Unchained Freedom

God’s Word is not chained....2 Timothy 2:9

"I have faith in God, I just don't know if I have faith in myself."  When she spoke the words & I felt like I was drowning in the face of my own fears as she exposed hers.  

My friend had recently received a prophetic declaration over her life that she would lead worship in new ways for the sake of the kingdom.  And with that, the chains of incompetency & unworthiness bound her as if there were no power in the world that could break them.  But that day, by sharing her heart & believing I was a safe place for her to unload all those emotions, she moved from being frozen by fear toward action in Love.  

In the days following our conversation, her words, "I have faith in God, I just don't know if I have faith in myself", echoed emphatically in my head.  How can such a small phrase be so full of freedom & bondage in the same breath?  

We believe in a God so big He can do anything.  He can part the Red Sea, He can heal the sick, He can even raise the dead to life, but for some reason in our own world we aren’t sure He can do what we need Him to do.  We let our head lead our hearts astray & we forget He wants to move in us for His purposes.  

As I was praying for my friend after our conversation, the Lord brought the story of Paul & Silas to mind.  

You see, Paul & Silas found themselves in chains, imprisoned for doing what they knew the Lord had called them to do.  But they didn’t let their chains stop them.  In the middle of their imperfect & broken situation, they started praising the Lord & that’s where the miracle happened.  In the middle of singing praises, their chains broke off & they were set free.  But the story didn’t stop there because the chains actually broke off of all the prisoners in the jail cell that night! {Acts 16:20-34}

I began to realize the truth of it all…I realized that sometimes just acknowledging our own chains is the way to real freedom.  Whether our chains are physical, mental or emotional, when we keep praising the Lord while in our bondage, we are set free.  And the great thing is, our freedom spreads to those around us.  True freedom brings a contagious atmosphere that cannot be denied & everyone wants it.  When Paul & Silas praised the Lord in their chains, they & all the people around them were set free. 


Could it possibly be that the way to freedom is to praise Him even when we are bound in our own chains?  Could it be that when our minds are bound to our own weakness, that simply deciding to bind our hearts to His strength will change everything? 


Paul & Silas didn't deny the power of the physical problems that held them in the jail cell that night.  They chose instead to praise Him in the middle of the darkest night, bound by chains they could never break on their own.  They gave their hearts the freedom to let God work & they were set free from both physical warfare & spiritual warfare.

They opted for praising even if their circumstances never changed.  Prior to the chains breaking off, we have no indication that they had received revelation from the Lord that they would be physically set free.  However, they continued faithfully in what the Father had called them to, in order to walk in spiritual freedom.

So what if praising in our chains is what we need to bring freedom to our world & in turn God shows us what true freedom looks like?

This world is broken & there will be situations & circumstances we will each face where God is asking us to keep trusting Him, believing Him & praising Him, even in our chains.  But miracles can only happen in broken places.  No miracle working is needed in perfection, so maybe we need to choose to keep singing His praise in the middle of our dark night in order to be set free.

Here are some thoughts on praising in the middle of chains to be set free:

Don't give up on what God has called you to ~ Sometimes our hearts grow weary in doing good because of the battle against the enemy who is constantly looking to falsely accuse us & put us in chains.  But we must ‘keep on, keepin’ on’ as the saying goes.  Remember that Paul & Silas had each other, so engage a friend to help pull you up to praise the the Lord when you are bound by your own doubts & you in turn, can do the same for that person.  Two are always better than one.  {2 Corinthians 8:10-12, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10}

Sometimes we have to rejoice in our circumstances in order to let God change our circumstances ~ There are many examples in the Bible where people’s circumstances didn’t change until they chose to change their heart’s perspective.  Think of Daniel, Joseph, The Israelite people, Paul & Silas.  Each of these situations required praise for the Lord in their situations before He could change the situation.  We must choose to praise Him, even if our circumstances seem to stay the same externally.  Praising Him in the middle of our mess brings His supernatural presence & gives Him the freedom to come & be the miracle we need!  {Luke 10:18-20}

You are the light in the darkness ~ The darkness is this broken world.  You are the light.  Jesus himself said so.  So if we are the light, then wouldn’t it be true that if we praise Him in the dark, we will light up the world around us?  We must keep choosing to follow & praise Him, even in the hard times so those around us can be set free also.  What good does it do for us to be set free though salvation & not live free in the abundance Christ has brought us to?  We must praise in the dark, to walk in the light.  {Matthew 5:14-16, Philippians 2:14-16}


What would happen if you praised Him even while you are bound by chains?  What would happen if you allowed the truth that's in your heart to penetrate your head & break the your own chains & the chains of those around you?


Love,
Cara

freedom

Praying Scripture

No matter how long we have walked with Christ, prayer is one thing that will continue to be a necessary part of our walk.  However, prayer does not need to be a dread as though it is just a task to check off the list.  In fact, with time & practice, prayer can become second nature to breathing.  

I believe with all my heart that every situation in our life that does not reflect God’s love & truth is tied to a sinful stronghold.  Whether it is mental, physical or emotional, a worldly stronghold is anything “that sets itself up against the knowledge of God”. {2 Corinthians 10:3-6}  According to the dictionary definition, a stronghold is a “well fortified place”.   This sounds much like the things in the world that keep us in bondage & keep us from living an abundant life.  

Over 15 years ago, I came to a serious realization that my marriage was in the bottom of a dark pit.  I remember clearly the day I cried out to God & told Him if He didn't do something, it would all be over.  I tell you in all seriousness, that without praying scripture over my situation I don’t know how things would’ve turned out. 

What God did was change my perspective.

Unfortunately, in the beginning, my prayers were somewhat wasted with my own agenda & desires for what I wanted for my marriage & what I wanted my husband to be.  

After realizing this method was wearing me out & allowing my circumstances to get the best of me, I knew I needed a different battle plan.

I began praying scripture over the circumstances that had brought my marriage down.   The shift in my mindset was nothing short of miraculous.  I began to realize through praying God’s word over my husband, my thoughts about my marriage & my spouse aligned with what God wanted, instead of my flawed human desires.  Over time, God’s desires for my marriage became my full focus.  It was an amazing turnaround that used the power of God’s Word to rescue my marriage & restore us to a place of living in love & grace daily.  

I have found a passion for praying scripture over every relationship & area of my life because it pulls me out of my own tunnel vision & takes me to the One Who’s ways are higher than mine. {Isaiah 55:8-9}  I have also come to realize, in opposite contradiction to the spiritual warfare of strongholds, that according to Psalm 18:2, God can be a stronghold as well.  This means that I am not bound to my own failures or this fallen world but I am bound to the stronghold of God Almighty & He is my “well fortified place”.

Too often, we pray with our own agenda...

...we don’t see changes in life or relationships that we want, so we just give up.  We stop praying because our natural eyes don’t see God at work, but when we pray His scripture, our spiritual eyes are opened & we begin to realize that God is not slack concerning His promises. {2 Peter 3:9}

Praying scripture is simply taking the words of a verse or a passage & applying them to whatever situation you are facing.  Here are some examples:


If I need to make a decision, I might take Isaiah 30:21 to the Lord.  “Whether you turn to the right or left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it’.  I would quote that verse to the Lord & ask Him to help me to hear His voice specifically guiding me in the way He wants me to go.  

If I have a relational conflict that needs divine guidance, I might pray Ephesians 4:29-32.   I would say, ‘Father keep me from unwholesome talk & let my words be life giving.  Cleanse my heart of any bitterness & anger & let kindness & compassion fill its place.’

If I am in a situation where my mind {or someone else’s mind} needs to change, I would ask God to help me set my mind on things above & remove my thoughts from earthly things.  I would also ask Him to transform my mind & renew my thoughts.  {Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:2-3}


Of course these are only a few examples {I have made a list for you of a few other scriptures & topics below}, but you can see how our own pre-conceived thoughts or emotion about a situation can change to line up with what our Father wants for our lives.

