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Fragrance of Thanks Giving

Fragrance of Thanks Giving

by Karisa Moore

“MMM. You smell like coffee,” my son said after I returned from a local coffee shop. I pick up the scent because I spend a lot of time there. Similarly, my daughter picks up the scent of horses and anything else that moves because she loves animals.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I am supposed to have His spiritual fragrance, and thanksgiving is a part of the formula. My circumstances are complicated and constant, but God is faithful to give abundant life in all I experience. 2 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (NIV). I see God’s hand so clearly on each of my circumstances, and thankfulness helps me to record those victories, remember them rightly. and share Christ with others.

Thankfulness is remembering the truth about who I am and whose I am. I study and express thankfulness through poetry and as I thought of thanksgiving, this is what emerged.

Fragrance of Thanksgiving

Breathe in the fragrance of thanksgiving.
An intentional scent plugged into living. Remind
Stale troubles they do not remain. Fill home
with the scent of hope.

I am getting to know God’s character as I study scripture, and I trust what he is doing and believe he reveals truth through us. At the end of a battle, the victor is doused with sweet fragrances. My fragrance should be Christ because he is the source of my victories. I have had many. To claim victory I have to remember His faithfulness:

  • He chose me when I was broken and in sin
  • Delivered me from despair
  • Equipped me with scripture to fight the devil’s schemes
  • Made me a prayer warrior
  • Caused me to delight in others
  • Gave me friendships to strengthen and support me
  • Gave me a desire to share his love
  • Crushed the enemy’s attempts to destroy me through abuse and fear!!!
  • Defeated the grave long before I had to place my son in it
  • God loves me forever and my salvation is secure

God has anointed me with the truth that life has value, no matter how hard that life is. May that be the sweet fragrance you smell on me, and may it be the fragrance that envelopes you.  Life has value and God loves you.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  Breathe deeply. What current fragrances do you smell?  Your spirit gives off a fragrance as well, to family, coworkers, and strangers. Are your words lifting others up? Do you have a thankful heart? Create a list of things you are thankful for. What does the fragrance of Christ smells like? If not, here is a scripture you can start with: Ephesians 5

PRAYER Today I allow you, Father, to wash away my sorrow. Lord, infuse me with the scent of understanding your ways. Discipline my brokenness. May my life become a beautiful fragrance of glory in the midst of a world filled with the dank scent of despair. Amen

KARISA MOORE is a writer, speaker, and hope warrior for those battling depression. As a survivor of suicide, Karisa saw the need for a raw, passionate, and Christ-centered voice in the depression conversation. She began blogging Turning the Page on Suicide in 2014, after the suicide of her teenage son. Her followers include church leaders, those actively struggling with depression, and fellow grievers. Utilizing her skills as a devotional writer, gift for conversing with readers through poetry, and scriptural insights into the darkness of despair, she listens, encourages, and challenges her readers to find hope amidst depression.

Every story is worth writing!

Follow her at:
http://www.turningthepageonsuicide.org
Twitter: @moore_karisa
Facebook: Karisa Lynn Moore

Bittersweet Joy

Bittersweet Joy

By JENNY SEYLAR

With my phone at the ready, I am excitedly awaiting the birth of my second grandchild. Preparation for the big event is much more subdued for the grandparents than for the parents. Yet, I still have a few things to do so that the little one will have a safe place to be when not being passed from adoring family member to another (which at first will likely not even happen). So I find myself dusting off the cherry wood cradle. This was lovingly made by my husband more than twenty five years ago for the arrival of this grandchild’s daddy. While cleaning the smooth wood there is a catch in my throat, and I realize that the joy of baby’s arrival is also bittersweet. I am preparing for the fifth child to sleep in this cradle (our three children and now the second grandchild) since its creation so long ago when my husband and I were just starting our life together.

When baby’s big sister arrived 2 years ago, my husband and I drank in the joy of the blessed event. We could hardly grasp the pure joy of being grandparents. Scattered around the house are pictures in frames of grandpa holding his first grandchild. It marked for us the jubilant passage into the next phase of life, and we were celebrating well! It was a mere six weeks later that my husband died, and I was left to parent and grandparent alone. This grandparenting gig is awesome; it’s just that I miss doing it with my life partner, now more than ever. The joy that permeates so much of life is often bittersweet when shrouded in grief.

The resurgence of my grief hits hard in these times of momentous life events. The sorrow comes upon me as if I am a wave on the sea, violently crashing into the rocky shoreline. Then I am dragged back out to sea, only to have it repeat again and again. Being slammed with grief these two years later takes its toll on me. I must learn once more to cope under this new siege, and I cry out to Christ for comfort and peace. In these moments, Christ speaks to my heart, reminding me that calmer seas are coming soon.

The trouble is, I sometimes forget to cry out to the Lord, seeking instead to try to go it alone. I realize I am not so different from the disciples who think all hope is lost when the boat they are in is being tossed about in a storm. The disciples believed that because Jesus was asleep, that He didn’t care what happened to them.

‘They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, rescue us! We’re going to drown!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you people of weak faith?” Then he got up and gave orders to the winds and the lake, and there was a great calm.’ (Matthew 8: 24-26, CEB)
Just like the disciples, I too eventually call out to Jesus saying, “Rescue me!” When I am drowning in my sorrow and trying to work through it on my own volition, Jesus responds saying, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

Yet, Christ does not leave it there. Instead, Jesus rebukes the waves of my grief, and I am much better able to withstand the hardship and get through it. Sheltered in His love and care, the grief subsides a bit.

The resurgences that are my grief seem to be getting farther and farther apart, and the duration is less. Yet I did not get to this point on my own. I have been doing the hard work that is grief. Sitting with the Lord in my daily quiet time includes a bit of grief work. I have surrounded myself with people who lift my spirits. And, I have been gentle with myself, allowing housework to slide a bit, and finding time for those things that bring me joy.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
Dear one, what waves of sorrow and hardship are pounding on you? Do you repeatedly try to handle it on your own? It’s not too late to call on the One who calms the waves and brings comfort to your struggling heart. Merely call out His name and allow the gentle water of Christ’s calm touch to bring you peace. He will not take away the hard things you are dealing with, but Christ will walk with you. I have found that to be true time and time again, especially when my grief disrupts the tranquility of my life.

LET US PRAY
Holy Lord, thank You for coming alongside me when I call out to You for help. Some days it seems like all I do is cry to You. I am so glad that You never leave me stranded, even as I am tossing and turning on a turbulent sea. Guide me to calmer waters where I can catch my breath and step once again into the challenges I am facing. In these times of bittersweet joy, allow my heart and mind to cling to the joy so I don’t miss out on gifts of this life. Amen.

ABOUT JENNY SEYLAR

Jenny Seylar is a woman with a deep faith in Jesus Christ who serves in ministry in Iowa. As a pastor and chaplain, she is passionate about walking with all ages as they journey in their faith. She believes in creating authentic relationships in order to walk alongside folks wherever they are in their faith journey.

In 2017, Jenny’s husband of 28 years unexpectedly died while on a training bicycle ride. In the aftermath, Jenny and her 3 grown kids, daughter-in-law, and granddaughters, have sought ways to find joy in the everyday miracles that make up this life. You can read more about Jenny Seylar at her blog “Journey From Despair to Hope” at https://journeyandstrength.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/through-the-lens-of-grief/

Battling Spiritual Fatigue

Battling Spiritual Fatigue

As a young woman I struggled with severe health issues.  Sometimes simply walking across the living room would tire me out.  I felt like an old, worn out battery with barely enough juice to make a light bulb flicker.  I simply had no energy left to expend.

Spiritually, there are times where I can feel the same way.  I’m going through the motions of prayer, serving and worship, but it feels empty, lackluster.  It’s as if all of the power of God has been drained away and I’m left alone with simply myself.  And myself feels small, insignificant, and unable to do much of anything, let alone something positive or good.  God’s voice seems very, very distant.  I begin to doubt Him.

There’s a story in Mark 9:14-29 where a worried father brings his son to the disciples to be healed, but they were unable to do so.  Then Jesus arrives.  After sharing more details about his son, the man says to Jesus, “if you can do anything, take pity on us.”

If.  See, he’d been let down.  By his circumstances, by his son’s health, and by religion.  The disciples couldn’t help, after all.  So here he is, talking to the great I Am, the Master of the universe and using the word “if.”  Sadly, I can relate.  If you can help me, God, I think.  If you can make a difference in this situationIf my life matters to You.  I forget who it is I am standing before.

Yet here is what I love.  Jesus doesn’t chastise or rebuke the father.  He doesn’t roll his eyes with annoyance and walk away.  Instead, He gently and lovingly responds by reminding the dad of what is true: “’If you can?’” said Jesus.  “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Everything is possible.  Everything.

The man, for his part, immediately responds to the power of God with repentance and humility. “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” he cries out.  You see he wants healing for his son.  He doesn’t care how silly or ridiculous he looks.  He’s not concerned with doing things the “right” way, or if he’s doing good.  He’s desperate and he knows something needs to be different in his approach and his response.  And he knows he needs help because he has nothing left to try but faith.

Even with the disciples who had failed very publicly to heal the boy, Jesus was gentle.  “Why couldn’t we drive out the demon?” they asked.  Again, Jesus simply responded with truth.

