This Mountain Can and Will Be Moved

Heart issues don't have to be immovable mountains. (Flickr)

There is a tremendous shaking, sifting and shifting happening right now across the body of Christ. The heat of the season and the pressure that has come with it is bringing a lot of "dross" to the surface in many hearts.

Last night as I was falling asleep I heard the Lord say that issues of the heart are being brought to the surface in many lives and are overwhelming and looking like mountains. The "issues of the heart" that have come to the surface for many have become so intimidating and so big that many have become "stuck" in the revelation of the wounding, lies, strongholds and struggles that have come to the surface.

I felt the Lord saying these "issues of the heart" have not been brought to the surface to intimidate you, to overwhelm you, or to discourage you, but actually to POSITION YOU for HEALING.

The Lord has REVEALED these things because He wants you HEALED. As you get before Him and share these "issues of the heart" with Him, radical healing and wholeness is going to take place. Perfect love is going to be PERFECTED in you. Shame, fear, struggles, anxieties, worries, crippling strongholds and lies are going to be melted away by His perfect love. 

Don't look at this "heart issue" that has come to the surface as a mountain that cannot be moved. It's about to be melted away. Don't become a victim of this mountain, don't allow yourself to fall into discouragement or condemnation but KNOW that you are moving into greater realms of wholeness and healing. 

The Lord is extending you, He is strengthening you, He is awakening you MORE to the TRUTH of WHO YOU ARE. 

You may feel like these "issues of the heart" are causing a "breaking" and they are, but it is a glorious breaking. A glorious breaking to release you into greater dependence upon Him, greater trust, greater revelation of His love and who you are. You are actually being promoted into new levels of dependence and revelation of His DELIGHT in you and radical LOVE for you. 

He is undoing you with His love and goodness, bringing you into greater freedom. 

In this glorious undoing, not only are things that have entangled you melting away, but He will flow through you more powerfully than ever before.

The breaking process can be painful and uncomfortable but He is carrying you, surrounding you with His love and comfort to BRING YOU TO LIFE. His arms are wrapped around you. You are safe in Him and there is no reason to fear. He is loving you to life!

You are actually moving to a place of greater strength in Him than you have ever been as you embrace this process. Anything hindering you is being broken off. It's time to let go. To free fall into His arms, and see that is the SAFEST place for you to be. To let go of striving, to let go of performance and step into the overwhelming beautiful revelation of His love. 

Embrace to process, fall into His arms and you are moving forward in greater WHOLENESS into a WHOLE NEW WORLD!

Lana Vawser has a heart to encourage the body of Christ and individuals in their walks with Jesus, to have deeper intimacy with Him and to learn to hear His voice. She operates in the prophetic and loves to share the heart of God with others. Lana has written her first book, titled Desperately Deep—Developing Deep Devotion and Dialogue with Jesus, and loves to see others grow in all that God has for them.

How Fasting Can Radically Change Your Life Forever

Fasting and praying on a regular basis can be a life-changing experience. (Lightstock)

What if one simple act—one singular dedicated effort or sacrifice—could better your life, your soul forever? What if that sacrifice took just an hour or two or even an entire day?

Would you do it? Would you consider it worth it?

What if that very sacrifice could sharpen your focus, open your heart and move the hand of God in others and your own life?

If what I asked has peaked your interest, know that I inquire because I have the answers to these questions based on personal experience. What I have to share has the ability to better your life forever once you make the choice to take the adventure.

Twelve years ago, my friend Wendy and I felt prompted to journey down the road of fasting and prayer together. But why would two average women who love to talk and do typical "girl" stuff, and who also really love food, want to give it up for any period of time? God whispered in the inner places of our being to draw closer to Him in a new way.

Suddenly, we didn't want the status quo anymore. We believed and we studied, but in the hidden parts of our heart, we knew there was more. We wanted to engage in the spiritual realm on a deeper level, one we had not yet experienced. We wanted more … so much more.

So, one day a week, from Monday night after our family dinners to Tuesday night before family dinner, we would fast and pray. We were ready for powerful changes, amazing answers to our requests and nothing short of miracles. What we got was instruction and a thorough look into the condition of our soul.

It was hard, to see what still existed in the corners of our minds and the recesses of our hearts. We found the thoughts, the unforgiveness, and the resistance to righteousness still alive and well. Big and little wrongs, judgments and critical spirits. Excessive self-awareness in danger of becoming narcissistic, fear, striving.

However, we were not bombarded with this all at once. Our God is very gentle, very kind. Yet, He is truth and truth was what He intended to show us.

Did He show us our shortcomings to condemn us? Never! He showed us this to better us, to mature us, and to prepare us to come before Him with those sincere, heartfelt requests we desired to have answers to. Yes, and He was, as Scripture puts it, "doing a good work in us."

When we fasted and prayed, our senses were heightened. We focused on getting alone in our own special designated locations to get quiet, to listen and speak once we had been spoken to. On occasion we would speak first, but that was usually to worship and confess anything that had been revealed by our loving Lord. This spiritual discipline tuned our ears to hear the voice of God so that He could meticulously take the sin, the baggage, the past hurts and present trepidations and give us the peace of His presence. We allowed Him control and, as we relinquished our very lives to Him, He would work His good and perfect will in us to much greater and richer places only found through Him.

As time went on, we grew quickly. No longer did we dread the hours we couldn't eat, nor did we binge the night before just so we were sure we had a reserve to live from.

Instead of hungering for food, we hungered for time alone with God, looking forward to His gentle correction and His drawing near to us in a way that filled us with peace, joy, hope and purpose. We were energized and eager to know more about Him, more about us and use what we learned to help encourage others to do the same.

In both of us, God strengthened our faith for the tough times. This was valuable during times of job loss, illness and relationship issues. Sometimes life's pain can cut so sharply you can't find the words to pray. That's when your fasting friend can intercede for you, giving you peace that your concerns—if not from you own mouth—still reach God's throne with the same intensity. The weighty value these prayers carry for a hurting heart provides hope; the hope that eliminates stress that could lead to irreparable health damage. 

Our book, Fast Friends, The Amazing Power of Friendship, Fasting and Prayer, releases October 1. It is our chosen path, ordained by God and it has forever altered our very existence.

Our lives don't look the same as before. We see people differently; we see life differently. We have new aspirations, new leading and guidance, new eyes with which to see ourselves and the future. It's all because a God who loves us more than we could ever comprehend planted a seed of desire to draw closer to Him. Fasting and prayer was the tool, finely fashioned by the hand of God, and the plan, lived out in the Bible by many of the faithful, for us to follow.

We received answers. Some were yes, some were no and some told us to wait. Some spared us and our loved ones from pain and sorrow of which we are not aware. Some answers are yet to come because God's timing is not ours.

One answer that comes quickly to mind concerns Wendy's daughter, Sydney, who was born with cerebral palsy. When Sydney was 4-years-old, the doctors estimated she would need multiple surgeries until her growing ceased. As we fasted and prayed that God would overrule that diagnosis, Sydney continued to grow. Today, she is 14 and surgery hasn't been required.

Fasting and prayer is a lifestyle. God willing, we will continue to fast and pray together until our time is done.

And that "so much more" we were seeking? It has exceeded our hopes and dreams and manifested in ways we would never have fathomed. If God could empower Wendy and me to live this way, He can do the same for you.

Will you join us and dare to live life in the spiritual realm, where you will meet with and know God in ways that you never thought possible? Will you dare to become everything God wants you to be in order to truly know Him? We can promise you will never regret it.

We were made in God's image and created for more than what this world has to offer, and so were you.

Suzanne Niles is the co-author of the new book Fast Friends, The Amazing Power of Friendship, Fasting and Prayer. Find out more at

‘Agnus Dei’ A Sundance Dispatch

Alissa Wilkinson | Agnus Dei tries to approach (but not fix) the repercussions of unspeakable cruelty with the quiet balm of beauty. A must-see film that quietly suggests a surprising answer to the problem of evil. (image by Anna Wloch)

One of the oldest refrains in the world is the theodicy question: how could a good God let bad things happen?

That question animates Agnus Dei, which premieres at the Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday. But the film's answer is expansive, complex, and subtly subversive. Directed by Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel, Gemma Bovary) and led by an all-female cast, the movie tries to approach (but not fix) the repercussions of unspeakable cruelty with the quiet balm of beauty.

Agnus Dei is set in 1945, amid the ruins of World War II. Mathilde (Lou de Laâge) is a young French doctor working with the Red Cross in Poland. Through an unusual set of circumstances, she comes into contact with a convent of Polish nuns who, she discovers, are in advanced stages of pregnancy. Months earlier, a group of Russian soldiers had broken into the convent and raped the women repeatedly, staying for several days. The horror haunts them still, even while they have tried to regain their faith and practice their vocation. Full of shame, they’re convinced of the need to conceal their condition, lest they be shut down by their superiors. And yet the reminders linger in their own bodies and, nine months later, are about to arrive.

