A series of words

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

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

Words matter.

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

If only it were true. 

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Krissy Basham (AKA my daughter)

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

I’m lazy

I’m not smart enough

I’m overweight

I’m ugly

I’m unlovable

I’m useless

I’m a failure

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

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

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

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

God says I am loved!

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Krissy Basham (AKA my daughter)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Krissy Basham (AKA my daughter)

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

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

You are loved.

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

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

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

Purposefully,

Shelli

Photo credit: Krissy Basham (AKA my daughter)

Seeing clearly

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

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

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

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

Can’t beat the veiws in Sedona AZ!

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

But maybe that’s just me….

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

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

But who does God say I am?

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

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

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

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

I never tire of hiking in Sedona

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

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

He sees you as:

Loved.

Precious.

Treasured.

Chosen.

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

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

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

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

Purposefully,

Shelli

At the end of Fay Canyon Trail after you climb!

Thrive Worship

Thrive Worship is coming soon! 

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

This event is free! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purposefully,

Shelli

Take heart

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

Truer words were never spoken.

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

Broken relationships.

Job losses.

Death of a loved one.

Watching your child or spouse suffer in illness.

Your own diagnosis.

World events.

And the list goes on.  

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

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

A broken heart crushes the spirit.  

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

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

Jesus Himself, was not immune to difficulties in life.  

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

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

He Prayed

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

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

He surrendered to The Father’s will.  

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

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

Lastly, He served others.

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

And on His way there, He chose to serve. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purposefully,

Shelli

New tires

I had to buy some new tires for my car this week.

As a woman, I can’t think of too many purchases that are as completely unsatisfying as the purchase of new tires.  Typically, if I am going to drop money on something (especially big money like tires can be), I like it to be seen!  New tires are just straight up unglamorous!

I’d rather buy new furniture, new clothes, or something fun for the kitchen!  Even pretty landscaping is more exciting than new tires!

However, from time to time, it is necessary to spend money on unsatisfying things, like tires.  But I realize that when I do, I have peace of mind.  I know that I am safer on the road.  I worry less about a blowout on the freeway with new tires.  I also get better gas mileage and have better control of my vehicle.  Rough roads or bad weather don’t worry me as much with those new tires.  Sigh. 

Let’s consider something else that might seem unsatisfying (or seem like it gets in the way of more fun and desirable things that we could invest our time in) but also brings peace of mind and preparation for potentially rough roads-reading the Bible.

There.  I said it. 

Watson Lake, Prescott AZ

I know there have been times when I have felt this way, and I bet that you have too.

But I know that If I want safety and security on the road, sometimes, I need to spend some money on tires.

And if I want peace and security in my thought life, and in the struggles I face every day, I need to spend time with God. 

Regularly.

If you and I are going to move from the women we are into the women we want to become, and into the fullness of all that God has for us, we have to invest some time. 

Change does not happen magically, it happens intentionally.

What does scripture have to say about spending time with God?

1 Chronicles 16:11 tells us this, “Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always”.  Where can we look to the Lord?  How can we seek His face?  Where can He be found?  In His word, the Bible. 

Mark 1:35 gives us a beautiful example of this in Jesus.  He was fully God, and also, fully man.  And because He was a man, He needed to spend time with His Father in heaven.  Here’s what Jesus did, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”  He got alone with God.  This chapter was written during a time when Jesus was healing and teaching often.  It was a very draining time physically and emotionally to be sure.  So, because He knew that He was going to be doing so much within His day, He needed time alone.  He needed time to be with God.

Jesus was preparing for rough roads.  And each time he stole away from the disciples, or the crowds, to spend time with God, He was essentially buying new tires.

Watson Lake, Prescott AZ

Even the sleekest, most beautiful cars, don’t get very far without good tires!  It matters when we use our resources and time on things that are not seen, as well as those that are.

