2.02.2016

Upcoming Young Women's Retreat


Hey there, young ladies!!!  This is Allison writing, and I just wanted to give you a personal invitation to a really special weekend I am hosting just for you.  Several years ago, the Lord began to impress on my heart the need for a time for young women to be encouraged and refreshed.  He showed me that there are a lot of girls out there who perhaps don't have an older sister, are thirsting for discipleship, or maybe just need some friends.  I started dreaming about hosting these girls for a few days that would be all about pouring into their lives and giving them a vibrant vision for femininity and establishing an intimate relationship with Jesus.  The first Young Women's Retreat was such a sweet time that we had another one last year, and now I am excited to be planning another retreat for the second weekend of May 2016.  

For those of you who haven't joined us for this special time in past, but are considering coming this time, I thought you might like to hear from some of the girls who have come.  Some of these girls came and didn't know anyone at all, but each one of them left with new friendships forged and sweet memories made.  Here's what they have to say:

“I was so blessed and encouraged by the young women's retreat! I loved the fellowship, quiet atmosphere, challenging sessions, delicious food, and girl time. It was definitely a highlight of my year! “
-Bethany

“The Young Ladies Retreat meant allot to me. I learned so many things in a short time. Built strong, lasting relationships. The sessions convicted and strengthened me so much, and the one on one conversations were precious!”
-Sarah

“I was VERY encouraged to memorize Scripture in my Bible times. This has been a Huge blessing when spiritual "storms" come. The Lord is my Deliverer! ( Psalm 18:2)”
-Hannah

“I know that, for me, Allison's girl's retreat was very special. I came feeling tired, both physically and spiritually, and left with a new sense of joy in Christ and in being a part of God's family. It was a time of conviction and encouragement as we listened, learned, discussed and just had fun together. God really used the retreat to show me more of Himself, and I came away blessed. “
-Audrey

“I think the best part for me was the fellowship and encouragement from both the teaching times and from being with other young ladies who love the Lord. I told my Mama on the way home that my cup was so full, I would "live" on what I learned for a long time! Such a blessing.”
-Anna

"The young women's retreat was such a blessing for my sista and I to attend.  It was so refreshing to have a few days to spend with other like-minded young ladies who all loved JESUS!  One of the best things about Retreat is the focus on Jesus+God's Word.  I came away from Retreat encouraged and ready to press on+serve the Lord in whatever ways He brings across my path!" 
-Rachael 

“I so highly recommend this fabulous retreat! Two words that come to mind are REFRESHING and SPECIAL. You will be well fed with both encouragement from God's Word (prepare to scribble notes like crazy, because the sessions are absolutely excellent!), sweet fellowship, and scrumptious food. Of the retreats I've been to, this schedule is the perfect combination of beautifully flexible yet structured - plenty of time for both quiet time with Jesus, sessions, and many vibrant memories/laughs/adventures. I don't know what special details are planned for this year, but it's bound to be memorable since the whole thing is just filled to the brim with special touches (like little welcome packages or a hayrack ride to the woods) that have been prepared with lots of love + prayer! One of my favorite things about the retreat are the friendships that are forged. Personally, I have all brothers, so it was a treat to have that time with a bunch of "sisters"! It's been about 5 months since the last retreat and yet many of the current emails in my inbox are from retreat friends - the accountability continues! If it's out of your comfort zone to think about attending something like this, I'd encourage you to take the leap + come with a ready, joyful heart! Totally worth any long drive, flight, or $ investment. It's been a highlight of my year and I'm so thankful for this sweet time! You come away so refreshed and inspired.”
-Elizabeth A

"The retreat was really a time of refreshment and blessing to me. The sweet fellowship with other daughters of God was a blessing. I was touched to see girls connecting on a deep, personal level, willing to be vulnerable with one another. There was a lot of laughter and fun that brought us together. What a special time of learning and mutual discipleship!"
-Lucy

“First of all, I just have to say how much I enjoyed the retreat! It was fantastic. I have to admit, I was pretty nervous about going to retreat where the majority of people were strangers. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Never did I think I would meet such sweet, kind girls full of Jesus and His love. 
To be very honest, the night before I almost thought of pulling out and not attending. I had been to so many other lukewarm retreats where the girls weren't even really interested at all in Jesus or His Word. They seemed more interested in boys, pop culture and the latest trends.  I would go to these events and think, "There's got to be something more. I know that there are girls out there who truly do love Jesus with their everything." 
As soon as I got to the retreat, I realized this was going to be unlike any other I had attended. It was actually centered around Jesus, rather than Him being merely fit into it. Right from the start, I felt so welcomed. I couldn't believe how genuine everyone was. I'd never really been to anything quite like it! It was so wonderful ....I loved just sitting there and soaking everything up.   I went home from the retreat completely refreshed and encouraged. It was such a blessing!  Everything, from the food to the sessions, was positively wonderful. If I were ever to rate my experience, I would give it 6 out of 5 stars.”
-Joy


So there is a bit about the Retreat!  If you are interested in attending, please email me at rejoicinginhislove@gmail.com.  I can't wait to meet you and spend some time you + all the other wonderful girls!  It will be a special weekend together.

-Allison Bontrager

1.23.2016

Why Christians Should Vote for Ted Cruz

Why Christians Should Vote for Ted Cruz 

We stand at a critical time in American history. After seven years of our current administration, the American people people are tired of the liberal policies of Barack Obama. They are tired of an overreaching federal government which has trampled on our God-given rights, ignored the Constitution, and greatly restricted the freedom of the American people. After experiencing the disastrous effects of Obama's policies, we may be tempted to believe that all of our problems in government will be solved if we just elect another Republican to the White House. However, we must all understand that it is not enough to simply to put any Republican in the Oval Office. In this time of crisis, it is vitally important that we elect a Republican who truly shares our values and who will fight our enemies in both political parties. I believe that of all the candidates running in this election cycle, Ted Cruz is the best equipped one of them all to take our country back to the conservative policies of Ronald Reagan. Here are several reasons why I believe you should consider voting for Ted Cruz in the up-coming Iowa Caucuses. 

First, Ted Cruz understands and follows the Constitution. Although our current President has largely ignored the Constitution, Ted Cruz firmly believes that the Constitution is the standard to which American Government must adhere to. From a young age, Cruz memorized the United States Constitution, and studied it intensely. In addition to thoroughly understanding the Constitution, Ted Cruz has fought tirelessly to defend the same Constitutional rights he so firmly espouses. As a lawyer in private practice, and as Solicitor General of Texas, Cruz passionately defended our constitutional rights, including religious liberty, United States sovereignty, and the right to bear arms. I challenge you to find another candidate who understands, believes, and and follows the Constitution to the extent that Ted Cruz does. 

Second, Cruz is a proven conservative with a consistent record. The term “conservative” is one of the most mis-used and abused terms in American politics today. If you were to ask any of the Republican candidates running for President if they are a “conservative,” they would most likely respond in the affirmative. However, true conservatism in a candidate must be judged, not by words, but by actions. I believe that Ted Cruz stands apart from other “campaign conservatives,” because unlike many candidates who say when thing while on the campaign trail but do another once elected, Ted Cruz actually keeps his promises. When Ted Cruz campaigned for the Senate in Texas, he promised the Texan people that he would fight their fights, and stand up for their values. Since taking office in the Senate, Ted Cruz has done exactly that. He has not compromised but instead has led the fight to repeal Obamacare, helped lead the fight against amnesty, and has stood up against the cronyism present in both political parties. 

Third, he is the only candidate running who has been willing to stand up to the leadership of his own party time after time. In the Senate, Ted Cruz has been willing to fight for our values and to boldly stand up to not only the Democrats but to his fellow Republicans as well. In February of 2013, President Obama wanted Congress to raise the debt ceiling, so he could continue his irresponsible spending. After the bill to raise the debt-ceiling passed the House, the measure was introduced to the Senate for consideration. Under ordinary Senate rules, raising the debt ceiling required a minimum of 60 votes, unless all 100 senators agreed to change the rules to allow a simple majority vote. Shockingly, the Republican leadership urged all 45 Republican senators to unanimously consent to change the rules to allow a simple majority vote. If all 45 Republican senators unanimously consented with the 55 Democrat senators to change the rules to allow a simple majority vote, then the Republican Senators could all go home and tell their constituents that they had fought to stop the debt-ceiling increase, but had failed. When the Republican leadership pressed the 45 Republican Senators to simply go along, only Ted Cruz, along with Mike Lee, stood up in demanding a 60-vote threshold. The Republican leadership was infuriated that Cruz would not allow them to dishonestly mislead their constituents. When the Republican leadership could not change the rules by unanimous consent, 12 Republican Senators joined the Democrats in passing the debt ceiling increase. Although our own public officials have so often betrayed us, Ted Cruz has kept the promises he made to the Texans who voted him for Senator. When you vote for Ted Cruz, you can rest assured that he will keep his word. In Ted Cruz we have a candidate who is more than a career politician, because Cruz is a trusted statesman committed to the cause of liberty. 

Fourth, I believe that Ted Cruz is the candidate with the best chance at defeating the Democrat nominee in the fall. Some would argue that a consistent conservative cannot win a general election, so therefore we must settle for a more moderate candidate. Let me simply respond to these skeptics by asking, “Where are Presidents Dole, McCain, and Romney?” Why did they not win against Democrat candidates? Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney all won their party's nomination, yet failed to win in the general election because they refused to stand by principle, instead watering down their message in an attempt to attract voters from the other side. I believe that we will only win elections when we draw a stark contrast between conservatism and liberalism. We will win when we stand by our principles, not when we abandon them. Cruz himself has said that we need to “nominate a candidate who is as committed to conservative principles as Barack Obama is to liberal principles.” I believe that Ted Cruz would be a strong general election candidate who would attract voters in two ways. First, Cruz would motivate the conservative base to turn out in greater numbers. He would attract evangelicals and disaffected conservatives who stayed home in previous elections because they were reluctant to support a Republican they felt did not truly share their values. Secondly, I believe that Cruz would attract Democrat voters who are tired of career politicians who just play politics rather than standing by principle. 

The American people are ready for a President who speaks the truth and keeps his word. I believe that Cruz will attract voters who see in Ted a candidate they can trust to do exactly what he says. Ted Cruz can connect with voters because Ted Cruz has the unique ability to communicate the conservative message with clarity and boldness. But there is one more important thing to mention about Senator Cruz. He is a former Princeton debate champ! When he hits the stage to debate, truth goes forth in a clear and concise message. If we nominate a committed conservative like Ted Cruz who will stand for principle and expose the lies of the left, this is how we will win in 2016. 

Fifth, Ted Cruz is a born-again Christian who loves the Lord and is not ashamed of his faith. Proverbs 29:2 says, “When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice but when the wicked rule, the people mourn.” Our country's greatest problem is not the economy, the military, the national debt, or the liberal agenda of the left. Our nation's problems all stem from our nation's greatest sin, the sin of forgetting God. Jonah chapter 3 describes the repentance of Nineveh, a national repentance that began with the king of Nineveh, who first humbled himself, and then called Nineveh to repent. In like manner, we need as President a man who recognizes our nation's sin against Almighty God and who calls for national repentance and a returning to the Lord. We need more than a candidate who promises to “make America great again;” we need a candidate who will lead the nation in righteousness. Ted Cruz has said that “any President who does not begin every day on his knees is not fit to be commander-in-chief of this country.” This is the type of man we need as our next President. 

As conservatives, we must remain divided no more, but we must coalesce around a candidate who fights for our fights and share our values. This may be our best chance in a long time to elect a committed conservative to the White House. If you believe in the Constitution, Biblical values, and limited government, then Ted Cruz is your man. If you believe that America is still worth fighting for, I encourage you to get out in the primaries and cast your ballot for Ted Cruz. Join the movement of courageous conservatives, and together we can take this country back and once again reignite the promise of America. To learn more, go to tedcruz.org.

{Article written by Joshua Bontrager}

Below is a video clip you may enjoy watching. It is a recent interview/endorsement with Marlin Bontrager and the Benham Brothers that was done backstage one day at the recent Bible Bee Game Show
Also visit Chelsy's Blog for her article posted today, "A Call To Action...Your Duty To Vote".


A Behind the Scenes Post from the Christmas Play

Before I post the official recap post from the 2015 Live Animal Christmas Play, I thought I would give y'all a little peek into some of the "behind the scenes" that was captured with phone cameras over the weekend and before as we prepared.
There was lots and lots of sewing time-designing and making new costumes.
Honestly, the closer it got to the show weekend, the more some things just seemed to get worse before they got better! Believe it or not, this picture was taken just a few nights before our first show! We definitely were needing a miracle of God at this point.

Mitchell + Carson spent many hours helping work on the sets.
The LACP hair + makeup crew was stellar and did a fabulous job! Some people were more appreciative than others. Specifically some of the men weren't very thrilled about this part of the show. Unfortunately for them, several years ago it was made a mandatory rule for all actors, male + female, to wear stage makeup for the shows. Many of us whole heartedly agreed with this, there were just several who kicked and squawked a bit. =) 
Dad, looking like he hopes it will all be over soon. =)
Babies galore. =)
Allison was on the hair crew.
Pre-show usher meeting, organizing the details of how to get as many people as possible crammed in!
One of our very good looking greeters at the front door. =)
Mom was once again in charge of the hospitality committee and she and her crew of boys did a lovely job making everyone feel welcome with hot chocolate and delicious homemade cookies!
A few buckets of cookies, anyone?! So grateful for the sweet family in our church who made all of these cookies for the weekend!
Time to get a beating for Allison. =)
What a special treat to have this sweet friend drive down from Canada to help for the weekend! 
Little girl shenanigans in the dressing room with these little ladies.
Who needed to watch the show-goodness, it was SO entertaining just listening to them as I changed outfits in my dressing room between scenes! I don't think I'm exaggerating to say that they very nearly had the entire play MEMORIZED and there were times as I listened to them acting and reciting my scenes (and others) that I wondered "why in the world aren't they upstairs doing that on stage instead of me?!?" =) Definitely got my fill of laughter spending time with them. =)
I had fun "going back in time" and pulling out my violin skills from years ago when I used to play!
Old fashioned nightgowns and top hats = new fashion statement. 
This is what happens when you are friends with the actor "Mr. Christmas" and you borrow his hat while he is in-between his scenes. =)
Games and fun in the fellowship hall. This was the hangout for everyone who was in-between scenes and it was always lively, full of fun, loud, and FULL. 
Sometimes we'd slip upstairs in between scenes and watch other scenes behind the back curtain.
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There's a little behind the scenes for you this morning! Stay tuned for the recap pictures from the actual play, coming soon!

1.21.2016

Will You Join Us In Prayer?

"If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"
Psalm 11:3

America is a mess, because Christians have been silent too long. So starting this Friday, January 22nd, we are asking all born-again Believers to take every Friday between now and November 2016, to join our family and spend time praying and fasting, begging God to have mercy on this land. Our specific prayer is that He would give us Senator Ted Cruz for our next President. Cruz, a man who is born-again by the Blood of Jesus Christ; Cruz, a man with a proven record as someone who understands and fights for the Constitution; Cruz, someone who has ALWAYS fought for the innocent lives of the unborn; and Cruz, a true American hero who has a backbone and will FIGHT for the American people!

Everything rises and falls on leadership; thus, it is imperative that we have a God-honoring man as President. But we MUST pray! We cannot afford not to.

Ezekial 22:30 says, "And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none."

Will that be what God says of our generation? Or will we apply 2 Chronicles 7:14 to our own lives? There is NOTHING that moves the hand of God like prayer and fasting. This is why we again ask all Christians to at least spend some time in prayer EVERY Friday between now and November 2016. If you are able to fast, that would be great as well. Maybe you could fast for a day, or for even just a meal. Maybe because of your health or other reasons, you aren't able to fast, but would be willing to fast for a day from media, sugar, soda, etc.

Whatever it is, will you find something that you could give up on Fridays, to show God that you are serious about seeing America turned around?

"When we work, we work. When we pray, God works."

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; 
then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
(2 Chronicles 7:14)

{Posted by Mitchell Bontrager}

1.15.2016

Heading South on Tour!


Hello friends! We are heading out tonight for an eight day tour in the south. We will be returning on the 25th to spend the following nine days campaigning and voting for Senator Ted Cruz, before leaving again for a two month tour in February + March.

We have more posts to come (slowly catching up! =)) but I wanted to take a minute to share with y'all our tour stops for the next eight days. We hope to meet many of you along the way!

JANUARY 2016
*16...Hope Community Church, Lebanon, IN, 6pm
*17...Linden Baptist Church, Linden, AL, 11am
*17...Elkdale Baptist Church, Selma, AL, 6pm
*19...Way of the Cross Chapel, Brooksville, MS, 7pm
*20...Donaldson Correctional Facility, Beesemer, AL, 2pm
*21...Colin&Nancy Campbell Residence, Primm Springs, TN, 7pm
*22...Bethel Baptist Church, Hartselle, AL, 7pm
*23...Moody Freewill Baptist Church, Moody, AL, 6pm
*24...West Florida Baptist Church, Milton, FL, 10am & 6pm

1.14.2016

National Bible Bee 2015 Recap

If you've read our blog for any length of time, than you've heard about the Bible Bee. Our family LOVES this program and we couldn't be more excited about what all God is doing and has been doing through this amazing opportunity.
One again, our five youngest competed in the summer program of the Bible Bee. Josh, Denver, Hudson, and Rebecca all advanced on to the National Bible Bee.
This meant that September-November were chalk full of study, study, and more study, in addition to school, music, and farm work. It was a VERY busy and intense few months. Here are a few pictures of study time!
Certain members found that it was easier to remember ones memory verses if you were engulfed in a large blanket and closed your eyes while you recited. Supposedly...=)
Online study...
The last few weeks before the competition were beyond intense. It seemed like all.the.time someone was saying "can you listen to me recite please?"
We had friends stop to visit and they so sweetly just jumped right on board to help out with listening to the hours of verses that needed to be recited.
Some people preferred to pace back and forth as they recited....
More online study.
..and even more...
We listened to verses everywhere. Even in the tractor!
Josh had been working long hours hauling grain, and we weren't getting in enough time to listen to all his verses since he was gone so long all day. Finally someone had the idea that we could ride with him in the tractor and listen to his verses while he waited in line at the grain elevator. Josh of course was so focused and able to multi-task that he ended up reciting as he drove, and loaded, and unloaded, and waited, and everything in-between. 
Finally in November, it was time to leave for THE thing in San Antonio! The parents and the six youngest loaded up the bus and headed south.
The five contestants sent us a picture of them outside the bus enjoying the warm sun, the first day they arrived. Naturally, they are each holding several of those ever present stacks of verses....

Brother selfies from the hotel room. =)
Finally it was time for THE actual competition!! Above is the primary contestant group.
Junior contestants.
Senior contestants.

We five oldest and a friend drove down for the final weekend competitions. We had a very lively road trip full of crazy little adventures and tired drivers. (sketchy rest stops, a little run in with the law, and a number of rumble strips, just to name a few) We also learned that Austin traffic is not a thing to be trifled with and that it would be wiser to leave home with at least one semi-perky driver. =) 
Our crew. =) We barely got there in time but thankfully we made it about ten minutes before the opening ceremony started!
The whole family together the first night of opening ceremonies. It was great to all be together again and take our place for the second year as the loudest family present. =)
That night, it was announced that Josh, Taylor, and Hudson had made it onto the semi-finals!
Thursday was a great day. Josh and Taylor advanced to finals. Hudson got a chance to follow along with the competition from the crowd and then give his thoughts to the audience through a fun little interview. 
A new addition to the format this year was a very professional and well-planned commentators stage. Denver and one of his close friends thought it looked like such fun, so they somehow found the person to talk to and asked if they could come to the backstage room and hop on the commentator stage for a bit. They didn't tell their moms, though, and only a few of us siblings knew they were going to be on, so when they came on over the screen there were some very surprised individuals in our row. =) We all cheered extremely loud, so loud that the main commentator said, "wow, sounds like y'all have quite the fan club out there". #truth
(you can watch this segment by clicking this link and then clicking on the "Review 2015 Bible Bee Senior Finals" and scrolling through the video to approximately one hour and nine minutes =))
Excited for Thursday!
These sweet friends (whom you may remember seeing from the beginning of this post; they were some of our guests who were the "relief crew" one day listening to recitations) drove all the way from Tennessee to come and surprise us. What a HUGE gift. Such a blessing to have them join us for the finals.
Prayer time in the hotel room before heading out to finals. As it is each year, our prayer was just that God would receive glory, and HIS name would be proclaimed above all else. Yes, the competition is fun, and us competitive Bontragers love to win for sure, but in this thing everyone is a winner because of the WORD that each of them has hidden in their hearts. 
Celebration time on the main stage after Taylor won FIRST PLACE in the junior division!!
More hugs and family cheer time, after Josh won 4th place in the Senior division!
Other than the obvious greatest blessing of having God's Word hidden in their hearts, one of the most wonderful things about the Bible Bee is that the ones who have competed have been able to meet and make so many close friends all across America. Many of their best friends are the ones they are competing against, which makes the whole thing quite interesting---they are all working their very best to win, but the joy and love they have for each other even when it is their friend who got first place and they didn't...is amazing to see. They are all honestly and genuinely so happy for each other, even cheering their friends on when they themselves get knocked out.
Josh with the other four finalists, right before the ending evening awards ceremony.
Taylor with one of his closest Bible Bee friends. These two have competed against each other for years now and it is just really special to see the close but very competitive friendship they have. They won first and second place.

I posted the above pictures and the following paragraph on instagram, the last night after the competitions were over:
"I was going to post a picture of Josh who just won fourth place in seniors, and Taylor who won first place in juniors! And then I was going to post a picture of Hudson who went through a huge trial this week but is learning to trust God through it even though it's hard. And then I was going to post a picture of Denver whose PR skills just pretty much wowed us all. But then I just decided to post a picture of the whole crew. Because the thing I love most about every person in this bunch is not how they score, or what they accomplish, or how they perform. But the thing I love about each of them is their hearts that are sold out for Jesus. Every one...from my amazing father all the way down to my youngest sister. The unity and love that we have in serving Jesus together and desiring to glorify Him "whether we win or we lose", is a precious thing. And we are all first place winners anyways because of knowing Jesus and having His Word hidden in our hearts. My heart is overflowing with HIS GOODNESS." #nationalbiblebee
The awards ceremony was incredible. Everything was amazing. There was table after table of delicious food-we ate like kings!
A highlight of the evening was the boys getting a chance to go up on stage and personally meet Dr. James Dobson.
We were all in stitches over some of the hilarious comments that were made, and certain ones of us will never hear certain phrases like, "have you considered farming?" again without bursting into laughter!
Last picture of the five finalists from each division.
For those of you who may have missed watching the webcast, it is still up and available to watch at this link! The page includes videos of each division competition, as well as interviews and clips with the different contestants. It is truly such an encouraging thing to watch and if you have a little time and weren't able to see it before, I would highly encourage you to check it out!

***************************************
"Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might 
not sin against Thee."
Psalm 119:11