New Article Links

These are more article links from other websites since April. Hope they are a blessing:

Believing We Are Right…But Still Being So Very Wrong

https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/your-daily-prayer/your-daily-prayer-may-23.html

https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/your-daily-prayer/your-daily-prayer-june-2.html

https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-may-19.html

https://www.ibelieve.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-june-9.html

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What is the Lord Asking You to Do? Speak Out, Speak Up, or Both?

A few weeks ago, I posted an article on my personal Facebook page about Ben Carson, reflecting on the death of George Floyd, because I respect him so much. An African-American friend and brother posed this question in my comments section:

“So have you spoken out on the social injustices that have occurred? The article states you are a part of the problem or the solution. What have you done to be part of the solution?”

His question was sincere, and I answered that I am praying about what the Lord would have me do and gave a number of actions I am taking or have taken in my own life to hopefully be a part of the solution to the racial dissension in our world right now, but the Lord laid something else on my heart as I prayed about his question.

I felt like the Lord told me, “Maggie, it’s not for all to speak out – some may only be supposed to speak upward.”

Words in themselves are meaningless. It’s the power and the truth and the wisdom and the prayer and the guidance and the discernment and the heart of the person behind the words that matter.

For Christians who are seeking the Lord, silence is not always consent. Silence may show thoughtful obedience to making sure that when words are spoken, they are spoken from the right person-to the right person-in the right place-at the right time-with the right motives.

We carry a huge responsibility with our words. Each time I write an article, I read and reread and read it again while also having my mom or close friends read to make sure that my heart and God’s purpose in the writing is clear… that there is nothing hurtful or off-base scripturally, because in everything I do, I strive to be a representative of Jesus.

Proverbs 18:21 says “the tongue has the power of life and death.” And our words, spoken or typed, cannot be erased or taken back once they have left our hearts.

Words inevitably mean more when they are spoken to someone you have a relationship with – when people know your heart. Sometimes, words in person may be advised instead of posts on social media.

And sometimes, our words are only to be directed upward to the Lord. The power of prayer cannot be denied. And for some, that may be all the Lord is asking them to do.

So for all of us whose hearts have been broken by the racial dissension in our country, I pray we would seek the Lord’s will in the if and when and where and how anything should be spoken out publicly.

“When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.”
Proverbs 31:26

There is “A time to be quiet and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3:7

Let’s not be too quick to judge or make assumptions about those who are not speaking out publicly, or those who are, because only the Lord knows their hearts and His purposes for them.

But may we ALL speak upward, crying out to God for repentance, healing, and restoration in our land.

Other tongue verses:
Proverbs 15:1,4,28
Proverbs 21:23

*This photograph was taken by Game Changer Photography at the Unity Prayer Event hosted by Backpack International recently during our prayer time.

**Let me be clear that the purpose of this writing is not to suggest we should do nothing…but we should prayerfully consider our words and actions and timing before moving forward.

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Looking Beyond What We Can See With Our Eyes: 3 Ways to See a Heart

This article originally appeared on Blogs by Christian Women Nov.30, 2018, but I felt it was relevant today. This is the longing of my heart for all of us:

HOW TO SEE THE HEART OF OTHERS

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here

Since my children were born, there has been a list of things I have prayed for them.

To be protected.

To know how special they are and how very much they are loved.

To find good friends who will stand by them.

To have their hearts and minds guarded from the things of this world.

To speak life into others. And to do the right thing, even when it’s hard.

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But most of all, after coming to know Jesus as their Savior, I have prayed that they would see people the way the Lord does and love them as He would. The longing of my heart is that they would look not at the outside, but at the inside, and see that beautiful hearts are what count most.

A God Idea

In October 2016, the Lord placed it on my heart to share this message with others through a children’s book called Bumper.  Now here we are two years later, and this little story has become a reality! Based on 1 Samuel 16:7, which says that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” Bumper, a frog, and his best friend Hazel, a toad, set out to show others that there is more to friendship than meets the eye.

In a world where outer beauty rules, it is easy to make quick judgments about others simply by how they look.

Fancy car, fancy house, brand new clothes, and a nanny in tow: she must be a spoiled, uptight snob. Old beat up car, mobile home, 5-year-old clothes, and a line of dirty children in tow: she must be lazy and beneath me. Different skin color, different economic status, different language…we make assumptions every day.

