Goat heads

Goat heads

Life is full of surprises isn’t it? 

Some surprises are good, even welcomed.  Other surprises, not so much.  I like surprises that include friends and presents and cake.  But the kind of surprises that include a trip to the tire store to fix a flat, or the kind that include draining the bank account due to an appliance failure, those kinds of problems I could do without.

Maybe you have heard this quote by John Lennon, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans”.

That’s how it is for most of us.  We make plans to go places and plans to do things.  But if you’re like me, those plans never include flat tires and replacing expensive appliances.

I’m willing to bet that they also don’t include goat heads.

Lynx Lake, Prescott AZ

Some people (just not this girl) are horse enthusiasts.  These people have a love for horses that rivals my love of coffee, and that’s saying a lot. 

Horses are large animals that are expensive to feed and that require a lot of attention.  There is sacrifice involved in caring for these oversized pets/family members.  The hay they require to eat is quite pricey these days.  And that’s where this story begins.  With a problem.

My friend Erika owns a horse named Misty.  In order to feed Misty, Erika makes an expensive monthly trip to the local feed store where she buys enough hay to feed Misty for the month.  On this particular day as Erika began to spread out the fresh hay in Misty’s stall, she noticed pretty quickly that there was a problem, an unanticipated surprise within the bale of hay.

You guessed it. Goat heads.

Goat heads (also called devil’s thorn) in a horse stall can be a huge problem.  For one thing, it’s not safe for any livestock to eat goat heads.  They can cause great physical damage to the animal if they’re ingested!  For another thing, they’re nearly impossible to thoroughly clear from the stall. Even after much raking and sifting, there will still be some goat heads lingering. Goat heads are pesky boogers that can seem to disappear from sight, making you think they’re gone.  But in reality, they’re not ever COMPLETELY gone.  One bad bale of hay can cause issues for weeks, months or even longer. (And if you’ve ever had the misfortune of stepping on one….. OUCH!)

So, on this day, as Erika realized the problem, she did her best to rake up and clear all the goat heads she could see. Raking and sifting, trying to gather them all.  Then she took the remainder of the infected bale of hay and headed to the feed store to get a refund.  When that was done, she decided to try a different feed store to buy some hay without the nasty goad heads.

Now during this same time, Erika’s family was also planning a vacation away, and she was having trouble finding just the right place to board the family dog.  Erika had been praying and asking God for help finding just the right place for their beloved pup. She kept coming up empty, so she kept trusting God and praying for a solution.

Erika was learning firsthand that oftentimes, God will lead us down a path that we never expected to be on, to get us to the place where He can ultimately meet our deepest needs.

On what seemed like a whim to Erika, she asked the employee at the new feed store if she knew of a place where she might board her dog. Erika was trying everything she could to find a solution to her problem.  And God was there, waiting to give her the answer she had been seeking! The employee knew of a place for the dog, and gave Erika the phone number.

Those darn goat heads drove Erika to a location that she never expected to be, and God was there waiting to answer her prayers.  To give her the information and the answer she had been seeking from Him.

It was risky hiking Lynx Lake amongst all the rain clouds, but we arrived at the end still dry!

What I love so much about this story is that Erika was surprised by the goat heads.  Unhappily surprised, as you can imagine.  And yet, because of the unpleasant experience of dealing with goat heads in her hay, she ended up in a store where she didn’t expect to be (and wouldn’t have gone to otherwise). Because of those goat heads, she found a solution to the problem of boarding her dog! 

Things like this unfortunate event, happen often to many of us.  But experience has taught me that God uses unpleasant surprises in our lives to push us forward to where He wants to meet us!  When I am praying and asking God for a solution to a problem I’m facing, I want the fastest, most direct solution.  After all, I already have a problem.  What I don’t want, is another problem on top of the first one.  But that’s what happened to Erika, and I bet it has happened to you too.

It certainly happened in scripture.

In Genesis chapter thirty-seven, we begin the account of Joseph.  Gen. 37:3-4 says “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him”.  This was a problem.

Joseph had many problems. 

For one thing, he was the youngest child in his family.  It would be quite some time before he would be old enough to take on a role of leadership within his family, and amongst his brothers.  He was seen as the pesky little brother.  And to make matters worse, he was also his father’s favorite, and his brothers all knew it.  After all, his father had given him that ornate robe, or coat of many colors. Another problem. This made his brothers insanely jealous.

Joseph also had a big mouth.  Another problem.  He began having dreams that indicated that his family would bow down to him, and utilizing his big mouth, he told his brothers about the dreams.  He bragged about it even.  This did not sit well with the older brothers, as I’m sure you can imagine. 

So, the brothers devised a plan to get rid of Joseph. Gen. 37:25 says “As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm, and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt”.  Here they decide to sell Joseph to a passing caravan of Ishmaelites (human trafficking).  Another problem. 

 

Crossing this stream was trickier than it looks here!

Joseph thought he had enough problems even before his brothers turned on him. Verse 28 continues with “So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern (where they had trapped him) and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt”.   Now Joseph finds himself walking through the desert behind a caravan of travelers who intended for him to be their slave.  A huge problem.      

Joseph was dealing with “goat heads”.

As the story picks up in chapter 39, we find Joseph in the house of Potiphar, and Egyptian official under the authority of the Pharoah. 

Joseph deals with several more problems, or “goat heads” before things turn around.

He is accused of trying to sleep with Potiphar’s wife. (spurned by rejection, she accuses him).

Goat head.

He is thrown in prison because of the untrue accusations. 

Goat head.

He helps some important men in prison by interpreting their dreams, but when released, they forget all about Joseph and leave him there. 

Goat head.

Finally, Joseph is able to interpret a dream for Pharoah himself, and he is released from prison!

When we arrive in chapter 41 this is what happens; “So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. Pharoah had Joseph ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus, he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt”.

This one of the most fascinating accounts in scripture!

Time after time, Joseph prays for deliverance, and all he gets are more and more “goat heads”.  For thirteen years, from the time he is sold by his brothers until he is released from prison, Joseph receives what seems like nothing but goat heads. 

But because of those “goat heads”, in Joseph’s life, God brought him to a place of honor and respect among his people, and within his family.  He not only earned the highest honor of being exalted in Egypt, but he is credited with saving an entire nation from starvation by famine.  Initially, Joseph just wanted out of that cistern and to go home.  But after enduring SO MANY “goat heads”, he became one of the highest-ranking officials in all of Egypt!

