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 situation. If 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.
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:
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.
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 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!
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Facebook: Karisa Lynn Moore
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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/
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.
By BARBARA LOWNSBURY
When my kids were little and they weren’t making the best choices, they wouldn’t look me in the eye right away. I would take hold of that pudgy little hand, give a gentle squeeze, and ask my child to look at me. Those little eyes would dart to any direction but the right one. Sometimes I would even gently take their chin in my hand and quietly but firmly say their name, but still those eyes would struggle to land on my face.
I’ve realized I can do the same thing with God. I’m holding His hand and we’re walking along together, Father and Daughter. But there are times I sense Him asking me to stop and look up at Him, to “look him in the eye” and engage with Him. And for whatever reason, I don’t. I’m too busy or too distracted. Or, I don’t really want to deal with the mess I find myself in and just like a child, I don’t look. I know if I do, I have to face up to the consequences or the lessons He is trying to teach me. I circle all around God, praying for others, doing all sorts of godly activities. But I resist stopping and really engaging with Him.
I can be a lot like Martha, busy with the preparations for her guests that were coming to hear Jesus teach. Jesus was right there in her midst, but she was distracted. Those distractions were actually good things, but her focus wasn’t on looking at her Father and learning. Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet, listening and learning, even if it meant some of the other tasks didn’t get done, and Jesus commended her for it in Luke 10:38-42.
In those moments of distraction or guilt, I have to remember the heart of the one calling me to look. Jesus’ face is one full of compassionate love. His is a face that looks upon me with acceptance, patience and kindness. His heart is always out for my good. Even when I’m worrying about my choices, He’s already found solutions and ways for me to grow through them. So, in those moments of wanting to let my heart, mind and soul dart in million different directions, I force myself to take a deep breath. Stop. And make the choice to look at the author and perfecter of my faith: Jesus. (Hebrews 12:2)
For me, I’ve learned that when I do slow down and engage, especially when I feel resistant, I always feel SO much better afterwards. The enemy knows if I look I’ll be relieved and refreshed, so he does all he can to keep me looking elsewhere! Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:18-19 really help me with this:
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
It’s hard for me to grow in wisdom and revelation, or receive enlightenment and hope when I’m not looking to Christ to grow me! Next time, when you and I get caught up in busyness or guilt and notice we’re circling all around Jesus without really looking at Him, let’s make a simple decision: look.
PRAYER Papa, thank You for Your patience with me when my eyes dart around looking at everything but You. Remind me to slow down, to remember what’s important, and to put You first. Help me to remember You always greet me from a position of kindness and love, even if I need correcting. Your love and grace are so lavish, so rich and so deep—help me to comprehend that more and more, and to keep reaching for You. I love You, Papa. Amen.
By SARAH DAVIS
The one thing I’ve learned about forgiveness is this: the notion that all are deserving will challenge the convictions that you claim to hold. If I believe that God’s pardoning grace is for all, does that truly mean “all,” or just the ones I’ve determined to be worthy enough of fitting into that category? We as human beings are so limited in our perspective and understanding of life, human behavior, and such a vast and complex God. If we are not careful, we can fall into the trap of presumptuous black and white thinking. Not just because of factors like our upbringing or environmental influences, but in the aspect that our minds are simply incapable of fully grasping the knowledge of God. “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV).
I am not suggesting that God exists somewhere in the gray, but rather that He rules over it. He isn’t gray in His thinking, like maybe He isn’t sure or has to phone a friend or get back to us at a later time. His mind is made up: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8 (NIV). Before I even realized that I was the offender. Before I became aware of my brokenness and the hurt I was inflicting on myself and others through my own choices. Not by any conscious effort that I put forth on my part. No pre-existing conditions or criteria to meet, or hoops to jump through. When I am having a hard time forgiving someone, I remind myself that I, too, received grace and mercy that I did not deserve. And I’m still receiving it, and until I’m made perfect in Him, I will need it.
I decided once to deliver flowers to the doorstep of someone I needed to ask for forgiveness. It was no heroic measure on my part and was long overdue. As I sat in the silence of that car ride, I looked out the window and clung tightly to the vase in my lap, feeling the weight of the brokenness that we all have, the offender and the offended one. I felt the burden of all that God sees and knows, and how much He loves us in spite of it all.
When Jesus was executed in John 19:30 and said, “It is finished,” it was like God’s declaration of a peace treaty offered to humanity that we couldn’t live without. Even though He was not the offender, there was no other option for him. There was no plan B. No contemplating or counting all the reasons He shouldn’t because we chose what would separate us from Him who is the embodiment of benevolence and kindness and all things good. He didn’t want a world in the here and now or a future one to come if it meant you and I would be estranged from him in it. His is a love that runs towards us. It shows up on your doorstep with a bouquet of flowers and an offer of forgiveness and a promise to fight for you over and over again–even when you are the one who should be delivering the flowers to Him.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT Maybe there is someone you are holding bitterness and resentment towards today. Perhaps forgiveness is balled up tightly in your fist, and you don’t know how to let go of it, or if you even should. Maybe the person you need to forgive the most is the one looking back in the mirror. I know how that feels. I’ve been there. May the God of compassion and limitless understanding meet you in that space today. May He bring healing to your wounded heart and the courage to release yourself and the person you can’t forgive.
PRAYER Father, thank you for loving me enough to send your Son to make right all the wrongs that separated us. Thank you for the grace that I can’t earn and didn’t deserve, but you give so freely anyway. Always you are good! May I remember how much You’ve forgiven me so I can have the grace to give and receive grace, too. Amen.