It started with a letter and a sweater

By: Kristianne Stewart
Posted: September 22, 2014

Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord. 2 Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. 3 They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths. 4 You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully. 5 Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! 6 Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands. 7 As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should! 8 I will obey your decrees. Please don’t give up on me!                                       Psalm 119:1-8 (NLT)

I watched through the day as sunbeams moved across the waiting room like solar spotlights, settling along the length of a piece of furniture, highlighting its occupant’s emotions. The day had passed and I was alone in the hospital waiting room. I’d read and reread my sister-in-law’s letter. Her words were written in red.

 

“I want you to know I’m secure and very peaceful with you being here waiting on me to wake up. So while you’re in the waiting room, you show someone your heart and make their wait a little more peaceful.”

My thumb ran imaginary creases across the folds of the letter. Rather than waiting on a call, I made my way to the recovery room and slipped past the nurse’s station. The chorus of beeps and bleeps emitting from machines guided me to Sonja’s lone bed. 

“Sonja, I’m here.” I watched her fingers pull lightly against the sheets. “Kristianne, I knew you’d come. I kept calling for you but I knew you’d come. I’m so cold.”

I pillaged every piece of wheeled furniture around me for a blanket with no success. My eyes fell to my bag and a wrinkled cardigan sweater. I picked it up and laid it weave-like under and over the tubes that disappeared within the sheets, and into my precious sister-in-law.

I didn’t know it at the time but what started with a letter, a sweater, and my two sisters-in law and sister, diagnosed with cancer; began my Bible studies and ministry, Compassion That Compels.

BAG: Anyone who has walked through cancer or alongside a cancer overcomer has at one time stuffed their clothes into an oversized plastic bag, closely resembling a reusable cold bag.

JESUS CALLING DEVOTIONAL: God’s word reminds you, a cancer overcomer, that you are first an overcomer in Christ.

JOURNAL: To record those thoughts just between you and God.

SCRIPTURE TEA: Because hospital coffee at 6 pm is often thick as glue.

REUSABLE CUP OR MUG: For when even coffee glue can’t be found.

NOTEBOOK & PEN: To phonetically write down all those big, Latin sounding words that confirm this won’t go away with antibiotics and wish you’d paid more attention in science class.

SCRIPTURE CANDY SOFT MINTS: During treatment your mouth is always dry or suddenly becomes dry when you see a doctor approaching with your chart in hand.

SMALL THROW: To cover you with His love and besides, if you’re not freezing, the person next to you probably is.

CHICK-FIL-A CARD: Just to get away from a hospital cafeteria to a land flowing with sweet tea and nugget sauce.

I am a stranger and a temporary resident on the earth; hide not Your commandments from me.      Psalm 119:19 AMP

This life is just a waiting room. So while you’re in the waiting room, do what Sonja wanted everyone to do -- show your heart.

Agape,
Kristianne

  

Kristianne is a writer, speaker and founder of Compassion That Compels. Her life of love is filled to overflowing for her husband Royal, and their daughters Grace and Annelise. Collecting people and gardening are among her passions. Painting lives in brilliant hues of God’s love and compassion is her purpose. Join Kristianne on Facebook Compassion That Compels. Follow her on Twitter Kristiannefaith and Instagram

 

 

 

BIRTHING

By: Monica Steely
Posted: September 18, 2014

It was one of those "lightening bolt" mission trips. The kind where every moment you feel God zapping you and showing you something new – something different, something profound.

The kind where you literally feel yourself changing right then, right there...never to be the same again.

Have you ever had that kind of experience?

It was a spiritual mountaintop. The highest of highs that felt I felt like I had seen heaven – there, on the other side of the world, surrounded by young people representing over 60 nations.

Where everyone sang in their own tongue, and the blending of all those voices and languages and dialects was pure symphonic beauty. It made me weep; every day for nine days, I wept.

Have you ever had that kind of experience?

The return to the States felt like an eternal Sunday night – that feeling of knowing Monday is looming right around the corner and you'd give anything...anything...not to have to face it.

I didn't want to go back to normal. I didn't want to face the job I had no passion for, a lifestyle that felt excessive, a void of the heaven I just experienced.

Something was birthed in me on that trip; something grand and magnificent and scary, and it filled every empty place I didn’t even know I had.

I didn't want it to fade away.

The first week of reentry was hard. One day as I drove to work, I loudly played a CD from a band I had just seen play live just a week before on that trip.

I drove and I reflected and I remembered heaven.

And then I passed through the toll booth on the interstate, and was immediately overwhelmed by a scripture that God pressed on my heart...hard.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

The tears sprung forth and my heart wanted to burst right out of my chest and I couldn't bear the ache I felt. The Word, watering the change that was birthed on the trip, was glued to my soul.

I pictured what That Word meant and I wondered how I'd make it all happen. I mentally listed all I'd sell and how I'd tell my parents I was moving across the globe.

A few weeks later in church, as I closed my eyes in worship and sought God desperately, I was again immediately overcome with a scripture that sounded like it was being whispered into my ear -- like a secret from a best friend that she wants only you to hear.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! (Isaiah 43:18-19)

“New thing” repeated over and over as a mantra while tears sprung forth. Again my heart wanted to burst out of my chest – but this time it wasn't an ache I felt but a joy. A deep, simmering, reverential joy and I suddenly couldn't wait to see what God would do next.

My time had come. He was moving and I was so excited to be along for the ride. I pictured what that meant and I wondered how I'd make it all happen. In my mind, I saw how I'd quit my job and what it would feel like to walk off an airplane in a country that required a visa for me to stay there.

Have you ever had that kind of experience?

There's a flip side to that verse in Isaiah I wasn’t aware of back then – a shift that is required to make a new thing possible. 

