Sunday, December 20, 2020

Stocking Scripture

It's officially Christmas week, which means it's time for me to get busy!! Gift buying can stress me out, but I'm kind of excited for my favorite stocking stuffer. I originally shared the following post in 2015 and started the tradition in 2012. It's been a blessing to reflect on the verses I've prayed and more so on the answers God has provided. Friend, I encourage you to consider this idea for loved ones in your family. I'd also recommend keeping a record for yourself...down the road it will be a reminder of God's faithfulness!

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From 2015 - Christmas is getting closer every day...my little guys remind me of this every time they remove a ring from their chain and put an X on the calendar. They are getting excited and thankfully, I'm not getting stressed. Though it may happen, I've found myself filled with peace as I think about our traditional stocking stuffer.

So this tradition is only on its third year, but I know it's one that won't grow old. It won't be the wrong size, the batteries won't die and it's not something that will go out of style. It's also not loaded with sugar and it doesn't cost a dime. What is this perfect gift you ask - it's what I've called, "Stocking Scriptures".

A few years back I was doing a Bible study about praying Scripture. I really hadn't intentionally done that, but this study taught me how powerful it was. Friend, "God's Word is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

Isaiah 55:11 tells us this, "So is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

Finally another important verse about Scripture - "This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the Word of God." (Luke 8:11) Jesus says this as He explains the parable of the four soils. God's Word is a seed that can take root in our hearts and produce a crop. Now granted the soil needs to be good and hearts need to be pure for it to grow, but if a seed is never planted the crop will not be harvested.

This study really prompted me to pray Scripture seriously and the timing of it led me to give it as a gift. Now as the month of December unfolds, I find myself reflecting on the year and thinking about where I want my kids, husband and self to be in the year to come. I think about the fruit I'd like to see and know God is able to grow, then I study God's Word to see if there is a Scripture that speaks to that quality or character trait.

Once I find a verse or passage for each of us, I type them up or write them out, and put them in our stockings. For example, my daughter struggled with pleasing people and being over-concerned with what others thought, so I prayed, "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe." Proverbs 29:25

Another child was struggling with fear, so 2 Timothy 1:7 was a natural choice, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline."

And for the child who has yet to confess Christ as Lord and Savior, "Therefore He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)

For my mom friends, be prepared - your little people are not very excited about a piece of paper when they compare it to the other goodies, but we know the value it has. And as they grow, they will understand as well. My older daughter still has her first 2 cards and each time she reads them, I believe good seeds are being planted.

I not only put the verses in the stockings, but I also print a couple of copies for myself...one's in my Bible and another posted by my treadmill. As I read the verses, I pray them and also hide them in my heart. It's a gift that keeps on giving!

This Christmas if you're struggling with what to give, I encourage you to pray about incorporating "Stocking Scriptures" into your holiday routine. It will bless those who receive and the one who gives!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

What are you going through?


Hard times. Difficult trials. Unexpected change of plans. Fear of the unknown. Overwhelming grief. Relationship struggles. Health issues. All situations none of us would sign up for, but things we all experience. I have countless friends and family walking through hard times right now. On this election day, I'm up early thinking about what our country is going through. Sometimes, my heart just hurts. How about yours? 

When I find myself in this situation and thinking about loved ones experiencing the same, it can be easy to get discouraged or feel overwhelmed. Would you agree? Fear can set in while worry overtakes and that just adds to the difficult trial. We've all lived long enough to know life has it's moments, sometimes days or weeks or months or even years - we can say that in 2020 right?!? 

In John 16:33b, Jesus told us, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world." We can find peace in this promise! I also find encouragement in something my pastor said weeks ago, but I continue to think about - "Whatever you are going through, God is growing you through." 

It is a catchy statement, but it's also a truthful one. God is always working and He has a purpose for our pain. His plan isn't all fun and games, but no matter what we are going through He is present. In the good times and the bad, He is working for our good and His glory. When things are out of control, we're reminded He is in control. When we feel unable to take another step, we realize His grace His sufficient. When we can't do it on our own, we're more likely to surrender our plan and submit to His perfect one. 