Here are some ideas about how to begin to pray scripture in your own life:

Ask Your Father For Help ~ The only way praying scripture works is if we enter in to it with a heart that is willing to hear from God & receive what He wants for our lives.  He has greater plans for us than we could ever dream up, but a hardened, selfish heart isn’t open to what He wants.  We must set aside our own thoughts & intentions for situations & be willing to look at them through the Father’s great plan.  {Ephesians 3:20, Ezekiel 36:26}

Write It Down ~ I keep a stack of Bible verses that move my heart when I read them.  This can be a good place to start when we need to find a scripture to pray. We are in a battle against an enemy that wants to destroy every part of us including our relationships, identity, faith & our heart.  Having a stack of scripture cards is like keeping the ‘shield of faith’ readily at our side to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. {Ephesians 6:10-18}

Don’t Stop Short ~ It is so easy to have good intentions about prayer without full follow through.  Because there is a holy mystery about exactly how God uses this specific channel of communication with His children to bring Heaven to earth, we too often stop short of giving our full passion to prayer.  The fact that God ordained this way of inviting His holy power into our circumstances should be enough for us to keep at it, but too often we stop just short of His breakthrough.  Praying scripture truly helps keep us engaged by focusing on God’s will over our own desires, because it will bring a movement of God that we might otherwise miss. {Matthew 6:5-13}


What area do you need to apply scripture to in order to shift your perspective from earthly to heavenly?  Where is your Father calling you to give up earthly strongholds & let Him be the stronghold of your life?


Here are a few more topical scriptures you might want to consider:

Related Topics:  How to Pray, 7 Scriptures to Pray for Your College Student, 7 Scriptures to Pray for Your Teen


Love, Cara

How to Pray

Prayer is something I love but this wasn't always the case.  I used to be extremely intimidated by prayer.  When I was a little girl, I thought prayers had to be long & very formal with big words that needed Webster to define them.  I believed that somehow when I was grown my prayers would naturally morph into a liturgical ballad.  As I got older, my angst for praying grew as I felt like everyone around me could pray amazing prayers, hear clearly from the Lord & speak words that made angels stop in amazement.

My desire to have a good line of communication with God, however, spurred me on to keep at it.  After reading countless books on prayer, I began to gain understanding that prayer is an intimate & crucial part of our relationship with our Father who loves us.  Practically, I forced myself to pray in group settings, to spend time praying daily & keep a prayer journal.   I also learned to love praying scripture, which has been the key for me to unlock consistent & perpetual prayer with God. 

I have 2 kids & I love it when they talk to me.  They have completely different styles of communication.  One is bold & says everything that comes to mind, the other is more analytical about words & gives me pieces of thoughts over time.

Either way, I don’t care.  If my kids want to talk to me, I am willing to listen.  I don’t care if it’s about deep details of their day or silly antics of time spent with friends.  I just want them to tell me about it. 

God is the same way.  He understands we all have different ways of communicating with Him because He created us all differently.  He doesn’t care how you communicate; He just desires that you do it regularly. 


We need a prayer life that is persistent enough to keep discouragement from derailing us  


He wants us to keep praying, keep talking, and keep communicating.  His desire is for us to tell Him the good, the bad & the ugly.  We need the kind of prayer life that believes that God wants more for us than we could ever imagine.  {Ephesians 3:20-21}

We must stop over-spiritualizing prayer by making it all about religion & begin to measure ourselves through the eyes of God to make it all about relationship.  He sees us as His righteous child.  He wants to hear from us & He doesn’t compare us, or our prayers, to anyone else. 

Here are some things I’ve learned about communication with the Father:

A willing heart is all it takes ~ Take a tip from Nike & Just Do It!  Start with a few words, start with the Lord’s Prayer, start by writing out things you can thank God for, but just start.  You would never dream of having any relationship with a human being that you didn’t talk to.  God is your Father & your Friend & if you do not talk to Him, your relationship can’t grow.  Ask Him to show you how to make prayer a more comfortable action in your life.  {2 Corinthians 8:10-12, Colossians 4:2}

Let God’s words be your words ~ Jesus Himself gave His disciples words to pray.  If Jesus pointed people to pray scripture, we need to take special heed to how important God’s own words are to Him.  It’s not because God is boastful & thinks His words are the only words, but it’s because He wants to know you value His principles & hide them in your heart.  Praying Psalms is also another great place to start because they are so real.  There is so much praise & so much real life wrapped up in the book of Psalms.  {Luke 11:1-4, Psalm 119:105}

Be relentless in your prayers ~ Your enemy is scheming constantly to do harm to you.  If you stop praying you will essentially be giving your victory over to the devil.  In Ephesians, not only does Paul tell us to put on the Armor of God to stand firm in our faith but he tells us that we need to pray persistently at all times.   Being a person of prayer lays claim to the victory God wants for you.  {Luke 11:9-10, Ephesians 6:18}

What is your next step in prayer?  Do you need to make it a daily habit, pray out loud in groups or be bold enough to pray for a neighbor or co-worker?  Ask the Lord to help you to deepen your communication with Him. 


Love, Cara

 

 
IMG_0948.JPG
 

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us…keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates & perfects our faith  {Hebrews 12:1-2, NLT, abbreviated}

About 2 weeks after my son left for college, we received a very unforeseen phone call.  He had tried out for & made it onto the crew team for his college.  We were astounded.  He had never rowed before.  He was in the physical shape to handle it but there were things he would have to learn.  For that matter, we had to learn, because as the spectator parent, you have to know how to cheer for your kid in their sport!

One of the first things our son told us was that there is a member of the crew who sits in the boat but doesn’t row.  This person is known as the coxswain.  This position faces the rowers, guiding their every stroke to the finish line.  The reason for this is because the rowers sit with their backs to the finish line. 

As shocking as it seems, they row the entire race without being able to see where they are going.  They simply keep focused on their guide & keep doing their own part.  Listening to the very clear, direct instructions & following the voice & words of the coxswain, is the only way they will make it to the end.  Of course the rowers must know the strokes, they must know the way the coxswain communicates with them & they must be trained & ready to have the endurance needed to finish the race, but all in all, the commander at the head of the boat, gets them to the end.

Isn’t this our life?  Moving, rowing, going, running our race... 

We have no idea what the finish line looks like but if we can keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author of it all, we will win. 

If we stop looking at the leader of our life, we begin to lose.  We lose at relationships, we lose at work, and we lose at believing that anything good can exist in this fractured world.  Though we are redeemed, we live in the brokenness of our own flesh.  The curse of sin in this world is still a physical reality, but how much more beautiful is our race when we let our eyes stay fixed on Jesus & let His work in our eternal reality make us whole.   Jesus said, “I came so they can have real & eternal life, more & better life than they ever dreamed of.” {John 10:10b, MSG}

Our natural instinct is to turn around & try to look at the finish line & to take control of our own course.  But if we can do the following things we can finish our race beautifully:

Learn the sound of His voice ~  You are capable of hearing the voice of God for yourself.  You do not have to depend on anyone else.  He is happy to speak to His children.  If you don’t feel like this has been true in the past, ask Him.  He will help you learn to hear His voice.  When I hear the voice of God, it is like an audible voice in my soul not in my ears.  It is a very clear message that I know He has spoken to the deepest part of me that seeks Him.  {Jeremiah 33:3, Psalm 32:8, Mark 4:24}

Learn how to move ~ The rower in the boat must know what to do.  This comes through training.  By training ourselves in His ways we too can learn how & where He wants us to move.  He is the Way to life &  the One who came & showed us the way to live fully in the freedom of the Father’s love.  When we focus too much on the temporal, the eternal is blurry but if we learn to keep our steps focused on the eternal, then the temporal becomes abundant in Him. {Isaiah 30:21, John 14:6, 2 Corinthians 4:18}

Learn to train for endurance ~ No athlete can compete in a race or any other event without being prepared.  It takes time, persistence & training to make it to the finish line.  There are days when seeming failure or mistakes come, but athletes never stop.  Building higher ground for hard times is crucial to make it through the difficulties.  When we let God train our hearts in the quiet, in the every day, in the moments before the race, we will be ready to focus our eyes on Him when real times of testing come. {Psalm 18:34, Proverbs 4:25}


Where do you need to re-focus your vision on Jesus today?  Are you allowing Him to lead you in your race? 


