Sanctuary

Photo by unknown(Microsoft Bing)

The air was crisp and cold. A dusting of snow covered the ground – a typical winter morning in Central Oregon.

As I drove toward the intersection, an object caught my eye. It appeared to be a man lying in the gutter, knees touching nose. His dog snuggled close, all his belongings tucked at his feet.

I pulled through the intersection and watched him unfold – head then shoulders, each arm reaching toward the sky. His dog stretched in response to his movement. The remnants of sleep fading as he faced a new day.

His image faded in my rearview mirror. I refocused my attention and saw the sidewalks and gutters lining the road littered with tents, sleeping bags, makeshift structures. Men and women clumsily maneuvered the streets and in the distance, a group had formed to smoke and discuss the day.

I was caught off guard! I was one block from the local homeless shelter. Yet, the streets had suddenly come alive, humanity on display, broken and destitute.

This scene was unfolding at the doorstep to a place that would provide sanctuary. A refuge for all those that needed a bed, shower, a hot meal, and hope. One doorway away and yet, humanity chose gutter, and sidewalk, tent, and car.

At that moment my heart broke, tears welled in my eyes. Not solely out of pity for those relegated to the streets (although no one should have to live from gutter to curb) but because this scene reminded me of how many times I have chosen less. The many times God has offered sanctuary, hope, a refuge and I’ve said, “Thank you Lord but I’ll do it my way.” Times when I stand broken and destitute, attempting to maneuver through one circumstance after another alone – a vagrant.

My windshield filled with the image boldly displayed on the side of the shelter building,

Grace – Changes – Everything

And at that moment it became clear, my aimless, self-absorbed wondering ends at the place where I accept God’s grace – a shelter for my soul.

Psalm 62:1-2 reassures us,

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

The shelter stood amid a broken humanity, waiting for them to respond and receive. We stand in the presence of a grace-giving, merciful savior. He waits for us to,

Respond and

Receive.

BeLOVED, I encourage you to step out, beyond your self-sufficiency and accept God’s refuge because His grace does change everything.

Be Blessed,

Note: Homelessness in our community, in many communities, is on the increase. The loss of jobs resulting from the pandemic has caused relatively self-sufficient individuals and families to join the ranks of homelessness. Some, as depicted in this story, choose to stay outside of the systems put in place to support them. They are “loners” unwilling to accept the help provided. While most, seek and readily receive sustaining assistance. It is a complex issue, requiring a multifaceted approach to solve. Please join me in praying for all those who are houseless and homeless.


REFLECT:

Psalm 27:1-9 (New Living Translation)

The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior.

For additional reading – Psalms 27 NIV – Of David. The LORD is my light and my – Bible Gateway

CONSIDER:

Take a few minutes to consider the following.

  1. Who or what are you trusting/following instead of God?
  2. What changes do you need to make in your life, your beliefs, and behaviors to completely surrender to God?

ENJOY:

Cody Carnes – Run To The Father (Live at Motion Conference) – YouTube

Holy Moments

Photo by Morgan (Unsplash)

A stillness fell over the room. The type of quiet that forces you to take notice.

The music played gently in the background and the early morning light cut through the window leaving a shadow across the small wooden table and her favorite cup of tea.

The children were hanging on to the last remnants of their dreams, the dog was curled at her feet, and her husband was buried under his grandmother’s quilt.

She sat motionless, fixed on an indescribable peace. A sweetness, a warmth that enveloped her.

A holy moment; a moment where she could feel God’s presence.

A moment she knew that she was loved like a father loves his daughter – loved unconditionally, effortlessly, intentionally.

Our lives can get so complicated. They can become busier than we planned, out of control. Keeping us from the most important thing, time alone with God. Sitting in His presence, lounging at His feet, spending time getting to know Him, loving Him, surrendering to Him.

Holy moments are found in the stillness of our minds, in the quieting of our hearts, in the intentional discipline of seeking God.

Tim Hansel shares,

God has spoken very boldly about his desire to be a presence in our lives. If I want to heal the ache and loneliness in my own life, one of the things I need to do is get away, alone with God. . . In the silence, God will speak to you most powerfully. Too often his words to us get muffled, lost, or covered by the crowd of many noises both inside and outside of us. We must have a quiet heart in order to hear God’s distinctive message to us.

So how do we make time?

What do we do while in His presence?

What are Jesus’ promises for our time together?

Making Time

Jesus himself was the best example of making time for God. He was often found stealing away to a quiet place to pray and worship.

Luke 5:16 shares,

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

We need to get away from the distractions to a quiet (lonely) place. A place that allows us to focus; a comfy chair in the early morning before the family places their daily demands. A Walk in the neighborhood or hike in the woods, just you and Jesus. A late evening encounter, the day is done and you can rest in your Father’s arms.

You may only have 5 minutes, take the time. Jesus waits to meet with you.

In His Presence

Three things we can focus on while we are in the presence of God; prayer, praise, and pondering His goodness.

Colossians 4:2 tells us,

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

We can use our time alone with God to pray, talk with Him about every aspect of our lives – not just our needs (He already knows) but also our dreams, those tiny things that bring us joy.

Psalm 117:1-2 gives us another hint at what we should focus on during our time with the Lord,

Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!

Take time to praise God for all He has done and continues to do for you. The Lord loves to hear the praises of His people. Listen to worship music, sing or pray in the quiet of your mind, sing or pray at the top of your lungs – don’t forget to praise!

Pondering God, reflecting on His character and nature, allows us to grow our knowledge and understanding of the person of Jesus. Reading the Bible, a daily devotion, journaling are all excellent ways to reflect on God.

His Promise

James 4:8 shares God’s promise for our time with Him.

 Come close to God, and God will come close to you…

Our time with God brings intimacy and builds our relationship with our loving Father. Our faith and trust grow, burdens shift, pain takes on a new perspective, and our lives are transformed.

Sisters, I know many of you are going through difficult times. Times that cause you to fear, question, and challenge your faith. Times where you think I don’t have time to be still, I’m just hanging on!

I encourage you, even in desperate times, to make time to be with Jesus. Because it is during these times – we need to focus on Him even more. We need to sit in His presence, lounge at His feet, spend time getting to know Him, loving Him, surrendering to Him.

31Therefore do not worry or be anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted), saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ 32For the [pagan] Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; [but do not worry,] for your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.

34“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:31-34 Amplified Bible (AMP)

BeLOVED, don’t get lost in the busyness and the distractions of this world. Spend time with the One that can meet your inner longings, your deep loneliness, and your unimaginable losses.

Nestle into your favorite chair, settle into the corner of a coffee shop or a bookstore, walk a quiet path – spend time with your creator.

In return, He will reveal Himself, His passions, His purpose for your life and you will find yourself resting in a holy moment.

Blessings,


REFLECT:

In Luke 10:38-42, we are told about Martha and Mary.

 38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

 Martha was the doer, serving Jesus and His disciples, making certain the meal was ready, and all the many details were addressed.

Mary desired to sit at Jesus’ feet. She took this precious time to be still, to grow in intimacy and knowledge of this man Jesus. She chose not to get distracted by the busyness of His visit, the preparation, her sister’s call to do more. She chose to be present, to quiet her heart, to focus on God.

Seeking God in a busy world requires some intentionality, a little planning, and perseverance. But Jesus says in Luke 10:42B,

Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

Jesus confirms that Mary had it right. His desire for our lives is time spent in His presence, at his feet, in a relationship with Him.

CONSIDER:

Take a few minutes to consider the following.

  1. Are you consistently spending time with God? If no, what is getting in your way?
  2. What is one thing you can do to grow closer to God?

