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headshotBy Brie Seward

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

For a moment in church yesterday we had the opportunity to ponder about the blessings, the disappointments and the events of last year. There aren’t many moments I am able to do this. This is because I am a single mom of two boys under 5. Sebastian was diagnosed with autism at 3 and Julian who is 2 loves outlets and running faster than his legs can carry him.

I exhaled as I reflected at the changes in 2015: moving into a new home with my parents, finalizing a divorce and finding my new community in Tucson.  I walk into 2016 as a single woman reclaiming her maiden name back – marching forward for her two boys and living an untraditional but beautiful life.

When we sang and raised our arms to “How Great Thou Art” I truly mean it. I mean it from the bottom of my soul and naturally my arms are raised to heaven thanking God for all He has shown me.

I have seen miracles – miracles in Sebastian and Julian. I’ve seen that you can overcome a “label”. “Autism” does not define who a boy is – God’s power shines through him and with love, support and intervention a boy can overcome obstacles and play amongst kids without a label or challenges the same way.

I have seen Julian fight for his life in the NICU and defeat all the odds when he was born at 26 weeks. He is turning into a bright, smart and funny little boy. When I stop and think that the doctor at Mt.Sinai asked me if I wanted to terminate the pregnancy at 24 weeks when my water was broken I cringe thinking that someone thought this little boy didn’t have a chance. I can’t imagine this world without him. “With God All Things are Possible” -Matthew 19:26.

When I lived in Miami – isolated from family and far away from my Christian circle of friends I laid in the arms of God each day waiting on Him to lead the way and comfort me in my solitude. Living with my husband who didn’t believe presented daily challenges, struggles and disagreements. God lead every step I took, I needed Him in my loneliness and he gave me strength for each day. I would pray through the walls of that house in Florida to give me courage and community. Going through a diagnosis of autism and Julian’s prematurity couldn’t sustain a marriage that was already weak. Discovering he had cheated paved the way to greater things ahead for me and the boys and our new life in Arizona with family, support and community. I had to leave him behind and God set me free from the bondage of a troubled marriage and a father who wasn’t lead by the spirit.

Living life with God and surrendering to what God has for you – is living life with joy, peace and passion. I will never be the same and I don’t want to be the same person I was without God. He has held my hand through the valleys and pushed me to run towards the light.

I will not fear the future, I will have peace in my soul knowing He is leading the direction of my life. He has already shown me His power and in Him I will always find hope.

“The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”Zephaniah 3:17

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Brie Seward is a work at home mom to her two boys, Sebastian (age 5) and Julian (2). Brie was born and raised in Arizona and moved to New York City after college where she was following her publishing career dreams and worked at publications like Harper’s Bazaar and Gourmet magazines. She had the opportunity to start ecommerce websites for international fragrance brand, Bond No.9 and was part of the team to launch the U.S. website for Louis Vuitton. Her last position before she had her boys was marketing manager for Perry Ellis brands in Miami. Brie now resides in Tucson, Arizona where she is reunited with her family, cousins and community. She is a child advocate for her son, Sebastian who was diagnosed with autism when he was 3.  While Seb is at school, you can find Brie chasing Julian who is full of energy or trying to keep him out of electrical outlets. Julian was born at 26 weeks and considered a micro-preemie. He stayed in the NICU for 109 days and is now a 2 year old full of joy and showing the world he is truly a living miracle. Brie has realized the true meaning of Home Sweet Home. Through the trials of special needs, prematurity and divorce – she hopes to share with others how God always leads the way and guides us on the narrow road.

 

headshot By Christian Bonner

 

Is your New Year going as hoped?

I ask because, I love a new day and especially a New Year. I get excited about the opportunity to change something, start a new habit, to improve, or to put a rough day behind me.

This year was no different and I looked forward to January very much.

If you are anything like me, your hopes for the New Year would have been a complete overhaul of your life. My hopes had everything from getting in shape to being a better mom, person, wife, etc..  These, and much more on the list, are still my goals, but I can say that this year isn’t much different than the last, except the numbers in the date.

