Happy Valentine’s Day

It’s February, the month of Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Groundhog Day, and National Bird-Feeding Month. While that list begs for a great one-liner, I’m going to let it go. If you think of something very clever, and if you just can’t help yourself, send it to me!!

First of all, some nuts and bolts… We have brought our online store back in-house and we are excited about that. You’ll find samples of every song on every CD and every soundtrack, too. We thought you’d like that. We enjoy the interaction with you all and we enjoy hearing what you like and, yes, what you don’t like about your online shopping experiences. Check it out. We think you’ll like what you see.

Maybe some of you, from time to time, need to be reminded that GOD IS WITH US. I know I do.

Enjoy!

GOD WITH US…….Janet Paschal

For several years my dad operated a pulp wood yard. This ‘yard’ included an office building, heavy loading equipment, mountains of logs and, our favorite, a stretch of train track that ran right along the front. Dad was extremely careful over us, warning of the potential dangers that each apparatus represented and diligently policing our movements. I’d have climbed every stack of logs in the yard had he allowed it.

Our favorite part of the day was after lunch when the logging traffic slowed and dad would take us for a walk on the railroad track. We walked in the middle, navigating the broad slats and occasionally balancing atop the rails. There was one section that narrowed significantly, offering little or no shoulder to escape the track. More than once, along that stretch, dad would say, “Okay babies, let’s get along. There’s a train coming,” and we would rush down the track to the wide, flat parcels. We did not see a train; we did not hear a train. We asked daddy how he knew a train was coming and he explained that he felt the vibrations of the rails.

Kay and I did not know we were in danger. We did not see or hear it. We lumbered along those tracks with no thought of our safety; not because we were familiar with the characteristics of railroads, but because we were intimately familiar with the characteristics of our father. He loved us; he watched us; he would protect us. We felt safe as long as he was with us.

God laid out before Moses a great commission. Flabbergasted, Moses asked, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, quite simply, “I will be with you.” (Exodus 3:12)

When Joshua stepped into Moses’ role, the Lord assured him, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5)
His promise to unite Israel came after dry bones rattled and ligaments joined bone to bone, “I will put my sanctuary among them forever.” (Ezekiel 37:26)

To Gideon He promises, ‘I will be with you.’” (Judges 6:12-16) He encourages Jeremiah, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you …” (Jeremiah 1:6-8) His word through Isaiah, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” (Isaiah 43:2)

David learned, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (Psalm 23:4)  Jesus told His disciples, “You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” (John 16:32)

The Lord spoke to Paul in a vision, “…. keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you .…” (Acts 18:9)  Peter declared the works of God, “…. because God was with him.” (Acts 10:38)

God’s proximity was foretold by the prophet Isaiah “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) The Hebrew translation is staggering: ‘God with us.’

Jesus added finality to the promise when He spoke to the eleven disciples at Galilee, words that have resonated in the hearts of everyone who ever believed He was who He said He was: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

It has often been a late summer breeze that awakened my senses and stirred my heart to let me know, in that moment, God was with us. I have gazed at a winter sky when Jupiter gleamed especially bright, knowing, somehow, that the Creator God was near. Just as surely as I have felt the hand of my father while maneuvering a railroad track, I have felt the divine, careful orchestration of the events and moments of my life and I remain amazed that the God of the ages still concerns Himself with the day to day.

So…. At Christmas, we celebrate the miraculous: His arrival. Always, we celebrate the unfathomable: God with us.

We love you all!
Janet

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Happy 2012!

Hey Everybody,

It’s January 2012 and I still can’t believe it. It seems that only a few months ago we were all preparing for the new millennium. My parents were right, the older you get the faster the time seems to go!

We’ve just returned from a couple of great concerts. We were in Concord, NC for Motor Racing Outreach Ladies Night and Opp, AL with Comfort Care. Both were great events with warm, sweet people. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the best thing about what I do is being able to meet the incredible people I come in contact with. I feel so blessed.

We’ve some time off before the North Carolina Church of God Ladies Conference on March 02. I’m looking forward to some of the things I love: shopping, cooking, and spending days with the people I love. Even the holidays aren’t better than that.

I pray for you all a prosperous, joyful New Year, and I pray that you will be able to squeeze every ounce of good out of every minute of every day. Remember, you only get one chance to live each day. Make it count!

We love you!

Janet

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Merry Christmas!

Hey Everybody,

I wanted to write and wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

The parking lots are full and the traffic is congested. (I love it.) Bells are ringing and lines are long. (I love that, too.) Newspapers are chunky and our organizational skills are maxed out (Yes, I love that, too.)

I pray for you all warm, slow days with those you love. I pray that we will take a second look at the manger and God’s irrational introduction to mankind. I pray that we will take a second look at each other, too, witnesses of love personified and wrapped in swaddling clothes.

