Friday, May 10, 2019

What My Mother Taught Me by Example



What joy for my mom to experience her first Mother’s Day in Heaven! It feels strange to not get her a card or a gift this year, but she is feasting on all the riches of God's grace, basking in His eternal light, where there is no more tears or pain. So instead, I’ll honor her for Mother’s Day by sharing some of the things she taught me, mostly by example.

If you don’t have a mom you can brag on, I hope you will be blessed by my mom’s example and find much to learn and emulate. If you feel you've fallen short as a mom, remember none of us are perfect, and it's never too late to become a legacy. (click to tweet)


First, my mother taught me to love thy neighbor. Mom liked everyone and treated everyone the same no matter what their situation or background. She always thought the best of people, wasn't critical and didn't judge them. 

She wasn’t a gossip – I never heard her gossip with friends. As a teen, if I was on the phone with a friend and she thought the conversation turned to gossip, she would make me get off the phone. (That was when phones were attached to the wall in the main part of the house.)

Although she was an artist, when it came to people, she didn’t see color. 

My mother had honesty and integrity. I never witnessed my mother cheat in any way.

She was very forgiving (as was my dad).

My mother wasn’t shy (I wish I inherited that from her). She would talk to anyone, and she wore a smile whether she was smiling on the inside or not. She was welcoming and hospitable.

From her I learned to be a good and devoted wife. I learned to weather the storms that come in marriage. She and my dad were married 72 years, literally through good times and bad. I learned forgiveness, strength and perseverance from watching her (although I'm sure my dad made it easy being as good-natured as he was). I learned it is worth it to stick together in the bad times and not give up.

Mom loved gardening, however, I did not inherit her green thumb. The picture below is her standing with some of her harvest at the entrance to her garden. My dad had the sign made for her. 

She taught me much about nutrition and organic foods. She often repeated what her mother used to say, "What are they doing to our foods!" Did you know the dandelion, those fuzzy yellow flowers people try feverishly to rid their lawns of, is one of the most nutritious foods on earth? My parents used to pick the greens and put them in their salads.

One of mom’s many talents was coming up with poems off the top of her head. For fun, I thought I’d share a few of them.

Ode to the Dandelion

When God created planet earth
He planned it all for our rebirth.
Then satan came and had a plan
To spoil it all and poison man.

He said, “Don’t’ eat this weed, it’s not for you,”
And killed it all wherever it grew.
And God was sad and He was not pleased,
He knew that man would be diseased.

The plans God had for man to flourish
Meant now that man would not be nourished.
What can we do to stop this evil?
And change the course of this upheaval?

Look to God and all He gifted,
And then your health will be uplifted.
© Alice Arakelian, February 2017

Mom also loved bird watching. One day when my Dad was failing with Dementia, she sat on her porch watching the birds at her feeder. She noticed one looked different than the others and upon a closer look, discovered it had a broken wing. Here is the poem that came to her:

O little bird with broken wing,
How lovely that you still can sing.
You fly around from place to place,
Ignoring what you have to face.

When other birds push you aside,
You wait your turn and still abide.
If I like you could sit and wait,
I would not fret about my fate.

God made us both, I’m told it’s true.
If only I could be like you!
© Alice L. Arakelian, June 2014

This is the poem she wrote literally while my dad was passing:

Relax, my love, it’s time for you
To join the loved ones who raised you.
Mother, sisters, Walter, too,
All the family you once knew

When God says it’s my time too,
I’ll spend eternity with you
© Alice Arakelian, March 4, 2017

Unlike my Dad, Mom had her wits to the very end. And witty she was. When her health was failing and we knew it was getting close to the end, my daughter and niece flew in to visit her. Five days before her final breath, she was sitting up on her bed visiting, talking and even making us belly laugh. What a sweet time!

My mom had a simple faith; it wasn't full of theology or religion, it was just pure faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on that old rugged cross for our sins.

My mom loved to read and learn. As a result, she was one of the smartest people I've known. One of the books she read consistently was the Bible. (Even her little doggie loved when she read it.)

Her example prompted me to read mine as a young girl. Soon, I was hooked. This book made me want to follow the Jesus I was reading about and saw in her.

Over the years, we had many opportunities to discuss what we were reading in our Bibles or devotionals. One such discussion was about Mom's favorite hymn, My Jesus I Love Thee*. A young Methodist teenager who had recently become a believer originally wrote this hymn as a poem in 1864. William Ralph Featherston didn’t have the longevity my parents had, though. He died at age 27. Several years later, Adoniram Judson Gordon (founder of Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) put the poem to music and published it in his book of hymns.