There wasn’t a lot of down time during the holidays and the new year started without much time to catch my breath or turn my hopes into plans. I am not making excuses and I am sure there was more I could have done to start with a plan, but none-the-less, I wasn’t able to make any resolutions or start off the way I had hoped.

Is that how you feel now that we are a few weeks into the new year? Do look over your week and think, “Nothing has changed”?

I feel that way often. I have some health struggles that make it a challenge to do more than just exist at times. I never know what each day will hold or if I’ll be able to do all I have planned. I know it is said to take things day-by-day, and we literally don’t have a choice, but what that means in my world is in making plans I know that I will have to make final decisions on that day whether or not I can keep them depending on how I am feeling physically. I was raised to keep my commitments and this season in my life makes trying to live out the verse from James 5:12, “…let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no…” very challenging.

Do you find yourself too busy and unable to find grip or focus, just being pulled instead of in control? Or do you find yourself in a situation like myself? Maybe you are in a happy medium and life is manageable, full but not too full, and you accomplish all you need. Either which way, we all know seasons change and life can get mundane or overly stressful.

Even on my busiest and best days, I can at times end the day feeling like I didn’t get it right. I didn’t do the one thing that I really needed or wanted, or I didn’t do enough. So no matter what our lives look like and the activities we have on our to do lists, how do we make sure that we have that peace when the day is over?

I remember last year when I started swimming again. I swam competitively in high school and college, and even though my physique no longer proves that to be true, I still call myself a swimmer. The first day I went back, of course my body fought it and I didn’t swim as long as I had hoped, definitely shouldn’t’ have been calling myself a swimmer the last few years! I remember telling my husband, “Tomorrow is already better because of what I did today”. The excitement I had for the next day could not be measured or taken away. I knew that when tomorrow came, when I looked back on my yesterday, I wouldn’t regret my choice to go to the pool, to have done the one thing I had avoided for so long.

So back to the question about how do we have that peace when our day is done. It could be something practical like the example above, and those things are good, but where does our peace come from?

2 Thessalonians 3:16 says, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all”. He is called the Lord of Peace.

Then in Philippians 4:7 it says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

Knowing Him is where the peace comes from.

Do you need Him to guide you in your daily activities so there is peace in your heart?

As you think on your new year (there is still a lot left), don’t pressure yourself, but take advantage of an opportunity. Take advantage of a new day to draw closer to the Lord, to hear His voice and have Him guide you. Instead of thinking, “This year, I want to get in shape” or “I want to be a better homemaker”, think about what one thing you can change between you and the Lord.

I know that when I am focused on Him, when I spend time with Him regularly in Bible study and prayer, the practical things of the day aren’t as stressful and I am even able to prioritize my never ending list of ‘to-dos’.

So, what is that one thing for you? Do you need more time in prayer? Do you need more time to read the Bible?

It’s difficult to figure out how it will all fit in. So, maybe while you get ready for your day, while you do your hair or whatever, talk to Him. Maybe you already talk to Him and pray regularly, but you need more Bible time. Download an audio version of the Bible and listen as you get ready, or as you drive to work. There are podcasts and apps you can download. If you are less into the technology, there are really good daily devotionals that you can read in just a few minutes while you eat breakfast, like the Daily Bread. You can also go to LoveEverlastingMinistries.com for other resources as well.

All I am saying is there are tiny adjustments you can make that won’t overwhelm you, but will be of great benefit to you over time.

My hope for you this year is that you find a passion and fervor for the Lord while having a peace that is deep within you as you face each day.  As women, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Make this year different by filtering that through the Lord and His Word.

 

 

 

 

Deb Blue 5x7 tighter cropBy Dr. Deb Waterbury

 

The room is dark, and the bottle is close.  As she raises it to her lips with trembling hands, she knows that the burning liquid will dull the ache in her heart…for a moment.

What she doesn’t see is the lone figure standing in the corner of her room, sword hanging loosely by his side, a tear sliding slowly down his cheek.

“How much longer, Father,” he asks in a hushed whisper.

“Wait,” is the reply he hears.  And so he waits, quietly, painfully watching.