Mathilde isn't Catholic; over vodka one night, she tells her fellow doctor and sometime lover Samuel (who himself is Jewish) that her parents were staunch Communists, and she seems untroubled by her lack of faith. Late in the film, it becomes clear that Mathilde and Samuel, considered by some to be the unholy interlopers in a world of peace and piety, are in fact more aware of the implications of their own vocation as doctors than some of the women in the convent.

That in part is the genius of the film: it doesn't force Mathilde or Samuel to have some kind of religious awakening in order to act as an angel of mercy for the nuns, nor does it lump all the pregnant women into one category, with one way of thinking about their predicament. Those women are painted as full, complex characters in a few deft strokes—women who are struggling after rape to know whether they believe in something anymore, to understand their vows of chastity, to live in the problem of theodicy every day.

The word "beauty" gets tossed around irresponsibly a lot, often by people who feel the need to invoke it in art's defense. But that does beauty a disservice. It is not a quality that lets us feel the things we find pleasant are worthwhile; it is an unruly, unsafe force that we feel in our bones rather than our minds, and that makes us desire. (To say that beauty is erotic isn't to tie it to sex; it's to say it makes us want, in a non-rational way.)

So to say Agnus Dei is a stunningly beautiful film isn't to aestheticize it. Most of the film’s images could be paintings, images of women shot in the natural light and shadow of the convent, of stark forests laden with snow, backed by the sounds of the women singing their prayers and—finally—Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” (which I only recognized because it’s the melody that makes me most achingly sad, in all the world). But every bit of this comes at great price to the wounded and victimized.

But it is that beauty, evoked by the film's sensual elements rather than its narrative ones, that forms the film’s run at the theodicy question. Various characters try to give an answer for what has happened through appeals to beauty’s companions: truth and goodness. But those are insufficient on their own. Living a perfect life after tragedy cannot heal the tragedy; simply reiterating the truth isn’t enough to cover violence.

The characters never talk about beauty, living in the austerity of war-torn Poland on the one hand and the convent on the other. Instead, Fontaine allows the images and music to simply seep into the viewer’s bones, suggesting a third way of living with trauma. As one of the nuns points out to Mathilde, even when the war ends, the world is not going to be more kind to them. What saves them, ultimately, is a closer connection to the world outside their walls, to messier parts of life, to the beauty of the world in its woundedness.

In his dense book The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth, David Bentley Hart writes about beauty and power:

Christ is a persuasion, a form evoking desire, and the whole force of the gospel depends upon the assumption that this persuasion is also peace: that the desire awakened by the shape of Christ and his church is one truly reborn as agape, rather than merely the way in which a lesser force succumbs to a greater, as an episode in the endless epic of power.

The film’s French title is Les innocentes, which is perhaps a better moniker. Many “innocent” people have been victimized by those with power—from the nuns and their offspring to the children who need someone to watch over them. Peace is what they yearn for: peace in which the lesser force, having surrendered to a greater one, is not hurt but made whole.

Agnus Dei doesn't give a definitive solution. It just points to a few starting places. And it makes us long for peace.

Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and an assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She tweets @alissamarie.

Check out the original article on Christianity Today site


Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight

Each of us can reach our ideal weight and reclaim our youthful vitality by adopting healthy lifestyle (image by Helen Glen).

A healthy lifestyle involves many choices. Among them, choosing a balanced diet or healthy eating plan. So how do you choose a healthy eating plan? Let's begin by defining what a healthy eating plan is.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, a healthy eating plan:

  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
  • Stays within your daily calorie needs

Eat Healthfully and Enjoy It!

A healthy eating plan that helps you manage your weight includes a variety of foods you may not have considered. If "healthy eating" makes you think about the foods you can't have, try refocusing on all the new foods you can eat— 

  • Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Fruits ― don't think just apples or bananas. All fresh, frozen, or canned fruits are great choices. Be sure to try some "exotic" fruits, too. How about a mango? Or a juicy pineapple or kiwi fruit! When your favorite fresh fruits aren't in season, try a frozen, canned, or dried variety of a fresh fruit you enjoy. One caution about canned fruits is that they may contain added sugars or syrups. Be sure and choose canned varieties of fruit packed in water or in their own juice.
  • Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Vegetables ― try something new. You may find that you love grilled vegetables or steamed vegetables with an herb you haven't tried like rosemary. You can sauté (panfry) vegetables in a non-stick pan with a small amount of cooking spray. Or try frozen or canned vegetables for a quick side dish — just microwave and serve. When trying canned vegetables, look for vegetables without added salt, butter, or cream sauces. Commit to going to the produce department and trying a new vegetable each week.
  • Calcium-rich foods ― you may automatically think of a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk when someone says "eat more dairy products." But what about low-fat and fat-free yogurts without added sugars? These come in a wide variety of flavors and can be a great dessert substitute for those with a sweet tooth.
  • A new twist on an old favorite ― if your favorite recipe calls for frying fish or breaded chicken, try healthier variations using baking or grilling. Maybe even try a recipe that uses dry beans in place of higher-fat meats. Ask around or search the internet and magazines for recipes with fewer calories ― you might be surprised to find you have a new favorite dish!

Do I have to give up my favorite comfort food?

No! Healthy eating is all about balance. You can enjoy your favorite foods even if they are high in calories, fat or added sugars. The key is eating them only once in a while, and balancing them out with healthier foods and more physical activity.

Some general tips for comfort foods:

  • Eat them less often. If you normally eat these foods every day, cut back to once a week or once a month. You'll be cutting your calories because you're not having the food as often.
  • Eat smaller amounts. If your favorite higher-calorie food is a chocolate bar, have a smaller size or only half a bar.
  • Try a lower-calorie version. Use lower-calorie ingredients or prepare food differently. For example, if your macaroni and cheese recipe uses whole milk, butter, and full-fat cheese, try remaking it with non-fat milk, less butter, light cream cheese, fresh spinach and tomatoes. Just remember to not increase your portion size. For more ideas on how to cut back on calories, see Eat More Weigh Less.
Content source:Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the leading national public health institute of the United States. The CDC is a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services and is headquartered in unincorporated DeKalb County, Georgia, a few miles northeast of the Atlanta city limits.
You can read the original article on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site.


Faith is a Spiritual Force

Faith is a spiritual force. James is talking about your faith being tested so you will know where you are. Are you able to slay the giants? (image, Che Garman)?

"Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" (Matt. 13:11, NKJV).

A mystery is a truth to be revealed. As a child of God we thrive on revelation. John tells us that the truth will set you free. As always there is that little word with significant meaning. Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32, NKJV).

If you abide in My word, you will know the truth. Only the truth, the mystery that is revealed to you, will set you free. Until we receive the revelation of the truth, we will go around that mountain one more time! It is time to turn, go north. That is what the Lord spoke to the children of Israel. "You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward" (Deuteronomy 2:3, NKJV).

Conversion gives you the ability to see. Jesus told Nicodemus, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3, NKJV). Jesus also told the disciples in John 16:7 that you have an advantage over the world, and the Helper will come to guide you into all truth. Read John, chapters 14, 15 and 16. It is just as important for you as it was for the disciples when Jesus was preparing them for His departure.

In Ephesians 1:15-17, Paul says, "After I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, [I] do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him." Notice, it was after he heard of their faith. He knew they now had the ability "to see."

When you embrace mystery in one hand and revelation in the other one, you are on your way to building a life full of faith and walking in the promises of God. That is where you live, at the corner of mystery and revelation! You must read the Word, meditate the Word, ask for revelation of the Word and then you will live the Word and experience the promises in your life!

In Exodus 23:29-30 (NIV), the Lord told the children of Israel, "But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land."

God knows where you are and if you are ready to destroy the giants in your land. He tests your faith so you will know if you are ready to slay the giants. James 1:2-3 (NKJV) says, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience." Various trials are in the world. They come in relationships, finances, health and matters of everyday life you face in the world. Faith is a spiritual force. James is talking about your faith being tested so you will know where you are. Are you able to slay the giants?

The "key" to this testing is found in James 1, verse 12, NKJV: "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." Blessed is the man who endures temptation, not the man who endured the trial or test.

The temptation for the child of God is to doubt God's Word. If you have a revelation of the promises, you will stand tall and walk in faith and see the end intended by the Lord (see James 5:11).

Time is your most valuable asset, and choice is your only real freedom. When you choose to invest a small amount of time, over time it will bring increase in areas that matter most! God is looking for men and women of God to be intentional and consistent in learning to navigate the pain and disappointments of life.

Joyce Tilney is the Founder of Women of God Ministries, teaching women today from women of yesterday. She is an author and Bible teacher. Visit www.wogministries for more information. Her new book and workbook, Why Diets Don't Work – Food Is Not the Problem, share her testimony of how the Lord helped her lose 88 pounds. There is nothing impossible with Him. Visit the website: for information.


