hard things that were, and good things that are

Sometimes life is good.  Sometimes it’s easier than it is at other times. But I think it becomes easier to recognize the good times because we have gone through the rough times.  I am currently in a season of relatively good health, mentally, physically, and spiritually.  But as we all know, that can change without warning. 

In some recent emails with a friend, we have exchanged thoughts about good things for that day.  We have practiced being thankful for things like hot cups of tea, smiling grandchildren, unplanned coffee dates with friends and so on.  I have really been enjoying this practice, because it has forced me to think intentionally every day about the good things of life.

Because of this practice, I have been reminded about the recent times in my life that have been extremely difficult.  Times when my faith felt a bit fragile and trusting in God’s good plan was something I had to work at.  I felt trapped on a merry go round of events that would not stop spinning, and I was literally growing ill from the constant motion of it all. 

In Romans 8:28 we read “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  That’s you and I, sister!  If we know Jesus as our redeemer, then this scripture is for us.  This verse is a feel-good verse, at least it is for me.  It is all wrapped up in hope.  Because, when I read this verse, I know that God sees the whole picture, and that He is working through my difficulty with an end result in mind.  That result is my good, my best interest.

But when we slow it down, and only look at the first half of the verse, it changes just a little bit.  “In all things, God works.”  This implies that there are “things”, difficulties, and hardships in this life.  And I see there that being a Christ Follower does not make me immune to challenges and struggles in life.  I will experience “things” that will cause me to pause and know that, on my own, I am unable to understand it all.  But that God is working.

In the book of Acts, in chapter 9, we read an account of a woman named Dorcas.

Dorcas lived in Joppa, near Jerusalem.  Her brief but powerful life story, is told in just 11 verses.

Joppa was a seacoast town, and the women who lived there were typically married to seafaring men who made their living from the sea.  They were often fisherman.  The sea took the lives of many men in accidents out on the waters. Consequently, Joppa had many widows.  But the women there had a friend in Dorcas.  She was a Christ Follower, as well as the first (and only) woman in the New Testament, to be called a disciple. She loved and cared for the women there, when their husbands (and their support system) were no longer there to do it for them.  She sewed the women garments and undoubtedly put her arms around them in comfort as they mourned their losses.  She put her faith into action.

And then, scripture says, that she got sick and died.  Just like that, with no warning, their situation changed, and Dorcas is gone.

How the women in Joppa must have wept and mourned the loss of their friend.  She had done so much, loved so fiercely, and given so generously.  They were in a difficult time.  The widows of Joppa surely would have doubted God’s good plan for them. Perhaps they struggled to trust God, and maybe felt they were trapped on a merry go round of emotions.  Hard things.

But the apostle Peter was called to come, and God gave him the power to raise Dorcas back to life!  Imagine the great joy and praise happening in Joppa! The women felt joy and hope once again!  God had certainly seen into their difficult situation and chosen to revive Dorcas to prove that He was able to care for them.  Good things.

When the situation changed for the women, they reflected, and realize that there had been hard times before, but that they were experiencing good times right now.  They experienced a time of relief and relative peace in their still somewhat difficult existence as a widow in Joppa.  And many came to know God because of all that happened there.

That can be you and I, too.

The hard things that were, become the good things that are, in time. 

“In all things God works.” 

If you are in a heartbreaking time, I want to encourage you to exercise your faith and not get stuck where you are.  I’ve been there, and I will most likely be there again at some point.  That’s just how life is.  But God is always working.  And He’s working for my good.

He’s working for your good too. 

If right now, you are in a time of hard things, hold tight.  Nothing lasts forever.  We are not without hope when we purpose to let God work.  He will always bring about good in our lives. 

But remember, Dorcas’ story doesn’t end with her death, Paul didn’t stay shipwrecked, Ruth didn’t remain a widow, and Jesus didn’t stay on the cross.

In time, with God’s good plan for you, this too shall pass.  He will work it into something good. 

One day, your hard thing will be in the past, and you will be rejoicing in the good things that are. 

Trust in Him to take you there. Only He can make sense of the spinning, and turn your doubt into trust. God always has a plan, a good plan, and when we trust Him even when we can’t see it, we understand better what Jesus meant when He said “you do not understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” John 13:7.