ENJOY:

Nothing Else (feat. Cody Carnes) // The Belonging Co – YouTube

Most Beautiful / So In Love (feat. Chandler Moore) – Maverick City Music | TRIBL Music – YouTube

Lessons from my Father

Photo by M. Parzuchowski

My father passed away on my birthday. It is always a bittersweet celebration – my living and his death.

He was a complex man, which made our relationship complicated. I loved him but there was a part of me that was also intimidated by him.

It’s not that he had an overpowering stature or that he ever raised his hand to me. But there was this smoldering temper. It lied right under the surface and I never wanted to be the cause of it boiling over.

So as a child, I played the role of the compliant good girl, no thoughts or opinions of my own – mirroring his image, avoiding emotions.

That approach worked until it couldn’t any longer – I grew up.

With each teenage and young adult encounter, I learned to navigate his temper. My strategy was similar to that little girl – work to appease him, gain his approval, and stay clear of what could cause tension.

The paradox was that although I carried an anxiousness when I was with my dad, I loved being there. He taught me the fine art of fishing. Hours spent on a pier or a riverbank. We never said much but it was just good to be together. There was a quietness about him that I admired.

Time mellowed him. The loss of my mother left him broken and the temper slowly replaced, perhaps transformed, by an ever-growing faith in Christ.  

When I turned 34 my father freed me from the boundaries I had constructed to frame our relationship. With his passing, he left me a priceless gift – an awareness, an amazing example, of how God enters into our brokenness and brings change.  

20My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

I have to be honest though, I find I still lean on the protective strategies I developed in my youth. The striving to prove, the conflict avoidance, the slipping away from anything remotely close to emotional tension. They’ve become my default. But the beauty is there is freedom.

Just as the Galatians 2 verse shares; I can choose to believe Christ lives in me. A new creation. This trusting allows me to recognize those defense mechanisms are no longer needed. They are old human attempts to protect me from disappointment and pain. The reality is that God waits to give freedom, each time we recognize the old-ways and ask for new strength.

I hope you turn to the God of freedom for all that keeps you striving, fearful, and lonely.

He is waiting for you to ask.

He loves you.

Be Blessed,

Allison

In memory of my dad, Alvin T. Willis (11/19/18 – 2/3/92) ~ Dad, I miss you. Thank you for what you taught me in life and death.


REFLECT:

Psalm 51:9-12 (New International Version)

Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

For additional reading – Psalm 51 NIV – Psalm 51 – For the director of music. A – Bible Gateway

CONSIDER:

Take a few minutes to consider the following.

  1. Can you identify protective strategies you use in your current relationships? If yes, do you feel they are effective, why or why not?
  2.  How can you give all dysfunctional strategies to God?

ENJOY:

Take Me Back (feat. Dante Bowe from Bethel Music) – Maverick City Music | TRIBL Music – YouTube

The Letter

Photo by A. Burden

In our home, January is the month we purge what has gathered in the corners of closets and the back of drawers. We find new homes for jackets that haven’t been worn for the past few years and we toss the reams of paper we no longer need. It is a freeing, satisfying time.

This year my husband was looking through a box of treasures he’d collected over the past 40 years. Cards from family members that have long since passed. Notes from his son, handmade cards from children he’d coached, all bringing special memories of times he’d almost forgotten.

At the bottom of the box was a letter, addressed “Mac.” Seven pages of thoughts and emotions, handwritten, and badly faded. He called me to his office and showed me the folded yellow sheets of legal pad paper and I was immediately transported to the rock, next to the bay, pouring my heart out to this man I love.

The letter was not dated but remembering the location reminded me it was over 30 years old.

Last week, I took some time to read the letter. I remember that woman, anxious and so unsure. Life had been turned upside down. My goals unraveled, dreams gone, facing a future I couldn’t see or control. All laid out in pencil, incoherent desperation.

Somewhere along the journey, I made a decision that trying to control the world was ineffective. I didn’t have the mental capacity or the physical strength to fix all that was wrong with it or me. So instead, I decided to surrender.

