How to be Brave When Fear Threatens to Overtake You

Have you ever been in a situation where you have to be brave even though you are completely terrified? Where you have to be strong even though you feel about as tough as a wet paper bag? Where you absolutely need to have courage, but you are pretty sure your spirit animal is Courage the Cowardly Dog? PLEASE say yes so I don’t feel like I am the only one!

This conundrum is part of the human condition and living in a sinful world, so let’s talk about it. I want to share some ways you can be brave regardless of your feelings or your circumstances.

#1. Honey, you need Jesus. Plain and simple. Without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and without filling ourselves with the Truth found in the Word of God, weakness, fear and chaos will reign in our lives, especially during times of crisis. The Lord is the source of our strength. Isaiah 40:29 says that “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” When you feel the weight of life crushing you, ask the God of angel armies to renew your strength. This is a prayer He loves to answer.

#2. Do not lose hope in God. Psalm 25:3 says that “no one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame.” No matter how hopeless you may feel, don’t let yourself lose hope that God is for you (Romans 8:31).

#3. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you, pray with you, and challenge you to take your faith to the next level. You and I were not designed to navigate the ups and downs of this life on our own.

Around a year ago, Jesus gave me a beautiful gift. He brought me into a group of women with supernatural faith and anointing, and these women have been my rock through a particularly difficult year. Truthfully, when I look back over my time walking with Him, I can see how He has done this many times – brought me into the community I needed at that exact moment I needed them. When I consider the struggles I have faced and am currently facing, I truly do not know if I would have survived and if my faith would have survived without these support systems God provided.

Maybe you know this full well by experience and are nodding your head in agreement as you read this. Maybe the Lord has been nudging you to reach out to other believers, but you have been putting it off.  I want to encourage you to become part of a family of faith, whatever that looks like for you. My prayer for you is that you would allow Him to lead you into relationships with people who will help you be brave when you feel scared.

#4. Remember that this life is your assignment. God put you on this earth to accomplish the purpose for which he created you. You have a job to do. Steven Furtick says that “opposition doesn’t prevent the presence of God. It provides an opportunity to prove the presence of God in your life.” God does not let hardships go to waste. Any difficulty you are facing will be used by God to fulfil your purpose during your life on this earth. The best news is that once your days on this earth come to an end, you will spend eternity with Jesus, because heaven is your home.

Bravery doesn’t always roar like a lion or make the headlines. It’s not perfection or total lack of fear. Sometimes bravery is just not giving up. It’s showing up every day and staying the course. You were created to be brave.

Listen to this song!

Father God, we come to you in our brokenness declaring that we need Your Spirit to make us strong. Thank you that in our weakness, we are strong because of you. Thank you that we can always trust and put our hope in You. I ask that You surround us with people who can be our support system during the storms of life. Equip us and make us strong to fulfil the purpose for which we were created. We love you, Jesus.

~Lacey

 

 

 paint image by Kjpargeter – Freepik.com

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Seasoned by the Seasons

If you asked me how I’m seasoned, I would have to say a little sweet and a little salty with a splash of vinegar!  Why, you ask?  Well, life.  Our experiences, our joys, our struggles, and our seasons in life…they all season us!

Some of the life seasons we go through are obvious and we are sure there’s a purpose in them.  For example, our seasons of struggle.  Perhaps the struggle is an illness.  We kind of know what we have to do, right?  We need to go to the doctor, we need to take medicines, we need to have tests done, and so on.  What about a car accident?  We know we have to do the whole insurance kabuki dance and shop for a new car.  Some life seasons have very obvious “to-dos” and we can often feel the purpose of and the strength God gives us through them.  (Of course, sometimes we don’t, but we have to make a choice…do we trust and have faith that God is right there with us?)

Then there’s the life seasons of prosperity.  When things seem to be going well, when it’s easy to rejoice and be grateful.  It’s when sugar keeps getting added to your cheerios.  Personally, this season is difficult for me.  I tend to keep looking over my shoulder for the next thing that is going to throw me into an anxiety tailspin.  Many people, though, know the to-do for this season…be still and enjoy!  Soak in the glory of God.  Fill your spiritual well for the day you must drink, or in my case, guzzle from it.

Then there’s that most dreaded season, at least for some…the season of waiting! (Picture a climatic DUN-DUN-DUUNN from the organ here.)  What purpose could it possibly serve? Well…it marinates us.  In the season of waiting, all of our other life seasons are soaking in—marinating, so that when God’s perfect timing comes, we can step into the fire prepared for what may come.