So fitting were the words for my mother’s memorial service, we had my daughter sing it, because I just know she’s in that mansion of glory with a glittering crown upon her brow, singing in that beautiful voice she used to have, “If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, tis now”.

Tell me about your mom. What is your favorite memory of her? Leave your answers in comments. I can’t wait to read them.

*My Jesus, I love Thee 

My Jesus I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Will You Pray? (Warning: Controversial Topic Ahead)


Warning: Controversial topic ahead.

My heart is heavy. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent (Ecclesiastes 3:7). And there are some things I, we, should not be silent about, things which clearly and blatantly go against God’s laws. Maybe it’s time to overturn some tables.

God’s commandments, whether one chooses to believe in Him or not, are the things that make our society decent, civilized and peaceful. Those
commandments were given to all for our good. For example:

You shall not murder. Exodus 20:13
You shall not commit adultery. Exodus 20:14

When we ignore and go against God’s commandments, we suffer consequences. Furthermore, we become desensitized, heartless and irresponsible, resulting in a lawless, unruly, chaotic society.

Sadly, this sounds much like our country today.

Desensitized – no conscience.

Heartless – no compassion.

Irresponsible – self-centered.

No thought of another human being; no respect for lifeeven if it’s a helpless infant.

Who have we become?

This is not a political, economic or social problem. We have a spiritual problem. We have shut God out of our society, and we are becoming what is described in the following verse as a result.

... men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God… 
2 Timothy 3:1-4 NKJV

Is this the world we want for our children and grandchildren?

Verse 6 goes on to talk about gullible women led away by various lusts… Let that sink in for a moment.

I will – we must – speak up for the helpless, voiceless unborn, whether we’re accused of intolerance or not. Do not let them call us intolerant; our silence and tolerance is precisely what has brought us to this point. (click to tweet)

Open your mouth for the speechless,
In the cause of all who are appointed to die.
Proverbs 31:8 NKJV

My husband often comments that we have to save the turtles and protect the baby turtle eggs, yet we can abort our own fetuses. Our regard for animal life is remarkable, but what has happened to us when we have so little regard for human life?

  the Lord hates …  hands that shed innocent blood …   
Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV

I’ve had three children. I fell in love with each one long before they were born. I admit I don't understand how a woman could carry a child inside her for nine months – feel it move, kick, hiccup; hear its heartbeat; find out the gender; even see its little face and its mouth sucking its thumb through ultrasound – and destroy it just before or after it is born. If it takes her that long to decide to abort, perhaps she shouldn't? I'm not saying earlier makes it right; but a fully formed baby she's carried for nine months? Or even one she's birthed?

Listen to this further description…

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
Romans 1:28-31 ESV (emphasis mine)

What will the consequences be for us as a nation? (Be sure to watch the important video included at the end of this blog, which answers this question.)

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows,
that will he also reap. Galatians 6:7 NKJV

Additionally, there are emotional consequences after a woman has had an abortion.1 How much worse will the emotional ramifications be for women who terminate their babies late or full term, or more inconceivably, after birth?

We women DO have a choice what we do with our body. We can choose not to have sex outside of marriage. We can choose to use birth control. We can choose adoption (there are so many desperately waiting). Unselfish and hard choices, but nonetheless, choices.



That little body is not the woman’s body, inside or outside the womb.

That little body has a different blood type and an entirely separate DNA, even a completely different thumbprint. It is another, individual human being.2

I believe a women’s choice ends in the bedroom.

It’s not up to us to decide who gets to live and who has to die. (Job 1:21)

Maybe we’re all responsible for this unfathomable practice in a way. We’ve not only been too tolerant and silent, perhaps we've been too prayer-less. Perhaps we’ve been too busy to pay attention to what’s happening in the world, too busy to read and know our Bibles, too busy to spend enough fervent time in prayer for the situations that face our society (studies show only 12% pray for our country3). I hear all the time that people don't have time for fervent prayer and reading their Bibles.* Yet, we find time for other things – our workouts, spa appointments, and our favorite sports or reality TV shows. And what about shopping for that latest fad so we can keep up with the proverbial Joneses?

So, what can we do now?