Love, Cara

Mother of the Year

When my first-born was only about 2 months old, I was cradling him in my arms & walking through a doorway where I accidentally whacked his little baby head on the doorframe.  A look of shock & terror came over his face & then he began to wail & so did I.  Things weren’t much better when the second came & I tried to trim those tiny, 2 week old, fingernails.  Almost done with the task, I accidentally got a hold of her skin & blood began to pour from her little finger.  Again, the wailing cries of a baby & a mother. 

I knew I would never win any awards for my mothering skills

I had no idea when I first started into this mommy journey that the only thing that could match my love for my kids, is the guilt I heap on myself for all the mistakes. 

As the mistakes continued on my part & the sinful ways of those little humans began to take root & swirl with my own sinful nature, I got a hold of a book called The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian.  I devoured that book because of her honesty in how helpless she felt as a parent without prayer.  I loved every chapter & quickly highlighted, marked & dog-eared almost every page of that book.  And though its pages are tattered, I still turn to that book regularly.

The thing the Lord revealed to me through all that prayer is that I am not the determining factor in my kids life, He is.  He is the One who makes me “mother of the year”.   You see, when I am chasing Him, everything else falls into place.  I still mess things up, forget to wash uniforms, lose my temper & am sometimes just downright selfish with my words & actions, but Jesus, oh Jesus comes in & fills in the mistakes.  Fortunately, I’ve learned over time that my success as a mother doesn’t lie in my ability to never make mistakes. 

Being a mother requires me to yield to Him & to often apologize to my kids.  But in the mistakes, He is growing them to see that He is the only survival tool for this world & He is making me “mother of the year”.  Because He first loved me, I can love Him & in turn my family benefits. {1 John 4:19}  If I love God, I can love others.  If I get the first one of these 2 things right, I will not mess up.

The only goal of motherhood is showing my kids Jesus

My kids are almost grown now, but as I reflect on the years, some things stand out to me as being the most important things a mom can do:

Be Prayerful  ~ Jesus tells us in Mark 3, that the enemy can’t enter a strong man's house unless he first binds up the strong man.  How do you stay strong enough to keep satan’s plans away from your kids? You run to the Lord.  He is a strong tower where you will gain strength to squash the enemy.  Talk to the Lord, all day, about everything.  {Proverbs 18:10}

Be Transparent ~ Have some friends who will cheer you on in what you are doing right & lovingly call you out on what you are doing wrong.  This can only happen if you are transparent with others.  Trustworthy friends are vital for motherhood.  They are the ones who will keep you sane.  {Proverbs 27:5-6, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10}

Be Kind ~ To others, yes, but to yourself.  Women in general, but moms in particular, hold ourselves to standards so high we could never measure up.  We would never ask anyone else to meet the criteria we lay out for ourselves.  We need to give ourselves as much grace as we would give to others & allow the grace of God to penetrate our pinterest mindset.  {James 4:6}


Where do you need Jesus to step in to your parenting?  Tell Him today because He makes everything beautiful & you are a great mother!


Love,

Cara

Teen Identity Crisis

Sticks & stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.  I'm sure you remember the saying, in fact, you have probably said it to someone or told your kids to say it, but it is one of the biggest lies ever.  The truth is, words do hurt & the problem with words is that they spin around in your head until you are dizzy with the things people have said to you.   

This is especially true for teenagers.  They are in a time of life where insecurities are worn like jewelry.  I remember once in middle school how a boy told me I chewed like a cow, so I just didn’t eat in front of anyone at lunch for an entire year.  It was ridiculous.  But that’s what accusations from the enemy are & anything hateful that is said to us comes straight from the enemy.{Ephesians 6:12}

My daughter has had a particularly difficult time with a girl at her school over the last several months.  This girl has been a passive aggressive type of bully & if I’m honest with you, everything within my momma bear heart wants to let my claws come out.   But God has bigger plans.  God’s plan includes my daughter & I realizing that we are warriors with divine weapons of power which come directly from the Word of God {2 Corinthians 10:3-5}.  No matter the reason this girl is being mean, she needs Jesus as desperately as we all do.

We all need reminders that we are infinitely loved by God  

So I did something for my daughter.  I made some note cards & put the statements below on one side & the scriptures on the other & tied them together. 

These are truths from God’s Word that have the power to silence the lies of the enemy & I always want her to remember….

You are infinitely loved ~ Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the clouds {Psalm 36:5}

You are human but God’s grace is abundant ~ Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given {John 1:16}

You will never be alone ~ Be strong & courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you {Deuteronomy 31:6}

You are created perfectly ~ God created your inmost being & you are fearfully & wonderfully made; His thoughts toward you are too many to count & they outnumber the grains of the sand {Psalm 139:13-18}

You will succeed because God has big plans for you ~ He is able to do immeasurably more than you could ever ask or think according to His power at work in you {Ephesians 3:20}

You are a chosen daughter of the KING ~ You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light {1 peter 2:9}

You are strong in Christ ~ He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world {1 John 4:4}

You are a conqueror in Christ ~ In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us {Romans 8:37}

You are completely competent in God ~ Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God {2 Corinthians 3:5}

You are safe in Christ ~ The Lord is my strength & my shield; my heart trusted in Him & I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices & with my song I will praise Him {Psalm 28:7}


Maybe you know a girl (or boy) who needs these too.  Maybe you need them.  They are just as true for adults as they are for teens.  Speak them out loud.  Write them on your heart.


Love,

Cara

Stolen Identity

Where does your identity lie?

My neighbor recently shared with our Bible study group that someone had stolen her personal information and filed fraudulent income tax returns with the IRS. She had spent hours on the phone and no doubt would spend many more in order to reclaim her identity. To add insult to injury, she was told she would have to prove to the IRS that she is actually who she says she is.

Listening to her disastrous story, made me think of how easily the enemy of our souls can steal our identity, leaving us with fragments to clean up.   Sometimes it is a quick clean up as we are keenly aware that we have been knocked off track, but too often it takes hours or longer to reclaim who we are.

Our identity is rooted in Christ alone. Anything aside from Him will fall apart. The thief is after our identity. He knows that if he can steal it, we will fall. Because knowing who we are allows us to experience the Father in every area of our lives. Our relationships, our freedom and our abundant life are wrapped up in what we believe about our identity. We can release the Kingdom of God on earth when we know who we are in Jesus.

Generally, when all is going well in our lives – it’s easy to say for certain who we are. On a good day, I can say without hesitation that I am a daughter of the King & I can live it too. But as soon as the environment around me begins to swirl into a dance of offenses, fear, shame & despair, I allow the thief to access my heart. When he enters, I am left startled & perplexed, bewildered about who I really am.

Why?

Because when I forget my identity, I begin to act in a way that is not pleasing to the Father, or for that matter to me either. In Matthew 12, Jesus tells us a thief could not break in to a strong man’s house. He says it’s just not possible. The strong man would first have to be bound up by the thief. Jesus is using an earthly example of a heavenly principle to keep us focused on Him and keep the enemy out.

We cannot allow the thief access to distort our thinking & immobilize our soul. We cannot allow our emotions to entice us into letting the thief into our house.

Below is a list of scripture based statements that will prove your identity and cause the devil to tremble. Scripture gives us basis to reclaim our identity when the condemning one knocks at the door. Prove to the thief today who you are in Christ & send him running.

  • I am redeemed by His precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19)
  • I am forgiven (Colossians 1:14)
  • I am chosen, holy & dearly loved by God (Colossians 3:12)
  • I am set free from condemnation (Romans 8:1)
  • I am given great & precious promises for life (2 Peter 1:3-4)
  • I am a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
  • I am loved deeply by Christ (Ephesians 3:16-19)
  • I am able to love & forgive as I am loved & forgiven (Colossians 3:12-14)
  • I am created in Christ for good works (Ephesians 2:10)
  • I am able to stand firm against evil (Ephesians 6:10-17)
  • I am strong & courageous (Joshua 1:9)
  • I am Christ’s light to the world (Matthew 5:14)
  • I am Christ’s friend (John 15:5)
  • I am guaranteed all things are working together for my good (Romans 8:28)
  • I am able to do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13)
  • I am royalty (1 Peter 2:9-10)
  • I am firmly rooted & built up in Christ (Colossians 2:7)
  • I am born of God & the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18)
  • I am able to freely go to God with boldness & confidence (Ephesians 3:12)
  • I am given a spirit of power, love & self discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • I am God’s child (Ephesians 1:5)

Which of these ignite your heart the most?

Make a note card with the statements that most speak to you. Keep it where you can read it on a regular basis & keep the enemy away.

Love, Cara


IMG_9738.jpg

Oh for the Love {Easter Week - Day 5}

Please Read: John 21:25

Twenty-One chapters culminate in the gospel of John to tell us that all the amazing things we know about Jesus isn’t even the half of it! 

And John would know.  In the span of 3 years, from his first sighting of Christ, he went from being known as the son of thunder {Mark 3:17} to being known as the disciple whom Jesus loved {John 21:20}. John was at the wedding {John 2:1-11} when Jesus performed His first miracle & John was there until the very end of the cross, when Jesus gave His own mother into John’s care {John 19:25-27}.  John saw people baptized, demons cast out & the feeding thousands out of only enough for a few.  And if seeing were not enough, John was filled with the power of Jesus to be a part of it.  The things he saw Jesus do, not only in the lives of others, but also in his own life, changed his path forever.

John’s inclusion of John 3:16 shows us how much he values this dissertation by Jesus to tell the world that believing the Son of God, the Savior of the world, is the only way to eternal life. 

I love to read the gospels & the book of John is no different.  The miracles, the kindness, the grace, they all stir up the fire in my soul {Hebrews 10:24} that loves everything about this man, Jesus.  But one of my favorite verses comes at the very end of the book that bears John’s name:

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. {John 21:25}

Oh my goodness, I want to scream & shout hallelujah!

Why does this one little verse excite me so? Because it reaches down deep into my heart, to the places no one can see, where Jesus has done things that no one knows.  How He turned my uncompassionate heart to one of caring, how He took my selfishness & molded it into a place where I try to selflessly imitate Him.  How he pulled me out of darkness.  How He taught me to be a wife & a mother.  How He taught me to look at others through a lens of love. 

Oh I am so far from perfected in these areas, but I see Jesus changing me.  I have gone from being an orphan to calling myself the “daughter whom Jesus loves”. 


Think about it today…. Where has Jesus worked in your life that could never have been changed if it weren’t for the cross?  Ask Him to help you see yourself as the “child that He loves”.


Open Your Eyes {Easter Week - Day 4}

Please Read: Luke 24:13-35

“Mom where is my _________”? You can fill in the blank.  Shoes, keys, uniform, etc. This is a question that arises often in our house.  I yell back the answer of exactly where the missing item is at & then in a few minutes I hear, “it’s not there, I looked”.  Does this scene sound familiar to anyone else?  As soon as I go to the exact place where I said the item would be found, there it is, as plain as day & I say once again to the perplexed child, “you just have to open your eyes”.

Just days after the resurrection there were 2 disciples were walking along the road & Jesus met them & walked with them.  But they didn’t realize it was Jesus! They were discussing all the events of His crucifixion, His seeming resurrection & how they had hoped He would’ve truly been the Savior they were waiting for. 

As Jesus talked to them He recalled for them all of the scriptures regarding the Savior of the world.  These men were intrigued by the knowledge of this stranger.  As they got close to their home, they invited the traveler {Jesus} to come with them for dinner & a place to rest for the night.  When dinner was served Jesus blessed the food & then their eyes were opened.  They realized Jesus had been with them all day. 

They had no idea it was Jesus all along

When we are walking on a road of life, downcast or perplexed, Jesus comes.  He wants to be involved in each moment of our lives.  He has carefully mapped every part of our journey & though things in our lives may seem to be unraveling, He is in the middle of our warped & blinded view. 

If we can just be aware of Him walking beside us & let our hearts be open enough to let Him work, He will reveal Himself to us & our eyes will be opened.  We will see that He is guiding us step-by-step, protecting & equipping.  

Though the eyes of these men were opened by the event of the breaking of bread, the things leading up to their dinner played a part.  Walking with Jesus even in the midst of what was hard & the reciting of all scriptures had to say about Him, had taken root in their hearts before He revealed Himself to them.

In life when we are walking through situations, seemingly without being able to see how it will all work out, we too need to be faithful to walk with Jesus, trusting & letting the word of God take root.  In this we are preparing our hearts for the revealing of Jesus in our situation. 


Think about it today…. Is there a place in your life where you just can’t see how Jesus will show up?  Walk faithfully.  Preparing the soil of your heart with the fullness of scriptures.  Jesus will reveal Himself to you & open your eyes to see Him.


Fear & Great Joy {Easter Week - Day 3}

Please Read: Matthew 28:1-10

Have you ever heard a rumor that you thought sounded way too outlandish to be anywhere close to true?  And think of your reaction when you found out the very story you thought could never be plausible was actually concrete truth.  Maybe you felt disbelief, or fear, or excitement or all of those emotions wrapped into one. 

Now just imagine for a minute the reaction the women had the day they went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body.  They had witnessed a heinous killing of one of their very best friends.  They had witnessed the depth of pain He had suffered at the hands of heartless killers.  They knew He was dead & had been placed in a grave.  The people responsible for His death had placed guards at His grave just to terrify his friends even more.  But these women gathered all the courage they could & went to where He was buried just to be able to have a proper funeral for Him. 

Then, they heard the news.  Jesus was not there.  He had risen! The angel told them to go tell the news to the rest of their group.  

So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.” {Matthew 28:8} 

Has the Lord ever asked you to do something that left you feeling full of fear & great joy? 

Two emotions, so completely opposite, yet residing in the same space at one time. 

But what happens next is awesome.  The women did it…they left to tell the others.  Basically they got their “big girl pants” on & went even though they were afraid, but as they went Jesus showed up in their path.  That’s what happens when we obey & trust Him even when we are unsure of exactly how events will unfold.  Jesus shows up & He tells us exactly what He told those women that day. “Jesus met them saying ‘rejoice’ then He said to them ‘do not be afraid’”!

Jesus is so kind to come to them.  He knew they would be extremely fearful for many reasons but because they trusted Him for the unfailing, unfaltering love they had witnessed, Love came to them to calm their fears, so they could move forward in their assignment with great joy.   

The most precious message ever to be delivered was entrusted to humans.  The reason for this is because God wants us to allow Him to work His incomparable power in us.  Often we do not really know how to move forward, but God always knows & if we will trust Him, He will come to us to calm our fears & give us great joy. {2 Corinthians 4:7-15}


Think about it today…. Is there an area of your life where you need Jesus’ power to replace your fear with great joy?  Fall at His feet today & submit your weakness to Him & watch Him give you His resurrection power in its place.


Love's Redemption {Easter Week - Day 2}

Please read: John 21:15-19

One morning my boys were going hunting.  Since they were getting up extremely early to leave in time to be out before sunrise, I decided to get up before they did & make them breakfast.  Since it would be hours before they would have the chance to eat, I knew a nice breakfast would serve them well. 

As I was trying to be ever so quiet in the kitchen, the glass bowl I was going to use to mix the eggs hit the side of the cabinet & shattered.  I tried to quickly & carefully get up all the fragmented glass pieces & finish breakfast.  Days later, my son walked into the kitchen barefooted & stepped on a piece of glass that I had missed.  I had done unintentional harm out of trying to do good. 

Peter had declared his love for Jesus {John 13:37-38} & had clearly stated that he would never deny Christ.  But when tested, he did what he said he would never do.  I feel confident that Peter never meant to cause harm to Jesus but it happened.  Quickly without any time for thought of consequence, Peter denied Christ 3 times. 

From the very moment the last words of denial left his mouth, Peter must’ve been plagued by guilt & surely the enemy came & tormented him to believe that he was no better than the traitor, Judas, who had sold Jesus for just 30 pieces of silver.  Peter had to find some way to comfort himself, so he went back to his old life. 

What was he doing before he met Jesus? 

Fishing.  {Matthew 4:18-19}  Peter knew fully how to fish & he knew fully how to comfort himself with what he knew.  It’s just like an alcoholic going back to drink.  It’s about escaping & hiding from God in the face of our sin.

But in typical fashion of restoring broken hearts, Jesus does not let Peter hide.  Instead He finds Peter & calls forth his destiny to be the rock that the church will be built upon.  Before Peter even re-declares his love & commitment for Jesus, His love is bringing redemption to a deep, self-inflicted wound.  The fact that Jesus asked Peter 3 times to declare his love for Him, isn’t condemnation, but instead redeeming love.  Each denial, restored in the goodness of Christ. 

In those moments, the promise of God to Peter was to be the strength that would carry him, to be his sight & his satisfying sustanence.   Jesus repaired what was broken.


Think about it today….Can you give God every place in your heart that needs to be redeemed?  Give Him your broken.  Let the power of Jesus’ loving redemption sink deep & let Him be your sustaining power.


It is Finished {Easter Week - Day 1}

Please read: John 19:28-37

When my son was 2 years old, we were at a rehearsal dinner for a wedding in which my little man was to be the ring bearer.  Of course he was the cutest thing in the room.  He had been doted upon & treated as royalty by all the friends & family gathered there.  The night was almost over when my little man was standing at the edge of the carpeted doorway, which led to a long marble hallway.  He looked at me with a very mischievous 2-year-old look.  I said, "don’t go down that hallway, stay on this carpet".  He gave that beautiful, glistening hallway one more glance & then he stepped one foot onto the marble while keeping one foot on the carpet & just stood & smiled at me with a sweet little grin. He obeyed his own way, not breaking the rules but not abiding by them either.

My son is a rule bender by nature {I have no idea where he gets this}.  My son & myself are not the only ones who do this.  We are naturally a people who try to look good even in the face of sin.  We think that if we only slightly bend the rules while pointing out how the faults of others are worse than ours, we will still look righteous.

The people of Jesus’ day were no different.  They had become so legalistic about their religion that they could commit sin & condemn others in the very same breath.  The religious rules of the leaders were burdensome.  We can’t even begin to imagine how very deep the liturgical roots ran into their souls, though even today man-made rules about salvation enslave many to believe it is based on performance rather than grace.

When Jesus died on the cross, the leaders of the time were adamant that His body be taken down before sunset.   The leaders needed Jesus down off of the cross before the upcoming Passover so they could keep the law that criminals were not allowed to hang on a cross overnight.  {Deuteronomy 21:22-23}  It is ironic that the same people who deliberately sent Him to the cross, would want to abide by such strict rules all in the same day.

The problem with them keeping this law in order to be able to perform Passover rituals is that Jesus had already died & before He died, He declared, “It is finished”. 

Jesus did what the law never could

Jesus’ death on the cross-unraveled the binding laws.  His deliverance liberated our bondage.  Though the resurrection is where our power resides, Jesus’ dying on the cross finished the work God had sent Him to do ~ which in turn means our working for God’s acceptance ended that day.  Because of His resurrection we stand fully right with God.  Jesus took our wrongs upon Himself so that we could be fully transformed with Him & take on His righteousness. 

The world tries to make us believe the crucifixion is about rules we must obey to be accepted when in reality the crucifixion & the resurrection are about love & grace.


Think about it today….God looks upon you as a sweet child who He loves with all the fullness of His love for Christ, let that sink in today.  As you walk & live through whatever your realities are, know that the reality of the cross means that you are fully free & forgiven.  It means that God loves & accepts you.  You do not have to strive for His love.


Emmanuel, God with Us

And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love  {Romans 5:5}

The room was dimly lit, which felt contrary to the sterile environment, however the low light served its purpose to hide my splotched face.  I had no more tears.  I was left with only a deep hole that seemed to cave inward as life had literally been taken away from my body.  18 years ago this week, our baby was born in this world but its precious spirit went directly to the arms of Jesus. 

Pain tightened its grip when I realized we had to leave the hospital with nothing to show for the horror that held us hostage for the previous 24 hours.  The following days and months held extreme lows for me.  But the love of my Good Father was gracious.  He was kind & He lifted me up & brought me through. 


When grace meets hurt, gratitude takes the place of pain. 


Many times in our lives, we struggle with questions of why.  How could a loving God allow so much pain?   We want to scream at God even though we know, deep down, He is the only hope for healing our heart. 

God does not cause bad things to happen in our lives.  Oh dear friend, the opposite is true.  God can only give good & perfect gifts. {James 1:17} We however, live in a fallen world, where sin, sickness & death occur.  In this temporary life of difficult realities we do not understand things the way our Heavenly Father understands them. {Isaiah 55:9}  He is working things for your good.  Even the bad things.  {Romans 8:28}

We should not be surprised when difficulty comes, Jesus told us it would happen.  {John 16:33} But God is still in the business of miracles, He changes situations, heals people & relationships all the time.

So what does it mean that Jesus has overcome the world?  Should it mean that nothing bad will ever happen?  No, it means Jesus is our hope & our help.  He has overcome & made us overcomers in Him, but we must choose Him over our difficulties, discouragements & grief. 

God wants desepratley to be an integral part of our lives.  That is why one of the names used to describe Him is “Emmanuel, God with us”.   He is with us in everything.  So often we are not willing to go to Him to overcome our difficulty, instead we try to soothe our pain with things of this world.  But every thing we seek after aside from Jesus will leave us with a deeper pain.  Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” {Matthew 11:28-30 MSG}


The grace of God will bring you through because Jesus is the overcomer of all. 


Lean into Him ~ Just lean into the Father & say yes to what He wants for you.  He will show up.  He is faithful & He promises to draw near to the brokenhearted & to be your helper in time of need.  The only way back onto your feet is on your knees.  {James 4:7-10 MSG}

Rest in His arms during difficulty ~ Just stop striving.  Too often we feel we must work during difficulty to make our lives better, happier or more prosperous.  The truth is in resting you find strength.  Our body, mind & spirit needs rest in order to be able to have strength to keep going.  {Isaiah 30:15}

Trust Him ~  If it is difficult, tell Him.  He knows.  He walked this earth & He lived as an overcomer in difficulty.  He will make you an overcomer too, but we have to stop acting as though we can do this on our own & trust Him to show up & fight for us. {Exodus 14:14}


What is God asking you to do next?

No matter what you are going through today, know this…God’s grace is sufficient and God will use your situation for His glory if you will let Him.  He is Emmanuel, God with us.  How do you need to Lean into Him, Rest in Him & Trust Him?

 
IMG_8964.jpg
 

Baby Lions

When my family took a trip to South Africa, we were privileged to be able to go on some excursions that included many different African animals.  We got to ride an elephant, interact with rescued cheetahs & drive through Kruger National Park, where we had close up encounters with giraffes, zebras & rhinos in their natural, wild habitat.

My most memorable encounter though came on the day we went to a lion sanctuary.  There were some rescued lions but there were also baby lions, born in captivity, which had been separated from their mothers.  We were allowed to go into the caged area with the baby lions that were 3-4 months old.  We got really close to them, though we were told we couldn’t touch them.  The animal caretaker explained to us that we had to be very careful because those adorable little lions could actually knock us down & do serious harm just because they wanted to play. 

We then went over to an area where they kept the 6-7 month old baby lions but we were not allowed to go in to that cage.  It was clear from standing outside the fence, those little lions too wanted human interaction but the caretaker once again explained the dangers of being caught in a situation of being too close to what seemed harmless but was actually dangerous.  We were told how easily a 6-7 month old lion could kill a person within minutes, all because of an instinctual & well meaning intent to play.

Lastly, we went by large enclosed fields of full-grown lions.  They were stunning & beautiful, lying out in the warm, bright African sun.  Once again we were warned how extremely dangerous these animals were.  The caretaker told us that only very specially trained animal handlers were allowed inside those gates.

As our time went on, I kept thinking about those baby lions.  They truly were the cutest little things & their faces were so innocent & curious.  As I was remembering the warning of how those adorable little lions could do so much harm to a human, I thought about this scripture: 

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.   {1 Peter 5:8-9a}

Our enemy, Satan, plots his schemes & comes to us as one of those baby lions.  The face & the eyes you look into give you no indication that any interaction with that little lion could take you down. 

And that’s where it starts.  Sin.  As seemingly harmless as a baby lion.  The small thing we think we can handle, so we move on to the cage with the lion that’s just a little bigger.  We play, interact & talk to it.  We rationalize in our head that we could get out of that cage & never be hurt & probably no one would even know we had gone into the the danger zone.   We forget the warning, so we venture into the large open field where the lions are full grown.  We can sneak around the lion for a while, but these creatures instinctually smell prey & they will ultimately kill whoever is in their area.