Girl’s perspective: How to talk to women properly

Here is an insight for men on how to carry on conversation during a date with that special someone (Canamgirl Music photo)

Dear Men of all ages, I am sure that you all have the same question that you ask yourselves on a regular basis, “How can I pick up the ladies?” It is constantly on your mind, not only because you actually want a relationship or even just a date. It is an unwritten code among men. You hold a high place in your own manly society if you are that guy who gets all the girls. Have you ever thought that perhaps this is an issue? How do you think women respond to this knowledge? Do you think it works in your favor? Well gentlemen, I am here to answer all these questions and give you some insight. Not only for your sake, but for the sake of women who are losing faith in men.

Tip #1:Don’t try so hard.
Honestly if you make a couple attempts to get that girl onto the dance floor….to no avail…. it is most likely a wise decision to take a few steps back. Your chances of even a decent conversation will be a lost cause if you continue to push. This tactic becomes extremely annoying, not only that, eventually creepy. Instead, try asking once for that dance, (or whatever it may be) if you are “Shot Down” just wait for another opportunity to approach and strike up a conversation. You are basically still trying quite hard, although to the female species it will be seen as persistent; not pushy. You may actually instill in them a feeling of curiosity to know more.
Tip #2Play hard to get
Usually women are the ones who play hard to get. I can honestly tell you it is because it gives a feeling of being “hot stuff” “worth the chase.” Why not turn the tables?? Allow them to realize what a great catch you are! Pull away ever so slightly, give the woman a time to mull things over and realize how great you are Eventually she will turn up on your caller ID for a change. Trust me, we don’t give up that easily.
Tip #3DON’T be cocky!
There is nothing less attractive than a man who portrays himself as “Gods Gift to Women.” Be modest in conversation, try directing questions towards her, show an interest in her likes, dislikes, career etc. Be an honest gentleman. Tip #4Be truthful in your intentions. Men, please don’t get our hopes up for something more if that is never your intention. If you are just interested in a few casual dates now and again don’t be afraid to tell us. It is better to know that there is no current interest in a committed relationship right off the get go.
We will respect you for it.
Nothing worse than having the wrong idea and then getting hurt in the end. So, to sum things up……You all have moms, sisters, and female friends, pay more attention to the things that they talk about. I’m sure they can be heard complaining about that last date, or how they wish ( the man in question) would speak to them differently. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from those special women in your life, trust me, it will make you no less of a “man.” In fact, to a woman, you will see more of a man than ever!

is a blogger and the publisher of Susie Magazine: Find your soul mate. You may read more here.


Lessons from Star Wars Relationships

"I was pleasantly surprised at how these characters and events can give insights into our most important relationships." (Poster | Star Wars)

I write a lot about healthy relationships. I've done plenty of posts offering principles for a strong marriage or keys to coaching your kids on how to enter romantic relationships with wisdom. It's what I do.

I'm also a big Star Wars fan. Given the fact that The Force Awakens (episode 7 for those who aren't paying attention) opens this week, I couldn't help but mine the Star Wars canon for some valuable relationship advice. After some thoughtful consideration, I was pleasantly surprised at how these characters and events from "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" can give us insights into our most important relationships.

For no particular reason, I've chosen to put these bits of wisdom in an order that generally reflects the timeline of when we encountered the characters and events. Whether you are married or hoping to coach your kids, I'm sure these truths will absolutely revolutionize your life. Or not.

Romantic Relationships Begun During Times of Stress are Doomed to Fail
Romantic Relationships Begun During Times of Stress are Doomed to Fail
One day you're in a dead end job as a moisture farmer on a desert planet. The next day your home is destroyed, your relatives are murdered and you're caught up in a plot to destroy the Galactic Empire. THIS IS NOT A GOOD TIME TO ENTER A RELATIONSHIP. Even if the girl is a imprisoned princess who has a fiery heart and who looks surprisingly awesome with her hair in ridiculous buns on either side of her head. She might give you a passionate kiss before swinging across an oddly positioned crevasse on a giant space station, but you shouldn't trust your feelings (no matter what Obi-Wan might say). This relationship is going nowhere. Which leads me to our next relationship principle…
Don't Flirt With Your Sister
Don't Flirt With Your Sister
Before you start flirting with the only eligible female within twelve parsecs, make sure you first confirm that she is not, in fact, your twin sister. And whatever you do, don't kiss her to make another guy jealous. Ewww.


On Rare Occasions, Arrogance is More Attractive Than Humility
On Rare Occasions, Arrogance is More Attractive Than Humility
This is for the young men out there. When you are trying to pursue a romantic relationship with that special lady who you think is "the one," tenderhearted humility is always the right tone to take. It will almost always attract the girl more effectively than cockiness or swagger. But there is one exception. If your courtship hits a rough spot and an evil galactic dictator is about to freeze you in carbon before a bounty hunter takes you to your eventual death, all bets are off. In your last few moments of consciousness, if your girl declares, "I love you," then a perfectly appropriate response is, "I know." Chicks dig that.
There is Someone for Everyone
There is Someone for Everyone
If you have had little success in dating relationships and are wondering if there might be someone out there for you, don't lose hope. There was that brief scene in Episode One when the pod race was about to start. The vile and disgusting Jabba The Hutt steps up to the mic … and there in the background we catch a glimpse of Mrs. The Hutt. Again… Ewww. If Jabba can find a mate, then anyone can.
But Some People Are Single For A Reason
But Some People Are Single For A Reason
Maybe you're an 850 year-old sage from a new age religious order who has big ears and an annoying tendency to speak with technically accurate but annoying grammar. You'll likely be single for life. Maybe you're a seven and a half foot tall dude who speaks in grunts and who has a significant back hair problem. While certainly lovable, you are forever stuck in the friend zone. Maybe your parents named you Jar Jar. Know this: everybody hates you. You are destined to die alone.
Look for Red Flags in Your Dating Relationships
Look for Red Flags in Your Dating Relationships
Parents must coach their daughters to look for warning signs in the early stages of a romantic relationship. While a girl might be "in love," her significant other might have some character flaws that will negatively affect their relationship long-term. If your daughter's boyfriend shows any of these signs, you should coach her to move on:

He is at least 7 years younger than her and was absolutely annoying as a child. He grows into a handsome young man but still has the personality of a rotten turnip. His role model is a crusty old man with an eye on the absolute domination of the known galaxy. And if your daughter's boyfriend ever suggests that murdering a bunch of young trainees in his religious order is a good thing, she should take that as a warning sign that the he is not the marrying type. Better to end it now than to have to deal with his dysfunctional tendencies later.

A Final Word
Hopefully, these principles will help you to build healthy relationships in your marriage and family. As Yoda might say: "Timeless, they are."

Since one portion of our work at INFO for Families is devoted to discovering God's design for sexual health in marriage, I will offer one final piece of relationship advice to all the wives out there. If are you're looking for "a new hope" to bring some spice back into your marriage, buy one of those Princess Leia costumes from the Jabba the Hutt scene in Return of the Jedi. You can't go wrong.

Barrett and Jenifer JohnsonAfter serving in the local church for 25 years, Barrett and Jenifer launched INFO for Families as a ministry designed to encourage people through speaking, personal coaching and resource development. Barrett served for 15 years in youth ministry before serving for eight years as the Family Minister at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Atlanta, one of the largest churches in the South. He has degrees from Texas A&M University and Southwestern Seminary, but he and Jenifer have received their best education through the no-holds-barred nature of everyday family life.

For original article go to


When You Only Have a Few Minutes to Pray

How one to three minutes can focus our minds and hearts on adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. (image, Centreville United Methodist Church)

My wife is a professional counselor and a good one. Her workdays are divided into listening to and helping many different people, 55 minutes at a time. She has often said she’d like to have a 50- or 55-minute hourglass for her counseling sessions. It would be not only a helpful way to keep track of time but also a focusing and soothing influence on both counselor and counselee! So this past fall I ordered her a custom hourglass to give to her as a Christmas gift.

That got me thinking, which is always a risky proposition. Hourglasses come in all shapes and sizes. We even have several one-minute and three-minute versions in our home already, packed in various board games and group game boxes. So why not put them to even better use—in prayer?

So, new year, new things. I plan to try it.

For example, I can follow the ACTS pattern using the three-minute timer for each type of prayer:

  • Adoration and praise
  • Confession
  • Thanksgiving
  • Supplication (asking in earnest) and intercession (praying for others)

I might use the one-minute hourglass to focus my prayers on family: a minute of intercession for my wife, children and grandchildren.

Something else I might try: using the one minute timer for “lightning round” prayers, like game shows sometimes do, particularly in the middle of the day. So even when I have only a few minutes to pray, the hourglass can help focus my thoughts and prayers.

