My Thoughts Matter

So much of this battle has been fought in my mind.

Really, even more than in my heart.

Because you can’t argue with sad or shock or missing or disappointment.

But you can absolutely argue with hopelessness (there is nothing to live for), apathy (there is nothing to do) and distrust (there is no one who can help me).

Read the rest here: Thoughts Matter

Do You Ever Wonder, “Is God Punishing Me?”

I’ve heard it from more than one bereaved parent.  

I’ve thought it myself.  

“Is God punishing me?”  

Have I done something so terrible that it falls outside the grace and mercy of the God Who sent His Son and so I must pay for it with my own child?

Read the rest here: Is God Punishing Me?

Advent: Positioned For Blessing

Today’s verses may seem an odd choice as a stand-alone source for an Advent devotional.

But when you dig a little deeper, they are a beautiful affirmation of how God used ordinary people to bring about His extraordinary purposes.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were two humble and obedient Jews living their lives according to the Law. As a priest, Zechariah was responsible to serve in the Temple two weeks of every year. He’d been faithfully doing his duty for years. Elizabeth had done hers too.

But they were fruitless. Elizabeth was barren. And barren women (in those days) were considered cursed.

And then something amazing happened.

Zechariah, chosen by lot, seemingly random, is given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to burn incense before the Lord. A sacred trust, a holy encounter representing the prayers of all Israel and especially those positioned outside in the temple courtyard.

Faith, Fiction, Friends: Zechariah: From Priest to Speechless to Prophet

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.”

Luke 1: 5-10 NIV

We will stop here for today although I’m sure most of you know where our story is going.

I’m glad to take things a little slow. Because when I race through verses full of detail I tend to miss important insights. And there are several in these words that help my heart.

Doing my daily duty can be pretty boring.

Living a life of faithful obedience sometimes becomes a burden. And when obedience doesn’t lead to blessing but perhaps even to pain I can lose heart.

Luke reminds me that being precisely where God wants me to be doing exactly what He’s called me to do may lead to unimagined and unanticipated blessing.

Don't Grow Weary | Ellie May's Garden of Grace

Zechariah and Elizabeth had no idea that their yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem would change everything.

But it did.

And that was just the beginning.

QUESTIONS:

  • Do you ever tire of daily routine, regular responsibility? Does this passage challenge that attitude?
  • Scripture teaches that God is in control even when it seems like chance rules. Is that a comforting thought? Why or why not?
  • Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story echoes that of Abraham and Sarah. An old couple, past the age of childbearing whom God blesses with not just any child but a child of promise. How does their story once again that God is the God of the impossible and improbable?
  • Prayer is likened to incense throughout the Bible. I sometimes like to light a scented candle in the still dark early morning hours when I talk to God. Do you have any physical representations that help your heart connect with the Father?

PRAYER:

Father God,

I admit it-sometimes I’m just flat out tired of doing what’s expected of me. Dishes and laundry and ordinary work are dull and hardly rewarding. Obedience takes self-control. I’m not always interested in being who I ought to be especially when I feel like maybe there’s no upside to sacrificing fun for duty.

Even worse, I feel cheated when I’ve been a “good girl” and still not received the desire of my heart. In fact, the desire of my heart has been snatched away.

Help me feel Your Presence speaking courage and strength to my soul when I grow weary of doing well. Help me show up every time and everywhere You want me to be. Let the truth that there is no better place to be than in the center of Your will sink deep into my spirit.

You have a plan and You work through perfectly ordinary people to bring it to life. Who knows? It might be me doing my daily duty that impacts eternity. Thank You for inviting me to be part of the Eternal Story.

Amen

Advent: The Light That Bursts Through Gloom

In our modern age of light switches and street lights it’s hard to imagine a world where the tiniest candle flame could lead a body to safety.

But for most of human history that was how people lived.

It’s how some still live.

So when John described Jesus as the “Light that bursts through gloom-the Light that darkness could not diminish” (John 1: 5 TPT) he’s really saying something.

This isn’t a tiny candle or smoky oil lamp barely pushing back the edges of inky night.