  • First, we can resolve to pray. We must pray. I cannot stress enough how important this is. Will you commit to pray for our country and its leaders? (1 Timothy 2:1-2) Will you pray for women with unwanted pregnancies to do the right thing? 
  •  Second, we can turn back to God and His ways. The Bible tells us, If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV. We can turn to the Lord in prayer and read His word consistently to have personal revival. Can you imagine if we all did this?
  • We can also speak up, get involved and/or make applicable donations. 4 How is your church or organization supporting pregnant and unwed mothers? How can you get involved or start something to help these women? (There are CareNet centers all over the country (www.care-net.org) with which you can partner.
  • Will you call or write your senators? Let’s flood the U.S. Capitol Switchboard! (202-224-3121)
  • I received a request recently to pray for our country at 9 pm (Eastern time) every night. My alarm is set. Will you set yours?

There is power in prayer:

If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. John 14:14 NKJV

God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think… Ephesians 3:20 NKJV

But let it not be said of us:

You do not have because you do not ask. James 4:2 NKJV

Lord, forgive us our debts…

For further consideration, I implore you to watch the following video.    


What about you? What other ideas do you have to be proactive and change the course of this heartbreaking situation? Join the conversation in the comments. (Only positive, helpful comments, please.)

If you have had an abortion: God loves you, no matter what you have done. Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). Please know there is forgiveness through Jesus Christ. The Bible says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Peace and freedom is found through Him. We are invited to “come confidently to His throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). I encourage you to ask His forgiveness, and then read Psalm 51.

If you are pregnant and don’t know what to do, there is loving help and support available. Call Care Net at (800) 518-7909.

Thank You, Lord, for Your love, grace and mercy.






Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.
Psalm 33:12 NKJV


Thank you for reading this heartfelt blog. Will you pray for our country and pray for revival? We all can pray more.   

*Please watch for my book Pursuing PRAYER  coming this fall. You can follow my blog for updates (see "follow" on the right). Thanks for stopping by and God bless!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

What if Pilgrims Could Talk to Us Today?


If Pilgrims could talk to us today, what do you think they would say? 

With all the unrest and division in our country, do you think they would be deeply saddened? Do you think they would be disheartened to see what has happened to the ideals of faith they brought to this country?

The pilgrims fled the very religious tyranny which threatens us again today in this country. They sacrificed all and risked their lives in order to gain civil and religious liberty, not just for themselves, but for you and for me.

Many suffered dangers, setbacks and imprisonment before they even boarded the boat. Many did not survive the voyage or the first winter’s cold and hardships. But the ones who did survive sat down to give thanks to God for their newfound freedom as they feasted on the abundance of their new home - venison, cod and corn.

What do you think pilgrims would tell you if they sat at your Thanksgiving table? (click to tweet)

Perhaps one thing they would tell us about is a little-known historical monument that sits on an 11-acre hilltop in Plymouth, Massachusetts, which memorializes our forefathers' ideals. Completed in 1888, it took 38 years to erect, and it contains a sort of blueprint for those ideals, the only ideals that have ever been successful.  

But many Plymouth residents, like many of us, are unaware of its existence or take it for granted. I lived in Massachusetts for the first half of my life and never knew it existed, until 2012 when Kirk Cameron made a documentary about it titled, Monumental.

Formerly known as the Plymouth Monument, it is now called the National Monument to the Forefathers. This 81-foot tall solid granite tribute is the largest granite monument in the world. 

An inscribed dedication reads, “National Monument to the Forefathers. Erected by a grateful people in remembrance of their labors, sacrifices and sufferings for the cause of civil and religious liberty.” (emphasis mine).

As described in the film, a brave statue of Faith prominently sits at the very top of the granite monument and faces northeast toward Plymouth England. In one hand he holds a Bible and the other points toward heaven, toward the God of the Bible, because that is where his faith and freedom come from. The pilgrims knew this was the only thing that could bring true liberty – faith in the one true God.

Under Faith is carved four figures - Morality, Law, Education and Liberty. These symbolize the pilgrims’ values, part of the recipe of what built America, the recipe that has brought more liberty than anywhere else in the world.

Some of the other figures symbolize evangelism which represents the need for the spiritually liberating Gospel; civil law and order which come from God’s laws; liberty, which is the fruit of obeying; education from the Word of God.

Education wears a wreath of victory to symbolize that victory results from training children in the ways of God.(click to tweet) This training was meant to begin in youth, was the parents’ responsibility and was meant to be passed from generation to generation.
And these words that I command you 
today shall be on your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.   Deuteronomy 6:6-7

There is so much more to this monument – it’s truly "monumental." If you haven’t seen the documentary, what a wonderful Thanksgiving movie it would make for your family.