Pastor and author Erwin Lutzer writes,

You become stronger only when you become weaker. When you surrender your will to God, you discover the resources to do what God requires.

Surrender is the key.

When I was young, I wanted my will, my plans, the life I had defined. Even when that life leads to brokenness, a path of desperate striving, a heart of pride, I wanted it my way! But with time, with the bumps and bruises of the world, I’m learning to rest in God’s desires for me. His will, His plans, a life aligned with His.

This aligned life doesn’t mean an easy life. I can attest to this truth. The years have not been easy. But there is deep satisfaction and joy that comes with facing each new obstacle with God, a quieting of that anxious girl from the past.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 reminds us,

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Our January purge is such a wonderful reminder. God never meant for us to carry the clutter of our pasts. His desire is for us to call on Him and seek Him honestly, humbly.

I encourage you to take a little time this week to do a little spiritual house cleaning. Identify those things that litter your mind and heart. The things that keep you from fully surrendering to God. And remember BeLOVED, He faithfully waits, loving you when you feel unlovable, desiring relationship when you want to run and hide, offering rest when you are frenzied and out of control.

Blessings,


REFLECT:

Acts17:24-28 (New Life Version)

24 “The God Who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth. He does not live in buildings made by hands. 25 No one needs to care for Him as if He needed anything. He is the One who gives life and breath and everything to everyone. 26 He made from one blood all nations who live on the earth. He set the times and places where they should live.

27 “They were to look for God. Then they might feel after Him and find Him because He is not far from each one of us. 28 It is in Him that we live and move and keep on living. Some of your own men have written, ‘We are God’s children.’ 

For additional reading – Acts 17 NLV – Paul and Silas Start a Church in – Bible Gateway

CONSIDER:

Take a few minutes to consider the following.

  1. What mental/emotional/spiritual clutter are you carrying with you? Take time to share them with God.
  2.  Do you believe God can bring restoration to these broken areas? If yes, what steps will you take to receive His healing?

ENJOY:

To You (feat. Chandler Moore & Maryanne J. George) – Maverick City | TRIBL – YouTube

The True Source of Lasting Satisfaction

Photo by S. Forest

I have a sweet friend that loves to feed the local bird population. She has birdfeeders hanging from her balcony and protruding from the ground below. We often have text exchanges about the birds collecting in her yard and conversations about how to attract more birds when the visitor numbers slow.

I was inspired by her enthusiasm and truth be told a little friendly rivalry was rising – how many birds could I attract to my yard?

So armed with the knowledge she had imparted to me, I added two feeders to my backyard. They were directly below the dining room window, well within view of watchful eyes – will they come?

Then one by one, finch, bluebird, dove, and a random covey of quail found the feeders – a full-blown obsession was conceived.

Each morning, Titus (our fur baby) and I make the trip to the feeders, fill each to the brim, and scatter a little on the ground. During the day, my husband and I keep watch on our guests. He often comments on the number of birds. Yes, the obsession has captured him as well.

One morning I was standing at the window, a warm cup of tea in hand. I noticed the doves. They are frequent visitors. They congregate under the feeders, scratching, searching for seed. I know they are ground feeders but today it struck me. They searched for food, moving from feeder to feeder looking to the ground. While all along, hanging above their heads were full feeders! As the wind caused the feeders to sway, seeds would fall to the ground. But, what they wanted, what would meet their needs, provide satisfaction was right above their heads. All they had to do was look up.

As a younger woman, I had dreams. Things in my life I wanted to accomplish. I moved from goal to goal, accomplishing some, experiencing devastating loss with others, but constantly striving – one more goal. Scratching around life, looking for the one accomplishment that would meet my needs, feed me, all the while looking to myself for satisfaction.

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying, dreams are not bad, goals give us motivation. But when we depend on these things to define us, to give us purpose and value, we are like doves – never looking to the true source of real satisfaction.

