Celebrating Father’s Day

In honor of Father’s Day, I am sharing two poems my dad, Rich Latta, wrote. One is about life and the other is about me. What AMAZES me about these poems which were written many years ago is that each of their messages is as true today as the day Dad wrote them. May these poems inspire you to cultivate your creativity, something that my dad was always pursuing.

Life
That brief
Glimpse we
Get into who
And what we are
Seems like
A mere
Flash one
Hopes never
Goes out.

Tena
You’ve run through
tall fields of thick
grass struggling against
the odds of failure
and defeat and now
covered with the pollen
of knowledge you
can grow into a
flowering field of plants.

10 Truths About Us

10 Truths About Us

Ever wonder what the Bible says about us? Here are 10 Truths About Us:

I am the salt and light of the world. Matthew 5:13-14
I am a child of God. John 1:12
I am a branch of the true vine. John 51:1,5
I am a friend of Jesus. John 15:15
I have been justified. Romans 5:1
I am a member of the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:27
I have been adopted as a child of God. Ephesians 1:5
I may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. Colossians 1:14

National Day of Prayer

Today Thursday, May 3, 2018 is the National Day of Prayer.
Let’s join together and pray. Here are a few ideas for prayer:

1. For children, that…

they will know Christ as Savior.

they will obey their parents.

2. For parents, that…

they will be imitators of God.

they will walk in wisdom.

3.For families, that…

they will be committed to loving the Lord and loving each other.

they will be protected physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

4.For schools, that…

students will grow academically and socially in safe learning environments.

students will learn Christian values and morals.

5.For churches, that…

pastors will clearly proclaim the Gospel.

all church activities will continue to glorify the Lord and draw people closer to Him.

6.For missionaries, that…

they will feel loved and encouraged.

they will be safe as they share the Gospel of Jesus with others.

7.For the government, that…

government leaders will seek the Lord as they lead others.

public officials will live lives of integrity.

The Promises of God

This passage comes from the book, Women Who Loved God, by Elizabeth George.
“What has God promised you, one of His precious women? The Bible contains as many as 8,000 promises. In difficulty and disaster, in trial, tragedy, trauma, and testing, in times of spiritual, emotional, and physical darkness, you can trust these promises. You can be assured that God will do for you, too, exactly as He has promised.
A young French woman once created a ‘promise box’ to teach her children that the promises of God bring special comfort in times of need. The small box contained 200 handwritten promises copied out of the Bible onto small pieces of paper. Little did she know that her own trust in the Lord would be severely tested in war-time France!
With no food available for her family- her children emaciated and hungry, wearing rags and shoes without soles- she turned to her promise box. In desperation she prayed, ‘Lord, O Lord, I have such a great need. Is there a promise here that is really for me? Show me, O Lord, what promise I can have in this time of famine, nakedness, peril, and sword.’ Blinded by tears, she reached for the box to pull out a promise and knocked it over. God’s promises showered down all around her, on her lap, and on the floor! Not one was left in the box. What supreme joy in the Lord she found as she realized that all of the promises of God were hers- in the very hour of her greatest need.”
Eighteen years ago, I found the book that this passage comes from at a yard sale. This story in particular touched my heart. I was overwhelmed by the fact that there were 8,000 promises found in the Bible. “What if I created a promise box of thirty-one promises from the Bible to review with Dan and Mitch?” I asked myself. Thus, began a search for promises I wanted them to know and think about when needed. Once I chose the thirty-one verses, I typed them out and glued them each to a different colored piece of construction paper and put them in an index card box. When the boys were little and could not read, I read them one promise each morning while they ate breakfast. This truly took only seconds each day. When they could read, each boy took a turn to read a promise in the morning before going to school. Being human and brothers, sometimes we HAD to read TWO promises because we could not really remember whose turn it was and an argument ensued. Just keeping it real, my friends! After many years of this simple habit, all of us hid these thirty-one bible verses in our hearts so that we can remind ourselves and others of God’s promises.
If you would like to purchase a promise box, go to http://tenadegraaf.com/blog/book-shop/ and scroll to the bottom of the page. The promise box sells for $34.00 which includes 31 laminated promises along with U.S. Shipping.
Father God, thank you so much for each of your perfect promises. Amen.

Leadership Lessons with Naomi Aidoo

I have had the privilege of learning from Naomi for over a year now through her FB group. Although she is based in London, and I live near Chicago, we were able to video chat using Zoom. She has been such an encouragement and blessing to me and to many others. May her words of wisdom help you grow as a leader.

