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Purpose Amidst Imperfection 

Nestled amidst the sunrise of a fresh week and all the promise it holds is an ever faithful reminder of my inadequacy. I am presently, but peacefully aware that I got more wrong than right last week, and that will surely be my truth this week as well.

My keen sense of insufficiency poses a different purpose for me now, though. Growing in grace teaches me that it is no longer about striving for perfection only to be frustrated, but seeking purpose amidst my imperfection only to be furthered.

 It is an incongruent truth that on the other side of our failures is an intention designed for our prosperity. 

Understanding that falling down is not a shameful thing, but a sacred tool is the genesis of praise. Praise opens the door and welcomes gratitude right into our hearts.

When gratitude is our guest, we see through all the heavy right into the heart of the holy, and joy becomes a source of our strength. 

This week, friend, I pray you have eyes to see and ears to hear all the beauty that your brokenness beholds, and your heart will sing, it is good and it is well with my soul.
You are loved.❤️

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Shine More

 When the sadness of the world is shutting the doors of your heart, open them up more.

When persecution is preying on your joy, look for reasons to praise more.

When grief says the world will never be like before, gratify Jesus more.

When you want to give up, instead give more.

When there seems to be no love left, love more.

Evil only wins if we lose our light to the lust, lies, and lawlessness of the world. When you want to surrender shine more.

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He is Soverign Over Us

 

We all have circumstances in our lives that we wish were different, and this reality is one of the easiest places the enemy entangles us. You may be in an unstable marriage, parenting a prodigal child, facing addiction, disease or significant loss. Whatever the challenge you have been given may be, it may not have come from God’s hands, but it did go through His hands.  It is hard to live amidst our struggles and remain joyful when we traverse difficult paths. The great danger is that as we walk our routes, it is tempting to compare our journey to another’s. Comparison tricks us into thinking others have it easier or have been given favor. Comparison is a liar, and we believe her far too quickly. Observing others casts darkness into our lives, and it is easy to begin fantasizing about a more comfortable life.  We must recognize fantasy for what it is; a fraud who draws you into his web with unrealistic thoughts of “better things.” In the life of a believer, there ought to be nothing better than walking well in obedience the road our Master has assigned us. Perseverance is not possible if we are self-focused. It is impossible if we are contrasting our journey with someone else’s. It is when we fix our eyes on Jesus, insulate our hearts with His Word, and our desire to please our Savior overshadows that of pleasing our self, that we endure and our weeping is joined by worship, purpose enters our pain and joy joins our journey. Consider 1 Corinthians 7:17~And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. Don’t think I’m being harder on you than on the others. I give this same counsel in all the churches. (The Message). I pray today, friend, that you and I believe in the plan of our good and faithful Provider as hard as it may be. He is in the midst of every heartache. Fight to be still and know that He is God, and He is good. When we live as though He is sovereign over us, His strength and peace will equip us as we travel. You are loved!

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The Party of Our Master, Not Man

91c77a914217e717aaa373c5cda62d1aWe can choose to fuel the loud, petty noise of the world or we can commit to fold our hands in prayer for the faith of Abraham, the convictions of Daniel, the courage of David, the peace of James, and the joy of a father whose prodigal son has returned home. Circumstances either reveal or re-make us.

Father in such a time of chaos, hypocrisy, untruths and high emotions, let us put aside the fruition of our agendas and embrace being one over being offended. May we respect the opinion of each of our brothers and sisters while realizing that we can choose the need to be right or respectable.

Entitlement is fueling anger and tensions among our people. May we put off the lie that we deserve, (fill in the blank), and put on an attitude of, what can I do for you rather than what you should be doing for me.

May all the anger, unrest, and dissension be eased with our remembrance that you are on the throne every day. You take no vacations, and you do not rest. You are at work even when we cannot see or understand the commotion swirling around us. Please let us be motivated to encourage and engage one another peacefully.

Above all, Jesus, we represent your party and your platform. May we remember the virtues and characteristics of your master vision for America, not man’s. Amen.

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The Trail of Life

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Yesterday our family set out on what was supposed to be a short hike.  It turned into four-miles.  I realize for a lot of you that is short.  Not for me, especially in muddy, rocky, uphill terrain, with altitude as a contributing barrier.

As I was struggling through a large uphill span of our hike, I was noticing all the ways nature mimics life.  The trials of that riddled trail were a parable of life.  There are times in life when we are sucking air just to survive, and there are times we are enjoying the view.

Struggles are often long and appear as if they will never end.  Giving up or giving in becomes an attractive option.  Fears are frequent and real.  The bends and turns are prone to placing us in barren places rather than beautiful spaces.  We have this great hope, though, that a great joy awaits, so we pick ourselves up and continue walking.

When we experience those moments where we catch our breath and enjoy the beauty around us, we appreciate them more because we know the effort and intention it took to get there.  The experience gives us a fresh supply of endurance for our trek knowing those encounters are just preludes to something greater.

The walk goes on.  We cycle through stages on a spectrum somewhere between worn and wonderful.  It is within the worn corners we grow in determination and perseverance.  In the wonderful places, we cultivate grateful hearts, and our eyes begin to see the fountains of grace poured into our pilgrimage.

Life is a necessary combination of both, the broken and beautiful so that we remain steadfast with our eye on the ultimate reward ahead-Home.

Yesterday for me, the grand reward was the sight of our car.  As we walk the path of our eternal home, though, knowing for certain the joy that awaits us is sustenance for the trails of our hike.

Keep walking friends.  If you believe the Bible to be true, there is unimaginable and everlasting gratification at the end of your journey.

Hebrews 12:1~Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

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Embracing Change

When our familiar becomes foreign, normal becomes new and usual becomes unknown; it feels as if a piece of our life is gone forever, and it is. Lost. It will never be as it was again. It is the dying of a part of us that is so deeply rooted and known that it is painful to imagine how life will look moving forward. It is a challenge to gently and fondly hold, and remember what was so that we may courageously embrace what is.

Overcoming the sting of circumstances we do not wish, nor would we choose does not mean we are happy. It does not mean we are complete, unbroken or perfect. It means we are at peace.

God tends to script our lives in such a way that eventually brings peace to our pain.

Peace does not evolve by chance. One must be available to the works of the Spirit to reap Its fruit. Looking when we do not see, believing when we do not understand, listening when we do not hear, and fighting for it all when we are weary. In the midst of staying faithful, little fountains of gratitude are born in the middle of all our grief. The light of gratitude ultimately overcomes the darkness of grief.

One secret to mastering this mystery is found in the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 26:3~You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You.

Embracing every big and little re-direction is part of life. Some are happy, and some are sad. One glorious day, though, everything we knew, and everything we lost will be familiar again. Nothing eternal is lost forever. If you are facing a new normal, God is extending His hand. Don’t lose hope friends!

For all my family, I love you all so much!

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But God

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Jesus lived to see you. He died to save you. He was resurrected to sustain you. He sees what you are walking through today. He will rescue you from the pit of despair if you take His hand. He will comfort you in order that you may find confidence and joy in Him, not your circumstances. Every time doubt and fear intrude your space today fight back with two words; But God. He is already in the midst.

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The Sweetest Fruit

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When I was a child, we had a ditch that ran alongside and behind our property. It was a ditch, but from the perspective of my childhood imagination it was a rocky, dangerous ravine. The ditch, formidable as it was or was not, did have some steep, slippery spots. I would often fall and slide into the murky, water that sometimes housed water moccasins. Snakes terrified me, so I was hesitant to be too adventurous.

In the summertime, berries would grow on vines along that ditch. I distinctly remember that the biggest, most shiny and sweetest berries were in the most challenging spots to maneuver. I was a fearful child, so I didn’t venture to those places often, but when I did; oh to taste such sweet fruit! It could not compare to the berries growing in the flatter, less intimidating topography. Although I can remember being very afraid to pursue those berries, I knew the reward that was waiting for me, so I would muster the courage from time to time. I can still hear how loud my heart would beat. I can feel how fast it would race as if it would break out of my chest. My breathing would be fast and heavy, and I would be sweating but I would risk it all because I had experienced, and come to know the superior taste of the sweeter berries.

Life is a lot like the scary parts of that ditch, and the fruit experienced at its most precarious locations. We sometimes find ourselves in places where we risk falling, getting scraped and cut, and often that does happen. Life has a way of cutting us up, but God has a way of carving us from our slips and falls.

As I look back now, the sweetest and most nourishing fruit has been acquired in the most treacherous places. Sure, life is good when I am living on level land, but oh to taste the fruit of growth that only happens when we are in the ravenous ravines. It is here where we gain the sweetest rewards. Unlike capturing the berries, we may not immediately taste the sweetness of life’s valleys.

As I came to know the nature of those dangerous berries by taste, though, so I have come to know the character of God also through experience. If we are looking for God not just in the safe places but in the scary ones, too; if we know His faithfulness, we have confidence what joy awaits us. Experiencing God is what gives us the endurance and the strength to persevere through all the ditches we fall into throughout life. Also, knowing Him gives us the courage to get up and keep pursuing life, not from a position of safety but surrender. God enables us to walk victoriously through life’s intimidating places. Psalm 18:33 promises us this: He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.

The fruit found in our most perilous places yields the greatest growth and the sweetest victories. If you are walking a rocky road right now, be encouraged. Dirt roads are paved with fertile soil.

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Fear Versus Faith

My daughter and I have a tradition every morning during our commute to school.   She picks a Bible verse to read to me, and we discuss what it means and how we may apply it to our lives.   It has become a very special time for both of us.   It is my favorite time of the day!

Two days ago she read me Romans 12:2.   I loved that she picked that verse.   Our discussion was rich and applicable to our lives on many fronts.   It was a treasured discussion that I won’t soon forget!

The beauty of God’s word is how it imprints our hearts and ministers to us in our times of need. Yesterday was the perfect example.   I had a fearful day. I was thankful when I awoke at 3 AM this morning to have Romans 12:2 and many other appropriate verses that immediately became my defense against the enemies of the night such as anxiety and worry.

It is funny because the day before my daughter read Romans 12:2, I had listened to a sermon by Tim Keller on Romans 12:1.   Romans 12:1 says: And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.   Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable.   This is truly the way to worship him.

In the old testament, sacrifices were made in the form of animals.   We thankfully do not practice that style of sacrifice anymore.   Alternatively, we are the sacrifices we present to God each day.   It is an ongoing process of presenting our will, our desires and our needs to God and relinquishing our hands from them.   In his sermon, Keller humorously noted that the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar.   He makes a great point!    In all seriousness, though, we are to be constant living sacrifices, and that takes intention, effort, determination, and time.   It is a marathon and not a sprint.

The truth is, whether we are running life as a marathon, renewing and committing ourselves to God daily or running as a sprint under our authority and sufficiency; both are challenging.   What the first gives us that the latter does not are promises of hope and joy.   It equips us with an ability to fall in all the pot holes along the race, only to rise, dust ourselves off and keep running.   The circumstances and conditions of our race do not define us, but they depict the character of a living God who lives inside us.   I would much rather be eternally equipped for the marathon of life, than dependent on myself or someone other than Jesus, to run this race with me.

When I fail to present myself coonsistently to God, renewing my mind daily, life gets messier than usual.

Fear is born of the world. It constantly lurks around vying for my attention.   It is an invisible assailant focused on extinguishing faith.   This is what fear looks like for me when I am not vigilant about soul maintenance:
F–fragile
E–emotional
A–alone
R–reactive

Alternatively, faith is not nurtured by the things of this temporary life, but an eternal one. Faith is a wiser choice, but it requires a constant renewing of my mind. Faith, while never perfectly mastered leads me closer to where I desire to be:
F–free
A–anchored
I–insulated
T–together
H–hopeful

Romans 12:2~Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

May we all run this race with joy and perseverance friends!   It is not efficient, but highly effective.   It is not for the weak but the wise.   It is not a promise of a perfect life but a purposeful one.   It is a promise of a perfect eternity.   That is good news!

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Still a Child

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I have to be honest; there are days I find myself wishing I was not an adult.   Today is the perfect example.   I have a meeting that I am not looking forward to handling.   It is a continuously challenging situation that chides and chisels away at the depth of my joy if I am not attentive to it.

Like many days, I am fighting to choose the beauty of perspective.   Perspective is a priceless art.   It tells me that if this is the most difficult thing I encounter today, it will still be a pretty good day.

The reality of life is that some days responsibilities are heavy, and difficult situations arise that we have to navigate.   I catch myself thinking, how wonderful to be the child again and have an adult handle all the arduous assignments.   This morning God tenderly reminded me that I am still the child-His child.

As a believer, we never enter strenuous situations alone, and I am not called to figure it all out, just to rest and receive.   Whew is that hard! It seems illogical that rest should be so illusive, but we all know it to be, friends.   Maybe like me, you find resolving much easier than resting.

I am very forgetful to remember that I, like you, have a faithful and loving Father, who goes before and with us.   He enters into those anxious and scary places as the adult, and we like the child if we allow ourselves to abide in his authority.

I am so thankful for the truth in Exodus 33:14 this morning~ The Lord replies, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”   When I can not just read this, but also reap it, my day becomes so much lighter.   I shrivel to think where I would be without the soul stabilizers of God’s promises.

Whatever is confronting you today, tomorrow or next week, may you find the grace to concede as a child of God and find peace in His assured provisions.