Reflections

Have you ever given thought to the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”? It’s somewhat of a daunting question really.  There are so many areas to consider within that one question.

Where will I be in 5 years with regard to my career?

My marriage?

My living situation?

My finances?

My relationships?

Not to mention that 5 years is such a VERY long time away.  I have a difficult time thinking much past the next 6 months, let alone 5 years.  My personality is not that of a detailed planner.  Details get lost on me; I am more of a Big Picture Girl.  So, the idea of trying to know where I want to be in the future or making a plan as to how to get there, stresses me out.

But I do believe that when it comes to my spiritual life, it’s more important to have a goal than a detailed plan.

Ultimately, my goal as a Christ follower is to become more like Jesus. 

So, what’s the problem?  Bob Goff said it best when he said this, “Our problem with following Jesus is, we’re trying to be a better version of us rather than a more accurate reflection of Him”.  I love the way Bob Goff gets real with it, brings it home, and leaves me thinking.

Our walking path at Willow Lake

His statement made me consider my goal.  I was drawn to ponder my motivations.  I believe that, as human beings, we are all naturally, and to some extent, people pleasers.  Some of us struggle with it more than others, but to some degree, we all struggle with this.  It’s human to want people to like us.  It’s natural.  I would go as far as to say that it’s not even wrong.

However, in my thinking and consideration, I’ve come to understand that the goal should not be JUST to be admired, or ONLY to be liked for myself.  I desire to be liked and admired so that (and here’s the challenging part) I can have opportunity to more openly share with those in my circle, my story, my faith, and my purpose…

My purpose is this: to know Jesus and to make Him known.

In my flesh, and left to my own devices, I put ME first.  I take care of ME.  I want people to like ME.  I want people to think I’M neato.  I desire the admiration of others to make ME feel good.  I enjoy attention and recognition.  Innately, I am trying to become a better version of myself.

Thankfully though, I can also choose NOT to live in the flesh.  I can reframe my thought life and get my purpose in check with His spirit.   I can push toward becoming “a little more like Jesus, a little less like me”.  (Zack Williams song)

Psalm 25:5 says this; “Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me.  All day long I put my hope in You.”

It’s interesting to me here that the Psalmist says “all day long…”  The implication is clear. You and I, as well as the psalmist, must continually (all day long) put our hope in God.  I have limitations, I have faults, I have misguided motives.  But when we choose to put our hope in the Only One who can give Living Water, when we follow Him, it is then that we know we are headed in the right direction.  Because then we are doing what is counter to our natural human tendencies.  On my own, I am selfish and inward focused. 

But with Jesus leading the way, I can follow His example of caring for and serving others.  I can better see when there is a change that I need to make, because I am looking to Him and asking Him to lead me and to teach me.  I am more apt to go the right way and make better decisions in my life because I am following His lead, and not looking for others to esteem me.  I am looking to please God, The One who matters.

A beautiful day at Willow Lake

“Be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  Galatians 5:1-2.  Scripture says that we are to imitate God, to reflect Jesus.  To live a life of love that honors Jesus sacrifice.  Not one that draws attention to self.  When I consider the brevity of this life, I realize that any attention I get ends when my life does. 

But if I choose to live my life, giving glory to God and sharing the redemption that Jesus brings, that’s what will last. 

I am far more interested in my life mattering AFTER I’ve gone to be with Him than I am promoting myself here and now. 

But if I’m honest, the struggle is real.  Following Jesus doesn’t stop me from being human.  It doesn’t mean that I no longer desire to be liked, or esteemed, or admired.  But my desire is that if I am liked or admired, that I can sketch that piece of my humanity into the frame of influence. Perhaps, because I am liked, I have a voice and influence to share the hope that Jesus brings. 

I never tire of this lake!

When I think about where I want to be in 5 years, my desire is still to be following Jesus with all I’ve got.  To be a little further down the road of faith but walking even more closely with Him.  To be asking for His direction earnestly all day long. To intentionally place Him in the center of all my decisions and motives.  Because I know that when I do that, everything else will fall into place.  Every 5-year goal, every motive, and every path I walk on will be right where He wants to me to be. 

Spiritually.  Emotionally.  Relationally.

I no longer need to “figure it out”, I need to simply and completely put my hope in Him.  My responsibility is to do the things that bring me closer to Him.  Spending time in His word, lots of it.  Spending time in prayer.  Spending time actively pursuing my relationship with Him through worship, teaching and service.  Not in activities that make me look good, but in secret, where only He sees.  Places where He gets the attention, not me.