Genesis 50:20 helps bring Joseph’s situation into perspective.  Speaking to his jealous, hateful brothers, Joseph says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives”. Joseph understood that God had used all the unpleasant surprises in his life to bring about His ultimate plan and purpose.  

If we will trust Him, He will do that for us too.

It is certainly difficult for us as we endure through trials and heartache in this life.  Sometimes it seems like they never stop coming.  Just like a bale of hay full of goat heads, our troubles keep spreading. 

But hang on.  God’s not finished yet!

If you are dealing with “goat heads” in your life right now, let me encourage you to keep raking.  Keep sifting.  Talk to God about your struggles and see how He leads you to an answer. Pray and trust the process that He is taking you through.  When it seems like nothing is happening, remember that God is at work in ways we cannot always see.  Just like He did for Joseph, God is working all things together for good in your life too.

God makes sense of all our “goat heads” by using them for our good and His glory!

Romans 8:28 brings this truth home for us.  “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them”.

God’s uses all things for good, even cisterns and goat heads!

The beloved Misty!

Erika and Misty!

Wrapping it up.

I don’t know about you girls, but I have a lot of purses.

I have them in several colors.  Brown, black, white, red, blue, teal, and peach.  I have them in several different styles.  The kind with multiple pockets, the kind with a loop to keep it closed at the top, the kind that have a zipper to close it all the way up, and the tote kind that allow all the contents to spill to the ground when it tips over.  I also have a small fancy one for the occasional night out.  And, I even have one that is baseball themed. 

But a few weeks ago, I wanted one of my purses that I could not find.  It is a cross-body bag with a fun spring print.  I needed it to travel with, and nothing else would do.  It was the perfect purse for the occasion.  And it was missing.

I searched the “usual” place where I keep all my purses and I came up empty handed.  So, I searched in “un-usual” places for it.  I searched the closet in the spare room.  I dug through the coat closet in the hall. I crawled down and looked under my bed.  All with no luck!

Now you know from my account above that I have no shortage of purses.  I have several to choose from.  But that day, the only one that would do, was the spring patterned cross-body purse.  So, I kept searching.

In Luke chapter 18, we find Jesus telling the parable (or story told to illustrate a spiritual or moral lesson) of the lost sheep.  “Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Jesus told this parable because the Pharisees and teachers of the law were harassing Him for spending time with tax collectors and sinners.  This is something Jesus did often. (When you look for it in scripture, you will find Jesus consistently turning social norms upside down.  Jesus treated people the right way, the way He wants us to treat them, regardless of how others felt about it).  Jesus was making a point with this parable.  The ninety-nine sheep were fine where they were.  They had each other.  They had a shepherd to watch over them.  They were safe there. 

Phot Credit, Nicole Nealy. Oregon.

Why would a busy shepherd leave ninety-nine sheep alone and unprotected to go and search for one lost sheep that had left the flock?  He was responsible for those sheep. Why wouldn’t he just be thankful that he still had ninety-nine sheep and cut his losses?  Why risk it?

Well, why didn’t I just use one of my other purses that day instead of looking tirelessly for the spring patterned cross-body bag?

Because that (silly) purse, and that (lost) sheep are important.

It was the solo sheep that needed rescue.  That sheep was outside careful watch of the shepherd.  It was alone and unprotected.  That sheep needed to be brought back into the pen where the shepherd could care for it and keep it safe. 

That sheep was me.

That sheep was you.

And now the parable makes sense doesn’t it?  Jesus is the shepherd, and you and I are the lost sheep.  We were outside of the safety and protection of the pen and the shepherd.  This parable illustrates the message that you and I are important to God.

So important that He sent His only Son to come and find us.  God desires that we are cared for. That we are safe.  That we be saved.

Let’s remember John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  God sent His one and only Son to find us, to bring us back into the safety of pen. 

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  The lost sheep, that’s us.

If you and I were just part of a mass crowd, and did not possess individual worth, then why would God go to so much trouble and sacrifice for us?  Why wouldn’t He just cut His losses and stay to care for the all the other sheep? The truth is, God does see us as individuals and of importance to Him.  He will leave the ninety-nine to come and find us and bring us into the safety and care of The Shepherd.

Psalm 139:13-18 speaks to our individual uniqueness.  Verse 13 in particular, shows that we are each created differently.  “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb”. 

Have you ever seen someone knitting? It is a labor of love.  Each stitch is carefully planned out and intentional.  The knitter must pay close attention as they knit, to get all the stitches even and just right.  No two knitted items can be identical, because they are hand crafted by the knitter.

God says that He knit us together in our mothers’ womb!  Stitch by stitch, cell by cell, heartbeat by heartbeat and feature by feature.  No two fingerprints, faces, DNA sequences, or personalities are identical.  We are intentionally and meticulously hand crafted by The Father.

We are each unique and created by God, He values us individually and will search for us when we are lost.  Much like me searching for my spring themed cross-body bag (except with far more passion)!

If you have ever had the thought “How can God even care about me personally?  I am one of so many billions of people?”  I assure you that He does! Scripture says that He created you.  A creator knows their work better than anyone else ever could. A creator is involved in each step, each detail within the creative process.  A creator never forgets a single detail of their masterpiece!

When you and I feel unimportant and unloved by the world, or by those around us, we can rest in the certainty that we are important to and loved by our Creator. 

We are important enough to Him that He sent Jesus to come and find us.  Yes!  We are loved by Him as His unique creation.  What others say to us, or about us, will never hold more weight than the words of our Creator toward us.

You are who God says you are.

You are loved–Jeremiah 31:3

You are forgiven—1 John 1:9

You are accepted–Romans 15:7

You are a new creation—2 Corinthians 5:17

You are chosen–John 15:16

You are treasured–Deuteronomy 14:2

You are precious—Isaiah 43:4

You are strong—Isaiah 40:31

You are not alone—Matthew 28:20

You are unique—Psalm 139:13

And you are important—1 Peter 2:9

Words matter.  The words we speak about ourselves matter.  No good can come from believing negative things about ourselves.  This sort of false humility does not please God.  He desires for us to KNOW that we are valued and loved.  Because when we KNOW that truth, we can pass that truth on to others.  That they might be drawn to Him and know His love too.

You and I have a mission, to know Jesus and to make Him known.  It is important that we have some basic truths right in our hearts and minds so that we can effectively share the hope the that He offers.

