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Posts Tagged ‘Christian living’

This is a Christian–one who dares to act as if God tells the truth.”  –Pastor Mark Bates

Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.

His life reads like a Hollywood movie–the culmination of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, forced to seek refuge in a distant land, and then offering his life in place of the soldiers who pierced his hands and feet…suffering for the sins of those who pressed a crown of thorns on his head…pronouncing words of forgiveness to a discarded, frightened man bearing the shame of Golgotha.

But, this is not a child’s fairy tale or a superstitious myth dreamed up to explain the unexplainable.  This is Biblical truth; the great love story of God rescuing His people from that great enemy, Sin. The beautiful giving of His life for those willing to risk belief.

Yet the world threatens to overcome…to overwhelm…to overpower belief.

A young man just beginning to live takes his own life–desperate for relief from consuming depression, a child’s small bones ache from arthritis, a next-door neighbor submits to another round of chemo and hopes she’ll have enough energy to play with her children tomorrow.

But there is a story much bigger than our smaller stories–these lives of struggle and prayer, tears and hope.  It is His story–one recorded for us–that tells of the Lion and the Lamb…the Beginning and the End….the Resurrection and the Life.

And while the world threatens, He promises to give abundant life (John 10:10)

…to provide freedom (John 8:36)

…and to love us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3).

I dare to believe–to act as if what God says is true. Won’t you? Let us encourage one another to hold to our faith, dear Friend, even when we doubt.

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Leave a Jesus-impressionI cupped the butterfly in my hands–watching its wings gracefully open and close. It’s gossamer sails resembled the stained glass of a country church when the sunlight streams through the kaleidoscope of colors and I oohed and ahhed at its beauty.

Gently grasping black-tipped wings, I settled the creature in a field of clover and watched it for a few more minutes. Holding my hands up toward the sky, I tilted them first one way and then another. The butterfly’s scales had left a filmy sheen on my fingers and palm and I worried. Oh, please, let the butterfly dance in the wind again!

Are you like the butterfly? Have you been mishandled? Mistreated? Have you left bits of you behind where life has brushed hard against you?

Sometimes, the impact of brushing against life has sent me spiraling headlong into self. Self-preservation. Self-protection. Self-pity. And I concentrate more on the marks left on me–those places rubbed raw and left vulnerable–instead of looking to the One who strengthens and transforms me through the ebb and flow of living human.

I’ve forgotten to consider…what sort of impression have I left behind when others see the struggle? Has the whole of the difficult been about me or are other lives different…changed…or even better in some way because in the pressing into and through the hard places something like a spiritual transfer occurred? During those times do people see Jesus in me?

A dear woman I know is beginning her second round of  chemotherapy. Transluscent skin peeks from beneath the covers while Patty tells us this is her second missionary journey. Her life is being swallowed by the great, devouring enemy of cancer, but when she is pressed? Rubbed against? The words that flow from her mouth are gentle and sweet…offering hope and forever-life to other cancer patients…nurses…doctors.

Oh, that I when I brush hard against life I could be a woman like my friend. I don’t think it’s easy. We begin to leave Jesus-impressions when we soak our hearts in His word. His power. His presence. And isn’t that our calling?

Friend, where are you meant to leave a Jesus-impression today?

Blessings,

Tammy

 

Linking up this week at:

 

 

tellhisstory-badge84db8e61-cd51-4934-bd6d-340333068aac_zpse413a87cGraceTruth-600x800

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Summer Giveaway! (1)https://tammykennington.wordpress.com/

My God-sized dream is to meet with you here and to make a small difference in your life and the lives of others through simple, authentic words splashed across a screen. When I write? I pray for you. I want to lessen your heavy load and celebrate your special moments.

I want to dive deep into the places of our lives and hearts that most call out for mercy and mending, encouragement and hope. Into those quiet corners tucked behind the everything-is-great-all-of-the-time church smile. Below the easy response of I’m fine to the truth of each woman’s life–the joys, the struggles and everything in between.

As I map out the next few months, I’d like to ask for your input. What topic would you like to explore? How can I come alongside you?

