Next Step Underway!

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Proverb 18:24, ESV

Happy Tuesday Friends!!

I just wanted to take a few minutes and let everyone know that the next step for David and Jonathan is officially underway!!

In light of this exciting news I made some adjustments to the Blog’s homepage so that now under New Adventures a submenu will appear with a link to a page titled David and Jonathan– specifically set aside for updates as this journey begins to pick up speed.

Bonus Info: I included the summary that will appear on the back cover- to give you an idea of what David and Jonathan is all about!

I am including a link here, David and Jonathan, as well that will take you directly to the page.

Thank you everyone for your continued support and encouragement! If there are words to convey the amount of gratitude and love I feel towards each one of you, I’ve yet to discover them- despite my best efforts.

My prayers are with all of you always,

Specifically, I pray you encounter hope this week 🙏♥️🙌

Bunches of Love,

Britt

Drop It

Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.”

Romans 12:17, KJV

That last rock hit hard.

I had not known it was coming. My beat up shield had become heavy and my battered defense was down.

But to be honest, the rocks that hit hardest are those thrown from directions you had been led to believe were safe, rocks from the hands of a person who, at least most of the time, had appeared to be on your side.

Who most of the time, genuinely is on your side.

And it was just about enough. I could feel that hurt begging to be released through a missile of angry retorts.

In my visually inclined mind, that rock had hit the red “DO NOT PRESS” button and in my head I could not be held accountable for the amount of verbal “mass destruction” it was about to unleash-

… And then that still small voice…

I had the rock in my hand, the others poised as an arsenal stacked beside me and I was ready to retaliate-

But that still small voice…

Drop it.”

Urghhh.

You know the feeling.

I wasn’t dropping that rock so easily.

At least not before thinking it through.

The problem with thinking things through- its usually the moment of hesitation needed to cut the fuse- it may still be burning, but chances are its not headed for the canister of dynamite anymore.

In a matter of seconds several things ran through my head;

  1. One I really wanted to throw that rock.
  2. Two I really didn’t want to throw that rock.
  3. Three at this time that person was the worst in the whole world and deserved to be hit with this rock… (also they had hit me first… with this rock).
  4. Four… I still really loved that person
  5. Five… hurt(ing) people hurt people

And then as a bonus thought

*Bonus If Jesus is the Lord of your life and he said to drop the rock… you should probably drop the rock.

And so I dropped it.

Then mentally just kind of sat down among the pile of all the rocks for a little bit, deciding what to do with them. (Possibly looking back at Jesus like and now…)

Then the question occurred to me, “Why did they throw this rock?”

What was their purpose in their words?

… The motivation behind their words?

And how much of that really had anything to do with me?

I realized there’s power in not throwing the rocks back.

You can weigh them and probe them and try and get to the heart of them.

Some may even hold crystals.

These rocks are rare, they have been tossed back and forth for long periods of time, sometimes lifetimes- experiencing extreme pressure. Just waiting for somebody to be willing to take the time to crack it open.

It’s hard work (my nephew can tell you) – and once its open there’ll be a bit of a cleaning process-

However the end result is priceless.

And how humbling, to have the opportunity to participate in such a process- knowing that it is undeserved and deep down recognizing that no matter how hard that rock hit- you never had any right to cast one yourself.

Not that any of those things makes it any easier when faced with the initial assault.

However, those things do place a few seeds of hope in your hand that may help prevent you from picking that rock up and tossing it back.

With all this said- I am going to leave you with three more things:

  1. First this quote I found scribbled in the margins of my Bible, that I found really helpful for such a time as this; “We sin more than we will acknowledge and are loved more than we will ever understand.”

2. The final verse of Romans 12, 12:21 “Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (aka You’re an overcomer, you have the power to drop it and ruin the enemy’s day- #win)

3. This picture of my Nephew with his secret crystal filled treasure- Because why not

Featured Photo by Tanner Vines on Unsplash

Barely Brave Enough

Still He kept looking around to see her who had done it.”

Mark 5:32

I wish I behaved a bit more like my Biblical heroes.

And by a bit, I mean a lot. In several ways.

