Tag Archives: devotional thoughts

Flourishing Moments

f2f memes portrait - Page 007Need a quick pick-me-up each morning?

I post short, encouraging thoughts on my author/speaker page on Facebook daily.

Just follow me there! If you pin my page to the top of your feed, Flourishing Moments will automatically post to your timeline so you don’t have to go looking for them.

Here’s a sample:

The true essence of our destiny is living as a masterpiece. It’s easy to let our good works or our service become the focus. But God didn’t say our work is the masterpiece, He says we are.

Flourishing Moments are that pause in your day that helps you take a breath and refocus.

Hope to see you there!

(Lurk and read, like and share, or comment. I love to interact with readers there!)

Blessings,

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Giving Away a Book!

rsz_pmapprov3-01To date I’ve not published a book that is as vulnerable and near to my heart as Soul Scents: Bloom. It’s a book about discovering Jesus as peace and hope during times of on-going trial. It explains some of my years of silence as a writer, times when life required too much for me to write outside the pages of my journal.

One Amazon reviewer said, “What sweet truth Paula shares on each page of this devotional. God’s love and his extravagant grace toward us is shared through Scripture, the beauty of nature and the author’s personal stories of pain revealing God’s ever present care and commitment to our “blooming.” I loved the prayers at the end of each day’s reading and found myself saying, “Yes, Lord, Yes! Do that in me!” I came away from the pages yearning for more intimacy with Jesus, to know him better and more. Paula clearly knows her Lord and her honesty and vulnerability are so healing.”

Words like that help me share the tender spots, giving me hope that the message which pours forth from me has a place in my readers’ journeys.

I’d love to *give* a copy of Soul Scents: Bloom to a reader who comments either here or on social media. If you comment more than one place, I’ll put your name in the drawing for each place  you comment. In your comment let me know whether you prefer a Kindle copy or a paperback.

My daughter has a different tender place, and I invite you to help me help her as she serves. For the July pay period on Amazon.com, I will donate 50% of my Soul Scents book profits to the effort below. 

In 2015 our daughter, Sarah, fell in love with the women and children of another country.
She traveled there to serve with a NGO (Non-Governmenal Organization) which provides education, health care, and economical support in a war-torn region. At present over 500 children receive education and healthcare, as well as one solid meal each day. The folks at the NGO also work with the families from the school and look for ways to help them gain income. Last year Sarah taught the children and visited in the homes, where she met with the mothers and helped identify needs, whether it was a micro-load to get a sewing machine so the mom could start her own business, or immediate access to food and other resources when the needs were urgent.

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This year Sarah and her husband, David, are returning to the people she loves. They have raised more than half of the funds needed for this service trip.

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Sarah and David advertise for a garage sale to raise funds.

Please consider buying one of the books below and help these precious children! (If you’d like to donate directly to this effort, email me, and I’ll get you the proper information, including how the donation can be tax deductible.)

And don’t forget to leave a comment for the drawing for a free copy of Soul Scents: Bloom!

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Awaken to a more intimate, peaceful relationship with God. The Soul Scents devotional series invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of Who God is and how He interacts with us. Bathed in grace, this collection of thirteen week devotionals is down-to-earth, offering spiritual insight gained from Scripture and the author’s journey into spiritual freedom. Soul Scents: Awaken, the first in the series, features week-day readings which include Scriptures and prayers. Rest in the Son’s embrace as you enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself.

 

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Become rooted in your identity as the beloved! Soul Scents: Rooted, the second book in the Soul Scents devotional series, includes topics such as worthiness, spiritual battle, and destiny. The week-day readings include scriptures and prayers.

 

 

 

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In His presence we bloom in sunshine and storm. His Spirit carries us through the struggle, offering the love, strength, and wisdom we need for the times of trial. In the joyous seasons, His smile deepens our pleasure. Bloom in season and out!

The Soul Scents collection invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of who God is and how He interacts with us. Combined, its four volumes, Awaken, Rooted, Bloom, and Flourish, offer a year’s worth of devotional reading. Each book has thirteen weeks of down-to-earth insight gleaned from scripture and the author’s journey into spiritual freedom. Rest in the Son’s embrace as you enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself. (Watch for Soul Scents: Flourish coming in September!)

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of Soul Scents: Bloom!

