My Extra is Someone Else's Everything

my extra is someone else's everything on devotional diva christmas guest post series 2014[Guest post by Jo Ann Erwin: Jo Ann just recently posted in November, but I couldn’t turn this wonderful post from her away for our Christmas guest post series! I love the story of the widow in Mark & Luke, and Jo Ann’s story of how her extra was someone else’s everything is a great thing to remember at Christmas.]

On two occasions I have heard someone say “that is too good to just give away.” When I heard it, both times, I immediately thought of the widow who gave all that she had.

Mark 12:42-44  And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.   And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all THEY did cast in of their abundance: but she of her want, did cast in all that she had, even all her living. 

This story is told twice in the Bible, once in Mark and once in Luke.  This is such an important lesson that God made sure it was in there twice.  The nameless widow, that gave all that she had, and gave selflessly, was brought to the attention of Jesus’ disciples and written about in the Bible.

Luke 21:3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all.

She gave her all.  Now that’s trust. That’s faith.

I am not suggesting you give everything that you own away.  But let me tell you a story about my recent experience.

I decided it was time to clean out my closets.  The first area I tackled was my coat closet.   Yes, the dreaded coat collection:  More coats than any one person can ever wear in one lifetime.

How does this happen? I mutter to myself as I am looking them over. Two coats don’t make the cut and have to go. One down-filled coat with a hood, and one black pea coat that I have never worn.

So along with a couple of hooded sweatshirts, the items go into my car, headed for the consignment store.  Won’t hurt to make a little extra money, right?  

But a little voice inside me is saying, “You are going to give these coats away today, just keep going, I’ll get you to where they belong.”  

Soon after, I left home to deliver some Christmas decorations to a couple of friends that had recently lost theirs due to mold issues. Besides, I have too many decorations that never make it out of their boxes each year, so why was I keeping all that stuff?

I made the first drop and no, they didn’t need any winter coats.

Ok, keep going. I thought.

I get to my second destination and am unloading Christmas decorations and she is thanking me as she is carrying her grandson on her hip, telling me that times have been hard for her since she is raising her grandson now.

I pull the last of the decorations out of the back seat and I see the clothes…

“Hey, do you need some sweatshirts?” I ask.

Her reply: “Yes, all of my clothes are too big for me now since I’ve lost so much weight from chasing my grandson.”

Now I see where this is going Lord. Thank you. 

I ask, “Do you also need a winter coat?” Her reply, “Yes, I do not have a coat!”

So when I pulled out the down-filled coat, her face lit up like the Christmas tree lights that she was getting ready to put up.   

“Oh, I have wanted a puffy coat like that!”

Then I pulled out the second coat, and she is almost in tears now. “Oh my, I love that coat too, and I can wear it to church!”

I left with an empty car, and a full heart.  My cup runneth over. I could not believe how my EXTRA was her everything.

jo ann erwin on devotional divaJo Ann Erwin lives in Paris, TN and has raised two college graduates, Melanie and Matthew. She is also mom to one precious poodle-mix named Molly and one high-maintenance cat named Moma Kitty.  Jo Ann volunteers for the local homeless shelter and has for the past 15 years, fully believing that we are all equal in God’s eyes and we all deserve chances through-out our lives to make things right.

This guest post is part of the first-ever Devotional Diva Christmas guest post series entitled, “The Gifts God Has Given You.” Look for more posts with this theme now until December 23rd!

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Peace and Joy

peace and joy devotional diva christmas guest post series 2014 christian blog[Guest post by Rebekah Carrington: Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones, but this post really tugged at my heart! I know exactly what kind of peace and joy Rebekah is talking about and it’s certainly a gift from God!]

 

There is heaven and earth and then there are some places where the two seem to converge blurring the lines of reality.

One such place is a senior citizens home residing at the top of a hill with a sign that reads Fairhaven. If you are not careful, you will look at it but miss seeing the glimpses of glory and beauty inside just as one can miss the forest for the trees.

For some reason, God gave me a chance to see this place.  To look past the brick, sanitary smell, old carpet, and fading colors on the walls and see the divine occurrences here.

For the enchantment of this home was not in its structure but in the hearts of its residents.

