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.