Faith E Women

act justly, love mercy, walk humbly

art workshop

Truth be told I have more questions than answers today … well that’s probably true most days … but this is Valentine’s Day and I’ve been thinking of how we truly love those around us.  Especially those without a saving faith in Jesus Christ. The ones whose behavior isn’t always lovely; they’ve heard that Jesus loves them, but they can’t quite believe it could be true about them.  

Yesterday in our Wednesday morning Bible Study, we wrapped up our study of 1 Thessalonians and the last four verses of Chapter 5 caught me.

Brethren, pray for us.

Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.

I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Although these passages are directed to believers about fellow believers, I think we can pull some application from these short verses in how we interact with ALL the people in our lives.  

First, we pray.  Pray for opportunities, pray for soft hearts and open minds, ask for gentleness and patience, for the power of the Holy Spirit to be at work, for the Word of God to be received, for hope to be restored …

Then, we extent kindness.  It goes a long way to simply be nice and offer a smile.  I can’t say this strongly enough .. if we are not kind, (and yes, that includes our social media posts) we’ve lost them already!  

Next, we share the scriptures.  The truth of God’s Word is necessary in loving others well.  But, let’s be honest, the truth of scripture can sting a little, so again, please be kind. I’m in no way implying that we water down the truth, I’m simply suggesting we consider our method of delivery.

And, we give the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Extending grace to others is the least we can do when we truly understand the measure of grace given us.  Let’s not take offense when non-believers don’t act like believers. Grace shouldn’t expect that.

Any thoughts on really living this out?  I’m all ears – because I know that we need each other to do this well!

Valentine's Day Price Cut

I have been in numerous conversations lately (both in person and online) that were just not going anywhere…or, at the very least, anywhere I wanted to go, should go, or needed to go. Conversations where I really had to decide…should I keep speaking? Speak up? Or is it time to bow out?

Can you relate?

I’m pretty sure many of you would say yes. In society today, conversations seem to be so hard at times. There are so many, countless even, conversations we find ourselves in where we are faced with this choice.

Do we continue?

Do we speak up? If we speak up, what should we say?

Would speaking up be helpful or meaningful? Or is it adding to the noise?

Is this a time to speak? Or a time to shut it down?

As many of you know, the 2019 simulcast of the IF:Gathering was this past weekend. As a member of the planning team for my local IF, I tuned in. HOLY MOLY. It was powerful.

The book of the Bible in focus this year was Proverbs and that is where I have been landing for my devotions. And, when it comes to words, there’s a lot to be said.

Now, I am not here pretending to know how to walk this out perfectly or even saying I do it well. I am here to point to truth and here is some to consider about our words…

Proverbs 12:18 (NIV) //The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 15:1 (NIV) // A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:4 (NIV) // The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

Proverbs 16:24 (NIV) // Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

…and those are just a few from Proverbs!

Our words matter deeply. What we say, text, type, DM, Snap, etc….carries a power that we often are not fully aware of or even acknowledge. Or, even worse, sometimes we flat out ignore it and say whatever our sinful little hearts desire. As Hannah Brencher, author and founder of World Needs More Love Letters says, “My words could either be balm or venom. I get the choice daily.”

That’s it. We get a choice. A huge part of that is the decision of whether or not to speak. There are times where our voice is powerful, necessary, encouraging, and healing. And there are times where it is the opposite, where speaking up is diminishing, hurtful, and destructive.

Short and sweet, my prayer for us all is discernment, the courage, and the strength.

Discernment to know the differences.

Courage to speak life where death is creeping in.

Strength to shut our mouths when silence needs to reign.

Because sometimes, the best option is silence. Sometimes, the loudest message is sending no message at all. For there is a time for everything…

It is February…aka the month of LOVE.

Whether you love it or hate it, this month is all about candy, flowers, hearts, red, pink, and good ol’ LOVE.

To celebrate love, we are going to spend some time explore the infamous 1 Corinthians 13 (verses 4-13 to be exact) passage.