John 3:30 “He must become greater; I must become less.”

More of Jesus, less of me!

Lord, your word cuts me to the heart.  It shows me the parts of my life that need to be more inline with your heart.  Please take my life and make it yours.  Lead me and teach me.  And give me the courage to walk where you lead.  Continue to show me how I can be a better reflection of Jesus, not just a better version of myself.  I know that when I follow you, I am always heading the right way.  Today, tomorrow, and in 5 years. 

Purposefully,

Shelli

Handsome Hubs and I~

Taken Forward

Let me just tell you, God showed up at Thrive last month!

What a wonderful night we all had together at Thrive! We enjoyed some delicious, (mostly) handmade, Just For You Desserts. Next, we were enveloped by some incredible worship! And throughout the night we were challenged and inspired, hearing from different women as they spoke about faith, connections, challenges and growing spiritually.

Natually, there was spiritual opposition from the enemy, and we saw it played out many times in many different ways. It came for weeks ahead of the event and intensified throughout the week of Thrive. Each attack was designed to distract, discourage and steal our joy. But God always wins! Everytime. And even more so when we rally together and DECIDE to trust His plans and purposes!

The women in leadership for Thrive are amazing. One was taken out of comission the night before. She had spent months helping us plan and prepare for Thrive, and when sickness took her out, she stood in the gap for us all night! She prayed over our schedule and speakers. She knew where we were with regard to the program all night, and she prayed for all of us, and all of YOU.

Others on the leadership team stepped up when that team member was taken out, and they stepped in to fill her place. When women of God know that they are called to something, like Thrive, nothing scares them away. I saw nervous women become bold women. I saw already brave women, embrace and become empowered by the Lord. And I saw many women impacted for The Kingdom!

I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for Thrive 2022 on November 4th. I see Him moving hearts and changing lives already! I know that He used every single aspect of Thrive to connect women in their relationship with Him.

Whether or not you attended Thrive this year, my chalenge to you is the same. Keep Moving Forward with your relationship with Jesus. No matter where you are in your faith walk, young, old, or a “woman in the middle”, we aren’t finished. We have growing to do. Dig into scripture. Connect with a life group or bible study. Get yourself to church. Take that next step, no matter how small, and get going.

Keep Moving Forward.

Hebrews 6:1a “let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…” It’s time to go from walking spiritually to running toward Jesus

!

Thrive 2021, taking the stage!
“Keep Moving Forward”
Conversations Of Faith with Laurie Schraml
I love this beautiful image of this young woman worshipping~
Just our awesome worship team practicing!
I can almost feel the presence of the Lord in this photo!
The Thrive Team gathering to pray before the event began~
Having some laughs with my friend!
The Team excited as it was almost time to begin!
Thrive Team (minus one) (missed you Lissa)

Plan now to attend Thrive Worship (for women only) on April 29th, and Thrive 2022 on November 4th! ~

@Grace Chruch 2010 S Hwy 89, Chino Valley Arizona~

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)

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

Chasing grace

I’m sure that you have heard of the Amish practice of shunning people.  The concept is that if an individual within their close knit community breaks one or more of their most tightly held beliefs, they are shunned.  Members in good standing “isolate, ignore, or otherwise punish someone for breaking community rules.”  When someone is shunned, the community does not eat with, do business with, accept gifts or rides from the shunned individual. It is an isolation meant to force the deviant person to see the error of their ways and re commit to the Amish ways, and beliefs.

This practice sounds like the exact opposite of grace.

Grace is defined as receiving something you do not deserve.  Like God’s unconditional love and salvation.

The grace of God is a concept that most modern religions do not recognize.  In religion, one must do good works, pay penance to God, or work to achieve a higher version of one’s self through reincarnation.  A person must try hard to become enlightened or ascend somehow in their spirituality to receive the favor of God.  These ideas are not biblical.  If you and I could do it ourselves, then tell me what the cross was for?  Galatians 2:21 tells us that we cannot attain righteousness in our flesh “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, (always doing only right things) Christ died for nothing!”  But Jesus did not die for nothing, He came that we may have life in Him!

So the grace of God is an unearned gift!   

