The Windows

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3 ESV

King David wrote Psalm 56 when the Philistines captured him in Gath (Lucado Life Lessons).

“Isn’t this David, then king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands?” 2 Samuel 21:11 (NIV)

The strength to live authentically comes from God, alone. King David’s encouragement is centered on the confidence source of our courage. Living our full truth out loud comes from bravely walking within our God-placed purpose.  Comparing our lives to those around us, and the mold of societal acceptance, chokes our ability to live uninhibited. But life exposed to the Light sets us free.

Hidden Heart Health

When I first earned the freedom to drive, I began to exit the highway early on the way to my family’s favorite summer hangout. Windows down and Alanis turned up, I dreamt of what it would be like to swap the suburban hustle for a sleepy lake-town life. Little did I know at 16, that roughly fifteen years later God would move our family onto a piece of land that my ’86 Nova passed by hundreds of times.

We unwrapped and repacked Christmas the year that we moved from our beloved starter home. The tree was reassembled and each ornamental reminder was placed back on it’s branches, and everyone in that sleepy little lake town noticed.  Suddenly the plethora of windows we choose to fit our house with, along the only busy road in town, seemed like a questionable idea.

“When I’m afraid …”

Charles F. Stanely points out that “the psalmist does not say, ‘if I am afraid,’ he says, ‘when I am afraid.'” 

David was afraid of Saul. He was on the run, and hoping to be considered insane, so he could continue to run further away from who he was. “He pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.” 1 Samuel 21:12-13 (NIV)

Is this seriously the King David that killed Goliath? Fear is a slippery slope. They bought his act, and he continued to run.

“Look at the man! He is insane!” 2 Samuel 21:14 (NIV)

We all face something in life that makes us want to close all the blinds and hide from the world. God promises never to leave us, and forgive our sins when we confess them. Fear causes us to assume we are alone and unforgivable,  re-confessing and running from sin that He has already forgiven.

Legitimate Labels

In an attempt to stretch farther than I could reach, a vase teetered and came crashing to the ground in pieces. I picked up the pieces, but the tiny shards were too small to be glued back together.

“I put my trust in you.”

The MacArthur Study Bible states that “Confidence in the Lord is a purposeful decision, replacing an emotional reaction to one’s circumstances.”

David was definitely having an emotional reaction as he ran from King Saul, but he eventually remembered what the Lord had said. God’s Truth can snap us out of temporary insanity. Hiding with his men in the back of a cave, King Saul entered to ‘relieve himself.’ David snuck up and cut off a piece of Saul’s robe, and then has an attack of conscience. (2 Samuel 24: 1-5)

“The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” 2 Samuel 24:6 (NIV)

Labels can be leveling, especially the ones that we are hesitant to claim. There are certain thing we don’t post on social media, or bring in up in casual conversation, because it’s hard to believe they belong to us. We’d rather close the blinds.

The redemptive power of Christ pieces every tiny shard back together. He rolls on grace like gorilla glue. We don’t have to stop living life or hide our progress. The journey back to who He says we’ve always been is a testimony to His great love. Don’t draw the blinds on that.

Charles F. Stanley says in his Life Principles Bible Notes, “God does not tell us to ignore our anxieties, but to bring them to Him and realize that He can overcome any terror we ever have to face.”

Reverse Roles

My husband and I didn’t think about the ramifications of everyone being able to peer into our lives through the windows, because we were attracted to the beauty of natural light.  Living in fear of what others might see draws the blinds. We hide from exposure. That’s not the life God gave us to live. That’s not the life Jesus died to grant us. “I came so that you may have life, and have it to the full,” Jesus said in John 10:10

“God, whose word I praise …”

When Saul was finished relieving himself, David followed him out of that cave. “My lord the king!” He bowed as Saul turned around. (1 Samuel 24:8He stepped out from the dark cave and into the light, exposing his truth, and the pieces were put back into place.

“You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly,” Saul replied as he wept allowed. 1 Samuel 24:16-17 (NIV)

Living our lives exposed to the light grants us freedom. When we turn up the volume on other voices, opinions, worries, shame, and regret, we become self-focused and selfish in protecting what we fear are unforgivable mistakes and missteps.

Authentically living for Christ begins with a real relationship with Him, in prayer and Scripture. David walked out of that cave to face Saul, reaffirmed by remembering who God said he was. Our stories, labels, and lives, exist so that others may experience the love of Christ.