I didn't know that for God to create something NEW, it meant that something old had to DIE. 

I didn't know there were things that had to be pruned and killed and that it's an excruciating and painful process. I didn't know I'd immediately go into a time of crawling...into a wilderness of my own where Satan tempted and used scripture and where he would have been very pleased to give me his kingdom.

For a very steep price.

I just didn't know.

When the crawling time came, I was angry and heartbroken and mesmerized and lured all at the same time. In moments of despair it was so easy to shake my tiny, human fists at God as I fell headfirst into the pit. 

I thought you were creating something new! I thought you were pleased to give me the kingdom! Where are you?! FIGHT! FOR! ME!

I didn't know that I had to crawl. God needed to kill my interpretation of His word so I'd willingly accept His definition of it.  

God births what He births. It's not up for interpretation or debate or compromise. And what He births requires of us – it requires holiness and righteousness and an obedience to lay down the very word He gave. To lay down our Isaac.

And it requires a willingness to hold up a mirror to our sinful selves and allow Him to purify us – so that our desires become His desires and He can be pleased to give us His kingdom.

What experiences can you look back on and identify as birthing times? Are you able to see God's divine plan in it now? Have you forgiven God, if necessary, for His word looking different than you initially thought it would? My friend, He is for you. His heart yearns to be one with yours. 

--

--Monica

Monica Steely is a writer, speaker, coffee iv’er and transformation whisperer. She blogs at Elevate Ideas and procrastinates anything related to cooking, cleaning and other domestic activities. She’s also the co-founder of Be Still Be Free…a mindset revolution seeking to encourage women to BE first and DO second. Listen to BE’s podcasts on iTunes or Buzzsprout

Unforeseen Challenges

By: Dianna Salciccioli
Posted: September 15, 2014

We have an interesting situation at our house.  Our home has huge windows facing out to our backyard; behind the fence in the yard is a grouping of trees that serve as a “gathering place” for a multitude of birds.  Early in the morning my husband and I often comment that the birds are holding “church services” back there!

Here’s the sad challenge~ daily I hear one or two loud noises as a bird, flying confidently through its day, slams into my window and falls to the ground.

 

Sometimes, after they get their bearings, they cautiously fly away. 

Sometimes they die. 

I am so sad every time! Outside of putting decals all over mypicture windows; I can’t save them from this unforseen challenge!

As always, these situations give me reason to ponder and find the truth about life in the experience. Today I realized that just like the birds, there are times we are just going along with our daily routines and then...WHAM! 

We find we have hit an unforseen challenge! Didn’t see it coming!!  Couldn’t have avoided it!! Didn’t necessarily cause it!! 

We were just “flying along”!

  Matthew 10: 29-31 reminds us of this truth; Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

God doesn’t promise deliverance from all pain. He does not always intervene to keep us far from hurt or harm. But in the times when we do hurt, He comforts us in the midst of our troubles.

Sometimes He bolsters us through the kindness of others.

Sometimes He brings a sense of peace that we could never conjure up on our own.

Sometimes, through a glimpse of beauty or a well-timed word of encouragement, he reassures us that we’re going to be okay, that we are loved.  He is near.

My prayer is that when you face unforeseen challenges you will experience the hand of God lovingly nudging you back on your feet just as I do when these little birds hit my window. May you sense His sadness for your hurt and know His desire to see you fly again!  

Dianna

Dianna Salciccioli co-founded and leads alongside her husband Greg, at Coachwell, Inc.- Coaching & Consulting Company. Dianna's been a pastor’s wife, pregnancy resource director, teacher’s aide, youth pastor’s assistant, and coach in her life but her highest calling is being a quality wife to her precious husband, as well as a hands on mom to her incredible sons!  Over the past five years she's been blessed to add to her “roles” that of mother- in- law to two of the greatest young women she knows! This year, Dianna's role grew to grandma and her heart swells at the thought! Follow Dianna on her blog.

Running Behind Our Pads

By: Martha Bailey
Posted: September 11, 2014

Every time I think I’m about to get a handle on football, the commentators throw me another curve ball. For example, recently during one of the preseason games the announcer stated, “He’s running behind his pads!”

Hmmm……..running behind his pads; running behind his pads.  What in the world could that possibly mean? I thought to myself. Less than five minutes later, the announcer said it again.  Because my husband Waylon, knows me quite well he quizzed, “Do you know what the commentator is talking about?”

“Nope. Not a clue,” I confessed.

 “It means the player is running down low lunging forward because in football leverage is everything,” Waylon explained as if it made perfect sense. “Do you get it?”

“Not really,” I said somehow not connecting all the dots and feeling about the same way I did the first time I heard a commentator say a player “left his feet.”

The expression that threw me for a loop years ago was, “They scored on a Hail Mary!”

“Hail Mary?”  What does that have to do with football?  Then I learned it means throwing the ball in the air and praying someone catches it and scores.

Unfortunately, many of us deal with life from a “Hail Mary” perspective.  We put up a few prayers from time to time while hoping for a positive outcome—an attitude completely foreign to the apostle Paul who was an “in it to win it” kind of guy!

He was focused.  He said, “I run with purpose in every step… I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27 NLT).

Admittedly, Paul faced many difficult situations, but even then he was in the race of life to win. He refused defeat saying, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

In Philippians 3:13b-14 NLT Paul said, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

May you and I, like Paul, be people who refuse defeat.  Let’s be people who are in it to win it–people who are “running behind our pads,” totally focused on heaven.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Heavenly Father, life is a tough race to run–one we often think we can complete by throwing up a few half-hearted prayers from time to time.  But that’s not Your will for our lives. Thank You for reminding us that we must not dwell on the mistakes or hardships of the past.  Instead we must focus on the goal and run with perseverance.  Help us today to run behind our pads, totally focused on heaven.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 12:1-3; I Corinthians 9:24-27; Philippians 3:12-14

Martha

Martha Bailey is a pastor's wife, author of two books--Putting My Dress-up Clothes Away and It Hurts but I'm Okay (available at Amazon and insight Press)--and blogs Wednesdays at marthabailey.com. To find out more about Martha's: Treasures, Past, Christian Service, Publications and Passions, visit her blog or follow her on Twitter.

For Those Who Have Scars…

By: Nancy Backues
Posted: September 8, 2014

My first surgery in 2010 left me with a 6-inch scar running down the back of my left thigh. Of course I know it's there, but since it's on the back of my leg and it's faded over the last few years, it's easy to forget about. This time, however, there was a new scar, and this one wasn't so easy to hide...my port.

For those who don't know, a port is a small device implanted just under the skin for the purpose of delivering chemotherapy drugs. While I am thankful to have had it during chemo, I wasn't looking forward to toting it along on my vacation. It's implanted right under my right collar bone, so it was easy to cover up with clothing through the long, cold winter. But now it was swim suit season. That was a whole new ball game.

Unlike the one on the back of my leg, this was one scar I could not ignore. When someone looked at my face, there it was...a few inches below my chin, looking like it was about to burst out from under my skin. It was unmistakable. It was unavoidable.

That is when I decided...it would just have to be seen, and I (and everyone at Ft. Walton Beach) would just have to live with it!

Strangely enough, it didn't bother me once my feet hit the sand. :) I figured those who didn't know what it was could probably care less. And those who did know what it was...well, they would understand.

They would know that it's more than an ugly protrusion under my skin.

More than a disfigurement.

It's a physical marker of the battle I am waging.  A weapon in my arsenal.

That's the thing about scars...those of us who have them understand what they represent.

We don't see the ugly or the imperfection.

We see the struggle.

The fight.

The victory.

As I type this, I am recovering from yet another surgery, and I have yet another scar. Before all is said and done, I'll likely have two more.

I don't like scars. Not because they're ugly, but because they represent pain. Deep pain. Pain no one should have to endure.

They remind us of a time when we were weak, vulnerable.

And for that reason, I'm learning to appreciate my scars. I don't know that I'll ever grow to love them. But I pray I will always remember what they represent...

"My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak,  then I am strong."  2 Cor 12:9, 10

Nancy is an author, speaker, wife, mother, cancer-fighter, and lover of all things chocolate. When she’s not playing cook, chauffeur, maid, or referee to her family, she can be found writing about embracing grace at There is Grace. Nancy lives in Missouri with her favorite people in the world, her husband and two children. Follow Nancy on FacebookTwitter, or Pintrest.

THARSEO

By: Monica Steely
Posted: September 4, 2014

You direct me on a path that leads to A BEAUTIFUL LIFE. As I walk with you, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment” (Psalm 16:11)

 

There has been pain.

Pain when two boys we used to care for in our home were killed. Pain when a fellow student in high school died. Pain when my family shifted and changed unexpectedly after college, and the foundation of everything I thought that was suddenly wasn’t, and everything I thought I had vanished and a series of heart-bursting earthquakes left me shaking, empty and broken.

 

Yes, there has been pain. But there’s also been beauty.

 

There was beauty when I was a teenager and would sneak in the back of church on Sunday nights — when I had done something I knew I shouldn’t, or was feeling something bigger than I knew how to express, or was confused or sad or lost. I’d sneak in the side door on the far right-hand side of the sanctuary and sit right there, on the second to last row under the balcony, where the lights were dim and

 

And every time — every single stinking time — God would have gotten there first, and sat there so quietly and invisible that it wasn’t until I felt His huge arms wrap around my body tightly that I realized I actually had sat on His lap, not just the pew. And for the entire service, He would just hold me tight and I would cry until there was nothing left.

 

There was beauty when as a young adult I reached the end of my rope — when the path of pain and shock and tears all converged right there at God — and my options were simply Will You? or Won’t You? and out of sheer desperation I fell to the side of my bed and whispered, I will. 

 

It wasn’t until I felt His huge arms wrap around my body tightly that I realized He had gotten there first and I had actually fell into His lap, not just the floor. And He held me tightly and I cried until there was nothing left.

 

And there was beauty when I a real-live grown-up and faced tragedy and loss and shook my fist at God asking, Why me? and He gently – oh so gently – whispered back,

Why not you?

 

and my pride vaporized and I again found myself in His lap, arms tightly holding me as tears fell until there were no more.

 

There has been pain. But there has been even more beauty.

 

We all know suffering. We know the question-raising, faith-doubting, back-turning pain this life brings — whether we’re affected by it, or it’s our own personal story to tell — we know it. We see it throughout the Bible, in our communities and in our world. The consequences of a fallen world mean we will have pain.

 

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. BUT TAKE HEART! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:33)
 

And the secret to not just surviving the suffering but thriving in it is tucked right there in the end of the verse. The take heart, or be of good cheer as it’s sometimes translated. The original Greek of that phrase is wrapped up in one word — THARSEO — literally meaning ‘be of good cheer’ or ‘be of good courage.’

 

And that phrase — THARSEO — is either spoken by Jesus or in direct relation to Him each of the eight times used in the Bible.

 

THARSEO – Your sins are forgiven. (Matt 9:2)

 

THARSEO – Your faith has healed you. (Matt 9:22)

 

THARSEO – It is I. You have nothing to fear. (Matt 14:27)

 

THARSEO – Do you see? It is I. (Mark 6:50)

 

THARSEO – He calls for you. Get up and go to Him. (Mark 10:49)

 

THARSEO – Your faith has made you well again. (Luke 8:48)

 

THARSEO – I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

 

THARSEO – You have successfully told your story about Me in Jerusalem, and soon you will do the same in Rome. (Acts 23:11)

 

Our defining moments — the moments that lead us to a life of beauty or a life of ashes — come when we’re standing facing that fork in the road deciding between the Why Me? Path or the Why Not Me? Path.