Easter Devotion ~ He Arose!

9c4e7pkpiUp from the grave he arose;

with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;

He arose a victor from the dark domain,

and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

(“Up from the Grave He Arose” by Robert Lowry)

Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. ~ Romans 6:6–11 (MSG)

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed!!

Christ has won the victory!

Can you hear the fanfare of trumpets? Smell the newness of spring? Feel the warmth of loving light? Darkness—confusion, sin, weakness, unbelief—is conquered and with it eternal death. In its place is a new kingdom, established by God the Father through Jesus. It is a kingdom of victory where God’s people dwell with Him, live beneath the rule of His loving reign, and learn to love others (and themselves!) as they are loved by their King.

As Christ-followers we are translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. We live, “always thankful to the Father who has made us fit to share all the wonderful things that belong to those who live in the Kingdom of light. For he has rescued us out of the darkness and gloom of Satan’s kingdom and brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who bought our freedom with his blood and forgave us all our sins” (Colossians 1:12–14, TLB).

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!

Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!

Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!

Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

 

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!

Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!

Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!

Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!*

No longer are we held down by sin and condemnation, for the Son didn’t come to condemn but to save (John 3:17), and for those who come to Him there is never again condemnation (Romans 8:1). No longer do we strive, struggling for righteousness, fighting from our own meager resources to survive in the domain of darkness. Through Christ sin is conquered, and we are reconciled to our Creator-Father. Through Christ we are given the identity and relationship of beloved. Because of the cross God’s own Holy Spirit moves into our lives and changes us from the inside out, remaking us to shine with the glory of Christ’s character, love, and power. We are free to flourish in love and grace, free to become all He had in mind before even the foundation of the world.

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!

Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!

Thee to know, Thy pow’r to prove, Alleluia!

Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!**

Alleluia! All praise and honor and glory and power be to You, precious Jesus, Savior of the world! Thank You for walking the road of suffering so I can be released from the domain of darkness and live in the glory of Your light!PMApprov2-01

*Verses 3 & 4 of “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” by Charles Wesley

**Verse 6

(Devotion taken from Soul Scents: RootedSoul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week
only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

Easter Devotion ~ Suffering and Glory

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Clip art found here

Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want. ~ I Peter 4:1–2 (MSG)

I don’t like suffering. In fact I try to avoid it. During the lent season someone thoughtlessly attacked one of my most tender places. I’d offered up vulnerability, choosing transparency in an effort to communicate grace. But I was misunderstood and judged. It hurt. A lot.

But Jesus is tender, isn’t He? My little issue of hurt feelings was nothing compared to the suffering of Christ, but He gently tended to my pain, whispering He’d suffered too and issuing an invitation into the fellowship of His suffering.

Jesus was often misunderstood and judged. People thought He was grandiose and self-absorbed when He declared Himself the Son of God. Even those who wanted to believe He was something special didn’t like it when the road led not to power and financial gain, but to the cross.

As Jesus faced His greatest test of suffering, even His friends turned from Him. They didn’t want to hear what He had to say. How dare He talk of pain and death? Peter rebuked Him for such thoughts. Judas gave up on Him rather than let go of his plans and enter the suffering of his Lord.

Yes, Jesus understood the pain of offering up your best only to receive judgment and ridicule in return. Instead of defending Himself and calling down the angels to rescue Him, He walked the road of suffering. He chose obedience to His Father over escaping the pain.

I’ve had much deeper suffering than the incident I referenced. Some of my suffering has been undeserved like Jesus’ was, but often part of the pain in times of suffering was born of my own resistance to hardship, or as The Message says, “that old sinful habit” of expecting to get my own way and trying to get what I wanted instead of surrendering to the more difficult path the Lord asked me to walk.

Each of us has our own journey of suffering. Some people’s suffering is public—especially those who go through serious illness or sudden public loss—like losing a loved one to a car accident. Other people’s suffering is private. Their pain includes abuse or situations they feel they can’t talk about, and for these suffering saints it is difficult to find a safe community of support.

