3 Reasons to have gratitude when you feel ungrateful

My love stretches to the heaven & My faithfulness extends above the clouds   {Psalm 36:5}

During a season when everyone is talking about gratitude, it can be really hard to keep on pretending things are good when your life feels like it is falling apart.  I know this isn’t always the situation, but I have entered plenty of “Thanksgiving” seasons with a heart that wasn’t so thankful.

I told you in my last post about a time when I was so full of sorrow that it was extremely difficult for me to pray & how just going before the Lord in compulsory gratitude began to change my perspective on my difficulty.  Sometimes we are in a difficult season where one or more circumstances in life just aren’t going well which in turn makes it difficult to show any kind of gratitude.  

Deep sadness, brokenness & difficulties are not only exhausting, but they can be debilitating to our ability to find gratitude for anything in our lives.  Unfortunately, when a holiday comes around where the world tells you, “you should be thankful”, it can make it even harder.  But thankfulness starts with a deep understanding of how much we have in Jesus. 


If we try to base our gratitude in anything except Him, we will ultimately be overwhelmed by our circumstances.


Some of us are more apt to feeling down over life’s circumstances.  For years I struggled with severe anxiety & my circumstances could definitely get the best of me which in turn meant everyone else got the worst of me.  I am still susceptible to anxious feelings, but over the years I have learned some ways to manage those emotions that make it easier for me to get out of a ungrateful slump.


When we have gratitude it doesn’t change our circumstances but it does change our heart, which really changes everything. 


If I am facing a difficult relationship but I choose to enter into communication with that person, grateful for how Jesus is shaping my life to look more like His, then I am more likely to respond in a way that destroys division & brings reconciliation.  Or I might possibly just be facing a busy day that is full of a lot of deadlines & events that I must meet & be present at.  Gratitude for having the capability to handle those responsibilities & being able to go into the world as salt & light {Matthew 5:13-16} will change my perspective & allow me to share joy with others.

It has taken time for me to learn how to have the ability to cope with difficulty & have gratitude even when I feel ungrateful.  But remembering these things helps me change my grumbling into gratitude:

He is worthy of our praise ~ I’ve realized that even in the middle of my trials, disappointments & difficulties, God still deserves my praise.  The problem is I don’t want to praise Him when my life isn’t going as planned.  I want to grumble.  But my gratitude can’t be based on my current situation.  It must be based on the fact that I know He loves me & I trust Him to give me strength to endure this life.  He is worthy of my praise even in the middle of hard stuff. {John 16:33, Psalm 145:3

In His presence we find joy ~ If praising God brings us into His presence {Psalm 100:4}, being in His presence gives us joy.  It says directly in the Word, “In your presence is fullness of joy”. This means that when we choose to praise God in spite of our circumstances we will be filled with His joy.  The difference in happiness & joy, is that joy is not circumstantial but is enduring.  When we have the true joy of the Lord, no circumstance can defeat us. {Romans 12:21, Psalm 16:11}

His joy is our strength ~ It is with complete reverence that I can tell you it is God who gets me through life.  I am so easily distracted from His promises of peace, strength & protection & my heart so quickly forgets His past grace.  But planting seeds in my heart though reading His word & talking with Him, allows me to harvest a crop of His joy when times are difficult.  {Nehemiah 8:10, Psalm 28:7}


Where do you need to allow Jesus to be your focus so that you can have gratitude in a difficult situation?


Love,
Cara

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How to have Gratitude {even when it's a sacrifice}

There was a time in my life when day after day, for 3 full months, I would enter the presence of God in an attempt to communicate with Him but each time the outcome was not what I had hoped for.  Even though I knew I was in His presence, I would sit in silence & the weight of black empty space would fill my heart & my head.  I could see God & even feel Him in the room, but it was as though His embrace was just out of reach.

The reason for my longing but seeming unreach, wasn't God's fault.  It was the deep sorrow that overtook every part of my being & had somehow even taken hold of my tongue, muting my prayers.  

Then one day, just at the end of this 3-month stretch of pain, I heard someone giving a detailed description of Heaven & I realized in the midst of all my heartache, if nothing else, I could be thankful for an eternal home in Heaven.  So the next morning, I went to the Father & I said thank You for giving me the promise of Heaven.  That was it.  That’s all my prayer consisted of.  But I did it again & again for several days. 

