11/29/09

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
[For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.]
Amen.
It feels like something very important is missing when there is a week that I miss church. There is a strong feeling of love, faith, joy and protection there; there's a strong presence of the Holy Spirit. My body doesn't feel like it; my flesh wants me to stay away, but the Spirit doesn't. The Bible says, "The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak," and also says, "Greater is He that is in you then he that is in the world."

11/28/09

Why did the Three Wise Men give gifts of gold, frankincense & myrhh to baby Jesus? They did it on purpose. Those were gifts that you gave to a king.

11/26/09

It's cruel to punish an innocent person;and a shame to not give mercy when you've been given mercy yourself.(ref. Proverbs17:26 & Matt18:33)

Happy Thanksgiving 2009

Hi. I haven't written much on my blog this month because I've been Tweeting so much. But, I wanted to say "Happy Thanksgiving" to everyone. There is always something to be thankful for, even if you're alone. I remember, 2004 was the worst year of my life. I was pretty much alone for Thanksgiving and I ate macaroni & cheese instead of the traditional festival meal. I said that I wasn't thankful for anything since I truly believed that I was living a cursed life and that it couldn't get any worse. Therefore, I saw no point in celebrating Thanksgiving. I was a very depressed, angry young woman at the time. Flash forward to 2009: I am very thankful. I've had a lot of ups and downs this year. But, I am thankful for all the blessings, the people in my life and the good that people do. I do notice all these things everyday and I don't take it for granted. So thank you all and happy Thanksgiving.

11/24/09

A Good List To Live By

The most destructive habit…………………………. Worry

The greatest joy………………………………………… Giving

The greatest loss……………………………………….. Self-respect

The most satisfying work……………………………. Helping Others

The ugliest personality trait……………………….. Selfishness

The greatest problem to overcome………………..Fear

The most effective sleeping pill…………………… Peace of mind

The most powerful force in life……………..……… Love

The most dangerous outcast………………..……… A Gossip

The worst thing to be without……………………… Hope

The deadliest weapon………………………..………. The Tongue

The two most power-filled words…………..……. “I can”

The greatest asset………………………….…………. Faith

The most beautiful attire…………………………… A Smile

The most prized possession……………………….. Integrity

The most powerful channel of communication..Prayer

The most contagious spirit…………………………. Enthusiasm

Our greatest teacher …………………….………………Experience

And always remember:

To the world, YOU might be one person; but to one person, Me, you might be the world; and to you, YOU are the one

Copyright © 2009 Recovery Is Sexy.com All rights reserved.

11/22/09

Some Marriage-Based, Biblical-Based Articles

Devotional: Communication and Conflict
We are called to be attentive to one another in marriage, to stop and listen and to learn about each other.
from Mary Pierce

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19

As men and women our differences go beyond the obvious physical ones. We think differently, we respond differently, different things catch our hearts. However, we are too-often inclined to ignore that fact and plow through life with our own perceptions of how others should live and respond. The harvest of that kind of mentality can be misunderstanding, resentment, and alienation.

We are called to be attentive to one another in marriage, to stop and listen and to learn about each other. We must be willing to ask; we must be willing to reveal. Much can be learned about one another by how we live, but there are also things that words can give life and understanding to.

Conflict is inevitable, and often it is through conflict that we come in touch with the deep places and real meanings of our feelings. It is often only through times of discord that we can identify and offer the deepest content of our hearts. What we must remember in these moments is that our spouse is not the enemy. It sounds odd perhaps, but couples often come at each other from that very stance. In that place where little listening occurs, painful and damaging words are spoken, and anger isolates.

Consider James’ words, what a compelling picture of relationship. When we look at one another in marriage, when we realize that this is just the person we need to help us become who God has made us to be, then our hearts are more likely to respond in attentive tenderness.

Father, you communicated your love to us by sending Jesus to live and die for us. You bring us together in marriage, we who are so very different, and you call us to communicate with one another the very love we receive from you. Teach us, Father, how to do that in a way that honors each other and glorifies You.
Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Devotional: External Relationships
When we choose to live our married life according to the design God has for us, it can be amazing.
from Mary Pierce

‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’ Matthew 19:4-6

These words show us that marriage is the act of bringing two individuals together, uniting them, and making them one flesh. It is totally a “Godthing,” nothing we could ever do on our own.

When we choose to live our married life according to the design God has for us, it can be amazing. However, when we choose to try to remain separate and insist on being connected with others in the same way we were before marriage, it’s a lot like running a three-legged race connected to two different people; it’s not going to be pretty!

The image of being joined brings with it a sense of husband and wife bonded primary to one another. It’s not necessarily a call to preclude relationships with friends or family, though it may be. Above all it is the call for us to consider life and choices with the one to whom God has joined us.

From being made one in Christ and seeking his design for our life, we can discern prayerfully which relationships bring life to our marriage and which ones seek to separate us from one another, or from God. Furthermore, it is not discernment reserved exclusively for the beginning of marriage. A relationship that was life-giving early in our marriage may change and need to be relinquished, or a relationship we pulled away from in order to establish who we were as a couple may become a place to which we can return.

Father, this union is of your making and reflects your heart. Give us wisdom and delight as we let your love join us together. Let us not consider what we are leaving but rather what we are stepping into with one another and with you.
Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Devotional: Facing Adversity
The reality of the presence of adversity in life is a given.
from Mary Pierce

But now, this is what the Lord says–He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk though the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:1-2

The reality of the presence of adversity in life is a given. Some Christian teaching mistakenly proclaims that this life of faith somehow entitles us to a smooth and painless ride through life, and that if we’re not traveling first class it’s only because we don’t have enough faith.

Consider Isaiah’s words: When you pass through the waters . . . when you pass through the rivers . . . when you walk through the fire. In addition remember what is written in Psalm 23: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. None of that sounds like adversity has been avoided. However, in each of these places we are promised by the Lord, I will be with you.

The question that begs to be asked at this point is: Which is a greater reality, the intensity of a trial or the presence of the Lord with us in that trial? This question sometimes cannot be answered until we have stood in the midst of the rising waters and experienced Him with us. It is then that the knowing moves from head to heart and the impact of the adversity lessens in the magnitude of God’s presence.

Father please help us to craft our marriage in the reality of your words in Ecclesiastes 4:‘Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.’ Let us let You be our third strand, Lord; weave us in your strength that we might be held in your hope, no matter the storm.
Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Devotional: Love and Respect
To assume that our ability to love another person has its source in our own hearts carries with it the potential to be embarrassing, painful, or dangerous.
from Mary Pierce

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

To misjudge the source of something can be embarrassing-- as in incorrectly guessing the sender of an anonymous love letter. It can also be painful–as in having the wrong tooth filled. Finally, it can even be dangerous–as in repairing a gas leak by soldering the pipe just shy of where the actual crack is.

To assume that our ability to love another person has its source in our own hearts carries with it the potential to be embarrassing, painful, or dangerous. We love because He first loved us. While early in marriage the depth of our love may seem to thrive in the abundant delight and overflow of our own hearts, a day may come when finding a drop of love or respect in our heart for our spouse will feel impossible. Where does that leave us?

It leaves us with the call to look at Jesus –God made flesh and came among us. He is the One from whom love begins; He is the One from whom we are given both access to love and patterns with which to offer love.

Consider Jesus washing his disciples’ feet; consider Him willingly and sinlessly going to the cross for our sins. This is what draws us out of ourselves and into the heart of Love, this place where his mercy meets our unworthiness and still, He loves us.

Standing in that place of watching Jesus, the call becomes both clear and accessible. It is then that we are to be willing to lay down our own rights and pour out that same love to the one with whom God has joined us together in covenant.

Father you love us abundantly and you love us well. Draw us into a posture of attentiveness, that we might see You loving us and learn to, long to, love and respect one another with that same purity, passion, and delight. Lord that we not seek to draw love from our limited wells but rather from the unlimited depths of You.
Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Devotional: Marriage in Crisis
It is rare that a marriage hits a crisis point as the result of one move of one person.
from Mary Pierce

‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. ’Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Joel 2:12-13

Whether the elements that batter your heart come from someone else suddenly ripping apart your roof of protection, or from your own tearing off of those tiles, there is a helplessness that comes from exposure. That same helplessness often renders us unable to see how to even navigate the storm, let alone cause it to subside.

It is rare that a marriage hits a crisis point as the result of one move of one person. The dance of a marriage is not a dance of one. Intentional or unintentional, malicious or thoughtless, planned or impulsive, both partners are continually making moves and taking steps that either add to the beauty of the dance or choreograph chaos.

When we are at the point of crisis-- analysis of moves, assigning blame, or demanding change are generally without effect. When the roof has been removed, there is one place to go for covering, to the Lord.

