Are You in Harmony?

>> Sunday, February 27

It’s a given: People aren’t always going to get along. Even within a church family--or especially within a church family--arguments and spats are going to occur. People won’t always agree with each other. They’ll hurt each other’s feelings, whether on purpose or by accident. They will take innocent comments or constructive criticism the wrong way; friendships and relationships will be broken over imagined slights. And ripples of dissension will spread throughout the church body, much like the rings created from one small pebble disturb the peaceful surface of an entire pond.

The reason I say “especially” in a church family is that we somehow expect Christians to be perfect. We forget to forgive, and we hold grudges. The church is, after all, Christ’s body, so we find it unreasonable and unforgivable when its members aren’t perfect like Him.

But Christ joined us imperfect people together in this body to lift each other up, not tear each other down. To help each other, not hurt each other. To hold each other accountable--without judging or gossiping.

What does your community see when they look to your church a spiritual leader? Does your congregation sound to them like an orchestra pit warming up, each member playing its own discordant tune, or do they hear an angelic choir of instruments playing in perfect harmony, bringing Glory and honor to God?

How wonderful it is, how pleasant, when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the fragrant anointing oil that was poured over Aaron's head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And the LORD has pronounced his blessing, even life forevermore.
Psalm 133

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
John 13:35


Catrina Bradley
"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes." Psalm 18:24 (Msg

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Friday Fiction: So Much More

>> Thursday, February 24


Fiction Friday is a weekly opportunity for writers to share their work and receive a smidgen of feedback. It's also a GREAT place for readers to peruse inspiring and encouraging fiction from up-and-coming new authors. If you're new, don't be shy! Add a link or follow a link (at the bottom of this post), and be sure to scatter comments along your way. Enjoy!!!

I'm SO excited!! I'm hosting Fiction Friday this week! My thanks to the lovely and most gracious "owner" of this meme, Anna K(arlene) Jeffrey, for including me on her itinerary of guest homes.

I've been been up against a close cousin the demon "Writer's Block" for a while now - I've had idea after idea, many of them good ones, but any attempt to write them out hit a wall after a few paragraphs.

I knew I had to break through, even if it was by force, so, after an involuntary three-month hiatus from the FaithWriters challenge, I forced out a reasonably competitive entry.  It didn't come naturally or easily, but I made myself type words on the screen and vowed to enter for the topic "Week(s)". The following is the (not too shabby) result.

Be blessed,
Cat

p.s.: Possible tissue [slash] mascara alert







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So Much More

Maria slipped into her chair at the kitchen table and, with a trembling hand, spooned scrambled eggs onto her plate. “Where’s Dad?” She lifted her eyes to peek at her mom.

“In his office.” Loreene turned from the stove and set down a plate of bacon before taking her own seat. “His boss called and needed something right now, never mind breakfast.”

“Oh. Ok. Um…” She shot a furtive glance down the hall, then looked down at her plate.

Loreene eyed her daughter. “Something on your mind?”

“It’s just…it’s been a week.” Tears pooled in Maria’s eyes and she tried unsuccessfully to blink them away. “And he hasn’t called.”

“Justin?”

She nodded and forced a swallow of juice past the lump in her throat.

“Maybe he’s been sick.”

“No, see…” Maria peeked down the hall again. “Last week, he told me he loved me.” She chanced a look at her mom, but couldn’t meet her eyes.

“Hmmm. Do you love him too?” Loreene grabbed a slice of bacon and began nibbling.

“Yes, Mama, I do. And I told him. I know you think we’re too young, but we really ARE in love.” She had stirred her eggs into oblivion by then and dropped her fork in disgust. Fresh tears fell into the yellow mess on her plate.

Loreene ached to throw her arms around her “baby” girl and smother her in hugs. She opted to play it cool instead. “So, why do you think he hasn’t called?”

Maria buried her face in her hands and mumbled, “I think I made a mistake.”

“By telling him you love him?”

“No. By showing him.”

Maria’s sob echoed through the kitchen, and Loreene grasped her hand. Lord, give me words. Give me wisdom and patience. She took a deep breath and opened her mouth to speak, having no idea what she was going to say.

“Ok. You showed him. And that means…?” She was careful to maintain a gentle tone despite the raging emotions threatening to make her shriek.

