It’s Okay to Mourn

Specifically, today’s topic deals with mourning dreams that have died. At least, that’s what the devotion topic is about. I want to expand it though. I want to say it’s okay to mourn the bad things that have happened in your life.

For those of us who are believers, I think this message has gotten lost in the translation. When we become Christians, we think we should be filled with the joy of Jesus and that nothing should ever be wrong again because we are filled with that joy. Don’t get me wrong. The fruits of the Spirit are a thing, :-), and our lives should be filled with them. Galatians 5:22-23 says this, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” These are all things God has given us.

At the same time, God realizes we still live in a broken world with its hurts and disappointments. He knows we will mourn, and that’s okay. In Biblical times, they called it lamenting. Here are some examples. Psalm 5:1 says, “Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament.” Here is another one from Jeremiah 4:8. “So put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the Lord has not turned from us.” Jeremiah 7:29 and 9:20 are also good examples. “Cut off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for the Lord has rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath.” “Now, you women, hear the word of the Lord; open your ears to the words of his mouth. Teach your daughters how to wail; teach one another a lament.” Finally, the entire book of Job is a lament of everything that had happened to him.

So, with all of these examples in Scripture, one might think that the present-day church would have its act together regarding mourning. I’m sad to say it doesn’t, at least not in the western church. There is a prescribed time of mourning for someone who has died, and if there are personal problems to be mourned, well, that’s not really accepted inside the church. We are expected to be buttoned up, zipped up, and to only show the good parts of being a Christian. If we’re hurting or we’ve done something bad, we don’t think we should show it, and if we do, we feel ashamed. At least, I do. Your mileage may differ.

We even feel shame when we’re invited to share our burdens and our hurts. One of the speakers at my church on Sunday invited people to stand if they had been affected by a laundry list of hurts and burdens. The object was to show that we are all affected by hurts and burdens and that we need to support each other. Many people stood, but it was an uncomfortable standing, a standing that felt obligated instead of wanted.

There are a number of things that are good about living in the west, but the overemphasis on individuality to the exclusion of community is not one of them. We think we have to handle everything by ourselves, but that is the furthest thing from the truth and even further from God’s truth. God meant for us to have community. He meant for us to laugh together and to mourn together. He meant for us to encourage one another as we lean into God’s love and grace and for us to be the church to our hurting world. Because, the church is not just a building. It is a group of us who are living out God’s perfect grace to an imperfect world. May we all lean into that truth today as we love together, laugh together, and mourn together!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

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Closed Doors

As I begin this Monday, I’m thinking of opposites. Like the opposite of an open door is a closed-door. I wrote about open doors on Friday,  https://alisarussell.wordpress.com/2018/03/09/open-doors/. For me, open doors are somewhat easier than closed doors. All an open door really requires is the courage to walk through it. But, closed doors, well, they’re something else entirely.

Like the author of the devotional says, “closed doors can be confusing.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) We can pray that we’re in God’s will. We’ve received all the signals that this new thing we’re thinking about is in God’s will, but then, abruptly, the door closes in our faces. We feel confused, worried, upset, and just plain uncertain. I’m reminded of how my husband felt after job interviews where he was certain he was going to get the job, and then the job ended up going to someone else. That’s how a closed-door feels to me.

I think we misread the Scripture that was in this morning’s devotional sometimes. Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” We read it like we’re asking the Lord to bless our plans, but that’s not what it says. Read it again. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” It says God will establish your plans. I think we forget that sometimes because we want to retain an element of control. We think we know better than God, and that’s why we ask Him to bless our plans.

We struggle with trusting God and feeling uncertain too. That’s actually one of the reasons I’m writing this series of posts. I want to become braver as I’m learning to trust more. I believe bravery and trusting God go hand in hand, and when I run into a closed-door, I want to be able to sit back and say, “That’s okay, God. I know you have something better in mind for me.” I’m not there yet, but I know I will be as I continue on this journey. Praying we can all become better at trusting our Lord and Savior!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Open Doors

Have you ever wondered what you were supposed to do next? How many times have you wished for a neon sign saying ‘This is it.’ or ‘This is the path you’re supposed to take.’? I know I have. I’ve talked a lot about what I want to try to do next year after my son graduates from high school. Some people might say I’ve talked too much. 🙂 I’m starting to think though that what I want to see is an open door. I want to know exactly what I’ll be doing so I don’t have to wonder anymore. I want to know that I’m following God’s will for my life.

Knowing things for certain all the time isn’t the way God works. Sure, there are some things we know for certain. We get a signal that we’re supposed to move to another city. A job comes along at just the right time. We meet someone who changes our life many years later. But, for the most part, we have to live our lives by faith and trust, staying in communion with our Lord and Savior, and live out the lessons He is teaching us every day through Scripture, through prayer, and through other people.

Right now, God is preparing  me to be ready for the open door like he prepared the author of the devotion in this morning’s entry. It wasn’t anything miraculous or all-knowing. The author saw a picture of a place, and it stuck with her when she saw that there was going to be a missions trip taking place to that very country. If I am conscious with staying in communion with God, I will be ready when the time is right. Like it says in Psalm 23:3, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” So, my prayer today is that I will be brave enough to walk through the open door when God leads me to it. May we all walk through the open doors God gives us!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

 

Preparation

With this blog post, I am one-quarter of the way through writing my reactions to the devotional 100 Days to Brave. God knew what He was doing when He led me to this book. He knew I would need the words of wisdom He had given to this author and the Scripture which has gone with each entry. Writing these posts has been a productive experience so far, and I have grown so much. Looking forward to God’s nuggets of wisdom as I keep going.

So, today’s topic is preparation. Actually, the title of the devotion is “Dream in Pieces”, but I think the titles are synonymous so I’m going with “Preparation” for my post. I spoke some about this topic yesterday. By writing every day, I’m preparing for the time when I become a published author. I’m practicing my craft by writing my words down, by staying on topic when I write, by placing my writing where others can read it, and by using the rules of grammar well so my writing is understandable. All things that are important in preparation.

When I first saw the title of the devotion, I wondered why it had been placed after the “Dream Big” devotion. Just as quickly, the answer came to me. Our big dreams need preparation. They can become overwhelming if the big dream is achieved all at once. We can be discouraged from realizing the big dream if one small part fails. And we might be tempted to not give credit where credit is due if we achieve the big dream too soon. That’s why God has us prepare for our dreams one piece at a time.

It was that way in Scripture. David was young when his father sent him to see how the battle with the Philistines was going and how his brothers were doing. He found all of the soldiers scared of Goliath. He amazed them when he volunteered to fight this huge giant, but, even though he was young, God had already been preparing David for this battle. By killing bears and lions in his daily job of tending the sheep, David had grown in his courage and bravery each day and had grown in his belief in God. He knew that God had a role for him to play which would require courage that would be revealed at just the right time.

It was the same way with Jesus. His life and His years in ministry were in preparation for one thing–the cross, and He didn’t allow Himself to be distracted either. His single-minded focus gave us all the chance to be reconciled with God (through our belief in Him), and His courage gave us the model we should look towards as we seek to become braver in glorifying Him.

I also think that’s why we don’t have a clear understanding of all of Scripture. God knew that we would need multiple re-readings of His story for His teachings to develop our heart and our character. He also knew we would need preparation as we sought to serve Him where He placed us. Understanding His story one piece at a time helps us to develop our trust in Him over the long run.

It is the same with dreaming in pieces. As we achieve our dreams one piece at a time, we develop an abiding trust in our Lord and Savior, and we are able to lean into His love and grace even more. May we all know that kind of trust today!

 

Praying God’s blessings for you all today!

 

Dream Big

The day is finally here! I get to write a blog post with the title Dream Big. I’ve looked forward to this since I first saw the devotional title for today. I thought about what I would say all day yesterday as I wrote yesterday’s post, and I realized that God does want us to voice our dreams. He wants us to dream the dreams we don’t think are possible so He has a chance to work. He wants us to lean into Him as we work towards those dreams coming true, and maybe, just maybe, He might give us a bigger dream to bring uncountable blessings into our lives.

I mentioned one of my big dreams yesterday–my dream of becoming a published author. My dream of holding a book in my hands with my name on the cover and with my words contained in the pages. It was a dream I didn’t think possible just a few short years ago. The idea of sharing my words in public at all was enough to make me cringe. But, then, I started writing fan fiction and sharing it. I also started both of my blogs and met people online and in person from all over the world through them. There were people who thought my stories and my blog posts were good which amazed and astounded me. It gave me the confidence to think that people might actually want to read one of my original stories one day. So, I’m working on my craft every day, and my bravery is growing. I’m dreaming the dreams God is giving me and learning to lean into His grace and truth.

I have another big dream I want to share with you today. This is more recent than the first one, but not any less important. I wrote about it a few weeks ago. I felt God’s push to sign up for my church’s mission trip to Honduras this summer. Going there had been in the back of my heart since we first came to this church, but I thought it wasn’t possible because of finances, of course. I’ve let not having money intimidate me from doing a lot of things because, well, I didn’t think I was worthy enough to be blessed by God. I wanted to have the safety net in place before making the leap of faith. But, that’s not how God wants us to act, and I know it now. It’s why I took the step of faith to sign up for the trip. He wanted me to trust Him before I could see the net, and I did. And now, this dream of going to Honduras and meeting Jesus there has infused every part of my being. It’s part of this dreaming big that the author of the devotional spoke of this morning. She faced a similar daunting task as she stepped out in faith, and it turned into something where she received a tremendous blessing from God.

There have been plenty of times where I’ve limited myself because of fear and because of the lack of resources. God wants us to trust Him though–trust Him big and dream big. I want to be able to do that all of the time. So, as I finish this post, I want to leave you with a quote from the author of the devotional to encourage you and to encourage me as we go on this journey of bravery together.

“Dream big. Be brave enough to believe that as much as you could want, God could give to you.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

Praying God’s blessings for you all today!

God Cares about Our Dreams

Five days into March, and I haven’t posted anything in this series yet. It’s okay though. I’m not going to castigate myself for missed opportunities. I’m gonna just keep moving forward and writing, of course.

My son and I had to make a quick trip out-of-town last week to recover something which had been lost. It was fun to do something different from school. Car trips are good for another reason. There is time for talking and time for thinking. We did plenty of both during the four-hour trip. (We stopped for lunch.) With my son graduating from high school in a little over two months, we talked some about what he will be doing next year. He will be starting a program in veterinary technology at one of our local colleges. Having always loved animals and wanting one of his own, the possibility of working with animals as a career intrigued him. And that’s where I come to today’s topic. God gave him the dream of having an animal of his own long before he knew about careers having to do with animals, and now, he has found something which I think will end up being a satisfying career for him.

God cares about our dreams as today’s title suggests. He cares about my son’s dreams, my dreams, and your dreams. I think we give up on our dreams sometimes because we think God has forgotten us. Nothing has happened to bring our dreams to fruition, and we don’t think anything will ever happen. But, God hasn’t forgotten us. He wants to hear from us, and He wants to hear our dreams. A verse was shared in today’s devotion that I wasn’t sure applied to this topic, but after reading it, I’ve changed my mind. Matthew 7:11 says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.”

So, God gives us gifts, and He gives us dreams. What happens when they don’t turn out exactly how you would like them to turn out? That’s where the discouraging part has always been for me, but I think I’ve figured out part of it. He wants to grow us in relying on Him at the same time He has given us our dreams. Fulfilling a dream wouldn’t mean as much to us if God gave it to us right away, and we wouldn’t give credit where credit is due either.

I’ll give you an example from my own life. One of my dreams is to be a published author which I’ll share more about tomorrow. Not published like in this blog, but published where I am holding a book in my hands with my name on the cover and with my words contained in the pages. Where someone else has decided my words and my story are worthy enough to try to sell to others. I dream for my words to reach more people and for the chance to leave a legacy. There’s nothing wrong with any of these dreams. Why should there be? God gave them to me. But, God wants me to grow in Him as I wait for these dreams to come true and as I practice in public. He wants me to believe in my words as strongly as I want others to believe in them, and He wants my words to be infused with His wisdom and His guidance. This all takes time which is hard for those of us who live in the immediacy of Western culture. It is time I want, no, I need, to take though as I grow in His love and His grace. That is my prayer for all of us who are in a waiting season. Have a wonderful day!

