living braver

one faith step at a time…


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Trail or Trial…

trailgirl     Hiking in the eastern Tennessee mountains is full of wonder. The beauty of the terrain and the glory of the blue sky with whispers of ‘smoke’ from those Smoky Mountains are inspiring. Trails that lead away from hectic, leaving all trials behind.

Even when we can’t retreat to some perceived escape from today, there is still a choice. To choose to call the path a trail or a trial.

When we hiked in the mountains we kept our eyes alert – it wasn’t our territory. Bears, snakes, and other less threatening critters called these places home. Trail markers led us either to the intended destination or off towards another venue. And unexpected beauty could easily be missed. So always searching eyes had to take note. If we hadn’t, we could have gotten lost, injured, or missed something special.

bear trail

As we hike through trials in life we are told be alert as well. “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:18 NLT)

Though the hikes in the mountains have many rewards it is hard work. A short hike requires only a bottle of water and good shoes. A longer one may require snacks, extra water, sunscreen, walking stick, and stops for rest along the way. Preparation.

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Often we don’t think we’re prepared for life’s many trials, but we can be. We do have a trail map, a trail guide, and a destination. Being very familiar with God’s Word is a source of great comfort in those trying times. Knowing that His indwelling Spirit is with us at all times gives us bottomless wisdom for the decisions we must make. And knowing Who waits for us at the end of the trail and what the ‘destination’ is are how we persevere.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12 NIV)

A crown of life – life in the newness of perfect creation, ours to hike through and explore the glory of forever…

fall trail

 


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Yearning…

tea candles     Sometimes there’s just a deep longing.

At times it feels like wanting to spread wings and fly off free of all that holds us back. Other times it feels like a hole deep inside not yet filled. Mostly it’s a stirring just below the surface, a wondering.

It comes from not knowing the answer to the question: Who are you?

Not Melissa, or Amanda, or Sara. Not mom, or wife, or boss, or employee. Not rich or poor, college grad or school of hard knocks grad. Who are you?

A new creation. Created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Apple of His eye. Holy and dearly loved.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

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Seated in the heavenly realms. Blessed. A royal priesthood. Christ’s ambassador. Righteousness of God.

“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Corinthians 5:21 NIV)

Filled with the Holy Spirit. Child of the Father. The body of Christ. Fearfully and wonderfully made.

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:16 NIV)

Heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ. Loved. Forgiven. Saved. God’s possession. Chosen.

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:17 NIV)

candles colorful

Words of affirmation, affirmed over and over again to thirsty souls with deep longing. Choose no longer to listen to worldly definitions and mind chatter. No past, no present, no tomorrow – no what if, no failure – defines who you are.

Here’s the most important question ever asked: “But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29 NIV) If a resounding ‘You are Messiah, the Savior of my soul’ rings from your lips, then the answer to ‘Who are you?’ is settled.

You are daughter/son of the God of all creation, the Father of forever. Yearning finally filled in the rest that comes from knowing who you are…

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


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The Answer…

red rose     All of heaven must have held its breath.

The Shepherd was now the Lamb, going to be sacrificed.

I’ve learned something recently. Without even realizing it many of us find our self-worth in what we do. We spend lifetimes doing ‘things’ to earn another’s love, approval, appreciation, complements.

Then comes a time where an injury or an illness or some life event prevents us from the usual ‘doing’ – and we’re lost. We’re ashamed. We’re worried we will lose the affection of the ones we’ve always ‘done’ for, or that they will be disappointed in us, or that we are making their lives harder.

My head knows that this is not true, my heart even knows, but somewhere along the way my soul lost touch and got duped into believing the lie. The lie that if I don’t ‘do’ then I have no value.

rose dead

The deceiver, the enemy of our souls, is the master of deceit. And oh so very patient. Years of relentless messages aimed at our soul – ‘no one will care unless you do this’, ‘you’re letting everyone down when you can’t do that’, ‘even God can’t use you unless you do this better’. And so we push ourselves and we think that we are being selfless and find out that really, all along the ‘doing’ is about self.

Our souls instinctively search for the truth. Knowing that all the ‘doing’, while admirable or maybe even necessary, isn’t where our value lies. The Truth is our worth is in Christ alone. He chose to die for us, He chose to redeem us, and He chooses to spend eternity with us. And when we live our lives to please Him – all the other falls into place.

Self-worth is not in what I can do – it is in what He has done!

Jesus

Stop – do you sense it? Easter comes but once a year. The remembrance of the greatest sacrifice ever made, that ever can be made, that ever will be made. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6 NIV) Just the right time. He knew You before the creation of the world, He knew your place in time in this world, He has a grand plan to use you for good in this world – but none of it depends on you. For everything that had to be done has been done.He said, ‘It is finished!’ Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30 HCSB)

Now we get to partner with Him in bringing glory to the Father and lost souls to the Truth. The Answer to all the ‘doing’…

Happy Easter, He is Risen

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Soul Language…

pale rose pixa x     I think the first thing we’re going to recognize in heaven is God’s voice…

For all of us that’s how it began: in Genesis 1, eleven times it says “God said” and whenever He did, something came into being. I have to wonder, is that how you and I came into being? Did He call forth our name at the instant He began to knit us together and form us? “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them and they follow me.” (John 10:27 NIV)

Strange then that a voice that should be oh so familiar seems so illusive. Perhaps it’s our selective hearing.

sprout in dirt pixa x

Think about it, there was a time He got through and we heard – that would be the day we accepted His free gift of salvation. That’s the voice we need to continue to seek – the One who was once our sin-bearer, and is now our grace-giver.

Maybe we don’t hear Him because we fear He doesn’t hear us – we feel too unimportant, too estranged, too needy. Throughout the Psalms the writers speak of God’s very good hearing: “When I called, You answered me; You made me bold and stouthearted.” (Psalm 138:3 NIV) That’s my Living Braver desire — to be bold, stouthearted.

Hearing Him then isn’t audible words, notes of exact instruction, answers we want. It’s living a life in constant pursuit of the One who spoke us into being, hears our every sigh and cry, and answers in soul language that is only heard through trust. Loud enough for us to put one tentative step in front of another…

pink geranium pixa x

His promise is so great that it leaves no reason for fear and every confidence to be bold and stouthearted… “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28 NIV) Again He emboldens us “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24 NIV)

I think I hear Him now, reminding me ‘nothing can harm you’, ‘forever is yours’, ‘trust me, seek me’…

pink poppy 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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Softly Still…

softx     Some things are hard – a poor bunny drowned in the pool and then the next day one was left in the street after a car hit it in front of our house. Two days of scooping up and disposing of a sweet little creation can get to you…

Reminders that someday no more of that. Someday the wolf will live with the lamb, the bunny with the fox…

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat…for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:6-9 NIV)

lamb wolf (canva)x

In the meantime as the hard things press on we can soften them…And not just for ourselves – a kind word to another, a prayer lifted for one in need, a helping hand…

But in those moments when the hard thing is pressing us – let Him come softly into your heart…your mind…your soul. Knowing you don’t have all the answers, but He does. Knowing you can’t right all the wrongs, but He can and will, someday. Knowing you will face many hard things, but you won’t be alone – though none seem to be with you…

Ann Voskamp said “Do not pray for the hard thing to go away, pray for a bravery to come that’s bigger than the hard thing.”

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God entrusts us with hard things which helps us gain confidence to get through the next hard thing and the next – so when we come upon weary souls we can help them gain confidence and find God in their need…

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:1-2, 10 NIV)

Though you think this hard thing will never end, or you think you completely blew it this time around, or you fear any more hard things and just want to be done – He comes softly still…

Softly with love bigger than our biggest dream of love, softly with strength bigger than our biggest fear of failure, softly with redemption bigger than all our biggest regrets. Softly still He comes and we are stilled one more time…

butterfly peacefulx

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

 


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Convinced…

daisies-with Bible1     If you’re like me, you want to Live Braver, you want to Live Courage, you want to Fear Less – but about the time you think you’re there, you find yourself lost in the battle all over again…

We can convince ourselves of a lot of things… lawyers are great at convincing a jury… politicians are great at convincing voters… but what about this:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)

If we would let ourselves be convinced of this wonderful, freeing truth, how would our lives look? Paul, who wrote the verse above, was thoroughly convinced – assured, persuaded, made a believer, won over. But Paul wrote those words from jail. Paul wrote those words after beatings, shipwrecks, illness, and the list goes on…

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So how can we be convinced? God gave us His Word to immerse ourselves in so that we would be so assured of His amazing grace, His free gift of salvation, His forever love that when those struggles come we would know where to go. Where to go? Straight to the only One who listens, the only One who hears, the only One that will not let anything come between us and His love.

Sure, here I will worry about my children, I will cry with those who suffer tragedy, and agonize with those who are deathly ill. I will at times walk those roads myself. But someday it will fade away. Someday I walk a new road – with no tears, no worries, no fears.

For now, His courage is my strength, His sacrifice my reward, His love my assurance…

“This his how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1John 4:9-10 NIV)

Join me in walking CONVINCED?

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Can We Count the Ways…

letters with heart1     This week is all about love, right?

Read a mushy love letter lately? Don’t get many of those in our lives, some never get any. But wait…

There is a letter written to us, one big love letter from beginning to end… How does He love us, can we count the ways?

It starts with all creation – created with the love thought in mind of how each critter, flower, star would bring us pleasure…

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NIV) After He created everything, He created man and set him among all creation and blessed him. No blessing is mentioned over anything else.

This precious letter walks through all our failings and still shouts ‘you are mine, the apple of my eye’…

“Keep me as the apple of your eye” (Psalm 17:8 NIV) The apple of his eye even before we took our first breath.  “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you” (Isaiah 43:4 NIV) Precious not because of anything we’ve done, loved just because we are His…

Then, incredibly, the ultimate sacrifice of love is made while we were still rebelling. Love ran blood red, darkness loomed, then burst forth the light eternal – and love gathered us as a lamb lost and alone, being carried back…

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“For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1Peter 2:25 NIV)

This love letter ends with the powerful, yet tender words of eternal love, of never being separated again, of joyous moments together forever, of the return of the lover our very soul…

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4 NIV)

“Count the ways He loves you, and you know Who you can count on.” Ann Voskamp The ways He loves us are too numerous to count, but we can count on Him through every fear, trial, doubt…

Happy Valentines Day…

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