Without warning, a compulsory gratitude began in my heart.  I no longer felt completely isolated from Him & my focus on His goodness, even in the middle of my circumstance, changed my perspective.  I began to receive His peace & the ability to look at what was going on in my life through God’s perspective.  Though I still didn’t like what I was facing, my communication with my Father was opened & once again held the intimacy that I had known before. 

As my perspective began to change, I realized 3 things:

Gratitude isn’t in my circumstance, it’s in me ~
Just because I don’t feel like giving thanks doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be thankful for.  As a child of the One true King, I always have what He did on the cross & the promise of Heaven to focus my gratitude upon.  Jesus’ salvation gives me full access to amazing love & power upon which I can rest my gratitude.  {Romans 8:38-39}

In order for me to get to Him, I must look at Him ~
When I went before Him to pray, I wasn’t focused on Him.   I was focused on my circumstance, which had me blinded to find His embrace for comfort.  He was still there & actually He was still holding me, but I was resisting by not being fully present in His presence.  All I had to do was to look at Him in order to feel His grace. {Psalm 34:8, 18}

Praising Him is a sacrifice that is worth the cost ~
We cannot praise God with a praise that can be purchased.  Our praise must come from deep within & at times requires all the strength & courage we can muster. Hebrews tells us to offer sacrifices of praise to God.  There is no sacrifice so great as when our hearts are burdened.  When praise & gratitude is the farthest thing from my heart & mind, the sacrifice of praise places glory where it belongs & God is pleased in my sacrificial act of worship. {Hebrews 13:15-16}

 

What can you thank Him for today?  What sacrifice of praise can you offer Jesus who offered you everything through the cross & in His resurrection?


Love,
Cara


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Why Jesus is the filtering tool we need

One of my favorite family pictures was taken about 12 years ago.  In the picture, my husband, my kids & myself are all walking in a park, holding hands & the photographer took the picture behind us so it looks like we are out on a sweet family walk.  The funny thing is, every time I look at that picture, I think about the fact that you can’t see our faces or hear what was going on.  

When the picture was taken, my kids were arguing, I was yelling at them, somewhat under my breath & my husband kept saying “kids, listen to mom”.

I feel like it’s a beautiful photo with an ugly story.  Everyone’s hair was done perfectly & we were all dressed in coordinating clothes & the photographer, who was really good, edited the picture & gave the photo a soft, dreamy look by filtering the image with photo editing tools to make all the colors come alive.  

Recently, as when I looked at this image in a frame on a small table in my hallway, the circumstances surrounding this picture got me to thinking about the pictures of my every day life & the pictures I see of other peoples lives.  It’s so easy to get trapped in a mindset that everyone else’s life actually reflects the small, photoshopped images I can see & that mine should too. 

Filters on pictures are a big thing right now.  Being able to take a simple photo & make it look like a work of art can be kind of fun.   As my thoughts were absorbed in pictures & filters I began to wonder… what if Jesus was the filter I used on every photo of my life?


What if in every situation, I took a picture in my mind & let Jesus be the filter over it?  


Suppose that instead of being offended by someone who said something I misunderstood, I re-filtered that image through Jesus.  Or instead of assuming my family took me for granted because they didn’t thank me for something I did, I laid Jesus over that situation as a filter.  What if when my co-worker snaps at me, I let the character & power of Jesus make the situation beautiful?

Overlaying the character of Jesus in all the images we create in our minds will make them beautiful.  Not that the situation necessarily changes, but the image does because our hearts & minds let Him be our focus.  Jesus as our filter creates an image worth displaying.

Just like my favorite family photo, an ugly situation can be made beautiful by using a filter to look at it through what Jesus promises He will do if we just let Him.

