Wednesday, September 30, 2015

When God Thinks You Can


Many years ago when my daughter was young, we would spend Wednesday evenings at church for mid-week Sunday school. I would stay to help with her rather large preschool classnot really because I wanted to, but because the church was a bit of a drive from home and it was easier to stay.

One Wednesday, I received a call from the children’s ministry director. She said the teacher for the preschool class was sick and asked if I would teach the class that night. She probably explained what the lesson was for that night, but I don’t remember that part of the conversation. What I do remember is the panic I felt as I agreed to fill in.

Let me tell you, this was far outside of my comfort zone. So far that I don’t think I could even see it from the edge of my comfort zone.

I barely had enough patience for my one child, much less a room full of children. Did I mention this was a preschool class? A large preschool class—ages 2-5? Attention spans were all over the place, including mine.

As I hung up the phone wondering why I couldn’t think of an excuse to say no quick enough, I remembered something. Just the previous night I’d had a dream—a dream that this director called me just hours before the class and asked me to teach that night.

I hadn’t thought about the dream until that moment of stunned silence. I knew there was no way this was a coincidence. This was God warning preparing me for this challenge.

I distinctly remember the thought that gave me confidence that night. The thought I spoke aloud as I surrendered to Him.

God, if You think I can do this…then I must be able to do it.

After all, God knows better than I do.

Was I nervous? Yes. Stressed out? Most likely. Looking forward to it? Probably not. And yet, it felt different.

I had a confidence that didn’t come from me. It was from Him.

God had the confidence I didn’t have, and when I chose to trust Him, His confidence covered me. {Tweet this}

All afternoon, I reminded myself that God knew I could do this. What I thought didn’t matter. I knew He would be there with me.

I don’t remember that night’s class at all, but I know I got through it. And I remember telling the director about the dream and seeing her look of awe.

As I look back, I realize now that it was the first time I can remember when I stepped forward in faith to do something I would never have volunteered to do. God wasn’t calling me to be a teacher.

He was teaching me to trust Him and walk in faith.

And when you follow Him once into the uncomfortable unknown, each time after that gets a little easier.

*****

If you are reading Fulfilled by Danise Jurado with us, we are in week 4 with Chapter 6—Identity and Chapter 7—Confidence. The pages of my book are filled with underlined parts I don’t want to forget, along with notes and little stars next to Scripture verses.

How are you doing with the reading? What specific parts have grabbed your attention, and maybe kept you thinking about it for days?

In Christ,
Laura  
Thank you Jenn!

Linking up with #TellHisStory, #RaRaLinkup, Thought Provoking Thursday, Everyday Jesus, Faith Filled Friday, Grace & Truth, Faith 'n Friends, Weekend Whispers

Monday, September 28, 2015

Fulfilled Study - Week 4


We are now half way though our study of Fulfilled by Danise Jurado. (Hard to believe, isn't it?) I'd love to hear how you're doing and what you think of Danise's book so far. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. 

Read Chapter 6—Identity and Chapter 7—Confidence

Consider these questions:
  • Danise Jurado writes, “It’s safe to say that we aren’t perfect, and it is very likely that we won’t always do the right thing. For this reason, we can count on being disappointed by each other.” (pg. 69) Do you find this statement freeing or disturbing? Why?
  • “God’s definition of our identity is found in who He says we are, not merely in what we do.” (pg. 71)
  • It’s difficult not to be defined by what we do or our role in life. (ie. mom, student, executive, unemployed, etc.) How can we focus on finding our identity in Christ, regardless of what our daily life looks like?
  • I love the description in these verses from Jeremiah 17…
This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.
“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. (Jeremiah 17:5-8 NLT)
  • How do you feel when you read these verses? Do you find it empowering to know you have a source of strength and confidence that doesn’t depend on yourself? How can you rely on, and draw from, God’s confidence this week?
Have a great week!

In Christ,
Laura 

[Image credit: Danise Jurado]

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

If You Can’t Say Something Nice


Our words have the power to build up or tear down—whether we’re talking to someone else or to ourselves. {Tweet this}

We don’t like to hurt someone’s feelings, but what about our own feelings? Why are we often harder on ourselves, telling ourselves things we would never say to someone else?

Our words and thoughts work together, and they have power. Our thoughts fuel what we tell ourselves and our words embed negative thoughts in our minds. And we begin to believe them without question.

