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Family Recipe: Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and dumplingsI just completed a fun project. I used Shutterfly to create a memory cookbook for our grown children. The book includes photos of my husband’s parents and his mom’s recipes we all loved most. I ordered 5 books. One for me, one for each of our grown kids, and one for Wayne’s nephew.

The idea for the project took root early this past summer. Wayne’s dad passed away in March and we were going through his things. We found two small boxes containing all of Wayne’s mom’s handwritten recipes. Wayne’s mom – we called her Mammaw – was a wonderful grandmother and a great country cook. She also taught first grade for 34 years. I learned a lot from her about parenting and cooking.

Sadly, Wayne is now the last of his nuclear family. Cancer claimed his brother in 1994. Mammaw died in a car accident in 2004. And we lost “Pappaw,” Wayne’s dad, this spring. The memory cookbook seemed like a nice keepsake for the grandchildren.

family photo

Howard Family 1993

So, since I’ve been focused on recipes the last few days, you all get to benefit. My favorite “Mammaw recipe” is her Chicken and Dumplings. Since the dumplings are made from scratch, it’s a bit time-consuming. But it’s totally worth it!

The recipe is below, but you can also print this PDF!

Chicken and Dumplings


  • 1 whole chicken
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • Salt and pepper

Cook chicken in large pot of water until done. Remove chicken from pot and reserve broth. When chicken is cool enough to handle remove skin and bones. Cut or tear chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set meat aside.

Add enough water to broth to make two quarts of liquid. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare dumplings. Mix flour and salt. Blend in butter. Add boiling water. Roll dough out thin and cut into short strips. Drop dumplings into boiling broth and simmer until done. Add chicken, soup, and salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8 to 10.

If you make it, I’d love to hear how it turns out and how your family likes it! What is your favorite fall recipe??

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Fruit of the Spirit Week 3: The Battle Within

Spiritual BattleThis post is the third lesson in a 6-week study series on the Fruit of the Spirit. (You can still access previous posts: Intro, One, or Two.) You can read today’s post and make notes in a journal or print the PDF version!

I fought this particular battle many times. And I’ve watched many other moms fight it too. It happens every day in grocery checkout lines all over the world. The preschooler wants candy. The mom does not want the preschooler to have candy. And so the battle begins.

The preschoolers fight with every weapon in their arsenal – tears, pleadings, promises of good behavior, and even temper tantrums. Moms draw the line to defend healthy teeth and a nutritious diet. Who will win?

Sometimes the mom wins. Sometimes the kid wins. The outcome depends on willpower and determination. The kids have an advantage because they don’t care how many people stare and whisper. They value the candy much more than their self-respect. Sometimes the battle-weary mom just wants to get out of the store alive, even if that means giving in. At least she will live to fight another day.

The candy battle in the checkout line is a minor skirmish compared to the spiritual battle going on inside every Christian. Our sinful human nature wants to satisfy our selfish desires. The indwelling Holy Spirit calls us to follow Him. Who will win?

Plant: The two sides in this spiritual battle

Read Galatians 5:16-18 for a description of our spiritual battle.

Let’s identify the sides in this battle. Paul says the Spirit wants one thing and the sinful nature (some translations use flesh) wants another. The Greek word pneuma, translated as “Spirit,” can also be translated as “breath” or “wind.” Like the wind, the Holy Spirit is an unseen but “powerful force with visible effects” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary). “Sinful nature” or “flesh” is the Greek word sarx. Although this word primarily referred to the physical body, Christians also used it to describe our fallen, sinful nature. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary describes this usage: “Sarx came to mean all the evil that man is and is capable of apart from the intervention of God’s grace in his life.”

Cultivate: Greater is He that is in us

Read Ephesians 1:18-21. Reflect on the power of the Holy Spirit that lives within you.

Unfortunately, our sinful nature still exists. But praise God, we have a weapon of unlimited power on our side. The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives inside every believer! We have the power to resist our fleshly desires through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. “The one who is in you, is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4, NIV).

The Holy Spirit does not immunize us against temptation – rather, He enables us to withstand temptation. He imparts to us the ability to turn away from all things that are contrary to God’s plan and purpose for our lives. Charles Stanley, Living in the Power of the Holy Spirit

Read 2 Peter 1:3-4 and 1 Corinthians 10:13.  Contemplate God’s promises to you.

