Blog

Beauty

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart; yet, so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end".


I had to use the internet to learn I have wild geranium growing near the house. It’s beautiful, but I didn’t even know what it was. Even from a distance, we can usually see beauty.


Some things we do are beautiful in a natural way and others are spiritual. Spiritual beauty is often inspired by God's word and his works.


Let’s find ways to notice and add to the beauty all around us.  


Father, thank you for the beauty that surrounds us day after day. We repent of our indifference and speed for self-serving reasons. Help us to slow down appreciate the splendor you provide from the stars marking out the galaxy, to the seeds planted in the soil. You are magnificent from beginning to end.

6/5/2024

Decisions


A friend and I each had a big decision to make. We agreed to read a YouVersion plan together called Real Talk by Grace Bible Church. We needed biblical perspective and time to think. It was excellent! On the third day, we read...


Mark 10

46 Jesus and his disciples went to Jericho. And as they were leaving, they were followed by a large crowd. A blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus son of Timaeus was sitting beside the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus from Nazareth, he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David,[a] have pity on me!” 48 Many people told the man to stop, but he shouted even louder, “Son of David, have pity on me!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him over!”

They called out to the blind man and said, “Don't be afraid! Come on! He is calling for you.” 50 The man threw off his coat as he jumped up and ran to Jesus.

51 Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man answered, “Master,[b] I want to see!”

52 Jesus told him, “You may go. Your eyes are healed because of your faith.”

At once the man could see, and he went down the road with Jesus.


The authors of the plan encouraged readers to consider what they want. Bartimaeus was not shy to shout out to Jesus for what he needed. I had been so busy praying to understand God's will in a particular situation that I forgot to consider what I might actually want. This reminds me of my kids. God is our father, and as many of you know, parenting is a huge practical helper for me when I'm trying to understand how God sees us and relates to us. Sometimes my children want to know what I think they ought to do in certain situations. Occasionally I have a strong opinion which I will share, and sometimes I even push for one thing or another, but most often, I just want them to slow down long enough to consider what's actually going to bring them the most joy. They know that loving God and loving others brings them the most joy in the long run so that's a good place to start. Important decisions usually take time.


Lord, help us to slow down. Keep us from rushing into things simply for the satisfaction of checking them off a list. Give us discernment, courage, and patience. Show us the desires of our own hearts, the desires of your heart, and where they intersect. Thank you for loving us so deeply, truly wanting what's best for us, and working all things together for the good of those who love you and are called according to your purpose.

5/22/2024

Happy Birthday Mom

Gifts


Make a quick mental list of the natural gifts and talents with which you've been blessed.


Did you do it? 


You may be able to think of one that stands out or a list of 5-10, but if you can't think of any, please contact me immediately. I'll help you find one!


It can be tempting to covet the gifts God has given to people we admire, but our gifts are specifically designed just for us and just for God's purposes in our lives. I was talking with family last weekend, and we were saddened by the fact that so many of us spend our lives to make a living and miss much of the pleasure, plan, and purpose God intended for us.  I hope you have time to read the section of scripture below in light of using our own gifts the way God planned for us all to work together. It is powerful! Thank you for being a part of the body that I could never be. Thank you for honoring each part, and thank you for walking this journey to follow Jesus with me. You are a blessing.


1 Corinthians 12

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.


15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.


21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.


Lord, help us not to compare the gifts you've given us with the gifts you've bestowed on others. Help us to accept, cherish, and steward, our own gifts all while celebrating and collaborating with others as we are one body built up together.

5/15/2024

Encourage


1Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.


I had a tough assignment for a class recently. I had to record myself discussing the research project I had worked on for weeks. In theory, it didn't sound so bad, but every time I tried to record, the little light on the computer camera made my brain freeze up. I was panicking. The imaginary audience was intimidating. I was going nowhere fast. 


By the grace of God, an idea came to mind. I thought of trying to speak to the camera as if it were one of my best friends, a sister in Christ. That was a good idea, but the little light was still causing a big problem. I took it a step further. I thought back to a day when that same friend had really encouraged me. I knew I had a photograph from that day so I printed it out and taped my friend's encouraging smile in such a way that it was sticking right up behind the camera.


She may have been miles away, but she was encouraging me just as well as if she were right there in the room with me. A peace came over me. I completed the entire recording in one sitting. It was not perfect, but it was perfectly imperfect. I wonder if we have any idea how much our words and actions can affect one another. Proverbs 18:21 says "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit."


Lord, we thank you for the inner beauty of those who encourage us with their words and actions by the power of your holy spirit alive in them. Help us to encourage and build each other up today and always.

5/1/2024

Enlightened


Ephesians 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 


As I read the verses above, first I think about what it means to be enlightened. We gain higher knowledge and understanding when (appropriately) the light of the world enlightens us. Later in the verse we read about great power for us who believe. So then I wonder, what is this power for, and what should we do with it? 


Many are the answers to these questions, but one thing I know for sure. When I have taken time to be intentional to ask God to enlighten me, open the eyes of my heart to see what he sees, and give me power and courage to do his will; I have been more blessed than I can explain. Inevitably, today, we will interact with someone in our home, in the store, in traffic, at work, at school, or even online. Let's ask God to open the eyes of our hearts, let's honor one another above ourselves, and let's live enlightened as we embrace this power to be the change we so deeply long to experience in our world.


Lord, we thank you for enlightening us, giving us power to do your will, showing us the needs and opportunities that surround us, and giving us the courage to step out in faith as we love one another today and always.

4/24/2024

A Gift from My Youngest While I Was Ill

Try


Psalm 53

2God looks down from heaven

    on the entire human race;

he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,

    if anyone seeks God.

But no, all have turned away;

    all have become corrupt.[b]

No one does good,

    not a single one! 


If we're destined to fail, why do we even try?

The apostle Paul writes to the believers in Rome:


Romans  3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 


The verses above break my heart. I imagine God looking down, searching for anyone truly seeking him, anyone doing good without corruption, anyone without sin, and coming up empty handed. 


BUT keep reading... 


Romans 3:24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. 


Jesus' sacrifice compels us to try. We desire to seek God in spirit and truth, to walk with Jesus, and to welcome the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.


Lord, I pray for each of us, that we would not see our failure as a reason to give up, but rather as a reason to give thanks and to remain faithful for you are full of mercy and grace.

4/17/2024

Quiet


Mark 4:39-40 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.


Whatever it takes, make some time for quiet today. 


In the noise of life, we fail to hear from the Holy Spirit. This is not because he doesn't want to communicate with us. It's because we're not really listening. Slow down. Feel your shoulders, your neck, your lower back, your breathing, anywhere in your body there is tension in this moment. Let it go. Allow your prayers (conversations with God) to be a two-way street; listen first, and then speak. 


Lord, sometimes we cause the wind and the waves in our own lives without even realizing it. Sometimes we participate too fully in the storms of those around us. Help us to slow down long enough to quiet our hearts, to hear what you want to say, and to truly listen.


We praise you, Father, in the powerful name of your son, our Lord and savior, Jesus.

4/11/2024

Seeds


Coming from the Midwest, I thought palm tree seeds were... well... coconuts. This isn't entirely false, but I was surprised to learn that some species of palms grow from seeds as small as holly berries. In speaking about the kingdom of Heaven, Jesus said...


Mark 4:31 "It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, 32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”


Sometimes we fail to plant seeds of faith as we go about our day because we're too busy, sometimes because we're afraid of the reaction we might get, and sometimes because our own faith is shaking. I'm guilty of all three for sure. One thing I want to remember, though, is that no seed of faith is too small to plant. Sometimes it's just a smile.


I used to be amazed at God's enormous creations like the ocean, the earth, the galaxy, and the universe. I always will be, but more than that, I am amazed at some of his smallest creations. The atom, the cell, and the seed. I once heard it said that anyone can count the apples on a tree, but no one can count the apples in a seed. The potential is endless as each apple produced also produces other seeds. This concept is mind blowing. Faith is like that.


Lord, help us to plant seeds of faith every chance we get, no matter how small they may seem.

3/27/2024

Test


In the book of John chapter 10, we see powerful words of Jesus. 37 "Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. 38 But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”


Our wise pastor (also a John) has taken time recently to share the extreme importance of testing the messages of faith that we hear and read and watch by two main filters. The first is affirmation of who Jesus truly is, and the second is the Bible.


Clearly, Jesus wanted his accusers to consider truth. He wants us to do the same. "Don't believe me unless I carry out my Father's work." Don't believe anyone unless they're carrying out our Father's work.


I am grateful for opportunities like this blog to share faith, to think by typing, and to learn together. Please reach out if ever you find something I've written that doesn't pass the tests. With sharing comes responsibility. Thank you for your help and prayers. Lord, lead each of us to share with caution and to steward our gifts wisely as we seek to honor you in all we do.

3/6/2024

Life


Each verse I read this morning was about life: a life of righteousness, Jesus as the bread of life, life restored, and life eternal! God is the creator and giver of life. 


John Groves, lead pastor of Honor church in Orlando, FL gave the video summary of Daniel 12:3 on the YouVersion Bible app today. (If you don't have this app, I highly recommend getting it!) He spoke about a life of wisdom, and a life of light that catches the attention of those walking in the darkness. His last line about life gave me chills. He said, "We aren't scared of the dark, for in it, we shine the message of God's glorious son."


Let's be brutally honest. Some days, life is ROUGH. Jesus gave us a heads up about this and some serious encouragement to keep on keepin' on. I'm deeply grateful for the words of our savior who said, "33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33

2/28/2024

Breathe


Breathe vs Breath: Though we usually get these right in speaking, sometimes we mix them up in writing.


"Breathe is a verb, meaning to draw air into your lungs and expel it again. To breathe is to inhale air and to exhale it once more.


Breath is a noun, meaning the air brought in and exhaled when breathing." - gingersoftware.com


Mark 5:36 Overhearing[a] what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”


When the ones we love are hurting, its hard to believe. Sometimes it's even hard to breathe. 


