God's Voice (Author Unknown)

God's Voice (Author Unknown)

Many voices come at our minds, day after day. Some of those voices come from the world around us, through our 5 senses. But then there are those inner voices. Where do they come from — our own thoughts? the voices of others within?

Discerning all those voices, within and without can be tricky. But believe it or not there was a post on Facebook recently that certainly helps.

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The Gate Left Open

The Gate Left Open

I'm so excited to introduce you to my favorite "Guest Branch," my darling husband John. John is a good writer and more important, he is a kind, loving, godly person. The first time he wrote for A Branch in the Vine, it was in response to an anniversary blog post that I had written. And I have been wanting him to write again (OK, nagging a bit too) for this blog. 

So here he is in all his writing and "walking with God" glory. Thank you, John, for helping all of us, including your wife, to understand more deeply that God's grace truly is amazing and ... 

Oops, it's your story, John! Thanks for sharing it with us, my love!

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Soul Care: Just Breathe

Soul Care: Just Breathe

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.  Genesis 2:7 KJV

Ah! How to care for our soul, our inner person? We so often neglect our inside self until we are ready to go over the edge with anxiety, exhaustion, depletion, hole-ness ... often caused by failing to read the signals in and around us.

So my friend and guest branch Mary Petzinger returns today with her helpful insights into this very issue.

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Quiet Places

Quiet Places

In his book The Way of the Heart, Henri Nouwen spoke of silence as a portable cell or sanctuary, a place of transformation that can be carried into ministry. Yet true as that is in active ministry, my ministry now is mainly to family and those that God brings across my path. Even when I’m with family, my heart longs for a quiet place in the midst of chaos. In my oldest daughter Karen’s home it is her sunroom, decorated in a nautical theme. I search for things in the beach painting in front of me – the shapes of the clouds, the rocks at the edge of the water that soothe my soul and help clear my mind.

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In Sorrow: Redefining Death ... and Life!

In Sorrow: Redefining Death ... and Life!

A wise person thinks a lot about death,
    while a fool thinks only about having a good time.

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 NLT

Death! 

The word puts terror in our bones! We know it's coming but we ignore it when we can, and we act like we will live on this earth forever. But then there's the health crisis, the loss of a loved one, the thoughts in the darkness of night, the day-mare or nightmare. And the realization of the truth of where we are all heading (some of us sooner than later) comes sneaking or crashing in. And then we have to face the inevitable or drown it all out with some artificial comfort.

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a branch in the VINE: bigger than a blog

a branch in the VINE: bigger than a blog

I can't believe it. A branch in the Vine is seven years old this month! THANK YOU, dear readers, for reading and encouraging me to keep writing! You have blessed me beyond measure. Can I share a little of the story behind it all?

Eight years ago, I started to be aware that some young women in my life (among whom was my daughter-in-law Cortney) were writing blogs ... quite effectively, I might add. I thought to myself,

"I'm too old to do a blog, but if I weren't, I would call it A branch in the Vine."

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Finding Rest: Wearing the Yoke that Fits

Finding Rest: Wearing the Yoke that Fits

Finding REST, yes! Oh yes!

Rest is my "word of the year," yet it is still a quest for me. You too? Actually, rest is both a gift and a quest while on this earth. Let me explain. 

When we come to Christ by faith, He gives us rest, in fact He Himself IS our Rest -- rest from the penalty and power and one day, the presence of sin. As a result, we are totally acceptable to God, born into His family, beloved children of His who live by His indwelling life. I am IN Christ, and He is IN me. And this rest is a free gift ... given! Not earned!  

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Letting Go of Enabling...especially in Parenting

Letting Go of Enabling...especially in Parenting

Helping or enabling? Enabling or helping? It can be difficult to know the difference. And knowing the difference can make or break a relationship ... and I might add, it may be the difference between being God's instrument in the life of another or blocking God's work in that same individual. 

Welcome again to my friend Tresca who clarifies the difference for us. She deals with the issue as it relates to our children. But if you are like me, you will also learn about healthy helping in other relationships in your life.

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A Hard Detachment: Letting Go of Our Own "Figuring It Out to Fix It"

A Hard Detachment: Letting Go of Our Own "Figuring It Out to Fix It"

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take....

