What God Showed Me in the Woods

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As of this writing, our family and my brother in law’s family are settled in at the farmhouse. What we thought was a few days at the farm for spring break turned into an indefinite stay. One day I felt the need to escape for a bit. With 12 people under roof—sometimes—you just need to hunt down some quiet. There is a stretch of woods on the farm where the tall pines grow in neat rows. The grass comes up bright green in this area and once it reaches a certain height the cattle are brought in for the buffet.

I sat under a tree to enjoy some quiet time. I prayed over everyone in my groups, my Bible study ladies, my church leaders, my writer friends, my inner circles, neighbors, and of course family. I prayed for God to supernaturally protect them from the virus. I told Him I believed in the promise that all things work for good for those who love Him, for I’ve experienced this first-hand, but I asked Him for some clarity. What to expect maybe? Why? Just anything…

I waited.

A butterfly fluttered by my boots, the wind blew through the tall grasses, I heard a frog ribbiting nearby, a hawk screech. I noticed creation goes on about its business while the civilized world becomes uncivilized while fights break out in grocery stores, commodities such as toilet paper have risen to the level of luxury, hospitals overflow with the sick, and exhausted medical personnel work without sleep.

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Several loud snaps, and large branches fell to the ground. I peered into the trees, thinking it was a large animal. I’d forgotten the pistol and radio, which my husband, Jay continually reminds me to take. I knew he’d lecture me on my return home. Another one snapped and fell. Then another. I couldn’t see anything causing them to fall except the wind.

One oak tree stood alone in the midst of the pines. The sunlight slipped through spotlighting that one lone oak. It was strange, one oak in the middle of all these pines that had been planted before we ever came to the farm. I wondered how it had survived and wasn’t chopped down.

“Oaks of righteousness” came to mind.

“Oaks of righteousness?” I said aloud.

A phrase from the ancient prophetic pages of Isaiah 61:

To comfort all who mourn;

To grant to those who mourn in Zion–

To give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,

The oil of gladness instead of mourning,

The garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;

That they may be called oaks of righteousness,

The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

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While the world around us cracks and falls, we must remember Jesus Christ came to plant oaks. Those that abide in the Heavenly Father will stand strong like the oak in the midst of the pines. I realized something sitting out there in the woods, things must be removed from us for us to grow strong. How many things in our lives have snapped off and been discarded with a virus? Our conveniences, our money, our relationships, our health, our pleasures, even our own traditional church service because let’s face it, we have a tendency to look to our church for the answers, instead of going directly to the Source our God. How many of the things we’ve lost were false gods to us?

Pruning is never easy, but when the end result is a closer intimacy with God the Father it’s always worth it. God uses hardships to strengthen faith. While we are becoming accustomed to the changes in our lives I know there will be financial issues, frustrations, some illness, there may even be loss of life, but remember if we keep our focus on the Light in the forest we will flourish and become strong oaks in a world full of pines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing for the Pandemic- Corona Virus

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I wanted to post today, to address the fears and anxieties over the Corona virus and how to prepare for it. We at The Hallelujah House have been busy preparing our homes and children for the virus as we would a hurricane coming into town. God speaks in His word to His followers on being prepared, but this does not mean preparing in anxiety or out of a place of fear. We need to recognize that fear is in opposition to faith and is a tool of the enemy. Do not wander into Satan’s camp by acting out of fear. Being prepared for troubles is wise.  Being prepared puts you in a place of calm for your household, but also puts you in a place where you can be a blessing to others who are not prepared.   “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

With this particular outbreak, I can’t help but recall the story of the Israelites, being enslaved to Egypt, painted blood on the door posts of their homes as the angel of death passed by. Today, we don’t need to paint the blood of an animal over the door of our homes, we have the blood of Christ covering our souls. There is power in the blood of the most perfect lamb, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and I pray His blood of protection over our country today.

I wanted to share with you all as to how we are preparing here at The Hallelujah House for Corona virus:

  1. First things first, we remember who we belong to, who we serve. (Preparing the heart)

Your Lord and Savior walked on water. He calmed the stormy seas with His voice. He healed the lame, the possessed, the blind, the deaf, and those covered in leprosy with his words.

He saved our souls by shedding His blood on the cross because He loved us that much.

