Officially Members

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Illustration by Jim Stoten for Sinfini Music Spotlights

It’s been a month and a half since my family have been members of our church. I’m proud of my younger brother, who has been attending Sunday school on time. Last month he enjoyed a youth camp retreat up in the cold at Mount Charleston, Las Vegas. The Sunday of his return, he did not want to come home. He loved his experience so much. I just pray he doesn’t base his walk with God according to great experiences on the mountaintop with Him. I’m proud of my mom, who has been attending church Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings for Bible study. Sometimes she makes home-baked goods and brings them over to her new friends. She has been facilitating the afternoon class all by herself. I’m proud of my dad too. He no longer yells in fear of being late on Sunday mornings. He drives with more ease and confidence. As a family we attend Bible study an hour prior to service. My parents return later on in the day for the evening service. A few Sundays ago, my sister and her husband took our invitation and attended our church for the first time. Since she graduated college, she has neglected a daily relationship with Christ. I pray that there will be plenty more Sundays she and her husband will attend so that there will be a revival of true joy in their stressful lives.

The following Sunday after my family became official members, the worship leader makes a surprising announcement. He decided not to waste time where this was leading up to. He simply delivered it with confidence. He was going to leave the church after two more Sundays and no longer be the music director. He had a position ready for him in Texas. Though he believed God wanted his family to move there, I’m sure it upset a good number of the congregation. At the end of service, there were people waiting in line to say their goodbyes. For the first time, I finally said a word to him. I introduced myself and apologized for all these years my family never took the chance to get to know him. I thanked him and said I wanted to be part of the worship team. He was very nice and pointed me towards a sweet lady, whom I told to count me in.

Wednesday came. I felt excited attending choir practice for the first time. It only caught up to me later on how awkward it must have been for the worship leader. Maybe the awkwardness only existed in my mind. I couldn’t help but begin to regret coming. I felt a bit uneasy. Perhaps I came at the wrong time. Some people were crying during the closing prayer because they would miss him. And there I was the newest member who never had a close relationship with him as the rest had.

Four years ago, I was part of a cover band that would practice on Wednesday nights to perform the following Friday at a bar serving a fusion of Filipino-Hawaiian food. I look back and don’t doubt God built up a discomfort within me so that I was never going to be part of the gigs again. From now on my Wednesday nights will be spent at choir practice to perform the following Sunday morning at a church that serves food for the soul. Yesss. How awesome is that? Whatever God has in plan, I know it is good. 🙂

By His Grace, Sheela (via sheelaleigh.com)

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20 Ways to Show You Care

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Life can make us so busy at times that we often forget about making our loved ones feel special. There are many obvious and classic ways we can show how much we care such as making a mixed CD of songs, serving breakfast in bed, or washing dishes, but there are even more creative and influential ways that I believe can certainly help relationships become richer and better. So, I made a list of some things I’ve personally done in my life, and just things I’ve come up with regarding ways to show love and care. I hope that sharing as much as I can recall will inspire those who have run out of ideas. A lot of these are simple tasks if not priceless. Here’s some inspiration and great reminders in no particular order:

1.Squeeze their hand when saying “thank you”, or right after a prayer. It makes them feel extra special. 😀

2. Bring them to a bookstore and buy the book(s) they pick out. b>It’s great while you’re out on a date, especially if it’s their birthday. I believe it shows how much you value their intellect. If it’s a child then obviously make some suggestions.

3. Write or print out positive affirmations, quotes, scripture, and frame them all around a child’s bedroom.I did this for my little brother and his confidence improved. He appreciated me so much in return. 😀

4. Instead of texting them just “Happy Birthday!”, add a compliment or two that reminds them how beautiful they are. “You always have the happiest smiles and the cutest dimples. Happy Birthday!”

5. Defend them and believe in them. Okay these two aren’t so creative, but I think we often take it for granted how much respect shows a lot of love, especially toward men.

6. Surprise them with a list of the things that you love and admire about the person, and place it somewhere they can easily find….or not so easily find. What matters is that they find it one day.

7. If you’re in the car, massage the back of their neck (with one hand) at a stop light. This is such a romantic gesture toward a significant other. 😉

8. Write a word of encouragement, a positive aspect of the person, or simply a motivating quote, and place it in their Bible to discover one day. Even if you don’t honestly pray for them everyday, it’ll make them feel that they are always in your thoughts.

9. Kiss little children on their hearts, besides their lips, cheeks, and foreheads. I believe it’s such a powerful way for parents and guardians to express how important it is to value the heart.

10. Get their pet a Christmas present too.? It shows them just how much you care for what they care for. 🙂

11. Research about a book with a character who they share names with (fiction or non-fiction), and get it for them as a gift. This one’s great for book lovers and even children. And of course, it’s best if the the main character has great attributes about them.

12. Let them catch you smiling a lot. When a person sees the joy and happiness that comes from within, it tells them that you really know how to love.

13. Take a break from your cellphone, especially during a time you’re out to lunch or dinner with a date, family, or friends. Consider this a reminder. I’ve seen it happen too many times and I’ve been guilty of it too, but we miss out so much on quality time by texting someone else we’d rather be talking to, or updating our social networks (twitter, facebook, intagram…). It’s plain rude and immature.

14. If you’re in school, write a heartfelt appreciation in a greeting card you made yourself, and give to your teacher(s), or give it to your child to hand it to his/her teacher(s) at the end of the school year. Teacher Appreciation Day/Week isn’t the only time we should show our thanks to our leaders at school. My sister and brother-in-law are teachers, and they deserve so much more. Don’t forget Sunday school teachers as well.

15. Keep a favorite picture you have of the person and put it in your Bible with a short prayer on the backside. Use it as a bookmark, and one day they might discover it. 🙂

16. Text them saying you’re thinking of them and you miss them, and add a random Bible verse. A great one is Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

17. On your birthday, do charitable and hospitable deeds, as much as the number in your age. I had a friend, who, on her 21st birthday did 21 acts of kindness. The appreciation and love she felt through giving her time, money, care, and effort was the best birthday gift she ever received. 😀

18. Slip a wallet-sized note in their ID slot/pocket about encouragement or how much you’ll miss them. It’s perfect for the son or daughter leaving off for college, or the husband or wife leaving town for a business trip.

19. Make use of worksheet printouts from the web and help your child/younger sibling improve academically. If they’re not plugged in a learning center or don’t have a tutor, preparing them yourself over the summer for the next grade is a great way to help them feel important about their performance. It worries and bothers me that my state (Nevada) is ranked #1 as poorest in education. http://www.mainstreet.com/slideshow/lifestyle/smartest-dumbest-states

20. Give your teenage son or daughter a legit promise ring/purity ring if you can’t afford to buy them their own car yet. Show them what God cares more. 😉

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If you think about it, we’re not far from the holidays. It’s important to show friends and family/relatives, acquaintances and even strangers that the reason that makes life meaningful is Love. I come from a big family that use to celebrate every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s together. Every Christmas we would fill up a house of nearly 60 people or more and a family room of presents stacked 5 feet high. However in the past 10 years, there have been plenty of unresolved conflicts between the grown up siblings and cousins, and every year since then the holidays have become less exciting and meaningful. But it’s faith I have that one day we’ll all come together again like old times. I believe it’s so important to show concern and kindness to people throughout the year and not just around the holidays, so that you avoid those awkward moments and pretend anyway that you’re having a great time at grand family gatherings. It’s better to be in the spirit sooner than later.

Do you have any creative and influential ways that’s made you feel so special and loved or ways you have made others feel so special and loved?

By His Grace, Sheela (via sheelaleigh.com)

 

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I Praise His Name

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I say His name, the mighty name of Jesus,

I shout His name in all the Earth!

I sing His name, He’s worthy of all praises,

I seek His name, how great its worth!

I worship His name, my Lord most glorious,

I receive His name, as I come forth!

I lift His name, before the sun rises,

I pray in His name, I honor His birth!

 

By His Grace, Sheela (via sheelaleigh.com)

 

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Keeper of My Heart

praying manFather God, You keep tugging at my heart until it’s clear I must surrender again. Every morning I meet with You and every morning You make me new. How can I not abandon myself to have all of You? You prove Yourself to me. It’s a power that puts me on my knees, to bow my head, and raise my hands. You give me peace so pure and it replaces my pride. How awesome You are my Lord to bring me back into perfect unity with You. I am always in Your thoughts. When I forget myself, I remember a heart that longs for You. I smile and nod because it’s good to know You. You are so kind to me. You truly have Your way with me. I see Your smiles in the beauty that surrounds me. I see your nods when I count them so. You strengthen my heart with overflowing joy. And it only knows how to express this joy when it remembers who it belongs to. You are the Keeper of my heart, and You are always ready to purify it when I yield to You. Cleans it my Lord so with it I can exalt You the best I can. Take all of me again as I submit and commit whole heartedly. Amen.

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

By His Grace, Sheela (via sheelaleigh.com)

 

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Makes Sense to Me

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

Albert Einstein

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.