Jesus is a spotlight dispelling not only the experience of darkness but the power of darkness!

And that’s only a fraction of the truth revealed in these five verses.

In the very beginning the Living Expression was already there.

And the Living Expression was with God, yet fully God.

They were together-face-to-face, in the very beginning. And through his creative inspirations this Living Expression made all things, for nothing has existence apart from him!

Life came into being because of him, for his life is light for all humanity.

And this Living Expression is the Light that bursts through gloom-the Light that darkness could not diminish!

John 1: 1-5 TPT

Jesus is co-equal with God. He has existed for eternity past along with the Father. They were, and are, in perfect community.

Face-to-face, cooperating in speaking life and light into existence.

No thing and no one draws breath apart from Christ.

In Him we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:28 | Good morning  girls, Inspirational scripture, Morning girl

That is why my heart can rest secure in the promise that the resurrection is coming.

If Jesus breathed life once into my son, He will most certainly breathe life once again into his glorified body.

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So when the darkness threatens to consume me I light a candle.

I watch the flame and listen for my Shepherd King’s voice singing hope over my soul.

QUESTIONS:

  • Do you have personal experience of being lost in the dark? How did you find your way to safety?
  • When have you felt soul darkness? Could you hear or feel the Lord reaching out and reaching down to lead you to the Light of His love?
  • Why is it important to know that Jesus is eternally co-existent with the Father?
  • Does the fact that Christ is the creative force of the Godhead give you confidence in His promise to redeem and restore what the enemy has stolen?
  • How does the fact that Jesus is the Eternal and Inextinguishable Light help your heart hold onto hope?

PRAYER:

Lord,

I live in a world of uncertainty and often great pain. It’s easy for my heart to sink into despair. It’s hard to hold onto hope.

In the natural it feels like darkness is winning.

But I know, deep in my soul, that Your Light will conquer the darkness. In Your Presence there is no night-only, always, glorious Day.

Help me lean into this truth and hold onto hope.

Let the light, love and life of Christ dwell in me richly and spill over into a lost and lonely world.

Amen

Advent Invitation

We’re all waiting this year, aren’t we?

Waiting for the pandemic to be over (or at least managed somehow), waiting for things to get back to normal (whatever that is), waiting to see extended family without masks and social distancing.

Waiting, waiting, waiting!

That makes this moment ripe for we who live on the back side of Christ’s first coming to fully embrace the season of Advent-perhaps as never before.

All Israel was waiting with bated breath for redemption that first Christmas morning. Not looking for presents but longing for Presence.

A Messiah had been promised but was (by human standards) long in coming.

May I invite you to allow God to use this intense season of helpless and perhaps, sometimes hopeless waiting to turn your heart toward His?

Here is an Advent Scripture Reading list I’ll be using for devotional posts starting tomorrow.

May I ask you to come with me on a walk through Scripture as we walk together toward Jesus?

Our Faithful Father doesn’t waste a thing! He will use our sorrow, sadness, fearful moments, impatient waiting and even this pandemic to make us more like Christ.

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes – and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

We can lean in and take hold of His truth while we rest in His grace and goodness.

And the light of His love will fill our hearts with hope-just like that first Christmas.

Walking the Valley: Trust After Loss

When this video popped up in my Facebook memories, I was tempted to skip it.

Three years ago I was in a very stressful season of life. My mother was seriously ill, my husband was working away from home and facing daunting challenges, my surviving children were in various stages of transition and I was just plain worn out.

But I stepped out in faith and accepted an invitation to share at a gathering for bereaved parents.

I was used to hiding behind my keyboard, having days to edit and refine what I would say; not opening my mouth and spilling thoughts without any opportunity to call them back.

It was truly frightening and I had no idea it would be recorded.

I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like the way I sound. But I love the message the Lord laid on my heart and enabled me to deliver that day.

So I’m being brave, being transparent, risking whatever judgement others might feel and some might voice to share it here.

{I’m no tech guru and have absolutely no idea how to edit the video so here it is in its entirety. If you’d rather skip the worship music segment, fast forward to the 30 minute mark.}

Three years later I STILL need to preach to myself. I STILL need to exhale my doubts and questions and pain and inhale the truth and grace of Jesus Christ.

I continue to circle round and round, revisiting questions and issues and feelings I thought I’d conquered.

And every single time He meets me there.

I am more convinced than ever that I am only able to stand in the strength and power of my Father God.

Every day I reach out and take hold of the hem of His garment.

And every day that is enough.

He said not ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased’; but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.’

Julian of Norwich

I Don’t Get To Choose How Life Unfolds


I don’t get to choose.

I don’t get to plan the way life is going to be.

Oh, I bring out the calendar and mark down the days:  birthdays, holidays, special events and obligations.

But then one dark morning a knock stops the clock and makes the world spin faster all at once.

I’m suspended and plunged under in the same breath.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/09/17/not-what-i-had-planned/

There’s Hope in Every Scar

Sometimes people ask, “How can you cling to Jesus when He could have saved your son, but didn’t?”

I give the same answer Peter gave, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

He is light and life in the Valley and on the hilltop, in the fire and in the flood.

He will redeem every tear and restore every thing the enemy has stolen.

My scars tell a story: Yes, I’m wounded but I’m still walking. I’ve been hurt but I’m healing.

There’s hope in every scar.

Suffering is but a moment.

This is not forever.

Jesus is.

Hallelujah!

Scripture Journal Challenge 2020: Week Four

Last year during the month of August I joined with others and participated in a Scripture Writing Challenge.

We committed together to read and write out short passages on grief every day.

I wrote companion posts and shared them.

Circumstances have prevented me from doing another in-depth study again this year but I thought it would be nice to collect the entries from last August in a weekly bundle and put them out there for anyone who might want to revisit them or try it for the first time.

So here’s the fourth week’s links (including how to set up a journal):

Setting up your journal and link to all the verses: August Scripture Journal Challenge: Verses on Grief

Day 22: Scripture Journal Challenge: In The Very Presence of God

Day 23: Scripture Journal Challenge: Your Word Revives Me

Day 24: Scripture Journal Challenge: Everything Sad Will Come Untrue

Day 25: Scripture Journal Challenge: Incomparable Glory

Day 26: Scripture Journal Challenge: I’m Not The Only One Waiting

Day 27: Scripture Journal Challenge: Not Everything IS Good

Day 28: Scripture Journal Challenge: Closing Argument

Day 29: Scripture Journal Challenge: NOTHING Can Separate Us From the Love of Christ

Day 30: Scripture Journal Challenge: Grieving With Hope

It takes a bit of work and commitment to do this so I understand some hearts may not be in a place where that is possible.

But if you’ve missed feeding your soul with the Word of God this is an easy way to get back into the habit.

Scripture Journal Challenge 2020: Week Three

Last year during the month of August I joined with others and participated in a Scripture Writing Challenge.

We committed together to read and write out short passages on grief every day.

I wrote companion posts and shared them.

Circumstances have prevented me from doing another in-depth study again this year but I thought it would be nice to collect the entries from last August in a weekly bundle and put them out there for anyone who might want to revisit them or try it for the first time.

So here’s the third week’s links (including how to set up a journal):

Setting up your journal and link to all the verses: August Scripture Journal Challenge: Verses on Grief

Day 15: http://Scripture Journal Challenge: Distant Music

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Day 16: Scripture Journal Challenge: God Sees You. You Are Not Alone.

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Day 17: Scripture Journal Challenge: My Good Shepherd

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Day 18: Scripture Journal Challenge: Keep Me Near

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Day 19: Scripture Journal Challenge: Tears Won’t Last Forever

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Day 20: Scripture Journal Challenge: The God Who Comes Near

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Day 21: Scripture Journal Challenge: Perfect Peace

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It takes a bit of work and commitment to do this so I understand some hearts may not be in a place where that is possible.

But if you’ve missed feeding your soul with the Word of God this is an easy way to get back into the habit.

Day 15: