faith, God, life

Faithfulness: The Testimony of Tiffany Colter

Many times, we do not realize how blessed we are. Life is not easy and all families go through difficulties at one time or another. Our spouse gets sick. Or we lose our job. Our parents grow older, feeble and frail and we are faced with decisions that must be made regarding the remaining years they have here on earth. A child becomes seriously ill. Everyone struggles, even Christians. But it seems to me that some peoples’ struggles are far more challenging and last much longer than other people’s struggles. That applies to my special guest blogger today, Tiffany Colter. Tiffany’s family has gone through so much in these last few years. But rather than give up, Tiffany and her husband “dug their heels in” and depended on God to see them through.

The link to Tiffany’s testimony is here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXkBbvl-0bc

If you don’t accomplish anything else today, take the time to listen to Tiffany’s testimony. I promise you will be moved and you will be grateful for God’s blessings on your life and the life of your family.

Please contact Tiffany at: http://www.writingcareercoach.com/ and share with her how her testimony has increased your faith!

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Rejections and Selections

On Friday morning of the Convocation, Bishop David Simpson spoke on the challenges of convergence worship and three temptations regarding those challenges. Today, I want to share my thoughts on two of those temptations – but relating to the church universal and not to convergence worship. My thanks to Bishop Simpson for kick-starting my thoughts on these two temptations.

Temptation # 1: Rejecting the old in favor of the new.
I believe many churches have rejected the “old” over the past two decades. The old traditional hymns, the serving of the Eucharist, the “community” of believers found in the church. Instead, church became “seeker friendly.” In other words, the church tried to adopt itself to the world in an effort to bring more people into their membership. Please understand that I am not criticizing or judging other churches. I understand the desire to see your church grow. I have just started my 15th year as a Church Business Administrator. I know what it is like to need more people to volunteer for the various ministries of the church. I definitely know what it is like to need people who are faithful to tithe so that the church can pay the utilities every month. There is nothing inherently wrong with having praise bands or drama teams or a dance ministry. These and other groups can add tremendously to the worship services. But when the Table of the Lord is moved off of the center of the altar so that a motorcycle can be ridden through the sanctuary up onto the altar, the church has gone too far. When giving your tithes and offerings, which is an act of worship in and of itself, becomes a convenient drive-by drop-off, the church has gone too far. I am saying that when churches mix the world and the world’s attitudes with their worship, teaching and preaching, they have gone beyond “rejecting the old in favor of the new.” Instead of the 11 AM Worship Hour, we now have the 11 AM Entertainment Hour. And the pendulum between old and new has swung far to the left. We need to bring it back to the center by going back to the basics – the hymns, the serving of the Eucharist more than once a quarter, the table of the Lord front and center of the altar, fellowshipping and being a family together. Then when these things are re-established, add the praise band with some current worship songs or the occasional dance in worship. The entire point of this rambling is to say that the church needs to get its focus back on God during worship. That is what will draw people into the church.

Temptation # 2: Avoid the smorgasbord approach.
This statement applies to us in at least two ways. First, we cannot take a smorgasbord approach to the Bible. We can’t pick and choose from the Bible what we like and what we don’t like. Those Scriptures we like we apply to our lives and the Scriptures we don’t like we ignore. It doesn’t work that way. All of the Scriptures – every verse in every book – applies to all of us.
We can’t use the smorgasbord approach to church either. We can’t pick and choose what part of our church’s programs we like and will participate in. That’s not to say that we serve on every committee, show up every time the doors are unlocked. What it does mean is we support our church with our attendance on Sundays, our prayers through the week and our tithes every pay day. We give of our talent and our time. We support our pastor through prayers and encouragement. We do not have “roast pastor” for lunch on Sunday. We support our Rector’s Council, or Elders or Board of Deacons – whatever your church calls the governing authority of the church – with our prayers. We participate in the activities of the church. Most importantly, we pray and ask God what He wants us to do in the church. We ask Him to show us our place in the church. Then we are obedient to His call.

I am sure there are more temptations when it comes to being involved in the church; pray about this and ask God to show you where and when you are falling prey to temptation. Ask for and receive forgiveness and then choose to follow the entire Bible and to fully support your church.

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The Original Call

“Whenever you are in a place and you don’t know why you are there, go back to your original call.”

This was the first sentence of a sermon preached by the Patriarch of the Charismatic Episcopal Church (CEC), The Most Reverend Craig Bates, on Wednesday night, June 17, 2009. We were attending the opening service of the Provincial Convocation of the Southeast Diocese of the CEC. (See Tuesday’s blog for an explanation on the CEC.)

“Whenever you are in a place and you don’t know why you are there, go back to your original call.” As soon as I heard this sentence, I was hooked. It was as if the Patriarch was speaking to me only. All of my life I have struggled with what I was supposed to do for a career; what was God calling me to do? I have gone from one calling to a different job, to another calling, to another job all of my life – seeking my place. You may think I’m exaggerating, but believe me, I’m not. As a teenager, I worked at Newnan Hospital as what was known then as a “Blue Skirt.” We were trained to make beds, give bed baths, assist with meals, and other duties that freed the nurses to do what they were there to do. I loved that job and wanted to be a nurse. I took two quarters of nursing school and decided that maybe that wasn’t for me after all. I changed majors and studied music. I knew that God have given me a talent in piano playing and I decided this must be what He wanted me to do. (Note I said “I decided” not – this is what God said I was to do.) Before I received my degree, I dropped out of college and got married, promising my parents I would get that degree in music. That particular degree still eludes me. Once I got married, I began working in the administration/office management field.

I do know that God has given me the gift of administration. I can organize anything – from a closet to a convention for 16,000. I can organize an office or a person. I have lists of things to do and I’ve been known to make a list of all the lists I have. I have worked in the administration field for 35 years. So, I know in that respect, I have been on the right track.

If I’ve gotten the “professional” aspect correct, that leaves the ministry aspect. What has God called me to do in ministry? I have, over the years, waffled on that call. Now, before I list the litany of what areas within the church I’ve worked, please listen: there is nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with working in more than one area of the church. Most churches need all the volunteers available to fill the open positions in their ministries. My point is I did all of these things trying to determine what God was calling me to do in ministry. Here’s the list: nursery worker, pianist/keyboardist for worship team(s); Choir Director; Sunday School teacher; taught numerous classes in the last ten years; counselor; Director of Prayer Ministry; the list goes on.

I did learn some things about myself during this time: I learned that I love to teach adults and I love to counsel. During this time, I received my BA in Christian Counseling. I believed that these two things were a part of my calling, but I also felt there was more to it than that. For over 17 years, I have had a heart for women, especially women who have been deeply wounded emotionally. My desire has been and still is to help women forgive those who wounded them, to become the women of God that He has called them to be and to see themselves as God sees them, not as the world sees them.

If these three areas – teaching, counseling and working with women – were not enough, God threw writing into the mix, writing for women. Is anyone beginning to see the theme here?

Have you ever found yourself in a place where you are not even sure how you got there, much less why you are there? And you’re so overwhelmed with everything you think you are supposed to do, that you procrastinate on doing anything? That was me on Wednesday night, June 17, 2009. So when the Patriarch began his message with the sentence “Whenever you are in a place and you don’t know why you are there, go back to your original call,” my attention was focused on hearing what he had to say. And his message was quite simple, yet profound. What was my original call? What is the Father doing? What is God doing right now in our midst?

I began to think of my original call. Yes, I did have an original call and yes, I did know what the call was. When I was 11, maybe 12, I truly believed that God was calling me to the mission field. I believed it so strongly that one Sunday I went forward during the altar call and told my Pastor who promptly announced to the congregation that I was called to the mission field. Imagine the look of total and utter shock on my parents’ faces as they had no idea any of this was going on with me.

That call never came to fruition. Over the years, I decided that maybe I had not heard correctly, and yet, that call was always in the back of my mind. Sometimes I felt guilty, blaming myself for not pursuing that call. Many times I questioned the call – after all, I was a young kid – I probably didn’t hear correctly or maybe I was moved by the emotional moment. Whatever the reason(s), I never became a missionary. But on Wednesday night, June 17, I went back to that original call. And here is what I heard the Lord say to me:
“I called you to the mission field when you were a child. I called you to the
mission field in your own backyard. You are a missionary to every woman
you meet.”

WOW. There it was, after all these years of wondering. I am to minister to women through teaching, counseling and writing (this does not exclude men to be counseled with their wives or in attending classes). I even re-wrote my mission statement: “To show the love of God and His healing power to women through teaching, counseling and writing.”

Today, I ask you. What was your original call? Go back to it and make sure you are fulfilling it. If not, ask God to show you what you need to do in order to fulfill your call. He will answer you.

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Convocation

Last week was one of the most exciting weeks experienced in the life of my church. I attend Christ the King Charismatic Episcopal Church. For those of you reading this blog who are not familiar with the Charismatic Episcopal Church (CEC), let me give you a brief background.

Compared to other denominations, the CEC is young; the first meeting was held on June 26, 1992. The CEC did not branch off of the Episcopal or Anglican Church, but rather, was “birthed out of worship,” as our Patriarch, The Most Reverend Craig Bates, told us last week.

The CEC is based on a movement in the church universal today that is known as “convergence worship.” Simply put, this means that our worship is fully charismatic (Spirit-filled), fully evangelical (the Bible is taught and preached in our churches and the Word is carried out to the nations), and fully sacramental/liturgical (we have liturgical readings and responses and we celebrate the Eucharist (Communion) every Sunday.) For more information about the Charismatic Episcopal Church visit the website at www.ICCEC.org or www.CEChome.org.

Last week our church hosted the Provincial Convocation (which is a very fancy way of saying annual meeting) of the Southeast Diocese, beginning on Wednesday evening and ending at the close of the worship service on Friday evening. We were honored to have as our keynote speaker the Patriarch of the CEC, the Most Reverend Craig Bates, as well as the Archbishop of the Southeast Diocese, The Most Reverend Chuck Jones and many other distinguished Bishops and priests.

Patriarch Bates preached on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. General Sessions were held Thursday and Friday mornings and workshops were offered both afternoons. The culmination of the convocation was the enthronement of Father David Epps to the Bishop of the Mid-South Diocese.

Today’s blog is the introduction/background information for the remaining blogs for this week. I will be blogging on messages preached and lessons learned, gifts used and reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. Please come back every day this week! And if you ever want to visit Christ the King, the door is always open!

faith, struggles, tests

Struggles, Tests and Faith

What a struggle today’s blog has been to write! I’ve been trying to get something – anything – on paper for three days. Every time I decided on a topic and began to write, my brain would decide to take a vacation and my fingers would freeze. It has been a frustrating struggle, especially considering I have a number of topics waiting patiently in my “Blog” folder about which I can write.

Last week certainly had its share of tests and struggles. What week doesn’t? I believe that we are always being tested in some way. James 1:2-4 says in one of the latest translations of the Bible, The Message: Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. A gift?? He’s joking, right? We are supposed to consider these tests and struggles a gift. One that will increase our faith. Hmmm…

I had my annual mammogram two weeks ago. As soon as I walked out of the door, after having gone through minutes of sheer agony, I promptly put the test out of my mind. Until I received a telephone call last week saying that I needed to go back for additional tests. About every two years, I get the same call. It seems that the right side is much harder to scan and read than the left side. So when I received this call, I was not surprised. But it wasn’t the right side this year. It was the left. And the left side didn’t show what the radiologist thought was fibrous tissue. It showed nodules … cysts. The actual words the doctor’s nurse used were “suspicious nodules. You need to get these additional tests done as soon as possible so it can be confirmed that these nodules are benign or not.”

Fear immediately rose up within me and my vivid imagination had a field day. (Why can’t my imagination be vivid when I’m writing the “Great American Novel”?) Truly, I had myself diagnosed and on the operating table before the telephone call ended. At that moment, I failed the testing of my faith. As soon as I disconnected from that telephone call, I emailed my priest and one of my dearest friends, explained the situation and asked for prayers to be offered up on my behalf. It was evident that they began to pray because I could feel calmness begin to seep into my mind and heart. As I began to calm down, I could see this situation for what it really was – another ploy of the enemy. You see, every time I have the opportunity to minister – whether it is to teach, write, pray, counsel, work in any area of ministry – the enemy attacks and frequently those attacks are against my physical body. It has happened so many times you would think I would recognize the signs, but no. That would make life far too easy! Anyway, once I realized what was happening, I began to pray and to trust God, knowing that He was in control. Throughout the remainder of that day I prayed as I went about my normal routine. Sometimes the prayer would be a simple “I trust You, God.” Other times, I would give praise. And once or twice, when I felt my legs of faith begin to wobble, I would quote scripture, reminding myself that God was the Great Physician.

Are you struggling with an issue today? Is your faith being tested? Remember what James said. The test is a gift to increase your faith. It works. I ought to know. I’m tested all the time.

Oh, yes. The tests? Negative. Thanks be to God!

beautiful, comfortable, hair, skin

Comfortable in My Own Skin

I have just this morning begun reading “The Shack.”* This book is all the rage right now. It has topped out at # 1 on the NY Times Best Seller List for the last several weeks.

In the forward of the book the author is describing the main character, Mack, and at one point he writes that “he’s become one of those people who are totally at home in their own skin.” Hmmm … “totally at home in their own skin.” An “ah-ha” moment for me! We are always reading in some magazine or self-help book that we have to like, even love ourselves, i.e., we must accept who we are and be comfortable in our skin – right now – before we can move ahead with our lives. Jesus said it this way, “love your neighbors as yourself.” In other words, if we don’t love ourselves the way God intended us to do, we cannot love, much less help, our neighbors.

I have been dissatisfied and restless off and on (mostly on) for years. I have tried different diets, different hair styles, read all kinds of Christian self-help books, taken up new hobbies, changed jobs… the list could go on and on. I might be okay for a while but the dissatisfaction and restlessness always returned. This morning, the realization hit me like cold water being thrown in my face that all the dissatisfaction and restlessness I feel stems from the fact I don’t like myself. I don’t love myself. I am not at home in my own skin.

I know that God loves me, that He created me in His own image. He thinks I’m beautiful. I know this in my head and my heart goes along with my head occasionally. But I need for my heart to know that God loves me and sees me as beautiful all the time. I need to become comfortable in my own skin.

I need to realize and accept the fact that if I never lose another ounce, if every day is a bad hair day that I can accept myself exactly as I am every day. More importantly, I need to realize that God doesn’t see what I see when He looks at me. He sees me as He created me, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). He sees me as beautiful (SS. 1:15) and that one look from me “ravishes his heart.” (SS 4:9).

God is no respecter of persons. Ladies, if He sees me like this, then I can assure you, with the Word of God backing me up, that He sees you the very same way.

*Written in 2008

** Edwina Cowgill is available to speak to womens groups on this and other topics of interest to women. Please contact her at edwina.cowgill@yahoo.com.

© 2008 Edwina E. Cowgill

first place, truth, volunteer

First Place

Word from the Lord –October 21:

“Edwina, you can only love Me as much as you love yourself. So my love comes to set you free from yourself, to set you free from how you see yourself, and to set you free from the smallness of your own thinking about yourself. My love comes to set you free from rejection and from shame and from low self-esteem, despair, and abuse.”

“Because when I look at you,” says the Lord, “I see something that I love. I see someone that I love outrageously and I have so much to bestow upon you, so much to give you, so many places to take you in my heart. But you can’t go there unless you allow Me to love you. My love for you will break every barrier, bring every wall crashing down. And know this,” says the Lord, “my love damages fear, my love hates fear, my love will fight fear around you. If you have fear,” says the Lord, “then know that you have a treat in store because My perfect love casts out fear. There is no fear where I am present because My love casts out fear. Beloved, you are My beloved and in My love I want you to feel good about yourself because I love you.”

Today’s blog and the one from yesterday were written in response to an email I had sent a friend some time ago. The email was about how I didn’t like anything about myself – not my looks, body, attitude – there was nothing I liked about myself. When I read the word from the Lord for the first time, I thought, “That’s nice.” But it did not affect me in any way.

The next night at Bible study, we went through the confession of sin. When we got to the part of “I have not loved you with my whole heart,” the Lord spoke directly to me and said, “No, you have not loved me with your whole heart. If you had, you would understand my love for you.” WOW! That hit me like a ton of bricks. Even though I had taught about His extravagant love for us, I still had not accepted and comprehended that love for me.

What does it mean “you have not loved me with your whole heart?” Very simply, it means that we love something or someone else more that we love Jesus. Anything or anyone that we put ahead of Christ in our lives is the thing or person that we love more than we love Him. Ouch! Truth hurts, doesn’t it?

It is possible that we do not realize we have put someone or something ahead of Christ in our lives. These types of situations can be very deceptive. After all, where is the wrong in loving your spouse and/or your children so much? Nothing – as long as you don’t give them first place in your life, above God.

What is wrong with loving your volunteer work at the church so much that you are at the church all the time and you win the “Volunteer of the Year Award?” Nothing – as long as you don’t place your church work above your love for and your walk with Christ.

If what I’ve written in either of these blogs has made you realize that you have placed anything or anyone above the Lord, you need to know that there is a very easy remedy for this. All you have to do is repent and ask God to forgive you. He is waiting to hear from you now.