Are You Weary? Consider Naomi

Are you weary?

There are so many avenues to becoming weary.   But I find that the starting point for many of these avenues is self sacrifice.  Sometimes it’s the day to day routine of self sacrifice that comes from motherhood and homeschooling, and the work it takes to keep up your home, all while balancing the busyness of ministry, and possibly a job.

Sometimes it’s a radical change in our lives that brings personal adjustments that we didn’t know were coming, and a sacrifice of our freedoms during that season for the sake of the betterment of others, including parents and dear friends.  Or it could be as simple as the loss of personal freedom to take a shower or use the bathroom without loud knocks on the door, or tiny fingers under the door!

Sometimes it’s physical exhaustion that comes from battling an illness, or dealing with chronic pain.  Really, though… each of these deal with loss.  Loss of freedom, loss of comfort, loss of self sufficiency, maybe loss of a loved one, and certainly, loss of self. It is exhausting giving up ourselves!

As Jesus was drawing near to the day of his death, He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)  As we know, if a seed is placed on a table and dies, it eventually turns to dust and blows away. But when a seed falls into the ground and dies, and is surrounded by the elements, the nutrients of the earth, it grows, producing fruit and life.

My name is Naomi, and I have come to give you my story of how, by Gods grace, I was consumed by the earth, the dirt and environment, and I died to self to bear great fruit.  I hope, for any of you who are experiencing weariness and exhaustion, that this story may encourage you.

The meaning of my name, Naomi, is pleasant.  I hope my life has been a reflection of that name, but let me tell you… there was a time when I asked all my friends to call me Mara.  Mara means bitter, and at the time, I was so destitute, so discouraged, and so exhausted from what life had brought my way, that going by Naomi/Pleasant caused me to feel almost embarrassed, humiliated.  So Mara seemed to be the most appropriate name for a woman in my circumstances.  You see, back in the days when the judges ruled in Israel, The Lord allowed a famine in our land.  Many believed the famine was the consequence for Yahweh’s chosen people, my people, falling so far away from obedience to His laws.  I suppose there was logic to that, as Yahweh promised protection as long as we loved Him with our whole heart.  Our people were clearly not loving Him with their whole heart!  At that time, many were critical of my husband, Elimelech, because when the famine was so bad that he could no longer feed our family, he packed up a few of our belongings, and leaving our God-given land and home, family, friends and our religious culture behind, we headed for the land of Moab.  Moab, was much like your Orange County, with so much wealth and prosperity, Elimelech knew we would find food and shelter.  But our family members believed we should stay and trust God, even in the hard times, and resist leaving behind our community that understood Yahweh and His laws, rather than submitting to a culture that had many gods, the greatest god being self.  My position was not to judge or to question my husband, but to respond in obedience to his direction.  As an Israelite woman, my job to submit was my act of obedience to God, leaving me to trust Him with the outcome.  So, off we went, on our journey to Moab, with my two young boys, Mahlon and Kilion in tow.

I would like to tell you that we lived happily ever after, but this is far from the truth.  As we carved out a life in Moab, and the boys began to grow into men, I continued to love, and trust Yahweh.  Without the Israelite community, and my husband working almost every sunlit hour, I made a commitment to be the reflection of God’s Word, realizing my life may be the only witness to God that my boys would ever see.  I schooled them at home, and tried my best to grow them up in the admonition of The Lord.  Then, one day, my Elimelech died!  How could this be?  The loss of the man I loved was too much to bear!!  And, this was not my home!  I had no one really close to me to help me bear my intense loss, my burden, both of a broken heart, and also for the simple provisions necessary for life. I was devastated!!  My boys quickly became the men of the home at a very young age.  Their training ended, and their manhood began.  Eventually, they each found a Moabite woman, one named Orpah and the other named Ruth, and as sweet as they were, to my dismay, my boys married into this culture that we were now trapped in.  I was feeling more and more hopeless, afraid that the influence of the culture would far outweigh any testimony I could share about the perfect, holy and loving God of their forefathers.  These Moabite women came into my home, so I made every effort to love them as my own daughters, but I felt so empty! I was just an odd foreigner with a strange God, even after 10 years in Moab.  How I missed the sweet fellowship of daughters-in-law who would have shared my faith, if only I was still in Bethlehem.

And, then the days arrived, and I was no longer the only grieving woman.  My boys each died!  How could this be? The pain was unbearable and we now had three widows living under one roof.  We were drowning in the loss and the grief and the fear of our future with no provider, and I was feeling so overwhelmed that I found it impossible to push myself through my day.  The waves of grief came crashing down on me so hard, even the smallest tasks had to be abandoned.  Lord, I prayed, I can’t go on.  Just let me die!  Please, just bring me home!

