Jesus Peace (It’s a thing)

Teenagers always think they know better than their parents, don’t they?

Have you ever had a conversation with one of your own that sounded something like;

“If you will study a little each night, the test will be so much easier”

“Why don’t you put those clothes away now so that you can find what you need later?”

“I’m not trying to stop you from having fun, but I know what’s out there…”

“I have some experience with that situation, let me help you…”

“I just want what’s best for you…”

But they often think that we, as parents, are “old fashioned” or out of touch.  And in some ways, I suppose that’s fair.  But it doesn’t change the fact that we have years and wisdom that they don’t.  It seems that no matter how hard we try, often they are just bent on doing things their own way.

It’s a good thing that we don’t do that with God, right?

I can almost see your eyes rolling back in your head right now!  I know you feel it, the sting of regret.  The pain of doing things your own way.  The remorse of how things should be different.

I’m certain that there is not one among us who doesn’t wish they had done things differently in certain places of our lives.  If only we had listened to the advice we received.  If only we hadn’t been so thick headed and stubborn.  Experience is heck of a teacher.  And the lessons we learned are still etched in our minds. 

We recount how much better things might have gone had we only listened.  We imagine the peace we might have if we had stopped when our conscience begged us to do so.  But, at the time, we were sure that it would be ok.  We were certain that we knew what was best for our own lives.  But in the aftermath of regret and strife, we just want to go back.  We want to go back to the time just before the wrong choice, and get a mulligan, a do over.

What we are really searching for, is peace.  Peace in our situation, peace with our family members or friends, peace with God. 

Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, holds that peace.   

Photo credit: Nicole Nealy ( I sense so much peace in this photo!)

Shortly before His crucifixion, in John 14, Jesus is teaching His disciples and attempting to prepare them for what is to come.  It is impossible to imagine how trying that time must have been for them.  They had followed Jesus everywhere for 3 years.  They had seen Him perform miracles and healings.  They had observed Him for years, doing only good things.  He never slipped up, never made a bad choice, and repeatedly loved those who opposed Him.  And now He was preparing to leave them soon. In John 14 we see some of the last conversations He would have with them. 

Often, the last words of a person, reveal their truest selves.  Here, Jesus was telling the disciples some of the most important things for them to know.  He must have known that they would reflect on His words after He was gone.  In John 14:23, Jesus says this “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.  My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.  These words you hear are not my own, they belong to the Father who sent me.”

I recognize that the word “obey” is not a popular word in 2021.  Here are some synonyms of obey, to help us:  Adhere to, accept, comply, embrace, live by, carry out.  Anyone who loves Jesus will embrace His teaching.  Anyone who does not love Jesus will not carry out His teaching.  They will simply do things their own way, like a stubborn teenager.  And like a teenager, they will eventually learn that their “Father” knows best.   

Sometimes the peace we desire in life comes through the absence of struggle.  And sometimes, it comes through the knowledge that, even though we struggle, our wrestling serves a higher purpose.

Photo credit: Nicole Nealy

Often, when we struggle in this life, we imagine that God enjoys it.  That surely His will has to be a difficult road.  That His plan for us is intentionally full of heartache and strife. 

But the truth is, where there is obedience…sorry…compliance, there is peace.  Isn’t that what we always tried to get across to our teenagers?  “If you’ll just do things my way, if you’ll just listen, things will go so much easier for you!  I don’t want you to suffer, but I know things you don’t know!” 

Hmmm…

A few verses later in John 14:27, Jesus says this, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Jesus does not give as the world gives.  The world gives dissatisfaction, strife, rioting, anger, and selfishness. The world says YOLO, (you only live once).  The world says that no one is more important than yourself.  It says, “Do what makes you happy” and “You-do-you”.  But Jesus says that there is more to peace and contentment than self-seeking. Too much of just me, isn’t good for me. Whenever I have tried to find peace by only chasing down what makes me happy, I have only become more unhappy.   Jesus, in contrast, gives peace. He said it himself, “My peace I give you.”

I want Jesus Peace!  He had the kind of peace that slept in a tiny boat during a violent and horrendous storm at sea.  He had the kind of peace that didn’t panic when it was necessary to feed 5000 people in the middle of nowhere with virtually no supplies.  He had the kind of peace that didn’t run away in The Garden of Gethsemane when the enemy was fast approaching to demand His life.  Jesus Peace.

He had that peace because of His obedience…sorry…loving adherence to the will of His Father. 

It’s the same for you and me, sister.

I desire to do what God wants, even when it feels contrary to what I want or think.  Maybe even especially, when it feels contrary to what I want or think.  I know that God possesses wisdom and knows things that I do not.  He always has my best interest in His mind.  What He does in my life, He does for my own good, and for His glory.

Jesus wants us to trust Him above all else, and with trust comes peace.

Our peace, joy and purpose in this life, comes from embracing, carrying out and accepting that our heavenly Father knows best.  In John 14:15, Jesus puts it this way, “If you love me, you’ll obey my commandments.” 

Jesus Himself had peace in obeying the will of His Father.  Who am I to think it would be any different for me?

Jesus, obeying you feels hard sometimes.  It feels like I am losing myself.  But Lord, I know that this life is not all there is.  And I know that you want to prepare me for the life ahead and the life after this one.  My desire is to follow and embrace your teachings.  I invite you to speak to my heart loud and clear when I am trying to rush past you and do things my way.  I desire Jesus Peace in all I do.  Amen.

Photo credit: Nicole Nealy
The one and only, Nicole Nealy!

