Thursday, December 30, 2010

See What's In the Box

story by: Lisa Petrarca

She walked into the dismal, smelly building, she was on a mission and hardly seemed to notice. The warm paper, carefully resting in her hand. Moving quickly down the hallway, the gold bow shimmered as the light reflected on it.

Last week Mrs. Shoney took the entire class to visit the "old persons" home. Kallie was afraid at first but then realized that these were grandparents, they were lonely and seemed to cheer up as the class entered the room. Everyone except the gray haired man who sat alone in a chair staring out the window, he never joined the group.

Kallie couldn't get him out of her mind. That night she went home, grabbed her kit and began to make him a present. She rushed home from school everyday to work on it.

Her mother asked, "What are you making that's so important?" "My friend is lonely and sad, I need to give him a present," Kallie replied. "What friend?" her mother further prodded. "The gray haired man, at the old persons home. I need to give him something he needs," Kallie said.

A few days before Christmas, Kallie's mom took her to deliver her present. Looking carefully into each room she finally spotted him at the very end of the hall. He was sitting watching the rain drops hit the window. Kallie ran in and shouted excitedly, "Mr., Mr., I have a present for you!" He slowly turned, the tears in his eyes looked like the rain drops sliding down the window. She said, "Are you okay Mr.? I brought something for you to cheer you up, something your missing." "I'm sorry little girl, but what I'm missing is gone forever and I'll never get her back," he muttered.

She walked towards him, slowly opening her hand she gave him the small box. He unwrapped it, sitting inside was a crotchet heart with a picture of Jesus. The man began to cry and said, "Years ago my wife made a heart exactly like this for our Christmas tree and put it up each year. The last Christmas she was with me, she couldn't find it. She was so ill and said she needed it up, she needed to see Jesus' face. I searched through all the boxes and never found it. She passed away the day after Christmas. Thank you for showing me that I'm not alone."

Rest for the Weary

At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure."
Matthew 11:25-26

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden
is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Miracle-My True Story

Story By: Lisa Petrarca

Christmas time was closing in on me and it had been a hard year. I was just newly separated and trying to support my three boys on a minimal income. Not to mention my ex was not paying child support, in fact he had completely disappeared. Christmas was just three weeks away. The panic I felt was so different from the years of joy that Christmas had always brought me. I knew that I would not be able to provide a Christmas for my kids. I was barely able to put food on the table and a roof over our head. The agony and despair was tearing me up inside. I began having trouble breathing, not sleeping and would cry myself to sleep at night. The stress was almost too much to bear.

I was working at a bank and had made a few close friends. They were very sympathetic, uplifting and encouraging, always willing to listen and lend their support, which I must admit helped me make it through the days as Christmas drew near. The bank employees passed around the annual Christmas donation envelope, which would provide a Christmas for needy families, I took out a $5.00 bill and folded it so that no one could see the small amount of money that I was donating. I felt embarrassed at such a measly amount, but thought that there must be families going through worse situations than I was facing, families without a home, a warm place to sleep and food on the table. I quickly shoved the only amount I was able to give into the crisp white envelope and passed it to the person next to me.

Two days left, and still no way to get even a Christmas tree. I spent that long agonizing night awake trying to come up with some ideas to bring Christmas to my young innocent, trusting and excited children. What can I do to give my kids a Christmas? I awoke early and put on a cheery face for my kids. The dreaded day, Christmas Eve, I have never experienced a more miserable day in my life. The kids excitement was making it hard to fight back my tears. They thought that Santa would surprise them with a tree and the presents this year. I didn't even know what to tell them. How do you tell your sweet, naïve children that there would be no Christmas this year!

In the evening as I was preparing Macaroni & Cheese, which thank goodness the kids loved and thought was a very special Christmas Eve dinner, the doorbell rang. I opened the door and to my utter shock, there stood the entire bank staff, singing Christmas carols. Every single member of the staff was carrying armfuls of brightly wrapped presents with shiny silver, red and gold bows along with bags full of food, while the men unloaded a Christmas tree. The women hugged and comforted me as I began to sob uncontrollably.

The kids were squealing with excitement and said, “What’s wrong mommy? We told you that this was going to be the best Christmas ever”! The presents were flowing out from under the tree and seemed as if they were multiplying every time I looked over. They were spilling out from under the tree and into the entryway. The kids were running around the presents, trying to shake them to see if they could figure out what was inside. I looked over to see my youngest son being tossed in the air, blond hair flying, cheeks flushed and giggling as he was caught and hugged. I had been chosen as the needy family this year. My “family” at the bank had made sure that my kids and I would have a wonderful Christmas. As I stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking over the picture in front of me, my only thought was, this is the true meaning of Christmas. These wonderful people have given much more than material gifts, they have brought the gift of hope, faith and love to a hopeless and desperate mother.

I wanted to re-post my true story, which happened over 14 years ago, but continues to leave a mark on my life today!

This was the best Christmas I have ever had and looking back over the years and all the gifts that I've received and the "must have" items, I can honestly say that not one of the material gifts stand out in my mind. The gift of love and compassion from others is something that I will remember for as long as I live.