Catherine Marshall says the the hardest thing to relinquish is our will. But I might add that equally hard is yielding our own wisdom, our own understanding, our own abilities, our own "good intentions," to another, even to our Ultimate Other, the Lord Himself. Lately, God has been personally speaking to me again about this very issue. 

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Letting Go: a Healthy Detachment

Letting Go: a Healthy Detachment

Jesus lived with what I call a "healthy detachment." I discovered this years ago as I was meditating in John, chapter two. Even though people were "believing" in Jesus left and right because of the miracles He was performing, He didn't entrust the well-being of His soul to them. He knew human nature. Jesus deeply cared about people, but He knew the only One to whom He could safely entrust Himself was His heavenly Father.We need that healthy detachment in our own lives, don't we? But it is often difficult to know when and how to "let go" in a relationship. I am delighted to introduce you to my friend, Tresca Grannum, our Guest Branch for today. Tresca comes to share some helpful insights into this whole issue of "letting go."

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Soul Care: Just Breathe

Soul Care: Just Breathe

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.  Genesis 2:7 KJV

Ah! How to care for our soul, our inner person? We so often neglect our inside self until we are ready to go over the edge with anxiety, exhaustion, depletion, hole-ness ... often caused by failing to read the signals in and around us.

So my friend and guest branch Mary Petzinger returns today with her helpful insights into this very issue.

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Quiet Places: Shared Wisdom from a Guest Branch

Quiet Places: Shared Wisdom from a Guest Branch

Today and next time here at the Branch in the Vine, I am honored to share words of wisdom from a new friend, Mary Petzinger. Mary and I met at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove in Asheville, NC this fall. As we shared with each other bits and pieces of our lives, we discovered that we had much in common humanly and spiritually. And our husbands also have a common interest, "Evidence of the Creator in the Creation" (Intelligent Design).

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The Wise Guys...Essential Oils, Part 2

The Wise Guys...Essential Oils, Part 2

Epiphany is over. 
Christmas trees are coming down. 
And perhaps in response to the awesome information shared in the last post by our family expert and my dear DIL, Cortney Solinger Loyd,
or even through previous contact with the "believers" in your life, 
you are exploring the gifts of the Magi...the essential oils, in particular myrrh and frankincense.

If you are among that number, you may be interested to look at Cortney's links below

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The Wise Men...gifts of Essential Oils?

The Wise Men...gifts of Essential Oils?

Magi, Wise men, Three Kings...those figures way at the end of the Nativity scene (I suppose because they were still traveling from afar)... In recent years, this trio (if it was a trio) have become my heroes. Think about it! People probably thought they were crazy following a star to God knows where. THEY probably thought they were crazy after a time. What courage! What perseverance! What joy in the finding!

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Arrested by the Risen Christ: Brenda's Story

Arrested by the Risen Christ:  Brenda's Story

Every Easter I think of family and friends who have died in Christ.  Somewhere and sometime on their earthly journey they each met the Risen Christ in a unique way...some quite dramatically, some softly and quietly.

During this Easter week, I'd like to tell you about a friend who was arrested by the Risen Christ.  She's virtually unknown, except by those whose lives she touched.  Her name is Brenda.

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Keeping God's Word Fresh: a Guest Branch

Keeping God's Word Fresh: a Guest Branch

If I want to keep my relationship with Jesus strong I need to keep the lines of communication open. We speak to God through prayer and He speaks to us through His Word and through the Holy Spirit. 

Sometimes it can seem like a chore, however, so I’m always looking for ways to keep the Bible “living and active”. 

I discovered a fun Bible last year. It’s called The ESV Journaling Bible. It has room on the sides to write notes or to draw or paint. I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting as a hobby so what better way to elevate God’s Word! 

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My Sticky Valentine...Loving Real, Loving Well

I am so honored to introduce you to my latest Guest Branch, my darling daughter, Elizabeth ... better known to all of us as Beth. Beth and Nate, her husband of ten-plus years, started out as good friends in high school. Years later, at just the right time, their real-life friendship blossomed into something more.

So in this post from her own blog, Beth describes a real-life romance, celebrating Valentines Day in a real-life way.

A profoundly real truth for us all!

Beth and Nate
Beth and Nate

My Sticky Valentine

Valentine’s Day has always been a sticky holiday for my husband and I. My decorating style may be romantic at times, but our style as a couple just doesn't jive with all the over the top drama associated with the holiday.  My date night of choice for example would be to go play a rousing game of billiards and flirt competitively with my husband over drinks rather than exchange sonnets professing our love.  There is just something that doesn't ring true in my heart if it has to be cloaked in too much pomp and circumstance.

We usually just play it safe though and go the humorous route, oh yeah, and chocolate...lots and lots of chocolate.  Honestly I would be hard pressed to find an occasion in life where Godiva would not be appropriate.

But last year I couldn't opt-out with humor.  Just a couple of months prior we had taken a large financial hit with our rental home, having to replace the entire AC unit as well as completing some other major repairs. While we were trying to regain our footing, we found out that we were expecting.  Being the efficient military couple, forced to travel light, we had gotten rid of all the paraphernalia required for a child under the age of 4.

It wasn't earth shattering and truly the latter one was a blessing but by Valentines day we were left feeling stressed and emotionally tired.

I set out to compose a valentine that was financially cheap, emotionally extravagant and honestly whimsical.

After composing the message, I printed it out on card stock folding it at the top twice, leaving 1/2in allowance between the folds, to fit a box of my husband's favorite chewing gum on the inside.

Then I left it on the seat of his car.

It's not perfect.  In fact I can't help thinking how my graphic designer brother might react to my type choice and spacing.  I guess its only fitting. My husband and I are not perfect either but in our imperfection, perfect for each other and isn't that what Valentines day is all about?

Visit Beth at her blog Rental Pretty

Rental Pretty
Rental Pretty

I'm not afraid to experiment with unconventional materials, snatch up and repurpose rejected items waiting for the landfill,and occasionally fail in the process.

It's all in the effort to transform this bland rental space from rental ready to RentalPretty.

A Better Resurrection

Kenya, africa
Kenya, africa

It was just a week ago that we heard the story of students having been massacred at a university in Kenya.  We were stunned but not surprised!  Radical Islamic terrorists made their mark again!

But I would venture to guess, few of us have heard the following story of hope and deliverance in the name of Jesus.  At least, I hadn't until I received an email from our brother in the Lord, Sammy Maina.  Sammy is a pastor of a small congregation in Nairobi.  (I posted his personal story of faith last year at Easter time.)

I was overjoyed to learn about the Lord's rescue, all because of the courage of the indwelling Christ in and through one young student.  Here is Sammy's account in his own words:

These are the last of the last days and seeing ugly scenes are inevitable as happened when 147 people were killed in a college in my country by terrorists last week. The word of God must be fulfilled.
A man within the group of students attacked told the attackers that he would not denounce Christ just because they held a gun at him. He held his bible in a room that had others in dozens while saying these words. He said if God had seen it fit for him to die by the gun so be it! But he was not ready to denounce that Jesus is his Lord. These words from him made the gunman to shiver and his mind seemed to have been taken away from what he intended to do. He stood for a while just guessing amid the frightened faces of many in that cubicle, save for this bold young man. He asked them all in that cubicle to flee for their lives as fast as they could, not firing a single bullet at them.  Thus this group of people that had hidden in that cubicle were all saved because of one man whose mind has been made up fully to live and die for Jesus Christ.
Christ the Messiah of God is the holder of our destiny. He knows our purpose for our living and what mission we must accomplish. If we have full trust in Him, we cannot perish if the reason of our coming is not fully met. We live predestined lives and our part is just to walk the path of that road as a train would move on a railway with its driver, less bothered about its motion for he is more than sure it is on the right track. I hear too that in  aeroplanes, pilots would after reaching some heights just relax and take coffee as the plane just moves on its predestined air route. The Lord is faithful!

We all are part of something bigger than ourselves, aren't we?

I can't help but think of what I call my

worldview passage

, Hebrews 11 & 12.  There we read of believer after believer who lived by faith.  Sometimes good things happened as they walked by faith, but sometimes "bad" things happened as they walked by faith.

But no matter what the outcome, they persevered by faith.  I especially love the following passage:

[By faith]

Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.  Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them.
Hebrews 11:35-38 NIV

Sammy
Sammy

That Kenyan student was hoping for a better resurrection as he stood firm in his allegiance to Christ.  The world is not worthy of such as him. May we be encouraged to hold on to the reigning King of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ, no matter the outcome on this earth...by faith!