Proverbs 3:3-4

“Valuable people strive to love.”

By His Grace, Sheela (via sheelaleigh.com)

 

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Look to God

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I look to You, no other One

No higher god but Thee,

And in my heart, You’ll see Your Son

Is pleased to live in me,

I pray in Him, Your will be done

All things for Your Glory,

Your work alone has just begun

I’m blessed as one could be,

My heart, it has already won

Just looking up to Thee

 

By His Grace, Sheela (via sheelaleigh.com)

 

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He Holds the Key (Jesus is The Key – written in 2013)

Three years of being single is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, next to learning how to forgive. What do they have in common? They’re both matters of the heart. It’s love again. I did myself a big favor by taking a break, a break that at first was focused more on staying away as far as possible from boys and men, to a break that focused more on wanting God. Where there are relationships, there are conflicts. And there are all kinds of relationships. Whether they are between relatives, co-workers, neighbors, and friends, outward and inward conflicts will happen. Where there is conflict, there’s a need to prioritize. It comes down to making God your priority, and it matters to Him how you deal with those difficult situations. I believe that when a person is constantly experiencing conflict, it is a sign that they have not been spending enough time in the Word of God. The Bible has many ways of reminding us to love Him and desire Him above all things. None can go wrong maintaining a loving relationship with Christ.

 

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.
Prioritize eternal things, not temporal ones. If a single woman values her emotions, pride, or personal freedom more than God, the man who she wants to open her heart won’t have that key. If she values beauty and fashion over God, men will be encouraged to think that the key to her heart is all in the lust of the eyes. If she values her career over God, she will attract men who believe that they can unlock her heart with the pleasures of money. If she values delicacies over God, she will look for men who will use food to please her, because her stomach is the way to her heart. Okay, so you get the point. We all know these things don’t last. But if a woman values God’s heart more than anything, the right man will sooner or later find her because he understands that Christ is the Key. Men and women must understand/remember that they were made in God’s image, (Genesis 1:27).And since He also created His Son in His own image, (Colossians 1:15), we are to be Christlike/godly. We must submit our hearts completely to God, because Christ’s heart longed to please the Father’s.

The key is in God’s hand. What man can continue to present woman is love, respect, and understanding after He has opened her heart to him. The man and woman become the keys to each other’s hearts, and that’s only if they both understand/remember they were both made for God, to honor Him with their hearts. A man after God’s own heart more than he is after a woman’s is such a charming and admired quality. I’m just going to say it. It’s so, very sexy. That type of man values righteousness, he’s full of wisdom, and understanding, his love is sure and fair, and his mind is just as beautiful as his heart. That kind of man can definitely be trusted and respected because he is also the leader that he should be. 1 Corinthians 11:3 – But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Although David was never perfect, he was a great leader because he was a man after God’s own heart. Psalm 16:2 – I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from You I have no good thing.” Are you a man or woman after God’s own heart?

“He/she has the key to my heart.” I believe this worldly saying takes a lot away from understanding/remembering the fact that God is our first love. For instance, if a young woman who doesn’t know her first love is God, were to tell her boyfriend of a couple months, “You have the key to my heart”, he will not realize the pressure it will put on him at first. He will not feel it until the love quotes start to pile up. This is likely so, especially if the young man also doesn’t know his first love is God. He will feel pressured from her subconscious expectations to be understood with all his heart, to read her mind, to know exactly how she feels at particular moments, and so on and so on. These romanticized words do not have lasting meaning. They will perish just as easily as men and women will walk out of each other’s lives. By believing in such cliches, we choose to acknowledge that there is a special key for every heart and that special key could be held by any man or woman. And by doing that we’re left to search relentlessly for the “perfect one”. And with each one that we think or believe could be the “perfect one”, we tell ourselves we must learn to open up our calloused hearts all over again.

Men just as women are not perfect. But God is perfect. And His love is perfect. And His Son is perfect. God proves His love through the gift of His Son. His Heart is exhibited in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, (John 3:16). And if we were all after God’s own Heart, there would be less heartaches in the world. If we have Christ in our hearts, we’ve already found the Perfect One, because He knows all our desires. We can stop complaining about our spouses/significant others and stop focusing on what they lack and how imperfect they are. We can stop searching for happiness and rest knowing that Christ is in His right hand, (Mark 16:19). Focus on your relationship with Christ, because He is the Key. And the Key to successful relationships is Love. Matthew 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. God holds the Key, never man. In matters of the heart, focus on God’s Word, not on worldly expressions.  John 15:7 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.

