Forward Friday: From Rascal to Regardful.

When I was seventeen, I was a brat. There. I said it. My deepest, darkest secret. Okay, it’s not. But it is true. Most seventeen year olds are brats. They have it all figured out. Know everything. Hey, if you weren’t, I said most not all. 

One of my favorite people in the Bible is Joseph. He’s great to study for character growth (writers, did you hear that?). At seventeen he’s a spoiled brat. Oh, yes. He is.

Genesis 37:3-4 MSG: Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he was the child of his old age. And he made him an elaborately embroidered coat. When his brothers realized that their father loved him more than them, they grew to hate him—they wouldn’t even speak to him.

He was daddy’s fave and Daddy made no bones about it. He made this amazing coat of prestige and honor and Joseph wore it proudly. Didn’t seem to mind the fact that it hurt his brothers deeply or that being the fave caused hatred in their hearts. 

These brothers couldn’t even speak peaceably to him. Now, I don’t know about you but when someone is unhappy with me, I know it. I can see it on their faces and feel it when I enter a room. That’s just someone unhappy! Not hatred.

But Jospeh didn’t care. He didn’t bother to see. Instead he chose to tell them his dream about how they’d bow to him. Yeah, that’s what you do when you’re hated. You lord a dream over them. Not once. But twice! Nice work, Jo.

And one day, Daddy sends Joseph out to check on his brothers. Why wasn’t he out there helping in the first place? Oh yeah, he’s spoiled. He’s a rascal. Dons the coat, oh yes, he does. Because that’s what you do when you’re about to approach your own brothers. Rub it in their faces that you’re loved most. I kinda feel bad for the brothers. 

While Joseph was in the distance, the brothers plotted to kill Joseph.

Not just give him the business, but murder him. They’ve murdered before…remember poor Dinah and the revenge on the entire town for the act of one.

But they end up selling him as a slave.

I wish we had time to pick all this apart. But we don’t. Joseph ends up a slave and then imprisoned and what we learn is that Joseph grows and matures over this period of time. Because how can a rascal like Jospeh rule a nation humbly? He can’t. Not unless he’s been humbled and molded into the kind of man God would need to rule and lead.

There are many glimpses of Joseph’s maturity and humbling process, but this one is one of my favorites. In Genesis 40, the chief butler (cup bearer) and the chief baker are thrown into the prison for offending the Pharaoh. Joseph is put in charge of them. Day in. Day out. 

Verse 3-7 MSG: “After they had been in custody for a while, the king’s cupbearer and baker, while being held in the jail, both had a dream on the same night, each dream having its own meaning. When Joseph arrived in the morning, he noticed that they were feeling low. So he asked them, the two officials of Pharaoh who had been thrown into jail with him, “What’s wrong? Why the long faces?”

The NKJV says, “He saw they were sad.” 

At seventeen, he was oblivious. He ignored the hateful glares, the snarled lips. The disdain in their words. Maybe he saw the looks of sadness when he wore that coat the first time. But he didn’t think to spare them the pain by not wearing it. By not having some kind of conversation with them or Jacob. 

But now.

Now, he’s seeing. “You’re sad. What’s wrong?” Not only does he see, but he speaks. He inquires. “Why are you upset?”

Joseph was now hoping for the future, but living in the present.

I wonder if he’d regarded his brothers’ countenances and inquired if maybe things would have been different. Maybe. Maybe God would have gotten him to Egypt to fulfill his destiny and God-given dreams another way. I don’t know.

I do know this: Joseph had been more preoccupied with being the favorite and his future dreams than he was about the present. And he missed A LOT! 

Our God-given dreams require planning and preparation on our part.  I had to actually write and do the work to be published. And I admit, that for a time I became so focused on the gift that I neglected the present. I wasn’t awake to the “now.” I wasn’t paying attention to what God might doing right then in me, through me. 

Maybe that’s you. Don’t be so consumed with the dreams and the future that you neglect what’s right in front of you.  Wake up! Wake up and be present in the moment. See the people around you. Notice the hurt, the pain. Notice you might need a conversation with someone you love. Humble yourself now! Don’t go through a pit and a prison to do it. 

Don’t miss the moments. 

Don’t wait dozens of years to wake up. 

Yes, God has dreams for you in the future. But He also has dreams for you to walk into today! 

Forward Challenge: Be awake today. Remove the apps from your phone. Step away from working toward your dream for one hour, two, a day and be present in the moment. Who looks sad and needs encouragement from you? 