And y’all, if that is the model we give our children, what will they do?

They will do what we do. And the divisions in our schools and towns will continue to get worse. But ladies, if we choose to take the time to look past the exterior, we might just find the blessing of a friendship we might have otherwise missed. And we have the amazing privilege of teaching a new generation to follow our lead.

I have had the joy of sharing Bumper with different groups of children recently, and when I ask them to look at the heart of the person next to them…they look at me like I might just be a little off my rocker!

Because really, how do you look at a heart???

The Bible shares in numerous places that the Lord looks at our heart, examines our heart and is greater than our hearts. And I believe He gives us three ways that we can “see” a heart and help our children to also:

1. We listen to the words people speak.   

Luke 6:45 says that “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

Do you hear kind words being spoken? Words that uplift and encourage? Or words that belittle and tear down in gossip? The things and people we listen to, watch, and spend time with will infiltrate our hearts. There is no doubt that the things we see and hear will be stored, waiting to come out at the first opportunity. And the words of others give us an open window into their own hearts. Don’t just listen, but truly hear what people are saying.

2. We watch the things they do. 

When asked in Mark 12:30-31 what the greatest commandments were, Jesus said to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

How do you see people spend their time and money? Is it all on themselves? Do they give to others generously, expecting nothing in return? Or do they want to gain recognition and praise for their actions? Do they interact with “people of low position” (Rom.12:16) or are they conceited? Do they treat others as they want to be treated? Don’t just watch, but truly see what people are doing.

3. We wait to see how they respond when they mess up.

Oh, y’all. We listen to the words and we watch the actions, but nobody has it together all the time. We are all sinners in need of a Savior, and we will mess up! We will say something we shouldn’t. We will do something we shouldn’t. But the question is…what will we do to make it right? Don’t stop listening and watching right away. Wait to see what happens…

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Will the person apologize and ask for forgiveness? Will they correct the wrong? Or will they keep on with life with no regret? You will see the heart. You will.

One of the age-old songs reads, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world…” and we should too. Look past the things of this world y’all…it is very temporary. Put your eyes on the things of eternity and help others to do the same. Be kind. Love others. And create a circle of friends that would make jaws drop! We are all so much more than meets the eye…

How You Can Help

I am so thankful the Lord has opened the door for me to share Him and His heart for others through this sweet story. If you have a group of moms, school, or other organization who want to help others see the heart as well, I would love to share more! You can email me at maggiecooper25@gmail.com or message me on Facebook.

Get Your Copy of Bumper

ORDER ON AMAZONGet the family history of how Bumper came to be here.

May we all choose to see that beautiful hearts are what counts most!

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Color Should Just Be an Adjective: Praying to See Others as Jesus Sees and Teaching our Children to Do the Same

The past few weeks have taken a toll on my heart. Starting with the death of Ahmaud Arbery and now George Floyd and all that has happened since then. It’s painful to watch the news and see the destruction that is taking place in cities across our country. Hate bringing more hate. Destruction bringing more destruction. And I can’t imagine how it grieves God’s heart to see His people in this place.

Three years ago, I wrote this blog, and I wanted to share again. But with some revisions. At the time, I said, “Color is just an adjective.” But in reality, I should have said, “Color should just be an adjective.” I think it’s very clear that today, it has still not come to fruition. I still believe the change we want to see can come in our children’s generation, but what I didn’t state enough in this piece was that it MUST start with us. And that requires all of us to do some real soul-searching through fervent prayer. For the hidden to be revealed. For us to face our own depravity. And for Truth to win. This is not a battle against flesh and blood, but against the Enemy to us all who wants nothing more than to divide and destroy. I am praying and will continue teaching my children to love and see people like Jesus the best I can. 

I hope this will be an encouragement, my sweet friends:

When my son was four, he came home from Pre-K one day and asked, “Mama, what color am I?” I asked what he thought, and he said, “Well, Derek is dark brown and Josh is light brown and Bo is really white…and I guess I’m kinda pink?” I told him that looked right to me! Why was he asking? Because he wasn’t sure what crayon to use in his self-portrait. 

Today I asked my 5th grade daughter to describe herself. She said she has long brown hair, is smart, likes to tumble, and is responsible. I asked her to describe another good friend in her class. She said she has pierced ears, is smart, always wears cute earrings, and is sweet. That particular friend happens to be black. But you didn’t know that, did you?

