You Are Not Your Circumstances| By Zuzana Niedelova

A few months ago I met a boy. He was a 9-year-old as any other – going to school, playing with his friends, telling silly jokes and all the other things boys his age do. I met him in his school; I was asked to come to help him during his classes as he needed the extra support. At first, I did not think much of it; it was my job to go to various schools to support kids with special educational needs or to help with problematic behavior.

But this day was very different from all the others, mainly because this boy was blind, in a public school and I was not expecting nor was I trained for working with physically disabled children. It was just natural for me to start analyzing his possible thought processes and insecurities before I even met him.

I thought, surely he would be shy and quiet because he is different from all his classmates. Or that he would not want to join in with learning because it was more difficult for him. I even thought of a possibility that he would be rude and self-consumed because power so often serves as an easy coping mechanism.

I had all these thoughts in my head, trying to pick a strategy for working with this problematic boy who was about to walk through the door any minute.

Since the moment he came in to the end of the day he kept surprising me and wrecking my presumptions about him. He was not shy or quiet, but rather one of the loudest in the room.  He was not scared of any challenge and was so eager to learn I could not keep up with all of his questions. On top of it all, he was by far one of the kindest, sweetest kids I have ever worked with. He was full of joy, energy, and yearning for all the good life has to offer.

His favorite activity was to read, the most exciting part of it being long new words, learning how to spell them, count their letters and find the middle one – all using a Brillo machine and his fingers. At the end of this sequence there would be a happy exclamation: “this word is so big! It has 11 letters with a ‘t’ in the middle!” his excitement was contagious. He had his special book that must have been hilarious because he could not stop laughing and his kind heart could not keep the jokes to himself so he always translated it for me so we could laugh together. 

What I saw in this boy at first was everything that was destroyed and stolen from him. But he knew that was not what defined him. We all have our ‘blindness’, that thing or situation which has a potential to drain our energy, to be too hard, to leave us wondering that maybe that is all there is to life. But it is only a potential and if we grant it the power to take over, it will take it.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)

Jesus came that we may have life in all its fullness. We are not bound to what happened to us, we are not slaves to whatever the enemy tries to kill, steal and destroy in our lives. We are freed, given new life, forgiven, and loved.

Every day is a new beginning with Jesus – every minute if you need it, Jesus does not count it; with Him it is always as if it was the first time. We don’t have to just know He is giving the new life to us; we can accept it and own it.

This boy is 9-years-old and after only one day he managed to inspire me for months. He might not know Jesus but he certainly knows that there is more to life than bullies, constantly bumping into things, being different in such a hard way, not ever seeing his parents, or even having to get through his whole life with by far not as much support and resources as people with sight.

There is always more to life than what you have to face today, tomorrow or even in a year. No matter how difficult your situation is, Jesus is offering comfort, joy, love, unity, peace, purpose, forgiveness, new life and so much more. He is offering you a life in all its fullness so take it and own it. 

Do not let the enemy kill, steal and destroy what you have; rather see yourself as a child of God, fearfully and wonderfully made, blessed with all the heavenly blessings and with the Holy Spirit as your helper. 

Rejoice for he has given you a new life – life in all its fullness.

A Generous Spirit| By T’eoria Murray

One day after school when I was about 6-years-old, my mom told me that we would be making a stop at the toy store on the way home. 

“Tee, I need to get a Christmas gift for your god-sister. I want your honest opinion because she’s about your age,” she told me. “Pick something that you would want for yourself.” 

I remember sticking my chest out with pride at the prospect of giving her my input. However, once we were inside the store I could only think about all the things I wanted for myself. My mom tried to coax an opinion out of me a few times. 

“Do you think she would like this? What do you think about this doll?” I would offer a half-hearted “Sure” or shrug indifferently. I didn’t want to pick a toy for another girl after seeing half a dozen things I wanted for myself. 

Finally, I picked the nearest baby doll and assured my mom it would be fine. She paid and I reluctantly followed her out of the store. I forgot all about this incident until weeks later when Christmas rolled around. Amid my myriad gifts, I was surprised to find the very doll I had chosen without thought! My mom watched my face closely and said she had wanted to give me the chance to pick my own gift without ruining the surprise. I tried to look pleased, but I was stunned and more than a little disappointed with myself. If I had given real thought to her request and embraced the opportunity to give another child a gift, the blessing would have come back to me.