My friend, suffering isn’t easy. Even Jesus asked God if there wasn’t another way to accomplish His will. The Lord isn’t angry with us when we struggle to surrender to hard times. When we face genuine suffering, we have a Lord who is well acquainted with grief and sorrow. He understands our pain and validates our struggle. He also demonstrated the way through the suffering. He didn’t pretend it wasn’t happening. He didn’t run from it. He gathered His closest friends around Him and begged them to pray with Him; then He poured His heart out to His Father. When He prayed, He asked God to release Him from such a painful path, but when His Father didn’t, Jesus surrendered to suffering. He laid down His will and chose intense pain, dying a criminal’s death; but in surrendering He also received glory. On the other side of the pain God highly exalted Him, giving Jesus the name that is above every other name (Philippians 2:8–9). He was not only restored to His former glory, He was elevated.

As we follow Christ’s example, comforted and supported by a Friend who is well acquainted with sorrow, we too are restored, strengthened, and invited to share in glory. Scripture says, “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10, NLT).

My friend, if you suffer today, remember your Best Friend is well acquainted with your pain. It’s okay to wrestle with Him and to ask for a way out, but if He calls upon you to continue the path of pain for a while, know that He will use the suffering. You will share in the glory of Christ, and He Himself will restore you.

In times of sorrow and grief I look to You for comfort, Jesus. It helps to know You understand, firsthand, what it is like to grieve, to be accused, to face judgment, to be misunderstood. You know physical pain, relational pain, and spiritual pain. You understand rejection and hardship. Thank You for choosing the path of suffering so I am saved. In those last, hardest hours Your friends deserted You, but You never allow me to walk through suffering unaided by Your presence. Thank You that You never leave me. Thank You for empowering me to follow the Father even on painful paths. Thank You for promising to restore me and inviting me to share Your glory.PMApprov2-01

(Devotion taken from Soul Scents: RootedSoul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

Easter Devotion ~What Have I Done?

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Free clip art from here.

Don’t you realize how patient he is being with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see that he has been waiting all this time without punishing you, to give you time to turn from your sin? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance. ~ Romans 2:4 (TLB)

One of the gifts of the last year is a part-time job the Lord gave me as a paid singer in the Soli Dei church choir. Not being raised in a liturgical tradition, I’ve enjoyed the rhythms of the church calendar and being exposed to another style of worship.

Since my husband and I attend a community church with multiple services, most weeks I’m honored to worship at the Lutheran church with my friends in the choir as well as with my family at our home church.

Oh how I love worship music of all styles! I’m as comfortable in my choir robe as I am rocking out to the drums of our home church. I’ve also been known to slip away to a nearby charismatic church to enjoy worship dance or to head to another part of town and enjoy the pageantry at a friend’s Catholic Church. God’s people are everywhere, and there is great delight in joining with them in worship of our shared King.

It is due to this part-time job that I attended the Ash Wednesday service I’ve talked about in the last two devotions. My sweet Jesus also used the music of this job to break through my turmoil and finish the work of repentance in my heart.

The railing I mentioned yesterday was grounded in anger at God. I simply didn’t like how He was handling my life. I was tired of hardship. When He dug up the lie on that Thursday, I didn’t immediately repent. I spent two days thrashing about in confusion and anger. The wrestling with God allowed my processing to take the lie to its deepest places to be more fully uprooted. It needed to be banished once and for all, no stone unturned!

By Saturday morning I was spent.

Exhausted, I hauled myself out of bed for a three-hour Easter music rehearsal. Entering the choir room is entering a beautiful community. And in that sacred assembly of fellow believers with voices lifted in song the same Spirit who inspired the great composers of long ago took their music, reached across centuries, and stilled my heart. It started with Mendelssohn’s healing melody as we sang, “Grant us thy peace so graciously.”* The music swelled to fill the rehearsal space and the space of my soul. Weary of the questioning, the wrestling, my words became a prayer. Oh how I needed peace. Yes, Lord, grant me peace.

My heart then broke with an allegory by Tchaikovsky called “The Crown of Roses (Legend).” We sang, “The boy said humbly; ‘Take, I pray, All but the naked thorns away.’ Then of the thorns they made a crown, and with rough fingers pressed it down . . .” The Lord’s sacrifice is no children’s story. The harsh words, barbed whip, and thorned crown really did pierce His body and soul. And like the humble boy in the song, He allowed it. The God-man received the whip, the scorn, the cross, and succumbed to a cruel death.

But it was Richard Shephard’s “Good Friday Reproaches” the Spirit used to cleanse me of the last vestiges of anger and distrust. Our director, Andy, is committed to communicating the message of the pieces he chooses, and this piece has a particularly emotive refrain. For at least ten minutes we sang two sentences: “My people what wrong have I done to you? What good have I not done for you?”

Over and over those words echoed and reverberated in the rehearsal hall. Andy encouraged reflective word emphasis, dynamics, leaning into the text, making it spark with emotion and meaning.

My people what wrong have I done to you?

What good have I not done for you?

Part of repentance is to feel regret.

I’d been rethinking my life. Struggling to let go of the sin of unbelief and to change my way of thinking. Now I ached with regret. It was as if Christ Himself spoke to me in that refrain, and then the Spirit whispered a line from another song I’d heard. “But tell me now, where was my fault in loving you with my whole heart?”**

I felt Him. “What wrong have I done to you?” He gently questioned. “Tell Me where is My fault in loving you with My whole heart? What good have I not done for you?”

As I sang with my lips I confessed with my heart, “Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus. I’m sorry. You’ve done nothing but love and give. Like a selfish child who doesn’t get her way I’ve ignored Your sacrifice and accused You of not loving me well.”

It’s amazing how tender He is even when He calls for repentance, how even in asking us to rethink our attitudes and behaviors He floods us with a magnitude of love.

My friend, do you hear it too? The heart cry of Jesus, the One who gave all for us? Do you hear Him whisper, “What wrong have I done? What good have I withheld? Where can you fault Me? I’ve loved you with all I have.”

The enemy constantly tries to confuse God’s people and steal their joy. The vile whisper reverberates, saying God withholds from us, that His love is not to be trusted.

But where is fault in the One who spread His arms and gave all?

He left the splendor of heaven

Knowing his destiny

Was the lonely hill of Golgotha

There to lay down His life for me

If that isn’t love

The ocean is dry

There’s no stars in the sky

And the sparrow can’t fly

If that isn’t love

Then heaven’s a myth

There’s no feeling like this

If that isn’t love***

Thank You, Jesus. I am undone by Your selfless love. You have no fault. All is done from love. You withhold no good thing.

*”Verleih Uns Frieden (Grant Us Thy Peace)”, text by Martin Luther, translated to English by Andrew Halladay. Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy PMApprov2-01

**From “White Blank Page” by Mumford and Sons

***“If That Isn’t Love” by Dottie Rambo

(Devotion taken from Soul Scents: RootedSoul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

Soul Scents: Awaken, Book 1 in the series, is free on Kindle today and tomorrow!

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Easter Week Devotion ~ Blackened Streaks

EASTER-cross-and-crown-smalJoin us each weekday preceding Easter for a devotional focusing on the Cross of Jesus. These devotionals are taken from the bonus week in Soul Scents: Rooted, which just released. 

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18 (KJV)

As the pastor traced the blackened streaks upon my forehead, tears sprang to my eyes. I couldn’t remember attending an Ash Wednesday service before, but this deep worship touched inner hidden places.

The liturgy invited the Holy Spirit to search within. To root out sin. To cast down idols. It asked me to speak words of repentance. Trouble brewed inside. I didn’t yet understand, but I gave permission for revelation.

By definition to repent is to feel regret, to rethink, to change.

Repentance in a Christian is an interesting thing. We’ve already made the choice to accept Christ’s gift of salvation, hard earned at the cross. His righteousness covers us and declares us holy. We live as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Every fault is already forgiven: today’s, yesterday’s, and tomorrow’s.

A painful memory of my childhood is how my precious, sweet Grandma, who knew the Lord and constantly pointed me to Him, didn’t understand this concept. She believed Christ was her Savior and loved Him with a loyalty almost baffling to me as a young child. Her lips moved almost continually in silent prayer. Many times her belief in God and His ability to help in trouble shored up my own young faith.

But Grandma didn’t have the freedom a deeper grasp of grace would have given her. Guilt and fear often held her back.

One time when she tucked me in for a special overnight at Grandma’s house she told me, “Every night I ask the Lord to forgive me for anything I did wrong during the day, in case I sinned and didn’t know it or forgot to ask forgiveness. If something happens to me in my sleep I want to be right with God.”

