Inadequacy

After a week away from this blog, I feel ready to start writing again. I have a new story I want to start to write, and I need to start doing research for the book I want to write. As far as this blog and my other blog go, I think I want to use my writing to get me started each day. So, my plan is to do at least one post each week for each blog. I think that’s realistic. I keep producing content each week, and I can process my thoughts about faith and life. I think this all will be a win-win as I keep my goals in mind.

So, the question I want to answer today is this one. Have you ever felt inadequate? That would be a big whopping yes for me. I feel inadequate as a daughter of God. I feel inadequate as a wife and mother. I feel inadequate as a friend. I feel inadequate as part of the family of God. Sometimes, I feel inadequate about it all. I thought this would be a good topic to share today to see if I could gain some clarity.

I’m not going to share anything too specific though. People get upset when you do that so I thought I would share specifics about the way I feel. First, I want to talk about how I feel inadequate as a daughter of God. There are two ways. One, I feel inadequate as a woman–about how I was made by God. It almost feels like I shouldn’t voice this especially in today’s climate, but I know my God can take it so here goes. I feel inadequate as a woman. I don’t feel like I have anything to contribute to groups of women so when I hear about or am invited to an event with a group of women, I have to think and pray about it a lot before I go. Do I have anything to contribute to the conversation? Will I lose patience with what’s going on? Will I be able to keep from being suffocated at said event? I don’t have a lot of interest in trying new recipes or hearing about the latest cleaning techniques. I don’t want to talk about clothes or shoes, and I definitely don’t think my place is in the kitchen. I want to talk about deep topics that matter which makes me feel guilty because I don’t think I’m reflecting how God made me.

The second way I feel inadequate as a daughter of God is by my inability to say and do the things God wants me to do. For those keeping track, my talk last Wednesday went well. I had many compliments afterwards, but out of the two conversations I needed to have, I only had one. That one went well, but I really need to have the other–to ask for forgiveness. And it can’t be done by writing either which is complicating things. (Yes, I know that is somewhat of an excuse, but trust me, there have been times when a conversation just hasn’t been appropriate.) I’ve waited so long to do it I believe I’ve permanently damaged the relationship. I hope not, but it is what it is.

Now, onto feeling inadequate as a wife and mother. I often wonder if my husband resents that I’m not the best cook in the world or that I don’t keep the cleanest home. I wonder if he doesn’t like cooking on the weekends though he does so cheerfully almost every weekend. He has said he would rather I’d have poured myself into our kids when I was homeschooling them, and he wants me to chase my dreams now, but still, I wonder. I wonder if he would have preferred a wife that was more culturally correct–secular and Christian culture.

Then, there’s me as a mother. Boy, I could tell you a hundred ways I feel inadequate as a mother, but there’s not enough room in this space so I will just state a few. I feel badly about what we haven’t been able to give to our kids. Because we chose to homeschool, there haven’t been as many monetary resources as there could have been. I also feel guilty about the times we have had to move. I think about how much they would have benefited  from living in just one place during their childhoods. And finally, I feel badly about the time we spent in the wilderness while they were growing up. Our relationship with God during their middle childhood was not what it could or should have been.

I also have ways I feel inadequate as a friend. Some of this could probably be blamed on our culture and on how friendships exist in this Internet age, but I don’t want to use this as a cop-out. When we make friends in a particular place, we depend on seeing them in that particular place to maintain the friendship. When we don’t see them anymore for whatever reason, the friendship has a tendency to fragment. That has been my experience anyway. We, I, should do more to keep in touch, but I don’t because they’re not in my regular orbit anymore. I feel guilty about this because I think I should do better. I think God would want me to do better.

Finally, and I think this is the biggest thing for me, I feel inadequate as part of the family of God especially in what I contribute. I’m not only talking about money although that is a part. I also feel inadequate in what I do and in my presence in the body of Christ. I don’t feel like I have the deep friendships I crave from my Christian friends. In fact, I was doing some private writing the other day and wondered if I should be looking in other directions for my deep friendships. It was something I was wondering about, and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I didn’t feel like I had encouraged anyone recently and was wondering what my point and purpose was in the body of Christ.

Now, you’re probably wondering where the encouragement is in all of this. I have described in detail all the ways I feel inadequate and how overwhelming it is. I know there are some of you who would say these are thoughts of Satan, and I should just get over them. I’m not saying that Satan doesn’t try to feed us thoughts to interfere with the work we are trying to do for Christ, but I think there is something else at work here we need to realize. We are inadequate–with everything if we try to do it without Christ.

I Peter 4:11 says, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

I Corinthians 15:57 says this, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And finally, Colossians 3:16 says this, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

There are many more Scriptures where these come from. God wants us to depend on Him for everything, and I think that’s something we need to remember especially when we feel inadequate. It’s taken me a long time to travel this circle back to the beginning of my faith, and in some ways, I think I will travel it until the day I die. Taking this journey in conjunction with my bravery journey though has helped me experience Christ’s presence in a new way in my life. I can do nothing without His strength as it says in Philippians 4:13. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” I pray we all can remember this, me included, as we work in His Kingdom.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Different

This is it! Today is the very last day I will be blogging through the devotional 100 Days to Brave. I’m on the 100th devotion. It’s also my 24th wedding anniversary. Two amazing things, to be sure. I’m in a different place now than I was at the beginning of February, and I think going through these words and Scripture verses about bravery has changed my heart. No, I’m not perfect. Far from it. But, I am different.

I can believe what today’s Scripture verse says about me whereas I know I wouldn’t have believed it in February. From Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke, but will rejoice over you with singing.” He takes “great delight” in me, the person that I am, not the Christian mold I’ve been trying to fit in to. The person who doesn’t have as much money as the rest of her church family. The person who feels deeply. The person who is a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. The person who is not noticed. The person who is nerdy and techy. The person who is different from the norm, even the Christian norm. The person who fails more than she succeeds, but the person who loves Jesus with all her heart and wants to have opportunities to serve Him.

God takes delight in that person, me. It’s the real reason I started to blog through this devotional. I wanted to learn to be brave with my faith, brave with my writing, and brave with my life, and I think I have. I liked what the author had to say because I think it reflects what has happened to me. “Making brave choices in your life is going to change the world. At the least, it will change your world.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) Doing what I’ve done has proven to me that I can write every day and that I can express the words God wants me to say.

There is one other thing I want to point out with today’s post, and it has to do with the title. I’ve already said I think God has changed me during this time of blogging. He wants all of us to be different though when we accept Jesus as Savior. But, I think some of us think differences shouldn’t matter when we share a common faith. Yes, we all believe the same, but we are still different people, and we have different gifts to bring to the table. God wants us to accept each other and embrace our differences. That’s a hard thing, I know. And we don’t do a good job of reflecting that in this fallen world. This is why I so appreciated the words of the song I want to share with you, and this is how I want to complete the next steps of my bravery journey.

“Different” by Micah Tyler

I don’t wanna hear anymore, teach me to listen
I don’t wanna see anymore, give me a vision
That you could move this heart, to be set apart
I don’t need to recognize, the man in the mirror
And I don’t wanna trade Your plan, for something familiar
I can’t waste a day, I can’t stay the same

I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different
In me

And I don’t wanna spend my life, stuck in a pattern
And I don’t wanna gain this world but lose what matters
And so I’m giving up, everything because

I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different; oh-oh

I know, that I am far, from perfect
But through You, the cross still says, I’m worth it
So take this beating in my heart and
Come and finish what You started
When they see me, let them see You
‘Cause I just wanna be different, ye-ey

I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Oh is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different
I just wanna be different
So could You be different
In me

source: https://www.lyricsondemand.com/m/micahtylerlyrics/differentlyrics.html

 

Thanks to all who’ve read at least one of these posts. I would like your prayers as I speak at my church this Wednesday night and talk about some of my bravery journey. I plan to take a break from this blog for a few days as I decide what my next steps will be.

God bless you all!

Braver than I Know

It’s interesting, no, awe-inspiring, the way God leads us to something He wants us to see. When I read today’s devotion, I was led back to a comment someone had made on one of my blog posts back in April. Then I was led to the blog post itself and realized that between then and now, I have come full circle. I have been braver than I knew all along.

So, today, I thought I would talk about what I found and how I could read the words now without cringing and truly believe them. First, the comment. My good friend Janet said this back in April. “You might not feel brave on the inside, but you are one of the bravest, most open, genuine, and real people I know.” I did read it back then, but I could barely read it if that makes sense. I was cringing at the words and not really believing them because I was going through such a dark time. I don’t know what made me save the comment. Maybe I thought I would be able to read it one day without cringing, or maybe I just forgot it was there, but I believe it was God-ordained. He knew I would read it again on July 6, 2018 and realize what He already knew about my character–that He had made me a particular way for a particular purpose and that I didn’t need to copy anyone else as I sought to glorify Him. I thought that was a brave realization to have.

Then, I went to the blog post itself. The title of it is “Saying Yes,” and while I’m not going to repeat all of it, I read it and realized I’ve already done what I talked about in the post. I’ve done it! I entered my story in the writing contest.  I didn’t win anything, but my story was posted on their site for several weeks, and more people got to read my writing. That’s a win in my book! It’s given me encouragement to try again.

I have also gone to Honduras with a missions team from my church and come back. When I first said yes to God’s prompting, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I wasn’t sure how the trip would turn out. But, I did it! God changed me and made me a stronger person because of it. He used it to help me come out of the wilderness.

There was one thing in this post though that I haven’t been able to do, and I would like to ask for your prayers as I attempt to do it in the next few days. Pray for me to have the courage to confront, the courage to be honest, and the courage to receive honesty. Managing conflict has never been a strong suit of mine. I have a tendency to bury it. But, it needs to be unburied. Please pray I will have the courage to do so and also pray that if the people involved don’t want me around after the words have been said, I will have the courage to walk away. Thank you for your prayers! May we all have courage as we seek to have a heart like His!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Biggest Change in My Life

This was the question asked at the end of today’s devotion. It made sense for the question to be asked since there were only two more devotions after this one. Luckily, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into how my life has changed since I began writing this series of blog posts in February.

I’ve become braver like the devotional says, and I’ve gained more courage. I’ve learned I don’t have to bury who I am much as I might feel some people want me to. God made me the way I am, and if people don’t like it, too bad for them. 🙂 The only person whose approval I want is the approval of my Lord and Savior. And if it comes down to it, I don’t need to be approved of by my fellow believers either. That’s not what God made me for. He made me to bring Him glory and not anyone else.

I also learned God is in control of everything. Yes, I already knew that in my head, but my heart caught up when I was in Honduras last week. I didn’t have control over anything. Not when we worked, not when we ate, not even when we traveled somewhere or when we were waiting to get rescued from the side of the road. God was in control of it all. He gave me the strength to endure at the roadside and the energy to work and play with the kids at VBS. He was present in my trip just like He said He would be.

Trusting the process was my second lesson. I didn’t need to have anything specific to tell people like I thought. The author had some poignant words about courage that I thought applied well to my own life.  “It’s (courage) for your relationship with God. It’s for your dreams and your calling and your work.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) (parentheses and addition mine) She also had this to say about bravery. “You can be brave during all the changes of life. You can be brave in the face of pain. You can be brave with your health. Brave with your money. Brave wherever you are!” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) (emphasis mine) And because I’m brave, I can trust the process as I consider what comes next.

I’m grateful God will be with me through all of this change like it says in Scripture. I Chronicles 28:20 says, “David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.'” God will be with me and with all of us until our work is finished. May we truly believe that promise today!

God’s blessings on you all today!

Jesus Is Brave

Happy 4th of July if you live in the United States! I thought about skipping today’s post and just picking up again tomorrow, but I remembered when my final post in this series would be if I kept going so, here I am. And, in case you’re wondering, this makes the final post in this series happen on July 9, my 24th wedding anniversary. A fitting time to end, I think. 🙂

So, yesterday, I wrote of how Jesus was brave while He was here in this world. How there was a lot He gave up when He started His ministry. How He experienced betrayal from His friends and how He experienced outright hatred from the leaders in the synagogue. I wrote of how what He did must have taken courage because I wasn’t sure I would have had the courage to do what Jesus did. But, this was Jesus. He did all of it and walked right through to His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection. He saved us from our sin, and we can all claim that promise for ourselves today.

Jesus is still brave today though. Why, you ask? Because He is still alive in all of us who are believers. He is still working for our good–your good and my good. He’ll be coming back to judge sin once and for all and destroy the enemy who has made this world so broken like it says in Revelation 19:11. “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war.”

Another reason He is brave today is because He needs to keep working on our hearts and changing them. He started working on my heart when I first accepted Him as Savior, and He will work on it until the day I die and go to be with Him. I often wonder why He keeps putting up with me. My insecurities and my hang-ups. My inability to forgive and to think anyone would forgive me. My impatience at seeing people who seem so perfect in their faith when I know I’m not. My wounded heart which I don’t think anyone will accept so I put walls around it to prevent any more hurt. My whole self, really.

But, Jesus is unlike anyone else, and that’s what I need to remember like the author says. “He deeply loves you and deeply knows you and is doing the hard work of forgiving and forgiving and forgiving again and again. Jesus is brave, and He made you to be brave too.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

I’m so thankful Jesus takes a risk on me. I’m glad He is willing to work on changing my heart continuously so it will be more like His. May we all have hearts more like His today!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Jesus Was Brave

I had to read this devotion a couple of times for it to sink in. Then, it made all the sense in the world. Of course, Jesus had to be brave when He was on this earth. He was human as well as divine, and it has added a dimension to my bravery journey I didn’t expect. Let me explain. In recent months, as I’ve written about before, I’ve been making preparations to have an empty nest with the graduation of my younger son from high school. I was losing a role and didn’t know what would replace it. I was feeling like a square peg in a round hole (and still am), and I didn’t know what to do with it. I was not interested in the things Christian women are “supposed” to be interested in so the question of “What comes next?” became even more paramount. The only thing I knew was that I was going to write, but how and in what capacity was yet to be determined. I was in a place where many choices were possible, and I wasn’t sure which direction God wanted me to go in.

Part of me likes to think that maybe Jesus’ human side was facing some of those same uncertainties as He started His ministry. Oh, I know Scripture tells us He went out and started His ministry without any qualms or hesitations, and I know He knew the time was right to go as well. But, what about the human side of Jesus? Did He hesitate about leaving His job or His family? What about His friends? Did He like being a part of a community? We don’t know the answers to these questions. We do know what happened in His hometown after Jesus started His ministry. Mark speaks of it in Chapter 6, Verses 1-6.

“Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. ‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.” (emphasis mine)

They “took offense” at Jesus, y’all. The leaders of His church, His hometown friends, some in His family. The people He was closest to. He expected more from them and didn’t get it. That’s why I know He was brave. I can’t imagine my pastor or the leaders of my church hating me the way they hated Jesus. I can’t imagine my church friends hating me either. Or maybe they do, and I just don’t know it. 🙂 (Please don’t tell me if you do.)

All kidding aside, it gives me courage to know Jesus was brave just like He wants me to be brave. He knows what it takes for me to get out of the bed, and He knows what it takes for me to go out of my comfort zone. But, that’s what He has called me to do as a follower of His, and that is what I’m going to do to the best of my ability.

I end with a quote from the author that I hope we all take to heart as we consider and live out our faith. “The truth of who Jesus is and what He did on earth–the Son of God who came to earth to take on our sins–is the most courageous thing this planet has ever seen.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

The Power of Prayer

I’m back! 🙂 And I have lots to tell you. Last week was a wonderful week of serving God in another country with no distractions. It made me feel and think in a different way than I had in a long time. It gave me words too–lots of words–and a deep sense of calmness about my future. I’ll be sharing about the trip and the insights I gained over the next several weeks as I process what I saw and heard.

But, for now, on to today’s topic. I ended at a funny place. The week before I left on my trip I wrote about how God wants us to pray for our homes, our neighborhoods, our cities, our countries, and our world. The author of the devotional 100 Days to Brave shared her stories and observations which led to my own stories and observations. There is one more part to this section though, and it’s about the only city God specifically asks us to pray for. Any guesses? It’s Jerusalem. Psalm 122:6-7 says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.'” The author also points this out. “Besides Jerusalem being the holy land and the center of Jewish life, Jerusalem is prophesied to be the scene of Christ’s return in Acts 1:11 and Zechariah 14:4.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) I liked how the angels reassured the disciples in Acts 1:11. “‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.'”

So, what does any of this have to do with the power of prayer? I think sometimes we, who are believers, don’t realize how powerful prayer is. How much potential it has to change things and to change hearts. We especially don’t think it’s powerful when we don’t get exactly what we want. God knows it’s powerful though. He knows how prayer can change hearts and minds. I think that’s why he asked us to pray for Jerusalem, especially for its peace.  He has plans for this city in His coming kingdom as it says in Zechariah 12:3. “On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.”

The power of prayer. I experienced it last week as I endured long car rides, as I was stranded on the side of the road twice, as I was protected from injury, as I was able to pour out God’s love in circumstances that were not the best. And this power has changed my heart.

If this power can change my life and heart, what could it do if we all prayed for the same things? How could it change the world? Today, I am praying for Jerusalem and for revival. I invite you to join me.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

The World

Today’s topic wasn’t just random. I believe God planned it down to the littlest detail. Why? Because, in less than twenty-four hours, I will be on a plane to Honduras with a missions team from my church. This trip has been a long time coming. From the time I first expressed interest back in February, getting to go on this trip has been a God thing, pure and simple. There’s no way I would have been able to go on my own. Not from a one-income homeschooling family. But, God worked it out so I know it’s a part of His purpose for my life.

This will be my first time going abroad to do missions work, but I did spend a summer in Maryland when I was a college student. I also took a few one-week mission trips, but it’s the summer trip that has been in my thoughts in recent days. My partner and I worked in the inner-city doing whatever was needed, but mainly, we conducted Backyard Bible Clubs. In my mind’s eye, I see the faces of those children like it was yesterday. They were so excited we had come to where they lived. It was hard work. A lot of times, I was out of my comfort zone, but my youthful self dreamed of changing the world for Jesus. Many times, after that summer, I dreamed of becoming a career missionary.

But, real life intervened, and it’s now thirty-two years later. I wonder, where did that youthful enthusiasm and energy go? What happened to reaching the world for Christ? Oh, I did my best to change my own small corner of the world. I taught school. I married and had my own children. I became their teacher when they were young. I poured into my family. I wonder how much I really changed though. Advocates in the homeschooling community would say I changed a lot for my family, but what did I really do? I’m still working all that out.

We were practicing our faith when our sons were young. Then, we spent time out of the church in their middle years. I’ve written about this before. I became a cynic about the church and the community it’s supposed to offer because of all the bad I had seen. I longed for it still though because God had planted the desire in my heart. Cynicism and longing combined in my heart to make a potent soup.

As I’ve written though, my life has changed over the past six years. Love has come to the forefront, and I have a better understanding of what my faith means. I talk to God often, and He comforts me when the world lets me down. I even have a community that puts up with my weirdness, :-), and that is something, to be sure. I thank God for it every day.

Over the last few years, I’ve been thinking about and planning for what comes next after my children were done with high school. I’ve chronicled many of my thoughts and feelings in this blog. As you know, this is the year. My younger son will start college in the fall. God has been leading me down this writing path. I know that for sure. But, how and in what capacity, I don’t know. I also don’t know what I will do with the time I used to use for homeschooling. And except for my writing, I’m not sure of the path God is leading me on to serve Him. Thinking of that day in August when both of my children will be in college is a blur right now. I don’t know how my days will go or what will be in them.

I think it’s why God led me to this trip. A week away doing work for Him with no distractions, it’s what I need. God will meet me there. The uncertainty and blurriness will disappear, and my life will be changed!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

PS: I will complete this series on 100 Days to Brave when I return. See you on the flip side!

My Country

When we began homeschooling twelve years ago, many people in the homeschooling community considered themselves to be conservative Christians. To be fair, they still consider themselves conservative Christians, but that’s not my point. I wanted to fit in back then so that’s how I identified myself. Even though we weren’t in a church, we still considered ourselves as Christians so I didn’t think anything of it. I complained about the same things they did. I got exasperated with the things going on in my country. And I generally thought of people on the other “side” as not worthy of my time. I’m ashamed to admit that now, but I was sitting in judgment of people like people had sat in judgment of me many years earlier when we had left the church. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. Jesus didn’t want me to do that and He still doesn’t want me to do that.

What started changing my mindset in another direction? Life happened to us. Bad things started happening to us. Things that were impossible to conceal behind a facade. It was impossible to sit in judgment of someone I thought might be cheating the welfare system when my own husband couldn’t find a job. It was impossible to sit in judgment of someone coming to my country illegally when there was a possibility we would become homeless. I couldn’t do it. God was changing my heart to beat in tune with His. Now, I do need to add that some of the people I had come to know helped us in any way they could, but, in the general community, I was still seeing some of the same judgmental attitudes.

Anyway, my heart has continued to change over the past six years as my country has become even more sharply divided. Everything I see in the media depicts one side as being totally right and the other as being villainous. It goes both ways too. There is not a side that gets a pass as to how they treat people on the other side. That’s why I’ve pretty much stopped participating in political discussions. God doesn’t want me treating other people like they’re horrible just because their opinion is different from mine.

In general, we are unable to listen to other people with different opinions. We sharpen our knives to make sure we make our point not caring who we hurt. But, we’re still afraid, afraid of being judged for our faith, for our race, for our gender, for anything that makes us different. Christians participate too which is the saddest thing of all because I don’t think this is what God wants from us.

So, what does God want from us? He has the solution though we often refuse to see it.  First, Romans 13:1 offers us guidance. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” We’re subject to our governments no matter how much we might dislike them.

Second, He offers us opportunities to meet people who are different from us. We need to take those opportunities because God uses them to change hearts as He has done mine. The more familiar we are with differences, the less scary they are, and that builds in us a willingness to help. God has challenged my comfort zone in the last six years and is continuing to challenge it in the midst of figuring out my own differences from other people.

Finally, God wants us to be willing to change our mindset. I think that might be the hardest thing of all, but we all need to steep this in prayer as we are seeking to become the people God wants us to be. Just because one person cheats the welfare system doesn’t mean all people do. Just because one person expresses racist thoughts doesn’t mean all people are racist. In the midst of our differences, there is one way we are the same. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace.

As I look back over what I wrote, the author’s words from today’s devotion come to mind clearly, and I know it’s what God wants from me as I consider my country. She says, “Being brave looks like prayer. It looks like praying for your leaders to come to Christ. It looks like loving the people in your country and sticking to your biblical values.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) I know it was implied in the quote, but I feel the need to add “all” to these words. Until we can love everyone like God wants us to love them (despite our differences), we won’t have the unity as believers God wants us to have.

Praying today that all our hearts can be more like His!

My City

In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet calls for the people of Israel to pray for the place where God has carried them into exile. Jeremiah 29:7 says, “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Is that something you could do? You’ve been taken to a place where you didn’t want to go, and now, you’re being told you need to pray for that place. I don’t know about you, but I think I would find that difficult. I wouldn’t want to pray for a place I had been carried to against my will. I would want to get away from it as soon as possible.

I found it interesting though when I saw the chapter and verse reference the author had included with today’s devotion. Jeremiah 29 seemed familiar to me for another reason so I decided to look it up. I was right! A few verses later I saw three verses highlighted that are quoted often today especially for those graduating from high school or college. Verses 11-13 say, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'”

These verses, quoted to high school and college graduates, are close to where the Israelites were called to pray for their new city. In fact, the whole chapter is about the letter Jeremiah sent to the exiles. It makes me wonder how many people miss the first part to get to the second part.

Seven years ago, I was in a similar position. My husband and I were talking about leaving the city where we had only moved back to two years previously. I didn’t want to leave. It was everything that was familiar. We had met and married there. Our kids had been born there, and there were people there we loved and cared about. But, my husband had been unable to find work, so leave we did. We went to one place where he searched for work for about a month, and then drove back across the country to our new city where I only knew one person. It was scary, and several things happened right after we moved there which made my adjustment longer. I’ve written about these events before.

And now, it’s almost seven years later, and I can say I’ve adjusted to the part of the city I live in and the parts of the city I visit most often. I can get around pretty well with my phone (What did we do before cell phones?) and my familiarity with the city.

But, there are parts of the city I still don’t visit; parts where I wouldn’t want to be caught after dark, places where I’m not interested in going. Now, it might be said I’m just one person, and it’s okay if I’m not familiar with every part of my city, and it’s okay if I’m concerned with my safety. Aren’t we all?

The question that keeps coming back to mind though, after reading this devotion, is how am I serving my city. Am I praying for my city and not just rolling my eyes after the latest controversy? Am I seeking opportunities to serve? Am I doing my part in living out my faith in my city? I know I’m not doing any of that well enough, and I know I can do better. It’s all a part of my journey to becoming brave. Praying we can all be brave as we seek to serve in our own cities!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!