Friday, September 30, 2011

Rummage Giveaway - Part 1

by Bethany Lashbrook

This week's verse: Matthew 25:40, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Two years ago, in a small group that met on Wednesday nights in our church, a friend of mine came up with a brilliant idea to have a free yard sale. The assignment: find a need and do something about it. The need: people. The goal: to help. Simple, yet profound.

So, our small group set off on a wonderful adventure of the first year of the Rummage Sale. It wasn't necessarily a yard sale because it would take place in our church's gymnasium. But, there was definitely going to be some rummaging - because the goal was to ask people to donate anything and everything. Our small group accepted all sorts of donations: clothes, toys, baby items, household items, and practically anything else worth giving.

Another small group came up with the idea to serve a nice, hot meal during the rummage sale. As they prepared for the meal, our group prepared for the rummage event.

The people in our church were gracious; donating selflessly for weeks leading up to the rummage sale. The week prior to the sale, we all were sorting every night. The small group was featured in both of our town's newspapers. WBGL and our local radio station broadcast for the event.

What else could we ask for? We had a gymnasium full of goodies, a tribe of volunteers helping throughout the week and advertisement across several counties. We just needed the people to show up.

Through lots of prayer from us (and for us!) - the 1st year came and went with an explosion. It was almost a whirlwind - setting up, people coming, taking down, and then it's done. I really couldn't wrap my head around it until it was said and done and stories started to circulate.

~Like the man who walked in and picked up some blankets and left.

~Like the people who lined an hour before the rummage sale began.

~Like the woman who insisted on donating money and gave us $5 to put in our offering plate.

~Or the woman who called the church and asked if it was okay to donate brand new items, such as heavy coats for winter.

Such simple things with such profound meaning. Sometimes it's not what you do, or how you do it, how you experience it, or how long it takes, but it's the love that is put into it that makes it a celebration - a love for the Lord that is uncrushable. Psalm 115 states, "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness." (NLT)

Dear Lord, thank you for the love you show us as you work through us. Help us to remember we are all created in your image. We all deserve to know you, to love you, and to experience your love. Thank you for your Jesus. Thank you for your presence in our life and help us to show others this love for the growth of your kingdom. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Power Verses:
Psalm 117:2, "For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD." (NIV)

1 Corinthians 15:57, "But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ." (NLT)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Accept One Another

by Bethany Lashbrook

This week's verse: Romans 15:7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (NIV)

Recently, one of my friends cried to me and other friends regarding a way someone had spoke about her child. As a mother, there is nothing more discouraging than others thinking your child is inadequate. After all, they came from us. We raised them. They are a blessing in our lives, no matter their circumstances. Everyone makes mistakes, but let's face it, when it is our children - we have more compassion.

Our children are condemned by others. Yet, when I am upset with someone (for simple or large things) I tend to forget that this child has a mother, a father, and a family who loves and cares for them deeply - even with their inadequacies.

Just the same, God loves us as we love our children. God has watched us from the beginning idolize other gods (Deuteronomy 7:4 & Jeremiah 5:7) but continues to adore us (John 13:1, Deuteronomy 7:9). Our inadequacies don't matter. We know we can repent and ask for forgiveness (Acts 2:38). So, why don't we use this general rule when applied to our own lives? Why look so harshly upon others? We don't know the whole story.

But, God does know our whole story, and He loves us anyway. Today, let's be less judgmental and more loving towards others. Let's remember who Jesus loves - each and every single one of us. We are all created in his image (Genesis 1:27). Praise the Lord for that!

Dear Lord, thank you for your forgiveness when we are wrong. Thank you for making us each unique. When we fail you Lord, help us to remember that you love us anyway. When others fail us, help us to remember we are all human. We know we all make mistakes, but help us to remember we all need forgiven too. In Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.

Application: Do you have an issue with someone in your life? Do you look down on someone for choices they have made? This week, every time you want to snuff them, pray blessings upon them and let's all marvel on how our lives will be changed!

Power Verses:
John 3:16, "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." (NIV)

Acts 10:43, "All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (NIV)

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Life Today - in Prayer

by Bethany Lashbrook

Today's Verse: 2 Chronicles 6:19, "Yet, LORD my God, give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence." (NIV)

Dear Lord, May your blessings continue to flow on my family and my town and my church as you have always let them. May you continue to find favor with my friends and family and keep your ever present arms around us. May you continue to guide and lead us in the direction we are to go. Thank you for being there. Thank you for the good times. And thank you for the bad in which I could grow.