During this Christmas season I hope my story will encourage others to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate, it is a gift that lasts a life time. As Christmas time draws near, I want to challenge everyone to give of themselves not only monetarily but give the gift of love, kindness and advice to those who are suffering, struggling or in need of encouragement. You will never know how much your small gifts will touch the lives of others and change their world forever!

1. Volunteer to serve Christmas dinner to the homeless

2. Visit an elderly person or convalescent hospital to spend time with someone in need of love.

3. Organize a food drive in your community to take to a women's shelter / homeless shelter.

4. Have everyone bring an un-wrapped gift to your annual Christmas party. Then contact your local fire station or police dept. to drop the gifts off for them to distribute to local charities.

5. Invite a friend whose family is far away to spend Christmas at your home.

6. Invite your family and friends to participate - donate presents/food/Christmas tree to a local family in need of a Christmas Miracle!

7. Take your entire family to an orphanage to visit and love on children who need it.

8. Offer words of encouragement, love and advice to someone in need.

9. Share your personal life stories of your triumphs and defeats. You never know whose heart it will touch.

10. Step out of your comfort zone and make a difference in the lives of others. You will receive the gift of the TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS.

And He said to me,"My Grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9

"For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:11

Monday, December 13, 2010

What Is My Purpose?

story by: lisa petrarca

When I think about my life and all the things that have happened over the years, I remember wondering over and over again, "Why am I here? What is my purpose?

I always hoped to make a grand contribution...make a difference that matters, be a person that others would say, "She did something great with her life!"

Imagine my surprise when at 44 years old, I realized that I have made a difference, I have a purpose, I can help others.

Each day I'm given opportunities to reach out and either encourage or discourage people. I have a choice. I can make a conscious decision on how I will treat people. I can be a person of great Godly character by making a right choice each step of the way.
I can push through my difficulties and reach out to the Lord for help. I can pray for others and be a source of strength and comfort when they need a shoulder to lean on.

I am here for a purpose, I've been assigned a task that is very important. A job not for the faint of heart or the weary.

I can complete my hours each day and know that I've run the race, I've sailed my sea, I've climbed my mountain, I've conquered my fears.

All this has been possible through the Lords loving guidance each morning.

He assigns special people to cross my path. He fills me with His spirit of unconditional love so that I can then go out and be a blessing. That is our purpose, our job, to show the unconditional love of Jesus Christ to everyone we come in contact with.

It's that simple!

Then out of that love will flow your individual gifts and talents.
Start at the beginning, start with love and then you'll know you're on the right road to finding your true life purpose.

Love conquers all!


And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self -seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 & 13

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Beyond Embarrassment

story & photo by: lisa petrarca

Driving home from Newport Beach, California, today in a sea of Bentley's, Mercedes Benz, BMW's, Lamborghini's, and Porsche's...a loud, grumbling, rumbling, clanking noise came up along side me. As I turned to see what was causing such a commotion, a rusty spotted, beat up station wagon drove quickly by. It was quite an eye sore and definitely drew attention.

I noticed all the expensive car owners were staring at it in disgust. But the owner didn't seem to notice or mind. It was serving it's purpose, getting him from point A to point B.

I sat waiting for the light to change, thinking about how often we try to blend into our environment and the people around us. We're embarrassed or afraid to stand out or be different. As followers of Christ, that's exactly how we are supposed to be...a light to others, a change from a world filled with stress, hurt and anger.

We can overcome the fear and stand up for what we believe in by showing the unconditional love of Christ through our actions. Reaching out, stepping outside our comfort zone and helping others in need, through prayer, words of encouragement and loving kindness.

We are different because we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. This gift helps us, gives us wisdom, peace and discernment in our time of need. Then we can be used to help others going through similar circumstances.

When you find yourself in a human nature situation...stop, pray and ask the Lord to fill you with HIS peaceful, confident, trustworthy spirit of hope and wisdom. Ask the Lord to use you to be a light in the lives of others. Don't be afraid to stand up and make a difference. We are here to do the Lord's will for our lives (point A) and one day return home to our Heavenly Father to spend time and all eternity in His loving embrace (point B).

Shine His light within you on those around you.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that if yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent It. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord's renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed."
Isaiah 55:8-13

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Trapped in a Raging River

story by: lisa petrarca

Billy was a young freckled face, precarious, adventure seeking boy of 12. He lived in the beautiful, lush state of Montana and enjoyed hiking and fishing. One warm spring morning he headed out to fly fish in the river not far from his home. As he came upon his favorite spot, he noticed that the river was swollen from a rain storm that had hit a few days prior. It was racing, swiftly winding around the bend with amazing speed and force.

He stood at the edge, dressed in his chest high fishing waders, contemplating if he should attempt it. His father always warned him not to go in after a rain storm until he knew it was safe and the water had slowed down. His mind began to rationalize, "It'll be okay, I know this river and besides I'm a strong swimmer." He pushed aside the nagging feeling that this was a bad idea and stepped cautiously into the white capped water.