Also in the room are Despair and Loneliness and Anger and Guilt.  Soon they are joined by Greed and Malice and Fury.  Squirming around her, talons digging into her flesh, they continue to stab her repeatedly with unseen nails.  She doesn’t respond to their torment, however.  Instead her heart sinks.  With every passing moment she only feels more pain.  In ever growing sadness, she tips the bottle again.

“Please, Father,” asks the warrior standing in the corner, “how much longer?”

“Wait,” is his answer again.

Painfully, then, he obeys.

His knuckles tighten around the sword at his side as he watches the horde of tormenters now covering the room.  With every passing moment they are joined by more and more squirming things, their home the abyss, but their purpose now is tormenting her.  They cannot take her, for she belongs to the Great One.  They can, however, menacingly provoke her heart to sickness and pain.

Another tear falls unseen down the warrior’s cheek.  He vibrates now with the need to protect, to save.  But still he waits.

Next he sees joining the throng of creatures Discouragement and Rage.  Finally, when it seems that no more could possibly come, the one called Hopelessness slithers in uninhibited and buries its talons deep into her heart.  She moans, and very suddenly her heart gives way to utter despondency.  The warrior senses this change, sees the new arrival, and his own heart threatens to break.

Just as he opens his mouth to beseech once again on behalf of his charge, he hears the Father speak.

“Enough.”

With lightning speed he reacts, his sword barely visible as it slashes through the air.  The small tormenters scream and run, trying unsuccessfully to avoid his blade, but each is vanquished in a cloud of smoke.  The great warrior’s weapon is too much and too quick for any to evade.

Only a second has passed in human time before he has rid the room of every last one.  Instantly he is at her side, his strong face only inches from her tear-stained face.  With great affection and tender words he whispers in her ear:  “No more.  You are done now.  Stop, my dear one.”

She doesn’t see him.  She doesn’t see any of them, but she hears this voice, even if it seems to be only in her head.  Something in her clicks into place, and she knows she has come to the end.  She hasn’t any idea of where the strength will come, but she knows that she has been touched, and the end of this self-inflicted misery has come.  It is an end that will bring healing.  It is an end that has broken her, but it has broken her so that she will look to her Father.  It is a healing that must come, and it must come in this fashion.

The warrior will not leave her.  He will be there, protecting her while she finishes this exile.  And though it causes him tremendous pain to watch his charge go through such horrible pain, he trusts the Father who has promised to bring all of His children unto Himself—even if that path means He must leave them to themselves to do so.

It will be a long road, dear one, he thinks, but I am here, and you will find peace in the arms of your Father and Savior.

 

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This story may seem far-fetched to you, but if you are a believer and have sinned, losing yourself for a time to that sin, then something very similar to this allegory has happened on behalf of you.  There is a battle going on every minute of every day in the spiritual realm for your mind and for your purpose here on earth.  Satan wants to thwart all that the Father has done for you, and he will use all of the darkness available to him to accomplish his purposes. In the allegory above it was alcohol plaguing the believer. However, it could just as easily have been drugs, sex, lying, anger, malice, gossip, or a host of other sins that beset fallen man.

You must remember, though, that God will not lose you.  He will do all that is necessary, even if that means allowing you to fall to immeasurable depths so that you will once and for all find yourself on your face before Him, sobbing through tear-drenched eyes.  Only then will you be able to say, “I give up, Father.  I give up trying, and I give myself and my life and my struggles to you.”

Once you have truly done this thing, the end will bring a new beginning.  This end will bring peace.  Our Father loves us too much to let us live without the joy that only He can bring.  He will protect us, but sometimes He will let us fall so that we might stand.

So now, Believer, stand.  Whatever struggle besets you on this day, lay it down and stand.  Stand and hear your Savior say, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Will you stand today?  Because somewhere very near to you a warrior waits to slay all those things that torment you now.  Has it been enough yet?  Will you lay it down at the feet of your Savior and say, “I give it all to You”?

 

 

 

 

What is the extent to which #Jesus subjected Himself to #humiliation?