That’s because skin color is not the first attribute my children think about. 
Color is just an adjective to them. Like tall, short, old, young, kind, or mean. 
It does not define who a person is. 

My heart hurts when I see the news. It hurts when I see others choosing death over life, in their words and actions. It hurts to think of my children growing up in a world that puts the most importance on outward appearance and not the heart. But how can we change it?

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

Our children’s hearts are the key to changing the culture. The culture of hate. The culture of comparison and prejudice. The culture of never enough. The culture of “I want.” The culture of “I deserve this.” The culture of “It’s someone else’s fault.” The culture of selfishness and pride that exists in all of us. But our hearts must be right first.

Talk about the Lord and why He came. Talk about His love for everyone.  Talk about His forgiveness for all who call on His name. Talk about obedience to Him. Talk about the sinner that you are and the amazing grace that saved you. And tell them that in Christ we are all one! 

Then walk the walk that you’ve been talking.

Invite friends of other races over to play. Have conversations with your black friends about how you can help them. Make an effort to understand others points of view and really listen. Speak up and do the right thing, even if it’s hard. And make your actions match your words.

Matthew 22:36-40 says:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The Lord has given us the amazing responsibility of teaching our children to love God and love others. Not just white others. Not just black others. Not just the ones like us. All others. And in order to do that, we must honestly look at our own hearts. 

Many times our children get it right before we do. Watch your children. Listen to them. And learn from them as well. (Matt.18:3)

Describe people by who they are on the inside.
Believe the best about them.
Truly try to see them as the Lord sees them. 
And shine His light with your love.
His saving grace defines all of us.

Color should just be an adjective.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height…The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7
Dear Jesus,
We need you so desperately. Draw us closer to you as we seek your face. Help us to love others like you do and teach our children to do the same. Give us ears to hear and eyes to see like you would. Fill our hearts with a longing to have more of you and less of ourselves. Give us courage to truly look at our own hearts and the prejudices that may have taken root. Then help us speak and act boldly as representatives for you to help bring healing to our communities.
In Your Mighty Name,
Amen
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Encouragement for Walking Through Hard Times

Y’all, these past few weeks have been tough as I’ve asked the Lord to help guide me on a number of issues. For family, friends, kids, work, quarantine wisdom. To help me shine a light and for all to see, by the way I am loving and kind and patient. And I can honestly tell you…that I’ve failed miserably on a number of occasions. My stubbornness and frustrations and anger have gotten the best of me at times. But it doesn’t mean the Lord has left me in those places.

Thankfully, he is merciful and gracious and has given me sweet reminders of how to walk through hard weeks, hard days, and even hard minutes.

Psalm 37 is where He has taken me, and I want to share with you these four things He continues to remind me of, in hopes that they will encourage you too:

1.”Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent…” Psalm 37:18

According to Mirriam-Webster, “day by day” means in small amounts every day. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes want God to just give me a big whopping helping of whatever He’s got for me: peace, joy, patience, goodness, etc. I just want Him to pour it over me so much that I’m drenched and good to go for awhile. But that’s not how He works, y’all. Day. by. Day. In small amounts, He gives us our daily provision. What we need for those 24 hours. It can seem frustrating, but the truth is that if He didn’t, we would not see our need for Him or feel it necessary to call on Him as often. Trust Him and pray for Him to meet your needs…for each day alone.

2.”The Lord directs the steps of the Godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:23

I remember having a fever blister many years ago and praying for the Lord to please make it go away before I had to take pictures for something. I had a friend who laughed at my request, but y’all, I don’t doubt that God understood how much that little detail meant to me. I don’t think He ever looks down on our earnest requests and thinks we don’t matter. He delights…in every detail. And as we talk to Him about the concerns of our hearts, little or big, I believe He listens intently and helps direct our steps down His path for our good. It doesn’t mean He always answers like we want Him to, or when we want Him to. But these verses are written reminders of the actions we have seen Him take and can trust that He will do again.

