Trust Without Borders

“Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior” –from *Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

A friend sent *this song to me last night. Unaware that my word for the year is “faith,” he sent me a song about faith. It’s one I’ve heard before – we sing it at church. The song is soul achingly beautiful; it brings tears to my eyes and makes me long to be held in my Savior’s arms every time I hear it. (If you’ve never heard it, I included the Youtube link below.) I fell asleep last night and woke up this morning to it running through my head. I think this will be my anthem for the year. It fits where I’m at perfectly.

I spent 2014 learning to trust God in new and deeper ways. And though 2015 is my year of faith, I can already see that this year’s lessons are just going to carry over from, build on, and complement the ones from last year. Inspired by this song, I prayed what some may consider to be a dangerous prayer this morning: though I believe my trust in God is absolute and my faith is unshakable I asked Him to deepen my trust in Him and to strengthen my faith. Why could that be considered a dangerous prayer? Because, much like praying for patience, where you develop patience by continually being put in situations that require you to exercise it, I know that asking God to deepen my trust and strengthen my faith may well result in being put in potentially uncomfortable (at the least) situations which will require me to exercise them. But the very deepest desire of my heart is to become more and more like Jesus, so to anything that would bring that about I can only say, “whatever, Lord.” Whatever You have for me, whatever You want for me, and whatever it will take to get me there…that’s what I want too.

And as I write these things I can suddenly see in my mind’s eye a picture of Peter climbing out of the boat, wind whipping his hair and waves crashing against him, to walk on a stormy sea toward Jesus. This picture comes to me often. It’s a lesson that can be applied to so many different situations: as long as he kept His focus on Jesus, Peter, a regular human being just like you and me, walked on water. Think about that for a minute. He walked on top of the water…just thinking about such a thing fills me with awe. But as soon as he diverted his focus to the storm raging around him he began to sink. Trust and faith are developed in the stormy circumstances of our lives. When we exercise them and God comes through, providing for our needs (responding in whatever way He feels is best and on His timetable), trust is deepened and faith is strengthened. He has brought me through some pretty nasty storms thus far and He will never leave me or forsake me – of this I am certain. So I face 2015 without fear, assured of my Savior’s constant care.

My soul is even more at peace than usual today, resting in His ever-present, unconditional love for me. Undeserving as I am, covered by His sacrifice on the cross, He has made me worthy to come to Him, to hold my arms out to Him at any time and know that He will always reach back and pull me close; and I can curl up on my Heavenly Father’s lap and rest my head on His shoulder – safe, comforted, and cherished.

After all I am, wholly and without reservation, His…

…and He is mine.

“I will call upon Your name

Keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine”

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) 


An open note to my brothers and sisters in Christ

My first post on this subject got a good bit more dry and lecture-like than I originally intended because I frequently crave structure when I write. But you know, sometimes you just need to be raw and honest. So that’s what this post is going to be: raw and honest; I’m just going to be informally candid here.

I know… this is my third post in a row writing about this, but rarely has a subject reached so deeply into my heart and grabbed hold of it like this one has:

*”No one knows… what it’s like…to be free…”

*”Does anyone know… what it’s like… to be free…?”

The best way I can describe what has been happening to me lately is to simply say that God has lit a fire in me with regard to unbelievers. And I saw the movie Left Behind at the theater a week and a half ago, which only added fuel to the aforementioned fire. Although no one knows for sure exactly when this scenario will take place, for those of us who believe the bible, we know the Left Behind scenario (minus the fictional characters’ storylines) will happen…sometime. Since you can practically cross-reference biblical prophecy with the evening news these days, it appears as though there is at least a small possibility it may happen at some point in the not too distant future. (However since I’m sure every generation before mine has probably thought the same thing, it’s equally possible my generation won’t, in fact, be alive to see it.) That’s just it though. We don’t know. Jesus could return in several minutes, days, weeks, months, years, decades, or even further down the road than that. But whether He returns for His church in my lifetime or not, I want to know I did whatever I could to share God’s love with as many people as possible. I don’t want to have regrets thinking, “I could have/should have done more.”