On Tuesday evening, six of us entered the room wearing our favorite dresses and hearts full of anticipation and giddiness. As we stepped foot into the grand room in Fairhaven, it seemed we had stepped back in time as streams of jazz music filled the room, staff members handed out punch and cookies, and residents were dressed in their finest.

We wandered around the room greeting the men and women who were attending this senior prom. I had the privilege of talking with some incredible gentleman who talked about the olden days and shared war stories that painted scenes of air force raids, dancing as the navy ship ported for the evening, and reuniting with their loved ones. There were two men who danced every time the orchestra began to play and they were seldom seen dancing with the same girl.  

Mr. Alvin twirled me around the dance floor and told me about his former days of dancing with his wife. His eyes were soft and his reminiscent tone pulled at my heartstrings.  His friend also was quite the dancer and even despite his back surgery, he was spinning me and once the song ended, immediately went in search of the next available young woman to dance with.

After the song ended, I spotted a woman sitting wearing bright orange and a beautiful necklace. As I knelt beside her chair, she introduced herself as Ollie and from that moment on I hung to every word.  She was an artist, made pottery, and told me of her travels to Germany, Hawaii, Austria, and France.

Ollie informed me she almost did not come to Prom that night but in the last minute, she said she did not “get beautified for nothin’.”

A few moments later, a girl with a microphone and sashes in hand got up and announced the Prom Queen and King. I looked at Mrs. Ollie and she was clapping.  I bent down and said “Mrs. Ollie did you hear?” She told me she didn’t have her hearing aids in and could not hear the names but she was happy.

I laughed as I looked at her innocent and genuine smile and said “Mrs. Ollie, they called you! You won Prom Queen!”

You would have thought she won Miss America with the shock and wide smile that spread across her face. Two girls came and put a sash on her and gave her red roses. She looked at me and motioned for me to bend to hear her. As I did she whispered, “My son will be so proud”.

Tears began to form in my eyes as I stood amazed that something so simple and seemingly small brought so much joy and sense of accomplishment. As a dental student there came and talked to us, he grabbed Mrs. Ollie’s hand and asked if he could be honored to dance with her. As I watched her smile as she swayed I could picture her dancing in heaven in the presence of the Lord she loved. She looked like an angel on that dance floor. 

I learned much from these wise men and women. Each with their own stories, adventures, and personalities.  I could feel the presence of God in that place and even those who were seriously sick or confined to a wheelchair had so much peace and joy that could only come from Him.

rebekah carrington on devotional divaRebekah Carrington is a recent college grad and wife who now resides in Tennessee. She loves spontaneous adventures and traveling around the country, being outdoors, and drinking copious amounts of coffee. She loves walking out this journey the Lord has for her surrounded by a beautiful community of people.

This guest post is part of the first-ever Devotional Diva Christmas guest post series entitled, “The Gifts God Has Given You.” Look for more posts with this theme now until December 23rd!

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Giving is Possible with God

giving is possible with god anything is possible with god devotional diva christmas guest post series 2014[Guest post by Ifeoma Samuel: I thought this was a great post to kick off our Christmas guest post series, “The Gifts God Has Given You.” Let’s remember that anything is possible with God!]

I am a passionate Sunday school teacher. I love my Sunday school kids, so I call them my kids. I see them as cute little projects in God’s hands. Earlier in the year, God had laid it in my heart to bless all my kids with Bibles. There are quite a lot of them — over 45 in number.

I had look beyond the cost of purchasing these items. Trusting God for a miracle was all I had to do. As I obeyed, God led my feet to someone who undoubtedly gave her heart to fulfilling this assignment.

As I spoke with this person, Lauren, without hesitation God used her and she agreed to help. Other people also made donations. God had people ready and waiting for the go-ahead. There was great grace for the assignment. Alas! It happened.

I learned a big lesson. God had proved to me that if he sends you, He will without fail make all else available. Just trust him and obey.

All my kids received their Bibles. It was a surprise. Their eyes lit up like little torches. There are no words to express how I felt.  This scripture popped up in my head.

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:40

When God nudges you to meet a need, He gives you the provision. Obey and trust Him. He will raise helpers that will gracefully bring that desire to pass.