Would you respond in the comment section and let me know if any of the following areas strike a chord? If not, what other heart journey should venture into together?

To be entered in a GIVEAWAY for this beautiful dragonfly necklace just do these two things.

Dragonfly Necklace

1) vote for your favorite topic or series in the comment section below

AND

2) share this post with a friend who might want to be part of the giveaway. You’ll get an additional entry for each friend who joins us for the GIVEAWAY. 

Topics I’m thinking about might include:

  • Steps of Obedience
  • 16 Days–Who Does God Say that I Am?
  • Walking In Forgiveness
  • God Can
  • Trusting God

Thank you for sharing the deep place that  resonates with your heart.

Warm Regards,

Tammy

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Peering beneath the edge of the steel frame where the carpet and dark space intersect, I imagined all sorts of evil lurking in the five inches of space beneath the mattress and covers.  Nibbling at the edge of a fingernail, I shifted from side to side considering my options. The risks? Certain punishment if I refused to quickly locate myself beneath the warmth of sleep-inducing blankets or—to my impressionable mind—possible capture by whatever monster or boogie man lurked beneath the confines of a seemingly innocent piece of furniture.

At the tender age of four or five, Shadow had become a thing of nightmares and illusory power.

Too often, though, it seems our fear of Shadow follows us into adulthood. While disguised in more grown-up form, we still tremble at its existence and our thoughts are filled with untrue or unfulfilled imagery that leads us from a place of comfort into the obscure illusion of “What If?”

The “What If’s” come in many shapes and may be different for each of us.

What if…my husband leaves me?

 What if…my child dies?

 What if…I’m really never happy?

 What if…this wound refuses to heal?

 What if? What if? What if?

 Oh, dear One, the Shadow of What If is—and always has been—a robber of joy and imitator of truth designed to obscure the Light of Hope. We fight each dark pursuer—out of breath and in need of relief. Somehow, we’re certain a jab or swing in the Shadow’s direction will ensure some sort of relief. So we listen to Oprah…read books by Dr. Oz…try the newest diet trend…anything to help us battle the dark, elusive threat that is our greatest Fear.

But in so much of the struggle we rely on ourselves—forgetting the promises of scripture. Psalm 23 reminds us that even when we’re surrounded by a darkness so deep it casts death’s shadow, He is there! Even in the most frightening of times or the loneliest moments he guides…protects…comforts. He is the one who will manage our struggles and wage our battles.

Our futile attempts at Shadow boxing can cease. No more useless jabbing or dodging. Let’s give the battle to the Champion of hearts and souls—the giver of life, conqueror of death, and victor over sin and its effects.

 Suggested Scripture and Questions for Reflection

Read Psalm 23.

What dark valleys has God guided you through already? If your journey is taking you through a place filled with Shadows are you relying upon the Shepherd—or self? I know I struggle with this–vacillating back and forth.

As a gentle reminder to yourself about God’s abounding faithfulness and protection, reread Psalm 23. This time, replace each “me” with your name and “my” with the pronoun “her”.

A David Psalm (MSG)

23 1-3 God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.

 

Linking up today with–

SL_buttonLIVEFREETHURSDAYGrace-Moments-thursday

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Love each otherLife seemed to take a wrong turn when her younger brother was diagnosed with cancer. Together, they relocated to Manhattan where some of the best treatments were available–far from the slower-paced, small town in Colorado. Physically distanced from family and friends and immersed in a world of sterile hospital rooms and uncompromising statistics, loneliness became an cloying companion.

Unwilling to foster an ongoing relationship with isolation, a determined                   twenty-something dialed the suicide hotline. She told the soothing voice on the other end of the line about her desperation. She spoke of a sense of worthlessness. Then, she explained the reason for the call.

Ready to break the chains of loneliness, Daniel Hernandez offered to step away from her own pain by embracing the stories belonging to others. For two years, Daniel volunteered as a voice of comfort and encouragement to the desperate and disillusioned, the hurting and the hopeless.