The Bible tells us in the book of Matthew,

 “If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

Matthew 6:25-26 – The Message (MSG)

This is a beautiful reminder if we are God-worshippers we don’t have to scratch and search for something to fill us. All we need to do is look up. He promises to care, provide, and love us. And that brings true satisfaction.

Be Blessed,


REFLECT:

Psalm 139 – New International Version (NIV)

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of saw when I awake, I am still with you.

For additional reading – Psalm 139:1-18 NIV – For the director of music. Of David. A – Bible Gateway

CONSIDER:

Take a few minutes to consider the following.

  1. What or who are you looking to for satisfaction?
  2. Do you believe God can meet your needs? If yes, why? If no, why not?

ENJOY:

Won’t Stop Now (Paradoxology) | Official Music Video | Elevation Worship – Bing video

Laid Bare

Photo by J. Lee

At 36, Elizabeth had more life experience than most women her age. A thriving career, a loving marriage, a bright energetic daughter, and an entourage of friends that loved and supported her.

Yet, when you talked with her or spent any time around her, you felt a disconnect, a brokenness that was difficult to explain. There was the person she wanted you to see (an accomplished professional with a full life) and the reflection of the person she was.

People say you know the person by the company they keep. I think you know the person by how they feed their souls. What they allow into their minds and permit to influence their behavior.

People are what they do in the secret spaces of their hearts. The truth of their lives surface when the pretense that keeps their image intact is revealed.

Elizabeth experienced this unveiling on a Thursday afternoon as her workweek was ending. She was looking forward to the weekend, some scheduled time with her best friend. She glanced at the clock, 5:35 PM, as the phone rang. The display reflected her boss’s number. “Hey Liz, I need to see you in my office?” She gathered her coat and purse, thinking she would leave from his office for home, and made her way to his suite. She knocked gently on the door. He responded, “Come on in!”

As she opened the door, the tension in the room spilled into the hallway. Shadows from the setting sun cast odd shapes on the conference table and adjacent floor. Her boss sat at the head of the table, the Director of HR to his right. A file folder laid between them.

Elizabeth shifted, right then left, until she landed squarely on both feet, “What’s going on?”

He motioned for her to join them at the table. She sat at the opposite end.

Her boss reached for the manila folder and rummaged through the file. He found two pieces of paper and started to read a list of client names accompanied by the dollar amounts that had been taken from each account. Elizabeth’s heart exploded and then dropped to the ground. She had been so careful, small amounts that would fly under the controller’s radar, a total sum of just under $10,000.00.

Thirteen years at the same bank. Elizabeth had grown up there – socially, professionally, and intellectually. Unfortunately, it would be the place where she would be exposed, the pretense of her life laid bare.

You may read this story and determine it’s fiction. Unfortunately, it is based on the truth of women whose lives were destroyed by deception and arrogance. Women who filled their hearts and minds with the seduction of fame, the lure of greed, and the pride of self-reliance.

And before you convince yourself this could never happen to you, let me say, it happened to me. My offense was not criminal. Yet it was just as destructive and damaging.

For decades, I bought the lie that to be personally successful meant I had to be a professional warrior. Every job promotion was a battlefield waiting to be conquered. Every new project a victory to be won. Do you have an unproductive division that needed some motivation, send me. Was there a team that needed redirecting, I was their “true north.” My career gave me purpose, it defined me.

Until…

There was no job and I was left with the ugly truth that I had become prideful, arrogant in my abilities, and my efforts would never be enough to fill the void.

Steve Maraboli, recognized as a leading voice in the fields of peak business performance and human behavior writes,

“We must transcend the illusion that money or power has any bearing on our worthiness as children of God.”

Elizabeth bought the lie that taking a little from her clients’ accounts would never be detected. Honestly, she never considered the impact it had on their finances. Her conscience had hardened to the truth that her actions were wrong.

I had bought the lie that driving, pushing, being professionally successful, at the expense of everything else, brought happiness. My fulfillment was derived from my success. My heart had hardened to the truth that my worth was ultimately found in being a child of God.

The world would love to keep us focused on its lies. After all, we are what we feed our souls. What we allow into our minds and permit to influence our behavior.  

If we focus on lies then we live a lie.

Yet, there is an alternative. We can choose to leave behind the illusion of worth, value, and power and rest in God’s truth,

1Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 

Ephesians 2:1-6 (New Living Translation)

But God!

We can continue to live the lie, but God…

We can linger in our pride, greed, self-reliance, but God…

He offers the truth.

He brings freedom.

Choose to trust Him today.

Be blessed His BeLOVED,



REFLECT:

Philippians 4:8-9 (New Living Translation)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

For additional reading – Philippians 4 NLT – Therefore, my dear brothers and – Bible Gateway

CONSIDER:

Take a few minutes to consider the following.

  1. What are you feeding your soul, allowing into your mind, and permitting to influence your behavior?
  2.  If the truth of your life were laid bare, what would it reveal?

ENJOY:

Nothing Else (feat. Cody Carnes) // The Belonging Co – YouTube

The Other Side

Photo by Unsplash

The drive to the bridge was filled with mixed emotions.

Nestled atop a cliff, it spanned the gorge, offering breath-taking views of the river below and the waterfall that graced the mountainside.

But there was something a little unsettling about a bridge suspended precariously in the air. It didn’t feel quite right to be walking across wood planks connected by rope and bordered by a wire cage. I should add, suspension bridges sway – controlled by the wind and the steadiness of those crossing.

The bridge was a few miles from the parking lot and with each step, my excitement turned to anxiety. I came to the end of the path and the entry to the bridge was in view. It appeared narrower than I had imagined and it seemed to disappear into the trees, a dark uninviting space.

People say the first step is the most difficult. So, I inched my toes to the edge of the first plank, prayed, and started walking. Gripping the wire cage with both hands, I made my way to the middle of the bridge, stopping briefly to look over the edge – water, rocks, a deer, and yes a waterfall cascading over the rim of the gorge to the floor below.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see them running down the path. Teenage boys, R U N N I N G with abandonment towards the bridge. And that small voice in my head began to scream.

Get. Off. The. Bridge!

My peaceful encounter with anxiety, suspension bridges, nature, was about to be profoundly disrupted by a tsunami of swaying, the turbulent waves of teenage boys running across a suspension bridge. As their feet hit the first plank, I turned and started walking towards that dark uninviting exit. But before I could make it very far, the wave hit, the bridge shifted and swayed, and all that I had feared was realized.

I clung to the side of the bridge as the boys ran by. Their laughter and screams could be heard as they disappeared into the shadows.

The bridge’s movement slowed and finally came to rest. I gathered what little courage I had left and made my way to the other side.

It was done. I was safely on solid ground – challenge conquered, crisis averted, and courage growing.

Making my way through the dark uninviting space, I found a path that took me to the river floor, across a shallow stream, up a narrow ridge, and back to the parking lot. All the while, the bridge hung overhead, swaying in cadence with the wind.

Once safely back on pavement, I replayed the day’s events in my mind – toes to plank, first step, boys RUNNING, and a path to safety. I remembered looking up from the river floor and seeing the bridge suspended from cliff edge to cliff edge and at that moment realized I had been changed by the experience. There was a peacefulness settling in that quiet space deep in my heart. A subtle confidence – another fear faced and overcome.  

2020 felt a little like an endless suspension bridge, swaying in the turbulence of unprecedented times. With each step, the movement intensified leaving us searching for something to cling to. It became a year of divisiveness, anger, self-absorption, and unprecedented anxiety and fear.

But it was also a year of opportunity. A break in our normal pace allowing us to reflect and refocus.

Theologian Edmund Clowney writes,

“God sends trials to strengthen our trust in him so that our faith will not fail. Our trials keep us trusting; they burn away our self-confidence and drive us to our Savior.”

Looking back over the journey, I see that I have changed – a little less cynical, a bit more compassionate, and perhaps more focused. Focused on the things that mean the most – husband, sister, best friends. Focused on the truth that regardless of the circumstance, God remains in control.

I pray that in 2021 you will discover the truth taught to you by last year’s journey. That you embrace the fact that God remains near, and that your faith in the steadfastness of Christ grows.

Blessings His BeLOVED,


REFLECT:

James 1:2-8

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

For additional reading – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+1&version=NIV

CONSIDER:

Take a few minutes to consider the following.

  • As you look back over 2020, what have you learned about the steadfastness of Christ?
  • How will you allow this new knowledge to penetrate your heart and change you in the New Year?

ENJOY:

The Blessing with Kari Jobe & Cody Carnes | Live From Elevation Ballantyne | Elevation Worship – YouTube

The Gift of Eternal Life

Taken from a blog written in 2019

Photo by Unsplash

I was so excited this Christmas about the gift I selected for my husband! It was something he needed, unexpected, actually something he never considered.

His home office chair was made up of bits and pieces from his previous chair and parts found at a thrift store. It worked and he was excited about his creation.

Yet I noticed that as he spent time in the chair, he slowly lowered. The hydraulics no longer worked. And at 6’2”, you need a chair’s hydraulics to work. Otherwise, you look like a giant sitting in a child’s chair – his knees creeping close to his ears.

So, his present was a leather desk chair. Of course, it came unassembled in a box – a very large heavy box! And when you are trying to surprise a person, a large heavy box is an obstacle. The store clerk loaded it into my car, it was unloaded at a friend’s house to wrap, reloaded by the same friends, and then I made my way home. Once there, I had this large wrapped present and no way to get in the house.

Standing at the tailgate of my car contemplating my challenge, my husband stepped out of the house. He asked, “Do you need help?” I reluctantly responded “yes,” but added, “don’t shake it” – as if he could really shake this thing.

We got it through the doorway, rested it on the floor near the Christmas tree and stood back to take in the enormity of the box. My husband turned to me and with his boyish smile asked,

What is it?

Is it for me?

I responded, “You’ll have to wait for Christmas day and yes, it is for you.”

For the next few days, he made statements about his present, speculated about its contents, and commented about the size and weight. I would catch him standing and staring at the box and then…

Christmas morning arrived.

He opened the big box last, still no clue about what was inside. His anticipation and excitement broke as he ripped open the wrapping paper to reveal his new office chair.

He was surprised. It was a practical gift; something needed, and quickly became his “best” Christmas gift. 

God, in His goodness, gave us some amazing gifts.

He created us in His image, in His likeness – the gift of life. And even when we disobeyed Him, wandered aimlessly through a desert wilderness, He was sovereign. He sent His Son that Christmas morning making a way to reconcile us with God – the gift of new life.

You must understand that from the day God created us, He knew we would reject Him. He was never taken by surprise, never stunned by our actions. He has always known our disobedience would lead to the ultimate sacrifice, the life of His Son.

Hundreds of years before Jesus crucifixion, Isaiah prophesied,

(5) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

(6) We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

(7) He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

(8) By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.

(9) He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53: 5-12 New International Version (NIV)

Take a minute to allow that to sink in. God never had a Plan-B, He has always known – Christmas would lead to crucifixion. A sacrifice that led to the best gift, the gift of eternal life.

Roman’s 5:6-8 says,

(6) You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (7) Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. (8) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us… (21) so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

NIV

The greatest gift, our sins forgiven and eternal life with our Father.

As we close 2020, I encourage you to remember God’s great love for you. From the creation of the world and throughout history,

He remains close.

He loves you.

You are His BeLOVED!

Blessings,

The Gift of New Life

Taken from a blog written in 2019

Photo by Unsplash

Christmas is 3-days away and I am so excited about sharing time with my husband.

We’ve celebrated with family and friends and now we get a chance to slow down, light a fire in the fireplace, cuddle together on the couch, and reflect on all the blessings, the gifts, God has given us this year.

You see it’s been one of those years that cause you to take notice. It forced us to take a deep breath. It tested our faith and it drove us to abandon our pride and self-reliance. 

This year, God gave us an amazing gift, the gift of new life. Wrapped in the hands of a skilled surgeon, a new artery replacing the one that had blocked my heart.

I am grateful.

We are thankful.

I am forever changed.

Some 2000 years ago, a new life was born in a humble stable. Wrapped in cloth and placed in a manger, a baby – the Savior of the world.

His parents hovered close; they had encountered the angels and listened intently when told about His purpose. What a life-altering gift that first Christmas.

I doubt anyone witnessing this infant fully grasped the enormity of the event. Jesus, God’s son, taking on human form to offer a broken world new life.

(4) But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, (5) to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. (6) Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (7) So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Galatians 4:4-7 New International Version (NIV)

Through Jesus’ birth that Christmas morning, we are heirs, sons, daughters, and a child of God. Our gift is a life transformed, becoming more and more like our Father. No longer enslaved by sin, controlled by our fears, confined to the world’s definitions, or imprisoned by unattainable expectations. Our faith and trust in Jesus bring newness.

This Christmas, I hope you take a few minutes to step away from the demands of the holiday and reflect on the gift God has given you.

You are loved.

You are a daughter of The King.

You are His BeLOVED.

Blessings – Merry Christmas!

The Gift of Life

Taken from a blog written in 2019

Photo from Unsplash

If we are honest, Christmas is hard!

The shopping, cooking, parties, cards, expectations, unmet expectations, and inevitable disappointments. All are condensed into 4 weeks. There is just not enough time to make it all fit and sometimes not sufficient emotional capital to address all the needs.

Christmas can be challenging! 

I think one of my challenges is finding the perfect gift. One that tells the person I have thought about you. I care about you. You are special to me.

Particularly hard is shopping for the young adults in my life and those that already have enough and have asked for “no more.”

This year, I tried to maneuver around the shopping trials and made most of the presents for family and close friends. And because family and chosen family live in other states, I placed my treasures in cute gift bags, packed them in boxes, drove them to the shipping store, and prayed they arrive before Christmas day.

During this season, I am drawn to the manger scene. Baby Jesus, shepherds, and that bright shining star. But long before the Wise Men offered their precious presents, before an untimely trip to Bethlehem, before Mary and Joseph, God gave us His first gift. The gift of life.

(26) Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and overall the creatures that move along the ground.”

(27) So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

(28) God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis 1:26 – 28

God gave each of us an amazing gift – the gift of life. He chose us to occupy space and time with Him. He offered us intimacy, a relationship, a garden filled with His created beauty, communion with our Creator. And then He offered us purpose – multiply, fill the earth, and rule over it.

Genesis 2:7 shares,                                                                                                                                  

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Can you imagine the scene? God kneeling on the ground. He scoops dirt from the earth and forms a man. He then bends close and breathes life into his lungs. A creation of love – the first human. The origin of our lives.

And then,

(21) …God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. (22) Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

Genesis 2:21-22

God fashioned you and me (women) out of the man he formed, a single rib – our life.

This Christmas season let us not forget that we are God’s creation, shaped in His image, bearing His likeness. He gave us life that creation day and He continues to give us life today, directing our paths, providing for our futures. 

Please don’t lose sight, with the busyness of the Christmas season, the gift-giving, the parties, the expectations, and inevitable disappointments – 1000s of years ago, God gave us the most amazing gift – the gift of life.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:17

Blessings,

2 Corinthians 5:17