Okay so waiting, aka marinating, does have a purpose…but why then is it so difficult?  Is it, perhaps, because we tend to be impatient in a world of non-stop go, go, go?  We must always be ready or moving on to the next thing, often leaving other things unfinished.  Is it because we long to hear God’s voice so much we forget to turn off the noise of our anxious and restless minds, and just be still?  Is it that the lack of clear direction and uncertainty of things yet to come drives us to doubt God’s control?  I could go on and on here, but the point is, waiting is tough! 


“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”  Psalm 27:14


I sometimes feel like the seasons of struggle are easier than the seasons of waiting.  At least in struggles, I know who the enemy is (i.e. illness, marital issues, traffic, etc.).  In seasons of struggle I seem to pray far more fervently and seek God as though my life depended on it.  In times of waiting, not so much.  I begin to doubt my purpose or if the next step is ever going to happen.  Temptations to lean on my own understanding and strength in my own abilities seem to take over.  I tend to want to force a path forward, often making unwise decisions.  I find being still in the waiting to be very difficult.  Can anyone relate?

But you know, there are some things we can do while we wait for God to open the next door or lead us to the next season of life:

*Be expectant!  The eternal God who delivered our ancestors through some serious waiting seasons will surely deliver us as well.  He is the God of miracles, and He can do anything!  But, as my momma says, “you have to believe to receive.”  If you believe your God is capable of little things, and you paint Him into a box, then you just might receive little things.  However if you believe He is capable of great and wonderful things, you just might receive great and wonderful things.


                “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him.  Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13


*Be a worship and praise warrior!  Regardless of your season, we always have the choice to worship God just for who He is.  Make time to praise and worship Him, get in His word, turn on inspirational music, volunteer to serve others.  Remember to thank Him for all that He has, is and will do in you…even in a season of waiting!  Being intentional about worship gives us direction and focus while waiting.


“Come close to God and He will come close to you.”  James 4:8


 *Be open to change! Okay, so admittedly this one if very difficult for me.  But, we must be open to change and to the unknown.  When God closes a door, it ain’t going to open back up no matter how much WD-40 we try to put on it.  And when He opens a door, we better just walk on through, because we aren’t going to be able to remove His door stopper. 


“When He opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when He closes doors, no one will be  able to open them.”  Isaiah 22:22b


Father, we thank you for all of our many blessings, especially your precious son Jesus who died so that we may know you.  Please lift us in all seasons of life so that all glory testifies to your goodness.  Help us to keep our eyes focused on you, especially when waiting feels so difficult.  Help us to be patient for the next door you would have us walk through, and help us go confidently and without fear.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen!

 Love,

Olivia

seasons image created by Freepik

Thy Will Be Done

 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Luke 22:42


Last week, for the second time in 2 years, my husband cried out in desperation to his Heavenly Father to align him with His will. And for the 2nd time, his Father answered, but not how we would have chosen with our limited perspective.

The first time, he was in a tough environment at work and knew the company wasn’t bringing in the money they needed to pay overhead employees like himself.  He saw the revenue dwindling for over a year and sought another job quite intensively. He applied for everything he could and even had a few interviews.  Each time, they either hired from within or they ended up not filling it because they didn’t win the contract. He was desperate.

In January of 2016, we started our bi-annual 21 Days of Prayer at church.  On day 6, as my husband prayed, he asked God to “shut any door that is not in alignment with your plan for my life.” That morning, around 10am, he got laid off. The lies of the enemy immediately flooded in. “You’re not good enough. You can’t even take care of your family. You must not work hard enough. You are incapable.”

But God! Suddenly He remembered his exact prayer from that morning and we knew God was up to something awesome! And sure enough—his severance payment was enough to pay off our credit card debt and he found a new job within two weeks! However, this new job was something totally different than anything he’d ever done before—sales.  We knew it was from God, though, because they offered to pay him his exact salary that he had been earning at his previous job, after 10 years of experience in his degree field…PLUS commission!

We never really understood how this introvert getting a sales job had anything to do with God’s will. But we just had to trust Him…even in the storm. After about 10 months there, his little company got bought out and the environment started to decline. They went from focusing on relationships to focusing on revenue and my husband knew he couldn’t survive in that kind of environment. So he began to look for something else in his old–and comfortable–career field. Well, wouldn’t you know…the same thing happened.  He applied for dozens of positions and even interviewed, but never got a call back.

