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Friday, 31 March 2023 20:28

Balance Part 4: A Life of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a lifestyle. It just isn’t a thing we study or read about; it is the way we are to live.

As we continue to work toward balance in 2023, (Five Habits of a Balanced Life) we need to recognize the importance of forgiveness. Forgiving others is a common theme in our pursuit of Christlikeness, but do we live it? I find myself rushing through familiar Scripture without giving it much thought. I know these verses about forgiveness but how are they intertwined in my daily life.

Driving to the grocery store the other day, I found myself behind a garbage truck. The truck slowed and pulled to the side but not completely off the road. I stopped behind them as I couldn’t judge the speed of the oncoming traffic. The pickup behind me honked and I could feel their impatience. My overly cautious hesitation annoyed them. As I continued to drive, I found my thoughts drifting to the correction that the pickup truck driver obviously needed. Maybe I would follow them and give them a piece of my mind.

Then the words from my morning reading drifted into my mind.  Mercy must overcome bitterness. Wow, how quickly my mind went to judgement instead of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a lifestyle and who knows why that driver impatiently honked. I forgave them and prayed that the Lord would be with them.

Forgiveness is an act of our will. We choose to forgive every time the incident comes to mind, we declare that forgiveness again. Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a choice, but it certainly wraps itself in emotions. Surrendering those feelings every time the offense comes to mind eventually brings us to a place of peace.

Forgiveness is God’s will and an act of my will. The more I know Jesus, the easier I can forgive, but it takes practice and intentionality. Jesus taught us to

  • Forgive those who sin against us.
  • Forgive so we will be forgiven.
  • Forgive seventy times seven.
  • Forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against.
  • Forgive others and you will be forgiven.

Forgiveness does not excuse the actions of others; it releases the judgement and leaves the justice to God. I know it is not easy, but forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a decision. We choose it and it brings freedom. Luke 6:37 says “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven;”

As we enter into holy week, let us dwell on Jesus words on the cross.

“Then Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. ‘” (Luke 23:34).

Each of us chooses to live as He modeled and directed - a life of forgiveness.

Published in Devotionals
Tuesday, 28 February 2023 16:18

Balance Part 3:March into Thanksgiving

March is a messy month in my home state. Breezes blow with the promise of spring, but they still have a bit of bite to them. The melting frostline prepares the soil but the transition creates mushy, muddy ground. The hope of spring dances on the edge of the world around me but we can’t quite grasp it.

As we grapple with this change of seasons, it may be tempting to grumble and complain, but Scripture warns us against it.  Philippians 2:14 (NIV) “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky  I want to embrace it like a kid, and gleefully make mudpies instead of frowning at the gloom.

In January we examined Five Habits to Bring Balance to Your Life. This month we look at habit number two: gratitude. Thanksgiving happens all year long, not just in November. Ephesians 5:20 instructs us to live by “giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What does a thankful heart look like on a normal or mundane day? How do we live the abundant life when we have to clean the bathroom or pay the bills? This of course is not a new idea. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Some days it is easier to be thankful than others. It is one thing to clean a bathroom as part of your routine, it is quite another when you are disinfecting after an illness. Yet, Scripture reminds us we are to be thankful in all circumstances.

A simple action we can implement is to start a gratitude journal. If you don’t like journaling, try tacking sticky notes in a place you will see them. Jot down both the simple and profound things that bring you a sense of gratitude. Find a way to let God know you see Him, and you will be reminded His goodness as well. What am I thankful for everyday?

  1. I’m alive.
  2. I know Jesus.
  3. Jesus loves me.
  4. Jesus is teaching me.
  5. He doesn’t leave me.
  6. His mercies are new every morning.

What can you add to that list? Gratitude leads us to our source of life, both our physically and spiritually. It shifts our focus from the provision to the provider.

Taking it one step further, look at the areas of your life that cause anxiety. Take a moment to write out a worry and then turn it into a gratitude statement.

For example: How am I going to make my budget work this week? Thank you, Lord, you help me find items on sale.

I asked these questions in January:

In your current daily routine, what could produce gratitude? Hunt for all the goodness present, you may be surprised at how much you find.

Life may not be as you wished it would be, but what can you find to appreciate in each day?

I’d love to hear your answers.

Published in Devotionals
Friday, 03 February 2023 13:39

Balance Part 2: Feed Myself

The American mindset cripples us. Although living in the USA is a privilege, the breakneck speed at which we live is dangerous. Striving for the American Dream drives us and that is not fun. There is always something on our to-do lists. Our days off become crammed with appointments, errands, and home upkeep. We wear ourselves out trying to do it all. This – whatever this is – is distracting us from God. We already know we aren’t what we do yet what we do seems to propel us through life. In empty homes, that feeling of abandonment cannot be filled by a full calendar.

