If I had only one chance – week 3

Go back to last weeks post by clicking here.

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So, just in case, this is my one chance to cross paths with you, I want you to know:

You are loved.

You are not lost.

You can go home.

Your story matters.

you can go home

You can go home to God, the Father.

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
    call on Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for He will freely pardon.  Isaiah 55:6-7 niv

My thoughts first turn to the story of the prodigal son.  The younger of two sons, he decided he wanted to strike out on his own, perhaps try life ‘his way’ for a while.  Maybe he thought he knew more than his father.  Or perhaps he was just tired of the boring old rules.  Then again, maybe the young son was woven together with the thread of an adventurous untamed spirit.  For whatever the reason or the cause he asked his father for his share of the inheritance and struck out on his pioneer journey rather well to do for a young buck, I suppose.

God knows.  And He let Him go His own way.

We know the son’s way did not turn out to be the best way.  All had been lost – squandered really – on wild living.  What was he thinking?  Or was he thinking at all?  Perhaps he was simply living moment to moment as we tend to do when we are young and unafraid.  Did he get trapped somewhere along the way in the lies of the world, his own self-destructive thinking and the jeers and taunts of the enemy of his soul?

God knows.  And He watched all along waiting for Him to come back.

He did go home, didn’t he?  And isn’t that about the most fantastic and beautiful point of this story?  The younger son coming to his senses in the pig pen of despair actually thought it was a good idea to go home!  What did this prodigal know to be true, which would make it at all reasonable to think he should turn back before final destruction became his story?

  • He wanted to live.
  • Home was good and secure.
  • He deserved consequences.
  • He wanted to receive discipline.
  • His father loved him.
  • His father was merciful.
  • It would be better to live at home as a servant than to perish in a far-off land.

Luke 15.18 You can go home

He wasn’t simply correct about what he thought to be true, but the Father’s love and mercy were exceedingly abundantly beyond the son’s expectations.  There was a genuine repentance offered, forgiveness extended and celebration erupted upon the son’s return home.

For a long time that parable seemed to be just a story.  It was such for me until I needed it to be real and true.  I hope I never forget the time a counselor asked my husband and I if we could actually let a son go and not try to rescue him in the middle.  Could we simply wait and pray for him to finally come home?  Did we trust God that much?  I can testify God’s Word is true and dependable.

You can go home to God.

And even as my heart smiles at the remembrance of this beautiful Jesus parable, my mind wanders to another scenario.  A woman, who had left her homeland as the wife of a man and mother of two sons.  Her name was Naomi.

She hadn’t squandered an inheritance in riotous living.  At least there’s no indication she was wrong to follow her husband away from Judah and into the pagan land of Moab.  Her husband had taken his family out of the famine in Judah seeking to provide a better life, at least this is what it seems to me.  Their actions are not for me to judge for had I been in Naomi’s shoes I most likely would have been the one asking to leave for greener grass.

God knows.  And He allowed His children to go anyway.

But when we open the book of Ruth, we quickly learn that Naomi was left with two foreign daughters-in-law only.  Rather than the pleasant name of Naomi, she adopted the bitter name of Mara because of the devastation to her family.  I wonder if she felt judged.  Did Naomi assume she was receiving the punishment from God of her family’s choice to flee God’s people and homeland?

God knows.  And He provided ahead of His daughter’s return home.

So, when Naomi heard the good news of  God’s restored blessing on her homeland of Judah, she packed her bags, grabbed her daughters hands and headed down the road for home.  What did Naomi believe to be true, which would cause her to turn back at the end of such loss?

  • The Lord God Almighty was good.
  • Home was safe.
  • Her people would receive her back as a widow.
  • God’s law would make provision for her as a barren widow.
  • It was better to go to God empty-handed and bitter than to let shame keep her in a far-off land.

Ruth 1.6

I recognize at least a bit of my own spiritual journey in this story of Naomi.  Not that I’ve physically walked in Naomi’s shoes.  However, in a spiritual sense, I might be able to relate to Naomi’s journey back home to her God and the people of her God.  I certainly know the sickening anguish of recognizing my inability to save myself or my family from a famine season.

There’s a very real truth to Naomi’s story.  She and I both learned we must acknowledge the goodness of God and turn back to Him, both physically and spiritually.  A faith relationship, which will endure trials, requires full surrender to His sovereign place as Provider and Defender.  God is truly our only Security.  He is our King and He is worthy of our obedience and praise!

You can go home to God.

Finally, my thoughts turn to Peter, Jesus’ disciple.  Peter was the one Jesus called The Rock, which meant Jesus saw the true identity for which God created Peter.  Jesus saw Peter’s potential and God’s purpose for Peter’s life.

When I think of Peter, I think of a roller coaster.  He was up at the pinnacle one moment and swerving down into a spiral the next.  And yet, Peter was full of adventure and ready to throw caution to the wind for the sake of following Jesus.  After all, Peter was the one who stepped out of the boat to meet Jesus on top of the waves.  He was the one who rightly answered Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”  (Mark 8:29)

Jesus knew.  And He encouraged Peter to be bold.

