living braver

one faith step at a time…


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In Spite Of…

cherry blossom pixa     Making decisions is a daily task, so many things tug us different directions. The toughest decision can be in those moments of frustration, fatigue, or fear – the decision to love in spite of…

Jesus made that decision 24/7. When a hurting soul approached with nothing to offer but himself, only his hope in this Messiah, Jesus chose love. Even when a follower and friend said ‘I don’t know Him’, Jesus chose love. Jesus always chooses love.

Our human love can be so fickle. In our marriage love is easy when we’re on the same page, but what about the times when we strongly disagree about finances, children, jobs, relatives, etc. Loving our children is easy when they’re moving through life seemingly doing their best, but what about the times when they rebel or make foolish mistakes stemming from immaturity. Loving our friends is easy when we laugh and cry together, but what about when we feel neglected or wronged, betrayed.

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“When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 NIV)

We don’t see the crowds that way. We are ever on the defensive. Seeing the crowds as obstacles, as something to be feared, as unimportant. So we look with eyes that see statistics or nameless faces. Thank goodness Jesus sees us individually. We are never just part of the crowd. He knows our name, he knows our heart, he even knows the number of hairs on our head. (Luke 12:7)

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When it comes to those in our circle – spouse, child, friend, relative – we will choose love, mostly. But I think we’re asked to see individual faces in the crowds, to pray in our heart when prompted for the stranger, to help the elderly woman with the door, to speak a kind word to a frightened child, to trust Him just enough that today’s decisions aren’t just about self.

Sometimes Living Braver means touching a life. The book of Hebrews ends with this: “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1-2 NIV)

Each day is a decision: to love only the lovely and lovable or to show love, compassion to the overlooked, the bitter, the forgotten. One soul at a time…

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Almost Missed It…

Sea Shell treasure chesst pixa x     I live in Florida, on the Atlantic side, it’s hard not to have collections of sea shells. Cleaning the garage I found a plastic grocery bag discarded from a beach outing months ago. Inside were a couple dozen shells.

I told myself ‘no more shells, just toss these’. Then I couldn’t help it, I had to at least briefly sort through them. As they sifted through my fingers I saw familiar shapes and colors. Just as I was about to toss them I felt a couple of odd shapes. Two that aren’t as common to find. Treasures almost discarded.

Sometimes we can feel like that. Unappreciated, unnoticed, unneeded – discarded.

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Sometimes, ouch, we cause others to feel that way. We drive by the man with the sign that says ‘Hungry’ and turn our head. We pass by the nursing home, hoping we never find ourselves there. We don’t have a kind word for someone different than us in line or wherever we are.

“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 NIV)

Jesus doesn’t miss even one face in the crowd. He sees us as treasures – you, me, the homeless, the handicapped, the foreigner, the poor, the rich. His hand always extended, His heart longing – an invitation to accept Him. And when we do, considering us precious and dearly loved.

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“Then He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.” (Luke 7:44 NIV)

Those at the gathering saw her as worthless, a woman of the street, behaving shamefully. They averted their eyes, they whispered. Jesus knew her heart and He knew Simon’s. Hers was repentance and longing for forgiveness, restoration. Simon’s was judging, conceit, only wanting man’s approval.

Next time we see the sign that says ‘HELP’, can we at least acknowledge them, smile, perhaps say hello? Find a few minutes to ask a senior citizen to tell us about the old days? Make someone feel comfortable who doesn’t feel like they fit in?

I almost missed it – the treasure He sees…

family ocean pixa x

 


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Willing…

red leaf pixa x     It must have been an interesting scene… A man in ragged clothes, the smell following around him, the pasty skin and sores. He came and knelt before the King.

He didn’t look like a king but the man knew in his heart and his spirit this One was the real deal. Mustering up all of his courage and ignoring the taunts of ‘unclean, unclean’  and ‘away with you, sinner, unclean’ he boldly approached and knelt.

“A man with leprosy came and knelt before Him and said, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ “ (Matthew 8:2 NIV)

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Jesus didn’t ask questions, nothing about how long have you been like this. He didn’t look on him with disgust or cover His face to block the smell. But what He did was lasting and noticed by all: “Jesus reached out and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ He said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.” (Matthew 8:3 NIV)

To this man the miracle wasn’t so much the restoration of his health but the look in the eyes he gazed up at. No one had looked him in the eye for a long time, yet the King of Kings not only looked directly at him, He touched him. You can believe that touch was like no other before and none after. That touch didn’t just heal his wounds, it healed his heart and eternity was his as a believer in the Savior.

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That is why, my friend, Living Braver is possible. Fear may prevail in those moments that grip our world. But being brave isn’t about what we do, it’s about what He does – every day.

He sees us raise our head towards the sky or fall in our chair exhausted, He looks on us with compassion and says ‘I am willing’ – willing to carry our burdens, lighten our load.

Are we willing? Willing to face what our day brings, the finality of what we were begging wouldn’t happen, the consequences of own waywardness? Willing to lay it at His feet – kneeling and looking into the eyes that only our heart can see. Not asking for the hard thing to go away, unless that’s His will of course, but asking for the bravery to come out on the other side of the hard thing.

“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:12 NIV)

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If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Café, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!


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Hearing is…

pitcher of flowers pixa x     The old saying ‘seeing is believing’ is no longer true in our day – with computer generated everything, models transformed from their already lovely selves into unreal works someone believes beauty to be, and with deceit the ‘go to’ marketing ploy – seeing is not believing.

