God sightings, Living in Faith, Scripture verses

Blessed to be me — blessed to be you

Sometimes God shows up in my everyday life in ways I don’t expect, especially when I’m not looking. That happened last Friday night at our nephew’s football scrimmage.

I was sitting by the aisle but wasn’t paying too much attention to the people who walked past. Once when I did look up, it was just in time to see the message filling the back of a man’s t-shirt as he walked down the stairs:

Blessed to be me.

What a powerful perspective in a time when so many people seem to always want more.

We see people with more money, more followers, more friends, more social life, more of all sorts of things that seem bigger or better than what we have — and want it for ourselves. As you read this, please know I’m not just pointing fingers at other people. I fall into the same trap myself.

But the truth is, I’m blessed to be me. And you’re blessed to be you.

We’re blessed to be created in God’s image exactly how He wanted us to be.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Blessed to be gifted with abilities that can be used to serve God and help other people.

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 14:4-8)

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

Blessed to be part of a plan that God mapped out specifically for us before we were even created.

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5)

Blessed to be part of God’s family and treated as one of His children.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

The way we were made, the opportunities we have, the people whose paths we cross are all for a purpose. The reasons behind it are beyond my comprehension so I need to stop trying to figure it out.

As flawed as we are, God still loves us and has a purpose for us. And that’s worth more than any number of followers or amount in the bank.

I’m blessed to be me. You’re blessed to be you.

How will you remember that this week? Drop a note in the comments so we can encourage each other.


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Living in Faith, Scripture verses

Being faithful like Moses

I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m looking for parts of the Bible to read, I don’t normally gravitate toward Numbers. But a couple of verses from my devotional a few days ago really struck me. In them (Numbers 12:6-8), God is talking to Moses and his siblings Aaron and Miriam:

“Listen to my words: When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord.”

There’s no doubt that Moses had a different kind of relationship with God than most people. Although even Moses wasn’t allowed to see God’s face (Exodus 33:20), he had such a close relationship with Him that God spoke to Moses like a friend (Exodus 33:11).

And, thankfully, so can we – thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection.

Numbers 12:7 bible verseI don’t expect to ever be anywhere close to Moses’s caliber in terms of my faith, but there’s nothing wrong with working toward a closer relationship with God. Sometimes I get frustrated because I’m trying to hear God’s voice and don’t seem to be getting any answers. Sometimes I think it would be so nice to see God face to face, even for a split second. And when I do get nudges (or whacks over the head) that I think are God’s responses to my questions, it sure would be nice to get it straight instead of feeling like it’s all a riddle.

Will I ever get to that point? I don’t know. But in the meantime, I can work on the little gem hidden near the middle of these verses: “He is faithful in all my house.” I want God to say that about me! Whether I’m spending time with my family, talking with friends, writing something for work, noodling the next chapter of my novel or buying groceries – I want to be faithful to God. I want to stand up for Him and for what I believe He says is right. I want to share Him with others through my words and actions. I want to trust Him with everything instead of falling in the traps of doubt or deceit (which is where these verses originated, because Aaron and Miriam were grumbling about God speaking through Moses, but that’s a story for another day).

How about you? What’s your favorite gem from these words of God? How can we stay faithful to and humble before God in the middle of everything else? I’d love to know how you approach it.

Living in Faith, Writing life

5 things I’m thankful for from 2020

And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:13 ESV)

If I heard it said once, it seems like I heard it a thousand times: 2020 was “unprecedented,” a “year like no other,” a year of “pivoting.” Yes, it was a year of challenges, fear, and frustration. I even wrote about some of my fears in my blog post Faithful Despite the Fear.

But 2020 also had moments of beauty and joy, hope and fulfillment. And while I plan to remember the lessons I learned in 2020 and don’t in any way want to discount the heartaches that so many people experienced, I’m choosing to focus on positive things from the year and be grateful for those as we move into 2021.

Here are five of those things (in no particular order).

Psalm 107:1 Bible verseWorking from home again. I worked from home for almost 18 years while our kids were growing up, but returned to the “real” working world in 2016. I enjoy my job and work with some wonderful people – but I’ve also really enjoyed being able to work from home again. It’s less pressure in a lot of ways and I definitely haven’t missed fighting traffic or spending 2+ hours in my car every day.

More time together as a family. When everything began to change in March, our son was nearing the end of his third year in college and our daughter was two months from her high school graduation. Their shift to online school and our shift to working from home full-time meant that we spent a lot more time together. It wasn’t what they wanted for school, but they made the best of it and my Mama heart loved soaking in every minute of togetherness that I could.

The bits and pieces of “normal.” Our daughter’s class had in-person graduation in late June for those who wanted to attend under then-current protocols (thanks to being able to hold it at Atlanta Motor Speedway). Both their colleges allowed students on campus in the fall, even though many things were different from usual. Our church began holding in-person services again in August, although that was also new and different in many ways. Any glimpses of what we used to consider “normal” were good to see.

Healthy parents. While I’ve been concerned for the health of all our family and friends, I’m incredibly thankful that our parents have been healthy through all of this. They’ve stayed home as much as possible and have followed the rules when they’ve gone out. I thank God for preserving their health and pray that those who test positive for COVID-19 have mild cases and recover quickly.

1 Chronicles 29:13 Bible verseA fresh writing mindset. I began 2020 thinking and praying a lot about things I wanted to do once both kids were at college and I had time to refocus on some things for myself. One of the clear answers was to get back to the writing that I had basically ignored for the past few years because of being focused on work and other things. I joined a new critique group during the summer, began working again on a YA manuscript, entered the first chapter of that manuscript in a contest, and have been getting back in the habit of posting more regularly here on my blog and social media. The responses have been encouraging and I’m excited about doing even more in 2021.

What about you – can you find some glimmers of hope among the craziness and mess we’re connecting with 2020? These are only a few things and I’ve barely scratched the surface of them. What are some things you found to be grateful for in 2020 despite all the uncertainty?

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 107:1 ESV)

Thank you, Lord, for your blessings, even when things around us are uncertain or don’t go the way we want. You teach us many times in Scripture that there are always reasons to be thankful. Help us remember that as we move into this new year and deal with whatever comes our way. Amen.

Living in Faith, Scripture verses

Being big enough to humble ourselves

Those who humble themselves will be exalted Matthew 23:12Years ago, one of our former pastors would invite people in the congregation to help write an Advent devotional book that we could use together as a church family. He mapped out the Scripture readings and let us write whatever came to mind. Entries were written by teenagers, retirees, and everyone in between.

I found a couple of these booklets while cleaning out some things in my office. Flipping through and seeing the names of those who shared their thoughts was a sweet walk down memory lane.

She was one of “my girls” in youth group and now she’s married and a mom herself. They moved away so I haven’t seen them in years, but we keep up with each other on Facebook. She was such a beautiful example of what a Christian woman should be; now she’s singing with the angels in heaven.

With Christmas only a few days away, here’s the devotional I wrote for one of those booklets.

Scripture reading: Matthew 23: 1-12 (NIV)

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

 

image of woman prayingThis story is one of several when Jesus “called out” church leaders or other supposedly important people on their hypocrisy and lack of understanding. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were highly educated men who didn’t have a clue. I’m sure their cheeks burned and their indignation ran high at Jesus’ words.

The Pharisees not be called instructors? Servants were the greatest of all? They needed to humble themselves in order to be great?

Didn’t Jesus realize who He was talking to? Who He was talking about?

Of course He did. Jesus was talking to the Pharisees and teachers of the law then, but to each of us now.

Being humbled isn’t any more fun for us than it was the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, though we’ve all been there. The situation that puts us in our place often takes us by surprise and leaves us scratching our heads until we realize just what happened – and why. Once we think about it, we may realize that we deserved to be humbled, whether we want to admit it or not.

The only man who never deserved to be humbled was Jesus, yet He was willing to be humbled enough for all mankind. He left His throne beside God to become one of us, to humble Himself to the point of becoming fully human and surrounding Himself with the sins of the earth.

The last verse of today’s Scripture passage says that “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Jesus was certainly exalted after His time of humility on earth, when He returned to His rightful place in heaven with God. Because of the sacrifice He made – beginning on that quiet night of His birth we’re preparing to celebrate – we too can be exalted with Him someday.

And that’s the best gift of all during Christmas.

Thank you, Lord, for sending Jesus to live among us so we could learn more about you and know that someday we’ll be with you in heaven. As we celebrate Christmas this year, give us a new appreciation for how great a sacrifice Jesus made to be part of your plan. Amen.