While returning to the Lord rather than facing into the circumstances may feel counterintuitive, it is the covering of His grace, compassion, patience, and love that steadies us and gives us wisdom and hope.

In Joel we see the call to come to Him with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. If the storm within us, the brokenness and repentance, is not commensurate to the storm without, we are unlikely to know or to seek the shelter we need.

Father, sometimes I want to fight, sometimes I want to fix everything, sometimes I just want to run away. Give me the wisdom and the strength to run to You, You who stand in the midst of the storm with me. Give me a heart that is willing to repent and be instructed, and give me the grace to trust your heart.
Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Devotional: Military Marriages
We so long to find or to create certainty in our lives. There is but one certainty in life, and that is the presence of our loving God.
from Mary Pierce

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. Matthew 1:18-19

Mary and Joseph most likely began their engagement with normal dreams and expectations for their life together. All of us in our time of engagement spend time dreaming of our future; there is no reason to believe that Mary and Joseph were any different.

Two angel visits later, the future of this young couple became anything but the life they could have imagined. How many of us have been awakened out of our dreams only to find that what we thought was certain was nowhere to be found?

We so long to find or to create certainty in our lives. There is but one certainty in life, and that is the presence of our loving God, sealed with his words in Joshua 1:5: I will never leave you nor forsake you.

When we feel as though we’re drowning in the turmoil and upheaval of our lives, God encourages us and puts us with others who know the journey. Consider what he did for Mary and Joseph to help them to navigate the journey. He put them in a community of men and women with hearts for God. He gathered Mary in the midst of others who loved Jesus and were drawn to Him and the Father through Him. On the cross Jesus gave John and Mary to one another as mother and son and Mary lived in John’s house.

No matter the size or duration of the challenges before us, God is faithful to his promise, and He simply never leaves us.

Such a promise, loving Father, a promise that we need in the uncertainty of our lives. Help us to yield our hearts to your hope, and find our courage lodged in your love.
Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Devotional: Sex and Intimacy
To yield to one another sexually in marriage is to step into God-created intimacy.
from Mary Pierce

My lover is mine and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16

These are words of belonging, words that for an engaged couple can generate tender imagining and anticipation of what life together will be. Lived out by a married couple, these words can hold together in intimacy what much of the world seems to determined to break apart. Intimacy in marriage, sexual and otherwise, was created by God and is to be fought for, delighted in, and fiercely guarded.

To yield to one another sexually in marriage is to step into God-created intimacy that takes us out of ourselves and into places where the walls can crumble and we can be tenderly vulnerable and real. There is peace and expansiveness of heart that come with this intimacy; one that offers such glorious contrast to the confusion and momentum of the world.

We must be willing to fight for intimacy in our marriages and to fiercely guard it. We fight for it by being attentive to each other’s hearts; by yielding to God in a way that allows us to more easily yield to one another. We guard it by be intentional, considering what pulls us from intimacy and stepping away from those places, considering what brings us life and stepping deliberately into those places.

My lover is mine and I am his; we long to belong. Marriage, as a coming together before God, offers a sense of belonging that mirrors our belonging to the Father. While the vulnerability that intimacy brings is sometimes hard or scary to step into, it is such a wonderfully holy place that God gives us, a place of delighting in one another that echoes of the Father’s delight in us.

Father, forgive me the places where, although I long to belong, I rebel under your covering. Forgive me the places where I choose not to yield. Let me delight so much in You that I can delight in the one you have given me in marriage, that together we might be Yours.
Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Devotional: Spiritual Foundations
Spiritual intimacy between a husband and wife provides a safe covering.
from Mary Pierce

The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Isaiah 32:17-18

Intimacy in a marriage is birthed in more ways and to greater depth than we often imagine. Spiritual intimacy between a husband and wife provides a safe covering, but also more than a covering. Coming together as a couple before God brings us to a place of access to the power and passion we need to live in this world–not just survive, but thrive.

Consider Isaiah’s words as he describes how the righteous will live: in peace, quietness, confidence, security, undisturbed places of rest. What a counter cultural image! Each of these is a heart posture before it becomes a reality. And when as husband and wife we stand together in that heart posture, God crafts this reality in our lives. It doesn’t mean there aren’t storms or struggles, but this is how we’re able to live well and carry hope in the midst of whatever life holds.

As might be expected, because of the power it can hold, spiritual intimacy is fiercely opposed. Many couples get lost in feeling uncomfortable praying aloud together, or they slip into comparing, she’s more spiritual than I am; I can’t pray as well as he can, often giving up and yielding to what feels comfortable, but results in spiritual impotence.

Corporate prayer, engaging with scripture together, worshiping together, all are primary resources for building spiritual foundations as a couple. It’s not about finding a formula, but being willing to answer the call to enter in and remain intentional in the building of our spiritual life together.

Father, Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but that You have come that we may have life and have it to the full. Please don’t let our pride or insecurities stop us from coming together before you with worshipful and attentive hearts. We want your life, in fullness not in fractions.
Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Devotional: Starting Out
When couples mistakenly look to each other as the sole source of encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness and compassion, life becomes complicated.
from Mary Pierce

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Philippians 2:1-2

We are given a truly beautiful picture of marriage in this scripture: being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. It’s a glorious tapestry to imagine, especially as a couple begins their life together, but it’s also an imagining that can be wrought with questions like how to even begin to weave such glory.

What we need to know is that we are not called to do the weaving; we are called to yield to the Father so that we can be woven together by Him.

Look at the first part of this scripture and consider what each person has the potential to bring into a marriage out of the overflow of their relationship with Jesus: encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness and compassion. What an amazing description of what we long for in marriage. It is from that springboard in which a couple is able to discover the rhythm of their life and love together.

When couples mistakenly look to each other as the sole source of encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness and compassion, life becomes complicated. We are called to offer these things to each other, but if our source is not Jesus, we will be quickly depleted of these gifts and will harbor resentment and feelings of inadequacy in our relationship.

Let us first encourage one another in our personal relationship with Jesus, and then let Him craft our corporate relationship with Him, and we will watch with humility and awe as He begins to weave us together in Him.

Lord God, the colors of your heart are stunning. Take those colors and weave us into a tapestry of your design. As a couple, let us yield to You and trust that You will cover us in your love. That in our lives and love You are glorified.
Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Devotional: Time and Money
As with everything in our lives, our ability to live in the fullness that God has for us has all to do with our focus.
from Mary Pierce

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13

As with everything in our lives, our ability to live in the fullness that God has for us has all to do with our focus. The world tells us that we must concentrate on things, money, success, and on protecting all that we are able to attain–no matter the cost. The world tells us the insidious lie that who we are and what we have is never enough.

In Deuteronomy 6:5 we discover where God tells us to put our focus: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. In its counter-cultural way, this command seems to totally ignore our earthly needs. The tug to manage our lives, our time and our money is strong; after all, if we don’t, who will?!

We are called to be good stewards of all that we are given. That stewardship is lived out in recognizing God as the source of all good gifts, taking those gifts–whether meager or much– giving thanks, and then offering those gifts in response to his prompting in our hearts.

When a couple can come to a place of letting the Lord manage their lives rather than letting their lives manage them, there comes a deep and accurate sense of having enough. In need or in plenty, rushed or relaxed, hungry or well fed, through Him and in Him we find that Godliness with contentment is great gain. 1Timothy 6:6

Father, the world is so loud as it clamors for our hearts. It is the noise of confusion that lures us out of living in You as we frantically attempt to manage each moment. Give us the grace to focus on your Glory and to know how to be content, no matter what.
Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Help Your Marriage Thrive
Marriage was created by God to be a reflection of the goodness, mercy and unity of the Godhead. Marriage done right gives the world a glimpse of what our Creator looks and acts like.
by Mary Pierce

Jean and I were married August 24, 1986. We started with a bang – with lots of travel, the thrill of being newlyweds, and the dreams of spending a lifetime together. While I cannot pinpoint with any accuracy the date when we reached rock bottom, the dark clouds moved in sometime during our second year of marriage. I remember that night all too well. I had stepped into the bathroom to brush my teeth as we readied ourselves for bed. When I jumped into bed, Jean was sobbing. Unsure what had provoked such deep, heart-felt tears, I asked, "What's wrong?"

Brushing away the tears, she said, "I just don't think you should stay married to me." While we got off to a wonderful start, all was not rosy. I'll be the first to say that married life is hard work. Both of us had things in our past that threatened to derail us from staying together. As she spoke, it was clear Jean was wrestling with depression, as well as a lack of self-confidence that she'd be a good mother once we started having children.

Of course, I had some of the same questions of my own, you know, whether or not I'd be a good dad especially since I didn't have a solid example to follow. Although I loved my father, he was unreliable. He was a chronic gambler, an alcoholic who threatened to harm my mom with a hammer, and he was suicidal at one point in his life. He divorced my mother when I was just a child. Like I said, I didn't learn the first thing about how to love, cherish, or provide for a spouse from him.