Yourdictionary.com defines generosity as “readiness or willingness to give; the quality of being willing to share.” 

If you are like me, when you think about having a generous spirit, the first thing that comes to mind is money, but there is so much more to giving than that. The principle of generosity is weaved in and out of scripture. God Himself is portrayed as the embodiment of generosity in giving His Son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. In His life on Earth, Jesus made it plain that generosity isn’t about isolated acts, but rather a lifestyle that is others-focused. He was constantly giving of Himself- His wisdom, His time, His kindness and encouragement. By His unselfish example He demonstrated that we all have something to give. 

So how can we practice generosity in our daily lives?

  1. Generosity with our time

We all have 24 hours in a day, but somehow it never seems like enough. We live in a fast-paced world that never stops and time is a precious commodity. Is there someone in your life that you can invest in? Is there a child who needs mentoring? A friend who needs a listening ear? An elderly neighbor who could use help around the house? Time given to uplift others is time well-spent.

“And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” Hebrews 13:16 (NLT)

  1. Generosity with our abilities

Do you love to sing or play an instrument? Do you have a practical skill like plumbing or electrical work? Maybe you have the gift of teaching or are good with finances. Whatever your talent or skill, ask God to show you opportunities to use it to help others. Bring the joy of music into a dreary place. Help with the repairs at a place that desperately needs the work done but can’t afford it. Tutor those young people who have stopped believing in themselves. Our talents and gifts were given to brighten the lives around us. 

  1. Generosity with our belongings

When it comes to the things that I own, I often face a dilemma you may be familiar with.  When I need something to wear it seems I don’t have much at all, but when I have to pack or reorganize my stuff I suddenly have far more than I need! Are there extra clothes, shoes, books, electronics or other things around your house that you’re saving for a just-in-case or a rainy day? Occasionally, it’s a good idea to prayerfully look through the things we own for ways to bless others who may need something more than we do. Our apparent clutter could be their answered prayer.

“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT)

  1. Generosity with our money

The idea of giving can be daunting because what we have to offer may look small in comparison to the great need that surrounds us. The old saying goes “little is much when God is in it.” It’s safe to say your donation won’t solve world hunger, but God cares more about the heart of the giver than the quantity of the gift. You may know a teacher who needs supplies, a young mother who needs baby clothes, or a family who could use groceries. What creative ways can you find to bless others? 

Christian author Randy Alcorn wrote, “The single greatest deterrent to giving and to living more simply is the illusion that this world is our home.” 

As we ask God to open our eyes and change our priorities, we will realize that we are only stewards of our time, abilities, possessions, and money. He will show us how to use them all for the greatest good- His glory. 

“The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25 (NLT)

Mere Human| By Emily Lawson

Tell me a little about yourself.

What comes to mind?

Your name, age, job, relationship status? Maybe your hobbies or interests?

Mine would go something like, “Hi, I’m Emily! I’m a wife to my high school sweetheart, and a mommy to my son, with another baby on the way! I’m currently a financial service representative for a hospital pharmacy, but would love to stay home someday. Our family loves to be outdoors to hike, camp, and travel…”

But who are you? Really? Down to the nitty gritty.

Human.

We are each a ball of emotions and heart strings and hot messes.

And that is what each of us focus on when we look at ourselves. How quick our temper is. How easy it is to make us cry, or how often we don’t cry. How lazy we feel, or how much time we don’t take to relax.

How does God see you?

After church the other night, I figured it out.

To God,

I am water.

I am a storm at sea.

I am a fish.

I am a blind man.

Every item is common and unique.

I am a shepherd’s staff.

I am a rock in the desert.

I am an oil container.

I am dry bones.

Every item is unmoving.

I am Moses.

I am David.

I am Esther.

I am Job.

All just plain humans.

Until…

God moved THROUGH them.

Water turned to wine.

A fish to feed thousands.

A shepherd’s staff to part the sea.

Dry bones turned to soldiers.

A youth David to fight a giant.

A woman to save a nation.

This time of year, we resolve to be new and better. We grow in strength and in health.

This year, though, what if you resolved to sit back and listen? A little more closely. A little more intently.

