God's Love Stories

gods love stories on devotional diva valentines stephanie rawnsley [Guest post by Stephanie Rawnsley: February is the month of Valentine’s Day, so I thought we would kick off the month with Stephanie’s great post about God’s love stories!]

Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, ours or someone else’s, we all love a good story.

Look at how many movies and books there are out there. When we go out for coffee, we exchange stories. We love hearing amazing tails of good winning over evil, of love conquering all. We love the stories that make us believe again, that make us reach for the stars and believe in the impossible. Why do you think Nicholas Sparks has been such a success?

His stories of love and overcoming the odds grips our hearts and makes us yearn for a love like that. An all consuming love that nothing and no one is ever going to destroy. 

Those are the stories that stick with us, that we hold dear to our heart, that meant something. Because they were just ordinary people who found the strength to do extraordinary things and we toy with the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we could do something extraordinary too. 

That’s one of the greatest things about living in New York City. You meet people of all kinds, all backgrounds, races, religion, nationalities, and each person has their own unique story to tell. They are as diverse as the city itself. Some have stories of triumph, some are down on their luck, some haven’t faced too many big trials, while others seem to never be able to get out of the fire.

But we all have one thing in common, we all have a story to tell.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20 

We all have our story, our own struggles and hardships. But we also have one thing in common: we are loved by a good, holy and perfect God.

He is writing your story, one filled with many peaks and valleys, struggles and triumphs, heartbreak and joy.

It’s through the messiness in life that you see the holiness in God. It’s through the struggles that the blessings come. I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world because it is because I had been through the fire and came out the other side that I am here today.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” I believe that. I believe that our hardships, our trials, and pain change us in ways we can’t even imagine to prepare us to do things we can’t even fathom.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Your story is a testament to the greatest love story of all time.

The story of a man who loved us so much he sacrificed himself to redeem us. We are just a microcosm of the bigger picture, of what God is doing around the world today. It’s the greatest love story ever told. One of sacrifice, of unconditional love, of laying down ones life to save another, of good conquering evil. Your story is a part of that.

When you are little, you read the stories in the Bible. You learned about Abraham, Noah, Moses, Peter and Paul. You learn about Jesus and the stories he himself told. Even Jesus used stories and parables to teach, to share about himself, about love, and about life in ways we could understand.

Jesus was the ultimate story teller and we get to tell the story of him, the story of our past and his redeeming grace. What an honor!

We all have our own stories, our own hardships, our own trials. We all have something to say, war wounds that shape who we are. All that you have been through will launch you to a destiny only you can do. We all have a story to tell. Embrace it. Own it. Share it. It’s a miraculous story of love, redemption, sacrifice, and overcoming the odds.

Your story is a best seller because it was written by the greatest author of all.

So tell the story only you can tell. 

stephanie rawnsley on Devotional diva love storiesStephanie Rawnsley is an author, blogger, public speaker, and founder of Fearless in High Heels. She currently lives in Manhattan. To hear her story, just visit her website: fearlessinhighheels.com. You can also keep up with all of her blogs, videos, and appearances on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Wait on the Lord

wait-on-the-lord[Guest post by Samantha Godette: When I received this post from Samantha, it was something I really needed to hear at the time. I love how the Lord can provide inspiration like this at just the right moment! If you’re waiting and wanting for something, this is for you.]

Over the past few years I have been fighting, fighting and fighting for something I thought should be mine (something monetary). I knew I deserved it but couldn’t figure out why God didn’t see fit for me to have it.

I was seriously hurt while serving in the United States army and I have developed severe rheumatoid arthritis. Some days it can be a struggle to get of bed, to comb my hair and to just perform everyday tasks.

I have been in pain every day, all day for several years. I have learned to live with it and praise God through my pain, but I still needed help.

However, every time I would fill out my paperwork for compensation it would get lost. Then I would have to fill out a new one. Then they needed something else. Then they would need something else. Then it would get lost again. It became a never-ending cycle.

I became weary and tired and almost gave up. I couldn’t fathom why He wasn’t answering my prayers. A year came in and a year came out and nothing happened.

I suffered physically, then emotionally, and then financially.

Through all of my pain God saw it fit to send me a great husband. He is amazing and makes living with arthritis easier. He has been a gift from God that I didn’t see coming.

Then a year later he saw it fit to bless me with a child — a child that doctors said wouldn’t happen without fertility drugs.