“When struck by fear, I let go, depending securely upon You alone. In God- whose word I praise- in God I place my trust. I shall not let fear come in, for what can measly men do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4 (VOICE)

Father,  Praise You for this day, and Your purpose for it. Thank You for the blessings we woke up today, and those that will riddle our minutes and we walk throughout it. Forgive us for hiding the parts of our lives that are hard to face. We want to fully trust in You, God. Give us hearts like Jesus’. Help us to live authentically because we trust in You. Make us aware, as we travel through daily conversations, of those that we are meant to encourage by sharing parts of our struggles. Bless all those who hide in the darkness, ashamed and scared. May be a bright light of encouragement to every person You purposely place in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Happy Brightening,

Megs

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The Strength to Be Joyful

The voice outside the door was pretty routine. I had tried to steal a moment away to go to the bathroom, and fooled myself into thinking that shutting the door would signal the little people in the house to allow me a moment of privacy. (Bah. Ha. Ha.) God’s sense of humor never ceases to amaze me, and the state in which He met me for this moment was right on cue.

The uncharacteristic hesitation in my daughter’s voice led me to ask if she was OK.  It hadn’t been the easiest year, and my heart broke right along with hers.  I had been covering her in prayer and God’s Truth. That day, my eyes glazed over as she peeked through a crack in that bathroom door to tell me what was weighing on her heart.

” I want to have Jesus in my heart,” my daughter whimpered, “it’s just too hard without Him.” 

“I need Jesus, Mommy.”  I excused myself to “wash my hands” and then witnessed my daughter handing her life over to Christ as we prayed together. It was a marking moment of pure joy, that sent my prayer life into overdrive on a completely new level. A heart surrendered to Jesus will most certainly face trials and challenges, and strength is what I pray for my girl as she faces the start of the next decade in-step with her Savior.

The Strength to Be Joyful.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy many be complete.” John 15:11 (NIV)

His strength enables my feet to keep trekking on. “Be joyful always,” ( 1 Thesalonians 5:16), is a lot easier to live out when things are sunny-side up. But when life becomes painful, hard, and unfair …lonely and badgered with doubt …it takes His strength to keep hiking through the snowy woods.

The Greek word for “joy” in  John 15:11 is chara,” which means “joy, gladness.” But underneath a part of the definition that says, “the cause or occasion of joy,” it’s defined a little further as, “of person’s who are one’s joy.”

When Jesus is our joy, it is complete. His joy becomes ours. He becomes our joy. The root word of chara is chairo, a primary Greek word that expands the meaning unto “to be well, thrive.” The strength to find Joy comes from Him.

The Strength to Surrender.

 The source of our strength isn’t something that we can grip, it’s a surrender to a source that flows through us.

Surrender means to yield the possession of power, to give oneself up, relinquish, abandon, or “to give oneself up to some influence, course, or emotion.” Jesus told his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

“The branch must remain open to the flow of the vine’s life. If the branch were simply wound around the vine tightly, it would still die without producing any fruit.” Beth Moore, Portraits of Devotion, Day 216.

On whose accord to we lay down our lives for our friends if  we have not surrendered our own into His hands? Surrendering our self-centered disposition for a Christ-centered perspective takes Holy Spirit strength. A daily, soul-surrendering strengthening, from the vine.

The Strength to Obey

“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” John 15:10

Why is that so hard for humanity to accept that uninterrupted obedience is unattainable this side of heaven? Even before the constant clamor of criticism that bombards us through social streams, internal doubt has always threatened to disqualify us from the full and vibrant life Christ died to give us.

The same little voice that peeked into the bathroom weeks earlier, recently discovered that discipline remained a part of a Christ-committed life. Frustrated by her own disobedience, that sweet child asked me if He was even in there.

“Of course He is,” I reassured her, pointing to her heart,“He will never leave you.”

Christianity is a slow change, an individual walk. Yet, we compare our obedience to those around us and entertain benchmarks that may not be realistic for the current way-point of our hearts. Each day that we choose to walk with Jesus, we get a little stronger. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit provides us with the strength to obediently follow Him.

The Strength to be Imperfect

Lucky for me I grew up in the 90’s, or my struggle with perfectionism would have been glaringly obvious. Don’t mistake my life for a suffered one …I’m the same high energy crack-up that I’ve always been. I just don’t own a scale, talk about weight, or lose sleep over my reflection.  God convicted me of that negative thought cycle long ago, and I choose to obediently stop it. We will never lack strength to accomplish His will in our lives.

How easily our hearts can be led down a road full of absolute crap.

“It’s a lesson, not your life-story,” I assure my daughters when they make mistakes. “Everyone struggles with difficult choices.” 

How can we let our soul’s find their worth in a grade, paycheck, weight, good review, re-tweet, or accolade ? The strength to be imperfect comes from Christ. If we hold onto anything else but His validation, then we set ourselves up for a good crushing when the external feedback we receive inevitably fails us.

“There is no fear in love,” 1 John 4:18a says. Guilt and shame over the mistakes we have made in our lives does not come from God. Romans 3:10 states, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Jesus died so that we could live life to the full (John 10:10b).  He never said we had to be perfect.

The Strength to Construct Healthy Boundaries

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hiding all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3 (NIV)

Paul was writing to the Colossians in combat of heresy (any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with establishedbeliefs, customs, etc.). The NIV Study Bible lists examples of ceremonialism, asceticism, worship of (or with) angels, devaluing the person and work of Christ, secret knowledge, and reliance on human wisdom and tradition. This was a no-brainer for Paul. He had witnessed Christ. There were no gray areas for him. He confidently exposed these false practices. 

How often do we take a look around our lives and gently rebuke and remove incorrect theology and religious practices? How often do we speak up and speak out about Christ when a worldly world-ism wafts across our eardrums? Paul was confident! He was strong enough to put up healthy boundaries as to what he was willing to absorb and entertain. We would be smart to focus on Christ the way Paul did.

It takes strength to walk away, kindly disagree, pray for an enemy, forgive and unfairness, process criticism with humility, or forgive ourselves for failure. “If you want to change, surround yourself with people that get it,” my pastor preached this past Sunday.

What if God asks us to obediently embrace a season of isolation as we tune into His voice above all others? The Book of 1 Kings tells how God prepared the prophet Elijah. Through my daily journey with First5, I learned that he obediently hid for three years, relying on ravens to bring Him meals twice a day. “But God wasn’t setting Elijah aside — He was setting Elijah apart.” Krista Williams, First5

Strong.

 “ Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.  Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV)

God has laid this lesson of strength upon my heart this year, and He continues to teach me how His strength lies behind our  joy, surrendering, obedience, imperfection, and construction of healthy boundaries. Listen, stay alert, stand tall in the faith, be courageous, and be strong.  Let love prevail in your life, words, and actions.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (VOICE) For Love to prevail in our lives, our connection to the Vine must be strong. We can accomplish this by training daily in study of His Word, and obediently following His lead for our lives. 

Happy Strength-training,

Megs

The Hiding Place (#recall12 series, October)

Welcome to the #recall12 series, where we are memorizing a little bit of God’s great Word each #recall12 October Image 1month! This month’s verse is: 

“The Eternal watches everything.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

Squeak …SQUeak …SQUEAK!

Her lack of patience gives away her hiding spot every time. She just can’t stand the suspense of waiting to be found. My little girl prefers the ‘seek’ in hide-and-go-seek.

This month’s verse wraps us in protection. We don’t have to live in the suspense of our secrets being revealed, because God’s already aware of whatever we may attempt to hide. On the flip side, He sees us when we are in hiding, too. Whether to comfort us through darkness, or to meet us in the dark to defend us …He is watching.

The Eternal watches everything that happens on earth so that He may strongly support those who follow Him. 2Chronicles 16:9 (VOICE)

“The Eternal,” as translated by The Voice, further expands upon how inclusive His care is over us. From the time He created us to the time we hug Him in heaven …eternally, God is for us. The book of 2 Chronicles records the stories of the kings that attempted to return Judah from their fall from God. Some of the stories of Kings’ David and Solomon are recorded in 1&2 Chronicles. By the time we get to today’s verse, it’s Solomon’s great-grandson, Asa, that is sitting the throne.

#recall 12 October tweet 1“He led a wildfire revival, with the whole nation uniting behind him in a huge celebration in Jerusalem. Yet Asa became cocky in his later years …He did much good but fell short of the kind of courage that endures a national crisis.” (NIV Student Bible Notes)

The NIV translation of this verse uses the word ‘heart.’ …to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. Though Asa had a wonderful heart for God, he still ended up struggling through some thick sin towards the end of his life.

The other half of today’s verse is starkly different:

By hiring mercenaries, you have acted foolishly and proven that you are not following Him. From now on, peace will elude you and you will surely fight wars. 2Chronicles 16:9b

Before this harsh warning of the consequence of Asa’s sin, Hanani (the seer delivering the above message) reminds Asa of all the previous victories God gave Him at the hand of his obedience to Him. Asa was a great king and leader for most of his life, but his human imperfection leads him to fall out of God’s grace in end.

‘You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.” 2Chronicles 16:9b

Our humanity will fail us.

No matter how much we intend to do well, and how diligently we seek after God …we are destined to imperfection. And our God is too holy to be in the presence of sin.

In His compassion, God scratched the record needle as it lay stuck on the song of man’s failure …and put a new song in our hearts. Grace. Jesus. Forgiveness.

#recall12 October image 2

When Jesus came to earth, He took on humanity. He knows what it’s like to be hungry, hurt, and sad to the point of bloody tears. As we read of His life, we see 2Chronicles 16:9 in the way Jesus calls on His Father in times of distress. We witness it as God turns His back on Jesus to save us all as He died on that cross. See, 2Chronicles 16:9 is a story of glory for us. We can get back up. Our lives aren’t ever wasted on account of what we have done or will do. It is never too late. We are never too broken. God will always forgive us.

salvation- the act of saving or protecting from harm, risk, loss, destruction, etc-dictionary.com

The way we act on this earth will never trump Christ’s act to save us. Our misbehavior doesn’t #recall12 October tweet 2ever trump what happened on that cross. Our King. The King of Kings. The one who is and was and ever shall be. He will not fail us as human leaders do and as we fail ourselves. Instead, He blankets the fall of our humanity with the forgiveness of grace …promising us that He will watch over us …assuring us that He sees all.

 For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

There’s no reason to hide or feel hidden.

We’ve got this …because He’s got us.

Happy Un-hiding,

Megs

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The Teenage Word of the 90’s. (#recall 12 series, August)

Welcome to the #recall12 series, where we are memorizing a little bit of God’s great Word each month! This month’s verse is: 

“Fill your minds with beauty and truth.” Philippians 4:8a

recall12 August image 1

“Whatever, Dad …”

My teenage voice echoes in my head every time I hear the word, ‘whatever.’ I said it so many times in those seven years of my teenage life that my Dad eventually started to call me, “Whatever.” It became a family joke. The first time one of my children say it to me will be gut-breakingly funny! Paybacks always come that way …or so I’m told. Whatever.#recall12 August Tweet 1

This month’s verse is followed by a string of ‘whatever’s.’ Let’s take a look at the second half of Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8b (NIV)

Determining “whatever” is a common challenge, but the author of this verse enlightens the principles we should be steering our thoughts towards. Paul knew that whatever  “people allow to occupy their minds will sooner or later determine their speech and action. ” NIV Notes. 

“Whatever is true…” In the original Greek text, ‘true’ is the Greek word, ‘alethes.‘ It means “loving the truth, speaking the truth, truthful.” More than simply honest inclinations, we are called to be an outstretched arm of Truth, Himself.

“Whatever is noble…” Other translations use, ‘honorable.’ God’s character holds the true definition of what is honorable. God is good, all of the time. His timing is perfect, and He is fair and just.  He is Love …and Honorable.

“Whatever is right…” Strong’s Concordance defines “dikaios“(the Greek word for ‘right’) as “a way of thinking, feeling, and acting that is wholly conformed to the will of God.” Jesus was the only one worthy to walk out that definition. When we want to think about things that are right, we can look to the way that He lived His earthly life.

#recall12 August image 2

“Whatever is pure…” Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary says that innocence is“not be limited to sexual purity,” but that we should “keep away from any involvement in the sins of others.” Purity is self-restraint and resisting peer pressure.

“Whatever is lovely…” “Just give me more of Jesus,” an author said when asked what new writers should base their content off of. What is more lovely than Grace? Grace that died on a cross for us before we knew Him. When we know Jesus, we begin to see reflections of His loveliness in each person we meet.

“Whatever is good…” God is good, all the time. To meditate on goodness is to think of Him.

“Whatever is excellent or praiseworthy…” The best way to think about excellent and praiseworthy things is to praise Him. Worship in song or in still admiration of the sun rising puts God’s glory on display.  The primary task of humankind is to give this praise to God (Phil 4:8) and not oneself- Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary

“Fill your minds with beauty and truth.” Philippians 4:8a

#recall12 August Tweet 2“Whatever” is filling statement. It leaves no room for dispute and shuts the conversation down. It can be an open invitation to listen, or a closed door for consideration. Our minds fill up with God’s Words when we are listening to ‘whatever’ He says. Others benefit from Jesus’ love when our arms are outstretched with ‘whatever’ He wills for our lives.

“Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy.” Philippians 4:8b (VOICE)

When we meditate in conversation with God, He fills our thoughts with ‘whatever.’

