THE GARDENER'S CORNER

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When situations are out of control, do you remain in control?

What emotions raise their ugly heads during these times — maybe frustration, impatience, anger, and irritability? Do damaging words flow from your mouth?

Often when life becomes difficult to manage we simply throw in the towel. We need some practical ways to let go and let God take control of our lives.

Together, let's look at the gardening process to learn some spiritual life lessons.

The key to a garden’s success lies with the gardener. He is the one who prepares the soil, and plants the garden at just the right time. As the plants begin to grow, he knows the perfect time to fertilize and water. A garden left unattended becomes susceptible to disease, bugs, weeds, mineral deficiencies, and drought.

Before any planting takes place, the gardener must pick a location and prepare the soil. Then after the seeds are planted, the gardener faces the challenges of weed invasion, bug infestation, unpredictable weather, and the appearance of fungus on the growing plants. So much to worry about.

The first step in planting a vegetable garden is to choose the right location. Sunlight is one of the major elements in a garden’s success because plants need a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight, although eight to ten hours will generate even greater results. Also, planting should not be too close to shrubs or trees because their roots might invade the garden space, creating a natural competition for sun, water, and nutrients. Gardeners avoid low spots because they are slow to warm in the spring, frost settles in them in the winter and standing water can cause root rot.

Preparing the soil is essential for proper plant growth. First-time beds need the addition of organic mate- rial when the ground is tilled. To avoid creating large clumps, this should be done when the soil is dry. Humus and manure can be added to enrich the soil. For subsequent seasons, hand tilling is recommended to prevent disruption of earthworm activity.

I remember the first time I planted a garden. I read everything I could on making it a success. Excitement lay deep within my soul as I found the perfect place for my 20-by-20-foot plot and started off on this new adventure. I just knew this ideal location would enable the plants to soak up the right amount of sunlight every day.

I purchased a variety of seeds, including lettuce, spinach, squash, beans, peppers, tomatoes, cantaloupe, and even watermelon. With all the knowledge I obtained before getting started, I could have written my own book called Successful Gardening by Mama Mac.

But, it is amazing how quickly that know-it-all attitude left my mind when I took a big swing with my garden hoe. As it hit the ground, a vibration moved from the end of the hoe all the way up the handle until it reached my hands. I realized my hoe hadn’t penetrated the soil but instead hit rock — yes, the kind that takes a jackhammer to break. But wait, this wasn't been in the gardening books! I knew I needed enough dirt for the plants’ roots to grow, so... what to do?

With the invincible attitude of a woman in her mid-twenties, I had the bright idea to get on my knees and scrape the rocks away with my hands. Needless to say, this plan got me nowhere. Looking back, I realize I was operating under a control syndrome. I wanted my gardening to go as I planned.

In reality, this stumbling block represented my life at the time. When things didn’t go as I desired, I tried to force them to work according to my intentions. Just like the gardening experience, God often placed boulders in my life because He had a better plan.

What about you? How do you handle the boulders that get in the way of your plans? Praise God for what He is teaching through these life situations.

LIFE CHALLENGE

Ask God to show you some areas in your life where you are trying to take control rather than releasing situations to Him. Praise Him for your current location. Ask Him to help you prepare the soil of your soul so He can produce a crop that yields more than you could ever imagine. God has a beautiful garden planned for your life if you will allow Him to be the gardener of your soul.

From My Heart to Yours,

Carla McDougal

SPIRITUAL FITNESS

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How does regular exercise benefit our ability to breathe? When we exercise on a regular basis, our lung capacity increases, allowing a larger volume of air to enter our lungs. High-intensity workouts require deep breathing, which in turn causes the lungs to increase air intake. Making it beneficial for everyone because an increased lung capacity not only enhances our stamina, but it is good for our overall health. A larger lung capacity and increased oxygen level help circulate blood in the body. A better blood flow aids in cleansing the veins and arteries. So...

Increased lung capacity = increased oxygen intake = increased blood flow = blood and vein cleansing

How does spiritual exercise benefit our spiritual breathing? As long as we are alive, we breathe air. There are ways to improve our breathing capacity. We can do the same with our spiritual breathing. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we enhance our intake of the Holy Spirit. The minute we become alive in Christ, the Holy Spirit resides within us forever. And when we desire to live a life sold out to Jesus—walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh—we increase our spiritual lung capacity. The deeper we breathe in the Holy Spirit, the more we allow Him to flow through us. He cleanses our lives of impurities. As we breathe Him in, we experience the fulfillment of His presence. He gives us the yearning to exercise a prayer life with Him, stay fit through Bible study, and work out our daily problems through Him. Wow...