“This kind can only come out by prayer and fasting.”

There are several reasons why I can sometimes struggle to really hear God’s voice speaking into my life, but at the end of the day I can boil it down to just one word:  unbelief.  I’ve let the fear in my heart and my situation create doubt concerning the Lord’s promises or character.  I’m too focused on myself or others, too important to slow down and listen for God.  I doubt that God really loves me, really has a plan for me, or can really handle my anger and sense of injustice.  The lies that the enemy tells me about myself ring louder in my ears than God’s truth about who and whose I am.  Or I think my sin is immune to His healing touch.  If.  And I’m spiritually drained because of it.

In my moments of struggle and weakness, when the if becomes louder than the everything is possible, I have to make a point of crying out to Jesus for help.  I may need to stay on my knees a little longer, or forgo something to remind myself of who God is and what is true.  I need to take my eyes off of the enemy and fix them firmly on Jesus.  He alone is the author and perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:2).

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT How do you get re-energized when you feel spiritually drained?  Or handle the lies of the enemy?  Do you run closer to or away from God?  This week, fight to make space to run to Him, trusting He is bigger than any “if” you can throw His way.  The answer WILL come as you lean into Him.

PRAYER Lord, this life is hard sometimes, even as it is also full of blessing.  When my faith is weak, when the answers seem far away and I can no longer hear Your voice, help me overcome my unbelief, my fear and my doubt.  When I’m in seasons of joy and blessing, remind me to cherish them in my heart in order to lean on them should I face another storm.  Thank You for the breakthroughs I know you have in store for me.  I trust Your timing, Papa.  Always You are good.  Amen. 

BARB LOWNSBURY is an author, entrepreneur, and single mother of three.  She serves as the Executive Director for The Dented Fender ministry.  Follow Barb and The Dented Fender community on Facebook and Instagram.

Have You Said Yes Today?

By MARY GEISEN

Have you said “yes” today?

Yes to starting your day with God. Yes to coffee with a friend. Or yes to that one thing you really don’t want to do.

Consider Romans 2:14-15: “When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation.  There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to God’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman.”  Can you imagine the power of your “yes” when it aligns with God’s “yes” for your life?

Saying “yes” seems so easy and yet I realize I reach for the “no” too often. My time seems more precious or the task too hard. Maybe saying “yes” means making a sacrifice that I am not willing to make.

My pastor made a statement recently that stopped me in my tracks. He said, “The power of the kingdom grows every time you say ‘yes.'” I want to be a kingdom-grower. If I declare I am God’s child, my desires, thoughts, and actions should align with His. It’s that simple and hard all at the same time.

I am faced with hundreds of choices every day. From deciding what to eat to making a choice about my future, I have the chance to say “yes” or “no.” I wonder how many times I miss an opportunity laid out just for me because of my stubbornness or pride?

Maybe you are like me in that your “no” sounds louder than the “yes” God is whispering to you. Maybe you are caught up in the busyness of life and have forgotten how the gift of saying “yes” will make a difference in someone’s life. Or maybe you start out the day with good intentions but end up just trying to make it through.

The good news is that God loves you anyway. He knows your heart and the secrets hidden there. God loves when you lean in close and treasures each and every “yes” that leaves your mouth. God craves your agreement with Him and releases it for others to feel.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  God placed a call on my life years ago that continues to grow even today. There are times the choice is easy and other times I find myself shaking at the unknown. The best part of walking in obedience is how God walks with me (1 Samuel 15:22 NLT).  What would it look like to start your day with a “yes” that honors God? Could you become a kingdom-grower just in the simple act of allowing God to work in and through you?  Consider making time this week to make a personal connection, whether it is smiling and saying “hi” to the cashier at your local store, or taking time for a coffee date with a friend. That one act will produce a little more brightness in your corner of the world.

PRAYER  Father God, Thank you for the choices you allow me. May I grow in my ability to say “yes” knowing you are with me through it all. When I find myself caught up in life and all I want is to make it to the end of the day, show me the way to you. Provide the strength I need to make it through every minute of the day. Show me that you never leave my side, but instead, stand as my beacon, protector, and guide to what my next steps will be. Thank you for the gift of obedience that leads me into a deeper relationship with you. You are all I need. Your graciousness is more than I deserve. In Jesus name. Amen.

 

You can connect with Mary Geisen in the following places:

Website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Moving with Ease

By KRISTAN DOOLEY

As I’m typing this I am on a plane returning to the United States. I just spent the past ten days with some amazing people serving orphans in Jos, Nigeria. It was life-changing. My pictures will never do it justice. God’s voice was so loud. His promptings were so clear. The level of brokenness so intense. The need for God, so in your face. I’ve also never sweat so much in my life! I can’t wait to take a real shower, drink coffee with real creamer, and not go to bed under a mosquito net.

The trip was dangerous, but I was surprised at the way we moved through each day with ease. There weren’t many moments when I felt fearful of my surroundings though my surroundings were intense. 

After eight amazing days in Jos, I was sad to leave, but greatly anticipating rejoining my family back in the United States. The majority of our team crammed into the nicely air-conditioned rental van while Dave, my friend Renee, and I opted for the non-air-conditioned, less-crowded option. On people overload, I gladly gave up the air conditioning at the thought of having an entire van to myself for the five-hour drive to the airport.

Had someone told us ahead of time that not having air conditioning would be the least of our problems, maybe we would have reconsidered, but there we were, traveling way too fast, on barely paved, dusty roads, surrounded by an environment forcing us more and more outside our comfort zone unaware of what was about to happen.

The road is littered with army checkpoints. At each checkpoint, Nigerian soldiers carrying automatic weapons waited to greet us. It was extremely intimidating and something I could live the rest of my life not having to do again. Small tribal villages usually line the sides of each checkpoint. At each village the people would greet us with opportunities to purchase merchandise of all types. In one stop I could buy gum, windshield wipers, dead chickens, and a baby present for the shower I had coming up. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Thirty minutes into the drive, I noticed a commotion going on in the front of the van. My husband, Dave, and Alfonzo, our Nigerian driver, seemed to be struggling to keep the van from overheating. In order to conserve the engine, Alfonzo would turn off the van and coast downhill every opportunity he had. When that tactic stopped working, Dave turned the heat on full blast to cool things down under the hood. That too, proved to only work for a little while. Maybe losing the ability to shift gears had to do with the overheating engine, maybe it didn’t. Either way, next the gearshift went out.

I sat in the middle row of the fifteen-passenger van and prayed over and over again. I prayed for God to get us to Abuja. I prayed for God to give us a new engine. I prayed for the old engine to start working. As the engine continued to die and my husband continued to make the necessary adjustments to keep us going, I prayed for anything I could think of.

I don’t do cars (I barely pump my own gas). I know nothing about them or how to take care of them. But my husband does. He loves cars and can fix anything! I am so thankful Dave and Alfonso were speaking the same car language and seemed to be having fun figuring out what to do next. My cluelessness left me out of the loop and less panicked than I would have been inside the loop. Only being able to pick up some of the details being discussed in the front seat left me much more equipped to keep my eyes on Jesus instead of the circumstances circling around us.

All of the sudden I heard a loud pop and the van jerked to the left. We ran over a nail and popped our back tire. Alfonzo steered the van to the side of the road and jumped out to survey the damage. I watched in disbelief as our partner van in front of us grew smaller and smaller, seemingly unaware we were falling behind. My heart sank deep into my stomach. I may have struggled to understand what was going on with the gear- shift and the overheating engine, but I knew what a blown tire meant. Looking around at the miles and miles of dirt hills and mountains, I thought to myself, This is how people die in third world countries. They get a flat tire on the side of a dangerous road with thousands of dollars worth of luggage packed away in back and no one to call for help.

I’m not sure I have ever seen Dave move so quickly. Without a word, both he and Alfonzo jumped out of the van and got to work. The jack to hoist the van up looked like it wouldn’t hold up a bike, but somehow it lifted the van, luggage and all. Our popularity grew as more and more of our non-English-speaking, Nigerian village people made their way over to check out the scene and offer their assistance.

I’m laughing now as I imagine what they must have been thinking. Each car that drove by slowed down to peer into the van. With Dave and Alfonso under the back tire on the opposite side I’m sure they wondered what Renee and I were doing sitting, stranded, helpless on the side of the road. Every once in a while someone would walk by, stick their head in the van, look at the luggage, look at us and then say something in a language I didn’t understand and keep moving.

The danger before us was real. It wasn’t in our heads.  But as we pressed into the Spirit of God living inside of us, the fear seemed to subside and be replaced with peace. My husband is my hero and I’m convinced he could outwork any pit-crew team member in the country. When we needed him the most, he stepped up and hit it out of the park. They got the new tire on and we jumped back on the road, hoping to make it to the airport in time to get home.

From that point on I truly believe the three of us prayed that van into Abuja. Each time the heat threatened to take us down, I prayed. Each time the gears refused to shift, I prayed. Each time we stalled in the middle of an intersection because we were forced to downshift, I prayed. Panic was not an option. Fear was not our choice.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  Danger is external. Fear is internal. To some extent, we don’t necessarily choose the external circumstances we find ourselves in. We do, however, choose how we respond to them. At any given moment, I can allow the danger around me to take over my mind and turn to fear. When I take my trust out of the hands of my Savior and try to hold my future myself, fear and panic always seem to follow close behind. I don’t remember panicking on that road headed toward Abuja, because we didn’t. Fear didn’t grip us, peace did. His presence was tangible and His presence brought comfort.

I don’t know where you are panicked. We live in a world that easily induces it. The enemy can appear larger than life if we allow Him the opportunity. I know that fear is not from the Father and I know that in the midst of it He can and will provide you the grace to activate your faith and press deeply into His provision. Can you do that today? Can you take a deep breath and allow Him into your circumstances? You can press forward and do hard, even scary things because “Greater is He who is in you than He who is in the world,” (1 John 4:4, NIV.)

PRAYER  Father you are bigger than my biggest fears. Empower me today to recognize you in the midst of my stress and angst. You are my protector. You are my guide. You are my security. There is nothing this world can take from me because I have all I need in you. Help me today to walk talk and face fear as a child of God. Thank you for your strength. Thank you for your provision. Thank you my future is secure in you. Amen.

 

 

 

Worthy

     I am worthy, not because of my performance, my talents or skills, my emotional intelligence, my beauty, my personality, my success or any other quality I can think of.  I am worthy because I am God’s child, chosen and sacred.  I don’t have to achieve something great to step into this worthiness.  In fact, I don’t have to “do” anything.  God accepts me right now, where I am at exactly in this moment.  His acceptance isn’t tied to something I did before, or for something great I need to do in the future.  It’s given simply because I am God’s andHe loves me unconditionally, irrevocably. 
 
     To God, I am not some tiny little gold ring with a speck of a diamond shoved to the back of the jewelry case.  I am the rare and precious necklace laden with large, rare gems kept in a plush velvet case stored in the safe.  I am priceless, timeless and worth everything.  You see God didn’t just spend millions of dollars for me.  He actually gave up the life of His son to pay for me.  That’s how precious, how worthy I am to Him. 
 
     When I own that truth, when I step into the understanding of my immeasurable value, it changes me.  It changes the way I walk, the way I interact.  Purpose enters my stride; joy fills my heart and spills over to the people around me.  I am more patient, more loving because I realize other people are precious too, even if they don’t know it yet.
 
    Fear and doubt begin to melt away.  I know even the hardships contain benefit because God will use everything to help me grow in my connection with Him, and to help me step more fully into being that work of art he created me to be.  I can set up healthy boundaries for myself because I know God would never want me to be treated as less.  And as I begin to accept my worth, I become freer and freer to do great things because I am convinced God only wants great things for me, whatever He reveals those things to be.
 
     Yes – you are worthy!  Really dwell on that thought for a moment, looking for the barriers that keep you from accepting it, and offer those barriers up to God so He can help you eradicate them.  You will find greater joy on the other side.
 
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  “God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NLT).  Find 3-5 good qualities God has blessed you with and write them down.  Then, think about ways you can use those qualities to do good for the Lord.  Finally, pick one of those ideas and do in the next week or two.  I’d love to hear how it goes so feel free to post either here or on our Facebook page (see link below).
 
PRAYER  Father, I can really lose sight of how invaluable I am to You.  Help me to embrace my identity in You more fully, remembering that Your heart for me is to grow me into a person who looks more and more like You.  Help me see the strengths You have placed within me and harness them to make a difference in my sphere of influence for Your glory.  Amen.  
 
BARB LOWNSBURY is an author, entrepreneur, and single mother of three.  She serves as the Executive Director for The Dented Fender ministry.  Follow Barb and The Dented Fender community on Facebook and Instagram.
Stuck and Waiting for Rescue

Stuck and Waiting for Rescue

by KARISA MOORE

Our vehicle was stuck halfway off the road. We should have easily pulled back onto the road after the emergency vehicle passed, but the right wheels sunk deeper into the soft, rain-saturated soil. I got out and tried to push, but as the rut deepened, it was clear, we would not make our son’s recital without help. We piled the kids into the grandparent’s car and sent them on while we waited for the tow truck to come.

Panic and frustration ensue when I feel out of control. I felt the pressure of blocking traffic, expectations of my children, and the overwhelming pridefulness of not being able to get out of my mess. Sounds silly to panic over something that is an inconvenience rather than an actual life and death emergency, but my fight or flight mechanism is a bit haywire. Previously, I have been trapped and snared by other people’s wrongdoing, stuck in physical attack and gasping for air. I have had Large objects fall off trucks in front of me and even experienced my own car’s throttle stuck on open at 50 miles an hour during rush hour traffic. Consequently, I look for an attack and stay on high alert for trouble.

That kind of fear-based life is exhausting! God wants me to mature in faith and look more for His blessings than I’m looking for trouble. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Fact: We will have trouble. Fact: He has overcome that trouble. Taking heart is where I recognize that these earthly experiences are not the end of my story.

God is teaching me to take heart and sit in the muck until help arrives. Sitting on that narrow road waiting for help, my husband and I prayed and opened our eyes for the blessings of the Lord to arrive. Twenty minutes later, two police cruisers pulled up, as well as an oversized pick-up truck whose driver just happened to toss chains in his bed that day. The truck’s massive size had us out in 30 seconds.  We didn’t have to wait for the tow truck to arrive after all.

No one likes to feel their life sinking into the muck and mire of circumstances. Some of us have worn ourselves out, fighting in our strength to get out when we need rescue. Are you exhausted? Never forget God blesses us in the waiting, and He has some pretty dramatic rescue stories, including Jesus dying on the cross for all of us who are stuck.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:  King David described the scene this way: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand” (Psalm 40:1-2). According to David, your action steps in the waiting are to cry out consistently for help and wait patiently.

Look at a situation where you needed rescue. It can be an earthly or God-ordained rescue, it doesn’t matter.  This is simply an exercise of observing the components of your rescue. What decisions caused you to be stuck? What ways did you try to free yourself? Were you afraid? Did anything calm your anxiousness? How long did it take to be rescued? Were you secure in the one doing the rescue? If so, why?

David learned to wait patiently on God because he familiarized himself with God’s character and pattern of rescue. The Bible is filled, from beginning to end, with examples of how He rescues us. Get to know God’s dependability and practice trust, waiting, and taking heart in all circumstances. God will not leave you in the ditch.

PRAYER:  Lord, thank you that you faithfully rescue me time and time again.  Whenever Your rescue looks differently than I think it should, or doesn’t come in the timing I want, help me to trust in You all the more and praise You for all the blessings I have around me.  Always You are good.  Amen.

Karisa Moore

KARISA MOORE is a writer, speaker, and hope warrior for those battling depression. As a survivor of suicide, Karisa saw the need for a raw, passionate, and Christ-centered voice in the depression conversation. She began blogging Turning the Page on Suicide in 2014, after the suicide of her teenage son. Her followers include church leaders, those actively struggling with depression, and fellow grievers. Utilizing her skills as a devotional writer, gift for conversing with readers through poetry, and scriptural insights into the darkness of despair, she listens, encourages, and challenges her readers to find hope amidst depression.

Every story is worth writing!

Follow her at:
http://www.turningthepageonsuicide.org
Twitter: @moore_karisa
Facebook: Karisa Lynn Moore

The Whisperers

I wrote this post a few years back but I’m reposting here by request.  Enjoy!

I was sitting around the other day thinking about how implausible my dreams are. Do you ever have those times where you wonder why on earth you think you’re able to do something? It can be the ability to heal a broken relationship, get out of debt, find inner peace and joy, succeed financially or being able to develop deeper relationships. Whatever it is, if it’s something big and important, something that inherently carries with it the ability to not only succeed but to spectacularly fail, I find I can be paralyzed by it.

Nobody wants to fail, right? So in my moments of fear, I begin to worry it won’t happen, whatever my “it” may be. I won’t get that promotion, heal that emotional wound, move forward in victory—I’m sure I’ll fall right on my face. Then the negative whisperers move in. You ever meet them? They’re those voices in your head saying you not only won’t do it, but you never could do it and it was arrogant to believe you might be able to do it to begin with.

They’re a nasty lot, these whisperers. They love to mimic people in your mind, some long dead, and disguise themselves as someone whose approval you’ve valued. They can take on the face of your mom or dad, an enemy or friend, a significant relationship, or even God. Sometimes they’ll pose as all of the above, leaving you feeling hopeless and helpless, chastising yourself for ever having the audacity to dream big.

But as I was sitting there listening to those nasty whisperers trying to gnaw away at my soul, I began to hear another voice. This voice was calling my name, trying to get my attention. It came from a place of love and understanding, of genuine care and concern. This voice whispered, Stop! Listen to me. You are everything to me and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you.

Then the voice reminded me of truth:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the believers, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory…” (Ephesians3:16f).

Silent tears gently rained down my face as my dad showed up and reminded me He was there to strengthen me with His power. His love for me is beyond what I can comprehend, but in that moment He was filling me with that love, reminding me He’s able to accomplish so much more than my current “it” issue. My dad knows how to pull the bullies off me, wipe the dirt off my face, fill me with courage and send me forward again with faith. You see my dad is the biggest Dad on the block and no one is able to defeat Him. He is in my corner, fighting for my cause. I have nothing to fear.

Guess what? He’s your dad, too! He loves you and longs to connect with you, to chase those nasty whisperers away from you and fill your heart and mind with love, vision, compassion and peace. And if you let Him, He’ll fill you again with confidence so you can walk back out onto the playground of life, ready and strong to move forward.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT: What do the whisperers in your head tell you? Take a hard look at those negative though patterns in your life, write them down, then cross them out and write God’s truth right next to it. While you can do this in your head, it is a very powerful experience to actually do it on paper. If you don’t know the truths to replace the lies with, a great place to start is at biblegateway.com. You can find every version of the bible online there, and you can type in key words like worthy, love, grace and forgiveness and find several scriptures on each topic. I promise you the result will be worth the effort!

Still need help? Post a few of your negative whispers and I’ll post a few scriptures for you to consider. Or you can always email me at barb@thedentedfenderl.com.  Blessings!

PRAYER: Father, when I am weak, You are strong.  Thank You for helping me to tackle the bullies in my life that go after my confidence and spirit, especially the ones that live inside of my head.  Help me to fix my eyes on You, the author and perfecter of my faith, so my focus stays on what is true and right today.  I love the way You constantly work all things together for my good, even when I can’t sense it in the moment.  Thank You!  I love you, Papa.  Let me hold You close today.  Amen.  

BARB LOWNSBURY is an author, entrepreneur, and single mother of three.  She serves as the Executive Director for The Dented Fender ministry.  Follow Barb and The Dented Fender community on Facebook and Instagram.

SINK OR SWIM

By JENNY SEYLAR

Lifeguarding at indoor and outdoor swimming pools was the way I earned money in my late teens and early twenties. As each summer season at the outdoor pool began, we participated in a refresher course of rescue training. One summer, while treading water in the deep end, waiting for my turn to retrieve a rubber brick from the bottom of the 13 foot section, I nearly drowned. A fellow lifeguard thought it would be funny to grab my foot and pull me down as I was making my way to the surface of the pool.

If you know anything about swimming then you might know that a deep water dive ends with a swift push off from the bottom, followed by rapid kicking and arm pulls to the surface. On the ascent upward, I blew all the remaining air from lungs, anticipating breaking the surface. When my foot was grabbed 2 things happened: I lost my momentum to the surface and was momentarily suspend about 3 feet down, AND I had no reserve of air in my lungs to make it those remaining 3 feet. As I clawed and kicked my way to the surface I panicked and barely made it. When I did burst through to the open air, I was both relieved and angered.

There are times when my grief feels like I am suspended just below the surface. I struggle to claw my way out of darkness and back into the light and the air. Learning to swim in the turbulent waters of my life is no simple task. Yet each time my grief starts to pull me under, I discover that I have became just a bit stronger…. stronger in my faith…. stronger in my independence…. stronger in the relationships that matter most. I discover that I can do single life, after all.

Judges 18: 9-10 reads, “Don’t hesitate to go there and take it over…. God has put into [my] hands a land that lacks nothing, whatever.” Grief and faith have taught me that I need only reach out and take hold of the life God has given, just as a drowning person reaches for a life buoy. God always offers us a lifeline. Unfortunately there are many times that we fail to reach out and grab the abundant life the God has for us. Still, it is there for the taking, and we are all invited to do so.

In this season I am choosing to take hold of my life, my vocation, my faith, my home, my relationships, and to claim them for my own. I no longer live in a house for two, and so I have painted with a color that speaks to me, and have replaced some furniture that reflects MY tastes, and not OUR tastes as a couple. The same goes for my vocation and day-to-day decisions: they are mine to make without regard to my partnered life. I do not make these choices lightly. On the contrary, they are made through prayer and quiet contemplation, which I seek in the stillness of my daily morning time with God. Without that time, I would still be bobbing in the storm-tossed water, hoping for someone to throw a lifeline.

Now that I have proven to myself that I am able to go from day-to-day with God’s help and my own volition, I shall once again swim in the sea of my life, participating in all that comes my way. Instead of treading water and riding the waves, I plan to explore the coves and inlets, to traverse into unknown seas, and to swim through the rapids and calm waters of my life. I know not what I will find in these new places, but I am certain I do not go alone, for God is my lifeline.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:  Dear one, what are the difficult things in your life that leave you feeling like you are sinking in despair? Who is it in your life that you can count on to throw you a lifeline? Do you trust that God offers you an abundant life, and all you must do is reach out and grab ahold? I pray you will learn to swim with God in the calm and turbulent waters of your life.

PRAYER:  God of All Creation, even when I am sinking in despair, You reach out to me and offer Your hand. I will strive every day to hold on to You as I journey in the waves and calm waters of my life, remembering that I am never alone.  Thank You that Your abundance is always right there waiting for me.  Amen.

ABOUT JENNY SEYLAR  Jenny Seylar is a woman with a deep faith in Jesus Christ who serves in ministry at a United Methodist Church in Iowa. As a pastor and youth director, she is passionate about walking with all ages as they journey in their faith. She believes in creating authentic relationships in order to walk alongside folks wherever they are in their faith journey.

In 2017, Jenny’s husband of 28 years unexpectedly died while on a training bicycle ride. In the aftermath, Jenny and her 3 grown kids, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, have sought ways to find joy in the everyday miracles that make up this life. You can read more about Jenny Seylar and her ministry at www.lovelylane.org or her blog “Journey From Despair to Hope” at https://journeyandstrength.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/through-the-lens-of-grief/

Finding Your Answers

By BARBARA LOWNSBURY

What do you do when you’re facing a major decision, or you’re at a crossroads in your life?  When that curve ball you weren’t expecting hits you squarely in the face, demanding immediate attention?  Those types of moments are some of the most challenging spaces we face, and answers can feel difficult to come by.

Blessedly, God has some really great solutions.  As I’m facing my own unique blessings and challenges, I like to go back to where wisdom is taught and found: Proverbs.  There is a great passage written down by Solomon in Proverbs 2:1-14 that really jumps out.  It starts with an “if, then” statement, as in if you do these things, then that will be your outcome.  Those are really good statements to pay attention to, especially in searching for answers!

The very first step?  Listen.  Man, that can be hard for me!  I get so caught up in the demands on my time and the needs of those around me, I can have a hard time stopping.  Or, I get overwhelmed in my own emotion and I simply can’t get past myself long enough to hear.  But if I don’t make the time to stop and engage, I can’t find His answer for me.  Even if it’s briefly, I have to make a decision to value God’s wisdom over my own need to solve or move, and force myself to slow down and check in.

Still, Proverbs makes it clear I also have to act.  Solomon uses words like “apply,” “search,” “look” and “sift.”  All of these are active verbs, action steps that have to accompany my fervent prayer.  Maybe it’s reaching out to my pool of Wise Advisors for some counsel and insight.  It could be studying my Bible on a topic.  Or researching potential solutions, or seeking out strong programs that address my situation within my community.  Regardless, this is where my intentionality comes into play.  It’s prayer AND action working hand-in-hand that allow God to show up and begin to impart wise solutions and answers.  I can’t rely exclusively on one or the other.

As I learn to continually cry out to God and lay my needs and requests before Him, looking to His word and the resources He’s given me for answers, my answers begin to come into view.  It’s like I’m looking through a lens and the view is out of focus, but as I dial into God and begin to search, the focus sharpens and the right answers for me become clearer and clearer until the solution is crisp and sharp before me.  It may not be the entire solution all at once.  That takes my faith and God-reliance out of the picture.  But it is certainly the very next step.

And the blessing?  The “then” outcome?  The Lord promises to grant me the kind of wisdom that will lead me to every good path.  Here Solomon uses words like “victory, “shield,” “guard” and “protect.”  My outcome will be “pleasant,” “pleasing.”  He literally says it will save me from walking in the dark or getting lost down crooked, ruinous paths.  Wow!  Such a powerful blessing and promise!

So today, make a decision to do just that.  To stop.  To listen.  To cry out.  To actively seek, sifting each potential solution through the lens of faith and God’s word.  “Then you will understand what is right and just and fair–every good path” (Proverbs 2:9).  Never forget God has this and He has you!

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:  What is harder for you?  Is it to stop and listen, or to get up off your knees and act? Usually, one or the other will come easier for you, and sometimes it will change depending on the life season you find yourself in.  Today, use this reminder that wisdom comes when we both pray AND act, making the decision to filter every potential solution through that lens of faith.  Then, intentionally make space to go after doing both this when you need solutions.  I’d love to hear how it goes!

PRAYER:  Papa, how good you are to me always, even when I don’t sense or feel it.  When my answers seem elusive and far away, help me to remember that Your wisdom is right there waiting for me to trustingly reach toward it.  Help me to slow down enough to seek Your voice, a sheep who is in tune with the voice of its master.  And thank you in advance for protecting me through every circumstance, leading me along a path that is pleasant and good.  Always you are so good to me!  I am grateful for Your divine care.  Let me carry Your presence with me today and always, Papa.  Amen.

BARB LOWNSBURY is an author, speaker and proud mother of three.  She serves as the Executive Director for The Dented Fender ministry.  Follow Barb and The Dented Fender community on Facebook and Instagram.