I bet the hourglass can even help me practice silence. I can use one of them to focus my thoughts at the beginning of my prayer time, watching the grains of sand flow silently downward. Or let the sand be a benediction of sorts to conclude a period of prayer. And on those occasions when I am hurried or stressed, maybe I can let the hourglass calm me for a minute. . . or three.

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A Decree for the New Year

As a single mom, "I've come to realize that it's not a sign of weakness for me to be lonely" (photo ECWA Archive)

Today is the 31st. The last day of the year, although it marks more than that for me. Today also closes out seven years of loneliness for me. On Jan. 1, I will begin my 8th year, and that's a long time. A very long time when you were made to love. When you were made for companionship.

A very long time when you're running yourself into the ground and losing your entire identity while you push yourself past every limit in effort to be both mom and dad, raising kids to feel as little as possible of the pains that come along with a single parent household. I'm tired. And I never get used to an empty bed. Never.

This year, year seven, has been monumental for me. To make a long story short(er), for the first time in this journey, I've come to realize that it's not a sign of weakness for me to be lonely. It's not a part of me that I have to allow to scar over, making me tough. I don't have to pretend … to the world or even myself, that I'm happy living life on a solo run. I've come to the end of a season in my life, and thankfully, the end of one season, means the beginning of another one.

As I'm looking with new eyes, I'm seeing that we are surrounded with people who are walking alone. I dare venture to say that 98% of said people don't prefer to be alone. I will only speak of myself here, but if the shoe fits, I'd encourage you to wear it as well. I've been inundated through the years with "let God be your husband" mentality. I've become ashamed for my own desires and somehow felt that to push for wholeness in this area was a direct reflection on my relationship with God not being where it should be.

Now I know that's not correct. Is God to be the center? Absolutely, but that's the case if you're married OR single. Spoiler alert: Our Father did not create us to walk alone. It was never His plan, He never intended it, even His disciples were sent out two by two. You're no holier by acting like you can win life all by yourself. He looked down at Adam and quickly admitted that it wasn't good for man to be alone. If God Himself admitted that, they why do we feel weak and powerless to do the same thing? It's time to get past that and I don't mean with Facebook rants about how sad we are. I mean in our prayers.

With this new revelation, I have personally decreed 2016 to be a year of new beginnings in our relationships, and not just for myself. I've decided to carry this for everyone in similar life situations who walk alone. It's time. I'm declaring this to be a year of prayer like never before. I'm going to move things in the heavens this year and I'm doing it for far more than myself. I'm doing it for you.

As I've come to this position, it's safe to say that I went through cycles of wanting to spit venom. I've hoped before and landed in a face plant every time. Many years ago I decided that it was better just to not try than to constantly be in heartbreak, so I simply isolated myself to keep the cycle from repeating. I convinced myself that I didn't need a mate. I was just fine. I was strong and I was bull headed. I could do just as much alone as I could together. Guess what? I was wrong.

As I keep feeling God pushing me in this direction, of course the thoughts come of all the times I've hoped in vain. How many times my heart got a fresh dose of sickness from hopes deferred. I keep pushing away the thoughts that try to convince me to NOT try again. Too many times I've thought the light was showing from the end of the tunnel, only for it to be a train that plowed over me.

Yet still … I hear the whispers … hope again. Just like Peter, he'd worked all night, was exhausted, every effort yielding nothing. Not even the smallest reward for his perseverance. Maybe there were even fishermen all around him, pulling in a good haul, but not him. He gets nothing. The sun comes up and he's done. He prepares to go home empty handed, again.

He pulls his boat up to shore and starts washing his nets when a man named Jesus asked Him to take Him out into the water so he could speak to the crowds better. Peter is tired, but he does. We don't know how long Jesus talked. Jesus MAY have been very long winded, we don't know … we just know Peter was tired, and empty handed. Peter had given up.

Just when it looked like Jesus was done and Peter could go back to shore, Jesus tells him to go out into the deep and let down his net. It's at this point that Amy (err, I mean Peter) says, "but Lord! I've done it all night. I'm tired. I've dropped these heavy nets and worked so hard to pull in what I needed to live and got NOTHING, even when everyone around me was successful. I've done this before, same exact spot … but .. sigh, just because you said so … I'm going to do it again." Simply at your word.

And we know the rest of the story. Peter pulled in more than he could even manage from likely the same spot where he'd come up hopeless just hours before. He put the needs of Jesus before his own by taking Jesus out on the boat when he was tired, discouraged and hopeless. Because of that, Jesus turned things and gave him the desire of his heart.

So many of us have invested years into serving God with broken hearts. We've "carried" the presence of God to a broken world, even when our own heart was empty. No more. This is the year of new beginnings and I'm encouraging you to go ahead and take a look around. Look around at all the times you've stepped through the same scenario and ended up with a dirty nose. Then, because He's saying so … try again. Same thing, same place. Try again.

(I just read a book that flipped my emotional tables on every level. As you decide if you will take the chances and drop your nets yet again, I'd strongly persuade you to read what I just finished. Keep Your Love On, by Danny Silk. And just buy the thing … you'll want to highlight every page)

You. Have permission to hope.

Amy Howard Davis has been a single mom for the last seven years and lives in Kansas City with her two sons, ages 8 and 9. Follow Amy on Facebook.


A Year Without Resolutions

The shift from “achieving” to simply “being.” Nicole T. Walters, guest writer (Haven Sweet / Monastery of the Holy Spirit)

This year I am not making New Year’s resolutions. I am not jotting down goals and dreams, in hopes of becoming a different version of myself. Instead, I am exploring something new this year—or rather, something very old.

It all began when I visited a local monastery for some quiet reflection. Being a busy working mom, I was feeling out of touch with time for my own spiritual development. Driven by to-do lists, I felt the need to set some spiritual goals instead of just practical ones. The Monastery of the Holy Spirit, sitting on 7,000 acres of untouched Georgia woodlands, became the perfect retreat for New Year’s Day reflections a few years ago.

I was taken by the beauty of the place and intrigued by the life of the forty monks in community there. I attended a retreat at the monastery later in the year, praying and learning alongside the monks. The common prayer and meditative readings were unknown to me as an evangelical, but still sparked a deeper contemplation around God and his gospel truths.

The following year, I returned to the abbey church, listening to monks singing midday prayers while asking God to guide my year ahead. I have always loved how New Year’s puts us in a mindset of reflection and reordering. It’s especially needed as another year comes to an end, and we’re left feeling more defeated than inspired.

As I saw at the monk’s quiet, simple lives in comparison to my hectic, rushed one, I began reading about the teachings that guided their community. I discovered not only a new way of praying, but a new way of living. And I wasn’t alone—plenty in evangelical circles have searched the wisdom of the ancient monasticism.

In her book Out of Sorts, Sarah Bessey guides readers to the practice of praying the hours with her own journey of evolving faith. Blogger Micha Boyett deemed herself “The Mama Monk” as she explored Benedictine spirituality. Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro offer inspiration in Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.

Ancient texts set forth basic guidelines for the monastic movement, beginning in third-century Egypt. The Rule of Life prescribes times for common prayer, meditative reading, manual work, and details such as clothing, food and drink for monks living in community. The best known Rule of Life comes from St. Benedict of Nursia, with the simple motto, Ora et Labora (Pray and Work).

With the rise of the movement of New Monasticism, evangelical Christians have drawn from and expanded upon traditional monastic values to apply to daily life outside of the monastery. St. Benedict himself summarized the rule as “simply a handbook to make the very radical demands of the gospel a practical reality in daily life.”

Inspired by these teachings, spiritual director Jenn Giles Kemper created Sacred Ordinary Days, with resources like a liturgical planner and a podcast to guide people through the liturgical year, which begins a bit before the calendar year with the start of Advent. This practice of prayer, reading, and contemplation isn’t the same as a Christianized, or monasticized, version of New Year’s resolutions.

“Goals and intentions are task-based and work best within a quantifiable measure of success and an easily marked ending point,” Giles Kemper explained to me. “Something more process-oriented is helpful when you’d like to reorient toward ‘being’ over ‘achieving.’”

Giles Kemper uses the language of “play” as she talks about trying certain spiritual practices (“playing with silence”), which makes it seem more inviting—and less like there is a right and a wrong way to approach spiritual disciplines. She finds flexibility in her experience with the Rule of Life, a grace and freedom to shift, grow, and practice, in a constant posture of a learner.

This language marks the shift for me from a goal-based approach to a becoming-mindset. When we approach New Year’s Resolutions and goals, we usually set forth to do something or accomplish something. I might want to lose 10 pounds, but feel defeated when I don’t. If I, instead, focus on adopting healthier habits, I’m able celebrate my progress without condemning myself should I come up short.

The Rule of Life aims to create a framework for being and becoming, rather than checking something off a list. Practical and spiritual goals fit into this framework as prayer and Bible reading can get sidelined into another item on the to-do list.

