Friday, August 27, 2010

Sweet Words

By Bethany Lashbrook

This week’s verse: Proverbs 16:24 "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." (NIV)


I don’t know about you, but I love the Olive Branch and it’s pleasant words. Can you believe it has been up and running now for three years? Yep - the first post, by Kathy Lay, was on August 31, 2007. It was here that the women’s ministry sought to inspire other FCC and Marshall community women with down-to-earth stories of how Christian women walk in faith.

Thanks to Kathy’s commitment to the Lord and her willingness to start something new at FCC, we have heard of many women’s struggles, walks, talks, and triumphs with the Lord. It is here that we have experienced many “ah-hah” moments. It is here we have cried for, prayed for, and understood more about women’s struggles in faith.

If you remember Kathy’s post from last week, she wrote about having peace during seasons of change. The Olive Branch is also experiencing a season of change as Kathy is passing her role of blog manager and devotion editor on to me. God had been speaking to both of us about this and the time has now come.

Often, as women, we strive for many roles. We want to be sweet yet not too sugary. We want to provide for our house, yet admit we do get tired. We want to be firm, yet flexible. We want to give our lives to the Lord, yet keep control of ourselves. We want our husbands/boyfriends/fiancées/friends to r-e-s-p-e-c-t us yet we know ultimately it only counts if HE does. We want loved on and we want to give love. I hope you continue to meet us here to find encouraging words, accepting all of our roles the Lord has given us.

I believe that because of this ministry, many women’s and girl’s lives have been touched. And I want to praise the Lord for that! Solomon declares in Psalm 72:19, “Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory”(NIV). Can I get an Amen?

There is a passage in the bible, made well known by a group of women who decided to do exactly what it is we are doing here at First Christian Church – follow the Lord and share their stories with others. I would like to think that our ministry here is just the same as theirs. No, we aren’t quite famous yet. No one really knows where Marshall, Illinois is on a map. Nope, we don’t have any speaking engagements coming up in big city venues. But, we do have what it takes to change lives - Christian women speaking boldly in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and redeemer!

On that note, I will end with select verses from one of my faves: Proverbs 31 (NIV)

10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. 15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. 26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 31 Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Dear Lord, thank you for this ministry of believers who gather together weekly to enjoy such wonderful, sweet, heart-warming stories of women who follow you. We ask that you continue to bless this ministry and all those it reaches. In Jesus Name', Amen.

Application: Know someone who could use a pick-me-up? Suggest the Olive Branch! You can find us on the web at

Got a story to share? Send it to We encourage and support all new contributors!

Power Verses:

Psalm 52:8 "And I'm an olive tree, growing green in God's house. I trusted in the generous mercy of God then and now." (MSG)
John 8:12 "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (NIV)
Matthew 9:21-22 "She said to herself, 'If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.' Jesus turned and saw her. 'Take heart, daughter,' he said, 'your faith has healed you.' And the woman was healed from that moment." (NIV)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blessed Peace

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”(NIV)

This seems to be a season when many people who are close to me are facing decisions. A restlessness or dissatisfaction is stirring some to consider changes in jobs, changes in ministry, changes in habits, changes in whatever; but some sort of change that will move them closer to their goals and where God would have them be.

The most difficult part about being in that “what-do-I-do-now” phase is knowing for sure which path to take. Lord, do I do this? Am I supposed to go this way? How do I know You’re in this?

That last question, I believe, can be answered at least in part by this: peace. For example, three years ago when I was getting burnt out teaching (actually, the grading is what burnt me out) at ISU, I was presented with another job option. It made no logical sense to switch and the thought of it made me so nervous I had panic attacks.

So I prayed and asked God for guidance. He provided a scripture that made it clear this new job WAS what He wanted for me and that I was to trust Him. And from that point on I had peace about the decision. The circumstance still made me nervous, but I had peace I made the right decision.

And I've seen this same cycle repeat several times since then.

One of the fruits of God's spirit is peace. Trust that when you begin to feel peace about a decision--no matter how scary, or crazy, or unpopular that decision may seem--God will give you peace about that decision. And He'll be with you in the resulting circumstance as well.

Father, thank you for that blessed peace that passes all understanding when we go the way You would have us go. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

What decisions do you face? Invite God into the process and ask that peace well up in you when considering the right decision--the way that God wants you to go. Pray that His peace will be your compass.

Power Verses:
Galatians 5:22, "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness"(NLT).
1 Thessalonians 5:23, "Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again."(NLT)
Judges 18:6, "The priest answered them, 'Go in peace. Your journey has the LORD's approval.'"(NIV).

Friday, August 13, 2010

God's Bouquet

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: Luke 12:28, "And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?"(NLT)

My mother-in-law owned a flower shop years ago. She enjoyed putting together gorgeous bouquets of mixed flowers, each one bringing a special smell, color, texture, or shape to the creation. Each flower different, yet each one contributing to the overall effect.

She explained that you have to treat each type of flower differently in order for it to do as well as possible. For example, daisies and mums have to have their stems hammered in order to absorb the water in the vase. Delicate roses have to be gently cut at an angle and placed immediately in warm water. Other varieties do well with a simple straight cut.

She said it occurred to her one day as she worked that people are a lot like those flowers. We're all created differently—all uniquely beautiful and designed to contribute something to God's bigger picture, His beautiful arrangement in His kingdom here on earth. Some of us need to be pruned a little more arduously to reach our maximum potential. Some of us are hardy to begin with and need to be softened--maybe even hammered. And some of us have to be handled gently if we're to thrive. The Lord knows the conditions under which we'll flourish for Him.