And then, once again, in sheer desperation, he left work on his lunch break and parked under a tree at a nearby park and prayed these words, “Father, you know my heart. If you want me to stay here, then I will find contentment here. But if this is not your will, please show me.” He felt a peace and knew that God was with him…no matter what.

The next day…he got the call. As of that day, he was no longer employed. Yep—again. Thankfully, we’d been through this before, so we were able to recover from the shock a little quicker than the previous time. See—several months ago, God gave us a vision for a business for my husband in which he’d be able to use his spiritual gifts to help others. But we both worked full time and didn’t have the time to devote to starting up a new business.  We were overwhelmed by the peace and clarity during the next several days.  And we even had the revelation that his sales job only furthered his skills and abilities to run the business we’d been dreaming of.


And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.   Philippians 4:7


The peace that comes from surrendering our plans and inviting God’s will into our lives is impossible to understand. It is way beyond human comprehension to just give up control–surrender everything you ever thought about your future–and truly mean it when you say, “Thy will be done.”

Retelling this story challenges me to think about my own life and my control issues. Oh, how I love to plan and be prepared for every possibility of the future. What does God have in store for me if I just give up on my own personal agenda? What is success anyway? Shall we keep on striving for a future that is drawn out by the forces of culture or truly release our lives to the will of our Father and live out His will for our lives? Which path do you think is more fulfilling?

Oh, Father God, thank you for loving us and giving us vision. May we all wash the culture’s ideals out of our eyes so that we may see what you have for us. Help us, oh Lord, to surrender our will and trust your plan for our lives. We want to live according to our divine design—you made us each for a specific purpose and we know that true joy comes when we live out the life you planned for us. We love you and trust that your plans are greater than ours. Amen.

What’s in a Cross?

Do you happen to remember that famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet spoken by Juliet about names?  “What’s in a name?…A rose by any other name is still a rose.”  Of course she was using this logic to justify her love for a young man from an enemy family.

I have lots of crosses in my house.  In fact, I have an entire wall that is nothing but crosses.  I walk by them so much I don’t even notice them anymore. (Is that bad?!?!)  The awareness of this fact lead me to wonder, what is in the name of the cross?  What does the cross represent to believers?  Like a rose, wouldn’t a cross in a different shape still be the same thing?  If Jesus had been crucified on an X instead of a t, wouldn’t the core of the mechanism still be the same thing?  So let us examine what’s really in the cross…

 

  • Forgiveness!  Seems so simple but so difficult at the same time.  We are forgiven for every single sin we have ever or will ever commit because of what Jesus did for us.  He took on our guilt and our punishment, even though He was the most innocent person to ever walk the earth.  When we truly believe this, He becomes our Savior.  As our Savior, we are covered by His blood that washes us clean of sin and makes us without blame in the eyes of our Father.  I heard it this way recently…God looks at us and sees His son!
  • Power and Strength Over the Enemy! (Whoop-whoop!…sorry, couldn’t help myself)  Jesus said “All power and authority has been given to me in heaven and in earth.” (Matthew 28:18)   When Jesus died on the cross He suffered our punishment for sin, and He defeated sin and death.  He broke the chains that bind us to sin and allows us to now be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
  • Relationship with our Heavenly Father!  (Woo-hoo!…okay, that one’s just really exciting!)  Prior to Jesus’ death the only way sinners could come to the Father was through a priestly mediator.  When Jesus died the veil that separated us from God was torn.  Now we can approach the Father anytime we need to through Jesus’ sacrifice. (Matthew 27:50-51)
  • Family! (Yayyy…okay, I’ll stop now)  As believers we belong to the body of Christ.  Jesus is the head of the church.  He is our Spiritual Leader.  His spirit directs and guides us.  We are the individual parts that make up the church.  We are the body.  We have been adopted into His Kingdom and into His family.  That means that as fellow believers we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  People you have never met are now your family.  People with different backgrounds and different skin colors are now your family.  People with different political opinions and different socio-economical status are now your family.  Just like blood related family, we don’t get to choose who is in the Body of Christ.  So like me or not, get on in here and get a hug!!! (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-26)

 

I certainly do not mean for this list to be all inclusive (we’d be here all day!).  There are so many other things that I believe the cross represents, like death to our old selves, and life to a new creation in Christ, etc.  I think it would be impossible to create an all-inclusive list of what the cross represents because it is unique to each of us.  The cross represents different things to all of us because we have all had unique journeys to it after all.