Henri Nouwen said:

A rule offers creative boundaries within which God’s loving presence can be recognized and celebrated. It does not prescribe but invite, it does not force but guide, it does not threaten but warn, it does not instill fear but points to love. In this it is a call to freedom, freedom to love.

As I head into another busy year, it is this freedom I long for, a way to fit time for my spirit into all of the practical demands on my life. So this year, as the New Year approaches, I will sit beneath the expansive arches of the abbey church and reflect on the year ahead. I won’t walk away with a set of goals that are measurable, and so often unattained. Instead, I will envision what I want to create space for in my spiritual journey in 2016. I hope that in another year I will find I have become more of the person God created me to be.

Nicole T. Walters is a writer from metro Atlanta who has written for, SheLoves Magazine and is a member of the Redbud Writer’s Guild. Nicole blogs about faith and being on mission wherever God has placed you at


Five Poverty Busters You Should Know

Why? Because research shows they are making a real difference (photo / taimoor)

As a developmental economist, people often ask me, “What can I do as a Christian to really make an impact on world poverty?” Especially as people consider giving and charitable donations during the Christmas season, the question has inspired me to create a list of five of the most dedicated and innovative Christians I have discovered in my work and research in international poverty alleviation. While some of these individuals help lead Christian organizations, others direct what are essentially secular organizations strongly influenced by their faith. Some are well-known in development circles; others have labored for years outside of the public eye. All share in common a dynamic faith that has helped shape innovative approaches to poverty.

They also share a commitment to effectiveness. Not every approach taken by these practitioners has met with instant success. This is okay. Poverty is a tough nut to crack. But through dedication to rigorous evaluation, constant innovation, learning, re-innovation, and the dogged pursuit of excellence in their work, their respective programs share a commitment to genuine impact over feel-good charity.

Auyba Guffwan, Director, Beautiful Gate/Wheelchairs for Nigeria.1. Auyba Guffwan, Director, Beautiful Gate/Wheelchairs for Nigeria.

We sometimes hear the phrases “the poorest of the poor” or “the least of these.” Interested in knowing who they are? They are the disabled in the poorest countries, often rejected as outcasts by their families, left on the street to beg. These beloved human beings are, truly and tragically, the poorest of the poor. There are one billion people living with serious disabilities today, most of them in the developing world.

Ayuba Guffwan is one of my development heroes. Paralyzed from polio at age four, it would have been easy for Ayuba to slide quietly into a life of hopelessness, substance abuse, and begging. Receiving a wheelchair gave him the hope to pursue his dream of helping others like himself. He and “retired” Pastor Ron Rice founded Beautiful Gate in 1999. Since gaining access to a wheelchair and founding the organization, Ayuba earned a law degree from the University of Jos, married, fathered three children, and became an international leader in Rotary International. The organization has become the largest supplier of mobility aids in Nigeria, rescuing thousands from crawling in the dust on hands and feet, giving them the mobility to live with dignity and as integrated members of society.

Furthermore this ministry operates in a region of Northern Nigeria where Christians face violent persecution by the Muslim extremist group Boko Haram. While overtly Christian, Beautiful Gate provides wheelchairs to Muslims and Christians without partiality. Despite the great risks, it has continued to serve in this area with favor among Muslims as a peaceful witness of the hands of Christ.

But just as impressive as Ayuba’s story is the impact of providing wheelchairs. Although unable to carry out fieldwork in Nigeria due to the terrorism risk, inspired by Beautiful Gate my graduate student Justin Grider and I carried out a study among a similar disabled population in Ethiopia, comparing life outcomes between statistically matched current and future wheelchair recipients.

In a study forthcoming in the Journal of Development Effectiveness, we found life-changing impacts from wheelchair provided to the disabled population. In a given week, wheelchair recipients traveled about 7 miles farther away from their homes than those without a wheelchair. We also found that wheelchair beneficiaries spent nearly two hours more per day in income-generating work, reducing begging by nearly the same amount of time. The income of the wheelchair recipients was $6.23 per week higher than those without wheelchairs, a 78 percent increase over the very small baseline of $8.02 (yes, the disabled poor earn this little per week in places like Ethiopia.) Our estimates showed that an economic investment in a wheelchair realized an internal rate of return of 122 percent, simply based on the increased income the recipient would earn relative to the cost of the wheelchair, a rate of return that vastly exceeds that of the most productive Fortune 500 companies. By providing a wheelchair through a $150 donation to Beautiful Gate, one can literally transform a life.

2. Isabeth Zárate, Chief Operations Officer, Fuentes Libres Microfinance, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Isabeth Zárate, Chief Operations Officer, Fuentes Libres Microfinance, Oaxaca, Mexico.Even as recently as a few years ago, microfinance was billed by many as the silver bullet that would eradicate world poverty. Many rigorous impact studies carried out in countries around the globe have shown that microfinance has far less impact on borrowers than has been claimed by advocates. Microfinance helps people start and grow small businesses, smooth out bumps in income, and builds social cohesion, but in most cases it doesn’t appear to significantly increase family income or overall welfare. So where does that leave the world of microfinance?

Practitioners like Isabeth Zárate have long understood that the real power of microfinance isn’t in the lending, but in how it develops human beings, enhancing their social connectedness, psychological health, aspirations, and spiritual lives. In contrast to other organizations that expect big impacts from a simple cycle of loans, Fuentes Libres focuses on holistic, or integrated, development. This fits more closely with a biblical view of human nature and with recent findings in behavioral economics. Both of these view human beings not as homo economicus, but as whole people affected not only by economic incentives but also by their relationships, aspirations, and spiritual commitments, as well as their confidence to shape their circumstances.

This approach stands in contrast to larger microlenders in Mexico such as the well-known Compartamos Banco, who simply offer microloans (at the rather breathtaking average annual interest rate of 130 percent), but offer little else in terms of holistic vision for the growth of their clients. The problem with lenders such as Compartamos is that results from careful new research shows that their approach doesn’t work. A recent randomized controlled trial on 16,000 households in Mexico carried out by top Ivy League researchers reported an absence of any transformative impact on borrowers from their microfinance loans.

Isabeth Zárate’s work with Fuentes Libres among indigenous women in southern Mexico has, by contrast, taken an integrated development approach. Women meet weekly to encourage one another in their businesses. They build a network of trust that helps them build confidence as entrepreneurs. Recently my colleagues and I have begun a project with the organization to test how hope and aspirations might influence the success of microfinance. Early results hint at positive impacts both on the aspirations of these female borrowers and profits in their enterprises. As we gain a better understanding of the full nature of human beings–their social, psychological, and spiritual natures–we can help interventions like microfinance function more effectively.

Paul Niehaus, Co-founder and U.S. Director, GiveDirectly.3. Paul Niehaus, Co-founder and U.S. Director, GiveDirectly.

Many poverty organizations will transform your cash donation into different types of “in-kind” gifts to the poor: farm animals, mosquito nets, clean-burning woodstoves–the list goes on. In-kind gifts are appealing because (a) we don’t want our donation spent irresponsibly, and (b) we want to know how our money is being used. Paul Niehaus took a different approach when he founded GiveDirectly with fellow economics graduate students at Harvard: Let the poor decide how to best use a cash donation. GiveDirectly harnesses the best modern technology to transform your cash into … cash. It does this by electronically zapping internet donations into cell-phone-based savings accounts of the poor in East Africa. Direct electronic cash transfers have become one of the most innovative and effective methods of helping the extreme poor in the developing world.

Evidence has been growing that shows cash transfers to be an effective means of helping the poor. However, most of these programs have been conditional cash transfers. Cash was given to families for making positive choices, such as keeping their children enrolled in school or taking them in for regular check-ups. But what about just giving the poor cash—no strings attached? The response of many people to an unconditional cash transfer is that it seems highly susceptible to abuse. Unconditional cash transfers can be spent on alcohol and cigarettes just as easily as on school fees and repairing a leaky roof. Niehaus and his co-founders seem to be placing quite a bit of faith in the judgment of the poor. So what does the evidence say?

Researchers at Princeton University studied the effectiveness of GiveDirectly in an experiment involving over 1,000 households. Over the course of a year, about $1,000 in cash was transferred from internet donors into the electronic savings accounts of a randomly selected half of the households. The two researchers carrying out the study (both now faculty at Princeton) found a number of encouraging impacts from these injections of cash.

First, food consumption increased substantially. Recipients of the transfers bought 20 percent more food. The extra food consumption reduced by 30 percent the likelihood of a family member going to bed hungry during the week preceding the follow-up survey. It also reduced by 42 percent the number of days children in the cash transfer households went without food. Productive assets, mostly animal herds and small business investment, increased an astounding 58 percent.

What about spending on temptation goods, like alcohol and cigarettes? The research found no increase in spending on these goods at all. This parallels other findings that show that as extremely poor people become just a little bit wealthier, they become more hopeful and invest more time and effort in activities that will pay off in the future rather than medicating feelings of hopelessness. And what about cash grants reducing the incentives to work? A new paper by top economists at Harvard and MIT furthermore dispels the myth that these cash grants reduce time devoted to work by recipients.

Niehaus and his colleagues have shown us that the poor are more trustworthy than we think.

4. Menchit Wong, Director of Leadership Engagement, Global Advocacy, Compassion International, Philippines.

Menchit Wong, Director of Leadership Engagement, Global Advocacy, Compassion International, Philippines.Menchit Wong began her career as a social worker in a slum re-settlement program in the Philippines. Thirty-six years later, she was standing on the platform at the international Lausanne Conference in Cape Town, addressing a large audience of global Christian leaders (from churches, ministry organizations, movements and alliances), championing the rights of children. The global church gathered at this conference recognized children as a priority in the coming decade. “It was a kairos moment,” Menchit says of her presentation. “God orchestrated a two-minute opportunity for Compassion to convince the global Church to invest in the value, potential, and priority of children in poverty.” It was a ministry model, says Menchit, “that ran contrary to hundreds of years of practice.”

She currently serves as Compassion International’s director of leadership engagement for global advocacy after having served for decades in the trenches in the Philippines in of one of the most successful organizations fighting child poverty on a global scale. Compassion’s approach has long bucked the trend followed by many larger aid organizations of investing in infrastructure. Instead, Compassion invests in children: their health, education, character values, aspirations, and spiritual growth. It is a holistic model of human development with biblical foundations that has realized tremendous dividends among children sponsored by Compassion.

Our six-country study on the impact of Compassion’s sponsorship program–which included the work of Compassion in the Philippines– found that adults who had been sponsored as children were about a third more likely to finish secondary school, a third more likely to have a white-collar job as adults, about two-thirds more likely to finish college, and 80 percent more likely to serve later in life as community and church leaders. In a new academic paper forthcoming in the World Bank Economic Review, we find sponsorship through Compassion to result in a 20 percent increase in adult incomes. Also as adults, formerly sponsored children live in better-constructed and safer homes, with better roofs and floors, and they are more likely to have electricity. Thanks to the dedication, innovation, and persistence of practitioners such as Menchit Wong, it has become clear to both academics and practitioners that Compassion’s unique approach to child sponsorship is a highly effective way to make a difference in the life of a child living in poverty.

Blake Mycoskie, Founder and CEO, TOMS Shoes, Inc.5. Blake Mycoskie, Founder and CEO, TOMS Shoes, Inc.

TOMS Shoes began in Argentina, reports Blake Mycoskie in his book, Start Something That Matters. He was taking a break from managing DriversEd Direct in 2006, an online driver’s education school he had recently founded. In Argentina, he learned to play polo, dance the tango, and appreciate the alpargata, the soft canvas shoe worn ubiquitously in the country. He also met a friend working with an organization distributing used shoes to children living in the Argentina’s barrios and impoverished rural areas. That meeting changed the course of his life—and that of many others. He eventually sold his interest in DriversEd Direct, investing his time in a new company that sold a version of the alpargata loafers to Americans while giving a similar pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair he was able to sell.

In 2011, Blake agreed to work with me to carry out a study of the TOMS Shoes giving program. We wanted to ascertain the impacts of the shoes through a controlled trial. Our study took place in El Salvador, where we randomly distributed TOMS’ donated shoes to about half of 1,578 children in 18 rural communities. We tested two questions: First, did the donated shoes damage the local shoe vendor business, and second, what was the impact of the shoes on children?

We found little evidence of significant damage to local shoe vendors. Results showed that sales of vendors declined by a single pair of shoes for about every 20 donated pairs, but even this small negative impact was statistically insignificant. And while our study uncovered no life-transforming impacts from the shoes in terms of education, self-esteem, or health, we did find that 95 percent of the recipient children had a favorable impression of the shoes and 90 percent wore them, and 77 percent wore them at least three days a week.

What most impressed us with TOMS was how nimbly the company responded to the challenges of poverty. They found that children used the shoes primarily for play and that canvas shoes tended to wear out quickly. So they began to give away a more durable athletic shoe. To accommodate the needs of children in cold climates such as Mongolia, they created a tailored snow boot for Mongolian children. When studies suggested that other types of interventions were likely to have greater life-transforming impacts than their shoe donations, TOMS began to sell sunglasses that provide vision correction for the visually impaired, coffee for which purchases help provide fresh water to villages, and handbags that fund birth attendant resources for pregnant mothers in poor countries.

Clearly the original vision for a shoe company has grown into a larger vision—a double-bottom line company whose focus is not only profit but also the improved welfare of the overseas poor. It’s a company committed to introducing new products that are accompanied by a studied and sincere effort to better the lives of the least fortunate. I salute the creativity of Blake Mycoskie and TOMS as they walk the delicate line between the secular and the spiritual, a primarily “secular” company partnering extensively with Christian organizations such as World Vision and Heart for Africa to share God’s concern for the poor.

Bruce Wydick is professor of economics at the University of San Francisco and research affiliate at the Kellogg Institute of International Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He is author of the novel The Taste of Many Mountains (Thomas Nelson).


Praise & Prayer, January 2016


Prayer/Counseling hotline: 08033673654, 08051614880

Brethren, pray for us (1 Thess. 5:25)
“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between mizpah and shen. He named it EBENEZER, saying, thus far the lord has helped us.” 1 Samuel, 7:12
FRIDAY 1ST Ascribe to the lord glory due to His name for graciously crossing us over to the New Year, Celebrate Him for his goodness in your life (Ps.31:19,21). Ask Him for blessings of rain that causes supernatural ease in all your endeavors in 2016 (Zach.10:1).
SATURDAY 2ND Worship the lord for His great plans for Nigeria as a nation, the Nigerian church and for EMS in the year 2016. Adore Him for blessing us in Christ with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places (Eph.1:3).
“…Put ye the sickle, because the harvest is come” Mark 4:29
SUNDAY 3RD REV.SIMON YAKO: Appreciate God for His increasing grace upon the life of the EMS director, Rev. Silas Yako and his family through his first year of directing the affairs of this ministry.
  • As he (the director) depend on God for selfless service in 2016, Pray that God should grant Him Excellent mind, increasing wisdom, Sound health and favor for him and his family before God and before men.
REV.GANA SLASH: Thank God for his grace upon his savant and the opportunity to serve in the capacity of the EMS home mission coordinator for the past one year.
  • For more of God’s grace, wisdom favor and strength upon him and his family as they assume a new responsibility of the regional coordinator for the central region.
  • That God should grant them open door for effective ministry among the people in this region.
  • That the Lord should grant his wife, Mrs. Grace Gana, favor for a Job opening and for a good school for their children.

MONDAY 4TH pray that in the year 2016, EMS missionaries will develop strong multiplying discipleship efforts in the mission fields so that there will be a deep impact of the gospel that will enable us sustain what God is doing in our fields.
MRS. GRACE O. ADAKOLÉ: Bless God for His increasing Grace on the Life of Mrs. Adakolé and her family. Through thick and thin, she has committedly served the lord as the secretary to the EMS director from January through December 2015. As she trust God to put in more of her very best of a selfless service in 2016

  • That the lord should grant her excellent mind, sound health and favored before God and with men.
  • That her husband who has being very supportive would be blessed of God and that his business and ministry will prosper in 2016.
  • That the lord will visit and deliver her sister Susan Joseph who has suffered several spiritual attacks.
TUESDAY 5TH Pray that the holy spirit will produce constant growth and fruitfulness in the life of all our converts made in 2015 and the once that will be made in 2016 as they walk in grace and truth, also pray that as they show commitment to serving God faithful, thy would also experience development in their occupation.
WEDNESDAY 6TH Pray that in 2016 all ECWA office staff, Pastor, and missionaries should have vibrant walk with God, experience personal maturity, good character development, sound health, good financial improvement and discipline, improved self-leadership, great marriages and healthy family lives.
THURSDAY 7TH A good number of prayer houses/churches have been planted in the past years but with one or two challenges especially that of the needs for adequate places of worship. While some stations worship in rented apartments, school classrooms and uncompleted buildings, others still worship under tree sheds.
  • That in the year 2016,EMS stations in Sabon Gida, Sabon Gari, Bagaji, Ang/Kanti(All in Keffi DCC).Ugba, Ogoja, Mbaza, Oju, Obi and Igoli (All in Makurdi DCC). Useni, Karmo and Sardauna (all in Nasarawa DCC) will be granted favor to have habitable church buildings.
  • That God should raise men and women who will give toward mitting the urgent needs for wells in Okore, Sanzaras, and Ungwan Tsakiya. (PANDA DCC).
FRIDAY 8TH Il-health or lack of prompt and adequate medication is one of the striking challenge our missionaries, especially those in rural places are faced with.
  • That the effort to make EMS mobile clinic functionally effective beginning this year will pull through.
  • That God will steer the heart of men and women who are medically inclined to join this ministry as their proficiency will serve greatly in enhancing the growth of the ministry.
  • That the lord will heal Mrs. Rose Sunday Udeh, an EMS missionary’s wife in Makurdi DCC who was spiritually attacked with stroke and epilepsy, and sister Ohuoha Charity in ECWA Awkuzu church, Anambra state.
SATURDAY 9TH A good number of EMS missionaries who gave their time, their minds and energy to a selfless service unto their God retired from active service last year (2016)and as these once are got due for retirement, new, young and vibrant missionaries are being recruited to fill in vacuum.
  • That the Lord renew the strength of the retirees and grant them grace to keep serving Jesus Faithfully.
  • That the new Missionaries that are being recruited and will be diploid to various mission fields will be so equipped with everything, they will be needing (spiritually, financially etc.) for effective and a fruitful ministry with EMS.
“… Go into all the world and Preach the Goodnews…” Mark. 16:15
SUNDAY 10TH MALAWI:-Thank God for the increase in the number of ECWA Malawi Church membership, to an extent some are using mat to sit on the ground. In addition, most of the members are punctual to Prayer meetings and Bible studies.
  • Pray for provision of more chairs in the Church.
  • Pray for the provision of a bus for the ministry in ECWA Malawi.
MONDAY 11TH MALAWI: Mrs. Love let’s (a new member) dedication to the Lord has won the Husband to Christ. He was misled to follow a false prophet, which in the process treated his wife badly. However, he has now decided to follow the true God alongside his wife. Some of the instructions given to him by the so-called Pastor were to bring an egg to the Church and to eat their meals in the cooking pot not plate.
  • That the lord should sustain her husband in his new found faith.
  • That Keegan a teenager, who gave his life to Christ during one of the pastor’s personal evangelism, will be strengthened to keep growing in faith.
  • That Silvia Kadewere, a daughter to the Church's secretary, whom even the Doctors had given up, following her critical illness but is by God’s grace healed, should continue to enjoy sound health to the glory of God.
TUESDAY 12TH CAMEROON: Thank God for about 123 members of the Cameroonian church who were baptized in December 2015.
  • Pray that they will grow in faith.
  • Pray for the evangelism / church planting work that has now started in Yaoundé, Capital city of Cameroon.
WEDNESDAY 13TH CAMEROON: Pray that God would provide mobility for the Cameroonian
EMS Coordinator, as he has to visit distanced missionaries, some as far as a thousand kilometers.
  • Pray for Ngaoundere mission field for God to provide them with a Church land. Also, pray for the forth-coming Evangelistic programme organized in Ngaoundere for souls to be saved.
  • Pray for the new converts in Douala and for the forward coming Evangelistic programme in Douala. Also, pray for the Lord to provide funds for the construction of Douala Church. Right now, they are worshipping in a temporary church on the land.
THURDAY14TH BURKINA FASO: Thank God for healing Pastor Dauda Iliya's wife.
  • Pray for God to provide 50 Bibles, three motorcycles (N160, 000 each), foodstuff (5 bags of rice &gallons of oil) for new converts to celebrate their first Christmas or about NSO, OOO in monetary terms.
  • A land is urgently needed. One has been identified which is already fenced and would cost N20m (Twenty million naira only). Prayer for open an open door toward this urgent need.
FRIDAY 15TH BURKINA FASO: lssaka, a former Moslem gave his life Christ buthe is now facing severe persecution. He has been denied food and driven away from home. The missionary is now faced with the challenge of taking care of him from their very meager resources.
  • Please pray for lssaka to stand firm in face of persecution and for the Lord to provide more resources to take care of lssaka and others like him.
  • Another convert, a woman by name Marietu also gave her life to Christ and was delivered from the bondage to a demonic charm. Now she too is facing severe persecution since she has refused to marry her former Muslim suitor. Presently, she is squatting with another believer. She is a trained tailor and will need a sewing machine in order to fend for herself.
SATURDAY 16TH Pray that EMS will be able to administer the Goodnews in its cross border mission fields and rescue many from the enemy’s grip and for fresh and adequately equip indigenous laborers at these desperate times who will be able to withstand, stand and advance the kingdom God among their people by force.
“…to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the hearts of the contrite one”.Isa.57:15
SUNDAY 17TH One major mission force that opened rural places in the northern Nigeria in the 70s and 80s is the evangelicals, but today’s Pentecostalism and influence of materialistic gospel is weakening their resolve to pursue this noble Kingdome mandate. Pray that the evangelicals will encounter evangelistic revival and reorientation in the year 2016.
MONDAY 18TH Pray that ECWA sons and daughters will maintain their first love for God, have compassion for the lost and be grossly engaged in evangelism and discipleship in 2016.
TUESDAY 19TH Pray that ECWA ministers will be self-motivated towards the vision of ECWA, which is to “wine all nations for Christ”. Also pray that they will walk in understanding with one another and be submissive to authority.
WEDNESDAY 20TH Pray for the supernatural release of money and every material resources that is needed for EMS and ECWA as a whole to fulfil our mandate everywhere.Phil.14:19.
THURSDAY 21ST Pray for the entire ECWA executive as they continue to pilot the affairs of ECWA Around the world, that God will grant them Wisdom, strength, security and journey mercies in all their travels.
FRIDAY 22ND Pray for the immediate family (Wife & children) of ECWA Pastors, Missionaries and other administrative officers working in various capacities, that God should protect them from counter reactions from the kingdom of darkness because of their commitment to kingdom service.
SATURDAY 23RD “How shall they preach except they be sent” was the question Paul asked in Romans 10:15.One of the major mission challenge today is the resources to finance the labor, the laborers who are ready to go full-time, and many who want to volunteer their services for short time mission. In other words, “the laborers are waiting, but the senders are few”.
  • Pray the lord of the harvest to raise capable senders in the church and mission support agencies.
  • Thank God, for those who are already committed to raising support for mission. Ask the lord to increase their capacity, build their income generation system to maturity and sufficiency, and help them to do justice to the laborers on fields.
“I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove savage beast from the land, and the sward will not pass through your country” Lev.26:6.
SUNDAY 24TH List and Pray for the salvation of individuals around you (relatives, friends, and colleagues’ etc.). Pray that they will encounter Jesus and be committed in serving Him in this year. MONDAY 25TH: Pray that God’s light will shine on all British youths, both male and female who have left and many who are planning on leaving to become Jihadist in Syria, Iraq etc. Ask that God’s mercy will save them as the it saved Saul of Tarsus in his misguided zeal (Act 9:1-6).Pray for wisdom for the British Government as they seek to address this evil.
TUESDAY 26TH Pray With the increase in violence and the activities of insurgence around the world, many being rendered homeless, children turned into orphans, women forced into early widowhood, and men decapitated. EMS through its relief project unit under the supervision of Brother Mark Sunday has made it a point of duty to reach out to such that are affected.
  • For more of God’s grace on Bro Mark for effective and efficient outreaches in this 2016
  • For the recently produced documentary, that through it more individuals and cooperate partners will be added to the number of partners promoting the work of this unit
  • For vulnerable young and old people who do not have families to fall back to and who are struggling to live (Math.25:35).
WEDNESDAY 27TH ARGENTINA: Military dictatorship and the failed Falklands / Malvinas war, followed by economic disaster, have led Argentina into spiritual hunger and receptivity to the gospel of Christ. Operation World states that evangelical numbers, under one million in
1980, reached 3.9 million by 2015. However, spiritual openness is also seeing many drawn into Umbanda occultism from Brazil as well as some churches with questionable teachings.
  • That President Mauricio Macri will be able to harness its vast natural resources to revive an economy that has for decades fallen short of its potential.
  • For investments to stream into the country, bringing with it Christians to reach out to the highly educated workforce.
THURSDAY 28TH Pray for all missionaries on transfer, that the Lord will endow them with wisdom and increasing grace as they they begin ministry in their new mission station.
FRIDAY 29TH Pray for Nigerian Press and security, agencies that they may be more dedicated to duty and to also contribute in promoting good governance.
Weapons, vehicles, employee salaries, propaganda videos, international travel – all cost money. IS's methods of financing are difficult to shut down. Terrorists use their control over a territory the size of the UK to develop revenue channels. The oil fields captured in Syria and Iraq fund the group through a black market oil trade flourishing along the porous borders of IS-controlled land. It is believed some traders have even sold oil from terrorists back to Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Because terrorists control an expansive territory, they can levy taxes on the people living there. Some of these taxes are more like extortion. The group is heavily diversified: if one funding source is shut down, they turn to others to generate revenue. A steady flow of money to IS from rich individuals in the Gulf continues, with Qataris the biggest suppliers.
  • For countries to work, together and cut off the ‘fourth front’ cash flow in the war against IS. (Hos.9:9)
  • That the stronghold behind the strength of Boko-haram will be broken in Jesus Name
SUNDAY 31ST Pray Thank God for answered prayers and for His grace upon you to pray with us this month. Pray for more of His grace to be committed to praying with us in February.

