Enjoy! Find Joy in Every Moment of Life

MaryAnn Ward - Find Joy in the Moments

Recently, one word invades my waking and dreaming hours, the word “enjoy”! I feel God prompting my heart to find joy in every moment of life.

The other day someone paid me an unexpected compliment, “You make everything more fun! You bring joy!”

I went away whispering a silent prayer of thanksgiving. Though it has taken awhile, God has turned my sadness into joy. Life hasn’t suddenly become carefree and wonderful. But despite what is or has happened, I’m discovering the secret of finding joy in even the smallest things.

I wish I would have learned these joy lessons earlier and found joy more often — in the hard moments, the easy moments, the weary moments, and even the mourning moments. God has given us all things to enjoy.

Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.”
1 Timothy 6:17

To enjoy means to take delight, pleasure, and satisfaction in or have fun doing something. It also means to have for one’s use, benefit, or possession. Joy is not equivalent to happiness, however. Happiness is an emotion; while joy is a position of the heart.

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - Find Joy

Trust

We find the key to a lifestyle of joy by trusting in God. I’ve fretted over children and grandchildren, over finances and lack thereof, over health, over eternal souls of others, and innumerable other things. Trusting God replaces all unnecessary worry and fretting.

Can life be tough? Yes! Does it push us to our limits? Yes! But God gives us the capacity to find joy in little moments — in the weighty young mother moments loaded with responsibility, in the pressured moments of providing for the tangible needs of others, and even in the sorrowful moments of caring for a dying loved one.

Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life.”
Ecclesiastes 5:18

The level of our joy ultimately demonstrates the level of our trust in God.

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - Find Joy

Find Joy

Unfortunately, I wasted far too much of my life hoping to find joy and satisfaction in people or lesser things. Everything outside of God leads to disappointment and disillusionment. But as we rest our hearts in the goodness of God, joy flows naturally and freely.

What shall we fear when He holds us fast? He loves perfectly and desires the very best for each of us. The more we learn to linger in God’s presence, the freer we are to experience true fullness of joy.

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”
Psalm 16:11

Some of you may find this little message insensitive to the pressures and obligations currently pressing against you. Like precious jewels, God has deposited some of the greatest life lessons during my darkest most hopeless seasons. He has given joy in sorrow and suffering and has even refreshed my joy during loss and pain. The flickering beams of His Presence shine like prisms of color off His jewels of joy.

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - FInd Joy

Prayer

For those of you who have discovered this treasure, rejoice! For those who feel neck deep in overwhelm, take courage.

“Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:4-5

But joy! Such beautiful words of hope and assurance. Lord, I ask for kingdom revelation over those who are weary and worn. Give them strength for today. May they trust You fully when life presses hard against them. Grant them a capacity to find joy in the fleeting moments of the season they are in. Though weeping has lasted through a very long night, may they discover renewed joy today. And may Your joy shine from their lives like beacons of hope to others caught in despair. May Your joy bring a sense of peace and the assurance of victory to all.
Saskatchewan-based acrylic artist MaryAnn Ward captures a serene outdoor scene featuring a reader engrossed in a bible passage, subtly highlighted by their pointing finger.

**********

A Personal Testimony: Facing Our Fears: Whom Shall I Fear

MaryAnn Ward, Blog Post, Facing Our Fears

Facing our fears presents unique challenges for us all. We try to bury, deny, and wrangle fears into corners of avoidance. Sooner or later, however, God graciously leads us into bravely facing and dethroning them.

My Amplified Bible calls out the heading for Psalm 27 as “A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God.” Oh, if only I might claim such a constant position of faith. Isn’t that what we all seek? A fearless trust, not in ourselves but in Omnipotent God.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the refuge and fortress of my life—Whom shall I dread?”

Psalm 27:1

When it comes to most things, I have more nerve than a toothache, naively going where others dread or doing what some prefer to shy away from. But lately, I’ve been facing more than a tad of fear. Only I didn’t recognize it until some close friends discreetly called it out. For that, I am most grateful.

Please, let me explain.

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Fearless

The Origin

Last September at an InScribe Writer’s Conference, I felt God compelling me to write my memoir. Though I have shared snippets of my life story, I panicked at the thought of exposing the ugliness of my former life for all to see. “No, Lord,” I pleaded through tears.

I’ve never yet won an argument with God. After all, long ago my story became His story woven through the bright and glorious as well as the dark and ominous segments of life. Could His story in and through me possibly bring hope and help to others?

Grudgingly, I consented. “I give you thirty days,” I conceded, fearing the intensity of the emotional cost.

“Yes,” I felt God counter in my Spirit, “and you will paint thirty pictures in those thirty days — thirty pictures of roses.”

I laughed. To write “His story” in thirty days seemed more than an impossibility. To add another thirty day challenge felt outrageous. And roses! As a fairly new painter I’ve never once tried to paint roses.

For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Luke 1:37

But here we were, God and I, co-laboring to do something that would expose every raw piece of emotional flesh and disrobe every protective covering I’d invented. Numbly, I mass dumped memory after memory onto the pages until I was too exhausted to continue. Then, I’d paint, finding soul healing in the brush strokes. After thirty days of writing and painting, the rough draft and paintings were complete.

Facing my fears, God carried me through.

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Father

God Intervention

But God had more proof that this little memoir was of His choosing. The first editor waved all her fees and asked to use the book, in combination with her resources, to bring healing to many others.

The second person to read the draft had the most to risk with the publication, but he found the contents entirely redemptive and healing. “This needs to be published. It will help many people,” he said.

The second professional editor also waved her fees. Without request, she offered this review:

“… Readers will come away with a renewed sense of hope, because through this writer’s experience they will discover that no one is too lost, too broken, or too far gone to have their lives restored beyond what they could even ask or imagine…” – Michele H.

