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It was difficult to ignore her emaciated appearance. Ribs pressed through a fine layer of white fur and, despite the cat’s apparent lack of ownership, she should have been plump and healthy. Our early 1960’s-era cul-de-sac was strangely situated among the thick pine trees of upper Florida between a clogging dance studio and a henhouse. Scores of mice and other animals flourished in the underbrush.

But Vanilla, as she had become known, remained gaunt and listless.

Today she greeted me with a sway of her tail, mewling softly as I slid a bowl of milk onto the surface of the patio. I watched as her small, greedy tongue moved rapidly from mouth to container until the creamy liquid had disappeared.

Poor kitty, I thought. Why would someone abandon such a sweet animal?

Since childhood, I have been a rescuer of the abandoned.

I had once discovered a rejected hatchling. His pink, vein-threaded body and featherless head were defenseless against the heat of the plains and I had run home with the tiny bird in my hands, my childish heart in anguish over the plight of the tiny creature.  Of course, I was ill-equipped to care for the chick and he had died within hours.

Feeling as though I should honor his short life, I tucked him in a soft bed of green leaves and wildflowers inside an empty shoebox. Then beneath the waning summer sun, the simple words of a child’s prayer poured from my lips as easily as the dry prairie soil slid from the garden shovel, covering his shallow grave beneath the copse of Russian Olive trees.

The Pain of Abandonment

I didn’t want the baby bird to be alone. Discarded.

If I’m honest with you, abandonment is one of my triggers. For years, feelings of abandonment took up residence in my heart while fear of abandonment drove my actions. Can you relate?

For some, abandonment’s pain comes disguised in the form of conditional love while others experience the loss through divorce, emotional neglect, or any other number of ways.

I’ve been pondering the story of Esther and I believe this heroine knew the emotion’s gut-wrenching ache. If you’re familiar with the story, you probably recall that Esther was a young woman God raised up to help rescue her people from the evil plot of Haman, who served the king–Esther’s husband.

A deeper dive into scripture reveals that God’s people had been sent into captivity nearly seventy years before. God’s chosen ones seemed to have lost everything and Esther was no different. Still a teenager, this young woman knew heartache.

Both of Esther’s parents had died when she was a child and then the king had cast his net–choosing her as one of the women who might be beautiful enough to be considered as the next queen. First, she’d been stripped of family, then of freedom.

Perhaps God had abandoned Esther in the same way He seemed to have removed His presence from the people of Israel.

The Perception of Appearance

Though he was a hard, arrogant man, Esther found “grace and favor” with the king and she was chosen to sit on the throne. But her rise to position only caused consternation for the young orphan when a plot to kill all Jews in the kingdom was uncovered.

Surely, God doesn’t expect me to do anything. The king doesn’t even know I’m one of God’s people. These thoughts must have tempted Esther as she considered the choices she had to make.

But her cousin Mordecai exhorted, “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise…from another place.” (Esther 4:13 NKJV)

Esther had two choices. She could deny God and choose her life or choose God and sacrifice personal safety.

What do I mean? The queen was only allowed into the king’s presence when she’d been summoned. If Esther approached the throne without permission, her death was imminent except for his mercy.

No matter our perceptions, God never removes His presence from those He loves. The question is whether we will abandon Him under duress. Click To Tweet

Courageous young Esther determined that God and her countrymen were worth risking her life. As a result, circumstances that had appeared irredeemable were wrested from the hand of the enemy and proved God had never lost sight of those He loved.

What Does This Mean for Us?

I still weep over the forgotten and forsaken, but for different reasons than I once did. I no longer carry the ache of abandonment in my heart. Instead, I bear the blessing of having been carried from the place of damaged to delivered.

Although I once believed God had closed His eyes to my pain or vacated His position, the truth is that our heavenly Father never remains indifferent nor unaware. Click To Tweet

Although I once believed God had closed His eyes to my pain or vacated His position, the truth is that our heavenly Father never remains indifferent nor unaware. He is fully acquainted with the ways of the Enemy and able to work accordingly.

I believe that is the call of the Church today. “…you may have been chosen…for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) Click To Tweet

As with Esther, we are called to trust Him. To pray. To join in His mission of offering freedom to hurting hearts. I believe that is the call of the Church today. “…you may have been chosen…for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)

Peace and grace,

Tammy

P. S. I often linkup with these other wonderful bloggers.

Mondays   InstaEncouragementsMandy and MicheleKingdom Bloggers,

Tuesdays RaRa Linkup /GraceFull Tuesday / Tell His Story/Anchored Abode,

Wednesdays   Worth Beyond RubiesRecharge Wednesday Welcome Wednesday /LetsHave Coffee/

Thursdays Heart Encouragement  /  Tune In Thursday  /Salt and Light /  Five Minute Friday

Friday Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network, Grace and Truth Linkup

His influence was undeniable. Despite his blue-collar upbringing, he stunned religious scholars with his wisdom, calmed tumultuous crowds bent on murder, and rose from obscurity to fame within three years. Everyone from the impoverished to those steeped in power rushed toward the front of the crowd to catch a glimpse of the man called Jesus Christ.

Some called Him a heretic and others a hero. Many were convinced he was the promised king.

But Christ’s kingdom expanded beyond the borders of one country or one group of people. His vision extended centuries before and after his birth to include you and me.