The enemy loves this because it makes his work easier. When we tear ourselves down we are more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. His lies are harder to identify because the negative thought pattern is already there.
The words we speak set the tone of our attitudes and our environment.Danise Jurado, Fulfilled

Do you know someone who is always putting herself down? Do you enjoy being around her or do you find it exhausting? When our negative thoughts and words become habit, that behavior will come out around others. They will be able to see what we think of ourselves and hear how we speak to ourselves.

Think about how you talk to yourself. Would you want others to hear you? And what would they think?

God knows everything and still He showers us with grace. As we receive His grace, we need to give ourselves some grace too. We can retrain our minds to think differently and replace the lies with God’s truth.

Remember the advice, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all? It applies to ourselves too. If you look in the mirror and can’t say something nice about yourself, walk away. When you look again, make an intentional effort to say one nice thing about yourself. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is. What matters is changing the way we think about, and speak to, ourselves. 

The first step doesn’t have to be a big one, there just needs to be a first step.

*****

If you are reading Fulfilled by Danise Jurado with us, we are in week 3 with Chapter 4—Breaking Free and Chapter 5—Change. Danise offers good practical steps for breaking free from the chains that keep us from spiritual freedom and for making change where we see change needs to be made.

Identifying the lies we’ve been told or believed for a long time can be difficult. They can be so engrained that they seem normal to us. But as we look to God’s Word for His Truth, we find these thoughts don’t line up with what God says. There have been times when I had to think back (sometimes way back) to discover when it became a “normal” thought. Maybe it was because it was said to me repeatedly or from a past mistake or failure. For me, finding the source of that thought helped to diffuse the power it held over me. And without that power, I could work on letting it go.

What has helped you identify and diffuse lies that seemed like “normal thoughts?” 

In Christ,
Laura 


Monday, September 21, 2015

Fulfilled Study - Week 3


Welcome! If you're joining us in reading Fulfilled by Danise Jurado, we are in week 3. If you are looking for past Fulfilled posts, click on the #Fulfilled label in the left side bar.

Read Chapter 4—Breaking Free and Chapter 5—Change

After reading, consider these questions:
  • Danise Jurado writes, “We all deeply desire to believe that we are not bound by the mistakes of our past or limited by the success of yesterday.” (pg. 45)
  • Whether it’s past mistakes or past successes, do you struggle with feeling like your past defines you? Do you find it difficult to move forward and not get stuck in the past, or the way things used to be?
  • It sounds different that way, doesn’t it? The way we used to be cannot describe, or give the details of, who we are today in Christ.
  • Danise explains three steps to breaking free. Have you tried them? What was your experience?
  • Change can be hard. It’s uncomfortable, and we like to be in control of what changes in our lives. How do you react to change?
 Have a great week!

In Christ,
Laura

[Image credit: Danise Jurado]

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Quiet Celebration Every Day


I’m joining the Five Minute Friday community with Kate Motaung this weekend…5 minutes, no rewriting, and a one word prompt…
Celebrate

Celebrate seems like a big word to me. Not because of its length or the number of letters in the word, but rather in what it means.
To celebrate – to observe with ceremony, to praise widely, to make known publicly. (Dictionary.com)
We celebrate major accomplishments with parties and holidays with big get-togethers. The word celebration even sounds fancy and extravagant. Society goes over the top with bigger and better celebrations, often for the attention it draws.

But perhaps “celebrate” doesn’t have to only mean bigger and better, and doesn’t only apply to milestones and big events.

What if there’s reason to celebrate every day, but we’re missing it because we’re looking for something cake-and-decorations worthy?

The little things deserve celebration too, but in a different way—a quiet, reflective, pat-on-the-back, praise God way.

Times when…

You move forward despite the fear that threatens to stop you.

You decide to face a new day even though the pain makes you want to hide in bed.

You step out in faith, following God’s lead, without being able to see the future.

You remember to turn to God’s truth before letting the negative thoughts and regret take over.

You put everything aside and allow yourself to relax and enjoy a beautiful day for the first time in ages.

Celebrating doesn’t mean adding more to your to-do list. It means stopping to acknowledge God’s work in your life…to see God’s beauty around you…to congratulate and cheer someone else on.

Most of the time, we don’t need a party—we need someone to say, You did great!...Good job!..I’m proud of you!

Other times, we just need to sit quietly with God in thanks and praise for the strength He gives us to keep moving forward, one step at a time.

What if we look for one thing to celebrate every day, no matter how big or small it may be? What will you celebrate today?

In Christ,
Laura 

Linking up with Five Minute Friday, Give Me Grace, Weekend Whispers, #RaRaLinkup, Sharing His Beauty, SDG Gathering, Playdates with God, #SmallWonder

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Vulnerable With God


Vulnerable – susceptible to physical harm or emotional injury, open to criticism, unprotected against attack (TheFreeDictionary.com)

I don’t know anyone who likes to be vulnerable. It’s why we wear masks, isn’t it? Why we quickly answer “fine” when asked how we are?

One of my least favorite responses is, “It’s all good” because it usually follows a list of circumstances that don’t sound all that good. In fact, they sound unpleasant, overwhelming, and quite difficult. But to say so would be vulnerable.

And vulnerability is uncomfortable. It leaves us out there, uncovered, for all to see. The world might see this as weakness, but God does not.

With God, being vulnerable is a safe place to be. {Tweet this}

It means we can tell Him anything, (He already knows anyway) and know that He will always love us.

Where transparency with others may leave us open to attack, it never will with God. When we let ourselves be completely open and honest with God, He shows us new things about ourselves. Admittedly, some things we may not want to know, but He doesn’t leave us there alone.

As He walks us through change, He comforts and strengthens us along the way.
“Complete vulnerability means nothing is off limits; there are no walls. It’s letting God into every area of our mind, heart, and behavior. God is our only constant safe place. He is our hiding place where vulnerability is no longer scary. He knows everything, and He sees everything, and yet, He unconditionally loves us.” – Danise Jurado, Fulfilled (pg. 36)

I don’t like feeling vulnerable, and yet, with God, it’s different.

In this vulnerable state with God, I feel my strong will relax. I let my guard down and He shows me where He desires to work in me.

This is where we come closer to Him and get to know Him better. Our faith grows deeper. It’s where we become more dependent on Him…and that is a good thing.

In fact, perhaps that’s when we can say, “It’s all good.”

*****

If you are reading Danise Jurado’s book Fulfilled with us, we are in week 2 with Chapters 2—Restoration and Chapter 3—Truth. There is a lot in these two chapters to take in. Vulnerability is only one small point, but being open, honest, and exposed with God is necessary for growth and restoration. With our defenses up, we resist change and keep God at arm’s length.

Change is never easy, especially when we’re wanting God to change someone else, but He chooses to work on us. I’ve dug in my heels, insisting I’m not the one who needs work. As you can imagine, that didn’t go well. What it does is make the process take longer and it feels more painful. (It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn more than once.)

But when I humble myself to Him, He gives the ability and strength to endure the refining process. He will lead us through the storm and carry us when we’re too weak to keep going. And when we’ve rested, He sets us back on our feet again and continues to guide us.

How do you feel about being vulnerable with God? Does it come easily or do you struggle with it?

In Christ,
Laura  



Monday, September 14, 2015

Fulfilled Study - Week 2


Welcome! If you're reading Fulfilled by Danise Jurado with us, here is the reading for week 2. (If you are just joining us, it's not to late to get started. Click on the Fulfilled Study tab above for more information.)

Read: Chapter 2—Restoration and Chapter 3—Truth

When you finish reading, consider these questions:

Danise Jurado writes, “I was a brand new Christian, and I didn’t have a lot of knowledge, but I knew that there was a spiritual battle going on for our marriage and, more importantly for my husband.” (pg. 19)

What’s been your experience with spiritual warfare? Did you recognize the spiritual battle at the time, or not until you could look back?

“The problem with Christians is that we know what we believe; we just don’t really believe what we know.” (pg. 39)

Do you struggle with believing what you know about God and what you read in His Word? Do you believe His promises are for you?

Danise describes the battle of truth vs. fact on pgs. 40-41. Do you struggle with the facts of reality getting in the way of your faith and God’s truth?

Have a great week!

In Christ,
Laura

[Image credit: Danise Jurado]

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Comparing Our Sins


I’ve written about comparing ourselves to others in the past—how it can make us feel “less than.” But it’s not just looks, careers, children’s behavior, pictures on Facebook and stuff we own that we use to compare ourselves to others.

We compare our sins to one another. Whether we do it consciously or not, it happens.

I’m not perfect, but I’ve never done that!

Wow, he had it all…till he got caught doing that. I’d never.

Maybe not those exact words, but we’ve heard similar comments, and possibly even spoken them.

We compare our sins to someone else’s, and if we determine theirs are worse, well, then we feel a little better about ourselves.

We compare as if there are degrees of sin. But, God says sin is sin. Period.
Our sin cannot be defined by comparing ourselves with others, but rather in comparing ourselves to God’s standard. When humanity is compared to the perfection of God, we are all found guilty. –Danise Jurado, Fulfilled

We try to make ourselves look better by judging and comparing one sin against another, but compared to God’s standard—we all fall short.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. Romans 3:23-24 NLT

It’s freeing, in a way…knowing, and confessing, that I am a sinner. I don’t have to try to live up to someone else’s expectations, and I don’t have to make sure my sins aren’t as bad as someone else’s.

God doesn’t compare us to one another—and He doesn’t compare our sins.


Perhaps we shouldn’t either. We are all in need of God’s forgiveness. We are all in need of God’s generous grace. {click to tweet}

We all need Jesus.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NIV

Jesus died for all sinners—for all of us.


My sins are not more or less serious than your sins. There are different consequences, but all sin hurts us and those around us.

Comparing and judging each other based on our sins, is, in and of itself, sinful. It leads us to think one is better than another. It puts us in competition with one another—as if we can earn God’s love and grace by our own merits.

And we can’t. We can only be made right with God through Jesus.
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. Romans 3:22-24 NLT

Everyone who believes—regardless of who we are or which sins we’ve committed—can be made right with God through our faith in Jesus Christ.

While it might not be easy, let’s catch ourselves when we start judging our sins against someone else’s. We all need God’s grace and forgiveness…and we need forgiveness from one another.

Which means we need to extend grace and forgiveness to others, without judgment and comparison.

***
If you are reading Fulfilled, by Danise Jurado, with us, we are in the first week of the study with Chapter 1—Forgiveness. How are you doing with the reading? Have you tried the forgiveness homework?

I started with the intention of doing the first day’s work and then putting it away. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. When you open yourself to God’s healing, He keeps working, even when you’d like to stop. Hours after starting the homework, I went to worship. The sermon topic for that weekend? Grace and forgiveness. That’s right. God at work.

In Christ,
Laura  



Monday, September 7, 2015

Fulfilled Study - Week 1


Welcome! This week we begin our study of Fulfilled...Learning to Live the Life God Promised by Danise Jurado. (For more information on the online study, click on the Fulfilled Study tab above.) 

I'm trying to keep it simple, so that it can fit into anyone's schedule. On Mondays, I'll post the reading for the week and some questions to consider. On Wednesdays, I'll post my reflections on the reading. 

Everyone is encouraged to interact in the comments sections, but if you prefer to read and visit quietly, that is perfectly alright! No pressure. 

To begin our study, I'm happy to have author Danise Jurado here with some words of encouragement for all of us!
As you journey through the pages of Fulfilled, I pray that God’s compassion and unfailing love captivate your heart in new and inspiring ways. May the promises found in His truth call to the depths of your soul to bring healing and freedom to places in your life that only God can see.
I vulnerably share my own personal stories with you, hoping that they will encourage you in your faith. Our God is always good; even during the times in life when we don’t understand. Over the ten years it took me to write this book, little by little God helped me write each sentence straight from my heart to yours.
You will find many practical steps in the book that came from life lessons God taught me. I have been sharing these steps throughout fifteen years of pastoral ministry to help many others discover freedom, restoration and the Fulfilled life God has promised.
I would love to connect with you. All my contact information can be found here: http://www.danisejurado.com/contact/
Thank you so much Laura for hosting the first Fulfilled online study! May God shower you all with His beautiful blessings.
Love Danise :)  
Thank you Danise! And now, for this week's reading...

Week 1: Read the Introduction & Chapter 1Forgiveness 

When you finish reading, consider these questions:
  • What did you think about Danise’s conversation with the senior pastor on page 3 (specifically what he said to her)? How would you have responded?
  • Do you find it difficult or easy to extend forgiveness?  I can relate to the “stuff it approach” Danise describes on page 7. Are you in the habit of using this approach? How does it work for you?
  • How did you feel about the forgiveness homework? Did you make that first choice to try it? If you did, have you continued with it?

Have a great week!

In Christ,
Laura

[Image credit: Danise Jurado]