3.”Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Psalm 37:24

Oh, y’all, I have made so many mistakes in my life. And a large amount in the past two months for sure. From a worldly standpoint, my kids have had way too much screen time, way too much junk food, and have seen their mama react, rather than respond, on one or two occasions. Being confined with those I love most can be a recipe for disaster waiting to happen. I’m not afraid to show my true feelings. I let my guard down and my frustrations can be directed at those I love most. But when I have stumbled, when I have fallen away from being the woman the Lord wants me to be, He has always picked me back up. He has given me a number of  “sacred echoes,” or reminders, of Him holding my hand, over the past few weeks, and I continue to reach out for Him over and over. We are going to make mistakes, some big and some little, but don’t stop reaching out and allowing the Lord to hold your hand through hard times. He won’t let go. (Ps.73:23, Is.41:13)

4.”Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along His path.” Psalm 37:34

Steadily: in a controlled or unwavering manner. This one is hard for me. It is so easy to want to jump ahead and see what’s up the road…or fall behind because of fear or anxiety over what’s to come. But the truth is that we are always traveling, y’all. Down our path or His. One or the other. And when I look to see which road I’m on, it usually is dependent on where my hope is. If I’ve gotten frustrated or tired of waiting on the Lord to come through, it’s amazing how that inner need for control can come out, and sometimes unknowingly, my hope shifts to being in myself. In my own skills or desires. But generally, if this happens, I find myself at a dead end or stuck with a flat tire on the side of the road, pretty quickly. When I’m on His road, though I may not be moving at the pace I’d like, I have no fear or concern for my safety. I see His light and His “footprints” ahead of me as needs are met and doors are opened. But it is as I take each step, one by one, following His, that this happens. Don’t waver in the hope you have in the Lord, y’all. He will guide us, steadily along, in His time.

Our God is a good God. He can be trusted. And He will continue to be with us, y’all.

Day by day. In every detail. Holding our hands. As we travel steadily with our hope in Him.

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For Those Who Wonder if God Will Be Faithful…To Them

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with a sweet girl’s bible study group about the word “faithfulness.” We talked about faithfulness as a Fruit of the Spirit and what that looks like in our own lives. We talked about God’s faithfulness to His people, and we talked about faithfulness as a quality we would look for in friends.

Now let me say, I believe every word I shared with those girls wholeheartedly. I find joy in telling others about the amazing gift of God’s faithfulness to Joseph and Ruth and so many other heroes of the Bible. I have no problem sharing how God will be faithful to them in their own lives. But can I be honest? In the past few weeks it has been hard, and there may have been days I have started to wonder if God would be faithful to me, personally, in spite of what I know to be Truth.

It doesn’t make sense, does it? That I could tell others over and over that God will take care of them, stay by their side, love them, provide for them, protect them, and bring them comfort and peace. Yet still feel uncertain in my own heart for myself?

But here’s why it does. Because Satan, the ultimate liar and deceiver is alive and well. He knows our weaknesses and would love nothing more than to silence those who know the Lord and are willing to share His goodness. The little doubts, the little whispers that tell us we’re not enough, that we have failed, that we are insignificant, and that our hearts don’t matter as much as others are straight up lies, my sweet friends. And I rebuke them in Jesus’ name. For all of us. For you. And for me.

When those times come, the only thing left to do, the thing we MUST do, is remind ourselves of Truth. So, here are the three things I shared with those sweet girls (that we should all remember) when we doubt God’s faithfulness in your own lives. Post them. Claim them. Memorize them. And share them with someone else who may need your encouragement as well:

1.God has been faithful in the past, and He will be in the future.

Faithfulness is defined as “true to one’s word” or “consistent with trust.” My definition is “when you can believe someone is going to do what they say they’re going to do.” And y’all, God lives up to these definitions. Time and time again, in the Bible, in my friend’s lives, and in my own life, I have seen God be faithful. It wasn’t always in my timing. Or in the way I would have chosen. But He has never abandoned or forsaken me or those I love. And because I have seen His goodness in the past and believe His Word…I am assured it will continue in the future.

“Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” Deut.7:9

“God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says…” 1 Cor.1:9

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

2. Actions speak louder than words, and our God is a God of action.

Y’all, we can trust that God’s words are true because He is God. But if you need even more confirmation of God’s faithfulness, just look to what He does. I don’t know that there is any passage in the Bible that doesn’t include some sort of verb-action word-to describe the Lord at work. Next time you read, try to underline/highlight the action words for assurance that the Lord is not absently standing by, but is actively working in your life. In Psalm 23 alone, it says “He leads, renews strength, guides, protects, comforts, and prepares the way.” I challenge you to make lists of all the action words you find in relation to what the Lord is doing in your life, even when you can’t see it, and pray for Him to make those things real to you.

“For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.” Psalm 33:4

“But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” John 5:17

3. The faithlessness of people does not affect the faithfulness of God.

Oh, y’all. This one is hard because so many of us relate what we know about people to what we think we know about God. But let me tell you this. People will disappoint you. People will hurt you. People will be unfaithful to their word. Because people are imperfect and sinful. But God is not people.

The actions and words of “mere mortals” on this Earth should not and cannot be compared to the actions and words of Almighty God. For all of those who hurt…whose pain and uncertainty has turned to fear of ever trusting anyone again…including God, please give Him a chance to heal your broken hearts.

Read His word, ask Him to come near, and remember that when others are faithless…He will always be faithful.

“What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? Certainly not!…” Romans 3:3-4

“God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” Numbers 23:19

 

My sweet friends, when life is uncertain like it is right now, we may wonder if God will be faithful. Not necessarily to the world at large or our state or our church because it’s usually easier to speak boldly in general terms. But we may wonder if He will be faithful to us, individually.

In our own little homes, in our own little corner of the world, where we feel unseen and very small in the grand scheme of things. But I tell you now, don’t fear. Don’t turn away. And don’t doubt how very loved you are. He will be faithful…to you.

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Maggie’s Article Links from Other Websites

Hey guys! These are some of the articles I have had published in the last few months! I hope they are a blessing.

Following Jesus in 2020: Is It Worth It?:

https://www.ibelieve.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-january-7.html

Is God Trying to Stir Your Heart?:

https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-january-23.html

3 Ways to Be A Peacemaker:

https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-february-11.html

The ‘Rite’ Person:

https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-february-19.html

The Most Powerful Choice:

The Most Powerful Choice

When Our Children Face Rejection and Failure:

https://www.ibelieve.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-march-20.html

What to Do When You Feel Depleted:

https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-march-24.html

Dear Mama, I Have Seen that Look Before:

https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-march-31.html

Is God Really Big Enough?:

https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-april-7.html

For Those in the Waiting:

https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women/ibelieve-truth-a-devotional-for-women-april-14.html

Hope For Every Generation:

https://connectingministries.org/hope-for-every-generation/?olink=%2Fnews%2F&otitle=Blog&otx=16%2C82%2C77%2C89

The Crooked Tree

When I was a little girl, there was a tree in the curve of the road that I looked for with wide eyes each time we went to see a friend of mine. It was a young pine tree, mixed in with others that were much larger, but it wasn’t just any old tree. Its’ trunk had grown in the shape of an S…and we lovingly referred to it as our “crooked tree.” I had not been able to find it in many years, but not long ago, my sister went for a run and sent me a picture…of our crooked tree, all grown up.

You see, I couldn’t locate it because I had been looking for it as I remembered it. But as the years have gone by, our tree has grown with a straightened trunk and now stands above the others around it. I didn’t recognize it and couldn’t help but wonder how the base of the trunk straightened itself out, so I decided to do some research.

As it turns out, I found this on a blog by CLC Tree Services:
“…sometimes a tree gets a little crooked, not because of people or natural disasters, but because it is searching for the best place to grow. It’s called phototropism and it is when a tree grows towards the light…”

And it hit me. That crooked tree is a lot like me, y’all. And maybe, a lot like you.

When we start to grow up, we are surrounded by the voices and opinions and invitations of others, many older than us, to do things that might not be best. We may take a crooked path as we make mistakes and try to find our way. But above us, and around us, without fail, is the Light, Jesus, who is always trying to draw us to Himself. If we continue to seek Him, even though we get turned around and twisted up along the way, we will find Him. Just like my crooked tree.

But here’s the coolest thing. The S shape is still there. Just because my tree straightened up eventually, the bends that had been made over the years did not go away. They remain as a reminder of the growth journey that tree has had.

So, if you are in a crooked place right now…don’t stop looking for Jesus. Don’t stop trying to grow! On this weekend, thousands of years ago, Jesus came for the crooked. For those trying to find their way. For those who have made mistakes…and need the Light to straighten them out. He didn’t die for nothing, and His sacrifice must not be forgotten. He died for you…and for me. For all of us who so desperately need a Savior to straighten us out.

If you are “straightened out” to some degree right now (please know, we will still make mistakes). Don’t forget where you’ve been. Don’t take for granted the One who forgives and saves you over and over again. And don’t keep His gift to yourself. Share what Jesus has done for you, and don’t be afraid to stand boldly above the others as you show them the Light of this world.

And for all of us, Lord please open our eyes to really see others around us. I didn’t recognize my old tree because I was looking for something that was still small and bent. But plants grow. People grow. And by the Lord’s grace and mercy, many of us get straightened out.

Love Jesus. Love others. Be thankful for the crooked places in your life, and use them to grow toward the Light.

Happy Easter season, y’all.
Jer.29:13, 2 Cor.4:7

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Who Are You Listening To?

Ok, y’all. So something has been on my heart. We are mostly isolated right now. Social distancing…sheltering in place…quarantining…whatever buzz words you choose. And in doing that, we are separated from those who would normally be our voices of reason. Our sounding boards. Our reminders of Truth when a conversation turns south and fear or anxiety starts to win.

And in their places, we find the voices of the media, politicians, and a plethera of “experts” who leave us finding it hard to know who to trust. The news stream offers a consistent dialogue of uncertainty and doom on every front, with very little to lift our spirits. And I can’t help but feel that many are left wondering who will rescue them from this uncertain time.

I am reading a Psalm a day right now, and as I studied Psalm 3, I found that not much has changed when it comes to people searching for deliverance…and doubting the One who is the ultimate Deliverer:

So many are saying, “God will never rescue Him.” Psalm 3:2

Psalm 3 was written by David when his son, Absalom, was pursuing him, and he was literally running for his life. In verse 2, the people around him…the “so many”… proclaimed that God would never rescue him. And I imagine, his heart and mind were close to despair as fear, anxiety, and heartbreak threatened to overtake him.

But David knew the Lord. And he not only knew Him, but He believed that God would do what He said He would. And so immediately in verse 3, David replied, “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.”

I’m sure that many of you have heard the Lord called our shield before, and in the past, I have always loved that image because I imagined him as a strong wall, protecting me and covering me in times of trial…almost like a shelter. But this time, I realized something I hadn’t before.

In verses 7-8 of Psalm 3, David exclaims, “Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! Victory comes from you, O Lord…” Wow! A little harsh there, right? That didn’t match the image I had in my mind of the Lord as a shield, until I studied a little more and found that a shield was used for offensive AND defensive purposes. It could be used to knock an opponent back when needed…just as the Lord can be fierce as well. He is more than capable of handling the most fearsome adversaries, whether a person or a virus or an economic crash.

Y’all, the Lord has us covered on all sides as he fights AND defends. 

Not only that, but these are what the Lord does for us WHILE we are hidden behind His shield: He lifts our heads (v.3), He answers our cries (v.4), He watches over us and allows us to rest (v.5), He eliminates fear (v.6), and He fights for us and rescues us (v.7).

What an amazing picture, ya’ll! He is working on center stage and behind the scenes…even when others can’t see. Like the song says, even when we don’t feel it, He’s working. Even when we don’t see it, He’s working.

Y’all, I don’t know what the next few weeks, or months, hold for our nation, but I do know that as we “shelter in place”…our focus should not be so much on the action of sheltering…as on the type of Shelter we choose.

I don’t believe David doubted that God would rescue Him. That He would be his strength and shield. But the people around Him did. And the voices of fear and uncertainty and doom and gloom can be so very loud.

Decide today who you are going to listen to, my sweet friends. Be informed. Seek wise counsel here on Earth from those you trust. But don’t allow the background noise of your heart and mind to be those who promote anxious thoughts. Don’t listen to those who doubt the power and the might and the goodness of God.

David chose to trust his Lord. He chose the ultimate Shelter and Shield. And he ultimately, chose faith over fear. And we can too.

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3 Blessings in the Midst of Coronavirus Uncertainty

Y’all, this has been a week full of uncertainty. Fear for our health and those we love, anxiety over daily provision for small business owners, disappointment over cancellations of sporting events, and so many decisions being made that are out of our control. It can be scary and lead us to question what the Lord is doing in all of this, if anything.

So yesterday I just started reading the Word…no rhyme or reason…but just turning and flipping and soaking up all of the beautiful reminders of God’s goodness and faithfulness. I went through Psalms and Ecclesiastes and then went back to Job. As I read the pages, I came to a verse I studied recently that jumped back off the page:

“By means of their suffering, He rescues those who suffer. For He gets their attention through adversity.” Job 36:15

For He gets their attention through adversity…

Y’all, if I’m honest, our country’s attention needs to be gotten. There is so much political strife and disregard for Truth. I think we’ve been “majoring on the minors” as my Pastor Steve used to say, and need so desperately to focus on what really matters most.