The more time we spend with God, the more closely He will be involved in our lives.  I’m certain that in your life you have had to develop relationships of various kinds.  Spending time together is necessary to get to know someone well.  You may have had to develop friendships, or a relationship with someone you were interested in romantically, or even relationships with new co-corkers.  Deepening those human relationships takes an investment of time.  We seek to get to know the person better through dialog and observation.  We may talk on the phone or even meet up for coffee to become more familiar with that person.  When we do, we learn new things about them.

It is much the same with our relationship with God.  If we want to know His heart, and more completely sense His presence in us, we will desire to spend time with Him.  We do this best through reading His word.  It has been said that the Bible is God’s love letter to us!  He shows us so much about Himself there. 

It’s where He tells us that He loves us in John 3:16.

It’s where He says He’ll keep His promises in Hebrews 10:23.

It’s where He tells us that He is always with us in Deuteronomy 31:6.

It’s where He says that we are His in 1 John 3:1.

It’s where He says that He is working in our lives in Ephesians 3:20.

It’s where He says He’ll give us strength in Philippians 4:13.

God speaks to us primarily through His word.  But we can’t hear Him if we aren’t listening or giving Him the opportunity.  God will most often draw near to us when we draw near to Him.  We cannot truly expect to deepen and grow our relationship with God if we are not reading the Bible.

Don’t believe me?

I double dog dare you to try it for two weeks and see if you don’t notice a change in your heart.  Invest the time you need to, to be road ready, by reading the word of God. It’s like getting new tires.  You can certainly find more glamorous ways to spend your time, but will you get a better and more lasting return for your investment?

I doubt it.

If we want to know God’s will for our lives, we have to look to His word.  And when we invest a piece of our day seeking Him there, we begin to change.  Romans 12:2 says it this way, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Not sure where to read? Open your Bible to the book of John in the New Testament.  John gives us a clear picture of Jesus, who He is and how He loves us.  Or, if you want to read the bible on your phone or tablet, the You Version Bible app has hundreds of reading plans to make it easy. 

Grab your Bible (or app), maybe a yummy warm drink, and go!  Pray, and read.  You may not notice a huge difference immediately, but you might.  However, if you keep it up for a while, you surely will see God at work.  You will sense His peace and presence.  You will notice Him changing you on the inside, where it matters most. 

He’s ready. Are you?

Lord, I want to get to know You better.  I want to give you priority in my day, wherever that fits best.  My desire is that You and I can deepen the love relationship we have into something strong and beautiful.  I open my heart to you now and ask that You speak to me through Your word.  Amen!

Purposefully,

Shelli

You be you!

There I sat, in the audience at a Christian Women’s conference, inspired and awed by the words of our speaker that night.  She was so knowledgeable of God’s word, so eloquent in her speech, and so passionate in her delivery.  I wanted to be just like her.

I was so impressed by her, that I found myself drawn to her as a person almost more than I heard her message.  I imagined what it would be like to be as wise as she was, and as polished.  I perceived that she had “it all together” in her personal life, that surely her life was picture perfect due to her closeness to God and her obvious personality.  How could it not be?

Everything that I admired in her, were the very things that I felt that I lacked. 

Maybe you can relate.  Maybe the situation is different for you, but you have felt that same way.  You have admired someone because of the character qualities that they possess.  Courage, boldness, eloquence, spiritual maturity, knowledge? Perhaps these are the very ones that you sense are not present in your own life.

It is true that it’s good to have people in our lives that inspire us and cause us to examine our character.  This helps us to grow in spiritual maturity. Let’s not forget that God has designed each of us differently to fulfill His purpose for us!

Romans 12:4-8 NIV puts it this way “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

You will notice that Paul doesn’t state that we should all be good at all those things, but rather, that we should know what we are bent towards, and do that, to the best of our ability! 

Sunny San Diego!

Many years ago, I took a Spiritual Gifts Test.  The results showed me the areas of my life that I already had a passion or high level of interest in.  The areas that I was potentially gifted towards by God.  This was amazing to me!  I was able to shift my perspective from feelings of inadequacy and lacking, to the understanding that maybe the things that I already enjoyed were part of God’s purpose for my life!  For me, it was like the light turned on in a dark room!