Learning to use a filter actually takes a little time & practice.  I have several different photo apps on my phone that I like to use to create fun photos, but each of them have a learning curve.  Learning to let Jesus take control of our life photos takes practice too.  We must not feel like failures if we let Him be our filter in one situation & then forget to use His strength in our lives in the next one.  Jesus wants us to become more like Him & it is a process that He is willing to stick around with us for.  He is completing a good work in us. {Philippians 1:6}

Learning to call upon His filtering power can be strengthened by remembering a few things that will embed His character into our hearts:

It takes Practice - Genuine faith should always be changing us.  Daily decisions about how we behave, like our attitude toward situations, should be constantly refined by Jesus.  We can’t expect to accomplish this one time & then get it right every time.  It is an ongoing, daily laying down of our own flesh to accomplish His eternal purpose in our hearts. {1 Corinthians 15:49, 58}

Jesus must be our Purpose - Our reason for everything must be Jesus.  If it is not, we won’t be successful in the long run.  Difficulties will come & if we are not intentional about filtering those through Jesus, the images forever locked into our hearts & minds will be ugly.  But if we release control to Him & allow His purposes to be accomplished, His grace will turn ashes to beauty. {Colossians 3:23, Romans 8:5}

We must Pursue Him - It’s easy to snap a picture in a situation but it takes intentionality to filter it & make it beautiful.  The same is true with what God calls us to.  Our relationships, in every area of life, will require us to pursue the character of Jesus in our lives in order for them to reflect His beauty.  Time spent in prayer & the Word are crucial to our lives bearing the image of Christ. {Psalm 63:1, Acts 17:27-28}

What circumstances in your life do you need to ask Jesus to be your filter & make things beautiful in His way?


Love,
Cara

 
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Dear Single Mama

I want to share a piece of my heart with you today.  Recently I found out that 2 different women, who are very dear to me, have been treated poorly by Christians and/or the church in general.  The mistreatment had to do with judgment surrounding their divorce & the fact that they were now single mothers.  At first, I was just appalled & angry that anyone, especially those proclaiming to walk as Christ, could be so hurtful & hateful, but then I was just overwhelmingly sad.  Not just for my friends who were hurt, but for all single moms who have been wounded this way.  Because if I know 2, there must be thousands more out there that I don’t know.  

In fact, my own mom was once a single mother.  If you know me or have read my blog long enough, then you know my daddy was a pastor but before he was my daddy on earth, it was just me & my mom.  She worked hard, loved me hard & struggled well to give me everything I needed.  She taught me how to walk uprightly, how to have a servant's heart & most of all she taught me Jesus.  She showed me how to live as the righteous daughter of the King that I am & to believe that my Heavenly Father gave me an identity.  

I can’t change what others have said or done but I have a voice that can stand up against judgment, hatred & boastful pride.  I can stand as an ambassador for Christ’s love {2 Corinthians 5:11-21} to tell single moms that He loves them.  So that's what I want to do in the letter below.  

If you are a single mom, or if you know a single mom, then please read this & pass on the Love...


Dear Single Mama,
I want to apologize to you.  I’m sorry that your circumstances are hard.  Being a single mom is hard.  I’m sorry if anyone, Christian or not, has ever made you feel humiliated because of your situation.  Whether it was a condemning look, word or action, it was wrong.  We have been a loud noise with no love. {1 Corinthians 13:1

Condemning words have communicated animosity instead of love.  I’m sorry you received harshness instead of grace.  

My hope is that you would see this apology from me as the face of Jesus because He wants you to know that He loves you & He is proud of you.  He wants to be intimately near you.  He knows everything about you & your circumstances & He loves you infinitely.  He created your inmost being & knows the hairs on your head, {Psalm 139:13-14, Luke 12:7} all because He loves you. 

Jesus has declared that you are righteous & holy. {Hebrews 10:10}

So I am sorry for all the ways you’ve been shunned.  I’m sorry for the nights you sit lonely because all of your couple friends went out or the times the moms at school didn't include you in their plans.  I’m sorry for the long days of work & the hours of taking care of children on your own.  I’m sorry for the way people act like singleness is bad.  I’m sorry that in the name of Jesus, people have behaved like your enemy instead of your friend.

I’m sorry you’ve sat alone in church.  I’m sorry that you don’t feel like all the other women.  You are just like all of them & we are just like you.  The married ones, never married ones & widowed ones ~ we all just want to be loved & accepted. 

We are all the same, people in need of the grace & righteousness of Christ to come in & save us from ourselves & the harsh world around us.

You are loved  

You are loved by God the Father.  He is not mad at you or disappointed in you.  No matter what anyone has said, God looks at you & sees His daughter & He loves you.