If we ever forget what made this country so prosperous, we can look at this monument’s symbols and learn how to regain it. The early pilgrims knew liberty is a long-term blessing for doing things God’s way. (click to tweet)
 
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD. Psalm 33:12

Perhaps it's not so much what the pilgrims would tell us, but what we need to remember. May we never forget what made this nation so strong and so successful. May we embrace the Biblical values that blessed our country, and may we continue to pray for our great nation and its leaders. And May God bless America! 


Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

(Revised and re-posted from Nov. 19, 2016)

What about you? Did you know about this monument, and have you had the privilege of visiting it? What do you think pilgrims would say today?


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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Write On... - Encouragement for Writers (and Anyone Who Doubts Their Ability)

This blog is for participation in the writing contest: "You Are Enough," hosted by Positive Writer -http://positivewriter.com/writing-contest-you-are-enough/


I wrote most of this about a year ago in the midst of a difficult time of many challenges and doubts. Sometimes we writers write for ourselves. At least that’s who I thought this one was for. Then I discovered the “You Are Enough” writer’s contest to encourage other writers. So, I share it with you now as proof that "you are enough." 

Write On...

Writing can be scary. It’s vulnerability. It’s turning oneself inside out. That’s particularly frightening because many writers are introverts. Consequently, writing and all the publicizing that goes with it are counter-intuitive.

As an introvert myself, writing creates a battle within me. I’d surely rather go hide in a bunker, safe from attacks, keep my vulnerability to myself and never produce anything that can be scrutinized. But the words in my heart and the desire to inspire and encourage others won’t leave me alone. I can’t escape them even in the bunker. They follow me there and beg to be given life. I can’t keep them shut up. I must return to the battle so I can set them free. So I will be free.

But there’s other words that threaten me. Maybe you hear them, too – the voices in your head. They follow me everywhere. They shout, "You're not good enough!" They mock, jeer and scoff at my meager efforts. "You'll never do this," they laugh. If I'm not diligent, the voices in my head will obliterate the words in my heart.

In addition to the inner voices, there’s outer voices. Have you heard them, the voices of criticism or rejection? They are the most intimidating and seem to confirm, you really aren’t good enough. (Beware, sometimes they communicate silently as a lack and affirmation.)

If I weren’t an introvert to begin with, they’d surely make one out of me.

“Run, Penny, run!” the voices in my head plead.

Not to mention the land mines life has put in my path as deterrents – sicknesses, deaths, hurricanes… All in all, I feel like I’m in a war zone trying to find my weapon that was blown out of my hand by the last grenade that exploded in my path.

That’s just what it is – a war. It’s a war with doubt, fear and insecurity. It’s those enemies who keep bullying us and throwing those grenades, chasing us back into the bunker.

But, just because there’s a war doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight it. Just because there’s enemies doesn’t mean we can’t win. What if those enemies are just trying to get us to stop the good words that could bless others? The Bible says there's an enemy who tries to stop anything good.* Perhaps it’s him who shouts the lies and throws the grenades. He always aims at the very heart and mind. He’s determined to warp the voices and halt the words. He’s been lying and opposing God’s good words since the beginning of time.

Good things don't come easy. We are to fight the good fight** because our words are needed in a hurting world. Realizing this, we must write on. God will be with us in the battle and will give us the victory.*** He hands us back our weapon and whispers, “Write on, warrior. I am with you.”

Author Robert Benson said, “Anyone can write when it’s easy. Writers write when it’s hard.” And so I write on. I write what I cannot contain. As I continue to write the words in my heart they become louder than the other voices, even though they may be gentler.

You, too, were given words. Listen carefully. Can you hear them? The very fact you were given those words is proof they are meant to be shared, and they are enough. You've been entrusted with them because you are enough. 

Please do not withdraw into the bunker of insecurity and fear. Someone in their own kind of war needs your words. Your words are a reprieve from their battlefield, healing to their battle wounds.

So rise up out of the bunker, warrior. Grab your weapon and write on…

(I’m so thankful I did. I recently signed my first book contract!)

*Ephesians 6:12
**2 Timothy 4:7
***1 Corinthians 15:57-58


 “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~Maya Angelou
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” ~Richard Bach 
 “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” ~Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, July 19, 2018

From Hurting to Happy (Marriage, Part 2) – 3 Essential Components to Power Up Your Marriage




On the morning of December 27, 2017, Disneyland tweeted: “Why not relax and join us for a vacation to a galaxy far, far away. What's the worst that could happen?"

Later that morning, fantasy was halted when a glitch in a transformer caused a major power failure. Guests had to be rescued and escorted off rides, including the hot monorail. It took up to five hours for various attractions to be restored. Peak season crowds were angry and frustrated. 

I guess not all their dreams came true that day at the happiest place on Earth.

Disney communicates a continuous “what’s the worst that could happen” message with their “happily ever after” stories. But many couples’ feelings vanish after the wedding like Olaf in summer.

There was a time I felt the power went out in my fairy tale marriage. It wasn’t feeling so magical anymore, and I thought I married the wrong person.

Apparently, my husband felt the same. One night he told me he didn't want to be married anymore. I cried and prayed all through that dark, unsettling night. Although I wasn't happy either, I didn't want to break up my family. After hours of heartfelt prayer, I sensed God impress on me to love and understand my husband.

"But, Lord, I don't even like him right now," I rebelled. 

I continued to pray, and a peace began to cast a ray of light across my darkest night. I recalled things I’d heard. Things like, 


And, 


(Not exactly a Disney message.) 
 
Could it be that God was at work in the brokenness of our marriage?

I began to have hope that there actually could be a dawn coming if I worked through this dark time, that the “power” could actually be restored.

Sometimes marriage can be Disney-like, but in reality, Disney is a place we visit, not a place we reside. Marriage, relationships, life, is full of ups and downs, and there may be times when the power goes out in the middle of our roller coaster.

Powerful feelings get us to the wedding, but we need a different power to sustain the marriage.
 
Where I live in Florida, our power company is called Florida Power and Light, aka “FPL.” I have my own words for the acronym FPL – three powerful components that can amp up our relationships and keep our marriages charged.

F is for forgive – We cannot live in the past, we can only learn from it. If we hold on to anger and resentment in our relationships, we halt present and future growth. Our marriages are to be an example of Christ's love for his people.

Colossians 3:13 tells us, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” 

How did the Lord forgive? “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Christ didn’t wait for us to change; He gave us a reason to change. 

What grudges towards your spouse might you be holding?


P is for prayer. Storms will come in our marriages and can leave us feeling powerless, but if we are patient and persistent in prayer, God’s power is released to work in our situation.

Jesus told us to always pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1). Galatians 6:9 states we will reap if we do not give up. 

Prayer is like a conductor wire leading to the power source. Whether we connect and the amount of voltage we receive is up to us.

Are you fervently, continuously praying for your spouse and your marriage? 

When we are receptacles of God’s power, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

L is for love – not the feelings of love, the commitment to love. You see, love is a verb. It can be a noun (as in, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” or “Love is an Open Door”), but when we say, "I love you," it's a verb. A verb denotes action. In essence, we're saying, “I will love you.” That's what wedding vows are – a commitment to love in action, in good times and in bad, whether our spouse does so or not.

As I stated in Part One of this blog on marriage, “The way to receive is to give (Acts 20:35). The way to be loved is to love (Matthew 7:2).”


Love binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:14) and covers a multitude of offenses (Proverbs 10:12).

We get to love, and then watch a miracle!

The problem with "love" is, we think it's suppose to be a feeling, and happiness is the goal. (Thanks, Disney.) Successful marriage should be our goal, and success does not happen without hard work; it's doing what needs to be done whether we feel like it or not. 

I assure you, my husband and I were not feeling love at the time I told you about. What God impressed on me was to act in love, not to feel love. Feelings of love cannot be commanded, but the action of love can.

This can be hard, but it turns out, God is in the power business. First John 4:7 says, “God is love.” He is the source of love, and His love is powerful. God is the infinite, eternal power source we can plug into any time, if we will. 

Disney should not be our model for marriage. God should.

What short circuits your ability to love your spouse unconditionally?

It took several months for healing to begin in our marriage. There were several difficult years for our family. It wasn't easy but it was worth it. God was faithful to provide the love I needed to get through as I prayed for His help and guidance. The more I acted in love, the more my husband felt loved and acted the same. The miracle is that these actions turned into feelings. What a powerful thing! God fixed things in our relationship I thought could never be fixed.

Love won!

Disney was right about one thing. Love really is an open door.

How about you? Is your marriage not quite the happiest place on earth? Has the power gone out in your fairy tale? Do you need God’s direct power current of forgiveness, prayer and love in action flowing through your relationship? 

Just as FPL must get its power from a natural source, God is our power source. As long as we stay connected to Him, we can restore power back to our marriages through our own "FPL." 

Join the conversation. How long have you been married? What marriage advice do you have to share? I welcome your comments here and on social media.

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See Part One of this blog on marriage here: How Did You Always Hear It Should Be?

See Facebook live video that introduces this blog: https://bit.ly/2LBjCqE