All posts by BeLOVED

HOPE

Photo provided by Bing Photos

At 6, Hope had experienced more change than people 4-times her age.

Now another move was waiting at the front door.

Today, the family would leave the security of walls and roof, a 2-bedroom apartment Hope shared with her mother, stepfather, and 11-year-old sister, to a metal frame supported by wheels, a 2000-something SUV.

Four people, a dog, and all their worldly possessions crammed into this nomad’s dwelling. There was no room to breathe, much less room to be a 6 year old.

Mom had lost her job at a local restaurant. The recent virus surge forced the doors to close for the final time. Her stepfather could not hold a job for more than a few months. Life was complicated for a man that had lost his will and way on broken streets and distant battlefields.

The SUV was a gift from a local charity. It was meant to help with the transition from apartment to shelter to permanent housing but now it was home, parked at the end of a dirt service road in a clearing west of town.

Hope was small for her age. Yet, something about her demanded your attention. Her grandmother described her as a rare soul – curious, surprisingly optimistic, and remarkably empathetic. She had boundless energy, a precocious 6-year-old,

Living in an SUV,

Fighting to be a child.

Hope settled into the monotony of the day’s routine. She was up with the sun, navigated the complications of no physical shower, toilette, clean clothes, or warm meals. She worked hard to stay focused at school but homelessness is a distraction and children can be so cruel at this age. She returned each night, nestled into the backseat of her temporary home, nose-to-knees with her sister, resting her head on torn upholstery encircled by the warm belly of the family dog.

Given all she had to cope with, Hope remained sympathetic – walking with dad to calm his anxious angry heart, holding her sister’s hands when the pain of isolation and fear of tomorrow made them shake uncontrollably. Snuggling with mom when the burden of being super-woman became more than any woman should carry.

Small and innocent, Hope brought possibility; she modeled courage to a family on the edge – a people struggling to survive.

At 6, Hope could not influence her parents’ decision to live in the wilderness. She could not exercise any power to improve her circumstance. Yet as adults, we often move from the protective walls of God to cardboard shelters of our creation. Our souls and hearts are homeless as we drift further away from the heart of God.

Once in the wilds, we seek a safe place that provides a reprieve from the daily internal struggles. But to our amazement, each time we think we’ve reached home, each time our souls find calm, and our fists loosen their worried grip, our gaze drifts back to the empty roads of our wants, our perceived needs, our goals, and priorities and the wandering, the yearning resumes.

It is a vicious cycle. We try to insulate ourselves by wrapping our lives in a patchwork blanket of shame and guilt. We hope it protects us from the cold reality that is the truth of our lives. We make fear and doubt our traveling companions and then wonder why we can’t escape the relentless pressure of not measuring up or fitting in. Once we have experienced these pressures for a while, we pull out the moving boxes and old paper bags, throw all we are into the bottom, and shove them into the recesses of our minds – a move that transports us away from our disappointments and the world’s judgments.

We leave the safety of God’s sanctuary, attempting to outrun our frustrations, the pain of obsession and addiction, our emotionally numbing behaviors, and frantic self-control until we reach the end of our abilities, and experience an overpowering impulse to succumb to the lies,

You are not worthy,

God does not care,

You. Are. Alone.

But just as Hope offers life to her struggling family, God’s hope offers life for our vagrant souls.

I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world. 

Ephesians 1:18-20 Good News Translation (GNT)

Hope shows up, sometimes indiscernible at first. But with a little encouragement and a small amount of courage, hope strengthens our faith. Faith, in turn, shifts our hearts and we become miraculously faith-filled. We are transformed.

Hope is a bright reminder, no matter how dark the night might become, how intense the day may feel, we can remain expectant – waiting on God to guide us back to His peace and rest.

Waiting on Him to lead us home.

“While our story may at present appear hopeless, often, later on, we can look back on history (His Story!) and discover God’s plan at work in our lives during that time.”

– Kathe Wunnenberg

Hope is the path we take to our eternal homes. Don’t be distracted by the wilderness, grasp hold, cling tight – God’s got you.

Be Blessed His BeLOVED,


ENJOY:

Evidence (Live) – YouTube Music

Welcome 2022!!!

Photo by R. Valobobhai – Unsplash

I hope you had an amazing Christmas and are ready to tackle the New Year.

I am excited about 2022. We were tested in 2020, challenged in 2021 but this year. This year, I am hopeful that it will cause me to lean hard on my Savior, draw closer to Him, and recognize He remains in control.

I don’t have any delusions that we will not continue to face difficult circumstances. We will be disappointed and there will be frustrations. However, I am hopeful that we can build on the foundation that the previous year’s provide. Use all that we have learned to continue to grow and mature – be transformed.

To this end, I will continue to write, post, and pray. God has given me words to share – thank you for taking the time to read them. He has prompted me to challenge you. Challenge how you think about yourself and what you think about Him.

I hope you will continue to read and please feel free to share your thoughts.

I am grateful for each of you, thank you, and may God bless you abundantly in 2022.

The Invitation

The candles on the kitchen island are lite. They make the house smell like cinnamon and clove. The tree is decorated. Outside lights are hung and the handmade manger graces the porch.

Gifts have been shipped; amazingly most have already reached their destinations. All that is left is baking for our neighbors – blueberry banana bread, cookies, and perhaps pumpkin scones.

My Christmas list has been checked, cross-checked, and nearly completed. And it is only December 12th!

I’m not bragging, well OK just a little, but I am pleased – just a little proud.

Each year I long for space during the Christmas season, an opportunity to slow down and focus on the object of our celebration. However, I typically run uncontrolled right up to Christmas Eve.

So, having the list nearly complete so early in the month is a big deal, nearing miracle proportions. Have I mentioned, I am proud?

Call me a slow learner, I’m in my early 60s and just starting to understand that Christmas was never meant to be a race. It was never about finding the perfect present, or giving the perfect present, or even receiving THE perfect present. It is not a contest – attempting to outdo the neighbor’s decorating skills, or holding the best party, or cramming as much as possible into an already overloaded schedule.

Christmas has always been a simple invitation.

2000 years ago a baby was born. He rested in a simple manger, surrounded by the animals that shared the stable stall. His parents were ordinary people – a carpenter and a teen mom. They recognized this was a special child, yet I am willing to bet they did not fully understand who this child would become. His full identity was yet to be discovered.

Thirty short years later, family and close friends surrounded this same child. This time the stable gave way to a hill. Instead of lying in a primitive manger, He hung on a hand-carved cross. This time life would slip away – “Father forgive them…” (Luke 23:34)

Christmas is an invitation. The Baby Jesus, turned living Savior, reached through eternity to offer a relationship, intimacy with God.

This Christmas, I will be taking time to sit at Jesus’ feet. My Bible will be open to the manger scene and I will follow angels and shepherds, disciples and Pharisees, a mother and close friends until we land at the base of Calvary. I will watch as our Savior is crucified and placed in a rock tomb. I will celebrate when the tomb is found empty and our King returns to heaven.

At Christmas, God reaches into our hearts and offers freedom from the brokenness and bitterness that we’ve accumulated in this life. He asks us to trust him, lean heavily on him, and accept his loving sacrifice.

I encourage you to accept this amazing invitation today. It will change your life for eternity.

Merry Christmas His BeLOVED,


“That is my prayer for you this Christmas – that you would experience the fullness of Christ; that you would know in your heart the outpouring of grace upon grace; that the glory of the only son from the Father would shine into your heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ; that you would be amazed that Christ can be so real to you.” – John Piper


Simply Grateful

Photo by N. Dumlao (Unsplash)

The evening news featured a disturbing segment on a developing catastrophe in Madagascar.

Madagascar sits in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Southern Africa. Despite having considerable natural resources, it has the highest rate of poverty in the world.

For the last few years, the southern tip of the country has experienced unprecedented drought. What was once lush green pastureland has become desert. The water source is drying to a trickle and people, animals, livelihoods, and hope are dying.

The outcome of these dry seasons is acute food insecurity. Crops are failing. Mothers are feeding their children cactus leaves. Fathers have stopped eating.

Life is becoming unsurvivable.

The camera panned across a group of women sitting in the dust. Children wandered and paced. They squatted amid the dirt and rubble surrounding the village. Their faces showed desperation. Their eyes reflected the pain of hunger and disease.

The camera stopped, zoomed close, an emaciated 2-year-old girl. She lay in her mother’s arms, her body shaking violently as she cried. Her small hands formed fists. Her eyes welled with tears. The camera brought her reality into my living room.

1.6 million women, men, and children scan the distant horizon, searching for hope.

This story caught me off-guard. I know suffering happens around the globe. It happens in the streets and open fields of our community. I’m not naïve to this reality. But there was something different about this situation.

Perhaps it was a matter of timing.

I was sitting in the living room, listening to the television, and looking through cookbooks. I was planning the menu for Thanksgiving dinner. A time, for many, when we celebrate family, consume our favorite foods, and indulge in familiar traditions. We can sideline our challenges, the frustration of the pandemic, our inconveniences and find a little joy.

The contrast between what I was witnessing on the screen and what I was creating in my mind was unsettling. I have a choice. The women and children of Madagascar desperately wait. I have means. They live in empty-handed poverty. I have options. They willingly eat cactus.

I often tell myself that I need, deserve, more. Yet, I have a closet full of clothes and shoes, a pantry and freezer full of food, electricity, a warm home, two cars, and the luxury of a steady income.

They have a world that has dried up.

I carry no shame from this revelation. However, I do acknowledge I can’t see my life, or this world, quite the same.

Brokenness surrounds us and unfortunately, there are no quick solutions. But starting today, I can shift my attitude. I can be grateful for all I have been gifted. God has richly blessed this country, my little section of the world, and my life.

As I close my eyes, I catch a glimpse of an emotionless face gazing back at me. There is no judgment or blame, just a simple reminder – be thankful, simply grateful.     

Wishing you God’s blessings this Thanksgiving,


The following video is a beautiful reminder, regardless of how the year has been or how the future may be, we are blessed beyond our temporal understanding. We can walk through our lives missing the blessings but when we choose to open our hearts, turn our gaze away from ourselves, and look up, we begin to understand that,

We are greatly loved,

We have all we need,

Our lives are blessed!

Thankful

Photo by R. Christodoul (Unsplash)

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!

There is no fan-fare, no gifts, and no pressure to out-perform last year. That’s probably why I like it so much – a simple holiday that asks us to take time to reflect and consider our blessings.

Thankful is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as,

“Conscious of benefit received, expressive of thanks, well pleased.”

To be thankful is practicing an acute awareness, recognizing the benefits we have received from our experiences. And then, expressing thanks, resting in the outcome.

It’s easy to be thankful when life is moving along effortlessly. But expressing thanks and resting in the outcomes is more difficult when there is a bump in the path and life is jolted off-course.

This year our lives have experienced some bumps and being grateful for outcomes seems a little much. But at the same time, the year has offered opportunities to appreciate the small things – time spent with family, a cup of tea with a dear friend, a long-over-due telephone conversation, a walk surrounded by the beauty of a Fall day.

Priceless gifts we often take for granted.

That’s the funny thing about adversity, the bumps we encounter in life, it brings perspective. With each new challenge, a new opportunity to trust God, reach out to loved ones, and wait for the thankful (the blessing will be revealed).

I challenged myself this week to take time and reflect on the year. Look for the blessings that resulted from this year’s bruises.

I am thankful for:

  • Jesus – He willingly sacrificed glory to occupy our world, die for my sin, and gift me eternity
  • A husband that is kind and gentle, a man that loves me unconditionally
  • Family, extended family, chosen family all filling me with joy, holding me accountable, and challenging me to listen for God’s leading
  • The ability to see the sunrise, smell the woody pines, hear the birds’ wings as they fly overhead
  • Writing, sharing words that hopefully inspire and challenge

Thanksgiving is a few weeks away. I encourage you to take time this week to find a quiet place and reflect on your year. Perhaps you’ve had a few bumps, some major challenges, or maybe life has been simple and kind. Wherever you find yourself, look for the blessings, identify why you are thankful, and then write it down. Consider sharing your list with those that mean the most to you.

Be Blessed,

Thankful, Grateful, Satisfied

Photo by Unsplash

I looked at the small alarm clock sitting on the table next to the bed. 5:59 AM, a harsh reminder – time was already creeping away.

The sun was still hidden in the morning’s darkness but I needed to get moving, my day was filled with a long to-do list.

There was a dog to walk, errands to run, projects to complete, and an email inbox that had been sadly neglected. All important tasks, priorities that needed my attention.

I jumped out of bed, threw on something warm, and headed to my office. An hour spent reading messages, deleting, responding, and then I heard the repeated click-click-click of our dog making his way down the hall. His nails tapped to the cadence of each determined step.

The sun had lightened the morning sky and according to our dog’s appearance at the door, it was time for a walk.

CHECK – item #1 on the list in progress!

I attached the leash to his collar and we made our way out the door. We headed down the street to the intersection, a right turn at the corner, and a final turn to face the rolling hills that graced the horizon to the east.

The sun peeked eagerly over a bank of low-lying clouds casting an array of light – shafts of brilliance underlined by a hue of purple, orange, and yellow. The majesty of a sunrise was on full display.

We walked down the narrow trail that lined the river’s edge until we were stopped by the sound of a single trumpet. I searched the riverbank to find the origin of the sound and found a lone swan gliding across the water.

Geese lifted from their rock perch to meet in formation swooping low along the water’s surface. Trees unapologetically flaunted red, yellow, and bright orange leaves. This familiar path had taken on a new appearance –adorned in fall’s unique glow.

We’ve walked this path 100s of times, yet today everything felt different, more alive. I noticed, my to-do list had faded from consciousness, and in its place was a sense of peaceful calm. Joy had pushed out the rush and hurry. The chatter of a flock of quail replaced the repetition of mental demands. Quiet settled around me and replacing my endless longings came awareness.

Somewhere between exiting the garage and being overcome by the path’s beauty, I had shifted from preoccupied to thankful. 

As we walked up the hill, I felt a mental nudge. A simple suggestion entered my mind – what if my obsession with completing the day’s agenda was less about organizing and accomplishing tasks and more about keeping my life tidy. I don’t like surprises. I like being in control. I enjoy being accomplished. So perhaps the list is a way to control, keeping my life neat and protecting me from uncomfortable chaos.

As soon as I had settled from the prompting’s reveal, a single punch took my breath.

What if living isn’t about keeping my life neat or protecting personal comfort. What if it’s about having a grateful heart, a refocused mind?

Melody Beattie, a recovered addict and writer shares,

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity… It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

As I shifted my attention away from my agenda, my plans and refocused on the beauty of God’s creation, God’s provision, everything changed. I was moved from self-absorbed to satisfied. 

The river path ended.

We wandered through the neighborhood until we rested at the doorstep leading to the garage. I unleashed the dog, unlocked the door, and took a glance over my shoulder. The sun sat at mid-horizon, the clouds outlined the hills, and my anxious mind was calm. I took a deep breath and I knew this morning would be a precious reminder – stay grateful.

“In every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful (be grateful) and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Amplified Bible

Be Blessed His BeLOVED,


REFLECT:

Please read Luke 7:36-50 and reflect on the questions that follow.

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet,he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet,but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss,but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head,but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you;go in peace.”

New International Version

 CONSIDER:

Take a few minutes to consider the following.

  1. What do you think motivated the woman to adorn Jesus with perfume?
  2. These verses do not tell us much about the woman only that she was sinful. Yet, after meeting Jesus her life was changed, she was forgiven. How has knowing Jesus transformed you? Are you more satisfied, grateful, and thankful?
  3. What is one thing you can do to show your gratitude?

ENJOY:

Gratitude – Brandon Lake | Moment – YouTube

Seasons

Photo by J. Kemper (Unsplash)

I spent a few hours this week cleaning the garden shed, a neat little space in the stairwell under our deck, and putting the raised garden beds to rest for the winter.

I always have mixed emotions about ending the gardening season but the ground is freezing – it’s time to let the earth rest.

It’s interesting, every season has an end. A season of doubt succumbs to the truth. A time of pain and suffering gives way to healing. Broken dreams die only to be renewed by future promises. Abundance is replaced by want and need, life’s cycles ebb and flow allowing space for us to grow our faith, mature our character, and learn to lean more fully on God’s steadfastness.

As a country, we are in a season of change. For some anger and fear are consuming emotions. For others, there is hope and excitement for the future. Regardless of where you stand on the continuum of feelings, we all must remember that God remains in control.

He causes the sun to rise and set, allows the waters to flow toward their shores, causes the rain and snow to grace the ground, and guides the wind’s current. It is with this same power that he guides our lives and directs the affairs of this nation.

We may not understand what He is doing. If we’re honest, we may not even agree with His decisions. Why would He make changes, why didn’t He respond sooner/later, why didn’t He … But I suggest we have a very limited, earth-bound perspective that doesn’t allow us to fully understand or appreciate His actions.

Until.

We see them in hindsight.

Looking back, remembering, and reflecting all help us see God’s work and appreciate how closely He orchestrates circumstance.

Theologian and Pastor John Piper shared,

We look at life from the backside of the tapestry. And most of the time, what we see is loose threads, tangled knots and the like. But occasionally, God’s light shines through the tapestry, and we get a glimpse of the larger design with God weaving together the darks and lights of existence.

We can’t stop God’s inevitable changes. We can’t demand, manipulate, or fret to influence God’s plan but we can find the faith to trust Him, muster the courage to patiently pray, and anticipate seeing Him weave beauty from what we perceive is brokenness and failure.

Romans 8:26-28, encourages us that God is with us regardless of the circumstances.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

The Message (MSG)

BeLOVED, please know that it’s okay not to understand the “whys” of life – it’s human to doubt and question. But please know that God is working, orchestrating, coordinating, each aspect of your life working them collectively into something beautiful.

Be Blessed,


REFLECT:

Please read Romans 8:22 – 37 and reflect on the questions that follow.

 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children,including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hopefor it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believersin harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work togetherfor the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstbornamong many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

CONSIDER:

Take a few minutes to consider the following.

  1. What encouragement do you find in these verses?
  2. Is there reassurance in reading, “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” What steps can you take to cling more closely to this truth when facing obstacles in your life?
  3. What did you learn from Romans 8:35-37?  

ENJOY:

Steffany Gretzinger – No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus Lyrics – YouTube

A Sober-Reflection (AKA Pity-Party)

Photo by A. McCormick

I spent a few days planning a party. It was simple really – no guests, no extravagant decorations, no elaborate meal, just a simple cup of tea, a pencil and journal, and my favorite music. A time set aside to celebrate all the ups and downs of life. Some would call it a pity party. I called it a sober-reflection.

The solo gathering was scheduled for Saturday. The weather forecast predicted showers, lending itself nicely to a cozy sweatshirt – fuzzy slipper socks – hair pinned in a bun day.

Over the week, I inventoried and categorized my thoughts. All the positive events captured on the right side of the paper, written in fancy cursive – those that lead to brokenness, written on the left in large block print. The left side of the list ran the full length of the page and onto the back. Pity began to creep in.

As Saturday approached, the tension in my shoulders increased. I noticed tears came a little more easily and I started prioritizing that list of broken above the victories.

Somehow, by reading and rereading the list, I became convinced that the broken defined me. I believed that my limitations and disappointments would bury me, and the chatter in my mind confirmed all that I feared. I am inadequate at best and insignificant at worse.

Saturday morning broke with cloudy skies and soft rain, party as planned. A brisk walk, a leisure breakfast, a few emails, an unexpected phone call, and then a trip to the mailbox.  

As I opened the mailbox door, a large cardboard box was wedged in the empty space. I pulled until the edges were free, an unexpected package, a surprise from my sister.

I rushed home, grabbed the scissors, and tore through the tape that sealed the sides. The label indicated the contents were “FRAGILE,” so I was careful as I opened each flap.

Sitting prominently on the top of the bubble wrap was an envelope. I quickly peeled the flap open and pulled out a beautiful card. A simple message graced the cover, “THANK YOU.” Inside a simple sentence that reminded me, I am loved, valued, extremely blessed.

I unpacked the box – cookies, scones, my favorite tea, amazing pumpkin crackers, and a jar of homemade peach jam. Each item thoughtfully selected and lovingly packed. I placed all the treasures in the pantry, made an extra-hot cup of tea, and made my way to my office.

The perfect time for reflection.

Sitting in my oversized chair, I picked up the list. Reading the right-sided blessings, I thought about the smile that must have graced my sister’s face as she packed the box. Then I turned to the left side of captured pity, reading down the front side of the page and turning to the back. As I flipped the paper, my mind caught a glimpse of my sister picking peaches from her small trees, peeling them at the kitchen sink, and standing at the stove, stirring love into the bubbling peach goodness.

And it became clear, all those negative broken reflections I held in my hands, were not who I am. In fact, my positive affirmations are my biased self-perception. I am a woman blessed by the love that surrounds me, strengthened by the God who lives in me, and made confident by the knowledge that my future is secure.

No more pity.

No more pride.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you not to make a list. On the contrary, make the list – life’s celebrations on the right and the disappointments detailed on the left. Put the list aside for a day or two then recheck it. Make certain you’ve captured everything that weighs you down or lifts you high and once complete post it in a prominent location. A place you can easily see throughout your day and the next time you meander into that space where pity knocks on your door and tries to forcible take-up residence in your heart, pray.

Pray that God can show you how he orchestrated every tear, your pain, and those joyous events into the majestic tapestry that is your today and tomorrow. 

Open His gift of mercy and grace and remember that He died to heal this world, our minds, your heart

Be Blessed His BeLOVED,

Allison

This post is dedicated to my sister. A woman that teaches me how to be courageous, generous, and available.


REFLECT:

Please read Colossians 3:1-17 and reflect on the questions that follow.

1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile,circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

New Living Translation (NLT)

(Colossians 3:1-17 – Bible Gateway)

CONSIDER:

Take a few minutes to consider the following.

  1. According to verses 1-4, who are we as believers in Christ?
  2. Verses 12-17 provide direction on how we are to live our lives. Summarize that direction in your own words.

ENJOY:

Keep Praying (feat. Doe Jones & Ryan Ofei) | Maverick City Music | Tribl – YouTube

An Honest Evaluation

Photo by K. Turcios – Unsplash

It is a curious thing, how our life circumstances teach us about the hidden aspects of ourselves. Those inconsistent behaviors we can easily see in others but remain a mystery as we review our own lives.

Last week, I had such a revelation.

It was early in the week when our lawyer called to let us know our documents were ready to sign. We made an appointment and headed to his office. The signing process took less than 20-minutes and we were back in the car headed home.

A few days later, my husband received a very formal email from the law firm. It informed us that during our brief stay in the office, we had “potentially been exposed to COVID.” One of the office staff lived with roommates that had both tested positive.

Everyone wore a mask, my husband and I are vaccinated, we stayed a good distance apart, and our exposure was short. Nonetheless, bomb dropped, message delivered, and all our meticulous efforts to protect those around us and ourselves, gone in one 20-minute encounter.

We communicated our potential exposure to those we had spent time with and waited the prescribed 5 days before testing. God is so good, we both tested negative, and here is where the reveal unfolds.

I started thinking about the past few months. The times I knew, I should wear a mask but didn’t want to appear rigid or offend others. The times I attended gatherings, took walks, or chatted over tea, mask-less. I succumbed to the perceived pressure of not wanting to appear inflexible or fear-filled. Perhaps I just wanted to fit in. Perhaps, just wanting to “fit in” is a masquerade for pride.

And there it is. The truth – I knowingly compromised to protect my pride.

As I reflected on my willingness to step around the truth in this situation, I thought about other times in my life when I willing gave away my integrity and placed my soul, my very essence, at risk.

Drumroll please, because this is where the revelation bounced hard off my forehead, hit my chest, and bruised my heart. If I am willing to take off a mask (or in some cases put on a façade) to maintain my image or keep my pride in tack, what else am I willing to concede?

Am I willing to compromise my,

Principles?

My faith?

My witness?

God’s truth?

After all, it is easier, safer, less stressful to blend in. I don’t like being perceived as unloving or self-righteous.

This unveiling has caused me to stop and wrestle with a single question. Are my convictions, my core belief system, in jeopardy when it becomes inconvenient, uncomfortable, or unpopular?

And this is what I am uncovering,

Pride is a powerful emotion. It can shift logical rational thought and objective decision-making to a desperate irrational reaction. A reaction that compels me to ignore the truth of who I am in Christ and be laser-focused on the desired outcome - protect image, maintain status, and feed other’s perceptions.

A poor reflection of the Christ that lives in me.

But there is a path that leads to freedom from our need to shelter and negotiate with ourselves. Paul offers this encouragement in the book of Romans,  

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

Romans 12:2-3 NLT

In place of our frantic rationalizations, God offers transformation – a new way of thinking, the ability to honestly assess our motives and make lasting change. We do not have to be held hostage to our emotions, fear of rejection, or desire to be more. We can gain freedom and train our minds to be more concerned about whether our behaviors and actions align with God’s design than protecting our vision of who we would like to be.

BeLoved, please “be honest in your evaluation of yourself.” If you find inconsistencies, a willingness to compromise God’s truth, take a minute to reflect, pray, and refocus.

God can change the way you think.

He loves you.

Be Blessed,

Allison


REFLECT:

Please read Ephesians 4:22-32 and reflect on the questions that follow.

22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

New Living Translation

(Ephesians 4:22-32)

Consider the following.

  1. Have you ever compromised God’s truth, your beliefs, or given away your integrity to protect your image, pride, or status?
  2. If yes, how did you deal with the resulting war that waged within – the conflict between God’s truth that lives in you and your pride? Did you come to a new reckoning through the experience?
  3. Do you sense God is moving you to respond differently when faced with compromise in the future?

ENJOY:

Pat Barrett – Sails (feat. Steffany Gretzinger & Amanda Lindsey Cook) (Live) – YouTube

Made in His Image

Unsplash

I recently listened to a podcast [*] where the speaker asked a question that made me stop, replay, and consider. She asked, “Who were you before anyone told you who you were supposed to be?”

Who.

Were.

You?

I have wrestled for decades with this question. Who was I before innocence was interrupted and the concept of brokenness entered my mind? Who was I before a failed marriage at the age of 17, a lost baby, a second marriage, infertility, a career that climbed and then tumbled? Who am I, as I settle into retirement?

Who was I before my experiences jaded my perspectives, before the world influenced my heart?

I can confidently say that I am not what the world tries to tell me. I am not defined by success; my value does not come from my possessions. I am certain I am more than the collection of social media posts, comments stored in my mind, or the carefully airbrushed images I try to emulate. Today’s cultural norms don’t fit – I’ve been uniquely knit together.

So,

Who

Am

I?

Jo Saxton, author, speaker, podcaster, and leadership coach, offers

“The good news is that God already knew who we were before life happened to us. God already knew who we were before anybody told us who we were supposed to be.”

God has an answer.

Before my self-image was formed, God’s desire was for me to reflect His image.

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us…”

27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

28 Then God blessed them…

Genesis 1:26-28

We were designed in our creator’s image. We are image-bearers, reflections of our Father’s character to the rest of the world. His intentions were not for us to lose ourselves in the distractions of this world or try to navigate life distant from Him. Rather, we were built for close intimate relationship. God offers purpose. He defines our value. He directs our path, as we faithfully trust Him with today and the future.

BeLOVED, you are so much more than the image you’ve created. You are more than the lies you’ve learned to believe and more than the definition placed on you by the world.

You are God’s image-bearer!

You are greatly loved.

You are His beloved.

Be Blessed,

Allison

13For 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. Psalm 139:13-14

 [*] To access the full podcast, please click this link (The Labels that Define You).


REFLECT:

Please read these passages from Psalms 139 and reflect on the questions that follow.

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. 17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! 18 I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!

New Living Translation (NLT)

(Psalm 139:13-18 NLT – Bible Gateway)

CONSIDER:

Take a few minutes to consider the following.

  1. As you read the verses above, how does it make you feel to know that the God of the universe has made you “wonderfully complex?” You are marvelously made.
  2. Verses 16 and 17 tell us that God knows the details of each of our days. He knew them before we were even born. It also reminds us that God thinks about us. In fact, His thoughts are too numerous to count. How do these verses encourage you?

ENJOY:

Pat Barrett – Canvas and Clay (Live) ft. Ben Smith – YouTube