 

As we stand there we hear Him call THARSEO! and we either choose to be of good cheer or we don’t.

 

And it’s choosing the Tharseo path — the Why Not Me? path — that leads to a beautiful life.

 

Protect me, God, for the only safety I know is found in the moments I seek You. (Psalm 16:1)

 

A Beautiful Life is not about how to avoid suffering or pain or difficulty. But it is about choosing God and the joy and contentment He alone brings — regardless of our circumstances — is what makes life beautiful.

 

Because God is in the business of making beauty out of ashes, if we first choose to Tharseo. 

 

God has sent me to give them a beautiful crown in exchange for ashes. (Isaiah 61:3a)

 

He’s in the business of abundant futures and eternal riches, if we first choose to Tharseo.

 

You, Eternal One, are my sustenance and my life-giving cup. In that cup, You hold my future and my eternal riches. (Psalm 16:5)

 

He’s in the business of making glad hearts and joyful souls if we first choose to Tharseo.

 

This is a good life—my heart is glad, my soul is full of joy, and my body is at rest. Who could want for more” (Psalm 16:9)

 

He’s in the business of giving us victory in life, not making victims, if we first choose to Tharseo.

 

To anoint them with gladness instead of sorrow, to wrap them in victory, joy, and praise instead of depression and sadness. (Isaiah 61:3)

 

God longs to raise up Victors…to bring freedom to those that have been enslaved to their circumstances for too long…to show you how beautiful life truly is and empower you to choose the Tharseo path — to give you a heart of courage and good cheer.

 

THARSEO! He calls for you. GET UP AND GO TO HIM.

 

__

Monica Steely is a writer, speaker, coffee iv’er and transformation whisperer. She blogs at Elevate Ideas and procrastinates anything related to cooking, cleaning and other domestic activities. She’s also the co-founder of Be Still Be Free…a mindset revolution seeking to encourage women to BE first and DO second. Listen to BE’s podcasts on iTunes or Buzzsprout.

 

Watercolor hearts photo ©iStock.com/beastfromeast (modified by Monica Steely)

 

How are you going to love?

By: Kristianne Stewart
Posted: August 28, 2014

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  37  Then he said to his disciples,  “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  38  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”                                                Matthew 9:36-38

Jesus had compassion for the distressed,  the dejected, the lost.  A few years ago,  I was so hemmed in by my need to serve on God’s personal God Squad,  handing out sin citations,  that my love for the lost was overridden by my prideful need to defend God’s truth.  I was still moved by the innocent who were maligned and hurt,  but immune to the sinners birthed from a corrupt culture.  It was then God showed me if I were to love the lost,  I would need more empathy for the “guilty” than for the innocent.  I would need compassion.  And slowly,  He gave me a heart of compassion,  a compassion that compels me to love in action.  A voluntary act of my will, a yielding to the Holy Spirit.

Compassion that compels forces your heart to pay attention with intention.  It kneels down to your child to listen with your eyes. It reaches across the table at that next family gathering.  It knocks on your neighbor’s door.  It extends itself at a ragged shirt sleeve and outstretched hand. 

Do not forget to entertain strangers,  for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.       Hebrews 11:12

Close your eyes and think about someone whom you love with your whole heart.  Someone easy to love. Then create a mental montage of those who may not have loved you in return.  Now stop,  and think about the family member you are called to love,  but just can’t?  If they died today would you know where they would spend eternity?  If you doubt it is in heaven,  do you feel that is their just reward?  Or do you feel compelled by the same compassion to serve the helpless, to leave the ninety-nine sheep, and seek the one that is lost?  In Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus identified the needs and saw that the workers were few.  

Do you think he was only speaking to His disciples after a series of mega-picnics that fed thousands?  Or is His word living and active today and it includes us?

The answer is yes,  we are His disciples. In verse 38,  Jesus tells us to ask  (pray)  the Lord to send,  some translations say force,  the workers into his harvest field.  

What if,  just what if,  you were praying and God commanded you to harvest the field?  Could you do it steeped in the confines of judgement and condemnation with arms crossed?  Or suffused in His grace and mercy like those loving arms, outstretched on the cross?

... “Simon son of John,  do you truly love me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he said,  “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”  16  Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”  He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said,  “Take care of my sheep.”  17  The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”  He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep."             John 21:15-17

Jesus posed the question to Peter three times, “Do you truly love me?”  By the third time,  Peter was hurt.  How could Jesus ask him three times?  Peter said,  “You know that I love you.”  If Jesus knows all things, why was he asking?  He certainly wasn’t asking Peter because He didn’t know.  He was relentless in His questioning not for Peter to affirm his love, but for Peter to decide how he was going to love.  Jesus asked Peter and today He asks us to display His love through compassion.  A compassion that should compel us to feed the innocent lambs and take care of the lost sheep.  

The question remains, how are YOU going to love?

Agape,

Kristianne

Kristianne is a writer, speaker and founder of Compassion That Compels. Her life of love is filled to overflowing for her husband Royal, and their daughters Grace and Annelise. Collecting people and gardening are among her passions. Painting lives in brilliant hues of God’s love and compassion is her purpose. Join Kristianne on Facebook Compassion That Compels. Follow her on Twitter Kristiannefaith and Instagram

 

 

What are you afraid of?