Just believe. Jesus' words are so powerful. Whatever it is that you are believing for today, I pray with you. I know God hears our prayers. I know his plans are greater than our plans. I know he loves us and wants more for us than we even dare to think, ask, or imagine. Today is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.


Breathe in and out; pray. Breathe in and out; believe.

2/21/2024

Photo Credit: Faith Blaisdell

Surrender


Take a deep breath. Let it out. Close your eyes. Okay, I see your eyes are open now. Were you able to keep them closed for more than a breath? I just want to slow you down for a moment. If you're willing, consider the speed at which your life is currently unfolding. Not yesterday, or later today, or tomorrow, but right now. Are you reading fast? Are you skimming and scanning? Are you multi-tasking? Why do you read this blog? Does it provide a moment of encouragement in a discouraging world? Is it an obligation because you know the author? Do you long to know God's will for you? Whatever you're doing right now, consider single-tasking. Consider allowing the God of the universe to speak to you through his word. When you're ready to do that, read on.


1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. 16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.


Now that we know the will of God, let us surrender fully to it, and stop holding so tightly onto the things of this world. Stop imagining that you're in control. Let go. Let God do what only God can do.


2/14/2024

Photo Credit: Danielle Hecker

Focus


Hebrews 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 


Where is your attention today? You know, the attention you don't really want to give to something, but it keeps sneaking back into your thoughts when you're trying to focus on something else? To put it another way, what's stealing your focus?


Our pastor recently encouraged us to read Acts 2:42-47. This is a section he focuses on at least once each year. It is the foundation of our church mission and vision. During the time described in Acts 2, the early church focused on the most important things. Too often, we focus on petty, selfish, prideful, empty, meaningless things. This behavior pulls our focus away from Jesus where we could find peace, joy and purpose. 


For example: consider a difficult relationship in your life right now. What are you focusing on? Is it his or her faults, what you wish they would do, how you think things should be different, or something else entirely? If you're not focusing on Jesus, try it today. Each time you get distracted by unkind or unhealthy thoughts, take that time to pray. Together, lets ask his Holy Spirit to guide our focus and to lead us in the way everlasting.


2/1/2024

Fellowship


Psalm 55 

12 If an enemy were insulting me,

    I could endure it;

if a foe were rising against me,

    I could hide.

13 But it is you, a man like myself,

    my companion, my close friend,

14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship

    at the house of God,

as we walked about

    among the worshipers.


The pain in David is palpable through his choice of words. If you have ever been betrayed by someone close to you, you know what he's talking about. If it was someone who shares your faith, you may feel as if David is speaking for you. Let's look at this from both sides this morning. From David's side we feel deep empathy, maybe even solace knowing we're not alone in this experience. Now let's look at it from the other side - from a mirror. Whether by our choice of words (in person or behind closed doors), our actions, our lack of action, or some other means, have we been the ones to insult, rise against, or fail to stand up for a brother or sister in Christ?


Let us acknowledge our sin, confess it to one another, and then ask for forgiveness from God and those we have injured. Once we have done this, we can also ask God to give us the strength and courage to renew our journey as we walk in his ways. 


Dear Lord, we pray your Holy Spirit will stop us when our tongues are about to misbehave. Let your Holy Spirit prompt us to action when someone is in need. You are always working. Help us discern and follow your will as we love you and love others as you have called us to do.


1/24/2024

Dance


Ecclesiastes 3:4  A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.


2021 was a time to grieve for our family; and much of 2022, but last year began to open the doors of a new season. I believe God is showing me that today is a time to dance. I am looking at life less in years and more in moments these days. At this moment, I’m enjoying a cup of my favorite tea as the day comes to a close. As I began to go through the process of making the tea, I found myself smiling, just dancing around the kitchen like a goofball, enjoying the moment. There were times I couldn’t comprehend this kind of light-hearted, care-free joy would return to my soul. Don’t get me wrong, there are still so many daily struggles and heartaches, but God is gifting me something so special; awareness of his goodness and his presence. It makes me feel like dancing. As you seek and find him, I hope the joy of our Lord becomes your strength and sets your feet to the music of his everlasting love.


1/16/2024

Honor


1Thessalonians 5:12 Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. 


Paraphrase 

Paul reiterated this sentiment when he began his letter to Philemon. He wrote to this man not only because he was a dear friend, but also a fellow worker.


Application

Stop to consider who are those leaders working hard among you? Is it a pastor, a nursery leader, a friend? What faces come to mind? Your spouse, the waiter, maybe the driver salting the roads on an icy night? We are called to work hard, to work alongside one another, and to use the gifting God has granted us. We are also called to honor those who work hard among us. Take a moment today to consider one way you might take action to honor someone who is serving. Let them know how their work blesses you, offer to help them with a task they may not have time to compete, or even 'brag' about them to someone else. Ask God to show you how you can obey this instruction from his word.


Prayer

Lord God, you are working all the time. You are working all things together for the good of those who love you and are called according to your purpose. We long to follow Jesus, to walk in his ways, and to have a heart of compassion as he does. Bless our actions inspired by your word that they may plant seeds, water truth, and yield a fruitful harvest for your kingdom.

For further study on honoring your pastors, check out a blog called Sunday Devotional by Colin D. Smith

1/3/2024

Photo Credit: Savanna Sandberg

Derramada

Spanish: Derramada

English: Poured Out


Confession: I am learning Spanish! I am so excited! Don't worry! My blog will still be in English, (hopefully with Spanish translation at some point in the future) but I'd love to share little bits and pieces with you from time to time as the Lord blesses me with this language journey.


Key Verse

2 Timothy 4:6

English: As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 

Español: En cuanto a mí, mi vida ya fue derramada como una ofrenda a Dios. Se acerca el tiempo de mi muerte.


Old Testament Reference: 2 Samuel 23:15-17


Paraphrase 

Our intentions with this word...Paul had given all he had to the cause of knowing Christ and making him known. He was content knowing the time of his death was near, yet never content to the point of indifference. He spent every breath working to one end.


Application

We desire in every moment by the power of his Holy Spirit which is poured out onto us, to live our lives poured out to God as though the time of our death is near.


Prayer

Father, your sacrifice inspires us to do the hard things in life like forgive, trust, love, and grow. Your goodness comforts us, and your Holy Spirit empowers us from the inside out. Teach us to pour our lives out in new, meaningful ways during the coming year as we offer all we have to knowing you and making you known.

For further study, I highly recommend this blog post by Larry Stockstill 4 Powerful Lessons on the Blessing of Pouring Yourself Out.

12/28/2023

Photo Credit: Marilyn and Sarah

Pedetemtim

Pedetemtin is a latin word that means little by little or step by step.

I have a quiz for you! Write just a sentence or two clarifying your thoughts on the details for the questions below that apply to you. (Don't skip this step.)

 Answer ALL that apply.

If you are rushing something specific today, this week, or in this season of your life, write about it. 


If you are procrastinating on something specific today, this week, or in this season, write about it.


RESULTS

Out of Step:

If you had an answer for #1 and/or #2 but not #3, go back and read your honest responses. Your own words are a gift of self-awareness and will likely give you a very good idea of the best place to start practicing pedetemtim; walking step by step, little by little, in harmony with God's plan for your life. Reading his word AND taking time to pray (which makes your time with God a two-way conversation) are essential. His Holy Spirit will guide you.

In Step:

If you only had an answer for #3, either you've been walking in step with the Lord for a long time, and you've truly mastered the art of following in his footsteps, OR (no judgement here) you may be lacking some self-awareness. Be sure to ask a trusted friend to help you check for blind spots or opportunities for improvement that you might be missing. If you come to the conclusion you've got this down, please contact me in the comments section with any wisdom you're willing to share. I will likely include it in a future blog.

In and Out of Step:

If you had an answer for #1 and #3 or #2 and #3 or all three, chances are, you have been practicing pedetemtim for a while. This a great place to be! You're aware of the things that need attention, willing to make the changes that need to be made, not fully rushing, but not fully stalled either. You're getting ready to take life one day at a time and allow it to unfold all in God's perfect timing. Pay attention to the areas you wrote about. God is working in all of it.

See Photo: Philippians 1:6

12/20/2023

Pray

Good morning! I missed writing a blog entry for the last two weeks due to finals, but they went well! This entry will be a little longer to catch up. I've been so blessed by Matthew Chapter 14. I believe you will be too! As you read these passages, please consider writing down any personal insights you might have and sharing them with me in the comments section.

 

Matthew 14:22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.

Immediately after what? Just after Jesus got word of John's death, he withdrew to a solitary place, was followed by the crowds, had compassion on them, healed the sick, fed the 5000, and then...

23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,

I get excited when Jesus is alone to pray. I believe he and his father cook up some powerful plans! Prayer can be many things, but sometimes we forget how often prayer resulted in some wild events in Jesus’ life. As we pray today, let's allow God to guide us to new and exciting ways we might honor him and bless others. Has God ever given you a brilliant idea during your prayer time?

24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

When there's distance between us and Jesus, we begin to feel buffeted by the waves of worry, fear, and the trials of life. What type of winds are trying to blow you around today?

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.

Try to imagine the conversation our Father and our Savior had just before this when Jesus took time alone to pray. Do you think they smiled knowing how this would go down? Do you think they got excited? Do you ever imagine Jesus having fun? Do you think God might give you exciting ideas in your prayer time alone?

26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

Our immediate response to God's power is often trepidation.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Jesus gives courage. He is the ultimate encourager. We do not need to fear if we are trusting in him.

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

Peter's faith was bold. I pray for the courage and faith you and I need to step down (humbly) outside of our comfort zones, and closer to Jesus.

30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Just like the distance between Jesus and the disciples when he was on land and they were in the boat, as soon as Peter allowed even the distance of his focus to turn from Jesus, he began to fear and sink. Inevitably, we do the same. What do can we do in those moments? (Hint, last 5 words of Matthew 14:30)

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

This always made me sad that Jesus called Peter "You of little faith." I mean, he was the only one who got out of the boat, right? As I reviewed this section this week, the words reached out his hand and caught him struck me more than ever before. When we fear and doubt, FIRST, Jesus saves us, THEN he challenges us.