The undeserved grace of God is a tremendous thing!  Ephesians 2:8-9 in the NLT says it like this “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”  Do you see it?  None of us receive the love of God because of what we have done!  We receive it because of who HE is.

It seems a natural thing to try to win God’s love or approval.  But I want you to consider something that maybe you haven’t before.  If you have accepted the free gift of salvation that Jesus offered to us when He gave His life on the cross of Calvary, then sister, you already have God’s complete and unconditional love!  You can stop chasing grace…it is already yours!

The truth is, you and I could never be “good enough” to deserve God’s love.  We can never do “more good than bad”.  We can never ascend to a place of holiness on our own, that would cause God to say that we have earned our way in. Honestly, trying to earn it is what causes us to stray from His love in the first place.  “Earning grace” looks like rules.  It looks like legalism.  It surfaces as the false belief that if I just follow all the rules, never slip up, do all the right things, that God will see me as worthy.  But only if…

If we think that somehow, we need to earn His grace, then we don’t really understand the concept of grace.  Grace is love freely given, undeserved.

The moment we start trying to earn it, grace loses its power.  When we earn something like our paycheck or an award, it always comes as a result of our efforts.  A payment or reward for something worked for and earned.

However, when I understand that grace has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with Him, I can rest in the peace and assurance that I don’t need to earn it, just let it flow over me like cool water on a hot day.  Soothing my soul and providing comfort and assurance, love and peace, hope and joy.

The result of receiving the love and grace of God, is what spurs us on to demonstrate our love back to Him, by following what He says in His word.  The kindness I receive from God through grace causes me to want to love and follow Him even more.  God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance, Romans 2:4 speaks to that.  Here’s what I am trying to say in a nutshell, we do not love and follow God so that He will love us, we love and follow God because He already does!

A favorite song of mine right now is Holy Water by We The Kingdom.  This song is one for the books!  I never get tired of hearing it.  There is a line in the song that goes like this;

“I don’t wanna abuse Your grace,

God, I need it every day,

It’s the only thing that ever really makes me wanna change”. 

It’s the kindness and grace of God that makes me want to change as a person.  It’s His grace that draws me into relationship with Him.  Grace leads me home.  The grace of God beckons me into His loving presence in a way that fear, and the Amish practice of shunning, never would.  Those things only serve to cause me to want to please people, to do the things needed for acceptance.  But they don’t really change the heart.  1 Samuel 16:7 tells us what God cares most about.  “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  He looks at our inner most desires (pleasing people or pleasing Him) and He sees our motives. 

I hope that you’ll let this sink in.  That you’ll stop chasing grace.  That, instead, you will turn and see that what you have been seeking, is already yours. 

Grace changes everything!

Purposefully,

Shelli

Losing power

Walking and talking with friends.  I love it!  There’s no better way to spend a couple of hours with a friend than getting fresh air, sunshine, and a good old heart to heart!

~walking buddy~

As my walking buddy and I ventured on a 5 mile “excer-talk” (I’m trademarking this phrase BTW!) this week, the topic of our discussion made its way to sin.  Sin is an uncomfortable and not very Politically Correct 2021 word, but it’s not something we should ignore, or sugar coat. 

Sin is something that we don’t like to admit.  We tend to gather with friends and talk about life, and family, fun things, and even the good things that God is doing in our lives.  And there is NOTHING wrong with that.  It’s all part of building relationships and connecting with others.  Something I feel very strongly about and encourage.

But, if we’re honest, we don’t often talk about sin in our lives.  We shy away from the truth of it to protect what we think should be our image as a believer in Jesus.  But sister, we ALL have sin in our lives.  We are humans, living in a broken world, waiting for Jesus to take us home.  And until He does, sin will be part of our existence.

So, what is sin?

Sin, by definition, is anything we think, say, or do that displeases God.  Well, alrightythen!  When you put it that way, I guess it’s easy to admit that we’re all guilty of sin. I know I am.  Every day.

I wish it weren’t true, I wish I was able to please God all the time, every day, and never hurt the Lord again with my sin.  Romans 3:23 tells us “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  Did you catch it?  Everyone. 

I have the most beautiful places to walk

Scripture is FULL of verses that lead us as to what to do about our sin.  The theme is always the same, no matter the verse.  Confession.  Confession is the answer to breaking the power of sin over us.