But remember, a cross by a different shape or name is still a cross.  It’s not that the cross itself allowed for us to have things like forgiveness and family, but rather the power and love of Christ.  After all, many people have died crucified on the cross.  Only the love of God’s perfect son could do infinitely more.  And because He rose again, He lives still in us all.  So, the cross isn’t just something on the wall, it isn’t just art, it isn’t just a list of things we gain through Jesus.  The cross is in us, it’s alive and breathing, and it’s in action each and every day…when we love others as He loves us!

Father, thank you for your precious son and for all the things that we gain through His death on the cross for us.  Thank you for our forgiveness and for our family and for all those things that we could never “earn” for ourselves.  Because of your precious son we do not have to do anything for your love and grace and mercy.  Please help us and guide us to bask in that and to be at peace with who we are in you Lord.  Help us to see ourselves as you see us and help us to love others as you love. Amen!

Love,

Olivia

Please feel free to comment below…I’m curious, what does the cross represent for you? Even if you never saw a cross, what do you carry in your heart to know it is real?  How do you share the cross with others?

Come As You Are

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

I have met so many people who have the perception that you have to clean up your life BEFORE you can come to Jesus. Most I have talked to about this topic have felt this way at some point in their lives. We have heard “come as you are,” but what does the Bible say about this?

John 8 tells of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus was in the temple courts teaching when the religious folks brought in a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. Jesus challenged the crowd of religious elite by saying “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). Jesus bent down and began writing in the sand. No one knows what He was writing, but some scholars pose that He could have been writing the sins of each person standing in the gathering. One by one, the crowd began to fade away. No one is without sin. Not the Pharisees in the Bible. Not the pastor on the TV or at your local church. Not the Godly man or woman in your life that you admire so much. Check out Jesus’s response after the crowd faded away: Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (v. 10-11).

Jesus, knowing the extent of the woman’s sins, did not send her away. He told her that he did not condemn her; he accepted her. Then, AFTER she had an encounter with Jesus, He told her to leave her life of sin.

 Here is the truth: you don’t get warm before coming to the fire. You don’t get well before you see a doctor. You don’t master a subject before going to school. After, and only after, you encounter Jesus, He changes your heart. His goodness, not your own striving, leads you repentance. Not only do you not have to get your life right before coming to Jesus, but ultimately you cannot get your life right in your own will. You need the power and grace of God before real change is ever realized.

Does your life feel broken? Are you scared, discouraged, anxious or lonely? Are you in a cycle of destructive relationships? Are you caught up in addiction? Do you make destructive decisions that you later regret? Come to Jesus. Jesus is for you. Come to the church. The church is for you. Do not waste another day in your own striving to “do better,” but instead come to God and encounter true power for change in your life.

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32

 Read the beautiful verse from the hymn “Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy” by Joseph Hart below.

Come ye weary, heavy laden,

Bruised and mangled by the fall;

If you tarry till you’re better,

You will never come at all.

Not the righteous, Not the righteous, Not the righteous;

Sinners Jesus came to call.

 Jesus, thank you for paying for our sins so we do not have to pay for them ourselves. Thank you that we can, and must, come to you as we are. You take the broken pieces of our lives and make them into something beautiful. I pray specifically for those who continue to struggle with the lie that they have to get it together before they come to you. I ask you to speak directly into the hearts of all who are far from you, that they may see and know you and experience freedom. In Jesus name, Amen.

Cream and Milk are Good


Guest Post! This week’s post is from our friend, Sarah Morrison. Sarah loves Jesus with all her heart, soul, mind and strength. She is an amazing wife and fabulous mom her to her beautiful girls. Sarah is wise, faithful, prayerful, and truly hilarious (she WILL make you belly laugh!). We are honored to have her as a guest here at Truth and Transformation; and we are grateful for the wisdom God has given her to share with us.


My family and I were really excited to have the opportunity to visit a very large dairy farm when I worked for the Michigan Farm Bureau. They had more than 3,000 head of cattle and produced every sort of beef and dairy product you could imagine. There was also a birthing center that was set up like a small theater with cows who were in the process of delivering their calves. With 3,000 head of cattle, there was never a day without a birth. An impressive sight!

For me, the most impressive part of the operation was the dairy side of the house. The milking process was completely automated and the cattle rotated through electronic stalls that spun on a cow-like merry-go-round ( although I didn’t hear any of them yelling ‘weeeee’). By the time the cow reached the other side, it had been milked for the day and was on its way. Pretty stunning to see the picture of a wooden stool and a metal pail replaced by a full on production process.