Increased time with Jesus = Increased spiritual understanding = Increased Holy Spirit flow = Spiritual cleansing

LIFE CHALLENGE

Seek Jesus first in the morning before your head leaves the pillow. Commune with Him at the dawning of your day. Before going to sleep at night, ask God to help you seek Him first thing in the morning. I love what my daddy says each time we pray together, "Jesus, I love you and just want to love you more." How simple and sweet, yet so powerful! God desires from us a heart that says, "Jesus, I love You more and more each day!" Exercising our spiritual lives, allows us to become spiritually fit. Remember, just as oxygen is to the blood, so the Holy Spirit is to our spiritual walk.

Walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh. –Galatians 5:16

From My Heart to Yours,

Carla McDougal

Listen to a sample chapter of My Prayer Chair. Order the audiobook version on Audible.com or Itunes...

PASSION WEEK

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"Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." John 1:29

Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) is the perfect Lamb of God celebrated in the first Passover. Just as the blood of a spotless lamb spared the Israelites from death and gave them freedom from slavery, so Yeshua’s (Jesus’) sacrifice delivers us from God’s punishment and liberates us from sin.

Another fascinating parallel between Yeshua (Jesus) and Passover: God told the Israelites that on the 10th day of the month, they were to select and bring into their homes an unblemished lamb. Then on the 14th day of the month, they were to sacrifice the animal at Passover (Exodus 12:1–3, 5–7).

Jesus fulfilled this pattern: Yeshua’s entry into Jerusalem (what the Church celebrates as Palm Sunday) was the same day the Passover lambs were being selected. It is no coincidence that, like the Passover lambs, Yeshua was examined and questioned for four days, and at every examination He was found to be innocent— without blemish.

*Levitt Letter, April 2015, Messianic Jewish Alliance of America

The more I read and understand the Biblical Feasts, the more God opens my heart and eyes to the fact that Jesus fulfilled every aspect of the Spring Feast with His first coming. From the largest to the smallest detail, EVERYTHING points to Jesus - The Messiah, our Savior, and Redeemer. The last sacrifice needed - The Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

For me to grasp deep concepts, I need them in simple terms. So, from my perspective, I'd like to give an overview of the significance of the Spring Feast at Jesus' (Yeshua's) first coming. Basically, showing how Jesus fulfilled the prophesies and purposes within the Spring Feasts.

First of all it is important to note that God outlines 7 Feasts or Holy Days commanded in the Bible...

  • 4 Spring Feasts - Already FULFILLED by Jesus in His first coming

  • 3 Fall Feasts - Will be fulfilled in Jesus' second coming

God's people all over the world celebrate the Feasts. This is especially important to the Jewish people. In observance of the Spring Feasts, we remember how God delivered the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt on Passover.  On the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we remember their hasty exodus before their bread could rise. Then when they entered the Promised Land, they presented to God a sheaf of their Spring crop on the Feast of Firstfruits.  Then on Feast of Weeks/Pentecost they brought in the rest of that first harvest.

Let’s recount what happened on the Spring Feast dates during Jesus' lifetime. Remember, on the Hebrew/Biblical calendar a day begins and ends at dusk. Observe this chart...

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SPRING FESTIVALS FULFILLED in Jesus' First Coming... 

  • FIRST FEAST - PASSOVER – This is the first Feast on God’s calendar.

    • FULFILLED -  This feast was completed on Passover the day Jesus was crucified (Matt. 26:19-31). Jesus was our Passover lamb, whose blood was shed to deliver us from bondage.

  • FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD – This begins the night of Passover and extends seven days with the commandment to abstain from eating anything with leaven in it and, instead, eat unleavened bread every day as a symbolic way of consuming Jesus' righteousness within us in reverence for His innocent death. Leaven or yeast represents sin.

    • FULFILLED - Through His trials leading up to the crucifixion, He remained sinless. No sin was found in Him - unleavened, He was our bread from heaven.

  • FEAST OF FIRST FRUITS – This takes place three days after Passover.

    • FULFILLED - Three days after His death on the cross, Jesus rose from the dead, like that first crop out of the dead earth in the springtime. He represented the new birth of salvation to all in the new season of life. (Matt. 27:62 – 28:6).

  • DAY OF PENTECOST/FEAST OF WEEKS – This takes place 50 days after Passover when the rest of the harvest is brought in.

    • FULFILLED - In Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus' death  The pouring out of God’s very spirit (The Holy Spirit) into the disciples and all those they spoke to, marking the beginning of “The Last Days” foretold by the prophet Joel.

FALL FESTIVALS will be FULFILLED in Jesus' Second Coming:

After the Spring Feasts, there are 108 days without a holiday. Then there are three Fall Feasts within 23 days.

  • FEAST OF TRUMPETS –The trumpet blasts on the first day of the seventh month were meant to signal to Israel that they were entering a sacred season. The agricultural year was coming to a close and announcing the mark of a new season. Matt. 24:29-31).

  • DAY OF ATONEMENT – This Day falls ten days after the Feast of Trumpets. Jesus will judge all mankind and assign to eternal life those who have taken His blood as their atonement, and to eternal punishment those who have not (Matt. 25:31-46).

  • FEAST OF TABERNACLES– This day falls five days after the Day of Atonement and lasts seven days. What will happen after Jesus judges the nations during His second coming? The Wedding Feast of the Lamb where Jesus dwells/tabernacles with His people (Rev. 19:6-9).  Accordingly this Feast is celebrated during the Millennium by all nations, not just Jews(Zech. 14:16-19).  After seven days of this Feast, the eighth day is also designated as a holy Sabbath. In scripture, what comes after the Wedding Feast of the Lamb?  The New Heaven and New Earth (Rev. 21:1-5).  The use of the number eight in the Bible typically symbolizes new life. The eighth day Sabbath represents the advent of the New Heaven and New Earth.

So, get out your calendars and follow along with the Hebrew/Biblical calendar for 2015. Pray over these Feast... Praise God for fulfilling the first four Spring Feast through Jesus' first coming and praise Him for what is yet to come as Jesus fulfills the last 3 feasts, Fall Feasts, through His second coming!

  • Passover: April 3-4, 2015

  • Feast of Unleavened Breads: April 4-11

  • Feast of First Fruits: April 4-5

  • Feast of Weeks (Pentecost): May 23-24

  • Feast of Trumpets:  September 14-15

  • Day of Atonement: September 23-24

  • Feast of Tabernacles/Shelters/Harvest: Sept. 29 – Oct. 5

From My Heart to Yours,

Carla McDougal

DETOURS AHEAD

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Detours. Deviations. Alternate routes.

What comes to mind when you read these words? Possibly this pops into your mind,  Not again! This is not what I planned!

Why do detours happen?

Let's say your family takes a road trip to visit relatives halfway across the country. Thirty minutes from your destination a sigh of relief escapes. You are exhausted, but know the end is in sight. By now your children sound like a broken record, “When are we going to get there?” In the distance, you observe a blinking yellow light. Approaching the intersection, you see a large sign with an arrow pointing away from the final destination. As the sign comes into focus it reads — Road Closed. Detour 20 miles.

Your youngest child cries out, "I need to go to the bathroom!" Your nerves are about shot. Frustration rises up. For a split second, you consider going around the sign. From your perspective, the road appears to be in good condition. But taking a deep breath, you realize there is only one choice - to follow the detour sign.

After the extra twenty-minute drive, you finally reach your relatives home. They shared with you the reason for the road closure. The latest thunderstorm washed out the road making it extremely dangerous and hazardous for travelers. A silent praise releases and you silently thank God for guiding your decision to obey the signs.

Such is life. Sometimes it seems we have it all together. Our life is mapped out, and plans for the future secured. When out of know where something unexpected happens. Our current path becomes obscure, and our destination is now out of sight. Faced with a choice... either accept the detour with grace or react with bitterness and anger.

Turning to God's Word, we find in Acts 16:6-10 Paul and Silas hit a roadblock. The Holy Spirit would not permit them to preach the message of Jesus in Asia. But, that was their plan. They spent time days traveling and planning. Why wouldn't the Spirit allow them to enter the region? I love Paul and Silas’ response and attitude. They didn’t complain or rebel. They didn’t become upset or act out in a selfish way. They listened, obeyed, and followed. They desired to go wherever Jesus led them. As a result, when their path to Asia was diverted, and they followed God's road signs to Macedonia. They understood their purpose was not for themselves, but Kingdom purposes. Wow, what a perfect example for us to follow.

Are you experiencing a detour in your life? Are you confused about why God is allowing this change? Learn to praise Him in the midst of the moment. Yes, praise Him! He knows best, and He has a mighty plan. Thank Him for teaching you to trust Him in a situation that doesn’t make sense to you. Ask God to prepare you for those times when you seem to freeze in your tracks. Go a step further and pray for others you know who may be experiencing tough times. Pray for them to trust God and realize He is in control.

Detours — you have to take them, even when they are inconvenient!

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From My Heart to Yours,

Carla McDougal

LOCKED ON THE CROSS

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At the end of the First Love Marriage Conference, a special event awaited each couple. Praise music filled the room. A line formed in front of the cross. Each couple received a lock with a key and two silver rings. The purpose–to secure their love for one another to the cross. After attaching the rings to the lock and closing then closing it, they threw away the key. Tears emerged. Love flowed. Hearts united as one. God poured out His Spirit in such a powerful way. A tender moment forever remembered, never forgotten.

Reflective Life Ministries and Life Point Church in Baytown, TX teamed up to minister to married couples through RLM's First Love Marriage Conference. My husband, Fred, and I served as the speakers for this event. I can't express what a tremendous blessing it was to work with the Life Point Team, lead by Lenora Coates. I stand amazed at their heart of prayer. A week before the conference, as a church, the Life Point members fasted and prayed for each couple, the conference, Fred and I, and the whole event. The bathing of prayer led the way for realness to flow, small group connections, divine conversations, restoration and so much more. Read a few comments from some of the attendees...

"A spark a flame a fire....holy smoke this conference is awesome! Life Changing!"                                                                                                                              - Justina Page

"A beautiful two days! So thankful for Carla, her husband, Fred and Jessie's Team from LifePoint and my husband! I know with all my heart that Jesus was in the house and the Holy Spirit was working on all hearts and will continue working. God is on the move and continues to write our stories! I will trust in Him, for He writes the most beautiful love stories! So enjoyed the program, the resort, the food and the sweet tender moments! Hugs, love and continued prayers for all the beautiful couples God joined together! Let no man separate us! Our hearts and commitment to one another are locked on the Cross!" - Angela Williams

"We so desperately needed this weekend - what an incredible blessing this conference was to us. After reviewing my notes and praying Saturday evening, I think it's safe to say I have been forever changed by this weekend experience. At times, we have barely stayed afloat over the past year and this weekend offered us a chance to slow down and reflect on how God kept us from drowning. It was so wonderful to be surrounded by other Christians who were struggling along the same path and are determined to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus. A much-needed powerful weekend of spiritual nourishment." - anonymous

"We are extremely honored and thankful to have had the opportunity to meet and learn from this power couple. Thank you, Fred & Carla McDougal, for the words of wisdom. God Bless you both & Reflective life ministries." - Heather Purvis

To me, this picture sums of the First Love Marriage Conference...

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From My Heart to Yours,

Carla McDougal

Founder of Reflective Life Ministries

THOUGHT LIFE to a PRAYER LIFE

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DAY 11 of NEW START '15

How many thoughts do you have a day...

A thousand?

One-hundred thousand?

A zillion?

Thoughts constantly bombard the mind... positive and negative. No doubt, the world around us influences our thought process. The enemy, Satan, consistently targets our minds with the goal of igniting ungodly thinking. Combating his tactics are vital.

How?

By filling our minds with God’s Word, praise and worship music, conversations with God, and godly discussions help keep us focused on Jesus throughout the day. Asking God to help change our "Thought Life to a Prayer Life" is key.

In 2 Corinthians 10:1-6, Paul tells us to, Bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Is he focusing only on negative thoughts? Or, just positive thoughts? No, Paul tells us to take EVERY thought to Jesus. So, if we take captive our zillion thoughts a day how often are we talking to God? ALL DAY LONG!

Awe, now we're getting somewhere. God desires His children to have a living, walking, breathing relationship with Him 24/7. Asking the Lord to help us change our "Thought Life to a Prayer Life" changes our daily focus, our minds, and our actions. We end up having moment-by-moment conversations with Him everywhere we go. As a result, we become His prayer walkers.

The more we communicate with the Lord, the more we the words of Jesus flow through us... Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength.–Mark 12:30

Love the Lord with all your mind? What does the mind have to do with your spiritual life? How is it possible to love God with your mind? The Greek word for the word mind, in Mark 12:30, is dianoia, which means the place in the brain that understands, feels and thinks. This area of the brain discerns, perceives and distinguishes thoughts - good or wrong.[1]

Jesus is commanding us to... Love the Lord with all your mind. Just like physical food nourishes the body, so spiritual food cultivates the mind. What we allow into our minds has the potential to ignite godly thoughts or fleshly desires. The television shows, movies, books, and internet articles affect our thought process. Asking God to help us discern what we read or view is vital to keeping our mind focused on Jesus.

LIFE CHALLENGE

Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to clear your mind of the daily agendas, worries, fears, and burdens. Focus on His Word. Open your heart and mind to all He has for you. Choose to experience the warmth of God’s love by abiding in Jesus. Allow Him to renew your mind through prayer, by reading His Word and applying the truths to your life. Finally, ask God to help you change your "Thought Life to a Prayer Life." In our flesh, if we try to do this ourselves we will fail. The Holy Spirit equips us in living a praying life. Release it to Him and watch what happens. Enjoy the journey as He changes your thoughts to prayers!

*THOUGHT LIFE to a PRAYER LIFE" is an excerpt from Carla McDougal's newest book "LIVE FOR HIM: A Life Sold Out to Jesus" soon to release in spring 2015.

MY PRAYER CHAIR Audio Book is now available. Listen to a chapter sample...

JUST BREATHE

Purchase your copy today at REFLECTIVE LIFE MINISTRIES

From My Heart To Yours,

Carla McDougal

[1] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1271&t=KJV

LINKING with NEW START '15

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I joined team of bloggers, authors, and speakers who have a heart for sharing the Truth of God's Word. Together, we are joining forces to spread the message of living in holiness through God's Word. Want to join the NEW START '15 campaign? We offer a free January Bible Reading Devotional, Facebook Page, Resource List, and Daily Blog Roll. I'm excited to see what God has planned through this combined effort! Today my dear friend Kathy Howard kickstarts the campaign as my special blog guest...

Want a New Start in 2015?

I love the “undo” button on my laptop. You know the one - that little arrow that curves to the left. When you click it, the last thing you did magically disappears.

Sometimes I wish life had an “undo” button. I could click it to magically erase the unkind words I blurted. Or wipe out my selfish behavior. Or eliminate that wrong decision. To “undo” all those things that brought unwanted consequences or now weigh heavy on my conscience.

Yep. In fact, sometimes it would be great to start over all together. To get a clean slate. To get a complete do-over.

Guess what? If you’re a Christian, that’s exactly what you got when you entered into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. And sister, if things have gotten a bit off track since then, it’s not too late to undo and start new. In fact, now is a great time for a NEW START.

If you’d like to “undo” a few things or even start new on a bigger scale, consider joining me for “New Start 15.” During January, a few friends and I will be leading a month-long journey into holiness. Together we’ll explore what it looks like to become a “new creation in Christ,” to practically live out the set-apart, holy life to which God calls us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 2:17, NIV

The “old” life looks like the world around us. And it’s burdened with the weight and consequences of worldly living. But the “new” life is radically different from the world, holy and set apart to God.

There is glorious freedom and joy in living a life of holiness. Freedom from the weight and consequences of sin. And joy in a deeper intimacy with our holy God.

Do you like the sound of freedom and joy? The chance for a New Start? Our God is the God of second chances, clean slates, and do-overs.

Participation in New Start 15 is simple. Here are a few ways you can get involved:

  • Use the New Start 15 Bible Reading Plan in your personal quite time January 5 – 23. (Free download)

  • Like the New Start 15 Facebook page to keep up with daily devotional blog posts, get words of encouragement, and share thoughts from your own journey. (You can also download the New Start 15 bloggers list and schedule.)

  • Follow the New Start 15 “blog hop” January 5-23 (weekdays only) as the New Start 15 team blogs about living the new, holy life in Christ.

  • Check out the New Start 15 Resources List for books, Bible studies, blog posts, printables and more to help you on your journey. (Free Download)

  • Invite your friends to join you in the New Start 15 journey by sending them the link to this post.

Do you long for deep intimacy with God? Do you desire for your life to please and glorify Him? Do you want your life to point others to Jesus? If you answered, “yes” to any of these questions, then New Start 15 is for you! Join us in January as we dig into God’s Word to find out what He says about living the new, holy life in Christ.

Are you ready for a New Start? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Or simply let me know you’re in! Happy New Year!

Christian author and Speaker, Kathy Howard, has been teaching the Bible for over 20 years to a varied audience. She has a Masters in Christian Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.Kathy and her husband live in the Houston, TX area and have three children, two son-in-laws, and one precious grandbaby.

http://www.kathyhoward.org/want-new-start-2015