Shot from the Shadows

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The wicked are stringing their bows and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings.

They shoot from the shadows at those whose hearts are right. Psalm 11:2

When I read this my mind went right back to one of the most painful chapters of my life. The poisonous arrows came out of nowhere. Straight through my heart.

Someone pulled me aside and told me that I needed to apologize to someone for what I had done and they shared the story they had been told. That I had wronged someone. Badly. I’ll call her “Her”.

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Searching for a Church?

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Here’s what my family and I have been going through recently.

We moved two years ago. Two months after settling in, we decided to begin looking for a church to call home. We didn’t have any plan other than two churches that had been recommended and three which we Googled.

It was almost like the story of the three bears.

1st Church — Too big. Felt overwhelmed.

2nd Church — Too small. Too far away. Not many children. (we have three kids and at that time they were ages 3, 8 and 11)

3rd Church — Just right… Well, just right for my husband. As we walked out, he began saying, “I don’t know about you but this is where I am going from now on.”

And for what may have been the first time in our marriage…I didn’t object. Although, I felt the decision was rushed to call this church our home.

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Simplify: Decluttering Our Faith

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Growing up, my family met downstairs for breakfast promptly at 6:15 am.  My dad would turn on the radio and adjust the dial to WTOP 1500, his favorite station for “up to the minute traffic and weather.”

If the dial wasn’t in the proper position, the voices of the announcers were difficult to decipher or we’d tune in to a different station entirely.  Occasionally we’d hear nothing but static, signaling the antennae was out of alignment.  My dad would manually move it left or right until the signal came in clear.

As a result of the morning traffic reports, my dad sometimes changed his route to work.  As a result of the weather report, we’d decide what to wear.  A day didn’t go by without us listening to that station.  It’s something I still remember, now twenty-five years later.

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Be Strong & Courageous

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Be strong and courageous.

That’s definitely not how I would describe myself.

Never.

I’m a play it safe kinda person. I’m more of a let’s-think-through-every-detail-and-make-multiple-plans-and-checklists-and-not-take-any-risks kinda person.

I’ve read the parable of the talents and thought, “But is the guy that protected what he was given so wrong?!?”

Apparently, because God says so.

Sigh.

At the beginning of this year, I spent some time reflecting on 2018 and what was ahead in 2019. Joshua 1:9 popped in my head.

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Alrighty. I’d be lying if I said that that didn’t make me a little nervous. You begin thinking about what’s to come and God gives you “don’t be afraid”. Afraid? Afraid of what?!? Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

I was reminded that multiple times in December, I “ran into” the phrase “be strong and courageous”. (Fun fact: that phrase is used 14 times in the Old Testament. Who knew?)

As you probably know, when you “run into” something (especially scripture) multiple times in a short period of time, God is trying to get your attention.

So… Now I’m bracing myself and thinking, “Okay God. I’ll try to be strong and courageous.”

That’s enough of that. I decide to move on with my day and start scrolling through Facebook. I stopped when I saw that Jessie Seneca had shared a blog post called, “Signs of a Successful Event”. I’m always up for learning how to improve on The Connection’s events. I begin reading her post.

Guess what scripture she referenced?!?!?!

Joshua 1:8-9. Yeah!

“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:8-9

Now God REALLY had my attention. I read this multiple times to be sure I wasn’t missing anything important. I saw so much more than just “don’t be afraid”. This time, I also noticed “for the Lord is with you wherever you go” at the end. Big sigh of relief inserted here! God is not just warning me that there are difficult times ahead but reminding me that I am not alone.

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Grace Unfolded – Part 2

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…….Continued from Last Week…..

Being front row in the life of a family member who can’t seem to get their junk together may just be the place where God wants you. Front row to the show so that you can clearly see the need and to offer help, encouragement and a safe place for them to come and confide in you.

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” 1 Peter 4:10

God has given gifts to all of His children. Encouragement isn’t everyone’s strong suit. He placed specific people on earth to be encouragers. If we know we are an encourager but don’t use that gift because we feel like we are owed it ourselves, we aren’t living the fullest to our God given potential.

Most of the time, we have no clue how much impact our positive words can have on each other. I, for one, can remember things that women have said to me over the years that have left an imprint on my heart and mind and have changed me for the good.

Like in any relationship, consistent communication and listening are key. Being still to listen in the midst of your spouse or friend and mostly, being still in the midst of God. God has an endless amount of grace for us. Be quiet and still and let him saturate you with it, He always has time for us.

Those toys that Aunt Sally keeps giving you that make you want to throw them out your window? Guess what Mommas? You can once she leaves. (or donating it would be more environmentally friendly, ha!) But showing her grace by accepting it and thanking her, may just make her day and give her a sense of purpose because maybe her love language is gift giving.

We all know the stress that can go into holiday dinner preparations. I am sure the food that you are trying not to throw up while maintaining a genuine smile and the occasional head bob was made with a whole heap full of those emotions baked right into it! (maybe that’s why it tastes so bad?)

We have no idea of the lives that are in all of those cars around us on the road every day. No idea of the day or week they just had. We can choose to react on the circumstantial evidence at hand, or we can politely and willingly pull to the side or over a lane or just simply smile and wave and let them be on their way. And hey, maybe the car in front of you IS feeding the 5,000, or serving the 50 people in their office by bringing them coffee or breakfast. Who knows!

I’m sure the parent whose child just threw up is feeling judged and embarrassed as it is. She doesn’t need your brash looks or passive aggressive comments. Next week it could be your child. Pray good health and safety over the class and children and leave it in God’s hands.

Then you have those young children who are constantly wearing their hearts on their sleeves and throwing temper tantrums every time they don’t get their way. Don’t we secretly wish we could act like that to sometimes? Ha! We need to be the mature parents ‒  training, correcting and disciplining our children for their bad behaviors. But, we should be doing all that with grace because we understand where they are coming from. And they have sin in them just as you and I have sin in us.

Continue reading “Grace Unfolded – Part 2”

Grace Unfolded – Part 1

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I’ve always heard of the word, grace.

Have grace.

Show grace.

Your grace is enough.

You are saved by grace.

God’s grace.

Grace. Grace. Grace.

It’s a pretty obvious and easy to understand grace as a noun. But I have never really dug deep and meditated and thought about it as a verb.

To give grace.

To show grace.

To extend grace.

To be someone’s grace.

Grace.

Dealing with your disobeying children…grace.

Loving your neighbor no matter how hard she has hurt you…grace.

Helping a neighbor when they rarely return the favor…grace.

When you call your grandma when you know she won’t even remember the conversation and will complain that you never call her…grace.

Submitting to your husbands decisions when you know they are going to blow up in his or your face…grace.

Respecting one another’s opinions and views when you think/know they are waaaaay out of place….grace.

Waiting on your family member to turn their life around when you see them making poor choice after poor choice….grace.

Encouraging your friends/sisters when you don’t feel encouraged by them or anyone…..grace.

Being still in the midst of God when you just want to run and be busy (we got things to do people!) …grace.

When your family member won’t stop buying your children annoying toys with the batteries still inside them….grace.

When the holiday dinner really isn’t all that good but you have to sit there and eat it with a smile….grace.

When a car cuts in front of you on the highway or is riding your tail end and you really want to laaaaaay on that horn or go a little bit slower and throw your hands up…grace.

When the car in front of you in the drive thru line at your favorite coffee shop or restaurant is ordering enough food to feed the 5,000…grace.

Continue reading “Grace Unfolded – Part 1”

Demolish The Strongholds

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God is the creator of everything that has ever existed, love, and our protector
against all things evil. 1 Corinthians 15:57 says “But thanks be to God, who gives us the
victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I know some days, it just doesn’t feel like that.

A secret tip about spiritual warfare is knowing one of Satan’s easiest tricks. He is not the
creator, therefore he cannot create anything new. He uses what is already there and
manipulates it. He knows how to turn your insecurities, anxieties, and depression.. But
God promises to be our strength and protector.

2 Thessalonians 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from
the evil one.”

1 Peter 5:8-9 “Stay Alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around
like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be
strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going
through the same kind of suffering you are.”

The key weapon in spiritual warfare is to accept Jesus and then to receive the Holy
Spirit. The Holy Spirit is your direct communication with God. The Holy Spirit will give
you a spiritual eye into the world that cannot be seen.

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On
the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments
and every potential that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take
captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish
every act of disobedience, one your obedience is complete.”

Strongholds are the very things that can wreck your whole day. It is something that
has affected your way of thinking..negatively. They can be getting stuck in traffic when
you are in a hurry, alcohol, food, or insults. The devil uses whatever stronghold you
have to manipulate your way of thinking. He has studied you knowing exactly what he
needs to do to make you unravel.

But, Oh my Goodness…God is so good!! In that verse He tells exactly how to demolish Satan’s evil schemes. He says to take captive what Jesus thinks of you. Believe only that!! Then be obedient to God’s word. We need to read God’s word about what He believes us to be then do as He says and resist what the devil is trying to do.

James 4:7 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Psalm 136:26 “O, give thanks to the God of heaven, for his mercy endures for ever.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever
believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

1 John 4:7-8 “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and every one that
loves is born of God and knows God. He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.”

The Bible tells us who Christ is, who we are, and what we are to do. I challenge you
to look into the mirror. But, don’t look at the messy hair or the zit on the tip of your
nose. Look into your own eyes. Ask God to show you how He sees you. When you can
see the love God has for you…the devil will have nothing. In that love, there is authority
that comes with it. This is where you turn into one of God’s warriors as He has called
you to be. But, armor up!

God has given us the authority to cast out demons. And I promise you that the devil
doesn’t like it that I just told you that. Therefore, I now declare that (Isaiah 54:17) no
weapon that is formed against you will prevail…

Continue reading “Demolish The Strongholds”

CHANGE

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I have a love-hate relationship with change.

I love the change of seasons. It’s exciting to welcome spring flowers, carefree summer days, crisp fall air with warm drinks, and sweaters and good cheer that come with winter.

I love getting a few new items to add to my wardrobe, a new lipstick or nail polish. I’ve always loved new school supplies and the feel of a new book. When I was in college my roommate loved to open a new container of peanut butter and we would ooh and ahh over how pretty it looked before someone would mar the smooth surface with a knife.

If I know a big change is coming, being a control freak, I’m ok with it as long as I can mentally prepare myself and plan for the change accordingly. You see all of the above changes are usually expected, planned for or chosen. I don’t like the feeling of being out of control. As a nurse I learned quickly that the Emergency Room was not a good fit for me. I didn’t like the surprise of what was coming through the ER doors.

So, with all that being said, I have always struggled a little with unexpected changes. For example, if I have something planned, I am not going to cancel unless something or someone else cancels on me.  Even in a snow storm I am not changing my plans unless the whole thing is canceled. This made me a great employee and a very loyal soccer spectator.

However, over time due to life circumstances I have learned to deal with life’s changes. My husband’s motto has always been adapt and adjust to overcome. So, 25 years of marriage later, I am a much more pliable person. And even though it isn’t always easy, I have learned to navigate through change while attempting to maintain a fairly positive attitude with the help of supportive loving people and my relationship with God.

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, has been quoted as saying, “Change is the only constant in life.” So, we know that change is inevitable.

When babies are little, we are excited at the changes they are making. We look forward to when they can eat food and use the potty. We encourage them to crawl, walk and talk.

But as they grow, our excitement lessens as they go off on their first school bus ride or day of school without us. And maybe less excited as puberty hits with bodily changes happening and appetites increase. Only to watch them drive away for the first time behind the wheel of a car or as you walk away from their dorm room and you no longer have them safely tucked in a bed in your house at night.

And while all this is happening, our marriages or even us, ourselves, are changing. We evolve into different people while we are adapting to the changes. We just pray that we are staying connected enough that we still fit together well when we come out on the other side of the change.

And lastly, what I have dealt with on a personal note in the last four years, our relationship with our own parents change. After we leave home and become independent people at some point things shift and our parents eventually start to need us. Sometimes it’s only for a little help or advice and other times it’s for more intense help with big decisions regarding health, finances and end of life decisions.

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Curveballs

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Life has a tendency to through us curveballs. You know those moments in time when you know that everything around you is moving along normally; but you feel like your world has been turned upside down.

You wake up to unexpected news that someone you love and just spoke with has passed from this life.

You get devastating news from your doctor.

Your marriage has hit a rough patch.

You watch your children go through struggles.

Your job is demanding and difficult.

You get that overdue bill in the mail.

You feel like your spinning out of control.

In these times it doesn’t always feel like God is there walking beside you.

I often marvel at the life of Job and how he endured so many losses and devastation in his life, but did not waver from his love and devotion to God.

The enemy often uses those weak areas to creep in and fill our heads with his lies and destruction. He thrives on this, and will use it to elevate our anxiety, pain, hurt and confusion.

I remember my mom telling me when I was growing up that “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Well that is a tall order sometimes, and besides now I know the truth which is that HE will never give us more than HE can handle.

We get so caught up in how can we manage our anxiety, or keep from spinning out of control when things happen that we have no control over.  How can we keep those disappointments in check, hide hurt feelings, untangle the messes or just know how to walk in faith when we want to run and hide so we don’t have to deal with it?

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