“You’ve been medicating for so long because of your disease. You have been on heavy medication that causes infertility. It will be nearly impossible to get pregnant.”

This is what they told me, but I never listened because I knew God had the final say. What they said went into my ears but never seeped into my spirit.

I had a great life. A husband that loved me and a daughter that melted my heart but I continued to struggle with my health and financially.

I eventually decided that what was for me was for me and if it was meant to be, God would deliver it to me when the time was right. If he could lay his hand on my womb and create a beautiful baby girl, then I knew he could do anything.

One day, I came home and in the mail was the answer to my prayers. Something I had wanted and prayed about for over ten years was hand-delivered to me by the grace of God right to my mailbox.

My husband and I immediately fell to our knees in gratitude and gave God the honor and glory he deserved. I was approved for disability by Veteran Affairs. I will be getting compensated for all the pain I have been in and will be in for the rest of my life. And guess what? I will be getting compensated back pay for all the years I didn’t receive compensation. At that very moment, I understood!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 NIV).

God wanted to bless me and He heard my prayers. He never ignored me. But he wanted to bless me when I needed it the most. Who knew that a husband was going to walk in my life and then a baby girl? God blessed me more than I could ever imagine. He listened to every prayer and He never turned His back on me.

He never said “NO.” He said, “WAIT.”

God knows best. Although we may not understand it at the time, it is in our best interest to trust him and to wait on whatever it is that you have been praying on. God hears your cries and He understands your struggles, but He also knows when to bless you and how to bless you.

I guarantee if you trust and believe in him and never waiver in your faith, He will show up when you least expect and bless you more than you ever thought possible. Nothing is too hard for him.

Don’t try to understand your situation when God has the blueprint of all situations.

 

samantha ford-godette on devotional divaSamantha Godette is a mother to one and a devoted wife. She has a degree in Social Work from Fordham University. She loves the Lord, her family and all things fashion. She addresses herself as a Faithful Fashionable Diva. She’s has started a blog this year, http://www.faithfulfashionablediva.com. She wants to express to all women that loving Christ doesn’t mean you have to neglect yourself.

photo credit: Éole via photopin cc

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Gossip is Not a Harmless Sin

gossip: a harmless sin?[Guest Post by Jenee Day: I honestly used to think gossiping was okay, even though I was a Christian. As I got older, I realized, like Jenee, gossip is not a harmless sin. Here’s why.]

Today I contributed to the destruction of a relationship.

Contributed is probably the wrong word.  Comparing the relationship to a skyscraper being demolished, I would be the person who provided the explosives.  Not directly, not intentionally, but with a little bit of ‘harmless’ sin.

I was having a difficult day, and I called my friend to talk about it.

Disclosure:  Gossip is a sin I struggle with.  It’s easy for me to rationalize and honestly, it feels good.  It feels good to have a laugh at someone else’s expense, when that person has hurt or angered me. Gross, right?

Gossiping is also a way for me to feel justified about my feelings while showcasing my mind-blowing sense of humor.  Nothing wrong with a joke or two, right?  Besides, if it makes me feel better, and the person being talked about never hears it, then I’m not really hurting anyone, am I?

Here are some verses from God’s word:

Be careful with your words.  James 3:5  “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”

Speak nicely.  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.”

Let your words be pleasing to God.  Psalm 19:14 “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, oh LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Your words will be judged.  Matthew 12:36 “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”

(Wow! Clearly God frowns upon this kind of behavior.)

When I hung up the phone, I felt lighter.  My frustration gone, I felt unburdened and free.  Sadly, by not giving my frustration to Jesus in the first place, all I did was transplant it.  I caused my friend to sin on that phone call, and then she continued to struggle with the thoughts and frustration I had suffered from.   How irresponsible of me!

So, let me ask again: If I feel better when the conversation is over, and the person being talked about never hears it, then I’m not really hurting anyone, am I?

Wrong!  First, I hurt God.  I hurt him by disobeying, and by saying ugly things about one of his children, who he adores.  Second, I hurt my friend by leading her to sin.  I hurt myself by sinning and tarnishing my witness.  Finally, I hurt the friend I was convinced would never find out.

How?

Well, as I mentioned before, when the phone call was over, I felt great.  Sadly, my friend was now burdened. She allowed our conversation to replay her mind, until finally she picked up the telephone, called our other friend, and LET HER HAVE IT.

Later that night, my phone rang.  It was my gossip buddy, calling to rejoice in her victory.  After hours of deliberation, she had decided to call our other friend and unload on her. Convinced she had acted righteously, she recounted every word, and how she had let our friend know “what we were all thinking”.  Immediately, I thought, “what have you done?” followed in quick succession by “What have I done?”

I hung up the phone and got on my knees.  I begged God’s forgiveness for the role I played in destroying this relationship.  I repented of my disobedience in the moment I chose it.  I cried.  The friend I gossiped about does not have a relationship with Christ.  Oh, Father, what have I done? My ‘feel good’ sin left the bond between two friends in shambles.

Proverbs 18:21 says “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”  So we are instructed to “speak life” to others, that we might be a blessing to them.

As followers of Christ, we must love the lost more fervently and sincerely.  A slip of the tongue – a harmless joke – could push someone away from salvation permanently. There’s nothing funny about that.

 

Jenee Day on Devotional DivaJenee Day is a freelance writer and researcher and published poet. A member of the Spiritual Writer’s Association, she has written for textbroker.com and various regional publications.  She lives in Alabama with her husband and two kids, and her heart belongs to Jesus.

photo credit: Kevin Shorter via photopin cc

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The Scarless Pledge

takiela bynum on devotional diva

[Guest post by Takiela Bynum: Do you struggle with self-harm? Are you ready to take the scarless pledge? So glad God brought Takiela to Devotional Diva to share this!]

Some people cut for relief, I cut because I wanted to die.

She’d taken several pain killers to prevent her from feeling any pain. Besides, she needed a backup plan in case the other thing didn’t work out.

She located the vein, turned her head and quickly slid the razor across her flesh. She winced at the sharp sting. The warm ooze drizzled down her hand and left its trail on the hard wood floor. She climbed into bed and hoped for death to quietly greet her while she slept.

That was a dark day in my teen life, one I’ll probably never forget. The pain and hurt I endured left me hopeless. Numb from any feelings of hope and craving death.

I know what it’s like to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Family issues, the kids at school, boy drama, grades, and the list goes on. Sometimes, life has a way of upgrading from bad to worse.

When in a hopeless state of mind, having hopeless thoughts and making hopeless decisions come with the territory (i.e. depression, cutting, suicide thoughts/attempts, etc.)

In actuality, although I didn’t realize it at the time, my hopeless disposition conveyed that even God is incapable of salvaging my mess of a life. It’s entirely too complicated for Him. From my view, things were the worst it could ever be and would always be this way – hopeless.

Ultimately, I shut out the only One who could bring me out.

Thank God His view is far beyond mine, His thoughts and ways soar high above my own. I was absolutely oblivious to God’s plan for my life. I desired death, but the Lord…abundant life. There is no way anyone would have convinced me that God had a plan for my life that was full of hope. I would have completely rejected the idea.

Since I was a little girl I’ve Ioved math. Why? Because to every problem there was an answer, each formula would provide an inevitable solution, simplifying the complex. I wanted answers to my life’s problems. Me plus life never equaled hope. Ever. However, Christ plus life always equals hope. Always. It took some time, but after many struggles here’s what I know, the Lord is my answer and He is neither simple nor complicated.

Can you relate to any of my struggles? Do you know anyone who self-harms? I’d like to invite you to join me in taking The Scarless Pledge right now!

Today let’s make a pledge, from this day forward we’re going “scarless!” We can’t do anything about the old scars but we can choose not to make new scars. Let’s put down our razors and pick up scarlet red eyeliner. When or if we ever get the urge to cut, use the red eyeliner. It’ll help remind you of the blood Jesus shed on the cross for you and it’ll also wash away…never leaving a scar.

I, (insert name here), being of sound mind and body, here do pledge to God and all who love me on this month (insert month here), of this day (insert day here), in this year (insert year here) to bury all self-harming ways, never to be exhumed again! In the sight of God and all witnesses, I promise if and/or when I get the urge to self-harm, I’ll replace my instrument of destruction with an instrument that represents hope, a scarlet red eyeliner pencil, instead. I will do this in remembrance of the blood Jesus shed on the cross for me, (insert name here). I am committed to the “scarless” pledge. With God nothing is impossible.

Find an accountability partner, someone who will help you commit to this pledge. Know that you have fans cheering you on and praying for you in heaven and all over the earth. Even though I’ll already be praying, if you’d like me to pray for a specific person/situation or if I can help in another way comment below publicly or email me privately (takiela@takielabynum.com).

Take the “scarless” pledge today!

 

takiela bynum on devotional divaTakiela Bynum, founder of Leading Young Women to Hope Ministries, is a speaker and author with a passion for any hurting women. She empowers and encourages young women to have hope in Christ, equipping them with the tools (word of God) necessary to live victoriously in spite of life’s tragedies. She tackles hard topics while pointing young women to the redemptive power of the cross. Find out more at www.TakielaBynum.com

 

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Sink or Swim?

sink or swim

[Guest post by Sophia Reed: I hope you enjoy this inspiring story that shows no matter what, you can swim.]

When I was 23 years old, I found myself in a situation that was going to change my life forever: I was going to be a mom.

At 23 I was not doing bad for myself. I had a bachelor’s degree, my own place, and my own car; but I was far from being the ideal mother. My life up until that point consisted of living for myself, and although I considered myself a Christian, I was far from being Christlike, I still had a way to go in my walk with God. 

The father of my child was not supportive and his answer to my pregnancy was to have an abortion. Even though I was not a perfect Christian, abortion was not something I could imagine myself doing. This is when I made the decision to take responsibility for my actions, and go at the whole parenting thing alone. 

I would love to tell you that my life turned into complete perfection after deciding to have my son. But it was far from. I went through my pregnancy alone and I was working at a correctional facility. I worked 12-16 hours shifts during that time.

My pregnancy was filled with more worry than anything, but I tried to remain hopeful and happy.

When you know you are doing the right thing, the only thing you can do is to trust that God has a plan for you. I can’t really say I trusted God completely. Life was getting so hard and pregnancy was not all “peaches and cream.” Plus, as the only one in my household, I had to work up until I had my son; My last day at work was 7/2/08 and I had my son the next day on 7/3/08.

During the next six weeks of being on maternity leave, things got even more hectic. I had a crying infant that I was responsible for all on my own. Four weeks after my son was born, his father became incarcerated for larceny, where he remains till this day. 

This was a “sink or swim” moment. I could play the victim and be down on myself, or I could pick myself up. I decided to swim.

Within the next three months, I found a babysitter and a new job. Over the course of six years things got even better.

It is true when they say that God knows you better than you know yourself. As I was sitting at my job one day, God put it on my heart to go back to school for counseling. I really didn’t know much about counseling, but I obeyed God and who would have thought that helping others was actually my gift. 

At 30 years old, I am a true story of how God transforms people. I went from being a 23 year old women who lived for herself, to a 30 year old single mother. Now my son goes to a Christian private school, I own my own home, I completed my Master’s degree, and am now working on my PhD.

I learned that what the devil means for bad, God meant for good.

As an African American single mother, statistically I am not supposed to be where I am today. But God had other plans for me, and because He did, I want to share Him with the world.

I wrote a book, Waiting For A Man After God’s Own Heart, that talks about me being a single mother and my relationships struggles.

I have come to learn not to be defined by what the world thinks of single mothers. Just because I am not married or had a child out of wedlock, it doesn’t meant that God loves me any less. It just means He has chosen to work in a bigger way through me to show others that everyone matters in His eyes.

 

sophia reed on devotional divaSophia Reed is a single mother of one. She has a master’s degree in Human Services specializing in marriage, couple, and family therapy/ counseling, and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Human Behavior. Sophia is a Christian, and enjoys meshing her Christian values with her education and experiences. Sophia’s blog is http://therapyncounseling.blogspot.com

 

 

 

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The 3 People You Need to Meet

people you need to meet

[Maggie is on vacation so I thought I’d jump on and encourage you all with the three people you need to meet to achieve your dreams. My newest book, Dream Devotional, just released this month. Pick up a copy on Amazon for only $2.99!]

Dreaming together is important because we are designed, commanded, and encouraged into a loving relationship with God and each other.

I’ll never forget the day I was sitting at the front desk as the office receptionist when a woman walked in for an interview. She thought I was pregnant–say what??–and asked me when I was due.

I was completely shocked and mortified. She felt really bad too when she found out that I was in fact, not pregnant. My boss and I joked that she probably wouldn’t get the job because of her comments, but I’m so glad she did because it wasn’t until after she got the job that I found out she was a Christian and had heard a word from the Lord for me on why she thought I was preggers.

She told me, “God wants to birth a ministry through you — if you’ll let him, not to say that your future husband isn’t important.”

Ouch.

Anyone who knew me when I was single, knew how important my future husband was to me. I desperately wanted to be married, and for whatever reason God prolonged that dream until I was almost 30.

God knew the plans and purposes He created specifically for me. He knew if He brought my future husband into my life too soon — I wouldn’t have risked so many dreams with Him.

Friends, God created you for an individual and unique purpose as well. You have a divine destiny that only you can fulfill.

Don’t believe me? Just read the Scriptures full of men and women of faith who entrusted their lives to God in the most courageous circumstances. Sometimes, we don’t see until afterwards why God gives us the dreams and visions He does because He doesn’t want to scare us or hinder us from fulfilling our mission.

for such a time as thisIt wasn’t until afterwards that Joseph realized why he so arrogantly shared his dreams to all 12 of his brothers…after he was thrown in prison (not once but twice)…and after he was summoned into the courts of Pharaoh — did he see why God placed him in his prison cell for such a time as this.

Friends, you may be the catalyst for someone else’s dreams. If it wasn’t for the many brave women in my life — I wouldn’t be where I am today!

If you are currently experiencing the death of a vision or a dream — I encourage you to partner up with people who believe in you. Seek out trusted partners and ministry relationships to foster the dreams God has placed on your heart because they are strong enough to save not only your souls, but the lives of many others (James 1:21).

If you are wondering what kind of relationships I am talking about, I want to encourage you to connect with three different kinds of relationships to accomplish your BIG dreams:

1. A Mentor in the business — someone who has been there, done that, and can help guide you through the obstacles to become a expert person of business and integrity.

2. A Life or Dream Coach — someone who believes in you even if others including your family does not believe in you. Someone who will stand by you and lift your arms up like Moses when the battle becomes too weary.

3. Prayer partners — someone who can pray for you when you can’t pray for yourself. I never endeavor to write any books or speak at any function without asking for prayer covering. Prayer is the most powerful form we have against spiritual attack, so use it (James 5:16!

I feel like I am at a point in my life right now where I can look back and see God’s hand and His many answered prayers.

Question: Who cheerleads your dreams? Who’s dreams are you currently cheerleading?

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Looking Back on My Physical Assault at Work

assault and courage

I believe my physical assault at work led to my downward spiral into depression and anxiety. But it also taught me about my own courage.

 

I was already depressed. I had already suffered trauma. I was still physically sick. But I was trudging on. I tried to keep up with my job at Chuck E. Cheese.

Chuck E. Cheese has a system in place that aims to ensure children’s safety called “Kid Check.” Families that enter together (adults included) all get a stamp with a number on their hand. That number is checked upon exit to make sure that kids leave with the right adults. Babies get a sticker with the number on it that can be placed on their carrier.

When I was training, it was one of the first things I learned. The video stressed that all kids must have their number match an adult they are leaving with, and if there is any sort of problem, to get a manager.

One low-key night, it was my turn at Kid Check. A very large man approached the exit with a tiny baby in a stroller. I got out my little black light flashlight to check their numbers.

I saw the sticker and number on the baby’s carrier and then I asked to see the man’s hand. He didn’t have a number.

I explained to the man how the Kid Check system worked, and I told him I could get my manager and straighten it out. But he got really agitated.

And then everything seemed to happen really fast.

He pushed the stroller through the ropes that guarded the exit and it rolled five feet and hit the door.

He’s trying to steal this baby, I thought.

That is the very thing Kid Check is designed to prevent – especially for young babies who can’t speak up.

And I could NOT let that happen.

Instinctively, I blocked his way through the exit.

This man was probably about six feet tall and 300 pounds. At that time, I was about 5’2” and 130 pounds.

He hit me in the face and tried to push me down as I remained steadfast in my effort to keep him from leaving with the baby. I screamed for the cash register clerk to get a manager.

After what felt like ages, he turned and headed back into the restaurant, leaving the baby at the door.

My manager, an even smaller woman than I, came to the front and I tried to explain what had just happened. The man quickly reappeared and began yelling at us.

My manager couldn’t reason with him either, but she sent me to the back.

Tears flowing down my face, I headed to the kitchen. I remember how my drink nearly spilled because my hands were shaking so much.

