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Faith

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O The Pain

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Our son Caleb’s would be 26th birthday is drawing near... and here it comes again... the pain.

O that horrid pain.

I guess in some ways I’m glad because I genuinely miss him, and since I can’t see or touch him, the pain reminds me that my love for him is still alive and well.

But pain has this weird way of making us feel broken, un - whole, shattered... un - beautiful.

The mysterious thing about brokenness is what our broken Savior can do with all those fragments...

Perhaps you’ve seen a vase or picture, or some other gorgeous art form that is made up of a bunch of fragmented pieces. Each raged edged shard alone seems pointless... yet put together with a bunch of other misfit pieces, it forms a stunning mosaic.

Mosaic = mixture – conglomerate – complicated – convoluted – tangled – involved – intricate – multi faceted creation.

Isn’t that the story of our one beautiful life?

A gazillion broken pieces that come together to create something staggeringly magnificent for the world to see and receive hope from.

We don’t see or feel it, but others do. Perhaps God made it that way.

I’ve read many times that mother Theresa, in her latter years, whether from tiredness, the enemy’s schemes, or just a super keen awareness of her own sinful nature… Often wondered if she was even worthy of entering heaven. How could that be after all the faith filled prayers she prayed – after all the pain and poverty she brought healing and provision to?

She felt lost – others saw one of the most admirable, selfless lovers of humanity... A beautiful mosaic.

Then there’s Jesus.

I love Ann Voskamps description of a mosaic-type painting of those final moments in Jesus’ life: “In the semi – abstract painting, there's no tidy pattern, just light and dark bleeding into this subtle suggestion of Jesus hanging on the cross. He was hoarse with the begging, for himself, for us: God, why have you abandoned me? Yet he surfaces in the patches of color, the broken brush strokes, the silhouette of him visible in the chaos – Christ entering all this chaos.”

Even Jesus, in his darkest hour of brokenness, wondered where God was... yet depicted the most glorious mosaic of all time.

I would never in a million years assume to have felt the same sacrificial pain Jesus experienced, but I do know the disturbing allurement of pains grip. Each birthday, anniversary or any random moment, when I feel the gut wrenching sorrow of no more todays spent with Caleb in this earth life... hopelessness creeps in, my brokenness becomes more pronounced and I wonder how in Heavens name I can ever be a beacon of light or hope or anything good for anyone to see.

Then I surrender to God’s perfect peace - his soothing presence - and remember HIS ability to take the broken places, the scars and shattered pieces, mixed with his divine touch... and I trust again that...

He will make all things beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Maybe you can relate to feeling broken, ugly, useless... may the Holy Spirit remind you that while you may only feel & see scattered devastated parts & pieces, others really do see God and goodness in the grand, panoramic, mosaic of your life.

Heavenly Father, please take every fractured place, mend the pain – full spaces, and do your thing in such a way that YOU shine through the cracks and crevices for others to have hope that they can also become a mosaic of your resplendent beauty.

-Laura

 

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I THANK GOD FOR YOU!

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I recently ran across a letter I wrote to our daughter Danielle a few days after she entered rehab for drug and alcohol addiction, 3 years ago. It’s not very pleasant; in fact it is pretty painful thinking back to that time.

The letter reads:

11-19-14 Wednesday – Day 2

Danielle,

I love you my girl. Dad read me the letter he wrote you, so I know he told you about my tears as we left you at The Arbor... and my convo with our dear friends, the Evans, last night. The entire family really does adore you and KNOWS God has a good plan in store for your life! They would love to have you anytime, if God leads you in that direction.

Today, I woke up, and in regular fashion, turned over in bed and began thanking God for the things I DO have. On that list was: “I thank you God that I do have a daughter who loves you, who loves her family, who loves others deeply, and who desires to get well.”

I DO thank God he blessed me with you as my daughter.

Then I had a whole group of women come over and decorate our home for Christmas. It was bitter – sweet... putting up yours and Caleb’s stockings was hard, since neither of you will be here this year. But once again I stopped and thanked God that I will get to celebrate an eternity of Christmases with Caleb; and am grateful for you and your willingness to do the hard work you are doing, to get the tools you will need to live your life with success for the rest of your life; and prayerfully there will be many more Christmases to celebrate together.

My emotions have been a bit all over the place because I haven’t had much time to process since Shine, and the whirlwind of activity getting you ready to go to the Arbor, dad coming home from Africa, decorating for Christmas... but I will get to chill a little in these next few days so I know I’ll be fine. We have walked through a lot in these last few years... I am learning to trust God more and more, no matter what, even when I don’t understand or like what is taking place.

What I DO know, is that God is a redeeming God and ALL we walk through has a purpose. And when we place the crap we’re walking through in his hands – he has a magnificent way of making something beautiful out of it.

I know our stories are not the same in any way but I do look forward to processing with you because there are things I think I can relate to.  And I know God allowed me to be your mother and you to be my daughter for a reason.  I am looking forward to discovering those reasons together.

I thank God for YOU!

With so much love, MOM

Life seems to unfold a bit imperfectly... However, the imperfect allows our hearts to express gratitude to God for his faithfulness to perfect that which concerns us. (Psalm 138:8) And to fully accept & love those God has placed in our lives. (Romans 15:7)

Danielle has now been sober 3 years and leads Celebrate Recovery for young people. I love that girl!

This Thanksgiving season, regardless of what state your relationships are in, no matter who is near or far, take a few moments and thank God for these precious ones who are Heaven sent gifts! And may I strongly urge you to thank them as well! It will melt pain and bring fresh life to hearts longing to be held.

Philippians 1:3 – I thank my God every time I remember you.

-Laura

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Crowned Victorious

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In life it seems like we are always running on parallel tracks of good and difficult. We experience highs and at the same time, lows. Peaks and valleys seem to go hand in hand. Don’t you wish we weren’t always facing some kind of a battle? And when we get to the place where we get past one battle, it seems another is looming right around the next curve. If only life could be all rainbows and sunshine! Yet something beautiful unfolds in our lives and hearts each time we overcome a difficulty.