Is it possible loneliness is your unsolicited sidekick, as well? Does isolation invade the space of healthy relationship in your life ? Are you, perhaps, even coddling loneliness because of its familiarity? Or, when you look at others with the eyes of Christ do you notice the lonely ones? They are everywhere–hoping someone will take a moment to smile…engage…love like Jesus.

Today, I’m issuing a challenge. Friend, whether you are lonely or not–will you allow your struggle in the now to motivate you toward investing in someone’s tomorrow? You don’t need to be the voice on one end of a hotline to make a difference. Just take one simple step–invite a neighbor for coffee, ring up an old friend, plan a date night with your husband.

Let’s break the chains of loneliness.

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When my pastor shared a statistic in a recent sermon, I allowed my gaze to settle on the faces of those around the room. How many felt a painful stab of recognition when he mentioned the hidden epidemic?

It might have been the young mama who attends church each week while her husband serves the country in a dusty land halfway around the world. Or, perhaps one of its victims was the teen girl who shifted uneasily at its mention. She’s the one with the dare-you-to-say-anything expression—physically distanced from her family; arms crossed in an attempt to fend off well-meaning attempts to approach her. Maybe the words penetrated the heart of the smartly dressed elderly woman—the woman whose smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes. When I greeted her, she mentioned that her husband refuses to venture beyond the confines of their home. Could she be the face of the statistic?

Who, I wondered, are the lonely ones?                back-1822702_1920

 The statistics are alarming. The General Social Survey reveals that the number of people without one close friend has tripled since 1985 and more people than ever report feelings of chronic loneliness.

In our LinkedIn, Facebook-friendly world, why are more people battling with the pain of loneliness than ever before?

I believe loneliness stems from our deep soul-need to know and be known—intimatelypersonally…unreservedly—and to be loved and accepted despite the knowing.

I invite you to join me this month as we explore 16 Days–Breaking the Chains of Loneliness. Our families, churches, and communities need women willing to reach out—women called to pray, serve, and encourage. Let’s be lover’s of the lonely!

And, Friend, if you are a lonely one? I’m praying for you! God knows your need–your heart. He whispers your name and promises to “never forsake or leave you”.

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Greeting me with a smile, my friend announced with conviction, “I think I should focus on the positive things. I need to be more grateful for the good that is happening.”

Considering the discussion, I began imagining what it might be like if we—God’s women—consistently chose gratitude. How might hearts overflowing with thanks transform our lives? Could the life of a Christ-follower unburdened by the weight of thanklessness more powerfully impact others?

As prone to grumbling as anyone else, I often catch myself murmuring about the inconsequential…noticing the small stuff…losing sight of the eternal because I’m running hard into the right now of life. And, honestly, much of my thanklessness centers on me–focuses on the inconveniences common to the first-world problems of Self.

Can’t anyone remember to wash the toothpaste out of the sink?

Won’t someone please pick up the socks?

I don’t understand why nobody rinses the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

 During these complaint-filled times, my children avoid me—gesturing wildly at one another to escape upstairs. Dave, the love of my life and skilled interpreter of both my tone and actions, suddenly realizes he needs to send an email. Even the dog wanders to a quiet corner—protected from the words of an ungrateful woman.

But walking in gratitude? Humility expressed in thanks? Gratefulness rightly directed toward God? These are the marks of a right attitude…the differentiation between those things that are important and those that are temporal…the willingness to bend a knee in recognition of the One who deserves all thanks and praise.

This month, let’s choose to live intentionally grateful. Will you join me? Let’s exchange criticism for thanks, ungrateful hearts for spirits abounding in gratitude, and negativity for right attitudes shaped by humility in our position as followers and servants of Jesus.

 

Scripture for Reflection

 Psalm 136 The Message (MSG)

1-3 Thank God! He deserves your thanks.
His love never quits.
Thank the God of all gods,
His love never quits.
Thank the Lord of all lords.
His love never quits.