I pray that the voids brought by loss and disappointment, this season, “will only bring a smile”, as God’s great sovereignty renews our strength and reestablishes our foothold.

I pray for you joy and laughter and a hard drive full of memories!

We love you and we look forward to seeing you in 2012!

Blessings,
Janet

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The Most Wonderful Holiday of the Year

We are counting down the days until Thanksgiving – my favorite holiday. Everyone is coming to our house again this year so I’ll be busy cooking, baking, planning, and I am going to LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT. I wish Thanksgiving came every month!

I hope your days are full and warm. I hope your yeast rolls rise (mine, too!) and the appetites you manage are satiated and then some! I also hope you find some great bargains on Friday morning while some of the world sleeps. I will, again, be venturing out before it is day to snag a place in line on Black Friday. Let the games begin!!

We love you and we look forward to seeing you soon.

Blessings,
Janet

P.S. Below is a picture of my fabulous birthday celebration: food and fun with the people you love. It doesn’t get better than that. They even let me win a game!

THE HIGHEST FORM OF THOUGHT by Janet Paschal
It has become a family tradition. Following our Thanksgiving meal, we begin at the head of the table and each person shares the things for which they are most grateful. We recount blessings both familiar and new. Moving clockwise, we nudge both ends of the spectrum, laughing and crying in turn.

During that time around the table, the hearts of everyone in the room are on the same page. We understand what it means to be filled with gratitude. We grasp that we are blessed beyond measure simply because there are no empty chairs.

G.K. Chesterton maintained that gratitude was the highest form of thought. A friend of mine says it is the only virtue that God expects. It is when our hearts are grateful, she says, that blessings are passed from one generation to the next. Gratitude can be a choice we make or a response to our circumstances. Ironically, the desires of our heart can draw us toward gratitude, whether those desires are fulfilled or denied.

Sometimes it is loss that makes us grateful. Who can fully appreciate a healthy back until it wields pain at every bend or movement? Can you truly be grateful for a child with good reflexes and a responsive mind if you have never seen that tiny form being prepped for scans and vitals? Who can honestly grasp what a privilege it is to dial a well-worn number and hear a parent’s familiar response until the phone goes unanswered and the voice silent? It is only when we digest our loss, kneeling by a freshly dug grave, barely able to breathe or function, that we grasp how much we possess.

My husband lived in Denver during the reign of the Broncos and their hero, John Elway. Since boyhood, Elway had dreamed of playing football and winning a Superbowl. He spent his entire life working toward that Sunday in 1998 when the Broncos beat Green Bay for their first Superbowl championship. Some time later Elway would tell an interviewer, – I have lived my whole life since I was five years old dreaming of that day. There I was, on the field, holding the hardware, smiling at the camera, doing the obligatory, I’ll see you in Disney, and I didn’t even get off the field before it began to feel hollow. The next two months were the darkest of my life. I was more depressed than I had ever been because I had gotten to the top and it returned nothing. Since I was the quarterback they let me take it home and for the next two months, I sat in my living room looking at it. I tried to look at it from every angle. I walked the floor at night looking at it and, still, it could not satisfy – .(paraphrased)

Sometimes it is a dream realized that makes us grateful for the ordinary. Sometimes we are grateful that we could not reach the things we could not hold. Sometimes we discover that the journey to the top was better than being there.

When my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, she and her husband returned home to ponder the treatment options and recommendations. She recalls walking into their home, looking in the mirror, and thinking that she looked the same. She had no protrusions, no visible signs of illness. She did not feel sick. She had no pain, nothing that would indicate that she needed treatment of any description. After her first chemotherapy session, she still felt no side effects. It was on day three that she began to understand the severity of her treatment. As the treatments progressed and her body responded to the wrenching battery of drugs, she faced the escalating side effects. In a poignant statement, she said that it was only after realizing the severity of the treatment that she realized the severity of the disease. After she grasped the severity of the disease, she (and we) could better understand what a blessing it was to sit at the Thanksgiving table with good reports.

Life teaches us to be grateful. It strips through the superfluous and fine tunes our focus. For the believer, it eventually demonstrates that all things work together for the good of those who love God. For that we are particularly grateful.

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Falling for Fall

Hey Everybody,

It is October and it is fall – my favorite time of the year. John has planted bulbs and propped hay and pumpkins on the front porch. Soon it will be cool enough to light a fire. Nothing says that fall has arrived quite like the crackle and smell of the first fire of the season. The leaves are turning rich, dramatic colors and the countryside is breathtaking. Mark Lowry says God is showing off.

Mark called a few days ago and, as always, he asked what I was reading. I have been reading only the Bible for about three months. I enjoy that because it is not someone’s ‘take’ on history, but a trustworthy account. And no literature in the world has any more interesting stories than those in the Old Testament, with its characters and geneologies. I’m in Kings at the moment, and Israel is frustratingly human!!

This is a busy month, and I am loving it. I have been able to match faces with some folks who have written and emailed; that is always a treat. My sister, I and our two cousins have birthdays this month, so we will spend a day celebrating: shopping, dining, and, most importantly, visiting. Life doesn’t get a lot better than that.

I hope your days are full and warm. I hope your plans exceed your expectations and your ordinary days prove extraordinary.

We love you, and we hope to see some of you this month.

Blessings,
Janet

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One Day

Hey Everybody,

It is September, and we’re gearing up to hit the road again. Fall is busy, and we are looking forward to each and every event – and we are looking forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces again!

On Sunday, we will celebrate the unbending faith and resilient human spirit that survives ten years following September 11, 2001. Following is a piece I wrote a few months ago. Seems to fit this weekend.

One Day
I have known her for years. Our backgrounds are extraordinarily similar and when I visited her dad’s church for a concert, she and I became instant friends. Her family is one of those rich genetic lines through which runs character, poise, meekness and a sense of humor. Their leadership is innate, as evidenced by the throng of people who trekked weekly to that tiny Pennsylvania borough and to the magnificent sanctuary he built.

He is completely engaging, adeptly incorporating modern day analogies into Biblical events. His warmth from the podium always reminded me of my grandfather; when you left his church you felt as though you had been hugged. His natural grace extends to the dinner table and he masterfully includes each person in the conversation.

One ordinary day, my friend raced her boyfriend up a flight of stairs and did irreparable damage to some clandestine nerve endings. She was suddenly and unexpectedly in excruciating pain. This fit, athletic young lady was reduced to near helplessness. Almost a decade later, despite extensive treatment from the country’s leading experts, her condition continues to deteriorate. Her pain has robbed her of a number of things that she deeply loved: her first home, a promising career, and social interaction with her peers. She has been forced to surrender long held dreams to God’s sovereignty; closely guarded independence to His foreknowledge.

Her sagacious father was left to assemble the pieces of her life in such a way that it made sense on some level; sense to her, to her family, and to his congregation. Their faith remained strong, deeply rooted in their history. They were (and are) not swayed by the assault on the temporary. Their focus is fixed on forever.

In Phillip Yancey’s book, What Good Is God?, he shares the story of what was, for him, a life-altering event. In 2007, his vehicle crashed, overturning down an icy embankment. Strapped onto a gurney, he was told that his neck was broken and the fracture was perilously close to an artery. For several hours he was denied medication, as they tested his responses. He tells of his doctor’s constant probing, sticking, pressing, always followed by the question, “Does this hurt?” All responses affirmative, he doctor answered “That’s good.” The fact that he felt pain indicated that the spinal cord was not damaged. Pain offered proof of life, Yancey said. It was a vital sign that his body remained whole.

Dallas Willard wrote that “Nothing irredeemable has happened or can happen to us on our way to our destiny in God’s full world. Nothing”. Paul wrote that all things work together for good to those who love God; one translation says that in all things God works together with those who love Him to bring about what is good. All things.

A few years ago I took some nagging questions and eventually arrived at what I really believe. My journal read, “I have questioned His ways. I asked Why?  and  Why not?”
I have gazed at the stars on a clear night and asked, “Are You really there?”

But Lord, I have resolved….
….. to trust You when I disagree with You
….. to walk beside You on those days I’d rather lag behind
….. to sit and learn when I would rather go and do
….. to died, convinced there is no other way to live!

One day the losses that my friend in Pennsylvania has endured will be redeemed. One day the suffering endured by those who love God will stand as a testament to His enduring faithfulness. Until then, we echo Yanceys conviction that pain offers proof of life, proof that we remain whole. We drink from the cup of sorrow knowing that, one day, it will pass. And our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
One day.
We love you all…
Janet

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In The Good Old Summertime

Hey Everybody,

It’s summertime, and the living is, well, relatively easy. It is very hot in Carolina, so a day in the 80s is something to look forward to. Maggie and the girls in the yard are doing wonderfully; this is their time of year, you know.

The benefit in Edmonton, Alberta turned out even better than expected. Those wonderful people raised over $160,000 for missions and Huldah Buntain has a project already lined up. If you would like to read more about this amazing lady and her organization, you may visit her website: www.buntain.org

One of my best friends who is a Master Gardener came for a visit last week to help us redo the island and dry creek bed in our front yard. She designed it, then helped John and me purchase trees and shrubs, dig holes, and plant, water, feed, and mulch the strip of land. Every day it seemed to grow bigger. We are still waiting for a couple of matching shrubs before it will be complete but it is looking great and it holds great memories of her visit. She is one of those rare people who leave behind more than they take; we speak of her words and her stories long after she has flown back to Louisiana.

We are gearing up for Vacation Bible School this week, and, once again, my sister, mom, and I will be serving food to the more than 200 children who attend nightly. It is one of the things to which I most look forward.

Have a great, safe summer. We will be in touch next month.

We love you!!

Janet

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Alabama On Our Minds

I have just returned from Tuscaloosa where we partnered with Comfort Care of Alabama for a Tornado Relief concert. On Thursday night we raised $5,000 and on Friday night in Brewton, the concert attendees added a truckload of basic essentials for the people of that state. God bless America…

I was granted a behind-the-scenes tour of the hardest hit areas. Amid the indescribable pictures, it was encouraging to see the people and corporations who have joined hands, hearts, and logistics to reach out to the people of that area. Tide laundry (P&G, I suppose) set up a free washer and dryer facility along the main stretch of highway; next door was a makeshift Duracell battery charging station; at posts all throughout the worst areas the National Guard offered free water and tarps. Many national companies sent supplies, stations, and volunteers to work hands-on as the area begins a long recovery. I spent the day alternating between deep sadness and sheer pride at the response of a nation under God that does not wait to be asked, but who moves without hesitation to help someone whose need is more imminent.

I know that the people of Alabama and the other areas affected sincerely covet your prayers. I also suspect that many of you have already been praying for them. That, too, makes me proud.

We love you. We appreciate you, too.

Blessings,
Janet

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Happy Spring

Hey Everybody,

Just a quick note to say that Spring has arrived in the Carolinas, and no one is happier than Maggie the Matriarch or Moe the Survivor. They are thriving from the spring rains and sunny days. Maggie is certain to secure her position as ‘Belle of the Ball’ in a few weeks.

We’ve just returned from a statewide women’s conference in South Carolina, home of Palmettos, Peaches, Blue Bloods, and Old Money. These SC ladies did not disappoint. They were warm, lovely, and very responsive as the group of 900 became one Body and we all left feeling that we had been a part of something very special. I love it when God does that.

John and I enjoy this time of year because we both love working outdoors. We pull out the root starter, the fertilizer, the shovel and the garden hose. He digs, and I supervise. He hauls and I make recommendations. He cultivates and I offer suggestions as to how he could work more efficiently. After working to the point of exhaustion, we shower and go out for a long, leisurely dinner. My favorite moment is when we turn into the driveway and the headlights capture all the fruits of our labor. Makes it worthwhile; a really sweet payoff.

Today my sister shared with her Sunday School class that her daffodils were not blooming. She read a gardening expert who said that it helps to occasionally dig the bulbs and replant. He wrote that daffodils grow better if they are periodically disturbed. You know where she took that analogy. When our lives are being ‘disturbed’, we are a short season from a whole new level of blooming. I love it!

We love you all. Have a great April!

Blessings,
Janet

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Doubt

Hey Everybody,

It was a series of fireside chats with a handful of friends that transformed C.S. Lewis from a belief in atheism to a belief in God. He would refer to J.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson as the immediate cause of his conversion and describe his indebtedness toward them as ‘incalculable’. He recounts his initial encounter with God as follows:

“A young atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side. My Adversary would not argue philosophy. He only said, ‘I am the Lord. I am that I am. I am.’ You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humilty which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words “compel them to come in, plumb the depth of the divine mercy.”

Lewis went on to author lauded commentaries on living the Christian life, but it was the death of his beloved wife that caused him to revisit his doubt and rethink his perception of God. He wrote, “Your bid – for God or no God – will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high.” In other words, it is not a difficult thing to say that we believe in God when it costs us nothing. It is relatively easy to fall into step with like believers when the events of our lives proceed as usual. It is when tragedy strikes, and we spiral helplessly through the dark chasm of the unknown that we begin to understand what it means to surrender control; to live without negotiation.

Thankfully, Jesus does not back away from our questions and doubts; in fact, He encourages them. He does not hold us at arm’s length while we struggle to reconcile what we believe. Knowing His disciple, Thomas, had reservations, He urged him, “Come ahead. See for yourself.” God used Malachi to say to Israel, “Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

“Test me; try me; see for yourself.” No believer could ask for more.

Walking with Christ is not about burying your doubts. It is about lining up to see the scarred hands, the wounded side. It is about pressing in and drinking deeply of His word, His promises, His presence. It is about interpreting the events of your life through His perspective, and not your own.

In 1941, Lewis preached a sermon at Oxford titled, THE WEIGHT OF GLORY. In it, he abbreviated his faith and lent perspective to the rest of us when he wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

I don’t doubt it.

I hope you all have a happy March. We have spotted a couple of bulbs that couldn’t wait any longer to show off their spring wardrobe. I’m loving it!

Blessings,
Janet

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