If you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are a child of the King. So whom or what do you have to be afraid of? “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” ~ Psalm 27:1

 

  1. We are praying. (Preparing the Heart)

We are praying for protection over our households and beyond. We’re spending time

praying over our families, friends, neighbors, church, city, state etc. We remember the power of prayer and we spend time daily covering individuals and groups.  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” ~ Psalm 46:1

 

  1. We are placing our fears and anxieties at the feet of the Father. (Preparing the Heart)

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  ~ Psalm 56:3

 

  1. We are checking our food supply. (Homes)

We are buying food to ensure we can feed our children for two to three weeks without leaving home. Including buying food easy for older children to make in case we become infected. We are making sure we have adequate pet supplies. We do not buy from a crazed place of fear but from a place of wisdom.

And if you feel you can’t prepare enough in this department, or feel a panic to brawl at the grocery store remember this verse…

Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? Luke 12:24.

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5. We are inventorying our medical supplies. (Health)

Making sure we have adequate supply of any prescription medication, cold medication for children and adults, and vitamins to boost immunities.

 

6. We are bringing our college aged children and our elderly parents (where need be) under our roofs. (Harvest and Home)

 

7. We are checking on those within our sphere of influence. (Harvest) Check on your extended family, neighbors, church members. Consider partnering with other families, to help each other out with childcare, sharing meals, etc. (Harvest)

 

8. We are taking time to be outdoors. (Health)

Remember there is a whole green world out there, outside the alarming news and your four walls. Get outside. If you live in the city, go to a park and breathe.

 

  1. We are planning on homeschooling our children and the entertaining of our brood while they are home. (Harvest)

I don’t know about your state, but our kids are out of school for two straight weeks. We bought a few board games, and cheap balls and pop up nets. We purchased balloons they can fill with water and hit each other with. Today, I am taking my nieces and daughter into the woods where we look for treasures like sticks, pine combs, acorns—whatever  I declare is the treasure of the day; for them, it’s like an Easter egg hunt and for me it’s fun to imagine we are pirate treasure hunters.

Getting outside refreshes the weary spirit.

 

  1. We are committed to enjoying this time with our family to get reconnected. (Heart and Harvest)

In life families are often scattered, especially when older kids are in college. We are making up our minds to look at the blessings of being under one roof for a season. We will make the most of it and enjoy this time together reconnecting.

11. Most of all, we are remembering we are nothing without God. Sometimes we need reminding of our desperate need for a Savior. (Heart)

(On the river Jordon the spot Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, a group of girls from Mexico, sing.)

We pray you will find some encouragement from our list and become prepared yourselves so you can face the virus in a calm state of mind, and hand all your worries over to your Heavenly Father. We’d like to include a great list of verses on fear and anxiety that you can find by clicking here: What the Bible says About Fear and Anxiety

We pray God’s favor be poured out upon you all.

The Hallelujah House team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Assisted Suicide Merciful?

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The year after my sister passed away from breast cancer, my life aligned alongside a woman named Vanessa diagnosed with brain cancer. Walking with Vanessa seemed surreal at times, like a scratched record repeating the same sad phrase over and over. I often wondered why God placed my life on repeat, witnessing the same victories…the same defeats…the same end. Vanessa, like Tricia, lost her faculties one by one, the ability to see, eat, speak, walk, or swallow. Vanessa passed away on August 20, 2018. She was only 34 years old.

            Both women surrendered not only their lives but placed their deaths under God’s authority. I mention these women to establish I do not write this article from a place of ignorance. I’ve gripped gray limp hands and guarded the rise and fall of rattling chests. Not only have I had a backstage pass to cancer’s performance, but I’ve also been dragged to the stage with my own breast cancer diagnosis.

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            The first time I’d heard of Brittany Maynard, I was sitting by my sister in her living room. Tricia had just been put on hospice when in 2014 Maynard became the poster child for Assisted Suicide. We watched her being interviewed on national news. Tricia hit the button on her pain pump while listening to a tearful Brittany explain what she’d envisioned a natural death to entail. She stated she wanted control over her passing, instead of allowing cancer to dictate her end. I swung between heartbreak for Brittany’s condition, sadness for the pain my sister was in, and alarm for the new self-controlled agenda being proposed….legalizing suicide.

            Even in the intense pain Tricia felt, she didn’t like the idea. She pointed to the television. “That’s wrong. She’s giving up. She’s taking her life out of God’s hands,” she said.

            Brittany drove with her family to Oregon where assisted suicide was legal, and on November 1, 2014 took pills to end her life. My sister died soon after on December 19th. Through Brittany, assisted suicide was renamed “Death with Dignity” which sanitized the image of someone dead on the floor next to an empty pill bottle. We must never underestimate the enemy’s ability to apply white-wash.