The cancel culture of Christ’s day took the threat of one man and a ragamuffin band of disciples seriously. Rooting out the one who proclaimed, “Love your enemy”, they pierced Him through. But the enemy could not be thwarted.

The graveclothes were discarded, and a tomb stood empty. No amount of Roman propaganda could blanket the truth.

While we might like to think modern society embraces everyone or we’re more inclusive, I believe Jesus would be cancelled more quickly than any other individual living today.

Why?

Because Jesus was radical then and He is radical now.

What Makes Jesus Radical?

Jesus is Truth and that truth is expressed through the word of God. John 1:1-3 (NKJ) reads, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Not only does Christ embody Truth, but He embodies the Word. And the word of God shatters many of our progressive, forward-thinking ideologies.

Some of these might include the following:

  • “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6 NKJ)

 

Christ’s radical claim? He is the only route to heaven. The religious of His day were offended. None of their works, acts, or deeds moved them closer to holiness or heaven.

What the pious found even more troublesome was that the same man who accused them of being “white-washed tombs” ministered to the hurting and outcasts. The prostitutes and prodigals. The sick and the sinful.

These words from scripture still illicit angry protests and declarations that Christians hold to a narrow-minded framework. But if Christ is God, then wouldn’t it be unloving for Him to proclaim anything another than what is Truth?

Religion cannot save us. Enlightenment cannot lead us. Equality cannot equalize. Only Jesus sets us free from the power of sin and death. He proved it the day the graveclothes remained in the tomb.

  • Another of Christ’s radical statements, love others more than yourself. These words challenge many of us who cling to our faith today. As the shadow of evil moves from behind the veil, some of us may soon be called to live out these words in ways we’d never imagined.

 

Luke 6:27 (NKJ) reads, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”

The Lord’s disciples and countless others followed suit. They were martyred on the streets and cities across Rome. They lit amphitheaters and even children were fed to the lions. Yet, the Church thrived.

People must see the hope of Christ in our lives. Souls hang in the balance.

  • Perhaps one of the most compelling declarations Jesus made is represented by John 10:28 (NIV), “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

Not only is Jesus claiming to be God’s son, but He is claiming to be God. This is the mystery of the Trinity.

The Bible sets Christ apart from the leaders of other faiths. For example, neither Buddha nor Muhammad made similar professions.  If Jesus were to assert His divinity today, He would either be labelled mentally ill or a perpetrator of disinformation.

Yes, Jesus was and is radical. We, too, are meant to live lives of radical faith. Lives of love. Lives set apart. Lives sharing hope.

Peace and grace,

Tammy

P. S. I often linkup with these other wonderful bloggers.

Mondays   InstaEncouragementsMandy and MicheleKingdom Bloggers,

Tuesdays RaRa Linkup /GraceFull Tuesday / Tell His Story/Anchored Abode,

Wednesdays   Worth Beyond RubiesRecharge Wednesday Welcome Wednesday /LetsHave Coffee/

Thursdays Heart Encouragement  /  Tune In Thursday  /Salt and Light /  Five Minute Friday

Friday Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network, Grace and Truth Linkup

 

Each of them drew strength from the other. We might have done the same if our lives had been stripped of our closest companions, comfort, and convenience.

Poverty and starvation loomed in the future and, desperate, the women were forced to leave the home they’d shared with those who now lay shrouded in graveclothes—the men who once offered love and protection.

Some of you might relate to the Old Testament figures of Naomi and Ruth. Perhaps you’ve been widowed or dealt with the pain of divorce. Maybe you know the struggles of an empty bank account and bare cupboard. The heartache of an empty womb or the imprint of soil wedged beneath your knees as you weep at your child’s graveside.

Emotional pain can drive us to become someone we never imagined we might become; a person coddling and stroking feelings that only grow more intense and hurtful unless given over to the truth of scripture.

In Naomi’s case, bitterness toward God consumed her life and impacted her faith. She said, “…the Almighty  has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” (Ruth 1:21 NKJV)

I empathize with this dear lady. I’m not much different. In fact, seven years ago I’d repackaged her words as, “Why me, God? Why my children?”

I once walked in Naomi’s bitter shoes, blaming God for the assaults the enemy sent my direction through various avenues. But there is a way to rediscover hope in a season of suffering. Like Ruth, who affirmed her commitment to both her mother-in-law and God, we can cling to our faith.

Ruth was a remarkable young woman. She’d suffered the same circumstances as her mother-in-law but approached them differently. Rather than blame-shifting or abandoning either her new family or her budding faith, she doubled-down on commitment. Ruth famously said, “Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16 NKJ)

She might have returned to the comforts and familiarity of family and to the gods she’d worshipped as a child. Instead, Ruth chose the companionship of a grieving woman, a land filled with people who considered her an enemy, and a God who would bless her bloodline for her faithfulness.

Though it may be tattered or worn thin, He is able to increase even a mustard seed faith (Matthew 17:20) and grow beauty through hardship and perseverance.

When we walk through a season of suffering, we have a choice. Will we choose bitterness or faith?

 

A prayer if you’re struggling with faith today-

Father,

Life has been so difficult and my spirit is grieved. Some days, I feel as though my faith lies in tatters and I’m not sure it will ever recover. I know you “have plans to give me a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11) and I ask you to help me believe that will mend what is broken and restore what has been stolen. Give me a mustard seed faith, Lord, to trust you in all circumstances and root out any bitterness or other emotion that dishonors you.