As we prepare to shop for gifts this wonderful season, I would like you to have this in mind.

  1. Reaching out should be from the heart. Don’t do it to impress people.
  1. God rewards you. God’s Commendation should be sought after rather than praise from people.
And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
Matthew 10:42
  1. When you give with love, you address a need. You shouldn’t give amiss; it’s like you read the receiver’s heart.
  2. Be a compassionate giver. When you give out of compassion, you give out a part of your heart. People can see the sincerity of your love.
  1. There is joy in giving. When you cheerfully obey the Holy Spirit in your giving, the joy you experience is inexplicable. Nothing gives more joy than seeing your gift mean so much to the person that received.
  1. Your actions and words are of more value than the gifts you bear. A warm hug, tender kisses, kind words, hearty smiles, etc. reflect your thoughts.

There are a lot of ways to reach out to people in this festive season. Step out of your regular routine. This Christmas should not be all about your family and friends. Reach out to the unreached. Give hope to the hopeless. Allow God use you as a vessel unto honour.

ifeoma samuel on devotional divaIfeoma Samuel is privileged to be a woman after God’s heart. She is happily married to her sweet heart, Obiora and serves the Lord fervently in children’s ministry as a Sunday school teacher. She is also a Christian blogger and writer. You can find her blogging regularly at Purposeful and Meaningful.

This guest post is part of the first-ever Devotional Diva Christmas guest post series entitled, “The Gifts God Has Given You.” Look for more posts with this theme now until December 23rd!

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Your Maker is Your Husband

your maker is your husband devotional diva[Guest post by Kendra Arsenault: It’s so hard to just try to imagine the love Christ has for us. It’s posts like these that really get me praying.]

I stood there lifeless, unable to hope, ashamed to be seen, abused by self and abused by others. It was my second…third… fourth… no fifth, maybe sixth failed relationship.

Chasing, yet never obtaining. Compromised yet never respected, I had willfully agreed to be used rather than loved and the light of hope was soon fading. I was emptied out of my storehouse, how could I be filled again? How could dignity be restored?

“Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep,” were my unspoken thoughts to God,“From where will you get this life giving water?”  Then there came a whispered voice; it was my voice, calling out to Him with my last bit of strength: “If you could show me who you are, I would follow you to the ends of world…”

Not long after would Jesus answer this prayer. And the unsealed fountains of my heart that poured forth it’s affections in exchange for love, security and identity would soon be stopped up by the King. It would pour forth only for Him.

“They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.”  (Revelation 9:4).

There is much to be understood about the seal of God, much cause of meditation. The seal of God is the seal set upon the fountain of the heart, securing the outflow of it’s affections for Christ alone. It is a seal upon the mind, directing it’s energies heavenward, in meditation upon His word. With a heart that was bleeding for love and a desire to be called as someone’s own, the message I needed to hear more than ever was “Your Maker is Your Husband, the Lord of hosts is His name.” (Isaiah 54:5).

Renouncing my former life, I soon began to pursue the one whom my soul loved. I began to learn Hebrew and the book that became the object of my study was The Song of Solomon. The interplay of love between the divine and human was the answer for how I could relate to Christ, how and what I should be praying for, how to have my heart knit with His in empathy for Him and in unity with His will.

“Who is the Son of Man that I might believe in Him?”

The masculine figure of the story is Solomon whose name means “peace”. But more than a feeling, Solomon is the word for a “garment”, “covering yourself with light as with a garment (sholomah).” (Psalms 104:2). He is a covering to the nakedness of the woman. He is a guard about her weakness, a protector of her trust. The feminine counterpart of the story is named “Shulamite”, which is the feminine form of the name “Solomon”. She represents humanity who has been given the privilege to be a covering to the nakedness of Christ.

It has always been difficult for me to see God as someone who I could have a close intimate relationship with. People seemed so much more tangible, the human touch so much more substantial. But it wasn’t until I understood that God came to make Himself human, to display His humanity, to subject Himself to be affected by His bride—encouraged by her faith and ravished by her infidelity—that I started to realize that He is the substance. He is more affected by our love and pained by our rejection than any earthly companion could be. His capacities are infinite while His ties of sympathy are human.