In Deuteronomy 8 and 9, we are reminded of our great need for the Lord and advised to never forget all of the ways He has taken care of us (I recommend reading yourself because they are loaded passages!) But more than that, they point out three ways the Lord gets our attention and blesses us in times of so much uncertainty. I pray these three areas will help you keep your focus on the majors in the coming weeks.

1.We lose the illusion of self-sustaining power and get to witness God’s provision.

My husband and my father, who I work for, own small businesses. As orders are cancelled and people don’t come in, it can be a scary time. And it brings the realization that we cannot provide for our families in our own strength. We must rely on the Lord for our daily bread and trust that He is the good, faithful Father we know Him to be…even when times are hard. He has provided in the past…and He will in the days to come.

“He did all this so you would never say to yourself, “I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.” Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful…” Deut.8:17-18

“Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what He has made crooked? Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life.” Ecc.7:13-14

“When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn…” Psalm 142:3

“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” Matt.6:26

2.We gain time to refocus on the Lord and our families as our schedules are cleared.

I like control of my own little universe. And it is full. I don’t know that there’s one date on my calendar without something on it. But do you know what else? I can’t tell you how many times I pass my Bible on the coffee table and want to sit down and spend time with the Lord, but something else has taken precedence as more urgent at the time. I am guilty of putting last things first and first things last, and I have a hunch I’m not alone. 

The Israelites were known for doing the same thing, as they chose one thing after the other over the Lord. I’d like to think I’m different, but the truth is, I’m not. Sometimes the Lord forces us into uncomfortable places when we won’t follow His lead to begin with. Sometimes He pushes us out of our comfort zones into slower paces and spaces so we can see Who matters most. And sometimes He opens our eyes to the precious blessings that are right in front of us when we don’t recognize them for ourselves because of the hustle and bustle of life. 

Take time to enjoy your loved ones during this time, y’all. Calm your little one’s fears with reminders of God’s goodness and how He has been faithful before. Use these days to point them to Him and refill your own hearts and minds with Truth. And show them the One to cling to when uncertain times come.

“Therefore, change your hearts and stop being stubborn.” Deut.10:16

“Then I pray to you, O Lord, I say, “You are my place of refuge, You are all I really want in life.” Psalm 142:5

“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish…Be careful to obey all these commands I am giving you. Show love to the Lord your God by walking in His ways and holding tightly to Him.” Deut.11:18-22

3. We have the opportunity to make a stand and claim faith over fear.

There are people who are in panic mode about what is to come. They are afraid of sickness, economic downfall, and death. But y’all, as believers in Jesus, we know that this world is not all there is. We know that ultimately, there is only One who is in control. He knows what has been and what is to come. He goes behind and before. And He is not one bit surprised by the circumstances we find ourselves in now. 

Because we know that, we can hold on to a peace and a hope and a faith that says, “I know my God is for me. He loves me and those I love more than I ever could. And He will never leave me.” And then, we can share that with the world. I encourage all of you to post scripture around your home and workplaces, so that when fear creeps in, when the “what ifs” seem to be winning, that you have visual reminders to cling to and claim and speak out loud in the name of Jesus. Here are a few favorites:

“He hems me in behind and before, He has laid His hand upon me.” Psalm 139:5

“He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” Col.1:17

“Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” Col.3:2

“The Lord will work out His plans for my life-for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.” Ps.138:8

“I look up to the mountains-does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the One who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, He who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as yoru protective shade…The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” Ps.121:1-5,8

“For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything He does.” Ps.33:4

“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act.” Ps. 37:7

“Why am I discouraged? Why am I so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise my Savior and my God!” Ps 42:5

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.” Ps.4:8

Sweet friends, times of adversity are never easy. There are more questions than answers right now. More inconveniences and frustrations and fears than we know what to do with. But there are blessings in the mess. There are lessons in the mess. And there is a Savior in the mess, who is always working for our good.

Pray for God’s provision in the coming weeks. Refocus on the Lord and your family. Claim faith over fear. And pray for those who don’t know the Lord to see Him in a very real way. 

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