Focus…

I really struggled with something last week. It had me completely distracted, challenged my understanding, shifted my mood and consumed my thoughts. It really wasn’t anything big; just a slight disappointment, merely a hiccup in the grand scheme of life. Yet, here I am putting fingers to keyboard writing about it. Why? Because what I realized is that I allowed it to shift my focus, which allowed it to change how I felt on the inside, within my spirit. And in the midst of the disappointment, I found myself struggling to extend grace and forgiveness.

Yes, we all make mistakes. We are all fallible. We fumble through relationships, stumble through life and leave a mountain of missed opportunities, hurts and misunderstandings. We let each other down. We are not perfect. But, why is it so difficult sometimes to extend grace to others, especially in full knowledge of our own imperfections?

And then I realized that it is completely about focus. If I am honest, my focus last week was on myself and with that came a laundry list of unnecessary thoughts and wasted energy. To borrow a little ditty from Lauren Daigle, ‘Look up child”!

Where is your focus this Monday of Holy Week? Are you watching Jesus? Are you trying to view the world through His gracious eyes? Are you diligently seeking God’s own heart? Or are you trying to seek understanding in this crazy world with your own heart and your own mind?

Our focus changes everything. When we bow our knee to our Mighty Father and allow Him to reign in our lives, our focus becomes tainted by love, peace, forgiveness, and grace. We begin to see a change in ourselves and the best in those around us. And before you know it, you feel your soul lighten and your spirit lift in response to Him.

I encourage you to allow God to search your heart this week and create a new and right spirit within you. I can’t think of a better time to do it! Y’all, Jesus conquered the cross so that we could do just that! He rose on Easter morning so that we might live, live well and treat those around us well too!

Focus on Him and be hopeful!

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23‭-‬24 NIV

Chicken Pox…

My brother was 5 years old when he got the chicken pox. He had a very mild case and I watched as family members brought gifts and my mom catered to his every need. In fact, my Aunt Mary brought him the coolest cactus plant, it was in a small clay pot. I really, really wanted my own cactus.

Shortly after, I woke up with a bump next to my eye and presented myself to my mom. Yep, she confirmed it was a pox and in a wink of an eye, I was back in front of her in my pajamas, with my blankee and my beloved stuffed rabbit, Bobbi ready to be pampered just like my brother.

I did not have a mild case of chicken pox. I was one sick little girl and I still have the scar from that first pox that appeared dangerously close to my right eye to this very day.

Scars are interesting things, aren’t they? A scar is a mark left on the skin or within body tissue where a wound, burn, or sore has not healed completely and fibrous connective tissue has developed. A scar inevitably tells the story of a deep wound and is a visual reminder of that hurt.

We all have scars, don’t we? Some of those scars we carry in our souls and often are inflicted by people that we know and even love. Some scars may even be a result of choices that we’ve made or pain we have inflicted on ourselves.

Jesus has scars too. His scars are the result of the most enormous love we have ever known. He bears those scars on his hands, feet and side, a constant reminder of the price of our sin and the enormity of His grace. You see, there is beauty in your scars because of Jesus.

Do you have wounds that need healing? Let Jesus’ in and let Him heal. As I was reminded this week by teacher, Christine Cain, “what you don’t reveal, God can’t heal.” Jesus’ love leaves a mark and His mark has the power to fully save and fully redeem.

You should know that my Aunt Mary brought me a cactus too, in its own small clay pot. There is always joy after pain! You see, Jesus conquered it all for us. We can trust in His scars. And we can see our scars as a reminder of His strength and His healing. Our scars become part of the fabric of His redemptive story and they can shine His hope to those in pain around us!

Be hopeful!

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life. Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing. Don’t look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health. God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home. Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God, and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways. Unbutton my lips, dear God; I’ll let loose with your praise. Psalm 51:7‭-‬15 MSG

Be Still….

I woke up this morning, grabbed a quilt and a cup of coffee (and of course the angel dog) and headed to the chaise lounge on our deck. What a gorgeous morning! The trees are filling in, the birds and squirrels are playing and a refreshing breeze whispers, “be still” and of course, my thoughts turn to God.

I wonder if that is what He was trying to tell us in that one simple Psalm? When we are still, it allows our thoughts to return to Him, which allows us to know Him, to know that He is God and that He is worthy of exaltation. No wonder Jesus arose early and found a quiet place to be still and know during his time on earth. It is in the stillness that we begin to know God.

I encourage you on a lazy Saturday morning to be still and know.

I encourage you on a rushed Monday morning when you are running late to be still and know.

I encourage you in the middle of sickness to be still and know.

I encourage you in a season of sorrow or grief to be still and know.

I encourage you in the middle of a sleepless night to be still and know.

I encourage you in the heat of the argument to be still and know.

I encourage you in the grip of worry to be still and know.

I encourage you in the joy of the celebration to be still and know.

I encourage you in the tender moments with loved ones to be still and know.

The stillness invites God to be present in all of life’s moments. It allows Him to occupy our thoughts and minds, reminding us of His goodness, His power, His strength and His grace.

Be hopeful and still!

Attention, all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” Psalm 46:8‭-‬10 MSG

Go Ahead and Twirl…

We bought my daughter’s dress for her junior prom last week. It is a traditional ball gown in a beautiful shade of pale blue, made for a princess with a long, full skirt. She looked like Cinderella when she came out of the dressing room. I choked back tears because she was simply breath taking!

It reminded me of seeing her at our wedding. She was 7 years old and dressed in a white dress with a full, knee length skirt that flowed out and around her when she twirled with excitement in her eyes. Ladies, can you remember twirling when you were little when the skirt or dress fit the occasion?

A few years ago, we used the theme, Sky for our Vacation Bible School. The movements to the songs were graceful and flowing, with lots of twirling and soaring of our hands through the air. I can still remember one little girl, around 5 years old, dancing and twirling for her Father in heaven with complete abandon.

Every woman was once a little girl. And every little girl holds in her heart her most precious dreams. She longs to be swept up into a romance, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, to” be” the Beauty of the story. (Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John Elderidge)

Isn’t that so true? Wouldn’t it be nice to stay in the innocent, unabashed delight of a little girl twirling in her dress? Yet, life beats that out of us somehow and we begin to believe messages like: you aren’t pretty enough; you aren’t thin enough; you aren’t smart enough; you aren’t strong enough; nobody wants to see you twirl; you aren’t enough. And before you know it, the twirling stops.

Listen, God is whispering to you to twirl! In His love letter to us, He tells us that we are chosen, beautiful and more than enough. In fact, we are a royal priesthood and we are fearfully and wonderfully made to accomplish glorious things!

I encourage you today to bask in the innocent delight of a Father who delights in You! I encourage you to dance, twirl and know in your soul that He could not love you any more or less than He does today. Make no mistake when you come out of the veil of lies that the world has sold you, He is waiting and you take His breath away!

I can’t wait to see my beautiful daughter twirl in her dress in a couple of weeks and I pray that she never stops twirling.

Be hopeful and go ahead and twirl!

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalms 37:23‭-‬24 NLT

Casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]. 1 Peter 5:7 AMP

I Dare You…

Here’s the truth ya’ll, I don’t think that we take God at His Word. We struggle with control, worry and self worth; instead of trusting God and what He has to say.

We allow the size of our pants, our job title, or our social status to dictate how we feel about ourselves; all the while spouting that our hope is in God and God alone.

Our prayers are bold in words; but, weak in complete trust that God sees us, hears us and answers us.

We allow trust issues to keep us from loving those around us deeply, abandoning ourselves to walls that we build that isolate us further.

We seek the approval of others and often change ourselves to fit in; which essentially places God’s opinion of us lower and of less importance than others.

We allow fear to dictate what we can’t accomplish, setting parameters on our abilities; instead of seeking God on what we can accomplish and seeking what He enables and empowers us to do.

So, this evening, I dare you. I dare you to see God in His fullness: all powerful, fully capable and willing to give you the absolute best life. The same God who parted the Red Sea and stopped the Jordan River to rescue His people fights for you every single day.

He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”
Joshua 4:24 NIV

I dare you to take His Word as complete truth and to bask in the light of that truth and what it has to say about who you are and what you are capable of accomplishing for Him.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NIV

I dare you to let your identity in Christ be the most important opinion in your life and let it permeate your soul, allowing you to walk in bold, secure and complete confidence.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV

I dare you to be a bold, limitless prayer warrior, trusting to your absolute core that God answers every prayer in His perfect timing and within His perfect will.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6‭-‬7 NIV

I dare you to love people without fear. In fact, love fiercely without expectation of something in return; be quick to forgive, slow to anger and extend grace often because that is exactly what Christ does for you.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
Psalm 103:8 NIV

I dare you to replace fear with faith and love, stepping out of your comfort zone to serve God boldly. Let God give you a “can do” attitude in ways that you never thought were possible. His ways are good and fear doesn’t stand a chance against our mighty God!

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18 NIV

I dare you…..

Be hopeful!

Drink Your Water…

My daughter has the flu. When the doctor told us the news, she looked right at her and said, “Water, water, water! You need to drink lots of water!” She has been running a high fever, having some tummy issues and taking prescription and over the counter medicines. Drinking water was imperative to keeping her hydrated and feeling better. Yet, this one simple task has proven difficult for her, which meant stomach cramps yesterday. We have upped our game today for sure. Mostly because I am now telling her to ‘drink water’ every time I come through the room.

Jesus is living water. We need Him to stay hydrated and to feel better as we navigate life. Much like the doctor told my daughter, Jesus tells us, “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14 NKJV)

Yet, don’t we find ourselves much like my daughter finding it difficult to drink our water? I don’t know about you; but often I find myself rushing into my day without spending a moment with my Father. I rush through busy days without taking time to open His Word and allow Him to permeate my heart. When was the last time you drank deeply?

You see, if we don’t take time to let God tend to our souls, we will find ourselves depleted and with cramps from trying to do it on our own.

I encourage you to drink deeply today. He wants to become a fountain of water in you springing up to everlasting life!

Be hopeful!

The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He. ” John 4:25‭-‬26 NKJV

Negativity Bias….

Why does negative energy seem to speak louder in our lives? Think about it. You can be having a great day, feeling really good and that one person can raise their eye brows at you and you begin second guessing everything.

I am blessed to teach at a wonderful gym and I truly consider class members like extended family. The support that I receive as an instructor is amazing. Recently though, I found myself distracted by a couple of people who were dissatisfied with class; rather than focusing on the positive majority sweating it out in front of me.

Or how about your social media? You can have a couple dozen likes and several positive comments; but, have you ever found yourself focusing on that one person who never likes your stuff? You make sure you generously like their posts; but can’t get any love back. Please tell me that I am not alone in this folks?

Well ya’ll, it is called negativity bias, a form of cognitive bias which causes humans to subconsciously place more significance on negative events than positive ones, affecting behavior and cognition.* In other words, the struggle is real.

Thankfully, we have freedom from this bias in Christ! We can shift our focus from the negative to God’s truth for our lives. And God is not biased. He loves us the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. You are His favorite! And so am I! His Word provides a daily boost of positive energy, goodness, love, hope and faith!

But, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a closer look at this issue of flesh. It seems to me when it comes to negative bias it is a basic issue of focus. Who am I trying to please? The world? Or Jesus? Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Matthew 16:24‭-‬26 NIV

So, the next time you find yourself focusing on the negative, stop and reflect on God’s truth for your life. Oh how He loves you. And He wants to be your source of love and light every day. Let Him speak life into your soul! Then, walk in His way, His truth and His light.

Be hopeful!

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1‭-‬2 NIV

*What is Negativity Bias at whatis.com, Margaret Rouse