It can be easy to forget that our Biblical heroes ever struggled with God’s directions. That their faith and confidence in God and His ways was born of time tested truths formed through intimate relationship with Him.

That their faith and confidence in God, which sent them into lion’s dens, fiery furnaces and chaotic crowds making bold declarations- did not know it all.

They had no idea what He was doing.

And that was okay.

They would (potentially) be eaten. They would burn. They would be executed.

But they would not bow. They would not worship a false image, or even pretend. And they would not be silent.

From the Old to the New, the Bible tells stories of people facing impossible opposition and seemingly hopeless situations.

And in some of those situations, against varying opponents, Biblical heroes were delivered. Lion’s mouths were closed, furnace flames were unable to singe and prophetic voices were heard.

However, in other situations, deliverance did not look the way the world would view as victorious. Believers were sent to Nero’s circus, Followers were sentenced and executed and Christ was crucified.

All of this to say, I sometimes wonder if I am brave enough to do all the things that could one day be required of me.

… Specifically the things I think I’d most definitely rather not, because our God is all wonderful and great things… however He is not a God who respects human concocted comfort zones…

Anyways, as I sometimes wade the waters of a seemingly life/ identity crisis, such as the one I seem to recently, continuously, be finding myself in- I turn to Him.

In hopes He’ll show me the map while simultaneously thankful that He does not. … Lets face it… I’d probably be terrified.

Don’t get me wrong, I am sure it is a glorious plan.

However, often, this world enlists a spirit of distraction- taking my eyes off of His assistance, presence and ability and turning it toward a list of all the ways in which I am undeserving, unqualified and really in contrast to the task- quite useless.

In an act of exasperation or desperation or probably both- I sat down with my Bible one evening- having no idea where to turn.

So in true end of the line style- I just flipped it open and started at the top, praying that one of God’s Biblical heroes might speak to me, that Jesus’ words would meet me.

That they’d tell me to take heart, be of good courage, fearless and uncompromisingly confident.

The Biblical hero I met encountering Jesus though, sounded a lot more like me than… well the others I had been meditating on.

Tucked in Mark 5 I met a woman who had just been barely brave enough.

Barely brave enough to reach for the hem of Jesus’ robe… with a faith so set- so determined- Jesus noticed.

Not only did Jesus notice, He looked for her and then kept looking for her… “Still He kept looking around to see her who had done it.”

He kept looking, to see her.

This woman seemingly so brave and full faith though, did not step forward easily.

But the woman, knowing what had been done for her, though alarmed and frightened and trembling, fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.” Mark 5:33

Alarmed, frightened and trembling.

I would say that her words were probably not eloquent.

Clearly her tone was not steady. And I would bet she stammered and stubbled a bit.

Regardless, she clung to something bigger than she was. She held on to what hope and faith had strengthened her to reach out and touch His hem, knowing that in doing so she’d break the law.

Herself considered culturally “unclean” purposefully touching another, a teacher, one decidedly above her situation.

He could have publicly humiliated her, had her ostracized and punished.

She had no idea what He would do, how He would react- but we can be sure she knew exactly what He could do, how others would react.

That day however, barely brave enough, was more than enough.

She reached out. She told the whole truth. And Jesus restored not only her physical health but spiritual peace.

Her frightened, trembling, truth filled words were met with blessing, restoring and affirming words.

In summary the two things which caught and comforted me, that I wanted to share:

  1. Jesus kept looking, to see her. She was frightened and probably a bit perplexed- she knew what she had done and what had happened… but what next? She had just done something culturally “wrong,” and may have been falling away towards a sense of guilt. Jesus was not looking for her who had done it to accuse her or humiliate her. He was looking for her who had done it to affirm her and assure her.
  2. Moving forward in His direction and according to His purpose frightened, trembling and alarmed- is a viable option. Even if our faith is only barely greater than our opposition, it can move mountains. It will move mountains.

Needless to say, I may not always be as brave as I want to be- but I will always be brave enough.

And so will you Friends.

I pray that at the end of the day our actions and words will mirror those of “her who had done it” – her who had shakily reached out in great faith, her who Jesus kept looking for and her who though frightened was just barely brave enough.

Late Bloomer

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Psalm 139:16, ESV

I’ve been called a fair number of things in my 29+ years.