My friend and coworker saw this, having no knowledge of the commotion. She grabbed the drink from my hands and guided me toward the back door to get some air.

Through my hyperventilation and gagging outside of the kitchen, I tried to tell her what had happened. She was shocked; although we were trained to protect kids against abduction, nothing like that had ever happened at our store.

I remember ending up in the break room. My manager came back and told me that the mother of the baby had come forward and the baby was okay. Apparently, the man was related to the baby somehow but didn’t enter at the same time. Whatever the case, the family left. She asked me if he had hurt me and if I wanted to call the police.

He had hurt me – a small bruise was beginning to form on my cheek. But I just wanted to go home.

No police report was ever filed, but Chuck E Cheese gave me worker’s comp to get help with the extreme anxiety I developed after that night.

I was getting along fine, and then that happened. It was like everything going on in my life culminated the night of my physical assault at work and I became a complete wreck. What happened that night is still hard to talk about, and I’m anxious as I write this.

But everything happens for a reason.

It’s taken years of healing to deal with everything, but I’m really okay now. And when I feel small and weak, I remember that night. I remember how strong I became to protect that baby. Even if it that man had permission to take the child, he sure didn’t act like it.

The therapist I saw after the event told me I should have just let him go and not put myself in harm’s way. Maybe that’s true, but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.

I know I did what was right. And I know what courage lives inside of me.

→M

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When Christians Are Hurt: Share Your Story!

I have been hurt. You have been hurt. We’ve all been hurt. But how do you respond to hurt in a Christian way?

If you identify as a Christian, you believe in the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus. One of the verses I always associate with Jesus is this one:

Matthew 5:38-40 
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.  If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.”
 

I love this scripture, and try to live by it. But until recently, just focusing on this one section gave me a rather skewed image of Jesus.

During my Lent studies of Jesus, this scripture really changed that image:

Matthew 21: 12-13
 “Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”

Now, Jesus had very good reason to be turning over tables at the Temple – the sellers’ and money changers’ tables were blocking Gentiles from being able to pray.

But all too often before I delved into that scripture, I considered Jesus to be mostly meek and humble. While those characteristics are true of Jesus, He was also very strong. He stood up for what was right and justly. The verses from Matthew 21 are proof of that.

And since I receive all of my power from Jesus, that means I can be strong, too. And so can you.

Just because we are Christians, it does not mean we can’t stand up for ourselves, others, and what is right. There are good and bad ways to do it, yes, but it is possible.

If you have been hurt, you can share your story.

The truth is, I can’t create all the content for Devotional Diva. Nor do I want to! Devotional Diva should be about many women sharing their stories.

You can stand up for yourself, heal yourself from this hurt and pain, and help others in the process.

One of the reasons I fell in love with writing was the ability to create change through it. You can spread the word in a healthy and respectful way at Devotional Diva.

By sharing your story, you are helping others with the same experiences. They can relate to you. In my opinion, life is all about relationships and relating to others.

Devotional Diva will help you share your story and stand up for yourself. And as editor, I will stand up for you and your story.

If you would like to “become a diva”  (guest contributor), please see the Become a Diva page for more information and the submission form.

You may submit written articles, or even something of a more visual nature.

The requirements for a written story are: 500-700 words in length, with a 3-4 sentence bio and a current picture. For all other types of submissions, please contact me for more information.

Become a Diva today!

→M

 

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A Different Kind of Stress

different kind of stress

[Guest Post by Bonnie Gray – I was surprised to find the answers I was looking for in her new book Finding Spiritual Whitespace. I think all of us at some point in our life think we just have to try or pray harder. Do more. I love, love, love her story. If you’re stressed out today, I know you’ll be encouraged by Bonnie’s fresh word!]

Can we ever be free from stress? Stress seems to be so embedded in our modern lives, we’ve come to breathe it like oxygen.

Emails, Twitter, doctor appointments, and a to-do list filled with growing unchecked boxes are all part of my reality.

Is it realistic to expect a stress-free life?

I’ve lived a lot of my life hiding from my heart, reducing everything to a minimum. I did do less. But paring down to the bare essentials made me lose a sense of wonder.

Introverts or extroverts, we were never made to only do life as maintenance. God designed us to be fully alive: creative, renewed by a sense of adventure, engaged with community, and soul-fed.

Without these elements of creativity, adventure, community, and soul care, we experience a different kind of stress.

Soul stress.