“Mom. I’m sorry. I know you said I should wait, but it seemed right. I thought it was for real. But it’s been a week, now, and he hasn’t called, and I…I’m…”

“Scared? Angry? Confused? You should be. I would be. I AM.”

“No. Well, yes, those things, but I’m…late.”

Loreene’s racing heart kicked into afterburner, and she clenched her daughter’s hand in a vice-grip.

“Ow, Mama!”

“Sorry.” Loreene let go of Maria’s hand and combed her fingers through her hair. Lord? An extra helping of patience would be nice right now. And words? Please? “Late, huh? Ok, let’s look at this. It happened a week ago. And you’re how late?”

“A day.”

Loreene felt a measure of relief; chances were extremely slim her daughter’s mistake had resulted in conception, but she still wanted to rant and rave about the stupid thing she’d done.

Maria interrupted her thoughts. “I took a test. Before I came downstairs. It should be done now.”

“And if it’s positive?” She drummed her fingernails on the tabletop and cocked an eyebrow.

“We’ll get married!”

The drumming ceased, and Loreene laid both sweaty palm on the table. “Before we go check the results, can I say something?”

Maria shrugged, but wouldn’t look at her. Loreene plunged ahead.

“Love is more than emotion. It’s also action. You do things for someone because you love them.

“If he hasn’t called you in the week since he “showed” you how much he loves you, how much love do you think he’ll show in a marriage? Or to a baby? There are worse things than being a single mom—like having an abusive or neglectful husband. You’ve already made one bad decision; don’t top it off with a worse one.”

Maria’s face drooped with shame, and panic crept into her voice. “But I don’t want to raise a baby alone!”

“You’ll never be alone. Even when we’re disappointed in you and wish you’d done things differently, we’ll never desert you or disown you.” This time Loreene didn’t hold back. She grabbed Maria across the corner of the table and held her tight, ignoring the scattered remnants of eggs and bacon. “We’ll always love you.”

She broke the hug and took her daughter’s hand. “The next time you’re faced with the same decision, I want you to think of how you feel right now. And remember you are worth so much more.” She stood and pulled Maria up with her. “Are you ready?”

© 2008






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Catrina Bradley
"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes." Psalm 18:24 (Msg)







LINK UP HERE!!!!!!

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Jewels of Encouragement: Debut Tomorrow!

>> Thursday, February 17

Do you ever have one of those days when you just need someone to reassure you that everything will be ok? I have a lot of them. A brand new blog debuts tomorrow, and its very purpose is to provide that reassurance, a little pick-me-up, and maybe a new outlook on an old problem.

Jewels of Encouragement

Jewels of Encouragement is a collaboration of bloggers who's goal is ... well ... to encourage you. If you'd like to see who we are (yes, I was blessed to be invited to be a part of the Jewels Team!), the blog is LIVE, and we have all introduced ourselves. Follow us, or subscribe, and receive a daily dose of encouragement. And be sure to come back tomorrow for the grand opening!!

Be Blessed (and encouraged!)
Cat


Catrina Bradley
 "God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes." Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Friday Fiction: Usher Sunday

>> Friday, February 11

Friday Fiction is at home today on Karlene Jacobson's blog "Homespun Expressions". Click Here to read some good, original, clean writing!!

I'm repeating a Friday Fiction today - and hope you enjoy this true story. (Yeah, I know, it's supposed to be Friday FICTION, so sue me. But hey, my husband's name isn't really Ralph; does that make it fiction? :) )

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USHER SUNDAY


My Ralph, God bless him.

I was so proud that first Sunday worship service he served as usher at our new church. And I haven't grown any less proud of him as the Sundays have passed.

His southern charm and natural charisma, coupled with that killer smile, draws everyone in. I love to watch him stride up the left-hand aisle to the front of the church, his head forward but his eyes cutting to the usher in the right-hand aisle to make sure they are in unison.

My Ralph prefers comfort over class, but he also has the proper respect for the Lord to dress it up for worship on Sunday morning. Come Sunday morning, you'll usually see him sporting a sharp Polo shirt or a lightweight button down instead of his customary baggy t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, but on his usher Sundays, he pulls out the big guns - a suit and tie.

Mmmm, how handsome my Ralph looks all decked out in his midnight blue suit with a just hint of a pinstripe. Your eyes are drawn to his face by his boisterous laugh, and held captive by his warm eyes. Oh, but I digress.

