What Are You Afraid to Lose?

Those crazy Christians! Have you ever wondered why some Christians seem to be a little…over the top? Their Facebook posts are always Bible verses or Christian blogs or some quote that makes you roll your eyes a little bit? Well, if so, I used to think like you. But now I am that other person! A “crazy Christian.” What happened?! I hit a point in my life when I finally had nothing else to lose–or so I thought. But I ended up losing more than I imagined while gaining more than I ever hoped for. Let me explain:

After a series of events, I found myself in a strange place.  (I’ve blogged about most of these events on this site–just search “Jamie” if you’re curious to read more about my journey.) My life was changing in a huge way and I was losing control!

I lost the “it” neighborhood. I lost the big house on the cul-de-sac. I lost status. I lost control of a lot of things that I’d been clinging to for most of my adult life.  I lost the country club membership.  I lost the nights of partying and living it up until the wee hours of the morning. I lost lazy Sunday mornings of lying around and not having to go anywhere. I lost my life as I knew it.


“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21


To live is Christ? To die is gain? I have finally discovered the meaning of this verse. To live is Christ: My life is so different–in the best way possible–since I discovered the importance of a real, two-way relationship with Jesus. He loved me all along and I was too afraid to lose my old self to follow Him. I was afraid to go all-in because I wanted to control everything. I could not even fathom how much freedom there could be by surrendering it all.

To die is gain: The old me is officially dead. (Hallelujah!) I never would have believed how awesome a new life could be!  It’s hard to imagine that someone could be happier than ever after losing so much, right?

Let It Go
There are people in my life who I really care about that are afraid to lose those their current life. I mean, it’s scary to surrender control and let go when you don’t know what God has in store. But I lost even more while seeking a closer relationship with the God of the universe:

I lost credit card debt. I lost the mortgage I couldn’t afford. I lost the morning after hangovers. I lost negative influences in my life. I lost the thoughts that my life had no purpose. I lost feelings of hopelessness and fear of the future. I lost the desire to conform to the world around me.

What are you afraid to lose? Friends? Freedom? Your identity? Control? I know someone who is afraid that if she surrenders her life fully to God, she’ll “have to” give up drinking. Or “have to” stop smoking.  She is afraid she’ll lose her reputation as the fun girl. I know a guy who thinks that his foul mouth is just “who he is” and is afraid the church people will try to “make him” stop. He is also afraid that he’ll “have to” give his money to the church. I have another friend who is so afraid to lose control of her plans for her future, that she won’t allow God to come close enough to alter them. Can you relate?

Are you holding back from experiencing the life God intended for you? Maybe you attend church, but you won’t join a group. Maybe you joined a group, but you won’t open up about your struggles. Maybe you are fine with checking the boxes of Christianity but you think those people who raise their hands in worship are crazy and showing off. (Maybe they are. But maybe they love Jesus like some people love their sports team or favorite band? Who knows–but why not give it a try? What will you lose?) What exactly is it that is keeping you from going all-in?

Sweet friends, please believe that when you choose to let go of your pride (among other things), you will gain amazing joy, purpose, freedom, friendships, and so much more! God is just waiting for you to decide that you want it. It’s yours for the taking! God designed you to live abundantly–with purpose. Not just to survive this life feeling insignificant. If you are struggling to find happiness, maybe you are just looking in all the wrong places?

How “Have To” Becomes “Want To”

What are your desires? Sometimes we feel like God must not love us because He never gives us what we want.  However, here’s the other thing I learned through this journey: Maybe God knows what’s best for you–and your current desires may actually be bad for you.


“Take delight in the Lord,
    and (then) he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 37:4 (“then” added)


So how do we change our desires? Let Him do it! But first, take delight in Him. But how, you ask? Start by seeking God. Look for His presence. He’s all around you–even in the little details. Thank Him for every good thing in your life. Seek Him by reading the Bible. Talk to Him–He hears everything you say. You don’t have to get all prim and proper with Him. Prayers can be like conversations–He loves to hear us acknowledge Him.  All of these things are delightful to the Lord. The more you seek Him, the more your desires will begin to change into the things that actually bring you joy. Pure joy. You won’t “have to” give up anything.  Christianity isn’t about rules–it’s about relationship.  What wouldn’t you do for the one you love with all your heart? God will give you the desires of your heart when you transform your heart first.


“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:33-34


Oh God, may I continue to seek you first each and every day of my life. Thank you for your mercy and grace that I so desperately needed to get past my past. Thank you for sending your son, Jesus, to rescue us from the struggles of this life. May your presence be evident to everyone who reads this. Please Lord, ignite a fire in their hearts to seek you and take delight in you. Transform their hearts to want what you want and to experience the abundant life that you planned for them! In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen!

~Jamie

You Are Not Alone

You may know that dreadful feeling, and if not, you are quite lucky! Many of us have, though, known it all too well… a pounding and skipping heart, a numbness in the arms or other limbs, a nervous stomach (putting it mildly, in case you are eating your lunch while reading this), an overwhelming feeling of dread, or like you are dying or going crazy. Yes, it is anxiety resulting in a PANIC ATTACK!!! You may think “which is this, a flight or fight response?” In those moments, maybe neither seem to fit. I contend there should be a third category…freeze. That’s what anxiety and panic attacks do. They freeze you in that dreadful moment unable to focus on anything outside of those trigger thoughts and feelings.