Mostly good… some relatively not favorable… needless to say humans and humanity can be hard.

We try to categorize, label and define one another. Things with definitions are safer. We can understand what we can box and classify.

Now, before I dive too far into this specific conversation, I am going to table it for now and move on.

Because what I actually wish to share with you tonight, aside from the theological and spiritual implications of words and labels, is a story.

On July 26th a beloved family friend and honorary grandmother of the Shears clan went to her heavenly home.

You may be wondering why this blog is being posted on August 14th in comparison to the number of days that have passed between now and July 26th.

And I am going to be completely honest-

1. Because I cannot offer another explanation,

and 2. Because all the explanations fall short of providing an adequate reason regardless.

Throughout this past year I have stumbled and failed in my blog posts.

Can I tell you the number of moments and memories which have passed- dates, anniversaries, commemorations of those of loved ones who have passed, where I didn’t write a post?

It began in February with Jamie and Mom. It continued into March. I managed to communicate something near Easter. I wrote a book somewhere in between.

My desire to write never ceased, but you should know words continued and continue to evade me.

Even now, this post feels insufficient to the memory, love and incredible legacy of this one woman.

I could repeat a thousand stories a thousand times, reworking words and vocabulary- and yet it would still fail.

Words would be deleted. Whole posts would be erased. Weeks would begin to accumulate. (Exhibit A: My 2020 Blogging history).

I have spent the better part of 2020 frozen and hesitant, intimidated by what I could not communicate.

What I have learned through 2020- is that somethings are like that.

More importantly, it is not an inefficiency on my part that leaves them like that. But a supremacy on their part that leaves me like this.

The love, loss and legacy of a person is something we cannot harness with letters or box with words. Paragraphs will fail to encompass, whole texts will always come up short.

However, the lack of ability to encapsulate should not prevent us from the attempt to communicate. (I told you I’ve spent a great deal of time in a dictionary).

In summary, where my words will fail, I no longer take it as an immediate sign of my incompetence- but a witness, declaration if you will, of what is something/ someone far beyond our skill to demonstrate through language alone.

A beauty beyond comprehension.

A picture beyond imagination.

Grandma Charolette once saved me from some words that were not so kind. And to ensure I fully understood just how “okay” I actually was, later that day she sought me out and found me on my best friend’s room.

Taking my hand, Grandma Charlotte assured me that despite what others may say, there was no shame in being a “late bloomer.”

“You see,” she said, “a late blooming flower is never actually late, but blooms just when it is intended to.”

And while there was a bit more to that conversation, that bit of wise advice has followed and sustained me.

Every societal benchmark I appear to miss.

Every culturally derived timeline I seemingly reject.

Every prearranged checkbox I fail to mark.

Grandma Charlotte, a little over a week from her 95th birthday, was a million wonderful things to more people than we will ever be able to know.

Her incomprehensible legacy is reflected in the love she shared, still beating and being written in the lives of her children and equally wonderful family.

Her influence still flowing through the veins of those who were blessed in knowing her.

From the ice cream, to the laughter and the confidence- Grandma Charlotte left her mark in the world.

Several marks actually.

Mine being only one heart better for the time that will be forever cherished.

It doesn’t matter where you are in life friends. I am sure there is something you feel you’re “running late” on, a To Do on the To Do List that is overdue-

Which is why I want to leave you with this bit of wise advice:

Take heart friends, where you are is not a surprise to the one who has ordained each day of your existence- before your existence.

Breathe. You are right on time.

What Love

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

John 15:13, NIV

A Dark Day.

A Black Day.

A Forsaken Day.

… A Good Day in the making?

Good Friday. It’s strange, really strange to be honest. We know why it’s called Good Friday- that is because of the reality of Sunday.

But as we sit and think about this day, this day three days out from Sunday, its a nightmare in the making.

Unknown to His disciples, they just spent their last evening having supper with their Teacher, chosen King and Best Friend.

Think about it. Jesus had stepped into each one of their lives and changed it radically and astonishingly. They loved this man who had chosen them. And taught them. And served them. Continuously reminding them that they were to become the least- while loving them as if they were the greatest.