Father, when I am in a rough time, and life is hard, draw me to yourself.  Show me in your word where those who love you are comforted and learn to trust you again because you are always good.  When my faith is fragile, wrap your love around my heart and remind me that your presence is always with me.  I want to choose to trust you even when I am still in the darkness.

Thrive!

This past Friday I had the joy and absolute privilege of witnessing the fulfillment of a dream!

You’ll recall that life changed drastically for most of us in the early spring of this year. Covid took the world by storm, and not at all in a good way. Most of what we consider “normal life” came to a screeching halt.

I work at a school, and since that was shut down like so many things, I found myself with more free time and quiet than I normally like. At first I enjoyed being in my beautiful craft room as much as I wanted, walking and hiking every day, and painting furniture! But after a while, I started to wonder if I spent my time, (even before covid) in a lasting and meaningful way. Basically, was my life good the way it was, or was there something else I should be doing?

I remember waking up one morning with a heaviness in my heart. Not sadness, or stress, but unrest. I started to really feel that God was calling me to something important.

The trouble was, I had no idea what that important thing was!

I spent months talking with my hubby, my closest and dearest friends, my pastor, and the Lord. And in time, I understood what I was feeling to be a calling from Him to host a faith based event for women, filled with connections, worship and a message.

Now, that may seem pretty basic to you, but I knew that that message was to come from my own lips! And I was honored and terrified at the same time!

I had never given so much as a “talk” at a church event, let alone prepared a message. Microphones don’t scare me, being in front of a group doesn’t scare me, but sharing my heart and a message that I felt was from the Lord? That was completely different!

But honestly, once I had some clear direction, the support of my husband, the encouragement of my closest friends in life, and the backing of my pastor, there was no stopping me!

A team came together, filled with the most wonderful women to help fulfill this dream, this event. And I could not have chosen a better group to work with! We planned a night full of worship, gorgeous decorations, a beautiful dessert bar, a coffee bar, wonderful gifts to take home, and a thousand other details!

And when that Friday came, and we saw all those women start to arrive for the first ever Thrive event, there was strong emotion flowing through our veins! The night we had been preparing for, for months, had finally arrived!

And what a night it was! It was so fun and so exciting to see God move!

One thing I do know; I cannot do justice to the pride and joy I feel over Thrive in this blog post. God used me, a sometimes mess of a woman, searching for meaning and purpose in her life, to bring together women and encourage them in the Lord!

That face!

The key verse from Thrive is John 10:10b “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” We talked about relationship and connection to the women in our lives who God uses to encourage and support us. And we talked about being connected in relationship to God. How these two relationships are vital to enjoying a full life.

Naturally, the enemy of our souls tried to steal the day. During all the months of preparing for Thrive, I had relied heavily on the counsel and encouragement of my husband. He’s always been a solid steady voice in my head and heart. And I took for granted that he would be there to cheer me on, to run the sound board and lights, and basically to fix anything and everything that went wrong that night. So when he (very unexpectedly) had to leave the church early in the day on Friday, and couldn’t return, I felt my foundation shake.

He would not be there to finish the day with me, would not be there to witness the event that we both been praying over and working toward for so many months. And I felt my stomach drop, like when you lean to far back in a chair…..

But in that time of struggle, God had already provided a “Titus” for me! 2 Corinthians 7:6 says “God who comforts the down cast, comforted is by the coming of Titus.” My Titus that day was the friend that I had asked to stand by me through Thrive. For some time, neither of us was exactly sure what her true purpose was for the event, but we pressed on knowing the Lord would show us. And He certainly did!

When my ground became uneven and shaky, she came along side of me, held up my arms, prayed with and for me, and together we purposed not to let the enemy win that day! She reminded me that God was all that we needed, and we pressed forward. And you know what, God showed up at Thrive big time! He was there ensuring that the lights and sound and details all came together. It was nearly flawless!

Thrive was a dream come true! I am blessed down to my socks, that God used me for something long lasting! That He allowed me to be part of something meaningful for His kingdom!

Today I have a full heart, and a more full life because of Thrive. The purpose of Thrive is to deepen the connections between women with each other, and to deepen the connection between those women and the Lord.