I found most of these thought-provoking questions at https://michaelhyatt.com/20-questions-to-ask-other-leaders.html

1. Tena: Tell me about your current and past leadership positions. Naomi: So, when I was a teacher for the last 2 years, I led an alternative education provision for the students who had been removed from mainstream school, so they were the more badly-behaved students who were kicked out because of attendance or behavior and things like that. I was like the liaison for parents for social services. Then I was asked to come and be the Director of interns at the church and so the pastor of the church basically wanted me to lead a team of young people to essentially serve the church and their community using their gifts, their skills and their talents. And now, I’m a business coach. And so mobilizing faith focused women and helping them to build, scale, or grow their businesses, especially in the online presence, and that might mean women who just have a blog or just actually getting them started or more established business owners who predominately worked within the personal stuff or brick and mortar stuff and helping them break more into the online space. Tena: Would you say that your experiences as a teacher and the director have fed into your business coaching, you’re using those experiences? Naomi: Oh yeah.
2. As an organization gets larger there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening?
Naomi: I am the only employee right now, but I have experts come and help do some of my program, along with help from my husband. I will keep the inspiration happening once my business expands by keeping the same morals and principles and values and ensuring that the organization is Spirit led. You can be wise and make decisions from a place of wisdom and discernment but ultimately, we want to be led by the Lord to do what it is He is calling us as an organization to do. We want to have employees who have the same views and principles; otherwise it will start to get messy. We need to ensure that this is consistently communicated throughout. Bill Hybels says, “Vision leaks unless it is continually implemented into people.” As he said, the vision will just leak out and people will start to go all over the place. People need to keep rooted into what the truth is.
3. How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?
Naomi: The mindset work and getting in the word and reaching. Quite often a lot of what we share is stuff we are learning, stuff that we have discovered, stuff we are applying ourselves. If we aren’t making a commitment to personally develop ourselves then it means that we are going to be empty and dry and not have the same things to offer. I like to continue to top myself off with what I read and listen to, so I can show up with better ideas and ideas that I know will add value and support to people that are listening. Tena: Does the Lord work for you where you hear an idea here and there and you are combining ideas of all different authors and speakers and putting it together in a new way? Naomi: Oh yeah, yeah!
4. Where do the great ideas come from in your organization?
Naomi: Well its cliché, but it will be God. It will be the Bible predominately. In terms of leadership and not only leadership but, also character. Quite a lot of what you read about in the Bible, just normal people that were maybe reluctant to live out the call on their life were hesitant about stepping into who it was that they were called to be, and then just applying those same lessons because those are the same things we think and feel. Applying those same lessons to the lives of the people who are listening to whatever it is that I share and then just being able to use that, and then obviously, being able to use my own personal story and using stories of those that I read about in books.
5. Which is most important to your organization—mission, core values, or vision?
Naomi: They are all key. I think vision is quite key only in that I think the other two contribute to the vision. Vision is what will continue to mobilize people, and mobilization is like my “key” word. But vision is what will continue to mobilize people and equip people and cause me to show up in the way that I do. It’s the vision that this is what God is doing, and that naturally means that the core values and the mission are intrinsic to my vision. So, I’m kind of cheating by saying all three, but it’s largely vision, to be honest.
6. How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with your “core values?”
Naomi: There was a time where I was questioning that, because being a business coach, I was questioning whether I could coach anyone not necessarily Christian women, but I felt the Lord reminding me of the call because I started off as a blogger and things like that, and I think He was just reminding me that the call on my life is to equip the church and although I’m a business coach, what that essentially means is, equipping them to live out the call on their life, and so I think that that is something I can insure that, talking about core values, that its just equipping someone to live out the calling that is on their life rather than just, this is a nice business idea. Is this equipping someone’s walking in their call to walk in their worth. I suppose continually coming back to that question, revisiting it and re-asking myself that.
7. What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
Naomi: So many, I supposed the key one is going to be integrity just to ensure they are not misleading anyone, manipulating anyone, and that what they believe is what they do, and they practice what they preach, they are walking in the truth that they are conveying. Integrity across the board, in the products and services they sell. They don’t want to be doing anyone a disservice and kind of offering them a rubbish finished article whether that be a service or a product. If someone is parting with money ensuring that you are giving your best.
8. What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
Naomi: Being driven by the wrong thing, being driven by money, the thing is as a business owner you are going to want to make money. I don’t think money is bad, money is good obviously, it’s the love of money is where things start to go wrong but I think if you’re driven by ambition, things, success and all of those things more than you are driven by what you are called to do, then things will start going wrong, because your character will start to slip, you’ll start to make compromises that you never expected to. You will just lose your way a little bit. You’ll lose that “why” it all started in the first place. I often say to my clients even in my group, “What’s your why? Why do you do this in the first place?” If you lose your “why” then you will just find yourself derailed and doing the wrong things, because you are driven by the wrong things.
9. What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Naomi: When I think about leaders, I suppose its kind similar in terms of integrity to their vision, but almost when things become a popularity contest when you’re doing what you know the people will want as opposed to what it is that you feel called to do or led to do. Whether you’re a Christian or not, there’s a reason why you started doing what you’re doing and as soon as you’re instead, doing the whole people pleasing thing, it can mean that you are not being authentic, to be honest, because even though you are giving people what they want it isn’t really what you fully want to do, which is a difficult thing not to do, because obviously you want to provide people with what they want because that’s important to them, but, not at the detriment at what you are called to do.