I don’t want to make a reentry into striving a stream of new endeavors either, like stepping into the California rivers for whitewater rafting. Everything looks calm on the outside, but the underlying currents threaten to pull me under.

Are we left to choose only between inactivity or overactivity? As people of faith, our focus goes beyond avoiding stress.

We pursue the opposite.
We pursue rest.

After PTSD entered my life, I couldn’t socialize with people like I used to or do life like I once did. I could hardly keep track of my car keys.

I look out from my post-PTSD life and all I see is desert. I see nothing.

What do I do with my life? What do I do with these empty spaces? You’d think the concept of whitespace came through some inspiring moment walking through a field of wildflowers. But “feeding my soul” sounded too right-brain. Too touchy-feely. So God prompted my first steps through what was initially most accessible:

my left brain.

God knew this about my personality: my desire to pursue. So he put me on the journey to rest by pointing me to a new ambition. It’s ironic. The idea of spiritual whitespace came to me while reading a blog on business strategies and innovation.

I was reading an article written by Matthew May called “Break Through by Taking Breaks.” It offered scientific evidence that down time is required for creativity and new thinking. Archimedes discovered volume displacement while taking a bath. Einstein’s theory of special relativity came while he was daydreaming, and author J. K. Rowling sat traveling on a train when the Harry Potter character “flashed in her mind.”1

Ever wonder why our best ideas come when we’re in the shower, driving, daydreaming, or sleeping?

When you look deeper into these brilliant flashes of insight you can see they came at strange times and in random locations. They didn’t occur while actually working on the problem but after an intense, prolonged struggle with it followed by a break. A change of scene and time away played a part.2

It was fascinating to learn that “putting pressure on ourselves to try and work harder, more intensely, or more quickly may only slow down our ability to arrive at new insights.”3

If this is true in the worlds of art and science, what would be the implications for our relationships with God—in spirituality and faith? The biggest lightbulb moment struck me. I had been desperately trying to connect with God by doing the same things. I thought I needed to try harder.

What’s wrong with me?

Nothing. I needed something different.

I typed in rest into my computer to do a word search in the Bible. What I found stunned me to the core.

Rest. It sounds inactive, doesn’t it?

I was surprised to find that rest is one of only three ambitions that God explicitly calls out in the Bible. The other two are preaching the gospel and pleasing God.4

We urge you, brethren,  to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet [restful] life. (1 Thess. 4:10–11)

Turns out hesuchazo—the Greek word used for quiet and rest— is as important as preaching the gospel and pleasing God. The more I’m able to enjoy rest, the more others will see God’s life in me. When my soul is at rest, I am free to please God right where I am.

I was intrigued. I had always centered my thinking on pleasing God and preaching the gospel through what I did. But now, suddenly God put a big spotlight on hesuchazo. God was asking me to excel—“still more”—by making it my ambition to lead a quiet and restful life.

My heart skipped a beat. This is what has been missing. Rest.

Hesuchazo became the match that ignited the fire of the Holy Spirit in spiritual whitespace.

We were never made to only do life as maintenance. God designed us to be fully alive: creative, engaged with community, and renewed by a sense of adventure.

As people of faith, our focus goes beyond avoiding stress. We pursue the opposite. We pursue rest.

Our ambition is spiritual rest.

Bonnie GrayBonnie Gray is the founder of Faith Barista, a contributor to Crosswalk.com, and a featured writer for DaySpring’s popular (in)courage blog. Her writing is nationally syndicated and has been spotlighted in Christianity Today and McClatchy-Tribune News Services. She has served as a missionary, a ministry entrepreneur, and worked in high tech as an engineering and marketing program manager. A passionate speaker who inspires audiences to find God in everyday life, Bonnie lives in Silicon Valley with her husband, Eric, and their two sons. Learn more at www.faithbarista.com.

[Excerpt taken from Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray, published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2012. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.]

[photo credit: Camil Tulcan via photopin cc]

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Shame, Our Souls, and the Gospel

shame

[Guest Post by Kimberly Davidson Campbell – I have never met a woman who had it all together on the inside. Maybe you do a good job or holding everything together on the outside, but there’s always traces of shame that tries to steal our joy. I appreciate Kim’s words of encouragement today. Like fresh water in a desert oasis of my heart. Receive them today with love!]

As I sit in the passenger seat of my husband’s now trip-cluttered (otherwise immaculate) Camry, I am intrigued and overwhelmed by all the areas of shame that plague me. 

These areas of shame don’t just plague me — but in some way — they plague most of the women we know.

According to author and blogger Shauna Niequist in Bread & Wine, most women are battling shame in two areas: how their bodies look and how their homes look. I would like to add one as well: how their children look (or act).

Here are some of those examples in my own life:

+ I’m ashamed that my husband is unable to give me a piggy-back ride or carry me over the threshold.  This isn’t because he isn’t strong.  He is.  I love his arms and how strong they are. It is because I weigh almost 40 lbs more than him.

+ I am ashamed because of my flabby body.  It is now covered with stretchmarks from two kids and losing large amounts of weight several times. I wouldn’t trade my boys for anything – but I don’t like stretchmarks.

+ I am ashamed because my closet is a mess and my husband’s is all in order and tidy.

+ I am ashamed because I struggle to keep our home as clean as the mister would like it.  So I come unglued when he suggests that he could help do some of the dishes or vacuum. Shame affects pride.

+ In high school, I was ashamed as a part of the cheerleading squad and traveling singing group because the order size for my uniform or dress was always bigger than everyone else’s.

–        I struggle when I am in public with my toddler and he is pitching a temper tantrum because he doesn’t want to do something.  My parenting skills are not what they should be if he is misbehaving.

+ I (wrongfully) pride myself in that my boys have never had to have their nursery number put up on the screen during church for me to come and get them. I would die in horror if that ever happened.

You may or may not be able to resonate with any of these examples, but I’m sure you have examples of your own.

Maybe it’s why you can’t look at pictures taken long ago. Or why you keep private stashes of House Beautiful or Shape for midnight reading. Maybe your shame in your body comes from a tattoo from another time in your life you would gladly remove if you could. Or maybe it’s the scars from an abortion or eating disorder.

Shame is not only an indicator of the outward home or clothing size or perfect children. Shame reaches our souls and steals our joy!

Shame also reveals many other truths about our hearts:

  1. It reveals pride. I’ve mentioned this before, but pride is so ugly in a believer’s heart. Everything we have ever received is from God and is not of our own doing. So, when we strive to keep appearances up for the sake of making ourselves look better – it is not a helpful tool in sharing the truth of God’s Word.  (Ephesians 2.8-10; Isaiah 2.17)
  2. Comparison is a nasty habit. Whenever we compare our lives with those of others it reveals an ungrateful heart to the Lord. It is wrecking friendships as well. Oh, be grateful in your heart for all that God has done for you and in you! He works all things together for our good and His glory! (Romans 8.18-39; Colossians 3.15-17)
  3. Both of these areas of our hearts reveal a lack of love for others. One of the two commandments we are given in the Word is love your neighbor as yourself. Friendships are one of most important things in my life.  I love the sweet friends that God has blessed me with over the years and in every place I’ve lived. But, when I let sin hinder those relationships, it brings bitterness that takes forgiveness to overcome – by the truth of the Gospel.  (1 Corinthians 13)

The Gospel – the life and work of Jesus Christ – as it does for every area of our lives, has a direct impact on our life and soul of shame.

  1. Jesus doesn’t love you because you are skinny or wear a certain size. I remember Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada boasting in the fact that she was now in a size 4. But, her life wasn’t any happier than it was when she was slightly bigger. Jesus work in our lives often to heal us from an addiction to the scale or the tag on the skirt.
  2. The gospel isn’t yours only if you have a farmhouse table in your dining room or your baseboards never have a speck of dust on them. The gospel is ours not because of anything we have done – but because Jesus has done everything.
  3. Christ is ours no matter how our children behave – or misbehave! Claim that truth!
  4. Christ frees us! Romans 8.1 is a verse that every believer needs to claim for their lives as a mantra. We are free. There is no condemnation!

The next time you find it hard to believe that you are more than your house, your outward appearance, or any other area you find yourself ashamed of – rest in the doneness of the Gospel of Jesus! And boast in that!

kimberlycampbellKimberly Davidson Campbell is a wife, mother, freelance writer and photographer who resides in the Atlanta area with her family. She graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity in Education. Her passions include life-on-life discipleship, speaking, teaching, writing, cooking, being healthy, and photography – and mostly spending time with her husband and two very active sons! She blogs regularly at http://kd316.com.

[photo credit: Jims_photos via photopin cc]

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