Two steps in and he was sucked under. He popped up for a minute, gasped for air and was tossed, thrashed and flipped back down. His suspender caught on something & held him down. He frantically tried to free himself, all he could think of was, "I need air." As he started to suck water into his lungs he prayed, "Please Lord, save me. Please help me, I'm drowning, I need you." He was immediately yanked up, someone's hand lifted him out of the water pulling him onto the embankment. He coughed, gasped, and looked around for the person who saved him. Two men were running toward him shouting, "You okay kid?" We thought you were a goner." Billy stammered, "D d did you save me?" Unable to comprehend how these two men could've pulled him out from around the bend.

"Naw, you were just lucky," they replied.

"No, really someone grabbed my hand and pulled me," he replied.

"No kid, there's no one around but us, the force of water must have catapulted you to the shore."

That's when Billy realized that the Lord had heard and answered his prayers. He looked at the men and said, "I prayed and God answered, he reached into the water and set me free."

We go about each day, never having enough time for God. We face difficulties and struggles in our lives, but we can have Jesus as our lifeguard, He is our Savior.

Why do we think we can head out on our journey alone? The Lord knows the way you are going. He knows the obstacles you will face. He has the tools to get you there safely. Don't head out today on your own - let God be your guide, He's the expert. If you feel like you're drowning, cry out to the Lord and know that He will hear you. He can be found through prayer and scripture study.

Psalms 20
- May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. 6- Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Psalms 25
4, 5- Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


author unkown

As I faced my Maker at the last judgment, I knelt before the Lord along with all the other souls.

Before each of us laid our lives like the squares of a quilt in many piles; an angel sat before each of us sewing our quilt squares together into a tapestry that is our life.

But as my angel took each piece of cloth off the pile, I noticed how ragged and empty each of my squares was. They were filled with giant holes. Each square was labeled with a part of my life that had been difficult, the challenges and temptations I was faced with in every day life. I saw hardships that I endured, which were the largest holes of all.

I glanced around me . Nobody else had such squares. Other than a tiny hole here and there, the other tapestries were filled with rich color and the bright hues of worldly fortune. I gazed upon my own life and was disheartened.

My angel was sewing the ragged pieces of cloth together, threadbare and empty, like binding air.

Finally the time came when each life was to be displayed, held up to the light, the scrutiny of truth. The others rose; each in turn, holding up
their tapestries. So filled their lives had been. My angel looked upon me and nodded for me to rise.

My gaze dropped to the ground in shame . I hadn't had all the earthly fortunes. I had love in my life, and laughter. But there had also been trials of illness, and wealth, and false accusations that took from me my world, as I knew it. I had to start over many times. I often struggled with the temptation to quit, only to somehow muster the strength to pick up and begin again. I spent many nights on my knees in prayer, asking for help and guidance in my life. I had often been held up to ridicule, which I endured painfully, each time offering it up to the Father in hopes that I would not melt within my skin beneath the judgmental gaze of those who unfairly judged me.

And now, I had to face the truth. My life was what it was, and I had to accept it for what it was.

I rose and slowly lifted the combined squares of my life to the light. An awe-filled gasp filled the air. I gazed around at the others who stared at me with wide eyes.

Then, I looked upon the tapestry before me. Light flooded the many holes, creating an image, the face of Christ. Then our Lord stood before me, with warmth and love in His eyes. He said, 'Every time you gave over your life to Me, it became My life, My hardships, and My struggles.

Each point of light in your life is when you stepped aside and let Me shine through, until there was more of Me than there was of you.'

May all our quilts be threadbare and worn, allowing Christ to shine through!

God determines who walks into your's up to you to decide who you let walk away, who you let stay, and who you refuse to let go.

When there is nothing left but God that is when you find out that God is all you need.

Father, bless all my family & friends in whatever it is that you know they may need this day! And may their life be full of your peace, prosperity and power as they seek to have a closer relationship with you. Amen.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

"In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men. For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you. I have become like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long."
Psalm 71:1-8

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In the Midst of It

I sometimes think that when things continue to go bad in my life, the lesson I haven't learned is to let go. I'm not able to control everything, I need to turn it entirely over to Heavenly Father. Yes, easier said than done I KNOW! But I've learned to read the scriptures every morning before I start my day (there is incredible power in His word) and pray throughout the day when I become overwhelmed.

I think of how Paul was able to sing praises to God while he was locked in prison, beaten, tortured and still find the peace to sing in the midst of it.

How Daniel, a faithful servant, would not stop praying to God even though he knew he could be killed, he prayed boldly, with the windows open for all to see. He was thrown into a lions den, never worrying or doubting, just praying with continued faith in the midst of his supposed imminent death. He was saved through his unwavering faith and trust.

Job, a faithful man, who was stripped of his wealth, homeless and riddled with sores and wounds, was told by his friends and wife to curse God and die, but he refused. He continued on in faith and trust knowing that it was for a purpose in which he didn't understand. He was eventually blessed beyond his wildest dreams.

God's own son, our Savior Jesus Christ, bled from every pore and suffered and died on the cross for our sins, shouting out in his darkest hour, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Ultimately saving each and every one of us through the power of His sacrifice.

God could have stopped each of these events, but every situation was for a purpose, a purpose beyond our comprehension. We can now read these historical stories in the Bible and see why they happened. We have these past examples to help us get through our difficulties. It serves as a reminder to constantly pray, read the scriptures, and lean on the Lord in our darkest hours, for He alone can ease our pain & suffering, bringing us to a place where we can even sing His praises in the midst of our trials.

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.
Hebrews 4:1-2

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:14-16

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case - things that accompany salvation. God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Hebrews 6:9-12

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Caught In the Eye of an F-4 Tornado

David Young revisits the scene of the F-4 Tornado

It was good Friday and the Tennessee minister decided to go for an early jog before his church service. He often ran, praying and talking to God as he went. After a few miles, it began to hail, then the lightening started, he quickly realized he was in trouble.The tornado moved swiftly upon him. He instinctively grabbed for the nearest tree & clung to it with all his might. As the wind began to pick up, he found his body flying straight out, waving like a flag in the wind.

David Young vividly recalls:

"The front wall of the tornado was bad, but when it passed, I found myself in the strangest world I’ve ever seen. I was in the eye of the tornado, and I knew it. I dropped back to the ground and instinctively curled around the tree again. A lot of debris was still shooting across the river, firing across my line of sight like meteors. But now I also saw debris spiraling inside the vortex of the tornado. Close to me, it was traveling at lightning speed, racing around and around just like you’d expect.

But farther up, along the inside of the funnel, the debris was moving slowly, gracefully, almost playfully at the top. It wasn’t circling; it was dancing, up and down more than from side to side. I don’t know how far up I could see, but it seemed like miles. A strange light illuminated the inside of the tornado. It was totally surreal. It was peaceful, calm, and, I hate to say it, incredibly happy. I fancied that angels were performing a ballet just for me at the top of heaven’s ladder. So this is what’s inside a tornado, I remember thinking.

It is not possible to describe the feelings you get in the eye of a tornado. There is such a mixture of primal feelings—blood pulsing, mouth drying, eyes focused, heart racing, muscles taut. Everything that has been you, in my case for 48 years, comes down to one infinite point and freezes; your breathing calms and your mind seems to step out of your body and look around in amazement. You notice the smallest details: a leaf blowing past, a small sound, the strange illumination inside the vortex. You watch the inside of the funnel as though you were watching a movie. There’s a strange sense of detachment.

And you feel, at the same time, both all alone and totally immersed in the love of God. I mean that literally. In the eye of the storm, there is no one else, and as far as you can tell, the entire world is now gone. The peace, the beauty, and the overwhelming view up the vortex above all lead you to feel an intimacy with God. I felt loved in the eye, and even now that feeling moves me to tears."

David felt as though the Lord had protected him. God could have completely stopped the storm or kept David out of it, but he didn't. He chose to put David right in the middle of that tornado. As everything raged around him, God protected David, placing him in the safest part of the vortex.

As life's storms rip, spin and throw your emotions & body around, you can learn to rest in God's arms, morning, noon and night. The "eye of the storm" symbolizes God's love and peace. He is right at the heart, the middle, the center of your life, ready to keep you safe. Your tornado may be raging all around you, spinning out of control, but the Lord will keep you in his safe embrace, in His "Eye," His unending love. Call out to Him in prayer today and let Him carry you safely through.

"By His breath the skies became fair; His hand pierced the gliding serpent. And these are but the outer fringe of His works; how faint the whisper we hear of Him! Who then can understand the thunder of His power?"
Job 26:13-14

"Does God listen to his cry when distress comes upon him? Will he find delight in the Almighty? Will he call upon God at all times? I will teach you about the power of God: the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal. You have all seen this yourselves. Why then this meaningless talk?"
Job 27:9-12

"How you have helped the powerless! How you have saved the arm that is feeble! What advice you have offered to one without wisdom! And what great insight you have displayed! Who has helped you utter these words? And whose spirit spoke from your mouth?"
Job 26: 2-4

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

You Are Not Alone!

story by: lisa petrarca

Have you ever felt so completely exhausted and overwhelmed with life? Does it seem when you start to find a little bit of peace, something happens to destroy it? There's always something trying to steal your joy. Recently, while talking with a friend about struggles and difficulties, I realized that through it all, after many years of wondering, "How can I ever make it through this? When will I stop being sad, worried and depressed about everything?"

The realization came at a time when the world would think, "How sad, they had to sell their home and start renting again. They barely have enough money to cover the basic necessities each month." But I've never had such complete and total peace. I've learned to stop constantly worrying. I've learned the secret to letting go of every negative, self defeating thought. I've learned to release the overbearing weight of guilt and shame. Most importantly, I've learned that I'm not alone to deal with these things. I want to share this secret, shout it out to everyone who feels as if they are sinking, drowning in life's sea of problems.


Let go of these things. I know it sounds ridiculous. You might say, "Yeah right, you're crazy, you don't know the mess I've made of my life, the sickness I'm dealing with, the situation I'm in?" I too never thought it was possible. I'd done so much damage it seemed beyond repair. That's just it though, it was beyond anything I could change alone. I needed help, I needed encouragement, guidance, peace, faith and forgiveness.

I started with baby steps, praying each morning, sometimes breaking down completely, crying, asking the Lord to change me, and everything in my life. Then I picked up a book, it changed my negative thought patterns. I opened the Bible and read one single scripture in the morning, then slowly began to read a little more. Strongholds in my life began to tear away. My worst fears, negative self talk, lack of trust, self pity, and walls of protection all began to disappear. I was being set free, one prayer, one scripture at a time. The transformation started to take shape. I wasn't being controlled by anger and fear, I was set free, no longer bound by the chains that life and it's difficulties attached to me.

God had given me His peace, it overcomes any and ALL circumstances. His gift, His son, Jesus Christ died for us to be set free. If we call on Him, let go of our troubles and ask HIM to carry them, forgive us and believe that He CAN and WILL do this, you'll find a peace that sustains you throughout every storm of life.

Just think, it all started through prayer, reading the scriptures and getting to know my Father in Heaven and Savior Jesus Christ. My peace is now beyond my circumstances, beyond my troubles, beyond my fear, it's life sustaining. Take small steps today and see where the Lord can take your life.

Is it too much to give the Lord 15 min. of your time to finally have peace?

If you call Him, He will answer.

"I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, "You are my servant;" I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:9-10

"In those days, at that time," declares the Lord, "the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the Lord their God. They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it. They will come and bind themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten. "My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place." Jeremiah 50:4-6

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
Isaiah 40:28-31

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Get Your Free Gasoline Today

story by: lisa petrarca

This past week I had an encounter with a homeless man. I was incredibly pressed for time, on a tight schedule with a mile long list of things to accomplish in a two hour time frame. An elderly man in his 80's, confined to a wheelchair, leather cracked lines road mapping his face, sat quietly in front of my first stop. As I approached his head was cast downward, the simple cardboard sign he held read, "Anything will help." He never looked up as several people walked into the store. He sat silently, as if he was ashamed to be sitting in front of the store asking others for help.

I made a mental note to be sure to buy him food. In my mad rush, I completely forgot. I was leery about giving him cash, not wanting to contribute to any addictions he may have, so I gave him nothing. I felt bad but headed out of the driveway & across the street to grab a quick bite to eat before my next errand. The pang of guilt/prompting of the Holy Spirit grew stronger as I walked up to order. I noticed a stack of food gift cards next to the register & decided to get him one.

I jumped in my car & rushed back to the store. He was still there. As I walked up to him he slowly raised his head, I said, "Here you go, get yourself something to eat." He softly said, "Thank you very much." I let him know that Jesus loved him & quickly headed onto my next list item.

This encounter probably wouldn't have happened the same way, had I not remembered to pray that morning, asking the Lord to fill me with His spirit. I asked that He use me to help others and bring things to my attention. I used prayer as my fuel, my gasoline and God directed me straight to a needy person. Without gas/fuel we wouldn't be able to start our cars, we'd be stuck. A day without prayer is exactly the same thing, we usually are left overwhelmed, anxious and worried, which leaves us unable to focus on the things God has for us that day.

If I hadn't remembered to pray, I know that my plans and schedule for the day would have taken precedence over going out of my way to help someone in need. You see, I allowed God to "Fill up my tank." I specifically asked to be filled with the love of Christ. He responded by taking me straight to someone in need. On my own, I don't always notice things. My schedule is full, my days are exhausting and I wouldn't have the time or desire to meet the needs of strangers. I'm barely able to meet all the needs of my family.

But with God filling me up in the morning, He helps me see the things that He sees. He lifts me up, fills me up and guides my way. Showing me HIS direction for my day! Be sure to gas up today, It's Free and you have a long, busy day in front of you. Don't forget to pray!

But just as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us-see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
2 Corinthians 8:7

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.
2 Corinthians 8:2-3

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."
2 Corinthians 9:6-9

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


photo & story by: lisa petrarca

Why is it so hard to learn to walk by faith? Some days I do well and other days I have to get on my knees and stay there until the fear, anxiety and negative thoughts disappear. I've learned to pray through these things.

On those days, my prayers also need to continue throughout my day, with each unsettling encounter, with each self defeating thought, because there is an enemy who wants to bring me and you down. He wants to see us fail.

Prayer and the scriptures is how you defeat him. Just as Jesus did when He was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry, and satan came to tempt Him. Jesus came back at him with scriptures, quoting truth, quoting life sustaining wisdom, quoting His Father's words.

Jesus answered, "It is written: "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" Matthew 4:19

Jesus answered him, "It is also written: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" Matthew 4:7

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, satan! For it is written: "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only." Matthew 4:10

Are you able to do this? When negative thoughts are flooding your mind like a tidal wave, drowning your confidence and self worth, are you able to stop it? Are you reading the scriptures daily, absorbing all that God is trying to reveal to you? He has given you a lifeline, a safety net, a boat to help you reach the other side without drowning. Stop treading water, you will eventually begin to sink. Grab hold of God's life jacket. He has given you the answers to all your questions, just reach out, open the scriptures and pray today.