4-22 Thank the miracle-working God,
His love never quits.
The God whose skill formed the cosmos,
His love never quits.
The God who laid out earth on ocean foundations,
His love never quits.
The God who filled the skies with light,
His love never quits.
The sun to watch over the day,
His love never quits.
Moon and stars as guardians of the night,
His love never quits.
The God who struck down the Egyptian firstborn,
His love never quits.
And rescued Israel from Egypt’s oppression,
His love never quits.
Took Israel in hand with his powerful hand,
His love never quits.
Split the Red Sea right in half,
His love never quits.
Led Israel right through the middle,
His love never quits.
Dumped Pharaoh and his army in the sea,
His love never quits.
The God who marched his people through the desert,
His love never quits.
Smashed huge kingdoms right and left,
His love never quits.
Struck down the famous kings,
His love never quits.
Struck Sihon the Amorite king,
His love never quits.
Struck Og the Bashanite king,
His love never quits.
Then distributed their land as booty,
His love never quits.
Handed the land over to Israel.
His love never quits.

23-26 God remembered us when we were down,
His love never quits.
Rescued us from the trampling boot,
His love never quits.
Takes care of everyone in time of need.
His love never quits.
Thank God, who did it all!
His love never quits!

 LIVEFREETHURSDAY

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Six years ago, he stood watch over army operations from behind a wall of sandbags and barbed wire. Launching the drone from the remote desert site, the man noticed something unusual on the monitor. Leaning in close, his pulse quickened as he realized the gravity of the situation. Lives were at stake!

Without hesitating, he made the call.

Don’t fire! Do. Not. Fire. Civilians at risk! For what seemed like an eternal moment, there was no response.

Then, finally, with hesitation another voice answered. Sir? Are you sure?

I’m certain. Do not pull the trigger.

If you say so, Commander.

 That day dozens of lives were rescued—because one soldier responded to the words of someone with a broader vision…more knowledge…a better understanding of the circumstances.

Like the officer following orders have you ever doubted the wisdom behind someone’s request? Do you sometimes whisper internally—this doesn’t make any sense? What is he thinking!?

 

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 I have to admit I sometimes find myself voicing these same words as I pray. I don’t understand, Lord. Why are you asking me to do this…trust in this way…follow you here? And my heart and mind struggle to see the larger picture.

When my little boy was born physically handicapped? The moment my daughter stopped breathing? That time God wanted me to love people who were intentionally hurtful?

Why would Christ ask me to follow Him…trust him…expect more in these situations? Because in both the calm and in the midst of the storm, the Grace Giver will do “abundantly more than you ask or imagine”. (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)

I may not understand life’s landscape. But Jesus? He doesn’t just know the beginning from the end—He is the Beginning and the End.

My fear or worry may threaten to overwhelm a barely-there faith. But the Comforter and Advocate who lives within–a gift from heaven–counsels with the truths I so easily forget.

Can you relate, Friend? Do you hear yourself repeating the same questions I’ve asked? Do you, too, sometimes wonder about the way in which God is directing you to respond to difficult–even painful circumstances?   Are you struggling to understand how He can work through the hard of your situation?

I want to challenge you. Take a chance! Christ makes himself known in the smallest expression of faith and the expectancy of belief. Let’s live what we believe!  Just four words can change your life and mine…if you say so.

Scripture for Reflection

Luke 5:1-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Phil. 4:19-20

John 14:16-17

 

 

LIVEFREETHURSDAY

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Looking forward to a day enjoying the mid-summer beauty of Colorado, my parents and I chatted casually.  We spoke of aunts…uncles…jobs…and my two spirited, live-wire little boys.  As if their mention alerted me to the sudden quiet of the picnic area, my head banked almost involuntarily from left to right.  Ben? Check.  Connor?  Oh. My. Goodness.

When Connor was small, he was the gregarious, adventurous sort who required the oft-dismissed-as-a-diminutive-torture-device “safety leash” in airports.  (I know…I know–some of you are violently opposed to its use.  But, please, be merciful in your criticism. You can only understand if you, too, had a Connor.)

He was the toddler who bypassed every child safety toilet lid and managed to circumvent the double-locked, baby-proofed front entry door to cavort happily on the sidewalk in nothing but his itty-bitty birthday suit.

At the tender age of three, Connor managed to launch himself–and his trusty hobby horse, Cocoa, from our top flight of stairs.  Thankfully, no animals (or children) were harmed during the recording of the family video.  

Naturally, any time my sweet boy was quiet or escaped my view–well, I silently panicked. Inhale.  Exhale.  Inhale. Exhale.  (Who knew lamaze would prove useful after childbirth?)

Quickly assessing the situation, I rallied the troops. The family dispersed with each of us calling out for my nursery-school scamp.  Becoming more desperate with each passing moment, my mother’s heart rejoiced at the sound of Connor’s tiny voice answering mine. “I’m up here, mama!”

Surveying the row of cliffs in front of me, I finally noticed Connor mounted at the edge of a massive, sandstone rock.  There he stood–victorious and proud in a pair of 5T shorts and his favorite Elmo shirt–while I had to push past the fear lodged in my throat to speak.

“Connor.  Don’t move!  It’s very important that you don’t move!  Mommy will be up there right away.”

The next words Connor spoke have continued to define much of his life.                           “Don’t worry, mom.  I’m not afraid to die.”

On the other hand, I have nearly always lived my life–well, cautiously.  Some people fly airplanes or climb the highest peaks.  I religiously review the safety rules in the “front pocket of the seat back” any time I fly the friendly skies. I adore swimming in the ocean–if my husband is by my side–and while the idea of a Caribbean cruise is romantic, I’m afraid the bottle of Lysol in my hand (to ward off unwelcome stomach viruses) and the orange-vest-turned-accessory (Did you ever watch The Titanic?!) would dampen the mood.

You’re beginning to understand.  I. Am. Not. Brave.

And through the grace of God, I choose Jesus anyway.  What do I mean? Following Christ is not all sunshine and roses.  Jesus and the apostles were straightforward about the cost of walking the narrow path.  There was no nuance, hidden agenda, or carefully prepared marketing plan.

Good bye easy street; hello rocky road.

The scriptures are almost dire–

 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

and

                      “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”               2  Timothy 3:12

So…why follow Jesus?  Because, dear Friend, there is something far greater than living for self or deflecting momentary judgement by a broken world.

This Christian journey may be filled with peril.  There will be an Adversary.  But, there is the guarantee–of knowing Christ more fully…of living life deeply…and of sharing Hope.  Even those of us who lack bravery can find courage in the beauty of such a promise.

Will you join me?

Scripture for Reflection

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ… (Phillipians 3:8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A momentary visit to an online population clock revealed this number— 7,386,695,958. On November 9, 2015 at approximately 8:20 p.m. there are more than 7 billion people on earth. Me? Not one in a million…not even one in a billion.

My life is small measured by numbers.

With fewer than 300 Facebook friends, no more than 75 people on my Christmas card list, just three or four people I could turn to in a major crisis, and with a life expectancy of about 80 years how can I expect to make a difference?

My life is small measured by social performance.

I haven’t earned any awards. I am not a Nobel Peace Prize winner or a Rhodes Scholar. I don’t have a Teacher of the Year Award to hang on the wall. I can’t even claim to be the PTA president. How can I expect to make a difference?

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My life is small, but like most of us I long to make an impact…to change lives…to do something bigger and better than I ever imagined possible. But those differences? They aren’t discovered in the spotlight of self-adulation. Changing lives? That doesn’t happen tucked neatly behind the clean lines of a carefully maintained lawn and closed shades.

Impact…changed lives…something bigger than me? It happens in the showing up–in the obvious action of loving someone through their hard and in their hurt. Impact exists in the giving of more than we have and digs deep into the place of faith where Christ enables the more.

If my life—small by every measure—has any value it comes not in living inward. Living is about loving others large! It is the meal prepared after an exhausting week at work for a neighbor bent over in pain from a broken heart and bleeding soul. It is the giving of time to speak with the woman in a Home Depot parking lot—the one holding a sign that says, “Please help”—and you are human to her. It is in the doing and the joining our life with others. We just need to show up…to love outward…to give more of ourselves even until we’re empty.

And in that place? To that person? In that moment? Even one small person among billions makes a difference.

Scripture for Reflection:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

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