In the powerful name of Christ, Amen

 

Peace and grace,

Tammy

P. S. I often linkup with these other wonderful bloggers.

Mondays   InstaEncouragementsMandy and MicheleKingdom Bloggers,

Tuesdays RaRa Linkup /GraceFull Tuesday / Tell His Story/Anchored Abode,

Wednesdays   Worth Beyond RubiesRecharge Wednesday Welcome Wednesday /LetsHave Coffee/

Thursdays Heart Encouragement  /  Tune In Thursday  /Salt and Light /  Five Minute Friday

Friday Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network, Grace and Truth Linkup

Thunder rolled across the Montana prairie in a rage and ragged flashes of lightning weaved across the sky in a wild frenzy–showcasing its dangerous beauty. The wind lashing against the A-frame farmhouse sounded high and sharp, like a train whistle as it hurried through the one-horse town a few miles down the road.

The sky, usually lit by a brilliant canvas of stars, was inky and impenetrable. Earlier in the day, I’d been given the opportunity to stay over with my grandparents and even as the storm erupted I remined content.

Until the moment the lights went out.

In some ways, I feel much like the child I was then. I see calamity and chaos rising all around–from a pandemic to fires laying waste to land that stretches from California to Australia. I hear the enraged roaring of those who feel entitled to war against others because they believe in liberation from respectability, and the cries of a broken generation carry across the airwaves as young men and women march in the streets–children who were raised without Hope.

Many churches remain vacant. Deemed unnecessary, they are empty shells that were once the cause of the nation. Though the enemy has attempted to close the mouths of those who speak the truth of Christ I learned a powerful lesson from that evening long ago–the light always shines brightest in the darkness.

As a child, I was enveloped by the night. Crying out in fear, I hurtled toward the safety of my grandfather’s arms. I hadn’t noticed the sound before but the banging of the tree branches against the windows magnified and I shuddered.

“Shhh…., you’re fine. We’re here with you,” my grandpa said. I could hear the smile in his voice as he gently handed me to my grandmother. “I’m going to get something.”

Within a few minutes, a beam of light penetrated the dark. Grandpa gave me one flashlight while he held another—their rays casting broad arcs of white across the length of the family room. The remainder of the evening, I stayed by grandpa clinging to the flashlight until my eyelids grew heavy with sleep.

Like a little girl seeking shelter in a storm, we can run to our Father in the darkest of times. When the clouds of calamity gather on the horizon and fear knocks on the door God tenderly whispers, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Then His brilliant light pierces the inkiest gloom.

It is in the darkness that His light shines the brightest.

Consider the brilliance of the rays fracturing the endless deep when God’s voice resounded, “Let there be light.” Where moments before only ebony existed, the Almighty spoke and split darkness with a word.

His presence penetrates the gloom of hatred, the violence of war, and the slurs of abuse. His glory shines from shadowy mountain clouds gathered at the apex of Mt. Sinai and illuminates the hearts of persecutors—forever altering their lives.

 

A prayer for today:

Father, in a world that seems to have lost its way we ask for your strength. You’ve told us to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9) because you are our salvation. While people shout malicious words and raise their fists against one another, we ask that you give us hearts of love and that the light of Christ would shine through us. May we be beacons of hope in a hurting world. Amen

Peace and grace,

Tammy

Mondays   InstaEncouragementsMandy and MicheleKingdom Bloggers,

Tuesdays RaRa Linkup /GraceFull Tuesday / Tell His Story/Anchored Abode,

Wednesdays   Worth Beyond RubiesRecharge Wednesday Welcome Wednesday /LetsHave Coffee/

Thursdays Heart Encouragement  /  Tune In Thursday  /Salt and Light /  Five Minute Friday

Friday Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network, Grace and Truth Linkup

Ask. Seek. Knock. These are the familiar words from scripture I’m reminded of as I read about the wise men from the East.

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod’s kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2, MSG)

Carols romanticize their journey, but traversing hostile territory for months and even years left a band of mysterious travelers vulnerable to ill-meaning enemies and a hostile environment. Sand storms. Raiders. A limited food supply.

Still, men following after nothing more than a star and the certainty of conviction sought the infant king, Jesus.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

Bold in their quest for the Promise of salvation, the men stirred up hatred within king Herod’s heart and fostered fear in the lives of those comfortable with the status-quo. After all, an infant king threatened the power and position of a man with a bent toward fits of rage and murder.

Neglecting their own safety, the foreigners pressed hard for answers.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

Whether they arrived at the child’s home with an entourage of camels and servants in tow or were merely a couple of bedraggled, travel-worn seekers, the men must have paused at the threshold of the simple village home.

They knew. This moment would forever alter both their lives and their eternal destiny.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. (Matthew 2:11 NIV)

 

If Christ is our focus we can pursue him relentlessly-
certain of a destination that ends with us...in His presence.
CLICK TO TWEET

Like wise men on a pilgrimage, we’ll wander into hostile territory. Face our own enemies of disease, distress, and difficulty. But, if Christ is our focus we can pursue him relentlessly–certain of a destination that ends with us in the glory of His presence as we offer our humble gifts of love and adoration.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

 

Thoughts to Ponder

  • What is your heart’s cry today? Is there something God longs to give you, but your pride, fear, or unbelief have kept you from asking for it?
  • Do you continue to seek Christ with the passion and devotion of the wise men or are you struggling to follow after faith? What action step can you take today to seek Him?
  • Do you raise your hand to knock at the door only to refuse yourself entrance because you believe you’re unworthy? Perhaps you turn away because of resentment, self-incrimination or shame. Christ stepped out of heaven and into a manger because He loves you–just as you are. Abandon your baggage at the threshold, Friend. Since He took it from you at the cross, you can leave it there.

