God’s Gift

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel.”

Isaiah 7:14

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace; and with his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:4-5

I love Christmas cards. I always have.

I have held onto every single one I’ve ever received, ever.

Including this one pictured above. This is a new card believe it or not. I received it from my Bible study leader a few weeks ago.

Of course, it looked a bit different when I first received it. It was perfect, actually.

Then one night the piece of tape displaying it failed me and in the time between it’s falling and my discovery- Reyna found it. (For those who do not know Reyna, she is a just turned 1, 86 pound, fluff ball/ puppy.)

And my beautiful card was crafted into a mess of confetti.

But as I disappointedly picked up the shredded pieces of my lovely card, I came across this final bit.

And I kid you not, I almost threw it away. To be honest I threw it away.

But as I turned away, I reached back and I picked it up, wanting to read the words one more time.

The whole time my world driven vision told me it was a piece of trash. Tarnished. Embarrassing. It would be absurd to hold on to it. Let alone put it back up. Forget the fact I had just grabbed it from my trash can, Lord help me if anyone ever found out.

But… that still small whisper. You know the Christmas story is a lot of things. And if we are honest, those things are tarnished and embarrassing.

Mary was pregnant before she was married- let’s talk about that reputation.

And then she gave birth in a barn. I’ve noticed that never caught on as a trend.

Yet… that story, that beloved and holy Christmas story, is beyond the definition of perfect.

There’s not a single word to fully express the magnitude and the glory of that tarnished and embarrassing story.

In fact, you could string a thousand words together, and just of clipped the iceburg.

We are a couple days past Christmas Day, and I hope yours was perfect. However, if it wasn’t perfect according to Hallmark standards (and I get it- I love Hallmark), I hope you can see that gifts, time and life aside- the victory of that day is never failing.

On a side note, I know many returned to work today, some worked Christmas Day, and those who are off are probably counting down the days subconsciously before they have to return.

Some may have balanced the checkbook today, did school work or cleaned the house.

My point is, as we move past Christmas Day, I pray we will remember to carry it with us.

It’s so hard when it feels as if so little has changed. The world acts as if all is as it has always been.

The angel spoke to Mary. Joseph had a dream. The shepherds heard the angels sing. The wise men saw the star. And the world… the world acted as if all was as it had always been.

As I was in town yesterday running some errands I felt I could see the world acting as if nothing had changed. The store lights, in contrast to Wednesday, were back on. (Never mind some stores did not bother to turn them off at all).

And it dawned on me. We try so hard to bind Christmas to one day. We make it a box, hand it over and say “get in,” forgetting that the reality of Christmas is beyond our comprehension, let alone our box making skills.

Christmas is the time we celebrate when Jesus stepped out of the box, and into the manger. And that celebration continues all year long. It’s a priceless gift freely given, and no sale price can cheapen or negate it. No deal can sweeten it. No amount of time can tarnish or lessen it.

It’s already everything, and then more than we can imagine. As we live in a world that acts as as if nothing is changed; we hear the angels sing, we see the star and we know- that everything has changed. We see it in the pile of dishes, the chaotic filling of email inboxes and in our chewed and torn Christmas cards.

❤️ Merry Christmas friends! My prayers and thoughts are with you all as we finish one year, one decade, and head into the next.

Living Water

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

Acts 8:36 (ESV) 

I debated for years… I had been baptized as an infant in the Lutheran Church- which would lovingly raise me for the entirety of my childhood.

Consequently I had also been through confirmation at 13.

In conclusion I had given my life to Christ. I even had documentation.

But as I began moving towards pursuing a career in full time ministry, the internal nudge to get baptized grew.

Let me clarify that this was not because I believed I needed to be baptized to be saved. Jesus saved me the moment I asked him into my heart. Being baptized was not a way to “level up.”

Also, it was not because I felt my Lutheran baptism and upbringing had failed me in any way. On the contrary, I grew up strong in my faith, I had fantastic Godparents and it was that faith community that planted in me the seeds which would eventually bring me back to God after enduring a dark period.

The dark period.

What nudged me, personally, to be baptized was the dark period. While I knew I was saved, that my baptism hadn’t been “nullified” in any way… it occurred to me that I had fallen away from faith for a period of time.