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

The only logical response to this savior of ours is worship and praise. May God bless you today and always as you get alone with him, get out of your comfort zone, and trust in his saving grace.

12/13/2023

Photo Credit: Mary Blaisdell

Paraphrase


If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I have a very unorthodox way of reading scripture. I want to share the paraphrases from the verses I read today. If you have a chance, look up the five verses first, paraphrase one or more in your own words, and later, check out what I’ve shared. It’s not that I have done anything necessarily right or wrong, but I’m sharing for the purpose of looking at a personal paraphrase in action in case it’s something you’ve never tried as you’ve studied scripture. Often, my paraphrase takes context into account and sometimes shifts into prayer, so don’t be surprised if they don’t seem to fit; they’re personal and yours can be too. Enjoy your time with our Father. He longs to spend time with you.

1.       Psalm 51:16

2.       Matthew 14:20

3.       Mark 4:17

4.       John 9:6

5.       Titus 2:7

1) Humility delights my Father. Lord, help me to see clearly.

2) Pick up what is left. Do not waste. I ought to use whatever God grants me to feed his children and love well.

3) When trouble or persecution come because of the word, Lord let me delight in the roots that keep me firmly panted in faith without wavering.

4) I can’t help but wonder if self-righteous people of Jesus’ day didn’t sometimes spit upon the poor and needy especially if they believed their woes were due to sin. If this was the case, wouldn’t it be just like Jesus to use the very same thing that emotionally wounded the man as part of the plan to heal him? Lord, thank you for using my pain to help me see in places where I have been blind.

5) I cannot set an example for others or help to lead anyone if I am not following the one who knows the way. Father, if you allow me to teach, surround me with integrity and keep ever before me, the weight of sharing your Holy word.

There is paraphrase/personalize example from July entitled You below if you'd like to see another example.

11/23/2023 

Ever


Have you ever stopped to take in the beauty of the sunrise?


Once upon a time, I learned it was unhealthy to use words like never, ever and always in relationships. We're supposed to use I statements instead. I'm sure there is much wisdom in that practice, but the Bible uses words like never, ever, and always hundreds of times.


No one ever _______

How would you finish that sentence?

What if I asked you to finish it with something you wish someone would do for you?

No one ever _______

Stop for a moment before you read on and think about it.


Your answer likely depends on your love language and/or your personality as well as recent circumstances. Do any of the following statements apply to your feelings today or on occasion?


Maybe no one ever reaches out to you for a coffee date?

Maybe no one ever offers to help with things you're working on?

Maybe no one ever listens when you have something to say?

Maybe no one ever sends you little gifts or surprises you?

Maybe no one ever tells you you're doing a great job?

Maybe no one ever initiates a hug or physical affection toward you?

Maybe no one ever notices when you're feeling down or even missing from an event?


First, if you're connecting with any of those statements. I'm sorry. I know how that feels sometimes, and it's miserable. You are amazing! You are important. You are doing a great job, and Jesus notices when you're feeling down. He weeps with those who weep. He loves you more than you will ever know. He is the reason we can take the step I'm about to suggest.


As Christians in this world, we need to be willing to be the ones to reach out even when we feel left out, to stand up in faith even when we feel pushed down, to forgive even when we feel forgotten, and to love well even when we feel unloved in return. We need to be the willing ones.


Today, think about one of the ever statements above. Choose someone in your life who could use a little extra TLC today, and be the one to reach out. You can begin a chain reaction by taking the first step (even if you've done it before) because of Galatians 6:9.


John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness,

    and the darkness can never extinguish it.[a] 

Matthew 28:20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 

    

11/15/2023 

Clean

adjective: free from dirt, marks, or stains.


Psalm 51:7

Purify me from my sins,[c] and I will be clean;

    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 

  

The global personal hygiene market was valued at $508.5 billion in 2020. It's pretty safe to say most of us want to be clean. No one really wants to be dirty, other than occasionally my 2-year-old grandson who is not always a fan of bath-time. We go to great lengths to clean and keep clean the part of us that everyone sees. Jesus once told the Pharisees they were like white-washed tombs - looking good on the outside, but filled with all kinds of impurities.

What are the implications of these words and those in Psalm 51:7 above?

What makes us dirty on the inside?

Who can cleanse us on the inside?

What was the psalmist doing to cooperate with this cleansing?

What would happen if we spent even half the time we spend cleaning the outside, on praying over the inside?

Lord, help us turn our concerns from the way things appear to the way things truly are. Are we hurting, sinning, fighting, drowning? Whatever it is, guide us first and always to you, and then grant us the blessing of one or two other believers in our lives with whom we can be completely open. Slowly, over time, we desire the inside and the outside to look the same; cleansed by Jesus' blood, and ready to love others as you have loved us.

  

11/01/2023 

Season

noun

1.each of the four divisions of the year (spring, summer, autumn, and winter) marked by particular weather patterns and daylight hours, resulting from the earth's changing position with regard to the sun.

verb

1. add salt, herbs, pepper, or other spices to (food).

2. make (wood) suitable for use as timber by adjusting its moisture content to that of the environment in which it will be used.

1828 Webster's: Verb 5. To fit for any use by time or habit; to mature; to prepare.


Genesis 1:14  Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years.

  

Pain and prayer strengthen and prepare. In the fourth chapter of Matthew, Jesus fasts for forty days, is tempted by the devil, resists forms of temptation nearly unimaginable to us, and then is attended by angels. Sometimes we forget the angels, but I think they're important. In the most difficult seasons of life, we can start to feel a bit hopeless, exhausted, even like giving up. Shortly after his time in the dessert, Jesus called his disciples, began teaching, preaching, healing the sick, and continued fulfilling prophesy. If you've just been through a tough season, like I have, consider any ways you may have been attended by angels. Thank God for the growth you've inevitably experienced, and hold on tight to his hand because chances are, he's preparing you for something important. Let the signs of God's light mark your seasons.

  

10/25/2023 

Memorize

verb


  Psalm 119:11 

I have hidden your word in my heart,

    that I might not sin against you. 

  

After choosing to follow Jesus, the single best personal-growth, faith-building, life-changing decision I have EVER made... EVER... is to memorize scripture. 


If you have EVER found wisdom in anything I've shared, please consider this. I cannot overstate the value of this one atomic habit. It has brought me more peace, joy, wisdom, direction, solace, faith, strength, courage, insight, and truth than any study, practice, book, devo, conference, workshop, church service or anything I've done, including therapy... (and I really believe in the benefits of therapy ;-) 


I LOVE that the definition of memorize includes the word heart because Jesus always brought his lessons back to the heart of the matter. Clearly, if we memorize scripture without applying it, or hearing the heart of it, we'll miss the value, but I find it hard to memorize scripture without applying it. I believe that is the work of the Holy Spirit. My 1828 Webster's Dictionary definition of memorize also offers valuable insight... "To record; to commit to memory by writing." Writing out the verses I'm memorizing has been a powerful tool in making them stick. If you'd like ideas for taking the next step like King David to hide God's word in your heart, reach out. I'd love to brainstorm and pray with you as you begin the journey of a lifetime.

  

10/18/2023 

Stiff 

With each new sunrise, we can choose what we will focus on today. 

  

Acts 7:51 

Stephen: You stubborn, stiff-necked people! Sure, you are physically Jews, but you are no different from outsiders in your hearts and ears! You are just like your ancestors, constantly fighting against the Holy Spirit. -- VOICE 

 

 Stiff - not easily bent or changed in shape; rigid.  

  

For the past few days, I have been plagued by a very stiff neck and sore shoulders. This is not new for me. I have struggled with it for years and found a wide variety of treatments to be almost entirely unhelpful. I want to focus on the pain because trying to ignore it is exhausting. I want to complain. I want a magic cure, but I have not found one so I have decided to ask God if there is anything I can learn from this literal pain in the neck. 

  

So far, He is allowing it to bring awareness to instances of my stubbornness, (which are also not new for me) grant me gratitude for all the parts of my body that feel good, whole, and healthy and increase my resolve to take a break from the computer (and my bad posture) a little more often. 

 

 Whatever is plaguing you today, ask God how he can use it. He is always leading. All we need to do is follow. 

  

10/12/2023 

My Easter lily doesn't realize it's October.

Humility

 

John 8:46 Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? 


Jesus never sinned and he knew he never sinned. I cannot imagine how that would feel, but I know pride would be a big problem. Yet, Jesus was the ultimate example of humility.


2 Corinthians 5:21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,[a] so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 


I don't mean to be, but I am often focused on me, my work, my classes, my writing, my problems, my joys, and my plans for the future. I think this is common, but I'd like to be uncommon. I want to walk in the way of my savior.


Father, please teach me to steward the time you've given me by loving you and others so well that I have no time to become prideful or self-centered. Your love for me is more than I will ever need. Take my life and let it be always only all for thee.


10/04/2023



Budget

 

Maybe you've been blessed enough to have a little savings account. It's really handy for the unexpected expenses of life. Dave Ramsey helped change our lives years ago with Bible-based principles of giving, saving and spending. He teaches a zero-based budget which means every dollar has a name before it even comes in. This works well for money because we can set it aside and use it for whatever we need, whenever we need it.


I wish time worked that way. My day was overstuffed yesterday. I had incorrectly prioritized lower-value tasks and literally ran out of time for more important things. I was broke, in debt really, as I had to reschedule something I thought I had made time for. Do you ever notice how many money words we use for time? We invest our time, save it, spend it, budget it, and even value it.


Many financial concepts can be applied to time, and saving it works initially, but eventually that logic falls apart. So, we 'save' time by taking a short-cut to work, multi-tasking, and using the dishwasher, right? Where does that saved time go? Can I set it aside in an account and then when my daughter calls, I can say, "well, Honey, I know you need my advice right now, but I have saved about a half hour Saturday afternoon I can loan you. You'll have to wait until then."


You can see how that would affect our relationship. 


Sure, there are times when we can ask a friend or family member to wait until a better moment, but many of the interruptions and distractions in life, ARE life. The moment-by-moment interactions in real-time are what connect us. If you're working to save time and free it up, remember this verse.


Galatians 5:13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 


Lord, help us to budget, prioritize, and use our time wisely as our days are numbered. Help us live a life fully surrendered to you moment by moment. Help us to love the ones you put in our path today and always.


9/29/2023



Hills

 

Psalm 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.

    From where does my help come?

2 My help comes from the Lord,

    who made heaven and earth. 

 

This world trusts money, power and prestige. Our custom is to chase after and admire these things. We often even admire those who have found them. Let's not copy these self-focused behaviors and customs any longer. Let's love like Christ loved us. When we read the WORD, we get a God-focused perspective of the WORLD.


Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.[b] 


Thank you, Lord, for drawing us near and changing us from the inside out as we learn not only to trust you, but to obey and follow your plans for our lives. Amen


9/13/2023



Integrity

 

Proverbs 10:9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,

    but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. 

 

Is there at least one living breathing person with whom we can be 100% honest?

Hmm...

100%?

Do we have relationships with no measure of deception, hiding or self-protection?


Is it even wise to be that honest with another flawed human such as ourselves? Are we the kind of people with whom someone could be that open? Why or why not?


Honesty and integrity are among many logical results of a life surrendered to Christ. When we walk closely in step with Jesus, we still make mistakes. Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  but we benefit from the confidence, reputation, and courage to admit our mistakes, confess our sins, make amends, and Romans 12:18 do all that we can to live in peace with everyone.


Whether we answered yes or no to all or some of the questions above, a solid place to begin evaluating our own level of honesty and integrity is in our prayer life. God knows all, sees all, and loves us anyway. We can pour out all to him. Let's practice humility and outrageous honesty in his presence. The more honest we are with God and with ourselves, the more likely we will be to see integrity grow in our interactions with those around us.

James 4:6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Lord, teach us to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to you first, and with your wisdom, to speak the truth in love with others as we embrace your overwhelming grace.

8/30/2023

Optimism

 

Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. 

 

This verse can actually sound kind of pessimistic if you consider the fact that Jesus did NOT say, today is lovely when you live in the moment. But what he DID say, is that each day has ENOUGH trouble of its own.


I can affirm that statement over 2000 years later here in the 21st century with a solid, AMEN. Today has e-n-o-u-g-h trouble of its own. That is exactly why I have chosen for many years to maintain my stance as an eternal optimist. Optimism can be painful, even scary at times. I've been hurt. I've blamed myself for some trouble that was very possibly enhanced by my naivety. I've considered becoming a realist and at times, even a pessimist in order to protect myself from moments like these.

 

However, I am going to attempt to make a case for optimism because, all things considered, optimism has brought me far more joy than sorrow. It allows me to be filled with joy in this moment as I anticipate all the good things I know God has in store for me and the ones I love. Optimism also allows me to thank God in the midst of trials for the good I know he will bring out of them.

 

A pessimist might say, "I'd rather be pleasantly surprised than sorely disappointed."

 

Me too, but if I walk around assuming the worst all the time, I'm never really pleasantly surprised; only skeptical and suspicious that anything good can quickly turn into a disappointment anyway.

 

A realist might say, "I plan for the worst and hope for the best."

 

This seems wise. It's great to be prepared, but I'd rather borrow joy than sorrow from tomorrow. Planning for the worst is sometimes a disguise for anticipating trouble. If the clouds are gathered and I’m going to head out for a long walk, I can take an umbrella, but if I don't, I might just wind up remembering what it feels like to dance in the rain.

 

My extreme optimism has left me far more joyful, grateful, faithful, and just plain full than any other attitude. When I've experimented with the other options, they seem to leave me empty. There is a time for everything under the sun. We will all go through many seasons, but today, I will take every opportunity to find and anticipate joy in the blessings God has given me.


You are one of those blessings. Thank you for reading. May God bless you with joy today, tomorrow, and always.

 

8/23/2023


Wait

Psalm 27:14 

Wait for the Lord;

    be strong and take heart

    and wait for the Lord. 

I am finding it difficult to wait;

difficult to concentrate.

So many emotions in one space;

so many decisions I have to face.

Anxious, nervous and insecure;

nothing exactly as it appears.

Trusting one moment, the next one I doubt.

These feelings won't hide. They have to come out.

Be strong. Take heart. - I want to. I do.

I succeed and fail, just like you.

Wait for the Lord. I'll try. I will.

My emptiness, God, only you can fill.

8/16/2023

Photo Credit: Sorik Spangler

Still

Psalm 46:10

      He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

    I will be exalted among the nations,

    I will be exalted in the earth.” 

To attempt to be entirely still is to know that God is God. As stillness finds you, you will feel your heart beating in your chest. You will experience the awe of breath entering and exiting your body without your expressed consent. You will know that in all things, seen or unseen, God is at work in us. He is never absent or even tardy.  Romans 8:28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. No matter what you're going through today, remember God is with you. He is for you, and he will never leave you nor forsake you. Trust him in all your ways and lean not on your own understanding.

8/10/2023

Wisdom

Proverbs 1:8 My child,[a] listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. 

A friend reached out yesterday. She is at the end of her rope parenting teens. I know the feeling. I listened, empathized, asked questions, listened some more, and then shared a resource that's been very helpful for my family. She was grateful, but I wished I could do more for her and for their relationships. I wished I could ease the struggle. Some days, parenting brings immeasurable joy while other times it brings unimaginable sorrow. Often, with struggling teens, one day can hold both. The ups and downs can leave us disoriented and even nauseated at times.

As I consider the verse above from a mother's point of view, I see an important directive. If the child is not to neglect the mother's instruction, the obvious implication then, is that the mother must give instruction. I think I was good at this when my children were small. 

"Brush your teeth."

"Be kind to your sister."

The older they get, the more I feel ill-equipped and underqualified for the task of giving instruction.

Nonetheless, I'm called to do it, so what does that look like? Well, often I believe it includes waiting for the right time, loads of listening, mountains of prayer, self-control, and faith.

What do we have that they don't? - A lifetime of experience making good and bad choices. Unknowingly, teens often focus an over-abundance of time, emotion, and brain-space on things that we know really won't matter in the long-run; trivial things that seem like the beginning and the end of the world in their minds due to their lack of life experience to gauge. On the other hand, they can sometimes minimize inevitable and weighty long-term consequences of what seem like small insignificant habits in the moment. (They make mountains out of mole-hills and mole-hills out of mountains.)

I've used this concept with my kids in a loving way to begin the conversation in a listening atmosphere. If you get a chance to do the same, reach out to share your thoughts and experience. I'd love to hear from you.

Father, you know how deeply we love our children. Please help us to instruct them in the wisdom that comes from a lifetime of learning to trust you.

7/26/2023

You

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The apostle Paul is writing to the believers in Philippi. Whenever we read scripture, it is important to consider the original audience and the original intention of the message. That, however, does not mean we couldn't (and shouldn't) consider the implications of a verse in our own life. God's word is living and active. He brings particular verses to us at specific times for guidance and direction by the power of his Holy Spirit.

I am reviewing the Personalize It method of Bible study with some faithful friends.  Here's a link to the study if you're interested. Part of Philippians chapter four was assigned to us in this group study recently. For this method, we put our own name in place of the nouns or pronouns and rewrite the passage as though God were saying it directly to us.

I like to take it a step further combining "paraphrase it" along with the "personalize it" method.

Check out the example below and try all or part of it on your own.

Example of paraphrasing and personalizing Philippians 4:4-7

Jen, find joy in me as you think of yesterday, celebrate today, and look forward to tomorrow. This is really important. My gentleness lives in you. Let it take over and shine so everyone you meet can see it. I am closer than you realize. Don't get stressed about finances, Hubby, the kids, school, work, writing, church, extended family relationships, or anything else for that matter. Instead, when you're tempted to worry, turn those circular thoughts into vertical prayers. When you tell me all about what's weighing heavy on your heart, you can prepare for my greatest blessings by thanking me even in the middle of the chaos. My peace doesn't make any sense. It sticks with you. When the whole world says, "you should be freaking out right now," my peace says be still because my son died in your place. Your heart and mind can rest assured the only thing that really matters, salvation, is already secured for you. 

7/19/2023


Pretend

Romans 12:9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection,[e] and take delight in honoring each other.  

PRETEND...

2. To hold out, as a false appearance; to offer something feigned instead of that which is real; to simulate, in words or actions...

3. To show hypocritically; as, to pretend great zeal when the heart is not engaged; to pretend patriotism for the sake of gaining popular applause or obtaining an office.

4. To exhibit as a cover for something hidden.

- Webster's 1828 American Dictionary

Be nice. Be kind. Be polite. Be good. Behave. Yes, I suppose we should, but all this without pretending? 

Genuine, authentic, real, raw; these words bring to mind those who 'tell it like it is' and 'hold nothing back' BUT God's word also calls us to the fruit of the spirit alive in us. These fruit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Is this a contradiction? After all, if I'm controlling my natural desires, am I not pretending?

Quite the opposite. 

You may remember part of my prayer from last week's entry... Lord, help me to store up good things in my heart so that out of the overflow in my heart, my mouth will speak.

In order to love each other with genuine affection, take delight in honoring each other, stop pretending to love, and really love others, we must dive headfirst into God's word. Then, we must drink deeply of his love for us, embrace his forgiveness with open arms, and let God's love reign in our hearts. His is the only love that can remain genuine in the face of pain, adversity, shame, anger, guilt, greed, malice, and jealousy. We must let it pour out through our words and actions if we hope to live out the apostle Paul's admonition in his letter to the Romans chapter 12 and verses 9-10.

If we try to do it on our own; we're often just pretending.

As you may remember, I've been memorizing Romans Chapter 12 along with a wonderful friend this year. We are currently through verse 14 and on track to have the entire chapter committed to memory by the end of 2023. I was wearing radio headphones while mowing the lawn last week, and I heard about a book with the subtitle Becoming a Romans 12 Christian. Of course, this caught my ear. I get excited when I think about the way God's Holy Spirit is speaking to us as believers. His message is clear. He spoke it to that author, to me, and he's speaking it to you right now. It's one God knows we need to hear.

Thank you, Good Lord, for all the ways you speak to us! Help us trust you to provide love, genuine affection, and delight as we seek to honor you and others today and always.

7/12/2023


Words

Matthew 12:33 “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. 34 You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. 35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. 36 And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. 37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” 

Yikes! These are some powerful verses!

I started to underline specific parts of the passage above and realized the entire thing needs our full attention.

I suppose I have unintentionally imagined many things about judgement day, but Jesus' words in Matthew 12:36 clearly state that we must give an account for every idle word we have spoken. Now, that is something I have never fully imagined.

One of my husband's most famous sayings in our house goes like this: "Sounds like we're trying to jam ten gallons of sh*t into a five gallon pail." We do that a little too often, usually due to my overscheduling and people-pleasing. It's getting better, but we still have a lot of room for improvement.

Years ago, in a moment of pure frustration and lack of self-control, I confronted two of my teenagers. I had been kindly reminding, leaving notes in the bathroom, and even occasionally reprimanding them for leaving the shower curtain open after their morning routines. It would stay wet and get moldy, leaving an unwelcome scent and causing a need for replacement far too often. This was clearly not as big a deal as I had made it in my mind, but it seemed to be eating at my very core. I perceived a lack of respect for my wishes, our home, and even me personally. As their mom, I was out of ideas. In fact, I actually thought the problem was resolved for a little while. Then, to my surprise one day, when tensions were already high, and life demands were overflowing the edges of our five-gallon pails, I found it fully open, again, and I lost it.  

I am not excited to give an account of the words I used on that day... 

James 1:26 If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 

This is daunting, but there's good news. I think I know where I went wrong. I was simply trying to control my words. Matthew 12:35 is very clear where those words came from. They were stored up in my heart. I had spent way too much time rehearsing all the ways this was frustrating me and not enough time connecting with my kids. Is there a time for tough, painful, or even harsh words? I think so. If you're not sure, reread Matthew 12:34. The point is this; we WILL have to give account for every idle word we speak. Therefore, we must choose our words carefully, speak the truth in love, and let the Holy Spirit lead.

Lord, help me to store up good things in my heart so that out of the overflow in my heart, my mouth will speak. Also, Lord, until you help me dig up and deal with all the messy, unsettled junk already stored up in my heart, please keep a tight reign on my tongue as well. Only you have that kind of power. Thank you, Father. Amen

7/5/2023

Submit

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the lord.

Impossible?

Maybe.

Worth trying?

Well, yes, but I wrestle with that question often. My husband and I recently celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary. I have not yet succeeded in submitting to him as unto the Lord. I don't know if I ever will. I don't know if I even submit to the LORD as unto the Lord most of the time.

When I'm really focused, spending time in the word daily, on top of my game, and all-in for even attempting this lofty goal, I still fail miserably most of the time, so you can imagine how I'm doing when I'm not feelin' it. On the days I delight in submitting to my sweet, kind, caring, handsome husband, I feel pretty great. For ALL the other day, I'll have to surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit alive in me to do his work, grow his fruit, and guide my words and actions. 

For husbands and wives, I pray these passages...

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. 

6/28/23

Peace

From Genesis to Revelation peace is offered as a word of encouragement, comfort, greeting, farewell, admonition, and even clarification about the kind of kingdom Jesus came to bring. - Search biblical commentary on Luke 12:51.

John 14

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 

John 16

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

Wherever your search for peace takes you, you will notice one thing. It cannot be fully achieved in the external. A peaceful sunset, a quiet beach, or even a solitary mountaintop on their own do not have the power to provide true peace. It is internal, often even when the external is chaos. The source of peace is clear. Come to Jesus. His peace is internal and eternal.

6/7/2023

Fearless

As Christians, are we to be fearless or to fear-less?

If you type the word fear into the BibleGateway search bar, you will see 336 matches. I have heard it said that adding similar words like afraid will get you at least one passage on fear for every one of the 365 days in a calendar year. So why does the Bible address fear so frequently? Is is because the presence of fear is the absence of faith? I don't think so. In fact, in Paul's letter to the Philippians, Chapter 2, verse 12; he says "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,"

As we consider this verse in context, verses 9-11 discuss God's choice to exalt Jesus. The therefore at the beginning of verse 12 is there for a reason. I believe it is to remind the Philippians that, although they lived in a time when Jesus-as-man was more tangible than most any other point in history, Jesus-as-God was equally real and relevant in the way they were to stand in awe of him; even to fear his great power.

Each of us has a circle of influence, some larger than others, nonetheless, you're inevitably reaching someone inside your circle that even the great evangelist, Billy Graham couldn't reach; not because of his lack of reach, but because of your perfect position in someone's life to share truth with them at just the right time in just the right way (and often, many times in many ways) by the power of the Holy Spirit alive in you.

God may be calling us to be fearless in some situations. If so, he will give us the strength to do exactly as he wills. Most of the time, I believe, in his great wisdom and sovreignty, he is simply calling us to fear less, not because there is nothing to fear, but because He is with us, for us, and has already provided the ultimate security. No matter what happens here, we're assured of our salvation. 

Romans 10:9 "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

6/14/2023

Clarity

Romans 12:2

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Life-changing decisions often get us wondering...

Lord, what is your will?

What a phenomenal question to ask! What a powerful step in your journey of faith, to know you're seeking God's will above your own! But what if God's will can be satisfied either way? 

Doesn't God have a perfect plan?

Indeed he does. He is able to take even the most vile decisions and use them for good. (Genesis 50:20) 

So shouldn't I seek God's will when I make important decisions?

Of course you should, because often, I think the actual-seeking-part is how we do his will. We trust him every step of the way. We slow down and consider what we already know of his word. Rather than a pros-and-cons list, we might make a clarity list. That is, take time to clarify our intentions, motives, and purpose for each side of a big decision. Who will my decision affect? Have I considered their thoughts and feelings? We may not know the whole plan, but we know how to treat people, how to put God first, and how to practice humility; so let's start there. Can you truly love God and others either way? If you take time to pray and deeply consider biblical principles, you may get to choose your heart's desire without worry of missing God's plan.

Today, I pray for you and for me. "Lord, please help us to seek you in all that we do. Help us to surrender to your will in the things we know and understand. Help us to avoid getting stuck in fear of making the wrong decision."

God is bigger than our decisions. He's got this.

Matthew 6:34

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." 

Psalm 37:4

"Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

5/31/23


Choose

Joshua 24:15

"But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”


At some point in our journey of faith, we choose to give our life to Christ; to lay down our own wants and desires, submit to a better way, higher authority, a story outside ourselves; to become part of HIStory. But, does it stop there? Do we make that choice and then enjoy perfect peace, perfect surrender, and perfect joy for the remainder of our days?


Nope.

Then what? Do we have to choose God over and over again?

Essentially... yes.


When I'm connected to the vine, I can choose to live God's way.

John 15:1

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also 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.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

When I'm tempted to be selfish, I can choose to give.

When I'm tempted to participate in gossip, I can choose to honor.

When I'm tempted to be prideful, I can choose humility.

When I'm tempted to be dismissive, I can choose to listen.

When I'm tempted to be rude, I can choose to be gentle.

When I'm tempted toward self-pity, I can choose gratitude.

When I'm tempted to let fear win, I can choose to ask God for courage.

When I'm tempted to criticize and judge, I can ask God to help me choose grace.

When I'm tempted to be thoughtless or careless, I can ask for Holy-Spirit-strength to choose love.

5/24/23

Open

Matthew 11 

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 


Not always to my face, but I have been called "uptight" from time to time; even in my own mind. As spring has finally decided to stick around for a while here in Wisconsin, the tightly twisted leaves of my hostas are beginning to unfold and unwind. Today, as I had to resort to using the push-mower after finding a dead battery in the rider, I walked every part of the front yard and realized how badly I needed to unwind as well. The reason we can find rest for our souls when we trust in Jesus' gentle and humble  heart, it because  he already took care of our greatest needs; salvation, joy, peace, and life more abundant. Are you open to a different perspective today? Let's learn to slow down, open our minds to God's word, and let his goodness grow.


5/17/23

Hope

Psalm 43:5 

Why, my soul, are you downcast?

    Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

    for I will yet praise him,

    my Savior and my God.


Put our suitcase in the car.

Put a card in the mail.

Put the pizzas in the freezer.

Put some money in the bank.

Put your hope in God.


I don't know about you, but when I put something in a specific spot, it's usually for a purpose. I trust that the place I've put it is where it belongs; where it will be useful or helpful or safe. We usually put things in certain places in order to move or use them another time. Not so when it comes to putting our hope in God. Quite the opposite really. He becomes the final resting place for our hope. We can put our hope in God, leave it there, and rest assured we will not be disappointed because of Joshua 1:5, Isaiah 9:6, Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 28:6, John 3:16, Romans 8:28, Revelation 22:5 and the entirety of God's word.

We can try to put our hope in other/flawed humans, the stock market, a certain amount of power or prestige, the latest safety features of a vehicle or home alarm system, but the truth is, all these things will fail, disappoint, or commence eventually. Eternal peace, joy and love come from putting our hope where it belongs. The Psalmist has made it clear. He has spoken, not only to his own soul, but to ours as well. In this moment, let's take a deep breath... and allow our hope in God to bridge the gap between our current struggles and his eternal peace. 

5/10/23

Jeopardy

The danger of loss, harm, or failure is referred to as jeopardy. This side of heaven, day in and day out, we are in danger of loss, harm, or failure. In an unforgettable twist, the iconic gameshow with this name gives contestants the answers to challenging trivia and the contestants have to come up with the questions. A very powerful way to study scripture is to come up with the questions. God's word helps us avoid danger, loss, harm and failure, but it also walks us through each of those things when we find we've fallen prey to them despite our best efforts.

Here in 2023, along with an amazing woman and mentor, I am learning the twelfth chapter of the book of Romans. When the apostle Paul wrote to early believers in Rome, he answered a lot of questions including (in just the first ten verses....)

Why should I worship God with my body?

How can I know God's will for me?

What is the church comparable to?