Forward Scripture: “…Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me, awake and ready for me each morning, alert and responsive as I start my day’s work.” Proverbs 8:34 MSG

Forward Prayer: God, who made the day, awake me to present in it and responsive to Your will as You start Your day’s work. Thank you for Your good plans that include me. Open my ears to hear You and my eyes to see You and where You are at work. Help me to take notice of those around me and recognize when they need a word of hope, of encouragement and give me ,through Your Holy Spirit, the words to say. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

What do you need to do today in order to be AWAKE and present?

Forward Friday: Refuse to Stay Dead

2018. I can’t count all the things I’d like to not see happen or live through in 2018 that I had to deal with in 2017. I’m sure you feel the same way. Maybe not. But probably.

This year, my one word is awake and Forward Fridays will be dedicated to what I’m studying, learning, and understanding about this word. I hope you’ll join me, learn something yourself and challenge yourself to move forward in this year, fully awake. And there will be some guest posts by some wonderful people. I think we can always learn from others’ experiences.

Today, I want to talk about a dead man. And more importantly the Man who raised him back to life.

Awake: to become aroused or active again (according to Merriam-Webster. ) It also means: alive.

Let’s unpack this amazing account. We won’t be able to touch every detail, but we will hit some highlights.

John 11.

I have it here for you in the MSG and NKJV. I’m going to use MSG to give it that one-two punch. 

The first thing we hear of is that a man, a friend of Jesus’s, was sick. Word gets around. But that’s not the only thing that Jesus heard when word was sent. “The one you love so very much is sick.” They weren’t just pals and fishing buddies. He loved him so very much. Like he loves you. Like he loves me. You’d think he’d be up on his feet, “Let’s go, people. I have to get to him.”

Isn’t that what we do when our loved ones are ill? We rush to their bedside, the hospital. We waste no time if it’s in our power to be there. It was in his power to be there sooner than when he got there.

But he waited two whole days! You ever feel like you need a miracle, help, provision, hope…fill in the blank and Jesus falls through–doesn’t show up and you know it’s in his power to do so? I have. 

Instead Jesus responds like this: “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son.”

Um…for those gathering around Lazarus, I’m sure they thought differently. I’m sure Lazarus thought differently. “I’m dying, here, Lord! I’m not gonna make it!” I can imagine Lazarus grabbing ahold of his sisters’ hands. “Go! Get Jesus.”

And they did. Because it was fatal! Wasn’t it? By human standards. 

Crickets.

But two days passed. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go back to Judea.” Now he wants to go. Now you want to show up? It’s too late now. The damage has been done. It’s final. Like we’ve buried this. It’s dead. We’re in the grieving stages. If you can’t show up when I ask you to the first time. Then why come at all? Ever had any of these thoughts? Questions? You could have done something. But you didn’t. You sat around ignoring our call for TWO DAYS! 

The disciples didn’t want him to go. “Rabbi, you can’t do that. The Jews are out to kill you, and you’re going back?” You’ll die if you go back! They wanted to protect him over anything that might be done for Lazarus. Thomas the twin says (paraphrase): “Welp, let’s just go die with him then.” 

Opposition was in between Jesus and Lazarus. The Pharisees who wanted him dead. And death itself. But that didn’t stop him. Even if it felt too late to do a single thing.

Because to Jesus: “This sickness isn’t fatal…Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.”

“Then let him rest for crying out loud!” they said (paraphrase). Sleeping it off is the best medicine. Even back then, I guess.

Then Jesus got literal. “Lazarus died.” 

Oooh. Well…

“And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.”

New grounds: An area of knowledge or subject of discussion or thought. Factors forming a basis for action or justification for a belief.

It was time for them to see something new. To see a foreshadowing of what was soon to come so they could believe when it happened.

So, they went.

Four. Days. Dead. 

Jesus meets Martha and they have a conversation.

Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”

Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.”

Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”

“You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life…”

What do you need resurrected? Brought back to life? A marriage? A family restoration? Hope? Dreams? Promises? Health? Joy? Peace? Fill in the blank. What’s been dead and buried for so long that you’ve given up on ever believing Jesus can bring it back? Did you cry out and heard crickets? Saw nothing? Has your faith been buried in a tomb? 

Your sickness (loss of hope, faith, dreams, marriage…you name it) isn’t fatal to Jesus! 

The RIGHT NOW MOMENT for Jesus isn’t always the RIGHT NOW moment for us. RIGHT NOW for Jesus might mean decades later for you. Two days later. Four months. Six years… Or it could mean RIGHT NOW THIS MOMENT. Right now, he can bring back your hope, dead faith, joy…RIGHT NOW! THIS MOMENT! 

Move that stone. Oh, but the stench! EEK.

Move. That. Stone.

“Lazarus, you come out!” Jesus called.