In case you are not sure what passage we are referencing, here’s the one…

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Join us as we explore this passage and happy month of LOVE to you!

Watercolor Heart Print - Free!! | this heart of mine

Aaaand it’s February. The first thing that comes to mind for me, aside from another cold month, is LOVE. Something to celebrate, something to give, but most importantly, something to be grateful for.

“We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

While the festivities of Valentine’s Day are not likely to include thoughts of our heavenly Father’s love for us, lets make a moment to remember this great love. A love that started before we were made. A love that is undeserved and underestimated. A love that is unconditional.

Before I even recognize my own sin, His love is there. Before I even think to beg for forgiveness, His love is there. Before I even truly understand the depth of His love, it is right there.

If I want to reflect God’s love for me, I, too, must love. I’m commanded to, rather, as John reminds us:

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:11-12).

A song comes to mind as I’m processing all this love…and it’s not biblical…but it sure is catchy 🙂 In their song Love Ain’t, Eli Young Band sings “I may not know what love is girl but I know what love ain’t”.

While at times I fail to fully grasp how GREAT God’s love IS, my heart seems to fully convict me of what God‘s love AIN’T. It ain’t the love of a seamless day, a clean house, the right school, a great outfit, the perfect party. John reminds us of this, too:

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

While there’s SO MUCH MORE that God’s Word has to teach us about love, this month I’m going to emphasize these things which I know it is and those which I know it ain’t. Won’t you join me?

Lord, help me to exhibit love that has an eternal purpose. A love that is sacrificial and genuine, when it’s easy AND when it’s hard—enabled by you because I couldn’t possibly muster up the desire to do it on my own. Because of your Spirit’s work in me, I can experience your love and I am grateful. I love you, Lord. Amen.cae336c95984516aa56f4c537cfab534

I love IF. I have been a longtime supporter and attendee of this gathering because I love everything it stands for, the women that speak at the gathering, and the community the gathering creates. There is something incredibly energizing about being a part of women mobilizing on the behalf of Jesus and His kingdom. I am getting excited just thinking about it!

As someone who loves reading words, writing words, and speaking words, I am actually finding it hard to put into words just how much this gathering has meant to me and how much it has challenged me in my faith. With our 2019 IF:Billings event just around the corner, we thought we’d take some blog space to share about IF and what it means to us. With words escaping me, I will try to share what IF means to me.

When I think about why I cherish IF, the greatest thing that comes to mind is the fiery, challenging words that the speakers never fail to deliver. Every single gathering I have attended, I have heard things that have cut me in the best way possible. Hard things. Challenging things. Encouraging things. Things that I needed to hear to break through complacency.  Things that call me up and call me out.

One of those things in particular comes from an IF: Gathering favorite, Jill Briscoe. If you haven’t heard Jill speak or aren’t familiar with her, sister, you are missing out! Jill is the grandmother figure we all need in our lives, a strong woman of faith whose walk speaks to a life well-lived. As a younger woman, I deeply cherish and look up to women like her who serve as strong and lovely examples of godly womanhood. She says words that are worth a repeat.

Words like these…

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These words are a few IF:Gatherings old, but still continue to be one of my favorite quotables because, in the moment, were the exact words I needed (and still do!) to hear.

I struggle a lot with my “calling”, the mission I am put on earth to do. As a working mom of two, it can be hard for me to see what I do as kingdom work…and sometimes I just wish I was called to “more”. I know that sounds icky, so let me explain. I look at missionaries, social activists, people in the trenches and think that they are the ones doing the real work,  exciting work, the work that is making a difference. I discount what I am doing and, as a result, get complacent, moody, and whiny. That’s why I needed to hear Jill so badly. Jill’s words (and her whole talk) spoke a renewed focus and spark to me. I am where I am for a reason. Just because it isn’t on a visible and global level doesn’t negate the importance of my current status. I am placed there for a reason, by God, on purpose.

I have been “sent” and, therefore, I have an obligation. For as long as I am there, I am to unpack. For me, that means settle in. Get comfortable. Get involved. Know who is around me. Put myself out there. It does not mean whine, complain, fight, or try to find the quickest way out. Unpack.

Her words also challenge me to give it my all because it matters. My obedience, dedication, and joy I put in to it…it matters and matters deeply. There is an end game and I need to give my efforts to it until I am called somewhere else. I may not like where I am at, but that does not free me from my mission in the moment.

Go. Unpack. Give what I’ve got. It’s kingdom work.

 

ata-kata kehidupan

I love the fresh feeling of a year unwritten, the anticipation of what lies ahead. There is something to be said about the newness that comes with January 1.

Rather than inundate you with my love of new years and resolutions and all the stereotypical rah-rah that comes with this time of year, I am going to keep this post simple and rest it in what matters most this time of year…and all year long.

Let’s start this year strong in truth…so, here are some passages about beginnings, His timing, and His promises.

Ecclesiastes 3:11//He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Jeremiah 29:11//”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Revelation 21:4-5//He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

Isaiah 43:18-19//”Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Lamentations 3:22-24//Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.”

Happy New Year, sisters. May 2019 be full of Him.

What am I loving today? Or this month, really? The weather!!! Don’t get me wrong, I would prefer a white Christmas, but I will NOT argue with God about the beautiful sunshiney December He has gifted us. And anyway, it looks like its about to change back to real winter pretty soon. But take a peek–a chance of snow for the holiday!!

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So what else am I loving? Music, my Bible reading plan, walks in the aforementioned weather, and everything Christmas with a preschooler.

MUSIC: The album Chain Breaker by Zach Williams was five dollars well spent. Remember his breathtaking voice at church last month? I knew I liked the song “Chain Breaker” from the radio, but I had never heard “To The Table” until he sang it during the service that weekend. Listen for yourself and you’ll understand!

BIBLE READING PLAN: LifeWay Women put together a concise yet thoughtful reading plan for Advent. Each week they email you what to read daily as well as things to do and things to pray. They even send an image to save to your “lock screen” on your phone with a memory verse for the week. When covered in flour as I bake cookies or reaching for the ribbon as I wrap gifts, a touch of my phone brings His word back into focus.

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It’s not too late to sign up! You can revisit the past week’s readings and get caught up. CLICK HERE!

WALKS: Because the weather is phenomenal and our boys are in awe by holiday lights, we manage to sneak in a “twilight” walk around 4:30/5:00PM most evenings. The sun is getting low, the lights are turning on, and daddy isn’t home from work yet. The boys see everything from Minions in Santa hats to Nativity scenes on the roof and we all get fresh air and exercise. Not always so easy in December!!

illuminated christmas lights at night

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

EVERYTHING CHRISTMAS with aforementioned PRESCHOOLER: Christmas is REAL by the time you turn four. As I write this post, I hear him in his room singing “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” Don’t get me wrong, we do Santa in this house, but we also do Jesus. And its pretty awesome hearing him shout “THAT JESUS CHRIST IS BORN!!” We have excitement daily to see whats waiting for us in the Advent calendar, what the tree looks like when it lights up, how we can arrange the Nativity scene, and which song is our favorite today. And of course, there are LOTS of discussions about how Santa could possibly fit down the chimney and which animals were at the birth of Jesus.

Lord, thank you for the beauty that consumes me this Wednesday and everyday. You are faithful and good and may this season continue to be about You. Amen.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

Oh the irony.

When planning out posts for this month, I agreed to write this post because I thought it would be a good personal reminder for me. Refreshing and joyful even.

God has a sense of humor, doesn’t He?

Because, boy oh boy, do I EVER need the reminder of this post. So, please, pull up a chair and join me as I preach to myself today. You can consider this post all the things Kelly needs to hear (and REMEMBER) on this Monday before Christmas.

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picture via Pinterest

Making space for Christmas. Creating the breathing room for the true reason of the season. 

Something I think we all agree is important…and yet very few of us truly take the time to  do and get right.

I LOVE this time of year. From Halloween on, I just adore it all. The holidays. The traditions. The time with family. The excitement and anticipation of the season and the winding down of the year. It is the best.

Every year, I vow to slow down, to savor, to remember the true reason and spirit behind the season…and every year, I fail to do so. I come close, I make an effort. I still come up short.

This year has been no exception. It feels like everything has been set up to get in my way and distract me. Sickness. Bills. Work. Prep for this. Prep for that. Buy this. Go there. This party. That party. White Elephant Gift. Cookies. Christmas program.

Before long, my calendar and to do lists were so full, so swamped. I have no space…some  of it all is unnecessary, simply burdens I (voluntarily) place on myself because I think the season needs it (hint, it doesn’t). A lot of those things though, are good things.

But good things aren’t the best things and, in the season of best things, I want the bestThe best that is not defined by what parties I go to, the cookies I bake, the holiday crafts and things I do, or the gifts I buy and get. 

No, I want HIS best.

His best that is made of the greatest redemption story of all time, the story that starts with a baby in a manger and changes the world and saves me from myself.

That kind of best demands space to take it all in. Space that just doesn’t have room on a calendar full to the brim with parties, errands, and seasonal to-dos.

Let’s pause for a second. Let’s switch gears. Maybe you aren’t in the same boat. Maybe you have all the space, but the holidays are tough for you. The holidays may be a reminder of what you don’t have that you wish you did/thought you would have/had last year and don’t this year. Maybe the holidays are tough because people have passed, traditions have died away, and you are left with the deep sting of loss. Maybe the holidays have good things in them, but they just aren’t what you hoped they would be (for one reason or another)…you feel double the negative at grieving the loss of what you hoped for and feeling bad for grieving. Or maybe the holidays are just hard because you find yourself comparing yours to theirs and you feel like you are coming up short and not doing enough or doing it “right”.

Regardless of the why, it can hurt. Hurt badly. You have the space to remember the season, but the pain is just screaming at you, distracting your soul from His best.

I get it. I’ve been there too.

That is why, in the one of the most joyful seasons, we have to fight sometimes to remember. With an ever increasingly secular culture and our own selves as our worst enemies, we have to fight.

This was never what the season was supposed to be about. Don’t let good things crowd out the best things.

What does that fighting look like? For me, it means getting into the Word. Specifically, the story of His Savior’s birth. It means saying no to things like Christmas cards and white elephant gifts. It means less doing and more quiet, contemplating the beauty and glory  and significance of the simplest and plainest birth story ever.

Sisters, in this last week of Christmas, let’s make space. It is not too late. Slow down. Say no to something. Unplug. Don’t overdo it. Remember the true joy of the season. To put more focus on the best thing instead of good things.

Remember. Make the space. He will meet you there.

Luke 2:10-12//But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 

I was listening to a podcast the other day and was really struck by the musings of the host and her guest. It has been weeks since I heard it and I still remember it perfectly. For a gal who has trouble remembering what I had to eat last night, that is impressive! …and speaks to the message shared.

The subject of their musings? Buddy the Elf. 

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Before I lose you, please hang on for a sec! Let me explain.

First of all, if you haven’t the slightest idea of who Buddy the Elf is, he is the main character of the movie Elf. Buddy is a socially awkward human who was raised in the world of elves and Santa. Because of his background, naivete, and complete disconnect with reality, he truly believes he is an elf, even after being told about his very human father. The whole point of the movie is Buddy going to meet his birth father, humorously attempting to navigate the real world and spreading Christmas cheer all along the way.

Where does that leave us?

Well, there is a point in the movie where Buddy encounters a department store Santa. Prior to the engagement (which if you’ve seen the movie, you know it doesn’t go well!), Buddy absolutely LOSES his mind in excitement and joy over the announcement of Santa’s upcoming visit.

“SANTA! I KNOW HIM! I KNOW HIM!” is his response. 

He is so excited that he just cannot contain it and has to tell everyone and create a beautiful space for Santa.