During my current 10 year journey with anxiety and panic attacks, I have run the gamut of treatments…from hypnosis to a pill pushing psychiatrist. Notice I said current journey, as I still struggle with anxiety (the full blown panic attacks have lessened though). But, I find consolation in knowing anxiety is a battle we all fight together. Every person on this earth has anxiety, some call it stress or having a bad day, but what it evokes in our body is anxiety. No two people are exactly the same in their anxiety though, it manifests differently in all of us and we all have different levels we can cope with. Here are some statistics to help put it into perspective:

• According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, “an estimated 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders.” (Source: http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety) Notice the key word in there…estimated! Could be more, could be less, but I tend to doubt the latter!
• If there are 318.9 million people in the US, then 40 million with an anxiety disorder represents about 13% of the population.
• According to the CDC, “more than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection” (Source: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/statistics/overview/ataglance.html). That’s only 0.3% of a population of 318.9 million!
• Also according to the CDC, the number “of adults who have ever been diagnosed with cancer: 20.3 million.” (Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/cancer.htm) Now I read that as who have EVER been diagnosis with cancer, and we all know someone who has had cancer, right? This only represents 6% of a US population of 318.9 million. So you are twice as likely to know someone who has an anxiety disorder than someone with cancer!!!

The statistic list can go on and on, but my basic point here is You Are Not Alone!!!

Now, I am not a professional, but I have learned there is no one cure all for the masses. This is because we are all beautifully unique in our self-perceived weaknesses. For me, the best coping strategy has been a combination of faith based growth along with cognitive behavioral therapy. Attempting to re-label and re-frame my anxiety as what is truly is has helped tremendously. But I’ll tell you more on that in later posts.

Drawing closer to God has also significantly helped in “unfreezing” me from the grips of daily anxiety and panic attacks. There was a period of about 8 months after my son was born that I was plagued by anxiety and panic attacks. I was jumpy all day long, afraid of everything! My world was collapsing around me, I was literally afraid to leave the house because something bad might happen to me. The panic was freezing me from living life, from seeing my blessings and God’s love for me. I would wake up in the middle of the night sweating and gasping for air. I was under attack even in my sleep!

So, in the middle of the night I would crack open my bible and look for comfort. Up until fairly recently, I really didn’t know how to read the bible. Not that there is a right and wrong way, I just didn’t have enough of a relationship with God to take away the personal message He had for me. I tried starting at the beginning, but found it to be confusing with all the so and so begot so and so who begot so and so…can I get an uuughhhhh! So, I got a study bible, which helped immensely. I also started reading at the point of the New Testament…yep, that’s me…let’s get right to the good stuff. I mean come on, if there were ever anyone who should have been completely entitled to anxiety, it would be Jesus! He knew what was headed his way, but faced it with courage, knowing that His purpose for coming to earth and His death was for a far greater purpose than any temporal pains He would suffer here.

So, back to those middle of the night explorations into the Word of God…I came across several verses that have stuck with me and that I have to remind myself of, even today, that I would like to pass along…
• Philippians 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
• Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
• Matthew 6:34 So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
• Proverbs 3: 5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
(Above verses are from the New Living Translation Life Application Study Bible)

This is where I want to give all glory to God…there has been truth and transformation in my life through His Word and the people he has placed in my life. I pray that as you read this you will find comfort in knowing you are not alone and remembering life is a journey, one that I still struggle with some days, but it is possible to live productive happy lives with anxiety and panic attacks! Go in peace my Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

~Olivia

Comment Below! What verses have helped you through your own struggles with anxiety?

Change Starts at the Top

Are you like me, and of the mindset that change must start from the top?  Guess what…we are right (that never gets old!), and I can prove it.  It’s actually Biblical!

In my recent study of the book of Exodus, I saw the biblical principle of top down transformation.  I really liked the beginning when God instructs Moses, via a burning bush, to return to Egypt to rescue His people, then God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, there are some plagues, the Red Sea parts, the people of Israel wander around and build idols while Moses is meeting with God, we get the Ten Commandments, and the Tabernacle is constructed. Whewww… a lot happens in Exodus!

Exodus begins with the gloom of an enslaved nation of Israelites, and ends with the glory of a freed people, now following God’s presence in the wilderness.  Do you know how the people knew when God was dwelling in the Tabernacle?  A cloud came down and settled over it!  (Exodus 40:34-38, Numbers 9:15-23)  Some translations read that a pillar of smoke came down upon the Tabernacle.  That word down is very important…it reveals that the event was driven by God.  We all know smoke rises, so, if the cloud of smoke had started at the bottom and carried up, then people would probably have doubted that it was truly God.  There would have been conspiracies that man created the smoke within the Tabernacle.  But, praise be to God, the cloud/smoke came down!

That’s not the only time God came down to be with us.  Remember when God came down to walk and talk with Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter 3?  How about when God sent his most perfect Son Jesus down to be with us?  Change was afoot, and it was coming from the top down!  Jesus came down to teach us of God’s love for us and to be the perfect atonement for our sins.  How’s this for change?  When Jesus died on the cross, God tore the curtain in the sanctuary of the temple…wait for it…from the top down!!! (Mark 15:38)  Now this was a heavy, 70 foot long curtain.  Only God could have done that!  It also occurred on Passover, so there were plenty of witnesses to attest to the fact that man had nothing to do with that curtain being torn. It was Jesus’ blood that created a change, His blood was shed to create a gateway for us to have a relationship with God.  Now, because of Jesus, we can all enter into the presence of God, as our own representatives and not just on the Day of Atonement.  (See Hebrews Chapter 9 and 10 for more info on this!)

Are you currently in need of some kind of change in your life?  Start at the top!


“….The Lord will stay with you as long as you stay with Him!  Whenever you seek Him, you will find Him.  But if you abandon Him, He will abandon you.” 2 Chronicles 15:2

“Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:6

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33


So how do we apply this to our everyday issues?  Yep…start at the top!  I can’t tell you how many times my co-blogger Jamie has told me “emotions follow choices!”  I can’t tell her how many times (it was a lot!) I wanted to smack her for her always cheerful, sound advice…but, even though it took me a while, I must say she is right!  Let me give you a personal example:

I recently had a thought one day that ‘there has to be more to life, there has be more that I am supposed to be doing.’  With this thought, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of emptiness and fear in my heart.  I chose to believe a lie and I felt like a failure as a result.  I realized, however, this was an attack by the enemy.  He was attacking my contentment.  He was causing me to focus on all that I don’t have or haven’t done, rather than all that I do have and have accomplished.  I needed to change the way I was thinking and I knew I needed to start at the top!  As soon as I realized this, I sought God.  I asked Him to forgive me for my ungratefulness and to strengthen me in repenting and fighting future attacks like this from the enemy.  I had to choose to focus my thoughts on being grateful to God.  I had to choose to see my situations, my family, my home, everything I have and everything I am as a blessing from God. I had to choose to change, with help from the top (God), at the location of the top (mind/thoughts), to drive change at a lower level (heart/feelings/emotions).  Guess what…so far, the change has stuck!  The enemy has not tempted me with this again.  BUT, that doesn’t mean he won’t…I will have to choose again and again to sustain the change from the top!