What if we resolved to have more conversations in our prayer closet? Asking for less to be taken, and instead asking for more grace and understanding in our circumstances. No matter if they are positive or negative.

Jeremiah 33:3 (KJV) says: Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

Ask for the strength to face the world we live in boldly.

Ask for the vision to see the opportunities that He lays before you.

Our workout routines will still be there each day. Our diet plans will help us feel better each meal.

However, our prayers can be there for us when the gym closes and when the refrigerator is still calling us after we have met our intake for the day!

When we can’t sleep at 2am. When we are having a rotten day and we’re stuck in traffic. When our plans are cancelled last minute and we cannot help but be disappointed.

Friends, family, and significant others are wonderful, but they are not as available as a limitless God. No need to remember a phone number. No need for the phone to be charged. No need to find the right words.

You do not have to be a special person. Moses saw himself as someone that could not speak well, but God saw him as the one to free the slaves. Job was just a father and home owner, but God saw him as the perfect one to demonstrate true faith to the world.

Resolve to be YOU this year.

Let God work THROUGH you. Make yourself available. Allow God to use you.

A New Year’s Resolution has never changed your life so much!

Sit at the Feet of Jesus| By Kristen Mamou

“I am not ready,” was my first thought when my alarm went off.

The day before had been trying, to say the least. It was one of those days my children had been “off the chain.” One kid had undecorated the Christmas tree, another colored on my hall closet door (the one you see when you first walk in my house, yep that one), and my once barely clean house was in shambles.

I drove to Michael’s later that same evening with my hubby and kids in tow. We got in the store, and I realized I put the keys in the diaper bag and then decided not to bring the diaper bag in. Yeah, you guessed it. We were locked out of the car.

When we finally made it home, way later than expected, my frustration level was at an all time high, my taunting insecurities rising up. I quickly put everyone in bed, and I followed shortly.

All of these memories from just the day before flooded my mind as I hit the 6:10 AM snooze button. I was already aggravated, and the day had not even started.  

Have you ever been there before? You have not even started your day, and you are already frustrated and aggravated. 

I turned on some worship music and began to try and quiet my spirit. I had no words to pray, but just reminded God that today I needed his grace and strength. 

This scripture came to me: “My grace is sufficient, my strength is made perfect in your weakness.” 2 Corinthian 12:9 (NIV)

Mommying (as I call it) is hard. If you are married, being a wife is hard. Just holding down your job and career is hard.

There are days where I am sure you feel like me and that, no matter how hard you try, you are failing, falling short of your goals. God reminds me in those times that it is when His grace is most evident in my life.

Those times are when He wants me to lean on Him. 

James 1:2 (KJV), reminds us to “count it all joy when we go through trials and temptations, because it works patience in us.” 

The day to day life trials are designed to work patience inside of us, but even more so, to draw us closer to God. I know I need His strength and His grace to be the mom, wife, and ministry leader He has called me to be. I cannot do it without Him, so it forces me to be right where He wants me all along sitting at His feet.

Sitting at the feet of Jesus is where I find grace, strength, and His wisdom to get through my day, to be a wife, a mom, and the many other hats that I wear. As I sit at His feet, He reminds me who I am and whose I am. I can vanquish the lies of the enemy in His presence, those insecurities begin to fade away as He reminds me that His banner over me is love.

Today, I do not know what you are going through or what trials you are facing, but I can tell you that His grace is sufficient for you.

Stop, take a moment and just sit at His feet. As the hustle and bustle of the holiday season come to an end, do not be like Martha so busy that you do not have time to sit at the feet of Jesus. Today, take the time to sit as His feet and allow Him to strengthen you and give you His grace to be what He has called you to be. 

If we are going to be successful mamas, wives, career women, or whatever our title may be, let us choose the best thing, sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Why We Need the Church| By Emily Lawson

This world is all about identity.

“Don’t put a label on me, but if you refer to me incorrectly, I’ll be upset.”

Everyone wants to be there own person – unique in their own way.

And while I think we should never try to conform to be someone else, God does not call us to be a singular person!

He calls us “the flock”. We are a peculiar “people”.

Yes, each of us is seen individually in His eyes, but if we go out on our own, we do not have the protection of the united front with all His children!