The first look at sin seems innocent enough.  The second might leave us feeling a little more unsteady but as we continue in it & it grows, the enemy is happy to know he has you trapped in a fenced area where he will be your ultimate downfall except for the one weapon you have to fight him off.   

The verses just before & just after this warning in Peter that tells us to stay alert & give all our cares to God.  Peter tells us that we should stand firm against the devil & that Jesus will strengthen us & set our feet on a firm foundation.  He promises to give us the strength we need.

Next time the enemy comes & tempts you to play with a small sin remember this advice from Peter:

Be Alert ~ God will crush Satan under our feet but we must turn to God to do this.  We can’t fight off the enemy alone.  If we do not run into His arms we will have no protection from the enemy.  He asks us to give Him our cares, so why do we continue to strive on our own to make it through? – {Romans 16:19-20}

Be Faithful ~ When Daniel found himself in a literal den of lions, God shut their mouths because Daniel was ‘found blameless’ in God.  We who believe in Jesus are blameless as well because the blood of Jesus covers all of our sin.  Living a faithful life, keeps us out of harms way.  The Lord will provide a way out & shut the lion’s mouth so you will not be harmed.  {Daniel 6:22, 1 Corinthians 10:13}

Be Bold ~ There is always more power in the blood of Jesus than there is in the guilt or sin you carry.  Our sins are not bigger than God’s power.   When Joseph faced the great temptation of sleeping with his master’s wife, he refused to sin against God.  We must be bold & resolve that we will not sin against God our Redeemer.   {Genesis 39:7-23}

Remember temptation is not sin.  Temptation is a normal part of life, but choosing God over the ways of the enemy requires faith in the power of Jesus.

What is God asking you to do next?  

Is there an area in your life where you need to believe Jesus’ truth over the enemies’ lie today?

Can we please add "socks" to the prayer list?

About a year into my marriage, when the excitement & blur of being a newlywed had begun to fade just a little, I began to become annoyed with some small nuances & habits of my precious husband.  To his defense, my man had no idea I was miffed by his actions. 

One of the things that was bothering me so much was inside out socks.  Yes, you read that correctly.  When I would take the clean laundry out of the dryer to fold & his socks were inside out it would make me CRAZY.  I’m talking about flipping out in my own head.  Didn’t he know what an irritation it is to have to turn his socks right side out as I folded them?  Shouldn’t a grown man know to turn his socks right side out before they get washed? 

My own expectation, that my husband had no idea I even wanted, was leading me into craziness.  This craziness inside my head, hung out there for several weeks before I finally took action.  Here’s how I fixed the problem.

I prayed.

One day as I was folding clothes, I just decided to pray about this sock situation that was causing me so much agony week after week.  Honestly, it had to be the Holy Spirit’s prompting because my nature would be to throw a big fit about things needing to be done a certain way.

I said, “Lord, could you please just make my man turn his socks right side out before he puts them in the laundry?”

That’s all there was to my “super holy” prayer.

Guess what?  The next week his socks were right side out!  I couldn’t make this up if I tried.  That man’s socks have been right side out every week for the past 22 years!  I never said a word to him about his socks.  I only talked to my Father about it!

This was the beginning of my learning that praying for my man is important, but more importantly, it was the beginning of God teaching me that prayer changes every situation.   It changes circumstances, it changes perspective & it changes my heart.  Prayer is not a magic wand or a manipulative tool.  It is however the process our Father has given us to claim the power He has to bring a heavenly reality into our earthly reality.

I love the scripture in Ephesians that says:

We do not wrestle against flesh & blood, but against the principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places. {Ephesians 6:12}

This verse tells us that everything we deal with on earth has a connection to what is going on in the spiritual world.  Even socks.  If I am loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle & self controlled, {Galatians 5:19-26} then a silly frustration over socks won’t take hold of me.  But the only way I can be this way in the face of such non-sense of inside out socks is to take it to the Lord.  On my own I am none of those things listed above.  My human nature is in direct opposition to God & is unloving, grumpy, anxious, unkind, agitated & selfish.  But when I realize that I am wrestling against the ruler of the darkness for control of my mind, I am more able to take every thought captive for the Lord & destroy everything that rises up against God’s ways. {2 Corinthians 10:5} So when I take my crazy thoughts about socks captive for the Lord & realize that I am wrestling against an enemy who wants to use small nuances to cause friction in my marriage then I am spiritually connecting myself with God’s team & telling my enemy he is defeated.

Your real enemy wants you to ignore the spiritual reality of becoming more like Christ.  Satan wants you to focus in on the physical reality of small annoyances that will become the downfall of your soul as they gain your focus. 

So what’s a gal to do who’s drowning in socks {or any other problem}?

Determine what the real struggle is ~ Is the real struggle physical?  There may be some part of it that is.  A sickness or an ailment that has left you physically weak can be a great deterrent to keeping your mind focused on God.  However, He is bigger & stronger than even that.  More than likely though, the struggle in any relationship is one that is being fought in spiritual places over issues that need to become focused on God & not focused on the issue itself.  Ask the Lord today to help you determine what the struggle is & how to re-focus it on what He has already done to win it for you. {2 Corinthians 3:16-18}

Determine who your real enemy is ~ The people in your life are not your real enemies.  No matter what you are feeling about a certain relationship, sin, which is spurred on by the father of lies, is the enemy.  The devil wants you to focus on a physical circumstance rather than a heavenly reality.  Our enemy has already been defeated by the power of the cross & we only have to ask our Father for the power to stand up to the schemes of the devil.  Satan is real & persistent but our prayers will shut him down. {2 Thessalonians 3:3}

Determine Who can re-focus your thoughts ~ We are weak on our own, but in the power & strength that God offers us we can re-focus our hearts & minds where they need to be.  God has promised that He will be there when you call & that His grace & strength are enough to help you.  We can keep on going because of the hope we have in Jesus & the fact that we have access to His throne through prayer.  The God of the universe wants us to communicate with Him.  {Jeremiah 29:13}

Ask the Lord today to help you determine what the real struggle is & how to re-focus it on what He has already done to win it for you.  Ask for eyes to see areas of your life where the enemy is trying to destroy you & your relationships.  Ask God to give you the strength to focus on Him. 

IMG_8356.jpg

He loves me, He loves me not...

God’s love never fails ~ Psalm 136 {CEV}

I remember as a little girl how I loved to pick flowers & play the game “he loves me, he loves me not”.  You know the one where you pick a petal & say “he loves me”, then on the next petal you say “he loves me not”, and so it goes until all the petals are gone.  The problem happened when I seemed to always get to the last petal with the words “he loves me not”.  Though it was just a silly game, it always ended with a small sadness in the depth of my soul & the feeling that I was unloved. 

When I grew up, I realized I was carrying this game in my heart and I was playing it with God.   As a child I was taught that grace, not works, keeps us in relationship with God but somehow through all the religious rhetoric I had come to believe that being a “good girl” meant if I did something that frustrated or angered God, then I fell out the reach of His love for a time until I could do something good again.   This way of thinking places the responsibility on me to make sure our relationship {mine & God’s} is in right standing by my behavior, when the fact is, it is His behavior, His character that keeps our relationship in tact. {Colossians 1:17}

God’s love for me depends on His perfection, not mine. 

His love never fails.  Even when I fail, God in His character cannot.  He can’t stop loving me because He is love.  He can’t be mad at me because I am His own.  He can’t leave me because He promised not to & He never breaks His promises.

Of course, because we love Him we want to do right but too often we let our hearts be tied to our performance instead of to His.  Jesus came & died & rose again so that we could forever be in uninhibited relationship with God.  Nothing we do can change that.  But we are taught all our lives that if we “do good” or “behave” we will earn the love of others. 

Then one day I read this verse:


Absolutely nothing can get between us & God’s love because of the way that Jesus has embraced us {Romans 8:39 MSG}


Nothing.  Not my bad choices, not my failures, not even those sins that keep creeping up even when I determine to “get it right next time”.   

These are some things I remind myself of as I walk freely in God’s love:

God loves me because Christ was condemned for my sin ~ None of us are immune to sin.  At some point in life we all mess up.  We are in fact weak humans, however God never fails & turning to Him for strength will eventually lead to successes in His power.  We need to ask Him to show us how to grow & live a life free of condemnation.  Condemnation never comes from God.  He does not condemn the one He has already set free.  Satan is the accuser & he schemes against the children of God.  {Romans 8:1, 2 Corinthians 2:11}

God’s grace is big enough for my sin ~  Believing that I somehow have to earn back God’s favor after a failure is really just pride welling up in my heart.  Sometimes the thought that I still have to be a “good girl” in order for my daddy to forget what I did creeps into my head.  However, He “remembers our sins no more”.  It’s that simple.  Ask & forgiveness is granted.  Just like an earthly parent is moved to compassion for their children, our heavenly Father can’t help but be tender when He looks at His children.  His grace covers a multitude of sins & there is nothing we can do, or not do, to change that.  {John 1:16, Hebrews 8:12}

God’s love for me is positional not conditional ~  Because I am a child of God, I am in a position to be loved.  Because Jesus Christ resides in me, God views me as His own just as He views Jesus.  There is nothing that can change that; I cannot take off the blood of Christ that has washed me clean.  When we look in a mirror we should not see our own reflection but that of Christ.  {Romans 5:8-9, Galatians 2:20}

Do you embrace God’s unconditional love for you?  Is there an area where you need to accept God’s unconditional love & stop trying to earn it?  His love for you isn’t based on your performance; it is based on Christ’s.


Building a Tower

I {Jesus} will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it.  It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears My words & doesn’t heed them is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.    {Luke 6:47-49}

There is a skyscraper in San Francisco named the Millennium Tower.  With hallways that are lined with marble & granite, the building has been described as “rare & precious, shimmering on the skyline like crystal”.  The designers of this building touted it as “urban living, elevated to an art form”.  There is just one little problem;  since its completion in 2009, the building has sunk about 16 inches into the ground & is leaning a full 6 inches toward a neighboring skyscraper!

You see the building was originally built on soft soil.  At the time of its construction, the city had no codes which required developers to have their engineering reviewed by an outside expert.  And to top it off, the developers of this project received at least 9 awards for “excellence in structural engineering” upon its completion.

So what to do with a leaning tower?  Well the residents of the Millennium Tower hired an outside engineering expert who has suggested they simply remove the top 20 floors of the skyscraper!*

As I read the story of this leaning skyscraper I began thinking about the parable Jesus gave us about building our house on the Rock.  He likened our listening to His words of life & letting them sink deep into our hearts, to a person who built their house on a firm foundation.  When flood waters came the house was fine.  But there was another person in this story who built their house right on the sand of the earth, without a good foundation, and when the floods came their house fell over in great ruin.  On the outside the two houses in Jesus’ story look identical.  However what you can’t see, the foundation of the house, is the difference. 

Jesus wanted us to understand that we are the house & He is the foundation.  To build a strong foundation, we must take God’s words to us & let them sink deep in our hearts.  If we just let the Bible & the example we are given in Christ be pretty on the outside, we will crash down just like the house with no foundation. 

There is a battle raging on all sides of us.  The enemy never stops looking for a way to topple our house but armed with the Word of God & a foundation built on the Rock of Christ we can confidently stand strong & tell the enemy that Christ has already overcome. {Colossians 2:14-15}

Here are some things I think we can keep in mind when building a life on the Rock of Jesus:

Make sure your foundation is stable ~ Outside appearances mean nothing in the eternal realm.  If our foundation is faulty, then everything else built on top of it will be too.  When we meditate on God’s Word & spend time with Him, we will be more stable to handle overwhelming situations in life.  When the reality of flood waters are pressing at the door, the foundation laid in Christ will keep our hearts & minds stable because He has given us a spirit of power & love.  When we “go deep” into the word & lay our foundation on the solid Rock we will shine like “crystal” against the backdrop of life.  {Matthew 5:14, 2 Timothy 1:7}

Get outside help ~ Sometimes we need a expert to help.  Even if our foundation is built on Christ, we often allow what’s on top of the foundation to begin to lean.  Whether it’s a counselor, friend, pastor or otherwise, seeking wise counsel from someone who will point us to Jesus, is optimal.  We must be completely open & transparent in order to gain a deeper understanding of how God Himself wants to train & teach us.  Often He desires to use one of His anointed servants to show us the way & be a support network for us.   As Christians, we have to be a people who are willing to deal with real heart issues in community with others.  {1 Corinthians 3:10-15}

Take a little off of the top ~ Occasionally, we build our house on a solid foundation but by the time we get to the roof, we have forgotten Who our Chief Cornerstone is.  When we realize that we have gotten all the way to the top & things aren’t in alignment with the foundation of where we started, we need to back off so that He increases & we decrease.  It’s good to evaluate & do a little remodel of your “house”.  When a remodel occurs, the foundation stays the same but the stuff on top of it changes.  Evaluating where we are with what God is asking us to build is the only way we will keep our building from toppling over & have abundance of the treasure that lasts for eternity. {John 3:30, Matthew 6:19-21, Ephesians 2:20-21}

Is your foundation stable?  Is God leading you to consult a qualified outside source to realign what He wants to do in your life? Do you need to remodel some areas of life to concentrate on Him?

Love, Cara 



*Fuller, Thomas. "In San Francisco, a Sinking Skyscraper and a Deepening Dispute." New York Times 22 Sept. 2016.

New Years Resolution

In his heart a man plans his course but God directs his steps ~ Psalm 16:9

I am really not a huge fan of New Years resolutions.  I stopped making them years ago after carrying the baggage of past failures & shame with me that seemed to become too much to even hope for a change.  Goals, aspirations & promises, all seem to look different in my head than in my heart.  The glitter on top of the promise of what was to be, often didn’t match the dull surface of reality.  When real life would happen & my energy would run low, my love tank was empty or my patience was gone, then so was my well-intended resolution.

This all changed for me about 3 years ago when I was driving one day & having a conversation with the Lord.  It was late December & I was thinking of the New Year ahead when I heard Him give me a specific word. 

After prayerful consideration I realized I had to change my resolve instead of resolving to change.  For too many years, I wanted to resolve to change my weight, my attitude, my calendar & my people.  But this word from the Lord showed me that instead I needed to focus on my resolve to walk in a way that glorified God & fulfilled who I was in Jesus.

Resolutions themselves are not bad.  The motives, however, for why we do what we do are the issue.  Too often our motives are rooted in what the world tells us we should do.  When we choose to embrace our current season of life, choose God’s best & walk faithfully in the mundane with our focus on Jesus, then our motive will be rooted in the right place.

When our desire for change is rooted in the wrong place, we will fail.  As believers, our reasons for resolution must be based on the Biblical truth of our identity in Christ.  We cannot believe the lies the world wants to tell us about how we should look, our family should look, the clothes we wear, the car we drive or the job we have. 

When we take a good look at what we want to change, the question inside each believer’s heart wonders if Jesus is truly the answer for all of it. {Philippians 4:13}

Can He fix what is broken in my life? YES

Can He fix my marriage? YES

Can He restore my Joy? YES

Can He bring my wayward child home? YES

Can He help me get healthy? YES

Can He heal me or my loved one? YES

Jesus is not a magician or a dictator.  He will not force His way into our lives & He will not force us to live in a way that glorifies Him.  He gives us the free will to choose Him or not.  But when we do, our lives will be abundant.  Jesus is the answer to everything in life, but in order to allow Him to change us & our resolve, there are some things we need to do:

Embrace your current season of life ~ Often we succumb to the pressures of the world around us that want us to believe we have to be everything to everyone all the time.  This is really hard for me because I truly enjoy serving others.  Many of us have the problem of finding a holy balance between family, church, work, community, etc.  It requires intentionality to make sure that there is space in your calendar to breath.  Take some time with the Lord & ask him to help you to restructure your life’s priorities so that you can live fully in this season without being emotionally & physically depleted.   {Ecclesiastes 3:1, Ephesians 2:10}

Choose God’s best ~ I love how in Paul’s writings he often gives us a picture of putting on something to represent our strength in Christ.   In Colossians he tells us we are to put on love above all else & do everything in the name of the Lord.  When honoring God & showing the world His best is our focus, it gives us purpose beyond ourselves & we will find true contentment & joy in our resolve to live for Him.  When we commit everything we do to Him, it opens our hearts to be clothed in His righteousness, even in the chaos of the world.  {Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10-17, 2 Corinthians 3:5}

Walk faithfully in the mundane ~ Sometimes when we set a goal, one bad day or an unexpected turn in life can cause our focus to go from success to discontentment in an instant.   However, when we choose to walk faithfully in the mundane, we realize our joy & contentment in life come from finding them in the reality that never changes.  Jesus is the only hope & promise in life that will never disappoint.  The enemy wants us to believe the lie that we will never be able to change our attitude, actions or circumstances, but we must remember that a seeming failure does not define who we are.  Jesus defines who we are & in Him we can recognize the lies of the devil & walk in contentment & joy because we are who God says we are! {Psalm 103:1-5, 1 John 3:1, 2 Corinthians 4:16}

How do you need to change your resolve this year to embrace your current season of life, put on God’s best & walk faithfully in the mundane?  Ask your good Father to help you to keep your eyes on Him & crush the lies of the enemy. 

