, you give God the chance to go before you and prepare the hearts and minds of those with whom you need to communicate. The Lord worked in a mighty way for my family and me, and I’ll be forever grateful. Thank you Jesus for your faithfulness and unfailing love. Amen!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Prayer and Fasting With Diabetes

"Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord." (Joel 1:14) 
       In the July issue of Today's Dietitian, we published an article titled Prayer and Fasting With Diabetes. If you're a person of faith who has diabetes or know someone of faith with the disease, this article is a must-read. 
       The American Diabetes Association reports that more than 23 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. Seventy-nine million have prediabetes, a condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, which place them at high risk for developing the disease later in life. And each year, there are now 1.5 million people newly diagnosed with diabetes. African Americans are disproportionately affected by this disease and suffer more complications, such as blindness, kidney failure, neuropathy, and heart disease, than other races. 
       Given these statistics, you can surmise there are many people of faith with diabetes who set aside time to commune with God while abstaining from food, drink, or both. But the question is can they fast safely without putting their health at risk? 
       In this article, we discuss that fasting is practiced by the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths and how these practices differ from one another. We review how fasting can impact the health of those with diabetes and provide strategies for fasting safely. Please let me know your thoughts about the article. If you have diabetes or know someone who has the disease and fasts safely, I'd like to hear about your  experiences and theirs. I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did in assigning and editing it.

* Linking up with Spiritual Sundays here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Those Who Will Not Enter the Kingdom

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

In my bible study group last week, we focused on several passages that discussed the work of the Holy Spirit. Of all the passages we read, this one gripped me the most. It begins by listing the habitual sins of those who will not inherit or, in other words, enter the Kingdom of God. If any one has ever had a question about what God considers sin and who won’t enter heaven when they die, this verse, among others, plainly provides the answers.

The passage, written by the apostle Paul to the Christians in Corinth, begins by saying the sexually immoral won’t enter heaven: That’s anyone who’s not married and is having casual sex. Idolaters are people who worship anyone or anything that takes first place in their lives other than God, such as work, family, kids, the pleasures of life, money, drugs, alcohol, themselves, false gods, etc.

Adulterers are those who have sex with someone else outside of their marriage. Then the passage mentions male prostitutes and homosexuals, those who are in sexual relationships with people of the same sex (men or women). The Lord mentions thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers (people who regularly say vicious and false statements about others), and swindlers (individuals who often obtain money or property fraudulently—hence the phrase “ill-gotten gains”).

Then, Paul writes “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” This part of the verse is most comforting, because just as the Christians in Corinth received Christ when they were still practicing these sins and were then washed clean by the Holy Spirit, so was I. The Corinthian Christians were not without sin before they received Christ, and neither was I. But once they came to Christ the Holy Spirit washed them clean. They were now holy (sanctified) and forgiven (justified) of all these sins. And once they were washed clean, they stopped practicing these sins to live a life that honors the Lord. That’s what the powerful work of the Holy Spirit does in our lives the moment we place our faith in Christ for our eternal salvation. The Holy Spirit washes us clean from all our sins, makes us holy, and gives us the power and desire to turn from sin.

May we pray for our friends and family members who don’t know Christ and who are habitually practicing the sins mentioned in this passage without remorse, which will prevent them from inheriting (entering) the Kingdom of God. There was a time when I was not qualified to enter the Kingdom, but because of God’s grace and mercy, I was able to respond to His call to salvation and have now crossed over from death to life. May we bless and praise His Holy Name.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Placing Your Teenagers in God's Hands

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

“Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

About seven to eight months ago, I began praying about my 16-year-old son’s college search. I’ve been asking God to lead and guide my husband, son, and I to the best college suited for him as we compared and visited schools. We had a rocky beginning as we debated what schools we wanted our son to attend and where and what we could afford.

As we each did our research, our differences soon faded, and we began to see things eye to eye. The first school we visited, which I believe was God’s leading, was Indiana University of Pennsylvania—IUP for short. The visit entailed a 6-hour road trip and an overnight stay at a hotel, but it was well worth it. We were greeted with a wonderful presentation about the university in an auditorium, a comprehensive campus tour of the buildings and business school (my son’s future major), and a free lunch in one of the many campus cafeterias. IUP rolled out the red carpet for visiting parents and prospective students, and we enjoyed every minute of it. All of us really liked the school and its academics. We were very pleased.

Westchester University
Next, we visited Westchester University, but we weren’t too thrilled about the school. The campus wasn't as nice as IUP's; the tour was rushed; and we didn’t get to see the business school, which I later learned doesn’t have state-of-the-art facilities like IUP does. 

Today my husband, son, and I took a spontaneous, two-hour car ride to Bloomsburg University. There were no campus tours scheduled, but we wanted to see the campus anyway because we were curious about the school. The campus was really nice, and from what I’ve read they have a wonderful business school with state-of-the-art facilities.

In July, IUP has four early-decision days scheduled for prospective students. We decided to register for one of those days and revisit the school. When we arrive, we’ll drop off our son’s transcripts, SAT scores, and letters of recommendation at the admissions office, enjoy another presentation, campus tour, and free lunch, and return to the admissions office to see if our son has been accepted. That’s right, we’ll know the committee’s decision that same day. I’m looking forward to this visit. I’m praying my son will get accepted. If he does, he’ll receive a great education in a rural environment at a great school that has so much to offer.

Bloomsburg University
What I’ve learned from this experience is that God’s hand has been leading and guiding us every step of the way. And He will continue to do so until He places our son in the right college he’s supposed to be in. It’s all in His hands. All we have to do is enjoy the ride.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, may you continue to direct our search for the perfect college best suited for our son. May you place him where he ought to be. And when you do, may you help him study hard, get good grades, graduate with honors, and find a job that he’ll enjoy. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Is My Blogging Season Over?