It still hurts to think of the bondage this kind of thinking held over her. She didn’t understand she was already acceptable to God because of Jesus. “For it is from God alone that you have your life through Christ Jesus. He showed us God’s plan of salvation; he was the one who made us acceptable to God; he made us pure and holy and gave himself to purchase our salvation” (1 Corinthians 1:30, TLB).

Maybe a lot of people feel like she did. In church service after church service we sing songs and pray prayers that beg for God’s mercy. Yet hasn’t He already extended mercy?

“But God is so rich in mercy; he loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, he gave us back our lives again when he raised Christ from the dead—only by his undeserved favor have we ever been saved—and lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with him in the heavenly realms—all because of what Christ Jesus did” (Ephesians 2:4–6, TLB).

In His grace Christ cleansed us and made us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Then why celebrate Ash Wednesday?

Why repent?

Because we’re like the apostle Paul, who said, “So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free” (Romans 7:23–25, TLB).

Paul was comforted by the same truth that comforts us today: Jesus moved in, cleansed us by His blood, and now the Holy Spirit convicts, slipping into our secret places and revealing where we’re thinking and living in the old way. “The Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT). The King James Version of the Bible says we are changed from “glory to glory.”

We repent, not out of fear of hell, not because we are worthless sinners, but because we are new creations, citizens of God’s kingdom, and we want to repent—to “rethink” and “change”—anything that gets in the way of becoming more like Jesus.

My friend, as you rethink life and ask the Lord to help you become more like Jesus, you repent from the safe place as one already forgiven and accepted.

Precious Jesus, Your sacrifice changed everything. Thank You for walking the road to the cross, for entering such degradation and pain so I might be cleansed and freed from the powers of sin and death. Holy Spirit, thank You for dwelling within me, probing the places where I need to rethink life. I give You permission to reveal any place where I’m thinking in the old ways instead of like a Kingdom citizen. Please change me from glory to glory.PMApprov2-01

(Soul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

Free Today ~ Soul Scents: Awaken

Merry Christmas! I’m thrilled to offer you a gift today and tomorrow. The first book in my year-long devotional series is available for free download!

SS Collection

Awaken to a more intimate, peaceful relationship with God. The Soul Scents devotional series invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of Who God is and how He interacts with us. Bathed in grace, this collection of thirteen week devotionals is down-to-earth, offering spiritual insight gained from Scripture and the author’s journey into spiritual freedom. Soul Scents: Awaken, the first in the series, features week-day readings which include Scriptures and prayers. Rest in the Son’s embrace as you enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself.

May God richly bless you this week and every day.

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He Is . . . I Am

IMAG0626Identity. We have no clue how it drives our lives. How it shapes our daily, minute-to-minute choices.

Today’s post is an invitation into my journal, my musings. I’m just audacious enough to believe God meets me there, when I’m quiet in my recliner, snuggled beneath my fuzzy blanket, journal and pen in hand. (He meets me other places, too. Increasingly I believe there is no divided secular and sacred space. There is only space. And where there is space HE is. But I digress.)

On that day, pen in hand, I talked with Him about hopes. Fears. Dreams. About feeling unqualified, unworthy, and other “un” words.

He said, “I Am your qualifier. I Am your worthiness. I Am has brought you through the experience you need to do what I Am has planned.”

I told Him I knew the journey was about His ability, not mine, and I surrendered to His plan. Then I added, “I am afraid.”

“No,” His tone was gentle. “Do not use ‘I Am’ for identity statements. I Am is ME in you.”

Often I say things like, “I am overwhelmed. I am tired. I am afraid. I am inadequate.” Since this conversation with Him I’m trying to break that habit.

Am is a linking verb. In English class they taught me that whatever is on the other side of “am” renames “I.”

God reminds me not to give myself names that are outside of who HE is within me. HE is never inadequate or afraid or overwhelmed. In the book of John Jesus told His followers, “I am in you and you are in Me.” If God indwells me (and isn’t this the crux of Christian thought?) then His resources and character are also inside of me. Besides, God promises in Romans 8:29 that He is remaking me to be like Jesus. That makes me think that using identity statements about myself that differ from who Jesus is contradicts the work God is doing. I want to lean into the process to be MORE like Jesus, not to push against it!

That said, I don’t think God wants me to pretend I don’t have real emotions. However, I do think He wants me to see them as just that. The other day I caught myself saying I was overwhelmed. Just saying it made me act even more as if it were true.

