mercy first

I spoke with a woman recently, who was angry and frustrated about her situation. At first, I laid out the boundaries of what could and could not be done to assist her. She shot down every option I offered and then proceeded to share her heart. I could have dismissed what she was saying, as it wasn’t pertaining to the purpose of her call. But something inside said to be quiet and listen. For nearly fifteen minutes, I sat silently and actively listened to her concerns.

Instead of pushing through what she was saying to get my tasks accomplished, I acknowledged her hurt. Her heart, her sense of helplessness. I agreed her situation was overwhelming and that there were few options to salvage it. I offered the assistance I could and this time, she was willing to listen.

I offered mercy and she received it. If I had been belligerent in trying to “make” her do things my way we would have both lost. By choosing to offer mercy first, she was able to relax, to learn that I am for her and I care about her situation- even if I cannot repair it.

When people are forcing others to change their ways both sides will lose. When someone is willing to listen, to acknowledge the situation– even if they don’t agree with it, healing and progress can be made.

Think of the woman at the well (John 4) when Jesus talked with her, he didn’t condemn her, he talked and he listened. She realized what He was offering and she received it. Or the woman condemned for adultery (John 8). She was moments away from being stoned by the crowds, but Jesus reminded them that they were not stoned for their sins.

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”  (John 8:7). 

We can chose to be “right” all the time, or we can chose mercy. Being right can lead to being alone, very quickly. Being merciful can lead to more opportunities to discuss things with those who would otherwise close the door permanently.

Dear Ones, as our world continues to change, heartache will increase. The question comes, will we be more willing to point fingers or will we open our hands to those who need to know the Love of Christ- and maybe hear it for the very first time? The choice is yours.

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affliction and victory

This new year held such promise on December 31, 2016. It hadn’t been messed with or taken out of the box. It was full of hope, dreams, plans, anything was possible. Now, as we near the end of the second week of January, I wonder if we still feel the same. There have already been losses– jobs, break ups, and deaths experienced by dear ones and I wonder what else will come in the days ahead.

Even with all of this, I am not surprised. We know that this world is not perfect. Many of us bear the scars, the stronger muscles, the wrinkles and gray hairs that come from afflictions and troubles.

Scripture tells us again and again that we will have troubles and problems, afflictions, and battles on this side of Heaven. The decision comes with how we choose to respond to it.

~We can choose to whine, fuss, and demand to have things “our way.” But, there is only one person who can be in charge– we cannot to have multiple kings, it only brings chaos.

~We can choose to face it with false piety and a self-imposed martyrdom. This perspective grows old quickly and no one wants to be around it for long.

~Then comes the best way, I believe, to face it. With humility, honesty, and grace. We will only be able to claim victory if we go forward with Christ ahead, beside, and behind us. Let me say that again, we will only be able to claim victory if we go forward with Christ ahead, beside, and behind us.

Jesus is my King. I am asking Him to be in charge of my days and my nights. Without Him I cannot face the troubles that will surely come my way. Because of Him I can face trials and struggles.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4). 

In other words, Best Beloved, my Faith muscles will grow stronger, I will learn that I can endure, I will see Jesus as Who I need first, last, and always. I will conquer the afflictions I face because through Him I can do all things (Philippians 4:13).

Romans 8:37 says it best, No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Rend Collective has a fabulous song that describes this perspective and I hope these words encourage you, too, Dear One.

When my hope and strength is gone
You’re the one who calls me on
You are the life
You are the fight
That’s in my soul

Oh, Your resurrection power
Burns like fire in my heart
When waters rise
I lift my eyes
Up to Your throne

We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror

I will sing into the night
Christ is risen and on high
Greater is He
Living in me
Than in the world

No surrender, no retreat
We are free and we’re redeemed
We will declare
Over despair
You are the hope

We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror

Nothing is impossible
Every chain is breakable
With You, we are victorious
You are stronger than our hearts
You are greater than the dark
With You, we are victorious

We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God

We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror

“More than Conquerors” ~ Rend Collective
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Recently someone accused me of subterfuge. I was taken aback by the accusation. I was not being deceptive, misleading, or trying to benefit from her lack of understanding. But it did make me think.

The idea of intentionally keeping someone in the dark for the purpose of succeeding in a goal did sound a lot like the enemy. He has been tricking and trying to keep us off balance from the Truth since God created the world. If he can succeed in causing us to fail, then all the tricks he has created and ways he has manipulated us will have been worthwhile.

And this is where I love the Salvation Story. When we choose to accept Christ into our lives, when we choose to follow Him and let Him lead us, we will not fail.

We follow the Light of the World (John 8:12) and by doing that, we are not in the shadows where we can stumble, or lose our way. We have Scripture to light our way (Psalm 119:105). We have our brothers and sisters who walk with us and encourage us on our Faith Journey.