He loves your child{ren}.  He has great plans for them & He is using you as an instrument of His love in their lives.  He is using you to impact small people that will grow & change the world & the kingdom.  Believe it.  Walk it.  Do not ever give up on His great love.

Whether you are divorced or single through other circumstances, you chose to love your child{ren} sacrificially.  You chose to stay with your child{ren}.  You chose life over death.  You chose the harder road to do the right thing.  

Jesus is big enough to handle your difficult days.  He is big enough to turn your hard into beautiful.  Never doubt that God Almighty loves you & that He sees you.  He wants to be your shelter & your defense.  He wants you to just breathe His name so He can run to you & give you strength to make it through whatever circumstance you are in.

Keep on doing the right thing & seek Jesus with all your heart.  Be passionate about Him so you can live in the abundance of all He wants for you.  Jesus loves you & so do I.  Take up the shield of faith & keep moving forward. {Ephesians 6:10-18}


So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.  Be even tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense.  Forgive as quickly & completely as the Master forgave you.  And regardless of what else you put on, wear love.  It’s you basic, all purpose garment.  Never be without it.  {Colossians 3:12-14

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. {1 Corinthians 13:4-7}

You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. {1 Peter 1:22}


Love,
Cara


 
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A Game of Chase

I think it had only been a few months, but it felt like an eternity since I perceived my prayers had gone any further than my ceiling.  I prayed day after day, but I was overtaken with the feeling that everything I said was bouncing right back at me & God had gone into hiding. 

I don't really know what caused the start of this vicious cycle of feeling like our relationship was one sided, but I remember what ended it.  One morning I was dissecting a Bible verse & I wrote down the question, "Do I trust God?".  I was shocked that my hand had written the words.  The question was completely illogical.  Of course I trust God, I thought.  How did this question even make it into my head much less spill out through my pen on to the page of my journal?

Slowly I began to realize I trusted Him completely for eternal salvation, even for healing & miracles, but I wasn't so sure that I could trust Him to help me live abundantly without me having to strive for the life I wanted.  My reality came crashing in on me when I realized my prayers were hitting the ceiling because I was chasing the desire of my own heart instead of chasing the One who desired me.   

We were designed to be a people filled up by something.  We wake up everyday & chase something.  We want to be liked, to be loved, to be respected & needed & honored.  But the problem is, we chase these things more than we chase God.  If we would just be still & realize that God has already fulfilled the desire in our hearts to be liked, loved, respected, needed & honored, through Jesus Himself, then we would see He won the game of chase & we no longer have to strive to be the winner.


Because of Jesus I lack nothing.


If I should be satisfied by God alone, then why do I so often forget to let Him be all I need?  Why doesn't my heart remember that when I am trying to build my life on my own I only find rubble, but when I build my life in who He is I find wholeness.  

David, the one the Bible calls a man after God's own heart {Acts 13:22}, didn't become a mighty man of God because he was perfect.  He also didn't gain such a place in eternal history by striving.  He simply acknowledged his need for God & trusted Him to bring abundance.  He was satisfied with God alone {Psalm 73:26}.  He moved when God said go & He stayed when God said rest.


One embrace from God gives us shelter from the storm & the strength for battle.


David let God be the fulfillment to all His desires.  But how do we do this?  Admittedly, I mess this up a lot, but years of trusting that God is big enough have led me to know these things: 

I must return to Him when I mess up ~ I've learned in times of failure, I need to be completely grounded in who Jesus is & who I am in Him.  Sometimes I cave into the pressure to be more, do more & own more.  But ultimately what I look like, what title I hold & how many followers I have on social media will always leave me empty.  As a child of God, none of these things define who I am.  Who I am is His & that can never be corrupted like the things of this world.  Just as a loving parent does, when I return to God & leave my failures behind, He fills me with the knowledge that His righteousness is enough. {Matthew 6:19-21, Joel 2:13}

I must fill up on Him when I'm thinking straight ~  Truthfully if I haven't eaten well, slept well or been treated well by people in my life, my thinking gets messed up.  I am overtaken by my flesh that is disappointed in this world.  But if I can fill up on God when everything seems right, then I can build a reserve of right thinking to carry me through when the difficulties come.   I know which way to run for strength when I have set my mind on the things of the Lord.  I don't return to the world to find identity but instead I go to my Father who tells me I am His.  He is all I need & when my heart is full on Him, the emptiness of my fleshly desires dissipate in the flood of His love.  {Romans 15:13, Philippians 4:8}  