How true! And when we yield to the Master Florist's techniques, He carefully places us in exactly the right spot among others who are different enough to allow all our special variations to blend, but shine through and be appreciated. He arranges us where we compliment each other and come together to be a part of something breathtakingly beautiful.

Father God, thank you for creating each of us uniquely. Thank you for caring for each of us in the special way that will bring us to our maximum potential in the beautiful bouquet of Your kingdom. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Application: Have you found yourself asking God "Why?" lately? Put your trust in the hands of the Master Gardner who knows exactly what you need in order to fulfill your highest purpose.

Power Verses:
Matthew 6:28-29, "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these."(NIV)
Isaiah 35:1-3, "Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon. There the Lord will display his glory, the splendor of our God. With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees."(NLT)
Song of Solomon 2:12, "Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land."(NIV)

***Special thanks to my mother-in-law, Chalice Baier, for the Good Word that led to this devotional. :-)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Re-run: In Defense of Apathy

(***This post is a re-run of a devotion that was originally posted in the Fall of '07.)

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse:
Luke 10:41—"The Master said, 'Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it's the main course, and won't be taken from her.'" (MSG)

My hubby and I were talking as we bustled around one morning getting ready to go somewhere. I don’t even remember the specific observation he made, but apparently I considered it trivial. It was something like “The chairs sure did get dirty fast” or “Man, that plant looks bad.” My reply was, “Who cares?”

Now, take note: it was not said in a snotty way and he didn’t take it that way. I meant it in a “that is so not a priority right now” sort of way. In fact, we started laughing, and he said “That’s great—apathy, ya gotta love it.”

Not two minutes later, I responded to something else he said with a similar “So?” As soon as our eyes connected we cracked up! We even began to think of other phrases to communicate apathy…Big deal! Oh well! I could not care any less than I do right now. Whatever! Talk to the hand. Doesn’t matter (or if you’re from where I’m from, “Dudn’t” matter). It has now become a running joke with us.

Here’s my disclaimer: OF COURSE when we’re dealing with others—family, friends, enemies, or strangers—and their needs, apathy is NOT an option for Christians. We are to wear love (Col. 3:14) and usually love and apathy blend about as well as oil and water. That’s a given.

But for a former perfectionist control-freak like me (okay, a current-but-workin’-on-it perfectionist control freak like me) a little apathy aimed in the right direction goes a long way in helping me walk in a more Christ-like way. Don’t believe me? Consider these examples:

*I’ve been working on my hair for fifteen minutes and my stubborn area will not conform to my wishes.
Option A: Waste more time on it, delaying breakfast for my family, and becoming crabby over something no one else will probably even notice.
Option B: Sigh “Oh well,” unplug the curling iron, and turn my attention to helping my family get ready for their day.

*A tractor pulls out right in front of me—I mean, how did he not see me?!
Option A: Think and probably mumble something derogatory as I get worked up and impatient to pass him.
Option B: Exhale “big deal” as I slow down and appreciate the beautiful autumn splendor all around me.

*One of the kiddos comes out to the breakfast table in socks that I certainly wouldn’t have chosen with the outfit.
Option A: Voice my opinion, showing clear disapproval at her choice, and force her to change into more appropriately suited hosiery.
Option B: Tell myself “So what?” At least she took creative initiative.

*Guests are arriving soon, one of whom is a pretty important gentleman. The house is a wreck and food needs prepared.
Option A: Fly into a cleaning and cooking frenzy, barking orders to anyone who dares to get in my way, or worse, doesn’t help.
Option B: “Who cares?!” (Actually, I do…I’m still working on that one.)

But you get the idea. Option A involves spending emotional energy on something inconsequential and possibly even doing some damage. Option B conserves my efforts for other more significant situations that will no doubt arise throughout the day.

You’ve heard the rhetorical question before: A year from now, will what you’re so worked up about really matter? When I ask myself that question, more often than not the reply is something along the lines of “A whole year? I probably won’t even remember two hours from now what currently has my panties in a bunge!”

It all comes down to choosing my battles, knowing which ones are worthy of my time and effort. Mismatched socks aren't, but my daughter developing her own style (albeit a quirky one) is. Being a few minutes late because of a slow moving vehicle isn’t, but honing patience and valuing others is. In fact, most situations dealing with appearances aren't, but the relationship involved most definitely is because it would be worthy to Jesus.

In fact, let’s look at that last example again. Martha was being a responsible hostess. She was expending her efforts to make a pleasing environment for her special guest and that ol’ Mary wasn’t doing her part. But Jesus praised her. She had chosen what was most important. If we placed the scenario in 2007, I can see Martha confronting Mary in a corner and Mary retorting, “Talk to the hand, Sister! I’m going to my Master’s feet.”

So I maintain that apathy has its place. When we use it to replace preoccupation with things that are insignificant to God, it's a tool for growth, for proper perspective. Still confined to our earthly bodies, we only have so much energy. Let’s use ours for what truly matters and develop some healthy apathy for the things that, over the long haul, really don’t.

Lord God, thank you for equipping your daughters with passion for what you’ve entrusted to us. Help us direct our energy towards only what matters to you and to say “Whatever!” as we walk away from the things that don’t. Give us discernment to know the difference. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

What kinds of situations do you tend to get worked up about? After you’re removed from them, does your perspective of their importance change? What’s your favorite apathetic response that you could pull out to use in such circumstances?

Power Verses:
Colossians 3:11
—"In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us." (NLT, emphasis mine)
Daniel 12:13—"And you? Go about your business without fretting or worrying. Relax. When it's all over, you will be on your feet to receive your reward." (MSG)
Matthew 6:25—"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" (NIV)
Ecclesiastes 2:22—"What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?" (NIV)