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In order to understand Assisted Suicide goes against God’s plan, we must first identify the roots feeding it. Fear. One of the main roots of sin is fear because fear is in opposition of faith. Death with Dignity sprouted from fear. The motivations behind the movement are fear of suffering, fear of becoming a burden, and fear of appearances in a natural death.

            Whenever a believer begins to fear, we are stepping out of an alignment of faith and hence not following Christ. Paul writes, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15 English Standard Version) Our Father cares and He has given us the right to call out to Him in our times of trouble including physical illness. Although, He does not give us the right to do with our bodies as we see fit. It is our Father who establishes life within us. Life is a gift. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalms 139:13-14 (ESV)

            Job, who is one of our Biblical examples of remaining faithful throughout suffering wrote: “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.” (Job 14:5, New Living Translation)

            The message of the gospel is life. Jesus Christ died to give us life. Therefore, Christians are entrusted to be life-protectors, and this should not be viewed as merciless or judgmental. Our faith in God’s sovereignty gives Him the authority over our bodies, lives, and deaths, making Him the decider of our days.

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            Although Death with Dignity sounds merciful it’s not without its own horrors. Through the lens of recent cultural shifts, we can foresee the societal pressure of this movement for those facing terminal illness and advanced years. Theywould be pressured to succumb to assisted suicide or face the scrutiny of being a selfish burden to their loved ones. In time, the culture will no longer see them as viable members of society— only leeches to it.

             Furthermore, the movement claims the dying have no value. The truth is while caring for two dying women, they’ve injected my life with a renewed faith, perseverance, and compassion. We’d jeopardize losing everything the dying could teach us regarding how to live. Vanessa could vouch for this, for it was Tricia’s death and testimony that pointed Vanessa to Jesus Christ.

Can you imagine a hopeless world where patients lose their life to pills instead of keeping their hearts beating for a miracle?

            Before Vanessa died, I asked her if there was anything she wanted people to know. She gathered her thoughts and closed her eyes to form the words from her stubborn lips, “The doctors told me I had two months to live… four months ago,” she said. “They don’t know, only God knows and everyday counts.” She opened her eyes. “I want them to know everyday counts.” How can everyday count to someone who’s lying paralyzed, losing her ability to speak, eat, and see? I admit when she told me this, I didn’t see the power in her statement until after she passed.

            I cannot close without mentioning the death of Jesus Christ. He was shamed, beaten, rejected, stripped naked, and hung on a cross to die. He died without dignity and in extreme pain and agony so we may have an eternal home with Him.

            “Then Jesus told His disciples, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24 ESV) Are you willing to follow Christ even if it means dying without dignity?

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            A month before she passed, I laid my head across Vanessa’s chest and sobbed. I couldn’t save either of them. She ran her fingers through my hair. “I will see your sister soon,” she said smiling. I’ve spent over six years watching two incredible women die with courage and integrity. In the end, they were a shell of their former selves, but they were never more beautiful; and I know without a doubt, they stood humbly before their Lord and each heard the words, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.”

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Before cancer my sister and her daughter Peyton. 

Join the conversation. What are your thoughts on Assisted Suicide? Please feel free to comment below.

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

The Silence of Suicide in the Church

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“My heart is severely pained within me,

And the terrors of death have fallen upon me.

Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me,

And horror has overwhelmed me.

So I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest.

Indeed, I would wander far off,

And remain in the wilderness. Selah

I would hasten my escape

From the windy storm and tempest.” Psalms 55:4-8 (New King James Version)

 

Sometimes it’s not about wanting to die, it’s about not wanting to live with the pain.

As the lead pastor of Inland Hills Church in Chino, California, Andrew Stoecklein began suffering from full-blown panic and anxiety attacks three to four times a week, in the fall of 2017. His wife Kayla often found him pacing, crying, and curled up in a fetal position in their home. Over a seven-month period of time, he had a baseball size tumor removed from his chest, passed 60 kidney stones, and preached every Sunday while battling severe panic attacks.

After preaching seven consecutive Easter services, Andrew had a nervous breakdown and was admitted to the hospital in April of 2018. He was referred to a mental health professional. It stunned Kayla when the psychiatrist diagnosed him with clinical depression and anxiety. How could this be? The man she knew as driven, passionate, gifted, and whom she called “Superman,” was now labeled mentally ill. Although it shocked her, it gave Andrew a sense of relief that he finally had a diagnosis. Concerned, the church staff placed him on sabbatical and encouraged him to rest.

