February 8 – The Little Things

Holding on to the little things throughout the day are what can give us peace and contentment. Even in a season when things don’t feel so significant, having a daily regime or plan can create calmness. We are reminded to drink our water for optimal health, take in 30 minutes of exercise, and eat more vegetables. Perhaps your current daily routine is simply surviving online schooling with your kids, or perhaps you are retired and have a whole lot more time than you ever envisioned. Sticking to a rough routine can keep your mind fit and anxieties at ease. As we are creatures of habit, revolving our days around some elements of sameness can be a great way to power through a goal, or simply draw in contentment during a pandemic.

My days have been scheduled around my 14-month-old daughter. Bedtime, nap-time, snack time and bath time are all expected daily routines in our home. From an early age, studies show that children respond well to routine; with the expectation of what comes next, there is a feeling of safety and security that comes with schedule. As we grow into adulthood there can be pressure to becoming and doing something significant with our lives. As we all know, comparison is the thief of joy. It’s easy to feel as though your life, or season isn’t as glamorous as the next person’s, as we observe what others have accomplished. I’m reminded that it is the little things that we do each day that matter – our disciplines, our faith, our manners, our resiliency.

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
―William Martin

To be content whatever the circumstances, is the challenge today, and what I’ve spoken over myself as I take a small break from writing our devotions. On a personal note, ‘our little things’ will be a new baby that my husband and I will be welcoming into our family in several weeks – and we’d welcome your prayers as we deliver during this pandemic. I’m grateful for the love and support our church community continually gives our family, and the contentment of home this during this season. I look forward to continuing in this writing role later in the year. Yet, for this season, I’ll be stepping back to make room for a joy-filled, stay-at-home routine in our household!

I encourage you to keep pressing on, and taking each day in strides. Our mission field is where we find ourselves now, and each day has significance. Don’t lose hope.

“… have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

January 25 – Looking Ahead

I have come to give you everything in abundance…”
John 10:10

Marking an almost year anniversary of this pandemic, it feels lately that more is being asked of us. The constant stream of news and updates makes you wish you never had to hear of this again! I received a wedding invitation in the mail the other day, and I thought of years gone by that I’ve attended various gatherings. I asked myself if things will look different this June- needless to say my friend is hoping so! Some say our lives will never look the same again, but it’s hard to entertain that thought. Perseverance is what is being asked of us again, and planning for uncertainty is becoming extremely waning. Although, I hope our summer starts to look a bit more normal, in the times that we wait, perhaps we can ask ourselves different questions. Questions that are not centered on what we do, or what we may plan, but who we truly are. Who will we be once out of the pandemic? It is easy to fall into cynicism, and disbelief. I hope to rise above pettiness and believe that our perspective can win over any negativity. I hope you choose to focus not on the bitterness of politics, or contribute to the hamster wheel of defeat, yet rise to the abundance of what is already in front of you and within you. Because the physical isn’t all that we are.

Abundance is what happens when you stop needing more and you wake up to the all that you are.”
The Practice Co.

We have lost control in things that have created happiness in us this year, (time spent with others, significant gatherings, and extra-curricular activities), but we haven’t lost the control of our minds and emotions. Our power is found in gratitude and the foundation of who we are, and the knowledge of who God created us to be. Our abundance is found by living in the present, and feeling the emotions as they come.

We’re going to be busy again. We will have more time with our families, and friends. I simply would like to encourage you this week, that as difficult as some moments can be, we have made it this far, and although it feels at a loss, our power and courage is being stretched. We all feel as though we are living in survival mode, with the hoping that each week would bring something new. Our stretching is developing in us a deeper character and perseverance that we never thought we had to walk through. I’m praying that you’d hold onto hope, and focus on the good. As the pandemic heals, know that we’re all in this together.

If you carry joy in your heart, you can heal any moment”
Neale Donald Walsch

[God] lifted me out of the miry pit, the slimy clay, and set my feet on a rock, steadied my legs.”
Psalm 40:2

January 21 – Controlling the Tongue

“Spiritual maturity is evidenced by the use of the tongue… Tongue-mastery is the fruit of self-mastery.”
– Sinclair Ferguson 

James 3: 1 – 12 NLT

“Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. 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.
We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 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.
People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.”