And that, dear sisters, is the thought that has stuck with me weeks after hearing it on a podcast.

There is a difference between knowing and KNOWING. One is a matter of head knowledge, the other one of the soul and heart. 

To use the Buddy perspective, there is difference in knowing Santa. For me, I know Santa. I know he is a heavyset, jolly old man who wears a red suit and has a delightful white beard. I know he drives a sleigh and brings presents. But that is pretty much where it stops. I don’t know his favorites, his deepest hopes, and dreams. I don’t know what he likes and dislikes beyond the canned response of “be good, kids”.

But Buddy, he does know Santa. He was close to Santa. He had personal experiences, times spent with Santa. He even knew what Santa smelled like. He KNOWS Santa.

My experience is knowledge driven, surface level. Buddy’s is relationship driven, deeper. Know vs KNOWING.

So where on earth am I going with this?

There is a HUGE difference between knowing God and KNOWING God.

And that difference? It makes ALL the difference. One speaks to knowledge only. The other speaks to a transformed life.

Please do not get me wrong. We need the knowledge of who He is, what He says, those foundational things about our faith. But if that is where our Christian walks start and end, we are in trouble. We cannot just know Him casually.

We have to KNOW Him.

Our words, our actions, our attitudes…they all should speak to that KNOWING. Because that kind of KNOWING transforms lives, makes an impact. It is the light in a dark culture. That is the type of faith to which we are called.

Where are you at, dear sister? Do you know God? Or do you KNOW God?

My prayer for all of us is a relentless pursuit of KNOWING Him and a life that sings the beauty of it.

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One of my biggest hopes for this blog is to share testimonies of women in our own community. I am always encouraged by hearing how God is moving in real lives and I believe there is value in sharing our stories. So we set out to offer Thursday Testimonies and I have been mulling over what to share for several days now. In no way do I think that God is somehow obligated to prove Himself faithful to me, but time and again in my life He has done just that. Yesterday He gave me a little reminder of just how faithful He is and how creatively He weaves our stories together.

As I was walking down the hall at church, I ran into a friend from my high school years. This kind woman was a Young Life leader at the camp where I first entered into a true relationship with my Savior, Jesus. As a young married woman, she opened her home to a group of high school girls and I opened my Bible in a new way to experience God’s Word. All I knew is she invited me in and I thought I should show up. If I’m honest, I suspect that she wondered a time or two if her efforts with me were making any connection at all.

As I reflect on the ways she impacted my life, I specifically remember two things. First, for high school graduation, she gave me a book, “Six Hours One Friday” by Max Lucado. I devoured it and the sacrifice of Jesus became more real to me. I started to really believe that Jesus loved me. Second, when I returned for the summer after my first year of college, she invited me to a weekly meal at a friend’s house where I was challenged to memorize scripture. I vividly remember the day when that group prayed over me, asking God to give me a godly husband. At the time, a husband was not on my radar and I nearly laughed out loud. Now I have tears trickling down my cheeks because I am grateful for God’s answer. Both of these are relatively small gestures in the big scheme of life, but they were amongst the first seeds planted in my spiritual journey and God continues to deepen the roots and bring forth seasons of fruit.

Our paths don’t cross too often, but I am thankful they did yesterday. It reminded me that God will continue to water the seeds we are allowed to plant in the lives of those around us. God used my friend’s humble offering of her time to plant seeds in my life and I am ever grateful that she shared her Savior with me. So, when we find ourselves wondering if our efforts will ever bear fruit, let’s remember that our offerings don’t have to be grand to have a lasting impact. We can share Jesus in the simplest of ways and He is the faithful One who will water and tend to the roots.

I’d love to hear about the simple ways you’ve been encouraged along this journey.  Whose obedience and love for Jesus impacted you? What small seeds did God plant in your life?

One last thought … you may be thinking that I could have chosen a more applicable scripture image to accompany this post. Normally I would agree, but this is the verse I was challenged to memorize all those years ago and it is a delight to my soul today!