Life is a balancing act. Each morning I check my calendar, and my mind clutters with all I need to do. It never seems to end; I can’t possibly take time to rest or recreate. During the smallest break, pressure pushes in. Groceries, laundry, work, appointments, relationships, oh and ministry the list continues to crowd in eating up my time. If I sit down, I will be behind. Sigh, God will understand, He will wait, maybe tomorrow I will have time, but tomorrow plays out like today.

If your life is anything like mine, it can be frenetic. We go, go, go, running from one activity to the next, leaving us little chance to catch our breath. Of course, there are times when we can’t help it. The question is do we allow this fast-paced world to crowd out our times of rest? Not only recreational rest but Sabbath rest. Ah, just writing the word brings peace to the deepest part of me but also angst because it is so hard to take the time. But that’s exactly what we need to do – capture the time to replenish our souls.

I have the hardest time sitting still to have “quiet time”. My quiet time is often not silent at all. Wrestling with the “right way” to sit with Jesus wastes a great deal of my time. However, finding ways to still my over active mind so that I can fully engage with my Creator is a necessary part of my spiritual walk. I want to know God, so I must slow down and spend time with Him.
Let’s look at our calendar and schedule small daily times to restore our souls.

Where can we say no?
What is nonnegotiable?
Where can we invite God in order to spend time with Him all day long?
Does this practice need to shift from a task to relationship building with God?
Reevaluate our time with God. What needs adjusting?

Now let’s look at our weekly schedule. Do you have a Sabbath day? Not a follow the rules day but a day to replenish our soul. Doesn’t that sound inviting? Ask God what that should look like for you.

Heavenly Father, I’m in awe of who you are and your creative power. I ask that you teach me to rest and recreate in you. Replenish in me what is lost. Revitalize me for your purposes. In Jesus Name, Amen

 

Published in Devotionals
Sunday, 04 December 2022 00:35

Mary wasn't alone

Mary had great faith but she was just a kid. Maybe as a teenager her naivety protected her from full understanding of what she would endure.

Luke 1:48-49 (NLT) “For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.”

She believed the angel. Then God provided evidence to continue to build her faith.

Mary was highly favored. Luke 1: 28 (NLT) “Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Gabriel spoke these words over Mary before it all began. Yet, look at her life from a historical point of view. Mary was the only one who knew Jesus from conception all the way to Pentecost. Mary was at His birth, childhood, and first miracle. She witnessed His ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and was present in the upper room when the Holy Spirit empowered His followers. Reread that. Can you fathom the honor of her position? She sacrificed much but she witnessed the greatest events in history.

Not only was she visited by an angel, God prepared others to support her too. Older and wiser people walked along side her as she stepped into the position of mother of Jesus.It is another example of the importance of intergenerational relationships that empower each of us to live out our part of God's story.

Joseph – Her husband-to-be knew exactly what was happening. He loved God and loved her through it. (Matthew 1:20-24)

Elizabeth – Her cousin was empowered by the Holy Spirit to know the child Mary was carrying before Mary spoke a word. (Luke 1:41) Elizabeth, pregnant before Mary, it is believed that Mary stayed with her as little John came into the world. Her visit equipped her in her own motherhood journey.  

Simeon – The Holy Spirit guided him to the temple to meet Mary, Joseph, and Jesus as they came to present the baby to the Lord. He spoke words that confirmed Jesus was the Messiah. (Luke 2:25-35)

Anna – This prophet recognized Jesus immediately. She praised God and was filled with joy when she saw the family in the temple. (Luke 2:36-40)

Who in your life is there to support you and who are you called to support?

Mary remembered God’s promises and provision. Luke 2:19 (NLT) “but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” When times became confusing, she remembered God’s promise. This boy, her son, was the Messiah. God’s promised deliverer. His life purpose would come to pass.

She faced hopeless and helpless situations according to the world’s standards, but God saw it differently. She trusted God, although an ordinary woman, God did extraordinary things through her.  

Victor in Christ, faithful to belong, noble in character and ready now to follow His lead we will go forward into a new year.

Merry Christmas!

Published in Devotionals
Friday, 04 November 2022 14:02

Nourish Faith

“I believe; help my unbelief!” I breathed the end of Mark 9:24 once again as we faced one more challenging event. The knot in my chest compelled me to my knees. I wanted all the pain to go away but I needed to face it, feel it, and walk through it.

