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Mountains and Valleys

Many of us have read or heard of the very popular Bible passage Psalm 23, where David talks about God being his Shepherd, how he leads him beside still waters and restores his soul.  One part of this verse stirs something deep within my heart in verse 4.

Psalm 23:4 ESV

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]  I will fear no evil, for you are with me;  your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Have you ever had a season in your life you didn’t want to be in, where you asked God, “Why am I here?”  “What am I doing in this place?”  With fists clenched, heels digging in the ground, telling God, “I don’t want to be here!”  Sounds like the valley of the shadow of death is one of those places.  Other versions of this verse also read valley of darkness or death.

What do you think David saw when he walked through the valley of darkness?

The valley David refers to in this verse is a valley in the desert of Judah.  Anyone who walks through this valley is putting themselves at risk of encountering anything lurking in the darkness, wildlife, bandits, even a random flash flood.

What strikes me, David is walking through the valley where there is a shadow of death.  Where there was a lot of unknowns surrounding him.  Anything could attack or happen to him at any moment.  Yet, he didn’t run away from the darkness, he didn’t take a different route, he walks right through it.

Do you think David knew he was going to walk through a valley of death?

I think many of us would have turned around if we knew what lied ahead.  We always wonder why God doesn’t share details with us.  If we really knew, we wouldn’t go where God was asking us to go.  David then says in response to walking in the valley, “I will fear no evil, you’re rod and staff comfort me.”  David knew even if he was in the valley he was safe and protected because God was with him every step of the way.

In Everybody Always, Bob Goff talks about fighter pilots who train in the valleys in between the mountains.  When asked why do they train at lower elevations where winds can get them, their response was, ‘so we can get better.’

God isn't always going to lead us to the safest route forward but to the one where we will grow the most. God knows without risk we wouldn't grow #quote @BobGoff #EverybodyAlwaysClick To Tweet

David knew walking through the valley would be hard.  But he also knew in the valley is where he learned to depend on and trust in God the most.  Walking through the valley will be dark and seem like God is far away.  When we trust in what God is able to do and not in what we see, He walks us safely to the other side every time.

It is so easy to praise God when we’re standing on the mountain but not always so easy when we’re deep in the valleys.

Imagine what would happen if we took the same approach as David?  If we faced our fears, our darkness and walked through them, depending on God for our guidance and comfort when we’re afraid?

In the valley is where we grow the most and receive the sweetest most unexpected victories when we trust God to walk us to the other side of our darkness.

Psalm 23:5, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

God goes and prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.  God doesn’t promise we won’t have to walk through our valleys in the absence of our enemies, but in their presence.  As our enemies surround us God our Shepherd, the master of provision provides for us everything we need in the midst of our battles.

The enemies in our lives are powerless over us when we praise him in our darkness–when we push through holding onto God’s hand, when we trust and don’t know how everything will turn out.  God’s generosity of mercy and grace then overflows in us, all the days of our lives and we will dwell in his house forever (Psalm 23:6).  In God’s house lies a sanctuary of peace and love like none other that sets us free from the fears of any darkness.

The next time fear gets the best of you, allow God to be your Shepherd leading you through your dark valleys.  Pray Psalm 23 over your situation.  Close your eyes and follow the voice of the Shepherd.  Trust in Him, take His hand, He knows the way.

A voice cries:[a]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 40:3-5

What season are you in?

How do you allow God to lead you through your valley?

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The Clothes We Wear

I’m always so amazed when I’m in my closet looking for an outfit when I pass by something I’ve worn before at an event in my life, I’m taken back to that day.

When my eyes set on my wedding gown that’s preserved in a box in my closet, I’m taken back to my wedding day.

When I browse by an ugly sweater I wore to a Christmas party I’m taken back to that day.

When I peruse past a certain dress, I’m taken back to the day of the funeral, the ball, the function I attended.

Why is it every shirt, pair of shoes or dress I wear just by looking at the outfit I’ve worn before, my mind takes me back to that memory of the day of the clothes I’ve worn.

Yet when I put on those clothes I am branded with the memory or feeling associated with those clothes.

My memory is my memory regardless of the clothes I wore, yet I identify myself with them.

The clothes I wore don’t define me.Click To Tweet

The clothes I wear don’t make me who I am.

The clothes I wear don’t make me more important.

They don’t give me more value.

They don’t prove anything.

They are just mere clothes I wear.

So how do I rid myself of these associations?

By putting on a new wardrobe.

Colossians 3:10 MSG, “10 Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.”

Paul is telling the Colossians they don’t have to focus on past labels or the old fashions of life. He was teaching them when their focus was on their Creator, on what He had done for them, they were putting on a new wardrobe, a new self one that was free from their past.

Colossians 3:12 MSG

12 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.

We have been chosen to live out a life of love and not bound to the mistakes of our past or ugly cycles of defeat. When we clothe ourselves with the loving kindness compassion of Christ we are putting on a new wardrobe, a new self.

So maybe the clothes I wear do define me?

The worldly clothes I wear don’t define me, but the clothing of Christ does.

I love the way Paul teaches because he uses analogies we all can relate to of physical, worldly things and translates them into the spiritual. He even tells the Colossians in (Col. 3:8 MSG), “Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire.”

We don’t have to revert back to old ways, we don’t have to keep putting on that old wardrobe that keeps us cuddled up to our sins. We can take them off and throw them away for good never returning back to them because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Do you have the one stand out garment in your closet, the go-to garment you put it on and everyone recognizes its unique and different?

Paul gives further instructions and tells us about stand out garments.

“13 Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. 14 And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it”. (Colossians 3:13-14 MSG).

No matter what wear love. That is our go to, must have garment.Click To Tweet

When we put on love we are able to be kind, compassionate, humble, and forgive. We are able to leave behind the past allow ourselves to walk into the future filled with hope and freedom.

When we put on love we will be filled with God’s strength and discipline. We don’t have to try with our own strength when we put on love we are free from our sinful tendencies.

When we put away our bad tempers, irritability, meanness, profanity, and dirty talk, and put on love, others in the world will notice and recognize the love and compassion of Christ. And “When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too – the real you, the glorious you” (Colossians 3:4 MSG).

What kind of clothes do you wear?

What’s in your wardrobe?

A Prayer- Lord Jesus, help us get rid of anything keeping us in the past, keeping us from you. Help us get rid of our old worldly wardrobes and clothe ourselves with your kindness, humility, strength, discipline and above all else your love, God. I pray we will choose to wear love every day. May it be apart of our everyday lives, our everyday speech and actions. May love be our choice and response above all things, Lord. Help us put on a new wardrobe, one that you have created, never to put on our old wardrobe again. We thank you and praise you Jesus for who you are and what you are able to do. We love you. In Jesus name, Amen.

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What Do You Give To The One Who Has It ALL?

Have you ever gone Christmas shopping and had a hard time finding a perfect gift for someone who has everything they could ever want?  They are someone special in your life so you want to find that unique gift, that something special, to let them know how much you care.  What do you give to the one who has it all?

The One whom I’m thinking of is God.  He is the Maker and Creator of all things, has all the riches He could ever need, has the largest house and kingdom anyone could ever imagine, and yet there is something He desires more than anything–YOU.

Why would the One who has it all want anything to do with our undeserving, sinful selves?

Because He loves YOU.

This Christmas as we focus on what the meaning of what Christmas is all about, the birth of Jesus, I’m taken back to one Bible verse that says it all.

John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

 

I am in awe that God could have chosen to live anywhere in the world, but He chose to become one of us and DWELL among us.  Not to sound funny, but if I were God I would have just stayed in heaven.  He doesn’t need us.  There is nothing we can offer Him that He doesn’t already have, yet He wants us.

There is something so amazing about the places God dwells.  God has made his dwelling place in the light (1 John 1:7), in heaven (Psalms 123:1), in his church (Psalm 9:11), on earth (John 1:14), but his permanent residence where He dwells is within our hearts!  (Ephesians 3:17-19).

I still can’t believe He chooses US to be His dwelling place! Something happens when we become God’s dwelling place.  He becomes our refuge and our umbrella of protection from the evil one.  He becomes our light, our hope, our joy, and freedom.

Psalm 91:9-10 “Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place–the Most High, who is my refuge–no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.”

Maybe you are going through a tough time right now.  Maybe this holiday season doesn’t seem very festive because you lost a loved one, your job or aren’t near family.  Maybe you received a new diagnosis you’re still processing.  Maybe you’ve been distant from God for a long time and don’t know how to get back to Him.

Whatever your circumstance God loves you and cares for you very much. If He didn't He would have never came to earth and dwelled among us. Click To Tweet

Every day God invites us into His presence.  Whether we enter into His presence or not, a door is opened for us to enter.  When we come to Him in prayer we step closer into His presence.  When we praise Him in our storms of life and thank Him despite our struggles we step further through the doorway.  When we open up God’s Word, we allow an opportunity for His Words to dwell richly in us, to plant seeds and grow within us (Colossians 3:16).

So what do you give the ONE who has it ALL?

Your HEART.

God could have anything He every wanted, Lived anywhere he desired, but He chose to live in our hearts. Click To Tweet

Have you given God your heart this Christmas?

What do you give to the One who has it all?

Did you enjoy this blog post? Please share with others! Want more encouraging messages sent right to your inbox? Subscribe to my blog and receive a FREE E-book and a weekly Monday Message or like my Author Facebook page to catch the latest posts.  Have a blessed week!

I would love to hear from you! Leave your comments below!  Would you like to know more about the Christmas story!  Join me next Monday as we learn more about what the Christmas story means to you.  


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A Letter From Jesus: A note to my inner Enneagram

 

This year has been a really hard year for me in regard to discovering things about myself I never knew.  It’s been a year God has been using to grow me in ways I never knew I needed.  I’ve done a lot of soul-searching, reading and just spending time with God.  I’ve read books like “Kill the Spider,” “Soul Detox,” “Nehemiah,” and “The Road Back to You.”   Based on the titles of these books you can guess what kind of person I am, which ironically I didn’t know about myself until just recently–I’m a perfectionist.  Anyone who knows me would say, ‘there’s no way you’re a perfectionist’ based on what they see outwardly, but inwardly quite frankly, I beat myself up every day.

In Kill The Spider, I learned I need to kill the spider creating cobwebs in my life.  If I never target the very thing creating the mess, the mess will just keep reoccurring over and over.

In Soul Detox, I learned I need to get rid of the things contaminating my life, whether it be relationships, things in my environment, or what I’m goes into my ears and eyes, holding onto things that are toxic will only make for more toxicity.

In The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, I learned I am a one with a two-wing, which in enneagram language means I am a reformer at heart, I want to change the world and I have helper qualities.  For anyone who has taken a personality test and doesn’t like to be pegged to a number, this is more than labeling you into a certain category.  This book has helped me see myself the way God sees me, to not allow my flaws and inadequacies define me or make me stumble, but embrace them to be used the way God intended for them.

My flaws make me closer to God and more dependent upon Him. If I didn't have inadequacies, I wouldn't need God. Click To Tweet

I can be overly critical or judgmental of myself at times.  I constantly go over in my head how I could have done things better, how something could be improved, what I wish I would have said.  It can get tiring hearing these voices in my head over and over pointing out mistakes I’ve made, telling me whatever I did wasn’t good enough.

Sometimes I just need a break from myself and replace these nagging voices with what God says about me.   I have to be careful not to allow the inner critic in me or my constant comparison to unrealistic standards pull me down to the point I can’t hear God’s voice.  So I turn to the One who knows me best.

A Letter From Jesus:

Dear Child,  You are loved.  I want to remind you, you are good enough.  You are more than your failures, you are more than your past mistakes.  You aren’t the labels you have put on yourself.  You are definitely not the lies the enemy has told you.  You are who I say you are.  I have created you just the way you are for a reason.  Your flaws don’t define you, I do.  I will use your flaws for my greater plan.  Stay close to me.  Depend on me for all your needs.

Find refuge and peace in my presence, don’t go ahead of me.  I have the greatest plans for you.  Trust in my goodness and in what I’m able to do.  Don’t focus on your obstacles, your mistakes or flaws, stay focused on me and my purpose for you.  I will guide you if you let me.  I accept and love you for who you are.  Don’t allow your flaws to hold you back or keep you from participating in the plans I have for you. Don’t beat yourself up.  Don’t seek your value and worth in the comparison of others, find your value and worth in Me.  Be gentle and forgiving with yourself when you make mistakes.

Surround yourself with my truth in who I say you are.  I created you.  Seek your identity in me, guard yourself against the lies of the world surround yourself with my truth.  You may not be where you want to be, sweet child, this is a journey, not a race, enjoy it.  You are one of my best creations.  I find joy in you.  I will be your strength.  You are loved whether you succeed or fail.  It’s okay if things aren’t perfect.  I will use you to display my perfection. You are loved and you are good enough.  I will never leave you.  I am here for you, hold onto my promises, we will do this together.

Love, Jesus

A couple pieces of advice I give myself to help battle through the process of perfectionism are,

  1.  Give yourself permission to laugh at yourself.  I tend to be serious at times and just need to have a good ole chuckle when I do make mistakes or don’t say things perfectly.
  2. When the volume of your inner critic starts getting loud, smile and say I appreciate your help but I am learning how to accept and embrace my imperfections.  Say, “I am who God says I am, He loves me just the way I am, it’s okay if it’s not perfect.”
  3. Find a hobby you enjoy doing just because you like doing it.  I have picked up card-making (I’m not that good at it), but it’s one of those hobbies I enjoy and give myself the liberty to mess up and be okay with it, because the cards I give to people give purpose to the reformer in me, helping others when life hurts.
  4. Surround yourself with God’s word of who He says you are.  Read Scripture about who God says you are (Psalm 139:14 and 2 Timothy 1:7).  Listen to Lauren Daigle’s song, “You say,” or Hillsong’s song, “I am Who You Say I am.”  