“That I may [continue to] publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.” (Psalm 26:7) [Emphasis Added]

For those of you who’ve followed my devotional writing and photography blogs for the past year or so have probably noticed that I haven’t been blogging lately. My last blog post on Walking With God was February 18. My last post on my photo blog was January 21. From the looks of things, it doesn’t seem as though I’ve lost any followers, but I know that once you develop a following and then suddenly stop posting regularly your readers will either stop following you or stop looking forward to visiting your blog to read your posts. Your blog loses its wow factor if it ever had it, and soon no one will visit you.

Miss You Guys
I’m saddened by the fact I haven’t been able to blog regularly like I used to and visit your blogs and leave comments. I miss the online interaction.

When I began my devotional writing blog, it seemed as though God was speaking to me often because I had so much to say and share. Devotionals were just flowing in and through me. It’s not that God has stopped speaking to me or working in my life, but I just haven’t felt compelled to publicly write about what He’s been up to due to the personal nature of my circumstances.

Been Busy
The other reason is that I’ve been extremely busy with work. I’m working harder now than ever, and I just don’t have the time to write online devotionals like I used to. I also have an online portfolio with a blog that I update monthly. I post blogs about the health and nutrition articles I edit every month. Click on Judy’s Online Portfolio and see what I’ve been up to.

Before I started my new job that I prayed for fervently for more than two years, I started my devotional writing and photo blog as a creative outlet I desperately needed at the time. I was in a job that was devoid of creativity, and the Lord encouraged me to keep my writing skills sharp by writing devotionals. He also coaxed me to begin a photo blog to post photos of His creation. These blogs did wonders for me, and many of you told me that they encouraged you as well.

My prayer is that I will be able to begin blogging again, posting photos, visiting your blogs, and recapture my following. Please visit me periodically, as I may have a new blog post to share. Until then, I’ll see you around in cyberspace. Thanks so much for visiting and leaving your comments.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Farewell to Whitney

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered — how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” (Psalm 39:4-5 / NLT).

       Like millions around the world, I watched Whitney Houston’s funeral service. We all said goodbye to a beautiful legendary singer who died way too young—way too soon.

Notable Attendees
       Her homegoing service was wonderful, tastefully done. News reports said about 1,500 invited guests attended. Many well-known family members, singers, pastors, actors, and screenwriters were present, such as Dionne Warwick, Tyler Perry, Kevin Costner, TD Jakes and his wife, music industry executive Clive Davis, Oprah Winfrey and Gale King, R. Kelly, Alicia Keyes, Stevie Wonder, Rev. Jesse Jackson, gospel singers Bebe and Cece Winans, Marvin Winans, Rev. Kim Burrell, and Donny McClurkin, among others. They all said incredible things about Whitney and paid tribute to her in Holy-Spirit-filled song. They truly honored and blessed her.
       Tyler Perry preached his heart out, telling attendees that nothing could have separated Whitney “from the love of God” (Romans 8:38-39). He said “God’s grace carried Whitney throughout her life and even carried her home.” Perry also said Whitney “loved the Lord.”

Songs and Words of Tribute 
     Bebe and Cece Winans, Marvin Winans, Alicia Keyes, R. Kelly, Stevie Wonder, Donnie McClurkin, and Kim Burrell all sang beautiful, emotion-filled songs to and about Whitney. Kevin Costner and Clive Davis gave moving speeches about their experiences knowing Whitney as a first-time actress and fledgling singer. They raved about how beautiful she was as a person and how beautiful her voice was when she sang. “You wait for a beautiful face like that and a voice like that for a lifetime,” Clive Davis said. “And when you find it in one person it takes your breath away. I loved her very much.”
     One of the most memorable moments was the speech of her bodyguard Ray Watson who declared he, too, was a Christian. He said he was with Whitney almost every day, and she would carry her bible with her wherever she went. He said “her bible was torn up” from her reading it each day. Whitney had passages underlined and highlighted, he said. And if she thought she’d forgotten it, she would look through her bags and belongings until she found it. 
     Whitney’s homegoing was a testament to the love, power, and faithfulness of the Lord. Despite how Whitney died, the Lord was glorified through her life and homegoing service. I learned quite a bit about Whitney since her sudden passing. I always suspected she was saved because she would mention Jesus, her faith, and prayer in her television interviews. What I learned was that Whitney knew and surrounded herself with many Christian music artists who know and love God. She was a close friend of Kim Burrell and the Winans. Marvin Winans gave the eulogy, emphasizing the importance of seeking “first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), “living lives pleasing to God” (Colossians 1:10), and getting to know Him by inviting Him into every aspect of our lives. Whitney wasn’t without prayer partners and a constant prayer covering from those who knew and loved her. This gives me great comfort. But I wrestle with questions about the ultimate victory in her life that probably no one can answer.

Unanswered Questions
     Why wasn’t Whitney totally set free from her addictions? Whitney knew and loved the Lord and surrounded herself with others who knew and loved Him as well. Whitney prayed daily and joined others in prayer for her life. So why didn’t God set her free? I’ve heard many stories of people who were set free immediately from drug and alcohol addictions when they went to the Lord. So why couldn’t this have been the case for Whitney? Why weren’t those prayers answered? Why wasn't she completely delivered? I just don’t understand. This grieves my heart. 
       The Word of God says nothing is too hard for the Lord (Jeremiah 32:27). And “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15). So why did Whitney’s life end this way? Why?
     The comfort I have is knowing that she's with God in her heavenly home. She’s at rest, at peace. And one day we’ll see her again.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please strengthen Whitney’s mother and daughter Bobby Kristina and all of her extended family members and friends who loved her during this difficult time. Draw them closer to you and enable them to get to know you better, in Jesus’ Name, Amen!
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