The focus of James 3:1-12 is controlling the tongue. Various analogies are used throughout this segment to teach the hindrance and downfalls of using your voice incorrectly. Perhaps you’re familiar with the quote:

“If speaking kindly to plants helps them grow, imagine what speaking kindly to humans can do.”
– Anonymous

We’re all told to be nice, to be kind to others, but I found this passage refreshing as I thought of some of the freedoms of speech we have today. Thinking on our media outlets, before the invention of social media, our media was primarily one way. You’d watch the news, or read the paper. Our current reality, is a user interaction – a two-way dialogue. The comments that pile up on chat forums, Facebook pages and news headlines on social media are pretty horrible at times. Reading this first part of James chapter 3 reminds us that our words, whether in person or typed, have weight. They have the ability to hinder or to grow. It’s the basic principle of kindness. I’m not sure lately, why speaking out especially about serious issues has to be so harsh. Our relationships, our world, relies on the encouragement of the tongue. James quotes “blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth”. Our mouths have been given the ability of doing either, it’s what we are putting our efforts into. I challenge you to stop your train of thought, ask God how to say something, perhaps in a better way. Even the way you word something can have all the difference. Because at the end of the day, that is what spiritual maturity looks like — or better, sounds like — because of the transformation of our use of the tongue.

A careless word may kindle strife;
A cruel word may wreck a life.
A bitter word may instill;
A brutal word may smite and kill.
A gracious word may smooth the way;
A joyous word may light the day.
A timely word may lessen stress;
A loving word may heal and bless.
– Author Unknown

January 13

James 1: 13 – 18 MSG

“Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.
So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.”

As we continue through the first chapter of James it’s inspiring to revisit these familiar verses. In this segment, James begins by warning us about the downfalls of temptation and lust, how temptations look enticing at the time, but as James quotes “could be the death of us”. I’m reminded, whether you want the pain of restraint now? Or the pain of your repercussions later? We all can relate to this as a human being, but James writes this to protect us. Yet, as James warns us of our sinful actions, he takes no time to recap the beautiful blessing of who we were created for. God created us for his pleasure, even though he knew we’d give into our temptations, and failures.
We are God’s gift, and we are a gift to this world. Everything good and perfect around us is from God. Plans that turned out for the better, people that have changed our lives, these are from God. Simply put, God is good, and gives goodness. He never changes, he chose to create us, to give us life.
When we are in the battle it is hard to believe that it will ever come to an end. When we are in a period of blessing we sometimes expect it will go on forever. But life is not like that. There are battles and blessings.
Pastor Rick Warren says, he used to think that the Christian life was a succession of battles and blessings, whereas now he thinks of life as being on two tracks. At any given moment in life there are usually blessings, but also battles to face.
So, even though there are trials and temptations in life, yet we are surrounded by God’s presence and light. We are not defined by our shortcomings, but are loved for who we are. A great takeaway from this chapter in James.
“God was delighted to give us birth by the truth of his infallible Word so that we would fulfill his chosen destiny for us and become the favourite ones out of all his creation!”

January 5 – Amidst Fear

He is not afraid of bad news;
     his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
     until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.”

Psalm 112:7-8 (ESV)

We all have our fears. For some, it may be the fear of illness, fear of failure, or maybe fear our dearest relationships may fail. Perhaps we fear speaking in public, or fear the opinions of others. Most likely, the choices we’ve made in life, have even been based on our fears (whether they come to be or not). Naturally, we avoid our discomforts, we try to create a controlled environment that keeps our emotions/feelings out of the fear zone. Coming out of a year that has created more anxieties and fears than others, we find ourselves wondering what the future will hold.

I don’t want to be defined by my fears, nor do I want my life defined by them. As our thoughts develop into our actions, I’d hate to look back on life with a dishonest internal struggle. I encourage you to acknowledge what is making you fearful!

I’d also like to encourage you, that no feeling is final, and fear has no hold on us. Within our hearts is the strength, power and courage to live in grace, move in grace and live in grace. Be lifted up knowing that our fears have no hold on us, our hearts are whole.

Once I was broken
But You loved my whole heart through
Sin has no hold on me
‘Cause Your grace holds me now”

Whole Heart (Hillsong United)

Elections will come and go, viruses will pass, much of our worries will become distant memories. God’s joy will allow us the courage to be light even amidst the darkness. Even when we are engulfed with fear.

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles;
They shall run and not be weary;
They shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
― Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

January 1 – Better

Better is one day in Your courts
Better is one day in Your house
Better is one day in Your courts
Than thousands elsewhere
Matt Redman

I watched a classic holiday movie this past week that was based during and around World War II. The opening scene showed the soldiers singing Silent Night on break at their base camp. Each face looked down in sadness as they sang. A song that was played during special moments when at home, brought images as to what Christmas represented. As the songs played on the radio and at home this year, there were times to believe that things were merry and bright. Yet, similar to the movie scene, I sang anyway. Whether you resolve or remember, resolute or repent. I’m praying your New Years and new year is better.

As the clocked hit midnight, and we welcomed 2021, I’m reminded that our resolutions can be made on January 1st, or any other day of the year. The first of the year reminds us that we have a fresh start. More than just a number, we are all holding the hope that 2021 marks something better. 

I’m hoping that 2021 marks
Better times,
Better health,
Better togetherness,
Better understanding,

Or maybe,
Better acceptance.

Perhaps the changes we hope for in 2021 will happen overnight, and 2021 will signify the normality we are all aching for. Yet maybe not. So, let’s settle for better. 

Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

I haven’t endured a World War or The Great Depression, but members of my family have. They’ve seen the years come and go, and like all these things, this will pass and become better. 

We hope for better this New Years, and the flip of the switch perhaps isn’t what we need, it’s the strength to endure maybe another challenging year. It’s the faith to believe the unseen blessings that Jesus talks about. So, let’s focus on the unseen in our lives, the things that require all the faith we’ve got, because pandemic or not, we’ve always got faith, our circumstances can’t take that away. 

When you start to feel like things should have been better this year, remember the mountains and valleys that got you here. They are not accidents, and those moments weren’t in vain. You are not the same. You have grown and you are growing. You are breathing, you are living, you are wrapped in endless, boundless grace. And things will get better. There is more to you than yesterday.” 
-Morgan Harper Nichols

Our song for today is Better is One Day by Matt Redman

December 18

I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

  • Luke 2:10-11(KJV)

Searching for Joy

As we look back, I would assume that most of us have found the best and deepest times of growth in the hardest times of our lives. In the hard times, the daily challenge of looking for gratitude and positivity can be a difficult process. Well-known author Ann Voskamp has exemplified the practice of seeking gratitude by counting her blessings up until 1000. The habit of seeking positivity has changed her outlook, and healed her mindset. Ann Voskamp teaches that this train of thought can be learned with transformative effects. As there are days that go well, it is in the times when we are buried in hopelessness that we find ourselves needing to search for joy. Uncertainty and despair present us with the choice of searching for joy when our circumstances tell us otherwise. Unfortunately, the best way to learn hope, is being in hopeless situations.

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” – Henri Nouwen

The Bible speaks several times on joy, and as Christians, we have the knowledge to be joyous, free people. As Henri Nouwen says, it doesn’t just happen, it has to be learned, practised and observed. Our social circle, the content we read, and the time spent with God can drastically change our perspective. I’ve found that if I cannot change my circumstances, I can choose to change my perspective. I have been given the control to change my mind. I would challenge you to observe your thoughts, challenge your thinking, and see how your thoughts shape your days.

The most repeated command in the Bible will probably surprise you: Be happy. God tells us more than anything else, in different ways, to “praise the Lord,” “do not be afraid,” “rejoice,” and “give thanks” — all of which are commands, in essence, to be happy.”
Jon Bloom

The continued practice of searching for joy is something that can power us through this season of restriction. The good news is, that we can choose to seek what we can do, oppose to our limitations, for that is something we can cling to, to keep moving, surviving and seeking the light.

Joy Blooms wherever and whenever people are empowered to bring about their own transformation.”
The Practice Co.

December 11 – A Thrill of Hope

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn”

O Holy Night!

