Do It Afraid

Having facilitated vision boards for over 70 people in January 2020 alone, one theme keeps emerging as a focus for the new year: moving past fear.

Women are afraid to write their story, afraid to open up their home, afraid to teach a class, afraid to pursue a new relationship.

You've heard the adage "be careful asking God to make you more patient because He will give you plenty of chances to practice patience" but it applies to other areas of life as well. If we ask God to make us fearless, why do we think He is going to make us magically more courageous? It's like we assume He's going to outfit us with an invisible hero cape. "I'm going to wake up tomorrow without fear!" No! He is going to give us opportunities to push through our fear.

I'm going to wake up tomorrow with a dead battery and have to push through my fear to talk to a new neighbor about giving my battery a jump.

I'm going to face a diagnosis, a confrontation I'd rather avoid, a financial setback and give my faith muscles a workout.

I've learned over the years that people I admire aren't fearless, they're just doing scary things afraid.

I joke that nothing scares me anymore and it's nearly true. I've faced many of the things I use to be scared of, whether heading up a committee, attending an event alone, taking a speaking gig, publishing a controversial blog post or singing in front of 300 people. Every experience taught me something and helped me face the next challenge with greater confidence.

I still walk into meetings and appointments with a low grade nervousness at best and full blown fight or flight reaction at worst. When I sang in front of 300 people I literally fought the instinct to leave through the back, thinking, "They would just go on without me" and forced myself to stay in my seat until it was time to go on stage. Once I had the mic in my mind, my nerves dissipated and when the song was over, I felt like I could have soared out of there with relief!

The truth is, God promises to be with us wherever we go. We never have to face anything alone. We are commanded to be strong and courageous.

Joshua 1:9 says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Plus the Holy Spirit offers us supernatural strength.

Ephesians 3:16 states, "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being."

We can do hard things with God on our side.

To date, no one has literally died from stage fright so chances are, you'll survive whatever scary thing you're facing and you'll be stronger for it.

What would you do if you fear weren't an obstacle? Maybe God is calling you to do just that...together with Him.

Tabitha Dumas
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Frozen What?!?

In his defense Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working." John 5:17

It's just not about whether your glass is half full or half empty it’s that in Jesus your glass is refillable! His precious promises are faithfully available to refill our glass and re-frame our perspective at all times... like for me this morning.

Over my warm cup of coffee from my kitchen table I happened to be gazing out onto my snow covered backyard which is actually more like a frozen solid tundra. Embedded into this frozen white landscape in stark contrast is black rabbit and dog excrement! Yes, and as you know, rabbits never travel alone and my dog could very well be mistaken for Ferdinand the bull. I'll let your imagination paint the picture now of just what exactly my backyard looks like and it is no Thomas Kinkade.

This could be seen as an eye sore (glass half or totally empty situation) but the more I pondered it the stronger His promise poured into my heart. My God is a God who has a time for everything under the sun (Ecclesiastes 3). He changes the seasons and that always reminds me He is always moving (John 5:17).

My backyard will eventually thaw and when it does it will be the most fertilized yard in the neighborhood AND it won't even cost me a dime.

What excrement (so to speak) seems to be frozen in your backyard? What seems impossible, unmovable and unchangeable in your life?

Jesus is a God that makes possible the impossible (Matt. 19:26). He is always on the move and those that wait on the Lord and His perfect timing will be blessed (Isaiah 30:18). Like my backyard, what seems awful now, in time will be the biggest blessing.

Dear One, Jesus loves you, He sees, He's moving, trust His process and His faithful promise will refill your cup.

Independent Read: Jeremiah 17:7

Janette Kieffer
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Pity Party

We all have them from time to time: pity party days. It seems like nothing is going right and everything is going wrong. Appliances stop working, cars break down, kids quarrel, coworkers are grumpy, the coffee canister is empty, a family member is ill - the list goes on and on.  It’s part of life.

I’ve found a way to counteract my pity party days. It’s simple and effective.

Serve.  Serve others.

If I’m having a tough day, I try to encourage a friend or family member. It’s amazing what happens when I serve someone else.

About 12 years ago, a friend called my husband & I asking if we could meet at her apartment to discuss her financial needs. She didn’t know that we were at a crisis point financially ourselves. My first instinct was to tell her no, absolutely no way. But we went to her apartment armed with a few bags of groceries knowing full well we were unable to help her financially.

After she shared her heart, we shared our situation and we prayed together for God to help all of us. Just by being together - crying, laughing and praying - we were all encouraged. Our finances weren’t changed. Our situation wasn’t changed. But our attitudes were.

Serving our friend with a few bags of groceries was a simple act of service but it was life-changing for us.

So, my dear friends, look for simple ways to serve and I think your pity parties can turn into praise parties.

You, my brothers and sisters were called to be free. Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  Galatians 5:13

“and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:27-28

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

Kathy Troyer
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Heaven Is Here

Heaven comes to earth when forgiveness is extended without merit of it being earned.

Heaven comes to earth when grace outweighs the stench of condemnation.

Heaven comes to earth when Truth confronts the lie in the boldness of love.

Heaven comes to earth when humility breaks the chains of your pride that bind you.

Heaven comes to earth when obedience to God requires you to stand alone.

Heaven comes to earth when your prayers are sent to its gates.

Heaven comes to earth when you choose to be a peace maker in times of war.

Heaven comes to earth at every chance to love others despite themselves.

Heaven comes to earth when relationships are restored.

Heaven comes to earth when we declare our allegiance to the One True King, and lay down our sword.

All of this possible, because Heaven came to earth. His name, is Jesus.

Stefanie Calens
loveSTRONG Ministries

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Tied Up In “Nots”

When my kids were younger, they were huge fans of the movie, Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey. In this movie, Bruce grapples with an existential crisis that has him doubting the existence of God. God summons Bruce (played by Morgan Freeman) and challenges him to see if he, Bruce, could do a better job at being God. God transfers all of his powers to Bruce for a period of time.

Initially, Bruce is overwhelmed with such power and uses his authority for purely selfish reasons. It doesn’t take Bruce long though, to discover that the job of supreme ruler over mankind comes with hefty responsibilities.

The writers of this movie most likely wanted to offer a comedic interpretation of God while peppering the story line with a few serious undertones.  My greatest takeaway message wasn’t so much about who God is and what He can do – but rather, what God IS NOT.

Throughout his stint as God, Bruce’s pursuit of selfish fulfillment is frequently interrupted by prayers from people all over the world. Millions of voices in his head praying constantly all at the same time. This at least, is not fictional as we know from Scripture God is omnipotent and hears all of our prayers.

The Lord is watching everywhere,
keeping his eye on both the evil and the good.

Proverbs 15:3

Bruce’s solution to receiving millions of prayers at one time, was to simply reply “Yes” to every request. His simple “Yes” destroyed a lot of people’s lives, as so many of the prayers were for completely selfish reasons.  Like composing a group email, God (Bruce) said “Yes” to millions of people who prayed to win the lottery. Every prayer was answered, but because so many people prayed for a lottery win, the giant Powerball was split between millions of people, totaling winnings of a little over $12.00 per recipient.

In the “real world” innumerable people pray for lottery winnings or get rich quick schemes. We know, however, God is NOT some sort of Genie who quickly grants our wishes for wealth and material things.

God is NOT going to get even with an ex-friend or spouse because you’ve prayed for revenge.

God is NOT going to supernaturally erase your obesity overnight because you are ashamed and miserable with yourself.

God is NOT going to give you everything you want when you want it.

God is NOT to be mocked (Galations 6:7) and Hollywood-ized for the purpose of selling tickets or turning a profit.

Kathy Kurlin
Author

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Jesus Loves Me, This I Know?

“Jesus loves me, this I know …”  

This song in its simplicity provides us with a basic foundational Christian principle. It’s a song we learn as children, yet how many Christians do you know that have difficulty grasping this simple concept?  I know I’ve certainly struggled in this area on more than one occasion.

I became a believer as an adult, so I didn’t have that early childhood reassurance to remind me of Jesus’s love. I grew up “semi-religious” in a church that portrayed God as an unreachable deity that was more fire and brimstone than love and all the good-feels. Consequently, I feared God, anticipating lightning bolts every time I messed up. If I’d been taught the love of Jesus as a child, I wonder if I would still struggle with doubts regarding my relationship with Christ.

Having children and grandchildren is kind of a “do-over” for me in this department. Through a great Bible-believing church, kid’s programs and being able to model the love of Jesus, my kids grew up knowing Jesus on an intimate level. Now as adults, whenever they have a challenge or trial, their first inclination is to call and ask for prayer. With confidence and certainty, they know Jesus is the ultimate “go-to” for any and all situations.

I provide daycare for my baby granddaughter. I’m a grandmother/nanny or “Granny,” which allows me to pour Jesus into her young life. I pray over her, I speak blessings for a bright future over her and I sing Christian songs to her at nap time. Most days whenever I sing “Jesus Loves Me” to her, I’m barely able complete one stanza before her little eyes start to flutter and close. Literally within minutes, she’s fast asleep. Every time!

I like to think that the love of Jesus is some sort of miracle sleep potion. It’s uncanny. I promise, it’s not because I have an amazing singing voice, either. My grandmotherly reasoning believes this little babe feels so secure in my arms as I speak blessings over her and sing about Christ’s love for her, she is able to fully relax. She sleeps restfully swathed in my love and the love of Jesus, as well.

This song is more than a lullaby. It soothes even someone like me whenever I feel stressed or doubtful of my place in God’s kingdom. 

Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His faithful love endures forever.
Psalm 136:26 (NLT)

What a great “go-to” reminder for us all. Jesus loves ME, this I know!  Do you KNOW this to be true in your life? It’s simple … but it’s true!

Kathy Kurlin
Author

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Yo! I’m Right Here.

READ Luke 24:13-35

This scripture takes place right after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It is the telling of two men, heading home from Jerusalem, going to Emmaus.  They are walking and talking about all the events that had occurred in the last week. This would have been the time of the celebration of Passover, but with the recent events (crucifixion and death of Jesus) these men are downcast as they walk home.

Then, a third man comes up alongside them, and walks with them on their journey home.  This man is Jesus, but as it states in verse 17 “…They stood still, their faces downcast.”  They didn’t look up.  They continued on their walk rehashing all the events of the last week, explaining TO Jesus what happened, TO Jesus.  Can you imagine?  Jesus walking up along side these two men, who are clueless that they are informing this “stranger” of the actual events that JESUS  (who is walking along side them) LIVED THROUGH.

Jesus had to have been like “Yo, I am right here…if you would only look up.”

So these two men continue to walk and talk for the next 7 miles.  (verses 19-24)  Finally in verse 27, Jesus gets a word in edge wise.  “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.”

When they reached Emmaus, Jesus proceeded as if he were going on farther, but these two men asked him to stay.  He was invited into their home where Jesus, in verse 30, “took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.”  Then what happens next is the very magic of this whole story.  In verse 31 it says, “THEIR EYES WERE OPENED.”  Yes, they finally, after all this time, an entire afternoon of being in the actual presence of Jesus Christ did they finally realize and see who was before them.

How many times in our lives does this happen to us?  I know it happens to me, a lot. I get so set in my ways, looking down and looking back that I forget to look up and see Jesus is walking on this path right along side me.  And most of the time, I do all the talking! I love to tell Jesus all the things, all the details, all the drama and rehash everything He already knows.

What Jesus really wants us all to do is invite Him in.  It is when we invite Him into our homes, and our hearts, and those secret places that we bury all the “stuff.”  Yeah, that stuff that Jesus already knows about. He just wants to be invited in, and he will STAY.

Cammi Thurlby
loveSTRONG Ministries

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I Praise

I praise you in the sunshine.

I praise you under the clouds.

I praise you when I’m running fast.

I praise you when things slow down.

I praise you in the middle of the messes.

I praise you when things are going smoothly.

I praise you when the decision is easy.

I praise you when the decision has wrecked me.

I praise you while I laugh.

I praise you when I cry.

I praise you at the beginning, in the middle and at the end.

I praise you for when you give.

I praise you when you take away.

I praise you for changes that upset my world.

I praise you for consistency.

I praise you because you always love me.

I praise you because you see me.

I praise you because you won’t turn your back on me or give up on me.

I praise you as best as I can as often as I remember.

I should not forget to praise.

I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
Deuteronomy 32:3

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG Ministries

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No Longer Needed

“No manna appeared that day, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan.” (Joshua 5:12 NLT)

At this point in the Scriptures, Joshua had successfully led the nation of Israel across the Jordan River. The Promised Land now, awaited their taking. Have you ever stopped to consider that the very food source (manna) that had been provided to Israel during their forty long years in the wilderness, was gone? Never to be seen again.

It’s as if the Word of God is screaming out to each of us to, ‘Turn the page. There is so much more that I have in store for you to eat.’

Perhaps He is. And perhaps, if you are somewhat like me, you often miss this. You see, God had miraculously met Israel’s physical needs to eat with manna yet, it was time to now eat from the land itself. Canaan was ripe for planting and harvesting crops, but Israel would require some skin in the game.

Prayer is not an alternative to preparation and faith in God to provide for your needs, is never void of your own hard work. Do you keep asking God to provide something in your life and it doesn’t appear that He is listening? There is a time and a place for everything. God will never lead you into the next journey without having first, prepared you to walk with Him. Israel no longer needed this manna because the land in which they were about to enter would abundantly provide all in which they could only dream of eating.

I wonder if today, those seemingly unanswered prayers are in reality, your own manna? Could it be that God has already provided you with the tools and soil necessary for harvest? May I encourage you today to take a moment and pause? Those unanswered prayers might not be so unanswered at all.

Today, I pray for your eyes to be open to seeing that.

Stefanie Calens
loveSTRONG Ministries

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A Legacy of Love or Lies?

It happens more than I care to admit -- those dreaded bouts of insomnia.  When it’s really bad, I’ve been known to resort to late night television. During one such spell a few weeks ago, I tuned into one of those ridiculous “Real Housewives” shows. After just a few minutes, I determined that the people on this show were anything but “real.”  I’m ashamed to admit, the story line drew me in like a toddler chasing a shiny toy.

One story in particular regarding a housewife’s so-called “legacy” both intrigued and shocked me. This woman boasted about the great legacy she would someday leave behind. She had no children, had never been married but recently had become engaged to her longtime, live in boyfriend. She appeared to be in her 50s, so the likelihood of motherhood seemed pretty slim. Her “great legacy” was some sort of dress she’d designed that could be worn multiple ways.

This woman gushed over how proud she was of her design and how she’d accomplished this “great thing” (in her eyes) completely on her own. Sadly, she thought the most important contribution she could provide to the world was … a multi-purpose dress.

There were so many things wrong with this whole scenario. You’ve got someone with a huge pride issue who wasn’t about to share credit with anyone else – even though she had help along the way.  In my mind, the worst part was she truly believed making money and leaving this fashion legacy to the world was a magnanimous achievement.

I’ve never seen anyone who needed Jesus more. Are there really people in the “real world” who act and think like this “Real Housewife?” Without Jesus in our lives – the answer is … yes! Without Jesus - money, achievements, accomplishments and possessions are the things that drive worldly ambition.

As children of God, Jesus tells us our real pursuit and the most important commandment is:

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’  The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NLT)

As ambassadors for Christ, our “real” life purpose is simple: love God, love others and share this real truth with everyone we can!  If we fulfill our purpose - someday we can look forward to meeting people in Heaven who have benefitted from our commitment to share our legacy of the love of Jesus.

Are you working on your legacy? It’s never too late to start …

Kathy Kurlin
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