 

Peace and grace,                                                                                                                           

Tammy

 

Mondays   InstaEncouragementsMandy and MicheleKingdom Bloggers,

Tuesdays RaRa Linkup /GraceFull Tuesday / Tell His Story/Anchored Abode,

Wednesdays   Worth Beyond RubiesRecharge Wednesday Welcome Wednesday /LetsHave Coffee/

Thursdays Heart Encouragement  /  Tune In Thursday  /Salt and Light /  Five Minute Friday

Friday Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network, Grace and Truth Linkup

 

Gray and forlorn, the skies promised rain and I tucked the first holiday CD into the disc player. The lonely strains of “I’ll be Home for Christmas” reminded me of all that was missing, and I glanced at the sweet boys playing near my feet. Chunky, plastic blocks and knob-wheeled trucks lay strewn about the floor as my preschooler curled his upper lip and uttered an imitation of a jet accelerating off the tarmac. The youngest, a robust infant with dimpled fingers and white-blond hair, gnawed on an icy teething ring.

“How would you like to make some sugar cookies, Benjamin?”

His head bobbing in agreement, the four-year-year old dropped the miniature F-18 replica and danced toward me—his smile my reward. My son perched beside me in his tiny Home Depot apron, we began assembling the ingredients. Baking sugar cookies on Thanksgiving was a tradition I refused to give up despite the unconventional circumstances.

The phone rang and I breathed a prayer, Please, Lord, then choked out a weak ‘Hello’?

The distinct crackling on the other end of the line was interrupted by the unfamiliar cadence of a man’s voice. “Ma’am, Happy Thanksgiving. I’d like to patch in a call from Lt. Kennington. Is that alright with you?”

It’d been weeks since I’d spoken to my husband and suddenly, he, and I—and the ham radio operator—were enjoying conversation. This wasn’t the Thanksgiving celebration I’d imagined. Instead of our family gathering around the table to celebrate together, we were separated by half a world as the man I loved served on the Navy’s version of a floating city while I parented and prayed from the home front.

But today was a day for gratitude.

Despite the loneliness, I wasn't alone. 
Regardless of distance, I was loved. Click To Tweet

Despite the loneliness, I wasn’t alone. Regardless of distance, I was loved. No matter the circumstances, God provided good gifts.
Many of you may be facing a season of uncertainty. A holiday without loved ones. A Thanksgiving bereft of its usual cheer and celebration. I am truly sorry. If I could, I’d invite you over for a mug of something warm and steamy. We’d share happy holiday memories or watch the snow float like miniature white-winged moths from the low-slung November canopy until it covered the tree branches as they reach to the sky in prayer.

His ear is attuned to the cry of those who are burdened. Click To Tweet

But my heart isn’t adequate to lessen your struggle and I can’t know the depth of loneliness, grief, or heartache you own. Someone else does and His ear is attuned to the cry of those who are burdened.

There might not be a shift in circumstances 
but when you lean into God,He remains steadfast. Click To Tweet

There might not be a shift in circumstances, a sudden answer to ongoing problems, or a change in what you’re experiencing, but when you lean into God during the hardest of times, He remains steadfast. Can I encourage you to whisper a prayer—even if it is only, “Please, Lord”?

He’ll hear you. Allow Him to pull you into the circle of holy arms where you’ll discover comfort. Feel the Father’s heartbeat. You’re never alone. You’re always loved. He will provide good gifts.

Even today is a day for gratitude.

Peace and grace,

Tammy

Mondays   Kingdom Bloggers,

Tuesdays RaRa Linkup / Tell His Story/Anchored Abode,InstaEncouragementsMandy and Michele

Wednesdays   Worth Beyond RubiesRecharge Wednesday Welcome Wednesday /LetsHave Coffee/

Thursdays Heart Encouragement  /  Tune In Thursday  /Salt and Light /  Five Minute Friday

Friday Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network, Grace and Truth Linkup

From the Bookshelf

If you’re hoping to discover a few good reads this fall, take a peek behind these book covers. They are sure to edify, challenge, and encourage your heart.

I'd forgotten to breathe in life and Light in the middle of mothering, marriage, and messy life. Click To Tweet

In a year marked by personal and global change, I’ve been forced to slow down. To stop making excuses and finally consider whether or not I’m stewarding my time and body well. When I read Kelly Balarie’s new book, Rest Now: 7 Ways to Say No, Set Boundaries, and Seize Joy, it was as I though I recognized my reflection in the mirror.

I’d forgotten to breathe in life and Light in the middle of mothering, marriage, and messy life. If you can relate, you may want to pick up a copy of Balarie’s book. It is a guide for getting away with Christ and learning to rest in Him. You’ll discover how to rest in weakness, forgiveness, humility, and more.

To cultivate what is most important is to live a life of great importance. Click To Tweet

Quote: “To cultivate what is most important is to live a life of great importance. Then moments have meaning. We give ourselves permission to be where we are. When we’re with our family, we can truly be with them. And when we’re with God, we’ll really be with God.”