This past Sunday was one of Ralph's usher Sundays, and it also happened to be the first real day of winter - the first snowfall of the season. It rarely even gets cold enough to snow here in our neck of the south, let alone actually bring forth flakes, so you can imagine the ruckus snow makes.

Ah, yes, snow in south Georgia! Simply the forecast of flurries is enough to jam the grocery aisles with panicked shoppers who deplete the stores of the requisite bread and milk. After the panic is over, those of us who didn't rush out to stock our shelves now find ourselves in need of bread and milk, and alas, none can be found.

I'm still searching for the moral of that particular story.

But again, I digress.

So back to Ralph.

And the first "real" day of winter.

That day, the midnight blue suit was left on the hangar, and Ralph reached instead for his brand new, never before worn, silk lined wool tweed suit. That particular shade of charcoal gray was as becoming on him as was midnight blue. Twenty-one years of marriage and my Ralph still throbs my heart. Mmmm.

I wouldn't have been surprised if the people around me were blinded the shine in my eyes. I watched Ralph stride up the left-hand aisle and stand shoulder to shoulder with the less handsome ushers as a prayer was said. Then he picked up a gold offering plate and made his way back down the aisle, pew by pew, walking tall and proud in his new clothes.

What is it about new clothes that lifts you up and makes you stand straighter, smile more, and have more confidence? What a grand feeling.

I could see by Ralph's face that he was riding that new-clothes high. The smiles he gave the little old ladies were more confident; his back was just a tad straighter. He walked like a man worthy of respect.

His return trip to the altar to deposit the filled collection plates and his final walk to the back of the sanctuary were just as confident. Ah, my Ralph. How can I help but be proud of him?

I made sure to tell him that too, after we got home and were ditching our fancy clothes for sweats and heavy socks.

He laughed.

"No," I said, "I'm serious. You were so handsome in your new suit, and I couldn't quit smiling at you. You made me all warm inside despite the cold."

"That's not why I'm laughing."

"What then? Tell me. I want to laugh too."

Ralph laughed again. "So there I was, greeting people, walking up and down the aisle, standing beside the seated little old ladies and teenagers, handing them the plate..."

I butted in to reassure him. "I know! You were awesome."

"No, wait! Listen...so I go back to my seat, look down to adjust my jacket..." laughter interrupts and he can't go on.

"What!"

"Honey, my fly was open the whole time."


©  2009

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Don't forget to visit Karlene's blog and read more fiction! You can play along, too if you'd like. Simply post your fiction story, and add your link to the Linky tool on her Friday Fiction post.

God Bless,
Cat

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."
Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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Monday Manna: Trust Me (Exodus14:13-14)

>> Monday, February 7

  The purpose of Monday Manna to get together and get to know Christ more through His Word. Monday Manna is hosted by Joanne Sher at her blog "An Open Book".  You are welcome to add own thoughts and link up on her blog.



I’ve said it before: when the Lord has a word he wants me to hear, he drives it home, over and over and over, from sources varied and wide. Joanne’s Monday Manna passage this week is no exception. These verses, like so many passages of Scripture can be summed up in the two-word message God has been broadcasting to me lately:

“Trust Me.”



Moses answered the people,
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm
and you will see the deliverance
the LORD will bring you today.
The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.
The LORD will fight for you;
you need only to be still.”

Exodus 14:13-14


The Israelites, faced with a literal dead end in their flight from Pharaoh’s army, were rightfully frightened. But they rebuked God instead of asking for His favor. They moaned and whined and worried and complained.

In all honesty, I’m afraid I would have been right there among the whiners.

This is what I hear God saying to me through this passage: "Trust Me. No matter what I ask you to do, no matter what happens, I’ve got your back. You say you trust me, so why are you stagnating? You’re not helpless; you’re flailing around in a quagmire of your own imagining. Dig your heels into that solid rock and stand on my promises. Come on, get up. It’s time for you to move.”

God has been preparing me for surrender this year, and I regret not better recording my journey so far, as was my intent when I changed my blog. I hope one of the results is that I’ll be able to abandon all fear (and whining, moaning, complaining, etc.) and march straight toward whatever raging river He wants me to cross next. And if I stay silent, stand firm, let Him fight FOR me, my faith will be enough to part seas...and move mountains.


Catrina Bradley
"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes." Psalm 18:24 (Msg)

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