With every storm we endure we learn and grow more about the character of God and his faithfulness.

We serve a God who is bigger than every battle! A God who wants to lead us in one perpetual victory parade.

In the Bible, King David definitely knew what it was to face battles. He was anointed king at a young age, even as his father didn’t think him worthy enough to be considered when the prophet Samuel came to his house to anoint one of his eight sons (1 Samuel 16:11-13). After all seven older brothers were crossed off the list of potential candidates by Samuel, David was brought in. As he stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he brought with him and anointed David. And the Bible says the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on.

David was anointed. In the Jewish culture anointing is interchangeable with the word crowning. David was literally crowned victorious here. In the physical, Saul was still King. But spiritually, David was crowned victorious.

In 1 Samuel 17, just after being anointed, we read about David facing Goliath. Goliath wasn't just a giant, he was a champion. He had a record of victory. Yet David wasn’t afraid to fight him because he knew God was on his side. God had already worked in and through him to defeat a lion and a bear. He used this past experience to convince King Saul to allow him to fight this looming giant.  And he was victorious was just a slingshot and a few rocks. It only took one well aimed shot to send the giant to the ground. David won that battle.

I imagine you might be fighting a Goliath sized battle. Whatever it is you are facing likely popped into your mind before you even made it past the first paragraph. Maybe you feel like throwing in the towel.

Maybe you are wondering if God has forgotten you.

Perhaps you are confused and unsure of what your next steps should be.  If this is you, let me remind you today, beloved, that you are fighting from a place of victory, not for victory. You are crowned victorious. So hold your head up high and fight to the finish, knowing God is with you and for you and he is fighting on your behalf. And on the other side, he has a crown with your name on – a crown for overcoming – your crown of victory!

For further reflection:

1.     What battles are you facing right now?

2.     How has God and is God moving in the midst of your circumstances?

3.     As we look at David’s story, we see he drew courage from his past victories. If you are feeling discouraged in your current battles, list out a few past victories God has brought you to. How does remembering how he moved then give you the courage to keep going now?

Verses for reflection:

Psalm 18:35 - You have also given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand upholds me; and your gentleness makes me great.

1 Corinthians 15:57 - but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:14 - But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

Psalm 20:7-8 - Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God. They have bowed down and fallen, but we have risen and stood upright.

1 Samuel 17:45-47 - Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. “This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD'S and He will give you into our hands."

Proverbs 2:7 - He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,

Romans 8:28 - And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

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A Letter to My Pastors

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I want to take a moment to say what I am sure we have all been thinking.

Thank you. Thank you Pastors Rob and Laura for making the sacrifice 30 years ago. Thank you for stepping out in faith when you had no idea what you were doing. Thank you for saying yes to the call of God. Thank you for not quitting when you felt like it. Thank you for believing in the next generation, and then again in the generation after that and now in a new generation. Thank you for paving the way and marking the trail.

As someone who wasn’t even born when Shoreline first began, I can’t imagine a world without it.

In preparing for the celebration of 30 years of ministry in Austin I was looking through some old pictures and I couldn’t help but notice the consistency in the pictures from the last 3 decades. Yes, there have been different buildings, yes there have been different people, yes there have been different styles and haircuts, but one thing stayed the same. The heart. I saw a picture from the late 80s that said “Christian Faith Center, an oasis of love” I saw another picture from the early 90s and on the wall was a banner that read “…because people matter to God” and then I think about what is said every single week here at Shoreline in our creed “I am loved by God”.

For the last 3 decades Shoreline has been a beacon of hope, a community of joy and a place where people meet face to face with the love of God. The faithfulness and consistency of the leaders of Shoreline Church does not go unnoticed.

So many people have their own story about how Pastor Rob and Laura and Shoreline has changed their life, on behalf of us all, I want to say…

THANK YOU!

 

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Crowned for Mission

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Jesus talks a lot in the Bible about compassion. He shared how God would leave the ninety-nine to go after one. He spoke of a prodigal son returning home to his father’s open arms. He stood up for a woman caught in the act of adultery as he drew in the dirt and told the onlookers to cast the first stone if they were without sin. One by one they walked away.

In all of these stories, compassion involves action.

I’ve heard it said that compassion is just emotion until you cross the street. To Jesus, compassion means responding to the needs around us.

One story in particular highlighted this truth. In Luke 10:25-37, an expert in the law asked Jesus what he had to do to be saved. Jesus asked him what the law said, and the man recited that it says we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. Great answer! Jesus agreed with this answer, but then the man took it as step further as he asked, “And who is my neighbor (Luke 10:29)?”

Jesus was a story teller and he stayed true to form as he answered this man’s question. Instead of telling him, he painted a picture as he shared about the Good Samaritan. He said in Luke 10:30-36:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’"

Jesus then asked him who was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers and the man responded, the one who had mercy on him. Jesus’ parting words to him were, “Go and do likewise.”

These words hold true for us today. We are crowned to love other people. This is our mission! The neighbors we are called to love aren’t just the people who live next door. They are everyone around us— the homeless, the destitute, the broken, the kids around our kids who act out because they come from broken homes, and the prickly people who struggle to be kind and loving to us.

Imagine what our world would look like if we all really walked this out every day - if we paused for the compassionate cause of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves!

WE ARE THE ANSWER TO INJUSTICE.

Let’s take a closer look at how we are crowned for mission:

  1. Describe a time God interrupted the routine of your day by prompting you to respond to a need around you.
  2. What are the biggest hindrances to you living with this mindset daily?

For further reflection:

Let’s do a little test this week. Each morning, ask God to interrupt your world to show love to your neighbors. Keep a journal of each moment where God uses you. Describe how it makes you feel to be his hands and feet to the people around you. As the week wraps up, take some time to reflect back. Think through each situation. Say a prayer again for each person with a need you were able to help meet in a moment. How did it make you feel to be used this way by God?

Verses on compassion:

Mark 6:34 - And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.

Mark 1:41 - Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”

Matthew 18:27 - Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

Matthew 14:14 - And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

Matthew 9:36 - But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

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Crowned to Nurture

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One of the most famous painters of all time, Rembrandt, crafted a well-known piece of art called, The Return of the Prodigal Son. In this painting, Rembrandt captures the full expression of God's character by drawing our Heavenly Father with two vastly different hands. One hand is drawn masculine; the skin and fingers rugged, protective, and strong. The other is clearly depicted as feminine; slender, soft, and tender looking. What a beautiful and eye-opening way to demonstrate both the masculine and feminine sides of God. The Bible says we are created in his image; male and female he created us (Genesis 1:27). We are crafted to depict these different characteristics of God to the world.

We are going to look closer at what’s depicted by the feminine hand. We could say those are nurturing hands.

The word nurture itself is a verb, and it means to care for and protect (someone or something) while they are growing.

That tender hand reminds us of the ways God nurtures us. He is our caregiver. He is loving and kind. We can read how he tends to our needs all throughout the Bible. Here are just a few verses that show us the tender heart of God:

·      "He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds."—Psalm 147:3

·      "The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears."—Isaiah 25:8

·      "He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young."—Isaiah 40:11

Don’t you just love that! He bandages our wounds. He wipes away our tears. He feeds us like a shepherd. He carries us, holding us close to his heart. There is so much comfort we can draw from these reminders. We need this nurturing support from God all throughout our lives.

In the same way we are surrounded by opportunities to represent God to others through nurturing. To extend the hand of God in this way to those around us. To pour into them and encourage them. To tend to their needs. To have the coffees and the one-on-ones that bring life.

We women are especially equipped for this task. We were created to nurture even as we lead, inspire, and as we run in all our lanes and wear the various hats we wear. This doesn’t take away from our strength. It lends to it.

Through nurturing we raise up others around us to be who God called them to be. We are an extension of God to them.

We bring the same comfort that God himself offers us. This world desperately needs this tender loving care, and as we awaken to the call to nurture, the world is awakened by the love of Jesus displayed through his royal daughters. We are crowned for this!

Let’s take a closer look at how we are crowned to nurture:

1.     When you think of the word, nurture, what comes to mind?

2.     Who has been a nurturer to you in your life?

3.     Who in your world can you nurture, care for and protect?

For further reflection:

It’s so common to hear women say that we are so used to being the givers and the nurturers that it’s hard for us to receive care and support from the people around us. If your nurture tank is running on empty, think of someone in your world you receive encouragement and life from spending time with them. Reach out to them via a phone call or set up a time to get together. Take time to nurture you this week so you can keep pouring out to others.

Verses on nurturing:

1 Thessalonians 2:7-12New Living Translation (NLT) - 7 As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children[a] among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. 8 We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too. 9 Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you. 10 You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers. 11 And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.

1 Thessalonians 5:11New Living Translation (NLT) - 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Romans 15 1-2The Message (MSG) - Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”

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Crowned for Legacy

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The greatest legacy leaver of all time, Jesus, gave us a great commission to go into all the world and make disciples of every nation (Matthew 28:19). He passed that charge and that baton on to each of us. In all the hats we wear and in all the lanes we run in, we share this common purpose.

We are ambassadors of Christ; love carriers to share the good news of the greatest gift to all mankind.

One of the most impactful passages by Jesus, as he spoke of the future to come as he handed off the baton to us to continue what he started, was this word which alluded to us doing even more than he was able to do in his time on the earth. He said in John 14:12-14,

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Jesus’ goal was for us to do greater things than he had been doing. He spoke more over us than even what we saw him do in the Bible. What a beautiful, selfless legacy to desire that those who followed would walk in more.

Two other examples of great Biblical leaders who set their successors up to walk in greater things, was Elijah and the apostle Paul. Elijah took time to groom and train us Elisha. He mentored him and allowed him to experience the fullness of his ministry while he walked in his role as prophet. He didn’t just place his cloak on Elisha and send him on his way. He groomed him. He taught him what he knew. And in the end, when Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s anointing, God honored that request. I can only imagine God granted it, because he knew Elisha’s character was developed enough and he had the experience under his belt to walk in it wisely. Paul groomed many Christians, but his last letter was written to his son in the faith, Timothy. There he poured out all he knew and all the wisdom imparted to him on his journey of following God, and Timothy continued on in his mission to carry the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles, those outside of the Jewish faith. For both of these great leaders, it was critically important to raise up leaders who would follow in their footsteps and continue their work.

Jesus, Elijah, and Paul all recognized their role in leaving a legacy. They passed the crown to those following them to continue what they began.

Let’s take a closer look at how you too are crowned for legacy:

1.         Who in your life served as a Paul or Elijah and how did their influence help shape who you are today?

2.         Who has God placed around you for you to raise up to do greater things?

3.         How are you intentionally walking that out day to day?

For further reflection:

Take some time this week to write out a letter to someone who has influenced you. Share with them how their time invested in your helped you become the person you are today. If you feel lead, share also how you are continuing their legacy by intentionally passing on some of these same values and principles to those God has placed around you in your world.

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This One's for the Girls

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Would the Women of the House, please rise up? 

There are two things that make me cry, every time, without fail. 1) Watching Tyson play princess with Symphony and Bravery and 2) standing in the midst of a room full of women singing to Jesus. 

Every. Single. Time. The tears just won't stop. 

And you know, now that I've typed that out loud, there's probably a profound connection between those two. 
 

It's the idea that every little girl knows she a princess until the world tells her she's not. Either by defining princess a certain way or by knocking off your crown. 


Well, it's not true. It's just not true.
Who said princesses have to wear pink?
Who said they have to be doe eyed and pointy toed?
Who said they don't catch bugs or put out fires?
Who said they don't play sports or wear all black?
WHO SAID THAT?!

It wasn't God. The creator of all things. The initiator of the universe or the designer of life. 

He created woman and called the earth, very good. 
 

