Afraid Yet Filled with Joy

Did you know that the saline crystal of a tear when viewed through a microscope is the shape of a cross? Learning that fact touched my heart because if there is anyone who understands the well of emotions behind tears it is Jesus, the One who took the cross in my place. I think He designed it that way to say "I understand and I love you".  Psalm 56:8 says -"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." He cares for the cause of each one, too. Tears come with many emotions..glad, sad, fear...

And speaking of fear, my daughter shared a verse from her morning devotional that got me thinking. Matthew 28: 8 says "So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell the disciples." - Wait, what?! When was the last time you were afraid yet filled with joy?! The women in Matthew 28:8 were afraid because they did not understand and didn't know what was going on but they had joy because the angels had said Jesus was ALIVE! It's like Philippians 4:7 says, you can't seek peace that comes FROM understanding, it is BEYOND understanding, it's only in the presence of the Prince of Peace in your life! Jacob said when he woke up from his dream... "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it." (Genesis 28:16) To be in God’s presence and not know!

Do we choose to have eyes and ears open to perceive Him all around us? If I cannot find the source of my joy in Jesus regardless of my situations and circumstances than I never will. My four-year-old finds pure joy in rubbing his entire face in his freshly washed, snuggly warm blanket. That's joy in the little things. God is longing for us to notice Him. He's all around us. Choose to let Him wrap you up tight like in a straight-out-of-the-dyer blanket.

***For independent read: Isaiah 61:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Philippians 4:8, Psalm 42:11, Psalm 144:15, Nehemiah 8:10, Joshua 1:9

Janette Kieffer
Author

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Facepaint, Balloon, & Cotton Candy

On a spring afternoon, a group of young kids went to a local park for some fun with their adult chaperones. The kids didn’t get to play in a safe park often because they lived in a part of their city that has many dangerous challenges.  But those adult chaperones gave the kids opportunities so they can just be kids and not have to worry about all the ugly that surrounds them.

The youngsters were told to stay in a specific part of the park.  On the other side of a fence was a private party picnic and they couldn’t go beyond the fence.

As the time came to leave, one boy was missing.  Looking for him, he was found walking toward them with face paint, a balloon in one hand and cotton candy in the other.  Of course, by all the evidence, he had gone past the fence.

He was asked, “Did you go to the private party?”  “No,” he answered. “Are you sure you didn’t go past the fence?”  “Yes, I am,” was the boy’s reply. The adult summed up the conversation with, “Really?”

It made me think of how we go past a boundary and come back with the evidence all over us.

We think no one notices. Maybe we can fool people.  But God knows.  He never takes His eyes off us.  For the moment, it may have felt fun or tasted good but in the long run was it worth it?  I am sure God shakes His head and says, “Really?”

And if someone does notice the evidence and confronts us, we lie to hide the truth.  Making up an untrue story or ignoring the question only sinks us deeper into the feeling of deception which is an uncomfortable place to sit.  The desires that gave a quick fix blow away in the wind and we are left with a popped balloon, sticky fingers and faded paint on our face.

“So, let God work his will in you.  Yell a loud no to the devil and watch him scamper.  Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time.  Quit dabbling in sin.  Purify your inner life.  Quit playing the field.  Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out.  The fun and games are over.  Get serious, really serious.  Ged down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” James 4:7-10 (The Message)

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG Ministries

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You’re Welcome

Alarm goes off, hit snooze, repeat. Alarm goes off, hit snooze, repeat.

Some of us wake up in the morning get a cup of coffee and dive into His word.

But probably most us stumble out of bed, hop in the shower and get ready for the rat race.

We go about the day, we rush around, sometimes we make that last minute stop at the grocery store on the way home to pick up a couple things for dinner.  And then it happens. You see the person at the end of the aisle that you like and care for but in that moment you do not want to engage in conversation. You turn around, you go down a different aisle and you run as fast as you can to the checkout so you do not have to engage.

But what if? What if that was God providing you an opportunity that day to share his word? What if that person needed to hear from you? What if you missed an opportunity that was right there in front of you but you avoided it? What if you could’ve made a difference in someone’s life? What if all they were looking for was a smile or a hug or a hello? What if?

In 1 John 3:18 (NLT) it states. “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”

Next time you are at the store and you see a familiar face as you are rushing around, take the time to say hello instead of running to the checkout. It may be the most rewarding part of your day.

Don’t worry…after writing this I thought, "Great. I must be held accountable, too!" You’re welcome!

Chrissy Shero
loveSTRONG Ministries

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Fuel Your Fear or Feed Your Faith

For nine long months, I was blessed to watch in amazement as my youngest daughter grew a tiny human in her belly.  After watching this precious little girl fight her way into the world, I find that I am already fiercely protective of my granddaughter – as I was with all my children. That “mother bear” protective instinct we women possess must surely begin with conception. It’s only natural since the odds of everything syncing up in perfect harmony in order to create life are nothing short of miraculous!

Even once conception takes place, there are about a bazillion things that can go wrong in utero and then again during the actual birth process … and the first few hours … weeks … months and years of life. There are in fact, so many disasters that can occur in this life, it’s a wonder ANY of us survive without being institutionalized from a constant state of panic.  Those Facebook horror stories about all the tragedies that can befall our babies, toddlers, teenagers, grown children, loved ones, etc.  designed to install chronic worry in us are doing their job. After all, the Internet -- the source of all wisdom and knowledge -- doesn’t lie! Or does it?

In truth, there ARE a bevy of things to worry about from the moment we know we’re going to become parents or grandparents. But worry and fear, are in fact, counterproductive to faith and serve no purpose other than robbing us of the peace that passes all understanding.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.(Hebrews 11:1 NIV)

Giving in to fear and worry is the complete opposite of faith – yet so many of us have a hard time relinquishing control of our children, our family, ourselves and our lives completely over to Jesus.

The illusion we harbor believing WE are in control of our lives is just that … an illusion. God was, is and always shall be the One in control of this life. Simply stated, when we choose to live driven by fear or worry, we are living in sin … and it’s a colossal waste of time.

Each time I’m tempted to worry or fret over my children or grandchildren, I focus on Scriptures that remind me that God knit my children together in my womb (Psalm 139:13); and that God has a good plan for my children to give them hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11); and God did not give us [ME] a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Are YOU worrying overly much about your children or grandchildren?  Instead of worrying – give your worries to God and chew on the nourishment of Scripture that feeds your soul instead of fueling your fears.

 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”  (1 Corinthians 10:26 NIV)

Kathy Kurlin
Author

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Come Follow Me

Immediately they left their nets and followed him. -Matthew 4:20

Recently, I have been obsessed with this verse.  I constantly wonder where God is calling me.  Is it Africa?  Mexico? Is it adopting Asian babies?  Is it writing?  Is he calling me to be a missionary in marriage ministry, women’s ministry, to feed the homeless, Haiti?  Suddenly, God told me!  He is calling me to follow Him.

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Peter and Andrew.  They were casting their net into the sea, as they were fishermen. “Come follow me…” Jesus said…At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20)

He is calling me to follow Him. He will make my paths straight. He is leading me by still waters to simply follow Him!  “Duh!  Of course, He is calling me to follow Him.” Honestly, this is so profound for me. This was such an A-HA moment, as well as another moment of surrender. I want to drop my nets and follow Him.  I shared my A-HA/God moment with my sister.  Her insight was also profound and eye opening…I am like a dog.

This was her response, when I shared my story with her:

“I feel like you are Ralph (my nephew’s dog).” When my nephew says 'sit' and just leaves him, Ralph just stands at attention. Occasionally, he’ll lay down before my nephew even says lay down or he’ll start to do another trick thinking that’s what he wants him to do.  He whines a little, just eager and waiting. Sometimes my nephew makes him sit and stay extra-long because Ralph is behaving that way.  Then when my nephew says, “Come'” you can just see Ralph totally relax when he finally realizes what he is supposed to do and he is so happy to just walk with him.”

I am Ralph the dog.  Eager to please my Master, jumping ahead, sitting before He calls me to, chasing my tail in distraction, running when He says stay…and then somehow, He adjusts my focus and says, “Come.”

The amazing thing is, Christ loves me as I walk with Him.  He loves me despite my clumsy and distracted self.  He still calls me to Himself.  “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” –Psalm 23:1. I lack absolutely nothing. He loves me more than I could ever dream or imagine. I am not sure if you too are a dog (or clumsy, distracted, or a mess) like me.  Wherever you are, you are loved.  You are loved more than you could ever dream or imagine.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. -Ephesians 3:18

Lisa Foster
Author

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Space Priority

Create your own space.
Make boundaries.
Take time for you.

These are statements we have heard often.  And, while we probably agree with the concepts, we just don’t dedicate space to our daily routine.

How many times have you been in a quiet space and thought to yourself, “Ahhh, this is so nice.”

Then, your mind starts thinking about what’s for dinner, the grocery list, the bathrooms that need to be cleaned, those pesky weeds that should be pulled.  For a few moments, you were in the “Ahhhhh” place, weren’t you?

What if you allowed yourself to just sit?

What if you convinced yourself to make that quiet space time to recharge?

That space priority is exactly what will get you through the day. Some like the early mornings before the day begins to be in that space priority.  Others carve out a time in the afternoon to recharge.  Whenever it is, morning, the middle of the afternoon or evening, it centers you as you just sit and let God calm you.  Whatever time it is for you, make it happen.  And often.

Last fall I was challenged to set aside time each Sunday at a specific hour to sit, pray and listen. That’s all – just sit, pray and listen. Amazing things happened within those weeks.  Not only did I get centered on my personal priorities, I heard God tell me something I had never heard before.  It wasn’t an audible voice but a clear thought that occurred over and over. Enough so that I understood how important it was for me.  It gave me excitement and bold courage.

If I hadn’t sat down, turned off the schedule in my head and shut my mouth, I would have missed it.

Life rushes by and we can miss the moments God prepared for us because we are not focused.

Close the door. Breathe deep.  And start your quiet space time with these words:

God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Psalm 23:1-3 (The Message)

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG Ministries

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Double “Feet-tures”

Years ago, my daughter used to tell me I had such perfect looking feet, I should become a professional foot model. Whenever we shoe shopped together, every sandal I tried on looked amazing on my perfectly formed feet that were free from bunions, corns or any manner of foot-related defect.

My feet are still pretty cute, but what looks good on the outside is hiding a plethora of problems on the inside.  I’ve suffered for many years from plantar fasciitis, heel spurs and arthritis.  Any one of these problems is extremely painful alone but all three combined have created a trifecta of trouble and debilitating pain that can at times be off the charts. But still – these are nice looking feet.

God in His goodness has taught me that like my unseen foot pain, every day we are likely to encounter people who are hurting and broken inside – even though on the outside, they may appear happy and put together.

The fact is, EVERYONE has a story of some kind. No one escapes this life completely unscathed and untouched by trouble or trials. So even when someone may say, “I’m fine,” that may not always be the case.

In this fast-paced, rat-race, running on empty, crazy world we live in, it can be difficult to take the time to listen to what people may not be saying when their lips are moving. God tells us in Colossians 3:12: … Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

It can be tempting to concentrate on our own problems and live in a bubble of self-preservation and ignore those around us. But when God tells us “clothe ourselves with compassion,” this implies action on our part. When we get dressed every day, we PUT our clothes on our bodies. We don’t wake up fully dressed --we have to physically make an effort to put on our shirts, shorts and shoes. In the same way, we have to make a conscious effort to put on compassion and kindness.

The signs that someone may be hurting are limitless.

A forced smile from that snarky cashier; the waiter who is distracted and gets our order wrong; the co-worker who snaps at us for a simple error.

We can never know the effort someone may put into covering up what could be festering inside of them.

It may be easier for us to ignore the subtleties of a hurting heart, but in order to become more Christ-like in our behavior we must PUT ON compassion and kindness ... a great double feature of God’s love.  It’s never too late to jump in with both feet and make an effort to care! Otherwise … what’s the point of calling ourselves Christians?

*For further study, read The Parable of The Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.

Kathy Kurlin
Author

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Enough Said

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.

So no matter what I say, what I believe or what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Enough said.

1 Corinthians 13:3-7 (The Message)

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG Ministries

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Listen & Obey

Imagine this: You, along with your entire family, have been oppressed within the confines of a foreign land, ruled by foreign peoples, and rooted in foreign customs for nearly 430 years (Exodus 12:40).

Now imagine that the very person tasked in securing your deliverance was an 80-year-old runaway named Moses (Acts 7:30). And as unfathomable as this scenario was, this mass exodus would not take place solely on the backs of the latest factory edition model donkey or alongside a freshly paved city highway.

Why not? Because God desired for the Israelites to never forget who He is and what He had done. And He wanted to use Moses to accomplish this.

“So the people of Israel walked through the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!” (Exodus 14:22).

What exactly was Moses supposed to do with a few million Israelites who needed a reminder of who the God of their ancestors is, and just minutes after their feet would step onto higher ground?

Enter: The Book of Leviticus

The very purpose of Leviticus was for God to establish a guidebook for holy living. These were His people and they were to be set apart from the nations that surrounded them. They had to be different. No longer were the Israelites under the reigns of Pharaoh. They now belonged to the authority of the One, Holy God.

Do you know that Holiness is mentioned more times in Leviticus than any other book in the Bible? 152 to be exact. Living among and worshipping a Holy God required God to constantly instruct Moses with His Holy commands. “Then Moses told them, “When you have followed these instructions from the LORD, the glorious presence of the LORD will appear to you” (Leviticus 9:6).

Obedience is the foundation to holiness.

The “when” is the first step in understanding the “why” and ultimately seeing the “Who” behind it all. Obeying God’s commands in your life, whatever they may be, glorifies Him. Friends, it is so incredibly easy to seek out glorious acts of God in our lives without submitting to His commands of obedience first.

So, let me encourage you. Before you are tempted to petition God to part the seas of your life, ask yourself one important question first: What is He asking of me?

Stefanie Calens
loveSTRONG Ministries, Author

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A Moveable Heart

The world is silent but my mind is buzzing. It may or may not be 3:00am-ish and this may or may not be the 100th time I’ve sat down to compose this writing and I may or may not have had to utilize the 90 calming seconds (multiple times) brain scientists say it takes to flush out the rush of frustrated emotion that comes when you work hours perfecting half a novel that is SURE to inspire the WHOLE world...just to have it not save, or to get locked out of your account, or to have the internet crashing!

90 seconds… deep breaths.

Yesterday I thought this can’t be what God wants me to do but yet here I am unable to sleep with the same message on my brain…. A Movable Heart.So, this is attempt number 10,009,876 to scribble down something He put on my heart.

Yesterday I read in Ezra how the Lord moved king Cyrus’ heart to release the Jews from captivity yet so very few took advantage of that freeing.   Why not?!  Why stay where I am when the Lord sets me free?  Fear, insecurity, past failure… But Proverbs 31:25 says "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come."  Why? How? Because of Psalm 31:14 "But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God. My times are in your hands.'" And Jesus is a God of second chances (think of the story of Jonah).

John 8:36 states "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."  Wow!  Our God is able so why do we hesitate?  Ezra 1:5 says "Everyone whose heart God had moved prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem."  Do you see that? Everyone whose heart God had moved!

Oh, Lord take my heart and make it movable! Help me pray with all sincerity “Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8

This is far from the perfected half novel I had planned but my little placed in His mighty hands is more than enough so I'm trusting Him with this message.

For further reading: Jude 1:24-25

Janette Kieffer
Author

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