I had no idea what was above me. I was focused on the stop sign to the right of me, or the people crossing the street, or changing the radio station in the car that day...I was not caught up in what was above me. But, suddenly - and I can't say why -- I looked up.
There I saw a brilliant display of nature. The sky was gorgeous. It was radiant, blue, red and purple hues strewn all over the sky. It seemed to convey the brilliance, the majesty and the beauty of God all at once. I would have missed it if I had kept my eyes on the million little things happening in front of me. I would have missed it if distraction had a greater hold on me than my desire to look up. I would have missed it if I wasn't aware that there is usually more than meets the eye.
Yet, I looked up. We are told in Scripture to -- look up.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Col. 3:2)
Lately, I've been earthly focused. I see politics. I see news articles. I see what is not happening in my world. I see issues with people. I see problems.
Yet, essentially, God tells me -- Kelly, do not set all that -- look up!
I love how Isaiah 40:26 NIV says it... "Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."
When we look up we don't get discouraged by what's raging all around. When we see higher, we get a higher perspective. When we look at what God has created, we remember He is Creator. We remember He can create a new thing at any time and at any moment.
This is rest.
Are you looking up -- remembering God's faithfulness? Giving thanks for what He is doing in your life today? Meditating on His Word? Singing of His goodness? Or, are you stuck in the muck of a million little distractions that are demanding your attention?
God is higher and stronger than everything and anything you may face today. Look up!
About “Rest Now: 7 Ways To Say No, Set Boundaries and Seize Joy”
If you feel overwhelmed, you're not alone. Three out of five people admit to doing more than they can manage. Thinking God requires this, we say, "I must be everything to everyone." Then we struggle and feel selfish and guilty when we say no, grow weary, or snap at someone out of sheer exhaustion. Is this what God desires? Somewhere along the line of being a good Christian, wife, daughter, or friend we lose sight of who we are in Christ. We put our performance above God and who he says we are. But what if we chose a more soul-full way?
Rest Now offers permission to breathe. It exposes the lies that distract, tire, and bully us, so we don't strive for rest but love from it, like Jesus did. Learn how to
- create boundaries that allow you to overflow with love
- say no so you don't hate yourself later
- ditch passive-aggressive behaviors in favor of healthy conversations
- embrace permission-giving thoughts to create mental space for God
About Kelly Balarie
Kelly is a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She’s a get-on-the-gloves kind of girl. By seeking God’s unending encouragement, she uncovers His deep callings right under the surface of her worst failings. Get all of Kelly’s Purposeful Faith blog posts by email for a dose of inspiration and encouragement. Kelly is a blogger at www.purposefulfaith.com, Crosswalk.com and iBelieve.com. Her work has been featured on Relevant and (in)courage.me, and as the cover story on Today’s Christian Woman.
Earlier this year, our team gathered together to pray and decide on topics that we felt the Lord was putting before us to encourage, challenge, and strengthen women around the world this year through our blog, videos, and discussion on the Community. The topic of LEADERSHIP was brought to the table and immediately, two women came to mind... Pam Smith and Melanie Resendes. After talking with them and reading their thoughts on leadership, I (Lyndsay) was in tears. I needed to hear so much of this personally and I felt a big, fat confirmation that our choice in asking them to partner with us on the topic of leadership was 100% the Lord's influence and leading!
Pam and Melanie desperately love Jesus, their families, and the work God has put before them. While both are Boss Babes, each of them bring different strengths to their teams and have their own leadership style heavily influenced by Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit. We are so blessed to call them each a friend and have this conversation together today! I'll let them introduce themselves and we'll let's get this thing started...
Melanie and Pam, thank you both for letting us glean from your fields here on the blog. We've got some real nourishment, encouragement, and refreshment from you both today! We appreciate your candor, vulnerability, and wisdom. You both have some deep wells and we are so so grateful for you, your ministries, and all that God is doing in you, through you, and around you.
We'd love to continue this conversation with all of you beautiful women on the Community so head over there and let's chat!
Did God speak to you through this conversation today?
What is He showing you?
How can we support you or champion you to grow in leadership and obey Jesus more today than yesterday?
You are so loved,
Pretty & Wise Co.
Who are you? To be honest, the issue of identity has plagued me for years. When asked the ever-common question like “tell me about yourself,” I’ve always wanted to curl up in a ball. I’ve never felt like the person I imagined I would become actually came true. Over the years, when the struggle of infertility seemed to define me, I’ve had a hard time fighting despair over what I felt my life was supposed to look like and the loss of my own expectations. To be honest, I only based my identity on fragile circumstances I thought I could control, and when I realized I had no control it was sort of hard to put one foot in front of the other.
For us, infertility meant building our family in a different way, through adoption. Adoption is born of loss. At the same time, adoption is a thing of exquisite beauty. Strangers become family, not through blood, but through intention. So much so, that studies have shown increased oxytocin levels in caretakers who were involved parents. The long and short of it is that even though you didn’t biologically birth a child, your blood chemistry can change based on care and commitment. But if we were living in a perfect world, adoption would not be necessary.
When my husband and I started the adoption process, loss was one of the biggest training points in our adoption education. Everyone in the “adoption triad” (the birth family, adoptive family, and adoptee) generally come to adoption with a sense of loss. Adoptive parents may have suffered from infertility or miscarriages, birth mothers face the fact that they won’t be able to raise the child they carried, and adoptees will have to come to grips throughout their life with their identity that their families look different than everyone else’s. Older children who are adopted, even into loving homes, have vivid memories of their first parents and the trauma they endured. They often have a difficult time wrestling with their new reality or identity even if it is a good one. Oddly enough, they sometimes long for their first families even if they are in a more stable, loving, and permanent situation now.
Sometimes, as believers we can also struggle with identity. We want to embrace God’s promise that we are children of God, but we are confronted daily with our past sin, pain, loss, and disappointment. We long for stability, yet we put our identity in things that are temporary.
“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 the will of man, but of God.”
Our daughter is almost three years old and lately we watch a lot of animated movies (Thank you Disney plus!) If you’re not a fan of animation or Disney, bear with me for a moment, I promise I have a point. One of our daughter’s favorite movie series is Toy Story. In Toy Story 4, we’re introduced to Forky, a beloved friend and toy Bonnie, his kid owner, creates from items destined for the trash. Forky has a crisis of identity for most of the movie because he still believes he is trash and keeps running back to the trash can. The main character, Woody, keeps telling him, painstakingly, that Bonnie loves and values him. It takes much convincing for Forky to believe he does not belong in the trash bin. How many of you can relate? Knowing intellectually that we are loved by God but continually choosing the worthless things of this world because we don’t believe down deep that God’s love satisfies. God’s word tells us that we are holy and that we have great value, but yet often we do not feel holy. We do not feel like children of God. We do not feel worthy. We do not feel enough. Our past struggles sometimes scream at us that we are damaged, and even though it’s a lie, it feels more controllable to rely on the lie instead of trust in the whispers of God telling us the opposite. This leaves us disconnected from the one thing we truly need.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
“And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.”
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Simply put, sisters, God tells us who we are. We bear His image. The God who created every marvelous thing in nature, created us. Just as Bonnie fashioned Forky out of items that were destined for the trash and created her most valuable toy, God created us with design, intention and gives us our value. Christ became sin and gave his very life for us so that we could be saved from destruction. If we identify with our circumstances, we’ll find fear, brokenness and insufficiency. But just like Forky, we must constantly remind ourselves of who we are in Christ until His voice is louder than the voice of the enemy who tells us we are damaged. We must draw close to him as our Dad, even when we feel disconnected to that reality.
God is saying to us, “You are mine, and I take joy in you. You are my heart.” That kind of miraculous love is transformative, isn’t it? When we believe that, miracles are possible. God is not limited by bloodlines or brokenness. The same God who grafted wild branches into a natural tree is more than capable to transform sinful or broken orphans into children of God.
“After all, if you were cut out and grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree.”
Sometimes answers to the past are not readily found, but God is always near even when we don’t understand. Living in our new identity is a choice to believe in the unseen. We must cross the divide from what we know to be true and step out in faith as if our heart believes that it is true. We intentionally choose to walk in the truth of who God says we are, even when our circumstances don’t live up to what the world views as success. And when we do, we step back and watch the miracle maker write a story more fantastic than we could’ve ever written.
WRITTEN BY: LORI GREGORY
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John 15 is one of my absolute, hands-down favorite chapters in the Bible! Words penned in red spoken by my Savior, Jesus. I love the picture He paints for us. Check this out …
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit…
Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in Me…
I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”
Ten times in the first eleven verses Jesus used the word “remain”. I hope you are stepping in the truth of the matter here. If we want joy ~ we must remain in Jesus.
I looked up that word remain since it is the obvious key to joy. This totally blessed my socks off! Are you ready for this? By definition it means to continue to exist, especially after other similar or related people or things have ceased to exist. (Google Dictionary) Push pause and let that sink in.
Immediately the hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” * came to my mind that says –
“Though none go with me
I still will follow
no turning back
no turning back.”
So, what does it look like to remain in Jesus Christ?
For starters, let’s get in the Bible and find out who this man is that refers to Himself as the Vine and the only One who can give us the joy that we are thirsty for. When you and I read the Bible and meditate on it, the Spirit of God will teach us not only who He is but also who we can be as His followers!
It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process. A journey. That’s where the remaining comes in.
I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart March 12, 1981. My salvation and eternity were sealed that night! That part was once and done - I pray yours has been as well. With that established, let’s return to the analogy that Jesus gave us in John 15.
I became part of the vine that night. By reading the Bible, being taught and discipled by godly teachers and preachers, I have grown spiritually and the roots of my faith have gotten deeper. And guess what the fruit of that looks like? Yep, joy. Mmmmm say that word with me joy.
Joy is so different than happiness.
Happiness is dependent on my circumstances. Case in point: I purchased an adorable dress last summer. My post COVID quarantine-menopausal body has jerked the happy right out of my dance about that dress! See what I mean? Happiness is temporary and overrated!
Joy remains regardless of my circumstances because of who I am in Jesus Christ. Remember ~ it’s all about remaining in the Vine! The size of my dress doesn’t determine my identity nor the joy thereof! Can I get an amen?!
Now, take a sip of sweet tea or your favorite coffee and let’s switch gears.
Jesus gave us a heads-up in verse two of John 15. God, the Gardener, prunes every branch so that it will produce more fruit.
Sometimes God will cut things out of our life that brings us happiness. (Don’t spit that drink, sister!) He always prunes with purpose! He wants to produce something deeper in us. Something beautiful and more meaningful than temporary happiness. He wants us to have joy in His Son and our Savior!
The more I keep His commands and walk in His ways, the more He prunes non-essentials out of my life. As a result, the fuller and more complete my joy is!
I can’t produce joy in and of myself. No amount of retail therapy, pill, drink or earthly pleasure can bring me true, unadulterated joy! That, my pretty and wise sister, can only be found in Jesus Christ.
But take heed … you have an enemy that hates God and, therefore, hates you. Jesus gave us another heads-up about that schemer known as Satan. In John 10:10 Jesus warned us: “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
So, you know what we have to do? Guard our vineyard!
Song of Solomon 2:15 says, “Catch the foxes for us – the little foxes that ruin the vineyards – for our vineyards are in bloom.”
Mmmmm, girl, when you remain in Jesus by spending time in His Word and begin understanding who you are in Him, your joy-fruit will be in full bloom! That’s when you better watch out! Satan will attack!
He hits below the belt and he will use the people we love the most to try and steal our joy! He uses financial hardships, family drama, workplace chaos and the like to kill and destroy your joy!
Don’t put up with that! O Holy No!
It’s times like this that we are going to run to Jesus and tell Him to catch those foxes that are trying to steal, kill and destroy our vineyard of joy! Because, listen to me, those ‘people’ are not our enemy! Paul told us in Ephesians 6 that we don’t fight against flesh and blood! There’s a much bigger war that has been waged! Before you freak out, there’s good news!
Jesus went on to tell us in John 15 and 16 that we would face all kinds of trials and tribulations in this world. So, girlfriend, let’s not be caught off guard by them. Don’t get down and discouraged! Because in John 16:33 Jesus said, “Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
(I can’t believe John didn’t use an exclamation point right there!!)
Whew, that deserves a HALLELUJAH!
That’s the Vine that I want to remain in right there! HE is my Source of joy and the ultimate Defender of my vineyard!
Let’s put this ensemble together …
If we want joy, we must …
*I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, WORDS: St. 1,2, Garo Christians; st. 3 John Clark
Written By: Tina Craighead
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Tina Craighead is a speaker, blogger, and leads Still Waters Ministry. You can catch up with Tina on facebook, her website, or by email!
Photo by Nika Akin on Unsplash
What’s worship really made of? Is it a list of pre-planned songs we sing at our Sunday morning services? Or is it our devotion to diligent Bible study and prayer? Or is it so sacred and beautiful that it’s hard to define? I’ve been asking myself those questions these days because my life has taken a turn in a direction I never expected. Let me back up so I can paint the picture for you.
I used to be a traveling worship leader and Christian music artist. In those days, the essence of worship meant singing mostly. I thought worship was all about congregational singing, as well as my own private singing unto the Lord, and of course, church attendance. Our lives were full of sacrifices and discomfort as we led worship services on very little sleep or convenience sometimes.
It was a dream of mine since childhood to write and share the music God gave me with the church at large. I got to live that dream out for a few years. But then, life for my husband and myself changed dramatically. Within one year, we closed our business, church that we pastored and eventually my dream ministry crumbled. It was overwhelmingly challenging to pick up the pieces of my broken life and move on. But somehow, by God’s grace I pressed on to the next season.
That season involved a banking career that served to polish some of the rough places in me. I refer to that time as a providential prison. I felt trapped and I couldn’t escape no matter how hard I tried. Perhaps you have been in one or currently find yourself there. If so, hold on because God has a purpose for you there.
One of the things I truly learned in my prison season of confinement was the foundational truths about worship. It’s more than a song, more than a religious service, more than a script we follow. Worship is a complete and total lifestyle that flows from a heart of adoration fueled by obedience. Simply put: we worship God by being obedient in whatever He tells us. It’s how we express our love for Him and to Him.
I want to back this up by looking at Abraham’s life of obedience and worship. After 25 years of waiting on the promise, God gives Abraham a son. I can only imagine the tears of joy Abraham and Sarah shed over their bouncing baby boy. I’m sure Abraham carried a gleam in his eye when he met new people and said, “That’s my boy, Isaac” with a lump in his throat and a shaky voice. “We waited a long time for him!”
I’m sure fatherly pride spilled over into everyday life when Isaac did even small things well, like watering the sheep, or cleaning up their pens. Abraham probably went overboard with his parental praise of Isaac. How could he not? Isaac was the child of promise. To say Abraham was a doting parent would probably be an understatement. Wouldn’t we all feel that way?
So we can all feel the stab of pain in Abraham’s heart when God issues the strong command in Genesis:
Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.
“Whom you love so much”........
Whom you waited so long for.....whom you cried over for many years.......your pride and joy.........your promise
Has God ever asked you to take the very thing He gave you and lay it down on the altar as a sacrifice? Perhaps a ministry that you care deeply about and waited for a very long time for? Or maybe it was a career you loved and you were at the top of the world there? What about a relationship you thought He brought into your life that was a promise fulfilled? But now He is asking you to put it on His brazen altar.
Friends I have been here. Actually, I am here right now. It’s not easy and it doesn’t make sense. But this is the essence of true worship: obedience flowing from a heart in adoration of God.
Abraham defines his act of obedience as worship:
The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”
Abraham didn’t say he and Isaac were going to sacrifice an offering, he said “we are going to worship.”
We can make sacrifices all day long to try and show God our love and devotion, but that’s not worship. Those are nice and all, but it is obedience that moves God’s heart. Think for a minute about Saul when he refused to wait on Samuel to make the sacrifice but took matters into His own hands and made the sacrifice. He thought (as we mistakenly do sometimes) that God would honor the sacrifice because it cost him something and showed his piety and earnestness toward God. But as we all know, God was angry and declared that He would remove the kingdom from Saul. And just 2 chapters later Samuel says this:
Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.
And with those words he pronounces judgment and the removal of the kingdom from Saul. Sacrifice is not always worship friends; obedience is.
I believe the reason God chose David over Saul was his heart of obedience and worship. Yes he made mistakes, but his track record of obedience is quite astounding. He rarely EVER prematurely acted without a word from the Lord and then he always followed through with swift obedience. That’s why God referred to him as “a man after my own heart.”
Friends, just because something seems sacrificial and hard doesn’t make it the thing God wants from you. Sometimes whatever God is asking of you might involve sacrifice (like it did with Abraham) but even in that He provides what is needed! Just like he did with Abraham and the ram caught in the bushes, which by the way was a symbolic foreshadowing of Jesus, God will provide the sacrifice. Your act of worship is the obedience part. But sometimes God may be calling you to a quiet life of a wife and Godly mother to your children, but you really wanted a platform ministry. So you think sacrificing, staying up late, working really hard to get opportunities is what God wants from you and that it’s your duty to build this ministry, career, etc. But what if God is calling you to obedience to focus on your spouse and children right now? Can you do that?
The truth is that when you obey God to lay down your own ideas of sacrificing for Him and instead obey Him, He considers that worship! And He blesses and honors that. You will have the privilege of experiencing His presence in such a powerful way. In all of my years on this earth, no calling or success has ever compared to experiencing His powerful and beautiful presence in my life.
When I truly worship, I encounter the living God who fills me with such love I become undone. Let me give you my real life example, if you would be so kind to hear me out.
A couple of months ago, a group of us felt the call to start a prayer room. Within a month we were hosting multiple worship and intercession sets during the week and I was helping lead several of them. I enjoyed it immensely, but it was a sacrifice. Some of the sets were at 5am. We were interceding for our communities, churches, nation, the world etc.
I thought that God must be pleased with our sacrifice, surely. But then I started to feel a tug at my heart. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I wasn’t being a caring wife or mother. I was so focused on the prayer room that my family was getting crumbs from me.
The tug on my heart started to turn into overwhelming conviction. My husband works out of town and rarely comes home. I decided to decrease my outside ministry drastically and go be with him several times a month. I did it because I love him of course, but also because I felt the Lord issue a command to me. As a wife and mother, I feel my primary calling is to help my husband and care for my daughter as well. So I am obeying the Lord and focusing on my family.
That’s worship to the Lord, friends. It’s a beautiful, sweet smelling scent that is rising up to Him. Don’t cave in to the pressures of this world’s view and systems that tell you what’s important and that you have to sacrifice to get what you want. No, you have one need: to be obedient to your God. Sacrificing to get something from God is manipulation. Ouch! It’s counterfeit worship in real terms. That’s the reason God cannot accept it.
So I encourage you today to rethink your view on worship. Get into alignment with God and how He defines it. Let your worship and love for God flow from your obedience and experience His beautiful presence in your life. This is what it means to worship in spirit and in truth.
Written by: Shana Strange
Shana is a recording artist, worship leader, speaker, writer, and podcaster (and so much more)! Catch up with her on Facebook or her website: www.shanastrange.net
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