“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body.” 1 Corinthians 12:14‭-‬20 (KJV)

You are a leg, and I am an arm. Without each other, we are not going to get very far.

The church is such an important part of our Christian walk. It is about the fellowship that we gain, the support system that comes with it, and the cheerleaders rooting for us. These all allow us to walk confidently among those of the world.

The church helps us to grow, when we learn from the preacher who is lead by the Holy Spirit. It helps lift us up when surrounded by prayer warriors, and it helps keep us connected to His people by allowing us to pray for others!

At my church, our covenant ends by saying that when we feel led to find a new church that we will seek a new church as soon as possible to be able to carry out “the principles of God’s word.”

This is such an important point to remember, because sitting out on one church service can seem simple. With your second missed service, you feel guilt, but you have that excuse ready. By the third and fourth, you do not feel AS bad. It is a slippery slope.

If we stick with God’s teachings and choose to be in His presence and with His people, we grow, and it becomes easier to hear His calling for our life.

So, where are you finding your identity? Is it in your style? Is it in your job? Your label of mom/dad?

What if you seek to find your identity within the church? Within the community God has placed around us to keep us strong?

God gives us a community so that they can lift us up to find our personal calling in His kingdom. The world around us only wants to drag us further and further away from Him.

This “Me” focused world is not, and cannot be, a “God” focused world!

Be the peculiar people. Stand out from the world and stand strong with the Kingdom!

Leap of Faith| By T’eoria Murray

“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is evidence of things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

In the summer before my senior year of college, I felt a tug on my heart to commit to a year of full-time ministry. As I sat before God in my devotions each morning, I heard Him whisper, “Take this leap. I’ll catch you.”

My breath caught in my throat every time I thought of it. The idea was ludicrous. I was an international student. What about my plans to move on to medical school? I was an only child and from a single parent home. How would my family feel about this break in my education? It just was not reasonable. I must have gotten my wires crossed. But the gentle, insistent urging would not go away. 

One morning, I went to a youth Bible study where the speaker got up and simply read Hebrews 11. I would read this chapter myself at least a dozen times, but that day I saw it through different eyes.

I saw each scene in my mind’s eye as the chapter laid out example after example of how faith played a role in a believer’s life. By faith, Abel offered a sacrifice, Enoch was translated, and Noah prepared an ark on dry land. Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. Barren Sarah was able to conceive a child, becoming an ancestor of a great nation. Abraham offered Isaac back to God, being as ready to return the promised son- his only son- as he had been to receive him. Isaac blessed his sons. Moses chose hardship with his Hebrew brothers over a life of sinful ease with the Egyptians. The Israelites walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. They marched around Jericho and saw the walls fall flat. Rahab believed in their God and was delivered from the destruction. 

Gideon. Samson. Jephthah. David. Samuel. 

“By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.” Hebrews 11: 33-34 (NLT)

These heroes of the faith held on to God’s promises because they trusted Him. They saw by faith what God saw, often only in part. However, they trusted the heart of the Father, that He would not lead them where He would not sustain them. Of course, this did not always mean a happy ending in this life. 

“Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword… destitute…oppressed…mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.” Hebrews 11:36-38 (NLT)

The apostle Paul continues that while their faith was commendable, they did not see the complete fulfillment of God’s promises. That is because this story is still being written. It continues with those of us who are still carrying on the faith, still holding the banner of Christ in a dark and troubled world. I decided to accept God’s call to dedicate a year to Him in missions and felt a peace and assurance beyond any I had ever experienced. 

The next year was one of triumphs and hard lessons, close fellowship and intense conflict, numerous joys and frustrations. With a team of nine other young people, I was able to travel across the United States ministering at schools, churches, and juvenile detention centers. The year culminated with two unforgettable months in Guyana where dozens of people accepted Christ and were baptized. The experiences of that year will stay with me forever. 

What is God calling you to do for Him today? Is He asking you to make a sacrifice? Abel did that, and his faith still speaks to us today. Has He placed a project on your heart that does not make sense to anyone else? Noah obeyed and his family was saved. Does He seem to be asking you to give up a cherished dream? Abraham obeyed and God provided. Is He calling you to be a voice for an oppressed group? Moses was faithful, and he led Israel out of slavery to the borders of the Promised Land. Has He brought you face to face with what appears to be an impossible obstacle? The Israelites obeyed Him and saw Jericho’s gigantic walls collapse. 

If God has called you to take a leap of faith, do not deny Him the opportunity to work in and through you. Take a leap and His arms will be there to catch you.

“God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NLT)

The Tongue is a Flame of Fire| By T’eoria Murray

Here’s a confession: I am a girl who loves a hot shower – rain or shine, summer or winter, springtime or harvest. I need my water pressure high and my shower just short of boiling. As the water flows, I think of the events of the day or plan for the day ahead.


I will stand under my shower head replaying conversations, analyzing interactions, deciding what I could have done or should have said. I feel free to share all of my feelings without biting my tongue.The timid girl from the office is free to have an attitude, to tell off that coworker, to yell out the car window at that inconsiderate driver. And sometimes, this version of myself that lives in my daydream rears her ugly head in the real world.


Do you ever struggle with the tension that exists between saying the right thing versus saying what feels good in the moment?


I certainly have, and too often, I have allowed myself to give in to the temptation to “put someone in their place.” Angry, vicious words have a way of making their way into a room and infecting the air with their invisible influence. Spreading like a sneaky virus, it can almost be impossible to stop those words. This does not only apply to angry words. Criticism, judgement, gossip, slander, sarcasm, cruel jokes, and complaining all have a way of making their way through a room.


It is especially easy to use words as weapons against the people we spend the most time with such as our family, friends, and coworkers. However, in this age of constant interaction via the internet and the ability to hide behind a computer screen, even strangers and people in authority are not exempt. It is a toxic culture where everyone seems to take an offensive posture, because anyone can be a victim.


Though times have changed, human nature has remained the same. Scripture describes this phenomenon in James 3:2, 3:5-6:


“Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” James 3:2 (NLT)


“In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” James 3:5-6 (NLT)


Can you see it? The mean-spirited comment that changes the atmosphere in a room, spreading like wildfire? And just like a fire, once negative words are spoken, the initiator no longer has the power to stop the series of conversations and events that follow.


The gossip or mean-spirited comment has taken on a life of its own. When a person cools down, the comment rages on in another form, on another’s lips. Words said in the heat of the moment can break down friendships that were once solid.


Gossip cannot only destroy a person’s self-image but can ruin a hard-earned good reputation and lead to that person isolating themselves. Because words once spoken cannot be unsaid, this is a situation where an ounce of prevention is better than curing after the situation.


What steps can we take today towards taming our tongues?


Search for the source of the fire


“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” Matthew 15:18 (NLT)


Our words reflect our hearts, and fortunately for us, the Lord is an expert at heart work.


Ask Him to show you what is at the root of any patterns of negative speech. Is it insecurity? Bitterness? Pride? Ask Him for discernment to recognize your heart condition and for the desire to lay it down before Him so He can weed it out.


Practice fire safety

“Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.” Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)


Be intentional about speaking life. Keep an eye out for opportunities to encourage, comfort, praise, and build up. A kind word at the right time can change a life. Just as negative words can have a domino effect, so can positive ones.


Train as a firefighter


You may not be the one who started a negative conversation, but peer pressure is powerful and soon you can find yourself joining in with gossip or complaining because it is just easier not to swim against the tide.


Brainstorm ways to subtly redirect a conversation that is headed in the wrong direction. For example, many of us may find ourselves at work when the conversation becomes a session to sound off on everything that dissatisfies them about the job. This can be an opportunity to empower someone about their gifts and how their presence in the workplace can make a difference or make an improvement in the workplace.


Changing our patterns of speech can be uncomfortable and downright difficult at first. It is a lot like choosing to walk through the trees in the forest instead of the well-worn path, but the more we take this new route the easier it gets.


May we pray with the psalmist David daily,


“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NLT)

Don’t Get Emotional| By Makayla Durapau

Did you know that God has emotions?

When He sees us,

or thinks about us,

or hears from us,

or looks at us,

it makes Him feel something.

How cool is it that we can affect the heartstrings of the One that created us and everything around us?!

Spending time with Him and having a relationship with Him makes His heart glad even more so than it does ours.

Honestly, I do not feel like emotions get enough appreciation.