Pause

Hi friends!

Many of you are aware that Thrive is just 10 days away. As you can imagine, I’m up to my eyeballs with preparations! It’s exciting stuff!

Having said that, I’m needing to take a blog break until 11/22.

I’ll be able to focus and give the blog some time and attention once Thrive is past.

Until then, please pray for the team as we finalize details and put the finishing touches on so many things!

See you all again soon!

Purposefully,

Shelli

💜 November 12th 💜

It makes scents…

Isn’t it amazing how certain smells evoke strong memories? 

When I was a girl, I was fortunate to have my grandmother live right next door to our family.  She had a real wood burning fireplace in her living room (unlike the fake electric one I have now).  Often my cousins and I would sleep over at Grandma’s house.  On those chilly mornings when the weather had turned, she would have a fire going when we got up.  I can still remember the cozy warmth of her house and the joy filled memories I made there.  One of those memories is the smell of the fireplace burning, beckoning me to crawl out of bed, grab a blanket, and join her on the couch to sit by the fire.

Even now, when I smell a fireplace, or even a firepit, that scent takes me back.  It summons warm thoughts and memories.  The scent draws me back to memories of her love.

2 Corinthians 2:15 says “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea that we carry with us the pleasing aroma of Jesus to those who are being saved, as well as to those who are perishing. 

If you’ve ever spent time around a camping fire, you know that the smell of smoke stays on you until you come home and wash those clothes.  As you unpack the duffle from camping, you get a whiff of that smoke, and suddenly the memories of the campout come rushing back. Here in Second Corinthians, it’s the same idea.

Those around us, inside and outside of the faith, can “smell” us.  We carry with us the pleasing aroma of Jesus.  When Christ is in us, and we are following Him, His “scent” is on us.

Durango, Colorado (my photo)

This idea was played out for me for the first time when I was 16 years old.  There was a girl in my high school, who was just different.  Her family was much like mine.  She had a mom, a dad, and a brother at home.  She was my same age and grade.  We were both on the drill team for our high school.  She had some of the same friends and interests that I did.  But she “smelled” different.  There was something about her that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

We started hanging out and eventually I asked her to sleep over at my house.  She said yes, that she would come and sleep over, if I would go to church with her the next morning.

There it was.  That was the beginning of my understanding more precisely what it was about her that was so different than me.  She had faith in God.  And though I had grown up with a good, loving, all American family, faith was not a part of our household.  And I wanted it.  I was drawn to her in a way that I didn’t understand then.

And because of her “scent”, her faith in Jesus, I was also drawn to Him.

Ephesians 5:1-2 “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

You and I are called to walk with Jesus, to follow His example.  To be like Him.  It is a tall order to be sure, but He left us with the Holy Spirit, who also lives in us.  And it is that same spirit that produces the lingering scent of Jesus in us. 

When Jesus comes into our hearts and lives, we are changed.  Some parts of us change immediately, and others take longer.  But we are changed.  And from that moment on, we begin to “smell” differently.

Like the soft scent of our favorite perfume, we leave behind the aroma of Jesus as we go.

On the train from Durango to Silverton Colorado

My hearts desire is that the aroma of Jesus that follows me as I go, attracts others to the Savior.  Because, just as perfumes can smell differently on the different people who wear them, the scent of Jesus can be attractive, or pungent. 

Are my actions, thoughts, and words pleasant?  Do they draw people to Him with the soft scent?  Or am I too much like the world to be a pleasing aroma?  Am I different at all? 

As we continually grow, and allow Jesus to change us on the inside, that change will show on the outside too.  We have hope, we have life!  Like a fragrant perfume, I want to radiate the aroma of Jesus and let His scent trail behind me as I go. 

And my prayer is that that scent will linger in the air and draw people to Him. 

What scent are you leaving behind?

Jesus, I am drawn to You and to Your love.  I am so grateful for all that You are.  You have given everything for me, and I want to share that love with those in my circle.  Help me to give off the pleasing aroma of Your love.  I want to bring You honor by living in a way that “smells” good to others.  Amen.

Purposefully,

Shelli

Maybe it’s just me…

I am about to ask a question, and I can almost feel the hands going up as I do. 

Who, beside me, struggles to have a healthy and consistent prayer life?

Bam.  There it is.

Honesty.

Imperfection.

Truth.

Recently I started to hear God speak to my heart about prayer. 

I pray often.  I talk to God in conversation throughout the day all the time.  I speak those S.O.S. prayers as needed, on a regular basis.  I pray before my meals, giving thanks.  My hubby and I pause to pray together for those in need in our circle.  I typically pray after I read the word, and before I start my day.

But what I don’t do consistently enough, is stop and commit secluded regular time to prayer.  I don’t journal my prayers very often.  I don’t sit for an extended amount of time on a daily basis with hands folded and eyes closed. 

But that’s what I am supposed to do to be a successful pray-er, right?

And what about the KIND of prayers I pray?  Are they the right kind?  Am I saying it right?  Do I balance my prayers out between asking Him to change things in my life and thanking Him for all He has already done?  Does God even listen? Does prayer even change things? Or am I wasting my time? 

I know a lot of us think those thoughts, even though we don’t voice them out loud.  Not to a friend, not in bible study groups, and not to our spiritual leaders.  But they are there, in our hearts and minds.  (I see those hands again!)

