Friday, January 31, 2014

My Sisters in Distant Lands

There are several ladies I've never met or only met once that I pray for often.

They are in sister churches and I'm so grateful I know them! Most of these connections came through Facebook and although I still hope to "hug their necks" one day, there is a possibility that our first or next meeting won't be until we embrace in Paradise. So in the mean time, I pray for my sisters, keep up with them online and we encourage one another from a far through emails, posts, blogs, and prayers.

And thinking of this makes me reflect. Paradise & Heaven are going to be filled with such happiness, laughter, worship and joy! 

Anyway, to my sisters so far, in fellowships across the earth, these verses come to my heart and mind: 

God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. Therefore, my sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! ~ Philippians 1:8 & ~Philippians 4:1-3 



Saturday, January 25, 2014

Recent Data Breach & Some Tips

I was a customer at Target and did my grocery shopping just one week before the news about the data breach. I happen to use Wells Fargo and also have an identity theft protection plan to monitor all my accounts and credit. I set up the ITP when I was traveling to Iceland in 2010. On that trip, I also had a completely different checking account and card that wasn't "linked" to my savings account or main checking account so that if somehow my information was compromised while shopping/eating there, then the only "damage" that might be done would be to my one account and not the others. Ideal for international travel, but after about a year or so, I was simplifying and didn't feel like I needed two checking accounts. Wrong. 

Yesterday, I spent over 2 hours with my bank discussing the incorrect charges on my account and new options. In the end, a secondary checking account was exactly what I decided to do! Thursday afternoon, my bank called me questioning some transactions on my account. I got the message on Friday morning and called them right away. When I looked on my checking account there was a pending transaction from Starbucks here in North Texas for my morning breakfast and then there were two other charges I didn't recognize. The banker on the phone said that those were from a gas station in Atlanta, Georgia! It seems that an ACTUAL CARD with my debit card number was swiped there. 

I canceled that debit card/visa right away and made an appointment to go into a banking location to get a temp. card for use and to discuss option. One customer in the bank at the same time I was there was cleaning up fraud on three different accounts equaling over $2,200! All this background is to tell you what I learned while there just in case you aren't "up" on the latest. 

Target was not the only store 'hit' and a list...A LIST of stores is going to be published soon of places where data was also compromised...other big name stores. In light of this, here are a few tips: 

1. Don't get comfortable yet. Keep checking for transactions on your account that you don't recognize! Right now, it's probably a great idea to pop into your online account DAILY just to take a look and while your memory is fresh of the day before. Most of us do that with social media sites online anyway, so just make it a part of your routine. 

2. Be diligent. Look for small, unusual transactions or amounts with no cents. It seems that initially thieves will 'thump' your account with a small amount first. The two charges on my account were for $25 & $5. My bank called me that same day. With the woman filing to get back her $2000+, she didn't notice the small charges, delayed just a day in returning the bank's call, and so by the time she realized what was going on, the thieves had racked up some larger amounts. We are often protected by our banks and so we will get reimbursed but it can take time...up to 3 weeks minimum. So those robbed will have to go without their funds...which can be challenging on bills! 

3. Rethink how your accounts are linked. The checking account I had was linked through over-draft protection with my credit card which is a safety net for me but this would be extra handy for a thief that got a hold of my data. Think of the damage they could have done to take all my checking and max out my cc! (God is merciful on me.) 

4. Consider having a Spending Account. In the future like I did in Iceland, I'll transfer money into what I'm calling a "spending account" with a debit card that I'll use for groceries, gas, random expenses, and online shopping which is not linked to any other account and carries a low balance so that if this ever happens again the damage will always be super small. Think of it as a card you "load" or like having your own pre-paid card. It's almost like an advanced "envelope system."

5. Totally unique password. Passwords are really a pain. It's easier to keep the same password for many different things. My email password is the same as my password to pay my water bill. I'm sure you probably do the same in some instances but with online banking...make sure to keep a totally unique one. It's just smart! I'm actually about to change mine up again just to be on the safe side. 

Anyway, today may be a great time to stroll in and talk to your banker about fund safety! 

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Law & Grace

passion flower from my garden
Excerpt below is from the book, One Way Love - Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. 

Just as it is difficult to experience forgiveness without some knowledge of what you have done wrong, so it is difficult to understand Grace apart from the Law. If the Law is the first word, Grace is the last. Listen closely: 

The Law exposes us, while Grace exonerates us. 
The Law diagnoses, but Grace delivers. 
The Law accuses, Grace acquits.
The Law condemns the best of us, while Grace saves the worst of us. 
The Law says, "cursed," Grace says, "blessed."
The Law says, "slave," Grace says, "daughter/son"
The Law says, "guilty," Grace says, "forgiven."
The Law can break a hard heart, but only Grace can heal one.

Grace = the unmerited favor of God through Jesus Christ's sacrifice for each individual

Beautiful love!!!



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

F.A.I.T.H.


A few weeks ago, I noticed the need for something new and fresh for my "coffee & cozy" times. So I researched certain unique words in the New Testament. These words are nontraditional to study but to keep it simple, I'm calling it my F.A.I.T.H. study. *smile* It was great! Below you will find some of what God reminded me of: 

Monday - Firm 
Tuesday - Able 
Wednesday - Impossible 
Thursday - Today
Friday -  Help

Firm: God's reminding me to stand firm in my faith, in Christ, until the end, to hold firm to the Word of Life, to pray for others to stand firm in the Lord, and that I must hold firm to my confidence and conviction. This scripture was moving to my heart - 2 Timothy 2:19, "Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,...”

Able: God is able! Many scriptures to remind me all that my Lord is able to do. He is able to keep me from stumbling, able to help me remember scriptures, able to save completely & forever those who come to Him through Christ, able to deal gently with us during weakness, able to help when I'm tempted, able to guard what I have entrusted to him, able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, and is able to destroy or bless & establish us. 

Impossible: With faith in God, nothing is impossible...it's only in our human side that we see barriers. Also, that it was impossible for death to keep it's hold on Jesus! That Hebrew 6:4-6 is a scripture people like to try to cross out of the bible but it deserves prayer and trust in God. This was a good little article: It's impossible for God to lie and without faith it's impossible for us to please God.

Today: Reminders: "Give us today our daily bread." "Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts..." "Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever." 

Help: People cried out to Jesus for help. We are called to help others many times in scriptures. We are helped by the Holy Spirit. I'm convinced I need to ask for God's help more. I don't think I pray and express how desperate I am for his help. I am sure I ask for help but I don't think it often springs out of a heart that sees He's the only provider and the One that meets my greatest and smallest needs. I'm really going to reflect on this more! 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Loving the Forgotten

For He will deliver the needy who cry out, 
the afflicted who have no one to help. Psalm 72:12


Excited! [total understatement]

I just had a wonderful meeting with the activities director at a local nursing and rehabilitation center. Have you ever considered the definition of the word "needy?" It means, "1. being in want [poverty], or 2. marked by want of affection, attention, or emotional support."

In mid-November, I was talking to God and asked Him these simple questions: "God, I know so many people feel forgotten...who are the forgotten in my neighborhood? Who needs to be reminded You care?" By the end of my prayer, I had the answer - residents in nursing homes in my area are the needy. They are too often the forgotten. 

So I started praying and researching homes for the elderly around my neighborhood. As I "knocked on doors" about the availability to volunteer and encourage seniors, one location opened up WIDE. 

Activity Director: "I'm so glad you called...you just don't know how much we need this! How soon can you come by?"

God's blessing and encouragement to me poured out as she talked and confirmed all that I felt God was placing on my heart. As the activity director, Ms. S. plans a lot of things but there are some room-bound patients that can't attend. She said they could really use a visitor..."just someone to paint their nails, or read them a book, or watch a movie with them, or sing a song (even off key she assured me was fine!), or talk, or listen, or smile." Any day of the week and any time I can spare...any.  

After work today I met Ms. S. and I found out that many of the residents are under the age of 55! I filled out a simple application for a quick background check and I am popping in this Saturday to start encouraging. A resident, Ms. R., spoke to me while Ms. S was away filing my paperwork and she said, "It's really needed, it's a big deal that you are willing to do this."  

As I looked at her face of urgency as a resident there, I could almost cry. All I did was ask God, He answered, opened doors, and I walked through them. Humbling. 

The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people.

Needy by want of affection, attention, and emotional support. 
Captive with no other alternative but to live in a nursing facility. 

In light of today's experience, these verses takes on a whole new meaning. Amen, Lord. Please use me.

PS: If anyone in my neck of the woods would like to find out more info...just let me know and I'll hook you up. Maybe we could even go encourage together! :) 

Don’t need a ring to sing...


…or a mate to be great.

Sharing a "note" I wrote on fb from November 14, 2011 at 5:20pm

     Okay, first let's get one thing straight...I'm in no way anti-marriage. If you know me at all you know that finding that special man is a desire of my heart. Yet...God seems to have me on a different path right now and so I’m just being surrendered to that.
  
   This is what’s bothering me. Where are all the strong, happy, women who just happen to be single? Even when I need my own inspiration, I have trouble finding these women. I’m not talking about extreme feminism; I’m just searching for single women like me who are really trying to live their life with joy and not get their self-worth from dating or having a husband. I know there are women who are dreaming big and recognize that being single isn't some kind of a curse. Where are you? Can you speak up more, please? Blog writer Mandy Hale wrote once that if anything, the word "single" seemed to carry a stigma with it; of being unwanted, unlovable, and undesired. If I were a cursing woman, I’d say that’s more than boloney.

     I’m not looking for the Eat, Pray, Love women who talk about finding themselves but oh, then I found a man and things are all better. I’m not talking about the ‘oh let me tell you about when I was single’ ladies either cause those stories don’t help me. I’m talking about the never-married-so-far-gals…about the Susan B’s, Corrie ten Booms, or can I just get a down to earth variety of Ms. O? Maybe we’re not a Joan of Arc, fighting battles that change the course of history, surely though we can at least try to influence outdated thinking. Right now, you can find almost anything on the internet...but even finding websites that celebrate ‘us’...Harder than you think.

     However, I've found a few lately....after much searching so I thought I’d share them since I know I’m not alone. I found one blog FOR single women who own their own home. Oooh that’s me! I also found the young women in her late twenties, Mandy Hale, who fights to celebrate being a happy single woman.

      (*sigh) I don’t even like that the biggest category I’m placed in is SINGLE but America…we do love our labels.  Anyway, again, ladies, where are you? Can you speak up more, please? I need some inspiration too.

      To quote some of Ms. Hale’s version of Martina McBride’s this one’s for the girls: This one’s for the girls who believe in love, but also believe in themselves. The ones that have looked settling in the eye and walked away. The ones who aren’t afraid to be late bloomers. The ones who boldly chart their own path…even if it doesn’t include a white picket fence. (amb - unless of course we decide to put one up - ha) The ones, who hope for romance but with or without it, crank up the music and DANCE. The ones who refuse to be grounded by the unaccompanied journey – but realize that those who fly solo often have the strongest wings. The ones who know it takes guts and heart and courage to walk a mile in a single woman’s shoes – and sometimes a fabulous pedicure. The girls who don’t allow their joy to depart simply because love hasn’t yet arrived.
Or as one shirt put it

Single is ~ Living happily ever after…right now!