Beloved,  the enemy wants to thwart the plans of God and prevent us from being a part of them. He will use whatever he can to make us feel like we are powerless, useless, and worthless. When those times come, speak Scripture- out loud, to the room, the car, wherever you are, to remind the enemy who you are and Whose you are according to the Cross.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him (1 John 3:1).

Be encouraged, Dear Ones, while the enemy is trying subterfuge, the King of Heaven holds us in His hand and carries us.

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snowflakes and avalances

Have you ever wondered why an avalanche happens? There is a change in the environment that causes a shift in the weight of the snow which triggers the snow to move. Once it begins to move it cannot stop and whatever it comes in contact with will never be the same.

The way we walk with Christ can be either a snowflake or an avalanche. We can either choose to be delicate and pretty or we can choose to make an impact on those around us. We can change the environment, the outlook, and the terrain for those who come into contact with us.

I know, without hyperbole, that I would not be here if Jesus had not intervened through the friendship of a young man who was living out loud his faith, like an avalanche. When I met him, I couldn’t ignore the Jesus who was walking with him, beside him, and loving through him as the young man talked with people.

That young man’s faith swept over me like nothing I had ever seen before. In turn, my faith impacted my mom, my mom impacted my best friend, and my best friend has been impacting thousands by her love for Jesus and her desire to serve Him every day through her job.

My faith has been grown by teaching my children and teaching my students to walk worthy in their faith. And so it continues…

What are you,  Dear One?  Are you a snowflake, looking pretty, but making little impact for Christ? Or are you an avalanche, impacting those around you with your authentic faith?

Before you bow out of the change to be an avalanche, remember that you are the one Christ can move through to change the world, maybe one last time.

What will you do? Why not join me and other brothers and sisters in Christ to make an avalanche and move in the lives of those around you?

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the day after

We’re in the days after Christmas. People have returned to work, the shine of the lights has dimmed, the clutter of torn paper has been collected into the trash cans, the special dishes have been put away. Tablecloths have been soaked to release stains of cranberry sauce and gravy. It feels like the joy of Christmas has been lost in the clean up.

As we put away the garland, take down the tree, and pack up the ornaments, let us remember that the sweet babe in our Nativity sets should not be put away and forgotten until next year.

Jesus grew up according to Luke 2:52. In wisdom given to Him by His Heavenly Father, but I am certain also imparted to Him by Joseph, His earthly father. He grew in stature, not just in height and strength in the physical realm, but also in righteousness, position, and understanding among those around Him (see Luke 2:41-49).

Jesus is often treated as more of a something than a Someone during this season. He is a prop, a piece, a part of the decorations in many places. But for some, Jesus is everything. He is the breath we breathe, the laughter we hear in our homes, the quiet moments shared among our family members. Jesus is our salvation, our joy, our healer, our Creator, our comforter, and our friend.

Jesus means that whether it’s December 5th or December 25th, March 17th, or November 17th, I can carry hope in my heart. I can let go of my sorrows, my failings, the times I hurt and disappoint others, and place them at His feet, at His manger. I can seek His mercies and forgiveness and be given a grace I don’t deserve from a Savior who loved me enough to be born for the purpose of dying for me.

And for you.

Best Beloved, when you put away the decorations don’t put away Jesus with them. Invite Him in, instead. Invite Him in to your daily activities, your relationships, your hurts, your worries, your hopes, your dreams, your very life.

He is waiting (Revelation 3:20).

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Broken hearts come together when words are spoken with humility and love. Mercy and grace fill in the spaces and restore the pieces to each other. But before those pieces are brought together for healing, often it is required to catalog them, to confirm that all the parts are present.

This is one of the hardest parts of reconciliation. The acknowledgment of what is broken, what will never truly be whole again, it must be recognized. All of the parts are reviewed and matched to the places they were originally connected. As each piece is held it can trigger thoughts of sorrow and memories of when the heart was whole.

As Christmas comes closer, we tend to imagine the small babe in a manger, sweet, small, and helpless. It is easy to forget that Jesus came to restore our brokenness, to bring healing to our sickness, and to reconcile us to God Himself. Jesus allowed Himself to be broken for us, to redeem us.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). 

Without Jesus we would still be shattered pieces on the floor, unable to be reconciled to God, unable to find the completion, the restoration, that only come from God. We can try to “glue ourselves back together” but God is the one who has the eternal glue for our ever-living-never-dying-souls.

Best Beloved, do you have someone in  your life with whom you need to reconcile? Is it a friend, a family member? Is it God? Don’t let this season pass without making a phone call, driving to someone’s house, sending a letter. Talking with God to bring the healing you both need. When God is allowed to restore the broken, something beautiful is created. Something that shines and shows His touch, His hand, His divine power to bring together something- someone, who cannot do it on his or her own.

There is a technique called “Kintsukuroi” which means to repair with gold. This technique of repair is much like what God will do with us when we let go of our broken pieces and allow Him to move within our lives. Will you allow Him to move within your relationships to bring this kind of healing to your heart today?

Image result for broken pottery repair

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Throughout today I have been reminded of the hope we have in Christ. It’s not a hope like wishful thinking, but a deeply rooted, sound and sturdy kind of hope, something we can stake our faith and trust in daily. We don’t have to worry as believers that Who we believe in will fail us. Jesus is worthy of being trusted. We can hope in Him and all He has promised because He is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).

I place my hope in Christ and all He offers to me. Rest, courage, peace, joy, and the ability to face adversity. During my Faith Journey I have faced death, broken relationships, disappointment, losses too many to number, and struggles only God understands. With Christ I have had the ability to get out of bed the next day and keep walking forward. He has never left me and instead has given me more than what has been taken away.

If we are given the opportunity to lean into the very God of the universe and we don’t lean in, then what are we doing? He loves us, cares for us, wants the best for us, what is keeping us from leaning in? Are we lacking hope? Dear Ones, if this describes you, I want you to know this is my prayer on your behalf.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

In this season of wonder and delight, we can find comfort and encouragement in the following verse as well.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (Romans 8:24-25).

Best Beloved, know that Jesus loves you- He will provide you with the hope you need to continue to trust in Him.

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as I am

At this time of year we joke that children need to be nice or Santa will bring them coal for their stockings. We tell them that Santa is watching them and their presents will be in jeopardy if they misbehave.  All manner of empty promises and threats are made to children during the weeks leading up to Christmas. It’s enough to make me shake my head.

I wonder sometimes, if this is the same view people have of God. We have to “be good” or we will get coal in our stockings or worse. We decide we need to clean up our acts, stop smoking, swearing, lying, give more money away to charities, make our kids behave, whatever being good looks like. And we would be wrong.

God doesn’t tell us that we have to get cleaned up to come to Him. We just have to come to Him. That’s all. Scripture makes it clear, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). No extra work to get on God’s good side, in fact, there is no way to get on God’s good side (Ephesians 2:8-9). Romans 3:23 says,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. In other words you cannot earn a place by what you do. It has already been earned by Christ. We just have accept His gift of salvation, through His death and resurrection. That’s it. No gimmicks, no hidden agenda.

Dear Ones, we don’t need to be perfect, we don’t have make promises we can’t keep, we just need to come. Charlotte Elliott wrote the hymn “Just As I Am” in 1835, trying to explain the simple steps to salvation in Christ. It is in these words I find truth and comfort, that no matter what I have done, it is never so bad that God will not meet me where I am, Just as I am.

Just as I am – Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

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forever and ever

I found my Christmas joy today, it came wrapped in music from 1742. Handel’s Messiah has been part of my Christmas mood adjustment for years and I had forgotten how much this music meant to me in the crazy, hectic schedule our home has been following for months.

The Hallelujah Chorus was part of our annual choir concert in high school and the highlight of the evening. I loved joining in with my fellow choir members and community members to sing this sacred song. The sweeping music, the majestic lyrics, always fill my heart with promise and hope for all Christ is to me.

As I said before, my house doesn’t have decorations, there is no snow on the ground, but I have found Christmas. It is inside of me. In my heart, my soul, my mind. It is in the Bible verses I have memorized over the years that I find my peace.

Christmas really doesn’t come from a store, or anything else — It’s about my heart and yours. It’s about whether we choose to make room in our hearts for Jesus when this season comes and whether we choose to keep Him foremost in our hearts throughout the year.

The Hallelujah Chorus is something that we should be singing all year long, snow, sun, summer, or fall. He will reign forever and ever. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

May we all sing Hallelujah.

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This season is hard to embrace for me. I don’t have Christmas decorations up, they’re in a box. I haven’t made a single cookie, caramel, or loaf of bread, and I haven’t shopped for a single present. I am beginning to look a lot like Scrooge–Ebenezer would be proud.

There is no snow on the ground, it is cold, but the snow we had two weeks ago has melted. The ground is brown and dead. Nothing is growing, everything is dormant. It’s hard to anticipate Christmas when the signs of Christmas are hiding.

Many centuries ago the scene was the same. There was little to celebrate, times were difficult. There was little hope with the Roman occupation of Israel, no hope for freedom, no hope for release from the iron clasp of Rome. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5).

The world was dead, without life, without hope, without freedom. In one amazing blessing came a baby who would bring life, hope, freedom and salvation to everyone who called on His name (Romans 5:10).

The shepherds heard the voices of the angels giving them instruction to seek out a young family with a newborn baby boy, who would change everything. They listened and they went to see this amazing miracle hidden away in a manger.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

If we have ears to hear this amazing story, not just tune out the “old story” we will find ourselves as the shepherds did:

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them (Luke 2:15-18).

May this season make you more like Scrooge on Christmas morning and less like him on Christmas Eve. Blessings, Dear Ones. 


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