By: Wendy van Eyck
Posted: August 25, 2014

I, I’m the One comforting you, What are you afraid of – or who? Some man or woman who’ll soon be dead? Some poor wretch destined for dust? You’ve forgotten me, God, who made you, who unfurled the skies, who founded the earth. Isaiah 51: 12-13 (MSG)

I am afraid of confrontation.

I know that confronting a small thing when it occurs is better than facing off about a big thing further down the line. 

This last month I forgot this and I ended up in a situation where I was feeling used and abused and alone. 

After another episode of being treated badly I yelled at my computer in frustration and then burst into tears. 

My poor husband has heard me ranting about the situation for weeks. While I stood there wiping tears away he told me to quit. 

He told me I needed to stand up for myself and if it meant that I lost the contract we’d find another way to make ends meet. 

And I knew: this man had my back. 

I’d forgotten that I wasn’t alone and that I didn’t need to solve this problem on my own. 

Later in the day I thought about what had happened and about how I do the same thing with God. 

I forget that God has my back. (tweet this)

I think that’s why God included verses like Isaiah 51:12 – 14 in the Bible, little reminders that he is bigger than all our problems

Cues that most of my worries are tiny 

compared to a God who made me, unfurled the skies, and founded the earth.

When I put it like that I wonder why I would ever think that God didn’t have my back?

Why I would stress for even one moment that if I stand up for myself God won’t back me up. 

My problems are nothing compared to crafting a human, or flinging stars, or speaking a planet into being but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care. 

As long as I remember God has my back, all my fears seem tiny. (tweet this)

Even confrontation doesn’t seem so scary when I remember that God is standing right behind me saying, 

“I’ve got this. No matter what happens, I’ve got your back.” (tweet this)

Ponder: Do you ever feel like no one has your back? How do you feel about the idea that God has your back?

Prayer: Lord, thank you that I don’t need to be afraid because you are with me. Amen.

Wendy

 

Wendy van Eyck is married to Xylon-a man who talks non-stop about cycling-and makes her laugh. She write for anyone who has ever held a loved one's hand through illness, or believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holdiay through a foreign land with just a backpack. - See more of Wendy at www.ilovedevotionals.com. Connect with Wendy on Facebook, Twitter
 

Do You Want a God Who Builds Skyscrapers or One Who Makes Stars?

By: Martha Bailey
Posted: August 21, 2014

I sat in the early worship service fighting tears that refused to be held back as we sang:

“Change my heart, Oh God.  Make it ever true. Change my heart, oh God; may I  be like You.  You are the potter; I am the clay.  Mold me and make me; this is what I pray.”

Afterwards I leaned over to Waylon and said, “Isn’t it amazing how those words take on a new meaning given our new set of circumstances?”

A few weeks earlier I had been faced with an option—to choose my own selfish desires or to choose to be more like Jesus.  It was a WWJD moment.  Opting for the latter would mean I couldn’t turn my head from hurting and needy people. Instead I would have to look them straight in the eye knowing it was going to rip my heart out and be very costly.

Acknowledging the Lord as “the potter” and me as “the clay” would mean He would begin to mold my mind so I could view the world through His eyes.  Matthew 9:36a tells us that “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them.”  We say, “Of course, He did.  He is Jesus.” But in order to really understand the words Matthew recorded we need to know what the word compassion means.  It’s more than just seeing with our eyes and saying, “Aww, poor people.”  No.  Real compassion is something we feel—in the pit of our stomach or in our chest.

It’s an emotion that won’t go away and compels us to action.

Later in the service Sunday we sang, “Wherever He Leads I’ll go; Wherever He leads I’ll go.  I’ll  follow my Christ who loves me so; wherever He leads I’ll go.”

Allowing the words to sink deep in my heart I realized “wherever” means wherever He chooses not wherever I choose.  Weeks before God had said to me, “Trust me.  Don’t try to figure this situation out.  You’re not smart enough.  You are in an IMPOSSIBLE situation.  But if you will believe I am sovereign, I will make your path clear.  Clear—not easy.”  I knew He was asking me to demonstrate I genuinely believed what He said—that I really would trust Him.

Toward the end of Week Three of our ordeal, some precious friends gave me a book entitled Perfect Trust, by Charles Swindoll.  Knowing that was what I desperately needed—not a little bit of trust, not a kinda sorta trust, but p e r f e c t  t r u s t—I devoured every word of the book.

Making his case for trusting God, Swindoll compared what man can do as opposed to what God can do.  He said that when people do something it has the mark of humanity on it. For example, when people build a skyscraper, “You can follow the logic of it and see the meaning behind it.  You can even read what they paid for it. And how they pulled it off and the organization that made it so slick.”

However, Swindoll went on to say, “God doesn’t build skyscrapers; men build skyscrapers.  And they all have the touch of genius.  Human genius.  But you cannot find a man who can make a star.  And when God steps in, His working is like the difference between a skyscraper and a star” (Perfect Trust pp.32-33).

Isn’t that profound?

Have you like I many times settled for what I can do when we have access to the Sovereign Lord of the universe who “determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name?” (Psalm 147:4

Lately, the Lord has made it clear to me that while much of life can be handled by human ingenuity, there are situations that can only be handled by the wisdom mentioned in James 1:5-8.  It comes from God who gives it generously to those who trust Him.

Today let’s trust God when He said,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,  so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)?

Let’s don’t settle for wisdom that can only build skyscrapers.  Let’s take our petitions to the top–to the One who can make stars.

Dear Father, help me to believe that nothing is impossible with You. Help me take great comfort in knowing You don’t build skyscrapers, but You are the  omnipotent Lord of the universe Who “determines the stars and calls them each by name.”  Help me to trust You with all my heart.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture Reading:  Psalm 147:4; Isaiah 55:8-9; James 1:5-8

 

Martha

Martha is a pastor's wife, author of two books--Putting My Dress-up Clothes Away and It Hurts but I'm Okay (available at Amazon and insight Press)--and blogs Wednesdays at marthabailey.comTo find out more about Martha's: Treasures, Past, Christian Service, Publications and Passions, visit her blog or follow her on Twitter.

Let it go, Let it go, That perfect girl is gone!

By: Dianna Salciccioli
Posted: August 18, 2014

Since last November lots of young girls have been holding their hair brushes and singing at the top of their lungs, "Let it go, Let it go"!!  Parents, teachers, and even youth leaders have expressed weariness to hearing this sung over and over and over again!  Knowing this I have taken time to listen to how young girls sing this song and I have been amazed!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evey time I hear a young girl sing this song, she revs up her emphasis and volume when she sings the verse, " Let it go, Let it go. I'll rise like the break of dawn! Let it go, Let it go! That perfect girl is gone!! Here I stand in the light of day! Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway!!  Why do you think this is?

Let me share some insights.  As women, young or old, we want to be accepted; to be liked.  We get wounded when we are rejected or misjudged.  Often we hide who we really are in order to appear perfect, and judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else when we feel we don't measure up to the perfection we expect from ourselves.

It makes sense that young girls love to "shout" the words to the song, "That Perfect Girl is Gone" because it feels freeing to act like we simply do not care what people think, but we do!!

I have written about this before but it bears repeating; we won't please all the people all the time!  We won't always measure up to the expectations of others, and as hard as we try we will not achieve perfection!

So here's what is true~~ God has poured good gifts into us all.  His love is laced with grace, forgiveness, and hope. Every day is a new beginning and we are saved by grace --not perfect works!!

So, my ladies~~ young and old~~ you don't need to be perfect to be crazy loved by your Lord!! He thinks you are precious beyond measure! Embrace these thoughts today!!

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins 1 John 4:10

These thoughts were on my heart today; I pray you are encouraged by them!!

Dianna

Dianna Salciccioli co-founded and leads alongside her husband Greg, at Coachwell, Inc.- Coaching & Consulting Company. Dianna's been a pastor’s wife, pregnancy resource director, teacher’s aide, youth pastor’s assistant, and coach in her life but her highest calling is being a quality wife to her precious husband, as well as a hands on mom to her incredible sons!  Over the past five years she's been blessed to add to her “roles” that of mother- in- law to two of the greatest young women she knows! This year, Dianna's role grew to grandma and her heart swells at the thought! Follow Dianna on her blog.

Everybody's Love Smells Different

By: Kristianne Stewart
Posted: August 13, 2014

Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.         2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Grace’s ringlet curls wrapped around her spangly bracelets as she leaned across our bubble gum tea party. She wiggled her index finger in the space between our faces. “C’mere, mommy…real close and breathe big with me” and we did as if together, we could breathe in tiny moments like solid molecules. “Mmmm…I love you. You stink really good today, mommy.” Of course, I completely understood that it was the scent of my perfume but what Grace really smelled was my love.

Everybody’s love smells different.

My Italian grandma was never a gushing geyser of sentiments but I do remember the endless flow of Little Debbies that grew within the pockets of her flowered, polyester housecoat and sent me on cream filling waves across her kitchen linoleum, to the gold shag carpeted guest room. I never knew what treasures waited behind the real imitation wood closet doors with their shiny brass knobs. There were always stacks of toys, games, and primary colored striped clothes that if they were too big for me, I could pass to my older sister and too small, given to a younger cousin.

My grandma’s love smelled like a mix of garlic and mothballs.

In the Old Testament around the time of the battles between the "ites" and the ambivalent Israelites, animal sacrifices were pleasing aromas to God. I’ve read the New Testament starting with the red letters enough to know what Jesus saw, heard, tasted, touched but what did Jesus smell

But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.                                                                                                                                                                                           2 Corinthians 2:16                                  

 Lazarus was dead for four days

A woman with an issue of blood for 12 years

Legion and his tomb dwelling demons

And how about that mid-dinner pedi Jesus did for all of his disciples?

Let’s face it, what Jesus had to smell would leave us gagging. Nowhere do we read about Jesus priming his hand sanitizer bottle or getting into a Febreze spraying frenzy after each encounter.

Not a mention of what He smelled, because maybe what Jesus smelled was love.

Live a life filled with love following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.       Ephesians 5:2

Retracing the steps across and around the decades of my life, I see first my 20’s “if God loved me."  30’s “when He loves me." Now in my 40’s and no longer an “unsecure person," but firmly rooted in faith and realizing that grace isn’t acquired like a scouting merit badge, it’s because He is love. God loves me because God is love and to Jesus, I hopefully stink really good.

Agape,

Kristianne

Kristianne is a writer, speaker and founder of Compassion That Compels. Her life of love is filled to overflowing for her husband Royal, and their daughters Grace and Annelise. Collecting people and gardening are among her passions. Painting lives in brilliant hues of God’s love and compassion is her purpose. Join Kristianne on Facebook Compassion That Compels. Follow her on Twitter Kristiannefaith and Instagram

God Is Enough

By: Sabrina Nelson
Posted: August 11, 2014

 

Have you ever stopped and wondered if God had a bucket list? Would He have made a list that included watching His only son Jesus be tortured, crucified, dead and buried? I am sure if He did make a list it would include all of the wonderful things that He accomplished. Feeding 5000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish from a little boy (John 6:5-13), parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14:18,31), restoring sight to the blind and the lame able to walk. All just a day’s work for God!