Imagine this for a moment if you will.  Imagine you have gone to bed for the night, you are cozy and comfortable in bed, the lights are out, and you are ready to really relax.  And then you hear it.  In the dark you hear something scratching across the floor in your room (ok, you also have to imagine that you have a wood floor if you have carpet but stick with me here).  You don’t know what “it” is really, but you can hear something scratching and crawling its way toward you.  In the dark, you can’t deal with or understand what “it” is.  Is it a bug, a snake, or a dragon (*wink*) coming at you?  There, in the dark, alone with your thoughts, the fear and power in your head just grows stronger.

You have two choices here.  You can lay there in the dark, hoping that you are wrong about whatever it is, hoping that it will crawl OUT of your room, and not into your bed.  You can continue to lay there, paralyzed by the thing that is holding you prisoner to your own fears, and letting it rule over you there in the dark.

Or…

You can do the brave thing, pull back the covers, find the lamp by your bed, and switch on the light!  Only then will you be able to really deal with whatever “it” is. 

Shining light onto whatever is holding you hostage has a way of breaking the power of darkness.

I really took that!

Think of it this way. 

I have sin.  You have sin.  Sin is not something we are proud of, so we hide it.  We don’t talk about it with anyone. 

We keep telling ourselves that “today is the day that I will get a handle on my sin.  I can do it.  I need to do it.  I will beat it, so that I don’t have to admit it or tell anyone else about it. I need to continue to hide it so that I don’t disappoint people by letting them know the truth about me.  I will be a better witness of faith when I fix it, and THEN I can share my faith.  I am different than other Christians because of my sin.  I don’t see them struggling with this sin; therefore, I need to handle this myself.  Then I will fit in with them.  I am only good enough once I have this is under control.”

LIES.  LIES.  LIES.

Straight from the enemy.

Let’s not forget what 1 Peter 5:8 says.  “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”  The best way for the enemy to keep power over us as believers is to keep us in the dark.  And there we are afraid to admit our sin, even to God and especially to each other.  The enemy wants to keep us believing the lie that we need to live this way and be ashamed. He wants us to think that we need to fix our sin before God or people will love us. In this way, he can continue to hold power over our lives.

The truth of sin and forgiveness is all over God’s word.  Scripture is loaded with the solution to our struggles if we will just read and follow what it says.  I submit to you that in order to win the battle going on inside our minds and hearts about sin, that we must bring it into the light!  If we will bravely admit our struggles to one another, (a trusted friend or a spouse or a pastor, whomever you feel is most deserving of your trust) sin immediately begins to lose its power over you.  Immediately.

James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed…”

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

And this one.  Proverbs 28:13 “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

Confession is like shining a light on that thing crawling in your bedroom at night in the dark.  The light causes it to lose the power and stronghold of fear that the darkness creates.  Are you with me yet?

this lake is a favorite place to walk

Sin loses its power over us when we confess and let it into the light.

What is your struggle?  What is your sin? 

Is it overspending?  Overindulging?  Lying?  A sexual sin?  An addiction? A critical spirit? A bad temper?  A foul mouth? Constant fear? Continual worry?

Sin is anything we think, say, or do that displeases God.

Keeping it exclusively to yourself is only furthering the power it holds on your life.  I encourage you to talk to someone about it.  Not everyone, but someone.

I hope that you have a trusted someone in your life, with whom you can be honest about your struggle.  You will want to pray about this for a while before you choose that someone.  Naturally, you will want to share only with someone whom you feel will love unconditionally and who will keep you accountable.  Someone who has your best interest in mind.  Someone who will pray for you. Someone spiritually mature. 

And it’s scary.  It’s scary to admit your sin and your struggle to another.  Keeping it secret feels safer, but it isn’t always.  Only when the secret is out, does it lose its power

I encourage you to confess it first to God, and then pray, pray, pray about who you will trust with your struggle. 

I hope that you will choose to be free of the power of sin in your life!  Listen, we will not be able to completely stop sinning this side of heaven, but we do not have to live under the power of darkness.  Romans 8:1 reminds us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Christ did not save us to leave us the way we were.  He came to give us salvation through Him and a full life!  John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full!”

One of the many steps to living a full life is confession. First to God and then in honesty to another Christ follower. Sin most often loses its power when we bring it into the light of the love of the Lord.  There, He can begin the healing and strengthening process.  There, He can work with us on the freedom we have in Christ.  We do not have to be trapped and powerless.  We can be FREE!

