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Thank You.

We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift. We got the basics from Moses, and then this exuberant giving and receiving, this endless knowing and understanding— all this came through Jesus, the Messiah. No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day.” John 1:16-18 MSG

Thank You, Jesus.

It is because of You we are reconnected and reconciled to The Father. You made a way. (John 14:6, 2 Corinthians 5:18 & Romans 5:11)

It is because of You we are all healed and made whole. (Luke 4:17-21, 6:19, 4:40 & 8:47, Acts 5:16, and Matthew 8:16 & 12:15)

It is because of You we are made free to choose abundant life. (John 10:10)

It is because of You that we have authority. (Luke 10:19)

It is because of You we have the peace that passes all understanding. (John 14:27)

It is because of You we know what real love looks like. (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

Thank You, Jesus, it is because of You that we can do all things. (Philippians 4:19)

Vintage Beauty

I was waiting in line the other day, when I noticed the woman being waited on was vintage. Late 1920’s or early 1930’s vintage. After she finished, she gathered her things, and moved to the table directly across from me to reorganize her bag.

When I saw her face I though, “Wow, I bet she was stunning when she was young.”

And I heard the Lord say, “Look again.”

So I did.

I saw that while she was thin, she wasn’t frail. I saw her face, wrinkled and crinkled with smile and laugh lines. I saw her well-loved tan sweater over a lovely, feminine button up shirt. I started to see she was one who lived her life intentionally, she wasn’t just floating through.

I was admiring her wide-brimmed straw gardening hat when she looked up.

I saw light and wisdom radiating from her eyes. I instantly wanted to have tea with her, and listen to her story.

I smiled at her. She smiled back.

I realized in that moment she wasn’t only a beauty then, she IS a stunning beauty now.

This got me thinking….Outside of the true narcissistic few, most of us dismiss our own beauty. We see our flaws, and areas of our body we want to shrink, grow, or change. But we don’t see our own beauty.

I know I don’t. I see the beauty in sunsets and nature but not in myself.

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Truth is not all of us will be super models or grace the covers of magazines, but all of us are beautiful. That’s how God made us and how Jesus sees us.

This is from Song of Songs chapter 1 in the Passion Translation:

The Shulamite Woman: “In this twilight darkness, I know I am so unworthy–so in need.

The Shepherd King: “Yet you are so lovely.

The Shulamite Woman: “I feel as dark and dry as the desert tents of the wandering nomads.

The Shepherd King: “Yet you are so lovely–like the fine linen tapestry hanging in the Holy Place.

Jesus is our Shepherd King and He calls us lovely.

In Genesis 16 Hagar was a runaway maid, pregnant by her boss’s husband. She was in the desert, alone. Desperate.

She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, You’re the God who sees me! Yes! He saw me and I saw Him!” Genesis 16:13 MSG

The one who spoke to her was no mere angel, it was Jesus, Himself. And He saw her.

Something to ponder while you wander…Just like He told me to look again at the vintage beauty, take another look at yourself. See you how Jesus sees you. Because Jesus sees you clearly, and He calls you lovely.

PS Give a fellow human a genuine compliment today. They need to be reminded of their beauty too. ❤

Monday Motivation: You are Lovely

A Monday reminder of how Jesus sees you:

Oh my beloved, you are striking–lovely even in weakness. When I see your beauty, I see a radiant city, where we will dwell as one. More pleasing than any pleasure, more delightful than any delight, you have ravished my heart. Even hosts of angels stand in awe of you.” Song of Songs 6:4 TPT

Point to ponder while you wander…Jesus sees your beauty and calls you lovely even in your weakness.

Love Changes Everything

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.  This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.  Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.  No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” I John 4:7-12

I want to be a better lover of people.  I want to be someone who can love everyone.  Whether I like them or not.  Whether or not they choose to believe what I believe or not.  Whether they love Jesus or not.  I want to be that way because God is that way.  There are many people in the world who spurn, speak against, and even loathe God.  But He loves them anyway.  He believes in them anyway.  He gives them choice and the free will to hate Him.  Even though He is love and loves everyone, He allows people to choose what they believe and how they will live.

I don’t know exactly what that looks like or how to do it, but I want to be better at loving people.

I want to be better at loving people because the human race is starving for real love.  We look for love everywhere.  We search at school, work, bars and even online.  We stay in horrible relationships because some “love” is better than none.  We accept these cheap imitations because we are afraid we’ll never have the real thing. We choose to withhold love like a bargaining chip in a battle for control.

Love is not a bargaining chip.  Love is not a feeling.  Love is not lust.  Love is patient.  Love is kind.  Love does not envy.  Love does not boast.  Love is not proud.  Love is not rude.  Love is not self-seeking.  Love is not easily angered.  Love keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil.  Love rejoices with the truth.  Love always protects.  Love always trusts.  Love always hopes.  Love always perseveres.  Love never fails. Love doesn’t coddle.  Love doesn’t control.  Love doesn’t demand.  Love respects.  Love encourages.  Love covers.

God is love.  He is the origin of love.  He cannot help but love.  It is who He is.  Everything He does comes from a love motivation.  That is why we have free will and the right to choose.  Simply because He loves us enough not to control us.

I will admit that I have been somewhat terrified to love people right where they are because I don’t want to condone sin.  If that isn’t being a religious Pharisee I don’t know what is.  But hey it’s the truth.  I was afraid.  I always wanted to be on the right side of the line so I didn’t go down with the ship.  I don’t want to be lumped in with all the people who chose to spurn God.

But slowly I came to the understanding that I am useless to people if I don’t love them right where they are.  That’s what I Corinthians 13 means.  I can do everything right but if I don’t choose to love people then I am nothing more than a crashing cymbal, making a whole lot of useless racket.  I want to be better at loving people.  I want to love people like Jesus did.

How did Jesus love people?  Radically!  He spent most of his time with people who could never give Him anything in return.  Lepers.  The poor.  Samaritans.  Prostitutes.  Tax collectors.  Drunks.  You get the point.  Jesus went to the Temple and did his part there.  But most of his time was outside the walls of the temple.  He was killed because He loved people radically.  His love was confrontational to those who were religious and those with agendas.  But Jesus loved anyway.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were unwilling to receive Jesus’s love and offer of relationship.  They clung to the black and white laws because it was safe.  You knew exactly what you could and could not do.  I can totally relate to this.  It seems easier to put yourself in a box.  It mitigates risk of contamination from the sinners.  I did it for a time.  Got exhausted.  Gave up and went 100% in the opposite direction.  Did I know it was wrong.  Yes.  Did I care?  Not really no.

I’ve asked myself why I just quit, even though I knew the truth.  And after a really long time, I realize there were several answers to that question.  One is that I was miserable and everyone else seemed to be having way more fun than me.  Another is that it is very stressful to try to be perfect and stay in that box every second of every day.  But the underlying reason is I didn’t believe I was worthy of love, especially not from God, because I believed I had to earn it.  But guess what?  I am not flawless nor can I be flawless every second of every day.  So I decided to just do whatever I felt like doing, because it was way too hard to be perfect.

When I came back to God, I did so with a whole lot of condemnation.  Not from the people at church, but from myself.  I prayed that I could work off all the wrong that I did.  My whole mindset was about working and earning and fixing.  So I did everything I thought I was supposed to.  I went to church every time the doors were open.  I took classes.  I got baptized.  I got Spirit filled.  I prayed in tongues.  But I had no peace, no joy, and I felt worthless.  I kept tripping and making messes.  I hurt people.

I went to church on and off from the time I was about 5 or maybe 6 years old.  I received Jesus as my savior when I was 16 years old.  I walked away at 17.  I came back at 25.  In all that time I memorized verses about love.  I knew “Jesus loved me.”  But there’s a difference between “knowing something” and really understanding what it means.  When I was 36 and a half years old, I finally understood that Jesus loved me.  Not just the little kid’s song kinda love.  But unconditionally loved me.  It wrecked me.  I was a pile of mush when I really saw that He was there loving me and believing in me when I was drinking myself numb and sleeping around.  He was loving and believing in me every day for my whole life.

I have grown and changed more in the last 3 years than I did in the previous 36.  Why?  Love.  Love changes everything, even broken angry women with a fierce attitude who don’t need anyone’s help.

Love changes everything.  And that is why I want to be a better lover of people.  We all know what’s wrong with us and how screwed up we are.  Let’s love ourselves and each other anyway.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.  We love each other because he loved us first.”  I John 4:18-19

All In

Perception is everything.  What you believe matters.  What you believe about yourself determines how you allow others to treat you and how you behave.  What you believe about yourself and God will determine your relationship with Him.  What you believe about God determines whether or not you are willing to have faith in, commit to, and trust Him.  If you don’t believe God is good and that God loves you, you will be unable to trust that He works all things out for your good.  If you are unable to fully trust Him, you’ll never commit to go all in.

It can be scary to go all in.  You may have doubts.  You may not fully understand.  Think about Mary when she was visited by the angel Gabriel.  She was confused and did not fully understand what he was telling her.  But she did believe that God was good and she trusted Him. So despite her doubt, Mary went all in.

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.  “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month.  For the word of God will never fail.”” Luke 1:26-37 NLT

Mary could have heard what the angel had to say, and dismissed him.  She could looked at teenage self and said, “Yeah right.”  She could have listened to her doubts and refused to believe that this was possible.  She could have missed being the mother of the Savior, the Messiah, if she chose not to believe.

But Mary did not miss what God had for her, because she chose to go all in.  No back up plan.  No rationalizations.  No strategies.  Just belief.  “Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.””  Luke 1:38

You alone choose what you believe.  No one, not even God Himself, can make that choice for you.  Mary chose to believe, and she gave birth to the Savior.  What will you be capable of if you choose to believe God and go all in?

You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said.”  Luke 1:45 NLT

That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”” II Corinthians 2:9 NLT

“So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.” Hebrews 6:18 NLT

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”  Matthew 19:26 NLT (Verse also found in Mark 10:27 and Luke 18:27).

You Don’t Have To Be Afraid

“I am leaving you with a gift, peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

Don’t let fear lie to you! You have the same peace as Jesus. It is the same peace that allowed Jesus to sleep in the storm that panicked everyone else.

When fear rises,remind yourself that you have nothing to fear! Stand on God’s word. Just because you are feeling afraid doesn’t mean you have to stay that way!

Peace is your First Line of Defense

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“And Jesus arose & rebuked the sea, ‘Peace. Be still.’ And the wind ceased & there was great calm. And He said, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?'” Mark 4:39-40

Do you see that as soon as the disciples lost their peace fear replaced their faith?

It only took fear a few minutes to change everything. They no longer trusted the Word from Jesus, that he’d just spoken 4 verses before.  Their sole focus became their anxiety, which caused panic, even though Jesus was asleep in the same boat!

Fear is a liar & a thief! It steals more dreams and destinies than anything else. Peace is your first line of defense, so maintain your peace!