 

By His Grace, Sheela (via sheelaleigh.com)

 

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Your Love is My Strength

strong heartI am only strong by Your love my Lord. I rise to use this strength to give it all to You. I ask for faith to strengthen me, so that I can double that faith, triple it, and offer it to You all over again. Everything belongs to You. Everything goes back to You. You are faithful to me. And I will be faithful to You. Let me be a fountain of joy and peace as I look to You in awe and as You work this faith in me. I glorify your name, Jesus. May it ever be sweet to my ears, and my joy when I say it, be good in Your sight. I bring myself to You as I remember Your goodness and mercies. Show me how to love and be my words today. Be my guide with my decisions in all that I do and say. You are my strength and confidence to show care, and concern. Thank You for providing me with enough of what I need to be compassionate and for granting me today to keep growing with that compassion. I always want to be better for You, and so I gladly take this chance to walk in Your love. When I seek Your heart, You make mine sweeter and kinder, more beautiful and pure, much lovelier and bolder, more genuine and dignified. My endurance is defined in Your heart. It’s in Your will I am strong. I seek Your love to strengthen me. I seek Your heart as I seek Your will, and in it with this abounding love, I pray. Amen.

Psalm 18: 1-2 I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

By His Grace, Sheela (via sheelaleigh.com)

 

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Angels Among Us?

It was a clear Saturday, afternoon. My parents were out doing errands, and my sister was antsy about being on time for our high school Christian Club car wash event. She was the president without a driver’s license. But on her command to start marching, I had to follow. We packed our towels, bottled water, some change of clothes, and out the door we ventured. We decided to take the shortcut. It was a narrow path winding down the neighborhood. There was a peculiar house. It was unlike the others, because this one stood on grounds that were not leveled with the rest of the homes surrounding it, much like a ditch out of nowhere. My sister was set on starting business, and our hurried footsteps must have woken up the notorious beasts of the block. Here they came, two of them charging at the weak fence enclosing this ditch. One was determined enough. He simply climbed over it. I knew it would probably be the end of us.

angry-dog.jpgOh how I wanted to cry! This undomestic creature had us stiff as poles. He circled us, and we were trapped by the threats of his merciless growls! His eyes told me that if we made a run for it, he would in no time finish us. But he kept circling and anxiously growling and barking as if he was waiting for our big move. We kept still, back against back. While my sister uttered for help in a weak voice, I looked at the many windows and doors around us, hoping for anyone to come to our rescue. But not a soul came.

Then out of nowhere, an odd looking man with an odd looking walk took a turn onto what would have been the crime scene of manslaughter by dog attack. He was wearing a light blue shirt with hands both clasping the straps of his backpack. His gait at first was clearly lacking confidence, but it all changed like a hero transforming before us. Before we could even say anything to him, his hands immediately came off his straps and gestured us to go.  We looked at him with grateful and equally apologetic eyes, as he did all he could to distract the beast. He told us not to look back. While we walked away slowly, trying not to turn our heads, my eyes welled up with tears, and in my shaken and terrified voice, I burst in contempt toward my sister for not having the patience for our parents to come home. It was the first time I saw a high school Christian Club president humble herself and apologize to her younger sister in tears. We hugged, wiped our faces, and this time walked side by side. Our rattled minds and bodies made it out onto the a main street. The sight of others walking by took my thoughts off of the danger that could have easily become gravely fatal. My sister however, couldn’t get past the idea that this odd looking man could have possibly been an angel.

Some people believe there are angels in human form, walking among us, guiding and protecting us. They just seem to come at the right time. Some believe it’s the simple act of sincere, unconditional love that create angels in people. Some believe we entertain them unknowingly. I like to believe there are plenty of them around, because by doing so, I become highly sensitive in the manner that God would want me to be. What I mean is, I become less sensitive toward myself and more sensitive toward others. I end up treating family, friends, and strangers the way they should be treated, with much love and respect, despite how difficult they may be at times. Picture them like tests God handed you. Whether or not I’ve entertained angels before, what matters most is, “Was God pleased with me?” I like to believe they do walk among us, because it makes life more interesting and exciting, and there’s definitely more to appreciate. Wouldn’t it be such an uplifting compliment if someone told you that they honestly believe you were their angel? You automatically have their love and respect. Entertaining angels shouldn’t be a priority, but rather something that should become habit as we grow more mature in Christ. Say, try entertaining a person you don’t normally like chatting with today. Sooner or later, at least one of you will have the attributes of an angel.

Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

By His Grace, Sheela (via sheelaleigh.com)

 

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