Posted on October 27, 2020
Dark Autumn mornings beg me to smack the snooze button. At my dimly lit desk, coffee steaming into the quiet, I felt a pang of jealousy of as I read Acts 8: “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.” (Acts 8:39 NIV) I would like the Holy Spirit to physically relocate me, I thought to myself, which is exactly what happened to Phillip. (Zondervan)
There are many pandemic days burned into the permanent section of my memory. Days full of shock, tears, heartache and loss. Normalcy has fallen by the wayside, and it’s been hard to cope. We miss hugs from friends, seeing smiles in person, and sharing live laughter. 2020 has been a very hard year.
The generation currently navigating junior high has a skyrocketing suicide rate, and they now pile on the anxiety of quarantine. My daughters are in 7th and 5th grade.
The patch of sunflowers I planted in late September had a slim chance of surviving long enough to bloom. Yet today, I cut the first batch and brought them into the warm house. Miracles do happen, and life can bloom despite of the odds stacked against it. In the midst of heartbreak over what they haven’t been able to do this year, my daughters have chosen to remember where their strength comes from. My oldest will clunk up the stairs from the basement in her pointe shoes to show me what she has been working on. Her grades, even though she had been zoomed in for much of the first quarter, were straight A’s. Today, a photo gift she made for a friend arrived in the mail, and she wore a new outfit she bought with her allowance to zoom into school. As I write, I hear her laughing with friends on a group chat.
When I told my husband the buns were on the stove next to the crock pot this morning, my youngest daughter laughed at no less than ten of her own “bun” jokes. Everyday, she has us rolling in laughter, despite of these dark times. This girl, who tends not to communicate with the same word count her older sister does, shared with me on our ride to school today about her nightly conversations with God.
God could physically pick me up and move me. He could change our circumstances …make it easier …ease the pain of isolation… Jesus wept and prayed for God to change His circumstances, too. He was isolated and deserted as He was crucified, unjustly. He endured all of the pain of this world voluntarily because He trusted God’s will. So in moments of isolation …I choose to remember the source of my strength.
Jesus gives me the perspective to see my situation through the filter of hope, and the blessings He’s sweetly and faithfully embraced us with in 2020. The laughter, long boating days in the warm sun, lunch dates during the school day, late night talks, and time with my girls who will disappear back into their busy lives as soon as they resume. I’m not glad its happening, but I know where my strength comes from. Acknowledging personal hardship is important. Tears are healing and some anger is righteous! But I know beyond what I can see, feel, and plan for …God is always on the move …and He is always good.
Remember the verse at the top of this post, and the man who went away, rejoicing? Phillip shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him, and he was baptized! His joy was a sign of new life, and evidence of the Holy Spirit. (Zondervan) 2020 has taught us not to hang our hope on our plans, routines, and goals. All of those things are good, but His plans are more than we can ask for or imagine. It may get worse before it gets better. We were never promised life would be easy. But, if we unplug from the manic media and choose to tap into our real source of strength, we can live joyfully even in crazy hard times. Dark times. Jesus links arms with us through it all.
(Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the New Testament. Copyright 2002.)
Category: Christian Living, Faith, HOME PAGE SLIDE SHOW Tagged: COVID-19, disappointment, isolation, Lonliness, quarantine, strength
Posted on October 26, 2019
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10 NIV
The smell of a loaded morning diaper overpowered my coffee as I walked upstairs to wake up my kids. We’re eight years post diaper, but the oder suggested otherwise. It cut through the freshly cleaned bathroom my daughters share. Apparently chewable vitamins, when tossed into the trash alongside damp make up wipes and whatever else …smell like a loaded morning diaper.
The daily ritual of taking vitamins had suddenly become so painfully disgusting, my daughters resorted to hiding them in the oddest places. Why rebel against something that will make them stronger? Healthier? Protect them from sickness and injury?
More important than daily vitamins to protect our physical bodies are the pieces of God’s armor we can pray over our lives. “Pray always,” Paul writes, “Pray in the Spirit. Pray about everything in every way you know how!” (Ephesians 6:18 VOICE)
Real, enduring strength is found in God’s promise for the longevity of our souls. Paul said, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV) The enemy is out to injure our souls. “Put on the full armor of God,” Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:10-18, “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
Today, let’s pray the armor of God, found in Ephesians 6:10-19. Armed with the truth and mighty power of God, we will stand tall and strong, ready to bring honor and glory to Him in every area of our lives.
Protect us from the spiritual war we cannot see. Empower us to put on Your armor and stand firm. Jesus, You understand our pain. Crucified with You on the cross, we are no longer slaves to sin, or the evil forces at work in this world.
Protect our minds from distorted thoughts and untruths with the helmet of salvation. Slice through lies and accusations, hopelessness and doubt with the sharp double edged sword of Your Word. Knowing we will face trouble in this world, ready us for battle, Father. Protect us on all sides with Your breastplate of righteousness.