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Andrew set August as a deadline to get back to the pulpit, fearing that too much time away from work may make matters worse. During those four months, he and his wife met with a counselor two hours a week, a psychiatrist twice a week, and a mentor once a week. He listened to worship music to combat the spiritual warfare and mental illness he was enduring. Kayla told him that he didn’t have to be a pastor anymore. They could go anywhere else and start a new life together with their three young boys, but Andrew was committed to his calling. By early August, he returned to work and introduced a series of sermons called, “Hot Mess” just 12 days prior to his death. In one of the messages titled, “To the back of the Cave,” taken from I Kings 19, he described how the prophet Elijah wrestled with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. And then with vulnerable transparency Andrew addressed the taboo, his own mental illness and suicide ideation.

He shared what he called, “Rhythms of Rest,” God’s prescription for mental illness and suicidal thoughts. The bullet points of this prescription were, “Sleep, Get-Up, Sunlight, Exercise, Eat and Drink Healthy, and Rest. If you break the rhythm, it will break you,” he said. The awful irony is that on August 24, 2018, Andrew Stoecklein died by suicide; he was 30 years old.

 

“I am so sorry you were scared,

I am so sorry you felt so alone,

I am so sorry you felt misunderstood,

I am so sorry you felt betrayed and deeply hurt by the words and actions of others,

I am so sorry you were fighting a dark spiritual war virtually alone,

I am so sorry you were unable to fully get the help and support you needed.”

(Kayla Stoecklein, August 28, 2018 To My Andrew)

 

            Because Andrew was authentic with his mental illness, Kayla determined to be honest about his suicide. As a widow, she took over Andrew’s blog, “God’s Got This” with the hope that by sharing their truth and her grief, it would help others. In one post referring to her husband, Kayla said, “Andrew suffered immensely from both spiritual warfare and mental illness. They’re both real. There’s a real enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. And Andrew was experiencing that in a very real way.” She explained that he used the spiritual tools of prayer and fasting, Bible meditation, and Christian community to persevere. She asserted, “I believe in miracles, but I think it would be ignorant to say we can pray someone’s mental illness away…Andrew did not ‘commit’ suicide, it was the mental illness that took his life.”

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The horrific loss of Pastor Andrew Stoecklein is not an isolated tragedy. Deaths caused by suicide have significantly risen to nearly 800,000; that is one person every 40 seconds. Among men under the age of 45, death by suicide is the number one cause of death. What’s even more shocking is the fact that so many ministry leaders are joining that number. In a recent article at Christianity Today.com, writer Ed Stetzer asked the question, “Are we under a curse of suicide that’s stalking our church leaders?” He wrote, “I sometimes get calls from pastors a thousand miles away who have nobody—it seems—to help them. I wonder how this has happened. I also wonder about those who are ministry leaders who don’t make the call, who suffer in silence, afraid to reach out.”

Pastoring is a dangerous job and is considered to be one of the most high-pressure occupations. Pastors don’t graduate seminary as mental health counselors, yet people often expect them to provide solutions for their mental health challenges. The question was raised by Steve Austin, a former pastor who attempted suicide, “No one wants their pastor performing open heart surgery, so why expect him to be your psychiatrist?”

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Being a pastor’s wife, I’ve seen firsthand how the stress of being a minister, husband, and father affected my husband Rob’s mental health. Marital issues, family crisis, exhaustion, healthy problems, low pay, fear of inadequacy, and impossible schedules threatened havoc that resulted in spurts of debilitating anxiety and depression. At the same time, I wrestled with ongoing emotional pain until I eventually committed spiritual suicide. (You can read my story here:Plastered on the Front Pew part 1 and Plastered on the Front Pew Part 2) Our marriage fell apart. I left him, and Rob was forced to take a six-month sabbatical from his work. Those were some dark days for all of us, but particularly him. Recently after our marriage was restored, I asked him if he’d ever had suicidal thoughts.

“It was a battle to get up every morning,” he said, “push through my pain, and be the dad my kids needed me to be. I felt emotionally empty, but thank God, I never felt hopeless. God spared me from having any suicidal thoughts.”

Unfortunately, it also affected our children, specifically my son Christian. He had bouts of depression as young as seven years old. He experienced night terrors and grew afraid at bedtime, and I noticed his behavior was marked by deep sadness. During counseling, he admitted to having suicidal thoughts, especially at night. It broke my heart that he dealt with terror at such a young age. Thankfully, we were able to get him help, but he had to battle through the fears that continued to threaten him. He still wrestles with depressive episodes.