I encourage you to look back through the posts in this series.  Get your bible out and highlight the verses mentioned.  Write a sentence or two after each one describing how that truth impacts you.

Here are a few of the truths we talked about in this series:

Since we have Christ in us, we are a totally new creation.  We are not recycled or repurposed, but remade!

Embracing what God says to be true about you will help you feel secure when the attacks and opinions of others threaten to dismantle your peace.

When we seek our core acceptance from God, it is only then that we can be fully satisfied.

God has created billions of people so far, and His word says that each one is His masterpiece!

God wants us to remember that He is our strength, and that nothing the enemy throws at us is bigger than what He can handle.

There is no relationship more important than the one we have with God through Jesus.  It is because of Jesus’s perfect sacrifice that we can have forgiveness and enjoy connection and peace with God!

Sister in Christ, beloved child of God, be careful to let your Creator define who you are.  Our enemy the devil seeks to destroy us, but Jesus came that we may have life to the fullest.  Let Him give you identity. 

Let Him redefine you with His love. 

(If you are dying to know, yes, I did find the spring themed cross-body bag….eventually!)

Purposefully

Shelli

Photo Credit, Nicole Nealy

Somedays…

Car trouble.  It’s pretty much the worst.

It’s never convenient.  It’s always expensive.  And it is down right upsetting!  

One of my grown kids is wrestling with some car trouble right now.  It can be difficult to know what to do, especially as a young person.  There are so many options to wade through when it comes to vehicle issues.  Should you trade it in and get a better vehicle?  Should you fix the one you have in the hopes that it would run for a few more years?  Is the cost of the repair worth the investment?  Sigh…

Maneuvering through these decisions is rough, it feels bigger than life.  And for someone who is attempting adulthood on their own, it can even feel like it’s more than you can handle.  Because it often is.

Thankfully, for my kiddo, he has a good support system.  He has connections and helpful encouragement when he wants some advice.  He doesn’t have to muster through all of these big life decisions on his own.  Those adult choices are big ones to manage, but he is not alone.

The Hubs~

Right after the death of Moses in the book of Deuteronomy, Joshua is told to take the Israelites across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land.  This is no small feat!  These same Israelites had been wandering in the desert of Kadesh for forty years.  Earlier, in the book of Deuteronomy, God had told the Israelites to take the Promised Land as their own, but they refused.  They feared their enemies more than they trusted God, and as a result of that sin, God banished them to the desert.  They wandered there eating mannah and sometimes quail day after treacherous day.  Year after exhausting year.

This journey should have taken them 11 days.  But, instead, they made a life as nomads, traveling the sandy desert floor, most likely regretting their sin against God.

When time had passed, and Moses had died, this motley crew of wanderers was ready to finally obey God and enter the land.  But this life they had been leading, albeit hot and dry, was what they knew.  To do this thing that God had asked of them, would require change.  And conquering enemies.  And tasks that seemed scary and took big faith.

In Joshua 1:9, God gave them these words to encourage their hearts.  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  They would not be alone, God Himself would go with them!  And He was telling them not to be afraid, but to be STRONG!   That He Himself was going to strengthen them and give them courage!

I believe that though God meant this as a promise to the Israelites,  it is a truth from His word that you and I can take to heart as well.  One thing I know for sure, is that this life has troubles.  But I also know that God wants me to be strong and courageous in Him. 


Consider Ephesians 6:10.  “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”  This verse comes just before Paul’s instructions about putting on the armor of God.

Paul knew that soldiers needed to “suit up” or put on their physical armor before going to battle against their enemy.  When they put on all the pieces of armor to protect themselves, they would then have a good amount of courage moving forward.  This courage came from knowing they had armor and tools and other soldiers to help them fight their enemy.  But they were told to be strong in the Lord.  To let their strength, come from Him.  

God wants us to remember that He is our strength, and that nothing the enemy throws at us is bigger than what He can handle.  

Isaiah 40:31 puts it this way “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;  they will run and not grow weary,  they will walk and not be faint.”  When I feel that the situation I face is more than I can figure out on my own, I know that God will renew my strength when I put my hope in Him!

In Isaiah 41:10 we also read “So do not fear, for I am with you;  do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you;  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Here we are not told to be strong FOR God, but rather, IN Him.  God is saying “Don’t’ be afraid, don’t give up.  Let he help you and make you strong.  I’ve got you!”

La Jolla, Ca.

In Romans 8:28-39 Paul tells us plainly (that’s you and me, New Testament believers) “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

Remembering that nothing can separate me from the love of God gives me courage and strength!  There is no situation in this life where God’s love or His presence leaves me!

Often, when I am struggling with something, I can feel like I am alone.  But over and over in scripture, I see God reminding His people (which includes you and me) that He is with us.  Always.  When I am able to exit my “freak out mode” and think clearly, I remember that God desires peace for me.  That His presence is that peace.  And that because of God’s love for me, that I never face anything alone.  He loves me too much to leave me on my own, scared or sad.  He is with me.

This week, as we talked through different vehicle scenarios and options with my son, he had more ease with the decisions that he had to make, because he had help and encouragement.  He was willing to allow us to guide him through some of the choices that he had.  And because of the wisdom and advice he got, he did end up getting a new car!  

Because of our relationship with God and His community of believers, we are not alone.  God provides the power and the courage to keep moving forward by His Holy Spirit.  But He also gives us other believers to come alongside us to provide advice, encouragement, and yes, even strength.

We are all going through difficult times right now.  It is important to know and remember two things.  

God is always with us, we are not alone.

We find our strength in Him, and through the community of believers that He has given  us.

Lord, I have seen over and over how you love me. Help me to remember your constant love and presence in my life.  You are with me, all the time.  I desire to draw my strength from you and from your word.  Thank you for not giving up on me, even when I sometimes give up on myself. 

Tada! The Sea Wall, La Jolla Ca.

Masterpieces

Fun fact:  I have four (adult) children.

They are all different. Like really different.  Before I had kids, I had no idea that each one would be so very different from the other.  I mean, they were all parented by the same two people, with similar experiences and values.  The same household rules and expectations.   But as they grew, it became apparent, in a short amount of time, that each was unique and special. 

With their differences, I realized that I needed to see each one for who they were, individually.  In order for me to encourage their strengths and support their weaknesses, I had to view each one individually, while still maintaining the family unit.  There’s some tricky balancing going on there!  Each one had the same family rules, but each one responded to those rules differently.  Therefore, each one needed a slightly different level of parental involvement. 