She was the CROWN of His creation. Before she did or said or wanted to BE anything, she already was royal. 


And so were you. 

Ya'll, I could talk about this all day every day. But I don't have space or time here so I need you to come to Shine. Not even just for you. For your girls. For your boys.

For the generations who will come up behind us. We HAVE to get this identity, authority, royalty stuff into our souls and spirits now because the time is coming when we'll have to stand up and fight, knowing who we are and WHOSE we are.

Let me rephrase. The time is NOW. We need to get this now because the time to teach and love and nourish our hurting world is NOW.


I believe in you. Now I need YOU to believe in you. 

-Julianna Morlet

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Secure

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Imagine with me, if you will, that you are a young woman, engaged to be married to the man of your dreams. Wedding plans are in motion. You have the most amazing dress picked out. All of your family is excitedly talking about coming together to celebrate you and cheer you on as you step into your future, and then… WHAM! An angel of God appears out of nowhere and tells you,

“Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you” (Luke 1:28, MSG).

At this point, I imagine you’d probably be feeling a little complimented and at the same time, a little thrown off your game. Perhaps you’d even feel slightly frightened and more than a wee bit curious.

Let’s play this scenario out a little farther. The angel continues speaking to you, and the next thing he says is,  

“You have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:29-33).

Surprise!! You’ve never even been with your husband, or any other man, and you’re going to have a baby!! How would you respond? How would you feel?

After the shock, my first thought might be concern for what my fiancé would think. I’d likely ask myself what the family would think. I’d wonder if I was even going to fit into that dress. And what, I’d ponder, would people say about me?

What a difficult situation to navigate through.

This is exactly the situation Mary found herself in before Jesus was born. Her response is a golden reminder to us of what it looks like to walk in the security that can only be found in our relationship with God regardless of our circumstances. In Luke 1:38 a, she said,

“I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true”

Mary modeled a sense of security based on her personal relationship with God and her trust in his character.  Like Mary, we too can walk in confidence regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, the status of our emotions, or the opinions or accomplishments of the people around us. Security in Christ comes as we recognize and internalize that we are God’s beloved daughters. We are the apples of his eye. And he is head over heels in love with us. That love chases all our fears away as 1 John 4:18 (AMPC) says,

“There is no fear in love…but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror!”

Beloved, my prayer for you is that you will live securely anchored in God’s love for you. May you head out each day with your head held high. Knowing he is with you. He is for you. He is on your side, and every promise available in Christ is yes and amen for your life!

Let’s take a look at living anchored securely in Christ:

1.     Read the account of Mary’s story in Luke 1. What stands out to you most about Mary’s confidence in God and trust in his plans for her life?

2.     In what areas do you find it difficult for your sense of security to stem from your position of being anchored in Christ rather than what others think of you?

For further reflection:

1.     This week make a plan to do something that you have to totally rely on God to do and will get you one step closer to being more secure in Christ, more free, more confident.

2.     Take 30 minutes of self-care time; put on your favorite, fun worship song in your living room or bedroom (somewhere private). Dance with Jesus and feel another level of freedom and security in HIM. Dance with HIM and for HIM; no one is watching! Get your journal out and write down the transformation that came forth in your heart and mind. Remember that moment when you feel insecurity trying to creep in your life. Remember how Jesus has made you not only free in HIM, but SECURE in HIM.

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Significant

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We are hardwired with a longing to rule and reign and take dominion, to lead, to build, and with a desire to make a lasting impact with our lives. These are good, God given things, but our lives get slightly wacky when we seek to fill those innate desires in unhealthy ways.

Women throughout time have fought this battle for significance. Women like Eve, who had everything she could possibly desire and yet, when tempted, still chose to eat the forbidden fruit in the garden. Women like Sarai, who were on the receiving end of a promise from God, yet took matters into her own hands with her maidservant Hagar to get ahead of God’s plan. In so doing, a child entered into the world who wasn’t heir to the promise and a whole host of struggles followed suit. Women like Esther who was whisked away to royalty and could have placed her identity in her title, her beauty and the beauty of her surroundings, and yet was called to possibly lay it all down by risking her own life to bravely save her people. Women like Leah, who was less loved than her sister, Rachel, and given to her husband in marriage by trickery from her Father. And Rachel, the more loved of the two was desired by Jacob, the husband she shared with her sister, but she struggled with an inability to bear children while her sister popped them out like Pez candies.

I don’t know about you, but I can relate. No matter how much we achieve and attain or how far we go in life it seems that search for more is always there. If we are not seeking to fulfill that longing to feel like we matter and make a difference by finding our identities in Christ alone, then we are sure to seek it out in something else. And this world is full of things vying to deliver what only staying connected to God can. John 15:5 reminds us there is only one sure way to live lives that impact this world greatly. Jesus himself spoke these words:

"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing.”

That longing we have in our hearts for significance is a wiring only working from a place of staying connected to Christ can fulfill. When we live joined with him, anchored as His Beloved, we experience abundant lives. Separated, we can’t produce anything of lasting value. Let’s put our anchors down deep in his love for us and trust him to work in and through us to live impactful lives!

Let’s dig deeper into this battle for significance:

  1. Where are you tempted to find your identity?
  2. What around you is most tempting when it comes to taking matters into your own hands in order to feel significant?
  3. What makes you feel threatened on your journey to living a significant life?
  4. As a child, did you feel significant in your family? What words were spoken over you then and how does that shape your understanding of your significance now and the way you seek to fulfill that need in your life today.

For further reflection:

Read the stories of Eve (Genesis 2 & 3), Sarai (whose name was later changed to Sarah) (Genesis 15, 16, & 17), Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29 & 30). For each reading, write out in your journal your thoughts on their personal struggles to find significance. How do you see yourself in their stories? How might you have done things differently? How does seeing God’s redemptive love woven through out give you hope that even if you have made mistakes, he can redeem it? Lastly, ask God to show you from these readings any areas you might need to make adjustments in, in order to stay living from a place of being anchored in him.