Please be with my work friends. Help me to show them the love that I have in my life, and not the nastiness that a long day brings my way. Please continue to watch over my church family and help me to remember to pray for each of them - specifically by name - when they have entrusted a prayer request to me. Send something my way (a reminder if you will) if I am not holding up my end of the bargain. Help me to pray YOUR prayers and not MY prayers. Please guide me, Holy Spirit, in my life. Guide my words and my actions. Help me to be the Lord's hands, feet, ears, mouth, LIFE!

Continue my growth in you Lord and when I am headed down the wrong path, help me to turn around - to repent - and go about the right way. And thank you for being there with open arms (once again) when I walk towards you. Help me to find joy in you, life with you, and forgiveness through you. Remind me when I can't love, that you can. Thank you for healing within when I didn't know it could be possible.

Remind me to smile at someone when it looks like they need a smile. To hug someone when they need a hug. To shut my mouth when they just need an ear.

And when I come home after having all these thoughts swarm my head all day, remind me to be nice to my family, to be the mom who makes everything "just right", not perfect, Father, but just right for my family. Help me to walk through that door reenergized, full of life, and definitely full of YOU! Give me compassion towards my children; to give time to kiss the booboos, to give the 30 second hug that makes them push me away, to listen to their fun-filled stories about school. And when my husband walks through the door, fill me with a longing to talk to him, to share with him, and to LISTEN to him (you know that's hard, and not because it's not interesting, but because I don't shut up). Help me not to bombard him with my issues but to be the mate that listens as well as shares.

Thank you for keeping us happy, healthy, and for the roof over our head. Thank you for air-conditioning, heat, refrigerators, carpet, grilled food, corn on the cob, and smiling kids with full bellies as we tuck them in. Thank you for this blessed life in this blessed country where I can speak freely. Thank you for those that have served so I can live and love as I please.

Please repair those friendships with which I have failed. Please be with those family members who don't believe in You and with those who do believe in You but struggle everyday with convictions and aggravations towards themselves. Please show me tomorrow what I can repair in which I have ruined.

Please give me the time, the energy, and the will power to either get up early or stay up late to learn about you, read about you and give you the time in prayer, quiet study, and concentration that you deserve. Then guide me in sharing it all with my children. Help me to be that brave warrior that you call for. Thank you Father for listening to me complain, for listening to my excuses (even when there shouldn't be any) and for being there every step of today, even when I didn't acknowledge you.

And as I go to sleep, Father, help me to wake up, and to think of Creation and thank you for the awesomeness of it. And if you so choose to take me before I wake, help my family to know that I love them, more than they will ever know.

Please help me get rid of all the worry, the regret, and mistakes I made today and remember that you sent your Son so that I may wake up, start afresh and begin anew. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

So be it. Amen.

1 Samuel 12:23, "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right." (NIV)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

"My prayer for this ministry is that women become united by opening up and sharing their hearts with others. I pray for God to fill these women with the Spirit as they write these devotions." ~Denise Reed

"I look forward to reading the devotional every week because we really get to know the heart of the woman doing the writing. Women are a lot busier now than they used to be. If we make enough time for our own families, our church activities and still hold down a full time job, that leaves little time for "friend time". We are all friends in one way or another. It's nice know how many of our gals at FCC love the Lord with all of their hearts and souls. Keep writing girls - We love you and are praying for you all." ~Debby Craig

"It has been so exciting to see the Olive Branch grow! I love how more and more women have stepped up to answer God's call to share through their writing. I'm honored to have been a part of it's launching four years ago, and I'm blessed to see it has flourished under new management. God's hand is on the Olive Branch." ~Kathy Lay

"The Olive Branch serves as a God-inspired ministry, directed at women from women whose hearts are focused on the Lord. Everything written is evidence to this." ~Charity Pence

"The Olive Branch provides encouragement, guidance, and a lot of wake-up calls to me once a week, and it always seems to be just what I needed. Thanks to everyone who has been so willing to serve." ~Brenda Pickering

"Olive Branch is a place where I can both give encouragement to and receive encouragement from my sisters in Christ. When I go to the Olive Branch blog I know I will find others that are facing the same struggles that I am. I will also find sisters that are encountering victories over the enemy and sharing with me how to do the same." ~Mollie Thompson

"Watching this blog grow has been exciting! I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for the next year!" ~Bethany Lashbrook

Psalm 30:4, "Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people; praise his holy name." (NIV)