… Ever wonder what they did Wednesday, before Maundy Thursday? Many speculate that Jesus and his disciples spent the day just resting and relaxing in Bethany. They probably shared stories, laughed a bit and just talked as friends do.

You know, the things we do with our friends on those all too rare days of rest and relaxation. Being with Friends who we trust completely, whose presence feels like a vacation in itself.

I wonder if those last couple days played through the disciples minds as Jesus was dragged off and endured Good Friday.

Not heart wrenching enough?

“Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.”

“Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.” (Matthew 26:49-50, NIV) 

One of those friends who laughed and broke bread with Jesus… betrayed him.

And one of the things which strikes me the most- Jesus words to Judas, particularly the last one. “Friend.” 

He didn’t condemn Judas, he didn’t push him away.

He gave him permission.

A lot of things feel dark right now. But friends, Sunday is coming.

This too will pass.

As we face the dramatic changes to our lifestyles, our world- I pray that you would look toward Sunday. A whole world’s hope was wrapped up in a package of crude agony… and love.

That love persists today- and it will not fail to deliver, He has not surrendered the authority that was bought at such a high price. He has not forsaken His Friends- for who He would endure the cross again, and again and again.

I am excited for the days ahead, I want to jump into Sunday, I want to leap into a post pandemic world.

But I will not rush through Good Friday. I will stop and soak in the beautiful, costly, victorious truth.

Today we remember humanity’s darkest day, while living in a world that has been repeatedly marked by all that is good in humanity in the light of crisis.

Rarely have we loved better, today marking the day we were loved best- permanently.

Dearest Lord Jesus,

As I read through the story of your crucifixion, it is strange my reaction to the cross- Your cross. 

I see it knowing in my mind the pain and humiliation it inflicted upon you,

I cringe inwardly,

I squint my eyes-

and yet my heart swells with a hope, a joy-

it cherishes that horrible cross. 

Because beyond its rough and brutal intention- is Your love, Your Glory… My salvation. 

Yes Lord, it is hard to look at that old rugged cross, yet I cannot look away. 

It is painful for me to see, yet I do not look away. 

Because what love- to be a witness and receiver of such love, a love greater than the worst hurt 

It hurts to look- but I will choose to look… I will choose love too. 

I love you Lord Jesus, I am so sorry for the cross and I am so thankful. 

… I pray you choose to look as well friends. And remember not only did Jesus voluntarily walk to calvary- but as He did so, enduring all humiliation, pain and suffering- not for a moment- not a single one- did his heart turn on us.

What love.

Be A Valentine

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

John 13:34

Happy Valentine’s Day Friends! ♥️

I absolutely adore Valentine’s Day- I always have.

Which to many is strange. Because in the traditional sense, I’ve always been single on Valentine’s Day.

I know, I know… but stick with me.

This is not a post to promote singleness or girl power- this is a post to tell you about one of my favorite love stories.

In other words- there’s this movie…

You may have watched it… though maybe not. My sisters and I checked it out of our church library about elementary age… on VHS.

The First Valentine – produced in 1989… viewed in our household circa 1997. (oh the nineties).

And yes, the movie reflects its age (and has my younger sister would tell you, some historical liberties as technically it is possible that two, if not three men named Valentinus were all executed on February 14th by the Roman Emperor). But the story it shares is life changing and the lesson timeless.

The story of Saint Valentine (at least one of them): A man who believed so much in the purpose and power and importance of love- he defied the ruling imperial power of the time, illegally marrying couples in the Roman Empire… not in the outskirts… but literally in and near Rome itself.

However, The First Valentine shows that this belief in love was not solely occupied by couples, but to humanity- regardless of age, ethnicity and disability- as our celebrated Saint gives the First Valentine to a young girl who is blind and therefore a societal outcast.

Like I said- possible historical liberties- but then again… anything is possible, and the legend prevails (check out the link below from History.com). 👩🏻‍💻

Summary, if nothing else I find the heart of the movie matches the hearts of the Saint(s) we celebrate today.

Saints martyred for their commitment to Love, sharing the Good News of Love revealed and to loving as Love loved.

Saints martyred for embracing and imparting Jesus.

Several years ago, I had a revelation, possibly from a seed which was planted by this 1990s, thirty minute-ish, movie (possibly available on Youtube).

Every Saint Valentine… every Saint Valentine we celebrate… was single…

… which means that the definition of a Valentine as I had understood it growing up- was not big enough.

Yes, you can be asked to be a Valentine- but you can also be a Valentine, voluntarily.

So today I want to ask you friends, to be a Valentine.

Love those around you. Babysit for the couple, send cards to your single friends letting them know you love them and tell the littles in your life how great they are. Smile at a stranger, hold the door open for a neighbor, pay for the car behind you in the fast food line and shower this world in every good thing- with every heartbeat. ♥️

I pray your day is filled with the knowledge and presence of a love that is ever present, uncompromising and completely encompassing. I pray that each of you recognize your value, which is priceless, and the importance of your existence which is celebrated in the heavens.

Your Father, Your Savior and Your Helper rejoice seeing you, no matter where you’re coming from. Their love for you is complete times eternity.

With all of those very important truths said- on a side note  History.com which I mentioned above- provides a great, concise, history of Valentines Day which I encourage anyone who is curious to check out.

And after watching The First Valentine I highly recommend rewatching Kate and Leopold on Netflix- because what couple is more charming than young Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman? 💁🏻‍♀️

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Status Reckless

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:5 (NIV) 

It gets me every time.

I am always taken by surprise.

Six months later and I do not see the trend ending any time soon.

What do I do?

I hold hands and cups of coffee.

I run between healthcare staff and family and sit in the waiting room with children who are too young to witness the adults in their lives fall apart emotionally.

I speak prayers and I sit silently, tears being the only expression close to, though not quite, capable of communicating the storm of grief taking hold.

I witness the strength and heart of the staff with awe and their tears with reverence for what they voluntarily experience out of their love for the person, for each beautiful and individual life.

And I hope.

I know the expectations, I know the probable outcome, I understand that if I have been called in, whatever chance there may be is small, and not promised.

And I expect the unexpected.

It’s not a half hope. It is not a “but God could” hope. It is not a last ditch hope.

It is complete, all in, God can hope. It is reckless hope.

And I am always taken by surprise. Because that kind of hope, against every odd, never considers the other outcome, until it arrives.

My heart always stutters in shock, surprise crashing down like a tidal wave. As I reach up for protection, He is reaching out in assurance. And I can stand and be still on the inside while walking through it on the outside.

I can get tissues and chairs. I can speak with family and safeguard sacred moments. I can remain out of the way (at least attempt to) and be readily available. I can give hugs and provide space. I can listen to stories and honor a need for silence.

I can make it home after helping family and friends head to homes that are somehow emptier in a world that makes a little, or a lot, less sense.

And then the wave comes. It has to you know. I’m not in it alone. But it still has to come down.

And I let it all wash out. Every shard of hope on trial.

Of course the defense is prepared and truth reigns.

He heard my prayers. He began answering them immediately. And yes, He was victorious.

In His way and in His time. His ways and His thoughts both higher than mine. His love incomprehensibly complete.

No matter how it feels, His truth reigns.

Not that He is unfeeling. He understands, He knows and He’s holding on. He hasn’t let go- and He’s not going to.

I knew He could do it, I know He can still do it- whatever the situation may be. I believed and believe. I hoped and I hope.

And when the tears come and the hope feels it has turned into shards of broken glass that still small voice whispers,

Child, you are not wrong. 

as He wipes the tears away.

Because there is nothing impossible for our God. Nothing too hard. Nothing too big. Nothing too much. Or too little.

In a fallen world, horrible things happen that were not apart of God’s original plan. And with all of my schooling and study I cannot say for certain why God chooses to move and to stay His hand.

I hope in and I trust a Sovereign, Holy, Loving and Just God who did not create us to destroy us, but to give us a hope and a future, an eternal home.

A last thought.

I was wondering one evening, if this reckless hope would one day dissipate all together? I mean you hear stories of burnout. Of the last straw.

What would the consequences be of recklessly putting all of your heart in, all of the time?

Certainly, there was pain. I wondered, worried, if that chipping was slowly picking away at my hope filled heart. That one day a puncture would go too deep, that my hope would become less than “complete.”

Ironically, I worried that one day I would be less “taken by surprise.”

I had been in that black pit once, I have no desire or intention of going back. Not even the tiniest bit. I could sit down and rest, but there would be no back tracking. That, my heart couldn’t take.

My personal reflection was clearly not getting me anywhere so I took a minute and passed it on to the One whose thoughts are higher than my own. And I got a picture (further proof He understands me- and my appreciation for visual learning aids!)

I pictured my heart, the way I had been “imagining” it before- a chipping from the outside. But then it changed.

Duh. The chipping was not on the outside. It was on the inside.

The chipping may hurt, but growth usually does. Long story short, it was making my heart deeper- not smaller. Capable of holding more, not less.

Child, you are not wrong. 

His picture of immediate victory may vary from mine- but my hope has never been misplaced. He is working, and He is winning. Actually, He has already won.

I cannot see the big picture from down here. But I trust Him. Meanwhile, I pray friends that you will not fear recklessly hoping, always. Because you are not wrong.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Just One

 “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Luke 15:7 

Fires, earthquakes, Presidential impeachments, Royal runaways and an election year…

Needless to say, our world is in need of prayer. Always. Like, the entire world. All the time.

So the other day I sat in prayer… attempting to simply and concisely convey the enormity of all of the situations and their urgency (you know- as if God was not already aware…), hoping I wouldn’t forget anything (praying actually I wouldn’t forget anything- or one).

My heart had a list.

As I sat there naming the various disasters and tensions currently being experienced around the world- I was also naming loved ones, acquaintances and faces that seemed to be lingering.

All the while a silent question forming.

And sometime after I had laid down- I woke up, the question having fully formed itself and apparently not willing to be put off until a decent daytime hour.

In my mind or heart or both- the question was whispered- which was most important, my prayers for the world or my prayers for the one?

The whole world, or one person? Don’t ask me why this question mattered, why something in me needed an answer.

I suppose it may have been because behind this question was the wonder, did God like some of my prayers better than others? Did He pay more attention to the “more important” ones verses the “Brittany is rattling on” ones?

Was there a “Top 5” and then He would put the others on a “waiting” or “consideration” list?

Because I mean honestly, I do that sometimes. Not with my prayers. But with my homework assignments. Books to read. Tasks to do.

There is a “Top 5” list and then there is the “if/ when I have time” list.

Laying there, one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s quotes came to mind, “Even the Smallest person can change the course of the future” and then the Parable of the Lost Sheep.

And just like that it seemed, in an instant, I understood.

The world needs our prayers.

But those prayers will be answered and carried out through human beings, individuals, coming together.

The world is not complete without the one.

Personally, I must say it seems a little less daunting, though no less urgent to pray for the one. Praying for the world is important. However, when we paint our big picture of the world with faces and names and heartbeats- well its not quite so difficult to put into words every urgent feeling-

A loving and overflowing plea. One word.

Move.

God, Move. Hold, Tell, Comfort, Encourage. I love them. You love them. Go and move.

As I read the Parable of the Lost sheep I realized that there is a reason Heaven rejoices over the one.

Through one the world fell into sin.

Through one the world was delivered and redeemed.

One has always had a major, world changing impact.

So no, some prayers are not more important than others. God does not listen to some more and others less. Do not limit your number of prayers out of worry that you may end up with “one to many” to make the cut.

Pray for the world and the one. And then the other one, and another one and every one. I quoted J.R.R. Tolkien above, a man who understood and played a major role in the life of one. A comrade he met through writing. A lifelong unbeliever, a proclaimed atheist- and from his own work he’d share proudly so. This one was to become one of his greatest friends. And one of, if not, the greatest Christian author of his time- C.S. Lewis.

And my friends, as you pray for the one, remember you are one. Your presence here is unique, your purpose unrivaled. No one can replace you. You have been purposefully and specifically created and sent for such a time as this. Heaven dances to see you awake every morning. They lean in close to hear what you have to say. And without you, our world is not complete.

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Be With You

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Psalm 139:13-14

We just want to be with You.

These words struck my heart during worship this past Sunday with their truth… and immediately I envisioned a fire.

No worries, it was the controlled type of fire- you know the type that you gather and curl up around with family and friends.

The kind of fire that instantly echos sounds of laughter and compatible, understanding silence amid the crackling of wood and dancing flames.

The kind that feels like being held… or like holding the hand of someone who completely understands.

A fire that beckons to you in the most welcoming way, as if it is so happy you could make it, whispering that the fire would be a little less complete without you there, just as you are.

Because its January my initial vision was that of a fireplace, though upon further reflection, a campfire would be equally relatable.

And as these lyrics continued to resound in my head, my Pastor began his message and in his lesson he made a profound remark in relation to the passage above.

“Did you know God only has good thoughts about you?”

… wait… what?

You mean to tell me all those times throughout the day when I am counting or recounting every weakness and wondering how God, even with his divine patience, could put up with me… He’s never wondered the same thing?

Even once?

He’s never thought of me as anything other than wholly redeemed, deeply loved, highly favored, graced with glory…

Because… unfortunately… I have given Him ample opportunity to understandably do so…

Further more, you mean to tell me He’s never shaken His head in irritation, rolled his eyes in annoyance or “facepalmed” in exasperation… as He is rebuilding and cleaning up whatever it is I have destroyed or made a mess of?

Are you saying He’s never questioned whether I was too far out to make it worth it to bring me back, again? He’s never considered throwing in the towel?

… Can you imagine, my Pastor began to share, if we lived our lives with such a thought process about ourselves.

A thought process full of only good thoughts about ourselves.

At the end of the day I took an inventory of what thoughts I felt circled through my mind the most in terms of myself. And sadly, I realized, that if I were compiling a “Top 10” sort of list or most commonly used words- a fair portion of the time my thoughts toward myself were not very… good.

The old thoughts arose, you know sentences that begin with; “Am I… I should… I’m not… I’ll never…” then ending with something you should stop, start, do more, do less… or you’ve concluded that you’re not enough, too much, mediocre…

And I sat up as the Father beckoned me to sit with Him by the fire.

We sat there for a bit… it took a minute to unload. And toss every doubt, trace of guilt, piece of shame, shred of comparison and critical fear into the flame.

All the while His Word sharing what He sees, and all the wonderful parts He knows is inside of me. Because He put them there.

Many parts are revealed in time. His time. And He is so excited for the day I’ll discover them.

But meanwhile, he bids me not to devalue those wonderful pieces He has already revealed.

Also to remember not to call myself by my sin, but by my name, for that is how He calls me, and who He has created me to be. He sees past the exterior, into the heart and beyond.

Beneath the dust of this world, wonders have been purposefully placed in each one of us.

That’s what He sees. His vision. His dream. His creation. His daughter.

That “controlled” fire I suppose is also sort of an engulfing fire, a refining fire… a flame residing in each one of us.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And my Creator’s works are wonderful.

All of them.

Including me.

And I know that.

And in knowing that, confidence is restored. An ability to marvel and love and rejoice with others whole heartedly is renewed.

We are all called to the fire. Be it a winter day inside or a summer’s evening outside. Come warm your hands. Loose your burden of all you were never meant to carry. Share. Laugh. And know.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

And as my personal favorite snowman, Olaf, would say, God only says “all good things, all good things,” for He is good.

God, we just want to be with You. Father You know us perfectly. You love us unconditionally. And You only think good thoughts about us. You call us by our name, not our sin. You see beyond the exterior, past the heart and into our innermost beings. You see the dream we have always been to You. Purposefully and wonderfully made. Thank you Father. We love you. Help us to love and see ourselves a little better, gaining a Heavenly Father’s perspective and tossing into the flames the lies of the enemy, in the beautiful name of Jesus. Amen. 

Friends if you have any prayer requests or praise reports please feel free to share them here in the comments, the comments on the prayer requests page or email them to declarehopeministries@gmail.com if you wish for them to be kept private. As always my prayers and thoughts are with each of you.

Exciting News!! This coming week we will be announcing this month’s giveaway! Stay tuned for details. Be blessed.

 

 

Fear of the Lord

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.”

Psalm 111:10 

The fear of the Lord.

This statement was so hard for me to grasp, and even now in some moments my mind immediately recoils from the word fear.

I fought fear for years. Oftentimes I still find fear lurking behind the door. Thankfully I have over three-hundred scriptures to remind me (and it) that it has no place in my vocabulary.

But then… explain to me the phrase the “fear of the Lord.”

Recently I was faced with an interesting question- you know one of those questions that may be in the back of your head but its not important enough for you to disturb because you cringe at what unpacking and sorting it out may entail.

The discussion- who God is, or more specifically what God is;

Answer: Good, kind and love.

Anything else?

As I weighed these answers in my mind, other verses flickered through my mind.

God is good, God is kind and God is loving. He is steadfast and certain.

God is also just, holy and jealous.

He wants to be our number one, because we are His number one. No good thing comes to us apart from Him and yet- we are so prone to giving the credit to someone or something else.

The education, the title, the position, the clothes, the timing…

We think we know what’s best, all the while He’s trying to bring us towards His better.

The world pulls at us, offering gods with various faces. It calls us to pursue happiness and fulfillment through greed and self-satisfaction.

And just as we begin to realize that “god” is really not all that good… it throws another one in our face that just might be the missing link to what we’re looking for.

Of course God’s love which is complete and unflinching is jealous as He watches us get used and abused by the false gods of this world.

That is why he sent His only begotten son. Because He is holy. He is just. And he cannot compromise such perfect justice, for He cannot lie or change all that He is. But He is also love.

And love found a way.

Jesus posted the bail, became our lawyer and cleared all charges. All we have to do is accept His invitation. Tragically, many of us chose to stay in the cell.

Fear of the Lord.

A good, kind and loving God. A just, holy and jealous God.

“So,” my friend asked, “you fear being punished by God? Being judged?” in reference to my personal positions, actions or lack there of.

No.

The word slipped truthfully as I shook my head.

As I sat there and thought about sin; what I’ve done, what I didn’t do and what I would or would not do ever again… as I thought about repentance and the way my heart was convicted whenever I erred in one direction or another… as I thought about my loving Triune God… as the name Jesus echoed throughout my being- my heart swelling with joy at the thought of his name…

No, I don’t fear being punished or being judged by God.

No, I don’t fear being hurt by God.

I fear hurting God.

As you read through the dozens of verses that speak of the fear of the Lord you will notice that the attributes of the fear of the Lord lead to wisdom, protection and joy.

Every single one.

Overall I was a pretty good kid, if I can say so myself.

Was it because I hadn’t had the opportunity to misbehave? No.

Was it because I am absolutely perfect in every way? Lord knows, no, not at all. (Pretty sure I just heard a heavenly chuckle and an angel almost spit out their coffee sort of reaction.)

It was because I loved my parents, I still love my parents, and few things would have been more painful for me than to disappoint them, few things would have caused me more fear or dread. I love(d) them so much.

I love my Heavenly Father. I love my Savior. I love the Holy Spirit who indwells in me, knowing that I am not always the most hospitable vessel.

I do not try and follow the statues and read the verses because I am afraid of punishment.

I do it from a love so deep it cuts my heart to see the hurt in Their eyes when I betray their trust.

Every sin driving the nail in further.

The nail scarred hands helping me back up and carrying me whenever I’ve slipped so far.

Nail scarred hands reaching out and embracing me.

No, I do not fear what God would do. God is holy, just, good, kind, jealous and love.

No, I fear what I might do, what pain I might cause.

I wouldn’t purposefully hurt a loved one. Many of you probably agree.

So the question then is- why would we purposefully hurt the God who loves us so perfectly? Why does He seem to end up on just the other side of the line?

The fear of the Lord to me is grounded in our love for the Lord- rooted in His love for us. For our Lord is one “who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

So, take heart friends and live free of fear, remembering, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Email us at declarehopeministries@gmail.com or comment prayer requests and praise reports below. You are forever in our thoughts and prayers.

Stay tuned for some exciting 2020 news including a continuation of defining our “whys” and upcoming monthly giveaways to the credit of some of my very talented friends!! Also an inside look into what I have been up to this past Christmas break.

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash