Beauty from Ashes

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Isaiah 61:3

To all who mourn in Israel,[a]
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

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Peace in the Storm

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Peace

Mark 4:39 – “Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”

Psalm 46:10a – “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God'”

Isaiah 26:3 – “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

Pondering the Plank

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Self-Awareness

John 3:20-21 – “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

So, I was reading this scripture during my quiet time, and it immediately brought to mind an individual in my life about whom I have been quite concerned. Some questionable things have recently come to light, and I wrote an entire little journal entry all about her and her transgressions. However, when I turned from my writings to continue reading, Matthew 7:3-5—the scripture about the plank in one’s own eye—came to mind. So, I gave the scripture above a second read and looked inward this time, reminding myself that there are still some dark and dusty corners in my own life that I have not been quick to shed light on. In doing so, God revealed to me some areas of growth that needed my attention more than did the shortcomings of any other individual.

He particularly brought to mind some of the challenges that I experienced in my transition into married life. My husband and I have been married for a whopping  six months now 😁, and while we are exceptionally open with each other, I know that there are things that I do that he doesn’t love (if you can believe that! 😳). Initially, when I discovered these little irritants, I would go out of my way to avoid conflict by…you know…relieving him of the burden of…um…knowing about them (Yikes!). I know! I know! That can never end well! It took about a month for me to stop hiding from him the little superfluous purchases here and there, my trips to Wendy’s for unhealthy fare, and my admittedly less than ideal snacking habits. Then, too, I had to remind myself of the notion that if I have to hide what I’m doing from my husband (or anyone close to me for that matter), I probably shouldn’t be doing it.

This is just one of the many areas of growth in my life. I would be here forever if I tried to list them all, because I have my own nice little share of flaws and faults. This passage was a great reminder that it really is easier to focus on others’ shortcomings than it is to acknowledge our own. No one is perfect, and we do ourselves and those around us a disservice when we fail to realize that we all have room to grow. Our job is not to condemn others for their faults (although sometimes, God does call us to aid in His correction), but rather to focus on acknowledging and seeking God’s help in correcting our own areas of weakness so that we are better prepared to serve as a vessel for God’s love, His light, His acceptance, and His forgiveness. (See my previous post on Forgiveness)

plank

Matthew 7:3-4 – “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Shine Your Light!

Thoughts, reactions, or testimonies? Leave a comment below! I look forward to hearing from you!

Picture 1: Obtained from http://karenhalliburton.com/3-Ways-Leaders-Become-SelfAware-Helping-Leaders-Grow.html

Picture 2: Obtained from https://humblewalk.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/the-plank-in-my-eye/

Letting Go

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FORGIVENESS

Mark 11:25 – “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.”

Forgiveness can be hard sometimes. Minor slights we often can easily absolve, but the wounds that cut deeply, particularly those from the people closest to us—who we thought we could trust with our hearts, our confidence, a portion of our lives—are often the hardest to excuse.

I’ve actually been dealing with this issue for a while now—trying to come to terms with a wound caused by individuals that I considered to be like family. The slight occurred years ago, and it is not something that I think of often (we no longer communicate); however, it surprises me, when the situation does come to mind, that I’m still hurt and offended when I think about it. I want so badly to forgive and forget; but my flesh, and this part of me that places undue importance on “understanding why,” has made that key part of the healing process somewhat elusive. And so, in this respect, I am still very much a work in progress.

The Bible shows us that God takes forgiveness very seriously. Before we pray (Mark 11:25) or even present our offerings (Matthew 5:23-24), we are to come with a clear heart, having resolved all conflicts and absolved all slights against us (both seeking and granting forgiveness when necessary). Oftentimes, as in my case, this process is not something that we can do in our own power, and we must look to God for the guidance and the strength to show grace to someone who has not earned it in any way—much like God shows us such grace each and every day.

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Mark 11:25, Luke 6:37, Colossians 3:13 are three of the many scriptures that draw the correlation between God’s forgiveness of our sins and our forgiveness of those who sin against us. While God’s promise of forgiveness should not be the motivating factor for our decisions to dole out absolution, it should serve as a model, an aim to strive for as we seek to be more like Christ and to love our neighbors as Christ loves us—with love, with grace, with patience, and with forgiveness.

Shine Your Light!

Thoughts, reactions, or testimonies? Leave a comment below! I look forward to hearing from you!

Additional Scriptures:

Luke 6:37 – “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Colossians 3:13 – “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Freedom in Forgiveness

Speak Life

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Self-Love

Proverbs 18:21 – “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

I was having a rough time. That’s not unusual. It happens to everyone on occasion. What was unusual, though, was that in this moment of weakness, I found myself thinking and speaking things about myself that were not indicative of who I am in Christ.

As I spoke with a close friend, lamenting about my woes, it was like God turned up an internal speaker, and I really HEARD myself. My friend commented that he saw a change in my expression as a steeliness came over me, and (he said) I developed a little glint in my eye. He asked, “What just happened?” I replied, “I just came back to myself. I just remembered who I am and Whose I am.”

Life can be hard. Jesus told us that it would be in John 16:33, and most of us have experienced it at one point or another. In those moments of struggle, it is so easy to give in and believe the voice of the enemy that whispers to our weakness, “Give up,” “You can’t do it,” “It’s too hard,” “You’re not good enough…strong enough.” And then we may find ourselves thinking, and sometimes even saying these things about ourselves: “I’m not smart enough,” “I’m not attractive enough,” “I don’t deserve love,” “I’m not qualified for that job,” “I’ll never achieve my dream.”

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Proverbs 23:7 says that as a man thinketh so he is. Our thoughts and words have power! “Life and death lie in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21). If we speak something over ourselves and our lives enough times (even in jest), in time, we begin to internalize those messages. So, why not say something positive? Hey, my mom always taught me, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all–even about yourself! (Ephesians 4:29). 😉

Instead of buying into the words of the enemy—of fear and self-doubt—speak LIFE over your situation, your health, your job, your relationships, your finances! Claim your victory and embrace God’s promises! Speak LIFE, and not death, and watch your thoughts and words lift your spirit and create an atmosphere for God to move in a mighty way.

Shine Your Light!

Thoughts, reactions, or testimonies? Leave a comment below! I look forward to hearing from you!

Additional Scriptures:

Ephesians 4:29 – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Matthews 12:37 – “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Photo 1: Obtained from https://sarasmusings.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/the-power-of-words/

Photo 2: Obtained from https://steemit.com/etymology/@cryptogee/changing-the-mind-with-the-power-of-words

Revisiting Rest

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Psalm 55:6 – “I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.’”

Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”

I was reading a devotional this morning by Curtis Zackary titled, “Soul Rest,” and in it, he referenced the notion of “staving off the idol of productivity.” That one blew my mind for a second. The “idol of productivity”?? I had never considered the possibility that productivity could be an idol; and the more that I reflected on the notion, the more convicted I felt.

I admit, I am one of those people who often feels guilty when I’m not being productive. I mean, there’s just SO MUCH TO DO! My list is miles long (I don’t remember the last time I saw the end of it), and I admit that I often feel that time resting and doing absolutely nothing equates to time wasted that could be better used checking off my “to dos.”

My husband is really great about lovingly calling me on that little flaw, taking whatever I’m working on out of my hands, and leading me to a space where I can truly rest, rejuvenate, and remember that God has got this; the world really will not end if I take a break. In fact, I am learning (and often have to remind myself) that when I take these moments of rest, I often return to the task refreshed and better prepared to operate more effectively and efficiently. The alternative, of course, is going until I burn out and getting to a place where I do not accomplish anything with excellence.

Panda Rest

Do you ever find yourself in a similar quandary—your mind and body begging for a break while your To Do List “glares” at you accusingly? I promise you that it’s okay, and oftentimes even imperative, to take a moment for yourself. It may be a quick 2-minute reprieve to do a deep breathing exercise, a 15-minute tea break, an hour-long walk in the park, or a 6-month sabbatical or world tour. Your break should take whatever form best suits your life and your needs. Just make sure that you take it. You, your work, your responsibilities, and your loved ones will be better off for it in the long run.

Lions Rest

Shine Your Light!

Thoughts, reactions, or testimonies? Leave a comment below! I look forward to hearing from you!

Additional Scriptures:

Mark 6:31 – “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”

Psalm 127:2 – “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

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Photo 1: Obtained from https://www.booksie.com/491690-rest

Photo 2: Obtained from http://www.xeeok.com/desk_big_259606_1.html

Photo 3: Obtained from http://openwalls.com/image?id=29753