From the milking center we ventured into the processing center. There were tall stainless steel vats full of the fresh milk waiting to be made into all sorts of deliciousness. Watching behind a glass window, we were able to see the workers perform a process I hadn’t ever seen. They were skimming the cream off the top of the milk. You may have heard the sayings, “cream of the crop” or “the cream rises to the top”. It’s true, the cream was the prize of the dairy operation, and these workers were charged with getting every last bit of it off the top of the milk.

Little did I know that cream was used to make so many tasty treats! Did you know cream makes butter, custard, whipping cream, sour cream, CHEESE (all caps because I really am screaming #cheesefreak), ice cream and buttermilk. The cream that rises to the top of the milk really is the best part. It makes the most profitable products. It is turned into the most mouthwatering delights.

The milk that is left behind is still great, don’t get me wrong. We all cheered when milk went on sale for $.99 at Walmart. And at the mention of a storm, milk and bread are as scarce as a river in the desert. We use milk all the time. To drink, yes, but to make other great products as well. But there is a reason the cream is skimmed from the top of the gallon first. It’s the very best part. The richest. The most luxurious and finest ingredient in so many products for which we pay much more than $.99 per gallon.

Isn’t this what Jesus was talking about when He said, in Luke 14:26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison–your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.” Our love for God should be the cream. The very best. From all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

The key word in this verse is, comparison. The milk is still good, right? But the cream, the cream in comparison to the milk, has far more value. Does Jesus tell us to hate our family? Heavens no! The second greatest commandment is to love your brother as yourself. So, He isn’t trying to start a family uproar here. What He is saying is, there should be no comparison of your love for Him and that for your family. In fact, in light of your love for Him, the love you have for your own family should look like hate.

Do we live that way? I mean really live that way, in the daily, plain Monday thru Friday, sun up, sun down kinda days? How many times have I looked at my husband, my children, my parents and other close family and friends with complete adoration? I have three girls and they each have a nickname. There is the oldest who is “the heart of my heart.” Then the middle who is “the diamond of my eye” (her eyes literally sparkle from having cataract surgery as a young child). And the youngest who is “the soul of my soul.” Where is Jesus in all of this? How is it that the King of Eternity doesn’t have these sweet musings of my heart?

We can’t beat ourselves up friends. All we can do is take our weak, feeble hearts and our dirt stained empty hands and hold them out before Jesus and say, this is what I have. Ask Him to interrupt your day. In fact, give Him permission, He is not a rude God and waits for you to come to Him. Allow your heart to dream about Him. Let your mind wonder how he breathed the starts into existence and decided on each of their names. Take notice of every up and down movement of your chest as the air He gives fills in and blows out of your lungs. Marvel at the way His creation praises Him with loud claps of thunder and spectacular shows with bolts of electricity stretching down from the clouds. Ponder His creativity in making lightning bugs. Laugh at the idea of Him coming up with a duck-billed-plattapus. I mean you have to have a pretty hefty sense of humor to create that, right? What I am saying is, give Him the cream. Don’t throw out the milk, but give Him the cream.

Faith or Feelings

Have you ever wanted more faith? Are you hoping for something but still not sure it can ever happen? Do you know deep down that you should trust God for something but you can’t seem to get rid of the doubts? The negativity can creep in and sometimes even take control of our emotions.

There have been several circumstances in my life when I cried out to God to “please give me more faith.” But then I kept hearing and reading that I only needed faith the size of a mustard seed. Wait, what? So confusing! Why did I doubt so much if all I needed was a mustard seed of faith? If God could just increase my faith, then I would trust Him. If I just had more faith, then I wouldn’t keep trying to take everything back into my own hands. To me, more faith was like a magic solution to my doubt and disbelief.

Last month, I wrote about the diagnosis of a precious friend. This time, I didn’t ask for more faith. I told God that I know, without a shadow of doubt, that He can take that cancer away. I have so much faith today! But just a few months ago, I gave my cousin the advice to have faith and trust God. Then she asked me, “How do I do that?” It challenged me! I honestly didn’t know what to tell her. How have I gotten to this point where I can trust God, even in the face of a scary diagnosis?


The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

Luke 17:5-6


Faith is not a feeling. It’s a decision. 

Now, I certainly don’t have it all together and my faith still falters from time to time.  What I’ve learned through my struggles, doubts, fears, failures, answered prayers, celebrations, and victories over the past few years is that faith is not something I could strive to have more of…I couldn’t work harder in order to reap the reward of faith.  I did not gain more faith just by reading the Bible or by attending church.  I did not receive more faith as a reward for leading small groups or doing a random act of kindness. As I look back at my prayers and revelations through these years, the times when I had undeniable faith were the times when I made a choice to trust God. And it really is a daily (and sometimes even moment by moment) decision. Just think about all the times throughout the day when we must choose whether or not to trust His promises and power.

Jesus tried to tell the apostles that they didn’t need more faith by explaining that you only need a tiny bit (the size of a mustard seed). In other words, the quantity is not important. It’s whether we choose faith or we choose doubt.  It’s one or the other. It’s either faith or feelings. Trust God’s will or choose to hang on to your emotions.

When the world throws a curve-ball, which it does and always will, we have to make a choice.  My initial response is normally to freak out and run through all the worst possible scenarios in my head.  But that can be very dangerous! Those feelings of fear, anxiety, doubt, sadness, etc. can only lead us further away from the One who is in control of the universe. But if we choose faith—trusting God—then we are choosing to allow Him to take over and lead us down the right path. He is still a God of miracles and He still has great plans for each one of us. (Psalm 77:14, Jeremiah 29:11)

Choosing to trust is a display of faith.

Here’s my attempt at a practical application: Compare it to trusting your co-worker to catch you falling backwards during one of those silly team-building exercises.  If you have spent a lot of time with that person and know him or her on a personal basis, you are more willing to fall backwards. You probably know the names of family members, exchange stories about the weekend, maybe even share joys and struggles, likes, dislikes, etc. However, you can know a lot about a person, though, and still not trust them. You can know a person’s name, where they sit, what they wear, what they eat for lunch, and even how loudly they chew potato chips. But would that be enough for you to fall backwards and trust that he or she would catch you? Not me! To trust someone, I need to have a relationship, not just surface-level knowledge of who I think they are.

(Just a thought: imagine God, with arms open wide—ready and willing to catch you, His beautiful child of whom He is so proud—but you either refuse to fall back or keep stumbling around. It’s not because you don’t believe in Him; perhaps it’s because you don’t know Him well enough to fully trust Him.)

If we’re going to choose to trust God enough to choose His way over our own, then we’ve got to continuously get to know Him well enough to surrender it all, or fall backwards, into His hands. As with any trusting relationship, we need to talk to (and listen to) Him regularly and spend time with Him (one-on-one and corporately). We need to learn everything we can about Him—not just what other people say.  We need to never stop studying the Book He wrote that tells us who He is and what He stands for (and against). We need to deeply understand that His character is trustworthy and that He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. We have to truly believe that He created us, loves us, and will live up to all of His promises to us. Then, as our relationship deepens, we are able to trust Him more.  And then…the choice becomes easy! Feelings cannot be trusted. For best results, choose faith over feelings—every time.


“But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.”  James 1:6


Trust Him more than you trust your feelings.

Father God, maker of heaven and earth, thank you so much for loving me despite all of my failures and flaws. Thank you, Lord, for grace and mercy.  I love spending time with you and am so grateful for your son, Jesus, who gave his life so that I can have this relationship with you. I trust you, Lord. I pray that everyone reading this today will feel the presence of your Holy Spirit and desire to build a deep, meaningful relationship with you. May we all choose faith over our feelings as we grow to trust you more and more. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!

~Jamie

Remember Israel…

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”  Psalm 139:23


Okay, I’m about to take of my personal mask and get really raw here…it would not be hard for anyone, especially God, to know my anxious thoughts. I tend to wear my feelings on my sleeve, and my face, and everywhere else! And my feelings are usually driven by my thoughts. I  know this shouldn’t be the case, and my thoughts should not drive my feelings, since I’m supposed to be taking them captive…but let’s be real…I struggle here, and maybe you do too.  Lately, it feels like I’ve been struggling a lot. I’m still on that good ole roller coaster of life! I often just wish God could tell me that everything is going to be fine in life, that it’s going to be smoothing  sailing , and that’s there’s nothing to worry about. But that just isn’t always the case–or I can’t hear Him.

I recently heard Steven Furtick quote, “the opposite of faith isn’t doubt, the opposite of faith is certainty.” Oh, why can’t I have both?! It feels like when my fearful thoughts and emotions get on a roll, I seem to forget even a basic cry-out-to-Jesus tactic to help calm my soul. I forget all that God has delivered me through. I forget all that God has done for all of His beloved people. I think that’s one reason why it is so important for me to be in the Word regularly (which, admittedly, I haven’t been), and perhaps some of you are the same way? The beauty of the Bible is that God front-loads our faith with things he has already done!

In Exodus 19:3-4, God essentially tells His people, “Remember Israel…I brought you out of Egypt on eagle’s wings to myself.” Time and time again we see God’s faithfulness to His people despite them not remembering or honoring His goodness and mercy. Unfortunately, I am guilty of the same. If you don’t mind, I’m going to just openly remember a few of the things God has delivered me from, not for the purpose of sympathy, but rather, just to glorify God!

  • Countless panic attacks, anxiety, and depression
  • Many moves and job changes
  • Removing me from a toxic family situation
  • College with no money, but very little debt
  • Temptations and attacks against my marriage
  • Infertility treatments and a miscarriage
  • Somewhat sudden and scary births of two of the most beautiful children you have ever seen (yes, I’m partial!)
  • There’s more, of course, but I’ll stop there

When I look at just a few of the things God has delivered me through, I’m reminded that while they were very tough and difficult (some still are), I really have no reason not to trust God! And yet, I still stumble and fall; I still get a little banged up and bruised. But none of that matters…what matters is, do I get back up? Do I praise Him in the storm? Yes, I do (most days)! I’m a work in progress–we all are. Thankfully God’s not done with His masterpiece yet!

Might I challenge you to take a moment and reflect on those things that God has delivered you through that remind you to trust Him? Are you amazed by anything that perhaps you had forgotten? Can you use any of this to help others? Sometimes perspective requires time, but it’s always good to remember.

Heavenly Father, help us to remember your goodness and mercy always. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on you in the midst of the storms of life. Help us to trust you in all situations and to not worry, but to pray and to be still and to know that you are the God of the universe and you are in control of all things great and small. While we may not understand, helps us hold on to the peace of knowing that you love us and you work all things for our good. Through your son, Jesus, we pray, Amen!

Love,

Olivia

Delight in the Lord

Since I gave birth to my precious son in April, I have been struggling with feeling “spiritually dry”. I have read my Bible, but I have not had a true hunger for the Word. I pray to God, but I am distracted. My previously fulfilling conversations with the Father have dwindled from intimate communication to a halfhearted prayer along the lines of, “Lord, help my husband in ‘such and such’ area. Bless my son, and help me be the mom he needs. Thank you for never giving up on me.”

 I have been basically just going through the motions, knowing I need God but feeling distant from him. I have thought back on the closeness I have experienced with God and the past and wondered to myself, what on earth happened to that familiarity? Can any of you friends relate to these feelings I have been experiencing?

After searching scriptures and talking with mature, Godly women in the faith about my struggles, God gave me the answer I needed. I have not been seeking God because of who He is; I have been seeking God because of what I know He can do for me and for my family. Rather than seeking His face, I have only been seeking His hand. 

I placed answered prayers as an idol in my heart, and because I have been waiting for so many prayers to be answered, I became jaded and on a fast track to hopelessness. Here is what I have learned: when my desire for answers is greater than my desire for God himself, I will never be fulfilled or at peace. Lord, forgive me and bring me back into a place of intimacy with you!

I am not saying it is wrong to tell God the desires of your heart and ask Him to move on your behalf or on the behalf of your loved ones. It’s not! He cares for you deeply and wants you to share all of your desires with Him, but that is not enough to feed the type of relationship with God you were created to have. He wants your whole heart.

Think about this from the perspective of a parent. What if your child only came to you to ask for things? If your child never wanted to tell you about his or her day, never wanted to laugh with you, never wanted to take a walk or just simply share life. You would never have a close relationship with that child. God is our father, and of course it affects our ability to sense His presence or access His power when we only seek answers and neglect spending time with Him.

Here is the Biblical model that helps us understand prayer and relationship with the Lord: 

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.   Psalm 37:4

Take delight in the Lord. What a beautiful command! This is the first step and the greatest command, to love the Lord with all of your heart. When you spend time with God, you will discover there are so many delightful things about Him to enjoy. Then, the next statement indicates that He will give you the desires of your heart. That is a promise you can count on.

