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!

Words Can Heal and Words Can Destroy

This has not been the best month for me in using words. I have been wounded by words and have lashed out because I’ve been wounded. I’ve even managed to destroy relationships in the process. I’m sure we’ve all been there.

I should have known better. I should have known better because of what it says in Proverbs 12:18. “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” And what about I Peter 3:9? “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you many inherit a blessing.” The You Version Bible app was also helpful in finding references in Scripture. From Amos 5:13, “Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil.” And finally, from Matthew 12:36 – 37, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Punishing words, right? Convicting words? Yes, all of that and more. I have no excuse especially with the background I come from. I spent a lot of my younger life hearing words that destroyed me and the person I was becoming. “You’re too heavy.” “You’re too quiet.” “You’re too sensitive.” “You’re different.” “You’re not enough like a woman.” “You’re odd.” “You’re too smart.” “What you feel doesn’t matter.” So, I learned to stuff my feelings down and to not acknowledge them. They didn’t matter anyway. They didn’t matter to anyone else so they shouldn’t matter to me. I think all of us would say feelings shouldn’t matter, but boy, is it a challenge to not react to hurting words.

Because of these words which were spoken to me, I’ve always tried to be kind in the way I’ve treated others. I know Jesus wants us to, and being like Jesus has been my aspiration since I came to know Him–to be more like Him and less like myself. Shouldn’t it be that way for all of us who are believers? Shouldn’t we remember verses like Matthew 5:11 or Psalm 119:50 when we are hurting instead of lashing out?

We don’t though because we are human and because we haven’t gone home yet. We don’t remember the words from Psalm 119:50. “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.”

So, as I conclude this post, the best piece of advice I have to offer is this. Don’t do what I did. Don’t destroy relationships with your words. I may never fit in. I may always be the odd one. I may always be the one that’s not wanted. But, I can do a better job of doing what the author says in today’s devotion. “Brave people use their words to heal. Speaking with kindness about other people’s hearts and minds and bodies can go a long way to heal.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) May we all remember this truth today!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Time to Rest

At the beginning of the week, I said I was going to take some time off from my obligations.( http://thrivingingrace.com/play-time/ ) Even though I wasn’t able to go on a vacation, I could still rest and listen, really listen, to what God was calling me to do next.

So, how is it going so far? I think it’s going well, and I’m starting to feel better. I’ve done some things I enjoy (related to Monday’s devotion about play), and I’ve closed my eyes and let my mind drift when I’ve needed to. (related to today’s devotion about rest)

Rest, why aren’t we willing to do that often enough? Why do we work ourselves to the point of exhaustion and burnout, to the point of needing to step away and not just wanting to step away because it’s our choice? For me, I think it’s because I haven’t wanted to be forgotten. During my marriage, I have been the main caretaker when someone has been sick. Through my husband’s health problems and whenever my children were sick, I’ve always been the one taking care of them. No one has taken care of me. I’ve gone out and been faithful so I could have contact with other people.

But, I got to a point where I knew I needed rest. I needed to take care of myself even if no one else would. I needed to work on climbing out of the pit and find out what this faith of mine actually meant to me. So, I’ve done that. Even my sons have noticed that mom hasn’t been to church this week. I’m doing something different with my faith life, and it’s being noticed. It’s part of what this becoming brave journey has been all about. To be brave enough not to care what others might think; to only care what my Lord and Savior thinks of this life I’m living.

I know I will feel better about myself and my life once this rest period is over. I know this because I’m already looking forward to taking my first steps this coming Sunday. Very thankful to God for validating my feelings through the author’s words this morning. “Be brave enough to rest–knowing that you need it. Knowing that it’s healthy. Knowing that even God Himself rests.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

In Pieces and Parts

When I was writing the story of how I decided it was time for my own website, I thought back over my blogging and writing history. There were times when regret washed over me. How could it not? I would be a whole lot further along if I had established my own website earlier. But, I needed the time working with a free site. I needed to re-establish my faith. I needed the time to become confident in my own writing. I needed the time to write about the feelings in my heart. I needed the time to work through each piece and part.