“Do it afraid!” the slogan declares, regarding facing our fears.

But God provided even more assurance. Ordering the first shipment of books, I charged them to my credit card. Since my business account had funds to cover the cost, I neither worried nor prayed about finances. However, before the credit card payment came due, God stirred the hearts of people to donate money to my ministry efforts. (Something never done before!) No one knew the pending costs. I hadn’t expressed a need. But God picked up the full tab, providing more than enough to pay the entire bill!

Through God’s provision, He stamped, “MINE!” over this little memoir. “This is My story!”

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Father's Love

Thursday’s Child

So, I now present to everyone Thursday’s Child Has Far to Go — a book I never chose to write and never paid for. I lay it down as a humble example of facing our fears.

“…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Isaian 43:1-2

Has there been fear? Yes, many times. Have I completely overcome fears of rejection, exposure, shame, and criticism? No, not at all. But this is and always will be God’s story of healing, deliverance, and redemption. A story to bring hope to others.

If you aren’t brave, please don’t read it. But if you would like to be brave, please read it. I’m sorry that it is a hard read. But I’m not sorry that it will make the road easier for others. Far too many people will relate to the painful experiences written within its pages. But far more people will hear God’s redemptive voice speak courage and life into their personal experiences.

Available to Order:

Overcome

As God leads, may we overcome our fears together. His love exceeds all other loves. Facing our fears, we focus on Jesus Christ who casts out all fear.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.
1 John 4:18

I welcome you to take a few moments to rest in His cascading love and to meditate on these few Bible verses to bring comfort and strength.

  • Isaiah 41:10 — “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
  • Psalm 34:4 —“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears
  • Psalm 23:4 — “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
  • Deuteronomy 31:6 — “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I’ve also included this play list of songs that has encouraged me, as one more resource that might help you.

Psalm 34 - Taste and See - by Shane & Shane (Lyric Video) | Christian Worship Music
Chris Tomlin - Whom Shall I Fear [God Of Angel Armies] (Lyric Video)
Zach Williams - No Longer Slaves (Live from Harding Prison)

**********

4 Promises from Psalm 34 — Tell of the Lord’s Greatness

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Tell of the Lord's Greatness, Psalm 34

Those who love God have one common goal, desire, and purpose — to tell of the Lord’s greatness through our words and actions. The pre-empt to Psalm 34 tells us a lot, “A psalm of David, regarding the time he pretended to be insane in front of Abimelech, who sent him away.”

Though everyone experiences difficult times, few people relate to the desperate situation David encountered. Escaping to enemy territory to seek protection, his only means of survival was to fake insanity. But even then, David’s consistent pattern of worshiping God grounded and sustained him.

I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.
Psalm 34:1-3

Whether on the hillside watching over sheep, playing his harp before a crazed king, or on the battlefield, David discovered the open door to God’s blessing through praise and worship. He would not allow his circumstances to control him. Ironically, God often reveals the richness of His goodness most clearly in desperate seasons.

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Evangelism

Free from Fear

David exhibited one response to trouble. He “sought” the Lord. The Hebrew word translated as “sought” means to tread, frequent, follow, seek, ask, and worship. We find the fullness of this comprehensive seeking through a personal relationship with God, following His ways and engaging in worship.

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles.
Psalm 34:4-6

Even as fear taunted and troubles tormented, David chose to tell of the Lord’s greatness. As a result, He experienced God’s promises.

“For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.”
Psalm 34:7

David discovered the protection and defense found in God alone.

MaryAnn Ward, Blog Post

Lack No Good Thing

We may be tempted to praise God only when times are good but doubt Him during struggle. David recognized the goodness of God while in enemy territory — escaping death moment-by-moment.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.”
Psalm 34:9-10

Here we find the second promise in Psalm 34 — having all we need and lacking no good thing. Without knowing where he would sleep that night or if there would be food that day, David looked to God as his only source and resource. God never failed him; He proved Himself faithful.

MaryAnn Ward, Abundance

The Lord is Close

Before I knew the Lord, I doubted His existence. I could only imagine Him as distant, looking down upon earthlings with judgment. But then I discovered that He is intimately close — even residing within us and watching over us.

The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.”

Psalm 34:17-19

As a Father watches over His children, He comes close to rescue and deliver us. His ears are tuned to our cries for help. He knows the many troubles we face and comes to our rescue. How amazing!

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Rescue

Free and Innocent

The final promise of Psalm 34 reaches beyond the here-and-now help God provides. He redeems all those who serve and trust Him.

“But the Lord will redeem those who serve him. No one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.”
Psalm 34:22

The Passion Translation says, “He will declare them free and innocent when they turn to hide themselves in him.” If we assumed such things, it would be heresy! But when God declares them over us, what joy!

We daily discover endless reasons to tell of the Lord’s greatness. Like David, may we seek the Lord — doing life with Him, following His ways, praying and worshiping Him. May His praise flood from grateful hearts in unhindered praise.

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Innocent

**********

The Lord is Peace — Jehovah Shalom

Our King still reigns over all the kingdoms of the Earth. He is the Lord Almighty, the Ancient of Day, Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is Peace. Despite the uncertainty of our time, He welcomes us to seek refuge in His everlasting peace. Throughout the ages, His affirming words have kept the sails of many faltering ships steady as oceans rage.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

Jesus left His followers in the same wicked world we now inhabit. They faced oppression and persecution at levels most of us cannot comprehend. Ripped from their peacefully homes, they were cast into prisons and exposed to atrocities. Yet, they held to the words of Jesus. His promise gave them peace despite anything demonic elements threw at them.

May we find equal courage and strength in the sure Word of our Lord.

Go in Strength

Our God gives us peace out of the essence of His character and name – The Lord is Peace. Israel had walked away from God, facing their self-made destruction at the hands of enemy forces. Deprived of safety, they hid in mountain caves and strongholds while their enemies invaded like swarms of locusts. Impoverished, they finally cried out to the Lord for help (Judges 6).

