Be Careful Little Mouth

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“At any given moment you have the power to say: this is not how the story is going to end.” -Anonymous

There’s something you might not know about me. I was once a great detective and Nancy Drew was my sidekick. We explored endless intriguing sites together such as a hidden staircase that led to a dusty old attic. On occasion, we hung out with a couple of mischievous brothers known as The Hardy Boys. Life was good and exciting.

Stories told in living color are descriptive in nature. The author’s choice of words has the creative ability to draw the reader into a different world. We momentarily leave our world and enter into the heart and mind of the characters.

This time of year, many will focus on the Nativity Story where God stepped down from eternity to dwell among us: to identify with us and restore mankind.

At the time of Christ’s birth, an angel appeared and said, “I bring good news that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

The Word is also a name of Jesus (Jn. 1:1). It emphasizes His deity and communicates who God is and what He is like.

Words are an integral part of our life. You wake up and greet your spouse and children with a cheerful good morning. During the day, you find out you have been the victim of a scam. But instead of thinking negatively, you speak positively and believe in God’s nature to restore what has been lost. A few weeks later, a friend gives you an unexpected gift.

Imagine another scenario for a minute. Upon waking, you stretch, yawn and moan, “I hate Mondays.”

As your day unfolds, you encounter one problem after another. You grab a cup of coffee and head toward the door and find you have misplaced your keys. You hurriedly grab the spare set of keys. You hit each light and now you mutter to yourself, “There’s no way I’m going to make it on time.” Needless to say, you arrive late.

Could your words play a part of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

God’s word has the power to accomplish what he intends (Heb.4:12; Is. 55:11). God spoke the universe into being (Gen.1:1-5). Our words also carry creative ability because they send a positive or negative message to our brain. Our brain then acts on that thought.

Let’s return to the quote I opened with. There’s truth to this statement. Our power to change the end of our story rests upon our decision to speak words that are congruent with God’s character. Jesus is the first and final word, and everything in between.

 

Steps and Questions for Reflection:

  1. Stop. Read Ecclesiastes 5:2. When was the last time you found yourself acting with a hasty heart? What part did your emotions play?  Your emotions tell you the truth about what you believe. Sometimes we believe lies.
  2. Think. Read 2 Cor. 10:5. Spend time in a quiet place, free of distractions and use a topical concordance (located in the back of most Bibles) or Google to find a scripture applicable to your situation. Note any words or phrases that stand out and ask God to speak truth to your heart.
  3. Speak. Read Job 22:28. What truth will you declare today over yourself or a seemingly negative situation?

 

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Golden Love

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heart-locketTime turned backward one hour this week. Things around us appear lifeless. Bark hangs bare against grey skies while turning leaves fall on withering grass. Today the clouds have made the sun obsolete.   Rain drops dampen not only the air but also my spirit. Write. Study. Clean. Do laundry. The warmth and comfort of my home calls out to me, stay home. And of course, I’m inclined to obey.

For convenience sake, I put off my civic duty and privilege to vote until Election Day. Voting early requires me to go out of my way. Since I work from home, I have the flexibility and luxury to vote when it’s suits me best. Time is precious and money doesn’t grow on trees, right?

I realize now that convenience isn’t always convenient or perception isn’t necessarily reality. Have you ever felt that way? Last week, I convinced myself it was better to keep quiet than speak up on a matter. After all, silence is golden. I told myself, it’s better to stay out of it. It’s not my problem. This attitude was safer but not truthful. I wanted to remain in my comfort zone. Uninvolved. But God’s word calls us to speak truth into the lives of others (Eph. 4:15).

As a child, I was taught the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto to you (Matt. 7:11). Those well-known words of Jesus whispered in my ear. Then a minute later, I thought rules are also meant to be broken on occasion. No matter how hard I tried ignoring the situation, the words of Jesus grew louder. Motivated by love, I was gently prodded to speak to my friend.

How do we know when love is the motivating factor behind our decisions? When we put the other person’s welfare above our own, we are acting from a humble and pure heart. An element of risk is involved when we subject ourselves to the possibility of rejection. I was haunted by the thought of my friend taking offense and attacking me.

Jesus chose to speak the truth in love to the woman at the well in John 4. He gently and privately exposed her sin. And He did so, without condemning her. By the time she left the well, she knew the way, the truth and the life. Jesus spoke the heart and counsel of God into a life, and so can we. When we know love, we can speak truth boldly, confidently, and gently into the lives of others without fear.

Multiple times, we read examples in scripture where Jesus wasn’t concerned with people’s righteous appearances but rather the heart behind their actions. Love isn’t always simple or easy; it often costs us. Jesus paid the ultimate price for love’s sake: he gave his life so everyone could experience abundant life. Love is golden.

 

 

 

 

Review of The Book of Mysteries

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The Book of MysteriesPicture a place of the days of old, where times were wild and outlaws bold. Saloons, corrals and a gunfight battle, and to market the cowboys drove the cattle.

This was the first clue my husband wrote for our daughter’s 16th surprise birthday party. A white limo pulled into our driveway, and our daughter was called out to greet it. The door opened, and she suspiciously peeked in to see seven of her closest friends smiling back and yelling surprise. The girls then ventured out on a photo scavenger hunt downtown Fort Worth.

God created our human nature with a bent toward mystery and intrigue. How many of us don’t love to solve a good mystery? Agatha Christie, a best-selling author, still captures readers around the entire world with her brilliant suspenseful story telling.

Rabbi Johnathan Cahn’s newest book, The Book of Mysteries, doesn’t disappoint our insatiable desire to uncover buried treasure. It is written from the standpoint of a sojourner who encounters a teacher in the desert. Their conversation stirs up the man’s curiosity so much that he decides to accept the teacher’s invitation to follow him through his wilderness school for one year.

Each day they venture into new territory, the teacher uses a rabbinical line of questioning to reveal a deep spiritual truth. The teacher explores the Hebrew root meaning of words that bring prophetic insight into scripture. Because of the depth of each day’s topic, I recommend reading it slowly as a daily devotional.

I was mesmerized when I read Day 2: The I Am of all I Ams. I never entertained the thought that God created us to speak of our identity and purpose in Him when we introduce ourselves to one another. Utterly mind-blowing. But just like God.

Most Christians recognize Yeshua as the Hebrew name for Jesus, but did you know it comes from the root word that means to rescue, help, defend, preserve, make free, attain victory, bring to safety, heal, and save? Wow! That’s quite a comprehensive definition.

A picture of Jesus entering Jerusalem humbly on a donkey entered my mind as I continued to read. The people welcome him with palm leaves and cheer, “Hosanna!” (Mk. 11:9). The origin of the word hosanna means to save or rescue.

Remember Zacchaeus? A wee little man was he, he climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see. Upon entering the home of Zacchaeus, Jesus proclaimed, “Today salvation has come to this house…” (Lk. 19:9).

I pondered the simple but profound statement made by the teacher, “Jesus is the answer to everything.” Then it occurred to me, the word yes appears in His name. For the promises of God in Him are yes, and in Him amen, to glory of God through us (2 Cor. 1:20). Through some research of my own, I discovered the word yes comes from the old English word that means to be.

I found this book to be fascinating and truly thought-provoking. There’s much to glean, ponder and journal. Whether you are a seeker or a believer, this book is for you. Prepare for an encounter. Come with an open mind and heart, and a pen in your hand.

 

 

Limitless

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LF Freedom Image (2)I began to lose my grip from the beads of sweat forming inside the palm of my hands.  It didn’t help that a man bumped into me causing me to stumble.  If it weren’t for the strength and quick reflexes of my other friends, who each carried a corner of the mat, I would have dropped him right in the middle of the crowd. We found a moment of relief from the heat beating down on us under a palm tree nearby. I considered giving up but then I heard the rustle of leaves from overhead. I tilted my head in the direction of the sound and had a thought. There was another route to Jesus we hadn’t thought of yet.

In the story of the paralytic, we see faith overcoming obstacles. Crowds blocked the entrance to the home where Jesus was ministering, but four determined men pressed onward and came up with a solution.  They would make their way to the roof and lower their friend down into the presence of Jesus. Why? Because they were certain if they did, their dear friend would walk again.

These men were not paralyzed by fear, pride or discouragement. They did not allow a stronghold to keep them from pursuing truth. Strongholds are false belief systems, which hinder the abundant life we were meant to live.  Often we’re not aware of their presence. Sometimes we need others to help us enter God’s presence and receive what we need from Him.

I remember a time in my life when I was desperate to be free from negative thoughts that plagued me. I was always worried about what others thought about me. It was stealing my joy and peace. At the time, I attended a women’s prayer group where I would hear stories of women being set free through personal encounters with Jesus. These women helped me leave my comfort zone and brought me into His presence. They held the corners of my mat, and I received heart revelation about my true identity and purpose. I took what I learned through being a part of that group and applied it at home on a regular basis. Today, I am freer because I have learned to recognize my need and receive from God.

You were created to walk, run, dance and even fly! Anything less is a limitation within your creative divine design. Today, ask yourself what is limiting you? Most of the restrictions we place on ourselves are based on lies we believe. Receiving and resting in God’s love through contemplative prayer brings us into His presence and makes us whole: limitless. Who is holding the corners of your mat?

*The story of  the paralytic is found in Mark 2:1-5

 

 

Four Simple Ways to Add More Joy to your Life

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maxresdefault[1]The current events of the world have left many people feeling our nation is without hope. Disappointment turns our joy into sadness. Fear breeds anger and disgust. How do we remain joyful in the midst of the darkness that surrounds us? Joy is about choosing to respond to life with faith. Hebrews 11 tells us that faith is a conviction of things not seen. Here are four ways to experience hope and peace, which bring joy.

  1. Turn despair into hope. When despair leaves you with a heavy heart, take joy in simple pleasures. Cultivate an everyday awareness of God, and reflect on His goodness. What makes you feel close to Him? Here are some activities that work for me.
  •  Take a long, brisk walk in a nearby park.
  • Stroll a local museum featuring some of your favorite art.
  • Pack a picnic lunch with some of your favorite foods
  • Grab a good devotional book, journal and pen, and head to a tranquil place.
  • Listen to music that speaks to your heart.

Life is full of distractions; destress and declutter your soul. Be intentional. If you work, consider your lunch break as a time to draw near to God. Scripture promises us if we draw near to Him, He draws near to us, and we’ll find fullness of joy in His presence (James 4:8; Psalm 16:11).

2. Turn disappointment into His appointment.

Ask God what He’s saying or teaching you through life’s trials. When my husband was laid off from a well-paying job and when my daughter’s surgery expenses loomed heavily over us, God was busy teaching me not to let my circumstances dictate my future. He’s much bigger than any giants I face. God is able to do more than I expect or imagine when I put my trust in Him (Eph. 3:20; 2 Cor. 4:18).

3. Turn discouragement into encouragement.

Live by truth, not feelings. Guard your mind, heart and words against negativity. We give power to what we agree with. Spend time in God’s Word: read, meditate and journal. Be creative. I have found that coloring while meditating on scripture brings me peace and renews my mind (Prov. 4:23; Lk. 6:45; Rom. 12:2).

4. Turn depression into compassion.

God gave us feelings. How we use our feelings is up to us. We can choose to use them for good or bad. Embracing an attitude of gratitude is critical. Thankfulness flows from recognizing everything we have is a gift from Him. When we are thankful, it’s nearly impossible to entertain negative emotions. Giving thanks births love, compassion and joy. We love because God first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). Let love guide you, and fill you with His compassion.

Turn darkness into light by piercing it with joy. How we live our lives affects those around us. We reap what we sow. What will you choose to sow today? Will it be acts of love and kindness inspired by God? Or acts rooted in fear and evil? You choose. You can live joyful or fearful.

Not a Wind-up Toy but a Sailboat: How to Let Go and Let God

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Are You Tired of Empty Cliches?

What do we really mean when we spout off things like, “God is in control, God makes all things work together for good, or Let go and let God.”

God certainly is sovereign. He is the supreme king but to say or believe he controls all negates the fact that God gave us free will. And if God has complete control over every event, then he would have no need to alter bad situations to benefit those who follow Him. (Rom. 8:28).

So what does it mean to let go and let God?

Life isn’t easy. Many circumstances work against us to steal our peace and joy. These situations can wind us up in stress and anxiety.

Maybe you feel emotionally wound up by life circumstances. Maybe work has you overwhelmed. Maybe you are burdened by health issues. Maybe the loss of a loved one has you down.

God wants you to let go of them by bringing them to Him in prayer. This involves your whole being: body, soul and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23, Ps. 46:10).

  1. Agree with God. Confess the emotion you are struggling with. Ask God to show you the truth about the situation.
  2. Acknowledge and receive forgiveness. Jesus died not so you could behave better, but so you could receive His righteousness. See yourself from the finished work of the cross: fully restored. This is an act of gratitude.
  3. Forgive others as God has forgiven you. This is a choice not a feeling. Ask God to reveal your heart before Him. Then trust Him to show you any lies you have believed, and what, if any action you should take to reconcile.
  4. Relinquish the situation to the Lord. This is involves acknowledging His sovereignty, and trusting in His extravagant love for you. It doesn’t mean He’s giving you a free ticket to paradise

 You were not created to be a wind-up toy but a sail boat.

He is inviting you to sail with Him. Spread your sails and let God be the wind beneath you. Surrender to His grace and mercy.

Let God come to you, work in you, and flow through you. He is inviting you to partner with Him in His authority and power. It’s why He sent us His Holy Spirit.

Where is He asking you to join Him at work so He is glorified?

 

 

 

Let Go and Flow in the Vine

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Let Go and Flow in the Vine.JPGWhat does living in the Kingdom mean to us as Christ Followers? Kingdom living is simply living out of God’s presence. We don’t have to wait until we die and get to heaven.  It’s available to us here and now. In John 15, Jesus uses the analogy of a vineyard to explain this to his disciples as they travel to the Garden of Gethsemane. Hours before his crucifixion, He says, “I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who live in me while I live in them will produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t produce anything without me”(v.5).

The key to fruitfulness is staying connected to Jesus, who provides life to us and through us, when we learn to rest in Him. In a nutshell, Jesus was saying don’t try to do good works in your own ability; those are weak and non-effective. Instead, draw upon me: my power to produce abundant life. Don’t strive. Relax. I will do it through you as you listen and obey.

I wish I could say I live in the Kingdom daily.  But, more often than not, I find myself depending upon my own strength. During my time dancing on a worship team, my mind was focused on me and the audience. My moves often felt stiff and contrived. I’m sure they looked that way too. But, dancing alone before God, I feel alive and free. I don’t even think about my next move; it just flows from within.

Perhaps, learning unforced rhythms of grace is about moving to the Father’s heart beat: allowing our works to flow from intimate fellowship with Jesus.

The world teaches us to work and then rest to see success. But Jesus says rest in me because it’s through me that your work naturally thrives. I am the source of all life and goodness. Dance with me. I want to be your partner. Together we can change the world. One person at a time. Will you join me?

A New Day is Coming

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A New Day is ComingA day is coming when every knee will bend, and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord and King. Life is not as it should be. Death, sickness and violence surround us. All creation groans, awaiting the day when it too, will be delivered from its bondage of death and decay.

How do we find hope in the midst of turbulent times? Choose to see a better world. Believe and confess, “Jesus is coming again!” The wolf and the lion will live peacefully with the lamb. Joy and peace on earth will be fully restored. In John 14:27, before Jesus ascends to heaven, He tells us His peace isn’t the same as the world’s. Peace isn’t the absence of conflict but the presence of God.

Our peace and joy were stolen when Adam and Eve believed a lie, and acted on it. At that moment, our connection with our heavenly Father, as the source of all truth, was severed. Satan was given what once belonged to man: dominion over earth.

God intended our physical world to reflect His spiritual world. When He created the human race, He breathed His spirit into man, and earth became a visible replica of the invisible Kingdom.

What was God’s solution to man’s problem? Jesus. He sent His precious son to destroy the works of the devil and restore all of creation. He is coming again in glory and power. With Him, he’ll bring His everlasting Kingdom. We will see a new earth and heaven.

This Christmas prepare your heart for His second coming, and celebrate the Prince of Peace who will come as the King of Kings.

Phil. 2:10-11, Rom. 8:22, Is. 65:25, Is. 11:6-9, Gen. 3, 1 Jn. 3:8, Rev 19:6, Rev 21:1-2

 

Photo design by Julie Clark

www.facebook.com/drawingneartogodcoloringbook

 

Color. Create. Pray!

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Color Create Pray

Necessity is the mother of invention. In the movie, Castaway, Tom Hanks used a bloodied volleyball to ease his loneliness on an uninhabited island. Wilson’s face literally was the handprint of his creator. The creative action taken by Hank’s character coupled with his imagination birthed companionship.

Prayer is my lifeline. It’s the time I set aside to meet with God. I’m learning to color when I pray; it keeps me focused, and unlocks an innate creative bent I believe everyone has. In the Pinterest world, this is called Bible journaling. Whatever we choose to call it, it’s liberating. I find a quiet place to be with our Creator, God. Then I pray and ask Him for a picture or a verse. I draw what I hear and see in the stillness of body, soul, and spirit.

This is intimidating to say the least because I have no art background nor do I consider myself a gifted artist. But the Spirit of God is drawing me, like a magnet, to this amazing form of prayer.

Years ago, a friend recommended the book Praying in Color by Sybil Macbeth to me. Intrigued, I began experimenting with water color pencils. I prayed for my pastor, my kids, and sick friends. I drew whatever I saw in my mind’s eye when I prayed. I also wrote any scriptures or words that came to mind. The results were less than beautiful and often resembled kindergarten pictures but were always joyfully received.

Recently, I attended a scrapbooking retreat with the same friend. She is now doing something similar on her Bible pages. Once again inspired, I took out my pencils and brush to see what God would create through prayer.

The outcome is seen in this simple water coloring. Colored Prayer 9-23-15The experience was phenomenal. God progressively spoke to me about His people and Kingdom. Like the pencil markings of various colors, sizes, and shapes, we’re each a unique and valuable part of His Kingdom. I dabbed the damp brush on the paper to blend the color, and a beautiful, solid, bright ray of color appeared; it became one unified part of a whole picture.

In the same way, when the Holy Spirit descends upon believers in Christ, we shine brightly and emit rays of love, grace, and unity. He empowers us to bring life to others and complete His Kingdom.

I felt God say, “I am Alpha (beginning), Omega (end) and everything in between” (Rev. 1:8). The Kingdom is found in Jesus; it’s past, present and future. Jesus did not say I know the way, the truth and the life. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

This kind of contemplative prayer is time-consuming, and my thoughts drifted to my schedule. But, when my focus returned to Jesus, He whispered, “Make time for me, and I will make time for you to do what needs to be done. I am time.”

Sometimes creativity springs forth when you step out of your comfort zone, and prayer becomes the handprint of God. His creative spirit breathed life into you so you can commune with Him. He has a deep, insatiable desire to meet with you. Color. Create. Pray. I’d love to hear about your experience.

Be inspired and learn more:

Names Matter

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Names MatterIt took less than a second, but it changed the way I thought about myself for years. She chanted, “Tuna Breath” as I sat quietly by myself eating the tuna sandwich my mother made for me. I was an impressionable preteen, and the new kid at school. The same girl thought it amusing to call me “Ms. Dainty”. Being petite and girlie, I was picked last for any sports teams during recess. Any healthy self-image I had was beginning to spiral down the drain.

Whoever coined the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” was lying. Names hurt. Words convey images to our mind. For instance; when I say chair, you form a picture in your head. Words spoken over us have the ability to bring life or death (Prov. 18:21). Names spoken over me sent a message that said, “I’m not good enough, I’m unworthy, I’m a mistake, something is wrong with me, I can’t do anything right, and I don’t fit in.”

I recently heard Beth Helton speak at a seminar about discovering our identity in Christ. Enthusiastically, she told us she asked the Lord to give her something really cool to share with us. To her surprise she heard, “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the Kings horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.” She chuckled at the childishness of it but knew there was a deep truth to it.

Names can shatter us into little pieces. Only the King, Jesus, can put us back together again. He takes all our broken pieces and make us whole again. He did it for me, and he will do it for you; you need only come. Enter his presence in stillness and listen. Is Jesus giving you a new name?

The words Jesus speaks over you heal like a liquid band aid. His words are life and they erase the lies. I felt as though I was living inside a Thomas Kinkaid painting when Jesus showed up and turned my world upside-down. He said something I will never forget, “My darling you are beautiful. I see no flaw in you. I want you to stop beating yourself up. You must learn to love yourself as I love you.” In a separate encounter but just as beautiful, I heard God whisper, “I named and made everything in this world: including you and proclaimed it all good.”

Names matter because people matter.