The author of the devotional took a similar journey with her own writing, and low and behold, our journeys matched today with today’s devotion–“Work in Pieces”. For most of us success doesn’t come overnight. Yes, we hear of that person who became an overnight sensation because of American Idol or that person whose debut novel becomes a best seller. But, overall, it takes work, sometimes a lot of work to become successful.

I think God plans for that though. He wants us to lean into Him in the midst of the struggle, and He wants us to remember where our success comes from once we achieve it. He also wants us to know the meaning of true success–success from God and the world’s success are two different things. I also think that achieving success can take time because God wants to teach us diligence. Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” Yes, there can be overnight success, but the lasting kind of success comes from diligence and from God.

So, years ago, I wouldn’t have been ready for success from my writing. I wouldn’t have been brave enough or strong enough, and I wouldn’t have had the faith I have today. By doing each piece and each part, I have become more confident in my writing and in myself. I have done the advice the author gives in today’s devotion without knowing I would read it today. “Do what’s right in front of you.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) Each piece and each part of that advice has taken me to where I am today–a place where I can share my writing with you and a place where I can bring glory to God. I pray we can all remember this when the struggle comes–to do what’s right in front of us. Then God will take us to the next step as we work on each piece of what He’s given us.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Bravery in Community

We weren’t meant to struggle alone, and we weren’t meant to be brave alone. It’s taken me years to work that out in my head. It’s hard to be brave or to be vulnerable when your trust has been betrayed. I’ll be covering who to be brave with in more detail tomorrow, but let’s just say that time and God’s love have worked on my heart enough where I feel ready to be brave again.

Why do we need to be brave with each other and not just by ourselves? Number one–God calls us to. Hebrews 10:24-25 says this, “And let us consider how we may spur one another toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I used to read these verses and think they were talking about the early church, but I don’t anymore. They have become rooted deep in my heart and have a more personal meaning to me now.

The second reason is that if we tell someone what we’re thinking or feeling, we have a tendency to be more committed and follow through with whatever we’ve said. In other words, we’ve shown commitment to the people around us. Because of our bravery or our vulnerability, there will be people who will ask how it’s going or whether we’ve accomplished that thing we set out to do. These are things that will help us stay accountable and were what God meant, I think, when He created us to live in community with one another.

This is a hard thing for those of us in the western church. We have such an individualistic mind-set that we think we can’t or shouldn’t depend on anyone else. Church is a box to be checked off, and we think our relationship with God is something that is just between us and Him with no one else involved. I’ve learned that this is not true. It is so not true, but it takes all of us being brave and vulnerable to be the church God wants us to be in His world. To be God’s community to our hurting world.

Our news is filled with shootings, sickness, selfish people, and evil. Can we who are believers be brave enough to be different? Can we be Jesus to those who are hurting? Can we be brave in our communities of believers? I don’t know about you, but my heart wants to try. I’m praying we will all have the desire to have a heart like His!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Brave Day by Day

I resonate with Gideon’s story in Judges 6. He belonged to the weakest clan in Israel, and God wanted to send him out to defeat the Midianites. Gideon thought he was the wrong person for the job, and I guess, according to the world’s eyes, he was. He wasn’t big enough, strong enough, prosperous enough, any of the “enoughs” that we think are important in defeating our enemies. And he was hiding too! Definitely doesn’t rate as brave and courageous in my book. But, God used Gideon anyway. God used him though Gideon tested Him more than once, and God used him through the amount  of men Gideon had to fight the battle. (Hint, it wasn’t that many.) By the time Gideon and his men were done, it was very evident God’s hand was in their defeat of the Midianites.

So, how is it we read these stories in Scripture and think that we can’t measure up to what God wants us to do? Gideon didn’t, and God still used him. But we think, of course, God used Gideon. He’s mentioned in the Bible. We don’t think though that God would want us because of whatever reason. Think about it this way. Do you think God got tired of Gideon testing Him? God could have said, ‘Come on, Gideon, get with the program. It’s time to defeat the Midianites.’ He didn’t say any of those things though. No, God was patient with Gideon like He is with us. He wants to build us up each day so we will have greater courage and bravery than the day before. He wants to work through us and not around us.

That is the lesson I have had the hardest time learning. There are times when bravery comes to me easily, and I think I can do anything for God or in His Name, and then there are times when…I am not brave at all. I tend to give up completely during those times. It might have been a dream God had given me or a nudge to speak to someone about Him and His love. But, when I don’t do these things because of fear or the minutiae in my life, I tend to beat myself up over and over thinking I am a failure to God.

But, I’m not, and we’re not. What God is doing in our lives is happening over a lifetime, and we will never arrive at perfection during our lifetime. That comes later, when we are with Him. So, I don’t need to be intimidated by the person or persons who seem to have it all together at church. I don’t need to be intimidated by the Christian speaker or writer who appears to have nothing wrong with him. I am the person who God made me to be, and nothing changes that! As the author says in the devotional, “You are deeply loved and called to be courageous by a God who is perfect and perfectly trustworthy.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) Our God is also making us brave day by day. May we all realize this truth today!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

 

Trusting in Sparks

I’m beginning the third week of this journey toward bravery today. It’s been interesting to see writing become a habit in my life. It’s  been even more interesting to see the stories God is giving me to write about and how they are related to the devotions. I wasn’t sure that the ideas would come as easily as they have, but the words have flowed, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Today’s devotion is about the mind. We all have a lot on our minds. From work to family, to spouse, to friends, it seems never-ending. Then, there are all the things the world says we should care about. No wonder a good majority of us suffer from information overload. We don’t know what to do with everything that is being thrown at us.

God has an answer (You probably suspected I would say that. 🙂 ) Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” God wants us to put Him first and not anyone else. He wants us to live in this world like we’re passing through it and not like we are taking up residence to stay forever like many of us do. How many of us can truly say that we have let God transform our minds to consider Him and others first before we consider ourselves? A hard question, to be sure,  and one that, for me, is a continual work in progress.

Another thing the mind can give us is ideas, or sparks like in today’s title. Each of my writing ideas has come from a spark, a spark which has hopefully blessed you. It has taken me years to call myself a writer in public, but I finally decided that this ability is what God has blessed me with, and that the least I can do is be honest about my gift with the people I come in contact with. If it is meant for me to be published, God will make it happen. My job right now is to write, write, and write some more.

At the beginning of this post, I promised you a story about sparks. Yesterday, I was at church when a man came up front to speak before the offering. He talked about the mission our church supports in another country. Planning is underway for this summer’s trip. (A group usually goes every summer to do things like construction, Vacation Bible School, and anything else that might be needed.) Anyway, when this man said we wouldn’t be bringing Jesus to this mission, that we would meet Jesus there, I heard a voice in my head. ‘You need to sign up.’

I responded (in my head, of course). ‘What! God, you know I can’t. You know what my checking account looks like. My sons aren’t done with college yet. There’s no extra money floating around.’

It was quiet for a moment. Then, I heard the voice again. ‘Do you think I don’t know that, dear daughter? I know all of it, and I still want you to go. It will answer a lot of your questions about what comes next.’

I had more comments to make during this inward conversation, mostly superfluous. But, then God said something that stopped me in my tracks. ‘Do you trust me?’ I haven’t done the best job of showing that recently. I’ve been overwhelmed by a number of circumstances which have made me lose my joy and my bravery. (which is why I started this series of blog posts) By this time, the service was almost over. I had a choice, really, it was only one choice. ‘Yes, God, I trust you, and I will show you I trust you without a safety net.’ I made my way over to the gentleman who coordinated this effort and told him of my interest. I felt a releasing of the tightness of fear from my chest when I said the words. Stepping out in faith, I said to myself. Stepping out in faith.

And this is why I entitled today’s post “Trusting in Sparks.” God is teaching me to be brave so I can be free of guilt and shame. He wants to change the world through me and through the sparks (ideas) he gives me. Praying for continued trust in our Lord and Savior!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!