Faith births itself in funny ways, often through difficult or stressful situations. Whether we’ve known Jesus a short or long time, we recognize faith is not stagnate. Faith requires nourishment on a regular basis. This is true for all of us.

Faith is there but I want to trust Jesus more. I prayed this verse many times during our transition year to the empty nest. I knew the truth, but I didn’t feel the truth. This prayer continued to build the bridge between my head and my heart. It teaches me that I am not alone in times of doubt, and I don’t have to stay there. It shows me, like the father in Mark 9, I can ask for a gift of faith when I am feeling weak. God will answer that prayer.

Faith is based on our hope in the unseen (Hebrews 11:1). Asking God to help build that faith like the man in Mark 9 is not an act of a weak faith but of a hungry spirit. I want to look for God in each day:

Lord, help me see you.

Lord, help me hear you.

Lord, I know you are here.

Lord, help me feel you.

He will answer those prayers, often our mysterious God does it in ways that are unique to us. Daily reapplying the truth of our faith allows it to grow. As those reapplied truths seep into our heart, mind, and spirit it becomes evident in our life.

One More Step

We often concentrate too much on the dos and don’ts of Christianity, instead of the how and why of Christlikeness. Our foundation, built on Jesus Christ, steadies us in this transition time. It is not a time to just endure but a time to thrive in new and fun ways. As we move into a new phase may each of us not forget the truth of the Gospel and what it means to us. It is important that we know and live God’s truths

Peter takes this one step farther in 2 Peter 1. He encourages us to add not only faith but goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love. These are the truths that help us live a full life seeking after our new season with gusto. Oh, the joy that comes when we seek after these things in the power that only the Holy Spirit brings. A delight that brings freedom to live a fun life, full of laughter.

Fun people are life giving people.

Let’s choose to live full out, whole heartedly, and one hundred percent all in – which is not easy and why we need the reminders. May we project that truth through light heartedness and winsome ways that joyfully reflect our Creator.

Dear Father, thank you that we have access to your words and your ways. Help us to know the area we need to grow and nourish through reapply the truth. Help us to soften our hearts as we consume your words so we can become more like you. In Jesus Name Amen.

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Published in Devotionals
Friday, 30 September 2022 18:20

Living in the Tension

The daunting task of writing a timeline of the previous year lay before me. Turning to look back at the deep grief did not invite me to this assignment. I wasn’t sure I wanted to record and in turn relive all those negative moments.

Curling up on my couch, I wrapped my self in my fluffy blanket, relishing in the comfort of its weight. A rich cup of black coffee grew cold on the table next to me, I ignored the inviting aroma, determined to face this chore. My chest tightened with anxiety as I did not want to go back to the dark days.

In my timeline, I recorded the “bad” events in grey and the rest popped on the page in the bright happy colors I prefer. I noticed moments of joy sprinkled among the pain. There lies the tension, life is not good or bad it is a combination of both.

I discovered I want to run from the pain in my life. In the push and pull of life, I’d rather stay on the fun side. I want to ignore the ugly, respond with a quick quip of “it’s all good”, and move on and up.

BUT it is not all good. Recognizing this brings healing to our hurting souls. Life is a tapestry of blessings and difficulties, woven together to re-present our story. The combination of the “good” and the “bad” defines us.

King David captured this in Psalm 30:5b “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (NLT) Reading this again today, I recognized the beauty of the cyclical nature of life this represents. Our life is a long series of days and nights, but also the reoccurring pattern of weeping and joy. As much as we are to live joyfully, we need time for lament as well.

Hidden within the definition of tension is the promise this joy and lament cycle brings to us. Tension, the state of being stretched tight by an outside force, such as mental and emotional strain, causes us to stretch. As we stretch, we expand our understanding of what it means to be human. Without struggle I lack empathy, without pain I lack growth, without lament I lack release, and without joy I lack gratitude.

During my darkest days, I witnessed my daughter’s joy as she found her wedding dress. Although, I purposed to be in the moment, I couldn’t fully feel the joy I hoped to share with her. As I reviewed my timeline, I returned to the memory of that moment with her. Envisioning her once again in her elegant gown, her face shining with joy as she realized she found the one she wanted. Reflecting on it again, tears of joy streamed down my face as I anticipated seeing her on her wedding day. This time I fully felt the beauty of this once in-a-lifetime moment, radiating out in the darkness that surrounded it.

I encourage you to take a moment today to honestly reflect on your feelings. Lament the bad and celebrate good, allowing the tension between them to strengthen you.

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Tuesday, 30 August 2022 18:40

Take One Brave Step

I like change but also, I like things to stay the same. I get bored in the monotony of the same activities, day in and day out, but there is also comfort in the familiar. Transitioning into new seasons can reveal an uneasiness as we approach the unknown.

Now it is your chance, what fears are you facing today? From the silly to the serious, write them down. We’re friends now, so I can trust you with a deep-down secret. Have I mentioned I loathe slugs? The only thing worse than the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz would be flying slugs. I mean can you imagine? I shudder as I write these words, but really, I can spend my whole life ignoring this fear unless it keeps me from the activities I love. This fear does not keep me from gardening or hiking in the woods. Fears like that, although humorous, are not the ones we are addressing.

Checking items off our bucket list takes a little step of courage. Adventurous fun means taking a brave step that helps us feel alive. Recently, my husband and I took a trip to the Picture Rocks National Lakeshore along the lower coast of Lake Superior. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go.

Our reservations for a sea kayak tour of the coast were postponed twice due to high surf. This didn’t calm my apprehension. I wasn’t sure to pray for cancellation or calm waters.

After the guides gave a detailed safety lesson, in which they detailed EVERY POSSIBLE THING THAT COULD GO WRONG, we boarded the boat for our excursion. However, they did not mention flying slugs. Wide eyed, I donned my splash skirt and life vest waiting for our turn to board our tandem sea kayaks.

Once on the lake, it took me a bit to get used to the wobble when Dave adjusted his position. My trust grew with each paddle stroke as we found the rhythm of working together. The wonders of this uniquely beautiful rock formation loomed before us. Close enough to touch, we were awed by the colors rippling through the cliffs. The beauty and exhilaration of Lake Superior touched a deep part of my soul. A small brave step turned into a trip of a lifetime.

I didn’t have to face that fear but I’m glad I did. However, there are fears we each need to address. My ongoing struggle rests in the roots of people pleasing. Implanted in me as a child, I must keep a watchful eye out for it as I move in the direction Jesus sends me. If I am not on guard, one negative comment can send me reeling. Not the best attribute for someone who speaks publicly. Therefore, my step of bravery is saying “yes” to situations that bring others attention to me. My goal is to redirect that focus onto Jesus, disregarding irrelevant criticism.

What keeps you from conquering your fears? Do you possess the gifts and talents required for that adventure? Are you brave enough to invest in yourself to gain the knowledge you need to fulfill that desire? Now that is what I call fun!

Pretend we are sitting across a table from one another. It is a safe conversation, what would you share that you’ve never spoken before?

Our courage fortifies us to move forward into the full life Jesus promised. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, we remember to be strong IN the Lord, (Ephesians 6:10). Yes, that allusive abundant life belongs to each of us. We just need to know how to embrace it in every stage of life.

Father thank you that you impart courage to us when we need it. We lay our fears at your feet, declaring they will not hinder us anymore. We stand in the waiting for your instructions. Holy Spirit nudge us in the direction You want us to go. We trust you to guide us and to strengthen us as we move forward. In Jesus Name Amen

If you need to go deeper into this subject, I highly recommend Annie F. Downs books Let’s All Be Brave and 100 Days of Brave. They will change your life if you struggle with courage.

Published in Devotionals
Saturday, 30 July 2022 13:07

Flourish or Flounder?

As summer wains, transition looms on the horizon. Back to school season empties our nests once again, opening the gates to a surge of emotions we may be unprepared for.

Believe it or not, life does not end when our children reach adulthood.

Some days, it feels that way. Our feelings are a part of what makes us human; I am not a robot. Emotions define us as a species, and they are an amazing gift. When life is good, happiness fills every moment. But when it is not, it can be hard to overcome these unwanted feelings. Emotions reflect how we feel, but they aren’t always anchored in reality. They can conflict with one another, but that doesn't mean they can’t or shouldn’t both exist at the same time.

For example: I am happy that my children are succeeding, AND I am sad that they are far away. I’m thrilled they are happy, AND I still miss them.

But the real question is how do we deal with our reactions as we age and enter this new season?

Symptoms of empty nest syndrome include sadness, depression, loss of purpose, and loneliness. It's not a clinical diagnosis. But those are common traits among empty nesters in this transition. It gives us a reason—but not an excuse—to continue living this way. I felt it deeper than I thought I would. My heart goes out to you as you negotiate these feelings.

I’m so glad this is only a temporary time for each of us. Here is a strategy I am finding helpful as I move through this season myself.

Read the following Scripture, meditate on the gift given to us in the verse. It is powerful. Let it empower you to move one step closer toward the woman God sees in you.

Proverbs 31:21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. (NIV)

This verse depicts the emotional battle won by our Proverbs 31 friend. Fearless, she knows her loved ones are protected against the dangers of this world. The stark contrast between the white snow and the scarlet clothing reminds us to thrive not just survive. Certainly, we can see this for our physical needs, but I believe it also represents our emotional and spiritual needs as well.

Scarlet cloth represented luxury, abundantly providing for all in her family. Jesus also wore a scarlet robe on the way to the cross. He paid the full price for all our needs including our emotions. Our goal is to take all our emotions and place them at the feet of Jesus. He reminds us that His burden is light. He is calling us, the weary, to Him. He is always to help us into the abundant life in which we will flourish.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that even in emotional transitional seasons, you can make us new. In Ephesians 4:23-24 it says, “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Yes, let Your Holy Spirit reawaken us to our designated design. Invigorate us to a fresh new life. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

Published in Devotionals
Thursday, 30 June 2022 13:02

I Think I Can

I love the children’s book  The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. Originally published in 1930, its message still speaks to us today. Small in stature, I identify with Little Blue Engine. Her determination moved her over the mountain. This age-old story, undergird our own journey by reminding us that our attitude matter. I keep a copy of this book on my desk to remind me of this important truth in furthering my own dreams.

Reflected in Biblical heroes like David, we see the greater advantage of God in our lives. We can because God is. David declared the enormity of God to a giant standing before him (David and Goliath 1 Samuel 17). David defeated Goliath through his trust in God.  Living our true selves, reliant on God, glorifies God to all who are in our lives.

I still believe I can do whatever I set my mind to do. I’m not going to go out and run a marathon. I could however, if I trained. Many women my age accomplish this goal, but I don’t want to do that. However, it is a great metaphor for life at this age. It may take longer to do some things but if we set our mind to it, we can. For most of us we may have less energy, but we’ve grown in knowledge, wisdom and understanding.

Now is the time to tap into that knowledge and wisdom Jesus provides for us. Look at the benefit of living a Christ filled life stated in 1 Corinthians 1:30 “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” Jesus is the source of all wisdom; we need to listen to the part of our spirit aligned with the Holy Spirit.

Knowledge comes from learning God’s will for our lives. The abbreviated version of this is that He wants us to live as His child. That plays out differently for each of us but it is the cornerstone of the knowledge of understanding our identity. Where it becomes more difficult is discerning when to apply that knowledge in each situation with wisdom. 

Paul wrote this for us and it is my prayer for you:

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.” Colossians 1:9-12 (NLT)

How we apply this understanding takes time a practice. You can learn more by studying Paul's words in Colossians 1.  In our mid-month challenge video we will explore this further, sign up here so you don'e miss out

Published in Devotionals
Thursday, 07 April 2022 16:46

Let Spring Erupt!

Embrace_Spring.png

Each March the chorus frogs song usher in spring.  April arrived and we still haven’t heard our frogs. Spring continues to lay dormant. It is a bit irritating. I like snow in February but not April! So, we wait, because we know it will come. It always comes.

Spring reflects the promise we hold dear, new life. It symbolizes Jesus, our hope of life reborn, not just in heaven be on earth as well. (Matthew 6:10) As we wait, we know even when God appears quiet, He is working. After a dark season, it is important to remember that promise. New life is developing in our mind, soul, and body as we learn to love Him more.

The world has tarnished and dented our designed. The Holy Spirit however is at work resurrecting us back to the initial plan. 2 Corinthians 3:18 reminds us, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” Transformation polishes our imperfections, removing sin's damage from both our soul and spirit. 

Transition is ongoing. Funny how we can see the need to change in others, but we miss our own need for growth. Improvement continues in the process of life, a slow development into Christlikeness. Embrace the process and yield to Him. Be transformed back to His image, our true self, as we were created.

We cry out, "refine us to reflect Jesus." We stretch to react the way He would in each and every situation with humility, love, and truth. 

We wait. We notice it when change is drastic but are frustrated when we don’t see progress. As time and change crawls forward, we need patience. If you are like me, that is hard. I’d rather not see the flaws that remind of the lack of progress. Then I need to go back to my earlier statement, life is a process. Recognize He is good, press into the Lord and let His refining work continue.

The Spirit lives right here, dwelling in us.

Speaking to us.

Molding us.

Changing us.

All while loving us.

We simply respond by listening, yielding to His crafting, embrace the change and love Him back.

Spring is coming. Soon we will see our backyards turn to green, the birds will sing, and the frogs will call. A new season buds, reminding us He makes all things new.  Let spring erupt inside of us, as we witness its return to the world around us. 

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