Coping with Grief & Loneliness Over the Holidays

Handling grief or loss over the holidays by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (iStock photo)

"This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word revives me" (Ps. 119:50, MEV).

Christmas isn't a joyful season for everybody. Grief—whether from loss, loneliness or both—crescendos around this time of year for many, and the deep, emotional pain can seem like almost too much to bear.

Isaiah 53:4 states, "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." Jesus carries as much of the burden as we let Him. But in addition to falling into our Savior's loving arms, here are five suggestions to ease your personal Christmas blues or empower you to help someone else dealing with grief and loneliness:

1. Be kind to yourself. Billy Graham likens the death of a loved one to major surgery. But that can also be true regarding the death of a relationship, say a divorce. Healing from any medical operation takes time, and so does finding a new way of life after losing someone close. Leave the decorations in the attic this year if you need to. Find another family member to host Christmas dinner. Most importantly, perhaps, allow yourself to cry—or even scream—out to God as you process. David did in Psalm 61:2. Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:1-44). Your tears aren't a sign of faithlessness. They're a natural and necessary response to your loss. Let God heal you (Matthew 11:28).

2. Adjust your expectations. Anticipate Christmas will be different without your loved one and be proactive about your emotional health. Don't live in fear of your emotions, but take stock of your heart, especially before logging onto Facebook or other social media. Feelings of loneliness have a way of intensifying when you're bombarded by social media posts of your friends apparently having a grand time. Sign off for now if you need to.

If you find yourself in the comforter role this Christmas, keep your words washed in love and extend grace. Whether Uncle John has been gone for seven days, seven months or seven years, your aunt still misses him. Don't wonder (especially aloud) how she can still be sad after all these years. "How are you holding up?" is typically a safe question when talking with someone who has experienced loss. Check out the Sharing Hope in Crisis course from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team if you're interested in in-depth training for these sensitive situations.

3. Reach out. Sometimes the best way to lift your spirit is by helping someone else. Isolation turns your focus inward. Instead, volunteer with a local church, serve dinner to the homeless or walk your elderly neighbor's dog. Do something to serve. Additionally, if you're aching to have Christmas dinner with others, ask to join a  family member, friend or someone in your church. Remember, it's never a bad idea to offer to bring a dish, supplies or help with cleanup. Alternatively, if you know someone dealing with grief or loneliness, do your part. Give the gift of your time (Galatians 6:2).

4. Say something. Memories linger in your loved ones' absence. Remember the funny stories. Share them. Laugh and cry with your family members and friends as you reminisce. Or don't. If there aren't good memories or it's just too soon, consider finding new traditions and ways to focus forward.  If you're on the outside looking in, don't feel compelled to change the subject if someone mourning brings up good memories about the deceased. Operate cautiously and with sensitivity but above all else be a good listener and don't mind the tears. Memories are precious gifts from God, and they are one of the few ways a loved one's legacy lives on.

5. Cling to the promises of God. Especially when you don't feel like it. Consider John 14:18, which says: "No, I will not abandon you or leave you as orphans in the storm—I will come to you." You might feel forgotten by people, but you aren't forgotten by our heavenly Father. God is here. He sees you grieving. He wants to comfort you. Remind others of that truth. If you aren't familiar with His promises, start by finding peace with God.

Some quotes from Billy Graham on grief:

  • "With Christ as your Savior and constant Companion, you, although alone, need never be lonely."
  • When we grieve over someone who has died in Christ, we are sorrowing not for them but for ourselves. Our grief isn't a sign of weak faith, but of great love."
  • "It is our Lazarus tomb dark and foreboding and drenched with bitter tears, but it is there that we meet our Lord who brings life from death and gladness from the very tomb of bereavement. Christ can give rest in the midst of sorrow."
  • "If there is something we need more than anything else during grief, it is a friend who stands with us, who doesn't leave us. Jesus is that friend."

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The film is uneven, but Joy knows just who she is. (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)
The text at the beginning of Joy, the latest film from director David O. Russell (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook), says it is “inspired by the true stories of daring women . . . one in particular.”
Jennifer Lawrence, Edgar Ramirez, Elisabeth Rohm, Dashca Polanco, Isabella Rossellini, Robert De Niro, and Diane Ladd in 'Joy'
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Jennifer Lawrence, Edgar Ramirez, Elisabeth Rohm, Dashca Polanco, Isabella Rossellini, Robert De Niro, and Diane Ladd in 'Joy'
That “one” is Joy Mangano, played here by Jennifer Lawrence, who is always fun to watch and certainly holds the film together. The character and her story are based on Mangano’s true story of inventing the Magic Mop, hawking it on the still-new QVC, and overcoming difficulty to become a business mogul able to support other inventors and entrepreneurs.
Russell makes weird and frenetic movies that aren’t to everyone’s taste. They lurch around a bit and at times seem more infatuated with style than substance or coherence. That shows up again in Joy, which is narrated by Joy’s grandmother (Diane Ladd) and includes a montage introduction and a couple early black-and-white scenes from a melodrama, shot in soap opera style. Soon we segue into a whirling-dervish madcap romp through Joy’s house, with Joy as the axis, populated by a motley crew of relatives: Joy’s two children and her grandmother Mimi; Joy's ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez), an aspiring singer who still lives in the basement long after the divorce; her mother, Terry (Virginia Madsen), who stays in bed and watches soap operas; her father Rudy (Robert De Niro, another Russell regular), who’s moving back in after his latest split—though he’ll have to share space with his ex-son-in-law, whom he sometimes-cordially hates. (Good thing he swiftly finds a new girlfriend in Trudy, played by Isabella Rossellini.) The family also includes Joy’s half-sister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm), who manages Rudy’s auto repair shop and is by turns affectionate and undermining toward Joy’s efforts.
Jennifer Lawrence, Edgar Ramirez, Elisabeth Rohm, Dashca Polanco, Isabella Rossellini, Robert De Niro, and Diane Ladd in 'Joy'
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Edgar Ramirez in 'Joy'
As it turns out, she learned that behavior from the family more generally. We come to understand that Joy was a gifted child with big aspirations and an active imagination, an inventor from her youth. But time and circumstance have left her, still young and vibrant, with a lot of mouths to feed and egos to placate. Those egos delight in tearing down her aspirations in the most passive-aggressive manner I can imagine (consider this your trigger warning).
But Joy is scrappy and persistent, and she fights her way onto QVC, still a fledgling network headed by Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper, of course). What follows is ups and downs, excruciating failure and exhilarating success, licensing debacles and mismanagement and tense negotiations. In Lawrence’s portrayal of Joy, she’s a tired, determined woman with a lot of charm and grit and desperation who can still be reduced by those she loves to a puddle of despair. What we’re watching is not the building of an empire, but a woman coming into her own.
That part of the film is cathartic and enjoyable, if unevenly told. Yet it leaves us with a lot of desires. For instance, I want a film about all the personalities around QVC, and around Mangano’s own later business ventures. Futures are hinted at that seem terribly interesting, enough that in this age of film-to-TV, you can’t help wonder if a series is lurking in someone’s mind. (Given how character-driven it is, the film would work splendidly, and probably be received more warmly by both audiences and critics, as an offbeat prestige comedic drama.) I want a coherently-told story; I don’t want the feeling of rushing from scene to scene.
lisabeth Rohm, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro in 'Joy'
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Elisabeth Rohm, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro in 'Joy'
At the film's core is our favorite sort of story as Americans, a good old-fashioned pull-up-your-bootstraps, rags-to-riches tale of rising from humble circumstances through sheer force of will. And to tell you the truth, I was into it. By the end of Joy I felt strangely similar to the end of American Hustle—frustrated by the filmmaking, but enamored of the characters, except I didn’t feel dirty for rooting for the main character. In fact, I felt an affinity to her. I wanted to be like her. That’s the point: she’s a daring woman and meant to be an inspiration, and thankfully, she really is. (The real Joy Mangano, by the way, currently holds more than 100 patents.)
Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence in 'Joy'
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence in 'Joy'
And so, even though Joy never really seems to figure out what sort of a movie it is, it’s still a lot of fun to watch—mostly because the woman at its center knows exactly who she is.
Caveat Spectator
The film is rated PG-13 for brief strong language, which is exactly what it sounds like: expletives. Otherwise, it’s all family drama.
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today’s chief film critic and an assistant professor of English and humanities at The King’s College in New York City. She is co-author, with Robert Joustra, of How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World (Eerdmans, May 2016). She tweets @alissamarie.