I have learned a lot of times that emotions indicate the state of your heart, your motives/intentions, and even the state of your relationships, both with other people and with God.

Unfortunately, a lot of people do not like to talk about emotions, or even what is causing them in the first place. This is mostly because emotions are messy. They are not always wrapped in neat little boxes that can be neatly unpacked and neatly set down somewhere to look pretty or be practical. They do not wait to make themselves known until it is convenient for you. They do not say their peace, then tidy up and go home. Sometimes, they spill… everywhere.

They act irrational.

They demand to be heard and seen.

Sometimes our emotions get, well, emotional.

That does not mean that we should stuff them down and suppress them. It also does not mean we should let them sit in the driver’s seat of our lives and dictate our response to everything life throws at us. However, it does mean our emotions are indicating a deeper reason than simply “I feel angry” or “I feel hurt” or “I feel sad”.

It is kind of like with babies. When they cry, they do not do it as a hobby. They cry because there is something deeper that is bothering them like hunger or needing sleep. Likewise, our feelings many times will let us know that there is more going on than just feeling like you want to cry or feeling like you want to punch the lights out of someone/something.

As a Christian, one of my greatest passions/desires is to see people set free from the bondage in their lives, specifically when it comes to emotional and spiritual freedom. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Isaiah 61:1, which says,

“The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners;” Isaiah 61:1 (CSB)

I had seen this verse before, but it was not until about a year ago that it really leaped off the pages to me. To me, it speaks of how we are to take up the mantle that Jesus left his followers. God wants to use us to reach the poor, heal the brokenhearted, liberate those in captivity, and free those who are being held prisoner. As believers, we have been enabled to do this with the help of HolySpirit.

One thing that really strikes me about this verse is that to accomplish these things, you have to get your hands a little bit dirty. To free prisoners, you have to go INSIDE the prison. To proclaim liberty, you have to OPEN your mouth. To bring healing, you have to get CLOSE to the one who is hurting. To reach someone, you have to take the risk of CONNECTION. Jesus has not called us to a life of seclusion, reclusiveness, or exclusiveness. He has called us to a life of inclusion, closeness, and connection; both with our creator and with other people.

When we look at the Bible, we start to realize that we are called to love ALL people at ALL times (John 13:34-35; Matthew 22:39). I Peter 4:8 says,

“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:8 (CSB)

When we are looking at others through a lens of love, it is easier for us to give others grace in our interactions with them (Proverbs 10:12; James 1:19). Peter knew that when you let love guide your interactions with people, you are more likely to see them how God wants you to see them, and less likely to see them how the devil would like you to see them. It means that despite what they might have done, we still see them as someone Jesus was willing to give his life for. Someone that God wanted a relationship with.

Remember Your Promise| By Chelsea Verdin

The lyrics to “Your Promises Never Fail” (spontaneous version) by Emmy Rose have been my fighting words for months now. And each time I listen to it, I feel greater revelation happening within me about who my God is and how powerful His promises over me are.



“For I know Your thoughts
Your plans for me are good
I know You hold
My future and my hope
Your promises never fail
Your promises never fail
And Your promises never fail
And Your promises never fail
No, no, no”

My heart has cried many times, “God, when will my prayers meet my promise?”

“When will I see what I’ve poured out my soul for come to pass?”

“When will you do it for me?”

Each time I ask these questions I am reminded of Hannah. Her story in 1 Samuel is one of my most favorites. I can relate to Hannah so strongly that I feel as if I am Hannah. She is a woman desperate for a promise to come to pass. She is taunted relentlessly by an enemy. People who loved her, who were in her corner, supporting her, but couldn’t fully grasp what grieved her. Bystanders judged her because they didn’t know her story or her heart. When I look in the mirror, all I see is a weeping, desperate Hannah.

If you are unfamiliar with the story of Hannah, I will give you a paraphrased version. Hannah shared her husband Elkanah with another woman named Peninnah. Peninnah was able to have children and did, but Hannah could not. Each year, Hannah’s husband would take them to the house of the Lord to sacrifice. He would given Hannah a double portion because he loved her even though she could not give him children. He could not understand her pain. Hannah’s rival however taunted her so relentlessly that Hannah was in great sorrow. Just as Hannah is silently pouring her desperate heart out to God, a judging priest approaches her and accuses her of being drunk. Through tears, Hannah explains her heart, and the priest quickly blesses her and sends her on her way.

My most favorite part about this story is in verses 19-20.  “and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked for him from the Lord.’”

For at least nine more months, Hannah had to be taunted by Peninnah. She had to keep praying. For at least nine more months Hannah had to use her promise as a weapon against Peninnah. She had to remind her heart and her mind what was spoken over her. She had to keep fighting and keep praying and keep singing until her cries were from labor instead of grief. She had to use her promise as a weapon until she could see it. She had to keep praying until she could meet it.

I see you woman, on your knees desperately praying for your promise to pass. I see your family and friends misunderstanding you because they do not understand your promise or your heart. I hear your rival taunting you and beckoning you to give up, to forget your promise and forget your God. I hear the bystander’s whispers and accusations as they watch your life from afar but cannot see your heart.

However, I also see our God wrapping His arms around you in compassion and mercy. I see His heartbreaking for yours and holding you still. And mostly woman of God, I hear your victory cry! Your shout of labor as you birth your promise! I rejoice with you as you continue to war for what is yours!

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her.” Luke 1:45

Let’s Be Honest| By Chelsea Verdin

I was always afraid of those “TBH” posts that hit the internet some years ago. Giving someone permission to tell you exactly what they thought of you was not the best idea in my opinion. I would intentionally avoid these posts unless I knew I could get a really good response. My strategy was if I just avoided everyone’s honesty of me, then I could pretend everything in our relationship was okay. I could cover up and hide from all the things that I assumed people thought of me.

And if I am being honest, I would rather avoid honesty than confront every ugly lie that has taken root inside of my heart. Not because I prefer to remain some broken girl, but because honesty is painful. It exposes every single motive inside of my heart and causes me to really challenge myself on issues I would rather bury. It brings up past hurts, present pride, and future fears in ways that make me feel attacked.

Honesty is like eating right. We would all rather eat the cake and feel the regret of all the calories we gained, knowing it is the wrong choice, than to eat our veggies that taste like they are trying to kill us even though it provides nutrients. Honesty is the healthy foods we try to avoid, but all know we need more of it.

Recently, Jesus spoke to my heart about the importance of being honest with myself, Him, and others.

Honesty with ourselves reveals our motives and exposes sin at the root in order for us to begin a healing process.

Honesty with God helps us to enter into worship and prayer with authentic intimacy. Not just obligatory seeking, but pure-hearted hunger because we’ve let Him strip us of our masks.

Honesty with others breaks down walls of perfectionism and allows others to see that we are real humans who are figuring out this journey too.

In Lysa Terkeurst’s book “Uninvited”, she states, “Honesty is a suitor with piercing vision who isn’t swayed by pretending and positioning.”

Honesty is not phased by our charm but is moved by vulnerability.

Ephesians 5:13 (ESV)  says “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.”

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 (ESV)

Lysa goes on to say, “As long as I suspect that honesty’s intention is to expose me and hurt me, it will always feel like a dangerous thing.”

Honesty is a form of light that shines on those areas of darkness that we try to hide from. Honesty calls it as it is. It does not dress it up, but rather it strips it naked. Jesus’s intention was always that we would expose sin and areas that hinder us from walking in His fullness. This way we can address it, make progress to heal it and realign with Him.

This feels painful because we think honesty means looking in a mirror and pointing out every flaw and imperfection we have with the intent of being abandoned, but it really means unwrapping wounds and allowing them to heal so that we can accept the full love of God.

It is easier for me to lie to myself about my motives and the things hindering me than it is to honestly say I need help. It is easier to avoid them and ignore them than to expose what is truly been breaking me. But honesty and vulnerability go hand-in-hand, and when done with the understanding, that honesty is not trying to destroy me, it is actually trying to restore me. I come to realize that honesty is my ally, not my enemy.

Have courage my friends. This is not some overnight fix. It certainly takes lots of practice and dedication to allow the Holy Spirit to work on your heart. If you are in a place of excuses or justifications for the things in your life, maybe it is time to get honest. Maybe it is time to reevaluate your priorities so that you can realign yourself with God’s promises. I know that honesty helps get us one step closer to His perfect will.