When I shared that my son struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide in a women’s gathering at church, it was as if I’d stated that he had murdered someone.

Awkward silence.

The topic of suicide is considered taboo by the church.

I can’t ever recall having heard a message on it, even though I’ve personally known several who’ve been devasted by it. It’s tragic but most have no idea that church leaders are not only struggling with severe depression, anxiety, and mental illness…but also dying by suicide.

Enough is enough!

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Recently, after being made aware of being made aware of yet another tragedy, Pastor Jarrid Wilson’s suicide in September of 2019, I vowed to do something about it, to bring awareness. I want to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. Pastors often feel they have no safe place to go for help, they remain silent.

Before his untimely death by suicide, when addressing the topic of mental health, Jarrid made this bold statement, “If the local church wants to be the hope of the world, then the local church needs to step into the areas in which the world finds itself hopeless.” (And I’d humbly add to his statement)—and in which ministers and church leaders find themselves feeling hopeless.

Taking pain public that most keep private is one way to exposee this darkness to light. The darkness is best described by Heman, the Ezahite, who penned the Biblical song of Psalm chapter 88, a desperate prayer from deep affliction. I encourage you to read the entire chapter, as it reflects the darkness which those in mental anguish are tormented and the depth from which they cry out to God in prayer. We must remember that Pastors are people too. The internal pain they experience is valid. But suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary pain. It may be disguised as the only way out, but it isn’t the answer; in fact, it creates excruciating pain for those left behind. We the church must fight for solutions and raise awareness that this is a prevalent problem and relevant reality. It’s time to pave the way for dialogue about how the church can promote community and healing for those struggling with mental illness, including pastors. We must address the systematic devouring of hope and distortion of reality that is suicide. End the silence. Kevin Hines, a survivor of attempted suicide said, “if we do not talk openly about suicide, about what suicide is, who it affects, and how it affects them…If we do not use the word safely, with education and awareness, we run the risk of missing all those people who have it on their minds.”

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National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK

 

The following are some ways we can encourage our pastors and ministry leaders who may be struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts:

  1. Encourage your pastor often through verbal cues, letters, invitations to eat, and by giving gifts of appreciation. Let them know they are doing a great job and thank them. October is Pastor Appreciation Month, but don’t wait until October.
  2. Offer help as a volunteer to alleviate stress on the pastor at church.
  3. Pray for your pastor daily. Pray for his wife and family too.
  4. Make sure your church set allowances for the pastor to take sabbatical periods of rest. If it doesn’t be an advocate for change. Pastors need sabbatical time off weekly, monthly, and throughout the year.
  5. Suggest that the church address topics of mental health and provide ministry for those struggling with it.

 

If you have any other recommendations we’d love to hear them. Join the conversation by commenting below.
Resources:

Kayla Stoecklein Instagram kaylasteck

www.Godsgotthis.com blog “To My Andrew” August 28, 2018.

“A Conversation on Mental Illness and Suicide with Dawn Chere Wilkerson and Kayla Stoecklein” Vous Church You Tube video, July 12, 2019. https://youtu.be/SFmoLTVxdgA

“Hot Mess: To the Back of the Cave” Andrew Stoecklein Inland Hills Church YouTube Video, August 13, 2018. https://youtu.be/cVBe4z2QSRM

Juli Wilson Instagram itsjuliwilson and www.anthemofhope.org

“De-Stigmatizing Mental Illness in the Church” Jarrid Wilson, Churchleaders.com

Youtube video, January 17, 2019 https://youtu.be/J4-kP1k6Y7M

Kevin Hines-Power 106 Los Angeles interview Youtube:  https://youtu.be/kQ4XCNZdKfl

Pictures by Pexels at Pixaby.com. Thank you!

 

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This article was written by one of Hallelujah House’s contributing writers Elizabeth Hammond.

A former English teacher, Elizabeth loves the written word. She’s been a pastor’s wife for 20 years, and for 24 years, remains happily married to her husband Rob. They have a daughter Faith and a son Christian, albeit preparing to become empty nesters. They reside in Jacksonville, Florida.

In her free time she loves to bake, read, and lounge on the beach which is in her opinion is the closest thing to heaven. Elizabeth’s passion is ministering to others out of her own God-story where He’s rescued her life and continues to restore her family. She desires to fulfill God’s purpose in her life in encouraging women by sharing her own story, through Bible study, and intimate friendships.