Philippians 2:8 “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

It may seem at first glance as if Paul were repeating himself at the beginning of this verse, since he said in the previous verse that Jesus was “born in the likeness of man.” However, Paul is taking us through a progression of thought so that we might see Christ’s perfect humility in His sacrifice. It wasn’t just that he became a man, that though He is God He still took on all of the weaknesses of human flesh, but the majority of people saw only that outward form. Most people didn’t look on Him and see anything other than a mere man, calling him crazy and demon-possessed. Can you imagine the humiliation to which He succumbed? He is the King of kings, and mankind largely didn’t see it. But our Jesus didn’t stop there. He continued by humbling Himself even further. He endured a mock trial where they spit on Him and beat Him and pulled out the hairs of His beard, all while He said not a word. He could have called down legions of angels and leveled the entire palace of the High Priest, but He remained quietly submitted to this humiliation—on our behalf. But again, He didn’t stop there. Paul said that He suffered humiliation willingly “to the point of death, even death on the cross.” Jesus humbly allowed the people He came to save to murder Him, and not just in any way. Paul used the word “even” because crucifixion, developed by the Persians and perfected by the Romans, was the most painfully excruciating death imaginable, reserved only for slaves and the worst of the riff-raff. He did that for you and for me. Oh, the amazing love of our God and Savior, and all so that you and I might know life.

Study/Meditation: After reading Hebrews 2:5-18 , why did Jesus suffer and endure this level of humiliation?

*Father, please forgive me for when I under-appreciate what Your Son, Jesus, did on my behalf. Thank You, Jesus, for Your loving sacrifice. All praise and honor and glory unto Your Name! Amen.

How much do you really appreciate the #incarnation of #Jesus #Christ?

Philippians 2:7 “…but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man.”

Often Christians do not fully appreciate the complexities and the magnificence of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. This is one of those terms we use and honor, but those we sometimes do not fully understand or even contemplate. Paul almost forces the issue here, simply because really seeing what Jesus was willing to do exemplifies the most supreme example of humility we can ever be given. What our Savior did was more than what is portrayed on a popular reality show today where the boss of an organization goes undercover to live the life of one of his employees. Jesus didn’t go undercover. He “made himself nothing.” In other translations, the text reads that he “emptied himself.” He quite literally chose not to grasp or hold onto the privileges of His position as Lord and instead emptied Himself of those so that He could be our perfect sacrifice. Paul wrote that Jesus took “the form of a servant” and was “born in the likeness of man.” Once again the apostle used the Greek word “morphe.” Jesus literally became a servant and was born fully human, though certainly still fully God. He didn’t just dress up like a servant and a man. He became those things so that He could, in perfect humility, be the propitiation we required for salvation. Our Lord truly is the most glorious model we could ever be given on how to live in humble servitude toward our brothers and sisters.

Study/Meditation: Read Isaiah 53. How exactly did your Savior humble Himself for your sake?

*Father, I worship You in Your mercy and grace. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your humble sacrifice and Your love. Amen.

The central message of #Christianity lies in the #humility of #Jesus.

Philippians 2:6 “…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.”

Christianity carries an incredible message, one that goes unmatched by any other religion in the world. In India, people pray to a god so that he won’t be angry with them, which consequently is true of every other religion in some form or another. But not in Christianity. Jesus Christ instead demonstrated the greatest form of humility in that He looked down on wretched humanity who hated Him and were His enemies and willingly yielded all privileges as God so that He could save them. Paul begins his discussion of the great incarnation of our Lord by first establishing that He is, in fact, our Lord. When Paul says, “he was in the form of God,” he used the Greek word “morphe,” which means “form.” However, unlike the Greek word “schema,” which also means “form,” one’s “morphe” is unchanging. For example, my “morphe” is that I am female. I have been female since I was born and I will die that way. My “schema,” however, changes; I was an infant, then a little girl, and then an adult. Paul purposefully uses “morphe” because Jesus was, is, and always will be God—the “form” of God. But even so, our Lord Jesus didn’t hold onto His position and the rights that go with it. Instead, He sacrificed them for us. Our hope and our future lay in the unselfish, perfect humility of the incarnation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and therein also lays our example of living with one another now—in humility.

Study/Meditation: Read John 1:1-5, 14. How did this apostle describe Jesus?

*Father, thank You for Your Son, who willingly came to this earth in lowly humanity so that I might live. Thank You, Jesus, for Your sacrifice. Amen.