I had never stopped believing in God or Jesus- but we certainly were not on speaking terms for a good two years.

God would knock and I would develop selective hearing.

As I moved out of that dark period and began to feel the call back towards my first love and pursuit, Ministry- every time I went to step out on the water, I hesitated.

This hesitation kept me in the boat for two additional years, and then in 2017 I finally made the jump, as God opened the doors that led me to being enrolled into a Masters in Ministry program. I say I jumped, I think He may of helped with a bit of a push.

Unfortunately, the doubts didn’t stop once I stepped out onto the water. There was one reoccurring thought that I offered to God every night, a question that waged war inside of me-

God I failed you, when things got hard, I ran. I fell and I fell hard. How can you really be calling me now? Can You really be calling me now? I’m not good at this, I’ve proven I’m not good at this… 

It wasn’t that I needed further assurance in God, I needed assurance in myself.

Peter encountered this. He had ran. And I believe he struggled internally with this, even with Jesus’ forgiveness after His resurrection.

So Jesus asked Peter 3 times if he loved Him. By the third time I can imagine Peter’s despair, he already doubted his own worth and now it may seem Jesus questioned it too. However, as Peter confirmed his love for the Lord, Jesus did not say “Oh, good just checking,” Jesus told Peter to feed and care for his sheep.

Jesus was putting Peter in charge. The man who ran away had a calling– Care for the sheep, because more dark days are coming, but no darkness can compete with the glory that will follow.

Peter vocally confessed his faith to the Lord and the other disciples who were present (including the self proclaimed, “one whom Jesus loved” John… Side Note: I love reading John 💁🏻‍♀️).

The point- Peter made a public declaration in front of other believers. So God put it in my heart. Do you love me? Yes Lord.

And I decided, that like Peter, I had to declare it- publicly in front of other believers. Not necessarily to the benefit of God- but because I needed assurance that I was officially shedding the days of running. God already believed in me. I needed confirmation in my own heart.

When I was originally baptized and confirmed I had not yet experienced how dark this world could be.

I knew now. This time when I made my declaration, I knew exactly what I was getting into. For as Pete and Jesus continued their conversation Jesus stated:

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18

Why? Verse 19 tells us-

“Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “‘Follow me!’” John 21:19

Pete knew dark days. Jesus clarified that more dark days were coming.

And Jesus clarified that He knew Pete could handle the coming dark days. Pete’s running days were done.

So as the Ethiopian exclaimed in the verse at the top, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” I asked myself what is stopping me from being baptized?

In revelation- I knew nothing good was keeping me from making my public declaration. No, that was the work of fear and self-consciousness- of what others would think… or say…

As I was preparing to take the next step- (still hesitating but decidedly hesitating) God sent the people He knew I would need to support me in my journey to the pool.

While he sent several absolutely necessary individuals, there is one pictured in the photo below to my left.

Her name is Averie and two years ago we stood in a baptismal pool as I “took the plunge” and she helped me up (ironically by pushing me down- under water).
Today she is in Africa with a team of amazing individuals (from what I hear) on an 11 month mission trip. She is almost 3 months in- and I miss her terribly… but I am also incredibly proud of her.

I’ve included a link to her blog below.

1. So you can offer her and her team prayers as they continue their journey and embrace Matthew 28:19. What gift she afforded me in standing beside me as I was baptized two years ago, she is now giving to others in nations I can barely pronounce. My heart is full.

2. So you read her crazy stories, see her teammates and of course check out the pictures- they are stunning.

3. And so, if you are able, help sponsor her mission and the movement of Kingdom business as she and her team leave behind the comfort of home with feet covered in the readiness given by the gospel of peace. The widow threw in 2 copper coins- and we remember her today because God can take a little and change the world- in fact it’s His favorite thing. $5 dollars can go further than you ever dared imagine.

Averie’s World Race Blog

As always all of my thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Please feel free to message me or comment below.

For those of you who may be considering being baptized, or re-baptized, I implore you to pray about the decision and speak with a(the) faith mentor(s) in your life. Let God direct your heart, laying aside all other concerns aside from His thought on the matter. His is the voice to follow.

I was given a certificate and photo from my baptism- which I had framed and it now hangs in my “office.”