The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Isaiah 32:17-18

O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress. Isaiah 33:2

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Life's Sliding Out of Control

story by Lisa Petrarca

During a recent rain storm, I was on the freeway and switched lanes as my exit approached. My tail end started to hydroplane. I tried to correct it four times, finally my car slid completely sideways, hitting the side of the embankment at 55 mph. My first thought was, "Oh no, I'm going to roll over. This is how it happens, one day you're driving to work and the next minute you're gone."

That morning, before I left for work, I prayed for a hedge of protection around each of my family members, but I forgot to pray for myself.

Now I was headed for certain disaster.

Did that mean that I wasn't protected? Was I still covered by the Lord's grace?

Who is really in charge of my life?

I usually thought that
I was & carried my burdens in just such a way:

How can
I fix this situation?
What can
I do to change things?
can't fix this so I'm going to just give up?
don't know what to do, my problems are too big!

But what that one day taught me, in a very terrifying, yet vivid way, I am not expected to handle things alone. I can't control a sliding car, an illness, a terminal diagnosis, infertility, a wayward child, an out of control spouse, an addiction, whatever it is that's going on that I have been trying to control is beyond my capability.

God never intended for us to head out each day alone. He has given us words of encouragement, prayer for protection, a Savior, Jesus Christ for the atonement of our sins, and the Holy Spirit for wisdom & discernment.

As I hit the hill, my car didn't rollover. I slid up it, spun around & ended up coming safely to a stop half way up the hill. A woman ran down the hill, in the pouring rain, hugged me & told me "God was protecting you today!" Before I headed onto the freeway she told me again, "God is looking out for you," and blew me a kiss.

Remember today, YOU ARE NOT ALONE, GOD IS WITH YOU. Pray & ask for His wisdom & guidance to face whatever is sliding out of control in your life.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
ROMANS 8:31-32

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
JOHN 15:1-8

Monday, October 4, 2010

Keep Going

story by: Lisa Petrarca

I was running in the race for a long, long time. The finish line seemed to never appear. I stopped and sat down for a while, became discouraged & turned back. Once I reached the starting line, I realized that I was alone there, everyone else was heading to the finish line. I began to sprint, growing weary I sat down to catch my breath. Then I heard a prompting,
"Keep going, it's not far now."

I walked at first then began to jog, running into several obstacles along the way. This race was more difficult than I thought. Can I ever finish? "Keep going, it's not far now," was the whisper in my ear.

The dark & cold enveloped me but I knew I was closer then when I first started. I took slow but steady steps forward, stumbling and sometimes falling but always getting back up. In this race I realized I was growing in strength and determination. "Keep going, it's not far now," the ever present voice whispered.

As the dawn broke, a double rainbow appeared before me. I stood in awe and amazement. The arches of my finish line appeared before me. God's love shining down from above.

To reach my finish line I must push forward through life's trials and obstacles. Prayer and the scriptures giving me fuel, strength and light to guide my way, as I continue on in hope and faith. Eventually reaching the beauty of the endless rainbow that signifies God's unconditional, unending love.

According to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
Ephesians 3:11-13

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesian 3:16-21

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Riding Through Lifes Waves

story & pictures by: Lisa Petrarca

I road my bike to the beach to spend some time writing, seeking a quiet, peaceful place on a 90 degree Monday in late September.

A group of kids came up next to me & sat on their surfboards in front of two instructors. They were learning how to surf today. After some practical instruction on form, they laid on their boards and practiced paddling.

Next they were shown the proper way to "pop up" on the board.

They continued to do this several times before two boys felt they were ready & left the crowd.

The rest of the kids moved to the waters edge to watch.

Once they felt confident, they all made their way into the water, the instructor close behind watching out for their safety and continuing to teach them as they put what they learned to the test.

Just like life, each day we embark on a new lesson. Some of us feel ready to jump in, while others need more time to prepare.

Whatever pace you're at, your teacher and instructor is right there with you, out in the "water" of life.

Take time in the morning to listen to your "teacher's" words through prayer & daily scripture study. You will then be ready to ride the waves of your day with confidence, knowing that if you wipe out, the Lord is right there with you, instructing and guiding your way through the rough waves of life!

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Seek Me

"Seek me with all your might, mind and strength. For my way is easy and my burden is light. You have been ever seeing but not perceiving, ever hearing but not understanding. My way is easy and my burden is light, when you seek me with all your heart."

"My sacrifice was given for your freedom. No longer are you to carry your burdens alone. Lay them at my feet and I will remove them from you. Give up your worries and I will take them from your mind. You will no longer carry the things that you've labored with. They are no longer a part of you. I have set the captive free. I am freeing you up to go and do my work. To share my light with the entire world. To set the captives free. To share my love with the world. To show them that they no longer need to depend on their own strength, for I will carry them."

"I will guide their way and keep the enemy at bay. He will no longer be able to control you with his lies. My power and strength is beyond your understanding. I ask you to come to me daily in prayer and I will hear and answer you. I will take in your words and reign blessings down upon you for your faithfulness. I am here, waiting for you to know me, to ask for my wisdom and understanding. Seek me daily and you will find me. My burden is easy. I'm coming soon to set the captives free."

"Trust, seek and get to know me while I still may be found. I am your Lord & Savior, I have come to set you free. Release the burdens on me. I have paid a price for your sins, I have given my blood so that you may walk in newness of life."

"Why are you not taking my gift? It is easy to receive, just believe in me, repent and ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you up each day. Why do you make it so hard? Why do you continue to doubt. Let go! Let go! Let go! I am here to catch you. Release all your worldly desires and seek me, you will find me when you seek me with all your heart. I am here, I am waiting. My love for you is endless, you can't begin to understand it!"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Do you ever feel like this some days?

I know that WE ALL have mood swings and often think, "I can't control them." But think about the times that you were mad and arguing with your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, parents, siblings etc. & you run into someone you know. Almost immediately, you can change the tone of your voice, controlling the anger and bitterness into the nice, kind, fun person that you want the outside world to see.

Do you have the bad habit of allowing negative, self defeating thoughts enter your mind? This often sets the tone for your entire day. I want to remind you to start your day off with prayer & a few minutes of studying God's word, watch your day be transformed.


Work on how you talk to your loved ones & yourself this week. Work on your anger, negative attitude and negative self talk.

Here's a few positive quotes to think on:

1. Pray & read the word of God today & He will set you free!

2. Courage is progress in the presence of fear...push through your fear to reach your goals!

3. A thankful heart = a powerful person. What are you thankful for today?

4. The world is full of two kinds of people, the givers and the takers. Takers eat well but givers sleep well!

5. God's word coming out of your mouth is one of the most powerful forces on heaven & earth!

6. God's giving is inseparably connected with our asking...PRAY today!

7. God never gives you anything to do that's beyond your ability with Him by your side!

8. Kindness is the oil that takes the friction out of life!

9. What virtues can you find today in the people close to you? Look for the good & see your relationship change!

10. Good words are worth much & cost little...think about what you say today!

11. Don't wait for your ship to come in, swim out to it!

12. It is challenging to say the right thing...let wisdom rise above emotions!

13. Think about the words you speak & you will learn a lot about yourself! Speak POSITIVE today!

14. Prayer does not change God but changes him who prays!

15. He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how!

16. Give God your problems & allow Him to give you solutions!

17. Trust God when He says no & when He says yes!

18. The value of persistent prayer is not that He will hear us...but that we will finally hear Him!

19. Learn to take steps of faith each gets easier along the way!

20. Jesus Christ died so that you will be set free...take His life giving sacrifice!

"For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. "I will be found by you, declares the Lord, "and will bring you back from captivity." Jeremiah 29:11-14

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thankful List

story by: Lisa Petrarca

When you woke up today, did you remember to look over your Thankful List? This list always seems to get hidden behind our, To Do List, I Want List, I Need List, and the ever popular, Why Me List.

Everyday we go through our endless mental checklists and somehow the Thankful List gets buried or lost. Even in our daily prayer life, we pray for our wants, needs, hopes, dreams, wealth and health. But do we remember to thank our Heavenly Father for all the things He has blessed us with?

Each one of us should place our Thankful List on top. When you wake up in the morning, check this list FIRST, then head down your other mental lists. I'm sure that you'll find with a simple "Thankful" adjustment your other lists wont seem as long.

I'm challenging each one of you to try this. Think of 10 things you're thankful for before getting out of bed in the morning. Next, say a prayer thanking the Lord for these things.
I'm sure He doesn't get to hear the thank you's very often.

"Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever." Psalm 106:1

I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, "You are my servant"; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:9-10

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Faith Beyond Reason

Is there something in your life that you feel is beyond hope? You can't begin to imagine that anything could ever change it, fix it, or heal it? Is there something going on that makes it so difficult to even make it through the day?

There was a woman who was in just such a situation. She had a terrible problem for 12 years. She used every bit of her money, went to several different doctors, and instead of getting better, she grew worse.

It seemed one could stop her bleeding.

If anyone had a valid reason to lose hope, I think this woman would have every right to...
and yet she was able to have faith beyond reason.

The woman heard about Jesus & knew in her heart that if she could only touch His cloak, she would be healed.

So, instead of standing silently in the crowd, making up excuses, feeling sorry for herself because she had suffered so much, wondering, "Why me? What did I ever do to deserve this?" This woman followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit, then she took a step of faith.

She squeezed and pushed her way through the crowd. Slowly, inch by crowd suffocating inch, until she was barely close enough to reach out her hand and touch the cloak of Jesus. Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she had been freed from her suffering.

Jesus told her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." (read Mark 5:25-34)

If you have something going on recently in your life or for many years and have lost hope, pray that you can have the kind of faith that this woman had.

Pray today for this type of , "FAITH BEYOND REASON."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Facing Your Goliath

This morning, while reading the scriptures, I thought about David. He had to face so many obstacles in his life.

From a very young age he learned the value of praying and then believing in the Lord to protect and guide him.

David faced Goliath, not with fear, doubt, trembling or a negative self defeating attitude, but with complete faith. Knowing that God is bigger than anything he would come up against.

What Goliath's are in front of you?

Are you attempting to battle them alone?

Pray that the Lord will give you the strength and faith to come to Him daily. Let Him stand in the gap and move your Goliath...just as He did for David.

Saul replied, "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth."

But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine."

Saul said to David, "Go, and the Lord be with you."

1 Samuel 17:33-37

Read the story of David - 1 Samuel chapters 17-31

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Child Locked in a Dungeon

Little Annie, was a young hopeless girl, locked in the dungeon of a mental hospital just outside of Boston. This is where they kept all of the patients that were beyond help. Annie acted like an animal, growling & attacking anyone who came near her and other times she would sit staring blankly at the walls.

One day an elderly nurse, who held hope for all of God's children, began to take her lunch in the dungeon. She decided to leave her brownie/cookie for little Annie. When she returned the next day it was gone. The nurse continued to show this small act of love & kindness. After several months, Annie was moved up to the normal ward & eventually, this hopeless girl was told she could leave the institution.

Little Annie was Anne Sullivan, the woman who loved & taught another supposed hopeless case, Helen Keller.

Is there someone in your life who can be changed by a "brownie?" Is there a hopeless cause that needs a simple gesture of love & kindness?

Jesus showed us that unconditional love breaks down all barriers.

Stop judging & start to share the gift of unconditional love with others today.
He is the potter & we are the clay!

Isaiah 64:8
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Rare 1880 photo of Helen Keller & Anne Sullivan

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


story by: lisa petrarca

Every morning I awaken to choices.

What should I have for breakfast? What should I wear? What route should I take to work? Should I give that homeless guy money? What do I need to get at the store?

The list of our choices are endless.

But I've learned that the most important choice is: Am I willing to make time for God today?

Am I going to free up some precious moments to spend praying & reading His words each morning?

This decision seems to affect every aspect of my entire day.

When I set aside time for the Lord, I realize I've opened the door for HIM to help me with my choices throughout the day. I am no longer alone!


Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
James 1:2-6

Monday, August 2, 2010

Do You Have True Beauty?

story by: Lisa Petrarca

There is a program on ABC called, "True Beauty". The concept is for each contestant to compete to become the most beautiful face of Las Vegas, win $100,000.00 & their picture will appear in People Magazine.

They are all considered beautiful people on the outside & they think that each challenge is about winning & getting them closer to the ultimate prize as "The Most Beautiful Person."

What they don't know however is that before each competition, they are being confronted with the real challenge. A needy person, a person getting bullied, a person getting made fun of, and an opportunity to cheat to win the challenge are all being put directly in front of them. They are then secretly filmed to see if they are beautiful on the inside as well. The person with the most INNER BEAUTY is the ultimate winner.

Before each person gets kicked off, they get to stand & watch the real tests. They get to watch clips of themselves behaving in a not so "beautiful" way. Many of them proclaim, "That's not who I really am," and come up with excuses for their bad behavior. They become embarrassed, ashamed or angrily walk out.

I wonder what kind of inner beauty we have? If a camera was following you everyday, would it capture your true heart? Would you be ashamed to let people watch what was recorded? Would it reflect the love of Christ living in you?

Each day you get 1440 minutes to show the world your true inner beauty. At the end of the day, you will never get those minutes back. Make the most of your gifts and use them to bless others.

Be mindful of all you say & do...the Lord is watching and knows your true inner beauty.

Ephesians 6:6-8

Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether slave or free.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Man Child

by: Lisa Petrarca

The man stumbled toward me, all of his teeth were missing except a few broken, protruding yellow nubs. He smiled and told me he was on his lunch break. He had just started a job at the theatre down the street. He asked for some coffee to help him "sober up," before he went back so that he wouldn't lose his job.

I ran in the house, grabbed a hot cup of coffee, pushed open the door, and to my surprise, heading towards me was a large group of people from church with their arms full of food.

Spotting the man, they invited him to come and eat lunch with us.

Everyone was so warm and friendly. They ate, talked, laughed and included this man in their lives.

Right before my eyes, the man suddenly became a young child. He began to cry, worrying that he would be fired from his job if he was late getting back. Everyone gathered around to hug this small, scared child. Through his sobs, he told us that he needed this job to help feed his family.

Hearing this, I scooped up the young child in my arms & ran, carrying him, running as fast as I could so he wouldn't be late.

As I woke up, I tried to make sense of this dream. It wasn't until later that day when I spotted a homeless man, hidden from immediate sight, lying between two buildings, that it hit me. Our Heavenly Father sees these hurting, broken people as His children. Children who are in need of unconditional love. When one of His children crosses your path, are you reaching out and showing the love of our Savior Jesus Christ?

In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
Isaiah 63:9

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability, entirely on their own.
2 Corinthians 8:2-3