But hearing is blessing “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3 NIV)

In our noisy world we hear a lot these days. So many voices convincing us that we ‘deserve’ this, or that tolerance of evil is compassion, or that outright lies are truth. It’s like the wizard in Oz: ‘Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain’ – pay no attention to truth that sets you free.

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Only in hearing Him can we find what we need. We think we have many needs, but we have only One – His blessing. With that, whether good things happen or grief things happen, we can be sure He holds us through it all. He tells us He blesses us: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3 NIV)

Catch that? Not that He will bless us, that He has and does. I can Live Brave if I can grasp: day in and day out my Father withholds no good thing from me – because someday, forever will be where I am and eternity has no bad things. This is a truth I need to hear and I need to share.

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“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” (Psalm 84:11 NIV) I’m not blameless, I blow it everyday, but when my Father sees me, He sees the blameless One who shed His blood for me so that my walk can be blameless…

Without His blessing we have nothing but what the world has to offer, what we can grab. Looking around I don’t think that’s working out too well. Hearing is blessing, take it to heart…

orange tulips in vase pixa x

If you stopped by because you read my devotion over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

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Insignificant…

ladybug21     Do you sometimes feel that you don’t matter, not really anyways? Like if you stopped doing what you’re doing, no one would notice. Moved, no one would care. Or maybe they would notice but not for long…

Insignificant begins with the letter I and our focus when feeling in the doldrums of ‘nobody really cares’ is centered on ‘I’.

We live in a stressed out world. Life moves at lightening pace. So there are times when nobody does seem to care. Bible teacher Nancy McGuirk said “God is the only person in the world who wants to hear all your concerns.” (underline mine) So just how insignificant are we? The God of the universe wants to hear all

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1Peter 5:7 NIV) He cares for us, He doesn’t want us burdened in the gloomies of ‘no one cares’ and ‘I don’t matter’. Can we escape anxiety? Probably not, but we don’t have to carry it, He asks us to cast (to throw off) our anxiety – even if we have to do it again and again each morning or each moment.

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“Do not define yourself by your circumstances, let His love define you.” (Ann Voskamp) When we let the unpaid bills, the broken relationships, the bad childhood, the addiction, the boss’ criticism, the ‘whatever’ define us, we are forgetting WHOSE WE ARE.

The God of the universe defines us – We Are His. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12 NIV) You are chosen, you are holy not because of you but because of Christ, you are dearly loved.

There is no insignificance in a child of God. You cannot begin to know His plans for you, to use you to touch another life. Yet how does he want you to touch that other life? With compassion, with kindness, with humility, with gentleness, and with patience. The same way you want to be touched in this moment of flailing and questioning.

Remember: “It’s not about doing things for God, but about entering into what God is already doing.” (Emily Wierenga) Don’t try to ‘do’ things for God, enter into what He is doing and you will never feel insignificant again…

bee with flower

 


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Failure (ugh)…

thumb down1     Failure – one of the scariest words in the English language – to most…

Fear of failure begins in school – not wanting to see red marks on our papers, or raise our hands and have the wrong answer…

It continues in our ‘coming of age’ years – that fear of not being popular, of liking someone who doesn’t like us back…

As we mature failure can seem to mean not making enough to support our family, not pleasing our spouse, losing our job…

So we fear failure… Few other words put more dread in our hearts and minds…

In a broken world with imperfect people, ‘failure’ is inevitable at times – and what might appear as failure to some, may not be so to the One who is most important…

The husband may not make enough for any extras, may not make enough to pay all the bills – but the world doesn’t see his kind heart for his wife and children, and they are rich because of it.

The teen girl may not be ‘popular’ by whatever the current standards are – her volunteer work with the homeless or the elderly goes unnoticed, yet those she serves thinks she is amazing.

There is One who never fails – “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

In the midst of our ‘failures’  fear will lose its grip when we can remember this:

“God’s love isn’t based on me, it’s simply placed on me.” Lysa Terkeurst

Take heart and be brave – His love and His approval is not based on our past failures, nor on any future blunders. Because of His great love – that love is not bestowed based on performance, it is simply lavished on us because we are His…

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“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” So yes, in our flesh – you know, all that striving we do day in and day out… the worrying about woulda, shoulda, coulda – we will feel like failures and at times we truly may be, but take heart dear friend:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God as done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV italics/underline mine)

When failure tries to point its finger at you, remember His great love – if you are seeking first to please Him – the rest will simply fall into place…

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Crazy Generous…

hands11     Nine days until Thanksgiving… Are you feeling generous? If we are giving thanks, then someone was generous with us – someone who wants us to have every good thing

“…but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (Psalm 34:10 NIV italics mine)

Do you ever have a hard time being generous? The kind of generous beyond what you ‘have to do or give’, the generous beyond ‘out of my extras’. I know I do. Why are we so afraid of being generous?

Generous doesn’t just mean money – how about a listening ear, a shared meal, a ride for someone who has to walk, a kind word, a complement?

Fear says what if? What if I give the homeless guy a twenty and I don’t have enough next week or next year? What if I stop to listen and they take too long and I’m late? What if I say something kind and they think I am weird?

What if all that does happen? Is God not big enough to take care of the what ifs?

God is crazy generous with us… Eyes to see beauty, smell to breathe in the rose, touch to stroke the kitten, taste to savor the sweet, ears to listen to raindrops, symphonies, voices of praise… Crazy generous… a mind to dream to imagine to wish, a heart to love to have compassion to give mercy. Crazy generous… lips to feel a kiss, toes to put in sand or puddles, hands to hold a babe or brush away a tear…

“I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” (Philemon 1:6 NIV italics mine)

Give thanks, be full of thanks, let’s be crazy generous with someone this week –  we have every good thing in Him…