I think it’s possible that we complicate prayer to much.  So much so, that when we aren’t sure we are doing it right, we just don’t do it at all. I don’t have all the answers for you when it comes to prayer.  I already told you that I struggle with “doing prayer right”.  So today we are going to talk openly and honestly about prayer. This isn’t a post about “3 simple steps to a better prayer life”. Or a neat and tidy “A, B, Cs of prayer”. 

Instead, today is a “just do it” kind of post.  No right, wrong or otherwise.  Some simple suggestions to get you going. 

The Animas River, Durango Colorado

If you are like most of us, it’s easy to ask God to fix things.  Asking God is the easy part of prayer.  His Word reminds us that we need Him.  That He desires to draw near to us and to guide us.  God does want us to come to Him with our requests. 

Jeremiah 29:12 makes that clear.  “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

Philippians 4:6 says this; “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.”

Ever since the fall of mankind (Genesis 3), we have been living in a broken world.  The world we are experiencing currently is not the world that God designed.  And because of that, we struggle.  We hurt.  We have relationship issues.  We have physical and mental health issues. There is tension and strife in all of humanity.  The list goes on.

But God says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  God instructs us to come to Him.  That means that He wants to hear from us.  He wants to help us.  He wants us to acknowledge our needs and struggles. 

But did you catch the rest of Philippians 4:6? “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.”

Ahhhh…..

There’s the missing piece. 

So often, we ask God for his help to right all the situations in our lives that are wrong.  And that’s good!  We need to do that.  But…how often do we remember to stop and thank Him for all the things He has already done?  In my own experience, the answer is not often enough.

Let’s remember that much of the life we are living currently, is because of the prayers we prayed in the past. 

When I begin to thank God for His works in my life, I begin to see all that I already have because of His love.  It’s possible that I could remain in a prayer of thankfulness for a very long time.  Most likely, even longer than I could pray about all that needs to change.

But the key is balance.

Balancing requests with gratitude.  When I thank God for all that He has already done, I am more aware of His goodness and provision.  And when I do that, I am more likely to approach my time of asking with respect and humbleness than with a demanding attitude. 

God has done so much for me.  He owes me nothing but has already given me all I need.  I owe Him everything but have very little to give back in comparison with all I have been given.  Praying prayers of thankfulness may be the best starting place to developing a meaningful prayer life.

Durango Colorado (my trip last week)

See, the thing about prayer is this; Just do it!  Don’t worry about if it is right or wrong, just start.  Talk to God.  Don’t complicate it by trying to be perfect at it.  The more you pray, the easier you will find the conversation becomes.  Prayer is not so much about the words we say, as the heart we bring.  Psalm 145:18 tells us “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth”.  He just wants to hear from us, for us to acknowledge our need for Him.  To desire His guidance and love.  To pause from all of our activity and “doing”, to spend some time with Him.

After all, isn’t that how we develop relationships?  By spending time together?  By open communication?  Through sharing and through listening?

As I have worked to develop my relationship with the Lord, I have grown.  He has shown me, over time, those areas of my life that need tweaking.  Recently, that area has been prayer.  And now that I ‘m aware of that, I can’t help but want to improve it.  Not so that God will love me more, but so that I can love Him more.

Maybe, like me, you have a prayer life, but you’re feeling like maybe it’s time to dive a little deeper with it.  Maybe how you have been praying is good, but your heart is telling you that there’s more.  Maybe, you’ve already been thinking those thoughts, and now you are reading this blog post about prayer.  It’s not a coincidence, it’s God.

Here is a super simple pattern for prayer to get you going.

Praise Him: For who He is and all He has done.  Creator, sustainer, all mighty, all knowing, all powerful, gracious and loving Father.

Thank Him: There is so much to thank Him for.  For love, and life.  For His provision.  For the ways that He has answered previous prayers.  For healthy relationships.  For happy times.  For His presence in our lives.  And on and on.

Tell Him what you need, where you are struggling:  Relationships.  Health issues. Financial strains.  Obedience to His word. 

Sister, I encourage you to pray.  It will change your heart.  It will bring you peace and purpose.  No matter how you do it, do it.  God hears you and He desires to draw you closer to Him through prayer.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” 

Take that step.

“Father, I need You.  I admit that I often neglect You.  That I sometimes ask of You more than I thank or praise You.  But I want to change that now.  Remind me to pray, draw me to Yourself through communication with You.  Give me the desire that I sometimes struggle with, to spend time with You in prayer.  Your love for me is greater than I can think or imagine.  Having dialog with You is a privilege.  Help me not to take that for granted.  Amen.” 

Purposefully,

Shelli

Molas Lake, Colordao (and the Handsome Hubs)

THRIVE!

Local friends!  I hope that you will join me in anticipation of this year’s Thrive! 

Thrive will take place on Friday, November12th at 6:30 PM.  We will gather at Grace Church in Chino Valley Arizona, for an evening dedicated to Connections, Confections (or desserts), Worship and Soul Talk for women of faith!

You will experience a beautiful and delightful array of individual and mini “just for you” desserts.  Next, we will gather in worship with some of your favorite current and contemporary worship music.  You will hear from Jenda Ballard as she shares with us what is happening with her ongoing battle with cancer, in a section called “What If, What Is, and What’s Next”.  This year will also include a new segment called Conversations of Faith.  This year’s Conversations of Faith will include a visit from Laurie Schraml.  She and I will share about the unusual way that the Lord brought us together 6 years ago, and how He continues to connect us in a friendship of faith and honesty.  I am excited to share my message with you too, called Keep Moving Forward!