Elizabeth can be contacted at elizabethhammond8@gmail.com.

Wednesday’s Word

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“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10 English Standard Version.

Today’s word is reflective of our theme in March. We at The Hallelujah House have decided to devote a month to writing articles regarding hot topics in our current culture. We realize not all readers will agree with our position, but we hope to create an environment that encourages healthy conversation over the issues we present. We do welcome healthy debate or encouragement by way of comments. Some of our topics will include, abortion, assisted suicide, vision boards and self- manifestation. We will also be examining tools we’ve seen slip into our churches and uncover what God’s word has to say about them. These are the conversations God has placed on our hearts to discuss, so we hope you will follow us as we shine a spotlight on them.

Please note: We’ve never had a problem with rude comments in the past, but all comments will be moderated, and I, as the administrator of THH, reserve the right to delete any comments I find to be inappropriate. Thank you for your understanding.

We hope you find this month to be informative.

Happy reading! Be blessed,

Tammy Carter Adams

 

Who Do You Say That I Am?

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He’s different—always has been. The type of guy who goes against the grain most of the time but can fall victim to peer pressure. My son, Christian, has had to work harder than the pack at everything from football to Algebra. For what he’s lacked in book smarts, he’s made up for in courage and earthy ingenuity. He’d survive in the wilderness, and if need be, step up to lead others out; but instead of Moses, he reminds me of David in the Bible, and a bit of wild-spirited Tristan in the movie Legends of the Fall. He’d want to kill the bear, but out of respect for such a beautiful beast would be reluctant to pull the trigger. Being his momma, I’ve prayed many late nights on the porch of our farmhouse against the howling coyotes, knowing Christian’s trekking through the woods in search of wild boar.

Upon our return from the trip of a lifetime—Israel—he sat across from me with sad eyes.

“I’m checked out.” He shrugged. “I feel so lost in my classes. I’m not that guy.”

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I thought about Christian often on our trip. At Caesarea Philippi, often referred to as the Gates of Hell, I’d ventured away from the group and found a stone stairway that led to an ancient tiled floor. From my elevated position, I could see out over the ruins of the Temple of Pan and the rivers below. I contemplated what went on in that dark place.

At the Temple of Pan, worshippers threw their infants into the water hole that emerged from the mouth of the cave; if the baby sank the pagan god Pan accepted their sacrifice, but if blood flowed down into the rivers below—due to the infant being bashed on the rocks—Pan rejected their sacrifice. Either way, their infants died.

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I couldn’t help but think about my own children standing in that place. Am I any different? Do I toss them into the caves of culture whether it’s good for them or not, requiring them to paddle the choppy waters of finding themselves, simply because that’s the “way” to success? The way everyone else is doing it? When we sent Christian to college, I told him, “Just give it a year. Who knows you may end up liking it.” (In other words, sink or swim.) While he reiterated his doubt.

But Christian’s always known who he is. And he’s left me a trail of river rocks to find him. All the times we went walking around the neighborhood and I glanced behind to find my toddler way back, squatting. He’d stopped to look at the pretty colors of a bug or try to snatch a lizard.

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The many times he dug into my potted plants looking for the root system.

Or the time I picked him up at preschool during petting farm day and found him sitting in a chair cuddling a hen.

“He’s been holding the animals all day. He could care less about the bounce house,” his teacher said. “Christian’s going to be a farmer. He’s so good with animals.”

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I took Christian boot shopping when he was a chunky pre-teen. I picked out the cool Under Armor hiking boots for him, while his eyes lit up over the Red Head camouflage ones. When he slid his foot into them his chin raised a notch as if he’d been crowned by God to rule a nation, but to me they looked like bushes sprouting on his feet. I scrunched my nose and voiced they were a bit red-necky in my opinion.

“This is who I am Momma.” He pointed to his feet. “I’m not a hip guy. God made me to hunt and fish. You’re just going to have to accept that about me.”

Now it’s hard to picture Christian without his camouflage. My now 19-year-old stared at his hands, and I can tell by his deep voice he doesn’t want to disappoint me when he says, “I’m not going to get a degree Momma.”

I should have seen it coming. I’m a slow learner.

It is who he is.

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The rivers and fountains at Caesarea Philippi.

In Caesarea Philippi, Jesus brought the disciples to that dark place, a place of pagan worship, infant sacrifice, and temple prostitution. It was there he asked Peter “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter responded. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

(Christ responded) “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 6: 15-19 (English Standard Version)

It was there right by the Gate of Hell; Jesus announced His intentions. He would do a new thing. The old ways of laboring for salvation would fail so He could become the perfect sacrifice.

Late Saturday night, Christian announced he would do a new thing. He wouldn’t take the wide, worn path to his future. He tried college and failed.

He lifted his head and met my eyes. “Momma, I want to be a farmer. I want to work the land. I like the outdoors.”

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“You can’t go work on the farm without getting an education in farming,” I said. “You need to earn your way and bring something of value to the farm.”

“I’m going to apply for apprenticeship at an organic, sustainable farm. There are farms all over the country that teach it. I’ll get educated on an actual farm not in a classroom.”

I nodded.

Besides, who am I to fight it.

It is who he is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re Not Created Equal

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I’d always vowed I’d never marry someone who thought I should be subservient. I wanted to be equal with my spouse. I didn’t want to do all the duties traditionally seen as “women’s work” alone. Today, I’m so thankful I have a husband who helps me, encourages me, and supports me.

After being married for 10 years, I’ve realized that it’s okay to have “woman” and “men” duties, as long as you’re always offering to help each other out. God tells us to be Christ-like, and I believe it is often hardest to be so with our husbands because we are so comfortable around them.

Sometimes, we can get caught in our selfishness and forget the hard work, time, and effort our spouse is putting into something. We focus on how late they came home, always being on the phone, and not being as present as we would like them to be; but to be Christ-like is to “encourage one another and build each other up…” I Thessalonians 5:11 (New Internationaal Version.) We should be one another’s biggest supporters and work together as a team to achieve each other’s goals in anything we do.

Four years ago, my husband’s job relocated us to move up north. Away from friends and family, 8 months pregnant, and raising an 18-month old. One would think this Boston girl would be excited to be back up north, but instead, I was devastated. I had no family or friends close by. My family was still a six-hour drive away. I had no choice, but to stand behind my husband and choose to believe he was making the right choice for our family. We lived in Philly for 14 months. During those months I would have said those were the worst months of my life. Now, when I look back, they were not the best, but they definitely helped our family grow spiritually.  It was a time in my life, I had no choice but to let go and let God. I spoke to Him daily because I had no one else. God listened, and I started understanding Him more. Our faith grew more than ever, and my husband and I knew as a family we would get through this with God’s grace. We prayed for a change, for doors to open, and for us to be okay with whatever He hands us. Low and behold, He did just what we had prayed for which allowed us to move back to Florida. I can look back on this chapter in our lives and say that this time was the biggest turning point for my husband and I. We were forced to rely on each other and God.

We are not created equal in our talents and skills, but that means we must learn how to become one flesh ever day. I imagine that even couples having been together 50 plus years are still learning new ways to do so. I know we will encounter roadblocks along the way, and we will fight hard to work through them. Marriage is difficult—an uphill battle in so many ways, but when you find that steady running pace that works for both of you, amazing things can happen.

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I have been a stay at home mom for almost seven years now, and my husband will still help out when he gets home from work. Working for himself, he has a more flexible schedule, but I’ve had to accept his work is done in unconventional places like restaurants. I’ve started a fitness coaching business which means I’m on social media and my phone more than I would like. With all of our life stages we continue to find our balance between work, family, alone, and social time. As long as we’re working together towards bettering ourselves and our relationship I think we’re headed in the right direction.

How has God impacted your relationship with your spouse to help you find a better balance?

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Prem Adams

After six years of committing her energy, heart, and time into her family, Prem ventured into the world of fitness. Always having the desire to help people reach their goals, she believes she’s found her calling. While still being wife and mother, she coaches individuals through private bootcamps on how to incorporate fitness and nutrition into their busy lifestyles. In her spare time, she enjoys freelance writing on nutrition, fitness, and Christian parenting.

If you’re interested in finding out more about her bootcamps you can email her at mycolorjoy@gmail.com or follow her Instagram page@mycolorofjoy.

When Jesus Becomes Less Like Me

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I’m writing this from my hotel room in Tiberias, Israel. My husband, Jay, surprised me for my 50th birthday with a trip to Israel. I’ll admit, I feel bit spoiled albeit grateful, and blessed to be here.

The night Jay and I arrived we decided to venture out in the dark and walk around the streets of Tiberias. Foreign food smells filled the cool air, exotic music and street vendors all called out “American’s! I work you a deal.”

Further down, we land on the steps of an ancient ruin that looked like an old church of some sort, but I couldn’t read the sign it was written in Hebrew. I’m tempted to stand on my head to read the letters. They appear to be upside down.

While walking back into the hotel and the pungent peppery smell the hotel releases into the air greeted me, I realized something.

Jesus wasn’t white.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never believed or even imagined Him white, but I never grasped His culture until now. He probably spoke his thick-throaty language using His hands like the men here do. He walked through exotic markets, and sampled foods like tangy olives, eggplant,  pomegranate, and smoked fish. He lifted heavy stones to create homes. He danced to the exotic music at weddings. He walked along the seashore and rippled the Sea of Galilee skipping stones to clear His thoughts. He looked over the rocky edge of Mount Precipice as angry scribes threatened to throw Him over the cliff, but He slipped out of their grasp. He walked on water. He calmed the sea with His word. He…He…

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Jesus Christ is being fleshed out in my mind.

We toured the Basilica of Annunciation in Nazareth, which stores the childhood home of Mary.  Along the walls paintings hung, each from different countries illustrating Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. One artist was from the Philippines, and I couldn’t help but notice the Holy Family looked Filipino. The Canadian artist gave Him blue eyes and pale skin.

Maybe that’s what Christ wanted all along for us to see Him in ourselves and to see ourselves in Him. Seamless.

And just maybe, that’s not a bad thing after all.

Until next time…

Please note: We still have some relationship articles coming for the month of February. Please be patient with me while I’m traveling. Thanks

God Doesn’t Need Us

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This morning Bella’s Transitional Kindergarten class delivered the chapel message for the lower school at The First Academy. Dressed in chef hats and aprons, Bella and her class acted out a skit that explained our part in God’s kingdom. The Master Chef—a boy named Kipton—played  the role of God. He asked all the other bakers to join with him in baking a cake.

Another student stepped forward, “But you don’t need us to bake the cake, You’re the Creator of the Universe You can do it all by yourself.”

“God” explained, “I don’t need you, but I want you to partner with me.” (that was the message—not exact wordage.) They each added an ingredient to the cake as God called them out.

“Who has the sugar?” God said. The girl with the sugar walked over and shook it into the bowl.

“Who has my butter?” Another student put her butter in the bowl. (Hmm…don’t skimp now)

“Who has my salt?” The boy with the salt, shook, shook, shook, and shook his salt into the bowl. (Over kill…Yuck!)

They mixed it all together and popped it into the Master oven.

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It was a brilliant way to illustrate our part in the work God gives us to do. It made me realize how we have a tendency to get it wrong. We can believe the lie God needs me. He needs my money, time, energy, talents, and knowledge, in order to help someone or reach people for Jesus Christ; but here’s the kicker…

He doesn’t.

He doesn’t need us at all. Think about it…the God who spoke the universe into existence needs little me? I’m a nobody.

Case in point, take the wisemen for example. They didn’t have anyone to share the news of Jesus’ birth. God plopped a star in the sky to lead them to Him. He wooed them by piquing their curiosity. Don’t you love that?

And God woos us too.

So, we should never believe God needs us. Satan uses that lie to trap us into pride, anxiety, fear, and exhaustion.

Here’s truth…

He wants us.  Now, isn’t that better?

And doesn’t that make you want to use your money, time, energy, talents, and knowledge for His glory?  He wants us to be willing to join with Him in the work He’s already prepared for us to do.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 English Standard Version.

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Bella and I snuggled on the sofa last night to watch Cinderella. In the movie, Cinderella’s nasty stepmom gets rid of all the house help, and forces Cinderella to keep things in order. That is the true picture of a God who needs us to work for Him. We would be unloved, uncared for, and treated like a slave. Instead, we are His children, whom He loves and adores, and wants to work side by side with us in growing His kingdom.

So wipe that ash off your face Cinderella because you’re not a slave, instead you’re an adored child of the King.

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As men line up like cattle buying their last minute, heart-shaped box of chocolates (you poor fellas… the pressure of it all), I hope that we take time to remember the God who wants to bake a cake with us. Let’s remember Who invented love to begin with. The Creator who can fill us with more joy than an expensive heart-shaped box of dark chocolates. (Don’t give me the cheap stuff hon.)

And just in case after reading all that, you’re still not feeling loved today. Here’s a love message from God Himself.

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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.” John 3:16 New International Version.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, “nor heavenly rulers” neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 NIV

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

Though the mountains be shaken, and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10 NIV