I have 6 degrees, a handful of rewards and professional certifications-  and I would trade them all for this one. For added all together they are but dust in comparison to living water.

Thank you mrjn Photography on Unsplash for photo!

 

Foolish Faith

I knew He could and I had hoped He would.

I wouldn’t be shaken, I didn’t care how impossible it looked or how dark it felt. There was no other option but hope. No other outcome was to be entertained. Victory was the only possible answer. Miraculous, unbelievable, odds defying victory.

Deep down though I knew, though I didn’t want to say it, that God’s definition and picture of victory did not always match my own.

Yes, His visions of victory had included parting the Red Sea, driving out Israel’s enemies and tearing the veil in the temple.

However, His visions of victory had also included 40 years in the wilderness, Nehemiah standing amongst ruins and Jesus hanging from the cross.

And it hurts. God knows it hurts when our visions of victory don’t coincide with His.

And the lies begin to run through your mind, each one a blow directed to destroy your already broken heart, each one intent on tearing you down and stealing what truth and light you knew or at least thought you had known…

Why didn’t He show up?, What did I do wrong?, Were my words not studied enough?, Were my shortcomings too great? Or my faith too small?

The reality is that He did not show up because He was always already there. He heard our prayers and our declarations and our faith and He drew us closer. Because He knew it hurt and He knew we didn’t understand. And that we wouldn’t understand.

And so after only two months, Mom lost her earthly battle to cancer and instead won a heavenly victory. Not exactly the victory we had prayed for and even now a win which feels more like a loss. But though I don’t understand it and although it hurts beyond description… I know that it is a victory which is greater than I can fathom.

That is the only explanation, my best answer- I simply don’t get it and all my faith is still in Him.

Many thought my faith was foolish then. Foolish optimism. To be looking at what was an impossible escape and still proclaim God’s ability to intervene. To declare life where surety of death was indisputable.

I can only imagine what some think of my faith now. A faith which from all outwardly appearances lost its battle. A faith which seemingly fell short in the end. Such a faith could surely not survive, not now, not after such a disastrous loss.

However, it not only survived but is yet growing.

A faith which even now, amid heartbreak and loss, declares the righteousness of a God whose promises are for our good and whose love is steadfast. A faith that says yes God could have intervened but He stayed His hand… because His was a greater purpose than we could ever comprehend. And that in the greater picture, this heavenly victory will cause a ripple effect and continue to change the whole world, one heart at a time.

Foolish optimism, realistic faith. God’s victory didn’t look like the one I had imagined, hope for or prayed for ceaselessly. In fact His victory looks exactly like my definition of defeat. And it really sucks.

But my faith didn’t end with my mom’s earthly life. A faith which she had instilled and encouraged in me.

How can I be sure that He knew what He was doing? That He cares? That He was prepared for this when to us it is so sudden and so unexpected?

The small things. His small assurances.

Fun fact about me: I love libraries. I love walking through the aisles of books and always pray I pick a book that may be my next favorite. And as little and insignificant as the prayer seems, one carelessly and arbitrarily thought, He hears it and He answers it. I know that now.

Often I end up checking out a completely random book. I will grab something I’ve never heard of, something I am not sure I even really want to read. (Note: I have a to-read list on Goodreads nearing 1,200 books so I do not necessarily need to pick a completely random book ever… but I do).

I picked up such a book in November 2018.

For some reason I pulled that book off the shelf. And for some reason I brought it home and literally continuously renewed it for several weeks until… for some reason I finally decided to lay everything else aside and read it.

And for some reason I’m marveling at how He did that while also surprisingly not surprised.

The small assurances. When He whispers in that still small voice from the most unexpected of places at the most unexpected of times.

Not while everything feels it is collapsing in or when you’re crying out to Him, I’ve learned in those moments He simply holds you. Amid destruction He carries you to unshaken ground and He holds you. He doesn’t say anything, because there is nothing to say. It hurts. And nothing will make that better this side of heaven. Nothing will fully heal the loss until we are all reunited in the place where there is no more death and no more tears. He provides the comfort we need to keep our hope burning, though it may barely be a flicker.

And then when it is time He stokes the fire. That book I checked out in November, I finally set everything aside and read it. Tucked inside it’s pages was exactly what I needed to hear. Several things I needed to hear in fact. Including that which is included in the featured image of this post…

“Earthly hearts cannot always fathom divine reasoning.”

You are right God. And that’s okay. We were never meant to.

Meanwhile, He has also reminded me that after 40 years the Israelites made it to the Promised Land, Nehemiah did rebuild the wall and Jesus… well Jesus overcame the grave for all of us and in Him no goodbye is ever the last word but merely a until we meet again.

It still hurts. God’s still good. And although I have several books to read at home, I’m still going to the library.

** Bonus Quotes from “Such a Time as This” by Kate Breslin**

Because they were exactly what I needed and may be exactly what someone else needs too.

“I do not doubt Your message God. But I do wonder when…”

“Why had she assumed God would speak to her in some great audible sign, like a thunder-clap, lightning or burst of fire from the sky? Had anger and bitterness made her deaf to His whisper?”

“A strong belief in God is like forging steel; it must be repeatedly tested in fire, then cooled in the waters of His mercy before becoming resilient enough to withstand evil.”

** This last quote was written down with the others, but it was a couple of days later that I really felt its full effect. Story to follow in upcoming post.**

“Papa told me a boy only fails when he does not try,.. I think it must be the same for a girl.”

 

 

Child’s Play

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

2 Corinthians 5:7

One of my favorite games growing up was one which my sisters and I created titled “Pearl Harbor”.

We would go out to our front field which ran along the state route we lived by and starting in the back we would try to stealthily make it to the front before an “incoming enemy” (aka a car) was able to fire upon us. We would army crawl, jump over logs and take cover in the tall grass. When the enemy swept in, we would high-tail it to the back to start all over again. It was a game inspired by its cinema namesake, and built primarily on imagination. In our game the good guys always came out on top, sometimes with a few minor injuries but without a single casualty. #win.

Things looked bad, but we never lost hope. We never believed there was a reason to not have complete faith in our ultimate victory.

Looking back, it is astounding how the imagination can change. As we get older we are still tempted to let our imaginations run wild, though they seem to take a different direction when things look bad. They run wild with worst-case scenarios and ever-growing mountains and obstacles. All we see are the realities this world insists are unmovable- and most of the time it’s bad, it’s really bad.

Instead of believing there is no reason to doubt, we believe there is no reason to hope. We see defeat, not victory. The incoming enemy is fully armed and there is no shelter from the fire. Instead of our imaginations affecting how we see the world, what we see affects how we imagine the world to be. Instead of imagining the possibilities, we only see the impossibilities- the tests don’t look good, the bills are due, time is short and days are long.

Many of us at different times in our lives, may be one piece of bad news away from a breakdown, slipping into the black pit with no way out. A mindset of  “It’s impossible, it would literally take the hand of God…”

… The hand of God. Our grown up imaginations often seem to forget about His presence, as it runs amuck in all of its doomsday scenarios. But what if we redefined our imaginations’ job description? Not merely as some impractical childish foolishness but as a powerful and purposeful tool. A tool which helps us to walk in faith, even when what we see is bad. A tool to help ground us in a faith that cannot be shaken, a childlike faith.

A faith that doesn’t look back when leaving our comfort zones, such as Lot’s wife in Genesis. A faith that doesn’t look at the storm around us, but looks to the one leading us across the water. A faith that establishes truth amidst a doubting and dark world. A faith that is a rock Jesus can build His church on. An imperfect faith made perfect in Him.

Loving faith.

Painful faith.

Radical faith.

Total faith.

Can you imagine? I can, and I see a world overcome not by doubt or fear but by hope. Unspeakable hope that no matter what this world throws at us, the truth that the best is yet to come prevails. Knowing there is no situation too lost, no news too bad or circumstance too dark that God cannot reach it.

Our faith and our hope are not resigned to only when things are going well. It’s easy to declare hope and God’s faithfulness when all looks right in our world. True faith is knowing how bad it really is, how seriously hopeless the situation looks and sounds, being in the middle of it and choosing God’s ultimate truth over those worldly facts surrounding us.

Having faith doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. Having faith doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult. Having faith does mean that in the middle of the doubt, pain and fear you will have peace, hope and comfort- recalling what God has said, despite what you see and moving forward.

Having faith is fearlessly charging ahead, jumping over the obstacles, hitting your knees when necessary and running full speed to shelter. Those obstacles looked huge as we jumped and dove but from our shelter they no longer looked quite as large.

It’s the same now. When we look out at the obstacles from our shelter and mighty fortress, Jesus Christ, they no longer seem so impossible.

Walk by faith, not by sight. Don’t look back. Don’t look around. Look at Him. And just like in those childhood games, bring back up. Remember His words. And let what you see be transformed.

 

Jamie & Jesus

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Everywhere I can fit a photo frame has a photo frame. My reasoning- I love to be surrounded by the smiling faces and moments which have shaped my life. My parents and sisters, best friends and cousins, nephews and new adventures.

Alas, I believe many of you will agree with me that you could never fit every photo you have taken in your home. At least not neatly. In today’s world we take a massive amount of photos every year, if not within a single month depending on what events are taking place. However, it is alright because we have a solution to this problem – Facebook.

Personally, I love to look through photos on Facebook. To me it is such a great reminder of where I’ve been, where I am and where I am going. It reminds me just how many times I have been blessed, that God has brought me through and never failed. And sometimes I need that reminder. I look back and see all God has done and is doing; graduations, weddings, babies, careers and just life. And it astounds me because there was a period of time where I didn’t have the hope these things would come to pass.

That story is for another day, just know that I have a best friend named Jamie and she passed on May 9, 2011. For two years after her passing I struggled to stand in my shattered world. Then one day Jesus called. And here we are… which leads into today’s story –

It started out as a mere Facebook break and then God surpassed every imaginable thought in less than 48 hours.

Facebook breaks are mandatory amidst heavy homework days, and so I had wandered onto the site and after checking up on everyone’s current status started to go through my albums. Pictures, hundreds of pictures, over several years. I started with the most recent and ended up back in the late 2011s. And as I looked through the photos I was overcome with an unspeakable amount of gratitude and thankfulness and joy.

I couldn’t tell God how full looking at those photos made me because I do not know if a word has ever been invented to convey such meaning by a mortal tongue. Knowing how dark that period had been and seeing how much God had been working in our lives, even now just thinking about it I am setback in awe. And as I continued to wander back into the high school years I just found myself perfectly and completely content.

Eventually I downloaded a few photos to my phone, since I was going to be beginning a social media fast soon, and prepared to get back to homework. But as I clicked out of the Facebook pages and pulled up my assignments I had a thought. If you could have any picture from any time and place of anybody, what would it be? And it really struck me as a thousand ideas came to mind.

But then I had the one. If I could have a picture of anyone, anything at anytime. I thought

God, I have all these pictures of so many wonderful moments, of so many wonderful people. You have brought us through so much, it is overwhelming to think of everything we have done over the past 7 years, especially when at one point I didn’t believe in a tomorrow. But God if I could have one more picture… it would be of Jamie after May 9th. I have all these pictures of us and how You have blessed us and our lives have grown. But I would want one picture of her, after that day. 

And as I this conversation was passing through my mind in prayer I was full of joy and excitement. Because it wasn’t possible for me to even imagine what that picture would look like. I explained to God, that it was okay that I couldn’t have that picture because the mere fact that Heaven was a place too great for us to comprehend, too far beyond our imagination and wildest dreams – and the fact that was where she was – filled me with joy beyond explanation.

And so I settled back into doing my homework. End of story.

Wrong. What I wasn’t aware of at the time was how much I underestimated God’s love. I knew God was good. I knew God loved me. I knew all we have to do is ask. But for some reason I didn’t expect that he would listen to such a little conversation, a conversation which for me was little more than a fleeting thought process. Knowing it wasn’t possible, that one picture didn’t exist and never would and that was okay because I understood why. That why caused me joy, overflowing joy. I was at perfect peace and contentment.

Later that evening, homework finished, I jumped back on Facebook. Because you know, right before bed is a good time to do that (now you may realize why the social media fast was important.) And as I am scrolling I begin to think to myself how I had read all of this before and needed to go to bed. I decided on one more scroll and then it was lights out. That last scroll had me sitting straight up in bed.

It was a painting titled “First Day in Heaven”. It didn’t include the name of the artist but it was of a young girl hugging Jesus. And all I could think of was this was my picture. For twenty minutes I stared at it, I thanked God and even cried a little. Because it had been so random, and it was so perfect. I saved it to my phone and in absolute awe and peace and love laid back down.

As I began to sleep though I had a thought, what if I could have someone recreate the painting with Jamie as the girl hugging Jesus? Not possible. I had never heard of anyone having such a thing done. I had heard about having a photograph turned into a painting but I didn’t have a photograph just an idea and two “photographs” if you will that needed to be combined. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Go to sleep.

But sleep wouldn’t come. So at 11 pm I was on Google proving to my inner self that this wasn’t a thing, at least not anymore. And if it was, it had to be expensive. And Google proved me right. So back to bed I went.

Ten minutes later I was on Etsy. This is it. I will look just so that my mind will slow down. Expecting the same results I had received on Google, I am proved right once again. Except that the first result is about a pet portrait. Odd I thought, I didn’t want a pet portrait but everything else was – just how it had been on Google – a photograph to painting ordeal. As I continued to scroll the pet portrait link kept appearing at the top of the results.

So being late and slightly amused I clicked the link and began to read the artist’s bio. About to hop off, a statement catches my attention “we can discuss what background you would want for the portrait…”. She can improvise a background or scene. … Well that would work. But does she paint people? Dogs, yes. Really quite spectacularly. But people? Further investigation needed. The investigation proves fruitful, as I find she has done various projects from wedding portraits to portraits of athletes.

Thus, during the later part of the 11 o’clock hour I write her a message explaining the summarized version of the whole story along with the picture of the painting and some of the photos of Jamie which I had downloaded that day from Facebook. Because you know, I had downloaded the perfect photo which one would need in order to paint her into that painting, a random side profile shot during a ride home from our friend Katie’s.

Thinking I probably wouldn’t hear back from her for a couple of days and uncertain of what her answer would be I finally sank into the best sleep ever.

The best sleep ever ends waking up to a reply. She could do the painting. She would be honored to do the painting. And it would cost me almost exactly what my bonus check had been that month. All that is left is to decide on what size I want the portrait to be and for her to upload a personalized link for me to purchase it on. By the end of the next day the painting is ordered and paid for, and is just a matter of waiting out the next several weeks.

Over the next several weeks I kept the painting between God and I. While I wanted to run around and tell everyone this amazing story and that I had commissioned a painting… from Canada!… I stopped. I knew I would struggle to wait, did I really want to pull everyone into my struggle with me? And what if it didn’t look right? At this moment there was another thought, why couldn’t I keep it between God and I? Why couldn’t I spend the next several weeks turning to him every time I wanted to talk about it? Why couldn’t he be my go to while I waited? So for 6+ weeks I prayed over the painting, the artist, my family and friends reactions and joy and just celebrated how amazing and faithful and loving He is.

And we have never been closer. As excited as I was for the painting, a part of me was reluctant to see the super secret surprise conspiracy end. And then I realized it didn’t have to end. It was just the beginning.

Upon receiving the painting I titled it “Jamie and Jesus” and shared it with our family and friends. The joy it has created is beyond what I could ever imagine. We ordered three more for other family members and friends. Someone who never met Jamie is now intimately aware of her legacy and love. Her light is as bright as it as ever been.

Most importantly though, this painting is a continuous reminder of how deeply God loves us. Of how greatly he truly cares. Father we are beyond blessed, and you are not done yet. Such a small thing, unexpected, and yet such a mighty reassurance.

It’s not so much the painting but the story behind it. A picture that’s worth a thousand words. Words declaring his love.

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

Shout out and a huge thank you to MissysPortraits for creating the beautiful paintings!

I Do Declare

1, 2, 3, 4, I declare… a thumb war!

Just kidding. We will not be declaring any wars today, at least that was not my initial intention. However, a thumb war could be a great way to liven up a rather dull day and requires minimal preparation. Regardless, we will move on to what we are actually discussing, the word declare.

What is the first thing that pops in your head when you hear the word declare?

It may be a thumb war or an actual declaration of war. Maybe it is The Declaration of Independence. It could be a declaration of love or emotion such as when Scarlett O’Hara famously states “Oh, I do declare” in Gone with the Wind (and my bet is that you just read that in her voice).

My second question – what declarations do you make on a daily basis?

What have you declared today? What did you declare yesterday?

I have had this revelation that the word declare is not only a verb, but a verb which we actively employ everyday. Everything that we do and everything that we say is a declaration. Our words and actions declare hope or fear, love or hate, joy or anger, faith or lack thereof.

And maybe some of you are already well aware of the extent in which your declarations affect the world around you. Personally, I required a learning curve. You see one day I was reading some well-known verses out of Jeremiah, specifically Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

And for some reason (probably divine intervention) that word, “declares”, took hold of my attention. The Lord declares. And knowing who the Lord is, I would say his declarations carry quite a bit of weight. But I began to notice that the word declare was scattered throughout the Bible, beginning to end, varying situations, circumstances and people. And it hit me. The Lord is not the only one who declares things in the Bible. People did too. Human beings, created in God’s image, declared all sorts of things and not only in their words but through their actions, just like their Creator.

I had heard about making declarations and affirmations through various Bible Studies and knew that speaking life and stating your beliefs was important. But in my head that was part of waking up, you know you ran through what you believed and you went about your day. What I hadn’t taken to heart, was that after declaring those beliefs, the way we approached the rest of our day was a continuous declaration.

So, I decided to Google the word declare. And the result is what is pictured above this post. More than the definition, it is the synonyms which I found most surprising. To state, set forth, air, publicize, proclaim, vent… to vent. Out of all of those synonyms vent stopped me. Because while I would have liked to think of myself as someone who would “one day” proclaim or state or set forth, I knew I was someone who had and did vent. And what hit me was that to vent, was to declare, to set forth, to proclaim and to state. I had a moment when I realized it wasn’t that I hadn’t proclaimed or stated or set forth, it was what had I proclaimed, stated and set forth.

And as that sank in, I thought of what I had been declaring versus what I wanted to declare with my life. As a daughter of the Heavenly Father who over eternity had declared his love, beginning in Genesis to Noah and the earth with the rainbow in chapter 9 and then again when he established his covenant with Abram in chapter 15. Who declared his faithfulness through the wilderness in Exodus and again with the prophecy of the promised messiah who would come to save and not condemn the world in Isaiah. Who finally because he so loved the world gave his only begotten son, making the ultimate declaration of love to mankind and ultimate declaration of war on satan and his kingdom.

As a daughter of the King who had proven faithful and loving through every trial of my  own life, coming through in the smallest yet grandest of ways… I didn’t want to live a life which declared a mediocre faith. I didn’t want my declarations to most closely fit under its synonym of to vent. No, as his daughter, I didn’t want to vent I wanted to announce. I wanted to set forth. I wanted proclaim his name and his faithfulness and every work of his hand I had the honor and joy of witnessing.

I wanted to live a life which reflected Nehemiah who wouldn’t come down from the wall, or of Daniel who entered the lion’s den. I wanted my life to reflect David’s, who wrote Psalms which declared God’s righteousness, faithfulness and loving-kindness and that of Peter who stepped out of the boat. A life which such as Esther and Ruth and Mary declared complete surrender and trust in the one who is, was and will always be.

And as I was thinking all of these things a second revelation hit me, I didn’t need to be any sort of perfect or together in order to have a faith which reflected that of the Biblical heroes and heroines. Their stories too were full of ups and downs. They sometimes got it right, but usually only after they had gotten it wrong. Their declarations though always came back to and always illuminated the God and Creator whose faithfulness inspired their faith.

And that is what this page is for, declarations. It is a space in which we will declare the hope we have in Jesus. Declarations of hope and praise for what he has done, is doing and will do. A space in which to vent the implications of a fallen world and proclaim the reality of a savior which has overcome that same world.

Signing off, there are two questions:

What are you declaring?

And what do you want to declare?

Heavenly Father, Thank you for declaring your love and faithfulness to us, not only through Your words but deeds. God we are witnesses to the workings of Your mighty hand. As we enter into our day Lord help us to make our own declarations through word and deed so that we may reflect Your light and Your hope to all around us. We are excited Lord for we know what You have done and are doing does not compare to what you will do, we know that there is more to come. In Your Wonderful Name, Amen.