Secret

I know a secret….

 

it’s one I want to spread

to anyone reading this

 

Paul shared what he had learned

and I listened

 

for I myself needed what this secret offered

 

and all of us do

 

It’s a secret

about how to be content

 

and not just content when things are pleasant

but content in any circumstance

 

How can that be when I’m not happy?

When things are not going as planned?

When I suffer and I don’t know why?

or

All is stripped away?…

 

What then?

 

How can I be content

when important things

important people

important well-being

keep me happy

enable me to do what I do things

are stripped away

 

What then?

 

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

 

So there

I said it

 

The secret is out

 

and it has been

since Paul penned those words so long ago

 

and it was known in the hearts of many of his predecessors

 

Joseph in a prison

David on the run

Ruth in a foreign land

Hosea with a wayward wife

Noah on a rockin’ boat

Moses with an overwhelming job

Esther in a palace of pressure

Jonathan with relatives closed to truth

Abraham never able to settle down

Isaac with work piled high

Jonah with a task unbelievable

and the list goes on

 

and the stories go

that each one came to find

that trusting God

and following God

and surrendering to God

is where you find contentment

 

in the messes

and the inconveniences

and the hardships

of life

 

and we each have our head-kept lists

of why discontentment is an option

 

and then we remember the secret

to being content

in any

and all

circumstances

 

I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.

 

– Susie Stewart

 

 

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

– Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)

 

I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

– 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 (NLT)

 

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9,10 (NLT)

 

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

– Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

 

Photo taken by Arik Stewart

Romance

Admittedly

I’m a romantic

 

and when I heard the words to the song recently

 

about how

 

She is his life

and She is his whole world

 

it sounded so beautiful

and so

 

well,

romantic

 

but I thought about

how my stance has changed

since I was young,

a young romantic

 

Truth be told

when I met Mr. Wonderful

and started dating Mr. Wonderful

and married Mr. Wonderful

 

he was my whole world

 

I could barely think of much else

 

I loved God too

but I cared more about seeking Andy’s attention

than seeking my God

 

But of course

 

earthly affections do not completely satisfy

they don’t completely fill you

 

and when a person is your whole world

you can’t help but be disappointed

 

it’s inevitable

 

because that’s not how it’s meant to be

 

No one fills and satisfies

a soul’s longings

 

even for romance

 

like Jesus

 

He’s the heroic groom

for His bride,

His follower

 

And as I’ve gone through the ups and downs

of life

I am thankful to have gone through them

with Mr. Wonderful

 

and yes, I’m thankful for romance

in my marriage

 

but

 

my love for my Savior

my focus on His affections

my longing to do His will

to do what I do out of love for Him

has surpassed all other loves

 

I’ve come to realize

that He has been pursuing me

romancing me

loving me

all this time

even since the womb

 

And when I focus on Him

other relationships in life pale in comparison

 

but then all is as it should be

 

and I am free to love people

without expecting them to be God

 

 

– Susie Stewart

 

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…Then I gave you My divine promise to always be your Beloved, and I entered the sacred covenant of marriage with you. I wed you, and you became Mine.

– Ezekiel 16:8 (VOICE)

 

As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you;

as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.

– Isaiah 62:5 (NIV)

 

For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth.

– Isaiah 54:5 (NLT)

 

I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord.

– Hosea 2:20 (NLT)

 

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom dressed for His wedding
or a bride with her jewels.

– Isaiah 61:10 (NLT)

 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

– Revelation 21:1,2 (NLT)

 

“Go and shout this message to Jerusalem. This is what the Lord says: “I remember how eager you were to please me as a young bride long ago, how you loved me and followed me even through the barren wilderness.

– Jeremiah 2:2 (NLT)

 

The marriage covenant of a husband and wife is to be a beautiful representation of Christ and His beloved, the church.  The earthly relationship should never overshadow the Divine.

– Susie Stewart

 

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…

As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”  This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.

– Ephesians 5:25,31,32 (NLT)

 

Photos taken by Bob Karraker

Voicemail

My cell phone

tells me my voice mailbox is almost full

 

That I need to delete some messages

in order to receive more

 

But I don’t want to

 

For there were points in time

when people I love and care about

 

left me messages

and they left an impression

on me

 

Dates and times frozen

 

With words of affirmation

of light

of life

of encouragement

 

to build up

 

 

saved in my little rectangular hip magnet

 

 

And I view these words

as the very love of God

spoken to my heart

 

On everyday days

at high points

at the lowest points

 

Thank you, dear ones,

for minutes spared

to lift up a sister

 

May my words, Lord,

bring the same

encouragement

 

whether spoken

written

or typed

– Susie Stewart

 

So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.

– 1 Thessalonians 5:10,11 (MSG)

 

What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.

– Proverbs 18:21 (GNT)

 

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweet and delightful to the soul and healing to the body.

– Proverbs 16:24 (AMP)

 

Here are some of those messages ….

 

 

* Well, now I have some on video!  Maybe I can make some room for more now. 😉

 

Photo taken by some obscure photo studio way back when.  Thanks Dad and Mom ❤

Sinking

Sink into His love today

up over your head

deep

deep

deep

 

Let the weightlessness

take your worry

your pain

your heaviness

 

Let the quiet

take all that speaks loud

and shouts at you

and distracts

 

Let the Living Water

refresh

and cleanse

and hydrate parched places

 

His love is a vast ocean

of hope and grace

 

Let go

and be enveloped

 

Sink not into despair

but into His love

– Susie Stewart

 

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…with all of Your people they will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God, may Your fullness flood through their entire beings.

– Ephesians 3:18,19 (VOICE)

 

Photos taken by Susie Stewart

 

Voice of Authority

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

– John 10:27 (NLT)

 

When the Holy Spirit speaks, His voice comes with power and authority. It hits you deep. It grips you. Your heart burns. It’s Him. You know it….When God speaks, His voice is noticeable by its resonance, depth, and impact. It pulses with a calm, steady force that makes a clear impression on your soul….you are moved to stillness as you reflect on what you’ve seen and heard….Truly, you can distinguish the voice of God from any other voice by the powerful influence it carries in your soul.
– PriscilIa Shirer

 

 

They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”
– Luke 24:32 (NLT)

 

 

Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.

– John 8:47 (ESV)

 

 

But if I say I’ll never mention the Lord
or speak in His name,
His word burns in my heart like a fire.
It’s like a fire in my bones!
I am worn out trying to hold it in!
I can’t do it!
– Jeremiah 20:9 (NLT)

 

 

“Does not my word burn like fire?”
says the Lord.
“Is it not like a mighty hammer
that smashes a rock to pieces?”
– Jeremiah 23:29 (NLT)

 

 

Photo taken by Arik Stewart

 

 

What you deserve

Next time you are tempted to allow yourself

to be weighed down by forgiven sins,

remember that Jesus already got what you deserved.

 

He reminded me of that recently.

I was walking my dog Larry and started to slip on some sidewalk ice.  I didn’t fall down and the thought popped into my mind, “I probably would have deserved that”.

I had been hashing over some past regrets.  Not a healthy way for me to be spending my time on this beautiful dark evening under the stars with Larry and God.

As quickly as that downgrading thought entered my mind, I then also heard in my mind, “I GOT what you deserve.”

Such a swift response.  It took my breath away.

Yes, my Jesus!  You paid the ultimate price for all the sins I’ve committed and instead of me getting what was coming to me, You, my beautiful Savior, took the punishment I deserved.

You paid the ultimate price for me.  And You have forgiven me.  You continue to forgive me.

You didn’t deserve that.  I did.

 

And I want to consciously and graciously accept the forgiveness You give,

and move on.

 

Because that’s what You desire.

Moving on.

Turning the opposite direction.

Doing better.

Being free.

 

“I GOT what you deserve.”

 

Regret and sin

need to be left in the past

 

– Susie Stewart

 

“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.

– Isaiah 43:18,19 (MSG)

 

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

– 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

 

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

– Philippians 4:23,14 (NLT)

 

…this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.

– Matthew 26:28 (VOICE)

 

Photo taken by Susie Stewart

Equip

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20,21 (NIV)

 

The God of peace

our promise-keeping

covenant God

Who brought our

Life

out of the grave

 

He will equip us

with everything good

for doing what He intends for us to do

today

 

and work in us to reveal

what pleases Him

 

It is all through Jesus

our Shepherd who leads us

 

Glory to God

 

– Susie Stewart

 

May God, who puts all things together,
makes all things whole,
Who made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus,
the sacrifice of blood that sealed the eternal covenant,
Who led Jesus, our Great Shepherd,
up and alive from the dead,
Now put you together, provide you
with everything you need to please Him,
Make us into what gives Him most pleasure,
by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah.
All glory to Jesus forever and always!
Oh, yes, yes, yes.

– Hebrews 13:20,21 (MSG)

 

Photo taken by Susie Stewart

Chocolate Truffles & Bacon

Chocolate truffles and bacon

 

That’s all it took

 

for me to fall into the ditch

from my higher road

 

Resolved to eat better,

I was on my way

 

less sweets

less carbs

more exercise

 

The usual song and dance

for many a New Year enthusiast

 

only 13 days in…

 

But it had been a rough day

and I really wanted to eat bacon

and I really wanted to eat truffles

 

and I jumped in

with both feet

 

Not just a little

 

but a lot

 

and man it tasted good!

 

Then

the after…

 

the feeling crummy

the regret

the guilt

the sigh

 

Isn’t it that way with sin?

 

Without vigilance

we can find ourselves

up to our necks in it

 

Sin can be so tasty

 

But there is always the after

 

and in Jesus

we are free from those chains!

 

Sin reigns no more in us

because of Christ!

 

So when we choose to sin

it’s like bacon and chocolate truffles

 

It is blatant

or

it’s because we haven’t taken up our armor

 

Something is slipping

 

and I have left myself exposed

without a piece of my armor

 

Flesh exposed

 

And I’m not just talking

about the supposed “biggies” of sin

 

How often do we know

the Holy Spirit is pricking our hearts

when we start to speak gossip about another?

 

And we know we should stop

but we’ve already started

so we jump in deeper

because we’re already there

 

Run from sin’s snare!

 

Christ will fight for us

We need to surrender to Him

 

Don’t be burdened with slavery

free Warrior

 

– Susie Stewart

 

 

Version 2

 

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

– Exodus 14:14 (NIV)

 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

– Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

 

Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

– Ephesians 6:10-18 (NLT)

 

Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

– Romans 6:12-14 (NLT)

 

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Photos taken by Susie Stewart and Arik Stewart

 

 

 

 

Not Safe

We are not all called to go to El Salvador, or Moscow, or Calcutta, or even the slums of New York, but none of us will escape the moment when we have to decide whether to withdraw, to play it safe, or to act upon what we prayerfully believe to be right, knowing that with all our prayers we may be wrong, and knowing that we will probably be punished by those who do not want universe-disturbers to stand up and be counted. Perhaps what we are called to do may not seem like much, but the butterfly is a small creature to affect galaxies thousands of light years away.
– Madeleine L’Engle

 

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow Me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed Him.

A little farther up the shore He saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And He called them to come, too. They immediately followed Him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
– Matthew 4:18-22 (NLT)

 

Life is short, hell is hot and eternity is forever!!! The world has NEVER been impacted by Christians who spend their whole lives in a car seat and beg God to never let anything bad happen to them!

Ask HIM to set you on fire with HIS plans…and THEN GO FOR IT!

– Perry Noble

 

 

My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus’ words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to Him.

– David Platt

 

Photo Taken by Arik Stewart

 

 

His Love

“I have trouble recognizing and absorbing God’s love for me,” my husband shared as we were eating leftovers together.

“Tell me more,” I said.

“Well, you know how the Bible tells us over and over about how much God loves us?  I don’t know.  I just have trouble applying that to myself.”

A good, honest assessment.

“Sweetie, think about how much you love your kids, and how they make you so proud, and you love to be with them, and how that video on Youtube about daughters growing up made you cry the other day?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, God sees you that way.  And He loves you even more than you love those kids.”

Pause…. He’s thinking…

I go on.

“And what if I responded mechanically and business-like to your love for me?  How would you like that?”

“I’d hate it.”

“Well, I don’t think we should be responding to God’s love like that either.”

Thinking some more….

“You need to let God love you and let it make you smile.  Really smile!  And respond to His love.”

 

I think things started to sink in for Mr. Logical.  And I so appreciate that he has always been a good listener.

He knows what love for others feels like.

He knows he doesn’t want to receive a mechanical or distant response from the people he loves.

And he also knows how good and encouraging it feels to be loved by people.

 

God put this love in our hearts.

 

We can’t see Him

but He loves us extravagantly

in so many ways

not the least of which was the ultimate sacrifice –

Life.

 

Soak in His love!

 

Notice Him loving you through people

notice Him loving you through nature

notice Him loving you through the Bible

notice Him loving you through “coincidences”

even notice Him loving you through difficulties

and discipline.

 

Notice Him

and love Him back.

 

There is nothing better in this life

than to know that God loves you and to love Him in return.

– Susie Stewart

 

 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;

and,

Love your neighbor as yourself.

– Luke 10:27 (NIV)

 

Love must be sincere..

– Romans 12:9 (NIV)

 

Photo taken by Nicole Stewart