 

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Our True Identity in Christ

Recently, I’ve started using a study Bible as I’ve read and studied Scripture. The notes, maps, and charts have greatly added to my understanding of what I’ve read. There have been a number of times where I haven’t understood a particular word or verse, but when I’ve gone down the page to the study note, I’ve snapped my fingers and said, ‘Oh, that’s what it means.’ So, they’ve been very helpful.

I read this morning’s devotion earlier and knew immediately I wanted to reference one of the charts I had seen in my study Bible. I didn’t remember anything about it except that I thought it would be a handy reference for this post, and it had something to do with identity. I thumbed through every page of the Gospels and saw only one chart that might have been what I was looking for, but I wasn’t sure. I thought about what to do next. I guess I could have thumbed through the rest of the New Testament or used the one chart I had found, but I was certain there was something better. Finally, I got the idea to check near the Scriptures that were referenced in the devotion. I found it! Near Ephesians 2. The title of the chart is the same as the title of this post, and I’m looking forward to writing about what some of these verses mean to me and compiling the information itself so I, along with all of you, will have it to reference.

So, our true identity in Christ. I’ve read all of these verses as I’m sure you have, but I’ve never seen them in one place, the verse references with simple, easy to understand explanations. (Yes, I need simple and easy to understand. 🙂 ) Quoted from pg. 1983 of the NIV Life Application Study Bible.

Romans 3:24 – We are justified (declared “not guilty” of sin).

Romans 8:1 – No condemnation awaits us.

Romans 8:2 – We are set free from the law of sin that leads to death.

1 Corinthians 1:2 – We are sanctified (made holy) and made acceptable in Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:30 – We are righteous and holy in Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:22 – We will be made alive at the resurrection.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – We are new creatures.

2 Corinthians 5:21 – We receive God’s righteousness.

Galatians 3:28 – We are one in Christ with all other believers.

Ephesians 1:3 – We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Ephesians 1:4 – We are holy and blameless.

Ephesians 1:5-6 – We are adopted as God’s children.

Ephesians 1:7 – Our sins are taken away, and we are forgiven.

Ephesians 1:10-11 – We will be brought under Christ’s authority.

Ephesians 1:13 – We are identified as belonging to God by the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 2:6 – We have been raised up to sit with Christ in glory.

Ephesians 2:10 – We are God’s work of art.

Ephesians 2:13 – We have been brought near to God.

Ephesians 3:6 – We share in the promise of blessings through Christ.

Ephesians 3:12 – We can come with freedom and confidence into God’s presence.

Ephesians 5:29-30 – We are members of Christ’s body, the church.

Colossians 2:10 – We are made complete in Christ.

Colossians 2:11 – We are set free from our sinful nature.

2 Timothy 2:10 – We will have eternal glory.

I especially like Ephesians 1:5-6 which references how we are adopted as God’s children and Ephesians 2:10 which is the verse directly after the two verses on the header of this blog. Here is a quote of this verse. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God’s handiwork, or even better, from the explanation on the chart, “God’s work of art.” I look at those words and think of a painting or a drawing or even a statue. God thinks of us like these amazing things we see in museums or hang in our homes, but with the capacity to change and become even better.

Can you imagine what would happen if we, who are believers, actually acted like we are worthy to have God in our lives? To come into His presence with freedom and confidence? To know without a doubt that we are forgiven of our sins because of what Jesus did for us on the cross? I don’t know about you, but those thoughts bring a lightness to my step and an excitement to my outlook.  It reminds me of how I felt when I first accepted Christ. Nothing was old; everything was new. I was having a renewal that God wishes for all of us as we seek to bring more people into His kingdom.

And now, for the final exercise that was in today’s devotional entry. I am significant because God loves me enough to send His Son to die on a cross for me! This impacts my life because I am His handiwork; I am complete in Christ; and I am set free from my sinful nature! All reasons for me to be brave as I seek to have a heart like His!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!