There might have been some awkward tension as onlookers passed glances amongst each other. Some anticipation. Hope. But a lot of awkward glances, I’d think.

And then…a rustling. A scooting along the dirt.

Bound head to toe and face covered, Lazarus the mummy hobbled out like a bad game of Marco Polo. Shuffling toward the sounds outside because the poor dead-now-alive guy couldn’t see! He may have knocked a shoulder, stubbed a toe. He may have oomphed and grr’d his way out. 

But he came out into the light!

Alive. Resurrected.

But bound.

Jesus brought him to life. But he called on others to care for Lazarus in the aftermath, the follow up. “Unwrap him and let him loose.”

A gift! 

I love that phrase: let him loose. Not just to unbind him, but to give him freedom with no limits! Ever used that verbiage? I’d like to let Joanna Gaines loose on my house. 

Let a bound man who become free loose on the world and see what happens! Let a dead man who has been brought back to life loose on the world…see what happens!

Many that were there watching who didn’t believe, believed! In fact, the Word says, “That was a turnaround for many…”

When God brings something dead back to life, maybe YOU yourself, it can be a turnaround for many. Have you been lifeless and dead due to bitterness, tragedy, hurt? Have you given up on God, on life, on love? God can and will breathe new life into you. Ask him to call you out of the dead, musty tomb to live again. It will glorify Jesus. It will be the turnaround for many.

Awoken people turned loose…they set the world on fire with the love and passion of an all-consuming God.

What needs woken up in you? I’d love to pray for you.

Forward Challenge: Take a notebook, your bible, and a pen. Get alone with God and ask him to reveal areas in your life that need woken back up to life. Write them down and ask God to resurrect them.

Forward Scripture: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.” John 11:11 MSG

Forward Prayer: Jesus, I need you to wake up dead areas of life. Breathe into me new ___________. Thank you for coming for me. Thank you that even when I think you’ve dropped the ball, you never have. You never ignore me. Never fail me. Your timing is always the right timing and nothing is dead to you. For those loved ones, I can’t bring back, revive in me joy and hope and restore my heart, make me whole. Let my life glorify you and let it be the turnaround for others. And Lord, let me always be mindful of your work and care for those you’re bringing to life. In Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Forward Friday: One Word 2018

December has been a whirlwind, y’all! A good whirlwind, though. I spent less time on social media and more time with friends and family face-to-face. How about you? In fact, lately, I’ve been thinking about the time I spend. Time on social media. Time with my laptop. Time with family. Friends. Time with Jesus. 

Some days I feel the quantity but not the quality. 

I’ve been praying a lot about what God might have me place my focus on this year. It’s going to be another whirlwind–it’s true that the older you become, the faster time seems to pass. I have three books and one (maybe two) novellas releasing this new year. My daughter will be home for one summer before she truly will live somewhere else. My son is entering high school. Things are stirring in other personal areas, in my church. So, Lord, what should my focus be?

I learned several years ago, that resolutions don’t work for me. I give up. Of course, I set goals. I think it’s important to do that. But the ONE WORD or PHRASE for the year keeps me focused.

These past few months, the Lord has really pressed a word on my heart. It whispers through my lips in prayer. A friend ordered me a book and journal with the word and topic for Christmas, not knowing this word has been burning through me. 

AWAKE. I have to admit there are areas where I’ve been asleep, spiritually sluggish. Exhausted to the point of not being able to rouse myself. And the Lord in His tenderness has brought this to my attention and given me a good shake.

What exactly does AWAKE mean? What will this look like in my life? 

I want to be awake mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically. I want to SEE all that God has for me and be growing daily. I want to heed what the Lord says and be on guard for distraction and temptation so I can bypass it! I want to be observant like Joseph when he noticed the countenance of the butler and the baker and saw they were upset (you know at one time he wouldn’t have noticed that). 

I want to be AWAKENED. Breathing in God and breathing Him out. 

So each week I’m going to unpack some verses that will help us all awaken, help us all grow and meditate on His word and what it means. I hope you’ll join me, share with your friends, and this year, be awake with me! 

What say you? Are you in?

Forward Challenge: Be awake in all things. Be present. Be observant for what God is doing. Be heedful and obey. 

Forward Scripture: “The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, “Get up…—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.” 1 Kings 19:7 MSG

Forward Prayer: Awaken us, Lord. In every area where we’ve been dozing or full-on snoozing. Waken us to Your heartbeat. Your calling. Your Word. Breathe into us and make us live again. No more dry bones. Only life and life more abundantly, in Jesus name. Amen.

Do you have a New Year’s resolution, goal, one word or phrase, or a particular scripture for the new year? I’d love to hear it. 

Happy New Year, Friends!

Forward Friday: Sheltered From Fear

The morning was overcast, but beautiful. The leaves were golden, crimson, burnt orange. Glorious. The weather was crisp but not cold and I spent the better part of it outside with my earbud in and worship music playing. Intimate worship–my favorite. Just me, the Creator of heaven and earth and ground to eat up as I walked and prayed and praised.

It started to rain (just a sprinkle but it was cold!) and I came inside and opened the curtains to our glass doors so I could view the pond and woods. One of the random cats in our neighborhood likes to roam around that pond, fishing I guess. Who knows! As long as he eats things I don’t want in my house, I’m happy and he can hang out as long as he’d like.

I was listening to Dara McLean’s song:  Find Rest  (so powerful, give it a listen!)  

The cat was strolling the bank, pausing, dipping his paw into the water then moseying on. I was worshiping inside. 

And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the cat spring into action and high-tailed it across the property. So. Fast. 

Something had startled him, frightened him. Threatened him–could have been a snake! He bolted.

That blur of white beelined it straight into our barn. At first, I thought maybe he was sick of getting wet. But the way he ran–the way it hit him out of nowhere…couldn’t be. It was barely sprinkling at this point.

He was afraid of something.

Ugly Cat (mean name but I can’t help it. He’s not an attractive cat!) raced right into the barn. But he never would have found shelter from his fears if the doors hadn’t been open. But they were.  

He found safety inside.

You and I have fears. Sometimes they hit us out of nowhere. Sometimes we see them creeping up on us day by day. Minute by minute.

It’s a loved one making choices that are going to affect them in horrific ways.

It’s the disturbing news.

The bad report from the doctor.

It’s a threat.

Circumstances.

Finances.

Loss of insurance.

Loneliness.

You fill in the blank.

But like that cat, we can run to safety. We can find shelter in the arms of our God. They are always open to us. Always a safe place to run. Always trustworthy.

Oh, but we run in so many other directions, don’t we? We run aimlessly which is exhausting, especially if we sprint. We run to things we call “guilty pleasures” and to comforts like food, shopping, entertainment etc…good things. Bad things. Doesn’t matter. We will not find rest. We will not find peace. We will not find joy unless we’re running to the LORD. Into His arms. Into His grace. Into His unfailing love. 

So many things ruin us. Let us be ruined for better, not worse. Let us be ruined for any useless thing because it’s in HIs shelter where we’re blessed, changed, made new. It’s in His shelter we find our identity. Our passion. Our purpose. You’ll find it nowhere else, friend. 

Let’s run to Him today, and not go back. 

Where do you run when you feel afraid? 

Forward Challenge: Whatever has you anxious, afraid, nervous–take it to the powerful arms of God today. Lay them at His feet. Let Him crush them for you today. There is nowhere safer to run than to His shelter.

Forward Prayer: Lord, thank you that we can run to Your loving arms when we’re afraid, nervous, insecure, concerned or even when everything is okay. They are always open under any circumstance. Today, Lord, show us somehow, some way how much You love us and want to secure us in Your arms. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Forward Scripture:  

 

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Forward Friday: Flushing Fear

 

Fear and anxiety go hand in hand. We all have them. 

My son has a few “phobias.” He’s looked them up on the phobia website, so this past Sunday when our pastor preached on fear and brought up this website, he looked at me with a grin. But then he went on to talk about fear not being from God. My son grew quiet. We’ve talked about his fears and anxiety often. I’ve encouraged him to pray about them, through them.

God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear. Fear is paralyzing. Fear keeps us from moving forward. 

I had quite a bit of fear when I began writing. What if this doesn’t get published? What if I fail? What if I get laughed out of a room, a conference, a pitch session? Every “what if” was one of failure. God had to remind me: What if I succeed? What if I’m greeted into the industry with a smile and handshake or hug? What if these stories are published? What ifs don’t have to be scary. They just typically are. Because fear tends to dominate.

David told Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:20-21(MSG)“Take charge! Take heart! Don’t be anxious or get discouraged. God, my God, is with you in this; he won’t walk off and leave you in the lurch. He’s at your side until every last detail is completed for conducting the worship of God.”

Whatever you face today, whatever fear is staring you down, paralyzing you, pushing you back from being obedient to God in whatever He’s asked you to do, know that he won’t walk off and leave you alone. He will finish what He started in you and bring it to completion.

“Jesus said, “It’s done . . . complete.” Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit.” John 19:30 MSG. You may know the verse said like this: It is finished. Jesus hung there and stuck it all out for you and for me. 

Until it was finished.

Not a second sooner.

If He would go to those lengths to nail your fears and anxiety to the cross, why would He leave you now?

Too many people walk out on us, leaving us ripped up and scarred.

Jesus was scarred just to stay with us. To the very end.

I know my son was listening intently to that sermon on fear. He heard how God wants us to be like Gideon . To believe God sees us differently. He called Gideon a mighty warrior. My son’s first and middle name together mean: warrior/arrows. In God’s eyes he’s not a boy riddled with anxiety and fears. He’s fierce. A warrior. 

But my little warrior carries a fidget cube with him. It’s not because he’s antsy. It soothes his anxiety. He keeps it in his pocket and rolls the buttons around. His sister gave it to him to have at school. At the end of service, he asked me if he could go to the bathroom and I could tell he legit had to go, so I told him to go on.

When he came back he had this grin on his face. 

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Well…I dropped my fidget cube in the toilet.”

I snickered of course. “Did you flush it?”

“No, I used a little piece of toilet paper and got it out, then washed it really good.”

Gross. Gross. Gross.

But the thought hit me Monday morning while talking with a friend on Voxer.  That fidget cube represents his fears and anxieties. Oh that he would flush the fear and not try to fish it out of the toilet.

Oh that I would flush my fears down the toilet and walk out of the bathroom trusting more in God and how He sees me. Instead, I’ve picked those fears out of the toilet when God was nudging me to flush the away. l’ve picked back old anxieties instead of letting them go down the drain.

My prayer is that my son will be able to dump the fidget cube. My prayer is that you and I will be able to dump our “fidget cubes” too.

Forward Challenge: Put God’s Word to your fear today. Out loud. You are an overcome. A warrior. A child of God. Whatever He’s called you to do, or to not do, you can. Don’t let fear hold you back!

Forward Prayer: Lord, you have not given us a spirit of fear. We know that tucked safely in Your arms we are sheltered. We can do all that You have asked us to do. We can give up all that you have asked us to give up from unhealthy habits to unhealthy relationships. Every weight and sin that hold us back and down, we can toss aside and lay at Your scarred feet. Give us the faith to believe. The strength to act. And the courage to boldly face those things we have feared. No longer in bondage to fear, we are free in Christ Jesus. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Forward Scripture: 

*I am not talking about clinical anxiety that requires medication. Some fear and anxiety (PTSD) need to be dealt with through professional help (and of course prayer). 

What about you? Do you have some fears you know you need to flush down the toilet instead of fishing them out, “cleaning them off” and pocketing them again?

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Forward Friday: Serving Family

A couple of Sundays ago, one of our pastors, Kevin Hauman, made a statement when talking about families that struck a chord in me. He said, “We have to serve our families.” Sounds simple and common sense, but I have to admit, I never really equated what I do at home as serving. Not really. I cook, clean, keep laundry (except my man’s because he likes to do his own and I don’t argue ;)) up and groceries bought etc…It’s just, you know, what I do as mom. Not that my husband doesn’t do any of these things, he does them often and my kids help out. But for the most part, I do these things. I do them without much thought. It is a labor of love but I haven’t thought of it as that.

Late that Sunday night after the sermon, my husband had a terrible toothache and his stirring with pain woke me. A quiet whisper entered my mind, “He needs an ice pack.” So I thought, “Great! I’ll tell him to go get one!” And Kevin’s words came back to me. “Serve your family.” The Lord spoke to my heart. “You go get him one.”

Was I tired? Yes. Would I have to go all the way downstairs? Yes. Would I probably be wide awake the rest of the night? Probably. But He was right. And so I did. I went downstairs and came back up and brought him an ice pack which helped! Did I lay awake awhile? Yes. But it felt good to serve him out of love. To do that simple task.

Like Mother Teresa said. It’s not how much we do, but how much love is behind it.

What are some simple things you do for your family that you don’t have to, but want to in order to show them how much you love them and want to serve them?

Forward Challenge: Do one thing for each of your immediate family members today that is small, but served with a lot of love. Note how it makes them feel and how it made you feel!

Forward Prayer: Lord, it’s easy to serve our family when it’s things we enjoy doing, but sometimes cooking one more meal, dropping off forgotten books when we are already running late for meetings, or cleaning gooey gum off shoes doesn’t feel loving. Help us to do it anyway and to love like You would. Fill us with overwhelming love and let it shine through our actions.

Forward Scripture: 

SaveSave

Forward Friday: How to Overcome Obstacles

“How are we going to get in now? I told you we should have left sooner,” friend #1 said.

“You can’t leave sooner if you don’t know any sooner that he’s here.” Friend #2 huffed, frustrated and pushed in by the crowd.

“Well, I didn’t come all this way for nothing! We’ll mow every single man down. Women and children too; I don’t care!” Friend #3 wasn’t leaving either. They had a mission to accomplish. 

The heat licked at them and their pal only stayed quiet, but hope filled his eyes and that was enough for all of them to figure out a way, but their bickering continued.

Finally, Friend #4 interrupted. “Guys…guys…guys!”

They paused and looked at him. He pointed up.

They all followed his finger. “If we can’t go through. I say we go up and in.”

“Well…” said the pal on the mat. “At least if I fall, I won’t feel it”

The friends chuckled at their pal’s humor, though dark. If–no, when–they got him inside, he’d be doing more than feeling. He’d be walking.

“And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.” Mark 2:4 NKJV

That day Jesus went to Capernaum and people found out he was there in a house, so immediately they came bringing those who needed healing. So many people packed in, they nearly closed in on Jesus! Have you ever been in a place like that? A concert? Black Friday? It’s claustrophobic for sure.

These four friends brought their paralytic friend who was lying on a  mat/stretcher. They had no plans to walk away without seeing him healed. But they were boxed in.

In this passage, four things stand out to me.

The paralytic man had a desperate need and he couldn’t fix the problem alone.

Ever been there? Sometime we battle things, we struggle alone and we never ask our brothers and sisters in Christ for help. Maybe because we feel ashamed. Could be that we don’t think we should be having these struggles or problems and can’t admit we are (that’s pride by the way). We might even fear they’ll turn their backs on us, judge us critically, or gossip (those aren’t real friends). Whatever the reason, the first thing we must come to terms with is we need godly friends who have our backs. Who have our whole selves. Sometimes when we can’t do for ourselves, when we feel paralyzed, we need good and godly friends to carry us in prayer…or even physically like this account. 

Obstacles stood in their way

In this case it was a throng of people packed in like sardines and getting to Jesus appeared bleak. Impossible. I know, and you may know, that Jesus is always here. But sometimes it feels like he’s far away. Our feelings don’t change the fact that he is indeed near. What this man needed was far away. Obstacles were keeping him at bay from his miracle. Sometimes, obstacles are so great that it feels easier to give up and walk away. To go back to the way it was before. Like the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. It was hard. There were obstacles. And they began to romanticize slavery…hey we ate good. It wasn’t that bad. Yes it was! You cried out to God to be delivered it was so bad. But living in the familiar seems easier than forging ahead through obstacles and trouble to get free! These guys weren’t going to let the obstacles stand in their way. 

They thought outside the box.

That little dialogue, of course, was fiction but I imagine they saw the crowds and human nature took over for at least a second. How are we going to get him to Jesus? It looks hopeless. I don’t see a way. And then a way was made! It wasn’t through the front door. Not even the back door. Many times we expect to get somewhere a certain way. When that way is blocked, we get discouraged. Think outside the box. Faith is believing in the unseen. What aren’t you seeing? You may need godly counsel/friends to help you see! Instead of going through, you may have to climb up. You may have to rip the tiles off the roof one at time and chip away until you can see the light! Freedom doesn’t always come freely. Overcoming sin and struggles won’t always come easily. It takes time. Perseverance. Endurance. Sweat. Blood. Tears. And having good friends to help rally around and fight with you is important! 

They broke through.

I imagine it took some time. I imagine it wasn’t easy hauling a grown man on a stretcher onto a roof. I doubt they expected this and brought tools. They ripped those layered tiles (probably what the roof was made of) one by one. They may have ended up with bloody fingers. I know they had sore muscles. But when they broke through…they saw Jesus. The light. Their miracle happened. They found freedom. Joy. They lowered him down and Jesus marveled at their faith and he healed the man. He walked out of that house. I’m not sure if the owner sought payment for the hole in the roof or not. 🙂

Break through is possible. All things are possible with God. But it takes faith. Keep going. Keep believing. Keep pressing in. Don’t let pride, fear, or shame hold you back from rallying good friends to go into battle with you and to carry you through prayer.

Get up and walk, friend! 

Forward Challenge: Commit today to asking one friend to pray for you. Whether you need healing, you need to overcome a weight or hindrance that’s keeping you from running the race, or you need to battle through a sin for freedom. Swallow pride. Don’t cower in fear. Have courage. 

Forward Prayer: Lord, we trust You. We draw near to you today and confess we need healed, changed, transformed. Help us overcome fear and trust godly friends to pray for us. Meet us where we are. Give us strength to persevere and not give up when obstacles seem to keep us from where we need to be. At Your feet. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Forward Scripture: “But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works.” Psalm 73:28 NKJV

 

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Forward Friday: The Hard Truths

I enjoy spending my time asking friends to tell me all the bad things about myself. I thrive on it really.

Said no one ever. 

Someone I love once a hundred times told me, “You don’t listen. You’re the most hardheaded person I’ve ever met.”

Ask me how that went over. 

Not.  Well.

Pretty sure my insides heated to 950 billion degrees and my reaction came in fiery breaths and words. Because when you’ve been struck with the arrow of a hard truth, the initial response is to fire back with whatever the enemy has poisoned and placed in your quiver.

Hearing hard truths from loved ones…hurts. It raises our defenses. It can get nasty. 

This is one of my husband’s favorite verses (ESV). Maybe because it gives license to call someone stupid (just kidding). 

Correction, discipline is necessary to grow as a human being. To grow spiritually. But it’s hard to hear. Hard to take. “For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:12 NLT

If we don’t listen and examine ourselves–if we don’t let God examine our hearts and reveal to us the hard truths, we’ll continue to repeat the same mistakes. And repeating the same thing hoping for new endings is the definition of insanity. Let’s not be stupid and insane. 🙂 

Lately, I’ve been advising a loved one about relationships. But this person doesn’t want to hear the hard truths, and it’s going to cause yet another downfall. It’s frustrating to watch. It’s painful to endure. This person will not see they might have some behaviors they need to change. Some issues in their heart that needs refining and softened. And this person refuses to step back and let words of wisdom reign.

And while ranting to the Lord about this, He reminded me that I haven’t dealt with all of the hard truths I’ve been given. I don’t want to see I might have some behaviors I need to change. Some issues in my heart that needs refining and softened. And I’ve refused to step back and let the words of wisdom reign.

I handle the hard stuff much better when it comes from God–straight to my spirit. I guess I don’t like flawed people pointing out my own. Maybe it’s the plank and speck scenario. Maybe I’m just prideful. Probably a bit of both. Maybe you are too? And sometimes, even when I do listen to God’s conviction upon my heart, I don’t always follow through. But I want to. How about you?

 

Forward Challenge: If you know you’ve been given a hard truth and you handled it badly, ask God and the person who delivered it in love for forgiveness, then commit to working on that truth. God is gracious and merciful and He’s the Potter! He can transform us inside out. If you have to deliver a hard truth, pray thoroughly, then make sure you’re going in love. Season your words with grace. And trust God to handle the rest.

Forward Scripture and Prayer: 

 

How are you at handling hard truths? 

 

 

 

 

 

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Forward Friday: The Thrill of Fear

It’s October. Profound observation, I know. It’s that month the box office rakes in money hand over fist thanks to scary movies. Haunted houses. Even today it’s Friday the 13th (the “scariest” day ever–I just call it my birthday ha!). Fright Nights. Fill in the blank. But even if it’s not the “Month of Fright” there’s still roller coasters, skydiving, cliff jumping, drag racing…fill in the blank. 

A few weeks ago, my friend Emily Shuff gave an encouraging devotion to us ladies about fear. She said, “Fear makes us afraid.” We all laughed and she did too because it sounds silly and obvious but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that phrase or about the things I am afraid of. We all have something or many somethings. Some are rational and some are not. Because fear isn’t always rational. I think it’s silly for my son to freak out over a picnic ant. “Just step on it! It’s not even as big as your pinky toe nail!” But I am not afraid of ants. Fire ants, maybe. 🙂 

We fear the future. We fear uncertainty. War. Mass shootings. Our loved ones dying. Us dying. People we care about being hurt, sick or leaving us. Again, fill in the blank. These fears are not thrills at all are they? And yet, many people love to be afraid. From scary rides to reading scary books or attempting scary feats. Hello, walking across the Grand Canyon on a tight rope? Just why? Why do people enjoy being afraid? 

In reading up on it, I found something a professor of communication at Purdue said. In a nutshell, he says that it’s not about truly loving to be afraid as much as it is having that sense of satisfaction that they’ve conquered something terrifying. Or even a “profound sense of relief” that it’s over. 

Thrill seekers say jumping out of planes or whatever the thrill is, is a rush. I’ve felt that before on a roller coaster. Or toilet papering someone’s house and running away without being caught by the parents! A rush. We did it! We made it!

The other day after raking out flower beds, I found a tiny salamander thingy in my bathroom. I screamed. I grabbed the Clorox wipes tub I was cleaning with and pounded that joker to nothing. Later that day there was another one on my hearth! I screamed. Raced for something stronger than a fly swatter and nailed it. Then we went to the zoo and looked at those crazy dragons my son loves. I took a picture and sent it to Emily with the caption: This is what it felt like when I was smashing that little lizard the other day!

 

It reminded me of something else she said, “When we focus on fear it magnifies.” So true! That little salamander might as well have been this big honking reptile right here. But what happened when I had overcome the fear, conquered it…I felt a rush. I had braved the lizard and came out the victor! And I won’t lie there was a lot of hollering prayer; it sounds like this:  Oh, Jesus, help me! Jesus!

Because we need His help to overcome, push through, come out on the other side of fear victorious. That rush we experience is called victory in Jesus and a testimony! How many times have you listened to youth coming back from a theme park. They’re all talking up how they rode the biggest, scariest ride. They’re testifying, ya’ll! “I even raised my hands the whole time.” Well, yeah, because an iron bar was holding you in! Jesus is our iron bar! He’s holding us in.

Don’t let fear keep you from raising your hands in praise as you go through whatever scary situation you’re in. God never lets you go.  “Be good to me, God—and now! I’ve run to you for dear life. I’m hiding out under your wings until the hurricane blows over. I call out to High God, the God who holds me together.” Psalm 57:1 MSG

He holds you together. You may feel afraid. But you, dear one, are never out from under his wings or slipping through his powerful arms.

Forward Challenge: Take whatever makes you afraid to God right now. Even if it seems silly or irrational. Remember, He says to cast all your cares on Him for He cares for you. Ask Him to help you overcome them, and trust Him to help you do it.

Forward Scripture: “I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.” Psalm 63:8 NLT

Forward Prayer: Lord, your word tells us we do not have to be afraid. We don’t have to be paralyzed by fear. Give us your strength today to move forward. To be victorious. We are more than overcomers because you have overcome the world. You hold us securely and today we cling to you. We praise you because we know that there is no one like you. None besides you. You love us. You’re for us. And if you are for us, who can be against us? No weapon formed against us shall prosper. Whether we are battling insects or cancer…you are with us. No fear is too silly or small. You care about them all. Let us rest in that today. Let us breathe in your goodness and exhale joy and triumph in Jesus’ name.

***Name one fear that you have in the comments. I would like to pray for you and if you see other comments, please pray for each one! Let’s get through them together!

*Note* I am not in any way against theme parks, thrill-seeking activities, or suspenseful movies or books (I write them and I love showing how people can come through with hope and a testimony of God’s faithfulness after being put through the ringer…a scary ringer!) 

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Forward Friday: A Little Dab’ll Do Ya…In

Hunting season is almost upon us, whether you agree with hunting or not. Men and women everywhere will camouflage themselves, creep into the woods and wait patiently for that deer. The key to hunting, besides being a good shot, is to be slow about your movements–tiptoeing…in the words of Elmer Fudd, “qwietly” as not to scare the animal away. They have to blend into the atmosphere so they aren’t spotted.

If you’ve ever hunted, watched a show about hunting, or just walked in the woods, deer can detect you. They suddenly stop, raise their heads and freeze. They sense danger.

Paul says in Galatians 5:9 (MSG), “…a little yeast…spreads through the whole batch of dough!” He’s talking about false teachings slipping in and jacking with what he taught–the true gospel. I think it’s important to keep yourself in the word and under godly teaching so this doesn’t happen, but that’s not what I want to focus on today. I think a lot of yeast (leaven in many translations) can slip into our lives in many ways.

Sin can be subtle. Just a little dab. It’s quiet. It’s camouflaged. And it ruins us. 

Song of Solomon (Song of Songs–same book) says (2:15), “Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines…” If we were a vineyard, being tended to and bearing fruit…foxes would sneak in and ruin that tender, budding fruit.

Little foxes can make big messes! 

Think about the big messes in your life? Did they all start out at tidal wave level? Maybe some. But more often than not, it was small. A little dab. A dash of this and a sprinkle of that until it infiltrated the whole life. It’s impossible for us to try and sift out the yeast once it’s been mixed into the dough. But what is impossible to us is possible with God! He can turn it around. He’s a potter. He can remake us. 

Maybe today, you feel overwhelmed by the mess in your life. It exploded! Or maybe you’re like that deer. You’ve been warned. You’re in a frozen position–run! Don’t drop your head and go back to mindless grazing. The hunter is coming for you. Wherever you are today, you can change. Don’t let the little things become big. God has a great plan for you! 

Forward Challenge: Make time to let God run the little foxes from your life and to remove any leaven that might be spoiling all He has for you.

Forward Scripture & Prayer: 

 

What are some ways we can prevent little foxes from getting inside the vineyard? How can we guard against subtle things seeping into our daily lives?