Maybe like myself, you’re looking to Christmas to distract you from the looming pandemic surrounding us. Perhaps you’re hoping Christmas would give you a brief moment of normalcy. Yet as the weeks carry on, and the restrictions come down, the idea of surrendering this expectation is becoming clearer. Sometimes living within our limitations is difficult. We want back to the freedoms we used to have, the options and plans we remember having control over. Yet, we can’t always break out of these barriers. Perhaps Christmas will look different than the ones past, but it doesn’t leave us without the possibility of miracles.

If you question how God could possibly be in the middle of all this, put hindsight to good use, see that in the middle of Mary and Joseph’s impossible situation, a miracle was born.”
Liz Milani

We may not be able to anticipate large dinners, holiday parties or the ease of what makes the season as we know it. Even in our uncertainties and frustrations we can hold on to the simplicities and grace of the season. We can seek out possibilities within our limitations, and refocus our hearts on advent.

Possibility has always been yours even at your darkest.”
The Practice Co.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who

lived in a land of deep shadows – light! Sunbursts of light!”
Isaiah 9:2

Advent is a season that calls us to hope, to sink into grace, to throw open our doors to the unknown and unimaginable surprises. We can choose to look, and be extra creative with our times of connection.

November 26

And then God answered: “Write this.
Write what you see.
Write it out in big block letters
so that it can be read on the run.
This vision-message is a witness
pointing to what’s coming.
It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait!
And it doesn’t lie.
If it seems slow in coming, wait.
It’s on its way. It will come right on time.
Look at that man, bloated by self-importance—
full of himself but soul-empty.
But the person in right standing before God
through loyal and steady believing
is fully alive, really alive.”
Habakkuk 2:2-4 (MSG)

Vision is a term that gets thrown around a lot, and it can be disappointing when you’ve envisioned something that didn’t come to be. Plans fall out of place, and hopes get crushed. Yet, having vision is a source of life, essentially hope in action. Vision is expectant for things to come. The combination of vision plus action allows dreams to come to fruition. Each human being has vision lying inside them, and uniqueness to change the lives of others. There are many biblical stories that elaborate having vision.
A passage in Daniel 8 describes the hardship of vision when met with huge opposition.
Daniel 8 describes a beastly enemy of God, and how Daniel is made sick by the vision.

And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.”
Daniel 8:27

But, in spite of being sick and appalled, Daniel does his work. Just as our seasons in life, one day can bring hope and change, and others the negativity of our world and news. Headlines can make you sick, and hearts becomes weary. Yet, as we press forward-having a goal, or plan in mind, propels our lives forward.

Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Proverbs 29:18

I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
Isaiah 41:13

Can we do this? We know we can because we are deeply loved. The impossible and the unfathomable, whatever gets thrown in our paths. Our strength lies in the depth of God’s love for us.

You are loved with “great love”—omnipotent love, omniscient love, unstoppable love, eternal love. Therefore, do not fear. Be appalled at the world, and be productive in it.”
John Piper

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.”
Andy Stanley

November 19

You have not seen all there is to see, and that, my friend, is a beautiful thing.
Morgan Harper Nichols

Beautiful things take time as I preach to myself. Our entire backyard looks like a mud pit as we await the renovation plans to continue for our new home addition. In a season of uncertainty, we watched as our decision to build onto our home took effect not knowing when we’d see the end goal.

Digging up old bones is messy. I see physically as our home’s foundation is exposed and pipes and material are sprawled everywhere. Before our house comes back together as a functioning space, we have to go through the process of properly gutting and putting it back together. In order for things to fit back into place there tends to be a season of disarray. Perhaps this can mirror our lives at times. The beautiful can take time

Living in the mess isn’t always fun, and waiting day by day for the finished result can be trying. 

But you’re trying.

I’d like to simply encourage you, that today keep trying. Keep digging through, pulling through in order to see the light.

The end result will come, perhaps you’re just in the middle of things. Or perhaps you can’t see the full picture because it’s still being painted. 

You’re doing things, and that’s what matters.

We do what we can during a world pandemic, we do what we can within the space limitations we have. Let’s keep seeing things through, because the only way out is through. And you’re going to get through this.