The Voice translation uses the word ‘meditate,’ which lends more depth to the sentiments we consider thinking about. To meditate is “to engage in thought or contemplation; reflect.”(Merriam-Webster) It specifies that these aren’t just random thoughts blurring through our brains, but notions we grab a hold of and let marinate in our minds. It’s there, in that pocket of relaxed concentration, that we witness the “beauty and truth” that God instructs us to “fill our minds with” in this month’s verse.

“Think about such things.” Philippians 4:8b(NIV)

Father, Praise You for teaching us so much through one word. Thank You for so clearly defining what we are to think about, speak of, and listen for. Forgive us for the times we don’t hear Your voice because we aren’t listening. Bless our thought-life to reflect Your love. May the Spirit that Jesus died to grant us access to be ever-present in our conversations with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Megs

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#recall12 August Verse Memory Cards PDF2#recall 12 August memory verse cards

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The Nylon Strings (#recall12, July)

Welcome to the #recall12 series, where we are memorizing a little bit of God’s great Word together each month! This month’s verse is:

“The Lord is my strength and my song.” Exodus 15:2

#recall12 July image 1

“TWANG-TWANG-TWANG-TWANG-TWANG….”

I’m enjoying this. I love to listen to her play. Don’t criticize her for playing. Think about something else….

In the beginning stages of my daughter’s love for her ukulele, there was a lot of inward coaching I had to do in order to let her discover her own sound. It was music to my ears to hear her musical genius uncle tell her that her instrument had nylon strings …and she was  going to knock them out of tune by banging on them so hard.

“But I just like to jam,” she argued.

“Well, you need metal strings if you want to jam like that …” he explained.

“TWANG-TWANG-TWANG-TWANG-TWANG….”She still wasn’t convinced.

“You heard what your uncle said,” I reminded, “if you snap a string on that uke because you’re stubborn, I’m not replacing it.”

Eye-roll …but compliance.

Oh, the sweet sound.

This month’s verse highlights the stubbornness of humanity …and God’s people. Fresh off a victory over Pharoh’s army and witness to them being swallowed by the Red Sea, there is abundant praise for God and His provision and protection.

“I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea. -Exodus 15:1

It’s on the heals of this that this months verse is bellowed for all to hold dear forevermore:

“The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.#recall12 July tweet 1
He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” -Exodus 15:2


How easy it is to give praise on top of the mountain of victory…
When the trumpets are blaring and the confetti is flying and the finish line tape rips across our chests and the publisher loves our idea and our children are successful ….

But it’s quite another thing to elevate our hearts to this level of praise before we witness the victory we seek. It’s not always going to look so big.

Sometimes, victory as we see it doesn’t come. God seems quiet. The nylon strings seem to be holding up just fine. So we jam on. Hard.

Until we snap.

That can look different for everyone. Temptation of all manner is waiting for opportunities like these. When we’re sitting in the pocket of victory,  we’re most likely to snap.

“The Lord is my strength and my song.” Exodus 15:2 #recall12 July Tweet 2

This month’s verse isn’t situational. Whether you are jamming on your nylon strings, staring at a snapped one, or have moved on to more durable metal strings …jam on. Because unlike an instrument, God’s song is not interrupted when we break. He doesn’t miss a beat. Whether we know it, see it, or hear Him  …He always hears …always cares …and always loves.

Our omnipotent God is unstoppable.

We are not Him, but we are made in His image.

“Music played a major role in the lives of people in biblical times. It was used in both sacred and secular activities and was most often associated with joy and celebration.”  Dictionary of Bible Themes

In Exodus 15:1-21, music celebrates victory.

victory-a success or triumph over an enemy in battle or war. -dictionary.com#recall12 July image 2

Victories are not exclusive to armies and athletics. They are the stuff of our Savior. Everyday miracles and tally-mark wins. Tempers calmed and callings chased. Jesus knows what it’s like to be human, and He knows that we are not capable of handling ourselves as He …the very Son of God and Spotless Lamb …did.

We’re incapable of carrying a tune without Armor. Hand Him what you can’t handle.

He is our strength.

We were never meant to be as strong as we try to be. We were created to lean in …to Him.

In the small victories and challenging moments of this month, let’s remember this verse …and sing a song … to our Strength.

#recall12 July image 3

Father, Praise You …for You alone are our Strength and our Shield. In times of trouble and in times of naivety, thank You for protecting and upholding us with Your just hand. We confess to snapping strings in the process of seeking our own method of progress. Forgive us, and send Your Spirit to bless us and fortify our hearts with Your Word and will. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Happy Singing!

Megs

CLICK HERE OR ON THE IMAGE BELOW FOR FREE VERSE MEMORY CARDS.

#recall12 July memory cards

#recall12 July Verse Memory Cards PDF

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