My own connections with the women who partnered with me for Thrive grew deeper than I anticipated. And as I relied on God to fulfill what I felt was His purpose for me through Thrive, I experienced a full life! A deeper connection to Him.

Now, prepare to be photo blasted!

Spring Thrive is on the calendar for April 30, 2021❤ I already can’t wait to see what He’ll do!

Marching Orders

I’m about to make you uncomfortable. 

In Joshua chapter 6, we see an incredible event take place.  The people of Israel had just crossed over the Jordan River and into the land of Canaan.  This land was the land flowing with milk and honey that God had promised to give them possession of some 500 years prior.

Imagine their excitement!  They had heard stories from their ancestors for as long as they could remember of how God would finally deliver them and give them their own land, a place to be, a wonderful place full of everything they could ever want or need!  They had just spent 40 miserable, exhausting years aimlessly wandering the same plot of desert.  They had children, and those children had children, and all the while they had told them the story of the land flowing with milk and honey.

And now they were here!

And they were prepared for battle. 

They had rallied the troops, so to speak.  They needed to be ready, because the walls of Jericho were thick, impenetrable walls.  These walls were roughly 11 feet high and 14 feet thick.  These walls would not go down easily.  It was going to take a battering ram, a lot of muscle, and most likely there would be a substantial loss of life to win this battle and take possession of the city.  Winning this kind of battle would have taken months of planning, and weeks of consistent fighting.  The walls of Jericho wouldn’t come down without a fight!

Or would they?

The people were prepared for a battle to be certain.  Imagine their surprise when Joshua gave them the word from the Lord.  They were to march in silence around the city, something that would have taken roughly an hour.  The priests were to blow their horns, but no battle cries, no shouting, just marching.  I can imagine that this was most difficult for the fighting men.  I imagine that they were amped up and ready for battle, so the idea of marching in silence must have seemed odd.  Even foolish. 

They did this for six days.  Each day they rose and marched around the city in silence.  All the while, some were probably questioning the odd battle plan that the Lord had given Joshua.  Possibly even doubting that it could work.  Maybe even feeling foolish as the inhabitants of the city jeered and mocked them and their God. 

But they did it.  Faithfully.  Obediently.

There’s that word.  Obedience. It makes us uncomfortable. It’s not a popular word in today’s society is it?  In a society where some like to give children freedom to make their own decisions.   In a society full of social unrest.  Obedience has an overtone that we just don’t really care for or like to talk about.

But God told the Israelites to be obedient to His instructions, and to simply march.  So they marched.

Close to home

And what happens next is absolutely incredible!  On the seventh day, they were told to march around the city seven times.  Seven hours.  Seven hot, tiring, hours.  Seven hours on the seventh day of absolutely NOTHING happening.  The people inside the city walls must have had more confidence on this day than ever, that the God of the Israelites was not powerful enough to do anything, much less defeat the impenetrable walls of their fortified city.

But after that seventh time around, Joshua commanded the people “Shout!  For the Lord has given you the city!” Joshua 6:20 tells us what happened next, as a result of their obedience.  “When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.” Can you say CRAZY?

I strongly encourage you to read the full story of this incredible battle. You’ll find it in Joshua chapter 6.

But don’t miss the lesson.  It was not the swords, the fighting men, the battle plan, the strong force of weaponry or a genus military strategy that brought the victory.  It was obedience.  Plain and simple.  Obedience.

I think too often, we try to “do more” for God when what He really desires is that we trust and obey His word.  1 Samuel 15:22 says “But Samuel replied, ‘What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice.’”  The word obedience can make us uncomfortable.  But there is freedom in obeying God.  If you imagine obedience as chains, holding you back, shift your focus. 

Obedience is peace. 

Obedience is victory.

Obedience is protection.

If God can bring down the mighty walls of a fortified city with first marching and then a mighty shout, think what He can do for us when we follow more closely and listen to Him more faithfully.

What situation in your life do you need God to handle?  What battle are you fighting on your own? Do you need to hand it over to Him? Are you fighting, or marching?  Are you charging or waiting? Sometimes we need to “march around the city” so to speak.  God will knock down the walls, in His time, when we obey. Then we will have victory!

Dear Lord, my humanity often struggles with the concept of obedience.  Since The Fall, we have wrestled with doing life our own way.  Remind me often of the story of Joshua and the Jericho walls.  Remind me of the power I can have over difficulties in my life and heart when I surrender to you and allow you to lead the battle.  Show me where I need to trust and submit to you more.  I know you want what is best for me always.  Your love for me is greater than I can imagine.  Help me to honor you in my heart first, because I need my heart to be right with you to allow you to work out your plans for me.  


Try reading Psalm 51

Fragile emotions~Strong faith

Can we possess both simultaneously?

Sometimes in Christian circles, we are told that if our emotions are fragile and our heart is troubled, that our faith is not strong.  That we “just need to trust more” as if it were a light switch to flip on.

Can we all just take a step back, and admit that sometimes, life just sucks.  That it is hard.  That it feels like more than we can take somedays. 

Now breathe that out.  There. You said it.  You love Jesus, but today, life stinks.

Do you think God is shocked?  Do you think He is disappointed in you now that you admitted it?  Do you think He is shaking His eternal head and looking at you with dismay now?

He’s not.

Jesus, being fully man and fully God, experienced anger (at the religious leaders), rejection (by His disciples),  sorrow(when Lazarus died), physical pain that was real(on the cross), and wished for a way out of His circumstances(in the Garden).  Jesus gets you and me.  He understands our fragile emotions because He experienced them too.

Hebrews 4:15a “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses.”

near home

I have some friends who are going through some exceptionally difficult circumstances today.  They are experiencing cancer, they are experiencing financial issues due to needing a job (or a better job), they are wrestling through real trials in their marriages, their hearts are breaking over their adult children, and their parents are aging and fading away before their eyes.

These. 

Things. 

Hurt.

But sister, you and I are not called to be fake spiritual giants.  We are not expected to be someone we are still growing into.  What we really need is to be honest about our fragile emotions so that we can develop a stronger faith.

Jesus does not expect us to pretend (for the benefit of anyone else or for ourselves) that we are unaffected by the hardship we are experiencing.  Fake faith hurts and can’t help.

He does expect that we will lean into Him so that He can meet the deepest needs in our hearts during that time.  He meets those needs with peace. 

We can possess fragile emotions and strong faith.  In fact, that’s the goal.

When we are experiencing difficulties, the most mature and honest thing we can do is to admit our weaknesses and hurts, but also acknowledge God’s provision and the peace that He brings. 

Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.  We wouldn’t need this verse, or verses like it, if we were supposed to just smile and pretend our hurt wasn’t real.

This world is not the way God designed it.  Remember that.

When God created this world, He created it without pain, struggles, death, suffering, cancer, marital strife, and broken relationships. 

But then sin entered in.  And everything changed.

near home

Scripture is full of warnings of hardship.  John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” 

You can’t fool God.  He already knows how you think and feel.  He knows that you worry sometimes…a lot of times.  He knows that you want to trust His plan but that you struggle since you can’t see how it is good.  He knows that you want to honor your spouse, but that you’re not sure they deserve it.  He knows that you are afraid of the pain of death.  He knows that you’re concerned about having enough for your family.  He knows that you don’t sleep at night because your children have wandered from the faith.  He knows it all. 

And He says in Matthew 11:28-29 “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Rest for our soul sounds so good doesn’t it?  It sounds like peace.   It sounds like trust. It sounds like provision.

Can I confess something to you?  I don’t always do it right either.  I fear, I worry, I lose sleep.

Here’s what Jesus says to us in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

When we recognize our fragile emotions, we can then draw near to God and pray. We can honestly admit to Him that we don’t like what is happening.  And in that moment of confession, we start the process of building trust in Him.  He always has our best on His heart.  Even when it doesn’t feel that way, it’s true.

But until we are honest about our fragile condition, and we are honest with others about it, He can’t work.  When we are busy trying to be something we’re not, He is waiting for us to invite Him in. That’s when He can truly work.  That’s when our eyes are drawn toward Him and off of our struggles.  Peace is ours when we admit our frailty and seek the Lord.  And in return, we receive rest for our souls.

peace

I want to encourage your heart today.  This life is hard. It takes intentional living to avoid getting pulled into despair.  But this life is not all there is.  One day we will join Jesus in Eternity.  And when that happens, there will be great joy!  There will be praising!  There will be laughter and love!  There will be no pain, or sorrow! 

But until that day comes, love each other deeply.  Let your hope be in Him.  And when your fragile emotions threaten to make you a prisoner of fear and doubt, remember that God has a deep and abiding love for you.  Psalm 34:14 “Seek peace and pursue it”.

And though your circumstances may not change, search for rest for your souls.  Don’t stop searching until your fragile emotions develop into a strong faith!

Gifted

What makes you special? 

That sort of seems like an elementary school question, doesn’t it?  Like back when you were 9 and a teacher asked you to introduce yourself to the class and talk about yourself.  I remember feeling awkward and shy (it’s hard to believe now, that I was ever shy though right?).  It feels uncomfortable to talk about yourself in a positive way.  It feels like bragging.  It feels selfish and pious.

But what if it comes from a place of grace and humility? 

1 Peter 4:11 tells us something important that we need to give thought and consideration to.  “God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts.  Use them well to serve one another.”

Talking about what makes you special can seem selfish and pious WHEN it is meant for your own purposes only.  But here in scripture, we are reminded that the qualities about you and I that are special and unique, come to us from God.  They are a gift.

I have received some really great birthday and Christmas gifts in my life.  Some of them have brought me a lot of pleasure and happiness!  When I have gotten a gift like that, I am often giddy with excitement!  I tell everyone about the wonderful gift I have been given!  “Look at this!  I can’t wait to use it!” 

But a gift is just that, a gift.  I did not create or fashion this gift.  I was only the fortunate recipient of it.  Our spiritual gifts are like that too.  They are nothing we did ourselves, they have been given to us by God.  They are a true gift.

If you’re not sure what your spiritual gift is. I encourage you to find out.  Years ago, I took a “a spiritual gifts test” and it shifted the course of my life.  I came to understand that the things about me that came easily and that I did out of a sense of passion, are the same (or similar) things that the Lord had gifted me with.

When you and I come to understand that the passions and talents we have, are actually part of a bigger purpose, we find freedom there! 

Now I can get excited about the things that I am good at; now I can be confident in my abilities because I know they came from God.  They are surely a gift!  So, when I am excited about them, and feeling good about using them, I am not bragging about myself, but rather I am opening the gift that He gave me!

My Grand Girl

The second part of verse 10 reminds us WHY we have been given these gifts.  “Use them well to serve one another.” 

The most wonderful parts of us, are not given so that we can feel more important than others, make money, be idolized, or get lots of “followers” on social media.  They are given to be of service to each other.  They are gifts to be shared, not used solely for our own glorification.

We should also realize that our natural human tendency is to look around at other’s gifts, and feel like their gifts are better, or more important than our own.  We can very easily play the comparison game. 

This is a danger especially for women. God has blessed and entrusted us with talents, influence, and spiritual gifts to glorify Him and to bring about His kingdom.  But we have all been guilty of looking around our workplace, neighborhoods or churches and feeling like what we have is less important than what others have.  This line of thought could lead to jealousy and envy.

There are so many wonderful and inspiring women all around!  We are naturally drawn to people who possess character qualities that we do not have.  When we are at work or church, and we see women that we admire, it is usually because their gift is different than ours.  The reason that we admire them is because there is something wonderful about them, that we don’t necessarily see in ourselves.

While it is true that we can learn so much from people that are different than we are, we also need to remember not to play the comparison game.  The one where we assume that others are happier or more fulfilled than we are, because they are good at something that we are not.  Your gift is not her gift, my gift is not your gift.  Joy comes when we first know that our gift is from God and we use it for His glory.  Then we can develop and use it purposefully to serve others! 

Over the years I have found great joy and purpose in realizing my own gift!  It has brought intention to my life, whereas before, I only saw my short comings.  I saw other women seeming so fulfilled, and I incorrectly guessed that if I did what they did, exactly the way they did it, that I would be happy like they seemed to be.  

But the truth is, I can only be fulfilled when I am working within the abilities and purposes (or gifts) that God gave to ME.

Don’t waste your gift by comparing it to other’s.  Find out what your specific gift is and pursue that with all your heart!  There you will find joy and completeness, because then you will be utilizing your natural strengths and God given abilities!

Try it, you’ll see!

My garden

Without Reserve

When my children were small, I loved them with my whole heart.  

I loved them when they were sleeping, and when they were awake throwing a temper tantrum.  I loved them when they were playing quietly in their room, and when they were coloring on the walls.  I loved them when they were joyfully sharing toys with each other, and when they were running through the house screaming because the other one wouldn’t give back a toy.  

I loved them no matter what.  

And while it might have been easier to be in their presence when they weren’t screaming or destroying the house, I loved them anyway.  Nothing could have changed that.  I still would have jumped in front of a train to save them, even if those crayons were still in their pudgy little hands.

Recent rock art

That’s what real love is. It’s unconditional.

You’ve heard that about God’s love before, too haven’t you? That it’s unconditional?   But if you’re honest, you immediately dismiss the thought as “for other people” or you think, “that’s true, but I still need to do better”.

Today I feel compelled to drive this point home to you.  God’s love for you is unconditional.  Truly, completely, and wholeheartedly unconditional.  

When Christ gave His life for you and me, willingly and painfully, on the cross at Calvary, He did it with out respect for persons.  John 3:16 says “for God so loved the world (that’s all of us imperfect, flawed, unforgiven people) that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”. Notice here that scripture does not say that He gave His life for those that already knew Him, loved Him, did what was right, or didn’t do what was wrong. He gave His life SO THAT we would believe in Him, not because we already did.

Then there’s Ephesians 2:8. “For it is by grace you have been saved, though faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”. Did you catch that?  It is NOT from yourselves; it is a gift.   Love is a gift, not a payment.  

Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”.  God loves us first, and then He draws us with kindness.  Isn’t that how we parent?  My love for my children is based solely on the fact that my kids are my kids.  And because they are my kids, I do my best to teach them, and to develop them into better humans as they grow. But I do that BECAUSE I love them. I don’t love them BECAUSE they already ARE better humans.

Are you getting this?

God loves you unconditionally.  He loves you whether you are sitting on the couch right now in your jammies with messy hair, or dressed and ready for the day. He loves you whether you crossed all the things off your to do list yesterday, or you simply changed the date on the top.  He loves you whether you let loose when you were angry about something, or you managed to keep it under wraps.  He loves you whether your house is spotless, or if you aren’t even sure where the vacuum is.  He loves you whether you read your bible this week, or if you didn’t.  

He loves you.

Two of my grandsons

God is our father.  He is a parent, like a lot of us.  

And He is the perfect parent.  

That’s why He is able to separate unconditional love from performance-based love.

If you can do that for your own children, then it stands to reason that God can do that for His children.  

1 John 3:1 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!  For that is what we are!”

That’s you and I sister!  The children of God!  He has lavished His love on us!  And He did that before we knew Him.  Before we even understood that we should.

He gave His love to us without reserve, and THEN He drew us with His unfailing kindness.  

There are times when I may have been disappointed in my children’s behavior, but those times did not change my love for them one ounce.  Not then and not now.  It is a faithful love that never ceases.  That kind love is independent of shortcomings. That kind of love is not based on perfection either.  

I want you to really dwell on this. There is joy and completeness in fully realizing that God’s love is 100% unconditional.

I will leave you with Romans 5:8. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  If His love for us was so completely unconditional that it did not stop Him from giving His life for us on the cross, then I think it’s safe to say that nothing will.

He loves you no matter what.

Always.

Forever.

Unconditionally.

Sedona

Dinner Time Faith

It happens every day doesn’t it?  Usually, around 4 p.m., we start giving serious consideration to the looming question of “what’s for dinner?”

On some days, dinner becomes a bowl of cereal, or we might overpay for takeout, just to put “food on the table”.

But on our best days, we have a plan.  We have prepared ahead of time.  We have thawed something out, we have chopped the veggies, or better yet, it’s already in the crock pot!  On those days there is peace of mind knowing that we will not be scrambling at the dinner hour to meet our needs.

Isaiah 55:10-11 says “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

What we see in this scripture is God’s provision for now, and His provision for later too.  God sends the rain and snow to earth to water the plants and to sustain life on earth in the present.  But He also sends the rain knowing that the same plants that need rain immediately to flourish, will use the water to grow and supply seeds for the future.  This is God providing for us now, and later.