The roots of Thrive grew deep in the midst of 2020, during the pandemic.  At that time in my life, I began to wonder if what I was doing with my life was enough.  I questioned if the way I spent my time was all that God had for me, or was there more?  I loved my job, the ministries that my hubby and I shared in at church, and I loved my social life.  But, when the world “shut down”, I found myself at home with more time on my hands than I knew what to do with.  Sounds like a dream come true, right?  It was for a while, until it wasn’t.  During that time, I really felt God speaking to me and pulling me into something bigger than myself.  It took much time, prayer, seeking Him and conversations with those who love and know me best, before I understood what that “thing” was.  And that “thing”, became the beginning Thrive!      

Since then, many more ministries have begun to grow out of Thrive, the event.  When you attend you will hear more about those exciting opportunities! 

We are also excited to announce that this year we will have some beautiful and amazing merchandise for you to purchase!  Many of these items will be available to pre-order during registration.  We have beautiful Thrive T-shirts in a wide selection of sizes.  We also have a gorgeous canvass Thrive Tote Bag!  You may purchase them individually or together at a discount.  There will be many more items for sale at the Merchandise Table at Thrive, BUT those items will remain a surprise until that night!  Let me just tell you, I am over the moon excited about them!  Purple is the theme color for Thrive, the color of royalty in scripture.  When we belong to Him, we are royalty, daughters of The King! 

You will not want to miss this special evening of Connections, Confections, and Soul Talks.  Buy your ticket now, and while you’re at it, invite a friend!  A fun and meaningful night like this is better shared with a friend!  Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at cvgrace.com under the events tab.  Seats are going fast, so don’t wait!

Hurry to cvgrace.com to claim your spot now! 

I cannot wait to see you there!

Passionately and purposefully,

Shelli

Here are some photos from last year!

Yummy right?
Worth the calories!

These were bomb!

Over the top.

I remember back when I had infants.  There were so may happy and fun days!  Those days usually came on the same days when I was exhausted and emotionally spent.  But maybe that’s just me?

I loved it when they were finally ready to start solid foods!  I giggled, making airplane noises as I spoon fed them!   And I remember wiping their little chins as mushy baby food from the jar slid down just about everywhere except into their mouths!  Thank goodness for baby bibs!

One of my babies was a very picky eater.  When babies first start on solid foods, they typically eat fruits.  But not this girl, she only wanted veggies!  It was so unusual.  And not just any vegetables, she ate only three different ones: carrots, sweet potatoes and squash.  These three foods had one thing in common, they are all orange in color. 

At first this was fine by me; I was thrilled that she was eating solids from a spoon.  But over time, I became aware of an unhealthy balance.  She turned orange, just like her foods.  I wish I was kidding.  All my kids are fair, blonde-haired, blue-eyed children.  But as she continued to consume only orange foods, she turned Oopma Loompa orange!  Her blonde hair had an orange/reddish tint to it.  Her skin looked slightly orangey and tanned.   And the topper was the end of her cute little nose looked as though she had mushy squash sitting right on it!  One time in the grocery store, a stranger stopped me to tell me that my baby had food on her nose!  Sigh.

At that point I had to wean her off her favorite foods and onto more balanced choices.  She fought me, of course.  She wanted her favorites, her choices.  She wasn’t able to understand that what she loved and ate exclusively wasn’t good for her.  I had to keep forcing her to eat what I knew was best for her.  It was a battle for a while, but in time, she leveled out and her skin and hair color returned to normal.  Whew!

I often wonder about the choices we make as Christians.  Are we spending too much of our time, consuming things are innately good for us, but at a level that is actually harmful?

I know, I’m obsessed with clouds~~~

You and I have choices every single day as to how we use our time.  And I think mostly, we make good choices.  We spend time caring for ourselves and our families.  We entertain others.  We have coffee dates with our girlfriends.  We serve at church.  We scroll faith-based sites on Instagram.  We keep up with our friends via Facebook and other social media sites.  We relax in the evenings and enjoy our favorite shows. 

But are we out of balance?

To much of a good thing is not a good thing.  I know you have heard that phrase before.  It’s a pretty accurate and deep statement actually.  Just like my daughter eating her veggies.  Veggies are good for us, no one would dispute that.  But too many veggies and suddenly your nose is orange, and you are out of balance!

1 Corinthians 10:23 says this, “You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.”  How we choose to use our time is completely up to us.  But are we over doing it in any areas? 

All the options that I listed above are good ways to use our time.  They are certainly not harmful things.  But if we are unaware that we’ve become unbalanced in the use of our time, then those options have become less than good for us.  They may not be beneficial.

Caring for ourselves and our families is good, until it is done in excess.  Are we obsessing about our image, or the image of our children?  Hosting or entertaining is showing hospitality and is good, until it’s done in excess, leaving us physically drained and emotionally exhausted.  Are we enjoying a healthy catch-up coffee date with our BFF, or are we consistently avoiding other responsibilities?  Are we serving at church from a right heart, or are we using it as an opportunity to be seen?  And so on and so on.  Anything done in excess has the potential to do harm.  Anything.

Romans 12:2 reminds us “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.”

I’m right there with you sister.  I wrestle constantly with using my time correctly.  And, in reality, I’ll never get everything “right” in this life.  But I do want Him to transform me and change the way I think.  I want His plan to be my purpose.  I want Him to direct my thinking right into line with His thinking so that I can better understand His will for me.  How I use my time has a lot to say about those priorities.  I may not always get it right, but I want to make that my goal. 

I encourage you to take a good look at what might be unbalanced in your life.  Are you willing? Are you brave? When you and I seek to honor God with our lives, He gets excited.  He has plans for us that we don’t even know about yet!  He wants to show us those plans, but until we are willing to let Him use our time His way, He waits.  He loves us immeasurably and has our best interest always at the center of His plan.  So, if we ask Him to reveal to us our mis-apportioned priorities, He will.  Honestly, the first thing or two that come to mind when you ask Him to show you, are the areas where He has something different and better in mind for you.  The truth is you probably already know what they are.  

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  God’s plans for us could never be bad for us.  He is a holy and loving God.  We just get scared to lose control.

There are so many good things we can (and should) participate in and prioritize in this life.  But as we do them, we should strive for balance, and yearn for His leading. 

All I’m saying is, don’t let your nose turn orange.

Lord, Help me to use the precious gift of time in the best way that I can. Help me to be aware of when “my nose is turning orange” and I am out of balance. Show me where I need to readjust my responsibilities to stay healthy and in the ceneter of your plan for my life. Amen.

Purposefully,

Shelli

Looking up

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?”  Psalm 43:5a.

downtown trees by me

Has your heart ever been downcast?  I bet it has.  Mine too, sister.  I relate to the Psalm writer….

Many things can make my heart sad and downcast.  Situations in my own personal life.  The hurts and concerns of those I care about.  The things I see in the world around me.  Health things.  Broken heart things.  Financial things.  Relational things.  Sigh…

Difficult life situations can exhaust and drain us, both emotionally and spiritually.  Some of you are running on empty.  Some are longing for Home.  Some are reeling from personal trials.  Some are scared and confused, wondering what’s next.  Your soul is downcast and disturbed. 

I’m right there with you.

Whether we are wrestling with world events or personal events, our response can be the same.  What do we do when we don’t know what to do?  When life is complicated, it’s best to keep things simple.  Just do the next right thing.  Simply put, we can pray, and we can praise.

Our first line of defense should always be a default to prayer.  Prayer isn’t “the least we can do”.  It is the MOST important place to start!  When we pray, we are acknowledging our inability to change the situations ourselves.  We are crying out to God for His guidance and compassion.  We are humbly asking for His mercy and grace.  We are casting our burdens at His feet because they are too heavy for us to carry alone.  We are desperately seeking peace and answers. 

This week, I was praying earnestly for a dear friend.  This friend has an adult daughter with some significant health issues.  Health issues that need intervention, and answers.  And the answers don’t seem to come easily.  As I prayed and listened for God’s voice in what seemed like answerless spaces of prayer, I heard it clearly.  “When you don’t get the big answers you want right away, look for My hand in the small things while you wait.”

You see, sometimes, big answers take big amounts of time.  But small things?  Those happen every day.  Let’s think for a minute about the small things we can rejoice in.

A job and income-provision.

Healthy and loving relationships-connection.

God’s word at our fingertips in a variety of ways-abundance.

Overall good health-blessed.

Loved by family, friends, and Jesus himself-care.

Assured of eternal life with Him when I have accepted His finished work on the cross-joy.

Those small things can easily be taken for granted.  We’re so used to having them, that we forget that they too are provision from the Lord.  That He is continually caring for and blessing us in these ways.

Me–just me

Our second default should go to praise.  It may seem challenging to praise God when things are difficult.  If I’m honest, sometimes it is difficult for me too.  However, being able to thank God and praise Him for who He is and all He has done, allows my focus to shift from the struggle to the Savior.  In the midst of our trials, we sometimes forget that the end of the story is already written.  We can forget that God wins.  This means that we win too. 

Try praising Him by remembering these scriptures from Psalm 34:

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry”. Ps. 34:15

“The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”. Ps. 34:18

“The righteous may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all”. Ps. 34:19

“The Lord will rescue His servants; no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned”. Ps. 34:22

When my heart is downcast, and my emotions are wrung out, I can feel like I am losing the battle inside.  I feel like the process of turning my sorrow to joy is too big of a challenge.  God knows this too, and He gracefully places multiple scripture passages in His word for us to remember what is so easily forgotten. 

John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Romans 8:37 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  These are powerful scriptures!  He has overcome the world!  We are more than conquerors through Him!

When I read such powerful statements in the bible, they begin to chip away at my downcast and disturbed heart.  When I let the truth of His word seep into the worried recesses of my soul, I find not only comfort, but the strength to carry on.  The hope to wait on Him and trust His plan.  When I look for (and see) the small things provided by His hand while I wait for the big answers that my heart truly seeks, I get a glimpse into the heart of God.  I feel His heart toward mine. 

He desires to bring me peace with His presence.  He is more than able to turn my worries into memories.  He can turn my spiritual weaknesses into victories of faith!

2 Corinthians 12:9. “…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

When God says, “My grace is sufficient”. He means it.  It’s more than just a nice saying.  It is truth.  His power is made perfect in weakness, our weakness.  God is not surprised by the events in our lives that are seemingly pulling us under.  He stands at the ready, life vest in hand.  Because His grace is sufficient, we are right where we need to be.  Dependent on Him.

“You turn mourning to dancing. 

You give beauty for ashes. 

You turn seas into highways. 

You’re the only One who can!”  (Song-Graves Into Gardens-Elevate Worship)

Lord, somedays it’s so easy to sing your praise and to worship you.  I am thankful for those days.  But other days….other days, not so much.  Lord, forgive me.  You haven’t changed.  You are ALWAYS worthy of praise.  But Lord, my flesh is weak within me.  Sometimes my soul is downcast.  On those days, during those times, hep me to praise you anyway.  Remind me to look for your hand in the small things while I wait for the bigger answers my heart seeks.  Amen.

Photo credit-Nicole Nealy

Purposefully,

Shelli

For the asking

This week has been one of “those” weeks.  You know the kind.

The kind where difficulties come rushing at you at an alarming rate.  You barely get past one, breathe deeply , and then the next one comes. It seems to just keep happening like that.  As your emotions respond to the trials, they grow more fragile by the moment.  In no time, you are at odds with loved ones, and your relationships are suffering.  You are struggling to keep it all together in your head.  Your state of well being is teetering on the brink.

I know you’ve been there.  We all have at some point.  The situations we face that bring us to this point vary greatly, but one thing is certain for all of us;  we need peace and strength.

Peace can feel impossible when we struggle. And strength? Strength can feel like something you used to have, but not today. Today you just feel weak. Weakened in your spirit by the hardships and weakened in your faith by the heaviness in your heart.

My backyard

Scripture is full of passages that show us God’s heart toward us in difficulty. The Lord made sure that His word had many teachings about this exact thing. I think that’s because He knows how fragile we can be as humans. I know that for me, it’s easy to doubt that God is good when the situations in my life don’t feel good. That’s why the truth of scripture is so important, God’s word does not change. It does not fluctuate with the circumstances. My emotions sure do, but His word is sure. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Deuteronomy 31:7-8 is a clear representation of the heart of God. He says this, “Be strong and courageous…the LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

When I read this scripture I see several things. The Lord goes before me. Wherever I am headed, He is already there. That means that whatever situation I find myself in, it is no surprise to God. He’s there before I am. He’s surveying the land, so to speak. He knows what’s coming, and He is making a plan to help me through.

I also see here that the Lord is with me.  He goes before me, but he is also with me.  Only God can do that; be in more than one place at a time.  He never leaves me.  Never.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t go through difficult things, but it does mean I don’t enter the darkness alone.  

He also says here not to be afraid or discouraged.  Oh boy, now things just got real.

When I face difficulty, I fight the urge to be afraid and discouraged.  Those two emotions seem to be the primary stopping blocks in my faith.  Fear of the outcome of my circumstance can paralyze me quickly.  I stop moving forward.  I get stuck.  As if somehow, by operating in fear, I can stop the difficulty from being…difficult.  My emotions lie to me and tell me that I need to control things somehow.  That it’s up to me to fix whatever it is.  

And lacking the ability to control or stop the struggle creates discouragement in my soul; the next battle.

If the enemy of our souls can keep us discouraged, he can keep our focus on ourselves and on our trials.  When that happens, we struggle to trust God because we only see our own hurt.  That’s our flesh being in charge.

Isn’t it good to realize that God’s word contains everything we need? The Lord knows that we possess human emotions and weaknesses. So He made sure that the pages of scripture, that we can hold in our hands and read and reread, contain all the assurances for this life and the life to come!

When I read scripture like Psalm 29:10 that says “The LORD rules over the floodwaters.  The LORD reigns as king forever.”, I realize that His power is immense!  If He can rule over the floodwaters (a completely uncontrollable force in human terms), then nothing is too hard for Him.  And since He can do that, then I know that He does in fact reign over all things!  So I try to believe Him when He says  that I shouldn’t be afraid or discouraged.  

But I really love the promise of Psalm 29:11, the very next verse.  “The LORD gives his people strength.  The LORD blesses them with peace.”  Strength and peace.  The two things that will carry me through any difficulty.  

When my own strength evades me, I have the strength of the Lord to rely on. When I can’t quite grasp the peace that I’m missing, He holds it. He desires to give it to me, and to bless me with His peace.

Also My backyard

What are you wrestling with today friend? I may not know what it is, but I bet you need peace and strength. Strength in the trial, and peace in the process. Strength to fight your fear, and peace to defeat your discouragement. He holds both of them in His loving hands, and they can be yours in faith. Just ask.

Lord Jesus, there are days. Days and weeks that feel longer than they really are because of all that is in them. Lord, in those times, remind me of your love for me. Show me that you are always with me, giving me strength and peace. Thank you for the truth of your word that reminds me that you are with me, and that you go before me. Help me to fully embrace the strength and peace you give today. In Jesus name, Amen.

Purposefully,

Shelli

If only.

I want a redo.

Truly.  Sometimes I think back over my life and I would really love a chance to live parts of it over again, but differently.  I’ve lost friendships, said words I regret, been angry when love was what was needed, let my feet take me places I knew better than to go, and much much more.

Regrets.

Maybe you feel the same way.

If we just had a time machine, or a magic lamp to rub.  Wouldn’t that be something?

My dad always told me that “if” was the biggest word in the dictionary.  It’s true if you think about it. “If I just hadn’t done that”, or “If I just hadn’t said that”.  Or how about “If I had just gone ahead and done that thing” or “what would things be like if that hadn’t happened to me”? We torture oursleves with “if”.

Big sigh.

If only.

Willow Lake

We all have regrets.  Each of us can think back on our lives and remember circumstances that we’d like to change. Those things can keep us up at night.  The wish to redo situations knowing what we know now is strong.  Regret and shame can hold us prisoner.  The enemy of our souls uses those emotions to trap us all the time. In order to keep us from experiencing peace, forgiveness, and joy, he will bring up the wrongs we have done in our life, over and over.  He will often play them on repeat in our minds. So much so, that the truth of scripture can’t get in.  

The voice in our head from our own shortcomings is so loud that the gentle whisper of God’s redeeming love almost can’t be heard.

And since we can’t redo those things, despair can set in.  But despair is the opposite of hope. 

The disciple Peter had regrets.  You will remember that Peter followed Jesus with everything he had.  He had a front row seat to everything that Jesus did.  All the miracles, all the teaching, all the humility and all the joy of being in the presence of The Messiah.  Peter saw it all.

In fact, Peter was closer to Jesus than some of the other disciples.  He was part of the inner circle.

But when the rubber met the road, Peter bailed.  Peter’s faith was fierce, but his flesh was fiercer still…As they led Jesus to the courtyard of the high priest, Peter followed at a distance.  You can imagine that the entire time, Peter was contemplating his next move.  As he walked along with the others who were following to see what would happen to this Jesus, Peter was there.  He would likely have been thinking over the past few years and all that had changed in his life because of Jesus.  He would have been recalling fireside talks, feeding thousands of people with just two small fish and a few tiny loaves of bread.  He would have remembered when Jesus changed the water in some giant clay jugs into the best wine they had ever tasted.  It was there in the courtyard of the high priest where Peter denied that he even knew who Jesus was. 

And Jesus heard him.

Jesus turned to make eye contact with Peter, and the guilt and shame that Peter felt drove him from the courtyard in tears. Luke 22:62 says,  “And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.”

Regrets.

For Peter, the sting of regret was monumental.  Denying Jesus was not something that Peter did flippantly, or in the heat of the moment.  He had been with Jesus all day, and into the night.  They were together preceding Jesus’ arrest.  Jesus had warned Peter of what was coming, and Peter had sworn his loyalty to Jesus.  Fiercely. They had gone together to the Mount of Olives where Jesus asked the disciples to stay awake and pray, but they could not.  Jesus went a stone’s throw away to talk to His Father about the suffering he was about to endure.  The disciples fell asleep many times during Jesus’ time of prayer. Yet each time Jesus came back to them and admonished them to stay alert. And Peter was there, the entire time.

Peter would have given a lot of thought to his association with Jesus during that grueling day.  

Denying Jesus would have been the last thing on his mind. So when it happened, the regret was instant.

But later, in Matthew 16:18, Peter is offered restoration by Jesus when He declares that Peter is foundational to the church of God moving forward.  “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”  Peter was restored in his faith by the very One whom he had denied!  In a way, Peter got a redo.  He got the chance to do things right.  

Me (at Willow Lake)

When the pain of regret and the sting of shame begin to edge their way into our thought life, it’s time to intentionally turn the page on those feelings. We are taught throughout scripture that God loves us unconditionally, that He made a way (in Jesus) for us to share eternity with Him, and that He desires a relationship with us.

Jesus was unwilling to let Peter drown in guilt and shame.  Even now, maybe He is using these words to express that message to you too.

Take to heart these truths that come from God’s love letter to us.

1 Thessalonians 1:4 tells me that God loves me. “God loves you and has chosen you to be His own people”.

1 Peter 2:9 reminds me that I am chosen.  “You are a chosen people.  You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.”

1 John 2:12 tells me that I am forgiven.  “I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus”.

Galatians 5:1 states that I am free.  “So Christ has truly set us free.  Now make sure you stay free…”

2 Corinthians 5:17 declares that I am made new.  “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is GONE; a new life has begun!”

Promises like those in scripture give me the confidence to let go of regret.  They give me hope for a future where shame and regret no longer hold me captive.  They encourage me that today is different already because the Lord is in my life.  With His presence in me, regret and shame  have no room to reside, because that space is now taken up with faith in Jesus and His hope!

You guessed it, Willow Lake

Peter knew regret.  Shame drove Peter from the courtyard. Fear caused him to run away.  But Jesus restored him and gave him purpose!

Jesus offers the same restoration to you and me.  No matter where we’ve been.  No matter what we’ve done.  No matter who we were yesterday.  Today is the day of salvation!  Today we are offered new life!

Today there is hope!

Peter admitted his shortcomings and sin to God.  He was forgiven, and able to be used by God in a mighty way.  You and I have the same opportunity.

When the ugliness of my past mistakes rears an accusing head, and calls me out, I can declare confidently that I am forgiven and free!  That I have been redeemed and restored.  

The only “if” I want to entertain these days is “What will God do in this situation if I am faithful to Him and press forward?  I try to be careful not to focus for too long on what is behind me, I am not headed that direction anymore.     

And, by faith, neither are you my sister.

Jesus, I want to lay my past out before you now.  (tell Him here those things that are holding you hostage, don’t hold anything back, He already knows).  I want to lay all of these things at your feet Lord, and I beg you to break the chains of the enemy that tell me I can’t change.  They tell me I can’t be forgiven.  They tell me that I need to fix myself before you will love and accept me.  Give me the holy courage to remain in the truth of Your word that declares that I am a new creation! I no longer need to carry that weight, You have taken it from me.   I love you Lord.

Purposefully,

Shelli

The sun in my eyes

This time of year, as the temperatures rise earlier in the day, getting some walking in means, I need to go early.  So, I don my walking shoes and head out as the sun is coming up!  (Go ahead, call me crazy…. I already know!)  It is still crisp and cool then, and there’s very little traffic and very few people out then.  It’s a peaceful time to walk and think.

Recently I decided to start challenging myself, and I began to jog.  Little spurts at first, and then longer spurts.  I continued to do this repeatedly until I could go a fair distance jogging before returning to walking.   I like to look ahead on my path and choose an object as a goal, a place to stop jogging.  I tell myself, “I won’t stop until I get to that car up ahead.”  I keep pushing myself to go a bit further each time I do this.  I try not to stop until my heart is racing, and my breathing is heavy, and then I return to walking.  By doing this, I am able to build up endurance and to go farther before I stop.  It feels amazing!

On a recent walk/jog, I was feeling particularly good. So, I decided to see how far I could go without stopping.  I kept my eyes down, watched my feet so I didn’t trip, and forged ahead.  At one point, I thought I should be pretty close to the end of the street I was on, and almost to the corner (my goal). So, I kept jogging. But the sun was in my eyes, and I couldn’t see that corner up ahead, so I kept going.  And going.  And going. 

Each time I looked up to see how close I was to that corner; it didn’t seem to be any nearer at all.  The early morning sun was shining brightly in my eyes and kept me from seeing where that next corner was.  All I could see was that sunshine.  I kept jogging forward, knowing that the corner would come up eventually. But because the sun was shining so brightly, I ended up jogging farther than I thought I could.  Seeing only that sunshine, kept me from only seeing my struggle.  When the sun was in my eyes, I wasn’t focused on the hardship.  I was focused on the finish line, that corner, my resting place.

Having that sun in my eyes was a gift! 

The words of Hebrews 12:2 help to shape a fitness goal into a spiritual one.  “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…”

Jesus came to earth with one goal.  To provide a way of redemption for mankind.   He did that through his death on the cross, burial and resurrection three days later.  But while He was fulfilling His earthly ministry, He had trials.  Trials that he completed without sin, and to the glory of God the Father.  But He suffered.  And Hebrews 12:2b tells us, of Jesus, “for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross….”  He knew the corner was ahead and He kept going.  He focused on the joy, or rest, that was coming. 

Maybe you feel that’s an unfair comparison, since after all He is Jesus, and we are not.

Okay then, how about Peter?

In Mathew 14:22-31, we read the account of Peter walking on the water to Jesus. 

At this time in history, John the Baptist had just been beheaded, and there was much anguish and grief amongst the disciples.  They were broken in spirit and undoubtedly fearing for their lives.  But there was always work to be done.  They must keep going.  Jesus was teaching and performing miracles, and they had just witnessed the feeding of the 5000.  Jesus then wanted some time to be alone and pray, so He sent the disciples ahead to the other side of the lake in their boat. Then during the night, Jesus wanted to join them. Now the fastest way to do that (if you’re Jesus) is to just go ahead and walk out on the water. 

Can you just imagine the disciples sitting in the dark, on the lake in their small boat?  Here they are grieving the impact and loss of their friend John.  They have just witnessed another miracle, and their heads are spinning from it all.  And here comes Jesus.  WALKING ON TOP of the water.

They flipped! 

But Peter, after seeing that it was Jesus, wants a try.  Peter wants to emulate Jesus by walking on top of the water too.  So, Jesus invites him out. And as long as Peter kept his eyes steadied on Jesus, he was able to stay on top of the water.  He was able to avoid fear and avoid sinking underneath the dark waters. As long as he kept his eyes on the Son.

But the very second that Peter begins to shift his focus away from Jesus and onto the wind that is causing the waves to lap against the side of the boat, he sinks.  Peter lost focus and that made his problem seem bigger than it was.  

All Peter could see was his struggle, not his solution.

Peter called out to Jesus for help, and immediately Jesus reached out and grabbed him.  Jesus pulled Peter back into the safety of the boat.  But first Peter had to shift his eyes back to Jesus.

When I think of Peter, I think of me.  I too, tend to easily focus on my problems instead of remembering that Jesus wants me to focus on Him.  He wants me to embrace the fact that He is the “sun in my eyes”, and He is jogging alongside me toward the goal. 

I know how it happens. 

Life presents a challenge, an issue, a trial.  And for a time, the natural thing to do is to try to fix it ourselves.  To worry about all the difficulties we will face because of the issue we are up against.  It may even feel overwhelming.  But I want to encourage you today to shift your focus. 

Take your eyes off your struggle and to look toward the Solution.

Hebrews 12:1b-2a “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  Keeping my eyes on Jesus, acknowledging my need for Him, and asking for His direction in my life, will make running this race of life joyful.  When the Son is in front of me, encouraging me forward, I can go farther!  When I choose to place my attention on where He is leading me, I am less aware of the hardship and more focused on the finish line.

No matter what we face, we have help in Jesus.  But we must choose to have “The Son in our eyes” (see what I did there)?  This will help us to have the courage to get to the next corner.  It will take our attention off our burning lungs and tired feet. Purposefully pointing our eyes at Jesus will help us see the solution and not just the struggle! And it will grow our endurance in the faith.

James 1:3 says of trials, “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”

Lord, thank you for the truth of scripture that tells me that you are always with me.  Your word continually points out Your desire to have a relationship with me.  I always want my endurance in faith to grow, and I always want to walk on top of the water with You.  But often I forget that you are ready and waiting to guide me as I step.  I forget how big You are, and I let the size of my struggle shrink the size of my solution, which is You.  Help me when I worry, to remember Peter.  Lord, I want to choose to trust you, especially when the waters of my life are a bit choppy, and the corner ahead seems far off.  I know you are with me always.  Amen.

Purposefully,

Shelli