10. What is the one behavior or trait that you have seen derail more leaders’ careers?
Naomi: Kind of just what I said, it is that sort of people pleasing popularity, going with the crowd, instead of going with your heart and your call and you can then get derailed because then you are stuck because you are halfway up this path of this kind of people pleasing thing and you don’t know how to get back because you are in this place where people like what you see but you’re kind of like I don’t even want to be here anymore, like what happened?
11. Can you explain the impact, if any, that social networking has made on your organization or you personally?
Naomi: My whole business really is around networking with people online, communicating the truths of God’s Word, allowing Christian women to believe what’s possible for them. It’s changed everything to be honest. I was a high school teacher for seven years and although I had a blog and I had a blog alongside I did it very sporadically because I didn’t have the time that I would like to give to it, so moving into the social media, social networking sort of space opened me up to a different world an essentially its where I do my business online through meeting others, and growing and scaling and building from there.
Tena: Yeah, and I am so glad I am interviewing you, because your leadership is really web based. Your influence has really stretched because of social media where other businesses are more brick and mortar they still can reach other people, but you are really reaching across the world because of social media.
Naomi: Oh yeah, thank you, it is exciting.
Tena: It is. It’s so neat to see God connect to women all over the world through your group.
12. What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader? Conferences? Books? Your Go To?
Naomi: There’s this book by Joe Maxwell, he’s one of the key people to “go to” for Christian Leadership in general, but even though he’s a Christian as well, the leadership goes across to business, churches, wherever. I have his great little books, Leadership Promises for Your Week, for Your Month, and for Your Year. I’m a coach, but the reason why this started is because I myself received coaching and recognized what was possible. I heard one time, and I think it is so true, that you are qualified to coach, mentor, support, or whatever you call it, someone who is half a step behind you and some people almost approach leadership feeling as though they are a fraud, feeling as though, “oh can I do it”, and actually if you are in a place that someone else would aspire to be, then you can just talk to them about how you got there and that’s good. So, I would say coaching is huge it has been pivotal to my life, not only to my business, but to my life, to be honest. Conference wise there have been leadership conferences in the UK, one which is yearly at the Royal Abbot hall in London. They get Christian and non-Christian leaders, because it’s run by a church, but they get a mixture of leaders. It is a 2-day event. If you can get to summits and conferences I always feel that that’s good because there’s that corporate element and you are all together, as opposed to just you are thinking if it’s a good idea, you are with other people who are supporting that. I have been going for the past 2 years and I will continue to.
13. What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Naomi: If they are Christian, it would be to pray and to seek wise counsel from the people who are around you, that know you most, also just the charge and commission that was given to Joshua to be strong and courageous. To be honest with you, it will always feel a bit scary. I think there’s always going to be elements where it’s a little bit scary, a little bit nerve wracking to do the next thing, to do whatever it is, like online, or if you like to do a Facebook live, or in person, if that’s to host your first event or retreat. There’s always going to be the next level of something which generates a bit of fear, but the advantage is that when you pray, and you know that God is in the midst and you know that He goes before you, and you just do it up right. It is a bit scary so, “o.k., but it’ in the midst and I’m going to go for it anyway.” I think maybe that’s one of the previous questions, where strong leaders can trip up as well with pride. Pride will trip people up because some people can look at people and think they are younger than me or older than me or they look different to me or they are from a different place, or whatever it is, so therefore what can they possibly teach me? And if you have that kind of disposition you can really be setting yourself up to fail because pride comes before the fall. You just shouldn’t have that sort of disposition of “Well who are they? I’ve done this, I’ve done that” because we are always learning, growing and developing, so don’t ever have that kind of prideful attitude that shuts yourself off from the idea that somebody else can actually help you. The Spirit of God is not a respecter of persons. We were learning in church last week that King Josiah, one of the greatest kings, became King when he was 8 so the Spirit of God moves and goes where He pleases. So, you may think to yourself, “This is weird. I never imagined I would be in this position of learning from that person,” but that’s what happens in the kingdom, and just trusting God in that.
14. What do you like to ask other leaders when you get the chance?
Naomi: Who they listen to, what they do, who they coach. Who do they reach?
15. How do handle doubt when it plagues your mind?
Tena: Doubt when you feel your first calling, and doubt when things aren’t going right.
Naomi: Going back to prayers and speaking to my husband. I think that is important. My husband is super supportive of my business which is helpful, and he understands the entrepenuering world as well, so if I am just feeling, “Ugh, what is this” then there’s just that reminder of what it is that God has called me to and when handling doubt. Personally, for me, at the beginning of the year and just before, I had some prophetic words spoken over me by people that don’t know me at all. My husband and I make a habit that if we are on a break somewhere, we go and visit a church because he’s a community minister of our church here so if we are away we make a habit of going to a church where we can be anonymous, well there was this one time, at the beginning of my business, when this guy stopped us as we were leaving and started prophesying and it was really spot on with regards to what I am doing now so that is a good way to handle doubt, like I know that without a shadow of a doubt that God’s called me to the work I’m doing, so that even though it doesn’t look like I imagined it would look right now, that’s not a permanent state and I have to keep showing up and doing the work.
16. When insecurities pop up, how do counter them?
Naomi: There was a time of a few years when I made huge mistakes so if you were to look on paper I wouldn’t necessarily be the person who would be leading other people, but I also know that I’m redeemed, that I have been bought with a price and I know that without a shadow of a doubt that in my weakness God’s power is made perfect and that he uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and so the reason that God would use me is so that He would be glorified because, it’s not about me and I just need to do what He’s called me to do and speak the truth that He’s called me to speak, but that is not because of who I am but because of who He is.
17. What ways have worked for you to deal with worries?
Naomi: I go back to the why. Am I sure that this is what I’m called to do, going back to those prophecies, speaking to my husband, prayer and journaling is key for me. I journal a lot so that journal will look like me just consciously reflecting out in prayer or answering a question like, “How are you feeling right now?” That helps because I enjoy it and it’s important to me.
18. How do deal with feeling overwhelmed when it occurs?
Tena: As in overscheduling, doing too much, too much going on:
Naomi: There’s always going to be important things, so it’s about prioritizing, and it’s about following the idea that you should do what you think you should do not what everyone else recommends or thinks you should do. Because then you start taking on everything and then suddenly you get overwhelmed and think “I never even wanted to do all of this stuff”. So, for me regardless of what I see other people in my industry and my space doing I’m going to do what resonates with me, what’s right for me and trusting that God is in it and that’s how it works to avoid that overwhelm, and not following the “should.”
19. Do you schedule time off to avoid exhaustion? If yes, what does your scheduled time off look like?
Naomi: We try to schedule breaks somewhere else here in England and try to take time to switch off and recharge. We are involved in ministry as well, and my husband is a volunteer, so there’s a lot going on, so we just try stepping away from the area we are living in. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, but maybe go somewhere for a day, it could be just going somewhere for lunch or go somewhere that’s not where we live and off familiar surroundings. Stepping out of familiarity can be refreshing sometimes. You know, just scheduling in opportunities for that to happen.
Tena: Do you schedule them once a month or every three months or what?
Naomi: It’s very sporadic. Sometimes we will have few in a week and sometimes we won’t have any for weeks. We need to get better with scheduling them out as opposed to just doing it as and when. We try to make time, but I just wouldn’t be able to be completely sure how often that is done.
Tena: Yeah, and I would think too with you both being in ministry there’s an emotional drain that you need to refuel that tank because you are dealing with people’s lives, and maybe there isn’t an easy solution to their problems and you feel that weight. It’s good that you both take time away.
20. Do you have a friend or group of friends to help you when you feel discouraged? How do they help?
Naomi: My best friend is super supportive. She’s not an entrepreneur but I’m able to talk to her about it, and my coach. I just believe as coaches, as people are mentoring and things like that, it is massively important to invest in yourself and to get support and mentoring yourself so with that I continually have a coach, or more than one for different things, and so I will speak to them because they get it and that’s their job in a sense. In my environment at church with the friends I have around, even though people can be well meaning in terms of their support, they don’t really understand it because that’s not what they do. And so having a coach or other like-minded people who are also entrepreneurs, and especially people who are a couple of steps ahead can be really important because it helps you to remember that you’re not crazy, like, “oh yeah this is a real thing” just because it doesn’t look like everyone in my church family is doing the same thing or my biological family, that’s fine, because I know I’m called to this and I’m just going to quote: “keep on keeping on.”
21. What advice would you give your younger self if you could?
Naomi: To stop caring about what people think so much. As a teenager and then through my 20s, I was a huge people pleaser but to the point where I would hate to put myself out there or to do anything that might rock the boat or make someone else feel insecure. I just wanted to make sure that everyone was happy, and everything was plain smooth sailing, and it meant that I stopped myself from doing a lot of things that I would have otherwise done. That’s just something that I continually remind myself of and I’m much better at now, that if someone doesn’t like you, if someone clicks off it or someone’s like “no that’s not for me” not in a bad way, but, I don’t care that much, because I have to do me and what it is that God’s called me to do and that’s it. So, I would say, stop caring about what people think so much.
22. Do you have a special word or verse you are focusing on in 2018?
Naomi: Yes. My word for 2018 is balance.
Tena: Two other things I wanted to talk about. One is, do you have anything else that you wanted to share like as you were thinking about this interview, you thought, “oh I hope I get the opportunity to share this….” Is there anything that’s on your heart? And then, we are also going to list all your resources at the end, so women can click on that in the end. So just personally or spiritually, anything that you would want to be able to say, “Hey, I just want to tell your audience this.”
Naomi: I would just really, really encourage anyone who’s reading to not suppress what it is that they feel that God has placed, even if it is a tiny seed, but instead to address it and to let it grow and blossom and bloom however scary that is. I remember as a teacher it got to a point where for me, even though I like teaching, teaching in the context I was teaching, wasn’t the right thing for me anymore and there was a thing in me where it was comfortable and safe so it didn’t make sense for me to be doing anything else, but there would be days where I would be literally crying before I would go to work. There was just something in me where I felt, “I’m not living out what I’m meant to be living out” and I think there’s lots of people that feel the same way, there’s lots of people that suppress, because they’re like, it’s not the _____ thing, it’s not right, it’s not now, or all the other excuses. There’s that quote that says, “You’ll either find a way or make an excuse.”, and that’s it. So, I would say to anyone who feels like they have something in them which they know needs to be addressed, or something God’s planted in them, find a way and don’t make an excuse because I as a person have been completely transformed because of stepping into who it was I was called to be. I am more confident, easier going, less anxious, less wound up, I’m better in social situations, less snappy with my husband, so many things are different because I addressed what it was that got up on the inside of me and stepped into it as opposed to suppressing it and saying, “oh maybe one day, maybe one day, maybe one day…” It’s important that anyone who is reading or whatever, that they address it and they do something with it and that they find a way to make it work as opposed to making an excuse for why it can’t. Tena: That is phenomenal advice, I’m glad I asked that question because I think every woman at some point has that choice to suppress or address and I think that’s going to be key when they read it because they may be in that moment, they may have gone through it or they’re going to go through it so that’s great advice. And a lot of times it might be in creativity, you know, being yourself and deciding it doesn’t have to be to start a business. It can just be being who you are supposed to be. It can be from small to big, whatever God is calling you to do.
Ways to connect with Naomi:
Naomi’s website is: http://naomiaidoo.com

Right now, people can join Biblical Business Academy which is at http://naomiaidoo.com/academy

Social media wise Naomi is on FB and Instagram:

http://facebook.com/1authenticheart

Naomi’s group- The Sheerah Network: http://facebook.com/groups/thesheerahnetwork

Instagram: http://instagram.com/naomiaidoo

Starting a Prayer Journal

Abraham Lincoln said it best, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.” I can so relate to this quote! 2000 years ago, Jesus modeled a pattern of prayer to the disciples. It is traditionally called The Lord’s Prayer. It is the most famous prayer ever spoken or uttered. What is the pattern?
It is praise (glorifying God), confession (this is where we open our hearts to God and ask Him to reveal our sins so we can cleanse our hearts), thankfulness (being grateful for who God is and what He has done), and petition (telling God of our needs for protection and provision).
If all we do is tell God our needs, it becomes like a wish list or a Christmas list. It is imperative that we follow the model Jesus gave us when we are praying. This will fuel our prayer life.
What we are talking about here is daily devotional prayer journal.

Jesus begins by saying, “Our Father.” Jesus declares to the world who God is.
Here are some names of God you can use to add variety to your journal:
My Father; My faithful Father; My faithful Lord; My Lord; My God; My Father and my God; My Lord and my God; Glorious God; Wise God; Mighty God; Father God; Merciful Father; Wonderful Father; Lord God; God; O, God; O, Father; O, Lord; O Lord my God; Sovereign Lord; You, my God; You, my God; You, my Lord; You, my Father; Dear Lord; You, Lord; God Almighty; God of all people, Most High God.

Praise
Jesus praises our Father.
Matthew 6:9-10- “Pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’”
This is called adoration-Praising God for whom He is. When we praise God, we are expressing our love and respect for Him.
Psalm 100:4 states, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”
Psalm 145:3 says, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.”
There are over 365 verses of praise to our Lord in the Bible. One of the books I have written entitled, A Heart of Praise, has a verse of praise for each day of the year.
From Jesus to Mary to David to Paul and Silas, the Bible is filled with examples of men and women praising God.
In her book, Lord, I want to be Whole, author Stormie O’Martian writes, “The best way to focus on God is to thank Him continually for all He has given, praise Him for all He has done, and worship Him for all He is. It is impossible to be self-focused with self-pity while you are glorifying God in that way” (29-30).
Praise helps move our focus from outward (that is our current situations) and inward (that it is up to us to fix our situations) to upward (that God is God Almighty who is bigger than our situations)
Here are some words of praise to help you begin:
Admire, Adore, All-knowing, All-powerful, Almighty, Alpha and Omega, Amazing, Appreciate, Awe, Awesome, Bless, Caring, Comforting, Compassionate, Creator, Everlasting, Giving, Good, Great, High, Holy, Honor, Jehovah, King, King of kings, Lord of lords, Loving, Merciful, Messiah, Omniscient, Perfect, Powerful, Praise, Prince of Peace, Redeemer, Respect, Revere, Rock, Savior, Shepherd, Sing, Sovereign, Value, Wise, Worthy
In addition to these words of praise, I will sometimes write the words to a hymn, Bible verse, or worship song. This morning I wrote, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:9

Confession
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12
We need to examine our hearts and ourselves and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal every sin. Often, I know exactly what I have done wrong. Daily, we need to confess each wrongdoing specifically. God will pardon us when we ask. We need to accept His gift of forgiveness when we truly repent.
Stormie O’Martian writes in her book, Greater Health God’s Way, “Remember, God doesn’t have laws for Himself-they’re for us. Confession is not for Him. He already knows the truth. It’s for you!” (42).
“Search me O God, and know my heart! Try and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Psalm 139:23-24
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Here are a few words of confession to consider:
Anger, Arrogant attitude, Attitude, Bitterness, Boasting, Complaining, Critical spirit, Deceit, Doubt, Envy, Exaggerating, Gossiping, Greed, Grumbling, Harboring resentment, Haughty, Impatience, Inappropriate language, Jealousy, Laziness, Lying, Moodiness, Pouting, Prejudice, Pride, Quick-tempered, Rudeness, Self-centeredness, Selfishness, Spite, Stealing, Unforgiving, Vanity, Worrying
Recently, the Lord recalled my jealousy of a classmate who 25 years ago won all the scholarships at the honor awards night. If I hadn’t repentant of this sin, I would not have been able to fully support her successes on Facebook. Don’t be surprised if God brings up a past sin so you can repent and move on in freedom.

Thankfulness
We need to thank God for what He has done in addition to praising Him.
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High.” Psalm 92:1
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.” Colossians 1:3
I used the category also to thank God for answered prayers. Then, I have written record of God’s goodness.
Here are some words of thankfulness:
Bible, Church, Clothes, Common sense, Creation, Creativity, Education, Eternal life, Everyday blessings, Family, Faith, Flowers, Food, Fresh air, Friends, Grace, Happiness, Health, Heaven, Holy Spirit, Hope, Houses, Imagination, Jesus, Jesus died for us, Jesus rose, Joyfulness, Knowing God, Life, Love, Mercy, Music, Nature, Parents, Peace, Pets, Relationships, Salvation through Jesus, Sunshine, Water
We also need to give heartfelt prayers of thanks to God for who He is. As I have done some research on the attributes of God, I have found at least 123 named in the Bible. Here are just a few attributes of God to ponder and write down:
Bread of life, Comforter, Cornerstone, Counselor, Creator, Deliverer, Father, Fortress, Friend, Guard, Guide, Healer, Help, Helper, Hiding place, Joy, Judge, King, Lamb, Lamp, Leader, Life, Lifter of my head, Light, Love, Maker, Master, Mediator, Peace, Prince of peace, Protector, Provider, Redeemer, Refiner, Refuge, Rescuer, Restorer, Rock, Ruler, Salvation, Savior, Shelter, Shepherd, Shield, Strength, Stronghold, Strong tower, Support, Sustainer, Teacher, Trust, Truth, Way, Wisdom
There is always something to be grateful for. Giving thanks is a healthy way to start each day.

Petition
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11. It is important to ask God to meet our needs. This part of the prayer demonstrates the Father’s concern for His children. It shows a deeply personal relationship with the God of the universe.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
“You do not have, because you do not ask.” James 4:2
Nancy Leigh Demoss writes in her book, A Place of Quiet Rest, “God does not promise to eliminate all our problems or to change all the difficult people in our lives. But He does promise to listen to the cries of His children and to act in accordance with His holy, eternal purposes” (81).
We can pray about all our needs. Again, be specific! He hears the cries of our hearts. We can trust our heavenly Father. He cares about every detail of our lives. God already knows about each personal crisis, each tear, each heavy burden, each shattered dream, each stressful situation, and every difficult decision. Expand your prayer list of each burden you have. Listen to His voice guide and direct your steps. As you record your prayers, you will become delighted as your panic turns into peace. Write down your requests and watch God answer in His perfect way!
I have prayed for thousands of requests for myself, my family, my friends, my church, and our world.
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer
“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” by Joseph Scriven

Protection
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:13
In Luke 22:40, Jesus teaches the disciples “to pray that you may not enter into temptation.” If Jesus felt it was necessary to help the disciples to pray for protection, shouldn’t we be praying as well?
He also prayed for protection for His disciples. In John 17:15 He prays to the Father, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” Asking God for help in resisting temptations assists us and our family members to stay strong when we are weak.

Plan for prayer. I pray that you will put into practice some of the ideas presented today. As you take practical steps for intercession, may you develop a richer prayer life. Don’t feel guilty if you must skip a few days. There have been a few dry spells over the course of the past years. When my father died unexpectedly, I took time off from many activities as I grieved. Also, don’t get upset if something comes up to interfere with your time of praying/journaling. Fit it in wherever and whenever you can. Find what works to develop a dedicated prayer time. Find your quiet space and begin to maintain a daily prayer habit.
Your faithfulness of prayer affects future generations. As you complete your first journal, you will see the documentation of praises, confessions, thanksgivings, provisions, and protections. May you experience a deeper prayer life as you journal your thoughts to God.

Pornography and Children

By Judy Groters

Judy Groters is the mom of four adult children and is grandma to three going on four grandchildren. She’s been happily married to Doug for over 30 years, and spent the first 20 of those years living in beautiful places with her family via the navy. Trained as an R.N., she’s done some nursing as well as abstinence education and child-care over the years. Her passions include mentoring, reading, keeping up with friends, any activities outside, cooking, and enjoying being a new empty-nester!

A note from Tena: I had the opportunity to meet Judy when I spoke at her MOPS group where she serves as a mentor mom. At the MOPS meeting, Judy shared about this topic. After the meeting, I asked her to write about this topic and inform us. Thank you, Judy, for writing this piece with grace and wisdom.

Pornography and children -two words that we don’t want to see together at all… ever. And yet I want to raise your awareness with a few thoughts on this subject. My name is Judy and I’m a mom of four growing children all in their 20s, three of whom are married and I am the grandmother of four. I have been married to Doug for over 30 years and I’m very passionate about mentoring and engaging with moms of young children. And that’s how you find me here today. I was invited to share a few thoughts about this subject and I take very little pleasure in doing so. I’m sorry that it’s a topic we need to bring up at all but it’s becoming more and more relevant in the day in which we live.
   What would you do today if before your kids walked out the door for the bus stop or you had to load them in the car you were alerted to the fact that a real lion was prowling outside your door? The answer is obvious to us all. But let that resonate for a moment. Because pornography is loose in your neighborhood, your church, your school, very potentially your home, and it is prowling to devour anyone it can lay hold of. It does not matter how big or small the person, how smart or savvy, it is looking for victims.  I know this sounds dramatic but the threat is as real as a flesh and blood lion loose in your neighborhood. What is greatly exacerbating this problem is the internet. Internet pornography does not have to be sought out like a magazine in a store or a book on a shelf. It is pushed onto the screens of our kids computers, IPADs and smartphones as an interesting looking advertisement or a pretty looking girl, or a coaxing message to explore. One ignorant and innocent click is all it takes. Your child may not even be the one clicking. They may be sitting next to a friend who says, “hey check this out!” Because of it influence on the brain, Internet pornography is likened to crack cocaine addiction. Children and young adults are especially vulnerable.Those on the money- making side of pornography understand what many of us don’t and that is, the younger they can create an addict the more money they will make. 

An excellent article from the American Society of Pediatrics on the effects of pornography on children. https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/the-impact-of-pornography-on-children

 So what’s a mother/parent(s) to do? My goal is to convey awareness that causes you to act but also to leave you with hope. For God in his sovereignty is always one step ahead of the next evil plot that Satan is hatching to destroy God’s people who are created in His image. So how will God use the pornography epidemic to glorify himself? It remains to be seen, but I suspect he will use our brokenness in this area to draw us again to Himself. Having said that, here are a few practical tips to help you navigate what is impacting every family in our nation.

1) Be willing to learn and talk about the problem of pornography in all of its horrific darkness. A book suggestion would be, Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle by Michael John Cusick. While not specifically about children and pornography, it gives insights into the problem of pornography that we would all do well to become versed in. I find in conversations with people there is a general ignorance about how this problem is overtaking us. Part of that is it’s a scary topic to think about. Satan loves our ignorance and uses it very much to his advantage. So become more aware.

2) Put off as long as possible putting into your kids’ hands phones with internet service. You will be especially unpopular with young teens. This really isn’t a very good idea but if you are struggling to believe how Insidious the problem of porn is and how it is trying to find your children and young people, just do a quick experiment on your own. Go to any internet domain, for example Twitter, Google or YouTube, where children and young people are spending plenty of time, and click on any advertisement or picture that is suggestive. And there are plenty of them. If you follow those down there natural path, they can very quickly lead you to pornography. And think how readily available this is to young and developing minds who are trying to learn impulse control. My husband does not spend time in these places because the visual temptations are very great to him. He knows it will not have a good ending. But most children and young people are unsuspecting. They make easy prey for that prowling lion.

3) Conduct random audits. What do I mean by this? 
If your children have phones with internet service, remind them often that the phone they have is to serve you as parents not them for their pleasure. Every now and then, without warning, take their phones from them and peruse their website access history. If it has been deleted there is probably a reason.

4) Establish early that their phones/IPADS do not go to bed with them. All phones are handed in after a certain hour. You decide the hour. Also, please get the televisions/computers out of their rooms. Pornography initially is rarely viewed in a group or public setting. It is an activity of darkness and aloneness. Men who regularly visit strip clubs generally started out as viewers of pornography. But to satisfy the addiction they keep needing more. 

 5) As soon as possible and as is appropriate for your individual child, start having conversations about the reality of pornography in our culture, the ease with which it can be accessed and how it is trying to find them and destroy them. Just to give you a perspective (and this comes from someone I know who was addicted to porn and a believer) the very beginning steps of breaking a porn addiction requires at the very least 3 months with no screens whatsoever. I can hardly wrap my head around that. We are a culture that lives by screens. And we will die by them if we are not proactive even though the topic is distasteful and unpleasant.
  Explain to your young person the new research which verifies by MRI the new dopamine pathways that are laid down by exposure to pornography. Dopamine is a natural, body produced chemical that gives us a natural high. Each time someone looks at pornography their body has a chemical reaction in which dopamine is released. We can now prove that new pathways in the brain are established in addictions of any kind. John Michael Cusick talks about this in his book that I mentioned before. This is stunning evidence of the addiction model. 

I mentioned hope at the beginning of this blog. So what in the world do we have to be hopeful about with this mess? One of our primary roles as parents and mentors is to shepherd our children’s hearts. This epidemic is a wonderful opportunity for us to do those very things, but it starts with becoming aware and educated ourselves. Invite the Savior into the journey you are embarking upon. No one will be untouched by this growing problem.
And get on your knees for your kids and this new reality. God can and will use this issue to draw us closer to Him and each other as we stay close to Him in humility and brokenness. 

Attached are a few articles or links for your information. Please take the time to read them. The very lives and hearts of your children are at stake. 

To God be the glory!

Judy

An excellent article from the American Society of Pediatrics on the effects of pornography on children. https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/the-impact-of-pornography-on-children

This article describes how pervasive child searches for sex or porn were in 2009. https://www.huffingtonp ost.com/2009/12/18/kids-top-searches-in-2009_n_397501.html

This link provides access to some of the more current statistics about pornography and how people perceive it.