However, it was Peter’s zealous devotion and hot-tempered responses which tripped him up time and time again.  When I think of Peter as a follower of Jesus, I truly believe his heart was in the right place.  I believe he was fiercely loyal to Jesus.  And I think he just couldn’t fathom God’s outlandish plan to allow His own Son to be crucified, to die and to be buried in a tomb.

Jesus knew.  And He corrected Peter out of love.

Out of Peter’s lion-hearted love and devotion he swore to Jesus in front of all their friends he would never rebel, deny or turn against Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  Peter had no doubt of his absolute allegiance to Jesus.

Jesus knew.  And He let Peter fulfill prophetic words of denial.

So, when Peter was at his absolute lowest point feeling like a total failure, who was it called him home?  Who had already set up camp on the beach and had a charcoal fire burning?  And who called out from the shore with a fishing tip?

It was Jesus resurrected who sought out his friends and Peter, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”  As soon as John announced, “It is the Lord!”, Peter got dressed, jumped into the water and swam to the shore.  What did Peter know about Jesus, which would cause him to throw himself in the water the way he did?  What did Peter believe to be true and anxiously desire to go immediately to Jesus?

  • Jesus was good.
  • Peter was deserving of consequences.
  • Peter could trust Jesus’ correction.
  • Jesus was forgiving.
  • Jesus was Who He said He was all along.
  • Peter could trust Jesus more than he could trust himself.

John 21.9 You can go home

Even though I imagine Peter once again acted impulsively by dressing and then swimming to Jesus on the shore, I also believe his response illustrated Peter’s sincere love for Jesus.  I believe Peter’s desire for another chance with Jesus was only exceeded by Jesus’ desire to restore Peter to his true God-given identity as The Rock.

And so maybe you’ve heard (or maybe not) Jesus met Peter face to face with a re-enactment of Peter’s greatest failure.  Except that with Jesus present in Peter’s most painful memory, Peter was able to state victoriously his full allegiance, love and devotion to Jesus, his Friend and his Savior.  It was Jesus’ idea to restore Peter.  Jesus set up the scenario.  Jesus entered into the place of Peter’s greatest shame and failure.  Jesus walked Peter through to the full defeat over his shame and set Peter free to fully serve the One to whom he pledged all his loyalty and devotion.

 

You can go home to God.

He sees you.

He knows you.

He’s waiting to restore you.

What are you waiting for?

Ponders:

Please, don’t take my word for it.  Read what God has to say about going home and His response to your ponderings about returning home to Him.

Luke 15:11-32

Ruth 1-4 (it’s a short book)

John 21 

  • What other scripture passages give you comfort regarding your relationship with God?
  • Will you ask Him to accept you back home?  Can you believe He’s standing at the door with the light on waiting to wrap you in love?
  • And if it’s someone else you love who is far from the Father, will you pray with me for this very much loved prodigal to turn toward home?
  • Which scripture passage do you pray or will you choose to pray on behalf of this dearly loved one?

Eyes on Jesus… you’re shining!

~Lisa

 

Looking beyond the routine

Even in the routine, following Jesus is anything but routine.

Does that sound like just another catchy phrase to put on a picture and post on Instagram or is this a true statement?  I’m pondering this idea of routine early this morning before the routine of my life begins.

As I meet with Father in prayer this morning and ask this question for myself the examples of Jesus’ life on earth begin to pop like quick movie previews through my thinking.

Looking Beyond the Routine

When Jesus stepped into His ministry calling on earth, He also walked into the routine of many people’s lives.  His interruption of their routine was attractive and enticing.  Do you ever wonder why regular people in the routine of their lives would receive Jesus’ simple invitation to follow Him?

I think of the fishermen in their work routine, fishing to provide for their families.  They were simply doing what they knew to do and then Jesus interrupted their routine with an offer.  I imagine the encounter:

Follow Me, since you know how to fish, I will teach you how to fish for men.

With so many examples popping… tax collectors, prostitutes, a Pharisee, the beggar and the crippled spending their days lying on a mat…

Lastly, the woman at the well whose routine had become completely opposite the routine of the other Samaritan women.  Her shame caused her to choose a lonely routine until the day Jesus interrupted her routine at the well.  I wonder what she thought about a Jewish man asking her for water that day.  This was anything but routine and her experience with men was anything but the standard.

I imagine the encounter:

Woman trade in your routine of shame for the Living Water I offer, and I will give you a message to offer all the people of your village.  You’ll be restored to the routine with the women free from shame and helping them to live free as well.

So, Lord Jesus, as I head straight into the routine of this day, help me to see You interrupting my routine with Your presence.  Teach me to do Your Kingdom work right in the middle of my routine life for Your Glory!

Ponder:

What does this look like for you?  Would you like to see Jesus interrupting your routine?

Will you ask Him to do so?

Eyes on Jesus… you’re shining!

~Lisa

routine FMF-Square-Images-4Today I am joining Kate and her wonderful community of faith writers for some Five Minute Friday writing fun.  The word prompt for this week is {beauty}  If you’re in the least bit intrigued, come join us for the Five Minute Friday link up

All you have to do is ponder the word prompt, set your timer for 5:00, and start typing. When time’s up, publish and link up.  Oh so simple!

Saturday Share with Brad Milford

Welcome to Saturday Share!  

Saturday Share coffeeThe purpose of this weekly feature is to provide a space for regular people to share their real-life encounters with Jesus.  It’s about living in the middle – on the way to the finish line.  If we still have breath to tell our stories then our race isn’t finished.

I believe we sharpen one another and delight God’s heart when we testify of His great work in our lives.  Be encouraged to put one foot in front of the other, and spur someone on while you’re at it!

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 niv

I am honored to introduce to you, my feature Saturday Share writer:

Brad Milford

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Living The Dream

by Brad Milford

Dear Elias,

It’s almost like I’m speaking to you from a completely different life. In a few days, it will be four months since our family has been reunited. It’s been the best four months of my life.

I have never felt so much devotion from mom. She has been giving this family her all, and it’s so important for you to know that. I guess I’m writing you today, to explain that.

SS Brad and fam casual

When you were 1, I already wanted to tell you so much. At just 1-year-old, I could sit down and talk to you till the crickets start chirping, but I still wouldn’t be able to get my message across. So I began writing. Pages after pages, filled with so much hope and fight.

I wanted to give you the best life I could, and I wanted to be with you and mom every single day. Pouring out my heart was in a way therapeutic, but was also in a way meant to be informative.

 

Dreams came true, prayers were answered, miracles happened, and before I knew it, everything was different. Our family is united, it’s whole, we are a team. There’s a little smirk I get on my face when I talk about it as if I’m giving myself a pat on the back.

But if you really want to know, this has been just as much your mother’s hard work and grace to get us here. She’s such an awesome woman, bug. What she does for us, can’t be faked. She pours out love, like any woman who truly loves their family. Despite the persecution for past mistakes, I see a glimpse of pride, like a twinkle in her eye, when she shows the world what God has given to her.

I pray that you will realize the victory in every battle she has conquered for us to the extent that I have. It’s not easy being mom, bug, but you wouldn’t say so by the way she makes it look.  I also pray that you can take her as an example for your own life.

SS Brad and fam

Someday you’re going to find your love, you’re going to dream about being with her for the rest of your life, and sooner than you can expect, life is going to try and rock your devotion for your loved ones. It’s going to shake you up and bring you down. The family God has given to you, the one you are being raised in now, is a prime example of what can become if you hold true to your loved ones. It’s a story of victory and devotion. If your willing to take a look around, you will notice God giving you the tools you will need to succeed every day.

If many stepped up to the plate, and gave their family their full heart, as much as your mother has, I’m sure the divorce rate would dwindle to none. Our family’s a forever family, I pray that it gives you the tools and morals to create a forever family of your own as you grow older. Always stay devoted.

I love you so much bug.

I’m so proud of you son.

Love,

Dad

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Brad and his cup 031518 SS

To read the backstory on dad, mom, and son, Elias, aka bug, click here

You can connect with Brad at www.deareliasblog.wordpress.com

on Instagram: @bradmilford119

or

on Facebook 

 

 

If I had only one chance – Week 2

Go back to last weeks post by clicking here.

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So, just in case, this is my one chance to cross paths with you, I want you to know:

You are loved.

You are not lost.

You can go home.

Your story matters.

 

Genesis 3.9 esv BP

You are not lost.

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”  He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  Genesis 3:9-10 esv

As I write this note to you I wonder about your experience with God and with His family, the Church.  Were you born in?  By ‘born in’ I mean you don’t remember a time growing up when you weren’t in church.  The church life was your family’s norm.

Or were you ‘born out’?  Perhaps your family rarely if ever attended church.  You just weren’t one of those church-going families.  Can you remember a time when a friend asked you to come along, but you weren’t sure if the people at the door would let you inside?  Perhaps walking into a church felt a bit like stepping into a foreign country of unknown culture, dress, and language.

I don’t know your story and truly, your story is unique.

My story is unique too.  I was born outside church culture.  My parents were born in and my grandparents were born in, but a great deal of hurt to my dad’s heart and disappointment from within the church body of his youth caused my dad to walk away.  “We are Christians”, I was told as a young girl, “but we don’t need to go to church to prove it.”

Interestingly, God made me a curious-minded girl who wanted to know the “why?” of everything.  When I was invited to church, I went.  When I went to VBS one summer, I made a decision to have my heart sealed in Christ so I would live with Him in Heaven one day.  And I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  I didn’t stay in for long though because we just weren’t those church-going folk.

It’s not true that those ‘born in’ automatically belong to God and His people.  Just as it’s not true that those ‘born out’ are unwelcome.  The enemy of our soul wants us to believe lies and he enjoys stirring the pot of division.  He and his minions encourage the lies so they will become part of our cultural norm.  Over time people come to believe there’s a real division of ‘in’ or ‘out’.

Truth.  God does not see His family this way.  Father God wants us to know that being born into a church doesn’t make a person His child.  The very real truth is that all who are born are created by His will and it is God’s full intention that everyone He creates is adopted into His family. (Psalm 139:15-16 and Ephesians 1:5-6, John 3:16-17)

psalm 139 Where can I hide

However, for a reason only known to you and God, you feel hidden from God and unseen.  Perhaps you’ve made a choice to move out from in.  Something happened in God’s family and you’ve decided,like my dad did, you’d rather live distant from God because you don’t want to live up close with His people.  I wonder, what was it which caused you turn your back, walk away and watch from the outside hoping no one will see you looking in?