This can be applied to other issues as well…if you are struggling with pride, seek God and choose humility; if you are struggling to forgive, seek God and choose to remember you have been forgiven for far more; if you are struggling with fear, seek God and chose faith; etc.  Emotions follow choices and you need the power from “up top” to guide and change your choices to align with His will.

Father, we seek you above all else.  We ask that you help us change into the new creation you would have us to be by allowing our soul to receive your life giving change from the top down.  Remind us of your loving presence in the midst of our storms, so that we will develop the endurance and perseverance to await your top down driven change in our lives.  Through your Son we pray.  Amen.

Love,

Olivia

Transformed: Glory to Glory

Somewhere around 2002, I heard a Third Day song called “Show Me Your Glory.” Over the years, the lyrics of that song have streamed in and out of my thoughts like a fond memory. “I know I’ll never be the same… Show me your glory, send down your presence, I want to see your face.” Something would stir inside me every time it would come on the radio in my car. I longed to know what that meant. What would that look like? What did it mean for God to show me His glory? What exactly was “glory” anyway?


The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away.  Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life?
2 Corinthians 3: 7-8 (NLT)


The old way? Laws etched in stone? Death? Greater glory? I spent a really long time wanting to know about His glory, but I was basically living like the Israelites. My heart was more like stone—hard and bitter. About 12 years went by from when I first heard that song until I truly began to understand what it meant.  But during those years, at some point, I pretty much just gave up on ever seeing God’s glory. I tried to earn it for a couple of years. But the harder I worked at being a good Christian, the more I struggled. I couldn’t get out of my own way. I so desperately wanted to see God’s glory and have this mind-blowing, life-altering transformation, but I still just couldn’t comprehend exactly what that meant.

Apparently, a lot of people desire transformation but don’t really know how to get their desired results. Right before I began this amazing journey of spiritual transformation, I was chosen to lead a Supply Chain Transformation Team at work.  I was really hopeful at first. My team had big plans to change our processes and systems. We were going to alter the business models and make big changes in order to improve the way we operated. But over time, my hope began to fade. None of the changes were catching on. People didn’t seem interested in transforming anything at all. I started to realize that very little of my hard work would actually come to fruition. It took me a while to figure out why, but in the end, I wasn’t all that surprised by the answer: people.  People, in general, really don’t like change—and if you want them to change the way they operate, you need to get them to change their attitude.

Trying to encourage others to transform their attitude is one of the hardest jobs ever! I can’t help but wonder how frustrated God can be when His people so desperately want their circumstances to change, yet, they are not willing to change their attitudes first.


We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.     2 Corinthians 3:13-15 (NLT)


In the Old Testament, we learn about Moses and the Israelites working hard to see the glory of the Lord. In Leviticus 9:6, Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded you to do, so that the glory of the Lord may appear to you.”  There were so many rules and sacrifices; do this and that and then you might catch a glimpse of His glory. But even if you got to see it—it was overwhelming. Moses even had to cover his face with a veil because it was just too much for the people to take in even though they desired it. Wow! I had an Old Testament attitude about how to see (earn) God’s glory. Not only did I have a hard heart, but my mind was hardened too, just like the Israelites. Thankfully, God knew we would be desperate for His glory and so lovingly gave us another way…

Jesus! Jesus came and transformed the way we should think about glory. The veil that Moses needed to cover his face—to hide the glory—has been removed forever. Jesus took it away! I always believed that Jesus lived and died and rose again. I mean, I grew up in church and knew all the Bible stories. I sang Hallelujah every year at Easter, lit advent candles and could recite the Christmas Story. But I needed a transformation in my heart (and a shift in my attitude) to fully understand that Jesus was not just a person in history, but His Spirit lives in me. I can actually have a relationship with Him and His power can actually live inside me!

I just love God’s sense of humor. While I was the leader of a “transformation team,” I received the best transformation of all. After a co-worker randomly prayed over me (read about that here), I began to seek God everywhere and in everything. I drew close to Him—and he drew close to me. I started a devotional called, “What Happens When Women Walk in Faith,” by Lysa TerKeurst and slowly began to change my attitude as I learned what faith looked like and how I could live it out in my own life. “Transformation” was no longer about my job (*and not about how hard I worked), it was about my attitude and my willingness to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.


But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.  2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT)


Praise God for giving us the most incredible gift: Glory that lives inside me! I no longer have to seek it—I can reflect it!

Oh, my loving Heavenly Father, you are so kind and patient with us. Forgive me for my bad attitude and my desire to earn a glimpse of your glory by trying to do things on my own. Thank you so much for your precious son, Jesus! Because of His blood, we are no longer behind a veil and we can see your glory. Help us to shift our attitudes and open our hearts to receive your loving kindness. May our transformations be evident for all to see—as we not only catch a glimpse of your glory, but we reflect it for others to see as well. Amen.

~Jamie

When God Says, “None of the Above”

Today’s Guest Post is written by our dear friend, Rebecca Hill.  Rebecca is a dedicated wife and loving mother who has been on an incredible journey of Freedom over the last couple of years. We love to hear her transformation stories and thankfully, she agreed to share her most recent one with all of us. Please welcome her to Truth and  Transformation!


Between a rock and hard place.  Ever been there?  Nothing gets my over-analytical, OCD, control freak mind racing like having to make a decision between two seemingly terrible choices.  So I’ll give you one guess where I tend to find myself most of the time……. Yep.  Between a rock and a hard place.