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Satisfied

Have you ever watched a child’s transition from the dependence of infancy to the relative independence of an older child? Each new accomplishment in picking out their own clothes, eating their meals without assistance, bathing and brushing their teeth on their own, builds in them the confidence that says, "I can do it myself!" Becoming more independent is a normal and healthy part of growing up. However, we cross over into unhealthy self-reliance when we seek to meet our own needs and make things happen apart from God.

Romans 12:2 message says, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

This verse reminds us that real, well-formed maturity in our spiritual lives is not the same as what we consider maturity in our natural lives as we progress and become more independent. Spiritual maturity, is a maturity that relies on God for every area of our lives. It’s taking our sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around areas of our lives and placing them before God as an offering. When we do this we give God room to move in and have his way.

Let’s take a look today at self-reliance vs. God reliance -

1.      What circumstances tempt you to rely on yourself?

2.      What do you feel is the root feeling or need behind these situations? How does identifying the root help you to pin point the lie and lead you to find the truth in God’s word? For example, if you seek to self- promote in the workplace, would you say fear of being over looked or left behind could be the motivating factor? Could it be a fear that God won’t come through for you? In this example, a verse to counteract this fear is: If God is for me, who could be against me. Or My God shall supply all of my needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus

For further reflection:

Carve out a time to sit and have coffee with Jesus. Grab a notebook or journal and a pen. Ask the holy spirit to remind you of a time you self-navigated or relied on yourself to meet your needs. Write down what he brings to mind. Then ask him to help you pin point the underlying feelings or needs that contributed to you taking matters into your own hands. Write down each word that comes to mind. Then reflect on those words. Could those feelings, fears or needs contribute to this pattern in other areas of your life? Allow some time to ponder and sit with him and talk it through in prayer. Then look for some verses that have to do with those feelings and needs. Write them out in your journal and read them aloud this week daily as a reminder that God will take care of you and supply everything you need.

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It Happened Again

It happened again... that instant heart to heart connection with our Polish friends of over 10 years, as we arrived in my motherland. I was trying to figure out why I experienced an immediate feeling of, “Ahhh, I’m with family”. In that moment I couldn’t explain it; it was just there.

Why? How could this happen with people who live half way across the earth from one another, who don’t speak the same language, and don’t communicate or see each other very often? I don’t know, but it did. It never takes long for me and Asia, to pick up where we left off, talk (unfortunately through an interpreter whom you pray is interpreting correctly) about everything from kids, to hormones, to church life and crazy husband stories.

We laugh. We cry. We understand.

Right then, I recognized that I am a part of a much bigger space in time... a part of the divine... I am part of a very holy encounter. Tears fill my eyes, “God, please help me encourage your beloved daughters to press onward in your strength. Join our hearts in such a way that your plan is accomplished.

Use me Jesus.

Speak through Rob as he trains these pastors. Give us sweet moments together each day. Let your kingdom come in this land so desperate for your revolutionary grace. Help our friends know they are a part of history in the making... of your heavenly descent upon Poland.”

My heart was yearning to know what this thing that happened again is.

While we were there, Shoreline Poland fiercely served their nation with two conferences in two days that would make your head spin, with the amount of time, energy and excellence they sacrificially gave to see them come to pass.

The pastors’ conference was incomparable. I have never seen my husband so on point... speaking words, like apples of gold in settings of silver... like an arrow hitting a bulls eye. His authenticity and wisdom was a deep nourishing meal to the leadership soul of these brave pioneers in their land. I could see light bulbs going off in their minds, hope filling their hearts, ideas stirring within. These pastors were cheering each other on like never before. I knew Poland would never be the same.

SHINE – well it was simply drenched with beauty from beginning to end... fantastic worship, teaching and preaching... elements of humor, surprise, and gifts... yummy food, photo ops, shopping, parties and of course confetti. Girls are so much fun!!

And God...

who can grasp his ways? He once again opened the eyes of his daughters to understand how valuable and powerful they are. We reached out to him with unfiltered devotion. Girls were hugging, giggling, weeping, celebrating and enjoying each other. The day was pure wonder.

Then came Sunday and there it was again – that same glorious connection with these wonderful people. We may as well have been in Austin, in our church building. There was a commonality, a comfortability. We lifted our voices in adoration to God together. I applauded them for all they are doing to plow forward in the midst of a nation that is blind to true relationship with Jesus. I expressed the joy we feel just getting to be with them. And again Rob shared with passion and clarity a message of grace, hope and change. Lives were touched, healed & saved. Afterwards, we talked strategy and enjoyed a sweet time of food and fellowship. Then it was time to pack up & say our goodbyes...

I didn’t want to go.

Back at the hotel the tears fell once again... for a good while.

What is it – this thing that keeps happening again and again?

What is this feeling of family... of deep connection... of the divine?

It could only be one thing.

It was love.

Love happened again.

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I'll Save Your Seat

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In our world today it’s amazing how much we can run from a seated position. With our phones in hand we can run teams, manage bank accounts, turn on the air conditioning at home, and track our kids to make sure they are where they are supposed to be. With remotes we can record shows, turn fans off and on, and change light and music settings. We can order dinner, groceries and shop for every good or service our hearts desire with the touch of a key on the keyboard. It feels like we can pretty much run the world from our comfy couches, our office chairs or from the kitchen table. I personally love it that we can do so much from a seated position, everything we need literally right at our fingertips!

When it comes to operating in Christ, we have the same ability to rule and reign and take dominion from a seated position with him.

Ephesians 2:4-6 says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…”

Imagine that with me for a moment.

You and I are seated with Christ in heavenly realms. We have comfy, royal looking chairs at his table with our names on them, a table that resides in the very throne room of God where Jesus himself is positioned at God’s right hand.

Our enemy would love nothing more than to knock us off kilter and get us in a frenzy such that we forget where we are positioned. He seeks to install fear in our hearts such that we topple our chairs and run fast and furious in an effort to take care of every fiery storm and trial he sends our way, in our own strength. He’d love if we would try to meet our needs in our own ways apart from Christ. That’s because he knows if he can get us up and running our worlds on our own from an upright self-navigating position, he can cause us great harm and heartache. He doesn’t want us to stay anchored in the Beloved.

Yet in this place of being positioned in Christ, seated with him at the table, we have everything we need to stand firm against the enemy’s tactics. This means the things around us can no longer define how we stand, because we’re actually standing firm from a position of being seated with Christ. From these seats, we can counter the enemy’s schemes and fight the good fight of faith. The best thing we can do when we are tempted to topple chairs and run or stand in our own strength is take a deep breath, plant ourselves there in God’s presence, and allow him to take over. And there we can rest in him as he works in us to glorify his name across the earth!

Let’s take a look at what it means to operate from a place of being seated with Christ:

1. Have you ever been to an event or a dinner where you had a place card waiting at the table or seat with your name on it? How did it make you feel to know someone had taken the time to designate your seat and mark it in a special way? In the same way God has a special seat marked for you that only you can fill. Your name is on it. Your place card clearly set. Describe what it means to you to have a seat at the table that only you can fill. 

2. If God would give his son to ensure you have a seat at his table, there’s nothing else he wouldn’t offer. Every spiritual blessing available in Christ is yours through him who loves you so much. Describe how your world would look different if you operated in every area of your life from the place of being seated with Christ, positioned in him? How would that affect your family, your workplace peers, and your world?

One more thought... 

When we live our lives with the awareness that we are seated with Christ, we are operating from a place of victory. A place of remembering we are the head and not the tail, we are above only and not beneath (Deuteronomy 28:13). A place of knowing the battles we face have already been won and every tough thing we’ve ever encountered will be redeemed and turned around for our good.

Where in your life are you struggling to believe you will see victory today? How does remembering your position help you to hope again?

If you are struggling today to believe you can overcome what you are going through, may I encourage you with these verses? Read them by inserting your name in them every day this week as a daily declaration. Allow them to soak in to your heart.

  • Ephesians 1:11, “In him I (insert name) was also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,”

  • Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus I (insert name) who was once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

  • Colossians 3:1, “Since, then, I (insert name) have been raised with Christ, I set my heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”

  • Ephesians 2:6, “And God raised me (insert name) up with Christ and seated me with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

  • 1 Peter 1:4-5, “… and into an inheritance that can never be perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for me, (insert name), who through faith am shielded by God’s power...”

 

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Relax

My friend Jenn went to the Holy Lands not too long ago. I asked her what affected her the most. She told me about a conversation she had with her guide. She asked him what he thought Jesus’ main purpose was other than to die for the sins of the world. His answer came swiftly, “To get the human race to relax and trust God with EVERYTHING!”

Matthew 6:30-33 MSG - “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

I’m sure like me, you wish you weren’t so easily sucked into the busy-ness and difficulties’ of life, but it seems to be human nature. I’m amazed at how immediate my response is when things go hay wire...I become stressed out. Why can’t we just relax, trust God, and have a party regardless of what’s going on? Why can’t we get this straight?

Is it possible we’re all a little freakish in thinking we can control, fix, and change everything and everyone around us? I think so. But if you’ve lived more than half a minute on planet earth, you quickly realize it’s simply not true. God is God and we are not. And if we’re really bright, we recognize worrying doesn’t do any good either.

The relaxation solution?

God says:

Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

Cast your cares on me for I care for you. (1Pt. 5:7)

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell me what you need, and thank me for all I’ve done. Then you will experience my peace, which exceeds anything you can understand. My peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6–7)

And you know that all things work together for good to them that love me, to them who are called according to my purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Stand back and see the salvation of the Lord. (Ex. 14:13)

Do not be afraid or dismayed… For the battle is not yours, it is mine. (2 Chron. 20:15)

I heard a song on the radio recently that included a verse that went something like this, “Why do I keep trying to fight a battle that is not mine to fight, and has already been won?”

Good question...

When you can take a deep breath in and let it out! Trusting that God, who created you, knows every detail about you, knows exactly what you need, when you need it... is willing, excited, and responsible to get it to you!

RELAX!

-Laura

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The Art of Validation

Have you read the news lately OR had a recent conversation with your family or friends.... or the person standing behind you at the grocery store? It seems everyone is fighting with everyone about everything. There are always the hot topics like politics, sexuality, climate, race, & religion. You name it, there’s a squabble going on. I’m actually amazed we haven’t blown each other off the planet by now.

However, on a much less dramatic plane, the way we relate to one another on an everyday basis is equally... interesting. The people I chat with, or overhear having conversations, seem to struggle a little with their finances, health and a few other non - human issues. But for the most part they are frustrated or having a difficult time navigating...

Relationships.

That’s what life is made up of for the most part. PEOPLE. More than ever, we, as a human species are wrestling with the ability to live in harmony with one another.

Why is that?

Taking an inventory of my own life, I’d say, for the most part, it’s because I want to be heard, understood, and valued regardless of what I’m feeling, I’ve said, or am experiencing in any given moment... but surprisingly all those people I thought were so amazing, quickly become the enemy when I find myself ‘dis-regulated.

We all want to be heard, understood, and accepted...

In another word: VALIDATED.

Validation is a relatively new term for our family, but this ONE SKILL alone has made the biggest impact in resolving conflict in our home over the last several years!

What is validation?

Validation is the art of affirming another person by actively listening & accepting the person as they are, in the moment, and communicating that acceptance to them.

It’s the ability and willingness to enter fully into the experience of another person. Validation honestly, is love in action. It requires that you reflect back what the other person is feeling even if you don’t feel the same way – or do not agree with what they are feeling. Validation is purely observing the other person in a nonjudgmental manner that communicates clearly that you are really interested in what they are thinking and feeling. There is no right or wrong to feelings – because what a person feels is simply what a person feels. Validation is all about describing what you observed in an unbiased, empathetic way. After the person has shared their thoughts or heart, it’s saying things like:

“I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for you.”

“Wow, I can see how painful it must’ve felt for you to experience what you experienced.”

You’re simply reflecting back to them with nonjudgmental tones. It’s also very helpful to share what you share with the same intensity they shared their concerns. For example, if the person you are listening to communicates with strong emotion – mimic their emotion with a strong emotional validating response. This let’s them know you understand how upset they are.

It’s also not about understanding the other person – you don’t need to know ‘why’ they feel how they feel – it’s not about logic. It’s simply about the other person feeling valued and loved. In fact, you can truly love someone their whole life without validating them – but if you do not validate them they will not feel loved. When you validate someone – all of the emotion and toxicity of the moment is released – then you can move to understanding and logic.

The crazy thing is that validation works even when you know someone is doing it. It’s like magic.

I remember one day a few years ago – our church was hosting a city wide women’s event with Beth Moore, and I was suppose to MC that night – our daughter Danielle was in a rough spot on her journey and coming to visit from out of town – our son Luke was moving out of our house into an apartment after a year of living with us – and our son Caleb’s birthday was coming up. Needless to say my emotions were all over the place & I was feeling completely overwhelmed. I had cried all day long, prayed and talked to a few friends, but honestly I could not get ahold of myself. I felt like I was losing it, and had no idea how I could host this huge event. Then Rob came home, I told him what was going on – and even though I knew what he was doing, he grabbed me, held me in his arms and tenderly said, “Laura, you are an amazing woman, you are a fantastic leader, you love your kids so deeply, and you are missing your son. It’s 100% understandable that you feel the way you feel. I am a father and I love our kids, but I can only begin to imagine how you must feel, as a mom, to have all of our kids leaving the nest when you’ve nurtured them and had them in our home all these years. I am so sorry for the pain you are experiencing in this moment. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to feel sad. Can I pray for you? And Laura, you are going to do a fantastic job tonight hosting these women, because you are so great at loving others.”

All I have to say is - it worked. The tears stopped, peace came, and off I went to one of the most memorable evenings ever!

Believe me, validation takes some practice and it’s easy to drift back into judgment, shame, defensiveness, anger, and all those other ‘not so kind’ responses we’re use to engaging in... But if you learn and practice the art of validation, you will be astounded at how wonderful your relationships become.

You might even discover all those PEOPLE are a lot like you...

AMAZING!

-Laura

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where ya gunna go?

Today is our son Caleb’s 8 year anniversary of being in Heaven.

O how the pain is still so real. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, drive by the crash site, see his picture, or whisper a prayer of gratitude to God that Heaven is real and one day we will all get to be together again. In those moments, tears come easily and my heart aches for my boy.

When I’m overwhelmed on these or special days like his birthday or anniversary, family reunions, holidays... I often feel like running away from it all. Then I think, “Laura, where ya gunna go?”

Psalm 139:1-8 – You have searched me, Lord, and know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out, and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

God is all knowing, all powerful and everywhere. There is absolutely no escape mechanism or place we can go to get away from his constant pursuit of us!

So, the only logical, helpful, and joy filled place to run and hide is into the safe haven of God’s perfect comfort and love! And every time I do... it is well.

If for any reason at all you are in a tough spot and thinking you need to ‘get away from it all’ – may I gently ask you, ‘Where YOU gunna go?’ Instead may I boldly invite you to join me in running right smack dab into the center of the caring grace & presence of your heavenly Father!

WHATCHA GUNNA DO?

Grief is horrible on every level. However, one of the most life transforming and perspective changing things I’ve done since Caleb relocated to heaven, is to give my life away in service for others. DOing something for others, who are also walking through difficult life circumstances, always takes my focus off of my own pain and sorrow, and brings a ton of joy to my soul.

Over the past 7 years, as a family, we have participated in the CALEB Run, which is a Caleb Foundation 5K race we put together to galvanize our church family, to raise resources for at - risk youth in our community. It was a fabulous and rewarding 7 years.

This year, our family decided to shift the 5K run into a city - wide outreach week we’re calling Beyond The Shore. Our goal is to get outside the 4 walls of Shoreline and love Austin and the surrounding areas in ways they’ve never been loved before. The week kicked off with a golf tournament in which we raised over $22,000, for 6 charities, who care for under-resourced youth in our community and in Haiti, and victims of sex trafficking around the US. There are over 30 serving opportunities, ranging from stuffing 1100 backpacks with school supplies for a Title 1 middle school, to partnering with Habitat For Humanity, Central Texas Food Back, cleaning up parks in the city, Austin Life Care, Side By Side Kids and much more...

The response has been overwhelming! The number of people who signed up and showed up all week long is mind blowing! If you were to ask any one of them how they felt after they spent just a few hours caring for people, hammering some nails, smiling, buying someone’s coffee or groceries, opening someone’s door, mowing their lawn... on top of volunteering countless hours serving their fellow man in all the ways we reached out... you would hear comments like:

“So thankful to be a part of a church that has a heart for the middle school students. 1100 students will get backpacks FULL of supplies to start the new year! It was such a joy to serve today!”

“So as this guy started out thru the green light I saw his load start sliding off of his truck. I stopped, I honked and prayed everyone would stop behind me. They did right away. I had a choice to stop and block the lane for them or drive around them and get to my doctor’s appointment on time. I decided to stop and make a difference in a stranger’s life!”

“This is my first time ever doing anything outreach based and I thought to myself ok I am going to go do something for someone else and as I sat there writing a little love note to hurting people and I just thought this is going to go to someone and it is going to help them know that they are worthy and they are important. I am so thankful to have the chance to have my eyes open and a perspective change. I encourage everyone to go out and volunteer in some kind of way”

I guess what I’m trying to say is that giving your life away to serve and bless others is one of the quickest ways to fill your heart with joy and make a difference for good in the world.

Luke 6:38 MSG - Give away your life; you'll find your life given back, but not merely given back – given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.

So, if you’re bumming out about something small, or truly grieving over a deeply painful loss of anything, let me ask you, “Whatcha gunna do?”

Live for a CAUSE bigger than you are – give your life away – DO something for someone else... and chase those blues away!

-Laura

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Let Freedom Ring!

I’m not sure how long you have been walking with the Lord but we’ve been besties for 40 years – and I am always astounded at his relentless pursuit, acceptance & love for his kids! At his constant desire to keep us walking forward to live FREE in every area and season of life.

I was chatting with one of my long-time friends a few months ago about how it seems we finally get free in one area and then God turns around and asks us to walk in freedom in another area - year after year – season after season – getting free of one darn idol or issue after the other...that we didn’t even know was a problem in our lives.

It’s like we just get free in one area and then ‘oh my gosh’, all of a sudden, our eyes are opened to another way we need to be free. We must be really messed up humans! I wish I could tell you that I wake up every morning with a smile radiating from my face, with faith filling my heart, that my mind thinks only thoughts that line up with God’s word, and my mouth says all the right things with just the right tones... but that’s not my reality.

I am in a constant battle in all these areas. In fact last summer on our way driving home from vacation, Rob and I were discussing some of our goals for this coming fall and year... and it was awesome!! We were connecting – it was beautiful… But then it was my turn to drive and he got irritated because I wanted to stop and get a Starbucks, so I wouldn’t fall asleep. Being a typical male, his irritation stemmed from the fact that he didn’t want to go ‘out of our way’ because he was on a mission to get home. But seriously, we were in no hurry at all, what’s an extra 15 min? Come on!! Anyhow, he did take me to Starbucks – but I could tell he was NOT happy.

So when I got out of the car to go in, I had a talk with myself that ‘no matter how much of a stinker he was acting like, or how irritated he still was when I got back in the car, I was going to be a kind human, a loving wife, just swallow my pride and deal with it.

As you probably have figured out – that DID NOT happen – I got in the drivers seat, looked over at him, and there he was in the passengers seat with his earphones on... basically pouting. So... I gently pulled one of the ear buds out of his ears and just went off. It was terrible. I said all kinds of stupid things I wish I didn’t say. But I just thought it was ridiculous how big of a deal he was making this! Normally, he likes to take a walk to get a hold of himself before he says too much - but this time – he was trapped – he couldn’t get away so he said stupid stuff back... at one point he asked to stop and let him out of the car and at another point, I asked to get out... it was a doozy. (Do you feel better about yourself now?)

Of course we apologized... and still love each other and it’s all good! But I told you that story to illustrate that we all need FREEDOM! LIVING A FREE LIFE is hard and it’s a journey we will be on the rest of our lives. We all need freedom in different areas, at different times. Sometimes we have to keep working on the same area over and over... ‘hello LAURA with your mouth!’ We all WANT to live free... but struggle to do so.

The great news is: Galatians 5:1 (msg) says, “Christ has set us free to live a free life!” Jesus died on the cross to set us free from sin and death, from sickness and lack, from every bondage, from anything that holds us back, so we can live free! 

Of course the million-dollar question is: ‘How do we really LIVE FREE?’ We’d need books and seminars and eons of time to adequately answer this question and dig into this subject, but just to whet your appetite.

I took a little survey from some of my closest friends asking what the top 3 things are that help them live free and here’s what they said:

  • Routine

    Stick with what you know works for you
  • Laugh

    Don’t take life or yourself too seriously
  • Exercise

    Get those toxins out
  • Nature 

    Get out and enjoy God’s creation                                    
  • Balance

    Of grace with yourself and asking God ‘to search me and see if there is any offensive way in me!’
  • Surrender

    Stay in a trusting - dependent – love filled – ‘have your way in my life’- relationship with God.
  • Perspective Shift

    Perspective is the only thing that changes results without changing the facts – "Be grateful for what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t have!"
  • Daily Quiet Time

    Worship, reading the Bible and speaking God’s promises, praying, journaling, gratitude, sharing your faith.
  • Relationships

    Accountability + increases the joys & reduces the burdens

ALL of these ideas are fantastic tools to help us LIVE FREE! My guess is that if we all participate in a few more of these practices... we will live with a whole lot more freedom! 

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Addicted to Haiti

I have an addictive personality. In different seasons of my life this has been a disadvantage. Recently I found a new fix… one that has wiped me off my feet.

Hi my name is Danielle and I am addicted to Haiti.

For the last seven years our church has partnered with an organization in Ouanaminthe, Haiti called Danita’s Children. Their mission is to raise up orphaned children in the ways of the Lord and empower them to change their nation. Through the generosity of our church family, the Caleb Foundation has supplied them with buildings, where many young people are currently living. They have sincerely kept Caleb’s story and legacy alive.

Although there are some undeniable facts about the conditions of Haiti, it is absolutely a diamond in the rough. Every time I go there, I see less poverty and more diamond. Every nation has its own set of issues, but every nation also has things that make it beautiful. So let’s switch things up.

Today we are going to chat about what is right with Haiti.

One thing that Haiti does really well is community. I have learned how to love people better through watching how they love. As a youth leader I interact with students who often deal with depression and negative thoughts. Suicide is an epidemic in our nation. I was asking one of my Haitian friends if this is an issue they deal with and he said no. That sparked my interest. He began to explain that although high rates of sickness and disease lead to death in Haiti, suicide hardly exists because everyone feels like they belong. Community is a part of their culture. It is just simply how they do life…..

Community saves lives.  

My favorite thing to do there is to people watch. I sit back, relax and just observe. Haitians are a beautiful people. They are hard workers. They look after one another. It doesn’t matter if you are a stranger, you are family. You are accepted simply because you are breathing. Wouldn’t that be nice? To be known and loved just for being alive…. Like I said I have learned a lot. I am challenged to see things differently.

To fix my eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen.

I want to challenge you to look deeper. There is beauty in everything. Take your blinders off and take a look around. Don’t miss out on what is right in front of you.

The unseen always has a way of transforming what you actually see.

-Danielle Koke

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