I will lead the blind on unfamiliar roads. I will lead them on unfamiliar paths. I will turn darkness into light in front of them. I will make rough places smooth. These are the things I will do for them, and I will never abandon them.
Isaiah 42:16 GW

Further Reading:

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.”
-James 1:2-7 MSG

November 12 – Rise above it

Above the floodwaters is GOD’s throne from which his power flows, from which he rules the world.
Psalm 29:10 MSG

Hear our voices rise
Hear our battle cry
We’ve been under the curse
With our arms raised high
Hear us sing tonight
Like the last night on earth
We will rise like the tide
Like dead men
Coming back to life
We are rising

Rise Above It, Switchfoot

As the flames rise above the tree line in our late autumn bonfire I look above and my eyes are met with clear stars. We have been fortunate enough to experience warmer than normal temperatures this week and a summer-like bonfire was a nice cap to the season. As the smoke rises, I reminisce on how ‘rising above’ is a phrase I’ve heard used in lyrics and guidance given when in the middle of an argument.

Each of us on a journey, there is something always deeper or bigger than what we see at face value. In each person carries a depth of stresses and stories that shape the emotions each are portraying, the reactions they are alluding. Taking things “as is” or at face value isn’t always the full story. We must either rise above these emotions, look further to find a deeper and fuller understanding of our relationships.

Think about the things of Christ and don’t get distracted by the trivial.

Even within ourselves is such depth. We ourselves are fluid beings, and taking the time to explore our emotions, and core beings brings out our truer selves. So, rising above an argument, or the news, or our reality, isn’t a call to dismiss what is. But to look a little deeper. Or perhaps, look above. Where is God in this situation? Let’s remind ourselves to rise above it. To take a step back and acknowledge that God is above all.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”
Colossians 3:15-17 MSG

When the night is closing in,
Don’t give up and don’t give in.
This won’t last, it’s not the end, it’s not the end
You’re going to be okay
Bethel Music

November 5 – Heart to heart

Listening to a sermon earlier in the week, I’m reminded that God can handle the full weight of what we’re dealing with. At times, it’s difficult to envision a God so present, and so in-tune when we can’t physically see him. As God knows our every lives’ detail, I’ve learned that he longs to hear the authenticity of our hearts, as raw and real as they may be. But at times our rants and longings get poured in other directions of our lives. A better idea is to bring these frustrations to God, as we know they are all going to come out one way or another! And God can handle our realities.

“Give it to me straight”, is the saying. In a sense, a prompt to be real, authentic, to tell someone how it really is. Maybe as Canadians we tend to sugar coat our responses, or politely communicate our feelings. And in personal experience, I found my prayer life to mirror that. Whether in writing or in prayer time, there would be a tendency to make my requests sound nice. But in my own personal mindset, that’s really not how I felt. There were times that left me frustrated, defeated, and lost for words.

As there are times to sink into God’s joy, and faithfulness, there are times to dig deep and explore our hurts and in turn express them. But if we’re being real with ourselves, that’s not where our hearts lie. If we dug down deep, we’d find some pain and perhaps even anger.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Philippians 4:6 NIV

When we let our requests be made known to God like this—in the devotion of prayer, in many specific requests for help, with a heart that is thankful for everything God designs for us, the pleasures and the pain—then his peace will guard our minds and free us from anxiety in a way that defies mere rational explanation; it surpasses all understanding.
Desiring God, John Piper

Bring all to God in prayer.
We find fulfillment and freedom when we’re able to simply talk with God candidly about our struggles. As God longs to hear about the depths of our soul, he longs to bless us with the peace that comes in quieting in prayer with him. I’m learning as I go, but hoping you’ll also be encouraged by the reminder to release your worries and detailed wonderings to God. He knows, cares, and as always, longs to free us in anyway.

Prayer is for turning the tide, for changing the seeming course of history.”
David Mathis

October 29 – Out of our hands

This skin and bones is a rental”
Where I belong, Switchfoot

There have been many conversations I’ve had with a dear friend who would remind me that what we hold so closely is out of our hands. She would sometimes do this by physically opening her hands towards the sky, mid-conversation, symbolizing that some of life’s biggest issues and worries can’t be solved by human might. Perhaps you’ve also walked away from a situation in defeated surrender, hands held high, wondering how the problem will figure itself out. The gesture my friend displays is the physical act of saying to God, “you know better than me.” Acknowledging that He knows beginning and end, past, present, and future. That when all is said and done there are events, people or things that need to be left with God. It is a freeing feeling knowing our loads are being taken, our trials being dealt with. Yet, a challenge as we feel the deep ownership over our schedules, friends, children, spouses, outcomes etc. All must be brought back to God, who has created these things, who has gifted us these things, even our time on earth and bodies.

Exchange your overthinking for overwhelming peace that says, ‘I can be okay without knowing everything.’”
Morgan Harper Nichols

Our prayers are a form of surrender. Open palms symbolize grace and thanks, yet they also show our humanness, and faith in God. When we don’t understand or comprehend life, we find hope in God with us.

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).
Isaiah 7:14 NLT

God is with us, He is our Prince of Peace, and Everlasting Father. As we continue through the unmet expectations of this year, let us sink into the hope of holding our hands high in surrender, in thanks and in expectation of what God will do as we let go.

We cannot micromanage God, but we can trust Him. We can count on His sovereignty, especially when we don’t completely understand. We can abandon our thrones and trust the King of all kings to be a worthy one. And, we can yield to His guidance, knowing He only leads us in the right direction.”
Jenn Jewell

Further Reading:

Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life! Honor GOD with everything you own; give him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over. But don’t, dear friend, resent GOD’s discipline; don’t sulk under his loving correction. It’s the child he loves that GOD corrects; a father’s delight is behind all this.”
Proverbs 3:5-12 MSG

October 22 – Goodness & Mercy

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Sinking into these words can change our outlook, perspective and hope. There are times God’s goodness doesn’t feel present, and all our minds can see is hopelessness. Yet Psalms reiterates that, it is there. Perhaps our eyes haven’t opened? Or they are looking at the wrong things. Goodness is there, it’s always been there, love is there, mercy is there. A smile, a laugh, a kind word, a sunny day, the changing colours of the sky. Goodness is here now; it has never left.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Even if we don’t want it, or think we need it, God’s love follows. When we think we’re empty of any help, or alone in our struggle, we are followed by a trail of beauty and love.

“Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.”

Faith challenges us to see and believe these promises, let’s keep looking.
”Faith is an expectation. Faith enables me to wake up in the morning knowing that, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” And since this is one of the days of my life, Goodness and Mercy are my bodyguards. One on my right, and one on my left. You can’t see them, they’re invisible, but if you look real close I’ve got security. Goodness and mercy.”
Steven Furtick

Further Reading:

Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.
John 14:1-4 MSG

I saw God before me for all time.
Nothing can shake me; he’s right by my side.
I’m glad from the inside out, ecstatic;
I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope.
I know you’ll never dump me in Hades;
I’ll never even smell the stench of death.
You’ve got my feet on the life-path,
with your face shining sun-joy all around.”
Acts 2:29 MSG

October 15 – Falling

“Don’t laugh when your enemy falls; don’t crow over his collapse. GOD might see, and become very provoked, and then take pity on his plight.”

Proverbs 24:17-18 MSG

My daughter scooted out the door the other morning, and in her attempt to crawl, landed flat on her face. Her reaction luckily wasn’t too bad, but I felt bad as some purple began to develop on her forehead.

The consistency and effort she exerts each day to move forward and develop her movement has been such an adventure to witness. The amazing part is most babies, in general, only keep developing! When they master the crawl, they move towards pulling themselves up to balancing, to standing eventually, walking, then running. As these tiny humans physically develop so quickly, we as humans are constantly on the move as well.

Yet as we move and grow through life there are guaranteed falls and shortcomings and yes, we all will fall. Early in the Bible, the beginnings of humanity, Adam and Eve took and ate the forbidden fruit. This at times is referred to as the fall.

Hate and anger, us and against them mentalities, only lead to our own shortcomings. The Bible says pride lands us flat on our faces.

“First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.”
-Proverbs 16:18 MSG

We don’t know what each person is going through, so taking each interaction with grace is important. As we hear of name calling in the news, and politics that are frustrating, I’m reminded not to hate but to take our world with a grain of salt. All of us uncertain, fearful and anxious – I’m reminded that our stronghold and certainty lies in who God is and His truth. And that when we do fall, He is there to help us.

“He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep.”
-Psalm 121:3-4 MSG

For the many reasons we do fall, I’m assured to keep my footing in God’s word. That when life gets hard, and things break us, His faithfulness endures and He graciously helps and gets us on our feet.

You stood before my failure
And carried the cross for my shame
My sin weighed upon Your shoulders
My soul now to stand
-The Stand, Hillsong United

October 8 – What is Seen

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way?”
Psalm 8:3 (MSG)

There is something to be said about the steadfastness of the sky. Nature tends to have its own schedule; a sense of faithfulness. We can guarantee the sun will rise, and the night will come. We can predict the moon will become full, and the weather will change. Just as creation changes around us, we are changing. Yet, as we don’t see the wind, or how the moon pulls the tides, so there are days we don’t see the fruits of our labour. There are times we don’t get the answer to our questions, and days we don’t fully understand life or God. We know the stars aren’t visible by day, but they are there. A challenging parallel at times is the reminder that, the Christian life is meant to live by faith, not by sight.

By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.”
-Hebrews 11:3 NLT

Faith challenges us to envision in the dark; see what cannot be seen. Perhaps we have to ask ourselves to see beyond the capacity of our minds, or our made-up minds or assumptions. As the moon lights up the sky because of the sun, God is an ever-present guarantee, and his love is something that never fades, whether we think we see/feel it, or not.

God’s Message, from the God who lights up the day with sun and brightens the night with moon and stars, Who whips the ocean into a billowy froth, whose name is God-of-the-Angel-Armies.”
-Jeremiah 31:35 (MSG)

The depths of our spirituality may come into further ripening when we can’t see the light. The trust of our plans, hopes, dreams and understandings may begin to rest in knowing the presence of a creator.

“We must accept we are there and settle enough so we can be carried by the deep. The willingness to do this is the genesis of faith, the giving over to currents larger than us.”
-Mark Nepo

Even though we can’t always see it, or fathom it – that is our humanity in comparison to Christ. As the earth doesn’t function without the sun, we can rest even in our misunderstandings that His presence is there.

You are the sun
You shine your light on everyone
I am the moon
I come alive because of you”

October 1 – Wildflowers

Could a garden come out from this ground, at all?”

A wildflower is described as a flower that was not intentionally planted or seeded, yet naturally grows in the wild. Likely a native species, the wildflower chooses to grow unplanned at times in the most unlikely of spots. Popping up on the side of the road, or at the end of a driveway. They spring up each year appearing so carefree and independent. Even without intentional planting, they surprise us with their beauty.

As a farmer tends to his land, seeds and crops each year, he knows when to anticipate harvest. Wildflowers maintain their beauty even though they aren’t particularly cared for.

Our lives at times can also mimic those of the wildflower. Maybe plans have sprung up that weren’t always meant to be. Each new day we could be faced with the wild and unexpected. Yet, how the wildflower relies on the sun and rain, shows how it flourishes with trust.

An element of faith, I’m hoping that even if something isn’t planned, or doesn’t go our way we can look on it with beauty.

And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?”
-Matthew 6:30 NLT

Even in the uncertainty, wildflowers attract us; their sense of whimsy, reminds us what our life lies in. As Matthew says, as God cares for the wildflowers, he certainly cares for us. He cares for our future, and present needs and desires. We can count on him; that even if things don’t fall into place, by faith, we are unforgettable.

As the wildflowers bloom, let us bloom.

Like wildflowers, you must allow yourself to grow in all the places people thought you never would.”
E.V. Rogina

Further Reading:

If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them 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 get you to relax, 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 yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.”
-Luke 12: 28 MSG

September 24 – Everything, all at once

He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Mark 14:34 NLT

The process of making olive oil relies on the intense pressure applied to the olive, squeezing out the oils producing the form of olive oil we utilize today. 
The interesting fact in this procedure, is that the olive is not fully destroyed and only some of the best parts are extracted. Perhaps you’ve heard this parallel before:
There are moments in life where we are pressed, overwhelmed, stressed, fatigued.. the list could go on. We can’t imagine another single thing our plate, and then ____ happens.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” -2 Corinthians 4:8-12 NIV

What do we do? When we are hard pressed on every side? 2 Corinthians states that life is at work in us. How could we possibly emit life, when at times life is being sucked from us? Pressure shows us what we’re made of, who we are made by, and the source of our strength. We were created in the image of God, we were meant to go through this and survive. Crushing times are never typically wanted, yet they are necessary. Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was to remove this cup, as he knew what His fate were to be.

“He pulled away from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, remove this cup from me. But please, not what I want. What do you want?” At once an angel from heaven was at his side, strengthening him. He prayed on all the harder. Sweat, wrung from him like drops of blood, poured off his face.”
Luke 22:43 MSG 

As the olive tree mirrors why our hearts go through such crushing times. Gethsemane, which literally means, “oil press”, reminds us that our pressure isn’t final.

I am pressed but not crushed
persecuted, but not abandoned
struck down, but not destroyed
I am blessed beyond the curse,
for His promise will endure
and His joy will be my strength

Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning.”

Trading My Sorrows, Delirious 

September 17 – Fall into Place

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Some things in life miraculously line up. Such as, finding a soul mate, finishing a complicated puzzle, or how an airplane returns to land.
As we all desire the areas of our lives to come together, we all know with experience, our ideas, hopes and plans don’t always line up. 
Although, as time goes on, we can look back and appreciate that certain things didn’t pan out, such as relationships, home purchases or career decisions. There are times God protects us from going through such events that we don’t see at first. As we all enjoy the idea of our lives lining up, we know that some things are beyond our control. 
In Romans, it says “GOD causes everything to work together for good for those who love him…”

There is a form of comfort that lies in knowing a creator that has bigger and better plans than ours.

My plans aren’t your plans,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my plans than your plans.

– Isaiah 55:8-10 CEB

The person who gave us thoughts to accomplish great things, and the perseverance to see these goals out is with us as we journey. So, when those goal don’t come together, and the future doesn’t line up to our standard, keep hope in the person of Jesus. This deeper core message is the message of refinement and trust. That we can trust Him to accomplish what we can’t.

Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. 
– Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG

During a year of unexpected change and uncertainty, we can find confidence in a God who goes ahead of us in our lives’ decisions and work. Even when things don’t fall into place, there’s a bigger narrative working.

“Trust in God’s timing. It’s better to have to wait a while and have things fall into place then to rush into something and have things fall apart.”
– Adam Cappa

Further Reading:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
– Philippians 1:6

“If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.
– Matthew 10:38 (MSG)

September 10 – Milestones

“A milestone is less date and more definition.”     

The Blue Zone is a term that has been used to categorize a place in the world that holds a large amount of people who’ve live/lived to a significant old age. These peoples’ diets, genes, environment, way of life, and mentalities are studied to unlock the secret of what has allowed them to live to such an age. As we mark our age through birthday celebrations and accomplishments, graduations and promotions, each of our lives is dotted with milestones of importance.
Reaching a milestone is almost parallel to a mile marker in a race. As you continually cross mile markers in life, you know you are that much closer to your end goal.

“So we must let go of every wound that has pierced us and the sin we so easily fall into. Then we will be able to run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.”
-Hebrews 12:1 TPT

As they say, life is about the journey, and recognizing our milestones produces a form of gratitude and admiration for how far we’ve come. So perhaps it’s less about our age, or significance in numbers, but of quality of time given. Each milestone in life a moment of reflection or pause.

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.”
-Psalm 90:12 NIV

So, enjoy today’s milestones, God’s gift of another day. What may be ahead of us could be challenging or daunting. Or maybe, you can’t wait to get to the next mile marker in life. Whatever the case, our now is to be celebrated.

“Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.”
-Anna Quindlen, A Short Guide to a Happy Life

Further Reading:

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”
-2 Corinthians 4:16-18 MSG

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.
-Psalm 37:23 NKJV

“It’s easy to see how far you are from your desired outcome. It’s easy to see that you are not the man you want to be. The easy thing is not always the best thing. It’s also easy to get discouraged about the marathon that you are only a fifth of the way through. Instead of focusing solely on the hard work and pain ahead of you, take the time to celebrate the steps you have made, the milestones you have passed.”
-Josh Hatcher