Heavenly Father, I am sick of my sin.  I am sick of hiding it and letting it rule over me.  I was foolish to think that, on my own, I can stop.  That alone I can somehow win this battle.  Father, I confess I need your help. I also know that being honest about it with another will help break the chain.  Lord, show me who I may be able to trust with my struggle.  I know that in You and through confession, sin will lose the power it holds on me in the darkness.  Thank you that because of Jesus in my life, I do not have to live this way any longer.   Amen.

clouds are a favorite of mine to photograph

Storytelling

I just love a good book,  don’t you?

It’s so exciting to get drawn into the story line,  the characters,  and the emotions of a well written book!

I have a few Christian authors that I really enjoy.   I’ve read many of their books.   Some authors write such compelling stories that you cry at the sad parts,  and even laugh out loud at the funny predicaments the characters find themselves in.

But you always know,  when the story gets tense or difficult,  that there is still time for things to get better,  because you can see how many pages are still in your book.   You know it isn’t over because you’re not done turning pages.

If only life were like that.

You’re probably familiar with the tale of the Prodigal Son in scripture.  

Luke 15:11-32 tells of one families heartbreak over their adult sons.  The father in this tale had two sons.   One was obedient and a hard working rule follower.   The other was selfish and rebellious, demanding his inheritance from his father in advance.  

This son took the money,  left home,  and proceeded to party.   He lived quite a wild life for some time.  

There would have been many sleepless nights of worry  and wondering for his parents.  “Where is he?  What is he doing?  Did I do the right thing?  Is he going to completely ruin his life?”  Those parents were no different than you or I would be.   We would be grief stricken over it,  and so were they.

Imagine if this families story ended there,   with the son leaving and their hearts broken.
They certainly couldn’t see that there were more pages in their story….

Then think for a moment about the Israelite people.

They were lost and wandering in the desert.   They had their children,  their elderly parents and their animals in tow.  

They didn’t have the benefit of knowing that there was more to their story. They may have wondered if “this was it” for them.  

Imagine if their story ended here.  Lost,  hot, hungry,  and feeling abandoned.

And then there’s Peter.

Peter knew Jesus personally.  He had a front row seat to the miracles and teachings of Christ himself.   And when Jesus was close to his darkest hour,  Peter turned his back on him.  He claimed that he didn’t know him at all. And when that rooster crowed,  Peter broke.  He was filled with shame and regret.  He had messed up on a colossal level,  and he knew it.

Imagine if his story ended there,  with Peter weeping bitterly over his mistake.

But none of those stories ended that way!

The Prodigal Son came home,  the Israelite’s entered the promise land, and Peter became an incredible Apostle.   The Rock that Jesus said that He would build His church on!

My point is this; The story of YOUR life is still being written.

Sometimes we think that when something bad happens to us, or to someone we love,  that we have turned the last page in the book.  We worry that “this is it”.   That there’s no more time for things to get better.

But in enters hope!

Hebrews 1:11 says this;
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Hope and faith are so completely intertwined that it’s difficult to see where one ends and the other begins.   Faith is CONFIDENCE in what we hope for!

Sometimes we hope for many things don’t we?  We hope our lives will be comfortable.  We hope to have good relationships.   We hope our children will turn out well.   We hope to have a nice vacation this year.   We hope our boss will notice all our hard work. We may even hope our car keeps running.

But the kind of hope I’m talking about here is different.   It’s not the kind of hope that we sometimes call “wishful thinking”.  This kind of hope EXPECTS good things.  It is Expectant Hope.

And Expectant Hope believes fully that God is still working for our good.  That our story is still being written.   It is “assurance about what we do not see”. 

When life gets challenging,  remember that there are still many pages left in your “book”.  The Author is not finished with the last chapter!  As long as you’re still drawing breath,  there’s still hope.  

Expectant Hope.  

Everytime I’ve been in a situation where I felt hopeless,  like things were so bad that they could never be good again,  God has come through for me in beautiful and amazing ways.  His timing is always perfect, and never late.  So when it happens that way,  we know it’s Him and not us holding the pen.   He gets the glory,  not me. 

God worked in the heart of the Prodigal Son,  and turned him around.   God worked in the lives of the wandering Israelite people and set their feet on the right path toward the Promise Land.   And He never gave up on Peter,  and changed his life of regret to a life of purpose and value for His kingdom.  

He finished their story in the pages of scripture.   He didn’t leave them desolate,  lost or broken.  He won’t leave you either!

When it’s hardest to pray,  pray the hardest.

Remember that He is always working,  even when we can’t see it.  

Trust God for the rest of your story.

John 13:7  Jesus replied,  “You don’t understand what I’m doing now,  but someday you will. “

Don’t give up on God,  He hasn’t given up on you.   Philippians 1:6 speaks to this truth  “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Until Jesus comes,  God holds the pen,  and is still writing your story.

Trust your shoes

Northern Arizona is a beautiful place to be.  There is so much to do outdoors, and I never tire of it!  (Well, not in the warmer months anyway!)

Bell Rock

This past weekend was another adventure to enjoy the great outdoors.  Sedona Arizona is only about an hour away from home, and it is a special place for my handsome hubby and I.  We have been there literally countless times! While we’re there, we love to hike and explore.

This past time we headed out to explore and a place called climb Bell Rock. 

Years ago, I had given in and finally decided to buy a pair of hiking shoes.  I had previously resisted because, personally, I think they are ugly.  They are bulky and they’re not cute or colorful.  They are just all around clunky, ugly shoes.  Vain?  Probably. I much prefer some cute tennis shoes (though I seldom wear those either except to exercise) But I did give in and purchase a pair, and what a game changer they have been!

This trip was one where I knew I would need them.  Bell Rock is absolutely beautiful, and it is exactly what it says it is, a gigantic bell shaped rock!  It’s not a dirt path, or a trail, it is a rock. 

So the hubs and I started out by making the short hike to the foot of the rock.  We extended our hiking poles, checked our water, and just before we started to make our way up the face of the rock, the hubs said to me “trust your shoes”.

Now, these shoes have grip.  They help me avoid slipping on the smooth surfaces of the rock or terrain as I have climbed.  These shoes have a firm sole, one that provides stability to me when things are a bit shaky and I might fall.  These shoes and I have a history.  I have climbed and hiked with them many times and have learned to trust them.  They have stopped me from slipping, falling, and hurting myself over and over.  They have been a worthwhile investment. 

As we were climbing up higher and higher, I didn’t dare let myself look back, or down.  I had to keep moving forward and upward to get to the height of Bell Rock, which was the goal.  There were times when I was practically crawling up the face of this great rock to make it to our destination.  The rock can be smooth and slick in places, challenging me to stay focused.  I was a tad bit afraid, (because no one wants to fall to their death) But being afraid doesn’t make me weak, it makes me aware. I kept pressing on toward the top, and I kept trusting my shoes. 

The Red Rocks of Sedona

2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Let’s face it, life itself can be slippery.  We can’t always see where we’re headed.  It can be shaky and full of change (and not the kind of change we like).  If you are in such a season, I hear you.  I have been there, done that.  And I know I’ll be doing it again at same point, that’s just how life is.  But we can decide to walk by faith when we can’t see the way.  Walking in faith that God knows best.  And having faith that His will is perfect. 

So how do we do that when things get rough, slippery and shaky?  How do we learn to “trust our shoes”?

We can start with the practice of recalling the times in your life where God has brought us through.  I mean, you’ve survived your worst day, and you’re still here aren’t you? Try to intentionally bring to mind instances where you imagined “the worst” (as we all do) and yet, things turned out okay.  Begin to search for the happenings in God’s word, where He brought about His best result in spite of difficult circumstances. 

  • Daniel was thrown into a den of lions
  • David was chased by King Saul who wanted to kill him
  • Paul was imprisoned, more than once
  • Rahab hid spies on her roof to spare her family’s life from an attacking army
  • Esther boldly asked the king (who could have had her killed) to spare her people from being massacred

In all of these situations, something very “shaky” was happening.  Each person had real fears.  Still, they chose to place their trust in God.  It was a purposeful choice.  One I’m sure that they made repeatedly.  And God allowed good to come from their circumstance.   Remember, the same God that made a way in the past, will make a way this time too.

The Hubs

Understand that you can be afraid yet trust Him at the same time.

Psalm 56:3 says “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  The psalmist was admittedly afraid, but he chose to put his trust in God.  Peace comes when we realize that we can’t always “fix” our own circumstance.  It’s only by turning things over to the one who holds the power of life in His hands, that we can be at rest. 

He is our firm foundation.  Psalm 18:2 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge”  Read that again.