To be clear, I am not saying that I was suddenly complete, or done growing spiritually.  Rather, it was kind of a newfound freedom, knowing that I could hone in on the specific passions and interests that were God honoring.  And that I could further develop THOSE, instead of only focusing on my short comings!

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NLT puts it another way “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord.  God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.”

The cells in our body all work toward the same goal, regeneration and vitality.  But each organ, made up by those same cells, has a very different goal than all the other organs on the body.  But they all serve one purpose.  Our spiritual gifts may all be different, but they work together to serve one purpose in the body of Christ. That is to glorify God.

Here’s what I want you to consider; while we are flawed and imperfect, we each (as followers of Jesus, saved by His grace) have something to offer.  We each have been gifted by the Lord at the moment of salvation, with at least one spiritual gift.  What is yours?  What do you feel it could be, based on what drives or excites you?

Here is a list of potential gifts.  Give some thought to these.

Administration (details, organization)

Discernment (seeing truth or deception)

Evangelism (sharing your faith)

Exhortation (or encouragement)

Faith (confidence in God’s power, promises and presence)

Giving (financially)

Helps (the behind-the-scenes stuff)

Hospitality (serving others with joy, welcoming)

Knowledge (loving the study of the word)

Leadership (care and commitment to move people forward in their faith)

Mercy (empathy and compassion towards others)

Prophecy (or declaring God’s truths)

Serving (helping, ministering)

Teaching (effectively communicate the truths of the Bible to others)

Wisdom (similar to the gift of knowledge)

More than anything, what I want you to get from this post is this; You are valuable.  You have something to offer.  And instead of falling into the comparison trap, maybe spin that on its head and excel in what you are already passionate about or gifted toward!  Admiring qualities in others, like I admired the speaker, is excellent.  But have you considered what others might admire in you?

I always want to grow in my knowledge of God’s word. I desire to continually develop the areas of my life that need some correction. And I try to be aware of those around me and the example that they are to me.  But I don’t want to ignore my own God Given abilities!  Those areas where I can bring Him glory and honor as well as supporting those in my circle. 

Mission Beach, San Diego~

I am far from perfect; I have a long way to go to be complete, as He is complete.  But I do know that if I don’t acknowledge and appreciate the gifts and abilities that He has already given me to serve Him, I am missing out!  But that’s a blog for another day!

Progress over perfection.

Is this fresh news for you?  Maybe before this, you felt like you only needed to “fix yourself”?  Perhaps you didn’t understand why you get more excited about certain opportunities to serve, and not others.  Are your friends and contacts excited about opportunities that you are not?  This is most likely because, God has gifted you differently.  Celebrate that!  Develop that!  Embrace that God has created you lovingly and intentionally as you are. Your gifts are from Him!

And rest assured of this truth.

Philippians 1:6 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

My pastor said this just this morning, I hope you’ll take it to heart.  “You need to be the you-est you there is!” 

Father God, you are an incredible God, I praise Your name.  I am amazed by You!  Thank You for making me unique.  I want to grow in my understanding of You and Your word, and to develop the part of me that makes me unique for Your kingdom.  I ask You to show me how to be fully myself and yet still bring you glory.  Thank You for choosing me and using me! 

Purposefully,

Shelli

Take me back to the beach please!

A better foundation

Well, we’re 10 days into the New Year.  How’s it going with those resolutions?

There’s something fresh about a new year that makes us want to declare “this is the year for me!  I’m going to do things differently!”  We tend to make plans about diet, exercise, spending habits and organization goals.  All worthy pursuits, to be sure.

@Watson Lake, Prescott AZ

One time, years ago, I needed to refresh my make-up supply.  Shopping for make-up can be a bit overwhelming!  And, as usual, I was in a bit of a hurry.    There are so many different brands, types, and shades of everything in the make-up isles!  I was in need of a new foundation that day.  But as I lingered in the isle surveying all my options, I realized I was out of time, and needed to get going.  So, I grabbed the same foundation that I had had before and thought to myself “I’ll try something new next time…I need to go.”

Later, at home, I applied my new foundation.  And to my disappointment, it was two shades darker than what I usually bought. Someone must have put this one back in the wrong place!  It was a little more “orangy” than my natural skin tone.  “Well,” I thought, “I paid good money for that, and I’ve already opened it, so I guess I’ll just have to make it work”.  I tried to adjust the other make up products, like my eye shadow and blush, to account for the foundation that wasn’t right.  But it really only got worse from there!  I ended up looking a bit like a circus clown with all the adjustments!

As long as my foundation was “off” it didn’t matter what I applied on top of it to try to make it better.  It was wasted effort. 

I thought about this recently as I pondered “New Years Resolutions”.  

As we give thought to what needs to change in our lives, we imagine that if we lost weight, or organized our home or stopped spending money frivolously, that everything would get better.  And while those kinds of adjustments are good, until we get our foundation right, they are really just wasted effort.

So, what kind of foundation am I talking about? 

Time with God.  Time in His word.  The foundation of our days which sets everything else in place properly. 

I have learned that when I want to prioritize the areas of my life, like finances, and health, it can be difficult to give each one the proper focus, the correct amount of attention.  I find myself thinking “Once I am more organized, (or healthy, or in control,) then I will be able to prioritize my time in God’s word”.  I assume that, when I have some of the other areas of my life “in control”, that making time to order my spiritual life will also fall into place.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

This was a a Happy Accident!

In Mathew 6:31-33, (the Sermon on the Mount) Jesus himself speaks to it this way; “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ (Diet and exercise?) or ‘What shall we wear?’ (Spending habits and organization?) For the unbelievers run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Jesus was addressing our humanity and putting it into the proper perspective.  It is natural for us, as human beings, to think about what we’ll eat or drink (or how healthy, financially responsible, or organized we are).  Notice Jesus didn’t’ say that this was a bad thing.  But He just states that if we will “seek first His kingdom” that everything else will fall into place.  That we won’t have to worry about those things, because God knows we need them, and He will take care of us. 

Seeking first His kingdom, means prioritizing Him before other pursuits. 

This can mean reading your bible first thing in the morning.  In fact, that’s a great place to start.  What I do first with my day, sets the tone (if you will) for the rest of it.  I have learned to give God the “first fruits” of my day.  I have come to see that when I read His love letter to me each morning (the Bible), that it becomes the lens that I see the rest of my day through.  Everything else seems to fit into its proper place when I start there.   Time in God’s word becomes my foundation. 

So, that when I add in other pursuits, like health and my priorities, they are not out of balance.  I can see them clearly, through the lens of scripture. 

Again, in Matthew 7:24, Jesus says this; “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

Me, standing firmly on The Rock….metaphorically speaking!

If 2022 is going to be The Year, it starts today.  It starts with small steps and proper foundations.  Not lofty, giant goals that we may never achieve.  Rather than making a resolution, check your foundation.

Read your Bible.

Join a Bible study.

Get to church.

Seek first His kingdom, and everything else will fall into place!

Lord, I want my priorities to be in order.  There are so many areas of my life that I want to get in line with Your plan for me.   I acknowledge that if I will start by making Your word the foundation of everything else I desire, then You are there.  You will lead me in Your ways and give me all that I need.  Cause me to desire You above all else.  Be my firm foundation.

Purposefully,

Shelli

Jesus Peace (It’s a thing)

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I just want what’s best for you…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Nicole Nealy

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

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

Hmmm…

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

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

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

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

It’s the same for you and me, sister.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pause

Hi friends!

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

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

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

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

See you all again soon!

Purposefully,

Shelli

💜 November 12th 💜

It makes scents…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Durango, Colorado (my photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the train from Durango to Silverton Colorado

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

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

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

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

What scent are you leaving behind?

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

Purposefully,

Shelli