God raised up the most unlikely candidate as His instrument of deliverance — Gideon. Filled with fear and intimidated by life circumstances, Gideon hid in a winepress threshing out a few grains wheat.

I’ve had plenty of my own hide-out moments — reluctant to take a stand or speak up against injustice. Like Gideon, I have argued with God about assignments He has given to me.

“Who me? I’m the littlest, the least competent, too old, too insignificant, ill equipped, untrained …” My excuses trail endlessly along. Arguing with God never turns out well. Not for Gideon, and certainly not for me.

“The LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have … am I not sending you?”
Judges 6:14

When God is with us, nothing else matters. Despite any personal limitations, God always proves Himself more than enough.

The Lord is Peace

Enough faith in God rises in Gideon to give God his shaky “Yes!” Before he confronts the enemy, Gideon first builds an altar of sacrifice to God. What an example! Every victory begins at the place of worship and thankfulness.

“So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The Lord is Peace.”
Judges 6:24

Though Israel’s condition remained the same, Gideon’s heart had changed. Instead of focusing on the enemy’s strategies, he knelt before the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. He declared the Lord is Peace. Peace exists only through Jehovah Shalom, the Lord our Peace.

Jehovah Shalom

Shalom means to be complete, sound, or absent of strife. It represents a peace of mind, heart, and life. We can only experience the peace of God by first experiencing peace with God. Such peace comes as we relinquish control and yield by faith to God’s grace.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:1

God’s peace implies much more than freedom from conflict. It includes prosperity, health, well-being, and faith in the face of conflict. Gideon began to believe more in the invisible God than in the visible danger surrounding him.

The pictographic symbols for shalom would read “to destroy the authority that binds to chaos.” What a powerful image! Let me say that again.

Peace means to destroy the authority that binds us to chaos.

Restoration

Our great redeemer, the Lord is Peace, comes to not only save our souls from eternal destruction but to give us His supernatural peace.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

What is at work to bind us to chaos? What is causing complete disorder and confusion to your life? Are there thought patterns, body habits, or toxic environments?

God didn’t suddenly snatch Gideon out of his situation. Rather, He gave Gideon strategies to overcome in the midst of chaotic circumstances. The Lord is Peace, coming beside us in a similar way. As He spoke to Gideon, He speaks to us, “Peace! Do not be afraid” (Judges 6:23).

Do you feel anxious over present circumstances? Or fear?

God again speaks, “I AM with you. I AM Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is Peace.”

“(I) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in (Me).”
Isaiah 26:3

Prayer for Peace

Thank You, Lord! We come before You, laying down our chaotic patterns of thinking and functioning. We receive Your supernatural, divine peace. Fill our hearts and minds with the comfort and knowledge of knowing You alone sit on the throne. All dominions, powers, and authorities must bow before You.
Come, Lord. Give us the faith and confidence to trust in the assurance of Your character and Word. You are Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is Peace. Bind and destroy any and every authority that holds us and those around us to chaos. Surround Your children with Your “perfect peace.” May our minds be steadfast, trusting in You.
There is none like You, O God! We worship You before our situation changes. We set our hearts to thank You, giving glory and honor to Your Name. Be exalted in our day, O God.
Amen.

**********

Dare to Try — Explore the God Possibilities

Are you adventuresome? Do you dare to try what others hesitate to do? Are you the first to step into the water, or do you wait and watch?

Maybe my zany attitude for the thrill of attempting new things comes from remnant trauma. My older brother often “pushed” me into doing things I wasn’t quite ready for but was too stubborn to back down from. Can anyone else relate? I can’t tell you how many times I sucked in my fear, held my breath, and stepped into the unknown — sometimes with painful consequences. He rarely led the way, but followed if I successfully survived the test!

Or maybe I cast the blame on my brother too quickly. Perhaps God designed me as a curious explorer.

Sometimes, the greatest wisdom rests with those who wait and watch, allowing others to break new terrain. But how many experiences would I have missed if I would have been too afraid to dare to try? Too late I realized the foolishness of always trusting my brother. But I know that I can completely trust the Lord’s lead.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Dare or Faith

God never pushes or dares! Rather, He invites us to a journey of faith — a journey that may lead to unexpected places and opportunities.

Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, inspires me. These pioneers held enough faith in God to dare to try the unexpected and step into the unknown. Exploring options only possible through God, they each heard the whisper of His invitation and responded.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Hebrews 11:1

Noah wasted no time trying to convince God an ark would be useless since not a single drop of rain had yet ot fall on the earth. He just started building this thing called an ark. Abraham uprooted his family and headed toward a yet to be revealed destination. Joseph refused to allow a prison cell lock up His faith. Moses, the failed prince, may have stuttered at God’s invitation, but he willingly stepped into unknown waters.

Some achieved earthly success. Others never witnessed the full reward of their faith until they entered heaven’s realms. But they each explored the faith possibilities.

Faith or Fear

Fear of the unknown attempts to keep us from venturing into the realms of unlimited faith. Choosing the path of faith leaves no regret. Bowing to fear or comfortable predictability often does.

Their circumstances will never shake them and others will never forget their example. They will not live in fear or dread of what may come, for their hearts are firm, ever secure in their faith. Steady and strong, they will not be afraid, but will calmly face their every foe … ”
Psalm 112:6-8 TPT

We discover many aspects of God’s character only through the path of faith. We all desire hearts that are firm, security in our faith, and a steadiness and strength of character. These by-products of following God’s leading develop best in the soil of faith.

Fear or Love

The power of God’s love for us and in us propels us to explore previously unknown pathways.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18

The Passion Translation of John 14:15 reads, “Loving me (Jesus) empowers you to obey my commands.” Love empowers! How wonderful!