Maybe you were never really in, like me, and so you believe you’re invisible.  You’ve never had the exclusive membership card and so you feel there’s just no way for God to know you.  Is it easier to just live your own life by your own rules hoping God won’t interfere?  Or does it seem like you have more freedom if you aren’t bound by church rules and God commandments?  I recognize all these questions and thoughts because most of these were my own at one time or another.

I grew up with a whole lot of freedom.  Truly, the choice to live out from God or in with Him was freely available to me.  With the faith of a child, I heard Jesus call my name and I answered yes to Him thinking I would join back up with Him in Heaven.   Having my heart sealed by Holy Spirit but with no training in or understanding of God’s word, I set out to live my life the best I could figure out on my own.

Though I enjoyed making my own rules (I sincerely had my own set of commandments I lived by) as I matured toward adulthood I became increasingly insecure and fearful.  Rather than enjoying my unfettered freedom I found myself trying to control everything in my life to create some type of security system.  I was a prisoner of my own walls of fear, doubt, and shame.  And I was literally dying from the inside out.

The terrible voices inside me were screaming, “you’re invisible.  just disappear.”  And yet everything alive (Holy Spirit) within my crumbling heart was crying, “please see me.  please hear me.  please rescue me.”

Wherever I go, your hand will guide me;
    your strength will empower me.
It’s impossible to disappear from you
    or to ask the darkness to hide me,
    for your presence is everywhere, bringing light into my night.  

Psalm 139:10-11 tpt

There is a longing to be found

There is a longing in all of us to be found.  We want to be seen and heard.  Even when we’re hiding we hope someone will come and scoop us up into loving arms make everything good again.  Our hearts were designed for love, for intimacy, and for belonging.

The first ones, Adam and Eve, they were born in with God.  They belonged and had everything perfectly given to them within boundaries.  Yet, when the evil whisper suggested God was withholding something good from them, the first to be created in His image stepped out.  As their human eyes were suddenly exposed to guilt and shame they hid from God.

Yet what was God doing as they were hiding their nakedness?  God was pursuing His children.  He called out to them, “Where are you?”  They were never lost from God’s eyes.

My dad heard God ask a similar question one day out of the blue.  He could no longer hide, and God wanted to know if my dad was in or out.  Thankfully, my dad turned and ran into his Father’s arms of forgiveness and acceptance.

The reason for His question was to open the line of communication which had become damaged.  Adam’s voice which spoke out of the darkness was like a hand reaching up for rescue.  However, it was God who had made the first move toward the ones He created by His Hands of love.

Why would God pursue a person seemingly born out?

I can think of only one answer.  God created every single person.  What we see from our finite perspective as born in or born out, God sees from an infinite perspective.  God sees His creation and He has an unfathomable love for all He has made by His own design.

And God desires that every single person He creates will surrender to His intentional pursuit and turn to the sound of His love call in the wilderness.  No one is lost from His gaze.Luke 19.10 tpt.png

There are so many stories of God pursuing the outsider, how could I choose one story to love the most?  Jesus was constantly pursuing the outsiders, who possibly felt lost and invisible to God.  A few personal favorites:

Rahab, the prostitute of Jericho, who gave cover to the Israelite spies and declared her faith in the One True God (Joshua 6)

Ruth, who left her homeland alongside Naomi, her mother-in-law, whose God would also be Ruth’s God (Ruth 1)

The Samaritan woman who was the subject of much gossip for her promiscuous lifestyle found Jesus patiently waiting for her at the water well (John 4:1-26)

Zacchaeus, the man of short stature who stationed himself in a tree so he could catch a glimpse of Jesus.  He was astonished when Jesus found him first then invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner.  (Luke 19:1-10)

Surely, we are unable to refute the sacred words of Jesus Himself:

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  Luke 19:10 esv

You, my friend, are not lost!

Eyes on Jesus… you’re shining!

~Lisa

Future walks on our pioneer journey:

You can go home.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.  Isaiah 55:6-7 niv

Your story matters.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.

Psalm 51:13 niv

 

 

If I had only one chance…

Just recently I was asked this question:

Now that you’ve journeyed with Jesus many years what do you want younger sojourners to know?

There are so many things I want you to know.  It is the delight of my heart to get to share the path with beautiful creations of God.  Yes, I’m talking to you.  No matter who you think you are or what you believe or how far you’ve wandered, you are a beautiful creation of God.  So, may I ask that you don’t disqualify yourself from this small window of opportunity I have to share four simple truths with you?

My hope before the Lord is for Him to make useful – to redeem – my many wanderings off the path and my eventual returns to the straight path.  I hope one day to be able to glimpse an aerial view of my journey from birth to death.  Assuredly, my life path will reveal anything but a straight line!

psalm 139.1.2.3.7.png

So, for this short part of our walk together, I want to encourage you with four simple truths.  And as we head our separate ways in just a few moments, I want to challenge you to explore these truths for yourself.  There’s absolutely no need to take my word for it.  I can’t convince you of anything.  However, there’s power in sharing our stories so I am compelled to do that.  More importantly, the Spirit of God is the best teacher as the Word of God is alive and useful in convincing us of truth.