Grow: Follow the Spirit

We do not have to give in to sin. Our fleshly nature does not have to win. Jesus’ death and resurrection broke Satan’s death grip on us. Satan can appeal to our sinful desires, but his power over us is limited. We have a greater power at work in us.

Look back at Galatians 5:16-19. We have a choice to make. What is it?

We can choose to refuse our sinful nature. The powerful presence of the Holy Spirit supplies us with the power to be obedient to God. We can choose God’s “way out.” The question is: will we succumb to the call of our flesh or will we yield to the Holy Spirit and walk in His power?

Let’s talk: Think about the last time you faced a spiritual battle. What was it? Did you allow your flesh to win or did you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit? If you gave in to sin, can you identify the “way out” God offered?

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Are Christians Obligated to Vote on November 8th?

Christians voteThe upcoming Presidential election creates a major dilemma for many Christians. Here’s the basis for our dilemma: Neither major party candidate exemplifies even the most basic Christian ethics and standards. Neither is worthy of the office of the President of the United States of America.

Some Christians believe the best course of action is to abstain from voting on November 8. Others feel they should cast their vote for the “lesser of two evils.” (Check out this helpful article by Russell Moore, “Should Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?“) Which action is the right response? Could there perhaps be another option?

Let’s take a step back and briefly lay a biblical foundation for government and our responsibility as citizens.

First, God holds complete sovereignty in establishing, upholding, and removing all nations, rulers, and authorities (Daniel 2:21, Daniel 4:17, Acts 17:26, Romans 13:1). He established government for our good, to suppress evil, and to prevent chaos. Government at all levels provides structure for the country and service to the people (Romans 13:1-7).

The Bible also establishes principles for a believer’s relationship to government:

  1. Intercede Faithfully – God commands us to support the government and our leaders with our prayers. In fact, regular intercession for everyone pleases God (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
  2. Submit Respectfully – Christians should obey the laws of our land and submit ourselves to the authority of our leaders. Paul goes as far as saying that rebelling against our government authorities is the same as rebelling against God. The Bible even says we should submit with a good attitude! (See Romans 13:1-2, Titus 3:1-3, 1 Peter 2:13-17.)
  3. Fulfill Responsibilities – Believers are now and eternally citizens of the Kingdom of God. But while we still live in this world, we are also citizens of an earthly kingdom. As citizens, we have rights to enjoy and responsibilities to fulfill. More than once, Paul exercised his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 21:25-29, Acts 25:10-12). Jesus not only taught we should fulfill all our obligations to the government, He set the example (Matthew 17:24-26, Matthew 22:15-22). Note: Yes, government is subject to corruption because it is comprised of sinful men. And when forced to choose, we must always obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19, Acts 5:29). However this election doesn’t take us there.

How should these biblical principles impact my vote?

So, how do these principles apply to the upcoming presidential election? The United States of America is a republic. Citizens have the right and responsibility to elect the government officials who will represent us.

But this go around, that responsibility seems much heavier. I am struggling with this myself. I am praying and thinking about the right thing to do. I understand why many have decided to simply not vote at all. Yet, that won’t prevent a new president from being inaugurated in January. That won’t fulfill my responsibility as a citizen of the United States.

There is another option. One I am contemplating. We can fulfill our responsibility as citizens and not vote for either of “them.” There will be other candidates on the ballot. Or we could cast a write-in vote. Yes, we can exercise our right and vote our conscious.

Without bashing or endorsing any candidate, how are you dealing with this weighty responsibility?

Find out who is else will be on the ballot:

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Fruit of the Spirit Week 2: What is “Fruit?”

Fruit of the Spirit

This post is the second lesson in a 6-week study series on the Fruit of the Spirit. (See the intro post here or the first week here.) You can read today’s post and make notes in a journal or print the PDF version!

When my kids were little they loved watching Veggie Tales. Their favorite Veggie Tale characters were Bob and Larry – a tomato and cucumber, respectively. If you are also a Veggie Tales fan, you might want to sit down because I am about to shake things up. Larry and Bob aren’t vegetables! To be botanically correct, tomatoes and cucumbers are fruits!

It really doesn’t matter if we consider a tomato to be a fruit or a vegetable. But we do need a good understanding of the “fruit of the Spirit.” Over the next few weeks we will plant God’s truth about spiritual fruit in our hearts, cultivate our lives to receive it, and take action to help it grow! Today we’ll take a closer look at what the “fruit of the Spirit” is and what it is not.  

Read our focal passage, Galatians 5:16-26.

The word “fruit” used in Galatians 5:22 is the Greek word “karpos.” According to Mounces Complete Expository Dictionary, “karpos” refers to the natural product of something that is alive. Literally, it’s used of the product of trees, vines, and crops. But it’s also used metaphorically to refer to the natural product of a spiritual being. Paul uses it to contrast what our sinful natures naturally produce with what the Holy Spirit naturally produces.

Plant: Prerequisite to Growing Spiritual Fruit

The obvious prerequisite to producing the “fruit of the Spirit” is the presence of the Spirit. Let’s see what the Bible says about the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and His work in us.

Read Romans 8:9-11. Which of the following statements are True? Which are false?

___ You can be a Christian without having the Holy Spirit.

___ If you do not have the Spirit you do not belong to Christ.

___ If you belong to Christ then you have His Spirit.

Read Ephesians 1:13-14. Which of the following statements are true?

___ We receive the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ.

___ The Holy Spirit “marks” us as belonging to God.

___ The Spirit is our “guarantee” that we will receive all God’s promises.

At one time, we were all spiritually dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). We could do nothing to save ourselves. But in God’s great kindness and mercy, He sent His Son to pay the penalty our sins deserve (Romans 6:23). Jesus’ death on the cross makes our salvation possible. We cross over from death to life by God’s grace, through faith in Christ and spiritual regeneration by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:3-7). The indwelling presence of God’s Spirit guarantees our eternal salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). (If you don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus or aren’t sure, read “How to Have a Relationship with Jesus.”)

Cultivate: Two Key Facts about the Fruit of the Spirit

Let’s get a better understanding of the Fruit of the Spirit by exploring two key facts.

Fact #1: “Fruit” is the natural by-product of the Spirit in a Christian’s life.

Read 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 from the New Living Translation below:

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

The Spirit has work to do in the life of a believer. According to 2 Corinthians 3:18, what is the work of the Spirit in our lives?

From the moment of salvation until the end of our lives on this earth, the Spirit of God works in believers to transform our nature and character into that of Christ’s. God’s goal for all His children is for us to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29). Therefore, the Holy Spirit is constantly working to rid our lives of the “acts of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:19) and conform us into the image of Christ. “Fruit of the Spirit” is evidence that our character is becoming like Christ’s.

Fact #2: “Fruit of the Spirit” is not the same as “spiritual gifts.”

We’ve learned that “fruit of the Spirit” is the development of Christ’s character in the life of a believer. Now let’s take a look at what this “fruit” is not.

Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

Although the Spirit is the source of both, His “gifts” and “fruit” are not the same. There are a multitude of different kinds of gifts but an individual only receives what the Holy Spirit determines to give. However the “fruit” of the Spirit should be common to all Christians. The word “karpos” is singular signifying that “fruit” is a unified whole. As we grow in Christ-likeness we will produce all the characteristics of His nature.

Grow: A Challenge to Know the Fruit

I want my life to increasingly produce the “Fruit of the Spirit.” How about you? As a solid reminder of what our lives should look like, will you join me in memorizing Galatians 5:22-23? Let’s do it?

Let’s talk. Will you take the Scripture memory challenge? How has today’s lesson helped you understand the “Fruit of the Spirit?” What stood out to you the most in what we discussed?

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Perfect for Fall: Cheeseburger Soup

Cheeseburger SoupThe air is crisp in Houston today with the early morning temperature in the upper 50’s. Finally, it feels like fall.

Fall brings many wonderful things, including soup. So, I decided this was a perfect day to break from my usual kind of blogging and share one of my favorite soup recipes with you – Cheeseburger Soup!

I found the original recipe in a “Taste of Home” magazine about 25 years ago. (Yes, that’s when I still got printed magazines delivered through the mail.) But I have adjusted it here and there to make it my own.

The whole family loves it. My kids even loved it when they were young, so chances are it will please your family too, no matter their ages. The recipe is below, but here’s a PDF you can print!

If you make it, I’d love to hear back from you on how it turns out!

Cheeseburger Soup

  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ¾ cup chopped onions
  • ¾ cup shredded carrots
  • ¾ cup diced celery
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 3 Tbl butter
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces Velveeta, cubed
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ¼ cup sour cream

Brown the beef in a 5-quart pot. As the beef is browning, add the onions, carrots, celery, and basil to the pan and sauté all together. When beef is no longer pink and the veggies soft, add chicken broth and potatoes to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, then cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small skillet. Add flour, cook and stir for 3-5 minutes or until mixture is bubbly. Add flour mixture to soup and stir until thoroughly mixed. Bring soup to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add cheese, milk, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir until cheese melts. Slowly add a small amount of the hot soup liquid to the sour cream and stir until smooth. Then stir sour cream mixture back into the soup. Makes 8 servings.



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Fruit of the Spirit Week 1: The Proper Climate

Fruit of the SpiritThis post is the first lesson in a 6-week study series on the Fruit of the Spirit. (See the intro post here.) You can read the post and make notes in a journal or print the PDF version!

Like knowing the climate is key for producing a fruitful harvest, knowing the context is key for understanding a given situation. Consider this example:

“Stop! You’re killing me!”

Which of the following scenes produced the statement above?

  • A teenage boy won’t stop tickling his little sister.
  • A middle-aged woman just scored 75 points against her Scrabble partner.
  • A masked man is beating a defenseless elderly woman.

Does it matter? Absolutely! In the first two cases, the statement is meant to be teasing and playful. But the last scenario is life and death! We must know the context of the statement to know if we should laugh or call 911.

Likewise, before we can understand and apply Galatians 5:16-26, our primary study passage, we must know its context. Too often, we misunderstand and misuse God’s Word because we attempt to interpret a verse or passage apart from the whole.

The way God chooses to apply the truths found in His Word can vary with the individual and their circumstance. However the meaning of a biblical passage never changes. It will always mean what God originally intended for it to mean. Before we can make application to our lives we must have a good grasp of the original meaning by considering the larger context. (For more information on biblical context read “4 Things to Consider for Biblical Context.”)

The Context of Galatians

Galatians is a letter written to a specific people at a specific point in history for a specific purpose. Therefore, we need to know who, when, and why to understand the meaning.

Read Galatians 1:1-9, watching for information on the following:

  • Author of this letter
  • Recipients of this letter
  • Purpose of this letter 

Many of you are probably familiar with Paul’s background and dramatic conversion. If not, you can get a good overview by reading the personal account of his story in Acts 22:1-21. A couple of pertinent facts about Paul is: 1) he was raised a zealous Jew thoroughly trained in the law; and 2) when Christ saved Paul, God called him to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.

The recipients of Paul’s letter – the churches in Galatia – were comprised of mostly Gentile Christians who had been saved out of paganism. They had received Christ and the Holy Spirit by faith and had never observed the Jewish Law.

Purpose of Galatians

Understanding why Paul wrote to the Galatians will help us understand the “Fruit of the Spirit” and how it’s produced in our lives. Paul was concerned about false teaching in the churches, a “different gospel” which he refers to in Galatians 1:6.

Jewish Christians, who still held to the Law of Moses, had infiltrated these Gentile believers and falsely taught that they must observe the Jewish law to be Christians. These “Judaizers” were concerned that faith without the discipline of the law would lead to immorality, but their teaching had only minimized God’s grace and created a warped form of “Christianity.”

Paul, recognizing the danger, wrote to remind the Galatians of the truth of the Gospel message and to protect them from this false teaching. The letter emphasizes God’s grace while upholding God’s call to righteousness by living a life following the Spirit.

Read Galatians 5:1-12. Based on the passage and what we learned above list all the negative consequences of trying to live by the law.

Read Galatians 5:13-15. In addition to the Judaizers’ legalism, what other problem within these Gentile churches did Paul address?

Apparently the Galatians were using their “freedom” as an excuse to follow their sinful desires and they were hurting their fellow believers in the process. Paul longed for the Galatians to experience the freedom and unity only found in Christ while living a holy life that pleased God. That is also our goal! But freedom cannot be found in observing the Law. And indulging our sinful nature will never produce the righteous life God desires. What is the answer?

Read Galatians 5:16-26, our focal passage for this study. How can we find both freedom and righteous in Christ? (Check one)

___ Live however we want as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.

___ Follow the law as closely as possible.

___ Live life submitted to the Holy Spirit, following His leading.

Today we laid the foundation for our study. (Print the PDF version.) Next week we will dig into the meaning of “fruit of the Spirit.” In the meantime, let’s talk:

So far in your Christian life do you feel you have been influenced more by the “law,” your own nature, or by the Spirit? (We may not have the influence of the Mosaic Law, but the “do’s” and “don’ts” or religion are still prominent.)

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4 Cautions Before Choosing a Life Verse

My name is Kathy and I don’t have a life verse. And I feel like I just might be the only Christian on the planet who doesn’t.

What is a “life verse?”

According to the Dictionary of Christianese, a “life verse” is a “specific Bible verse that a Christian believes to be specially representative or predictive of his or her life. Many Christians regard their life verse as an inspirational motto or lifelong mission statement.”

Why do people choose a life verse?

Life verseHonestly, I’m really not sure. As far as Christian history goes, it’s a fairly recent practice – like in just the last 100 years. As far as I have been able to determine, there is no biblical principle to support choosing a life verse. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong, or a bad thing to do, but it could be more trendy than spiritual.

If you’re considering choosing a life verse, you can get all kinds of help online. For instance,  you can learn how to find your life verse. Then if you’re still having trouble narrowing the more than 31,000 down to just one, here are 20 suggestions! Still at a loss? You can take this quiz to determine what yours should be! But the article I like the most was this sarcastic one on “Stuff Christians Like.

Right now I don’t see a need to choose one verse that defines, directs, or represents my life. However, that doesn’t mean concentrating on a specific verse or passage for a period of time is a bad thing. But I do think you should proceed with caution.

4 Things to Consider Before Choosing a Life Verse

  1. All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for our lives (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 4:12-13) – Yes, some verses and passages have greater impact at certain times in our lives. For instance, if we are in a season of grief and loss we may want to memorize verses about God’s comfort and peace. But God’s Word has value for all things – the whole Word of God, not just a piece. Why would we even attempt to narrow it down to one verse!
  2. One verse or passage can easily be misapplied – We cannot correctly understand one verse apart from its context in the greater passage. Pulling one out on its own can be dangerous. For instance, in the list of 20 life verses mentioned above, Philippians 4:13 was at the top of their list. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? I see it on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and wall plagues all the time. But I imagine most people take this verse out of context. When we read the larger passage, we discover that Paul was writing about finding contentment even in the most dire of circumstances. Yet we often claim this verse as a promise that God will empower us to tackle any big task or great thing we want to take on.
  3. Only God knows the future – It seems if we take this life verse thing really seriously that we just could get the cart before the horse. What I mean is this – if we choose one verse as a statement for our life, we could easily fall into choosing a verse that reflects our life rather than working to make our life reflect God’s Word.
  4. It’s easy to make ourselves the focus – Often choosing a life verse seems to be a lot about “me,” and not so much God. Many times, it’s about what makes us feel good or reflects what we want to do for God.

Yes, there are times when I’ve spent days or weeks or more focusing on one passage of Scripture. There are specific verses I hold dear because God has used them to teach me something huge or impact me in a significant way. And I fully expect that to continue. But for now, there’s no “life verse” for me.

Would love for you to chime in. “Yes” or “no” to a life verse and why!

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Is Your Life Producing Spiritual Fruit?

Fruit of the SpiritFinally! It’s Fall! Time for cooler weather, football games, and the annual harvest. So it’s a good time to evaluate the harvest of our lives. Are our lives producing the spiritual fruit God desires?

God intends for us, His children, to bear fruit. According to Jesus, when we follow Him closely our lives will produce “much” fruit (John 15:5). Many of us can quote the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians chapter 5 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – but is the Spirit’s fruit evident in our lives? Are our lives producing an abundant harvest or are we in serious need of some spiritual fertilizer?

Whether we need some major pruning or just a little shaping up, all of us could benefit from studying and applying what God’s Word says about the fruit of the Spirit. For the next six Thursdays, you are invited to join me on an easy stroll through Galatians 5:16-25.

Fruit of the Spirit: Plant, Cultivate, and Grow is a 6-week blog-based Bible study that will help foster spiritual fruit in your life. Join me each Thursday through November 10!

I first ran this Bible study series on the Fruit of the Spirit about four years ago, but I know I need a refresher. Maybe you do too! The blog posts will be in a Bible study format. You can learn simply by reading the posts. But if you’d like to get more out of it, print the PDF version that will be supplies each week study and use it for your Bible study time. This series will take us into mid-November, so if you are not in a Bible study this fall, then this might be just what you need!

Each week as we study together we will Plant God’s truth in our hearts, Cultivate our own lives to receive that truth, and take action to help it Grow! Here are a few things we’ll learn in Fruit of the Spirit: Plant, Cultivate, Grow

  • What are the characteristics of a “fruitless” life?
  • What does it mean to “live by the Spirit?”
  • Just what is “fruit” anyway?
  • Am I “fruity?”
  • What should the fruit of the Spirit look like in my life?
  • How can I improve my harvest?

Even if you’ve studied the fruit of the Spirit before, this study will be different. Will you join me in this study? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know you’ll be joining me and where you’re from!

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A Legacy Prayer from My Great Great Grandmother

Legacy PrayerThe letter was dated March 26, 1914. I carefully unfolded the fragile, yellowed paper and struggled to read the faded ink. I found this letter and several others in an old metal box at my parents’ house. Addressed to Howell Adam Shouse, my great grandfather on my mother’s side, they were written by his mother, Mary Dozier Shouse, more than a century ago.

Much of the news was what you’d expect – who had been sick, who had gotten married, and how she longed to see her “dear son.” But one particular paragraph brought tears to my eyes:

“Oh how much I do pray for you every single morning and night. I pray mightily to the Lord that you Howell and your children may be convicted and converted and sanctified. Never a day do I miss. May God hear and answer my prayers and save us all in heaven.”

I was blown away. The letter preserved a family legacy prayer. Mary Dozier, my great, great grandmother prayed daily for the spiritual well being of her son and his children. She faithfully petitioned God to make her son and his children aware of their need for a Savior (convict); to draw them into a saving relationship with Jesus (convert); and to grow them up into the likeness of Christ (sanctify).

legacy prayerAs I read those words, I knew her prayers also covered me. Long before I was born, my great, great grandmother prayed for me and my eternal, spiritual good.

I do not know the spiritual condition of Howell Adam Shouse, but I do know his daughter – my maternal grandmother – loved Jesus. She consistently pointed me toward the Lord. And my mother has done the same.

This discovery this week both blessed and challenged me. I am blessed to know that my grandmother’s grandmother prayed for the spiritual condition of her descendants. I am also challenged to be just as faithful to lift prayers for my children and their children that matter for eternity.

Yes, I will continue to pray for their physical health and temporal struggles. But I will also recommit to pray for their spiritual health and eternal struggles. If you’d like to do the same, God’s Word is the best place to start. Check out this resource of 21 Scriptures as a guide to pray for your loved ones spiritual well being.

I would love to hear some of the ways you pray for the spiritual well being of your friends and family!

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Grace with No Reservations

imageI’ve experienced it several times – the miracle in the Starbucks’ drive-thru line. That thrilling experience when you order your drink, pull around to the window, and the barista announces that the person in front of you paid for your coffee.

My first reaction is always “Wow! That’s awesome!” Then almost as quickly I think, “Man, I should have ordered a venti!” (That means “extra large” in Starbuckese!)

My gratitude initially fosters a desire to buy the coffee for the person behind me. But before I pull out my wallet, I check out the vehicle behind me to make sure it’s not a 12-passenger van carrying a high school basketball team. I mean, I want to pass along the blessing, but there are limits.

Sometimes we feel that way about sharing God’s grace. We want to actively love others and submit to them out of reverence for Christ. But some people don’t deserve it. And others can’t do anything for me. Oh, wait… that’s the point of grace.

By definition, “grace” means being kind to those who don’t deserve it. To give and do without any expectation that the other person will reciprocate. To show kindness to those who have hurt us and meet the needs of those who will never be able to help us in return.

Yet sometimes we are stingy or choosy with the kindness God has freely given us. As believers, we have an abundant supply of His grace. God has given us more than we need; yet sometimes we hoard it. Sometimes we are stingy or choosy with God’s lavish grace, withholding it from those who desperately need it.

We may withhold kind words or actions from someone who has hurt us. Or we may take a meal to a sick friend hoping they will do the same for us in our time of need. While that expectation of reciprocation may not be our primary motivation, it is often still there, lurking in the back of our minds. Our sinful nature qualifies our grace.

Jesus constantly extended grace to those who could give Him nothing in return – the orphan, the prisoner, the widow, the homeless, the invalid, the dying, the sinner. He healed, He touched, He gave. The One “who came from the Father full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) extended grace with no expectations. And Jesus calls us, His followers, to do the same.

Who are the “needy” people right around you – neighbors, friends, family members, church members? In what ways are you extending grace with no expectation of return?

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