I still don’t know exactly what all of this is supposed to look like for me on a day-to-day basis. But I’m ok with not knowing. God knows – and that’s all that really matters. All I can do is continue to pray for more and more opportunities to share His love, courage to step up and walk through when He opens a door, and His wisdom to say the right thing.

I am not a great Christian. I stumble and fail Him daily. But I love and serve a GREAT God, and He can use anything and anyone to reach whomever He pleases. I am honored that He chooses to use me at all to love people for Him and to further His kingdom in some small way here and there.

Do you have a fire burning in your heart to see the lost come to faith in Christ? If not, what’s quenching it? If Jesus came back for us tomorrow, who would you regret not sharing the gospel with or showing God’s love to? What’s holding you back?

*from the song “Free” by Total Surrender

Total Surrender’s Heaven – CD Review

From their Christ-centered, God-glorifying lyrics to their uplifting, sometimes upbeat, sometimes ethereal and worshipful, but always ear-catching, soul-stirring sound, Total Surrender’s new CD Heaven just grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go.

Each song – from the catchy, memorable first track “Lift Up Your Eyes” to the last striking, almost haunting strain of the title track “Heaven” – warmly invited me in, lifted me up, and made me want nothing more than to worship.

Dylan Bradshaw’s vocals blend smoothly and exquisitely with his lovely wife Rachel’s harmonies. As well as being a talented singer and songwriter, Dylan plays the guitar with an easy, natural flair and Rachel’s artistry on the keyboard contributes beautifully to the strong melodies. The focused intensity of Jim Landolphi’s drumming is solid and tight; alternately laid back and energetic, his rhythm is always controlled – perfectly driving the songs. Together, their sound is intricate, elaborate, and sophisticated – praising God together in such a way that you can’t help but be drawn in too.

More to the point, their considerable musical abilities have challenged and encouraged me in my faith to the point that I am forever changed in how I see unbelievers. Since the first time I heard the song “Free,” God has been shaking me up and doing something new. I love all of their music but that song stood toe-to-toe with me, confronted my faith, and said, “Ok, this is all very nice but it’s time to kick things up a few notches.” Lately, the echoes of the chorus run around and reverberate in my head and heart – “do you know… what it’s like… to be free?” Now, everywhere I go I am filled to overflowing with love for everyone I see until my heart feels like it’s going to burst; yet at the same time I’m pierced with a grief so deep I could sit and sob for days knowing that most (if not all) of the people I come in contact with DON’T know what it’s like to be free – because they don’t know Christ. While I’ve always had a desire to see the lost come to faith in Christ, the depth of this ache and passion burning in my heart is new – it keeps bringing me to tears. The songs “Free,” “Wonderful Light,” and “Give It All Away” make me want to run up to every single person I see, wrap my arms around them, and tell them how much Jesus loves them. So I have begun approaching my interactions with others much more prayerfully, asking God for more open doors, and as a result He is providing me with many more opportunities to show His love to others. I’m thankful to Him for using this wonderful music as a catalyst for a closer walk with Jesus.

The poignant melody of the title track Heaven is a vivid reminder that this world is not our home; it has not only further fueled the longing to go home myself one day, but has inspired me to seek and be open to every opportunity to share Christ with others – I am filled with a profound desire to see everyone go home to Heaven.

The songs on Total Surrender’s “Heaven” paint an intimate picture of the love of our Savior, praise God for who He is, serve as a reminder of the glorious homecoming that awaits us beyond this earthly plane, call believers to a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father, cry out to unbelievers to seek God before it’s too late, and bare the hearts of three very special people whose lives are totally surrendered to Him.

“No one knows…what it’s like…to be free…”* –Dylan Bradshaw

     “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

It is excruciatingly heartbreaking to know there are so many (so, so, SO many!) people out there who are NOT free, because they don’t know or have turned their backs on Christ. I’ve been having spiritual conversations with people a lot more often these days (God has been opening lots of doors!) and most of the conversations leave me wanting to cry. People are confused, hurting, defensive, and utterly lost. But they are so deeply loved by their Creator – so very, very loved. He has been sharing His heart for them with me – it’s soul-achingly beautiful and painfully distressing at the same time. His grief over these people is deeper than we can possibly fathom.

They need to be shown (His love) and told (the gospel). Contrary to popular belief, sharing the gospel is NOT optional for a believer – Jesus commissioned every single one of us to go out in the world and do just that. I like this saying I heard a long time ago: “Preach the gospel. If necessary, use words.” In most cases, talk is cheap. As his missionaries to a dying world, we need to roll up our sleeves and SHOW them (tangibly – in a way they can understand) God’s love. Does this mean we all need to go to a foreign country? Of course not. Some are certainly called to do that, but for the majority of us, we enter our mission field the moment we get out of bed or step outside our door in the morning. Wherever God’s got us right this minute…THAT’S our mission field.

For example, that neighbor we’re so friendly with? You know – the one we laugh and joke with while we’re both out there shoveling snow in the winter but don’t really talk to very much the rest of the year (I’m preaching to myself here, by the way) – have we reached out to them? Why not? They are our neighbors, but more than that they are beloved creations of our heavenly Father. If God has put a bible-believing-Holy Spirit-filled-child-of-God in their neighborhood that in itself should be our first clue…HERE IS OUR MISSION FIELD. There is no excuse (none!) for them not to have been touched by the love of God through us at some point. And if we step out in faith and God opens a door for a relationship with them to develop, we will have even more opportunities to show them God’s love and may eventually earn the right (as friends) to speak into their lives.

     One of the principal rules of religion is, to lose no occasion of serving God. And, since he is invisible to our eyes, we are to serve him in our neighbour; which he receives as if done to himself in person, standing visibly before us. – John Wesley

The burning in my spirit, the need to remember this is life and death for every single one of them – literally life and death – is so strong. I know (trust me, I KNOW!) it is incredibly easy to get so caught up in what’s going on in our own lives we can tend to forget that sometimes. But while God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, He DOES expect obedience from His children just like we expect it from ours. So when we get a little nudge from Him to do or say something kind, thoughtful, or unexpected for someone, whether it’s a neighbor, a stranger in the grocery store, family member, co-worker, whoever… WE SHOULDN’T QUESTION OR IGNORE IT. I admit, to my shame, that I have been guilty of that very thing more times than I can count.

I live in a small, 5-unit apartment building. Several months ago, my neighbor across the hall, Brendan, an unbeliever, but a nice enough guy for the most part, was carried out of his apartment in a body bag. He was around my age. He had been injured (or had surgery? I forget) and was on narcotics for the pain.

Unfortunately Brendan mixed the narcotics with alcohol and it depressed his respiratory system to the point he stopped breathing in his sleep. We chatted superficially a bit occasionally when we were out shoveling or if we bumped into each other in the parking lot (although admittedly not often because he smoked and cigarette smoke makes me sick to my stomach), but we never had a single remotely meaningful conversation in the 18+ months he’d been living here. What really upsets me about this is that it’s entirely possible that he’s now eternally separated from God, which means fiery torment – forever. And even though I know it’s not my fault if that is the case, I still bear even a small measure of responsibility for not being concerned enough about his eternal destination when he was alive. I know that as a woman living alone I need to be extra-careful when it comes to my interactions with men (especially unbelievers), but I never even asked God what I could do. Maybe if I HAD asked, God might have said “nothing.” But I didn’t even ask. And now it’s too late.

My intent here is not to put anyone (myself included) under condemnation. We are, after all, human. But this passion stems from the knowledge and conviction that I have lived a great deal of my own life in a self-centered fog. And you know something? I don’t ever want to be that way again. Ever. E-V-E-R. I want nothing more than to always be able to see every single person I meet through God’s eyes – cherished, created in love by Him and for Him; someone I want to see in heaven one day, worshipping God for eternity.

     “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. (1 Co. 9:19)

One of the many things I’ve learned from a friend of mine is that the best antidote when I’m feeling sorry for myself or am in (emotional) pain is serving others.  

     “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

Truly, nothing makes me feel happier or more fulfilled than when I am serving others in some way.

It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Even so, since I never felt as though I could identify completely with any of the spiritual gifts I read about in the Word, I asked God constantly for the last few years (in a whiny sort of way – like the proverbial little kid who’s feeling left out – with his head tilted off to one side, hands in his pockets, kicking rocks) “what’s MY gift?”

A couple of months ago He finally answered me.

“Love is your gift.”

Serving = Love

      “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Love = Freedom

     You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.  The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)

“Does anyone know what it’s like…to be free?”* –Dylan Bradshaw

I do.

Do you?

     “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

*(from the song “Free” written by Dylan Bradshaw of Total Surrender – link to song below)

I am His and He is mine

I have fallen in love all over again.

He has been such a wonderful friend to me – the best friend anyone could ever hope to have, really. I can talk to Him about absolutely anything and He is just there – loving me no matter what. I go to Him when I have a problem and He helps me work it out – usually by leading me to discover the answer on my own somehow rather than just giving it to me outright. He’s made himself available 24/7…I can call on Him anytime, day or night. He brings out the best in me, believes in me, and encourages me to reach for the stars. Seeing myself through His eyes has made me realize I’m beautiful and special just the way I am. I don’t need to change for anyone, although there are some things I want to change for me. He has also made me aware (mostly by using a good friend of mine) of just how strong I am; strength I possess because it comes from Him. Yes, Jesus is everything to me and will forever be the number one love of my life.

How could I NOT love Him? He was tortured and died a horrific death for me. For me. For my sin. Wrapping my all-too-human brain around that was fairly difficult for a while. HE LOVES ME SO MUCH HE CHOSE TO SUFFER AND DIE FOR ME. No one else has ever loved me like that.

He also saved me from myself. He took a broken, fragile, insecure mess and is remaking me into a healthy, strong, confident woman of God. Am I perfect? Am I finished growing? Absolutely not! But I am light years away from the woman I was in December 2010. Heck, I’m not even the same person I was three months ago.

In addition to the pain from my divorce, I was also carrying a hefty pile of emotional baggage from the rest of my life as well. Over the last three and a half years, He and I have done a significant amount of work to unpack, examine, deal with, and finally throw out a large portion of that baggage once and for all. We’re not done yet (are we ever really done growing? I don’t think so…), but we’ve made an enormous amount of progress. I am very motivated to deal with it once and for all.

One of the most incredible things He has done for me is to replace the lies that have plagued me most of my life with His truth. Truth like:  I am deeply loved by the Creator of the Universe. I am worth dying for. I am forgiven. I am the beloved daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords – which, incidentally, makes me a princess. (And not only do I deserve to be treated like a princess, I should also behave like one. True story.)

All that said, even though He has been working overtime to make me realize how much I am worth to Him (think: priceless treasure), I am also humbled by the knowledge that I am a sinner just like everyone else – no worse and no better – saved solely by God’s amazing grace.

My chains are gone – I’ve been set free.

My God, my Savior, has ransomed me.

And like a flood, His mercy reigns.

Unending love – amazing grace.


The Most Valuable Thing

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” ― William Shakespeare

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” – Romans 12:10

As 2013 draws to a close I need to say a few things about my theme for the year: love. I didn’t do enough writing about it this year, and I feel badly about that. There are so many things I wanted to write, but how do you write about the way in which you love others without sounding like you’re bragging? I’m sure there must be a way, but I didn’t find it. So I guess I’m going to have to just write honestly, hope that you can see my heart, and know I am not bragging because I have nothing to brag about.

What does love mean to you? God has redefined it for me this year. First I need to say this: love is not a feeling. You can feel love, sure. But it’s so much more, so much bigger than that. Love is a choice – it’s a decision – an act of the will. It’s just like forgiveness; you can feel forgiveness, but it too is a decision. I want to tell you a story to illustrate this.

Around 1989-1990 I was going to a home bible study that my best friend at the time, Nancy, also went to. One weekend we had an argument. We both said some hurtful things to each other – it was awful. But we both still showed up at bible study on Tuesday night. We avoided talking to each other though, heck, I don’t even think we looked at each other. Things got underway and everyone sat down to sing some worship songs. The singing had just gotten started when Nancy got up and headed into the kitchen. It was probably about five minutes later I suddenly had a dry throat and was overwhelmed with a fit of coughing. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop without some water, so I got up and went into the kitchen. Nancy was standing in front of the sink looking out the window. She wasn’t making any noise, but her shoulders were shaking so I knew she was crying. My thought at the time was something uncharitable like, “she brought it on herself.” But as I stood there God spoke to me. He said, “forgive her.”

“What? You know what she said to me!”

“Yes, I know what she said. Forgive her,” He repeated.

“But… I don’t feel like forgiving her.”

“Forgive her,” He said a third time, “and let Me worry about your feelings.”  

I sighed and gave in. “Ok, Lord. I forgive her. I don’t feel like it, but I’m doing it anyway out of obedience to you.”

(This whole conversation happened much more quickly than it took for you to read it.) I walked up behind Nancy then, and sensing me there she turned around. I looked at my friend standing there with tears pouring down her face and the ice around my heart melted. I looked at her and thought, “this is my friend and I love her.” I opened my arms and she stepped into them, put her head on my shoulder, and sobbed. God provided the feelings of love and forgiveness AFTER I made the choice to forgive her.

Love is a lot like that. I don’t believe that the “feelings” of love always come first. Sometimes the choice has to come first and the feelings follow. This may not be the best example, but it’s the first one that jumps to mind. There was a period of well over a year in the first half of my marriage when I didn’t feel anything for my husband at all. I was emotionally numb. But I got up every morning, reminded myself that I loved him, prayed hard, read what the bible said about love, and, to the best of my ability at the time, treated him as though I loved him even though I wasn’t feeling it. And when my feelings eventually came back they came back stronger than ever and they continued to grow stronger for the remainder of our marriage.

The point? Make the choice, act on it, and if God is in it, the feelings will follow in His time.

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”  ― Robert A. Heinlein

I can’t tell you how many times over the last year I have been tempted, in my natural selfishness, to walk away and NOT do the loving thing for someone. Whether it’s getting down on sore knees to reach something at the back of a bottom shelf in the store for an elderly woman, bringing a gift to someone after discovering this person has tried to sabotage my reputation, offering my help to someone at work whom I don’t like and who clearly doesn’t like me, doing some extra shoveling when I really don’t feel like it, putting all of the trash barrels away and not just my own (when I remember to bring my own in on trash day, that is!), cooking for someone when I don’t feel up to doing anything, cleaning at my friends’ house after a long day at work… trust me when I say I don’t do these things because I’m a great person. I’m not. Sometimes I even grumble (silently, to God). It’s love, GOD’S LOVE, that fuels me to do these things.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” – Romans 13:8

Last December 31 I asked God to teach me how to love others His way – selflessly. This is what He’s been teaching me. When I’m feeling selfish and self-centered, I hear God’s voice inside me, “what is the loving thing to do here?” And I know. And when, acting against every natural instinct I have, I reach outside of my comfort zone and do the loving thing I may be a little more tired, a little more sore, or my bank account may have a little less in it, but I will never, ever be sorry. When I do these things I know God wants me to do, He gives me the strength I need to do them. Sometimes I need to actually start doing them first, but He always comes through. For example, in the last snowstorm we had I ran out of steam even before I had finished shoveling my own car out and I was seriously tempted to stop there. But my friend in the apartment upstairs fractured her wrist in a car accident several weeks ago and it hasn’t healed well enough yet for her to shovel a lot of snow. So I shoveled her car out too. And let me tell you – I’m not tooting my own horn here because believe me there’s nothing to toot about. Don’t get me wrong – I love Debbie, but my arms felt like wet noodles, my shoulder hurt, I was cold and wet, I was grumbling about having to shovel at all (winter is my least favorite season), and I just wanted to go inside, take a steaming hot shower, eat some breakfast, and go to work. (Well that’s not entirely true. I really wanted to go to back to bed, but I had to go to work…) And when I said in my head, “I love Debbie, but I just can’t do this…” I heard God’s voice inside me. He said, “Love… always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:7b) So I kept shoveling. And a couple of minutes in I was infused with new strength and I was able to shovel her car out too. Please understand me – I was blessed with divine strength to finish, but I had to start, in faith, on my own. I had to make the choice to do what God wanted me to do and act on it before God stepped in. 

Love does not always just “come.” Sometimes we need to step out in faith first. But when God is in it and we take that step, He will provide us with what we need to go the rest of the way.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – Jesus, John 15:13

Love is also a gift; and it’s a gift that not only multiplies with use, it also works in reverse. I have some friends who tragically lost their three year old daughter to drowning this past summer. I have been going over there ever since then as often as I can to help out with a few things and you know what? I always leave there feeling like they did far more for me than I could ever do for them. They are such special people with incredible gifts of friendship and hospitality, and every time I walk out the door, I walk out choked up with gratitude that God has blessed me with such amazingly wonderful friends. What little I am able to do for them pales in comparison to what they give me, and it’s had the effect of multiplying my love for them.

Love is pretty powerful.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13

Loving someone, whether it’s doing something out-of-the-ordinary for a total stranger or reaching outside of our comfort zone for someone we know because we know it’s what God wants us to do, is, in itself, its own reward. Love for love’s sake is enough.

It is for me at any rate.

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” – 1 Peter 1:22

When I really love someone I love deeply – completely. They have my undying loyalty and I will, to the very best of my ability (and even beyond with God’s help), always have their back. Do I love everyone? Well I do honestly try to love everyone with God’s love (still haven’t perfected this of course, but God and I are working on it). A deeper, more committed love is reserved for only a select few in my life, but those that have it don’t have to do anything special to keep it; it’s theirs – a gift.

It’s the most valuable thing I have to give.

“Praise and be raised. Complain and remain.” –Joyce Meyer

I was reading something in my book 31 Days of Praise by *Ruth Meyer that I wanted to share. *(I don’t believe she’s any relation to Joyce)


Why should you praise and give thanks in the midst of trials? Surely not because all the things that happen to you are in themselves good! The reason for praising in tough situations is found in Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (NASB).

C.H. Welch has elaborated on this truth as follows:

The Lord may not definitely have planned that this should overtake me, but He has most certainly permitted it. Therefore though it were an attack of an enemy, by the time it reaches me, it has the Lord’s permission and all is well. He will make it work together with all life’s experiences for good.

Praise can heighten your awareness that distressing circumstances are God’s blessings in disguise. Your trials rip away the flimsy fabric of your self-sufficiency. This makes room for God’s Spirit to weave into your life a true and solid confidence – the kind of confidence that Paul expressed in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV).

As fire melts unrefined silver, bringing the impurities to the surface, so trials bring the “scum” to the top of your life. When you praise God in the midst of a trial, you cooperate with His plan to remove the scum; when you complain, you resist His plan and stir the impurities right back into your character. This means that God, to accomplish His good purposes, may have to send or permit another trial; it may delay the unfolding of His good plan for you and your loved ones.

Through praise you focus your attention on God. You acknowledge Him as your source of overcoming power. You begin to look at your problems from a new perspective – you compare them with your mighty, unlimited God. You see them as molehills rather than mountains, as opportunities rather than hindrances, as stepping stones instead of stumbling blocks. You have a part in making them the prelude to new victories, the raw materials for God’s miracles.

Praise helps you obey God’s command in James 1: 2-4, “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance” (Phillips). Praise is a catalyst that speeds up God’s maturing process in your life.”

