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~~

Baskets full

It has happened to all of us at one time or another.  We have found ourselves facing something that feels like an impossible situation.  We have all come to a place where the problem in front of us is much larger than what we have the ability to resolve, or take down.  A struggle that feels like there is no way out, or that the way out is far too difficult for us to navigate on our own.

Maybe you are saving to buy a home, but the time frame and the dollars are not lining up.  Maybe you desperately want to change jobs, but the opportunities and the offers don’t seem to make sense.  Maybe there is a rift in an important relationship that feels as though it will never be right again.  My guess is that these types of situations are possibly even keeping you awake at night.  You wonder and worry and even pray, but the truth is, you just can’t seem to see how it will work out.

The disciples had a similar situation.

The disciples were Jesus’ students, but they were also His helpers.  Jesus was going all around Judea, teaching, healing, and performing signs and wonders.  Often there were large crowds that followed Him out of town to hear and see Him.  The disciples would have had big tasks as they traveled. They had to set up camp each time their location changed.  They were managing the crowds that followed Jesus, trying to keep things moving.  They were attempting to tend to Jesus’ human needs, as well as meeting their own basic daily needs.  They were constantly on the move.  

The account in Matthew 14:13-21 finds them in just such a situation.  

This account in scripture is called the Feeding of the 5,000.  But by all accounts, that number is far lower than the size that the crowd truly was.  Scripture states that there were 5,000 men, not including the women and children that could have been present.  The crowd could have very easily been closer to 20,000.

I have been to professional sporting events with crowds numbering around that amount.  It is a massive amount of individual living, breathing, and potentially hungry people.  What they were facing was no small feat.

I never tire of Willo Lake (obviously)

Back to the story….

Jesus had just learned of the beheading of His cousin, John The Baptist.  In His sadness, He took a boat and tried to get away to a private place to grieve.  But the crowds heard that He was on the move, and followed Him where He went.  As always, Jesus had compassion on them and began to heal their sick, once He had docked the boat.  He does this for many hours, and now it is approaching evening, or dinner time.  They are all far from home, and far from food.  (And even farther from Chick Fil-A!). There were no local conveniences for them to fall back on.

The disciples see the problem for what it is: There’s a hungry crowd that could potentially become a hungry mob.  And they think they understand the solution.  They tell Jesus to “Send the crowds away so they can go buy themselves some food”.  That seems fair.  It seems reasonable and simple.

But Jesus had another plan. One designed to show His power and authority over all creation.  He told them “They don’t need to go away, you give them something to eat.”

Uhhhhhh…..excuse me?  

At this moment, the disciples are trying to solve a God sized problem with man sized resources.  They tell Jesus “We have here only five loaves of bread (think dinner rolls) and two fish.”  They were facing what Dallas Jenkins (creator of The Chosen series) calls, “Impossible math”.

So Jesus instructs the crowd to have a seat in the grass.  Then He does what Jesus always does, He sets an example for all of humanity.  He prays and gives thanks for what He does not yet have, and for something that hasn’t happened yet.

And after that prayer, all 20,000 mouths ate, and were filled.  The problem was solved.  But the solution didn’t come in a way that made sense by human standards.  It didn’t come in a way that gave the disciples credit.  It didn’t come as a result of their efforts, nor did it come through their own resources.  This problem was bigger than they were.  Yet the solution came,  though they had no human way to navigate and fill the giant need they were facing.

Scripture says that after they all ate and were satisfied, that the disciples picked up 12 baskets full of leftovers!  Ephesians 3:20 reminds us that Jesus “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us”.  Jesus not only met the need, but provided more than just what was needed.  He left them with more than what they started with.

Only God.

Mark Batterson said this in his book The Grave Robber, “If you put what you have in your hands into God’s hands, He can make a lot out of a little.” 

Willow Lake

 Imagine the disciples, with just a tiny amount of food, facing such a large, hungry crowd.  I can feel their fear, sense their intimidation.  Surely, this tiny bit wasn’t going beyond the first two people, let alone the other 19,998.  If I was one of the disciples, I would probably be recalling the miracle that Jesus performed at the wedding feast in Cana.  Jesus filled 6 stone jars, each holding about 30 gallons, with water before miraculously changing the water to wine (a chemical miracle of epic proportions).  I would personally feel more confident in the ability to feed these 5,000 people if I had the 12 baskets full at the beginning of this feeding, instead of at the end.  

But that’s not how Jesus works.  

Notice that the miracle didn’t occur until the disciples, in faith, began to distribute the food.  

Jesus thanked the Father for what was not yet visible and trusted Him to provide what was not yet completed.

And there’s the lesson for you and I.  

We are instructed to pray and ask the Father for what we need in Matthew 6:9-13, The Lord’s Prayer.  And then a few chapters later, Jesus gives us the example of trust in God’s provision for our needs.  Giving thanks ahead of the provision.

Are you facing something bigger than yourself?  Is there a mountain of insecurity and doubt in front of you?  Are you in a place that you cannot see your way out of?  

This is where Jesus can step in and do more than you can ask or imagine.  His power is at work within us.  Sometimes we forget that, but scripture says it’s true.  

On my own efforts, I wrestle and strain.  I am often unable to meet the need of the situation I face.  My solution is always a “bare minimum” response.  I just want to “get through it”.  

But the resolution comes when my own resources are exhausted, when my own way simply won’t work, and the credit can only go to Jesus.  

What steps can we take to invite Jesus into our impossible situation?

First we have to take what is in our hands, our struggles, hurts, shortcomings and needs, and place them in God’s hands.  Then, in full complete trust in His plan and purpose, we thank Him for what He is going to provide, that hasn’t appeared yet.  We thank Him for doing the things that haven’t been done yet.  For the solutions that He has and will reveal in His time.  And when we do that, we can know that He is able.  Able to meet our need and provide even more than just the bare minimum.  He can do a lot with a little.

Like the disciples, we will be left with more than what we started with.  Impossible problem solving math, amazing relationship resolution, and perfectly balanced provision.

Only God.

Lord, I find myself in what seems to be an impossible situation. I am reminded that You said that nothing was impossible with You. So I invite You into my impossible situation now. Please give me the courage to thank You for the solution that You have yet to provide, because I know You will. Only You can. Amen.

Purposefully

Shelli

Downtown Prescott

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)