Lord, thank you that you want an intimate relationship with each of us. Thank you that you want to be involved with every part of all of our days. Reveal yourself to us so we can be in Your presence and delight in you. Thank You for Your promise that you will give us the desires of our hearts. Holy Spirit, be active in our lives, in Jesus name.

Come, Heavenly Dove

Just like most mornings, I was sitting on my couch in the quiet stillness of dawn, before the alarm clocks sounded and the hustle began. In my First5 devotion for the day, we were wrapping up the story of Esther. Leah DiPascal wrote, “Maybe on some days, your life appears smooth and predictable. Other days, things seem to be dismantling around you. Remember, even when everything feels out of control, God is always in control.”  I wrote that part down in my journal. Such powerful words. Right about that time, I heard a loud thud on the window! I whipped around just in time to see a bird fly from the window and land on the porch railing. A dove.

This happened one other time in my life. One hit my windshield as I was driving when I was 18. That week, I learned that my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. I don’t know why I’ve always correlated those two events (the bird and the diagnosis), but nonetheless, this dove triggered that memory. Suddenly, while thinking back to my senior year of high school, I felt my heart flutter while looking at the dove. “What does this mean? Does it even mean anything? What if it’s more bad news? Jamie, stop being superstitious!” I took a picture of the dove just so I could tell my husband about my exciting morning and prayed for health and safety for all of my family and friends…and tried to forget about it.

The next day, I got a call from my precious friend Ali. We became instant friends in college from the day we met. I’m not sure I’ve ever known anyone so genuinely sweet and kind. I’ve always felt so protective of her—like a little sister, even though she’s only a few months younger than me. We don’t get to talk very often anymore because we both work full time and have small kids. So I love when I see her name on my phone screen!  It’s always a gift to be able to squeeze in a few minutes on the phone. We exchanged our silly hellos and then it came. “Jamie, I’m just going to blurt this out because I don’t know how else to say it. I have cancer.”

There it was. The dreaded news. I fought back tears and tried to get as much information as possible. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. WHY?! That’s all I could think. Why her? Why so young? Why does she have to go through this? Whyyyyyyyyyy?!?!?!?!

In God’s divine timing, we started our study of Job this week (you can find it here). This morning, as I read Job’s words of suffering in Job 3, Wendy Blight’s words really struck a chord, “God does not owe us answers. But in His Word He gives us truths.”

It’s so difficult to understand why God allows things to happen to good people. It will never be OK that my Ali has cancer. It just does not make any sense that it has to be her. It’s not OK! I think back to the words I recorded on the day of the dove, “…remember … God is always in control.”  It’s impossible to understand why this is happening, however, I know God has a plan for each of us and that suffering can either destroy or strengthen our faith—He IS in control. It all depends on how we react to the trials, which is the lesson of Job.

As I read through Job 3 and Wendy’s correlating devotional for today, God reminded me of the dove; the harbinger in the Bible—announcing or signaling peace, hope, and even the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2; Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32). Although there is great suffering and even confusion, we have hope because of Jesus.

I realized this morning that the dove is not a warning that bad news is coming. The dove is a reminder that the Holy Spirit is with us—in spite of the bad news. His peace is with us. God never changes. He was and is and always will be the source of hope, peace, and truth—no matter what trials we face or how many times we ask Him, “why?”

And the dove reminds me that it’s ok to ask God why. His Spirit is always with us and knows our thoughts and feelings and fears. God can take our whys. Several people in the Bible cried out to Him and asked why they had to suffer—even Jesus (Matthew 27:46). And, just as Wendy said in the First5 devotional, God doesn’t have to answer us. But, we can still find answers if we go to His word. It may not be the answer I want (a cure or a miracle), but He is always our source for truth. I want to be an example for Ali and her family by keeping my focus on the promises instead of the whys.

 


Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,

  With all thy quickening powers:

Come shed abroad a Savior’s love,

  And that shall kindle ours.

~ Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748)


Oh God, life is not fair. Cancer is not fair. I don’t understand why my friend has to go through this. But I trust you. I know you are sovereign and good. Your Word is true and your love is mighty. I pray that Ali will find her peace and hope in you alone. I pray that her family will see her strength and know that it’s from you. I pray that her testimony will transform the lives of everyone around her.  Please miraculously cure her body from this cancer! You have the power to take it away. But I trust that even if you don’t, you will still live up to all of your promises. We will cling to you and seek your truths so that our faith will strengthen. Thank you, Lord, for your Holy Spirit who comforts us and helps us to pray when we don’t even know what to say. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN!