Rebecca Duvall

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Playing

PlayingThis past week I’ve had fun, and at times laughed out loud, while watching Lip Sync Challenge Police videos. If you’re on Facebook, I’m sure you’ve seen a few. I live in a community filled with Police Officers that work in surrounding cities and counties, so many people around here know Police Officers and their families.

It warms my heart to see them playing and having fun, especially when the work they do is extremely stressful; physically, emotionally and mentally.

Definition of Play – Engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation. To spend time doing enjoyable things.

I don’t know about you, but I like to play. Although, there was a time when I was so busy getting things done that the thought of ‘playing’ overwhelmed me. Getting what done you may ask. Who knows! Probably the dishes, laundry and cleaning whatever needed to be cleaned. Perhaps it was helping the kids with whatever they needed help with at the time. Or maybe it was helping with a school or church event or task.

I always thought I would do something fun when I got everything done that had to be done. But that day never came. There is always something or someone that needs my attention. Thankfully, God has surrounded me with some wise and encouraging women who have helped me find my playful side.

 

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 

I try, but don’t always succeed, to ‘play’ a little every day. It might be watching fun videos on Facebook, going to a movie, out to lunch or for a walk. Playing doesn’t have to be a big production. It’s simply taking some time to do something enjoyable. For me, what I find enjoyable changes depending on the season I’m in and the weather outside. For today, I’m enjoying sitting outside in the warmth of the day while writing.

When was the last time you ‘played’? What do you enjoy doing? Is there someone you know who could use some help finding their playful side?

My prayer for us today ~ Father God, thank you for the gift of laughter and dance. Thank you for the joy we experience when following Your Son and seeking Your will for our lives. I pray our work, rest and play would bring You honor, glory and praise. Amen.

I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did. Which Police Lip Sync Video is your favorite?

Joy

watermelonThe Fruit of the Spirit this week is Joy. I’ve chosen a watermelon because it’s a fruit I usually eat in the summer months, which means the weather is most likely hot, and experiencing the heat (90+) brings me great joy.

Joy is a feeling of great happiness. It’s when you are pleased or happy. Joy is when you experience an emotion of great delight caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.

Rejoice always ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16

When you encounter joy you can’t help but rejoice. You show or express outwardly, the joy you feel. When I’m experiencing a joyous moment, my go to reaction is usually to cry or weep. For example, I recently sent my son off, on his 13th birthday, to camp with a group from our church. I was extremely happy for him and excited to hear, when he returned, how he encountered God while there. This brought me great joy, so of course I had many moments, while saying our goodbyes, of secretly sobbing behind my sunglasses. How do you usually react when overcome with joy?

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. ~Psalm 47:1

Praising God during worship on Sunday mornings fills me with joy and I often find myself unable to sing (not that I could). I become overcome with joy thinking of what God has done for me through His Son, Jesus. I use to try desperately to hold back the tears, afraid it would make someone uncomfortable or I would be seen as an over emotional weirdo. I can handle the later, because in reality, I am. What brings you great joy?

Do not be full of joy when the one who hates you falls. Do not let your heart be glad when he trips. The Lord will see it and will not be pleased, and He will turn away His anger from him. ~Proverbs 24:17-18

There are times, as explained in Proverbs 24, when it is not a proper time to feel joy. When we do let ourselves express joy, outwardly or even within our hearts or minds, we can lose a blessing from God.

True joy is a gift given to us through the Holy Spirit. When our hearts and minds are focused on the goodness of God we can experience joy, regardless of our circumstances.

My prayer for us today ~ Father God, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit, which enables us to see the joy you offer us rather than the joys within the world. I pray we would keep the worldly things behind us as we focus on Jesus and what He has done for us, Amen.

Hope

31 HopeI’m thankful for the hope I receive through my faith in Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.

 

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead ~ 1 Peter 1:3

I’m confident in the strength, wisdom and power I receive daily from the Holy Spirit, which was given to me by Jesus, through the gift given to the world by God. I know I cannot do the things I do, such as write, speak, love and live with passion, on my own. It’s only with the guidance, wisdom, courage and strength given to me through the Holy Spirit by Jesus that’s allowed by God.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. ~ Hebrews 11:1

I cannot see these things being given to me, but I am sure I am receiving these gifts by God, because there is no one else able to give such gifts to another.

My belief, my hope, is that every circumstance, whether good or bad, will be used for good by God. There is a silver lining to every situation, even if we can’t see or understand it. We must trust God, who is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent-all powerful, all knowing and everywhere.

31 Romans 12-12

My prayer for us today ~ Father God, thank You for the hope we have through Your Son, Jesus, who You sent for us. I pray You would open the eyes and heart of those who don’t understand what the death of Your Son on the cross means, so they may truly grasp the love You have for them, Amen.

Advent

advent candles 2I must confess, in the past, I have not payed much attention to the lighting of the advent candles on the Sunday’s leading up to Christmas, which is called the advent season. This year, however, I have payed close attention to what was being said during the lighting of the candles.

At the church we attend, Covenant Community Church, a different family or group of people participate in the lighting of the candle or candles each week.

The 1st candle is purple and is the Candle of Hope. We can have hope because God is faithful and will keep the promises he made to us. Our hope comes from God.

And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations;
 in him the Gentiles will hope.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:12-13

I’m in awe of God and how much he loves us. He not only sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to die for us, but He also gives to all believers of Jesus the gift of the Holy Spirit, which will not only guide and direct us, but also enable us in all we are called to do. Hallelujah!

The 2nd candle is purple and is the Candle of Peace. God kept His promise of a Savior who would be born in Bethlehem. Help us to be ready to welcome You, O’God!

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“ A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.’” ~ Luke 3:4-6

I’m extremely grateful for the sacrifice Jesus made for me, and for you, so we could have direct access to God.

The 3rd candle is pink and is the Candle of Joy. It’s because of the hope we have in Jesus and the peace only He can bring to us we can experience true joy.

…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

An there were shepherds living out in the fields nerby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on the earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” ~ Luke 2:7-15

The more I know Jesus, the more my heart is opened to see those around me, as it is filled with a deep desire to help them as Jesus helps me.

The 4th candle is purple and is the Candle of Love. God sent his only Son to earth to save us, because he loves us!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. ~ John 3: 16-17

As I’ve said before, John 3:16 is the first scripture I ever learned. I believed it before I understood it. That’s the wonderful thing about God. He helps us to understand Him and His will for us. We must simply seek Him.

The 5th candle is white and is the Christ Candle. The white candle reminds us that Jesus is the spotless lamb of God, sent to wash away our sins! His birth was for his death, his death was for our birth!

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” ~ John 1:29

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” ~ John 3:1-8

Isn’t that beautiful? Jesus’ purpose of becoming flesh here on earth was to die for us so we could be reborn. This helps me trust and believe, even more, God’s almighty plan and timing of it all.

May prayer for us today ~ Father God, we thank you for the precious gift of your son Jesus, whose birth we will celebrate on Christmas. I pray each and everyone across the world will experience hope, peace, joy and love that only comes from You, Amen.

The Christmas Story

baby JesusThanksgiving to New Year’s Eve has always been my favorite time of year. I know it’s hard to believe, since it’s not 100 degrees outside, but usually cold and wet. Thankfully, I only have to deal with the California cold and not the Midwest kinda cold and wet.

When I was growing up, this time of year was all about getting ready for our visit from Santa Claus. The Christmas tree would go up within a week after Thanksgiving. We would all help decorate the tree while listening to Christmas music. I loved singing along to ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’. My favorite story to hear was ‘The Night Before Christmas’.

This was the only time of year I cared to look at the newspaper and magazines, because I wanted to make things as easy as possible for my parents and Santa Cause. I circled, with a fat black marker, everything I hoped to receive for Christmas.

One year, when my brother and I started looking for our gifts, my mom decided to come up with a foolproof plan to discourage us from snooping. Instead of putting a name on the package, she put a number on it. It stayed that way until she handed the presents out on Christmas morning. It was a great idea, but unfortunately, my mom always lost, or misplaced, the list where she wrote which presents went to who. As you can imagine, it added a new level of fun to Christmas morning.

Once I had kids, the fun of Christmas became an expensive and stressful chore. Before I could put the tree up, I had to clean and resituate the room where it would go. The perfect presents needed to be purchased. The perfect holiday pictures had to taken and sent to everyone we knew. Plans for get-togethers had to be made. The more Christmas parties we went to, the more outfits I needed to buy, for everyone. We couldn’t wear the same thing as last year, people would remember.

Then one year, just before the Christmas season, I was invited to a Women of Faith conference in San Jose. I had never been to a conference before. Curious what this conference was all about, I looked it up on the internet. The title of the conference was John 3:16. I didn’t recognize anyone who was listed to speak or perform, so this was of little help. I remember thinking “I wonder who this John guy is and what happened to him on Mach 16th.” I know your probably laughing, but that’s how clueless I was.

When the conference started, someone came out welcoming everyone. They said the conference was based on John 3:16 and began to read. What they were reading was posted up on the screens all around the room.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

As I soaked in and processed this message, I had many questions swirling around my head. “Who’s God’s Son and why in the world would He give him to us, the world?” I was starting to think God was a little on the nutty side.

That night, on the ride home from the conference, one of the ladies I went with invited me to her church. I went that Sunday and continued going through the Christmas season, and was able to hear what the Christmas season was all about. That year I realized I had heard the Christmas message every year for most of my life, but had never understood what it meant. I was so caught up with the world’s expectations of Christmas, that I couldn’t see the message that was right in front of me all those years.

Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who was given to us by God, so we can experience peace, great joy and have eternal life. God the Father, loves each of us so much, that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, down to earth, for us. Jesus’s birth was a miracle, born of the virgin Mary and the carpenter Joseph.

Since learning and understanding the meaning of Christmas, my favorite stories to read are now The Christmas Story or The Birth of Jesus.

I still put up a tree, wear holiday colors (red, green, silver & gold) buy presents and plan holiday gatherings. The only difference is my attitude while doing it. It’s no longer a stressful chore. I’m celebrating the birth of Jesus, my savior. He was the ultimate gift given to me, and to you. This brings me peace and fills me with great joy. Joy that I wish to spread to others throughout this Christmas season. I wish I could tell the world about the great love God has for them and the great joy He can fill them with, if they would only believe that Jesus was sent as a gift to them. A gift for all the world!

I hope you experience peace and joy this holiday season.

Merry Christmas!christmas tree

 

Rock Bottom

Tina CochranI would like to introduce you to Tina Cochran who I recently met in a Christian group on Linkedin. She is a certified health coach and obesity survivor who uses her unique combination of education, experience and empathy to help hurting women create a better life. This is her story how God helped her through her struggles of obesity and control to get her to where she is today.

Sometimes rock bottom comes with a crash and the trauma of your life falling apart. It’s large, noisy, and messy. But sometimes rock bottom arrives as a simple statement that makes you realize things can no longer stay the way they are. I had lived with chaos and drama for so long it seemed normal. It took one powerful comment from my son to show me I had reached rock bottom.

My son Anthony has autism and as such, being tactful is not always his best skill. In the fall of 2008, then 10 years old, he looked at me and said “Mommy, you need to go on The Biggest Loser.” The words hit me hard with a realization that he was worried about me and knew I needed to change. The over 250 pounds I was carrying on my 5 ft. 4 in. frame was no longer something I could ignore or hide.

At his insistence, the NBC show, The Biggest Loser, became part of our weekly schedule. Every week he would watch the show and I would hide my tears as I sunk deep into the hopelessness of obesity and the over-scheduled life I was living. I continued to make excuses and justifications why I couldn’t do anything about my weight. His direct comment crashed into those excuses and held them against rock bottom. I began to realize that I was no longer going to be able to ignore or hide from an attempt to do something.

In November of 2008, I started a weight loss program. The plan was simple, I would try this “diet” for a week or so and when it didn’t work, I would then focus on finding a way to convince myself and my son that my body would always be this way, and it really wasn’t a problem.

I am grateful to report that I was wrong and God used this program to help me lose over 100 pounds and keep it off. What started out as a solution to accepting that things would never change actually became a catalyst for a change I never imagined.Survive to Joy Tina Cochran

Over the past few years, I have learned the truth of who I am. As the pounds melted away, a woman I didn’t know began to appear. This woman was strong and confident in her worth and had a heart to serve. Eventually I joined the company that designed my weight loss program and became a certified health coach.

By telling this story, my fear is that you will see it as another weight loss success story and miss the real transformation. While hitting rock bottom regarding my weight began my journey, it is actually not the most important change that has happened for me. When I was released from my corporate job in July 2009, I became a full-time coach.   At the time I thought my journey was complete. I believed I had built myself up from the depths of obesity, stress, and depression to health, peace, and happiness.

What I didn’t realize was that Joy was waiting around the next corner, and it would require another visit to rock bottom. At first life was happy and exciting. But eventually I developed an obsession with business and marketing that drove me to work endless hours, never enjoying life or my family. I was constantly chasing better ways to make more money and grow my business. Founding a nonprofit organization only added to the stress and anxiety I felt every day. My relationship with my family suffered (especially my husband), and I woke up every day in a state of panic. While I was keeping my body a size eight and telling the world I was at peace and happy, in my heart I knew it was a lie.

I felt like a fraud.

The strength and confidence I found during my weight loss journey eroded until I found myself once again feeling hopeless to change. I was actually living at rock bottom, just in a prettier package. It took a tornado to break my heart wide open and motivate me to change. I live near Joplin, Missouri. In May of 2011, an F-5 tornado tore the town to pieces. I followed the destruction on social media and my heart broke more with every passing day. God had given me a gift of empathy and my heart filled to capacity with the pain around me. In my personal life, the stress of chasing my business, building a nonprofit, and pleasing my family became overwhelming. I spent many days and nights in tears, begging God to take my life and bring me home. On the outside my life looked like it was growing and becoming more successful every day. However, inside I was dying and falling apart.

For the next six months I struggled to find a solution, something that would make the pain go away. Finally I ran out of strength to search and collapsed in despair. It was only then that I heard the still, small voice. “Stop studying business and study Me.” God’s voice was quiet, but insistent. It brought my spinning mind to a halt.

“But how will I make a living, God?” I asked. “You won’t. You will make a life,” was the only answer He would give. “Get to know Me, who I am, and who I created you to be. Bring all your focus and energy on searching for Me. When you find Me, you will find all that you need. Trust Me, I will provide. I created you for a very special purpose. It’s time for you to be set apart and learn all I have to teach you.”

With much fear and trembling, I put my business books away and opened my Bible. I began a search for who God was and what He wanted from me. This search led me to a life I never could have imagined. It has also led me through periods of brokenness I never would have chosen. The pain of coming face to face with the mistakes of my past choices and the things I have done that have not honored my loving Father have been beyond anything I thought I could survive. Through it all, God has gently and lovingly held my hand and reminded me that His plans for me are good. It has not always been pretty and it has never been easy, but it has been worth it. Not only have I survived, I have begun to thrive.Rock Bottom Book Tina Cochran

Rock bottom is a beautiful place. I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt because rock bottom is the place where you find the strength to surrender yourself completely to the One who created you. It’s not until you come completely to the end of yourself that you can truly begin to live. The most beautiful part is that by creating a life with rock bottom as the foundation, you find true Joy.

To find out more about Tina and how she can help you, please check out her website at www.TinaCochran.com.

Merry Christmas

baby JesusUp until five years ago I thought Christmas was all about Santa Claus, decorating trees and presents.  Lots and lots of presents, which meant lots and lots of shopping.  The greeting I gave this time of year was always, and still is, ‘Merry Christmas’.

My Christmas was all about planning for the arrival of the fat jolly guy in the red suit who lived at the santaNorth Pole with the elves making presents all year long.  As a child I worried about whether or not I was on Santa’s naughty list.  I always made a Christmas wish list for Santa.  To make sure he knew exactly what I wanted, I would tape a picture of the item and list the stores where he could get it.

Now my Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, my Lord and Savior.  We still do the same things at Christmas. We still decorate a tree and shop for presents.  I do feel different though.  I notice things I never noticed before, like the to-do list of things that most people could care less if I do or not.  The to-do list is something that brings stress, not joy, to my life.  This year I decided not to do a few of my to-do list items.  I’m not sending out Christmas cards and we didn’t even attempt to make baked goodies this year.

I find myself being bothered by the extra long hours many stores are open.  I use to love it because it gave me extra time to shop.  Now I feel sad for the employees who must work extra hours instead of being home with their families.  I do realize some families look forward to working the extra hours, but I still think the stores have gone a little too far.  Shopping on Thanksgiving Day and in the middle of the night, I think, is not necessary.christmas presents

Last week at church the sermon was about not being haunted by Christmas present.  We were challenged to buy less presents and be more present.  I love that!  I think the most valuable gift you can give someone is your time.  That doesn’t mean you can’t give gifts.  You can make them.  There are so many great gifts to give that can be made.  Pinterest is full of great ideas.  I know its kind of late in the game this year to decide to make Christmas gifts, but think about it for future Birthdays, Anniversaries and certainly for next Christmas.Love Joy Peace

Whether you celebrate the birth of Jesus, Santa Claus, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, nothing or whatever it might be, I wish you and your family a season filled with love, joy, peace and togetherness.

My prayer for us today ~ May God who understands each need, who listens to every prayer, bless you and keep you in His tender loving care, Amen

John 3 16

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