This sounds good and I have no doubt it's true, but it's not always easy. So this morning as I spent time with the Lord, I found myself asking, "How? - How do I do it? How do I allow you to grow me through this? How do I encourage others to do the same?" 

I heard no voice and I don't have the perfect answer, but as I look to His Word and reflect on my own life a plan came to mind. All things I've done, but practices I need to do better and more as I go through life and desire God to grow me through it all. If the cry of your heart is the same, I pray you find a piece of wisdom and encouragement as well. 

FOCUS - When a trying situation presents itself, it can be consuming. Everything else fades away and the trouble overwhelms. When it's all I see, perspective fades and I'm blind to the Truth. In moments like this, I need to remember where to focus. Hebrews 12:2 tells us, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." We can't deny reality, but we must remember who is with us in it. Jesus, the One who experienced immense pain, so one day you and I will be pain free. His Spirit in us can provide eternal eyes so that we can focus and see beyond "this light momentary affliction which is preparing for us an eternal glory." (2 Corinthians 4:17)

ASK - Tough times tend to cause me to close down. I can go into the quiet mode, pride keeps me from letting others know I can't do this on my own. Sometimes Satan's lies leaving me believing it's no big deal, others are hurting more and I'll bother people by sharing my struggle. Friend, as a mom I can better help my kids when they ask and the same is true when it comes to me - my loved ones can assist me more when I ask and more importantly God is there when I pray. When we ask God for help, answers, grace or whatever we need, He will provide. "Ask and it will be given..." (Matthew 7:7) Pause for a moment and think about when a hurting friend asks you for help...it's not a burden, right? Remember that when you are hurting...loved ones want to help, ASK. 

SEEK - When we are going through a hard time, it often can be a new experience, a road we've never walked, which only makes the situation more challenging. We need direction. Looking for it and asking aren't always easy, but it always brings results. We can seek out one who's been in our shoes and they'll have traveling tips, but we must remember to go to God's Word. Here we will find promises and Truth, perspective and wisdom, instruction and training. 

WORK - Trials in life not only overwhelm, they can exhaust as well. As we lose focus and wrestle with the unknowns, we can be tempted to quit. The obstacle in front of us can leave us defeated. Our inability to see the light at the end of the tunnel or the purpose in our pain can cause us to give up. I believe it was Elisabeth Elliot, who walked through an immense struggle of her own who said, "Do the next right thing." Whether you find yourself in a life changing struggle or daily difficult situation, don't worry about all the process involves...pour your energy into what comes next. Sometimes the most important work we can do in the midst of a trial is simply surrendering and admitting we can't do it all. James 4:7a sums it up quite well - "Submit yourselves therefore to God." 

REST - I don't know about you, but when I'm going through a hard time I'm in a hurry to get through it. I want the struggle to be over. I want the suffering to end. Sometimes I'm tempted to busy myself with work that really doesn't matter. When I'm walking alongside a struggling friend, I can be tempted to carry a load that's not my own. In moments like these I need to rest. We need to heed the Lord's words in Psalm 46:10 and "Be still and know that I am God." It's critical we follow Jesus command - "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

As we focus on Jesus, ask for help, seek the Lord, do the work and find rest, God will grow us through whatever we are going through. As we mature and develop, we will experience hope and peace, we will find provision and perspective. God will offer protection and He will help us persevere. So today, whatever the struggle I encourage you to pause for a moment, shift your thinking and ask - "How is God growing me through what I am going through?" 

Heavenly Father, I'm grateful to be your child. I know you have plans for good and a purpose for my pain. Give me eyes to see You. Give me a heart that seeks You. Give me a desire to live for You. Equip me to walk when life wants to knock me down. Humble me to ask for help. Assure me you are working even when I rest. Remind me it's ok to struggle, grieve and surrender, but don't let me forget that in my weakness you are strong. And in life's bad, you Father are always good. Thank you. In Jesus' Name, Amen. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Choosing Sides

In the world of sports, there's no way getting around it - you have to choose sides. If you want to compete, one person or team has to go against another. If you are an athlete, you're on one team or another. If you are a fan, the same is often true. You may want the opposition to play well and avoid injuries, but you want one team to win. 



In Iowa, we had the joy of just wrapping up our baseball and softball seasons. Crazy to think the normalcy of sports was something we took for granted, along with many other aspects of daily life. Covid has definitely caused me to reflect and be thankful. It's also made me think more about choosing sides. 

You see, this summer we haven't just been picking sides in regards to the team we're cheering for, we've been choosing sides in many different ways - To Mask or Not to Mask, To Watch the News or Not, In Favor of Protests or Not, For Trump or Against. I could go on, but I'm sure you understand. The choices we face are endless. Or at least it seems that way. 

I want to share with you a different approach. Awhile back I was visiting with a friend about a situation and she simply said, "Well, at least you know God is on your side." I understand what she was trying to say, but her words brought to mind a message I heard sometime ago. 

I don't recall the speaker, but his point was simple - it's never about God choosing my side, it's about me choosing His. More important than his words are these from the Word -

"Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” Exodus 32:26a

In this verse, Moses had just found the people out of control - they were worshipping a golden calf. Chances are you are not bowing down to a calf yourself, but think with me for a minute - what are you worshipping? This doesn't just involve bending a knee, but what or who do you give more value than God? Are you choosing the side of health, comfort or normalcy over God? 

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15

This verse is often quoted, but how well is it lived? These words can be easy to say, but at times they can be challenging to do. Do you choose to serve the Lord when it's hard, when it's costly, when it's questioned? 

Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him." 1 Kings 18:21

Finally, these words should get our attention - we have to make a choice? Following God is an either or situation. We need to choose a side. We can't be like my youngest son and changes sides as the game unfolds. We have an advantage in this situation - we know God will win! So friend, make the choice today! 

Making this choice doesn't make our problems disappear, but when we're on God's team He will give us a game plan and He provides us with a playbook! When we are on His side, we must be in His Word and walking with His Spirit. He will give us wisdom and strength. He'll provide guidance and direction. He will bring victory in the end. 

These days it can feel like we are in a losing battle, but we must remember the battle belongs to the Lord. He will equip us to stand and we must trust Him to fight. Friend, He will lead us!


Saturday, June 6, 2020

A Bit of Joy



The other night I was praying with our kids as the day came to an end. We prayed about much, but one of the topics caught my attention. Joy, our oldest daughter, is spending her Saturdays this summer at the local Farmer's Market. She enjoys baking and awhile back mentioned the possibility of making and selling treats in town. Initially, the thought overwhelmed me a bit - we live 15 minutes out of town and she'd need a driver (most likely me) and the thought of all that baking made me nervous. Then I stepped back and appreciated my 15 year olds initiative, willingness to work and try something new.

Once we gave her the green light, she went to work. She did a trial run of a few recipes, made a shopping list and bought all her ingredients. She researched packaging supplies and determined her prices. She came up with a name for her little spot along the market trail - "A Bit of Joy."

On the eve of her 2nd market, I prayed for her. We asked God for good weather and I prayed for Him to help her bring a bit of joy to all those who bought her sweets.

As I prayed, I realized that was just what I needed. I needed joy. Cupcakes and pie may offer it temporarily, but Jesus provides it daily. And friend, don't we need joy today?

I'll admit, I've been a bit discouraged lately. Events in our world weigh on my heart and I'm guessing you find them heavy as well. But it goes beyond the death and tragedy, it's what is happening to our nation. There is division and fear. There seems to be a lack of listening. It's just hard. Sometimes I feel I have nothing to say and others I think somebody will be offended if I do.

The protests and riots, corona and covid have all changed things. For many our daily lives don't look like they did a year ago, but yet daily problems still exist. Some are experiencing financial stress, others relationship conflict and some parenting struggles. You can add your own personal trials.

This adds up to a problem that equals discouragement. So what do we do?

For me, the first answer is PRAY. I know I need to humble myself and cast my cares. God commands and encourages us to do this. He hears our prayers and listens to our heart. He wants us to connect with Him. We can do that thru prayer.

Another thing I must do now and always is READ the BIBLE. Information and opinions are readily available, but right now I need wisdom and that can be found in God's Word. The media offers updates constantly, but the Bible provides TRUTH continuously. I believe we need the Truth. Agree?

Doing these two things helps me SEEK GOD. It's pretty easy to turn on the news or open social media and look to see what is going on in the world. Everyone is ready to tell you their perspective, but friends it's God we need to look to. He's the One with the plan and the power. I must go to Him first and most. How about you?

Friend, I'm reminded when we do these things consistently we will experience a bit of joy. Now it may not have the immediate impact of that scrumptious bite of pie or taste of a cupcake, but it will last much longer. And instead of ultimately impacting my waistline it will impact my heart. The joy Jesus offers is truly indescribable. And to measure its impact is impossible.

Nehemiah 8:10b says, "Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." These words weren't spoken in what we would call a joyful moment. The people were grieving over sin and overcome with condemnation - can anyone relate?

Friend, if you are a born again believer of Jesus Christ, you aren't known by your sin. Your identity is a child of God. That is a reason to rejoice. When we step back and think about what our relationship with God through Christ really means our focus shifts, our discouragement dwindles and our motivation multiplies.

This spiritual joy opens the door for spiritual strength. I don't know about you, but I need some spiritual strength these days. It was true in Nehemiah's day and I believe it's true yet today - "The joy of the Lord is our strength." 

If you are a sister in Christ, I encourage you to pause for a moment and focus on what is right in your world - your relationship with Jesus. It might be the only thing that is right, but it's all that really matters. Take some time and think about what Jesus provides - salvation and strength, peace and power, love and joy, and the list goes on. Thank Him. Ask Him for all you need.

If this talk of a relationship with Jesus is new, seek out a pastor or Christian friend, leave me a comment or send me an email at jillberan@yahoo.com. I believe God brought you here for a reason. If you're looking for true, lasting joy you won't find it in a cupcake, but you will in Jesus. Open your heart to Him today.

You won't leave here satisfied like my daughter's customers, but I pray you walk away encouraged. I hope I've left you with a bit of joy and equipped you to find it again when you feel like it's faded away.

Heavenly Father, thank you for drawing us close. I'm grateful for who you are and all you do. I'm reminded that no matter what this day holds or how the world changes, you remain the same. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit - grow that in me Lord. Help me share true joy with those around me. May I be strengthened as I rejoice in all you have done. Thank you Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen. 




Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Just Quit

A big welcome to my friends from Encouragement Cafe! It is a joy to share my devotional with you today! If you'd like to read, "When You Want to Quit," click HERE. To continue with the quitting theme, I'm going to look at it from a different perspective. It's true we can't quit on our walk of faith, but as we follow Jesus there are things we must quit. Would you agree?

In September of 1999, I found myself in the bottom of a pit called depression and felt I'd come to the end. I'd believed those "No Quit" quotes when it came to sports, but applying them to life was more of a challenge. I was ready to quit the game of life, but God intervened.

Thankfully, He kept me from dying physically, but in the process He's led me to die to myself! He continually asks me to live out Galatians 2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." 

I've been praying about what I should share here in response to my devotional and it seems God's led me to share some contrary advice, "Just Quit!" The basketball coach in me can't believe I'm saying that, but because Christ is in me, I know that's what I need to do. And friend so do you!

I'll share the list God has given me:

Just QUIT listening to lies so that you can hear the voice of Truth.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, 
"If you abide in My Word, you are truly my disciples, and 
you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free." 
John 8:31-32

Just QUIT worrying so that you can trust God with all your heart.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and 
lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Just QUIT living out of old insecurities so that you can be who God made you to be!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: 
The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Just Quit busying yourself so that you can do what God ask you to do.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus 
to do good works, which God prepared 
in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Just QUIT holding onto bitterness so that you can forgive and be forgiven.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15

Just QUIT running after your dreams so that God's plan can unfold.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 
plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Just QUIT striving for other's approval so that you can earn God's!
The fear of man lays a snare, 
but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Proverbs 29:25

Just QUIT living for yourself so that you can follow Jesus!
Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants 
to be my disciple must deny themselves 
and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23


Advising someone to quit is not something I do too often, but I pray as you read this list you've been reminded there are somethings we need to just quit. The sinful, selfish stuff we do has to go if we truly want to die to self so that Christ can live. 

Today, I encourage you to spend some time with God, ask Him what you need to quit and then pray for the strength and desire to do just that! Friends, He died so that one day we will live with Him forever, but we can make the choice to die today so that He can live through us now!

Friday, April 24, 2020

Who's In Control

Does it feel like life is out of control? We turn on the news and it seems we see one bad or sad story after another. Closer to home, we make plans and a child’s sickness changes them. Day after day I’m reminded I’m not in control. Can you say the same? 
If you struggle with the battle for control, I invite you to join me at Encouragement Cafe where I'm sharing a devotional asking, "Who's In Control?" The answer just might surprise you and pray it encourages you! 

Join me, by clicking HERE

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Greetings from our family to yours!

Happy Easter,
Greetings from the Beran family! We hope you and your family are doing well in the midst of Covid-19! We decided since we didn’t get a Christmas card out this year, we’d use this extra down time to share an Easter greeting with you. Like you, our schedules are clear, but we are grateful our reason to rejoice will never be called off or postponed. Our daily routines have changed, but the risen Savior we celebrate will forever remain.

Our family is doing well and though one child daily begs to “cancel school like everyone else,” we continue on our homeschool journey. J.D. is about to complete 11th grade, Joy 9th, Jaylyn 7th, Jed 3rd and Jesse 2nd. They are typically involved with sports, youth group and FFA. Life on the farm hasn’t stopped, so we stay busy with pig, calf and chicken chores along with prepping for planting. During this season of shutdown, we are also missing our extended and church family along with the regular activities we enjoy.

We realize this situation is new for all of us and we know it provides challenges as well. Some days we enjoy the changes more than others. This pandemic can create worry of what lies ahead, fear of getting sick and anxiety about the financial impact that’s sure to come. We’ve been reminded this is a great opportunity to live out our faith.

In place of the typical yearly update, we thought we’d bring a word of encouragement. Since the social distancing began, we’ve tried to find hope, wisdom and perspective in God’s Word. It provides a solid foundation when we’re shaky, peace in the storm and Truth to counter lies. We pray the words that have encouraged us, will do the same for you.


Jesse – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Good Friday is a picture of that love; may we rest in it always.

Jed – “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters) dwell in unity!”(Psalm 133:1) Timely truth for this time of isolation and family togetherness!

Jaylyn – "Look, I (Jesus) am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll." (Revelation 3:3) We need to be ready for Jesus’ return; do you know Him as your personal Lord and Savior?

Joy – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Exchange your worries and fears for God’s peace and promises – PRAY.

J.D. – “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) God controls the seasons and He also controls Covid-19.

Jill – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) We don’t understand all that’s going on and that’s OK, we can trust the One who does.

Job – “After he (Jesus) had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray…” (Matthew 14:23a) Follow Jesus’ example and use this time for prayer.

This April, we don’t just want to celebrate Easter, but more importantly experience the HOPE Jesus brings! We will continue to keep you in our prayers.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                                      
Love,  The Berans

Friday, April 10, 2020

Finish

It's Good Friday and we continue our Holy Week posts. This day marks the hardest day in Jesus' journey here on Earth. As we walk thru our own difficult, which will truly never compare to what Jesus suffered, may we remember His obedience, sacrifice and strength. Prayers and blessings to you today friend.

From April 15, 2017

Is it easier for you to start something new or finish the work you've already begun? Personally, both situations present some challenges, but if I had to choose one it would be finishing. Carrying something thru takes time, work and endurance. We face temptations, wrestle with doubts and wonder if it really matters. But if we're truly called to start something, God also expects us to finish it.

I've been challenged and encouraged by the idea of finishing this Holy Week. I've spent time reflecting on Jesus - our Passover Lamb, been given an example by Mary to be a woman who does what I can and been reminded to be prepared. But yesterday as I read through the story of crucifixion and reflected on Jesus' sacrifice for me, "Finish" was the message I received.

In John 19:28 we read, "Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." Friend, Jesus was hanging on the cross, He'd done his job of being sacrificed for sin, but yet He still submitted to the Father. He did what God sent Him to do.

John 4:34 states, "My food is to do the will of Him sent and finish His work." While John 12:49 says, "For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken." Even to the end, in unbelievable pain and distress, Jesus was obedient.

John 19:30 states this clearly, "When He had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."

Stop and think about this for a minute. When it was hard, people didn't understand and the pain was unbearable Jesus didn't quit. Can you say the same? I can't, but I've been convicted, and encouraged, that I need to change. God equipped Jesus to finish what He started, I have to believe He can do the same for me.

Friend, He can do it for you too. Let's go to God and ask Him to help us persevere and let's look to Jesus as the example of One who finished well.

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for again speaking to me through your living and active Word. Use it to penetrate my mind and soul, transform me Lord so I can be like you. Thank you Jesus for finishing the work you started, for dying for my sins and fulfilling Scripture. May I learn from your example and be more like you. I'm also reminded that a wait followed the completion of your work, help me remember that and trust your timing Father. This Easter season may we celebrate your resurrecting power, our victory over sin and death and the reminder that finishing is important. Father God, you are good, your are mighty and you are worthy of our praise. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Easter Changes Everything

We're over a month into Covid-19 here in Iowa and I've been doing a lot of thinking. That's not always a good thing - like when I'm thinking about what I thought would be going on or wondering how long this is going to last. But when I find myself thinking about God's promises, Jesus' journey and my faith it is a very good thing.

Friend, this time away from what we had planned can be productive. If it allows, or maybe even forces, us to reevaluate our lives and ourselves God can use it for good. I know one thing it has made me think more about a is there will one day be another event that many never expect to happen. Jesus will return. Are we prepared? Perhaps this Easter will be the one that changes everything for you!

From April 17, 2014

As Easter draws near I find myself thinking about many things...what God did for me, the level of Jesus' obedience and the power of the resurrection. I'm thinking about what I should do next as we prep to host 30+ family members on Sunday. I also find myself praying and asking God to help my children understand the real meaning of the holiday. And it may sound crazy but this year I've also thought about hollow chocolate Easter bunnies.

Of all the Easter treats available this is not the one I'd choose, but the other day I started thinking about them. You see every year for as long as I can remember I, or my children, have received these from my grandma B and this is our first Easter without her. Ten months have gone by and I think about her often and this year those thoughts have me thinking about Easter more.

Easter 2013 - Grandma B giving Jesse his bunny!
The other day I read a simple but profound statement - "Easter changes everything!" A year ago I would have agreed with that statement, but now I know it and believe it. So take a minute with me and let's look at what Easter is all about...the best thing I can encourage you to do is read Luke 22-24 or John 12-20. Friend, God's Word is living and active and I know He will speak to you if you sit with Him.

I'm not sure it's possible for me to summarize the events of what we now call Holy Week, but let me share a few highlights - the Last Supper where Jesus modeled humility; Judas, one of Jesus' disciples, betrayed Him; Jesus prayed (even for you and me...see John 17:20-26); He was arrested; Peter, another one of His disciples denied Him; He was tried and crucified; He was buried and three days later rose again. 

That is quite a list of events, but can I share with you that it's more than a slice of history? Friend, I viewed it that way for years, but it's different now...I believe Easter, and the Jesus we celebrate, change everything! This holiday is about so much, but I want to focus on the resurrecting power of the God I serve. Jesus, the Son of God, died. He was buried and many grieved the loss of the One they followed and loved, but God. God intervened and fulfilled the plan He sent Jesus to live out. He resurrected Him from the dead and He lived again.

That alone is an amazing story, but it does NOT end there! Friend, God still has that resurrecting power. Romans 10:9 tells us, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." God didn't just save Jesus, if we believe He will save us too.

Believing in Him and seeking a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior will save us for eternity, but again there is more. This power that God possess doesn't just make a way to heaven possible, it makes it possible for us to walk through life. A life that is hard, full of pain and can be depressing. A life that's kind of like that hollow chocolate bunny - empty and without much purpose. 

Friend, I've been thinking about Easters past and I hate to admit there was a time when it was just another commercial holiday, a vacation from school and a family get together. I'd serve at the sunrise breakfast and sing for Sunday School, but I didn't really focus on what it was all about. I knew in my head that Jesus died and rose again, but in my heart I really didn't understand.

If you find yourself in that place today, I want you to know this is so much more than another holiday! Jesus' life, death and resurrection have the power to transform you. If you find yourself empty, stressed or depressed, He can fill you, give you peace and purpose. He will dry your tears, purify your heart and change your life. He died so that we could live...forever in heaven and abundantly here on Earth!!

I want you to know trusting Jesus won't take the pain away and magically make your life perfect. My life still includes pain - I've even shed tears as I type...my first Easter without Grandma B will be different and Saturday the 19th, the day before Easter would have been our little ones birthday, but 5+ years ago we had a miscarriage. The truth is sometimes God doesn't use His power in the way we'd like, but I've come to believe He uses it in the way He knows is best!! 

So today, though my heart is heavy and my plate is full, I am grateful. I'm thankful I know Easter changes everything and friend my prayer is you can say the same!!


Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. 
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; 
death no longer has mastery over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all; 
but the life He lives, He lives to God. In the same way, 
count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 
(Romans 6:8-11 NIV)

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Labels

From April 1, 2013

My husband and daughters returned home from a shopping trip...they'd left with the intentions of finding the girls' new Easter dresses. (This was my husband's idea.) They came home with what they were looking for and more. Excitement took over the house when they unveiled the dress they bought for me, the gal who's worn a dress once in the last 12 years. And that was to my wedding.

Needless to say I wasn't part of the excitement - the girls were thrilled, my husband just smiled and my oldest son was insistent that I wear it.

Anyway I decided to humor them and try it on. That's when the situation went from bad to worse. I looked at the tag and it was 3 sizes bigger than I normally wear. Instantly my mind took over, "That's the size he thinks I wear? Our baby's almost two I need to lose some weight." And the final thought that came was, "I am not wearing this dress."

So the next day came and I returned the dress. Knowing my kids were more than excited for me to wear a dress, I did exchange it, but the one I found in my size was different than the one my husband picked out. I really didn't think it was a big deal, but by the following night I knew something was wrong.

I asked my husband what was up and he said, "I don't know why this is bothering me, but it's the dress. And the fact you took it back. I didn't even know you didn't like it." I responded, "Job, I don't wear that size. It's 3 sizes too big!!" In return he says, "I know, but I know you don't like things tight and they looked so small. It looked nice on you."

I listened, but I'm not sure I really heard him. (If you know what I mean?) I simply said, "I'll take it back. Maybe we should just forget the whole thing; it's kind of a waste of money for something I'll never wear again."

Two days later, I took the dress back and thought: I'll be a good wife, buy the original dress, wear it and make everyone happy. Well, everyone but me!

So Easter morning arrives and I still had no desire to wear the dress, but I had 5 little people who were very excited about it!

We headed out the door with everyone smiling and me silently praying, "Lord, help me focus on YOU, forget about this dress and not worry about what everyone will say." And friend, I have to admit He answered my prayer.

Many people shared words about the dress...though no one said it was too BIG or that I looked funny! (Though I sure felt like I did!!) As we left the church yard a good friend said something about the dress and my husband replied, "You mean the one we bought twice?!?"

With that statement God had my attention as He quickly spoke to my heart amongst the chaos of a vehicle filled with 5 energized little people!

He whispered to me, "Jill, you were focusing on the label. That label means nothing...think about the love Job was showing. How about the love others shared as well with their kind words? What about your kids, they have no idea what size you are and they love you."

And then on Resurrection Sunday He continued, "Jill, the size label on your dress doesn't matter to me either. Neither do labels from your past or other people. You are who I say you are - Loved, Forgiven, My Daughter, a Gifted Girl and my Chosen Child. Those are the labels that matter! Today, you celebrate the day I bought you with the blood of My Son...Jill, that's something I only have to do once. My love and forgiveness is not something you can return or exchange, so please accept it. And daughter, do the same with the love your family is showering upon you as well!"

Friend, I don't know if I'll ever wear the dress again, but I don't think I'll ever forget the lesson it taught me. I pray you will join me in letting go of what the labels say and focus on who God says we are!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

What will you do?

From April 11, 2017


As Holy Week continues I find myself still reflecting on the Passover Lamb and reading passages about Jesus' last days. This morning I was in the last few chapters of Mark and these words from 14:8 haven't left my mind - "She did what she could." 

This is a sentence Jesus spoke about the woman who annointed him. In other Gospels we learn this was Mary...sister to Lazarus and Martha. The one who had earlier sat at Jesus feet was now annointing them.

Stop for a minute and think about what she did and how she did it. She broke open a bottle of expensive perfume; some historians believe it was worth a year's wages. She poured it out, not saving any for herself.

She placed herself in a position that most likely would be questioned. As a woman, she was among men. She used her hair, a sign of her glory, to wipe Jesus' feet, a job reserved for the lowest of low. She had humbled herself and broke free from the fear of what others would think.

Friend, chances are you've read this story before, but have you let this story read you? I feel like God's been examining my heart all day thru the lens of this short story and even smaller sentence.

Mary did what she could. She didn't rely on her position, but took advantage of her opportunity. Do I do the same? Do you? Every day we have an opportunity to do what we can do, but do we?

Granted Jesus is not here in the flesh and His body no longer needs to be prepared for burial, but His people are here and His body (you and me) have gifts to use and roles to play.

When it comes to work, I'm not talking a 9 to 5 job, but the life you live - Are you doing what you can or simply what you have to or worse yet what you want to?

When it comes to worship, again not just a Sunday morning service, but in our daily life - Are we doing just what's necessary or are we doing all we can?

These aren't quick, easy answer questions, but they are important, powerful self-examination tools. As we prepare for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, may we quiet our hearts, ask God to examine them and prepare to give Jesus all of them.

Mary sacrificed her perfume and she also surrendered herself. May you and I do the same. Jesus did what He could, I pray we will too.

Our external actions may not change, but our internal attitude will...instead of a focus on self, may we live with the desire to serve. Rather than holding back and fearing what others think, may we walk in faith and set an example for others to follow. May we worship the One who's worthy instead of wasting time on idols that are truly worthless.

Friend, I don't know what these 5 words stirred in your heart, but I'm praying now for God to use them in your life to help you do what He created you to do. It cost Mary and we too will pay a price, but may we remember it's an investment that will never fail! Today let's do what we can do for the Lord we love.

Heavenly Father, I want to be a woman who does what I can. Help me stop being one who does what I must or have to, but one who serves You wholeheartedly. May I count the cost and be willing to pay the price. May I throw myself at your feet and love you without fear. Help me worship you without worry. Father God, thank you for drawing me close and helping me know You more. Your Word truly is living and active, continue using it to transform me. Father, I thank you for the gift of your Son and the filling of your Holy Spirit. May I do what you created me to do...glorify you. In Jesus' Name, Amen