And it hit me…Yes, Lord… just bring me home.  Home.  Didn’t I just hear in the fields of Moab, that the Lord had visited my people and given them food?  Here I was in a land that was not home!  With women, who were really strangers to me.  I prayed, Yahweh!  I am going home!  Please Lord, give me the strength to place one foot in front of the other, and get me home to my people!  As I rose to prepare for my journey, my daughters-in-law both dutifully rose with me.  But I stopped them, and cried, “Go, return, each of you to your mother’s house!  May The Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and me.  The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!”  And then I kissed them and they lifted up their voices and wept.  “No mother!  We will return with you to your people!”  But I insisted, “Turn back my daughters; why will you go with me?  I cannot give you a husband or children.  There is still hope for you, but if you come with me, there is no hope.”

As I look back on that, I think it was significant that my blessing over them was not necessarily for husbands, or provisions, but for rest.  This is a kind of landmark for me to always remember the extreme weariness that we were all experiencing, that my prayer for them was for rest.  I believe we are paralyzed by exhaustion, and in my mind, rest was the cure.  Well, at any rate, Orpah kissed me, and turned toward her childhood home and her family gods.  But Ruth,  Oh Ruth…. I will never fully understand, but sweet Ruth clung to me.  “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you! For where you go I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge.  Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die I will die and there will I be buried.  May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

When I saw that she was determined to go with me, I said no more.  But I thought… I marveled… How could I have considered this girl a stranger!  How did I not see that the witness I was determined to shine for my boys, spilled over onto this young girl, and Yahweh gave her the gift of faith!  Even through the torrential pain and grief and exhaustion, could it be that Ruth saw my faith?  Maybe displayed as a peace that passes all understanding?  I couldn’t imagine!

The journey began, and I had the sweetest companion I could ever have asked for.  This journey would be one of discovery and growing faith for Ruth as she began to learn the wisdom of the Lord from me, her mom…, and for me as I began to learn how a truly committed, unconditionally loving sister and friend could impact the circumstances of my life.  God knew! and He is so good!

Do you know that the Bible states,

“So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem” (Ruth 1:19).

Wow! With all due respect, that is an understatement!!  Here we were, still in the midst of emotional pain and suffering, and still wondering how we would actually place one foot in front of the other.  Do you know that our trip from Moab to Bethlehem was approximately 45 miles on foot!  Why didn’t I stop and think about how many times I would have to put one foot in front of the other to cover 45 miles?!?  And these were not flat land miles!  No! the terrain was rugged, rocky, dusty and steep!!  We didn’t have comfy shoes to walk in back in those days!  We wore very rough leather sandals, strapped on with cords.  We had to look for groups to travel with because 18 miles of this journey took us through the infamous Jericho Road.  We had to ascend from Jericho’s depth, some eight hundred twenty-five feet below sea level, to Jerusalem’s height, approximately twenty-five hundred feet above sea level.  In that short geographical space, the ascent was approximately six-tenths of a mile. Almost straight up!  Such a dramatic change in height brought with it a startlingly rapid shift in the environmental conditions that proved exhausting for anyone making the journey, but certainly for an older woman like me, and even for young Ruth!  At a point approximately five miles out of Jericho and thirteen miles from Jerusalem, we arrived at a pass that has been dubbed, the Ascent of Blood.  Rumor was, the reason for that name was because of the blood that bandits repeatedly shed at this place.  We were terrified!!  Suddenly, as we stumbled along, praying the Lord would give us the strength to take the next step and keep us from the hands of bandits, I was overcome with regret for putting sweet Ruth in this position!  What was I thinking!  How could we ever get to the end of this journey?  And when we get there, then what???  I have no land, no money, no husband, and… no hope.  But, as these thoughts shot through my head, I heard a whisper of a voice say to me, “Naomi, you have a redeemer!  I grasped that truth, not fully understanding, changed my countenance, and began to speak words of life to Ruth, encouraging her in the truths of God’s Word, and singing the songs of praise to help keep hearts upbeat, along with our pace.  Our trip took us 10 long, dangerous and physically challenging days, but we pressed on until the road began to level out, and the sites and smells of Jerusalem began to draw me onward.  There were steps I took with my eyes closed.  I didn’t know it was possible to walk and sleep at the same time!  I was tired.  I was so tired!

The landmarks became so familiar, I found myself suddenly overtaken by the butterflies in my stomach.  These were not butterflies of excitement, but anxiety.  I realized these were feelings of doom and humiliation.  How can I face my people?  I went away full, but now… there is nothing for me but pity.  Everything that matters is lost, my husband, my boys, my inheritance, and the only thing I brought back is a foreigner, an outcast, an unclean Moabite woman.  Panic and a strong desire to run swept over me.  But where would I run?  And how? My legs were done.  My muscles were cramping, and the wounds on my feet left drops of blood on my path.  “No!” I declared out loud, I could not physically run, nor would I spiritually run!  I now had a sweet disciple beside me, a woman who was not an outcast, but my soulmate, and often through the ten days, Ruth kept me alive.  She needed to see that my God delivers us through every trial, including now, humiliation.

And when we finally came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of us.  And the women said, “Is this Naomi?”  Can you see why I adopted a new name?  Can you feel my shame as the women called me Pleasant?  And so as an act of acknowledgement for my humiliating condition and position, I asked them to call me Mara/Bitter.  Bitter… I regret that because nothing could be further from the truth.  God was not finished.  I am His, and He is mine.  He would not allow me to be the reflection of bitterness, but of Pleasantness.  Naomi is my name.  I lived to see God’s plan for mine and Ruth’s lives fulfilled.  In His perfect omniscience and mercy, and by God’s predestined provision through His law, Boaz, my amazing relative, redeemed and married Ruth, rescuing us and giving us a life of family, friends, and worship with our community.  And best of all, I eventually held a grandson in my arms!  In fact, we became links in the chain of lineage to the Messiah, the ultimate Redeemer to come, Jesus Christ our Lord and God.  And may I tell you, there are three things I learned through the death of self, and on my journey to Moab and back to Jerusalem.  Three things that are God’s gift to me and to you.  Three things I want to leave with you, and that is:

1.)  God’s Gift of Faith:

When I died to my own plans and hopes and submitted to my husband so many years earlier, and allowed him to plant me in the soil of Moab, taking my family away from our home to a foreign city without argument and grumbling, that was faith.  Not a faith that I could drum up and produce, but a faith that was a gift from God.  A faith that carried me through ten hard years in Moab, allowing me to remember that no matter what my circumstances were, my job for the Lord didn’t change.  By that death of self and gift of faith, I bore fruit…I was God’s ambassador, His vessel of honor, used in my everyday, mundane duties of life, practiced and refined as I trained and schooled my boys.  A faith which allowed me to represent God to my family, and unbeknownst to me, to others around me.  That faith became its own seed dropped in the earth (consumed by it’s surrounding) to die and produce faith in the heart of Ruth, who was unbeknownst to me, my purpose in going to Moab.  She was predestined to be in the line of the Redeemer, and God used me and my family to bring her to Bethlehem.  My gift of faith caused Ruth to hunger for her own faith, and God in His love and mercy, gave her her own gift of faith.  Ruth became a new vessel of honor for God, and by faith raised her son (my grandson) in The Lord. Ruth and I became the Great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother of King David. What an honor!  And with that gift of faith, YOU will all experience honor when you enter heaven and see your lineage and the lives you purposed to influence, and even some you unexpectedly influenced for the Kingdom. You will be greatly rewarded for your faithful influence!!  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).  Don’t give in to the temptation to think that your day to day efforts with your children at home will come to nothing.  Keep focused on the goal of your work.  And pray that God will give your children the gift of faith at the earliest possible age.  Our work is the tilling of the soil, which is the environment and spiritually strong shaping influences of your child’s life, so that when the Holy Spirit drops the seeds of faith in that rich soil, it will take root, and feed and grow the seed of salvation.  Don’t think that others aren’t watching you.  They are!  And they may be hungering for a faith like yours.

Next truth I want to leave with you…

2.)  God Gives Us the Gift of Like-minded Sisters. 

It took me too long to truly understand what God had given me in Ruth!  I look back and wonder, what would I have done without her?  She was like Jesus with skin.  Don’t be like me and underestimate the value of your sisters in the Lord.  God has given you an entire community that is like minded, aiming for the same goals and able to be Jesus for you.  Women who love the Lord as you do, and have a strong desire to want to help in every way they can, just like you.  What I would have given to have had that in Moab!!  But too often, we women try to do life on our own, as an island, as if we have no need for our sisters.  In this contemporary Moab that you live in, you can be overcome with cultural pride, maybe even keeping you from opening what you think is a less then perfect home to one another.  We worry that there will be judgement.  I say, for the sake of longevity and the opportunity to glorify God, don’t be the one who judges, and who cares if others are judging you!  Show them what it is to put the spiritual first and leave no room for earthly pride.  Open your homes, share your children with each other, break bread together, and begin to participate in one another’s lives!  Don’t miss the opportunity to strengthen each other, to do your work through friendship and co-opping.  You even have the ability to give rest to one another, as you take turns in homeschooling each others children.  This is so much more fun than homeschooling only your children every week!  I know you all think about doing this, but the days and even the years are flying by, you are growing more and more weary, and maybe the support and the help is buried in that fear of being judged.  Jump in! take the risk!  None of us are doing things perfectly!! Don’t wait hoping for the perfect friend for your child!  Instead become the influence and ambassador to someone else’s child! Don’t pull away from others… Instead, die to self, engage, and you will produce the fruit of righteousness!!  Engaging may get messy sometimes, but that’s where friends truly become family.  Appreciate and participate in the gift God has given you through all your Christian sisters!

And, my third lesson:

3.)  God’s Gift of a Redeemer. 

In the Israelite law, God established protection through family redeemers.  But as you know, that was just a foreshadow of what He was bringing in the future.  I could not express fully to you, how important Boaz, our redeemer was to us.  But to have Jesus as your Redeemer?  What a peace!  What a comfort!  When life gets hard, and circumstances become overwhelming, when loved ones die and grief sucks every ounce of energy from your bodies, you will never be without the knowledge and sure hope of your Redeemer.  As you wake in the middle of the night, Oh, the joy to trust in Jesus!!   As the Apostle Paul said, “as for me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21)”.  We have nothing to lose!  We have one life to live for Christ, to serve Him, and to glorify Him.  When that’s done, we go to be with Him!  No circumstance can ever be so large that we can’t have peace and hope in the middle of it, knowing that our God is there to protect us, to love us and to get us through each trying moment!  Stay focused on your Redeemer.  Never lose sight of Him.  He will be your inspiration, your motivation, your strength and courage to put one foot in front of the other on your journey.  So, do press on, and take hold of the prize.  And trust me! There is a prize worth taking hold of!!!  Spend time every day with your Redeemer, and let Him fill you with the power of His Spirit so that your work may not be a burden.

Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty (Zech. 4:6).

AMY CARMICHAEL wrote of the importance of having a consistent and loving relationship with

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-green-sprout-growing-seed-retro-filter-effect-image37916714

Christ, and of allowing nothing to mar that bond. She wrote:

“O, let us more and more deeply love the Forgiving Saviour and more and more walk softly with Him lest we grieve Him in any tiny thing.”

“We are not called to be weaklings but warriors… It is all or nothing,”

The all is the idea of the seed that falls into the soil. Consumed by the lives around us, saturated by the circumstances that life brings.

As we die each day, embraced in the soil, remember the three truths:

solid faith, sweet sisterhood and our precious redeemer!  God’s gifts for a life of power, strength, courage, abundant fruit and rest.

Short Story by Sharon Cannavo

He and She, In His Image

Then God said, “Let us make man* in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”So God created man in his own image,in the image of God he created him;male and female he created them.And God blessed them. Genesis 1:26-28a

A Christ-centered marriage between a husband and wife is not only the foundation to a successful home, but to a successful culture, a successful world. In today’s views that can’t be a more close-minded, intolerant statement, but an era’s point of view cannot make right wrong, regardless of how unpopular and unaccepted the truth is. God is higher than man, and therefore His Word superior to man’s opinion. No matter what the date might be, His Word is unchanging… eternal.

If you believe the Bible is God’s inspired message to us, than this passage of scripture leaves no doubt or confusion as to why marriage is preserved for a man and woman. …in the image of God He created him, male and female he created them.  When a man and woman are joined together in holy matrimony, they are as close to the reflection of God as any human being can be. God does not tell us he created man alone in his image. He created man and woman in his image. If it is not a man and a woman in a marriage, the whole of that marriage is missing out on character traits of the Creator. Only together are a man and a woman fulfilling the representation of the likeness of God.  Man has been given character traits that are reflective of God, but not every character trait. Woman has been given character traits of God, but not every character trait. They must join like a well designed puzzle in order to complete the likeness. How much easier it is to understand why God does not ever want the marriage torn apart. It is as if the character of God is being ripped in half.

Let’s cling to the Truth of God’s Word and not be confused or influenced by the times we live in. Marriage is to be lived out with a male and female, given over to the authority of Christ, being sanctified and perfected until death do we part. When that biblical model is lived out, life will go well. Then there is hope for the generation born from this model, as they are trained up in the way they should go, learning to live under the greatest command to love God with all their heart, soul and mind, and learning to love their neighbors as themselves. As Christians, we are to do our part in our world, regardless of what the world around us chooses to do. Our choice to live a biblically disciplined life, to work through the common trials of marriage and to raise up a godly generation will be the greatest testimony to the character of God. We cannot be perfect or sinless, but we can, as a married couple, be complete in the eyes of God, and He will sustain us and equip us to live as witnesses to His Character.

Prayer: Lord God, you are holy and perfect, and often times my marriage is very far from that. Please help my spouse and I to be more dedicated, devoted examples of your love, your justice, your mercy and grace, your holiness and perfection in our marriage. Not by our strength, but by the strength that comes through Christ in us. Help us to be witnesses to the world and bless us as we raise up a generation who will honor you with their lives. We ask this in Jesus name. Amen.

 

Sharon Cannavo

Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever

Our Purpose for Parenting   Sharon Cannavo

[Rev. 4:11] “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,

and by your will they existed and were created.”

[Psalm 33:1,21] Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!

Praise befits the upright.

For our heart is glad in him,

because we trust in his holy name.

A Christian’s chief goal in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Therefore, the key to a blessed family life begins and ends with this primary truth.

My sons, Torre and Michael were ages 3 and 1. Torre was sweet and compliant, making me believe that I could truly be nominated for mother of the year. When Michael came along, he was sweet and unbelievably disobedient, making me bow my face to the floor and beg God for instructions in parenting, and His mercy to see me through the next 5 minutes! Suddenly, my views on parenting seemed feeble at best and my confidence as a mother vanished like the steam rising from my constantly refilled cup of coffee! I was exhausted, baffled, and suddenly finding myself wondering why God had trusted me with motherhood!  I knew I would be lost in “the experts” vast theories and personal convictions if I did not seek out completely biblical instruction in parenting. So I resisted all the highly recommended secular parenting books and advice, and began to search the Bible for my answers, finding applicable truths on a daily basis.  It also helped greatly that there were some who had gone ahead of me, writing biblically sound books on Christian parenting. Though I had not been an avid reader in the past, I now found myself almost inhaling the biblical advice of God’s Word and these biblically-based parenting authors. More than two decades later, with 3 precious children establishing themselves in their adult lives, I am blessed and overcome by the grace God lavished on me (and them!) in order to direct my path as the mother of these children. And, as I look back, the most direct and effective piece of advice was this: Glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

As you begin this day of parenting, start by asking God to help you understand better who He is and how you can glorify and enjoy Him in your day. Your prayer for this will begin that process. He will honor your hearts desire to make Him the focus of your day, above all else including your children. You are likely to see an immediate change in how you approach and respond to your children.

Prayer:

Lord, you are our Creator. You love me, and You love my/Your children even more than I do. I will praise you and thank you for your faithfulness and grace! I will spend my day focused on you, with an attitude of joy and praise despite any of my circumstances, because of your glory, honor and power! I will trust all the details of my day to You, because I trust in Your holy name!  Lord, may I glorify You and enjoy you forever!  Amen

Solving Mealtime Madness

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-little-cute-blonde-boy-refuses-to-eat-cereal-image29231022We are often asked about mealtime and how to get kids to eat. Here are some recommendations.

To start, be careful not to overwhelm your child with a large plate of food.  Kids don’t really want a huge meal.  When giving them their meal, be careful to put only a few (maybe three) bites of each course on the plate.  Teach them the one-bite-no-thank-you rule.  That is, they must take at least one bite of each course.  If after they have their one bite, they do not want to finish that course, allow them to say “no thank you”, and move on to the other courses.  Kids must be introduced to foods multiple times before they will actually develop a taste for it.  Be sure not to give them seconds if they didn’t finish all of their meal.  So if they want more mashed potatoes, but didn’t finish their broccoli, you will hold off on the potatoes.  When and if they finish the entire meal, use lots of words of encouragement, so they feel the victory in finishing. Even though we want to train our child to eat the family meal, (in other words, don’t make a meal for you and hubby and a separate meal for children), be careful that the flavors aren’t too adult. As adults, our taste buds are dulled, so we tend to use lots of spices.  Kids are super sensitive with keen taste buds. Strong flavors are just too much for them. Try to season lightly, then add at the table whatever extra seasoning/spices you and your spouse may want.
Set the timer at the beginning of the meal, giving your child a reasonable time to eat what’s on the plate. Maybe 5-10 minutes longer than it takes the adults. Whatever he does not finish is peaceably cleared along with your plates. There should be NO consequence for not eating. Follow these guidelines for all meals.
Here’s the key.  If getting your child to eat meals is a problem, then between meals your child should not have snacks.  No snacks or drinks (milk, juice, etc.) with the exception of water.  Please note: this will not apply to children with health issues like diabetes, etc, or under a doctors orders to follow a different routine for eating. The biggest issue is the mid-meal snacking. With tiny appetites, we end up sabotaging our kids for meal time.  In fact, we even use food as a diversion, just to keep them quiet or content while we are trying to accomplish our tasks.  This is not helping our children.  When our children can count on their food coming three times a day, which by the way is a complete luxury compared to most in the world, they will appreciate the food they are offered and will eat more of what’s on their plate. In fact if you only put a few bites of each course, you will eventually hear him ask for more :0). In the beginning there may be some stubborn refusal, but as he learns that he will not have any snacks to get him through to the next meal, he will begin to appreciate the next meal.
Once your child has established good eating habits at meal time, you may reintroduce very small healthy snacks between meals. If you notice the meal time habits are being affected, make the healthy snacks even smaller, or go back to no snacks. Sugar is our bodies arch enemy. Try to eliminate any sugar from your child’s diet. You will see the appetite for good foods increase, and  resistance to illness will greatly improve. Even  behavior will radically improve, depending on how much sugar was actually in the diet prior to this change.
We, at Training Hearts for Jesus hope this will help bring peace to family mealtimes, and great health to your sweet children!!

Watching on The Best Friday

imageLuke 23: [44] *It was now about the sixth hour,* and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,* [45] while the sun’s light failed. And *the curtain of the temple was torn in two. [46] Then Jesus, *calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, *into your hands I *commit my spirit!” And having said this *he breathed his last. [47] Now *when the centurion saw what had taken place, *he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” [48] And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home *beating their breasts. [49] And all *his acquaintances and *the women who had followed him from Galilee *stood at a distance watching these things.

Today we commemorate the death of Jesus. Every time I read the above passage, I can’t help but imagine myself, standing and watching as, we see in vs 49, all His acquaintances were doing. I’ve often wondered, were they hopelessly stunned? Were they shocked? Were they numb, similar to the way I felt the day my mom passed, realizing I would no longer hear her voice, count on her words of wisdom or encouragement, or feel her hug again while on this earth? But as I contemplated the grief and hopelessness of these possibilities, it suddenly dawned on me, they were watching! They were not walking away, heading for home while beating their breast as all the crowds were doing! They were watching! When we watch, we expect! I, as suddenly, felt so encouraged. Maybe they were not completely overcome; maybe they were counting on the teachings of Christ, that He would overcome death and rise (Lk 9:21-22; Lk 9:44-45; Lk 18:31-34)! And maybe they stood watching, expecting to see Him conquer death, and miraculously climb down from that instrument of torture! In each teaching before His crucifixion, Jesus explained that it would be 3 days, but as it says in Lk 18:34: “they understood none of these things. *This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” Perhaps as they stood there with each other, dealing with the devastated dreams they had of seeing Jesus sitting on an actual throne, ruling as king of the Jews, and bringing them and their families that promised peace, they were transitioning in their hope. Perhaps they were remembering bits and pieces of His teachings that were previously masked as a result of their own determination to see their own plan for Christ fulfilled. Of course they were still wrong. Christ would be faithful to the plan and to the words He had spoken, and He would not rise until the 3 days had passed, but I still think this is encouraging! We are like sheep, stubborn, and certainly not too bright when held up to the omniscience of God. But God is faithful, long suffering, patient, and loving (to say the least in light of the fact that he had just sacrificed His own Son for our forgiveness of sins and our reconciliation to Him). He so knows our shortcomings! And He so loves us despite them, equipping us with the faith to believe!

The acquaintances of Jesus had every reason to “watch”! Their problem…they simply did not watch long enough. I am taking note of this today. As I spend this day reflecting on what Christ did for me on the cross, I am making a fresh commitment to Him as my Ruler and King. I am asking for the wisdom of His Holy Spirit, to hear His words and His plan for my life clearly, untainted by my plans. I will spend my days watching and expecting, with a new determination to be patient to see His plan fulfilled. So much of life can cause me to become anxious, to stress, to think that His promised return is slow to come. In a sense, I stand and decide, since He is not climbing off the cross, that His promises aren’t being fulfilled. But of course, and praise Jesus, I am wrong. And again, Christ will be faithful to the plan and to the words He has spoken, and He will accomplish all things, His thrilling return for those of us who are reconciled to Him (Lk 21:25-28). So to all, on this extremely Good Friday, bow your knee to the only King and Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! Come!

Jesus, beloved and true;
Yearning and wondering when
You’ll be coming back again,
Under all I say and do,
Just longing, dear Lord, for you.
Some glad day, all watching past,
Some glad day, all watching past,
You will come for me at last;
Then I’ll see you, hear your voice,
Be with you, with you rejoice;
How the sweet hope thrills me through,
Sets me longing, dear Lord, for you.

(Poem extracted from Streams in the Dessert, Daily Devotional, March 29th)

Sharon Cannavo

Shepherding a Child’s Heart Conference

On May 4th and 5th Mario and I were so happy to be able to attend the Shepherding a Child’s Heart Conference in Santa Ana.  Tedd Tripp was the one and only speaker, blessing us with 5 sessions through out the conference.  It’s amazing to us as we have sat through his videos probably 25 or so times, that we can still be inspired and encouraged at his conference.  Tedd Tripp speaks Bible and our hearts resinate with the Truth.  His passion for God and his right and awesome perspective of the true and living God is something that we all need to hear on a regular basis.  As we walked away, we were once again prompted to focus on bringing our children, even as they are adults, the right perception of our God as He is a consuming fire.  But in His compassion and mercy, He allowed His perfect and precious Son to go to the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and for our reconciliation.  We will never be too old to hear this blessed truth!

Our sincere thanks to Dr. Tedd Tripp, for his endless hours of ministry to Christian parents, for the purpose of building a legacy of Christianity into generations to come!  We are grateful and appreciative of his ministry, which is the foundation of Training Hearts for Jesus.

Sharon Cannavo

Blue and Scarlet Coverings


I read through the Bible every year.  Last year was so difficult due to the fact that Mario and I both lost our moms to cancer; Mario’s mom in April, and mine in September.  The grief and sadness was almost so overwhelming, there were many times during the year that I could not even hear the Lord through His word due to the events in our life.  But I kept trying to read, believing that God knows my weaknesses and will do in me, through His word, what He wants.  Honestly, I’m still not sure what He did, but I am sure He did it, and that’s the only thing that matters.  There will be more years like this, I’m sure, but I’m so grateful He’s in charge of those years and not me.  My only responsibility is to obey.  He will do the rest.

 As of January 1st, I once again began my journey through the Bible.  To me it is exciting how reading the Word every year still brings surprise and new (for me) revelations.  I am so blessed to be back in a place of being able to hear the Lord through His Word, and grateful for His consistency to bring me through the deep waters of grief.  Even some of the toughest chapters in the Bible are bringing new little glimpses of His faithfulness. Yesterday, as I was reading through the book of Numbers (not the most exciting book in most of our minds), and specifically chapter 4, the duties of the Kohathites (have I lost you yet?).  The directions were being given to Moses and Aaron regarding the taking down of “the tent of meeting”.  It’s so easy to get lost in the tiny details of a chapter like this and take a little mini-mental-vacation.  God was able to hold my attention and showed me the smallest little detail that has been encouraging my heart ever since I spotted it.  The text explains how each section and piece of the “most holy things” are to be packed up by the Kohathites.  They were responsible to follow every instruction to the smallest detail, and not to question why.  Literally, their lives could be at stake through this process of obedience!  This was serious!  I was noticing how each object was being covered with a blue cloth.  Biblically, blue represents Heaven, so this made total sense to me, as I’m sure it did to Moses, Aaron and the Kohathites.  Then I came to “the table of the bread of the Presence with the plates, the dishes for incense, the bowls, and the flagons for the drink offering: the regular showbread also shall be on it.” which would also be covered with a cloth of blue (Numbers 4:7). However, this one time, the instructions went on to say, “Then they shall spread over them a cloth of scarlet…”  Scarlet? Scarlet in the Bible refers to the blood and/or the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  I couldn’t help but spend time dwelling on that verse and thinking about John 6:41:

 “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”

 Not to mention the institution of the Lord’s Supper, such as in Luke 22, as Jesus took the cup…

“this cup which is poured out is the new covenant in my blood.”  (Luke 22:20)

 and the bread…

 “this is my body, which is given for you”  (Luke 22:19)

 I love the idea that Moses, Aaron and the Kohathites were given instructions to follow obediently, that may not have made any sense to them at all.  Why was the table of Presence, with the bread and drink offering, to be covered additionally with a cloth of scarlet?  For some reason this struck me so deeply regarding man’s unquestioning obedience to God’s instructions, whether they/we understand it or not, and God’s sovereignty, omniscience and faithfulness to His people.  It was God’s secret message (the mystery) that Jesus, the Bread of life, the Drink Offering which was to be poured out for us, who are stiff-necked and faithless, would and has come.  It was a written letter that God had salvation planned out, and these were the physical symbols of the Savior to come which He generously showed His people because He is good and faithful.

 As I struggled through a year of sadness, and a year of reading words that I could not seem to hear, it was more about my obedience to do it, than the sense of the message I could receive from it.  I’m sure some of you have experienced this, right?  Again… God knew my condition and my weaknesses.  It was one of those moments in my life that He was saying to me, cover everything in a blue cloth (which were all the things that made sense to me) but cover this one thing in blue and scarlet cloths, whether it makes sense to you or not.  Just do it!  Practice obedience, for I am faithful and know why I’m asking you to do it.  I have a plan, and I have given you a Savior that faithfully loves you enough to be poured out and sacrificed for you.  And… that’s all that matters.  Just obey.

 Everyday we encounter opportunities to do what God has instructed us to do in His word, especially in regards to parenting our children.  So many times we understand some of these things; like teaching our children to consider others better than themselves (the blue covering), going on a blessing hunt (the blue covering), or teaching them about the circle of blessing (the blue covering).  But often times in our day we are instructed to do with our children what is not comfortable or does not make sense, such as,

 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. Proverbs 13:24

 This is an example of the blue covering with the scarlet covering.  This is often the time that we are to obey just because God said it, and we know He is faithful! He has a perfect plan for our children, and we can trust that He loves us, and them… even more than we do!  We can obey His instructions to us, because these that we do not understand are symbols of His faithfulness to be revealed in the future of our children’s lives.  If He instructed it, we need to just do it, relying on His perfect love and knowing that someday He will bless us with understanding and the fruit of our obedience.

 Make me understand the way of Your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.  Psalms 119:27

Sharon Cannavo

Regina Jones: Oct. Update

Regina Jones, Missionary to Zimbabwe has utilized the Training Hearts for Jesus curriculum in so many productive and fruitful venues.  Read about how this class is making a difference in Zimbabwe:


Be sure to click on this link below to read Regina’s exciting update in its entirety:

Refuge Newsletter OCTOBER 2011

Regina Jones Sept. Update

Click this link to review the entire Refuge Newsletter SEPTEMBER 2011

Exciting News from Regina Jones and Training Hearts for Jesus!

As the Lord moves in Zimbabwe, and Regina Jones is used in such a mighty way, please pray for her!  Her faithful work is making a huge difference in the lives of a nation!!

From Regina Jones to Sharon Cannavo November 15 at 8:58am Report

Ok, well I have some exciting news and I just can’t wait to tell you so I am going to give you a short update…

There is an organization here (Zimbabwe) called Ladies of Purpose. And they are Christians from all over Harare (over 200 ladies from many different churches) and they have asked me to come do a TWO DAY introduction to Training Hearts so that they can share about the classes with their church!

Then, One of the ladies from that group that HASN’T even taken the class yet– only heard about it– called me for a meeting and we chatted. She shared with me that she is taking her children (2 kids aged 6 and 11) out of a local private christian school and homeschooling them. She is taking the teacher training for ACE (AMERICAN CHRISTIAN EDUCATION program) so that she can teach her children herself so that she can ensure that her kids are being taught around Christian morals… and her husband (who is a pastor) said “I think that you should open the program up to other kids”– this is quite a common program used here. And she is opening her own home school. She is the only teacher so she has to start this first term with only 10 students, but she’s very excited.

She’s a social worker and has been working at “Childline” an organization that runs a helpline for child abuse. She wants her school to have a counseling component but also wants to take the class and only accept students whose families have participated in Training Hearts!!!

So many exciting things have happened!
THEN, the lady who wants to start the homeschool, who works at Childline set up a meeting with the director of the organization today. Childline is not a Christian organization and the director is NOT a christian but she asked me to teach her about the curriculum and she afterwards (2 hours into it with all the questions) she asked me to consider TRAINING all of their volunteers… the people who answer the crisis line AND the community volunteers who investigate the reports of abuse!
(66 comm vols) and (100 helpline vols)

This organization got 26,000 calls last month and investigates all abuse cases because social welfare has no money, resources or a desire to help.
I am so excited to hear your thoughts about this… but the director felt that if the volunteers are trained in this course they can offer support and encouragement from a place of Biblical knowledge for the families they are involved with and that eventually as this training reaches more and more of the communities it will serve as CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION!!!!
I was so encouraged to hear the interest that a nonchristian heading a nonchristian organization would have in Training Hearts!!

I just wanted to send you the news, in case you were needing a little encouragement today!!

Love you!
Regina

PS… they also want to qualify the date and study the effects this training has on the communities so that in the future we could get grant funding to teach it to MORE and MORE families! What do you think???

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