So, just in case, this is my one chance to cross paths with you, I want you to know:

You are loved.

You are not lost.

You can go home.

Your story matters.

I believe and I want you to know that everything in the course of our whole life journey submitted into God’s Hands is productive and beneficial.  Our Creator wastes nothing of our experience in molding and shaping us into the image of His dear Son, Jesus, our elder brother.  All we need to do is listen for the sound of Father’s voice calling our name… and turn our face toward His voice.  He’s already on His way to you.

And He chose us to be His very own, joining us to Himself even before He laid the foundation of the universe! Because of His great love, He ordained us, so that we would be seen as holy in His eyes with an unstained innocence. For it was always His plan to adopt us as His delightful children.  Ephesians 1:4-6 tpt

You are loved.

Ephesians 1

How do I know?

I know.  I have God’s Word on it!

You might argue that I don’t know you. I don’t know where you’ve been.  Maybe you would counter with the truth that I don’t know what you’ve done in the past or how you are living today.  I pretty much know the arguments by heart because most of them were my own arguments to refute the idea God could love me.

All of those arguments are irrelevant.  Not to be offensive and not because I say so, but because God says so.  His Word, written in the book known as The Bible, is really His love letter to you.   Through this tangible loving and living Word, He beckons you to know of His great love for you simply because He knit you in your mother’s womb. (Psalm 139).

Ephesians 1.7.8 eojas.png

I’ll catch up with you here next week.  I hope you will want to rejoin me here for a walk in the truth of God’s Word.  My story will be here and Holy Spirit will be our teacher in truth and love…

Until next time this is my prayer for you and me:

 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Eyes on Jesus… you’re shining!

~Lisa

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Future walks on our pioneer journey:

You are not lost.

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”  He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  Genesis 3:9-10 esv

You can go home.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.  Isaiah 55:6-7 niv

Your story matters.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.

Psalm 51:13 niv

 

Saturday Share with Bettie Gilbert

Welcome to Saturday Share!  

Saturday Share coffeeThe purpose of this weekly feature is to provide a space for regular people to share their real-life encounters with Jesus.  It’s about living in the middle – on the way to the finish line.  If we still have breath to tell our stories then our race isn’t finished.

I believe we sharpen one another and delight God’s heart when we testify of His great work in our lives.  Be encouraged to put one foot in front of the other, and spur someone on while you’re at it!

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT  

I am honored to introduce to you, my feature Saturday Share writer:

Bettie Gilbert

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He Became Our All in All

by Bettie Gilbert

Thirty-two years ago, our family followed God’s leading and moved across the country. We picked up stakes, and together with our young children, left the familiar behind. What we could not see, were the ways that God would use that move to shatter all of our pre-conceived notions of what Christianity and the Ministry looked like.  We had so many lessons to learn. . .

“Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the people of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since your birth,
    and have carried since you were born.
 Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  Isaiah 46:3-4 NIV

The month before we moved, a friend gave us those verses from Isaiah. And I chose to cling to the promises that HE would sustain us through every step of the uncertainty.  And He did!  But in the process, my husband suffered through a deep depression as the Lord gradually loosened our hold on a ministry dream that had too much of our own selves written all over it.  When my husband shared words that I had spoken to him with his counselor, the counselor wondered how I could have such insight.  I only knew that God was carrying us, and there was nowhere to go except to Him.

HE became our only answer.

 

SS Bettie G I will carry you

 

When we weren’t sure our faith would survive intact, God held onto us, and He led us back to our Midwestern roots.  But the trials were not finished.  Through the next 10 years, He shook up every notion of what we thought our days should look like. He drew us out of ourselves and brought us into the solid ground of His merciful sustaining grace.  We tasted what it felt like to have a failed ministry, a failed business, and no home of our own.

HE became our only home.

As our children walked with us through those moves, they watched what we went through.  And in the process, they each faced their own kind of testing. One felt the weight of fear and anxiety, one felt the tug of worldliness and ease, and the other felt the sting of not measuring up to the standards of a legalistic church.  I heard myself crying out to God.

Oh Lord! Why would you allow our children to suffer so, simply because they were made to walk through the lessons that we, their parents, had to learn?

How will they ever overcome these trials that were the results of our own mistakes?

 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV

What a faithful Lord! How merciful are His judgments, beyond tracing out!  God has knit together the shape and form of our children, just as He has shaped and formed our own beings. And what was for our benefit will be for their benefit also, because of His great grace.  The very trials they face are the very places where God brought us into intimate touch with His mercy. It is the way of intercession.

BG SS He comforts us

He allows us to bear each other’s burdens for a reason. It is in the bearing that we are covered by His wings.  Under His wings we find refuge, and even when we cannot see it at the moment, He is drawing our children under His wings, as we pray for those trials to be redeemed by the power of His blood. As I prayed and watched God move, my children found their own place of refuge under His wings.

But it was in the remembering of those lonely seasons that my heart longed for other Mamas whose hearts now ask the same questions concerning their own children.  Would there be a place to connect and share those burdens?  Could we ever know that we are not alone in bearing those burdens to Jesus?  How could we share our heavy hearts together?