I must let His grace be bigger than my fears ~ Failures & disappointments in life leave us feeling like if we don't perform for acceptance & strive for identity we will be left behind.  The fears of our hearts make us believe that His grace could never be enough.  But there is no fear in Love & God is love, so it must be true that the fear we feel is only a ploy of the enemy to keep us from abundance in His grace.   We must ask the Lord to reveal the areas of our life where we can let His grace take over & push fear aside. {2 Timothy 1:7, Colossians 2:13-15}


Is there an area where you need to run back to Him & let Him define who you are?  Are you taking the time to fill up on Him & let His grace be what propels you forward instead of striving for identity in what the world values?


Love,
Cara

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The Potter

Recently, while my family was on vacation, we visited a pottery shop & took a tour of the makings of how beautiful, detailed pottery is created.  We were able to watch a live demonstration, of how a potter places a lump of clay on the spinning wheel & creates a vase from what started as an abstract mass of clay.  If you have ever watched a master craftsman perform a very skilled task, you know their skill can make the craft look so very easy. 

So after watching this graceful & seemingly effortless demonstration for a bit, the potter asked if anyone in the audience would like to try their hand at making pottery.  My son had been watching closely & jumped right up & said he’d like to give it a try.  So he stepped up onto the platform where the potter had been sitting & they gave him his own clay & a few basic instructions.

Probably less than a minute after he began the adventure it was clear his confidence was dwindling.   He realized quickly that forming a lump of clay into a sculpture was not as easy as the skilled potter had made it look.  The master potter stepped in & gently held my son’s hands, showing him where to apply pressure, where to ease off & how to move his hands in order to form the clay into a vase.

In the Old Testament, God gave this literal picture to Jeremiah as well.  He told Jeremiah to get up & go to the potter’s house & see what the potter was making.  When Jeremiah got there, the potter had just finished an attempt at a pot that turned out badly, but the potter simply crushed the clay, started over & made a beautiful sculpture. 


“Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter simply started over, using the same clay to make another pot.”    {Jeremiah18 MSG}


God very clearly told Jeremiah, that He was the potter & His people are the clay.  As soon as we will allow Him to take hold of our life, our lump of clay, He will mold us into something beautiful.  It will take crushing, it will take time & it will take the hands of the Master Sculptor to be able to make us, in all our humanness, reflect the work of the One who makes us righteous.

The problem is, we are the amateur sculptor, who with too much confidence in our own ability, jumps in & says we can make it beautiful on our own.  We try hard & we may even realize we’ve messed up & make a decision to start over.  But until we release the clay into the hands of the Master, we will continue in our turmoil.  Our sin, our selfishness, our own desires, spurred by our adversary, keeps us thinking that we can mold our own lives into something beautiful.  But God wants us to stop worshiping a lie & let Him be the truth that guides us.  The truth is, if we will repent from our own ways & allow Him to be control & He will start over with us, making us into a beautiful thing.

The big question is how we stop controlling & start allowing Him to make us into a reflection of His love.  Here are some things we can do to let God be the Master of our lives:

Release control ~ Once we can release control to the Master, He will make things beautiful.  Don’t confuse what He calls beautiful with something that is perfect, easy or comfortable.  That’s not what He promises.  He promises to always give us His strength in place of our own weakness when we allow Him to.  God can’t make us into a masterpiece when we are busy doing it ourselves.  {Psalm 27:14, 2 Corinthians 12:9}

Return to Him ~ Sometimes we get off track in our way of life.  Do you know the story of the prodigal son who felt that he could handle his life better on his own than under his father’s care?  He made the choice to leave the safety of the father’s house & live on his own, only to find himself as a complete failure.  But when the son returned home, the father ran to him & swept him up, receiving him whole-heartedly back with love & mercy.  This is a picture of God & His children & it will be no different for us.  When we return to Him & just repent, He will sweep us into His arms & give us an unimaginable love that will make us into a perfect reflection of who He is & who we are in Him.  {Luke 15:11-20}