Father, set our feet on the solid foundation of the Gospel to remove any worry of stumbling into battle. In all circumstances, may we take up the shield of faith, to deflect every calculated shot of our enemy. Enable us to help others put on their armor, and accept help from those You have placed to help secure ours.
Alert us to the enemy’s schemes to kill, steal and destroy. Protect us, tighten and tweak our armor when it loosens and becomes dented. Teach us to wear and use each piece efficiently. Keep us alert and help us to persevere.
Father, give us courage and bravery to pursue You and Your purpose for our lives like Paul did. To place our confidence in each piece of the armor we have prayed over our lives today, and feel the strength of Your mighty power working in and through our lives.
In Jesus’ Name,
Category: Life App Tagged: armor of God, be strong, get strong, stay strong, strength
Posted on April 3, 2019
“For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” Hebrews 3:4 ESV
“Did you get new knobs?” Sitting in the kitchen for coffee, my friend noticed the new bright blue and yellow cabinet knobs.
“No, we just now installed them!” Though we built our home six years ago, some things are still on the “to-do” list.
Hebrews Chapter 3 got me thinking about the building process, and the way it admonished Christ as the builder alongside God of the house …the church …us. (Hebrews 3:6) We are built on a firm foundation, but sometimes neglect to install pulls and knobs to properly open all God has for us.
Overwhelmed with joy to move our growing family into a larger space where we could all breath our own air, knobs and pulls seemed easy to live without. But after opening and closing drawers and cabinet doors for six years in the wrong way, they became crooked, dirty and loose.
I sifted through a bin of blue and yellow flowered knobs caught my eye at the craft store, purchased and placed them on my kitchen counter. There they sat, for weeks, waiting to be installed. But eventually, they donned my kitchen cabinets, and we began opening things the right way.
Pulling on things the wrong way wears them out prematurely.
I have worn the corners of my life in similar ways, procrastinating the process of change. The cycle of disappointment can rob my will to start. Frustrated with myself, worn corners start to wear off on everything and everyone my life touches. Enter, cycle of shame.
Christ never pulls on us in a way that prematurely wears us out. Shame is NEVER from Jesus. He died to put shame to shame, to erase guilt. So when we’re feeling that way, it’s our lurking enemy and this broken world seeking to keep us from simply installing the right knobs and pulls in our lives.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16 ESV
When we’re walking around wounded, we can’t operate in the full capacity of life Jesus died to give us. We live in a world that allows us to justify every stupid mistake we make, instead of encouraging us to apologize, right the wrong, and try not to make the same mistake again. For the sake of comfort, we’ve become uncomfortable. We don’t know our full potential, because we’re too busy making excuses.
“Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” 2 Timothy 2:14 ESV
When the knobs and pulls are installed properly, we know unequivocally that Jesus is God. The One True God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Residing in every Christian believer. There is power in the name of Jesus. There is strength in Christ to persevere the pulling open and slamming shut without falling a part.
The radical love of God is life-altering.
Posted on March 23, 2018
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 HCSB
Coffee and me have this thing. And it’s growing …stronger. The process is getting lengthier. The time invested is stretching. Flavor is expounding on my taste buds, and now it’s an experience. AKA, I’m a coffee snob, as my husband likes to put it.
Guilty. So snobbery when it comes to coffee. From throwing a cup in an pushing a lever to grinding my own beans every morning, the relationship with my morning cup of joe has become a bit of a fancy-pants habit.
The privilege I feel when I crack God’s Word open is akin to the same love …and abundantly more. As the days run on into more life lived, I no longer need a quick bit of wisdom to hold my sanity together as two crying babies pull on both pant legs. My Father and I are growing old together like a fine wine … or a snobbery cup of coffee. Well invested, minutes stretched.
“I invite you to drink deeply from the exceeding riches of My grace- My favor, mercy, and lovingkindness. It is a free gift that opens the way for you into eternity. It also provides what you need to live now, in this fractured world.” Sarah Young, Jesus Today
The second half of today’s verse states: “Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9b
Jesus knew us before He accepted the cross. Every flaw and failure, but every smile and spark, too. Joy is in the journey with Jesus when we realize our weakness leads to growth. In the healing of our frailties, wisdom is produced. The ways of God are not our ways. He doesn’t always heal as we ask, He heals out of provision and love of a good, good Father. When we embrace our pain we acknowledge His sovereignty.
Father, Praise Your sovereign hand upon our lives. Thank You for loving us beyond what we are capable of understanding. Thank You for the simple joys in life like a good, snobbery cup of coffee. Forgive us for taking the little things, and giant pains, in this life for granted. Bless us and heal us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Get the conversation started by commenting below, and let’s encourage one another as we face life in 2017 armed with grace!
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Category: Christian Living, jammed daily devo Tagged: #greatgrace17, strength
Posted on January 25, 2018
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.
“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 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.
“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.
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.
“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
“ 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.
Category: Encouragement, Faith Tagged: boundaries, Encouragement, imperfection, joy, strength, strong2018, surrender