When I understood that Christ was affected, right now, by my decisions; that He exists now in great vulnerability, hushing the songs of angels that He might hear the cry of one poor soul struggling in their sin, distressed by the enemy, I knew that Paul never spoke in high language or poetic tones, but that He spoke plainly about Jesus.

All earthly love is but a shadow, fickle and fleeting, compared to Him who is substance, Him who remains even unto death, even the end of the world.

Should we look for another when the richest, gentlest, strongest, meekest, most magnificent and awe-inspiring man in the universe has cast His eye upon us? It is the bride who realizes that He is “the desire of women”, “the desire of all nations” that Jesus will say, “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.” (Daniel 11:37; Haggai 2:7; Song of Solomon 4:12). For “Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? Let them be only your own, And not for strangers with you.” (Pro 5:15-17).

My heart was won and He, my all. The seal represents those who have found rest in the house of their Husband and have contented themselves with all that He is and will provide.

“The LORD grant you that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband.” (Ruth 1:9).

kendra Arsenault on Devotional DivaKendra Arsenault is a student of biblical research and semitic languages as well as an author and co-host for “Song of Solomon Radio.” She is a passionate producer of Christian media and is currently working on two documentaries: “Omega of Apostasy” and “Behold the Man”. You can learn more about Kendra at awakenlove.org.

photo credit: Nathan O’Nions via photopin cc

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A Christian Fairy Tale

devotional diva christian love story[Guest Post by La Micia Genova: I’m thrilled for you to “meet” La Micia today because, although our stories are different, La Micia and I both dealt with depression before God gave us our knights in shining armor. I’m all about princesses and fairy tales and this is an awesome Christian fairy tale!]

Do you believe God can give you a happily ever after? I’ve done things my way for 20 years and when I finally came to God, he gave me my fairy tale.

I probably made just about every mistake a teenager and young adult could make, and what’s crazy is I grew up in the Church! From impurity to drunkenness, I was a mess. When I submitted to Gods way of doing things I saw Gods plan for me come to life. 

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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

As I grew in my relationship with God, and really applied the “seeking” part of the passage in Jeremiah, I began to see him move in my life in powerful ways. From my friendships, to my family life, and eventually, my dating life.

As a hopeless romantic, I always prayed for my knight in shining armor to magically arrive and constantly asked God for the desires of my heart.

Growing up, what young girl doesn’t want to live out the Disney movie fairy tales? I was no different then the majority of girls my age and I never grew out of this phase. I continued believing this was possible, but heartbreak after heartbreak led me to feel God’s hand was against me.

This all changed in a vacant lot in south side Chicago in 2010.

I was 20 years old and had just given my life to Christ. I was at a conference in Inglewood, Chicago helping our volunteer group clean up vacant lots. I was dirty, tired, and focused on the cause. This was not the place I expected to meet my knight in shining armor. It was cleaning this lot that God intervened in my life for what later turned out to be a fulfillment of one of favorite scriptures in psalms.

            “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”

            Psalm 37:4

I met Patrick G.

At the time I had no idea that this was who God had planned for me to spend the rest of my life with, but as three years went by, you could say my eyes finally were opened.

One night Patrick began to open up to me about his struggle with depression and I felt like for the first time ever, someone understood me, the real me.

I grew up dealing with depression, and felt that no one could really understand.  I was constantly fatigued and didn’t know why. I had so many self-defeating thoughts, I really hated myself, I still struggle with this to this day, but at least I have a name for this monster. When Patrick got vulnerable with me about his fight with depression and how it made him feel, I felt like my feelings weren’t all that crazy.

I realized that I am not in this fight alone and that God has put a guy in my life that could understand me. From this conversation forward we leave off where my book, Becoming Ms. G picks up. I hope and pray you enjoy the rest of the journey that God has taken me on with my knight in shining armor, Patrick.

lamicia genova on devotional divaLa Micia really has a heart for doing Gods work and being a voice for women who deal with depression, anxiety, and self esteem issues. La Micia created a blog called “No Place to Lay”, www.noplacetolay.com this year to share the ways God is working in her life through struggles. You can purchase her book, Becoming Mrs. G here.

photo credit: Express Monorail via photopin cc

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Gratitude for Daily Blessings

thanksgiving gratitude daily blessings devotional diva[Guest post by Jo Ann Erwin: Jo Ann sent me two samples from her “Daily Blessings” writings, but I was very partial to this one due to my pet-loving nature. I thought the message of gratitude was perfect to leave off with just before Thanksgiving here in the US. There will be no Saturday post, and now Devotional Diva is officially on Thanksgiving break! New posts will resume on December 2nd.]

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength. O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name!

1 Chronicles 29:11-13

Today, I was putting out treats for my cat, Moma Kitty, and my dog, Molly, as I do every morning on my way out the door. As I was reaching into the bag of cat treats, I looked down at Moma Kitty, who was waiting patiently and expectantly, with big eyes that are watching my every move.

I say to her “Here’s your treat, Moma, for doing absolutely nothing!”

I say that because I give Molly a treat when she goes outside on her leash and takes care of her business like the good dog that she is. I am thankful that she waits for her “outside” time and doesn’t use the rugs as her toilet.

So Molly gets a treat for being house trained and obeying her alpha, but now the cat is a whole ‘nother story. Cats aren’t house trained; cats can pee and poop at will, with the litter box always ready, and she still gets a treat every time Molly does, with no effort on her own part.

She just exists and still gets the blessing.

So… as I was putting the treats into the cat’s dish, telling her how blessed she is for this treat that she made no effort in earning, it hit me…this is just what God does with me.

I am going about my everyday life, working my routine, going to the office to earn money so I can buy these treats for my animals, and blessings are just falling into my lap when I did absolutely nothing to deserve them.

And I know where they are coming from — I give Him the glory.

Just as Moma Kitty was purring and content knowing that the treat was coming out of my hand and into her dish, I smiled and my eyes were opened to the revelation that my treats will come from the hand of God — just because — for no other reason but to show his love for me.

Now doesn’t that make for a great day!!??

 jo ann erwin on devotional divaJo Ann Erwin lives in Paris, TN and has raised two college graduates, Melanie and Matthew. She is also mom to one precious poodle-mix named Molly and one high-maintenance cat named Moma Kitty.  Jo Ann volunteers for the local homeless shelter and has for the past 15 years, fully believing that we are all equal in God’s eyes and we all deserve chances through-out our lives to make things right.

photo credit: Ron Cogswell via photopin cc

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Be Transparent & Get Naked

be transparent and get naked[Guest post by Alicia Gill: I’m usually one to be pretty direct and honest; I have trouble holding in sour emotions. In this post, Alicia’s Sunday school student gives a great example of being transparent, letting it out, and “getting naked.”]

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 (NIV)

A few years ago, I taught a very sweet high school Sunday school class. The girls in there had such a love for the Lord, it was beautiful. Halfway through the year, we had a new girl join the class. To say that this new girl did not want to be there would be an understatement.

It’s not that she didn’t have a heart for the Lord, she did; it was about the fact that her family had just moved churches and she was not happy with that. She did not want to leave her previous church. She did not want to be in our class. She wanted to be back with the friends she loved and was comfortable with at her old church.

One Sunday morning, we had an opportunity to share with one another our feelings, worries, happiness; anything that was going on in our lives. The sweet new girl who never really talked much in class, really gave us an earful that morning. She let us know how unhappy she was, how she was sad about leaving her church, how she felt the girls in our church were just one big click that she was never going to fit in with, and if she could, she would go right back to where she came from.

She let it all out, or, as her sweet momma would call it, she “got naked.”

I felt terrible for how the new girl was feeling, it hurt my heart to know that she didn’t think she would fit in and that she didn’t want to give the other girls a chance at friendship. I was also worried about how hurt the other girls would be to be called a clique. Before class let out, I let the new girl know just how glad we were she was with us; That we loved her being a part of the class and that I hoped she would give us a chance to show her just how much we could love on her.

Being so transparent was risky. The new girl showed us her insecurities and vulnerabilities by opening up in such a raw way. But, you know what? Beautiful relationships were formed from it. The other girls had thought the new girl didn’t want to be friends; that she just didn’t want to have anything to do with them. Opening up like that let them know that they were all feeling the same way. It gave them an opportunity to love on her and show her that they did want to have meaningful relationships with her. It gave her an opportunity to take a chance on new friendships. To this day, they are all very close.

“Getting naked” about who we are is a risk.

But, it is that risk that can help us to establish real, intimate friendships. Friendship is a beautiful thing. The Lord gave us the gift of being able to develop friendships because He knew we would need each other to get through this life. But the only way to really develop those lasting, intimate friendships is to get naked and open ourselves up to taking a risk at forming lifelong bonds. It gives us the freedom to be who we are without having to explain ourselves or hide away any part we are afraid to let others see.

Take the risk: Get naked. Being transparent can be an open door to creating intimate friendships that last a lifetime.

John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (NIV)

 

alicia gill on devotional divaAlicia Gill. Type A wife, mom and home manager. I’m learning to see life through God’s eyes as I strive to know Him better and share what I learn with the others. When I’m not blogging, I enjoy running, cake decorating (the reason I run), photography, endurance challenges with my husband & 3 boys, all the while depending on His unending grace, love & forgiveness.

photo credit: flavio.leone via photopin cc

 

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The Magnitude of Our Gratitude

magnitude of our gratitude[Guest post by Sherrie Harris: Sherrie sent in this post that is perfect for this thanksgiving time! Please enjoy her inspiring story of gratitude and grace.]

As the girls entered the room, trickling in one or two at a time, their faces shone with gratefulness and possibilities. They began to cry out in unadulterated and uninhibited praise, as the tears of answered prayers streamed down their faces. “God is faithful,” they confessed. “God is faithful!”

In 2012, I had the privilege of ministering to and serving women and children in Africa, during a missions’ trip with like-minded servant leaders.  Our team traveled to Kenya with the hope of resembling the sheep of Matthew 25.

“All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’” Matthew 25:32-36

The journey was one of the most life-altering gifts I’ve received in service to others. I’m richer in perspective, wonder, and gratitude.

Heartrending snapshots from that time remain imprinted on my heart. Watching small faces pressed against makeshift school walls, anxious to partake, but lacking the uniforms needed to join their peers. Rows of cribs filled with abandoned babies left to find hope. Stories of abuse from the innocent. Children raising their voices in song as gifts. Female prisoners that cried of unjust justice. Girls entering a small room, erupting in praise after seeing their new décor and freshly painted walls inscribed with words like, “Dream Big,” “Love,” and “Inspire.” The scene swelled my heart, blood rushed with joy.

It was just one of contributions during the trip. Though amateur, we gave it our personal best. It felt amazing and humbling to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We couldn’t take ownership for the idea, skill, or materials. God owns everything. We manage a little.

The girls stood there weeping and praising, praising and weeping, confident in their truth. God, helper of the fatherless, mobilized a few ordinary people to travel across the waters to adorn their dream space with love and inspired faith. Though they were visibly obliged, I suspect their gratitude was less about us, and more about God’s unconditional love for them.

No lack of earthly possessions or hardship could separate them from the love of Christ. There were no distractions between them and Jesus.

At times, the magnitude of our gratitude is amplified by the distance our blessings travel to find us, the degree to which the impossible becomes possible in our lives, and the level of sacrifice required to serve us. The evidence of Jesus inspires gratitude. He paid it ALL!

Thanksgiving is near. Life itself is enough to be thankful for and many of us have been graced to receive renewed and abundant life. Some will gather with family and friends, celebrate connection, eat until they can’t, and store leftovers for the days to come.

What better season to give praise, radical praise! Not for how many (or few) possessions you have, those things are temporal, but for eternity and the hope thereof. Give thanks for the demonstration of God’s love in your life and works of His people. Give thanks for grace.

“And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” Acts 4:33-34

You don’t have to travel across the waters to serve one another in love, open the doors of your homes and hearts this holiday. Share what you’ve been so richly blessed to receive. Put no distractions between you and Jesus.

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

 

sherrie harris on devotional divaSherrie Harris is a woman of faith, pastor’s wife, proud mommy, career professional, servant leader, an introvert with spurts of extrovertism, encourager, coach, and a few or more laughs. Sherrie created a new blog called aPOP, http://aplaceofpower.com this year to share her heart with other women and open up a virtual gathering place for women to be inspired, encouraged, challenged, and provoked!

Photo provided by Sherrie Harris.

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Hope with Painted Wings

hope on devotional diva[Guest post by Rebecca Lamarche: This post is a two-fer! First, Rebecca shares a poem. Then, she has an “insight” that is more devotional style. I hope you enjoy Rebecca’s wordsmithery and viewpoint on hope as much as I did!]

Hope with Painted Wings

From the genesis of forming me inside my mother’s womb

Through the exodus from innocence so early in my youth,

In the desert of my wandering, I was thirsting for my purpose,

And You led me through the sandstorms to oases of Your truth.

 

From every bucket of belief I drew from wells of tainted water,

You dipped ladles full of murky thoughts and turned them into wine.

You did miracles of transformation, restoration, healing ~

Oh, I wonder at Your power and Your tender love divine.

 

You’ve remade me from the broken shards of clay You crushed to powder,

And on the Potter’s wheel Your artist’s hand remolded dreams.

In Your faithfulness You walked with me from pain to perseverance,

From perseverance onward into hope with painted wings!

 

Your Word, now, is the compass that I follow on my journey,

My future holds new promise with a purpose from Your mind,

And from the splintered crosses that I’ve built and nailed myself to,

You resurrect my true self from the life I’d crucified.

Rebecca Lamarche, 2013 I BORROWED DAVID’S HARP, Westbow Press /Thomas Nelson Publishers

 

Shame.

Fear.

Captivity.

These are the splattered  black stains crippling our destinies.

It’s shrapnel from a childhood reprimand, words stinging like a scorpion’s tail, assuring us we are but a sorry disappointment.  It’s the hot wave that rises from neck to face in red humiliation when mockery and ridicule is pronounced over us.

Shame is when the leviathan of guilt and regret wraps its constricting tentacles around our woundedness…   We feel compelled to lock ourselves into a pointless, twisted sort of resignation  to succumb to an existence without hope, instead of a life bound for dreams.  We declare ourselves unworthy.

Such can be the colorless subsistence of the mind tortured by Shame;  and Shame’s offspring are the self-lies and the fears that mutilate our relationships and sabotage our destinies.

Yet, there is a Way, through Truth, to Life…

In our formative years, so many events and influences affect whom our personality ultimately portrays.  We each learn to hide our vulnerabilities and weak spots; and we develop coping behaviors that are often self-destructive, and are built on self-lies that need to be washed in Truth!

The psychological stepping stones of an individual’s belief system – the inner “rules” by which the brain tells each of us how we need to play our personal game of Life – are placed into order based on how they ‘drive’ us into action:

1)  Core Beliefs drive…
2)  Thought,  which drive…
3)  Emotions, resulting in…
4)  Actions  and reactions.

We view life’s events, and conduct our relationships, through the lens of experiences that have etched a belief system into our subconscious. We interpret circumstances and process events by forming thoughts that reinforce that core belief.  If memories are painful, it is here that our survival instinct can develop a misguided set of “rules”, or core beliefs;  hence,   misunderstanding, suspicion and self-lies are born, because our beliefs may be founded on untruth.  For example, a child bit by a dog forms the belief, “all dogs bite”,  concluding (thought) “all dogs will bite me”.

Those thoughts drive emotions of fear, even perhaps hatred, thus determining the way that she will instinctively  act, or react, around dogs to survive and avoid pain.  The belief that all dogs bite is faulty, resulting in unnecessary and crippling fear.  If later in life she marries a dog-breeder,  to survive her subconscious phobia, she may take copious amounts of anti-anxiety medication, developing an addiction that self-destructs her health and relationships.  Now, replace “all dogs” with core beliefs about “all men”…

God ladles all self-lies and fears out of the well of our tainted thoughts, transforming them into truths that set us free from self-deceptions and painful dysfunction.   He dips into His Word and pours truth and healing over us, His endless wellspring purifying our core beliefs and thoughts, that we might see ourselves as God created us, revealing our infinite value to Him.  With this new “mind of Christ”, our entire selves are transformed by constant renewal. This reinstates within us shame-free, fear-free, healthy  emotions that reflect in positive behaviors,  healing in relationships, and restored daring to dream!

Life doesn’t always fly on painted wings, but hope does!  Float free on the winds of the Holy Spirit until you reach your destiny!

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

 

rebecca lamarche on devotional divaAs an Author and  Bible Teacher, Rebecca Lamarche hangs her cowgirl hat in beautiful Austin, TX.  She has a passionate faith, undaunted by life’s many challenges that have made her road steep and rocky at times.  She walks in intimacy and power with Jesus, shepherding women through healing, deliverance and wholeness through her ministry, Spirit Alive Women.  Her new book, I BORROWED DAVID’S HARP is a collection of personal worship psalms and stories, much like David, who sang his experiences in poetry and praise​ to the God in whom he placed his trust.

photo credit: voodoo@zjy via photopin cc

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Finding Your Identity in Christ

finding-your-identity-in-christ-on-devotional-diva [Guest post by Ashley Linne: Sometimes I think, we as humans get wrapped up in ourselves and don’t stop to think about what a massive universe God has created. When we realize how small we are, it can be unsettling. But it can also give us to comfort to know that, even though we’re only one of His creations, we all have an identity in Christ.]

I’ve been asking God who I am for what seems like forever. Not just “What should I be when I grow up?” although that has been a very frequent topic of discussion between the two of us. Most of the time, though, the questions are more along the lines of “Do I matter? Is who I am loveable or even just acceptable?”

Finally, one night I felt He answered me clearly. That night, as I was nestled safely in my bed, He lovingly whispered, “It doesn’t matter who you are. I AM.”

When it comes to finding our identity in Christ, what matters most in that sentence is “Christ.” The truth is, no matter who I am, Christ is the same today as He was yesterday and a thousand years before that. He is. He is God. He is the One who walked on water, who raised the dead, who spoke through prophets, who spoke the very universe into existence. And I am a very, very miniscule part of that universe. In ten thousand years it won’t matter who I am. What will matter is who God is.

Even though I am merely a speck of dust in this vast expanse, God undeniably cares for me.

I don’t know that I’ll ever really under­stand how or why. Maybe that’s okay. If He cares for me, He cares for you and billions upon billions of other people too. If He spent an incomprehensible number of years creating His divine rescue plan and executing that plan through His Son at just the right moment, I have to believe that it wasn’t for nothing. He wouldn’t do that for a bunch of meaningless dust. He would do it for something He cherishes, for creations that somehow matter, even if they are small in the grand scheme of things. He would do that for the beings He intended to bear His likeness.

But the reality of life is that we’re going to experience things that threaten to twist us out of Christlikeness and pull the rug out from underneath our sense of security in Him. Being in Christ isn’t a guarantee that life will be easy. We’re going to get hurt, we’re going to lose things, we’re going to mess up.

And when that happens, we might be tempted to think it means God is mad at us or paying us back for something.

But please hear this: when you’re in Christ, you will suffer, but nothing you ever experience will be punishment (1 Thess. 5:9-10). Jesus absorbed all of God’s wrath against you on the cross (1 John 4:10). (Now, sometimes we will experience the consequences of sin, but being disciplined is very different than being punished.) Anything that comes at you will not just be coming at you, but at you in Christ. In Him, you can endure anything.

While our experiences certainly will affect us, rather than allowing our environments or our pasts to dictate who we are, we can rest in knowing we are eternally significant and loved in Christ.  We are free to view ourselves in light of who He is, because we have died to ourselves and are alive in Him (Col. 3:1-4). We are free to identify ourselves simply as “in Christ,” knowing we have been filled with and marked by His Spirit who will never leave us (Eph. 1:13-14).

I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to fall on my face and worship Him! It also makes me want to lead my life in a way that somehow reveals the glory of God to everyone around me. And in Him, I know that even though it may be a wild adventure and it probably won’t be easy, it is possible and worth it.

“For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.” Romans 8:16-19, NLT

ashley linne on devotional divaAshley Linne is a wife and mom who loves to write, sing, and travel. She is the author of Inseparable: Who I Am, Was, and Will Be in Christ. Ashley has a Master of Arts in Family Life Education from the Oxford Graduate School and studied at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She lives with her husband and son in Bellevue, WA.

photo credit: Ian Sane via photopin cc

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