What are the most up-to-date stats on pornography?

10 Ugly Numbers Describing Pornography Use in 2017

Some other resources include:

Good reads for parents of daughters
– Kissed the Girls and Made Them Cry – for junior high and high school girls by Lisa Bevere
– Sex and the Soul of a Woman – for 16 and up by Paula Rinehart

With sons:
– Good Pictures, Bad Pictures – by Kristen A Jenson and Gail Poyner
– Every Young Man’s Battle – by Stephen Arterburn
– The War Within – by Bob Reehm

The Best Gift

>Colossians 3 13
Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

When the Wise Men from the East came to worship Jesus, they gave Him gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold. Since that time, people in many different countries have continued the tradition of giving presents to loved ones and friends at Christmas time. In this gift-giving season, we demonstrate our love for others. While celebrating the Messiah’s birth, there are numerous gifts that I could give to family and friends to show how much I care. However, the best present I can offer throughout the year is the gift of forgiveness.
At times loved ones have said hurtful words and done thoughtless actions. When these situations have happened, I have experienced hurt and anger. Sometimes I feel bitter and harbor resentment. I have been trapped and stuck in the muck and mire of my self-pity. Then, I begin to fervently pray for a Godly attitude. With a heavy heart, I seek the Lord and honestly acknowledge my frustration with the flaws of family members and friends. After spending time with my faithful Father, I am reminded of His gift of grace to me. At that pivotal moment, I remember Calvary. God gave His one and only Son to die in my place on the cross. He paid the price for me. Jesus forgave me. Awed by the marvelous grace of God, I exchange resentment for reconciliation. I substitute my fault-finding attitude with heartfelt forgiveness.
When I truly forgive those who have hurt my feelings, I am demonstrating a Christ-like characteristic. Only with the power of God, am I able to pardon and point others to Christ. As family and friends experience my loving kindness, they are curious to know the source of it. My gift of grace encourages them to seek the greatest forgiver of all: Jesus Christ. In Him, they will find His willingness and ability to pardon them of all their sins just as He has graciously forgiven me of all of mine. What a wonderful and eternal gift! It is the best gift!
Father God, help us forgive. Amen.

Christian Life Church Welcomes all to Inaugural Vendor Fair

This article and my interview with Laurie Fanelli, Freelance Reporter, was first published in the Homer Horizon.

Church and community often work hand-in-hand to bring people together. 
On Saturday, Nov. 18, the Christian Life Church in Homer Glen opened its doors to neighbors looking to get a jumpstart on their Christmas shopping with its inaugural Vendor Fair.
After participating in several vendor fairs in the area, congregation member and Homer Glen resident Crystal Turney came up with the idea to host the fall fair as a fundraiser for the church’s community outreach program. 
“We’re hoping to get the word out in the community that the church is here, and everyone is welcome,” she said.
Over a dozen booths offered shoppers a variety of goods, including spiritual books, essential oils, jewelry, apparel and more. Author and speaker Tena DeGraaf was in attendance selling her spiritual book series, “Hidden in My Heart,” “A Heart of Praise” and “A Heart of Wisdom.” Each edition features scripture verses, along with a calendar and journaling segment to help readers reflect on the message of the Bible.
DeGraaf explained how she personally uses the books as tools to dive deeper into scripture. 
“I rewrite each verse in a journal entry because that helps me memorize the verse, think about it, meditate on it and let it resonate with myself,” she said. “Some people also write prayers in the journaling space.”
Along with the vendor sale itself, a bake sale and refreshment area served as a fundraiser for the community outreach program, which places a focus on many of the youngest residents of Homer Glen. 
“We go out into the community and pick up kids for Sunday school in the mornings, so we’ll use the proceeds for that, and we have a lot of events for the kids in the area, as well,” Turney said.
Following the inaugural Vendor Fair, Christian Life Church will be gearing up for one of its biggest community events of the year. It will host a live nativity on Dec. 8 from 7-9 p.m. and Dec. 9 from 6-8 p.m., and admission is free. 
“This is our eighth year doing a live nativity,” the Rev. Perry Walker explained. “This year, we’ve expanded what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. It’s a drive-thru with a lighted path, so each vehicle can drive through the parking lot and see live animals and people in costume. It’s a beautiful time.”
Besides church services, Christian Life Church also fosters academic education with its Christian Life Academy, which is sponsoring the live nativity event. 
Walker’s wife, Loretta, is passionate about providing students — kindergarten through 12th grade — with a well-rounded, high-quality classroom experience through the Academy. 
“Children need a safe place where they can be to grow and thrive in the word of God,” she said. “A biblical-based education is what we emphasize, as well as academic excellence, of course. We’re excited to be in our fifth year now.”
“This church is for everyone,” Perry said. “Our services are for people from every race, every social economic background and it’s a tremendous environment for people to experience a better life. It’s a great place.”
Church services are held every Sunday morning at 10 a.m., and a teaching service is also offered on Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m. at Christian Life Church at 5609 W 159th St., Homer Glen. 
A spring Vendor Fair is also already being planned for May 19.