Walk in His finished work ~ When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are given complete access to a river of grace that can never dry up.  However, though we have full access, we must go to the river of grace & let it wash over us, we must drink it to quench our thirst, we must wash in it for our healing.  We are not robots; we are humans with full free will to choose.  We can be free & yet not walk in the freedom we possess in Christ.   We must choose to walk in the finished work of the cross.  When we trust God’s accomplishments instead of our own we will find fullness in life.  {Philippians 2:12-13, Romans 8:1-7}


What areas of your life do you need to let the Master do His work?  How have you been trying to control your own life?  Can you release control today & let the Father create a beautiful masterpiece out of your life?


Love,
Cara

 
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Praying for Your College Student

Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord & lift up your hands for the lives of your children....Lamentations 2:19

Having a child in college changes your prayer life.  When kids are at home under our roof, we sometimes pray for them with the belief that we are in control of the situations they are facing.   Though God has made us a spiritual authority in our child’s life, ultimately, the decision to claim faith & live it out, comes down to the choices our children make.   

Children enrich life in a profound way & the sudden absence that is left when they leave for college can’t be filled by anything else.  Though it is an exciting time in the lives of families, college is as new of an experience for parents as it is for students.  When children are out of the house & away at college, they are in essence, on their own.  Which is a very different scenario from the 18 years they spent living at home. 

Parents & kids enter college with expectations of what will be, but we also are grieving what was.   The way things were in our family dynamics will change and will never again be the same as before we took our child to college.    Parents will become increasingly less of a critical part of their children’s daily lives.  We become advisors to our kids & no longer disciplinarians in their day-to-day activities. 

We have once again moved our son away for another year of college & I am once again filled with the same desperation I felt last year for God to move into the vast expanse of the miles between us & fill my child with the grace only He can give. I want God to show up in my child’s life & reveal Himself in ways that will refine my son’s walk as a mighty man of God.

Here are some of the prayers I’ll be praying for my son as he’s away this year.  I hope these will be helpful to you as you build a reserve of scripture prayers for your child as well.

  • Lord, I pray that _______________ will develop a heart for You & Your ways.  I pray that You will silence all the ways the enemy wants to call out to her {him} in this world & that she {he} will hear Your voice as her {his} true guide.  {John 10:27}
  • Thank you God that you have given _______________ a calling and gifts that are irrevocable.  I pray that he {she} will have the wisdom to seek Your ways in those areas & use them to further his {her} sense of purpose in what You have called him {her} to.  {Romans 11:29}
  • Father, as _______________ deals with the pressures of school workload & social relationships, in addition to other responsibilities, I pray that You would keep her {him} free from any anxiety that would weigh her {him} down.  Keep her {his} spirit & attitude in a good place of focus on You & keep her {his} mind on positive things.  {Philippians 4:8, Proverbs 12:25}
  • Lord, I pray that _______________ will have clear discernment to choose right over wrong.  I pray that he {she} will shape opinions & choices about life based on Your Word & what is right in Your sight.  Reveal Yourself to him {her} as he {she} walks through life & let him {her} trust in You with all his {her} heart & not lean on human understanding. {Proverbs 3:5-6}
  • I pray that in the midst of living life independently, that _______________ would learn to live life in discipline as well.  Show her {him} that there is a path that leads to destruction & a path that leads to an abundant life.  {Matthew 7:13-14}
  • Father I pray that you would keep _______________ in complete health.  I pray that _______________ would see that good health is a gift from you & that he {she} would be smart in all decisions regarding his {her} body.    Would You touch & heal anything in his {her} body that is not fully well & let him {her} know that you are the Healer. {Jeremiah 17:14}
  • I pray that _______________ would have fulfilling, godly friendships that will have a positive influence in her {his} life.  Enable her {him} to be discerning about who she {he} spends time with & trusts with the inner parts of her {his} life.   I pray that those friends will be influencers of Your love & give her {him} good guidance & advice.  May all her {his} relationships be equally yoked.  {Proverbs 13:20, 2 Corinthians 6:14-15}

 

related topics:  7 Scriptures to Pray for Your College Student

Photo by Catherine Price

Photo by Catherine Price


Love,
Cara

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

 

 
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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


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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?

 
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