Have you ever read Proverbs 3:5?  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”  What does that even mean???  Do you know how many times I’ve read that verse and wracked my brain trying to figure out how one merely “trusts in the Lord with all their heart?”  What does that look like?  How do you do that?  And what about those situations where choice (A) and choice (B) both seem terrible?

I was recently in one of these situations.  To give you some background, I am a wife, a mother of four, and an attorney.  I practiced law for nine years until the day my fourth child was born.  For those nine grueling years, I begged God – BEGGED – to be able to stay home with my children.  But no matter how hard I tried to make that happen, it never did.  That is, until baby #4 arrived.  Because of some family circumstances, daycare for our newborn was completely not an option, and I found myself in my dream-come-true.  I was able to stay home with my babies for the first time ever.  Oh how I loved it!

But… (There’s always a “but,” isn’t there?)  Anytime you cut an entire income out of a two income family, it is hard.  That was definitely the case for us.  Although we’ve been able to make it work for the last two years, my husband and I recently started kicking around the idea of me returning to the workforce.  Within days of that discussion, I had three different job opportunities.  Problem was, none of them were the right fit for our family.  So there I was, between a rock and hard place.  Do we: (A) stick it out and deal with the stress and frustration of an overly tight budget, or (B) suck it up and take on a job that would mean I’d go from seeing my kids 12 hours a day to 2 hours a day.  Is that even a choice??

So what did I do?  Well, in typical Rebecca fashion, I pitched a fit to God.  Believe me when I say I am NOT proud of this.  But it’s the truth.  And the sad thing is, that tends to be my normal reaction.  I get super frustrated and cry out to God asking “WHY?”  I tell Him all the great ways He can “fix” this (because, you know, He obviously needs my help), and then cry and beg and cry and beg.  It’s pathetic, honestly.  This time, however, I did something I had never really done before – I got honest with God.  In times past, although I would cry out to God, I still bottled up my true emotions.  For one reason or another, I’d always felt like it was disrespectful, or rude, or ungrateful to tell God how I really feel.  But over the last year, I’ve been on a spiritual journey in which I’ve grown closer to God than I’ve ever been in my 35 years of living.  So this time, I decided to treat Him like the Father that He consistently tells me in Scripture that He is.

On Day 2 of this royal hissy fit of mine, I just opened up and said, “God, I am really, REALLY disappointed.  I wanted to stay home for SO long, and you allowed me to do that, and now it feels like you’re ripping that away again.  And I really just don’t understand.”  I kid you not, the second the words came out of my mouth, I became acutely aware of the Bible cartoon movie that my kids were watching in the room next to me.  Immediately, I heard them talking about the story of Abraham being called to sacrifice his son Isaac, and the very next words were “God didn’t really want Abraham’s son.  He just wanted to know that Abraham was willing to give up anything for God.”………………………………………………………………………………….……………………………………………………………………………………………………… (Consider this my stunned silence as I realized I just got schooled by a cartoon.)

This is the part of the story where I dried my eyes, put on my big girl panties, and decided to stop throwing a fit.  As if the cartoon being more mature than me weren’t enough, I also still had to prepare my small group lesson for the week on the topic of . . . wait for it . . . SURRENDER.  Fun times.  As I sat down to begin, our theme verse jumped right out at me:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding

Oh good grief, are you kidding??  This is no time to throw the hard verses at me, God.  But this time, I noticed the next verse:

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

That’s when it hit me.  Acknowledge.  The key to trusting God with all my heart, is simply acknowledging Him.  Acknowledge that He knows far more than I could ever know.  Acknowledge that He sees the big picture when I can barely even see the pieces.  Acknowledge that He is my heavenly Father and wants only good for me, the same way my earthly father does.  And acknowledge that in all things, His will is better than mine.

So that’s what I did.  From that point forward, every time I prayed about those job opportunities, I acknowledged that God knew best and I surrendered what I thought I wanted to whatever He wanted in this situation.  After about a month of praying, all 3 job opportunities had passed, which brought relief on one hand, but still left us with the super tight budget.  Then this very week (as in two days ago), one of those job opportunities reappeared.  One of the companies I had spoken to previously now had a part time position, only two days a week, just for me and were willing to pay me exactly what I had made as an attorney.  Ummm, WHAT?!?!?

And you know what I learned through all that?  Our God, is a God of “None of the Above.”  Abraham was faced with a choice of sacrificing his own son or disobeying the Lord.  But when he surrendered his will to God’s, God provided a ram in the bushes to be sacrificed instead.  I faced a choice between a super tight budget or never seeing my kids.  But when I surrendered my plans to God, God provided the perfect employment opportunity instead.   When we see only choice (A) or (B), God can come in and offer: “(C) None of the above”.  God can make something from nothing, and He is always working even when we are unaware.  When we can’t see a good answer, God can.  When we see no way out, God is making a way out.  If we are willing to trust Him, willing to acknowledge Him, and willing to surrender our will to His, then He most definitely WILL make our paths straight.

Blessings,

Rebecca

God Can Take It!

How much of what you say do you really mean?  Most days I manage to talk a good talk, but I wonder, how much do I truly mean?  Let me give you some personal examples:

I say: “Sure, I’d love to be there, can’t wait!”
I think: “Ugh! How can I get out of this?”

I say: “That sounds awesome, y’all have fun!”
I think: “Why didn’t I get invited? I thought we were friends.”

(Yes, I do realize these two example are in direct juxtaposition to each other, but they have both been realities of my life…many, many times!)

Surely men can relate, right? For example:

You say: “Yes honey, you look amazing!”
You think: “You look okay, now hurry up we need to go!”

Sad to say, but I know I tend to do this with God too!

I say: “I trust you…”
I think: “…but I’ll go ahead and handle it my way.”

I say: “Thy will be done.”
I think: “Except if it’s something bad because I don’t want that!”

I say: “Thank you for the struggles that force me to look to you, and to depend on you.”
I think: “Okay, can you make them stop now??? (Pretty please with a cherry on top!)”

I know this tends to be human nature and we all do this.  I think when it’s with people, we are trying to spare hurt feelings.  With God we try to hold on to our perceived sense of control.  You know what though? God desires such a close relationship with us that He can handle our brutal honesty.  He wants it even!  It’s a lot like earthly parents and children…as tough as it might be to hear and process, we want our children to be honest with us.  After all, how are we to help them learn and grow and keep them safe if they don’t tell us exactly how they are feeling?

When I think about brutal honesty with God, I’m reminded of the psalmist David:

How long, O Lord, will you look on and do nothing?                                                          Rescue me from their fierce attacks.                                                                                      Protect my life from these lions!
Then I will thank you in front of the great assembly. (Psalm 35: 17-18a)

Does it seem to anyone else like David is testing God?  It’s like David is saying, “Hey, wake up God and get down here and save me! THEN, I will praise you.”  Talk about honesty…it seems David feels that God is distant and not in control of the situation (haha, right!), and that God needs to march Himself down to earth and rescue David, pronto! Then David will praise Him.  That’s pretty brazen if you ask me!  But guess what, I am so guilty of the exact same thing! For me it usually goes a little like this: “Father, why this? Why me? If you… then I…”  Can you relate?

How about Psalm 38 for honesty?! David admits that he has sinned greatly, but also states that God’s “arrows have struck deep, and your blows are crushing me.  Because of your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins.” (vs. 2-3) Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like David is blaming God for his own choice to sin, and the subsequent results.  In verse 8, David continues his honesty, admitting that “I am exhausted and completely crushed.  My groans come from an anguished heart.”  (Hey, I think I’ve felt that too!) In verses 21-22 David writes, “Do not abandon me, O Lord.  Do not stand at a distance, my God.  Come quickly to help me, O Lord my savior.” I think I’ve also prayed something along these lines.  Through David’s heartfelt honesty, I find comfort. I can relate to his pain, and after all, David was a man after God’s own heart, so maybe I can be a woman after God’s heart!  Wow, how amazing is that?!!!

I’ll do one even better.  How about when Jesus was hanging on the cross and He said “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)  In that moment, Jesus shows us how we can be brutally honest with God.  Jesus shows us it is okay to question God’s presence in the midst of our suffering. Boy, have I done this lately!  How about you?  What is that thing you are struggling with? That thing perhaps you feel you cannot be honest with God about.  Is it a hurt? Anger? Worry? Fear?  Sickness? Loss of job?

Could I challenge you with this thought?…God already knows.  He knows the pain you are in, He knows every tear, every ounce of anger…all of it!  Maybe He’s just waiting for you to be truly honest with Him so that He can rescue you.

Father, help us to remember you are the great creator of all.  You are the alpha and the omega.  There’s not a thing that happens on this earth that you do not already know about. There’s not a feeling or thought we have that you do not already know.  Help us remember we can come to you with our brutal honesty in the midst of our storms.  May knowing that you are in control of all, bring us great comfort and peace as we rest in your loving care.  Amen.

Love,
Olivia

In Due Time

It’s so hard for me to wait on things that I’m really excited about. There have been some things in my life that I desire so deeply that I feel like I just can’t wait another moment or I may explode! I’m pretty sure we’ve all experienced these times of waiting on a dream to come to fruition. No matter how big or small it may seem on someone else’s scale, it’s huge for us when we’re in the middle of it. But how do we wait patiently on the Lord when He obviously is not on our same schedule?

“…and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.” 1 Samuel 1:20 (NLT)

The most prevalent story in the Bible that covers this topic is the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel. I read this recently with fresh eyes. I remember learning about how desperately she prayed and how she prayed so hard that Eli thought she was drunk. (Now that is some serious praying!) But what stood out to me this time was one tiny little phrase. “In due time…” I hadn’t paid attention to those key words before. After previous readings, I just assumed she desperately prayed and then she got pregnant and God blessed her with a baby.

HOWEVER! We cannot overlook those three key words. IN DUE TIME. She didn’t just lay it all out there in prayer and immediately get her dream-come-true. She still had to wait. And pray. And press in continuously—believing in her mighty God and His power to control her life and her future—even if her future did not actually include a baby. What faith! Have you experienced waiting like this? What kind of waiter are you?  

In our society, we wait for all kinds of things. I mean, it feels like half our lives are wasted waiting in some kind of line: in traffic, in the grocery store, in the post office, school drop off and pick up, restaurants, etc. We just line up and wait. But, in these cases, we typically know that the wait ends and at the end of the line, we will inevitably get whatever we got in line for and go on about our day. So what makes this “Hannah” waiting so much more difficult?

When we’re waiting for an outcome that we can’t control and that we can’t fully anticipate, we have two choices. 1) Frantically fight and strive to control every aspect of the situation, clinging desperately to anything that we can analyze or manipulate in order to fit events into our desired timeline, or 2) Pray so intensely and continuously that others may actually think we’re crazy…and let God do His thing in HIS TIME. Which will you choose?

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)

As easy as it sounds to just choose #2, it is HARD! But here’s what I’ve learned just in the past couple of years on this journey of discovering how precious the waiting can be if I wait and rest in the timing of my heavenly father and not my own:

Wave the white flag! Surrender…everything. We cling so fiercely to our desires that we end up running the risk of veering off God’s course for our lives. Selfish ambition will always lead us down a path of destruction. We must succumb to the fact that God’s plan for our lives is and will always be so much better than anything we could ever conjure up on our own.

Pray without ceasing! The Bible gives us the story of Hannah as an example of faith and follow-through. Trusting God for the outcome is the ultimate key to successful waiting. We must trust Him and His ways. When we can’t comprehend the events taking place, we must be willing to accept His outcome even if it ultimately looks different than what we had in mind. Don’t stop praying for God’s will to be done!

Reflect and Remember! If you get caught up in the “why me’s” or the “why not me’s,” then you need to stop and reflect back on your life thus far. Record all the times when God was faithful. (Because there have been many, many times—I promise!) Write it down and allow yourself to remember how amazing it felt to see God’s goodness come to fruition. Write down what you thought you wanted, what happened during the waiting, and how God surpassed your expectations with His outcome. If we don’t take the time to do this, we can easily forget our most amazing blessings and misplace them in our memories as our own accomplishments. Thinking that we actually performed in some way that created our own outcome will surely lead to our continued striving to control the future. But if we actively reflect and remember how all of our blessings are from the Lord, we can build our trust and faith for future answered prayers on top of the foundation that He has been providing all along.

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

Father God, thank you so much for your plans and provisions for my life. Thank you for making me wait on your perfect timing. Help me to rest during the waiting and recognize that the best you have for me will take place in due time. Forgive me for trying to manipulate my life to fit my very narrow scope of what I think is best. I trust you, God. May I be more like Hannah and press in with sincere prayer for your will to be done. Search my heart and show me where I need to surrender fully to you. Holy Spirit, help me recall all the times where God’s plans surpassed my wildest dreams and let me not misplace those memories as my own accomplishments. May my life and my story be an example of your glory! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Love,

Jamie

More Than the Sun Rose

Another Guest Post from Toni Cowart~

In the last blog I wrote, I shared some of the intimate corners of my heart. Today I will share more…

Easter Sunday is approaching and it represents both the darkest and the brightest, most victorious time in history.

I love spring and all the fresh new growth bursting from the ground, trees and the flowers just begging to be noticed and admired in all their glory. It’s also a time of new birth. Many baby animals are born, baby birds are hatching, baby chicks, bunnies and so on. For all of this bright, fresh and new life, there was something dark and dormant before. Before the flowers and new shoots of grass erupt from the earth they are in the cold dark ground.

In spite of all the beauty coming forth in spring, there was a time that March was once dark for me. It was a reminder of a baby I lost months before. The baby was due in March and as that month rolled around my heart and arms were reminded of the fact I’d never hold that child this side of heaven.

I lost that baby between my third and fourth child, and that was a first in a line of such significant loss for me. At that point in my life I had never even lost a grandparent. It doesn’t matter how many children you already have, or go on to have. The loss of that baby is still gut wrenching and life altering. The grief is real. (Just a side note: I use it, but really don’t like the phrase “lost baby”, “lost children”, etc.; It sounds like I am not sure where I put them, but I do know exactly where they are.)

I shared with you before, how tragically my 6, 8, and 10 year old were killed. I literally found myself on a Monday in October 1997 picking out caskets for three of my children instead of the usual Monday scramble of picking out school clothes and finding the lost shoe.

TALK ABOUT A DARK TIME! Grief is the darkest thing I know. I was sucked, so quickly and deeply, into a deep, dark vacuum. For me, it’s only equal would be Hell.

If you will bear with me, I would love to share a conversation I had with my 8 year old son, Taylor, just weeks before he died.

Brandy, Taylor and Sara-Frances were killed the last week of October 1997, just at the onset of the holidays. With me feeling like I had just buried my heart with my three oldest children, needless to say I, was not in the holiday spirit. I mustered through Thanksgiving, which was tough, and I was not looking forward to Christmas!

I felt that my other two children, Gus, 2, and Mary Alice, 1, were young enough, provided no one mentioned anything, that they would not even notice we had “skipped” Christmas. Given the mood of the whole extended family, I didn’t feel anyone would argue with me over us not celebrating that year. So, I continued my daily routine with no mention of the upcoming holiday.

I don’t know about you but when I am driving it gives me a lot of “think time”. Sometimes that can be good and sometimes it turns into a crying session. Either way my mind is at full speed. On that particular day, something brought to mind a conversation that Taylor and I had just a few weeks before he and his sisters were killed.

Taylor had been sitting up front in our van; this was before airbags were on passenger sides in all vehicles. They would take weekly turns sitting up front in the van on the way to school. Therefore, the front seat was highly coveted among the kids! It was his turn to sit up front and this always made great talk time for me and whoever was getting the front that week. The kids were all excited because Gus had just had a birthday and within a couple of weeks both Taylor and Brandy had a birthday coming up and then a week later Mary Alice had a birthday (not sure how Sara-Frances ended up with a July birthday!)  With Brandy and Taylor’s birthdays being three days apart in October, preparations were being made and excitement was running quite high. Each year we had what seemed like 6 weeks of non-stop birthday partying.

During the conversation in the van, everyone’s birthday had come up and there were moments of excitement and even a little fussing at some point because not everyone agreed on plans. I had begun to tune them out and thought they could work it out amongst themselves. As the conversation escalated I finally jumped in and as mom, I said, “That’s enough; there are no more birthdays until next year, so end of conversation.” Things never end so easily do they? But as a mom you can hope.

Taylor and I were going back and forth now with him saying, “Yes it is,” and me with a, “No it’s not.” I decided to pull the ole “so prove it” routine. I asked, “Then just whose birthday is next?” With a very triumphant grin and a sparkle in his eye, Taylor declares, “Jesus has a birthday next!” My “I’m so right” attitude may have just been popped, but I couldn’t help but smile too. I told him he was absolutely right. I think that child grinned all the way home.

If your child is going to set you straight, what a way to do it! Remembering that conversation with Taylor did something to me. Jesus was born and died for us. If it weren’t for Him, I wouldn’t know where my children are today. How could I not celebrate the very birth of Jesus! I could not get home fast enough and I put up every decoration we had and hung EVERY stocking (to this day I still hang ALL five kids’ stockings!)

The amazing thing is, that up until that point in my life, I had always loved Christmas but there was always a letdown sometime during the day. From that first Christmas after remembering the “conversation” I have never been let down once. (I know you are thinking “She’s talking about Christmas, not Easter,” but I’m getting there.)

Easter is just as glorious if not more so to me. Yes, I still miss my children something terrible and still ache for each of them – there is something different now and it’s something that no one can take away. It’s what true life and death are all about, what true celebrations are all about. I actually have children that celebrate the Savior’s birth and resurrection right there with the Savior Himself and one day I will be able to join them too.

It took the darkest time in my life to grasp a fuller understanding of what my Savior has done for me. As I sit at my desk typing this, I am surrounded by pictures of my children – I smile and yet tears run down my face. It is completely ok to cry because my tears were created by my heavenly Father and he catches every tear in a bottle (psalm 56:8). My tears are God given and there is not one that escapes my eyes that He does not know about before it hits my cheek. Before I ever held my new born children, He already knew the indescribable love I would feel for them, and the unearthly pain I would experience again the day I learned, that for three of them, I would never get to tuck them in again, feel their arms around my neck, hear their sweet individual voices say mama again or smell the scent only they had. He already knew the day that I pulled up to the funeral home to go through the motions, that my knees would buckle when I saw three hearses outside, and the reality slapped me all over again.

It took the darkest time in my life to understand just how glorious an empty tomb really is. It is not some nursery rhyme – it was an earth shaking event that changed all of history. Between the Old and New Testament God went dark (or silent) for almost 400 years. But that silence was broken by the cries of a baby, Emmanuel.  So again, one Friday all of earth went dark for a few hours and then Sunday rolled around. An empty tomb changes everything. I am sure it was felt among the underworld. Imagine that in the wee hours of that first Easter Morning – when the stone began to roll away there must have been thunderous sounds to be heard as the demons began to tremble.

Due to His supernatural peace he has showered on me, even in the dark, I can praise Him.

Once upon that first Easter…More than the sun rose!

He is Alive!

He is Risen!

Because of this, I can smile.  Because of an empty tomb, I can praise Him.  Because of the Great I AM, I know how the story ends!

Love,

Toni

When You Are Afraid God Might Give Up On You

Too many times in my life, I have struggled with the following thought: “God has to be so disappointed in me. I have got to get it together! If I were God, I would have given up on me a long time ago.” Can you relate?
Right now, I am 38 weeks pregnant. I feel like I am not offering the best of myself to anyone in my life, not even to God. Actually, if I am being totally transparent, I would really say that I am not offering the best of myself to anyone in my life, ESPECIALLY not to God. (Honestly I wonder if there is even a “best of myself” tucked away in there somewhere?! Most days I feel like merely a shadow of my normal self.) I have felt ashamed for not praying fervently enough, for doing the bare minimum in my quiet time and for struggling to connect with fellow believers. Shouldn’t I be further along in my walk by now that I don’t struggle with these basic elements of the Christian faith?

These are issues in this season of my life that make me say “I sure hope God doesn’t give up on me.” But His faithfulness in my life has withstood many more tumultuous storms than this one. I grew up in church, but as I entered my teenage years, I became the definition of a prodigal. When anyone in my life asked about my faith, my response was that I did not believe in God. At all. I had completely abandoned Him and tried to cut Him out of my life all together. I sought fulfillment from everything the world had to offer, and after seven years of running from God, He still didn’t give up on me. He reached down into the mess I created for myself and rescued me. It became obvious that God never stopped pursuing me the whole time I was running from Him!

I wish I could say it was all rainbows and daises from there, but it hasn’t been. In these last 5 years of walking with the Lord, I have periodically struggled with revisiting many of the worldly vices that failed to satisfy me in the past. Do I never learn my lesson? Weren’t these faithless betrayals enough to cause God to throw in the towel and give up on me?

No! And here is why. Lysa TerKeurst puts it this way: “God’s love isn’t based on me. It’s simply placed on me.” God doesn’t love us because of the things we do or don’t do. God loves us because it’s who He is. 1 John 4:8 tells us that God IS love. It’s not just something that He does; it is His very nature and character. When I think “If I were God, I would have given up on me a long time ago,” I can be reassured because I AM NOT God. God is not like me or you. He promises not to leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:6), and it is literally impossible for Him to break a single one of His promises (Hebrews 6:18). How reassuring to my weary soul today

Here are some more truth bombs to combat the lie that God is going to give up on you:

• I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return]. Phil. 1:6 AMP

• I will cry to God Most High, Who accomplishes all things on my behalf [for He completes my purpose in His plan]. Psalm 57:2 AMP

• The Lord will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me. Psalm 138:8 NLT

• And those who know Your name [who have experienced Your precious mercy] will put their confident trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not abandoned those who seek You. Psalm 9:10 AMP

Lord, thank you for your faithful character and unfailing love. Continue to reveal the depth of your love to me so I can live loved. Protect me from the lies of the enemy that tell me you have given up on me. Renew my hope and give me a fresh passion to pursue you. In Jesus Name.

In Christ,

Lacey

 

Voice of Truth

You know, there are a lot of voices in this world! I’m not sure about you, but I often find it difficult to discern good from bad. It seems like there is noise everywhere we go. We hear parent’s voices, teacher’s voices, spouse voices, our children’s voices, friend’s voices, co-workers voices, the list could go on and on. Then there’s those other voices we hear and really wish we didn’t, like the news, or internet. It seems like everyone has a voice and an opinion and we all want to get it out, we just want to be heard.

Recently, I went for a hike in the woods with the intent of being heard. I know that sounds strange, considering I was going alone, but I wanted to be heard by God. And, I thought, I was ready to listen for His answer. It was a beautiful day, the kind of day that just refreshes the soul. As I sat at a look-out, I prayed to God, to just speak to me. I asked Him to tell me His will for me. To give me direction in how I could serve Him. You know what I heard…nothing! It wasn’t the moment I wanted silence! So, I went home and told my husband how I was kind of disappointed because I didn’t feel like God would ever speak to me. And he said “Honey, sometimes God is yelling at us and we still don’t hear Him!” He’s so right. We are so busy and with all this noise in our lives, it is often difficult to hear that one still soft voice, that should truly be the driving voice for all that we do, let alone a boisterous thundering voice.

I wonder if Elijah had expectations for how God would speak to him. If you recall, Elijah was on the run for his life, after Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him for killing the false prophets of Baal.

“’Go out and stand before me on the mountain,’ the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” 1 Kings 19:11-12 NLT

To be completely honest, if I had of audibly heard the voice of God that day, when I was on my own mountain, I probably would have thought that I was going crazy! That’s why I think God speaks to me in other ways. I think He knows I am a seeing is believing kind of girl. So, how do I feel like God speaks to me? Through a butterfly or hawk at the precise moment I need to see it, through a song on the radio that perhaps I’ve heard a million times, but at this moment it truly speaks to me. Sometimes God speaks to me through others voices, like my son telling me “I’ll never leave you, now let’s go play with trains” or a sweet friend gently grabbing me and reminding me “He loves you, yes you, Olivia! And nothing you have done or ever will do can change that!”

When I hear people say things like “I heard God say to me…,” I’ll admit, I am jealous. I want to hear God as plain as day. I want to hear Him all the time. I want to have actual conversations with Him. But then again, would I be brave enough to be obedient to what He desires for me to do??? (Probably not, but that’s for another blog).

So, with all the noise and voices swirling around us, which one do we decide to listen to? I certainly can’t listen to my own voice…one minute I might tell myself life is good and the next I tell myself I’m awful or I’m going to fail. So, we have to listen to the voice inside of us that comes from outside of us. It’s the voice of truth, the voice of God. And it’s steadfast. The word of God is as true today as the day He spoke it, regardless of how we feel. 

I think the song Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns really sums it up well:

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes 
To climb out of this boat I’m in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He’s holding out His hand

But the waves are calling out my name
And they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times 
I’ve tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again. “Boy, you’ll never win!”
“You’ll never win!”

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
The voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand

But the giant’s calling out my name
And he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times 
I’ve tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again. “Boy you’ll never win!”
“You’ll never win!”

But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don’t seem so high
From on top of them lookin’ down

I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

(Songwriters: Steven Curtis Chapman / Mark Hall)

Love,
Olivia

Father,

Please help us to tune into your voice despite all the noise and confusion that swirls around us. Give us the patience to be still while we wait for you to speak. Give us the courage to be obedient to your will. In your son Jesus’ might name!

Amen!

Get Your Priorities Straight!

Get your priorities straight! That’s what I felt the Holy Spirit shout at me this week. I’ve really been struggling the last month or so. Last week, I knew the topic for this post was going to be about priorities. But, honestly, it took a little more introspection to see that I needed to write it for me—not necessarily for any of you. It took me a little while to realize that my own priorities are out of alignment right now—and that is why I felt such conviction about this topic.  (And that is why we’re posting on Friday this week instead of Wednesday!) For the past few weeks, at the end of each day, I would think about all the things that I had wanted to do but didn’t. The thing is—I used to just feel overwhelmed about life and dismiss these feelings of inadequacy because I was just “busy” and “didn’t have time” to get them done. I chose to accept that my life was just “crazy.” But, over the last couple of years, God has gently taught me that busyness is a choice and not getting (the important) things done is also a choice. (*I realize that some of you may disagree with that statement, and that is totally fine! But I hope you’ll keep reading.)

See—what I’ve learned is that you have time for what you want to make time for. Over the last month or so, I’ve allowed myself to become exhausted: mentally, physically, emotionally, and even spiritually exhausted. I’ve been cramming my thoughts and schedules with activities without being intentional to determine what was important to me. This chaos I’m feeling is because I am allowing my priorities to get all out of whack. It’s crazy how it just happens so fast. I used to be intentional about setting priorities…so what happened?

It’s easy to look to the circumstances surrounding me to find excuses for my “slump.” I could list a bunch of things that have upset me recently. But, as I lead small groups and encourage my friends to “choose joy,” I find myself feeling hypocritical. As I prayed this morning for God to help me to find contentment in the midst of my struggles, He lead me to Romans 2, where Paul says, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath…” Ouch. Me? Stubborn? Yes…very. Hard-headed and stubborn—trying to solve it all on my own and forgetting that God is the one who is in control, not me. Paul goes on to say in verse 7, “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life.” I want eternal life, so I need to seek glory, honor, and immortality.

However, I find myself seeking knowledge and earthly solutions—even though I know what I should be doing. It’s easy to get caught up in our circumstances, isn’t it? But I love that God is reminding me to get my priorities straight. Want to walk through that with me? Let’s start with what God tells us about priorities.

The first one: Love God. Not just “hey, luv ya” kind of love. But He tells us to love Him with our whole hearts, minds, and souls. Love Him with our thoughts, will, and emotions. Jesus tells us this in Matthew:


“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’ ”   Matthew 22:37-38


Love Him more than your spouse, more than your friends, more than your collection of jewelry, more than your job, more than your car that you worked so hard to be able to afford, more than your budget sheet, more than your lifestyle, more than your plans and dreams (or even fears) of the future. Love Him first.

Secondly, Jesus tells us to love people.


“Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:39


What is hard for us to comprehend is that when these two things are our top two priorities, we are in alignment with God’s will. The Bible tells us that if we will just do these two things—first—then the rest will fall into place. It seems like we should have to do more, right? Today, I am trying to be more intentional with my priority alignment. What is consuming my thoughts the most? Loving God and His people? (Not yet…but I am going to work hard on that—starting now!)

Dear Heavenly Father, search my heart and show me where I am out of alignment. In your loving way, Lord, please redirect my thoughts and help me get my priorities straight. I choose today to stop worrying and fretting about things that just do not matter to you. I love you—with all of my heart, soul, and mind. And I love your people. Help me to love and serve others as you have commanded. Your Word tells me that if I follow these commands, then the rest will fall into place. I trust you, God. Thank you for your grace when I let the world consume my thoughts. And thank you for your loving redirection so that I may live abundantly and in accordance to your will. Amen

~Jamie