 

Julie Lavender has created a go-to guide for every parent, grandparent, teacher, or any other person who enjoys spending time with little ones. Whether you’re stuck inside, far from home, snuggling, or playing games, you’ll find a variety of ways to engage that special child and brighten his days with moments that will last a lifetime.

This book would be a perfect shower gift or stocking stuffer! I highly recommend it.

Favorite Idea: Go for an outside prayer walk with your child. Pray aloud, thanking God for the provision of a roof over your heads and the love of family.

 

 

 

Practicing the Power of Prayer: Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Your Life by Sam Storms was a thought-provoking year marked by personal and global change, I’ve been forced to slow down, faith-stretching book. It’s the sort of “meaty” book I’ll read again because it isn’t quickly digested. Storms brings depth to topics almost all Christians can agree on, such as prayer, while tackling more controversial subjects, like prophecy.

Whether you agree or disagree with Storms, this book is sure to challenge your views of how the Holy Spirit operates.

Fasting tenderizes our hearts to experience the presence of God. Click To Tweet

Quote: “Fasting tenderizes our hearts to experience the presence of God. It expands the capacity of our souls to hear his voice and be assured of his love and be filled with the fullness of his joy.”

 

 

Quiet and overweight, the new girl in school was an easy target. She’d shuffle down the hall in nondescript clothing, her unkempt hair hanging across her face as if it knew she longed to be hidden. A year younger than she, I don’t recall her name although I remember the caustic words the pretty girls spewed as their victim sidled toward the row of lockers.

Something stinks.

Daintily waving their hands as if to ward off a stench, the two friends screwed their petite features in disgust and groaned. The boys and girls in the hallway began to titter in agreement and follow their lead. Something stinks.

I wanted to do something. I wanted to cry, but the quiet girl feigned ignorance and continued the long stretch toward class alone.

The silent, brown-haired tween moved away from our school as quickly as she’d arrived. There was no going away party and no opportunity to say good-bye.

I’ve often thought of her. I’d like to tell her I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t befriend her. I’m sorry I wasn’t brave. I’m sorry even children can be cruel, unkind, and uncaring. That even the most innocent of us judge others based on the world’s shallow standards of beauty, charm, and status.

Perhaps we can excuse away childhood callousness with psychobabble about pro-social behavior or not knowing any better. In adult circles, discrimination may be dressed up as inappropriate jesting as well as more overt practices. Lack of inclusion. Failure to hire. Avoidance. Sadly, those ruled by hatred may resort to violence-an occurrence with which we’ve become far too familiar.

...there is no place in the church for discrimination. Ever. 
#theywillknowusbyourlove #discrimination Click To Tweet

But there is no place in the church for discrimination. Ever.

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Using scripture to interpret scripture, we can learn more about God’s attitude toward discrimination. Let’s take a look at the following verse.

Matthew 22:15-16 (NIV) Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.

Oh, how I would love for God to say the same of me! Wouldn’t you?

Daughter, you are a woman of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others because…of who they are.

In the 90’s, country singer Shania Twain lent her voice to the tune “Don’t Impress Me Much”. Although the song’s message is worldly, it caught my attention as it poked fun at a woman’s self-consumed love interest and ended with the lines,

Okay, so what do you think, you’re Elvis or something
Whatever
That don’t impress me.

Christ lived a don’t-impress-me-much attitude.

Religion didn’t impress him. Power didn’t impress him. Wealth didn’t impress him. He gave up heavenly glory for earthly poverty in order to rescue you and me; in order to rescue the unimpressive.

Instead, Christ seeks after a life surrendered to Him.

Paul shares this powerful passage in Galatians 3:28 (NIV), “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

There are no differentiations in God's kingdom. No VIP sections. 
Only Emmanuel will receive our adoration. Click To Tweet

There are no differentiations in God’s kingdom. No VIP sections. No special boarding passes or red-carpet moments. Paparazzi won’t chase after Elijah or Esther; only Emmanuel will receive our adoration.

In the same way, we are to remember “we are all one in Christ Jesus”.

Reconsider the words of James 2:1-5.

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Both the rich and poor man described in the situation above are unexpected guests and neither is treated any differently than if they attended any other gathering. Let’s assume these men are unaware of Jesus’ saving grace. Will either of them be swayed by judgmental people within the body of believers? Will they come to know Him through me? Or you?

Christ’s people are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and, if we remain in Him, we will live differently. We will see, treat, and love others through the eyes of Christ. Oh, Friend—how often I fail when I live and walk in the flesh, but when the Spirit is in control of my heart, mind, and soul then transformation happens.

I care less about how others perceive me and more about how I can meet their needs. I’m less impressed by status and more interested in salvation. I look beyond race, creed, or color and see the tears, the pain, and a heart that pounds out the question, “Who will love me anyway?”.

James continues in verse 8, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.”

Love.

We are living in world that throws love around until the word seems to have lost its worth.

I love chocolate. (True.) I love dogs. I love sleeping in on Saturday. I love…fill in the blank.

But the love James refers to is sacrificial, life-giving love—the soul-deep, Christ-shaped love people long for without even realizing it. Pure, beautiful, unadulterated love flowing from the throne room into our living rooms, classrooms, and boardrooms. Spanning the invisible boundaries of white churches, black churches, Hispanic churches, and Korean churches.

Christ’s love is greater and more powerful than anything you and I will face individually, locally, nationally, or globally and we can be part of the answer. In Him, we are persevering, love-offering, Christ-sharing believers.

Reflect

What action step can you take today to “love your neighbor as yourself”?

In what way is God asking you to move beyond the invisible boundaries of status, color, or race in order to break down the barriers of favoritism within the church, your neighborhood, or community?

Are you struggling to find hope in this unsettling time? If so, I have a free gift for you today. Each month you will receive a Bible study article like the one you read today from my book, The Persevering Believer: Hope in Every Season. The first several days are already available and you can download the excert

Quiet and overweight, the new girl in school was an easy target. She’d shuffle down the hall in nondescript clothing, her unkempt hair hanging across her face as if it knew she longed to be hidden. A year younger than she, I don’t recall her name although I remember the caustic words the pretty girls spewed as their victim sidled toward the row of lockers.

Something stinks.

Daintily waving their hands as if to ward off a stench, the two friends screwed their petite features in disgust and groaned. The boys and girls in the hallway began to titter in agreement and follow their lead. Something stinks.

I wanted to do something. I wanted to cry, but the quiet girl feigned ignorance and continued the long stretch toward class alone.

The silent, brown-haired tween moved away from our school as quickly as she’d arrived. There was no going away party and no opportunity to say good-bye.

I’ve often thought of her. I’d like to tell her I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t befriend her. I’m sorry I wasn’t brave. I’m sorry even children can be cruel, unkind, and uncaring. That even the most innocent of us judge others based on the world’s shallow standards of beauty, charm, and status.

Perhaps we can excuse away childhood callousness with psychobabble about pro-social behavior or not knowing any better. In adult circles, discrimination may be dressed up as inappropriate jesting as well as more overt practices. Lack of inclusion. Failure to hire. Avoidance. Sadly, those ruled by hatred may resort to violence-an occurrence with which we’ve become far too familiar.

...there is no place in the church for discrimination. Ever. #theywillknowusbyourlove #discrimination Click To Tweet

But there is no place in the church for discrimination. Ever.

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Using scripture to interpret scripture, we can learn more about God’s attitude toward discrimination. Let’s take a look at the following verse.

Matthew 22:15-16 (NIV) Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.

Oh, how I would love for God to say the same of me! Wouldn’t you?

Daughter, you are a woman of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others because…of who they are.

In the 90’s, country singer Shania Twain lent her voice to the tune “Don’t Impress Me Much”. Although the song’s message is worldly, it caught my attention as it poked fun at a woman’s self-consumed love interest and ended with the lines,

Okay, so what do you think, you’re Elvis or something
Whatever
That don’t impress me.

Christ lived a don’t-impress-me-much attitude.

Religion didn’t impress him. Power didn’t impress him. Wealth didn’t impress him. He gave up heavenly glory for earthly poverty in order to rescue you and me; in order to rescue the unimpressive.

Instead, Christ seeks after a life surrendered to Him.

Paul shares this powerful passage in Galatians 3:28 (NIV), “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

There are differentiations in God's kingdom. No VIP sections. Only Emmanuel will receive our adoration. Click To Tweet

There are no differentiations in God’s kingdom. No VIP sections. No special boarding passes or red-carpet moments. Paparazzi won’t chase after Elijah or Esther; only Emmanuel will receive our adoration.

In the same way, we are to remember “we are all one in Christ Jesus”.

Reconsider the words of James 2:1-5.

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Both the rich and poor man described in the situation above are unexpected guests and neither is treated any differently than if they attended any other gathering. Let’s assume these men are unaware of Jesus’ saving grace. Will either of them be swayed by judgmental people within the body of believers? Will they come to know Him through me? Or you?

Christ’s people are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and, if we remain in Him, we will live differently. We will see, treat, and love others through the eyes of Christ. Oh, Friend—how often I fail when I live and walk in the flesh, but when the Spirit is in control of my heart, mind, and soul then transformation happens.

Living Out a Christ-Shaped Love in Opposition to Discrimination Click To Tweet

I care less about how others perceive me and more about how I can meet their needs. I’m less impressed by status and more interested in salvation. I look beyond race, creed, or color and see the tears, the pain, and a heart that pounds out the question, “Who will love me anyway?”.

James continues in verse 8, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.”

Love.

We are living in world that throws love around until the word seems to have lost its worth.

I love chocolate. (True.) I love dogs. I love sleeping in on Saturday. I love…fill in the blank.

Living Out a Christ-Shaped Love in Opposition to Discrimination Click To Tweet

But the love James refers to is sacrificial, life-giving love—the soul-deep, Christ-shaped love people long for without even realizing it. Pure, beautiful, unadulterated love flowing from the throne room into our living rooms, classrooms, and boardrooms. Spanning the invisible boundaries of white churches, black churches, Hispanic churches, and Korean churches.

Christ’s love is greater and more powerful than anything you and I will face individually, locally, nationally, or globally and we can be part of the answer. In Him, we are persevering, love-offering, Christ-sharing believers.

Reflect

What action step can you take today to “love your neighbor as yourself”?

In what way is God asking you to move beyond the invisible boundaries of status, color, or race in order to break down the barriers of favoritism within the church, your neighborhood, or community?

Are you struggling to find hope in this unsettling time? If so, I have a free gift for you today. Each month you will receive a Bible study article like the one you read today from my book, The Persevering Believer: Hope in Every Season. The first several days are already available and you can download them here.  I pray they are a blessing to you.