Dancing with Jesus

stephanie
stephanie

May I introduce my long-time friend and sister in the Lord, Stephanie Curtis?  Stephanie and I met at Community Bible Chapel when our kiddos were very little.  And then low and behold, I ended up being her son Aaron's kindergarten teacher for several months (as a sub) at Scoffield Christian School in Dallas.

But Stephanie and I really connected in studying the word together with Chuck Swindoll and Insight for Living...via radio, of course.  Stephanie and I, along with another friend, would study all week, using Chuck's study guides, and then we would get together and discuss the Word, followed by prayer for our families and each other.

Those were precious days indeed...those days as young moms, sharing with the Lord and with each other!

Then there came moves to Atlanta (Stephanie) and Dayton (Jan)...

The years passed...and kids grew and married...and the grandkids started appearing.  Once a year communication through Christmas letters (Stephanie being more faithful at it than I was, I have to admit) kept us loosely connected.

Then entered facebook! Oh blessed facebook!  And my friend Stephanie came back into my life.

So I am honored to introduce you to my godly friend Stephanie as my latest Guest Branch. Be blessed and amazed as you read her story of a precious intimacy with her Savior and ours!

Thank you so much, Stephanie, for  sharing your experience with us...to God be all the glory for His pleasure and purpose in our generation to the next! (Acts 13:36)

 ++++++++++++++++++++++++

waltz
waltz

One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. Psalm 145: 3,4

About fifteen years ago, I began experiencing an intimacy with God I hadn't known before. In part, this was prompted by our involvement as intercessors in a cantata based on the Song of Solomon. Don and I began studying the Song of Solomon.  I felt a closeness, an intimacy with God, that was quite amazing. My life seemed like a date with the God of the universe.

There was a man in our church at that time named Lamar. He was old school Pentecostal, and he loved the Lord with every inch of his long, lanky body.  He always sat in the front row and when he got excited about the Lord, he started dancing. He hooted and hollered and kicked up his heels, doing sort of whirly-gig across the room. We are a charismatic church, but he trumped anything the rest of us did to show enthusiasm for God.

One Sunday the worship team did a beautiful melodic praise song. I began imagining that Jesus was asking me to dance and I danced with him in my mind. Of course, that sort of imagination can get tricky because you have to do it so that you don't really put a face on Jesus. After all, we don't know what he looked like. I could run the risk of putting Don's face there. Or, worse yet, George Clooney's face.

So, to my best ability, I imagined Jesus, in sort of a fuzzy way, dancing with me. It was so lovely. We must have been doing a waltz. I think he was in a tux. I was really into it and loving the moment—so much so that I didn't notice the tempo and rhythm transition to the next song, which was “Mercy is Falling.” The one with the refrain that goes “Hey Ho I receive your glory; Hey Ho I receive your grace, Hey Ho I will dance forever more.”

As the worship team was ramping up that rousing song, I felt someone tapping me on the shoulder. It startled me out of my reverie and to my surprise, Lamar was there asking me to dance. I was in shock.  Lamar had never asked anyone to dance with him before. Well, before I had a chance to get too nervous, he pulled me up to the front and there I was, whirly- gigging across the front of the room with Lamar!  When the song was over, Lamar told me the most amazing thing. He said that God had told him to ask me to dance.

Isn't that so incredible and so like our God? God has often shown me His humorous side. In this case, there I was imagining dancing a waltz with Jesus and He tells someone to ask me to dance---kicking and leaping across the room.

But, besides a little chuckle, there were observations and lessons there for me. First, the obvious observation. What a miracle. What a boost to my faith that God, when I was imagining dancing with Jesus, would actually tell someone to ask me to dance. That still blows me away!

One  lesson is that we never know what to expect when it comes to our God. We want God in our circumstances and in our lives, but we are clueless as to what that is going to look like. So, we sometimes don't recognize Him. Comparing our lives to a dance with the Lord, when He taps us on the shoulder and wants to dance with us, we are sometimes expecting a different kind of dance; a different kind song.

This brings me back to intimacy with God. It doesn't always feel like a date, or a slow dance, with the God of the universe. But, God is ever Present and ever waiting for us to dance with him.