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Pruning

Oh, how I needed this today! Funny how God can bring something back, something I wrote last year, and it is exactly what I need today! If God is pruning things/people from your life, I pray you surrender the process to Him. He has good plans for your life!

Training for Eternity

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When God prunes something or even someone from our lives, it hurts. We may wonder where we went wrong or why He’s doing it. We may try to ignore it and keep pushing forward with our own agendas or what others have told us. We may think we’re misunderstanding what’s happening, that God would never prune that so there must be something else going on.

I’ve been struggling lately with a lot of things He’s been pruning, wondering if there is going to be anything left of me when He’s done. I’ve cried out to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment, knowing He is the only One who can really help me to understand what’s happening.

I’m learning through my own experiences the two reasons why God prunes things from my life:

Growth.

Protection.

Maybe this seems obvious to you, but I’m a little slow and sometimes I need…

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Upstream

It’s #TBT time again! If you’re discouraged or feeling alone in your journey, I pray this encourages you. ♥️

Training for Eternity

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Going through a hard time is like walking upstream in water that is chest level. Sometimes I lose my footing and I slip and go all the way under, the cold water a slap to my face.  It would be so much easier to turn around and walk downstream, where the water will carry me along and I won’t have to work so hard.  I can see from here that it widens downstream and there are many there.

But this is where God called me. Upstream.

I’m learning it’s not always going to be easy going this way. It would be much easier to go with the crowd, to follow everyone else.  It would be so much easier to splash around in the shallow water, to stretch out in all that space and do whatever I wanted, to get out when I’m tired or uncomfortable.  But again, God didn’t call…

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Reading, “Flowers in February”

If you’re struggling with loss or discouragement during this cold and dark season, I pray my short story, “Flowers in February” reminds you of the unending hope you have in the Lord. ♥️

Be blessed, and thank you for watching!

(If you’d rather read the story instead of watching this video, click here.

Remember

It’s Throwback Thursday again! This goes along with the theme of the week: Remembering God. If you missed it, you can check out my post, “The Forgetful Underdog” on joeyrudder.com to see what can happen when we forget God and where our success comes from. May we always remember Him!

https://joeyrudder.com/2021/02/16/the-forgetful-underdog/

Training for Eternity

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I haven’t filled the bird feeders or given any corn to the deer in a long time and promised myself once November arrived, I’d start doing it again. So I threw on my old coat yesterday morning and loaded up the cup to fill both feeders, tapping it to make sure the birdseed slid out. That tapping is the same, hollow sound that’s been echoing across our property for years, one that announces, “It’s breakfast time” to all the critters.

I poured some fresh water into the birdbath and since I don’t have any corn yet, I dumped a little birdseed into the dish for the deer.  And that’s when I saw her standing in the front yard, watching and waiting:  a deer that knew the routine.

She remembered the tapping sound of my cup, the mound of corn or birdseed she’d find in the dish, and the gravely sound as I dumped it…

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Trust: After You’ve Been Hurt

It’s Throwback Thursday, and I’m feeling led to share this post. If you’re struggling with your past, I pray this brings you closer to the One who can heal you.♥️

Training for Eternity

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If you’ve ever been hurt before, you know how hard it can be to trust again. You wonder if there’s another devastating blow around the corner, another crushing moment if you open yourself up again.

You’ve been burned and you’re not sure how to come back from it, how to recover anything good from the pile of ashes.

My friend, God sees the remnants. He sees what you think is hopeless. He sees the thick layers of anger and regret. He wants to peel those away, stop the bitterness from burrowing deeper into you, and bring something good, something powerful from all of this.

It may not be what you envisioned. It may not be where you imagined He would direct you. All He asks is for you to trust Him and follow His lead.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Trusting.

Your heavenly Father understands. The day you were…

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My New Website

Hello faithful readers and friends!

I want to thank you for reading my blog posts/stories here at Training for Eternity. What a blessing you’ve all been to me! (And a great big shout-out and THANK YOU! to those of you who’ve been following this blog since October 2016. I can’t believe it’s been that long!)

I’ll still blog about the lessons God is teaching me here at Training for Eternity, but…

God has been stirring something new in my heart for a few months, and I’m finally able to share. I have a new website, joeyrudder.com, for this “new” journey where I’m writing stories (and blog posts!) of faith and hope to inspire my fellow underdogs to fight the good fight. I hope you’ll come check it out and follow me there!

Just a sample from my homepage:

Are you an underdog? If you are, you don’t quit. You’re stubborn enough to ignore the naysayers who tell you you’re not going to make it. You push on. Even when things are hard. Especially when things are hard. There have been times, your darkest times, when you’ve considered giving up. But that tiny spark of yours, the one about the size of a mustard seed, ignites something else that keeps you going… [read more]  

And a glimpse at my first blog post:

Waiting is hard work. It’s especially difficult for the underdog. You might feel like you don’t have much support or encouragement, that others don’t believe in you and actually voice such things. You might even feel like you’re stuck in a prison of sorts waiting for the moment when you’ll break free and step into your calling –what God created you to do… [read more]

I hope you’ll join me over at my new website. I’m excited to experience the “new” God has waiting for me…for us!

See you soon!

Joey

Believe

With things still spinning outside my window (pandemic, politics etc.), I’ve been calling out to God and asking Him what I should do.

I mean, really. We all have a part. We all have a purpose. (Are you asking Him what you should do?)

For me, it all goes back to the word He gave me for this year:  Believe.

At first I thought the word was just for the Christmas story I wrote last month. But the more I travel into January, I know it’s for this year. (He gave me another word, but I believe that’s something He’s going to do and is already doing. But that’s for another post.)

But the believing, well, that’s up to you and me.

We believe God parted the Red Sea, and Jesus calmed the storm. We believe Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. We believe the countless times when Jesus showed up people were healed, changed, challenged, and redeemed.

Don’t let the storms, the cresting waves of this world threaten you, scare you, or send you running for cover, my friends.

Believe in God. Believe in His power and His promises. Believe in His faithfulness and His love. Believe that He never leaves you. Believe that He has good plans for your life. Believe that in all things He is working things out for the good of those who love Him. Believe that Jesus rose from the grave and is seated at the right hand of the Father right now, interceding for us. Believe the Holy Spirit is on planet Earth, inhabiting the spirits of the willing vessels who surrender and call out to Him, inviting Him to guide, counsel, comfort, and direct. We don’t have to wander around aimlessly and hopeless.

We don’t have to lower our heads as discouragement tries to weigh us down.

We lift our eyes to the hills, where our help comes from, and we praise our God because we KNOW He is faithful! He always has been and always will be. And nothing is impossible for Him or too hard for Him.

When we believe in God, we are turning our eyes (see, that’s our part) to focus on God instead of the noisy waves crashing all around.

Do you remember what happened when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus while he, Peter, was walking on water?

Peter began to sink. He cried out to Jesus, and immediately Jesus saved him.

Wherever you are today, my friends, don’t take your eyes off of Jesus. Stay focused on Him. And if you give into your flesh and you look away, don’t give into the sinking. Don’t give up. Call out to Jesus. Immediately, He will be there to lift you up.

Don’t doubt. Believe.

“‘But if you [Jesus] can do anything, take pity on us and help us. ‘If you can’? said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:22b-24 NIV.)

Reflecting on “A Different Kind of Christmas” for the New Year

As we are about to enter into a new year, I’m reflecting on the different kind of Christmas we recently celebrated. The transition into 2021 can be spent just as Megan, the main character in my story, “A Different Kind of Christmas” celebrated Christmas Eve. A beautiful celebration indeed.

Check out the link to my reading of this short story, friends. May God bless you as you celebrate the new year with our King!

When Christmas Hurts

 

I remember standing in the cemetery at Grandpa’s funeral on a cold December day. The wind was bitter and my soul hurt beyond words. How could I possibly be joyful days later? My grandpa, the one who took me fishing, bike riding, and introduced me to church, was gone from my world.

Sometimes Christmas hurts. It seems like the whole world is celebrating while we feel completely removed. Alone.

There are times when relationships in our lives have been strained, even cease to exist, and we are reminded of it at Christmas when we reflect on the year that’s gone by.

Loneliness can strike harder than usual. It seems families and friends are gathering, and you’re alone in the corner while the whole world is celebrating.

It seems this way. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Christmas is personal. It’s between you and Jesus Christ. If you want to bring others into it, to love and share with them, that’s fine.

But my friend, don’t let the struggles of failed or strained relationships, the loss of someone you love, or even the looming darkness of loneliness steal the joy that is yours.

Joy is waiting for you because Jesus Christ is waiting for you to spend time with Him.

Remember when Jesus was visiting Martha and her sister Mary? (Luke 10:38-42.) Martha was distracted, worried, and upset about so many things that she failed to see her sister was fulfilling a greater need and desire of her heart.

Mary was spending time with Jesus. Sitting at His feet. Listening to Him.

It’s no wonder the enemy tries to distract and discourage so many during the Christmas season (sometimes with all the preparations just like Martha) as we reflect on Jesus. Satan will distract you with past hurts, current struggles, pain and loss. He will magnify it like holding a magnifying glass in the sunlight to destroy a bunch of ants.

Let God be magnified in your heart. Let Him swell and fill those hurting places. Give Him the room to stretch through every part of your life. And allow yourself the time to sit at the feet of your Savior. Allow moments of stillness and prayer to draw you closer to Him.

Perhaps you could step outside after your corner of the world has gone to sleep. Gaze upon the stars. Remember the mighty One who knows each one of those stars by name knows you. He knows everything about you. He knows why you’re struggling, who hurt you, who you’re missing. Remember, He sees every tear you cry.

There are painful times in all of our lives—we live in a fallen world. But don’t let them become the focus during this miraculous season.

Don’t give the enemy control of your focus. Don’t give him the magnifying glass so he can destroy this moment in your life.

Turn away from the enemy’s lies. Rebuke Satan out loud in the name of Jesus Christ. Use your voice and take authority over the enemy.

And let Jesus Christ be your focus.

Think about the light piercing the dark night when the angel appeared, when the heavenly multitude showed up praising God (Read Luke 2:8-20). Imagine how the earth must have trembled with joy at the appearance of the One who came to save. Can you feel the shaking in your own spirit? Can you imagine rushing as a shepherd, your heart pounding, your legs feeling numb as if you’re flying, to find the baby just like the angels proclaimed? What joy your heart would feel! To be a part of this. To be included in this moment in history.

You can have a moment like this right now. Reflect and think about it. Focus and pray and put yourself in the Scripture. Let that night encompass your heart in the miracle that is Jesus Christ. Let the light of that night break through the darkness of your suffering.

It is very personal.

Jesus left all of His majestic glory behind for you. He suffered greatly for you. He is coming back for you.

If you’re hurting and the burden is too heavy, sit with Jesus in prayer and give it to Him. Listen for the sweet voice of our Lord. Wait for the Comforter to bring you peace that makes no sense to your human reasoning but is exactly what your fragile heart needs.

He will be there for you. Cry out to Him. Whisper His name.

Jesus Christ. Savior. The One we celebrate at Christmas.

You can celebrate. Deeply. In your heart. With Jesus. Just the two of you.

What a special Christmas this can be for you.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 NIV.)

One Cookie at a Time

Thank you for reading, my dear friends. I pray this year’s fictional Christmas story blesses you. And I pray you have a blessed and very Merry Christmas as you remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who came to save us all.

One Cookie at a Time

I nibbled on stale candy corn while my fingers hovered over my laptop. I hesitated to send the email, knowing it would make everything so final. But the truth was, the numbers were bad, and I’d already lost hope in my bakery. There was no point in dragging out the inevitable. I had to tell my faithful client list I would be closing at the end of the year. And I had to tell my daughter, Jenna, there would be no business to return to after graduating from college. I just couldn’t hold on anymore.

It was Christmas Eve, and it took everything I had not to close my doors permanently tonight, to hold out and wait for a miracle. But I knew that stuff only happened in Christmas movies to happy people with happy lives. Not the kind of life I’d lived—an ugly divorce, bankruptcy, and struggling to make a fresh start with only a dream and a box of my own recipes.

“It’s freezing out!” Jenna said, the bakery door jingling as she came in blowing on her hands.

I closed my laptop.

“Are you ready to go? The snow is really coming down.”

I sighed. “I’m ready. I just need to grab these last few boxes.”

“Deliveries?”

“No. Cookies that didn’t sell. No one will want to buy stale Christmas cookies after Christmas.”

“Mom, what have you always told me? ‘Pray and trust.’”

I couldn’t tell her I was too tired to pray, and I didn’t know how to hold onto trust when it seemed like grasping at sugar in a sandstorm. So instead, I put on a smile for my daughter, knowing when the time came to tell her the truth, maybe then she’d understand.

We loaded the white boxes onto the backseat of Jenna’s pickup and climbed into the cab. With my laptop and unwanted cookies in tow, I turned to see my bakery, dark and shrouded in a heavy snowfall. I was thankful the wind was bitter—it could explain the tears in my eyes.

Jenna steered away from the curb and whispered something.

“What was that?”

“I was praying.”

At least I’d done something right. Train up a child…

As we headed across town, the snow stopped falling, leaving the sidewalk as a satin ribbon of white. Evergreen wreaths dangled from the streetlights as their timid colored lights cast a glow into the night.

“Look over there,” Jenna said, motioning to a church parking lot with people spilling out of the building.

She pulled the truck over, reached around to the backseat, and lifted two boxes. She hopped out and handed one to a man and woman with three small children—all with scarves covering most of their faces. The other box she handed to an elderly couple. Their words of gratitude floated in the night air in a puff of white as Jenna returned to the truck.

“Come on, Mom. We’ve got more deliveries.”

“What are you talking about? It’s Christmas Eve.”

“Exactly.”

I tried not to laugh as my twenty-year-old daughter bent over the steering wheel with fierce determination like she’d done when she’d first learned to ride a bike.

“Over there.” Jenna gave a nod before parking at the community center. A man had just stepped out, silver keys shining in his hand.

She grabbed more boxes, jumped from the cab, and hurried to the man who chuckled at her offer while rubbing the back of his neck. She followed him inside and moments later, returned without the boxes. She hoisted herself into the truck, giggling.

“What in the world are you up to?”

“The community Christmas dinner is tomorrow. He told me donations were low this year, and they need cookies.”

My mouth slipped open. “Really?”

“Uh huh.”

Moments later, Jenna steered onto a dimly lit street. The stretch of houses, lonely without Christmas lights hanging from the porches or inflatable snowmen waving in the yards.

“I need your help, Mom. Take a box and leave it.”

I turned to inspect the backseat. “But we only have a few left. And leave it where?”

“At each house. Until we run out.”

I did just that, feeling a surge of adrenaline each time I bent to leave a box of cookies and hurrying away before anyone spotted me. As I was about to leave my last box on a dark porch, a light came on and the door creaked opened. I stepped back when a woman glared from her screen door. A little girl in pigtails ran to her side, but after spotting me, hid behind the woman’s leg.

“I’m sorry to bother you. I was leaving a box of Christmas cookies. I own the bakery down the street, and, well, I have enough to share.”

The woman reached out to take it, the hard lines of her face softening. “Thank you.”

I smiled, and as I turned for the truck, the woman gasped.

“Is something wrong?”

The little girl ran off to another part of the house, her feet thumping on the floor, while the woman gently held the opened box to her chest.

“It’s been a rough year,” she whispered. “A really rough year. My husband lost his job. Two weeks later, my sister passed away. I prayed God would help. Just give me a word to hold onto to get through everything, you know? Just a word. I wanted to believe He was going to help us, but it’s hard to believe when things seem so dark.” She paused to stare into the box. “But then you brought me this.”

I didn’t understand. They were just sugar cookies – frosted stockings, Christmas bulbs, and snowflakes with assorted sprinkles. That sort of thing. Nothing special.

The woman’s eyes filled as she carefully lifted one of the round bulbs from the box. It was frosted in red with white sugar crystals like a gentle dusting of snow. And written in the center in gold was one word: Believe.

I’d forgotten each Christmas bulb proclaimed that word like the angels announcing Jesus’ birth. Or maybe I’d forgotten the word altogether because I’d also found it hard to believe. It was hard to believe God hadn’t given up on me when everything seemed to be falling apart. I’d lost hope in so many things this year. I hadn’t realized until that moment that I’d even lost hope in Him.

“Are you ready, Mom?” Jenna asked from the sidewalk.

“Thank you,” the woman whispered. “Thank you for bringing me hope.”

The words I wanted to say lodged in my throat, so I simply nodded as my eyes began to fill.

I started for the truck, willing my tears to stop, as I peered down the street. We were able to leave a box of cookies at each house. It didn’t make sense. We didn’t have that many to share.

Later that night, Jenna curled up in the living room to watch a Christmas movie with a bowl of popcorn in her lap while I sat at the kitchen table. Reluctantly, I reached for my laptop to finish the email to my customers—those faithful clients who’d been so supportive but also struggled this year.

But when I opened my email, a message appeared in my inbox from the mayor, thanking us for sharing hope with so many—he was amazed the cookies had reached from one end of town to the other.

But we didn’t go that far.

Suddenly I remembered the One who multiplied a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread to feed thousands. And tonight, He’d multiplied hope and stretched it clear across town at a time when we all needed it. When I needed it. God wasn’t far away. He hadn’t given up on me or any of us. He was still the God of godly miracles and mighty rescues. Even if it meant using one cookie at a time.

I smiled and closed my laptop without finishing the email to my customers, knowing I needed to pray and trust. Even though things seemed dark, I found myself believing God still had a plan for us. And I couldn’t wait to see it light up the world.     

Thank you for reading! If you’d like to read another one of my Christmas stories, you can click on A Touch of Fiction at the top of the page, and you’ll find more of them there.

As I do every year, I’d like to bless someone through this Christmas story, but I’m doing something a little different this year. I’d like to give a shout-out to a local bakery owner, Amanda, at Ginger’s Bakery in Uhrichsville, Ohio. If you are blessed by this story, maybe you can give this wonderful bakery a shout-out of your own by ordering some of their delicious Christmas cookies – everything is made from scratch! To order, call (330) 691-7201. Thank you!

Merry Christmas!