Can I walk in faith on my own?

Should we all serve the same way?

How do we employ our God-given gifts?

How should we feel about right and wrong?

How should we treat each other?

If you get time to check out Romans 12, consider what other questions the apostle Paul answers for us. How has the wisdom of scripture kept you safe from danger, loss, harm or failure? How has God's word walked you through those things when this broken world gets you down?

5/3/23

I'd love to hear your feedback. Please click "comments" above or scroll all the way to the bottom to leave comments or questions anytime.

Images

Have you ever taken a good hard look at the images we see day in and day out. I've shared just one example with this post, but our eyes don't always perceive everything there is to see. Consider the Garden of Eden. What happened there? Even if you've never read the Bible, what's the one thing you know about Adam and Eve? 

Right! They bit the forbidden apple. In fact, THAT ONE ACT is the symbol of sin entering the world.

Now, what kind of fruit is typically seen as beautiful and desirable? One with a bite out of it OR a bright, whole, untouched piece of fruit?

Does it seem odd that any company would want "used" fruit as a symbol for their products?

In my humble opinion, this was NOT intentional on the part of the creators. That said, how much sin has come into the world through these products and others like them?

You tell me.

Now, for the GOOD NEWS! 

God created everything. He intended everything he created for good, and even though we have a real enemy who the Bible says *comes only to steal and kill and destroy; still,  **we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose; even the things his adversary attempts to steal, counterfeit, twist and manipulate.

I fasted from my cell phone on and off for a few days as I pondered its impact on my life. The fact is, my device is in my hands every day. I use it to communicate, to learn, to laugh, to capture precious moments, to play encouraging music, to keep track of appointments, to hear the verse of the day, to find my way, and so much more. I will let that symbol remind me each day of the power I hold in my hands. Dear Lord, please guide me always to use any power you have given me for good and not for destruction. Help me to build others up, and always to speak the truth in love.

*John 10:10 **Romans 8:28

4/26/23

Account

1 Timothy 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (NIV)

Imagine someone invented a uniquely assiduous recording/detection device and used it on you. They hit record when you woke this morning. They recorded your every thought, every intention, your internal dialogue, every move, every word and every deed, even passing thoughts you can barely recall thinking.  Now, what to do with this intimate recoding? Well, they've decide to go public with it. Who can blame them, they want to market this incredible device, and their best bet for boosting sales is a demonstration...

2 Corinthians 10:5 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NIV)

Matthew 12:35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (NIV)

I don't know about you, but I am not satisfied with my current recording.

Lord, each day, draw us close to you by the power of your Holy Spirit, teach us to take every thought captive, to store up good in our hearts, to speak life and truth into this broken world, and to shine your light in the dark places; even if those places are sometimes closer than we care to admit.

4/19/2023


Believe

What do you mean when you say you believe in God or that you believe in Jesus? Years ago, I was shocked to discover the ever-changing definition of words in our culture. I was attending a powerful Bible study series called The Truth Project when I was prompted to obtain a copy of the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language. This morning, as I was reading in my unusual fashion, I noticed a common thread. The word believe was either directly in each verse or a strong reference to it. I decided to look up the definition in my 1828 dictionary and compare it to the Google definition easily searched online in 2023. Here’s what I found.

Would you say things have changed a bit since 1828?

This is odd, but I noticed the word LIE and the word EVE are both found inside the word BELIEVE. The enemy lied to Eve about God's words and sin entered the world. I allowed that to be a reminder of the extreme weight our beliefs carry. What we believe affects our thought-life, our thoughts affect our words and actions, and all of this determines the course of our life. Life is found in the truth. What do you believe?

4/12/2023

Reversal  

In our culture, when someone does something thoughtful or provides a service for us, we thank them. As I look through scripture, it seems to me there is a reversal. The thanking God comes before the blessing. Thanking God in advance appears to be not only powerful but also peaceful.


“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” John‬ ‭6‬:‭11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Do you see it? Jesus did not have enough bread or fish to feed the crowd, but he thanked God for what he did have and God blessed him by multiplying the food.


What about this verse? 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

With what are we to present our requests to God?

Right, with thanksgiving, but why would we present our requests with thanksgiving? If we are making a request, we have not yet received what we are asking for? Is Paul suggesting we thank God before he meets our need?

 

What about the Old Testament?

“From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing. I will add to their numbers, and they will not be decreased; I will bring them honor, and they will not be disdained.” Jeremiah‬ ‭30‬:‭19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So, they sang God’s praises and THEN he added to their numbers and brought them honor?


“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” ‭‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Is James telling us to have joy whenever we face trials of many kinds; maybe even thank God in the midst of them? And eventually “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James‬ ‭1‬:‭4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Hey, I want to be mature and complete!


All throughout scripture, people (including our Savior) are found giving thanks to God, BEFORE they see the miracle. What have you been asking God for recently that you might thank him for instead?


4/5/23

Imagine

Somewhere in your morning routine, you check your phone. There's a thoughtful text or message from someone very special to you, maybe even someone you haven't heard from for a while. Stop for a moment. Imagine the face of that person. Imagine them smiling at you, thinking of you, maybe even praying for you. Imagine the way you feel when you open and read that text knowing that person has cared enough to reach out. I don't know you, but for me, that's a big deal. It feels really good. It means the world to me. It blesses my heart. It makes my fondness for that person grow. It inspires me. I want to bless others that way.

I once knew a young lady who would read a message like that and get a pit in her stomach. She assumed anyone being kind to her wanted something in return. She had rarely, if ever, been shown kindness for the sake of love or simple Christian fellowship. A quick text or kind message is a great start, but following it up with loving action, presence, and a true generosity of heart with no expectation or benefit to self - that's walking closer to Jesus. That kind of love can change the world one text at a time. Imagine; something so simple...

3/29/23

Opportunity

You might notice, as you read scripture more and more, that one will remind you of another. I was reading the four verses in my reading plan today, and though they were from all over the Bible, and none of them from Colossians, when I reviewed my compiled notes, they reminded me to make the most of every opportunity

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. 

I needed to stop in at a local clinic this morning, and I thought, how can I make the most of this opportunity? How can I bless the people who bless me in their work and their service to the community? The Lord is showing me the answer to that important question. I trust him. What opportunity can you take today to bless the people God puts in your path?

3/22/23

Struggle

This week was a struggle. If we just look at the facts, it was not a bigger struggle than past weeks, but I missed a day in the word. I could feel it. The next day, I turned back to God in a serious struggle with one of my children, he reminded me that he is my provider as he provided a very specific answer to prayer. His word encouraged me to keep writing when I felt defeated. The Psalms inspired me to sing his praises as I cleaned the house yesterday. He guided me in one endeavor to be still and wait, yet in another, he showed me a beautiful plan of action. Walking with God, at his pace, trusting him, and leaning in, does not remove the struggle. It may even make us more aware of some of the battles we're facing, but it does mean we never have to walk alone. He is with us always. As the struggle weighs us down, the world has many false gods we can turn to for comfort, distraction or numbing the pain of life, but those things only add a layer of trouble to our trouble. God is the answer. He is our trust.

Psalm 40:4 Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

3/17/2023

Follow

Psalm 39:12 - Last night, with a loved one in the hospital, I knelt down at the altar in tears. At first, I felt lost. The longer I prayed, the more I felt myself following David's lead, crying out to God and deeply trusting.

Matthew 10:19 - Recently, my mind was arrested by fear in a situation where my love and acceptance of someONE who does someTHING I don't believe in, was questioned. Jesus' words came to mind. Though I paraphrased, I was able to speak them aloud. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” It all comes down to love.

John 6:4 - The Jewish Passover Feast was near. I thank God for all the ways he has interwoven pillars of remembrance into our lives. Celebrating and remembering the ways God has provided for other believers and for us in the past bolsters our faith and our convictions as we walk the narrow path that leads to life.

1 Timothy 3:1 – Lord, thank you for those you’ve called to lead. Teach us to pray fervently for them always remembering their human limitations. Help us to lift them up in prayer when they stumble rather than tearing them down. Help us to follow leaders here who are truly seeking to follow you. 

We may not always follow, but God always leads.

3/8/2023

Love

Listen

Open-mindedly

Value

Everyone

What if we did that? Just that would be enough to change the world. I'm willing to try. Are you? Lord, help us.

The photo to the right shows a little rock I painted with some children at my very first book reading event. It sits on my desk where I write and work. It's a constant visual reminder of our purpose here.

3/1/2023

Truth

I have an odd reading practice. I can't remember how it began, but over many years of reading the Word of God, I have found a process that blesses me in ways I could never explain. I am neither encouraging you to read this way nor discouraging it. My goal this morning is only to explain the process because future blogs will likely focus on my daily reading insights.

Each morning, I read just four verses from four different books of the Bible. I read them in sequence where they are, but I like to compare and contrast big-picture concepts from Old and New Testament simultaneously. In order to ensure I'm not taking anything out of context, I read each chapter just as any normal person would, from beginning to end, but I have found a unique level of awareness by reading from multiple places at once, and deeper understanding from analyzing one verse at a time.

Today, for example: I read Psalm 38:22, Matthew 10:7, John 5:39, and 1 Timothy 2:4.

This combination in context has me thinking.

Psalm 38:22 Even in king David's time, before Jesus walked the earth in human-form, he referred to God as O Lord, my Savior. I believe the entire Bible is consistently pointing to Jesus.

Matthew 10:7 Jesus sent his disciples first to the lost sheep of Israel to tell them the kingdom of heaven is near.

John 5:39 Jesus specifically tells those who were trying to kill him that the scriptures they studied were testifying about him. When he says, "you diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life" and then follows up with John 5:40 he is indicating that we may not have eternal life by studying alone. We must come to him.

1 Timothy 2:4 And THEN after much ado about the good fight that pleases God through prayer and gratitude, the apostle Paul tells us that Jesus desires everyone be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

I hope you dig into the scriptures. I truly do, but remember studying them alone will not bring us to eternal life. Jesus will. The last thing I do, is ask the Holy Spirit to help me apply what I've learned to my life today. This morning I feel him leading me to keep sharing the gospel so here I am sharing with you, and out I will go to share with those he puts in my path today. Let's go directly to Jesus for a knowledge of the truth of salvation, and let's not keep it to ourselves.

2/22/2023

Delight

This morning I find myself delighting in the Lord. I have begun to memorize Chapter 12 of the book of Romans. I stand in the office, welcoming the brilliance of the sun on my face through the window. I breathe deeply of God’s loving kindness. I slowly fold forward to stretch –  feeling the muscles in my neck, shoulders, back, thighs, and calves wake up to a new day. While I am bowed low in humility, I recite the first five verses as smoothly as if they were my address and birthdate, but with an intimate realization. These words have begun to take hold. They are cultivating a powerful change in my day to day, moment by moment, inhale and exhale – life. I’m learning to honor others no matter where they are on their journey. I’m honoring the me God created me to be. I’m honoring God. I’m slowing down. I’m looking up. I’m trusting. This is delight

2/15/2023

Failure

I have failed in many ways, but failure is not an ending if we let God use it. Failure is often the beginning of a new chapter. Humility rarely comes without failure. Sometimes it comes gently, by choice when we choose to humble ourselves. Other times it comes by an unwelcome force bringing us to our knees in times of deep grief, sorrow, or pain.

Discipline – Humility – Delight

To delight in the discipline of humility: Practicing consistent habits (discipline) and accepting God’s training (discipline) for cultivating a submissive (humble) heart toward God and a servant (humble) lifestyle toward others inevitably results in not only great joy (delight), but also deep desire for (delight in) embracing God’s perfect plan; the gospel – Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Today, Lord, grant us delight in the discipline of humility as we do the good works you prepared in advance for us to do within our circles of influence. We praise you always, in Jesus’ name by the power of your Holy Spirit.

2/8/2023

Confession

In my prayer time this morning I am convicted of, and frustrated by, two half-truths I've told. The Holy Spirit is reminding me that a half-truth is also a half-lie. I find it telling that I want to call lies half-truths when I'VE been deceitful or dishonest, but when others do it, they've LIED to me. Just since Saturday, I've lied to two people who are very important in my life. The actual content was so meaningless it's laughable, but the subject of honesty is no joke. I took time to confess and (in one of the two instances, to apologize as well) for many reasons.

As I look back on things I've written and conversations I've had over the years, I realize that only when I've truly let God lead, has anything I've shared been truly, powerfully helpful. I reviewed Matthew 9:27 this morning and it struck me funny that the two blind men were hanging out together. I don't know if this was a typical situation in Jesus' day, but I do know he often referred to the pharisees as blind guides. He said in Matthew 15:14 "Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 

When I try to lead without Jesus, I resemble the blind leading the blind. The two men in Matthew 9:27-29 went together to ask Jesus for his mercy and believed he could heal them. He did! We're all blinded by our sin, the desires of the flesh, the pride of life, and countless other tools the enemy loves to use against us. Let's journey together recognizing, like the blind men, that Jesus is the way the truth and the life. He will be our guide, and we will experience the healing and restoration he gives so freely to all who seek him with a humble heart.

2/1/2023

Slow Down

I have a very big, very important decision to make. I feel some level of pressure to make it quickly. I don't actually have a deadline. I could really give it some time. I think I might. I want to. I struggle because there is this unwritten rule about things that are up in the air. We want to catch them and move on with our lives. 2 Peter 3:9 reminds me that we may need a moment to understand slowness.

In Jordan Raynor's book, Redeeming Your Time, he shares some beautiful wisdom about freeing your mind of open loops. Apparently, having  unfinished commitments of any kind can increase negative stress and anxiety. This does not always mean that we have to make decisions quickly. He suggests simply tracking unfinished business in a reliable place "outside your brain." I'm grateful for his advice.

I know this decision will affect myself, my family, my relationships, and my core values. I need time to think it over. More than that, I need time to check in with my Father, my Savior and the Holy Spirit. I will slow down on this. I will take time. I will not rush. I will make an informed, decision that I can feel confident in because I believe that is the wise thing to do. There will very likely be some push-back no matter what I decide. I want to be prepared to handle that in a loving manner that honors God and others.

1/25/2023

Repent and Delight

I can be prideful, impatient, lazy, selfish and inconsiderate. Not ALL of the time, but these traits rear their ugly heads more than I care to admit. Yesterday, I washed throw blankets and disinfected boots, etc. because I was noticing an elusive unpleasant smell in the house. Washing anything I could imagine needed attention in this aroma overhaul included a pile of my kids' coats. This may sound like a loving gesture at first glance, but they are getting older and I know they sincerely prefer I not go through their things, but rather just let them know if they need to take care of something. I didn't do that. 

Tuesday is family dinner night when everyone comes over so it was especially important to my pride and impatience that the house smell lovely. I knew days in advance that I needed to talk with them about some tidy habits, but I don't like confrontation and didn't want to deal with any potential conflict so I put it off until it was too late. It may have gone really well. I hadn't mustered the courage or taken the time to find out.

Maybe it goes without saying at this point, but they weren't pleased. In fact, one called me out on it at the dinner table. Any embarrassment I had tried to avoid by removing the odor was significantly surpassed by this unpleasant "reprimand" which felt harsh and disrespectful.

Now, not only do I need to apologize for my slice of the blame pie in this unnecessary incident, but I also need to walk through and help guide my child's part because I'm not just the other person in the conflict. I'm also the mom.

I am a firm believer in the old leadership adage, "praise in public, punish in private." Though it was not punishment per se, I feel this behavior was disrespectful. I want my kids to express all of their feelings and frustrations. I just prefer it stay between us, not the other six people at the table who are trying to enjoy a good bowl of chili.

Several other factors played into this mess and will play into the resolution. As I continued to dwell on it in my mind this morning, I was really angry, but my private internal repentance for my part with the Lord during my prayer time softened my heart. I will seek first to understand and then to be understood. 

As I learn the art of repentance, I begin to delight in opportunities for true humility, to model this behavior in my home, and to ask God for his guidance in cultivating strong relationships that will stand the test of time.                                           1/18/2023

Humility

I have an important meeting today. Actually, I have seven important meetings today, but one stands out. I have been over this one in my mind many times. I have rehearsed what I want to say, the points I want to get across, my intention, and my goals. Have I considered the other two people who will be in the room? Have I once thought about Habit 5 - Seek first to understand and then to be understood? (Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) I have always walked into this type of meeting with an agenda. Today will be different. 

Romans 12:10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

I don't know if I can even remember the last time I took delight in honoring someone. Can you? Today is a new day. Let's do this together knowing the power of the Holy Spirit is alive in us.

1/4/2023

Trust

John 4:50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”

The man took Jesus at his word and departed.


This man's son was dying! I don't know how difficult it was to get to Jesus when he walked the dusty roads of Cana in Galilee, but when this royal official heard he was nearby, he found a way to get to him and begged him to come and heal his son. I don't know about you, but after more than a day's journey on foot, the incredible relief of knowing you had found the one who offered hope, and a face to face encounter with the savior of the world, I don't know how quickly I would be willing to say, "Sure, okay, you say he will live, I'll just take your word for it and head home." You? 

As a parent, I struggle with maintaining the faith that my kids are going to be okay, that God is in control, and that I can take Jesus at his word. I am grateful for this man's trust and the reminder to have faith even when the trials of this life shake us to the core.

12/30/22

Photo Source: Danielle Hecker

The Calm

There is an intense winter storm forecast for our area set to begin this afternoon, but our own kind of storm started ahead of schedule. My son was headed off to school early this morning when the tire came off the rim of his car. He called me to come get him so we could make a plan. It's currently 9:09 a.m. I’m staying warm in my car with my hazards on alongside the highway while he works to change the tire. At this moment it feels like everything is a mess. His attendance is really important right now and I have no idea when he’ll get to school. A tow truck seems like a good idea, but he insists on fixing it. It’s -9°F. He continues to have vehicle trouble, and judging by the scene out my windshield, the tire change is not going smoothly.

Jesus Calms the Storm - Matthew Chapter Eight

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”


My Prayer

Lord, I come before you, like your disciples did and I hate to admit it, but my faith feels small. Please save my son. Don’t let him drown in freezing frustration and dismay. Give him strength and wisdom. Lead him, Lord. Rebuke the winds and waves that threaten to overtake him and please give him the courage to ask for help if he needs it. Give me whatever strength and wisdom I might need. I trust you and praise you in Jesus' name.

Amen.


Thank you, Father, for the kind man in the white semi and the lady in the blue SUV.

10:21 a.m. Update - Father, you are amazing! He did all the hard work. He did it well. He did it in the freezing cold, and he succeeded. He called school at 7:30 also to let them know he would be late and got an excused absence for the morning. Thank you for this opportunity to encourage him and to see with my own eyes, the smart, capable, independent man he is becoming. 

12/21/22

Perspective

Don't you just LOVE trials and temptations! No? Honestly, me neither, but let's consider James 1:2-4 shown on the right.


As usual, God's perspective challenges and grows us. Opportunities to walk the walk come most often in the struggle, that's where faith is tested, that's where trust grows, that's where surrender becomes inevitable. Sounds good and lovely doesn't it, but can't we just enjoy the good times and pray for peace? We can. We do, but IF we're willing to prepare for the trials and temptations with anticipation knowing they will arrive (so they don't take us by surprise) and welcoming them (because they're rocket fuel for growth) we can reap the benefits of James' wisdom and experience the peace that passes understanding.

12/14/22 

Connections

I am beginning to see undeniable value in connection and contrast. I value presence and attention to the moment (some call it mindfulness) for its powerful purpose and guidance into deep connection with the very real people in our lives. I also have great appreciation for the connections from yesterday to today and from today to tomorrow. I have often seen these two things in contrast with one another rather than in connection. I have believed the lie that to be present, we must completely forget the past and the future. 

Recently, I have begun to notice that silent prayerful connection to the vine early in the morning with the purpose of being present while allowing the Holy Spirit to show me the flow of life from past into present and present into future has made an undeniable positive impact on my life. I carve out that precious time to ponder the connections, learn from mistakes, and even make (always tentative) plans for the day. This simple practice allows me to be more fully present (mindful) throughout the day as I come face to face with the people God wants to love through me.

With an overarching goal or two for the day in mind, I can focus and flex as needed. 

12/7/22

Psalm 54:6

I will sacrifice a voluntary offering to you; I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good. www.biblegateway.com

When I think of sacrifice, I don't often think of praise. Have you ever been in a situation that feels hopeless? Have you lost your will to fight? When praising God is the last thing we can imagine, it's the one thing we most need to do. Not long ago I found myself in a church service wanting to sneak out the back door. I was struggling with so many things on a deep level and to make it worse, I didn't care for the particular songs they had chosen that week, everything sounded off in my heart and I just wanted to escape. I can only thank the Holy Spirit, but I chose to lift my hands at that moment. I chose to sing along. I chose to offer a sacrifice of praise. For the first time in my life, I got a glimpse of what Psalm 54:6 looks like in action. I didn't think I could do it. I didn't want to do it. I don't fully even understand why I did it, but I did. 

There was no flash of lightening, no instant or overwhelming sense of peace, no flood of emotion, just a little sip of the living water. It was like, yep, this is the next right thing. It's not everything, but it's a step in the right direction. My circumstances are not always good, but I will praise his name for it is good. 11/15/22

Did you ask?

Firewood is great for starting a fire, but recently my husband had a situation that caused some resentment and frustration. I suggested we pray about it, but at the time, he wasn’t ready. I get that. As the situation progressed, I asked again. He agreed. We prayed earnestly together with pure motives. I believe it was less than two days that we got to witness a very clear, powerful answer to our prayer that also blessed us both very much. 

James 4:2-3 "You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure." NLT https://www.biblegateway.com/

Consider a situation right now that’s bothering you, maybe it’s a relationship that needs healing, something with your finances, your job, your family, an important decision, etc. Whatever it is, what would Jesus do? Make time and space to seek God’s wisdom in the situation. Listen to the guiding of his Holy Spirit. Go directly to his word, or even a trust-worthy faithful friend to consider God’s will for the matter. 

No, God is not a  magic genie and sometimes we pray with pure motives and still don't see things turn out the way we think they should, but according to scripture, we may never know what amazing gifts God wants to give us until we ask. The greatest blessing of all is the connection we make with our perfect Father as we take time to consider his perspective. 10/17/2022


The Wisdom of Pillows

When I first started to slow down and spend quiet time before the Lord in prayer, I had trouble staying focused. My mind would dart around seemingly meaningless distractions, fears, frustrations, and anxious to-do lists. If you can picture it, it was similar to a housefly caught in a small space when it starts bouncing off of every surface looking for a way out.


Peace did not come easily.


There’s a little throw pillow sitting on the couch in my living room that says pray more worry less. I didn't consider myself a worrier; only distracted, but I wasn't talking to God about my thoughts so what was I doing?

We can talk to God about anything from getting a new toaster to getting a new job, but I realized many of my seemingly meaningless distractions were actually kind of important things. My scattered brain knew I needed wisdom and I was trying to tell it to hush! As I accepted this new insight, I began to  pray through the distractions instead of trying to ignore them. What a difference!

Thank you, Lord, for insight and compassion as I learn to follow your lead.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) www.BibleGateway.com

www.freeimages.com

The Power of Words

It doesn't take long to find some powerful words in the Bible. God spoke and there was light only three verses from the front cover. I know God's word is powerful and you probably do too, but what about ours?

Do our words really matter? And what about the ones we don't even speak out loud; the conversations we have in our own heads...do those words have any power?

Power is defined as the capacity or ability to direct or influence.

My self-talk has the ability to direct and influence my courage, my attitude, my faith, my compassion, my motivation, my relationships, my parenting, my work, my friendships and at least one thousand other things.

For me, words are powerful.

My capacity to become and remain aware of the inner dialogue along with my desire to keep that dialogue honest, encouraging, and hopeful are key tools for wielding the power of words carefully.

What are you telling yourself today?

Try on a few of these and see how they fit...

I am loved. I am enough. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I make mistakes. I am capable. I am strong. I am faithful. I'm awake. I'm alive. I have God-given purpose. I am His. I am growing. God's word, Jesus' words, The Word - as we refer to the Bible... changed the world.

Let's pray.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalms‬ ‭19:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Background photo from freeimages.com

Tools Part II

How did you do? Did you think about the tools you’re using? Did you notice how they’re working for you or not working?

I don’t have great news myself. I used anger at one point and even lead up to it with poor communication. Wow! I know I can do so much better.

I won’t beat myself up too much because it’s not a great idea anyway, but I did make a pretty solid comeback. I asked honestly for a do-over. I didn’t give up, and I believe this self-awareness is really positive in the long run though it may be quite a life-long process of trial and error, learning and growing as most worthwhile endeavors are.

My goal for this week is to slow down, listen better and think before I speak or act. I continue to pray for wisdom and guidance for us all. Wishing you the very best as you walk this path as well.

James 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (NIV)

Tools

Do you have a favorite tool? Maybe you use duct tape for everything or, like me, the hot glue gun is your go-to? Around the house, whatever the problem, you can bet there’s a tool to fix it. We have a lot of tools at our disposal when it comes to relationships too.

The good, the bad and the ugly... In relationships, some good tools include vulnerability, honesty and forgiveness to name a few. Some bad ones we’ve all tried out from time to time are stonewalling, manipulating (which comes in many of the latest models) and my go-to; the guilt trip.

The ugly comes in when we use these bad tools in a way that leave our loved ones feeling hurt or damaged. If you’ve ever used the handle-end of a screwdriver to pound a nail, you know how important it is to use the right tools for the job.

Recently, my daughter was hurt by a guilt trip from someone she cares about. We talked through it and realized the person who hurt her was lacking some of the good tools. We talked through grace and forgiveness and I’m sure she’ll be fine. We even did some troubleshooting on ways for her to connect with this person which were all very good, but it really got me thinking.

I have the good tools. Why am I sometimes forgetting or refusing to use them?

Sometimes I allow myself to get too busy or hurried to take the time to use the good tools. Sometimes it’s frightening to be vulnerable, and sometimes I don’t even know why I do the things I do, or say the things I say.

This week, I’m challenging myself (and you too if you’re feeling it) to pay attention to the tools I’m using in my close relationships. Awareness has to be the first step. I’ll be back next week to update and I’ll be praying for a Holy Spirit leading on the next step. May God bless you as you discover your tools. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment or reach out anytime.

Parents

Parenting may very well be the greatest blessing and the most intimidating responsibility of the entire human experience. Lean hard on God diving into his wisdom regularly, lean on other parents and on family (no matter what family looks like to you,) and whatever you do...

Lean not on your own understanding, but trust in the Lord with all your heart.

(Paraphrase Prov 3:5)

What is IT?

There are primarily two types of pride, but one sometimes poses as humility. Check out this illustration...

It = Something truly awesome, completely free, and IT is just for you.

Here IT is!

Take IT!

Pride #1 Says:

Yes, I deserve IT.

Pride #2 Says:

No, I can’t. I don’t deserve IT.

Humility Says:

Thank you. How can I use IT to bless others?

Can you see how Pride #2 is kind of sneaky? It imitates humility, but it is still self-focused.

True humility is others-focused.

Something else to consider: What if IT = salvation?

Can we humbly accept the forgiveness of God through his son Jesus Christ for the truly awesome, completely free gift of salvation? Can we experience profound gratitude for our salvation that inspires us to bless others? Can we live-loved in a world full of hate? Can we let this little light shine in such a dark place? I believe with all my heart that we can.

Dear Lord, let us practice Jesus’ words found in Matthew Chapter 25...

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:34-40‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Prayer: Father, help me to be humble and grateful, to think less about me and more about others as I seek to use the gifts and challenges you have given me to serve others in this life and to grow your kingdom for eternity. Amen.

This post is inspired by one of my favorite quotes: “Humility does not think less of self but thinks of self less.” - Rick Warren

Less Talk, More Action

Have you ever heard the phrase "walk by one; talk by two?" It's a little rhyme to help us remember about the time when a child begins to walk on their own and then talk or make phrases. It struck me this morning that I have often been tempted to speak first and think later. This habit of sharing thoughts; "talking" before really "walking" out the thoughts and ideas I want to share has caused some interesting challenges. Why do you think God created us to walk almost an entire year before we are able to talk? I really don't know. I can't wait to ask him one day, but I'd like to take a hint from his design and begin walking the walk before attempting to talk the talk. I realize this will be a process, but speaking from experience is so much more valuable and sometimes not speaking at all can be really powerful too.

Lord, help me to listen with love and patience to the people my actions and words affect each day. Help me to be slow to speak and quick to listen. I desire to show loving kindness. By the power of your holy spirit who lives in me, give me pause, give me grace and lead me in the way everlasting. I praise you Lord in Jesus' name.

Guilty?

I think I was about 16 years old. I had made so many mistakes, fallen so far from God's plan for my life and tucked my head under the covers of discouragement and despair.

I have no idea how I got to that church pew that day, I cannot remember what spark allowed my heart to finally open or why God used that moment for repentance, but the feelings of peace, forgiveness, mercy, grace, acceptance and a truly fresh start; those I will never forget.

If you've ever experienced repentance, you know exactly what I'm taking about. If you haven't, I'll make a feeble attempt to explain...

We all fall short of the glory of God. We all sin. We all make mistakes. We all hurt others and ourselves. There comes a time when our soul is just fed up with it. Our spirit sees a glimpse of what life could be if we were to fully surrender our filth to God, accept his forgiveness and start again. If that glimpse is enough to pull us in, God can use those feelings of guilt or even shame to show us how deep and how wide his love really is. He can remove a heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh beating for him.

I am and will be forever grateful for the many moments of repentance in my life. In his perfect timing, I hope and pray God will spark them in your life as well.

Scripture References

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,” Ephesians‬ ‭3:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel‬ ‭11:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations‬ ‭3:22-23‬ ‭NIV‬‬