Jesus heard those longings, and by a roundabout journey, He connected me with a beautiful prodigal returned, one whose own Mother had prayed for her through the long years of testing and wandering also.  As she and I began to share our hearts, we realized that the Lord had given us each a kindred spirit and a longing for both the lost ones struggling and their Mamas praying over their return. It has been such a joy to be part of the team gathered at the website that my friend Anna began, BelovedProdigal.com, and to join in praying and sharing with others whose hearts are also longing for the return of wandering loved ones.

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Are you in a place of lonely praying now? Do you find yourself looking back with sadness at the lessons you or your children have had to walk through?  Does it feel that redemption of those times may never come?  Listen to these words that Jesus spoke to us:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

As we offer back to Him those very trials and tribulations, He will redeem each one.  We may not see how, we may not know when, but He will work things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)

HE has become our only purpose.

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Bettie G headshot SSBettie Gilbert can be found in a small town in rural Southeast Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband of 39 years. You can find her blogging at BettieGsraseasons.com where she is seeking to be transparent with the journey that God has her traveling with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, and Osteoporosis. She is also excited to be part of the team sharing words over at BelovedProdigal.com joining in as the Lord calls the lost ones back to His heart.

FMF: Choosing Redemption Over Regret

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10 esv

The word set out for us to ponder today is {regret}. I get that word. I know it. I’ve known it and have held it or rather IT has held me.

This revelation has led me to a conclusion regarding regret. It can be a productive learning tool in my hands or it can be a tool in the hands of the enemy of God (Satan and his demons) used against me. If I live under regret (and I have plenty of choices) then I allow the enemy to make me a slave to guilt and shame.

2 cor 7.10 esv

However, if I choose to take hold of regretful choices as a tool for productive growth under the supervision of Holy Spirit then I become victorious – an overcomer even. Jesus tells me in His word that I should not fear for He has overcome the world and death. The word of God tells me that I will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

On my faith journey this past year, the eyes of my heart have focused in on some wonderfully life-giving words of King David. He had some serious regrets after taking a woman who was not his wife, then killing his faithful servant (her husband) to cover the tracks of his adulterous sin. He thought he could hide his nakedness just as Adam and Eve thought they could hide their shame from God’s sight.

After David’s confession and repentance, he ran toward God out of hiding and cried out for mercy. And then he asked for a way to use his sin as a tool of productivity:
Let my passion for life be restored,
tasting joy in every breakthrough you bring to me.
Hold me close to you with a willing spirit that
obeys whatever you say.
Then I can show to other guilty ones
how loving and merciful you are.
They will find their way back home to you,
knowing that you will forgive them. Psalm 51:12-13

I have plenty of regrets. However, I’m learning to take hold of each one as a tool of learning and productivity… as training under my Father’s loving and forgiving guidance. He will not take His Holy Spirit from me – my Teacher and Comforter. No, as I take responsibility for every choice, Father teaches me how to turn regret into an opportunity to train another. It’s a beautiful exchange.

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Regret – I won’t live under it. I will hold out regret before my Father and ask Him to make it a tool in my hand by which I will get to disciple others even as He disciples me.

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10 niv

What regret could you hold out to your loving Father today and exchange it for a productive tool of discipleship for someone else?

Eyes on Jesus… you’re shining!

Lisa

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Today I am joining Kate and her wonderful community of faith writers for some Five Minute Friday writing fun. The word prompt for this week is {regret} If you’re in the least bit intrigued, come join us for the Five Minute Friday link up

All you have to do is ponder the word prompt, set your timer for 5:00, and start typing. When time’s up, publish and link up. Oh so simple!

Saturday Share with Chloe Townsend

Welcome to Saturday Share!  

Saturday Share coffeeThe purpose of this weekly feature is to provide a space for regular people to share their real-life encounters with Jesus.  It’s about living in the middle – on the way to the finish line.  If we still have breath to tell our stories then our race isn’t finished.

I believe we sharpen one another and delight God’s heart when we testify of His great work in our lives.  Be encouraged to put one foot in front of the other, and spur someone on while you’re at it!

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT  

I am honored to introduce to you, my feature Saturday Share writer:

Chloe Townsend

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Learning to Dream with God

By Chloe Townsend

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed creating things of my own. It mainly started with the art form of drawing. My big brother and I would spend hours in his closet tracing looney tunes characters in hopes that one day we could do it without the help of the massive character book that guided our hands as we lined the cartoon shapes on our pieces of tracing paper.

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It wasn’t just my brother and looney tunes that influenced my desire to create. My mother was an incredible seamstress with a studio above our garage full of fabrics, threads, and machinery. I spent many days watching as she intricately sewed curtains and reupholstered furniture for clients and new projects.

Creativity seemed to be in my biological makeup. But what has been interesting for me as I’ve “grown up” is that with all of the creativeness I had around and within me, I never knew what I wanted to do with it. I knew it was something I truly loved and I often felt like my true self while doing anything in the artistic category, but when I went to college I was so unsure of what occupation to choose for my life. To do a fine art degree would mean that I would most likely struggle financially unless I magically received an art opportunity of a lifetime so I nixed that idea before I finished my senior year of high school. I didn’t want to be the struggling artist. And then I heard about graphic design which I thought maybe that could work if I decided I wanted to go the art direction. I signed up to take the Introduction to Graphic Design class my second semester of college and by the end of it, I felt like I had failed it. My professor’s critiques made me believe I was in the wrong department. So I switched my career focus and decided business sounded like a possible choice.