Often times we live in the now.   

We pray in the now.  

We worry in the now. 

And we plan in the now.

But Isaiah reminds us that God sends rain to provide for our futures too, with seeds of faith.  You see, if we get rain for our plants to grow, for us to drink, and to make bread with today, but we do not have seeds for the future, we won’t have what we need to sustain us.

The same principal applies to our spiritual lives.

Let’s face it, some days there is just too much to do.  And it starts as soon as our feet hit the floor in the morning. 

Maybe you woke to a little one crying for your attention.  Maybe your eyes pop open with a to do list rolling through your brain.  Maybe you didn’t sleep well (or at all) because of worry.  Maybe you didn’t get up as early as you needed to in order to accomplish all that you wanted (or needed) to that morning before having to rush out the door. 

Those things happen to all of us.  It can be difficult on days like that, to give God time.  To sit at His feet and read His love letter to us.  So many issues press in on our time, and we succumb to the crisis of the immediate.  Whatever screams the loudest for our attention, gets it.

But what happens when we take the time to put Him first?  When we read His word and consider how we can apply it to our lives? 

We gather seeds for the future.  We begin to arm our hearts with truth that will sustain us.  We deepen our faith roots and have an abundance of “seeds” that we can fall back on when needs arise in the future.  We have provision for the present and assurance for the future.

On the days when you don’t think you can, when there’s just too much happening, do it anyway.  On the days when your heart is heavy and you just don’t want to, do it anyway.  On the days when you don’t think you need it, do it anyway.

You will be glad you did.  And you will be planting seeds for your future.  You will have a “harvest” to fall back on in the dry times.

Jesus will meet you there.  When you and I “store up His word in our hearts”, He can bring it to mind to comfort and lead us on another day.  But the opposite is also true, we cannot “draw water from an empty well”.  Nor can we harvest seeds that have not been planted.  We need to prepare.

Now, don’t misunderstand me here.  I am not talking about perfection.  Naturally, there will be days that we don’t get in the Word.  There are legitimate circumstances that prevent that time from happening.  But…when we faithfully make spending time in his word our goal and priority, instead of only trying to “squeeze it in somewhere”, we can be certain that the truths of scripture will make their way deeper into our lives where it matters most. Then God can use them as seeds, as future provision. 

Somedays, we need His word right now, like bread to take away our hunger.  Other days, we hold on to it like seeds for the future.  Both are important, both are good.  But we can strive for better than just the crisis of the immediate. 

So, I challenge you.  Read His word every day.  For a week straight?  A month?  Just do it.  You will find that you are able to recall loving truth to lead and comfort you when your “dinner time crisis” looms.  You will have a plan; you will have it “in the crock pot!”

Then God says that His word “will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Just like rain.  (vs 11)

Preparing ahead creates trust and peace of mind. 

And faith.

Thrive!

I interrupt your regularly scheduled blog post to bring you, Thrive! This is an event for women to gather and connect!

To Thrive means to grow or develop vigorously; to flourish.

To Thrive is to realize abundant life. To not simply “get by” or merely survive. But to Thrive!

This is what God wants for us. John 10:10b says ” I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

I am confident that relationships and connections play a role in how we Thrive.

I am inviting all local friends to join me at Grace Church in Chino Valley on November 13th for an evening of celebrating those connections! Come enjoy a delicious dessert bar with all the fancy, yummy, sweet things you can imagine, participate in heartfelt worship, and be challenged through a message from God’s word.

Tickets are $15 and space is very limited! Until October 18th (or until all seats are sold) there is a $5 Thrive Launch and Early Registration discount! This makes your ticket to Thrive just $10! Seats are going very fast!

So grab a friend and sign up today! It will be a wonderful evening of “girl time” and connection~~~

I’ll see you there!

Shelli

A Faithful Foundation

Have you ever watched a fellow Christ Follower go through something painful or difficult?  Did you observe them handling it with such peace and joy that you were unable to truly comprehend how that was even possible?  Did you think to yourself, “If that were me, I’m not sure I would be able to deal with it with as much grace as they are”?  Maybe you pondered your own spirituality and the “real-ness” of your own faith.

This is me right now.

Can I just be open and honest with you?  (If you keep reading then I guess the answer is yes!”)  Right now, today, at this moment, I have 2 dear friends that are experiencing a fresh diagnosis of cancer.  Two women that I love deeply and have known for an awfully long time.  Two women whose faith is the real deal.

And they inspire me.

These women have spent their entire adult lives loving Jesus, pursuing a relationship with Him, and deepening their faith in His power and love. 

While nothing can truly prepare the human heart for a difficult health diagnosis, there are steps that we can, and should be taking consistently now, to draw close to Him. Steps that will be of significant value should we be faced with something similar. Steps that will help us to prevent a complete crisis of faith. 

Let’s consider Matthew 7:24-27 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Here we see a parable (or story with a lesson) from Jesus.  This is the parable of a man who chose wisely, to build his “house”, or life, on a firm foundation.  He did not choose mere “sand” that would wash away when the rains came, he chose rock, strong and sure.  The idea here is that as we live out the time that God has given us on this earth, we are free to build our life on whatever foundation we choose. 

If we want, we can choose to build our lives on the foundation of worldly things.  Money, prestige, self-importance, or even comfort and ease.  God gives us free will, we have that choice.  But scripture tells us that “the wise man” chooses a firm foundation.  Spiritually speaking, he chooses a life of serving others, putting God first in decisions to honor Him, trusting God even when life gets hard, and living with generosity.  We do this by spending time in His word.  By seeking His will.  By having relationships that build us up and point us to Jesus.  The implied Rock from the parable is Jesus, our rock and our redeemer.

All through scripture we see times of guidance where God tells us that “life will get hard”.  Storms in life come to everyone, inside the faith and those outside as well.  They WILL come.  That is one thing we can be certain of.  But will we be prepared?

The two women that I am loving on and praying for right now, have done just that.  They have developed a pattern of deep and abiding faith. They have intentionally placed their trust in the Lord in times where life has shown them no kindness.  This is not the first time that they have encountered extreme difficulty.  But it IS the first time that they have had cancer. 

And you know what?  They are responding the same exact way to this trial, with faith and trust.

How does someone who has gotten a cancer diagnosis and pondered the thought that their time here on earth with those they love could possibly end (in a time frame that is too soon) and yet, stay faithful?  How do they avoid becoming despondent and bitter toward God for allowing them to have cancer?  How do they continue each day with joy and faith?  It is because they built their house on The Rock

Psalm 18:2 “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” NLT

God promises to comfort us in our troubles.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4a says “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…”  Did you catch it?  He comforts us IN OUR TROUBLES.  He doesn’t shield us FROM them.  He promises to comfort, or strengthen, us while they are ongoing.  Don’t think that if you “do everything right”, that somehow you will escape difficulties.  Jesus himself was perfect, and He had more heart ache and suffering than you and I ever will.

But God says that He will be with us, walking along side us for the journey, enduring the hurt with us and helping us to find purpose in the pain. 

This is what I am seeing with my two friends. They did not wait until the storm came to find shelter in the Rock. They built up that foundation in advance, in preparation for a storm they didn’t see coming.

What I see are two women who have been faithfully pursuing Him and have let Him lead and use them for many years already. What I am seeing is a continuation of their faith, not a drastic shift out of desperation. More of a natural readjustment into what is next. A soft curve, not a sharp turn.

They have purposefully built their lives on a foundation of faith. This faith is real, and it runs deep. And in that way, they have prepared spiritually for what they are facing right now. When you and I consistently spend time with the Lord, by reading His word, learning from it and applying it to our lives, then we allow His presence to guide us through life. That’s how we build and grow a faith that will withstand any storm. We are preparing in advance for what may come.

Friends, we WILL face trials.  We WILL have difficulties in many areas of life.  We WILL, sooner or later, call out to God for mercy and grace.  And He WILL respond. 

But if we are to enjoy peace and trust and love the way my two friends are, that relationship needs to strengthen and grow now. 

Stop putting it off.

Stop being “too busy”.   

Don’t let your life fall apart.

Don’t let your “house” be destroyed by storms .

Let’s build our house on The Rock.

Image by Oleg Mityukhin from Pixabay