If you know anyone who struggles with perfectionism or who they are in Christ here are other helpful articles I’ve written that have helped me in the process.

Failures Don’t Define Us

You Are Not Qualified

God is refining us.  One of the best lessons I am learning on this journey is to embrace God’s purpose for me despite my flaws and obstacles.  If you are a One on the Enneagram and can relate to this message please leave a comment, I would love to hear from you.  Authors of The Road Back to you write, “May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, behind every facade of your life is something eternally beautiful.  May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride and expectation which God sees you in every moment” (Cron and Stable).

Join me in the journey of embracing who you are in Christ by taking the Free Enneagram test and reading “The Road Back to You.”  It’s not about labels but living in the healthiest version of yourself and allowing God to use all of you including your flaws.

Can you relate to this article?  Please share.  Want more encouraging messages sent right to your inbox? Subscribe to my blog and receive a FREE mini E-book “The Jericho Prayer,” and a weekly Monday Message or like my Author Facebook page to catch the latest posts.  Have a blessed week!

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Parts of Mark Batterson’s Whisper How to Hear the Voice of God 5-day Reading Plan from the You Version Bible reading plan were used for this post.
Cron, I. M. (2016). The road back to you: An Enneagram journey to self-discovery. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press

Prayer Changes Everything

“When a believing person prays great things happen.” James 5:16 NCV

Do you believe prayer changes everything?

I admit, there have been times in my prayer life when I’ve prayed but didn’t really believe God was able. I threw prayers up to heaven not truly thinking anything was ever going to change in my life. But then something happens when we pray when we believe God is able.

When we start praying like it matters.

When we focus on His purpose.

God has the power and strength to do anything at any time, anywhere, yet he patiently waits for us in our unbelief. He uses prayer to shape and mold our unbelieving hearts, to make room for what He desires for us.

Our prayers mean so much to God. They move His heart. Imagine our prayers have the ability to move the heavens.

In Matthew 18:19-20 says, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Have you ever had an experience when prayer changed everything?

Many times I’ve believed, God isn’t listening. I have prayed the same prayer for over 20 years and God still hasn’t answered it. Does that mean He doesn’t care or we should stop praying?

God hears our prayers. I believe God cares about what we care about because we are His children. Our persistent consistency gets God’s attention and shows our faithfulness. When we are constant in prayer, God sees what we’re passionate about. He sees what matters to us. A prayer a person has prayed for years is never wasted and will be used in greater ways than we could ever imagine.

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him.” (James 5:13-14)Click To Tweet

We are only one prayer away from the sick being healed. One prayer away from someone else’s breakthrough. One prayer away from lives being changed. One prayer away from God doing the impossible.

Nothing changes when our prayers are silent and when they go unspoken.

Everything changes when we pray.

Sometimes the biggest change that happens when we pray isn’t our situation, it’s our hearts.Click To Tweet

Do you believe prayer changes everything?

Would you like to make a difference with your prayers?

Whatever is important to you.  Whatever concerns you.  Gather two to or more friends to come together and pray about what’s weighing heavy on your heart.  Meet together in numbers, pray consistently with a fervent passion that shows God I’m serious, please hear my prayers.  One of the greatest tragedies is when a prayer goes unspoken.  God will use us to carry out his greatest plans.  God uses our prayers to fill our hearts with what He desires for us.  Our prayers matter and make a difference.  Don’t give up, keep praying with a believing heart. God hears our prayers and is able to accomplish the impossible.

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My Guardian Angel

This post is very different from what I normally post.  I hope you enjoy this true story of a guardian angel that saved my son’s life.

Do you believe in guardian angels? I will never forget the time I was a new mother to our newborn son and two-year-old daughter. My husband and I were invited to a friend’s cabin in the mountains for a work barbeque. We decided we would make the trip to go even though our son was only 2 weeks old. He had been sleeping well and thought it would be a good idea to get out of the house. When we arrived, there were quite a few people there already. When I walked inside, I was carrying our son in his infant car seat carrier and placed him on top of the glass coffee table in the living room.

After placing him on top of the table, I immediately heard an inner voice tell me, take him off the table and place him on the floor. At the time I was a tired mother to a baby and a toddler and wasn’t getting much sleep.  Even in my tiredness, I listened to this voice and immediately placed our son on the floor a few feet away from the table, still asleep in his carrier.  Five seconds later, the nine-foot ceiling fan right above the table came crashing down, landing in the same exact spot our son had just been on the table. The fan shattered the coffee table glass with shards of glass landing all around the table and the room (right where my son was sleeping).

I was shocked, startled and concerned the glass had landed on our son. The loud crash didn’t wake my son, nor did he even react.  As I inspected closer, the shattered glass laid all around his car seat. To my surprise, there was not one piece of glass on our son or even in his car seat!

It as if a guardian angel had placed a shield over our son that protected him from the flying glass that day because there is no other explanation of why the glass was everywhere except on him. Everyone who had witnessed the ceiling fan crashing down from the ceiling knew our son was in the very same spot only seconds earlier before the fan came crashing down. Those in the room kept saying “The baby was just on that table!” They were in disbelief because they knew what they saw. They knew there were shards of glass everywhere. They knew they just witnessed a potential disaster that could have ended very badly. Everyone was concerned and asked if our baby was okay. To their surprise, we told them he was okay and was not harmed from the glass.

I was so thankful I had listened to that inner voice that day. I truly believe God was looking out for us by sending us a guardian angel. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I didn’t listen to that voice and if I had left our son on the table. There is no other way to explain how he was kept safe other than God was with us.

I will always remember this day as one of God’s miracles. It is His reminder to me that he is with us no matter what. This day opened my eyes to see many of God’s miracles all around us every day. Some of His miracles may not be as obvious as saving a baby from a crashing ceiling fan, but have made me look around to see his miracles are everywhere! His miracles are in a baby’s smile, a child’s laugh, a beautiful sunrise, and even in my drive to work. His miracles are my children and my husband, and I am so blessed and honored to be a part of their lives!

Our son is now 9 years old and we tell him the story how God sent a guardian angel to save him from the crashing ceiling fan and shards of glass. We also use it as a lesson about listening to that inner voice that tells you when something is not right, to obey immediately, ask questions later or it could end in disaster!

Blake’s response was ‘I am so glad you listened to God’s voice mommy or the ceiling fan would have fallen on me!’ That day definitely caught my attention. Even in my tired state, it showed me how important it is to stay alert, not delay when I hear a prompting from God. Even though I didn’t realize at the time but now know it was God keeping us safe. I am so thankful for guardian angels!

'Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.' Psalm 138:7Click To Tweet

Do you believe in God’s miracles?

Do you have a guardian angel story?  Please share!

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Christian Dyslexia

Sometimes as Christians I think we get it a little backward.  We start out on a journey to get to know God and then somewhere along the way we get off track.  I’ve been so far off track in my journey at times, when I looked around wondered how did I even get here?

One way to describe my detoured journey as a Christian is to take a peek into the mind of a dyslexic.  I’ve shared in the past of our daughter’s journey with dyslexia.  In her tutoring sessions, I’ve learned a lot of how dyslexic mind works.

A dyslexic’s mind flips around and substitutes letters in words.  They have an inability to interpret text, discern phonemes and distinct sounds represented by certain letters.  Teaching a dyslexic how to read can be a difficult task.  English in itself doesn’t make sense, for example, words like laugh, cough and tough.  The average American is taught these words make an ‘f’ sound.  When sounded out they are pronounced coff, laff, and tuff.  We are taught, just ‘memorize’ these words make these sounds, just accept it.  A dyslexic looks at these words and says this is a bunch tomfoolery, show me where the ‘f’ is, this is a nonsense word.

As Christians, we do the same in our own spiritual lives.  We are taught something our whole lives and just accept it as true and never question if what was taught was actually true.  Over time we’ve substituted and exchanged what we’ve been taught with our own formed beliefs without ever opening up the Bible to see for ourselves.

Sometimes We Get it Backwards

Our Salvation-  Somehow along the way we’ve complicated salvation and made it something it’s not.  We’ve made salvation about us, in how much good we do, not that Jesus died for us.  There would have been no point in sending Jesus if salvation were up to us.  Salvation isn’t, works + grace= salvation.  It’s salvation + grace= works.  No amount of good works could get us to heaven it would never be enough, God’s grace is what saved us which was paid for by the blood of Jesus.   Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Judgment-  Dyslexics also have the inability to determine the difference between words such as live and live–same word different pronunciation.  Without putting these words into a sentence, the context of their meaning is lost.  The same way dyslexics interpret text, we do the same, as Christians.  We interpret one piece of the Bible, without putting it into the entire context of God’s purpose.  We judge those who sin pointing our finger to tell them ‘the wages of sin is death,’ when we are sinners ourself, leaving out ‘but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 6:23).  There is only one judge and that is God.

'So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.' Romans 8:1Click To Tweet

Love-  Ironically love in the English language is an exception word, meaning when a word has a silent ‘e’ the ‘e’ makes the vowel long like in the word cōve.  Love is pronounced ‘luv’ making the vowel short, not following the silent ‘e’ rule.  Love is not an exception, it’s our existence.  Love may not follow all the rules but it’s our purpose.  God is the creator of love.  Love is God.  “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love”  (1 John 4:8).   Love has become distorted, less about relationships more about stuff.  Our world has distorted what love is veering far from God’s design, seeking to fulfill love in places where love will never be found.  A life without love isn’t living life at all.  If love was about being fulfilled with everything in this world, there would have been no point in sending Jesus.

'We love because he first loved us.' 1 John 4:19Click To Tweet

English is a language that has exceptions and doesn’t follow the rules.  When teaching my daughter to read I have to explain to her words ending with ‘k’ and ‘ck’ make a ‘k’ sound except for the word stomach–another exception word.  But that’s just it, there’s always going to be an ever-evolving world that asks us to make an exception. That asks us to compromise our beliefs.  That asks us to take the JES out of JESUS and just leave the US part, making it about US.

We may have good intentions of doing something FOR God and along the way lose sight we were supposed to be doing it WITH God. This life was never meant to be lived just for US but with JESUS. Click To Tweet

So how do we break out of the dyslexia pattern?

By being equipped with God’s truth.  By staying in His Word in prayer. The more we educate ourselves and spend time with God’s words the better able we can decipher what’s backward and what’s not.  Even the godliest people don’t get it right.  We can be encouraged, we might not always get it right, but God makes up for our shortcomings.  He will set our paths straight when we trust in Him.

Can you relate?

Have you ever had a case of Christian Dyslexia?

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What’s My Focus?

 

The other day I had the most vivid dream.  I’m not much of a dreamer, but for some reason, this dream was so vivid and clear.  I could remember the details and emotions elicited by the dream like I was there experiencing it first hand.  From past posts I’ve shared, I like to run.  In this dream, I had trained and prepared for a race.

I remember being in a car driving to the race, trying to get there, but something was always getting in the way–traffic, crowds, roadblocks.  I remember feeling anxious thinking I wasn’t going to make the start of the race.  Then the race started and I wasn’t at the start line.  The crowds of runners passed by me.  Feelings of disappointment and failure rummaged through my heart as I watched the runners pass me. I had prepared and trained for a race I could only watch and not participate in.  Every which way I turned, every time I tried, something got in my way to prevent me from getting to the start line.

After I awoke from my dream, I felt like I failed (nice way to start the day).  I felt the devastation of not completing the race, thinking what does all this mean?  I spent time in prayer asking God the meaning of the dream and heard his gentle response.  He asked me a very simple question, “Are you going to continue to focus on your stumbling blocks or allow me to take care of them?”  “Focus on my purpose for you, I will take care of your stumbling blocks.”

God was right.  At the time of this dream, I was a hot mess.  I was in an ugly rut of taking matters into my own hands, trying to handle things my way, amplifying the stumbling blocks that laid before me.  God was trying to show me, my struggles, my inadequacies, my unbelief will always keep me away from His purpose for me.  Focusing on my struggles making them bigger than God will always take me out of the race, not allowing me to participate and worse yet not finish.

When we live in God's purpose for us, it doesn't matter what struggles or obstacles lie in front of us, if it is His will, He will move them. Click To Tweet

At the time of my dream, I was studying the book of Nehemiah.  If you haven’t read Nehemiah, it is such a wonderful reminder of what God can do when we discover and live in His purpose.  God chose Nehemiah to carry out what He had promised to Abraham.  The Jewish people spent many years in exile and now it was time for God to come through with His promise for restoration of Jerusalem, their holy city.

Nehemiah’s heart was broken when he received news his people (The Jews) were in great trouble and the wall of Jerusalem was broken down.  Once Nehemiah heard of the turmoil, his burning desire to help his people became the sole purpose of his existence.  Two qualities I admire most in Nehemiah were his wise, decisive leadership skills to lead people in the hard work of completing the wall and his prayerful heart.

Before taking on this task of rebuilding this massive wall, Nehemiah devoted four whole months in prayer, praying and fasting before taking action!  Once the four months was over, it only took 52 days to rebuild the wall!  What is so amazing about this task, about 60 years prior Jerusalem’s wall was destroyed and rebuilt which took 20 years to rebuild!

What was the difference?

In both occurrences of the wall, there were obstacles, inward and outward oppression getting in the way of God’s purpose of rebuilding the wall.

Neh. 2:10-  There were enemies getting in the way of rebuilding the wall

Neh.  4:10-11 There was doubt, discouragement, laziness, and fear

Neh. 5:1-5-  The Jews and their families were being exploited as slaves

Neh. 6:1-8- There was an evil conspiracy plotted against Nehemiah to lure him away from the wall

Neh. 6:10-14- Lying prophets tryied to tempt Nehemiah to sin

Nehemiah 6:9 'For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, 'Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.' But now, O God, strengthen my hands.'Click To Tweet

Nehemiah was successfully able to complete the task of finishing the wall because He stayed in prayer and focused on God’s purpose, not the obstacles.

Our obstacles will always prevent us from finishing the race.  Satan will throw obstacles in our path to prevent us from living in God’s purpose for us, to keep us from His plan because He knows God’s ways are greater and better than anything we could ever imagine.

When our focus is on what God is able to do, God will move our obstacles out of the way.Click To Tweet

We have a choice– Focus on our problems or Focus on God’s purpose.

Nehemiah never lost sight of completing the wall WITH God not FOR God.  He stayed in prayer and asked for God’s wisdom never faltering from His purpose.  Our struggles, our unbelief, our doubts, our past, and insecurities will always keep us away from God’s purpose.  We can choose to amplify our struggles or allow it to be God’s platform for what he’s able to do.

What is your focus?

Do obstacles get in the way of God’s purpose for you?

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My Hiding Place

Do you have a hiding place?  A place you like to retreat to?  To get some peace and quiet? To be able to decompress?  Process things?  Or just get away?

I have a hiding place that doesn’t seem like much of a hiding place.  It’s a place I always seem to come back to and find hard to stay away from.  It doesn’t seem like much of a retreat and yet I always come back to it.  Busyness.

Why do I keep coming to this place?  I constantly struggle with making my no, be no and my yes be yes.  I struggle with the balance of just because I can doesn’t mean I should.  I struggle with my heart being pulled in a million different places and where I should prioritize being present.  I constantly allow myself to be reeled back into this place time and time again.  The only thing I accomplish in the end is the feeling of not being able to accomplish the task well, weariness and guilty for spending valuable time away from the ones I love.

Why do I do this?

It’s who I am.  According to my Enneagram personality test, I’m a reformer by nature and have a desire to change the world.  I’m also a helper, who likes to help others at the expense of neglecting the needs of myself or my family.  Busyness also keeps me from dealing with the core issue of who I am–my perfectionism.  If I had a conversation with you, worked on a project, or been allotted a task I’m going to analyze how I could have improved the situation relentlessly in my head over and over.  It becomes tiring and quite defeating not living up to these always changing expectations.

When is it ever good enough?

At some point I just need to be okay with how things are, and accept it's enough.Click To Tweet

So how can I prevent getting into the tangled web of busyness?

Before I say yes to anything, I need to consult with God and my husband FIRST.  Because really when I say yes to something I’m really saying no to my family.  I need to spend time in prayer asking God, is this how I can make the most impact right now?  Is this how I should be spending the time you have given me?

My story reminds me of the Mary and Martha.  Whenever a guest comes to visit your home, there are so many preparations and tasks needed to be done before their arrival, especially if Jesus is your guest!  Jesus came to their home.  While Martha was distracted by all the preparations for their guest, Mary sat at Jesus’s feet and listened to what he had to say.  Martha became annoyed at Mary and said to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”  (Luke 10:40).  

Jesus responded, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed–or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her”. (Luke 10:41-42).

I’ve asked myself would I have responded like Mary or Martha?  I want to say I would have sat at Jesus’s feet listening to every word He had to say, blocking out any distraction focusing on what was most important at that moment–Jesus.  But being the reformer, helper I am, I know I would have been distracted like Martha, missing the very point of Jesus’s visit–to be with Him.

Over the years It has become easier the more time I spend with God, discerning his voice over what I need to do and not do.  But if I’m not careful can fall into the trap of busyness once again missing the very essence of God’s desire for me–His purpose.

My value and worth aren’t comprised of how much I accomplish, but in who God says I am and His purpose for me.  There will always be another task to accomplish, but if I lose focus of God’s purpose for me then all is lost.  The biggest obstacle I can be aware of is if life starts to get chaotic, then probably I let my balance off of being more performance driven than purpose driven.

I will never regret when I make a choice in Jesus name in the direction of God’s purpose for me.  I will never say I wish I performed more tasks.  I will never say I wish I had more time to do more.  I will always regret not spending enough time where my time is needed most with my family or I didn’t get the rest I needed.

Do you struggle with busyness or distractions?

I want to be attentive to what God desires for me and not distracted by where the world wants to take me.  God’s purpose will eternally satisfy more than any highly successful performance ever will.

Where is your hiding place?

Who do you relate most to Mary or Martha?

Prayer-  Lord help me please guard my time, protect the time our family has together.  Help me find rest in you and not my hiding place.  Help my no be no and yes be yes and not feel bad about it!  Help me be present, not go before you and be released from the burden of how I can always do things better.  I love you Lord, trust in who you are, you’re promises and love.  Thank you for keeping me balanced and grounded.  I love you, God, in Jesus name, Amen.

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Failures Don’t Define Us

Have you ever failed something?  Not just a little failure, but a big failure that defined the course of your life?  I’ve shared in other posts the failure that changed my perspective was when I failed my nursing boards.  But what if you have a constant failure in your life one you have to deal with every day?

I’ve shared before about our daughter Brooklyn who has dyslexia which there is no cure.  She will have dyslexia for the rest of her life.  Every day she’s reminded of her inability to interpret text when she’s asked to read something.  Her deficits and inadequacies are amplified every time she’s asked to spell a word.  I can’t imagine what she goes through on a daily basis fighting the battle within thinking she’s not smart and not capable to do what others can do.

As a mother, I have a choice in how to treat my daughter and my daughter has a choice in how she will respond.  Will, I treat her that she has a disability and allow her to use it as a crutch to make excuses for why she can’t?  Or will I show her I believe in her and give her the skills she needs so she can run?

Many of us believe the lie, our failures define us and hold us back from our future.  

Praise God we serve a God who is bigger and is able.  

We are more than our past failures.  We are more than our weakest link.  God uses our weakest traits as a catalyst to propel us towards his greatest plans.  Our weaknesses are not an excuse to go through life walking with a limp, but an opportunity to learn how to overcome and grow stronger for what God has in store for us.

Our failures don’t define us, God’s truth does.

I am always so amazed how God uses the unlikely to carry out His almighty plan.  He doesn’t use the strongest, the wisest or even the most powerful to carry out His plans.  Instead, he used a little shepherd boy named David, a young teenager named Jeremiah and a man with a stuttering problem named Moses.

When you are chosen, you can’t run or hide from God’s choice.  God sees so much more in us than we will ever see in ourselves.  When God chose Moses to go before Pharaoh, Moses wasn’t so sure.

Exodus 4:10 “And Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord.  I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant.  I am slow of speech and tongue.”

I love God’s response to Moses.

Exodus 4:11-13 “The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute?  Who gives them sight or makes them blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go, I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

God didn’t say to Moses, ‘you know you’re right, my plan is never going to work because you don’t have the skills to be a great leader.’  Instead, God reminds Moses, who made you and gave you the ability to hear and see?

We may feel deficient.  Not adequate.  Not prepared.  But God will never ask us to go somewhere without equipping us with the skills we need to accomplish what he is asking of us.  The tasks God asks may be hard and difficult.  They may even seem impossible, but God is bigger.

Jesus reminds us inLuke 18:27, 'What is impossible with man is possible with God.'Click To Tweet

Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. “

When Moses went before Pharaoh, he had already provided a way and means to communicate to Pharaoh, his brother Aaron.  He provided the words and the details of what to do.  Moses was merely God’s vessel and needed his obedience.  Moses had no idea how everything was going to turn out, but God did.

I can’t always be there advocating for my daughter in what she needs to succeed, but with tutors, teachers and a strong support system, we are going to give her the skills so she can fly.  I never want her dyslexia to be a stumbling block and reason why she can’t but the reason why she overcomes and succeeds.

 

Just because my daughter has dyslexia doesn’t mean she’s deficient.

Just because Moses had a stuttering problem didn’t mean he was incapable.

2 Corinthians 3:4-5, 'Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves, but our competence comes from God.' Click To Tweet

Where we fall short, God makes up for our deficiencies and accomplishes His greatest plans through us.

We have two choices.  Allow the limitations of our deficits to confine us and stay in cycles of brokenness or allow God to use our deficits to refine us and move forward in His plans for us.

Do you believe God is bigger?

How will you allow your deficits to impact you? To confine or refine?

Has God helped you do the impossible?

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