That next semester I took a few business classes and felt more confused than ever. Then, when I received my grade for the prior semester, I had a B in the graphic design course! Like, what? I thought I failed that sucker. So I noped out of the business department and immediately decided from that point on that graphic design was what I needed to do. Out of all the other career paths, that one felt the “most right” for me.

All throughout college, the design professors would say that designers needed to find their niche. Whether it was branding, illustration, or marketing/advertising – find that specific design area to thrive in. Yeah, I never did that. I had NO idea what design area I liked best or thrived in and quite honestly, I had no intention of figuring that part out. I got to the point where I would say that versatility was one of my main strengths. That was just my way of avoiding what they told me I should do.

So, let’s fast forward past graduation and to me landing my first “big girl” job. I became a marketing designer at a company north of Atlanta and really learned the difference between a mediocre designer and a great designer. There were many things that college was unable to prepare me for in the real design world but I managed to get by and become a better designer in the process. But the dog-eat-dog mentality of Corporate America really started to weigh on me. It got to the point that I had trouble sleeping at night and was stressed about 90% of the time. My quality of life plummeted in a crazy downward spiral and my main way of dealing with it was an ugly girl cry and asking God why I was still there. It was very unpleasant, to say the least.

SS chloe pottery 021718

Then, after an unfortunate event, I became the scapegoat for some coworkers. And I heard the Lord tell me it was time for me to pack my things and leave. So I did. I had nothing lined up next and after a month’s time, I was able to find another job (praise be to God).This job was basically the complete opposite of the first. It was very slow paced and I was able to design with ease. I knew after a period of time I would get bored and need to move on but in that moment, I needed something that could help me chill out. I needed a place that I got to leave work at work and didn’t have to think about it until I clocked in the next morning. After about a year into this job, I started feeling antsy. This job was not one with much creativity and there was no moving up in this position. It was very repetitive and I began to feel like I might go insane from always doing the same cycle every three months. But one of the great things about it was that I started to dream for myself. I started (what was LONG overdue) to ask God what I needed to do and where I needed to be. I was tired of sitting behind a desk and not enjoying my work. If I’m going to spend the majority of my waking hours doing something, I should at least enjoy it, right? I sound like a true millennial, don’t I?

All I knew to do was pray and seek God’s guidance. I asked why I was never happy in these jobs and what was wrong with me when it came to working at them. I couldn’t understand why I just couldn’t seem to be okay with them. I mean, I was getting to do some form of design at both of them which wasn’t the case for some of my other college design friends. I was blessed to actually find and be hired for jobs in my field. But I really wanted to do things with my hands. I wanted to feel giddy about the work I created. I didn’t want to be glued to a computer screen all the time. I wanted more spontaneity and flexibility in my life and I wanted to feel and believe that whatever I did was making a direct difference for the kingdom of God.

…the people of the city wanted you to walk on flowers wherever you went. And a new dream started to bloom in my heart. I wanted to make things with sweet character like that.

After praying about all of this, I felt like the Lord was telling me to start an online magazine where women get to share their stories of Jesus. I began to dream about it and knew I needed to pursue it. It’s been an incredible experience and when the dream began I believed it was what I needed to do for the Lord. Unfortunately, it’s been somewhat harder than I expected. The way it’s set up to work successfully is by consistently receiving submissions from others and the majority of the time, people are busy and aren’t able to make time to submit something for it. At the beginning of it, I believed it was going to be my main thing, but now, I think I was jumping ahead of the Lord (don’t do this). Although, it’s a huge blessing to run, it’s no longer my “main” dream with Jesus. One of the greatest gifts resulting from this magazine is that I started to see I could do more for God and I didn’t have to work towards someone else’s vision/dream to accomplish it. He would give me my own dream to pursue and grow for him.SS 1John5.14 tpt chloe

In May of 2017, my husband and I went on our first trip to Europe. We went to Barcelona, Spain for our third year anniversary and we had an incredible time while we were there. I fell in love with the beautiful architecture of the city and was mesmerized by Antoni Gaudi’s work all throughout Barcelona. One of the details I loved most about it was the city’s flower tiles that seemed to be almost everywhere I walked. This simple flower design added this unique aesthetic that I wanted more of in my life. One of the stories behind the tiles was that the people of the city wanted you to walk on flowers wherever you went. And a new dream started to bloom in my heart. I wanted to make things with sweet character like that.

In the United States, we tend to throw buildings up and try to immediately make as much profit as possible out of them. Architecturally speaking, the last thing America seems to care about is the aesthetic beauty that brings forth a unique character. Unless, of course, you go back to the days when America first started to become America. Those people had better taste when it came to building and home design.

So I came home asking the Lord if this new dream was mine or his. If I were to pursue it, it was going to be a big financial investment and I really had no idea how I’d be able to pull it off. I had told a friend about this new dream of mine and how I’d need a kiln and all sorts of other expensive things and how this was likely not going to work out for me. After a few weeks, I got a call from this friend who excitedly told me she saw on her Facebook newsfeed that one of her friends was giving her 20-year-old kiln away. On top of that, it had never been used. If I was willing to go pick it up, it was mine. I don’t know about you, but I believed that God was telling me in that moment that this was his dream for me. Not just mine. I pretty much cried and began the process of making this ceramics dream happen. It reminds me of 1 John 5:14 (TPT) which states, “Since we have this confidence, we can also have great boldness before him, for if we present any request agreeable to his will, he will hear us.”

Within the past month, I’ve left my day job to pursue this dream head on and start a business where I create tiles and other home goods in hopes to bring back the beautiful character and aesthetic that modern America has seemed to leave behind. Our God creates beautiful things and so, with my hands, I pray I can do the same in his holy name.

Friends, if you’ve read this God story, I have an exhortation for you: If you have a dream of any kind, I urge you to ask the Lord if it’s his or yours. Then wait for the Lord; he will tell you! And if your dream falls in line with his will, DO NOT let the enemy tell you that you’re unqualified, that it’s too late/you’re too old, or anything else that will steal this dream away from you. You are none of those things. If God has called you to pursue a dream, be obedient and pursue it in faith knowing he goes before and behind you! He knows the glory that will follow it and I know without a shadow of a doubt he will be glorified through the gifts/dreams that he’s given you. Be encouraged that our sweet Lord is with you every step of the way. He’s never let you down before, why would he start now?

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SS chloe headshotChloe Townsend is an Arkansas native living in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA. She lives with her husband, Caleb, two cats, Gatsby and Valentine, and baby girl pup, Rey. In her spare time, she likes to read, create, drink coffee, play soccer, write, pray to and worship Jesus, and hang with her wonderful friends and family.

You can follow Chloe on Instagram: @chloebelletown or check out her magazine website: truegoldmag.com.

Pondering Privilege

Privilege: a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor : prerogative; especially : such a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office  ~Merriam-Webster

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Have you ever had a friend offer their beach house for a weekend?  Or maybe it was a mountain or a lake house instead.  If you haven’t had the privilege, I hope you do at some time in the near future.  It feels honoring to know that someone who owns something, which to me is an extravagance would offer it freely to me.  After all, this place on the beach (my personal happy place) cost the owner dearly.  Yet, I’m receiving the privilege of sharing in their home for free.

I have this same feeling of being honored and privileged when I think of Jesus telling His disciples not to worry about His leaving to go back to the Father.  Jesus assures me too that while He is away He is preparing a home for God’s children.  It’s a home which cost Jesus everything for me to have it freely.  The wonderful truth for my heart on the hardest days of this life is to remember Jesus offers us His home of extravagant cost for eternity.

When I think of privilege I think of this truth from God’s Word:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God  John 1:12

I am reminded often as I ponder this amazing truth that the additional privilege I have is to invite others to come along.  Will you come along?  Do you have this privilege to be the son or daughter of God?  The invitation is open to all who will believe…

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Today I am joining (better late than never) Kate and her wonderful community of faith writers for some Five Minute Friday writing fun.  The word prompt for this week is {privilege}  If you’re in the least bit intrigued, come join us for the Five Minute Friday link up

All you have to do is ponder the word prompt, set your timer for 5:00, and start typing. When time’s up, publish and link up.  Oh so simple!

Lessons of a Good Father

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.  Deuteronomy 30:11-14

In Deuteronomy 30:15, God sets out very simplistic choices for His people.  He sets before us a choice of life and prosperity or death and destruction.  Immediately, He tells us how to have the best choice of the two.  Then, like a good Father, very clearly and concisely, tells us the consequences of turning away in disobedience.choose life

Today I am reminded of a story our late pastor often told about disciplining his children in love.  He wanted to teach them to stay out of the street.  So, he set up a boundary for his children and told them not to cross it.  Repeatedly, he told his children the truth that they could get hit by a car possibly resulting in death.  His children continued to disregard the boundary, which frustrated and saddened their father.

Finally, a brilliant idea came to mind.  He would show them the consequences of disobedience by running into the street.  He took a watermelon outside, and when he glimpsed a car coming down the street, he rolled the watermelon across the boundary line and in front of the car.  As you can imagine the car squashed the watermelon.  The children wide-eyed and a bit overwhelmed caught the lesson.  Our pastor gathered his children in his arms and spoke to them of his love for them and his desire that they not become like the watermelon.

Our God is good and in His Fatherly love for us He makes His desire for us very clear.  And yet He lets us choose – life or death, blessing or curses.  Let’s choose to love the LORD, our God and obey Him.  Let’s choose life!

Buddy Hoffman

This story is shared in remembrance of my late pastor – Buddy Hoffman.  I am grateful he answered God’s call to preach.  I’m even more grateful he shared stories that live on as they are passed along like the one I’ve shared here today.  We’ll all catch up soon for a cup of coffee and stroll down the streets of New Jerusalem with Jesus leading the tour this time!

 

 

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I have the honor and privilege of writing weekly devotionals for Daughter of Delight on Instagram.  This post with some slight variation was first posted as an original devotional for Daughter of Delight on Instagram – 2/3/2018.

I invite you to please take a moment to visit @daughterofdelight on Instagram.  I feel certain you’ll be encouraged and refreshed!

Eyes on Jesus… you’re shining!

~Lisa