Friend, whatever has you in knots today, whatever you feel is too much to handle, He knows.  He sees you.  He loves you and He desires your best.

Will you trust Him?

Made it to the top!

The Common Thread

Guilt.

What an ugly word.  The term “guilt” brings to mind so many emotions and memories doesn’t it?  If I were to ask you what you felt guilt over in your life, instantly a situation comes to mind.  Something you said or did that you feel bad over and wish you could go back and change.

Sunrise at the lake

Many years ago, as a young woman, I felt guilty about so many things. 

  • My short comings as a woman
  • How I raised my children
  • The imperfect relationship between my husband and I
  • My imperfection as a Christ Follower
  • My messy house
  • My empty check book
  • Things that my children wanted to have and do, that I couldn’t make happen
  • Friendships that struggled
  • My lack of self-control
  • My weight
  • My “mouth”

You name it.  I felt guilty about it.  And somewhere back there, I realized that guilt is a tool that Satan uses against women, specifically. 

Hear me out.  If you talk to most men, you will find that out guilt is not a huge part of their daily life.  They may feel it, but it doesn’t seem to permeate and monopolize their thought life the same way that it does women.

At some point we have all felt guilt, and sometimes we needed to. 

Maybe we have wronged someone, said something out of line, or reacted in anger before we had all the facts.  Those can be times when God will use our feelings of remorse to gently lead us into repentance and move us forward to forgiveness. Because He loves us, He often lets us experience the consequences of sin to encourage us to change.

Often though, the enemy will use those same feelings of conviction from the Holy Spirit, against us. He will press them to the extreme, and use them to create unnecessary shame and guilt to attempt to hold us hostage.   In those times when your conscience is clear or when you have confessed your sin to the God, and the feelings of shame and condemnation persist, you can be sure that the enemy is at work.

Romans 8:1 says “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus”.  The Holy Spirit will use our raw emotions to guide us as we continue to grow and develop spiritually in life.  But He will NEVER condemn us.  If you belong to Christ, you cannot be condemned!  That is great news friend!

When we become aware of the things in our lives that God is lovingly encouraging us to change, that’s when we begin to grow.  None of us can be perfect in everything we do.  Try as we might, we cannot achieve it.  When we recognize that, and allow it to motivate spiritual growth in us, then the Holy Spirit can do His work.

However, when those feelings of guilt continue to grip us and tell us that we “never do anything right” or that we’ll “never be good enough”, that is when we have a problem.  We need to try and see those feelings for what they are, a lie.  “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Be alert!  He is lurking around trying to destroy you and me.  And sometimes he uses guilt to accomplish this.  The enemy will use anything that we let him, to distract us from God’s love and purpose in our lives.  Christ came so that we can have a full and abundant life, here and eternally!  John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

Many times we need to get inside of our own heads, and recall truth from Scripture to dispel and filter through the lies that so easily drift into our hearts. 

For years, I have worked on recognizing those feelings of misplaced guilt for what they are.  Some are appropriate, but most simply are not.  Even though I have been aware of this and pushed against it for a long time, I need to stay alert and look for it.  Guilt never really goes away completely, but it does need to learn its proper place!

Knowing the truth, doesn’t mean that those thoughts won’t still plague us from time to time.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  This means that we can continually lay hold of our own thoughts and bring them into line with what we know is truth. It means that we don’t need to live with continual feelings of guilt.  It means that we can choose not to live under the power of our misguided emotions continually.  That we can take hold of the negative thoughts that try to keep us a prisoner, and make them “obedient to Christ.” 

Friend, we will continue to live depressed and guilty until we know exactly how God feels about us. 

Summer storm clouds near home

So how does He see you?

  • You are His child~~1 John 3:1
  • You are His workmanship~~Ephesians 2:10
  • You are deeply loved~~John 3:16
  • You are Holy~~Ephesians 1:4-5
  • You are His Friend~~John 15:15
  • You are not alone~~Joshua 1:9
  • You are a new creation~~2 Corinthians 5:17

If you still struggle to let go of those thoughts, I encourage you to search God’s word for even more answers to the question “Am I loved by God”? 

Please allow me to assure you that YOU ARE!

If that is true, then giving guilt a bigger place in our lives than it deserves, is an utter waste of the gift that Jesus gave when He paid the penalty for our sin on the cross. 

My hope is that, starting today, you will begin to let go of the feelings of shame over things that are outside of your control, or those things that are in the past.  That you will lay them at the foot of the cross and leave them there.  That you will begin to live in freedom and abundant life!

Continued guilt has no place in the life of a believer! 

You and I are FREE, sister!

Practice Makes Perfect

Learning to do anything well takes practice.  Riding a bicycle, baking bread, drawing, playing an instrument and so on.  Practicing something means we give it time and attention and focus on being better at it.   

The same is true when it comes to the practice of being thankful in all circumstances.

Most of the time, we think that our struggles are unique to just us.  But there are many stressors that we all have in common.

  • Stress at work
  • Not having work stress (jobless)
  • Family struggles
  • Financial woes
  • Vehicle issues
  • A To Do List that’s too long
  • Arguments with our children (adult ones or small ones)
  • Disagreements with our spouse
  • Spiritual battles
  • Emotional health
  • Not enough sleep/rest
  • Physical health concerns
  • Aging parents

And so on.  I think it is safe to say that each of us can relate with at least one of the above, or more.  The reality is that those are “normal life” issues.  We will all experience most of those things at one time or another in our life.  Probably more than once.

So, what can we do about it?  Well, each struggle requires a different set of “tools” to handle it well.  But there is one thing we can do, regardless of which of the above struggles we are facing.  Give thanks!

Last week we talked about being thankful and expressing gratitude. I want to circle back around to that and put some feet on it, if you will.

Lines from movies tend to stick with me.  I enjoy bringing them into conversation often!  But as I watched the following movie clip, and placed myself and God in the conversation, it was funny and sad at the same time!

I don’t want my prayer life to resemble this guy, from the movie “What About Bob”

We need to practice thankfulness in addition to petition. As we talked about last week, we are all guilty of asking God for “things” or for help more often than we remember to thank Him for all He has already done.  The habit of practicing thankfulness is an important element of our spiritual lives. 

My handsome hubs and I have known some tough times during our life together.  We have experienced the pain of miscarriage.  We have experienced job loss.  We have been through some tough ministry changes together.  We have parented four teenagers through their difficult years.  We have experienced the heartache involved in watching our grown children stray from the Lord.   And we have seen some of our precious grandchildren go through some difficult health issues.  

In those times, we have developed a practice that we fall back to when times are tough.  As we sit together, one of us will say to the other “Okay, what is something good right now?”  And we start listing all the things that we still can find thankfulness in, despite our current situation.  Generally, we start with the big things, our home, our jobs, our adorable grandchildren.  But as we keep going back and forth, and adding to the list, we find that there is even more to be thankful for.  The silver lining as it were. 

For instance, as our grandchildren dealt with health issues, we could be thankful that they had good parents who were loving and supportive.  That modern medicine exists, and can help to bring them through their health crisis.  We could be thankful for the people in their parent’s lives, who came alongside them to help where they could and gave of their time. 

With regard to ministry changes, we were thankful for God’s provision toward our finances, even though it wasn’t easy.  Thankful that friends were there to support us emotionally, and in other ways.  Thankful that God was working His plan for us through that loss.  And we were thankful for the contacts and friends we made during our time in that ministry, and how many of those are still friends today. 

The habit of practicing thankfulness is not some kind of superpower.  It doesn’t just belong to extra spiritual people.  And it isn’t a platitude to throw out flippantly.   It is something that each of us can and should be practicing. 

Embracing the practice of thankfulness changes our heart.  It can take us from despair and discouragement to a heart of hope and praise.

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The key phrases in this scripture are “in every situation” and “by prayer and petition, WITH thanksgiving”.  The fact that this scripture addresses every situation implies or recognizes that we will experience things that are difficult.  God knows that this will happen to us.  He is instructing us, through the Apostle Paul, to pray and to petition (or ask) And to be thankful.    

When we recognize and praise God for what He has already done in our lives, we worship through thanksgiving.  Giving thanks is a form of worship.  And if you and I choose to worship through a storm, we will win.  We win against depression and discouragement.  And we win against the enemy who tries to keep us focused on our struggles. 

Psalm 121:1 says “I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  If we can lift up our eyes to focus them on Jesus, and remember to thank him for what He has done already, we will more readily see His hand of provision over us and His deep love for us in everything!  We won’t stop having struggles or needs.  He desires that we come to Him with those too, but with thanksgiving, we shift our focus onto Him.   We switch from worry to worship.

Let’s worship through thanksgiving!

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