Lying next to my wife that night in bed, I said, "Jean, it seems to me that there are only two options for us, because divorce is not an option. We can do marriage one of two ways: happily or unhappily." I added, "With all of the stuff that's gone on in my life, I'd much rather do this happily." That bedrock of commitment sparked a desire in us to get Christian counseling.

With help, we were ultimately able to untangle the difficulties in our background that kept us from winning at our marriage. As a result of seeking a marriage counselor back then, our relationship today is stronger than ever. We've been married twenty-two years and I can say with certainty that God has blessed us in ways we never dreamed. I'll also be the first to admit we've still got our work cut out for us.

What couple doesn't?

I'm not surprised that, among the score of reasons people contact Focus on the Family, marriage-related issues are consistently in the Top Ten. Thousands call or write seeking a lifeline for their marriage. With the spark of romance long gone, feeling isolated and perhaps betrayed, they're desperate and ready to call it quits.

Others wonder whether there's more to marriage than the day-to-day business of parenting and raising kids. They desire insight on how to nurture the physical and emotional side of their friendship with their mate. Having a peaceful, satisfying marriage is important. Who doesn't need to be wanted, accepted, and cherished? These longings are both normal and admirable. Indeed, learning how to communicate more successfully with your spouse and discovering how to respect and romance your mate are important components of a great marriage.

At the same time, we at Focus on the Family believe there's another, often overlooked, foundational dimension. I'm talking about God's viewpoint. After all, marriage was created by God to be a reflection of the goodness, mercy, and unity of the Godhead. Marriage done right gives the world a glimpse of what our Creator looks and acts like.

Which is why I'm thrilled to tell you about the Focus on Marriage™ Simulcast Conference, February 28, 2009. Throughout the U.S. and Canada, five hundred churches will host this live, day-long event. Featuring biblical insight into marriage from Beth Moore, Gary Smalley, John Trent, Gary Thomas, and our very own Del Tackett, it's one marriage seminar you won't want to miss. Why?

We believe that when you learn to see your marriage through the eyes of God, you'll discover the divine purpose He had in mind when He brought you and your spouse together. In turn, you'll experience deepened feelings, better communication, and a rekindling of the romance you once shared. I'll be on hand and look forward to learning alongside of the more than 28,000 couples who have registered to date. For more details and to register, click here or call us at 1-800-AFAMILY.

I hope you can join us!
Copyright © 2009, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Teen-Fueled Tension
Making marriage work as your kids move into adolescence
by Mary Pierce

Just when we thought we'd been married long enough to figure out a few things, my husband, Ben, and I woke up with teenagers in our home. As we entered the turbulent teen years, we were forced to deal with a growing number of crises fueled by our three daughters' rising estrogen levels.

Ben and I struggled to stay on the same team, and sometimes we found ourselves on opposite sides. That's what happened one evening as we argued about teaching our oldest daughter how to drive.

My husband had already given her a few lessons in a large parking lot. I thought she was ready for a new challenge, so I let her try her fledgling skills on the back roads. When I told Ben about our little adventure—including our near accident at an intersection—he wasn't pleased.

"What do you mean, you took her on the back roads?" he fumed. "And you almost got hit?"

I defended my decision. "I thought she could handle the car well enough. I just forgot that she wasn't used to road signs and other vehicles yet."

Ben's anger was sparked by his fatherly concern. Working as an EMT and firefighter, he'd seen his share of road fatalities. But I felt he was challenging my parenting skills. Instead of steering the discussion in a positive direction, I wanted to prove I was right.

As the argument escalated, I realized we had once again squared off against each other instead of tackling the issue together. After our emotions cooled, we both acknowledged that we needed to take steps to protect our marriage during the turbulent teen years.
New reasons to argue

Parenting teens provides a new set of conflicts for couples: debates over discipline, respect, privileges, responsibilities, media choices and dating boundaries. Then there are the driving escapades, the increased financial stress, and of course, the delicate dance of holding on and letting go.

Knowing that the kids will soon leave home also can turn parents against each other as they evaluate what's been done correctly—and what hasn't. When my oldest was a senior in high school, I found myself fluctuating between grieving and longing for the day she'd be gone. Most of my concentration and emotions were spent on my kids; it was no wonder that marital tension reached an all-time high during the teen years.
Mounting pressure

Beyond the normal dramas of adolescence, however, teen rebellion creates even greater pressure on a marriage. John Trent, founder of the Center for Strong Families, compares this pressure to pumping air into a balloon without any kind of release. "If couples are experiencing a prodigal kid," Trent says, "then there's tremendous emotion being pumped into the system. It feels like every day is an explosion."

Whether couples are dealing with typical teen issues or outright rebellion, Trent recommends that they take a few moments in their day to ease the building pressure by asking God for the love, patience and kindness that will sustain them through new conflicts. "It's really important to off-load [the stress] to Somebody with really big shoulders, and then we're ready to at least start over from a position of strength," Trent says.
The power of small changes

Trent says the small changes we make in our relationships can pay big dividends in the long run. He describes how he and his wife, Cindy, approached the teen years in their home. John and Cindy asked themselves, What are some small things we can start doing now that will strengthen our relationship?

They resolved to set aside an hour and a half each week to take inventory of their relationship. They would sit at the food court of a mall (a public place where they would not be prone to argue) and talk about family issues—marriage, parenting, whatever the week's challenge. Time away allowed them to work on the small things in their marriage and their family so they would have strength for the big things. It also assured their kids that Mom and Dad were carving out time to nurture a lasting relationship.
Staying connected

Ben and I explored the small changes we could make to strengthen our marriage. We committed to talk openly about parenting issues. We also purposed to stay open-minded and seek counsel when we couldn't agree on how best to deal with the pressure in our home.

To build a sense of camaraderie and connection, we researched hobbies that we could share, and we agreed to count our blessings so that gratitude would keep our hearts entwined.

But more than anything else, the best defenses for our marriage have been forgiveness, accountability, prayer and the Word. They have supplied the grace we need to survive any teen crisis.

I realize more than ever that seasons come and go in our lives and the stress of today will be the wisdom of tomorrow. That wisdom includes trusting a heavenly Father to care for our teens, even as Ben and I hold tight to each other.

This article first appeared in the June/July 2009 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. Copyright © 2009, Pam Woody. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Devotional: Communication and Conflict

We are called to be attentive to one another in marriage, to stop and listen and to learn about each other.
from Mary Pierce

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19

As men and women our differences go beyond the obvious physical ones. We think differently, we respond differently, different things catch our hearts. However, we are too-often inclined to ignore that fact and plow through life with our own perceptions of how others should live and respond. The harvest of that kind of mentality can be misunderstanding, resentment, and alienation.

We are called to be attentive to one another in marriage, to stop and listen and to learn about each other. We must be willing to ask; we must be willing to reveal. Much can be learned about one another by how we live, but there are also things that words can give life and understanding to.

Conflict is inevitable, and often it is through conflict that we come in touch with the deep places and real meanings of our feelings. It is often only through times of discord that we can identify and offer the deepest content of our hearts. What we must remember in these moments is that our spouse is not the enemy. It sounds odd perhaps, but couples often come at each other from that very stance. In that place where little listening occurs, painful and damaging words are spoken, and anger isolates.

Consider James’ words, what a compelling picture of relationship. When we look at one another in marriage, when we realize that this is just the person we need to help us become who God has made us to be, then our hearts are more likely to respond in attentive tenderness.

Father, you communicated your love to us by sending Jesus to live and die for us. You bring us together in marriage, we who are so very different, and you call us to communicate with one another the very love we receive from you. Teach us, Father, how to do that in a way that honors each other and glorifies You.

Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Devotional: External Relationships

When we choose to live our married life according to the design God has for us, it can be amazing.
from Mary Pierce

‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’ Matthew 19:4-6

These words show us that marriage is the act of bringing two individuals together, uniting them, and making them one flesh. It is totally a “Godthing,” nothing we could ever do on our own.

When we choose to live our married life according to the design God has for us, it can be amazing. However, when we choose to try to remain separate and insist on being connected with others in the same way we were before marriage, it’s a lot like running a three-legged race connected to two different people; it’s not going to be pretty!

The image of being joined brings with it a sense of husband and wife bonded primary to one another. It’s not necessarily a call to preclude relationships with friends or family, though it may be. Above all it is the call for us to consider life and choices with the one to whom God has joined us.

From being made one in Christ and seeking his design for our life, we can discern prayerfully which relationships bring life to our marriage and which ones seek to separate us from one another, or from God. Furthermore, it is not discernment reserved exclusively for the beginning of marriage. A relationship that was life-giving early in our marriage may change and need to be relinquished, or a relationship we pulled away from in order to establish who we were as a couple may become a place to which we can return.

Father, this union is of your making and reflects your heart. Give us wisdom and delight as we let your love join us together. Let us not consider what we are leaving but rather what we are stepping into with one another and with you.

Copyright © 2008, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Talking Turkey

Jell-O Frisbees. Lumpy gravy. Blackened turkey. No matter. What matters is that we gather together, with gratitude to God for His love and for the blessing of each other.
by Mary Pierce

The locusts — as my husband affectionately calls our extended family — were on their way to our house for Thanksgiving. We host Thanksgiving every year, gathering together for a time of love and bonding. Every year another culinary disaster looms, threatening to distract us from what really matters.

That year, 22 locusts were headed our way, and the turkey refused to thaw. I spent the morning giving it cold-water baths. (OK, I cheated just a little and gave it a spritz or two of warm water.) Then, trying the nuclear thawing option, I realized it's impossible to wedge a 20-pound turkey into an 8-pound microwave.

"Why don't we just eat later?" my rational mate proposed. I shuddered to think of 22 hungry locusts having to wait for dinner, so I hustled to prepare the side dishes: sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, scalloped corn — and Jell-O, of course.

The ability to make Jell-O is a gift. I'm not good at Jell-O. I envy women who effortlessly concoct crystalline mounds of jiggling glory. After measuring, heating, stirring and chilling as directed, I held my breath as I turned the plastic mold upside down onto a plate. I gave it a gentle shake, straining to hear, just this once, the satisfying plop of a well-turned Jell-O.

I lifted the mold, and — slurp! shoop! — a shimmering mound landed on the plate. Perfect! For a moment. Then it began to flatten. And flatten. And flatten.

"It's a Jell-O Frisbee," my husband said.

Shortly thereafter, the last of the locusts arrived as I was basting the buzzard. But a miscalculation shot hot grease all over the oven. The smoke alarm blasted, the teakettle screamed and the potatoes boiled over at the same time. I swished a dish towel under the smoke detector, trying to clear the air while hollering for my husband to find the stepstool and disconnect the battery until the smoke cleared.

In that moment of noise and laughter — the wonderful chaos of family and life — I realized once again what was important. Thanksgiving is not about perfection; it's about people — people who share the ups and downs of life and still love you.

For 15 Thanksgivings in a row, we've been blessed as we've gathered to eat, laugh and talk — young, old and in-between, family, friends and foreigners. One year my niece told her then-fiance that part of their marriage "deal" would be coming to our house every Thanksgiving.

Last year they couldn't come, spending Thanksgiving in neonatal intensive care with their premature son. This year they'll bring Jonah, robust and healthy, for his first Thanksgiving with the clan.

And we'll reminisce about past culinary disasters, like the time the stuffing had mystery bits in it. "Are they walnuts? Almonds?" After dinner I noticed a chunk of my rubber scraper was missing. Oops.

Grandma, who remembers yesteryear better than yesterday, will tell us about the time she baked a turkey with the bag of innards still inside.

Jell-O Frisbees. Lumpy gravy. Blackened turkey. No matter — they're the stuff of laughter and memories. What matters is that we gather together, with gratitude to God for His love and for the blessing of each other.

We express our gratitude as we hold hands and pray. With our shared amen, we have a moment of quiet. Then, someone always says, "Hey, this is the same thing we had last year!"

Yes, it's the same thing every year: noise and laughter, remembrance and blessing. We say goodbye to some, hello to others. We celebrate our blessings together, and we'll do it again and again for as many years as God allows.

This article first appeared in the November, 2005 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. Copyright © 2005, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

Desire & Temptation

By Charles F. Stanley
from www.intouch.org
all rights reserved

People often walk into my office with a story that ends something like this: “Why would God give me such a strong desire to __________ if He didn’t want me to fulfill it?” The argument sounds convincing. What kind of God gives His creatures desires they are not allowed to fulfill? But that’s the wrong question. Instead, they should ask, “When in God’s perfect timing can I fulfill my desires?” or “How would He want me to fulfill my desires?”

A couple visited me a number of years ago for premarital counseling. I soon learned that they had been sleeping together. Both defended their actions by explaining the strength of their attraction for each other. “God understands,” they said. “He allowed us to feel this way.”

I turned to the young man and said, “What are you going to do when you meet a woman at work and feel a strong physical attraction? Are you going to use the same rationale: If God didn’t want me to meet this need, He wouldn’t have let me feel this way?”

We forget that, although the Father created us to desire certain things, Satan has the ability to manipulate and misdirect those feelings. That is the essence of temptation. The Devil wants us to fulfill God-given desires in the quickest and easiest way—in other words, sinfully.

Satan’s Aim

All our basic desires are ultimately from the Lord—He gave us longings and needs in order to demonstrate our dependence on Him and to enhance our relationships with one another. Only when distorted do such needs become negative in our lives. Satan sets out to twist our yearning for love into lust, our longing for respect into pride, and our hope for success into greed.

Consider, for example, the natural God-given need to eat. As a result of the Enemy’s distortion, some people destroy their bodies by overeating or consuming the wrong things; others starve themselves for fear of being overweight.

Of all the gifts the Lord gave humanity, sex is probably the one Satan abuses the most. One of its God-ordained purposes is to make possible a unique relationship between man and woman. Sexual intimacy is a gift from the Creator. But the prevailing mindset concerning sex today is from Satan. God’s standard is: One man for one woman, for life; physical intimacy is designed exclusively for the marriage relationship. According to the Devil, however, it’s: Any man for any woman until you are ready for someone else; sex is the relationship. God is not against sex any more than He is against food, love, or success. But He opposes the gratification of any desire outside the confines He has lovingly designated.

Anxious for nothing?

Satan is quick to offer a substitute for God’s best, knowing that the alternatives he offers will not truly satisfy. If the Enemy can steal your focus, it’s likely that you will completely miss out on the Father’s blessings.

Think about: girls who compromise their morals in order to be “held”; boys and men who are trapped in pornography; and alcoholics and addicts who seek to escape problems rather than face them. All have a legitimate need, but instead of turning to the Lord and His solutions, they choose what was easy or quick.

God does not want you to live a life of frustration and anxiety. The apostle Paul wrote:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7).

The interesting thing about this passage is that God does not promise to meet your needs immediately or even to give you what you ask for. What He guarantees is His peace—that is, inner strength to endure until your desires and needs are fulfilled. It will surpass “all comprehension” because the world will look at you and say, “How can you go without ___________?”

My son was 30 before he married. His non-believing friends used to ask, “Andy, what do you do about sex?” He would respond, “I wait!” They were amazed and could not imagine being “that old” and sexually inactive. The ironic thing was that he was far less frustrated than they were. And so it will always be for those who wait on the Lord to meet their needs His way.

By opting for the Lord’s peace rather than Satan’s substitute, you can be assured that when it’s time for God to meet your particular need, you will be ready. This principle applies to everything from finding the right marriage partner to gathering the money you need to pay the rent. Our heavenly Father knows His children’s needs and desires (Matt. 7:11).You and I can trust our incredible God to provide for us––at just the right time.

Adapted from “Winning the War Within: Facing Trials, Temptations, and Inner Struggles” (1988).

The Messages You Send Yourself

by Charles Stanley
from www.intouch.org
all rights reserved

Do you feel good about yourself? The way you view yourself affects how you see God and how you react to the difficulties that come your way. Either your faults and failures will cause recurring pain and uneasiness, or peace and joy will characterize life because you feel secure in your relationship with the Father.

So how do you know whether you have a healthy or damaged view of yourself? One way to tell is by the words that flow through your mind and out of your mouth.

* In Matthew 12:34, where does Jesus say our words originate?

Remember, the Enemy targets your heart because that’s where he can do the most damage to you and to the kingdom of God. When your heart is scarred, there are certain messages that will continually play within you:

* I can’t do anything right.
* I’m a failure.
* I’m an ugly loser.
* I never get any recognition.
* I can’t see anything good about myself.
* I don’t deserve good things.
* I don’t belong.
* I’m a worthless nobody.

Do these words sound familiar? Such messages have a terrible effect on every area of your life.

* They make it difficult to develop good relationships because they keep you suspicious of others’ intentions. What’s more, they can cause you to isolate yourself for fear of rejection.
* They also hurt your professional life. You’ll have trouble making decisions and will be too afraid to take the appropriate, godly risks that could help you succeed.
* Additionally, they impact spiritual health by hindering intimacy with God. You will either consciously or subconsciously blame the Lord for creating you with the weaknesses you see within yourself. This produces distrust in your relationship with Him, which can cause you to limit His work in your life. This has the terrible consequence of preventing you from becoming everything you can be, as you push away the One who can make you truly secure.

These messages keep you feeling lonely, isolated, and unworthy. The only way to heal from their poison is to do exactly what you don’t want to do—stop clinging to them, and bring them out into the open, where you can see them for the lies they are.

Insecurity is a difficult thing to admit, because it involves confirming your worst fears about yourself. But by acknowledging to the Father that you entertain these thoughts, you open yourself to His loving care.

* Write out Ephesians 4:29.



In the verse above, Paul isn’t merely telling you not to curse, although that’s definitely part of it. The objectionable words he speaks of here are the rotten ones that reveal the ugliness in you. In fact, the term he uses for unwholesome can also mean putrefied. These are the feelings about yourself that are continually wounding and corrupting you.

Application:

By allowing messages like “I can’t do anything right” and “I’m a worthless nobody” to torment you, you’re not only hurting yourself; you’re also sinning against God. You must change the thoughts you think and allow the Lord to transform your mind and heart (Rom. 12:2). Open His Word, and let Him teach you the truth about your life. Embrace principles such as:

* I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (see Philippians 4:13).
* My success comes from trusting God (see Proverbs 16:3).
* I am God’s beloved child (see Ephesians 5:1).
* I am eternally secure in Jesus Christ (see John 10:28-29).
* I am wonderfully made (see Psalm 139:14).
* God gives me good gifts out of His unconditional love for me (see James 1:17).
* I belong to God’s family and I am a co-heir with Christ (see Romans 8:17).
* Christ died for me so I will live for Him (see 2 Timothy 1:8-10).

God’s messages of love have the power to counteract harmful words that have been plaguing you. They can also help you have the confidence you need to face anything that comes along.

Spend the rest of your study time reading and meditating on Psalm 139.

Giving Thanks in Everything

by Charles F. Stanley
from www.intouch.org
all rights reserved

Giving ThanksWhy would God command us to thank Him regardless of the circumstances? The idea defies human logic.But then, the Lord rarely binds Himself to man-made rules. Scriptural principles serve specific purposes in the Christian’s life.Gratitude keeps us aware of God’s presence, which builds our trust and ultimately strengthens our witness.

We must realize that thankfulness is not based on emotions or a situation’s outcome. We can be grateful, even during trials, because the Lord has promised to work everything for our good. (Romans 8:28) That means He has a purpose for every experience,pleasant or difficult. A big problem stacked against our small resources sends us running to Him, thankful He has committed to work it to our benefit.

The believer’s part is to trust God will bring good from trials and to discover His plan, which gives further reason for thanking Him. Understanding His intentions renews our strength for facing difficult trials. Expressing gratefulness changes our attitude about God, ourselves, and our situations. Most people allow hurt and stress to form a pessimistic mindset, which negatively impacts every facet of their life. But believers have God’s Spirit working within to provide courage and a flow of thanksgiving.

When we demonstrate thankfulness in harsh circumstances, other people pay attention. Our coworkers, family, and friends will want for themselves the peace and energy we derive from a grateful relationship with the Lord.So whatever you experience today, go ahead and defy logic—praise God.

IFCJ: "Man Plans, God Laughs"

IFCJ: "Man Plans, God Laughs"
November 19, 2009

Dear Friend of Israel,

Around a thousand years ago, a new language emerged in Germany's Rhineland. An amalgam of German and Hebrew, the language, Yiddish, eventually became the remarkably expressive lingua franca of most European Jews and their descendants. As European Jews moved around the world, they brought the language with them. At the turn of the last century, New York City had dozens of Yiddish theatres and newspapers; great Yiddish writers like Sholom Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer were translated into English and their wit and character became a part of the American pantheon.

During the course of the 20th century, the use of Yiddish as a mother tongue diminished (many Yiddish-speaking communities were obliterated during the Holocaust) and, today, only a tiny percentage of world Jewry speaks it fluently. Its richness and vitality remain, nonetheless: Wonderful words like shlep, shlock, nosh, mensch, klutz, and even bagel live on in mainstream English. In the last few decades, scholars and many Jews have rediscovered the language, which is both beautiful and remarkably expressive.

Yiddish is particularly rich in proverbs, snappy sayings that sum up fundamental wisdom about life, often in a sly and humorous way. My dear friend George Hanus, a leader in the Chicago Jewish community whose writings have encouraged reforms in the funding and accessibility of Jewish education across the U.S., has edited a delightful and beautiful coffee table book, "Man Plans, God Laughs… And More Wisdom from Our Grandparents," which collects around 100 of these proverbs.

Each proverb is presented in English translation, Yiddish transliteration, and the original Yiddish, and accompanied by a stunning photo illustration. It’s a book that will touch you, amuse you, and make you think.

Proverbs, Hanus writes, are too often dismissed as clichés, but the reality is that these sayings impart real wisdom: Ven a nar shvaygt, veyst men nisht tsi er iz narish tsi klug—"When a fool keeps quiet, you can't tell whether he is foolish or smart." Or Az es kumt a tseynveytik fargest men dem kopveytik—"When a toothache comes, you forget your headache." Or Di gor rayche zaynen di vos zaynen zat mit dos vos zey hobn—"The truly rich are those who enjoy what they have."

Hanus compiled this book to re-introduce Yiddish to the world, to provide a glimpse into a unique facet of Jewish culture, and to share with the world some of the short but enduring life lessons contained in these Yiddish proverbs. This is a big, gorgeous book that offers pithy bits of wisdom that shed light upon essential and unchanging aspects of human nature.

He is right that we too easily dismiss folk wisdom: Our modern infatuation with the new can cause us to dismiss the wisdom of the past—a critical (and very human) error. As one ancient repository of wisdom, the Bible, puts it, "Is there anything of which one can say, 'Look! This is something new'? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time." (Ecclesiastes 1:10) What Hanus calls the "basic inescapable features of the human condition" remain the same from generation to generation; when we focus exclusively on what is novel and unusual, rather than on what is timeless and enduring, we cut ourselves off from knowledge that is as relevant today as it was centuries ago.

That world of knowledge is beautifully on display in Man Plans, God Laughs. Whether you are Jewish or Christian, I know you will enjoy and be enriched by these moving and often whimsical photos—not to mention the timeless Jewish wisdom—found in this book. You can purchase a copy at your local bookstore or online here—it is a book that makes a perfect gift for Christmas or Hanukkah, and is one that you will pull off your shelf and revisit frequently.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
President

Isaiah 58 Fast

IFCJ:
Join The Fellowship in our Isaiah 58 Fast on Sunday, December 13, 2009 as thousands of churches across America and the world fast with us in response to God's call to care for those Jews in the former Soviet Union who are needy, hungry and homeless.

My Thanksgiving (Hollywood Connect)

I don’t feel thankful today. There, I said it. I’m not complaining here, it’s just that, as we approach Thanksgiving, that day that kicks off the long, downward glide into Christmas and the end of the year, I take a look around at my circumstances, root around in the ol’ emotional cellar, and… nope, I don’t feel thankful.

Now, I know that there is a lot to be thankful for in this world of mine, some wonderful things that are happening. In fact, there’s probably more than I am capable of seeing. But the fact of the matter is that I’ve got a lot on my plate, all of which I’d gladly trade for another belt size of turkey, mashed potatoes, and my mother’s secret recipe for stuffing. I glance around, and yep, there’s a lot to weigh me down. I still need to put together the details of the production program I’ll be running next year, handle fundraising for two organizations, come to terms with a close friend after that argument we just had, and figure out how I can get home for Christmas. I’m in an industry plagued by flagging productions, self-aggrandizement, rejection, and vice. Along with the geese, the economy has gone south. People are losing their jobs, their homes, and their loved ones. Friends are watching dreams die. It seems like so much around us is in complete disarray.

So let’s get it out on the table: I don’t feel very thankful right now. Maybe you don’t feel very thankful either. And yet…

Thank you, Lord.

You see, God didn’t call us to feel thankful in all circumstances; He called us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). He handed us the easier task of giving thanks, which is a good thing, because I don’t think that any of us is capable of feeling thankful all the time. This is a distinction that is especially important for us artists to understand, as we too often tend to let our emotions dictate our reality.

Actually, God created us to have it the other way around. In his book, Proust Was a Neuroscientist, author Jonah Lehrer notes, “[T]he mind can induce its own emotions.” Our recognition of reality, of that which is true, can determine our emotions. That is to say, giving thanks, whether we feel it or not, is the predecessor to feeling thankful.

If your world seems chaotic and painful right now, I’m in no way minimizing that fact. If I’m to be honest, I’ve got a bit of that going on myself. But now that we’ve got that all out in the open, let’s turn our faces to the Son, close our eyes, take a deep breath, and…

Thank you, Lord... thank you.

All my best,

Shun Lee
Director
Hollywood Connect
© 2009 All rights reserved.

Hollywood Prayer Network - November 2009 Newsletter

Dear HPN Pray-ers,

Welcome to our THANKSGIVING month of prayer. Our focus this month is on thanking God for all He is and gives and does for us. Let's remind those around us to be thankful to the Lord for His blessings, goodness and love! And thank YOU for praying with us!

SUMMARY:

* We praise God for the amazing 16 Hour Prayer Day
* Thank God for what He did at the American Film Market
* Thank God for Steve Turner and Bruce Wilkinson's visits
* Continue to pray for Carl Swenson as he battles cancer
* Continue to pray for the many unemployed in Hollywood
* Pray for John Travolta in his & his spiritual journey
* Pray for Christians to overcome spiritual battles
* Pray for writer Paul Haggis as he leaves Scientology
* Pray for Thanksgiving to focus on thanks to GOD here
* Pray for Skandar Keynes (Chronicles of Narnia's Edmund)
* Pray for the Chronicles of Narnia's cast and crew
* Pray with HPN member Gordon as he battles cancer
* Pray for Stephen Sanders' family & the 168 Film Project
* Pray for the growing Loui siana Film Industry


THANKS & PRAISE:

* We praise God for the amazing 16 Hour Prayer Day on Friday November 6th: United, it was so fabulous. Thank you to all who joined us for the largest corporate prayer gathering that we have had! It made an eternal difference and we felt God's presence in Hollywood that day and night!

* Thank God for what He did at the AFM (American Film Market) during Nov. 4 - 11. Gary Zethraeus led incredible prayer for all who were there in Santa Monica. They saw God the touching the hearts of filmmakers, distributers, and studio executives, all over the place. It was awesome!

* Thank God for the wonderful gatherings we had during the first week of Nov. with two friends who came here to pour their hearts into our community. Steve Turner ("Imagine" & "The Gospel According to The Beatles") and Bruce Wilkinson ("The Prayer of Jabez" & "You Were Born For This") were so inspiring and challenging to many of us.


UPDATES:

* Please continue to pray for our dear friend, Carl Swenson (writer/producer), as he battles for his life with cancer. We don't know God's plan for him, but we love Carl and know that he is in the palm of Jesus' hand. May He turn Carl's intense battle into something beautiful for Carl, his family, and all of his friends in Hollywood!

* Continue to pray for so many people in Hollywood who desperately need work. May they seek the Lord of all provision and protection and find fulfillment in Him. May we change our focus from just looking for work, to looking for Him. Let's thank the Lord for His provision.


PRAYER REQUESTS:

* Pray for John Travolta. He admitted for the first time publically that Jett, his son who died, was autistic. He kept quiet about his son's condition because of how the church of Scientology feels about diseases.

* Pray for the Christians in Media to have a healthy understanding of the intense spiritual battle here, so that Satan does not continue to have a foothold. Our greatest battles are against depression, isolation, discouragement, and division in the body. But with God, NOTHING is impossible.

* Academy award winning writer, Paul Haggis, ("Million Dollar Baby" and "Crash") just resigned from the Church of Scientology. Let's pray for his spiritual journey and his protection from any backlash from his very strong letter that was downloaded on to the blog of an ex-scientologist: http://markrathbun.wordpress.com/2009/10/26/paul-haggis/

* Pray for the season of Thanksgiving to be a miraculous time of thanking GOD for all that we have in our country and our lives. May there be a movement of Christians here lifting up the true focus of the Thanksgiving Holiday so that people may see, maybe for the first time, that it's God whom we are thanking!


REQUESTS FROM OUR MEMBERS:

* Pray for Skandar Keynes (Chronicles of Narnia's Edmund). He's the son of Randal Keynes (whose book became the basis for "Creation" a movie that premiered in UK in Sept.) He is also a descendant of Charles Darwin. (2009 is Darwin year). Right now Skandar is in Australia filming Voyage of the Dawn Treader, thru Nov. Please pray for his salvation!

* Pray for the Chronicles of Narnia's former and current cast and crew: salvation of those who aren't Christians (pray for divine appointments!); everyone's health, safety, and wisdom. Pray especially for those in Australia filming Voyage of the Dawn Treader (through Nov.). Kelley

* "I was treated at M. D. Anderson again last week; I'll be cat scanned again in another 3 weeks. Please lift up the results, that the tumor, if not completely gone, will have at least shrunk even further. And I still ask prayer for paying performing opportunities. I'm in need of prayer for provision for medical bills." Gordon Williams

* Stephen Sanders, a great volunteer/producer for the 168 Film Project, has passed away through a hiking accident. We ask for prayers for love and support for his wife, Danica, and for his whole family as they struggle through this very difficult and unexpected time. John Ware

* "Please pray for the Louisiana Film Industry. Believers are becoming involved in our film industry here and are starting to encourage Film Professionals toward prayer and acts of faith. We are also making friends with many filmmakers of the Jewish faith, so we pray that more people will continue to welcome our Jewish friends as they come down South for film projects and not hurt or persecute them in any way." Suzanne Manthei


UPCOMING EVENTS IN HOLLYWOOD:

* Weekly Prayer continues every THURSDAY NIGHT in Hollywood. Join with us in person, or in prayer, as we gather to pray for one another, intercede for our industry and praise God for all He is doing here. For more information go to: http://www.hollywoodprayernetwork.org/content/prayer-hollywood

* For other upcoming events in our community, click on: http://www.hollywoodconnect.com


Thanks SO MUCH for your prayers. We thank the Lord for you and want to remind you that your prayers ARE making an eternal difference in our mission field, in our culture and in our world.

Thankfully,
Karen, Caren and Gloria

TIP OF THE MONTH:
Become Best Friends with the Assistant!:
http://www.philcooke.com/assistants

QUOTE OF THE MONTH:
"I'm just very selfish. If somebody doesn't like what I am, I don't hang around trying to win anybody's approval... I'm not a very good husband I'm not a good father. I'm a roamer. I think I'm a bit of a nihilist, really..." Anthony Hopkins, "Showbiz" (Sept. 16, 1996)

VERSE OF THE MONTH:
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20

www.hollywoodprayernetwork.org
all rights reserved

The Testimony You Live By

By Charles F. Stanley
from www.intouch.org all rights reserved

“He then answered, ‘Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see’” (John 9:25).

John 9 tells a delightful story of a young blind man’s encounter with Jesus. The Savior spat on the ground, made clay, and put it on the man’s eyes. The sightless man washed in a pool and “came back seeing” (John 9:6-7). From that point on, the young man had an incredible testimony he shared with those around him. Even though the religious leaders interrogated him, he refused to recant his testimony.

“I was blind. Now I see,” he told them.

The young man had incredible courage to defy the learned leaders—even though he knew so little about Jesus. He stood firm. Something undeniable had happened to him, and he shared his personal testimony. Simple. Straightforward. Bold.

How often do we simply tell that we were once blind to the truth of Christ and now we see? That’s really what people want to know. They aren’t asking deep theological questions. They just want to know what happened in our lives that make us different.

Your Testimony

Our personal testimony is unique, and what we do with our story is a responsibility that we must never take lightly. God has entrusted each of us with an opportunity to affect people who watch us daily. Sometimes we don’t know the influence we have, but people watch us—waiting to see if our words match our actions.

You’ve probably been influenced by someone whose testimony spoke clearly to your heart about your need for the Savior. In the same way, you may impact others—even when you have no idea they are observing you. However, three essentials must be operative before you can expect anyone to check out your faith.

* 1. First, your character needs to be solid. What you are on the inside is much more important than what you look like on the outside.

2. Next, your conduct, or what you do, should align with the Lord’s commands. Unbelievers are watching, so make sure that you are staying in the center of God’s will and maintaining a godly walk.
* 3. Third, your conversation is an indication of your true character. Before you can expect anyone to be curious about your life, you need to consider what your words reveal about you (Matt. 12:34).

Your personal testimony is a powerful tool. It is the expression of what God has done and is doing in your life. Some may say, “You don’t understand. My personal testimony isn’t dramatic at all. I was saved as a young child. I was never took drugs. I grew up in the church. That’s about it.” Don’t underestimate how powerful that is to someone who is lost! If you were saved at a very young age, there was still a time you passed from death into life—and the world needs to know how to do that.

It doesn’t matter whether your testimony is simple or dramatic. If Jesus is the center of your life, He can use you to draw others to Himself (John 12:32). Ask God to shine through you in a manner that makes them curious about the difference they notice in you (Matt. 5:16; 1 Pet. 3:15). Whether or not they admit it, most people want to hear about what God has done in your life. If your character, conduct, and conversation are in line, an encounter with you could change their life.

Adapted from “Handbook for Christian Living” (2007).

A Biblical View of Government

from www.intouch.org all rights reserved

What perspective should Christians have towards human authority? Should believers pay taxes? The followers of Jesus wondered these very things in the first century. Let’s look at what the Bible says about officials and other leaders.

A. The Lord ordains all authority.

Leaders rise to power only through the will of God. Daniel 2:21 says that the Lord “changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings.” Read Daniel 5:1-31.

* What did both Nebuchadnezzar and his son Belshazzar have in common before God punished them?


* How did king Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude change after his mind was restored to him?


* Why do you think God’s judgment was more severe on Belshazzar than on his father?



We frequently attribute a political candidate’s success to his or her ambition, education, campaign strategy, popularity, or financial backing. But no one is placed in public office apart from the will of God. Sometimes the Lord deliberately selects a person to accomplish His purposes. Other times, His permissive will grants people the leader they demand.

Israel insisted on having an earthly king. Read the story in 1 Samuel 8:4-20.

* What were some of the burdens a king would place on the people?



There will always be a cost associated with demanding the leader of our choice.

B. What respect is due to human authority?

Given that leaders don’t always honor God with their choices, should Christians still respect their position of authority? In general, yes. Jesus Himself indicated that believers should be subject to secular authorities.

* Read Matthew 22:17-22. When the Jewish leaders tried to trick Jesus into sounding as if He was rebelling against Rome, how did He answer them?


* What does this indicate about whether or not believers should pay taxes?



The apostle Paul also affirmed the authority of the Roman government—a totalitarian dictatorship that often persecuted Christians and Jews.

* Read Romans 13:1-7. For what reasons are we to be in subjection to secular authorities (vv. 1-5)?


* According to verses 5-7, why should we pay taxes?



This passage includes more than just the governmental authorities; it can be expanded to include all those in leadership over us.

* List a few of the authorities over you, whether at home, work, or school.


* According to Romans 13:7, what do you owe these people?



However, there are times when believers must disobey human authority. If the law of the land contradicts clear biblical teaching, we are to obey God’s Word instead.

* Explain why the apostles chose not to follow the instructions of the Jewish religious leaders in Acts 5:27-29.


* List a few circumstances under which you would be justified in choosing to disobey governmental or other human authority in order to obey God.

C. Leaders are accountable to God.

When you find yourselves subject to ungodly leaders, remember that everyone—including those in positions of authority—will one day answer to God (Rom 14:11-12).

* What are some reasons why we should we submit to leadership within the body of Christ
(Heb. 13:17)?


* When anyone—including a leader––becomes prideful and arrogant, what does the Bible predict will result (Prov. 29:23)?



God rewards authority figures who humbly look to Him for strength, guidance, and wisdom. Those who are overconfident He will eventually humble and punish––if not in this life, then at the judgment.

D. We are called to pray for leaders.

Read 1 Timothy 2:1-3.

* How does Paul instruct Timothy to speak to God about authorities?


* What will be the result?



Here are some suggestions on how to intercede for elected officials. You can pray that they would:

1. Recognize their personal sinfulness and need for the cleansing power of Jesus Christ, if they aren’t already saved.
2. Become aware of their inadequacy for the tasks before them, and pray for God’s wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and courage.
3. Reject all counsel that violates the spiritual principles of Scripture, and be willing to trust divine guidance.
4. Resist the pressure of those who would mislead them or tempt them to violate their consciences and the will of God.
5. Work to reverse the cultural trends of humanism, which deifies man and dethrones God.
6. Ready themselves to abandon their political careers and personal ambitions if this is in the best interest of our country.
7. Rely upon the Word of God and prayer as their primary sources of strength and success.
8. Maintain dignity, honor, trustworthiness, and righteousness in their offices.
9. Strive to be good examples to the people of this land.
10. Remember that while they are in office, they are accountable to God for their attitudes, actions, and motives.

For a printable version of these prayer points, click here.

* Do you faithfully pray for government officials and others in leadership? If not, what hinders you?



Closing: Whether we approve of their decisions or not, the authorities in our lives have been appointed by God. As long as their commands do not violate scriptural principles or our conscience, we have a responsibility to obey them. And no matter what, we are always called to honor and pray for our leaders.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the privilege of lifting up those in authority over me. Convict me when I criticize and complain instead of taking my concerns to You in prayer. Make me into a prayer warrior for this nation, so that believers may practice their faith peacefully. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Truth and Love

Dear Hollywood Connect,

You wrote in your last essay that, “The people who are eager to speak the truth but are lacking in love are only abrasive. The people who are full of love but never speak up with the truth are softly ineffective. Truth and love. If you would be a friend, both are required of you.” You also mentioned, “The old axiom in show biz is true: it is indeed all about who you know. The question that we each must ask ourselves, therefore, and especially as artists, is this: Are we are being friends to those who we know?”

I spoke the truth to a first-time director who repeatedly refused to give direction, and instead of listening, he fired me. Regardless of how he responded to me, was I the true friend to confront him? Should I have been gentler and more loving?

Sincerely,
A Cinematographer

Dear Cinematographer,

Thanks for the email. Those are very good questions. I'd be happy to give a few thoughts.

We'll never be able to predict how some people will respond to the truth, even when spoken in love. In fact, the Bible tells us not to be surprised when we are mistreated for doing what is right. Unfortunately, we're dealing with (and are ourselves) broken people who carry the wounds that life in a fallen world so often inflicts. This means that speaking the truth in love isn't a formula for achieving the results we want; it is, rather, the way we are directed to live, behave, and carry ourselves. Even in response to being fired, we then are able to say, "I may not have kept the job, but I did behave in a way that pleased God." Ultimately, being able to say that is always better than any job, no matter how big, small, or important to our career that job may be.

My other thought is that an important part of the love aspect of "speaking the truth in love" is what I will call the "time, place, and manner" of truth-telling. That is to say that in speaking the truth to somebody, love requires choosing wisely when we speak the truth, where we speak the truth, and how we speak the truth (for example, our tone, our word choices, whether we insist on our own way, the degree of professionalism we display, etc.). Without knowing how your specific situation went down, I can't comment on how you approached it. But if you suspect that you should have been gentler or more loving in your exchange with the director, that may be something you can address, perhaps even in following up with the director.

That's not to say that the truth spoken in love will always be gentle. Jesus certainly spoke the truth in love as He angrily flipped the moneychangers' tables in the temple, and that doesn't appear to have been gentle. The difference between what He did there and what we too often do, is that in the midst of all the table-turning, Jesus knew He would be laying down his life in a few hours for those same moneychangers – and then He went out and did it. And that is love. In our every relationship, our every conversation, our every exchange, may we go and do likewise.

All my best,
Shun Lee
Director
Hollywood Connect
© 2009 All rights reserved.

VOM–USA Prayer Update for November 20, 2009

The Voice of the Martyrs USA: www.persecution.com
“On his knees the believer is invincible.” C H Spurgeon
As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Romans 10:11

Kazakhstan — Christians Fined, Deported — Forum 18 News

Psalm 5:11-12
But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You. For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield.

Two Christian brothers, Viktor and Didrikh Leven, have been convicted of participating in religious worship without state registration in Akmola Region, Kazakhstan, according to Forum18 News. On Oct. 14, Viktor, who was born in Kazakhstan but holds German citizenship, was found guilty of "carrying out missionary activity without local registration" under Article 375-3 of Kazakhstan’s Administrative Code. Viktor was fined 6,480 Tenge (US $43) and ordered deported. He successfully appealed his sentence, and his fine and deportation were annulled. Meanwhile, on Oct.28, Didrikh was convicted of violating Article 374-1 of the Administrative Code, which forbids "leadership or participation in the activity of an unregistered social or religious organization." He was fined 100 times the minimum monthly wage. Reportedly, Didrikh plans to appeal to the same Akmola Regional Court that overturned Viktor's punishment. On Nov. 5, Feruza Utegenova, a member of New Life Church in Aktau on the Caspian Sea, was deported to Uzbekistan. She had been convicted and fined in June for "carrying out missionary activity without local registration" (Article 375-3) after she gave a Christian children's magazine to a 12-year-old girl in her neighborhood. The Voice of the Martyrs stands with these and other believers facing persecution in Kazakhstan. Pray that the charges against Didrikh will be dropped. Pray that God will grant Feruza strength and guidance as she seeks to serve Christ. Pray that authorities will stop harassing Christians in Kazakhstan.

CHINA — House Church Banned — China Aid Association

Hebrews 10:23-25
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

On Nov. 2 more than 30 officials from four government agencies barged into the Wanbang Missionary Church in Shanghai, China and accused believers of holding an illegal meeting, according to China Aid Association. Leaders from each of the agencies, including the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB) and the State Administration on Religious Affairs, then interrogated the senior pastor, Cui Quan. PSB officers also questioned other church partners affiliated with the church. After concluding that church members were meeting “illegally,” police officers banned the church and forbade the believers from meeting in the future. Pray that these believers will be encouraged to continue to meet together despite opposition. Pray for significant and lasting advances in religious freedom in China.

UGANDA — Muslims Attack Worshippers — Compass Direct News

James 1:2-4
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

On Nov. 1 more than 39 Muslim extremists armed with machetes and clubs attacked the World Possessor's Church International in Namasuba, just outside the capital city of Kampala, Uganda, while believers were holding a worship service. When the church members heard the Muslims outside, they gathered at the front door to try to prevent them from entering. Some believers were able to escape through the church's rear door. When the Muslims noticed one of the Christians taking photographs of them, they beat him severely. Nearby residents eventually arrived on scene and helped the Christians ward off their attackers. When police arrived, they assisted in stopping the assault but made no arrests. Pray for God to sustain all the victims of this attack through His peace and grace. Pray that the members of the church will grow in to be like Christ even though they face ongoing opposition.

Add the PrisonerAlert.com application on Facebook by visiting http://apps.facebook.com/prisoneralert/

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

11/19/09

"Twilight" author’s Mormon faith a big influence in books, film

By STEVE RABEY
Religion News Service
Posted Nov 23, 2008 @ 12:05 AM

Stories about love, lust and the undead may not seem like the best vehicle for teaching teenagers about faith and morality.

But for Stephenie Meyer, who has been called “the Mormon Anne Rice,” her best-selling “Twilight” books and the film based on the books contain plenty of teachable moments.

Meyer, a wife and mother of three from Phoenix, who is a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and graduate of Brigham Young University, says she has become accustomed to people asking her, “What’s a nice Mormon girl like you doing writing about vampires?”

But as she told one Mormon-themed Web site, “Unconsciously, I put a lot of my basic beliefs into the story.”

“Twilight,” published in 2005, was the debut vampire novel in the series of books that has sold nearly 10 million copies, generating the kind of frenzy among tweens and teens that rivals Harry Potter. In a recent USA Today listing of best-selling books, the four books in the “Twilight” series were in the top six.

The film version opened in theaters nationwide Friday.

On the surface, “Twilight” is little more than the latest incarnation of vampire legends that have circulated in many cultures for centuries, and popularized in novels such as Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (1897) and Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles” series (1976-2003).

Yet Meyer’s religious and moral values clearly shine through, even though Mormonism is never mentioned.

Heroine Bella Swan has the same insecurities and anxieties as any 17-year-old girl. But when she falls for Edward Cullen, a handsome fellow student who happens to be a vampire, she confronts the kinds of existential questions that religion addresses.

“The most obvious Mormon influences can be seen in the ways that Meyer has her teenage heroine stand up for marriage and, ultimately, motherhood,” says Jana Riess, author of “What Would Buffy Do: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide” and co-author of “Mormonism for Dummies.”

“But anyone who is familiar with the Book of Mormon can also discern deeper theological themes, from the Mormon reinterpretation of the Fall of humankind — which inspired the apple on the ‘Twilight’ book cover — to the theme of overcoming the natural man, which we can see when Bella wrestles with her desires and decides whether or not to become a vampire.”

The concept for the “Twilight Saga” series of books came in a vision, says Meyer, who is 34 and had never published a word before pitching her idea to an agent who got her a $750,000, three-book deal.

She doesn’t read vampire books or watch R-rated movies such as “Interview With the Vampire.”
And the sexual tension that pervades the stories is a natural byproduct of Meyer’s strict Mormon upbringing. Growing up as a good Mormon girl among other good Mormon girls and boys, she met her future husband as a child but the two did not associate outside of church activities until they began dating when she was 20. They married nine months later.

Unlike many other young adult novels, there’s no sex in “Twilight,” even though Meyer’s editor suggested otherwise. None of the characters drink alcohol or indulge in profanity, but there is plenty of heavy breathing and sexual tension.

Meyer’s treatment of sexuality is a hot topic on Mormon-themed Web sites such as normalmormons.com and motleyvision.org that make up the online “bloggernacle.”

A writer on motleyvision.org, which explores Mormon art and culture, says Meyer’s books show “how abstinence leads to a heavily charged play of small gestures among Mormon teenagers and young adults.”

And in a post on normalmormons.com (“It’s true. We’re out there.”), a relative of Meyer’s writes: “Edward and Bella could barely touch or kiss for fear that Edward might get carried away and suck her blood in a fit of passion. Very similar to that of two young BYU/high-school students who aren’t yet married and can’t touch each other for fear it will lead to sex. I’m sure it was easy for Stephenie to describe with firsthand experiences.”

http://www.sj-r.com/beliefs/x466663776/-Twilight-author-s-Mormon-faith-a-big-influence-in-books-film
Copyright © 2009 GateHouse Media, Inc. Some Rights Reserved.

11/18/09

God Calls You Beautiful


Angela teaches on the difference between the voice of the accuser and the voice of the Father. Let her inspire you to dance with your Father!

11/13/09

Saying you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you are one

Published: November 13, 2009 09:22 am

Misty Shultz: Saying you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you are one

Evangelism is not my spiritual gift, and sharing the gospel has never come naturally.

In fact I’ve done such a terrible job of leading people through the prayer of repentance that I’ve actually wondered if I jeopardized their salvation.

You might laugh, but I’m serious.

I have really had to learn how to share the gospel, and I’ve had to learn when to share the gospel.

Just so there is no confusion, I’m not just talking about determining the most opportune time to tell someone about the saving grace of Jesus.

Thankfully, I knew that sharing the gospel with the gal in the bathroom stall next to me probably wouldn’t be very profitable, although I could be surprised.

I’m talking about learning when sharing the gospel is necessary.

For years, I assumed that if people said they were Christian, they knew Jesus.

With this confidence, I would just shoot up a little prayer of thanks, take them at their word and go on with my day.

Boy, was I naïve!

I had no idea that many of these people were simply applying a common religious label to themselves because they either wanted to believe they were Christian, or they didn’t want to answer additional questions.

Now I’m aware that the words of a prayer never guarantee salvation.

Words can just be words, and salvation is always a matter of the heart.

Unfortunately, many people have prayed a prayer during an emotional moment but failed to enter into a relationship with Jesus because they did not fully embrace what they were praying.

I run into this devastating truth almost every single day.

I work for a ministry that strives to share the gospel with each of its clients.

When people walk through our door, they know we are a Christian organization, and they choose to visit us under this premise.

Although we never, ever push anyone into discussion about spiritual issues, we do ask if they have a religious preference and if they attend church.

I would estimate that about 70 percent of the people who visit our ministry list “Christian” as their religious preference, and about 10 percent attend church on a semiregular basis.

For those who claim Christianity, we ask when they became a Christian and what being a Christian means to them.

Most say they believe in God. Some say Christianity equals being a good person. Others tell you they aren’t sure what being a Christian means.

My point is this: A whole lot of folks out there falsely believe they are Christians, or they claim Christianity simply because certain family members are Christians, they attended a Christian church a few times, or they believe there is a God.

This breaks my heart because these precious people are missing the boat in a very big way — a way that could cost them their eternal future.

You see, simply saying a prayer or believing in God does not guarantee salvation.

When Thomas asked Jesus how he could know the way, Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6, NKJV)

And later, after Jesus had been crucified and resurrected, Jesus’ beloved apostle John explained, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:11-13, NKJV)

Do you see how important Jesus is in the concept of Christianity?

We cannot simply attend a Christian church or have Christian parents and make it into heaven. There is much more to the equation.

Sadly, many wonderful people spend their entire lives without this awareness.

We hear them refer to themselves as Christians and assume they have a relationship with Jesus.

So, out of laziness, fear, discomfort, time constraints or a whole list of other reasons, we fail to find out what they really believe. And, when we fail to do this, we fail them.

Their parents’ faith can’t get them into heaven. Their church attendance can’t get them into heaven. Their empty prayer can’t get them into heaven.

They must truly know and truly understand that Jesus is absolutely, without a doubt, the only way to have eternal life with God.

Anyone who professes Christianity but believes there is another way to God is completely disillusioned.

In a world that tells us all religions serve the same God, and we can spend eternity with him just by believing he exists, Christians have our work cut out for us.

We can’t assume that because someone said a prayer or was baptized as a child, they know Jesus. They might know him, but what if they don‘t?

We must delve deeper, we must ask the tough questions, and we must find out if they know that being a Christian means being a “little Christ”

And the only way to be a little Christ is to first know him as our Lord and Savior.

Misty Shultz holds master’s degrees in marriage and family counseling and Christian education. She can be reached at mshultz@reflectionofgrace.org.

http://www.cleburnetimesreview.com/religion/local_story_317102257.html?keyword=topstory

Cynthia Schneider looks at two international "American Idol"-style shows -- one in Afghanistan, and one in the United Arab Emirates -- and shows the surprising effect that these reality-TV competitions are creating in their societies.