(taken from 31 Days of Praise by Ruth Meyer, pp. 123-126)

 I want to expand on the last quoted scripture passage in James. I’d never read it before in the Phillips version and I really like it.

 James 1: 2-8 (Phillips):

 “The Christian can even welcome trouble

When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him. But he must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether he really wants God’s help or not. The man who trusts God, but with inward reservations, is like a wave of the sea, carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. That sort of man cannot hope to receive anything from God, and the life of a man of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn.

(my notes:)

I know that we’re all facing different trials, but the bible says, “God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” (1 Corinthians 12:6, NLT) I take great comfort in that. The God that is at work in (for example) Billy Graham’s life and Francis Chan’s life is the same God at work in my life, and He’s the same God that is at work in yours. No matter how difficult our trial, no matter how insurmountable the obstacles may seem, we CAN get through it. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13, NLT) When we are weak, He is strong. “But he {the Lord} said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (1 Corinthians 12:9, NIV) {emphasis mine}

We can grow in character, mature spiritually, and be filled to overflowing with love and JOY no matter what we’re going through if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Is it easy? No. It most certainly is not. But keep in mind we serve a God of miracles! Peter, a regular human being just like uswalked on water as long as he kept his focus on Jesus. He only began to sink in the waves when he chose to take his focus off of Jesus to look at (and fear) the storm going on around him.

What is the current ‘storm’ in your life? Have you gone through other of life’s storms without keeping your focus on Jesus? How did things end up? Did you come through the storms stronger, more confident, empowered, and filled to overflowing with God’s love, joy, and peace? Did you come through them with a closer relationship with God than before the storms began? Or did you just make it through by the skin of your teeth, shaken to the core, and unsure of yourself, much less God and others? It’s worth taking some time to think about.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

 He loves us. Oh, how He loves us!

I honestly don’t know how I ever lived without the Lord. I don’t know how I put my feet on the floor every morning and faced the day – faced the world – without knowing He was right there leading the way, at my side, and my rear guard. I just know I could never do it again. I won’t. He is my EVERYTHING.

Loving Others – Living It Out (part two)

I belong to an online support group. It’s not run like a face-to-face group would be run – and why should it be? It’s a Facebook page. And even though this is a place where people should feel safe expressing themselves however they need to, there are still people who try to get everyone else to conform to their own idea of appropriate behavior. And I’m sorry, but that is just plain wrong – especially in this forum.

I am a Christian and I have chosen not to swear. (I think it’s important to note here though that up until a few years ago I swore like a drunken sailor on shore leave.) However, God has changed me too much to be comfortable with swearing any longer. There’s even a scripture verse that says (addressing believers): “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

But not everyone lives their life according to God’s standards as laid out in scripture. I understand this, and while I am not comfortable using or listening to those words anymore, I choose to look past a few swears to a person’s heart and character. Once upon a time I used to think I had the right to be the behavior police, judging how everyone else conducted themselves. The truth is that I was miserable; I couldn’t even get a handle on MY behavior. It was just so much easier to point out flaws in everyone else’s conduct than it was to focus on my own.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7: 1-5)

You know, I discovered something a couple of years ago with regard to the above portion of scripture. Freedom. There is such freedom in knowing that I don’t have to be concerned with anyone else’s behavior – only my own. In other words, it is not my job to be the behavior police. This means I can just relax and enjoy people. There is so much freedom in that!

The kind of raunchy humor that used to make me laugh so hard I’d literally fall off the couch makes me very uncomfortable now. Still, I don’t turn my back on people who try to make me laugh by telling me off-color jokes or try to cut them down to size in a hurtful way simply because they’ve made me a little uncomfortable.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13: 1-8)

So to the person who felt the need to respond in a callous manner to a nakedly honest post by a fellow member of the support group simply because the fellow member used a swear word in the post, I wish I could hug you. I understand where you’re coming from because I used to be there myself. I used to feel that people should conform to my idea of “appropriate behavior” instead of just accepting them for who they are, where they’re at, and letting God worry about changing anything in them that HE feels needs to be changed. But I understand now that the reason I was like this was because my life was so miserable and out of control I somehow felt that things would be better if I could control everyone else around me. But they weren’t better and I couldn’t control anyone else.

I wasn’t able to relax and claim God’s peace for myself until I just let go. I let go of my expectations of other people; I try very hard NOT to have expectations of others. And if I catch myself feeling hurt or upset because someone acted in a manner that upset me or didn’t act in a manner I hoped they would/thought they should, when I’m praying and pouring my heart out to God He usually points out to me that I am upset over a disappointed expectation – then He gently reminds me that I need to let go of my expectations. Again. And when I choose to forgive whoever hurt/upset me, letting go of those pesky expectations in the process, the weight that lifts off of me is palpable.

So I wish I could hug you in understanding and because you must be hurting pretty badly to feel the need to slap down someone else who is hurting and trying to recover from the same thing you are trying to recover from.


“That’s what people do who love you. They put their arms around you and love you when you’re not so lovable.” ― Deb Caletti

Loving Others – Living It Out (part one)

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” –Jesus (Luke 6:31, NIV)

About fourteen years ago I was watching Joyce Meyer on television, and she shared that God had spoken to her heart about the shopping carts she uses at the grocery store. It was a small, but loving thing to do for whoever had the responsibility of cleaning up the parking lot at the end of the day to put her shopping cart back at the front of the store next to the door where she got it. “I know if I worked there I would sure appreciate it if people put their shopping carts back – especially when it’s cold or raining. Plus, if they’re all put away where they belong, there’s no possibility of somebody running into it or the wind blowing it into someone’s car.”

The first time I started to leave my shopping cart in the parking lot after hearing her talk about it, I felt convicted. I stopped with my hand on the car door handle and heard God’s still, small voice deep inside, “By showing love to others in this way, you also show your love for me.” So I have been returning my shopping cart to the front of the store ever since. The only exception I have made to this was recent. It was pouring, I didn’t have an umbrella, and couldn’t risk getting my processors too wet (I have cochlear implants). So instead I left the cart in the cart “corral” right next to where I parked. (The next best thing, I thought.) That was the only time though – other than that, I always return the cart to the front of the store. And let’s face it – it’s not always convenient. Sometimes I’m in a rush to get somewhere. Sometimes the weather is horrible. Sometimes I’m in considerable pain or exhausted. But I have chosen to love people, and love, REAL love, is not something we can pick and choose depending on what is convenient for us at the time, and it does not depend on feelings. Love is a choice. Sure we can “feel” love (or not), but ultimately it always comes down to our choice.

I choose love.

Food for thought: Treating people with love takes many forms and truly knows no limits. What small things can you do differently to show love to others?

On Tweeting

“I tot I taw a puddy tat. I did! I did taw a puddy tat!”

Oops. Sorry. TweetING not TweetY.

Ok. One groan-worthy, corny joke – check. Now that we have that out of the way let me just say, with regard to Twitter, eeeek! I am slowly getting more comfortable with it, but the key word here is s-l-o-w-l-y. I managed to find a bunch of celebrities/businesses, etc. I want to follow, but in trying to find people I actually know on Twitter  – forget it.

I typed the name of a co-worker who told me I could follow her into the search box at the top of my screen (on the computer – not my phone).  Do you know how many women with her name are on Twitter? Holy cannoli! I emailed her to ask what her twitter handle is, otherwise I would have been scrolling through names for HOURS.

Still, it’s fun. I get scads of tweets from Writers Digest and am happy to say this all coincides with the rebirth of my Burning Desire To Write. It just left me – for months. I almost didn’t recognize myself for a while there! But no worries – it’s back and all is well. Anyway, I’m really enjoying myself. It’s much easier to keep up with than Facebook (although Facebook still has its place).

Twitter – inspiring people in 140 characters or less! ❤  –@teen-quotes