There are wonderful places to visit and things to do, and there is nothing wrong with that. I have decided that a bucket list should actually be a short one for me. I may be able to go places and be blessed enough to do things I might desire to do in this life, but I want my main focus to always be Christ centered and all of the things on my bucket list be only things that would result in His glorification

Sabrina’s Bucket List:

 1. Live for God, solely for Him and have a relationship with Him that HE desires.

 2. Share His name, His word, His works with others. This is something He desires and asks of us.

 3. Lead others to Him. This is what we are called to do as children of God and yet another of His desires.

 I truly want my bucket list to be the things that God desires of me.

I want... to always be one with a servant’s heart, a willing vessel and spirit that will do whatever it is He calls me to do at any moment.

I want…His love to shine from me and for others to know without a doubt that when they see me, they see Jesus.

I want…to share His word with others so that they may come to know Him.

I want…to praise Him all of my days, both the good and the bad for after all, any day given to us is from God.

 I believe if I am able to do all of these things, all of the places I may want to go, or things I may want to see will all just be blessings granted to me by God for being a good and faithful servant. Nothing in life is free and the price Jesus paid on the cross for our sins certainly is the biggest price of all.  How hard should it be for us to attempt to repay such a debt? It shouldn’t be. We should all wish to live for Him just as He was willing to die for us. In my eyes, that is not asking too much at all. In fact, I feel I could NEVER do enough but God is enough!

I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.   Philippians 4:13

Why had I waited to really see this now? Due to my own serious health issues and suffering losses all around me, it made me begin to wonder...

Be still and know that I am God   Psalm 46:10

God was writing my bucket list this entire time. I learned to trust Him and have faith that He was working all the while for my good. And I learned to be still. Trusting Him and having faith in His plan led me straight to Compassion That Compels. He brought me right into exactly what He wanted me to be doing. This ministry has become so close to my heart and a huge part of my life that I could never thank Him enough for the trials I endured. I am grateful for those valleys He led me out of, only to lead me straight to Kristianne and Compassion That Compels! He knew what He was doing all along. He only needed me to trust.

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Isaiah 41:13

I will never doubt Him again! And in return, my bucket list-my priorities have completely changed for the best! I challenge you to do two things. Sit down and write your bucket list and see where God ranks on that list! If He isn’t at the top, put Him there. At the end of the week, sit down and write your list of things you’ve done for God that week. It may not be a long list but it’s a start! Remember, every page starts blank. Every day with Jesus is a clean slate. It’s up to you to write it and to live it 

God Bless,

Sabrina

Sabrina is a loving wife who is blessed beyond measure. A servant’s heart is woven into her being and her focus is giving to others and leading them to know God. She is married to her best friend, has an amazing mom, two great step-daughters and one precious granddaughter. Follow Sabrina on Facebook or Twitter@sabrinamnelson.

 

 

 

And you might have cancer

By: Diana Focht
Posted: August 7, 2014

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  2 Corinthians 1:4

The Scripture Mints and Scripture Tea are long gone, but the love and compassion behind the gifting of my Compassion Bag remains! Little did I know that February night, when my sister-in-law, Heather, called me to ask if she and her Mom, Renee, could come over, how much my world would change.

November of 2013, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 endometrial cancer and underwent major surgery in December. I welcomed the new year by starting six rounds of chemotherapy treatments. About two weeks after my second treatment, Heather and Renee showed up at my doorstep and I was TIRED. It had been a long day at work, I was suffering from the effects of the chemo and did I mention I was TIRED. Renee couldn't wait to present my Compassion Bag to me and told me this incredible story as to how she was able to purchase the bag for me. The story Renee told, portrayed to me not only her heart (and persistence), but also the heart of the ministry from which the Compassion Bag originated, Compassion That Compels.

The Compassion Bag is practical and each item has a specific purpose. The bag itself is a great way to haul around all of your stuff. The infusion room where I received my chemo treatment was kept at a cooler temperature, so a blanket was always needed. Kristianne, the founder of Compassion That Compels, describes the inclusion of the Chick-fil-A gift card as a way to escape "from a hospital cafeteria to a land flowing with sweet tea and nugget sauce". She also states that the scripture attached to each useful item reminds a cancer overcomer that she is "first, an overcomer in Christ". How true that is! 

Even more than its practical use, my Compassion Bag represented love, God's love and others' love. As a single woman battling cancer, there were times when I felt like I was going through the cancer journey alone. God used my Compassion Bag to surround me with people who showed me that they loved me and cared about me. I am thankful to Renee and her husband, Bruce, for showing God's love and compassion through purchasing the bag. I am thankful to Kristianne for having the heart, compassion, and vision to start a ministry to reach out and touch women battling cancer. A ministry which I am now excited to be a part of!

The love and compassion embodied in the gifting of my Compassion Bag was one of many things that contributed to a holy revolution in my life…a radical transformation! I am not the same person who heard the words, "and you might have cancer", back in November of last year. Cancer catapulted me into another spiritual stratosphere like none I have experienced before. Early in my cancer journey, I asked a friend how someone could look at something like cancer and say that it was the best thing to ever happen to them. That it was a blessing and if they had to do it all over again, they wouldn't change a thing. At the time, I didn't understand that the reason for the trials in our lives, the cancer in my life, is very simple; it is to make us more like Jesus. It was only when this truth penetrated my heart, that I could cast off the whys and the what ifs, and allow God to radically work in my life.

My cancer had a purpose for being

My cancer had a voice for speaking

My cancer had a heart for loving

My cancer had eyes for seeing

My cancer became the best thing to ever happen to me and if God through His grace told me I could relive the last nine months of my life, I wouldn't change a thing! And though I still have a long way to go, I have become more like Jesus! There is no better place to be and the remnants of my Compassion Bag; well, they remind me that during the most difficult journey of my life, I was loved…and I still am!  

Diana

 Diana Focht is a cancer overcomer who is daily being transformed by the grace of God! Find her Facebook  #DreamParade

Dreaming Out Loud

By: Monica Steely
Posted: August 4, 2014

 

We tend to pursue our dreams in secret, don’t we?

We tiptoe toward them in our fuzzy slippers and robes during the darkest hours, daring not to make a sound as to not wake up the dream slayers — the fears and doubts and uncertainties that are deaf but know we’re coming anyway. 

We whisper our dreams softly, don’t we? 

It’s almost impossible to hear them ourselves and it’s easy to forget we ever uttered them at all. Instead of living them out loud, we tuck them into our books at night and they sit on our nightstand collecting dust until it’s time to read again, then fall asleep again, then dream again.

Why are we so quiet about having dreams, or speaking dreams or pursuing dreams? 

Can I share something with you?

I’m tired of whispering my dreams. 

Not many people know this, but a year or so ago, I had an amazing publisher interested in my book — a book that has been a dream of mine for over six years. It passed Acquisitions Committee and then went to Publications Board twice. After the second time, they finally settled on a no.

I’ve been sitting with that no for a year now, and honestly I’m okay with the answer. But what I’m not okay with? How I handled the entire process of this dream.

I told only a handful of people what was happening during the process. Somewhere along the way in my life, I’ve believed that in order to have a Deep True Dream, you have to keep it quiet until it comes to pass. Like there’s some superstitious jinx where sharing it will prevent it from becoming a reality.

But you know what the consequence is for pursuing dreams so fearfully and quietly? We lose dreamers. We stop teaching others that regardless of the outcome, it’s healthy to dream. And most importantly, we lose the opportunity to show others how to trust Jesus, even when we pursue our dreams and “fail.”

From the world’s point of view, I failed in reaching my dream. By not getting a book deal, I can easily become convinced that dream is dead and that I need to pursue a more “realistic” dream.

But can I tell you something?

I think, more accurately, that I actually succeeded. Why? Because every other time in my life when I’ve been faced with rejection, I’ve allowed it to break me; taking it personally and allowing it to dictate who I am and what I’m worth. 

Can I tell you something?

This was the first time in my life I didn’t do that.

Can I tell you something else?

During the process, I wasn’t sure if I wanted God’s will for my life more than I wanted this book. I quite honestly had a very, very hard time separating the two, and it became my constant prayer that the book wasn’t becoming an idol. I wasn’t sure where my heart truly stood on the matter. 

And you know what else?

While I’m still saddened and disappointed by this loss, my peace and trust in my Lord has not wavered, even for a second. I know and trust — even when I cannot see — that He has a plan for me and my life. And I know now, by that nonsensical yet supernatural peace, that I do want His will more than a book.

And the most favorite thing of all?

Through this process, my daughter has gotten to see that we don’t always succeed in everything we set out to do. Sometimes we can reach out and touch our dreams for a split second, and they can still slip out of our fingers in an instant — but that doesn’t stop our dreaming. It just makes us press in and work harder and believe God more. I am proud that she got to see me cry and mourn, but that I can put my hope in Jesus — the Dream Maker — and not just the dream itself.

 

We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him

and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. (Romans 8:28)

 

So in the end, I think I won.

Why would I stay silent about that kind of success?

I think from now on I’m going to live my dreams out loud instead of tiptoeing toward them in my fuzzy slippers and robe. Not because I’m seeking attention or accolades for myself, but because I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to spur another on in victory. And maybe if we all saw each other courageously pursuing dreams — regardless of the outcome — we’d find the courage to pursue more of ours, too.

So here’s to beating the drum and marching loudly in the #DreamParade — eyes on the Conductor as He orchestrates everything to work toward beautiful and good things.

 Monica

__

 

Monica Steely is a writer, speaker, coffee iv’er and transformation whisperer. She blogs at Elevate Ideas and procrastinates anything related to cooking, cleaning and other domestic activities. She’s also the co-founder of Be Still Be Free…a mindset revolution seeking to encourage women to BE first and DO second. Listen to BE’s podcasts on iTunes or Buzzsprout.

 Photo © istockphoto.com/Belodarova

 

 

 

Do the Work

By: Kristen Feola
Posted: July 28, 2014

Be strong and courageous, and do the work. – 1 Chronicles 28:20a, 

I sat in front of my computer monitor. Three months, I thought. I have only three months to finish this book. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. My neck was tight, and my shoulders were sagging under the heavy load. I opened up the Word for encouragement and turned to my Bible reading passage for the day – 1 Chronicles 28.

King David summoned all the officials of Israel to assemble at Jerusalem for an important announcement:

Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood. Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father (28:2-3, 6,). Then, in the presence of all the people, David presented Solomon with detailed instructions on the project. “Every part of this plan,” David told Solomon, “was given to me in writing from the hand of the Lord  (28:19).

At this point, David turned to Solomon and said: Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly (28:20).

The Lord spoke to my heart loudly and clearly through that last verse. I sensed him saying, “Kristen, be strong and courageous. I am with you. I have chosen you to write this book, just as I chose David to be king and Solomon to build the Temple. You can trust me to provide everything you need. I will see to it that the book is written just as I want it to be.”

Are you feeling overwhelmed by what God has called you to do? Don’t let fear keep you from moving forward. Remember, God is with you. Put your trust in him, and remind yourself daily, if necessary: What is impossible with man is possible with God   Luke 18:27.

Be strong in the Lord, and do the work. God will take care of the rest.

 

Kristen Feola is passionate about helping others become more spiritually and physically fit. She is the author of The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast. Her second book, Spiritually Strong: The Ultimate 6-Week Guide to Building Your Body and Soul will be released in January. Kristen lives with her husband and two daughters in Springfield, Missouri. Visit Kristen's websites KristenFeola.com and ultimatedanielfast.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.