Peace and grace,

Tammy

I often link up with the following wonderful bloggers:

Mondays   InstaEncouragementsMandy and MicheleKingdom Bloggers,

Tuesdays RaRa Linkup /GraceFull Tuesday / Tell His Story/Anchored Abode,

Wednesdays   Worth Beyond RubiesRecharge Wednesday Welcome Wednesday /LetsHave Coffee/

Thursdays Heart Encouragement  /  Tune In Thursday  /Salt and Light /  Five Minute Friday

Friday Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network, Grace and Truth Linkup

I pray they are a blessing to you.

Peace and grace,

Tammy

I often link up with the following wonderful bloggers:

Mondays   InstaEncouragementsMandy and MicheleKingdom Bloggers,

Tuesdays RaRa Linkup /GraceFull Tuesday / Tell His Story/Anchored Abode,

Wednesdays   Worth Beyond RubiesRecharge Wednesday Welcome Wednesday /LetsHave Coffee/

Thursdays Heart Encouragement  /  Tune In Thursday  /Salt and Light /  Five Minute Friday

Friday Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network, Grace and Truth Linkup

Only God can intervene. He gives me glimpses of hope and occasional moments, hours-sometimes a day or two-of beautiful, bright light shining from the typically shuttered eyes of the young man I love and adore.

Once upon a time, mirth danced in those eyes. But the child disappeared behind the silhouette of depression and now a mother’s heart beats out a prayer every day for the young man.

Please, Lord, have mercy. Give him your peace today.

When you fight depression on behalf of your child, it’s as if “a sword has pierced your own heart” because you can’t bear your child’s cross no matter the desire. I would even take on depression, once my own companion, if it meant my son could live free of it.

But only God is able to remove the heaviness, so I continue in my prayers.

Please, Lord, have mercy. Give him your peace today.

How deceptive is the Shadow's call, luring one deeper until little else can be heard-except for the small, still voice of Truth.#depressionawarenessmonth Click To Tweet

Maybe depression holds you or your loved one captive. How deceptive is the Shadow’s call, luring one deeper until little else can be heard—except for the small, still voice. The voice of Truth reaching out. I will never leave you nor forsake you. Resist. Fight.

But how does one fight when strength is diminished? And how do mothers, wives, and sisters wage war against depression as we support those we hold dear?

How does one fight when strength is diminished?#fightdepression#depressionawarenessmonth Click To Tweet

There are three keys to remember when battling depression whether you’re struggling, or you are storming the gates of heaven for a loved one. They are: Position, Practice, and Power.

Position
Ephesians 2:6 tells us that “He raised us up with Him and seated us in the heavenly realms with our beloved Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King.” (The Voice) Despite what we know of ourselves, regardless of our sinfulness, God sees us as pure and holy through the sinless nature of Christ-at least once we received Him through faith.

Our position, then, is one of strength. Through our weakness, He is made strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

If He is faithful to me, He will be faithful to my son and He will be faithful to you.#depression#mentalhealth Click To Tweet

While I long to see my son delivered from depression and fail to understand why God hasn’t answered years of prayer, I know He is faithful. If He is faithful to me, He will be faithful to my son and He will be faithful to you.

Whether or not this mother’s prayer is answered this side of heaven, my son is seated with Christ. He is promised:
-life abundant (John 10:10)
-that he will bear much fruit (John 15:5)
-his needs will be met (Philippians 4:19)
-God’s presence (Hebrews 13:5)
-eternal life (John 3:16)

These, too, are the precious promises that belong to you as a Christ-follower. No matter the momentary struggles we face, victory is ours through Jesus. There is more to life than what we experience here and now.

Practice
The practice of praise and prayer are essential to overcoming depression. If you’re suffering from depression, journaling prayers or reading through the Psalms can be a comfort. Many of them were written by David, who understood the darkness of depression.

Psalm 42 is one of my favorites.

Praising God seems like an odd suggestion, but research supports what God knew from before time began. Fostering a heart of thankfulness or gratitude increases happiness. Reciting a few favorite Bible verses, naming people for whom we’re thankful, or listening to a favorite playlist moves our focus heavenward and helps us maintain an eternal perspective.

Feel free to start with my Praise and Worship playlist.

Power
Depression is powerful. It can cloud judgment and steal joy, but I have news that sometimes gets lost amid the struggle.

God is bigger.
God is stronger.
God is more powerful.

I know there will come a day when “He will wipe away every tear…and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

What joy awaits!

That is the last tear you'll ever cry, child.#hope#mentalhealth Click To Tweet

Just as I stooped over my child after he’d skinned a knee years ago, our Father will kneel by you and me, gently gathering the last bit of sadness on the edge of His thumb and whisper, “That is the last tear you’ll ever cry, child.”

Power and might are in His hand.

Depression is painful and I wish my tears could wash it away. For now I’ll press on, recognizing my own position in Christ along with that of my son’s as I daily practice praise and prayer. Above all, I cling to the truth that I serve a God of power who renews, restores, and resurrects.

Peace and grace,
Tammy

This is Depression Awareness Month. If you or a loved one struggles with depression and you haven’t asked for help, reach out to a trained Christian counselor or therapist. Besides your local church, SAMHSA and the DBSA Alliance can provide helpful resources. As always, please don’t hesitate to let me know if I can pray for you.

 

 I often link up with the following wonderful bloggers:

Mondays   InstaEncouragements Mandy and MicheleKingdom Bloggers,

Tuesdays RaRa Linkup /GraceFull Tuesday / Tell His Story/Anchored Abode,

Wednesdays   Worth Beyond RubiesRecharge Wednesday Welcome Wednesday /LetsHave Coffee/

Thursdays Heart Encouragement  /  Tune In Thursday  /Salt and Light /  Five Minute Friday

Friday Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network, Grace and Truth Linkup

We couldn’t revive her limp body.

I’d rubbed the silken bottoms of her feet and called out her name in an attempt to awaken her-but I’d known. She wasn’t breathing.

Each second collapsed into eternity as my husband bent over our daughter’s tiny frame; his measured exhale filling her lungs and returning useless. Time expanded and hope grew dim as my baby lay unmoving and lifeless. Two minutes. Three minutes. Four.

Still, my husband continued. Puff. Puff. Compress. Puff. Puff. Compress. 

Five minutes and then a ragged, raspy inhale. The sickly, ashen color vanished from my daughter’s face vanished and was replaced by beautiful creams and pinks.

Revival.

After the darkest night? The most glorious morning. #revival #joycomesinthemorning Click To Tweet

After the darkest night? The most glorious morning.

The child I’d beheld before with such love and tenderness, I valued even more for she was the precious one God returned into my aching arms.

Perhaps I would have the same sort of longing for my faith if it were torn from me. But where I live, faith is still protected. Neither my livelihood nor my life is threatened because I’m a Christian. Instead, my faith is stealthily picked away at by ease and amusement. Busyness and bustling. Serving and seeking after.

I forget my appointment with God because my schedule is full–sometimes by activities meant to bring glory to Him. But in giving up God for the “good”, how much have I lost? I’m convinced my heart, the Church, the nation, and our world need a revival as much as my daughter’s unresponsive body did years ago.

Revival Comes at the Darkest of Times
God had been silent for four hundred years while the people of Israel were pawned from one ruler to the next. Now, Herod served as a Roman puppet and even many of the religious leaders of Israel were corrupt-hawking animals used in the sacrifices to the top bidders.

Suddenly, the Lord broke into the status quo. Descending into the midst of a priest’s worship, the angel of the Lord said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:13, 16-17 NIV)

Have you ever prayed for years and felt as though God refused to answer? Doubted He heard you? Friend, the people of Israel had prayed for their Messiah for four hundred years and life was grim. War, fear, unrest, and death were a familiar part of everyday life.

While God is the one to decide when He'll move, we must be prepared to respond. #letyourlightshine #eyestowardheaven Click To Tweet

In the same way, God’s people have been praying for a revival of the Holy Spirt in the Church. While God is the one to decide when He’ll move, we must be prepared to respond.

Walk With Integrity
If this is the time chosen, are we ready? Am I? Are you?

According to Luke 1:6, Zechariah and Elizabeth were used by the Lord because “They were good and just people in God’s sight, walking with integrity in the Lord’s ways and laws.” (The Voice) This doesn’t imply they were sinless, but that God noted the condition of their hearts. They were in step with Him; daily living with their Lord in mind.

I know the condition of my heart and I wouldn’t measure up, but for Christ. Still, I want to live for Him. I long for others to see Jesus in my life. To know they are seen and heard when they speak with me. To know there is a wonderful Someone who came and gave all to rescue them.

Scripture tells me to set aside the chaos and soak in the things of Christ.

I am to:
pray continually (Philippians 4:6)
remain in Christ (John 15:5)
ask for wisdom (James 1:5)
yield my life (Matthew 16:24)

so that I might

take hold of peace (Philippians 4:7)
bear much fruit (John 15:8)
live a life that is “overflowing with mercy and blessings” (James 3:18 MSG) and
lose my life only to rediscover it in Christ (Matthew 16:24-27 NIV)

and, ultimately, give Him the glory. (John 15:8)

Revival (or not) it is All About Him

...revival or not, it is all about Him. #allaboutHim #revivalornot Click To Tweet

Like a perfectly synchronized event, my daughter took her first shaky draught of air at the exact moment several burly firefighters burst into our home. I was shouting out a thank you to God and weeping while my husband gathered the baby into his arms and then handed her to me.My little one had no pulse. No heartbeat. No breath. Five minutes passed before her life revived before our eyes and I could do nothing except thank God for his mercy.

In the same way, when God decides to shower revival on the land and in the midst of our churches he will move in remarkable ways in the lives of ordinary people. But I don’t want to falter like Zacharias who doubted the words of God; I want to respond with Mary’s heart, “I am the Lord’s servant.” (Luke 1:38)

Whether or not the pandemic continues…
whether or not riots rage…
whether or not elections and leaders rise and fall…
whether or not economies falter or topple…
whether or not personal health is at risk…
whether or not ______________(fill in the blank)
whether or not revival comes…
Jesus is the Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, and the Resurrected Lamb. Today, I choose to give Him the glory.

After all, revival or not, it is all about Him.

Peace and grace,

Tammy

I often link up with the following wonderful bloggers:

Mondays   InstaEncouragements Mandy and MicheleKingdom Bloggers,

Tuesdays RaRa Linkup /GraceFull Tuesday / Tell His Story/Anchored Abode,

Wednesdays   Worth Beyond RubiesRecharge Wednesday Welcome Wednesday /LetsHave Coffee/

Thursdays Heart Encouragement  /  Tune In Thursday  /Salt and Light /  Five Minute Friday

Friday Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network, Grace and Truth Linkup

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