Love, Cara



Who Stole Baby Jesus?

And they came with haste & found Mary & Joseph & the Babe lying in a manger.  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  Luke 2:16-17

The happiest season of all & the busiest time of the year collide every December.  I’m not sure how the two are actually related because usually when I am busy, I am far from happy & when I am happy, well I’m generally lying on a beach.  So when all the festivities of Christmas began to weigh me down & I found myself complaining to my closest confidants how much I had to do, I realized baby Jesus had gone missing. 

You see, years ago my mom created a game one Christmas for the grandkids to play.  The game was called “who stole baby Jesus?”  There were 4 culprits & participants had to determine if the Grinch, Santa Clause, Charlie Brown or Frosty the Snowman were guilty.  She would take the little baby Jesus from her nativity set & hide Him somewhere in the house among the other Christmas decorations.  Everyone would set out with vigor & clues in hand to find Him.

When I realized, someone had stolen baby Jesus out of my sights during this season, I began to look around & noticed I was not the only one on the search to find Him.  You can see it on the faces of the annoyed patrons with scowling looks, maneuvering shopping baskets down aisles.  Once you get in line to pay, the heavy sighs & checking watches tells you all you need to know.  Everyone is in a hurry & has too much on their list to get done.   Not to mention full parking lots & short tempers evident from the car horns honking.   

We all fall victim to the weight of the “happiest season of all”.  But why?  Do we let some sneaky Santa steal the joy of baby Jesus or do we allow the peer pressure of it all to make us crazy.  Maybe its one too many Christmas parties we must attend or night after night of children’s school performances that wear us down.  Possibly for you, it’s more than just a long to-do list, but instead a difficult memory during this time of year.  Maybe the holidays bring a pain in the depth of your soul that Christmas lights & glitter cannot cure.

Since day-to-day activities are sometimes overwhelming & emotional reactions are volatile at best, the only way for us to find baby Jesus in the midst of Christmas chaos is to remember the penetrating truth of Christmas time comes only once a year.  If we can bring ourselves to realize this time of year brings an opportunity, like no other, to share the love of Jesus with the world we will be less apt to lose sight of Him.  Unlike any other holiday or event throughout the year, people are open to seeing Christ but believers must be His reflection. 

Here are some suggestions for keeping Jesus in sight:

Remember 'Jesus is the reason' ~ I know it’s an old cliché, but isn’t it true?  Jesus is the reason I not only exist but also thrive.  Keeping my eyes on Him, helps to keep me focused on the meaning of life.  My main purpose is to walk a life that looks like Him & points others to Christ.  When I let His light shine brighter than the lights on the tree, I can take a deep breath & know this season is temporary but eternity isn’t, so I want my attitude & joy to show the world that I am celebrating a Reason, not just a season. {1 Peter 3:15-16}

Give because I value others, not because it’s an obligation ~ This one can be hard.  In fact, I struggled with it just last week when I was packaging gifts for my daughter’s teachers.  I honestly had to stop & think twice about giving a gift to a teacher that has been less than awesome.  But the Spirit gave me a little nudge to stop thinking negatively & see this person as He sees them, because, after all, I am often less than awesome.  Remember giving, doesn’t have to be monetary.  Hold the door, smile, and ask people if they need your help.  Looks around, needs are everywhere that can be met without money.  Value people the way Jesus does & the rest of life will fall into place. {Isaiah 32:8, 2 Corinthians 9:5-8}

Party like there’s no tomorrow ~ I know this one doesn’t seem very holy, but think about it.  Living life to its fullest is what Jesus offers us when He says He came to give us life more abundantly.  Live in the moment of the party, or the production, or the lunch or the grocery line.  I have had some of my most memorable moments by simply being aware of God’s presence with me in line at the store.  Trust me, if you look for Him to move & use you in the process, life will not be boring & will be more than abundant.  {John 10:10}

This holiday season, my prayer for us all is that we will stare at the baby in the manger & realize our purpose, fulfillment & joy are wrapped up in His sacrifice for our eternal life in Heaven.  Until then, staring at the One who came to give us abundant life will keep us from looking like the Grinch.

Ask the Lord today, where you can find more joy this Holiday season.

Love, Cara



Rainbows in the Rain

Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.  This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.  {Ezekiel 1:28}

 

The rain had not stopped for 2 full days & it had rained steady all through the night.  So when I got up that morning & saw that the rain had stopped I took a quick look at my weather app.  2 hours.  That’s how long it said I had before the rain started again so I hurriedly put on my running gear & headed outside.  I just needed a quick run to clear my head.

My heart was heavy for a dear one in my life struggling with identity & purpose.  I suppose I thought if I could just get outside for a little while I could outrun the feelings weighing me down. 

I headed outside & started down my usual path.  As I got about a fourth of the way into my run, sprinkles began to dust my face but I told myself it was just a small passing cloud because after all, my weather app said so!  However about half way into my run the rain came steady & harder.  How could this be?  I checked the app.  I was prepared with the knowledge I needed to get through a nice morning jog.  When I got to my halfway point I turned around & in the midst of rain dripping in my eyes, straight ahead of me was a full rainbow.  I almost couldn’t believe it.  I couldn’t see any sunshine so how could this be happening?  But then I realized, with more reality than the rain dripping in my face, the Lord was whispering His faithfulness to my soul.

My spirit was lifted by His work of beauty in the sky & a tender whisper to my heart.  So what’s the take away from a random rainbow in the middle of a downpour?  I was reminded on that morning run that my good Father is there to meet me in the middle of whatever circumstances I am facing.  The rain didn’t stop.  In fact, it rained on me the rest of the way home & I when got in & I was drenched.  But I was drenched in the refreshing rain of His love. 

Later that day I received a text from a friend with these simple words:

In Christ we find: purpose for the pain, strength for the struggle & faith for the fight.

These words gave life to the struggle inside me that day.  By focusing on His love & kindness toward us we realize how He gives us,

Purpose for our Pain

God promises to comfort us in all tribulation & once we are through it to take that comfort He has given us & share it with others.  In other words, my difficulties are for the purpose of me experiencing Christ’s tender mercies & for the purpose of grace for others when they are in difficulty. {2 Corinthians 1:3-7}

Strength for our Struggle

Paul tells us of a struggle that he was in that was a burden beyond measure, above anything he had strength to deal with, but that God delivered him from.  He will deliver us & give us strength for the afflictions we face.  Pray for strength & ask trusted believers to pray for you.  God will not turn His face from you in times of need.  {2 Corinthians 1:8-11}

Faith for our Fight

When our faith grows weak, He sends us signs of His love.  Signs are not always so physical as a rainbow in the sky, but the Spirit, which lives within us, will give us what we need to have perfect soundness in the presence of difficulty.  For we walk by faith & not by sight! {Acts 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:7}

Tell your Father where you are struggling & ask Him today to give you strength for your struggle so that you can have faith for the fight of your life & know the purpose for you pain.  He is faithful, my friend.  He will show you His goodness; just open your eyes to see Him. 

Love, Cara