My new goal is to change my verbiage from “am” to “feel” when dealing with negative crap that isn’t part of who God is. So . . . I feel overwhelmed, but I know the God who lives inside of me can handle anything. Sometimes situations seem hopeless, but God is a God of hope, and with Him nothing is impossible. Hard tasks can make me feel inadequate, but God is always up for any challenge. And HE lives in and through me.

But God . . . what a difference those two little words make. In Him I am a whole bunch of stuff that is glorious.

How about you, my friend? Been saying or thinking “I am” statements that whisper identities you really don’t want to take on? What thought patterns can you change by a twist of verbiage and the addition of “but God?”

Until Next Time,

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*If you’ve not been around much Jewish or Christian theology, there’s a whole new depth brought to those words, “I Am” based on an experience with God and Moses. Moses, the guy who led the Israelite slaves out of captivity in Egypt, was one of those guys who felt unqualified with a glaring “UN.” When He asked God His name, God called Himself, “I AM.” Jesus also made a bunch of identity statements using those two little words, “I Am.”

Writing this post reminded me of another time I pondered those two little words. At that time I wrote 10 devotionals based on those musing, and because of this post added them to my website in hopes they might encourage you. Maybe you’d like to bookmark the devotional page and spend the next ten days thinking about what God means when He calls Himself, “I Am.”

Gulps of Grace

I just clicked off on the cordless phone, thoughts churning. My friend is an abuse survivor, no longer a victim, a woman of great integrity and strength. One of my heroes. I’m reminded of her journey forward, of how her abuser kept her in a stranglehold of condemnation and low self-esteem for far too long. How even survivors, victors who’ve long overcome have to keep fighting to maintain their freedom, especially when people who don’t understand knock them down again.

On the radio yesterday a woman called a talk show for advice. Her “husband” was clearly destroying her emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, but still she argued that she “should” stay to do the “right” thing.

If you know me well, you know I am not easily angered. But this. This makes me want to fight hard against the lies, against the boxes, for FREEDOM!

challah bread 9This morning’s phone call from my victorious friend who’d once again endured a senseless assault by a clueless do-gooder left me reeling, as did that lady on the talk show.

I reached for Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts Devotional in an attempt to right the churning inside of me. Ann reminded me that giving thanks is declaring my trust in God and that without the ability to trust God there is no joy.

For years I begged God for joy. Instead His offering was to allow seven years of grueling circumstances far beyond my control. I’m beginning to understand Ann’s words, that giving thanks is about joy and about trust and about choosing. It is curling up with the Bread that nourishes my soul.

So I today I wrote little notes of gratitude instead of dwelling on all that angers me. And what came out surprised me.

I thank Him for: freedom air gulped and eventually breathed in natural rhythm. 

When I first stepped out of my own crap, of walls self-imposed and imposed by others, of boxes of perfectionism and guilt and performance, I couldn’t breathe freedom every day, every minute, like life. I grasped for it. Looked for it. Begged for it. Gorged on it when I found it.

I found it in grace.

I gulped grace. Sucking it in for survival. Guzzling it. Only pure grace, the truth of it, fed me. The gulps pounded into my malnourished system, setting it free, a little at a time.

I sucked in the grace air as I could understand it, when I could appropriate it.

Grace.

God’s complete unconditional love and acceptance. The favor He offered even though I didn’t deserve it.

Wiki says it this way: . .  grace has been defined, not as a created substance of any kind, but as “the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it”,[1] “the condescension or benevolence shown by God toward the human race”.[2] It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man – “generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved”[3] – that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God.

For years I lived without freedom. I didn’t know it. But I was controlled by the self-condescension of one who could never live up to her own ideals and of one who tried so hard to please others that I lived in a straight-jacket of effort and failure.

I didn’t understand grace saturated the very air I breathed. That I didn’t have to chase after it or fight for it, grabbing and suffocating.

I didn’t get that always, always, always my Creator surrounds me with loving acceptance, cheering me on in my victories, helping me to my feet in my failures, never condemning, only offering Himself and His grace, longing to love me and remake me into one who could love Him, myself, and others.

I had heard about God’s love, about grace, all my life, but I didn’t appropriate it to myself–thus the gulping when I happened upon grace. The gorging on it when I began to understand.

But over time–years, not weeks–I began to feel less desperate. My soul began to know grace would never run out, never be beyond my reach, never disappear.

And I began to breathe normally. Rhythmically.

In freedom.

Once in a while something happens. My throat constricts once again, and I struggle. I am hurt or I hurt others. My imperfections are glaring. And my breathing gets erratic as I take huge, gulping, heaving breaths.

Grace. My lifeline.

As I inhale I stabilize. My breathing becomes natural. Saturated with freedom.

As I type right now I finally understand how all of this comes together. Why in my need to reach for hope, for peace, I seek to offer thanks, to trust God, to hold onto joy. Why in the midst of this churning I wrote those words: freedom air gulped and eventually breathed in natural rhythm. 

It’s because of the process of freedom. It’s because when my friend first fought out of an abusive situation she, like me, had to gulp grace bubbles. She couldn’t yet understand the air was saturated, and grace was always there, free.

It’s like my friend and I spent years under putrid water, pressed down by the voices that said we would never be good enough to deserve such freedom as normal breaths. But eventually we had to breathe, to lift our heads out of the water before we drowned. At first we could only raise our head on occasion, could only allow ourselves stolen gulps because we thought we deserved no more. Didn’t even deserve those gulps, really, just needed them so much we had to take them.

Over time we began to understand that the air was ours, given freely by a loving God, and that we didn’t have to earn it with good behavior. We bobbed for a while at the surface where the air was  tainted by the smell of stinking water. But it was better. At least we were breathing more often, even with the times we were pulled back under. Then came the day we slowly swam toward shore. Swimmers still get their face wet, but they also have air. And they are moving forward

It was a while before we climbed out, touched the shore, realized how good and pure the air could be and that we were given the right to breathe it.

And sometimes, on bad days, we still forget. That cesspool of unworthiness and condemnation is always there, waiting for us to climb back in.

But we’re getting better, my friend and me. We’re choosing to stay away from the stinky water.

We’ve gulped freedom and are learning to breathe it in natural rhythm.

Breathing with you today, my friend.

Until next time,

moldenhauer signature3

The Fragrance of His Notice

canopyA canopy of white blossoms rise high above as I sweep the sidewalk. I’m sweaty. Aching from hours of yard work. Dirt blackens the space beneath my fingernails.

A gentle breeze, cool and fragrant, teases my hair, and I straighten. Pause.

Those blossoms smell how I imagine heaven. I let the scent, the stirring of air, refresh my body and my soul.

God’s gift.

Did He stir the branches?

Send the breeze, the fragrance?

On purpose?

This moment?

For me?

Or it is just how the Creator planned it out years ago. Scientific.

Maybe both.

Maybe God is big enough to have planned out my encounters with nature even before I was born. Maybe when He set his plans in motion, spoke the seed for this beautiful tree into existence, He had me in mind even then.

Doesn’t the first chapter of Ephesians support this way of thinking? This God who plans with me in mind?tree with blossom (2)

I choose to believe this moment is personal. He SEES ME. Wants to bless me. To cover my aching, weary body and soul with His perfume.

I’m reading Ann VosKamp again. She quotes Erasmus, a contemporary of Luther, “A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.”

She admits the struggle for gratitude. Like her, my writing of over 1,000 thanks sometimes felt juvenile. I didn’t know then I was driving out a nail by another nail. That I was practicing what it is like to live a life of moments embraced and noticed with thanksgiving before they march on, lost in time, pushing me to hurry without living.

That noticing the little things and giving thanks to the One teaches me to live with Him. Notice Him. Trust Him. Slow down and embrace Him as I delight in His gifts.

i still practice. Choosing to hammer gratitude. Trust. Faith. For my soul. My mental and spiritual health.

And for my body I hammer healthier choices. Salad. Walks. Water.

Sometimes I awake fearful again. And which nail do I pick up? I want to practice trust. To drive out unbelief with faith. To grow as one who walks in peace with the Father. Believing He is personal. He sees. Me.

Sometimes, like the last six weeks or so, I curl in a ball instead of walking. Gaining a few pounds from not choosing the nail of activity.

blossom 2And maybe that was ok, this drawing into myself to grieve. This wintering.

As long as I come out.

And there’s nothing like spring to draw me from winter, tempting me with fragrant breezes.

Reminding me that He sees.

He sees me.