The awareness of the immeasurable love of God over us empowers us to step into whatever He invites us into. Whether new territory or untested ground, He leads with perfect love. God’s love enables, empowers, and encourages us to dare to try.

Fear evaporates in the face of such pure love.

Invitation

Where you are going is not where you are right now. Who you are now is not the fullness of who you are becoming. What you have had is not what you are going to have. God always has more for us than we could ever imagine.

Nothing limits what God can and will do through a yielded life. Where is God’s love welcoming us to venture? How is He inviting us to yield to His transformational love? What faith steps is He calling us to move into?

Father God, I sense Your invitation to dare to step into a new level of my calling and destiny. I receive the fulness of Your love for me. You have greater and better things for me than I am experiencing right now. There are areas of my life hungering for the impact of Your Presence. I thank You for Your faithfulness in the past. I turn my heart toward You for the faith to step boldly into today and the days to come. May I look to the examples of other faith-walkers while becoming an example for still more. Trusting not in my own understanding but leaning totally into You, I draw the courage, tenacity, and boldness I need to explore the impossibilities You place before me. May past experiences and failures not limit future prospects or diminish hope. You are a good and loving Father.
Amen.

**********

Confidence Well Placed — Without Fear or Worry

We all seek to have our confidence well placed. Who can we trust? I mean really trust. Shaking markets and shady deals abound. Enticing offers bombard us at every turn, tempting us to try and buy the latest, greatest products. The internet has created a haven for scam artists. We answer phone calls with apprehension, not knowing if the caller is legitimate.

My granddaughter stood with her toes curled over the edge of the pool. I waited below with my arms outstretched, prepared to catch her when she jumped. She leaned forward. Her quivering legs contradicted the smile on her face. It took more than a little persuasion to convince her to trust me. After several more jumps and successful catches, her confidence in me grew. Finally, she jumped with complete abandon. Confidence well place replaced her initial fear.

We have all taken turns at being the jumper or the catcher. We have learned through experience who we can and cannot trust. No one has proven more trustworthy than our God.

“Blessed [with spiritual security] is the man who believes and trusts in and relies on the Lord and whose hope and confident expectation is the Lord.”
Jeremiah 17:7 AMP

How wonderful! We may have perfect hope and confident expectation in the Lord.

Broken Trust

The wounds of broken trust pierce deep. When we have trusted someone to love, but they wouldn’t. When we have trusted someone to protect, but they didn’t. Broken trust makes it difficult for us to fully trust again.

Each time we trust a little less and then even less. Until finally, we trust only ourselves. Eventually, we realize we are as untrustworthy as everyone else. In the most complete sense of the word, there is only One deserving our complete confidence.

The Hebrew word for man in Jeremiah 17:7 means someone who is valiant, like a warrior. It represents a person of courage and determination. Confidence well placed in God for our security requires a measure of courage and determination to overcome the broken trust in people. But it is worth it!

“For he will be [nourished] like a tree planted by the waters,
That spreads out its roots by the river
…”
Jeremiah 17:8

When we have confidence well placed in God, we become like this tree — fully nourished and satisfied. Planted by an ever-flowing stream as God completely sustains us.

No Fear

Recovering from broken trust drains every fibre of our being. The pain of severed relationships cuts deep. Jagged wounds that refuse healing often become infected with rejection. Rejection oozes out through fear.

Only God’s perfect love brings lasting relief and complete healing.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”
1 John 4:18 NLT

With confidence well placed in our loving Father, fear holds no ground. Jeremiah continues to paint a word picture for us.

“… And will not fear the heat when it comes; but its leaves will be green and moist. And it will not be anxious and concerned in a year of drought nor stop bearing fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:8 AMP

Moving Forward

I know beyond a doubt I can trust God with every aspect of my life. I have full confidence that He will never fail.

Unfortunately, in the day-to-day struggles, I resemble my granddaughter far too much. I stand on the edge of the pool of relational trust, holding tight with all ten toes. I lean toward God with every ounce of courage I can muster, but will others reciprocate my love “this time?” Will that person value our relationship “this time?” Or will repeat offenders surround me forever?

That is the human dilemma. Confidence well place in a God who stands apart from all human control requires every valiant warrior portion of this heart. Trusting my frail humanity into the hands of other frail humans sounds foolish at best.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
John 13:34

Yet, God calls, even commands, us to love each other completely, regardless of the outcome. He desires us to become a similar life-giving stream for others as He is for us. He longs for us to love others so absolutely that it releases them, too.

The Call

God calls each of us to love. The love of God washes over us like a river to live worry free. His love flowing through us provides space for others to grow in faith — without fear or worry even in the toughest times.

When Jeremiah talks about a tree “planted” by the water. It literally means to be transplanted. No matter where we began, He has repositioned us, transplanting us by the stream of His grace and mercy.

We were planted in brokenness and rejection. We have been transplanted into Christ and He into us. Once we held misplaced trust in people, finances, positions of authority, and possessions. Firmly transplanted, we now maintain confidence well placed in Him.

Transplanted ones experience not only God’s blessing, they also

“… never fail to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17:8

As we obey the call to receive and express love, continuous spiritual “fruit” comes through our lives.

Confidence Well Placed

Honestly, this process stretches me. Maybe, it stretches you too. Only with confidence well place in the love of God will we dare to risk loving and being loved.

Yes, people will fail us. But secure in the Father’s love, our roots spread wide and strong, nourishing us at every level, sustaining us through dry seasons, and securing us through every storm.

The more we trust Him, the more we confidently jump with childlike faith into His arms, willing to abandon ourselves to love others fully and deeply — with or without love in return.

A love that reflects Him will always make a difference. Always!

**********

Shake Off Shame and Walk Free

Shake Off Shame

Whenever we experience failure, shame and pride attempt to cover. God offers the only sure way to shake off shame, allowing us to walk free.

Three times in the last few weeks, I have been confronted by hidden shame. We may attempt to hide areas of shame in a thousand different ways, but it will insistently peak through cracks in our facade. Often, we don’t even recognized the root, but the desire to conceal any area of our lives reveals shame as the underlying source — a source resulting either from my failures or the failures of others.

Whenever I am asked to share my testimony, feelings of shame inevitably rise. The root may spring from my foolish or even sinful decisions. Other shame originated in the violations others perpetrated. After intentionally seeking repentance, and receiving, as well as extending forgiveness, I live relatively free. Yet, faint shrouds of shame still haunts, causing frustration. Why?

Fear not, for you will not be put to shame, And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced, But you will forget the shame of your youth, And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.”
Isaiah 54:4

This verse offers hope! In it Isaiah connects four integral components: fear, shame, humiliation, and disgrace.

Fear

King David faltered and fell in a huge way. First through committing adultery and then, out of fear of being discovered, he murdered an innocent man. Shame will lead anyone, even a righteous king, down a path they otherwise would never have gone. Afterward, shame always seeks a place to hide.

Jon Bloom describes the deadly combination of pride and shame well. As if shame didn’t carry enough of a burden, it frequently partners with pride. Rather than expose us to shame, pride convinces us to bury it in all the wrong places.

Paul beautifully wrote,

“But we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
2 Corinthians 4:2

David eventually renounced his hidden sin, which wasn’t as hidden as he hoped. When he openly confessed it all to God and others, he received the ability to shake off shame and walk free of his past.

Shame

Dictionaries define shame as a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. It carries strong regret and reproach.

King David’s shame resulted from his own sin. Often the most intense shame we feel comes by the misconduct of others, through disrespect or violation through words and deed. Shame-filled people often shame those around them as a means of covering their own condition.

“Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land. Everlasting joy will be theirs.”
Isaiah 61:7

What a beautiful promise! Those who have experienced abuse or misuse will receive a double portion. Get ready! God is about to give double for the trouble others have caused. He will bring honor, praise, respect, and esteem to you in double the measure for wrongs inflicted upon you. As we resist proud coverups and walk humbly, God will bring you blessing.

Because sin resides both in and around us, shame may subtly come to cloak us. Either consciously or subconsciously, we begin to align ourselves with the accuser in self-condemnation.

“Behold, I am going to deal at that time with all your oppressors. I will save the lame and gather the outcast. And I will turn their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.”
Zephaniah 3:19

The woman who suffered from bleeding for twelve long years, secretly attempted to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Cultural humiliation of her condition drove her low. Jesus healed her, reversing the shame unjustly placed on her.

I honestly believe the weak and broken will maintain a higher position in heaven, receiving eternal rewards to compensate for the misplaced humiliation and shame they endured here on earth.

Disgrace

Disgrace refers to a loss of reputation and respect. God reverses the plight through His unprecedented and unmerited grace. Any degradation, discredit, or dishonor experienced, He removes, replacing it by with His grace.

Instead of hiding behind pride, expensive clothes, educational titles, successful businesses, lofty positions, or glass pulpits, God invites us to the only sufficient hiding place, Jesus Christ. As long as we choose to cower behind bitterness, resentment, sarcasm, or insecurity, we will remain prisoners of shame. To shake off shame and walk free, we follow the humble road to Christ.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”
1 John 1:9

Here is the catch! We may have memorized hundreds of Bible verses, sought God’s forgiveness, and liberally forgiven others without finding freedom from shame. The residue of shame may continue to limit our ability to move forward.

A Spiritual Issue

As much as shame roots itself in human behavior, it contains a spiritual dimension. When we choose to take a stand and say, “No more!” shame must go.

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
James 4:6-7

Here’s the real deal! We may have humbly approached God, honestly confessing our sins and the violations of others. If so, we have received His beautiful grace, and submitted to a new way of thinking and living. One last, most crucial step remains — resist the devil.

In my instance, to shake off shame and walk free, I had to verbally declare,

“Devil, you no longer have the right or authority to hold shame over me. Jesus Christ has taken care of it all. His double-portion promise of honor, praise, respect, and esteem now belongs to me. So get lost! Get out! In the mighty name of Jesus, I command all shame to leave. You are no longer welcome in my heart, mind, or soul.”

Honestly, with the verbal renouncing of shame, I “felt” a new sense of freedom, and God enabled me to finally shake off shame. Praise His Name!

**********

Identify and Overcome Any Roadblock or Obstacle to Success

I’m working to identify and overcome any roadblock or obstacle to success. Why? I feel stuck or unproductive in a critical area of my work.

Do you stall out? Or have you hit an invisible wall impeding your progress? We all face these situations and seasons. I’ve been working through my own recently. Fortunately, we also possess the ability to overcome.

Jesus met with serious opposition at the beginning of His ministry. His baptism by John created the launch point. What occurred immediately afterward, however, determined His trajectory.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well please.'”
Matthew 3:16-17

God affirmed Jesus as “my Son,” declaring His love and pleasure with Him. Yet, immediately the Spirit led Jesus into a difficult place, a wilderness, where again and again the devil questioned Jesus’ identity and value.

This may well have created a serious obstacle for anyone of us. If Jesus would have listened to the enemy, His ministry would have been terminated instead of propelled into motion.

What internal “voices” or external pressures are you facing?

I will share a few of mine!

Self-Doubt

We resist the same enemy Jesus did. The devil attempted Jesus to doubt His identity and value — to question His worth.

Every forward movement encounters opposition. “Who do you think you are?” “You can’t do that!” “No one will listen to you.” “You have nothing to offer.” It is familiar rhetoric that haunts many of us.

Most of the time, I’m pretty good at recognizing this ploy. But sometimes, I take the bait and become paralyzed by my insufficiency.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
2 Corinthians 4:7

Honestly, acknowledging my inability releases me to do and be all I am meant to be, without the pressure of attempting to measure some preconceived standard. If I believe I am the next great thing the world needs, pride dooms me to failure. Every success I achieve, I achieve through Christ in me.

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:8

When self-doubt blocks you, admit your weaknesses and move on. Step over any feelings of unworthiness and draw from God’s power and ability at work in and through you. Don’t allow self-doubt to become an obstacle to success.

Fear

Fear takes on many forms. Though people perceive me as being bold and perhaps even fearless, I encounter this roadblock more than I would like to admit. Often, it creeps in so subtlely I fail to recognize fear as being the root of my stagnation.

Though it sounds foolish, I may fear both success and failure simultaneously. In school, other students criticized me as much for my successes as for my blunders. Those voices of childhood, even though they occurred decades ago, sometimes still derail me from reaching peak potential.

Fear intimidates. Fear paralyzes.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7

If we ask God, He will expose the root of our fear. Whether He points to the fear of not measuring up to the opinions of others or the fear of being vulnerable, identifying the source helps us to move beyond it.

Perfectionism

God knows we are imperfect. We know we are imperfect. So why is perfectionism such a big deal? Or at least, why is perfectionism such a big deal for me?

“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.”
Ecclesiastes 11:7

When I make perfection even remotely my goal, I may begin the work, but never complete it or boldly present it to others. Perfectionism focuses on flaws. It holds us to impossible standards, clouding everything we do with disappointment and discouragement.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15

Timothy’s mentor and “father” in the faith encouraged him, “Do your best!” Our consistent best will keep the momentum going. It will elevate us above obstacles.

We could all glean from these words, applying it to whatever we are working at. “Do your best!” Let’s put perfectionism behind us and simply attempt to do our best.

So many times, I look at my work, knowing it is far from perfect. But I also recognize that at this point in my life, this is the best I have to offer. When I resolve to accept my imperfection, I step past perfectionism as the obstacle to success.

Discouragement

When things don’t turn out like I hope, discouragement creeps in. Often shame or regret ride the same wave with discouragement.

Don’t be afraid for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

“Don’t be discouraged!” God says to each of us. “Don’t give it room or entertain it in your mind!”

Whatever we do that is good and upright, let’s remember God is with us. He never calls us to something He will not equip us to do. He strengthens and helps us to carry it out.

Whatever door of opportunity God opens for us, He empowers us to confidently walk through it. Let us not allow discouragement to become an obstacle to success.

Busyness

Ineffective management of my time often creates the greatest roadblock to accomplishing my goals. Usually, this results from an over-booked, over-extended, and over-loaded schedule.

Distractions continually bombard — some avoidable, others unavoidable.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Matthew 6:33

Jesus encourages us to establish godly priorities and set healthy boundaries over our time. I find these tips helpful:

  • Say “no” to some things to give the option to say “yes” to the most important things
  • Recognize and avoid time wasting distractions
  • Tackle the most difficult work during peak performance periods
  • Minimize where I can so I can maximize for the greatest effect
  • Rest before work, eat before effort, exercise before assignments

We cannot regain time once it passes. Time is precious to God.

Obstacle to Success

My list includes only a few of the roadblocks that create obstacles to success. We each will face our own recurring roadblocks to impede progress.

Your list might read differently from mine. Procrastination, insecurity, or past shame may rank high on a few lists. Through Jesus Christ, we all can be victorious no matter how long or short our lists appear.

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:57-58

Whatever God has set before us, wherever He has positioned us, let us thank God. He gives us the ability to identify and overcome any roadblock or obstacle to success.

Your labor is not in vain! God is with you.

**********

The Lightning and Thunder of God

Lightning & Thunder of God

God reveals Himself in innumerable ways. Have you sensed the lightning and thunder of His Presence recently? If so, was it fierce or awe-inspiring?

In our area, we often experience thunderstorms — some severe. People respond to the storms in various ways. Some people run for cover and hunker down until it’s over. Others carry on with life like nothing unusual is occurring around them. Still others, who border on insanity, pursue storms, enjoying the near-death experience of pushing the boundaries of reasonable safety.

Sometimes a soft rumble of thunder offers the only evidence of atmospheric disturbance. More often a sudden flash followed by an intense clap awakens onlookers to take heed. The more experienced may “feel” the storm coming a long way off, sensing it in the air, and feeling it in their bones.

God often speaks through nature, pointing our attention to deeper spiritual concepts. Paul said,

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Romans 1:20

Storm Clouds

God reveals His “invisible qualities” through His creation. In nature, the flash of lightning produces the sound of thunder. What about in the spiritual? Do we need a similar combination of visible and audible, power and voice, to comprehend God more personally and fully? Perhaps.

Word and Light

The Gospel of John opens with Word and Light, the audible and visible, thunder and lightning.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
John 1:1

In the beginning — before created things — the Word, Jesus Christ, was with God and was God. From the beginning, preceding time as we know and understand it, the thunder of God’s Word existed and resonated.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1:4-5

Here it is! Lightning and thunder! The Word, above all words, speaking all things into existence! The Light overcoming every darkness!

Lightning flashes and is gone; Jesus came and remains eternal. Thunder roars for a moment; Jesus’ words endure forever.

Storm Coming

Fearful

My mother experienced disabling fear of electric storms. At the slightest hint of danger, she gathered everyone and everything into protection. Quickly she closed and latched windows and doors, pulled curtains shut, and busied herself attempting to occupy her fear-filled mind. Many others react similarly.

When God descended upon Mount Sinai with “thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled (Exodus 19:16). Such an awesome revelation of God certainly would have made my knees shake and heart beat intensely.

” . . . Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
Exodus 20:19

Many people easily relate to the Israelite’s response to God’s Presence, seeing God as fierce, cruel, and judgmental. Moses knew God personally and more fully.

“As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.”
Exodus 19:19

Storm Over the Ocean

Years later, David wrote these words:

“He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”
Psalm 103:7-8

The fear of God will either draw us near, like Moses, or cause our hearts to tremble and our feet to run away, like the people of Israel. Knowing God’s attributes and nature dispels negative fears and nurtures positive affection and attraction.

Storm Chasers

For a rare breed of others, the mention of an impending thunderstorm incites excitement, their hearts pound with enthusiasm and anticipation. Just the mention of lightning and thunder to these folks causes a flurry of motion as they leap from lethargy, jumping into their jalopies to go wherever necessary to experience the storm close up. With cameras in hand, they ready themselves to catch the ultimate image. Then they tell their adventurous stories with enthusiasm.

The church contains a few similar enthusiasts, ready on a moment’s notice to fly to the far reaches of the globe to hear their favorite speaker, teacher, revivalist, healer, or evangelist. Their enthusiasm for the things of God is exemplary. Their senses sustain high alert for revival. They, too, zealously tell their stories of close encounters with God’s Presence.

Into the Storm

Though not all fit this category, some people chase God only for the thrill of the experience or for what they hope to receive, rather than to know Him more fully. There have always been a few followers, only seeking fringe benefits.

“Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”
John 6:26

God will eventually confront all selfish seekers who attempt to imitate true God followers. Seeking God for the rush of spiritual lightning and thunder falls far short of leaning close to God, waiting to discover His heart and learn His ways.

Resting

My father labored through many storms while keeping alert to the shifting skies. Wisdom taught him to respect the power of lightning and heed the warning thunder, but he walked confidently through them both. He knew when to stand in awe with appreciation and when to shut the door for protection. We often sat together in a dark room, scanning the horizon for the next lightning flash, giggling, gasping, and glorying in God’s majestic display. Even secure in our home, we felt the fear as the house shook with intensity. It was a fear that drew us close in wonder and amazement.

I think this best illustrates how I approach God’s lightning and thunder — the awareness of His Presence and the sound of His voice. I don’t want to miss the miraculous, but desire to clearly see His movements in my generation. God still speaks. I want to be tuned to listen.

Lightning and Thunder

While multitudes came and went, a few stayed true to Jesus. Peter captured the reason well.

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:68-69

To be a Christ-follower isn’t only about rushes and thrills, miracles and encounters, although these are available and important. Being a worshipper of Jesus means knowing there is no other One we want to be with — to see and hear, to believe and to know.

Lightning And Thunder

The Holy Spirit enlightens our minds to understand, so the thunder of God’s voice creates the greatest impact. The disciples who knew Jesus the best missed most of the essence of what He did and said, until He opened their minds so they could understand” (Luke 24:45).

Everywhere Jesus went, He performed miracles and taught truth. He became incomparable lightning and thunder wrapped in humanity! The Book of Acts records how the apostles followed His example of teaching and doing miracles. Paul speaks to the church in Corinth, saying,

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

Lightning And Thunder

Lightning and thunder, miraculous power united with God’s Word, best demonstrate God’s attributes and character. They steer our eyes from Earth to Heaven — our allegiance from human to divine. Today, this combination still evokes various responses.

Like the seasoned, experienced weather trackers of old, may we possess a strong sense of God’s movements and His ways. May we acknowledge His transcending Presence, His unstoppable power, and His overflowing goodness and grace. May we stand in this window of opportunity, delighting in His display, seeing His lightning power, and hearing His thunderous voice. Fear not!

**********

Love and Faith — What Little Boys Taught Me About Fear

Love and Faith

God often teaches us powerful life lessons of love and faith at the most inconvenient times and in the most uncomfortable ways. These lessons remain with us for a lifetime, influencing decisions and stabilizing us in uncertain situations.

Faith and fear are mutually incompatible. In reality, however, faith fails to find a firm foundation until love paves the way.

Our children are long grown, but memories of their frightened cries piercing the dark night run fresh through my mind. Lights turned on, to prove nothing hiding in a closet or under the bed, failed to dispel fear. The reassurance that dad and mom were in the next room impacted the angst little. Even prayer and affirmation that the Presence and protection of Jesus covered them only faintly eased their discomfort. Information alone holds little resistance against fear. Yet, when love draws close, confidence and calm prevail!

Fear flees without a fight when love enters.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18

Whether during a global crisis or the not-so-simple daily pressures of life, love makes all the difference. No matter our age, social status, or race, we all need to know love and support. Do you have someone who loves you unconditionally? Someone constant through success and failure, health and illness, prosperity and lack, the strength of youth and the frailty of old age? Who is your someone — the person you could call anytime, day or night, who will listen, support and encourage?

If you can name anyone, you are in the privileged minority.

How Mental Health Is the New Domain of Ministry to the Next Generation - Barna
How Mental Health Is the New Domain of Ministry to the Next Generation - Barna

Mental Health

I’m not sure I have experienced times as full of angst as in this season. The breakdown of the family, the disintegration of faith communities, and often fluctuating political impetus seriously affect us all. Deceptive addictions, in various forms, clench cruel claws and breathe death into the unsuspecting in pandemic proportions. We suffer generationally from dis-ease both within and around us. No one guarantees immunity or promises cure.

Just as my little children needed love with flesh in their fear-filled darkness, our world needs it too. We, as God’s hands and feet, can rise to the occasion, push aside our own insecurities and fatigue, demonstrating love and faith within this present global famine.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
1 John 3:18

Only One-Third of Young Adults Feels Cared for by Others  - Barna

Barna conducted this study pre-pandemic on 18 to 35-year-olds. Only one in three young adults felt loved by those close to them. What I find shocking is that these young adults said they “feel the broad, global trends more than they feel loved and supported by others close to them.” The reality that two-thirds of young adults do not feel unloved and unsupported should shock us all into high alert.

The effects of the last several months of isolation and uncertainty have only exacerbated the problem, not just among the young, but among us all. God created us to thrive in loving faith-filled community. People of all ages are struggling emotionally and relationally. They may not describe themselves as anxious or depressed, yet confess they struggle to maintain concentration and focus, feel elevated concern for themselves and others, and are uncertain about employment, housing and their ability to secure the basics of life.

As Christians, we have the antidote! God planted faith and love within us.

It’s Up to Us All

If this kind of love sounds messy, you’re right. If you think this kind of love is best left to professional pastors and clergy, you’re mistaken. Your family needs you. Your neighbors need you. Even your church needs you. Your workplace needs you.

Only Jesus held a doctorate in love. Only He got it right all the time. Please, don’t underestimate what simple demonstrations of love and faith might do when committed to Him.

Christians Struggled with Relational Health Prior to the Crisis—So What Has Changed? - Barna

Maybe we should start our efforts with those who stand in the centre of the fray — “professional” clergy. The pressure upon pastors to care for their congregations effectively, through a pandemic, has taken a toll. Five years ago, only two percent of pastors rated their emotional health as below average or poor. Today, over twenty percent say they suffer. May I encourage you to love those who lead. Assist and support them however God directs you.

“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work . . . “
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Let’s begin together by practicing love and faith with those who have dedicated themselves to serve God, us and others.

Know the Signs

If we willingly slow our pace, even a little, and look around, for even a moment, the evidence becomes obvious.

Only One-Third of Young Adults Feels Cared for by Others  - Barna

God’s Word never fails! Perfect love always casts out anxiety, fear, uncertainty and insecurity, rendering them powerless — like a lion without fangs or claws. I propose we engage in love and faith like never before. Though we may feel love for others, they may genuinely question that love. Here lies the great disconnect. Only when we learn to demonstrate love and faith in ways people comprehend will we shift the tide of mental anguish.

Peter says,

“Now, because of your obedience to the truth, you have purified your very souls, and this empowers you to be full of love for your fellow believers. So express this sincere love toward one another passionately and with a pure heart. For through the eternal and living Word of God, you have been born again. And this “seed” that he planted within you can never be destroyed but will live and grow inside of you forever.”
1 Peter 1:22-23

Christ planted the seed of His perfect love in each one of us. His seed of love empowers us to love fully. He not only preserves the seed but guarantees it will live and grow inside of us forever. Wow! What a promise! Love planted in each of us, living and growing into a vibrant reality, impacting those desperate for it. He takes the pressure off, providing us with everything we need to love others, especially those within the body of believers.

Love and faith work together.

There Is Proof

Barna also researched how the Christian community functions in crisis. Better than average, apparently! Bravo, people of God, you are doing it! Your love within the ranks is having an impact.

Christians Struggled with Relational Health Prior to the Crisis—So What Has Changed? - Barna

Sadly, those outside the faith are suffering the most. However, that reality presents great opportunity. Though fear has taken up temporary residence in the cultural love vacuum, God appoints us to serve eviction notice to the squatter of fear. I daily witness people stepping through the invisible barriers of uncertainty, reaching across cubicles, hallways, alleys, denominations, cities and nations. With hearts overflowing, they extend to the emotional hurting love and faith in action.

I hear voices of young and old resolutely declare,

” . . . Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah 6:8

How Love Looks

Only thirty percent of the global population feels supported, secure, and hopeful. Hold off on discouragement, though! As hints of spring crease the snow-clad landscape, I’m reminded of little bees, hidden in cloistered hives. Soon they will stretch sleeping wings, moving out to work silently their God-given task. As they fearlessly take flight, extending beyond their secure habitat, they benefit our world in powerful ways, producing incredible fruitfulness.

May I encourage you to reach beyond your secure cloister, “pollinating,” with love and faith, those you encounter by supporting them and letting them know you believe in who they are. Yes, validate the work they do and the gifts they possess, but, more importantly, endorse them as uniquely created by God with divine purpose, having irreplaceable worth.

Love and faith create, enrich, and sustain others, fostering hope for the future. Although most of us have learned to dream silently, we can encourage others to dream beyond human possibility. May we become dream keepers and dream builders, encouraging and fostering potential in others. We can faithfully pray they will achieve their full capability.

By creating an atmosphere of love and faith, and building support and hope, we will make progress in dislodging fear and anxiety. One word of encouragement, one act of kindness, one phone call, one moment of your time, may be the turning point for someone.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
John 13:34

It’s Personal

A young woman sat huddled in the center of her bed, cocooned in a fetal position by darkness within and without. Spiritually and emotionally tormented, no cries for help pierced the broken stillness. Hopelessness gripped her heart and suffocated all hope . . . until . . . love walked in.

Her father slowly ascended the staircase and slipped quietly beside her. He knew. He, too, lived the dark night of depression. Slowly, he reached out his large gentle hand, and with not much more than whisper offered, “Honey, I love you.”

Like a mighty wrecking ball, the walled fortress of desperation and despair crumbled. Love made a way! Love broke through! My father responded to his grown daughter’s unuttered cry, slip into my night, and embraced me with love — a love that changed everything.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Ephesians 4:2

What if our simple acts of love deposit seeds of flourishing love in others in the same way that Christ deposited love in us? What if we each possess powerful seeds of love and faith that will ultimately produce more of the same? Maybe, just maybe, we can become like little bees gently spreading the pollen of love and faith (one act at a time) that will bear more fruit than anyone realizes. Maybe together, we can turn the tide, tip the tables and trample the terror that has gripped people for far too long (one person at a time).

References

You might appreciate these Barna references: