MY HUSBAND by Susan Stedman
My husband stole my heart like a crook
With a wink and a sexy come-hither look
I didn’t run and give into my fears
Last week we celebrated thirty-five years
The best thing of all, he’s the world’s greatest cook!
If I ... Would You? by Susan Stedman
If I told you how much I wanted you,
Would you give yourself to me?
And if I told you my heart sings for you,
Would you make music with me?
And if I told you there's light in me now,
Would you keep shining for me?
And if I told you I see life in your arms,
Would you wrap them around me?
And if I told you I hear peace on your lips,
Would you press them against me?
And if I told you I see wisdom in your heart,
Would you share some with me?
And if I told you I see strength in your eyes,
Would you let them watch over me?
And if I told you the depth of my trust in you,
Would you keep that faith for me?
And if I told you how much I needed you,
Would you need me too?
And if I told you how much love I have,
Would you let me give it all to you?
PERSEVERING by Susan Stedman
A day does not pass when your children are not aggressively attacked
By our brothers who have been blinded by the enemy
Cancel the culture that grows like a cancer on the land
Don’t turn your face from your dear daughters and dutiful sons
Each of us needs You more than ever before, Emmanuel
For we are fighting to keep our feet on course
Give us help, the gift of your gracious mercy
Heal us, hear us, hold us in your righteous right hand
In every instance, we live in your ideal identity
Justice from you will free the jaded from their earthly jailers
King of all, keep us safe in the palm of your kindly hand
Let us live to feel your love and liberty in every step we take
Make the ones who march against us have no means to harm us
Never let the naysayers break our necessary resolve
Oh Lord, open the eyes of the others who have been led astray
Prepare us to give a proper answer that will persuade them to believe
Quickly come to our defense, quicken our hearts to hear your quiet voice
Rescue the ones who have no rest, give resolve and resilience to the weary
Save us from the scornful as we surrender our sacrifice of praise
Touch our souls to strengthen our trust in your perfect timing
Unbelievers surround us, undermining our efforts
Very elect may turn away, vulnerable and visibly lost
We tear down strongholds with our weapons of warfare that are not of this world
Xenophobes we are called when we don’t embrace their xenic ideals
Your promise is to save us, as we yield our lives to You
Zero fear allows us to stand at the zenith with zealous thanksgiving to Your Name.
by Brenda Johnson
Making the Bible “come alive in prayer” means praying God’s Word back to Him. It means to speak prophetically over your desires, concerns, needs, issues, and problems.
It seems easy enough when we simply repeat or quote a scripture, ex., Is 53:5, “…by His stripes I am healed…”
Often our prayers are for selfish reasons rather than the desires of God. Yes, He wants us healed, but our innermost motive to quote this verse may be just to get out of an affliction or discomfort. Not realizing that God is using it for greater purposes. His purpose is for the life of your soul.
Going a little deeper into our prayer using this scripture means peeling away what God may be showing us in the way He wants us to be healed.
Is. 53:5 (NKJV) “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”
Redirect your prayer focus differently.
Start by reflecting upon “the woundedness He suffered for your transgressions.” Think about it!
The center of our affliction might be our transgressions. Our healing just may come from our sorrowful confessions rather than simply quoting scripture.
What do I mean?
For example; to get healing from hypertension headaches, perhaps we may need to pray for forgiveness for dishonoring the temple, our body, by poor eating habits, alcoholism, or something else. Or perhaps offering in a prayer of confession unforgiveness held toward someone for a hurt, word, or injustice against us.
His stripes become our stripes (headaches), rather than the enjoyment of peace for unconfessed sin.
Prayer should be directed to Him not in vain repetition or following traditions, but it should be from the heart. Contemplate His Word and be reflective of our own words and thoughts.
By habitual repetition we will quote Matt. 5:9-13, the Lord's Prayer, Psalm 23, and say “grace” at mealtime.
We do not wish to negate repeating these scriptures or a heartfelt prayer you have learned. What we want to do here is emphasize making the Bible come alive in our prayers by going deeper in understanding scripture and what we can do and say to bring it to life for our needs.
Whether recitation, speaking the Word, or delving deeper into your heart during prayer, remember to speak life and enjoy the Word coming alive in you.
by Terry Warner
Happy New Year to all who venture to read this!
We traditionally send happy wishes to family and friends during the first few days of January. What do we really mean by our well wishes? What does it really mean to be happy? Have you ever wondered what it would take to make you happy?
Solomon had everything life had to offer, so what did he have to say? There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. God granted Solomon wisdom which was and still is pleasing to God. Solomon submitted to God’s authority and showed honor by prioritizing his life to glorify God. We too are to prioritize our time and all the things we do in our life to the glory of God.
My memory verse for this year is Proverbs 21:21 which says: ”He that follows after righteousness and mercy finds life, righteousness, and honor.” I do like practical ways to contemplate and plan how I will navigate the new year. I enjoy self-reflection and self-improvement as my new year’s resolutions. Please join me in evaluating the best plan to obtain happiness continuing into 2023.
First, prayer should be the number one priority for every believer. Talking to God about our day and the interactions with the people we encounter is imperative to actively glorify God. I suggest that you take the first moment you wake up in the morning to express thankfulness and gratitude to our Creator. Then, the next thing directed to God should be the question, “Lord, what would you like from me today?” Finally, find a daily devotional or a reading of scripture that speaks best to you. Starting a routine of this will hopefully give you a desire for more daily direction from the Holy Spirit.
Second, cultivate new and old relationships continually bringing honor and glory to Jesus. All of us encounter people who are difficult to love, so did Jesus. Think of someone you need to exemplify the Lord’s unconditional love to. It could be a daily challenge to love the unlovely or make time for others. If you need some guidance in dealing with different people and interaction situations, read Tammy Melton’s book on “Refining Relationships.” Also, let’s all keep in communion with one another by encouraging our efforts through our monthly “Whole Life Today” group on Tuesday nights 7-8 pm through Zoom.
Finally, don’t forget to give the best care you can give to yourself. Remember, there are times that it is very healthy to think of yourself first. You are very important! You are not able to do your best in the good work for Jesus or serve others if you are not the best version of yourself. So please be very proactive in self-care! Your mind, body, and soul will thank you.
God Bless you as you become the very best person you were created to be, this year of 2024 and beyond!
by Susan Stedman
In just over a year, I will be 60 years old. Wow, technically I knew this, but seeing it in black and white really makes it seem true. I don’t really believe it. I don’t know how I could be that old. I’m probably adding something wrong somewhere.
The reason I know it can’t be true is how clear my memory is of the one activity I love to do most at Christmas Time. I’ve been doing this all my life, as long as I can remember. It was much easier when I was smaller. I try never to judge people, but I remember that we used to visit a lot of relatives during the month of December. No one knew about my litmus test back then, but I did it to everyone until they deemed me too old to be crawling on their floor. So, probably around the age of fifteen, I had to be more discreet. That doesn’t mean I stopped. I just stopped doing it when people were around.
So, what is this terrible secret I hide that comes out every December?
I crawl under Christmas trees, lie on my back, and look up through the branches.
Ornaments don’t fascinate me. It’s the lights that draw me to my Christmas addiction. And tinsel. Only because tinsel reflects the lights so that it seems like they are doubled or tripled in number. The best time to do it is when all the other lights are off in the house and only the twinkling, colored dots above me are visible.
I don’t know how this began, nor why it is such a thrill for me, but twinkling lights have the power to hypnotize me. Not only on Christmas trees, but that is just where they grow thickest. I can lay there all night watching them and I get so much peace from doing it that I resent having to leave them.
Maybe it’s because many people are on their best behavior at Christmas. Moms and Dads don’t argue so much. Brothers and sisters don’t fight over things because they get their own toys. Grand- parents aren’t sad because families come to see them and spend time at their houses. Christmas songs are on the stereo. Christmas shows are on tv.
Best of all, it is the time that we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Love abounds when we put Him first. Love and peace seem to come together as a holiday package and it doesn’t cost a thing to give that gift to someone. A friend, a neighbor, a stranger on the street. Everyone loves that Christmas Spirit.
I never thought much about it until this year but I realized that there is more to this than just my addiction to sparkly lights. I looked it up in the Bible and wasn’t surprised that I didn’t find anything about Christmas lights, but I did find the following verse from James 1:7.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning.”
So this Christmas time, I recommend you lay down on your floor and back yourself up under your tree. While you look up at the light show, remember the Father of lights and His Christmas gift to the world, His son, Jesus.
by Donna Butler
Mistletoe for kissing loved ones,
Shimmering garland on a tree,
Dancing colored lights that bring smiles
As they brightly create a scene.
Festive wreaths adorning doors
Huge blow-ups that stand tall,
Ornaments of every shape and size
You couldn’t even imagine them all.
Elaborate trees in decorated houses
Carols that stir your soul to joy
But, don’t forget the REASON we celebrate,
Remember it began with a royal baby boy.
From the very throne of Heaven
A perfect plan from God’s own heart,
And through many years, tears, and colorful peers,
The line of David was set apart.
Then, a willing “yes” from a humble virgin
A faith-filled step of an obedient man,
A choice to embark on the word of angels
to bring us the holy Lamb.
So, as we celebrate this wonderful season
And we purchase such thoughtful gifts,
Remember that the real Present
Became the sacrificial ram that continues to give.
By Susan Stedman
Secretly, Laura had never wanted to leave Mema’s house. She got all the love and security in her life from those two. She lifted her head when she felt the car stop, surprised that they were parked in Mema’s driveway already. They were the first to arrive.
There was Mema, opening the side door, saying, “Git in this house before you freeze!”
Laura smiled, a bittersweet tear on her cheek. Granddaddy had been gone for twelve years now, with the last five years of his life spent with his tall frame hunched and shrunken in a wheelchair. She remembered how she had ridden on his shoulders while watching the Christmas parade in person, a whole foot higher than everyone around them. As his disease progressed, she had watched his beautiful ice-blue eyes fade and go cloudy; she had held his hand and sang to him the day he died in hospice. Holidays had never been the same for her. Mema had even closed the fireplace and used it only for decoration now.
An obscure Bible verse flashed into her mind. She had never understood exactly what it meant, but today, it was amply clear. “Do not say ‘Why were the old days better than this?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10).
Entering the house, she paused to kiss Mema’s cheek. Despite the extra heat in the house, her skin felt very cold today. Her cheek seemed almost translucent, thin as rice paper, with many more wrinkles than the last time she’d seen her. In less than a month, Mema would be 93 years old. Laura’s mind reeled briefly. How had that happened?
Mema still smiled. She still greeted each descendent with a hug as they came in the door.
Within the half-hour, her mother, sister, two nephews, and niece had arrived. Mema tottered around her immaculately clean kitchen while Laura and her sister laid out the spread. Mema had to ask Joe to open jars for her and Laura saw how gnarled her once-artistically beautiful hands had twisted with arthritis. Yet despite all this, she had spent days putting up elaborate decorations for the children.
Throughout the day, Laura only found herself annoyed when someone got exasperated with Mema’s behaviors. Laura didn’t get upset when Mema repeated the same stories she’d heard dozens of times. She didn’t mind talking much louder so Mema could hear without misperceptions. She didn’t mind cleaning the kitchen and putting away all the holiday trimmings.
Laura spent the whole day watching Mema. She was devastated when, several times, she saw Mema stop and look around in confusion as if she had forgotten something important. What had happened in such a short time?
Another scripture popped into Laura’s mind. God was attentive to her today, He knew what she was feeling. “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18)
Laura got out of her comfy chair, crossed the crowded room, and sat down on the floor at Mema’s feet, laying her head on her grandmother’s lap. It surprised Mema but delighted her, too.
Once again, God sent her another word, two from Job. “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”
Much later, as everyone packed their vehicles and were getting ready to leave, Laura hugged Mema very tight and kept hugging for so long that even Mema was surprised.
“What was that for?” she asked.
“I just realized I was missing you a lot,” Laura confessed.
She handed Mema her Bible and opened to Isaiah 46:4. In halting words, Mema squinted and read out loud.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
Mema understood. She hugged Laura once more and kissed her cheek.
Laura was unusually quiet all the way home, not afraid now to leave Mema alone because she was in much better hands than her own. She would miss her like crazy when her time came, but she knew that her grandmother would just be relocating and someday, Laura would see her again.
By Susan Stedman
Wasn’t Thanksgiving supposed to be a happy time? Peace on earth, goodwill towards men, and all that stuff? That was the farthest thing from Laura’s mind when the alarm went off at 7am. On a holiday, nonetheless! Wasn’t that illegal somewhere? “It should be,” she grumbled, morning breath making her wrinkle up her nose. You worked five days a week and you were supposed to at least get to sleep late on a holiday! She could even hear her whine inside her own head.
Taking every precaution not to make a sound, she made it down to the kitchen without waking the kids. She had to make a squash casserole, two dozen deviled eggs, and a sweet potato souffle, all before she could get a shower and get dressed.
During an unexpected moment of quiet, once they were in the loaded car, Laura leaned her head against the cool side window and watched the winter world zoom past. They drove along the same roads that her mom and dad had driven to get to Mema’s when she was a little girl. In fact, except for her husband’s dozen years in the army when they lived on other continents, she had spent every single Christmas at her Mema and Granddaddy’s house. Only now that she was getting older did she long for having a quiet Christmas day without all the rushing to cook, dress, drive, and then sit in an uneasy truce with close and distant family members.
But when she was little! Oh, that was a different story! Mema was still young enough to insist on doing everything herself. With her mother being an only child, the only kids there were Laura and her sister. They got all the attention from their doting grandparents. She smiled and chuckled slightly, her breath fogging the window momentarily. Laura closed her eyes and let her mind slide gently backward.
They would arrive in whatever rickety car of the month her Daddy had traded for. More than once, she and her sister had huddled, freezing under a blanket for the hour-long car trip because there was no heat but they were going to see Mema, so they were happy no matter how cold they were.
As soon as the car stopped, they leaped out and ran to the side door under the carport that Granddaddy had built with his own hands. He would be standing there straight and tall, telling them to “Git on in this house before you freeze to death!” He would pick them both up together, one sitting on each strong arm, lifted up to his full six-foot, one-inch-tall height. After a quick messy kiss on the cheek, he put them down and they both ran to see Mema.
There was always a roaring fire in the big stone fireplace – a novelty because they only had three small gas space heaters in their house. The air was so warm that it felt thick but comforting. Wonderful aromas wafted through – ham, sweet potatoes roasting, something sinfully cinnamon for dessert. Then Mema would come out of the kitchen wiping her hands on her apron. She was a sophisticated woman of the 70s with high frosted hair, thick makeup, ruby red lips, huge button clip-on earrings, polyester pantsuit, and heels that clicked on the terracotta tiles. The apron was in stark contrast, but it was their great-grandmother’s old threadbare apron that she held on to like a prize. She always smelled of spearmint gum when she leaned down to kiss them.
“You kids git over here and hug my neck! Clifford, get the camera!” They didn’t mind the delay. Mema knelt down and squeezed them both till they felt they would pop. Moments later they ran to see her huge, richly-decorated silver tree, tinsel flashing with each revolution of the lighted color wheel. She always put it up the day before Thanksgiving for the kids. Granddaddy would snap pictures on the old Polaroid and they took turns watching them slowly develop before their eyes. Then he would leave them to play, eventually calling that the Christmas parade was on TV. Not that they could hear the TV because he had a Johnny Mathis Christmas album on the huge console stereo hi-fi.
Then came the meal! Enough food to feed the six of them three, four, five times over. Their huge dining table didn’t have a single empty spot. Once they’d eaten their fill, they would play while the adults talked. They always left all the food on the table so they could go back and have dinner before the long drive back home.
By Susan Stedman
The previous blog post spoke of the process of learning my true identity in Christ. It addressed listening to the “accuser of the brethren” and how to stop believing what he said. This one will help you to use your Sword of the Word to defeat him.
I have now experienced peace. Real, true, soul-deep peace. I never believed in that kind of peace in all my years. I had heard about it and I had read about it in my Bible, but I had never felt it. Sometimes I cried for it, or begged God for it, all the time not realizing that He had already given it to me, I just couldn’t believe and accept it. Last week, I accepted it.
It was not easy. I have read about it all my life, but there were too many voices whispering in my ear that I listened to instead of God’s voice. They were coming from people around me. God was trying to come from inside, and I had never been able to believe there was anything good inside me. But the Bible says,
1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” Just typing that gave me chills because it is something I had never considered.
God gave us promises all throughout His word and He tells us to try them. In Malachi 3, God says to test Him in this, one of His promises. Isaiah 55:11 ESV, “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
To experience true, God-sent peace, you have to believe the promises He has given you. Yes, He gave them to you, just the same as He gave them to everyone else. You only have to believe and accept His words. I am listing some of my favorite ones that have helped change my life as I grasp them.
You are saved. Romans 10:9 ESV, “…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
You are forgiven. 1 John 2:12 NKJV, “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.”
You are a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[a] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
You are a child of God. 1 John 3:1 ESV, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.”
You are redeemed. Ephesians 1:17 ESV, “ In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”
You are justified. Romans 5:1 ESV, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
You are safe in Christ. Colossians 3:3 ESV, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
You are victorious. 1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
You are not condemned. Romans 8:1 ESV, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
You are not alone. Isaiah 41:10 ESV, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
You are assured a good end. Jeremiah 29:11 ESV, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
You are strong. Isaiah 40:31 ESV, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
These are promises. These won’t be broken. God does not tell us lies. Hebrews 6:18 ESV, “…so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”
Once, several years ago, while I was praying because I had again let myself give in to fear, God showed me that if the promises He made and kept to His servants throughout the years in the Bible were true, then every promise that He gave us in the Bible were also true.
When you feel doubt, and you most likely will, remember the Roman soldier who asked Jesus to heal his daughter.
Mark 9:23-24 ESV “And Jesus said to him, all things are possible for one who believes. Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
By Susan Stedman
Who are you?
Just think of five words or phrases that you would use to describe yourself. I don’t mean like on a job application or to someone you want to impress. I mean, think of five ways that you use to internally label yourself.
I will go first. I am lazy, fat, worthless, a noose around a neck, terrified.
Those are ways that my mother described me while I was growing up. They are the things that I held onto for the past fifty-eight years to describe myself. They are the ideals to which I subscribed because I thought since my mother said they were true, I had to live my life to make them true because she couldn’t possibly be wrong, or be lying.
Throughout my life, I had glimpses of times when I thought maybe she was mistaken. I kept my life neat and tidy and raised a daughter, often on my own because my husband traveled for work during most of our marriage. Instead of being a noose around her neck, she called me daily sometimes to help her take care of her life, to give her money to eat on, to take her places. Evidently, I had some worth to her. Had she been wrong?
There came a time when I couldn’t deal with her anymore because she had not changed. I stood up and walked away, on my own two feet, head held high. I stopped letting her pull me down so that she no longer had access to me. My eyes were opened to her words. I thought I had finally shaken off those grave clothes.
I was wrong, but not so much in the way you might think. She still found fault with everything, but she couldn’t make it stick when she threw those acid balls anymore. However, there was someone else working against me in a way that I had never considered. I can see now how I would have been blinded because that is what our main enemy does. He blinds us, he uses smoke screens to make us think one thing is another so we will go after what we think is hurting us and never even see the little man behind the curtain.
Recently, my counselor asked me why I still held onto ugly labels that my mother had given me as a child. I was telling her about the previous weekend I had endured that was full of terror and anguish because of my own negative thoughts. Though I believed I had conquered that, during a time of extreme stressors, I found myself lying awake at night with a voice in my head yelling at me that I couldn’t make it, that we were about to lose everything, that this chest pain was a heart attack and since I didn’t have medical insurance, I couldn’t see a doctor and would surely die. It was like a swarm of bees swirling inside my brain at all the ugly hate that was assailing me.
The counselor asked me whose voice that was. At first, I assumed it was me, basing my fears on all that my mother had programmed into to believe that all that was wrong with my life was certainly my fault because I was so horrible. After I claimed it was me, then she asked where it came from. There was only one other person who had ever spoken to me that way, so I said, “My mother”. I was completely blindsided when she said, “No, who else?”
After a few minutes of thought, it was as if a blazing light bulb on a neon sign flashed before me that said, “Satan?” She smiled to let me know that now I was correct. It was such a realization and it made so much sense that I was appalled at myself for having never seen this answer. God had even hinted at it because for months, I kept seeing people in the news who were acting against sanity and good sense and I could only attribute that to being blinded by our enemy.
All that afternoon and night and even to the next day, I looked at this answer from every angle and saw how very true this revelation was. There is an enemy who engages in this kind of spiritual warfare, and the most horribly effective tactic he uses is to blind us to the truth. It freed up a huge part of me that still blamed and held unforgiveness against my mother. I could now put the blame on the true enemy.
Ephesians 6:12 NIV, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Satan is called “The Father of Lies”. There are many scriptures that describe how he and his demons exist to steal, kill, and destroy.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This is a promise, not a suggestion, not a sweet platitude. God promised us that the NEW HAS COME. It is solely up to us to accept, believe, and latch on to this like a bulldog. Satan works against this in any way that he can. In fact, if every new Christian – even every old Christian who was still mired in their past – would grasp this, Satan would be put out of business.
(To be continued in part 2)
by Donna Butler
Amazing grace is the sweet sound that saved me from my sins.
Understanding that the blood of Christ cleanses me from within.
Through many trials and challenges, I have already come.
Undeniably, the only way is through the Father, Spirit, and Son.
Many seasons come and go, that’s just the way life can be.
Never forget that within each death is the planting of a seed.
About Rays of Light:
Whereas most blogs are from one writer, these posts are from a variety of authors and styles. These scribes all attend our Kingdom Writers group. We pray our passion to share God's love through writing will encourage you today!
Our writers group meets every 4th Tuesday Night at 7PM in person and/or via zoom. Let us know if you would like to join us.