Just like my children, each one of us is special and different from the other. 

I love this about God’s creation!  No two of anything, are exactly the same!  There are billions of human beings on the earth today (7.753 billion to be exact).  And no two individuals have the same fingerprints, DNA sequence or face.  We see similar things in nature.  There are millions of trees, but no two leaves are identical.  Also consider snowflakes!  Their patterns are special.  They look very similar at first glance, but when you look closer, you will find that the differences are extravagant!  Each one is ornate and wildly individual.

That’s me! The Subway Cave, Sedona AZ!

The word special as an adjective, is defined this way; “better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual.”  As a noun, it’s defined this way;” of high value, or beloved” and “designed for a particular occasion or purpose.”  I like both of those definitions, especially as they relate to people!

God sees each person that He created as special.  Not “participation ribbon” special but patterned wildly different and beautifully diverse from every other one!  In Ephesians 2:10 the Apostle Paul writes “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God’s masterpiece, His work of art, His best and most glorious creation!  If you’re like me, you are having a hard time swallowing that truth about yourself right now.  With so many billions of people on the earth, how could I possibly be God’s masterpiece?

It is important to remember that our human, finite minds, do not work the same way that our Creator’s does.   

Artists work tirelessly in hopes to create one piece of art in their life, that is far and exceedingly above the rest.  The one that is more beautiful and more special than all the others that they have ever created.  But God has created billions of people so far, and His word says that each one is His masterpiece! Each one is special in His sight.  I don’t fully understand it, but I am not about to argue with scripture either!    We just have to believe it!

It is God who created us in our mother’s womb.  He knows every detail about us!  In Psalm 139:13-16 David writes, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”  Wow.  It doesn’t get any more special than that, to be handcrafted by The Master.  Cell by cell, eyelash by eyelash. 

God Himself said that humanity was His best work when He declared it very good in Genesis 1:31 “Then God looked over all He had made, and He saw that it was very good!”  On all the other days of creation, when God had finished, He said that what He has created was good.  But on day 6, when He designed the human race, He referred to it as very good. That, sister, is you and me!

It is clear that we are special to God.  But we are also precious to Him.  I know what you’re thinking. Those two words mean the same thing.  We often use them interchangeably, but I assure you, they do not mean the same thing!

Special refers to things that are unique, individualized, different from the rest. Precious refers to being of high value or, in particular, beloved. 

The beauty of creation in Sedona!

God paid a high price for you and me to be redeemed.  He gave His one and only Son to be our Redeemer. Jesus came to take our place and pay for all the sins that you and I have ever or will yet commit. The most quoted and foundational verse in the entire Bible is John 3:16. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  You and I needed a way to have a relationship with God and experience Heaven. When Jesus came to earth, He willingly gave His life for ours. Jesus paid a very high price for you and me, and this makes us precious. 

My children are special because of their individualism, but they are precious because of their worth.  Nothing on earth will ever be as precious to a mother as her children!  (That is, until she has grandchildren!)  Those that are mothers, sacrifice their bodies to have children.  Our bodies stretch and grow and change considerably when we bear children.  And except for the stretch marks, most of us wouldn’t trade a thing!  We lovingly gave up a part of ourselves to give life to them.  Each line and perceived flaw we now see on ourselves, is just a reminder of the precious life we held inside. A testament to the masterpiece we created.

So, when I say that God sees you as precious, it is the same emotion as held by mothers.  The word precious implies a person’s feelings in terms of sentimental and emotional value, not monetary value.   Sentimental and sacrificial value.

Psalm 139:17-18 goes on to say,” How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!  I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!  And when I wake up, you are still with me!”  The Psalmist is saying here that God has so many precious thoughts about us, that the amount of them is greater than the number of grains of sand.  This is astounding!  This means that you and I are on God’s mind continually.  And they are precious thoughts!  Sometimes we imagine that God must be continually displeased with us because we are often displeased with ourselves.  But scripture records that God thinks loving and precious thoughts about us constantly!

As a mom, I think about my children often.  Before I fall asleep, I pray for them.  And when they are far away or struggling, I pray for them.  They are never far from my heart and my mind.  I believe that in the same way that a mother loves and thinks about her children, God loves and thinks about us.  Only with greater intensity and frequency than we can even imagine!  Just as David is blown away by the vast and mighty love of God towards him, you and I would be wise to dwell on that same love for ourselves.  Let it soak down deep.

People and situations can make us question whether we are loved and cherished by others.  However, rest assured that you are loved and cherished by God. Know that He sees you as special, different than all the rest.  Not just a “number” or part of the mass of people.  But He sees YOU.  And when He does, He considers you precious.  He holds you close to His heart, and He thinks loving and precious thoughts toward you!

I don’t know about you, but I am going to rest easier tonight, believing firmly that I am special and precious to God. That I am His masterpiece!

If you are keeping a list in your notebook, believing that you are who God says you are, you can add precious and special to the list.  Maybe consider writing some scriptures next to each descriptor for reference!

Here’s what we have looked at so far: God says we are loved, accepted, a new creation, forgiven, chosen, precious ans special! Two more blog posts will finish out this series. I hope you are enjoying it, and that you will share the blog with a friend! I love comments, texts or emails! Let me know what you think so far! (You can email me at pursuingpurpose724.com).

Purposefully

Shelli

The Handsome Hubs!

Making new labels

School recess, playground games.  So many memories flood my mind when I hear those words. 

Dodgeball, softball, Red Rover, four square…..we spent all of recess in elementary school passing the time with those games.  And as fun as they were, there was also the anxiety of standing in a line with other kids.  Waiting and hoping to be picked for the team.  Was I cool enough?  Was I liked enough?  Would I be chosen?  I was never the team captain, I was always in the line, waiting to hear my name be called.  Maybe you can relate.

We all want to be included.  We all desire to be invited in.  Even my introvert friends want inclusion (even though they reserve the right to still say no!).  In our souls, as people designed for community, we have a longing to be included, or chosen.

Old Testament Jews understood this concept well.  They were God’s chosen people.  Deuteronomy 14:2 says “for you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession”.  They spent all day, every day, knowing that they were special.  They knew the holy scriptures that declared that they were in fact, chosen by God.  They did not have to wonder or worry about being included.  They understood that as fact.  So, they had a difficult time accepting that, when Jesus came, He declared that even the Gentiles and the dreaded Samaritans were also chosen!  But we’re not here to talk about them, let’s talk about you and me!

If you have ever felt the sting of NOT being chosen or included, then I know you also understand the joy and happiness that comes when you ARE invited in.  I have good news for you today!

You have been chosen by God for the most significant team in human history!  The most amazing “team captain” of all, has set His sights on you!  He has called your name and included you among those He desires to have on His team! 

La Jolla California on a recent trip~~

Ephesians 1:3-4 puts it this way, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight…”  John 15:16 says “You did not choose me, but I chose you…”

Let those words sink in for a moment.  God chose YOU!  Say it out loud right now (ok, maybe just in your head if you’re not alone…)  Say “God chose me!”  Don’t say it with hesitation, with a question mark at the end.  Say it with gusto. With an exclamation point!

Maybe your relationship with God is spot on today!  You are in the word, in church, and in prayer regularly.  Maybe you have just started a relationship with Him, and you are still figuring out what that looks like.  And maybe your relationship with God is…complicated. Whatever the case may be, know this; you are loved by Him!  How do I know?  Well, because you are reading this now, and I believe God led you here today.  And because He led you here, He desires for you to know Him.  And because He drew you here and desires to know you, you are loved. 

What you do with that knowledge is up to you, but He is calling your name.  Asking you to be part of His team.

Imagine you are in that line of kids, waiting to be picked at recess.  The captain calls your name.  In that moment, you were chosen for the team.  But you still have the choice whether or not to step out of the line and join the captain.  We can stay where we are, but we are still chosen.  It’s not until we accept that invitation that we actually join the team.

You are who God says you are, and He says you are chosen. My sister, if you have placed your faith in Jesus and trust in His work on the cross and in His resurrection for your salvation from sin, then He has called you, and you are chosen!  Rest in that truth today.  Soak in it for a while.  (Think, long hot bubble bath soaking, the kind that wrinkles your skin!)

1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Called out of darkness, into His marvelous light. Chosen!

Fresh wisteria blooms~

As we work to reframe and combat the negative words that we hear from others, or from the enemy, words matter.  You may hear “not wanted” or “rejected”.  But God says you are:

Loved

Forgiven

Accepted

Chosen

And a new creation!

If you are keeping a list in your pretty notebook, add Chosen and New Creation to the list!

Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new is here!”  What a wonderful truth! 

Since we have Christ in us, we are a totally new creation.  We are not recycled or repurposed, but remade! 

Our old selves (before we knew Jesus) were without Christ.  But Jesus is the light of the world.  Once His beautiful light enters us, all the ugliness is exposed.  And He gets to work right away making room for His presence to fill and complete us.  He starts to get rid of the ugly and change us.  And almost immediately, His glorious light shines through and we are made new from the inside out! 

Isaiah 43:19 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  Here, God didn’t say that He would add water to the streams He had already created, but that He would make streams appear in the wasteland. 

Because I am a new creation, I am not a slave to my old ways.  The old is gone, the new has come!

Ephesians 4:22-24 teaches us this truth: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” 

A new creation in Christ is not a second chance.  God is not limited to second chances, as though they could run out.  Rather, we are a NEW creation, a NEW beginning!  God is a God of new beginnings.  Even if you have wandered away.  Even if you use to follow Him, but something happened to change that.  You can restart with God.  Let Him create in you a new heart!  Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

My dear sweet friend, who is in every way possible, a new creation, said this to me.  “Remembering that I am a new creation helps me to step into what God is calling me to do.  I have to choose to no longer identify with the labels from my past that would certainly imprison me.  There’s freedom in Christ!”

The new me has fresh eyes.  Eyes to see beyond my circumstances, to see God’s purposes.  A new creation can be like nothing you’ve ever seen before!

Whether you are looking for inclusion or a fresh start, Jesus offers you both!

Father God, when I feel defeated and like I am never going to get things right, remind me that I am new in Christ.  I feel your tender mercies toward me every morning.  But sometimes, when the world doesn’t choose me, and I feel stuck in patterns of life that make me feel trapped, I forget that you have made me new.  Thank you for your word and the truths I read there.  I am chosen.  I am a new creation.  I choose to declare this in a fresh way today! Amen.

Purposefully,

Shelli

These two lovely, sweet sisters are amazing New Creations in Jesus! Donna and Amber!

Belonging

As a child, I remember disappointing my parents.  On many occasions.  I recall acting in ways and saying things that hurt and angered them. Especially as a teenager.  I know they wanted what’s best for me, but in my immaturity and youth, I thought I knew best.  I thought I had grown enough to not need their wise council anymore. 

Even though I am grown now, I can still recall times when our relationship was a bit broken.  I had said and or done things to create a gap in our relationship.  And I felt it.  Things were not “right” at home.  The usual joyfulness and peace that was normally there, was absent in times of strife.  There were times that I knew I was in the wrong, and I needed to apologize.  But many times, my stubborn pride kept me from making things right.  It kept me from owning my mistakes and accepting responsibility for my actions and asking for forgiveness.

Funny how certain patterns repeat themselves into adulthood, isn’t it?

I have repeated this pattern in my marriage, and in other relationships as well.  Especially in my relationship with God.

1 John 1:9 holds a powerful truth.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  This is an “if and then” statement. 

You’ll notice that confession brings forgiveness.  When I have unconfessed sin in my life, it creates a relationship barrier between myself and God.  Like when I was stubborn with my parents and didn’t own up to my actions.  But with confession, comes forgiveness!  And with forgiveness comes restored relationship! 

There is no relationship more important than the one I have with God through Jesus.  It is because of Jesus’s perfect sacrifice that I can have forgiveness and enjoy connection and peace with God!  Check out Ephesians 1:7. “In Him (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” 

This means that because of Jesus’ death on the cross, and my acceptance of the free gift of salvation through Him, I have forgiveness of sin.  Now I can enjoy the riches of God’s grace!  The broken relationship is healed!  There is no longer a need to try to be “good enough” for God to accept me, He already does through His Son!  My relationship with God is restored and unbroken through confession of sin.

Psalm 103:12 tells us how God forgives and forgets our sin.  “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  Unlike humans, God has the ability to forgive and truly, and completely, forget the things we confess.  This means that once we confess our wrongdoings and sins to the Father, they are gone!  He remembers them no more!  You and I do not forget our mistakes, and often the enemy of our souls likes to remind us of them to hold us prisoner to the past.  But we do not need to stay there, trapped in guilt and shame, “beating ourselves up” for sin.  Confess it and be free.  Stop looking back, you are not going that way!

I am forgiven!  (And you are too!)

Gorgeous right?

Because we are forgiven, we are also accepted. 

Because the broken relationship has been restored, we are accepted by God.  Romans 15:7 makes this truth simple and clear.  “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” 

We all want to be accepted.  We work to attain an identity to fit in within certain circles.  Those circles might be work related or socially driven. They may be at church or in our communities.  Experiencing acceptance by others is a heart desire that we all possess.  It’s why we join clubs, or bowling leagues, or steer towards certain types of people groups.    The desire for acceptance by others comes from a deeper desire to be accepted wholly and completely by our creator.  He put that desire in our hearts, and it can only be truly realized in the peace we feel when we embrace that we are accepted by Him!  It is only when we seek our core acceptance from Him, that we can be fully satisfied. 

In all my years, I have desired acceptance from various people, or social groups too.  I think it’s safe to say that I always will in a lot of ways. 

But what I find so exciting is that even if I am never accepted socially in any group ever again, that I am accepted by God into His family!  What a joy to know that the desire I have deep within me to be accepted, has already been met in the wonderous love of God!  The truth is, I don’t really need to search for acceptance on earth any longer, since the kind of true and lasting acceptance can only be fulfilled by the One who loves me the most and created me for His good pleasure.  If He is pleased and accepts me, that’s all I need!

Here is something that I find hard to believe but know to be true; God knows me at my best, and He knows me at my worst.  Yet He loves and accepts me into His family, and into His kingdom.  It’s not about anything that I have done, it is all about everything that He has done on my behalf. 

If you’ve known the sting of rejection (and I ‘m sure you have), let your heart be comforted and make it a priority to remember that you are accepted by God!  Jesus makes that possible when we place our trust and faith in Him. 

This is week two of the series that we are in on the blog.  We will continue to spend the next few weeks exploring the names that God gives to us.  The various ways that He addresses us.  We started last time with LOVED.  This time we are adding FORGIVEN and ACCEPTED to the list.

I encourage you to grab that pretty notebook that we mentioned last time and add “forgiven” and “accepted” to the page you started.  (Didn’t start one?  It’s not too late!)  Keep that notebook handy as we continue to add to this list!

God wants you to know that you are loved.  He went to great lengths to ensure that you would know this truth.  Remember, the enemy wants us to focus only on our faults and shortcomings.  He works hard to steer us away from knowing the perfect love of God.  I believe that since you are here today, reading this, that God brought you here to remind you of His love for you, and for your need for Him.

You are LOVED!

And if you have accepted Jesus, and His finished work on the cross, you are FORGIVEN and ACCEPTED!

Come back next week to continue this series.  Have a friend that could use some encouragement and proof that she is loved by God?  You can easily share this blog with her.  Use the “share” option from your phone or tablet or email her a link!  See you again soon!

Purposefully,

Shelli

Wisteria and bumblebees~~

A series of words

Words are a big part of our lives.  Words shape us.  Words influence us.  Words can wound us.  And words can heal us.

The words we speak to others can impact them in big ways.  When I have a close relationship with someone, the words they speak to me can influence me greatly.  They can change the way I see the world, and they can often change the way I see myself.  If you have ever had someone close to you speak loving words into your life, you know how lasting those words can be.  And by the same token, negative words spoken in anger or out of criticism can ring in our ears and minds for years to come. 

Words matter.

Do you remember as a child, hearing “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”?  I do.  I think that little rhyme was probably invented by a well-meaning parent that wanted to encourage their child, who was probably hurting from unkind words spoken to or about them.  They were intended to help. 

If only it were true. 

But words do hurt.  We often recall the hurtful words spoken to us much longer than we can kind words.  In an article by Lindsey Horton regarding the science behind the effects of negative words, she said this: “…negative words, whether spoken, heard, or thought, not only cause situational stress, but also contribute to long-term anxiety”. 

Sometimes those negative words come from the world.  They are spoken to us through social media and more subtlety through tv ads and so on. 

Sometimes those words repeat in our mind from the voices in our childhood, or sometimes they come back to us from a painful adult relationship. 

And sometimes…they come from our own negative self-talk.

Stop right here and think of three words that you might use to describe yourself. (I’ll wait).  I’m willing to bet that at least one or two of those words are negative in some way. 

Photo credit: Krissy Basham (AKA my daughter)

Here are some words that I know we often say about ourselves (as women), even if we don’t say them out loud, or to others. We say:

I’m lazy

I’m not smart enough

I’m overweight

I’m ugly

I’m unlovable

I’m useless

I’m a failure

I’m sure there are others that you say about yourself, words I didn’t list here.  Typically, we have no trouble finding grace and kind words to speak to others, but when it comes to ourselves, we aren’t usually as kind. 

In a world full of criticism and negativity, it is important to be kind to one another.  But I also believe that this kindness needs to start with how we speak to ourselves.  Proverbs 4:23 says it this way: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”.  Guard your heart.  Words matter.  The words we speak to ourselves matter.

Since we are considering the impact of words, I think we should start with considering God’s word, the Bible. 

Last week on the blog, I mentioned a few of the words that God says about us in scripture.  I want to dive into this a little bit further, so I have decided to do a series here on the blog (something I haven’t done so far).  I want to spend the next several weeks together, looking into the words that God says about us.  Words that will help us reframe the negative words that we hear from the world or even in our own thoughts.

God says I am loved!

As human beings, this is the number one thing that we all desire to hear.  “I love you’”

The enemy of our souls works diligently to fill our mind and heart with lies and thoughts that keep us far from God.  And he chips away first, at the foundation of everything, love. 

By far, the greatest human desire is for love.  Oxford Dictionary defines love as “An intense feeling of deep affection”.  We see this desire for love displayed everywhere in our culture.  We seek to receive love from people.  We start (and end) relationships searching for love, romantic relationships as well as relationships with friends.  We even have children out of a desire for love. 

As humans we desire to give love as well as to receive love.  The idea of love is a driving force for all of humanity regardless of their geographical location, heritage, upbringing, race or gender.  We all desire to be told that we are loved. 

Photo credit: Krissy Basham (AKA my daughter)

I desire to believe that I am who God says I am.  And God says that I am loved by Him!

Look what Jeremiah 13:3 tells us.  “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love;  I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”.”

This love of the Lord is everlasting, lasting forever, never changing, solid and sure.  

1 John 4:19 says “We love, because He first loved us.”  You and I possess the ability to love because He (God) loved us first!  How did He love us?

Jesus, God’s own Son, is speaking in John 3:16 and He says it this way.  “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”  The way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.  And because the sin of man broke the world, the way that God designed it, He sent His own Son to make a way for us to know this love and to be with Him forever.  John 15:13 tells us this truth “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  

This fierce love was displayed in the ultimate act of love.  God gave His Son, and He then,  willingly laid down His life, so that your life and mine could be redeemed.  There is no greater love than the sacrificial love that God showed to us.

So when the enemy starts to whisper in your ear that you are not loved or that you are not worthy of love (human love or God’s love), rest assured of the truth that you ARE indeed, loved greatly by the Lover Of Our Souls! He went to great lengths to show that love to us.  Our part is to believe it.  To let it settle down into our souls and fill us. 

Photo credit: Krissy Basham (AKA my daughter)

The greatest human need is to be loved.  What an amazing thing to recognize that our greatest human need has been met in the powerful and mighty work of God!

If you are struggling with this truth today, then I believe it is no accident that you are reading these words.  I believe that God sent you here today because He is speaking to you.  He directed you here so that He could tell you what He knows you need to hear.  

You are loved.

I hope that you’ll join me over the next few weeks, as we learn the words that God speaks about us in scripture.  My desire is that you will allow these words to influence and define who you truly are, and how you see yourself. And that you will begin to replace the negative voice inside, that works to defeat you with the words of God.  

Challenge:  Use Google or your Bible app to search for  scriptures that speak of God’s love for you.  Write some of them down in a notebook.  (The pretty kind that you will want to look at again and again!)  And then choose one to commit to memory.  This will help replace those negative things you hear.  Words matter.  What God says about you matters the most!

The world does not get the final say on your worth,  value or loveable-ness.   Only Jesus does!

Purposefully,

Shelli

Photo credit: Krissy Basham (AKA my daughter)

Seeing clearly

For a number of years, I worked at a school.  I have some fun and cherished memories of my time there.  All the kids at the school where I worked were small, preschool through just second grade.  One of the things I especially enjoyed about that age group is the funny things they would say! I mean to tell you, these kids were often quite hilarious without even trying!

I remember one day, talking with a group of first graders on their way to lunch.  One of them had just lost a tooth (a fairly common experience in the first grade!)  He was showing me the space where the tooth had been and talking about the night before and how hard he had to wiggle that tooth to remove it from his mouth.  At that time, my grandson was also in the first grade, and I was curious if they were the same age, so I asked the boy just how old he was.  “I’m 6!” he declared proudly.  This simple question had all the other kids nearby, asking me to guess their age too.  After guessing a few of them, I made the cardinal mistake of asking them to guess how old I was….

To be fair, I did ask them first. I did open myself up to suggestions (and humiliation).  I did put it out there for interpretation.  But if I’m honest, what I really wanted to hear were guesses like, “I think you’re 29 like my mom” or “I think you are 35 like my aunt”.  No such luck.

This same boy, who had just lost his tooth, said “I think you’re 73, like my grandma.”  (Insert the mental image of a balloon deflating here).

Can’t beat the veiws in Sedona AZ!

Often, when we decide to be open with people, what we are really hoping is that they will say nice things to us. That the sometimes-negative things we tell ourselves, will not come out of their mouth.  We’re wishing that they would encourage us in some way to help us feel better about ourselves. What we really want to hear is, “You’re wonderful just they way you are, don’t change a thing!” We try to convince ourselves that the negative opinions of others don’t matter, but in our souls, deeper down, we mull over those opinions.  We let their words get to us and confirm our worst fears.   

But maybe that’s just me….

There is only one whose thoughts about me matter ultimately, and that’s God.  He is the only one who speaks the lasting words of acceptance and love over me. 

But we live in a culture and society that constantly tells us that we are not attractive enough, rich enough, thin enough, interesting enough, young enough or personally fulfilled enough.  We can easily be caught in a cycle of feeling that our identity in this life is found in our appearance, possessions, weight, age or career. 

But who does God say I am?

God says I am loved.  Scripture is full of verses where God speaks His love over us. Consider Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”.  Or 1 John 4:9 “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him”. God’s love for you is personal.  He doesn’t just love all people, but He loves you personally and specifically. 

God says I am precious.  Precious refers to something that is deeply treasured, truly beloved, and dear to the heart.  This is how God thinks of you.  Psalm 139:17-18 tells us “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered!  I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!” 

God says I am treasured.  A treasured thing is something of great worth or value.  Deuteronomy 14:2 puts it this way, “You have been set apart as holy to the Lord your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure.” 

God says I am chosen.  Something that is chosen is selected or marked for favor or special privilege.  In John 15:16, Jesus is speaking, and He says this about those who follow Him, “You did not choose me I chose you.”  Think 3rd grade recess, picking teams for dodge ball, only far more important.  You are chosen, by the Team Captain (Jesus)!

I never tire of hiking in Sedona

How about if you and I become more intentional about where we get our identity from.  Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”.  How we see ourselves, our identity, should come from the one in whose image we were created.  Our creator is the only one who should be influencing the way we see ourselves.

So, when the world, social media, television, and the opinions of others (no matter what their age, even cute toothless first graders…) have you feeling down, remember some of the ways that the Lord sees you. 

He sees you as:

Loved.

Precious.

Treasured.

Chosen.

Understanding your true identity in Christ starts with an understanding of who He is, then what He says about Himself, and next what He says about you.

Embracing what God says to be true about you will help you feel secure when the attacks and opinions of others threaten to dismantle your peace. 

Even if it is a first grader. (*wink)

Lord, this world can be rough on me sometimes.  I don’t often talk kindly to myself in my thoughts.  And sometimes I let the opinions of others influence the way that I imagine you feel about me.  So today, I want to remember the truth of how you love me and see me.  In Christ, I am loved, precious, treasured and chosen.  Will you remind me of those 4 words often this week Lord, so that I can begin to more completely embrace your love for me?  Amen.

Purposefully,

Shelli

At the end of Fay Canyon Trail after you climb!

Thrive Worship

Thrive Worship is coming soon! 

I hope you’ll plan now (if you are local) to join me for a night of contemporary worship just for women! Thrive Worship is Friday April 29th at 7:00 p.m. Thrive Worship will be held at Grace Church in Chino Valley in the main sanctuary.

This event is free! 

Grab a friend or two and come worship The Lord with us through song!  You have the opportunity to hear from Amber Leason as she shares what God has brought her to in life because of the act of worship.  Amber is a woman of joyous faith!  You will also hear from Donna Dominguez as she and I share together all that God is doing in her life because of her recent renewed faith!  I am confident that these God Stories will be encouraging to your soul and spirit!

Check it out online at cvgrace.com under the Events Tab.  This is a FREE event, no need to register!   We want everyone to come out and enjoy this special once a year opportunity!  Will you help us pack the house?

If you would like a digital invitation that you can share via text with your contacts, please email me at pursuingpurpose724@gmail.com and I will get one to you!

You may have heard about and seen my posts on the blog about the Thrive Event that happens in November!  In case you haven’t caught wind of all that is exciting about Thrive, it’s not to late now to start planning to attend! You can read more about it by searching this blog for a post titled Reflections.

Thrive is an event for women, at Grace Church in Chino Valley that focuses on two kinds of CONNECTION.  Connection in relationships with one another as valued women, and connection in vibrant relationship with The Lord.

I look forward to seeing you at one, or both, of the upcoming Thrive events this year! 

Thrive Worship, Friday, April 29th or the fall Thrive event on Friday, November 4th!

Purposefully,

Shelli

Take heart

“A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:13

Truer words were never spoken.

Once you are fortunate enough to have made it to adulthood, you have undoubtedly experienced a broken heart along the way.  A broken heart can come in many ways and from several sources.

Broken relationships.

Job losses.

Death of a loved one.

Watching your child or spouse suffer in illness.

Your own diagnosis.

World events.

And the list goes on.  

It stands to reason that if a glad heart shows on your face, then a broken heart must show there as well.

Like you, I know what it is to experience a crushed spirit.  It happens in those times when life is difficult, when you can’t change the circumstances in your own life or in the life of a loved one.   When life is challenging like that, you can’t hide it.  Try as you may, it’s more obvious than you may want to recognize.  Your entire countenance is changed, and those who know you best, can tell.  You can speak whatever words you choose, but those closest to you, know when you’re hurting.  Your spirit is crushed.

A broken heart crushes the spirit.  

I like the way The Message translation words this verse, it says “ A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.”  Yup.

I think it is safe to say that we have all, at one time or another, had a hard time getting through the day.  I mean, obviously we “get through” it, we breathe,  we eat, and we sleep.  (Sometimes we do very little of any of those, but we get through).  

Jesus Himself, was not immune to difficulties in life.  

He experienced brokenness in relationships.  When He was close to the truth of the cross, and what it would require of Him, His disciples couldn’t stay awake through the night with Him.  He experienced betrayal when Judas, one of his own disciples, turned on Him for a small sack of silver. He experienced the death of a loved one when Lazarus was still in the tomb. And He certainly experienced the sorrow of a diagnosis, knowing that for your sin and mine, He would willingly suffer a painful death on the cross at Calvary.  

When life was hardest for Jesus, what did He do?  

He Prayed

Sometimes, He left the company of others to have some alone time with The Father.  In Luke 22:39-46, we see Jesus doing exactly that.  He poured out His heart to The Father, and shared with Him all the anguish and grief that He was feeling.  The human side of Jesus sought the Father for another way through this hardship.  “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me…”. None of us would have done things any different.  

I have done that and more when I have been desperate for a better way through my circumstances, than directly through the minefield of my pain.  I desire an easier way, a way around.  

He surrendered to The Father’s will.  

After His time of prayer, and seeking another way, Jesus submitted to the will of His Father.  He said “Not my will, but yours be done.”  While it is normal, and human for us to seek another way through the difficulties of this life, ultimately, only God can see the whole picture.  He sees the way through and the rewards that wait on the other side of sorrow, more clearly than we ever can.  So while it is normal and expected for us to seek another way through hard times, continuing to resist the trial doesn’t change the trial.  Peace comes when we recognize that God is not the problem, but rather, that He is the answer.  He promises to never leave us.  He didn’t promise that hard times wouldn’t come, only that He would be our shelter in the storm.  

Remember, Jesus had the power and authority to stop His own death on the cross, but He did not.  For the sake of all mankind, His great love is what kept Him on the cross.   He surrendered. John 3:16 tells us “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life”.

Lastly, He served others.

Once Jesus changed the water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana, His public ministry began.  This was the beginning of His journey to the cross.

And on His way there, He chose to serve. 

He served by healing the Roman officials’ very ill son in John 4:46-47.  He served by casting out an evil spirit from a possessed man in Mark 1:23-28.  He served by healing His disciple, Peter’s mother-in-law from a terrible fever.  He served the unclean, unapproachable leper by healing him from leprosy in Mark 1:40-45.  He served a widow by raising her dead son, and only provider, back to life in Luke 7:11-18. He served by healing an outcast paralytic in Matthew 9:1-8.  There is much more that could be listed here, but you get the point, Jesus served despite His own heartache and personal circumstances.  

Like He did so often throughout His life on earth, Jesus sets an example for us in difficulty.

Jesus prayed and spent time alone with The Father.  He knew that the task before Him would require more than His humanity had to give, so He prayed and asked God for a way out, or a way through.

Then He surrendered His own will and allowed The Father to complete the Best Plan, even though it came at a great personal sacrifice.

And then He served and met the needs of others during His difficulties.  I know from my own experience that doing this helps me feel less powerless and discouraged.  It brings me joy to serve others, and I am certain that serving brought Jesus joy as well.  

John 16:33 tells us this;  “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart!  I have overcome the world”.  

So, this week, as we all struggle though whatever difficult thing that’s in our path,  lets remember Jesus’ example to pray, surrender and serve.

Jesus, I am struggling.  Things are difficult and my life feels like a battlefield.  Thank you that you are The Overcomer.  Lord, I need your help to see the purpose in my pain, but I choose to trust your will.  Help me to be aware of opportunities to serve someone who may also be struggling.  I desire to use what you have given me to encourage others.  More than anything Lord, please don’t let go of my heart as I seek to honor you in all I do.

Purposefully,

Shelli