Fasting

I am honored to begin this journey through the study Finding I Am, with you. I am confident that God will do an awe-inspiring work in you. He will continue to transform your heart to reflect His. Prepared to be deeply blessed!

Lysa opens the book discussing spiritual giants and fasting. There is something powerful in giving up food (or something else) in order to sit at the Lord’s feet. Worship becomes richer. The encounter with the Lord is deeper.

I grew up in church. Sometimes I was there as often as I was at home. The twenty-four-hour famine was on my bucket list for years. Finally, I reached youth group age.  I sprang into motion once the signup sheet was out at the tender age of twelve.

Our last meal was at school directly after we headed to church. The leaders pour a lot of time into crafting memorable games, worship sessions, juice breaks, and other activities.  Many details I cannot recall, but I know it was a time that I grew closer to God.

Seconds before communion, which is how we were breaking the fast, I grabbed my friend. Instructing her to get help. I wasn’t able to see. I passed out. However, that didn’t dampen my experience. Shortly after recovering, I asked when we could do the event again. That experience led me to a season of regular fasting on my own.

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Fasting provides a unique way to encounter God. Jesus taught about fasting, “and when you fast, do not look miserable as the actors and hypocrites do when they are fasting—they walk around town putting on airs about their suffering and weakness, complaining about how hungry they are. So everyone will know they are fasting, they don’t wash or anoint themselves with oil, pink their cheeks, or wear comfortable shoes. Those who show off their piety, they have already received their reward. When you fast, wash your face and beautify yourself with oil, so no one who looks at you will know about your discipline. Only your Father, who is unseen, will see your fast. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:16-18).

In this season of my life, due to my combination of chronic illnesses, I cannot fast from food. I want to encourage you if you are in a similar situation. All is not lost if you cannot fast from food. While it is an amazing experience, your current health situation is not a surprise to God. His grace extends where our bodies fail.

Fasting can be done in numerous ways. Some non-food suggestions are fasting from technology, a television series, or a hobby. The goal is to spend more time with God. Giving Him your undivided attention. To enhance your relationship with Him. Time away from something allows more time with God.

Lord,

We adore your precious name. You are worthy of all honor, glory, and praise. You reign victoriously. Awe-inspiring, faithful, and sovereign.

Thank you for the gift of fasting. We praise Your name that Your grace extends into the depths of where we lack. We praise You for providing a way where we see none. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the time we spend alone with You. The time we worship You, seek Your face, talk with you, and spend in Your living Word.

Allow of Your children who read this to grow closer to You and to experience You in a unique way. Burden their hearts for You. Set their soul on fire. Bless this Bible study in an awe-inspiring way. Beyond our dreams. We praise Your Holy Name.

Amen

Hope

New Year’s sweet bells of hope ring loudly as January launches. Fervently we compose resolutions so that this year will be astonishing. However, the sweet song evaporates. Leaving us in silence by mid-January as we waltz back into the reliable beat of everyday life. Focus is no longer aimed at hope or the resolutions. Slither into daily calamities, apprehension leeches on, despair dangles overhead, and sorrow is deep.

Providing joy, strength, and adding depth to our relationship with Christ. Despite heartbreak, pain beyond comprehension, and when our world seems to be crumbling before our eyes there is always a spark of hope. It is not always instinct, but then again living the way Jesus called us to is anything but natural. As Christians, we are required to battle our flesh. In addition, we are to fight to remain firm in the hope Christ provides for us. It is a daily fight. Let me assure you, my precious friend that the reward is immeasurable.

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How would you, dear friend define this simple word hope? Appearing frequently, it is engraved on our hearts. Yet we need a reminder of the biblical definition so that we resist conforming to the world’s definition of hope. Additionally, so that we remain steadfast in Christ and transformed by Him.Bible.org defines hope this way, “Hope” in Scripture means “a strong and confident expectation.” Furthermore, there is a clear element of trust throughout Scripture when hope is examined. Moreover, I find it essential to highlight the usage of hope in the New Testament, which I found on Biblestudytools.org. “The New Testament consistently uses the verb elpizo [ejlpivzw] and the noun elpis [ejlpiv”] for hope.” Both words here are Greek.

 

Elpizo is defined as (30 times in NT)1. to hopein a religious sense, to wait for salvation with joy and full confidence2. hopefully to trust in.png

Additionally, hope molds our character, providing joy, peace, confidence, endurance, strength, courage, and comfort. Expanding beyond our dreams when we are consistently feasting on the Word of God. Furthermore, our hope cultivates as we become consumed with the Holy Spirit.Perspectives are transformed by hope as it gives new light to an existing situation. Likewise, it modifies the way we view ourselves, transforms what we value, and affects how we spend the gifts God has graciously entrusted us with such as time and talents.

Practically, how do we remain anchored in hope when our circumstances are screaming give up? When we continue to receive one piece of bad new after another. As mentioned before, we must continuously feast on God’s word. In addition, it is vital to the health of our hope to spend time simply in  Christ presence. Additionally, prayer provides a path to the renewal of hope. Various books, sermons, and worship songs can be an asset. Lastly, we can remain anchored in hope by leaning on Christian friends.

Lord,

Rekindle our weary souls with fresh hope. Fill us with Your HolySpirit. Enable us to have a deeper understanding of Your hope and of who You are. Regardless of what we face enable us to remain steadfast in hope. We praise You for the hope of salvation found in Christ Jesus. Blessed be Your Holy Name.

Amen

 

 

Advent & The Belt of Truth

The belt of truth relates to advent. Jesus, the truth put on flesh and joined the world as a delicate baby. “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” John 1:9 NIV. Through Jesus, God reveals to us His truth. In addition, His word exposes it. His truth enables us to discern right from wrong as well as almost right from right. Truth is essential to our spiritual well-being.

By putting on the belt of truth we are a reflection of Jesus. Take time from the businesses of the season to go deeper with the one who is the reason for it all. Meditate on God’s truth. Consider how God might burden your heart to be a vessel for His truth to the world. Furthermore, you sweet friend are a light to this world.

Like the belt holds together the armor, God holds together our world. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” Colossians 1:17.

God’s truth sets us free which provides peace that surpasses all understanding.  Despite, not so silent nights Christ’s peace continues to rule our hearts. This peace is not affected by the events or chaos in life. The second week of advent we reflect on the peace candle. We are reminded to slow down. To breath. Basking in His presence. Surrendering all to Him.

As you strap on the belt of truth this advent season and ponder these things in your heart rejoice in the goodness of God.  Praise Him for who He is. Rejoicing in the fact that He sent His only son.“Heavenly Choir: To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God! And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God!” Luke 2:14 The Voice

My prayer for you this advent is that you would develop a more intimate relationship with Christ. That He would use the Christmas story to move your heart in a new and beautiful way. That there are many moments are consumed with deep joy and laughter. The Lord would use you as a vessel of truth to others.

Lord,

We rejoice in this stunning Christmas season. Our hearts sing praises for the precious and priceless gift of Your son. Enable us to put on Your belt of truth daily. Give us discernment. Help us to remain focused on Your truth. Thank you for holding together the universe and our individual world. For all the blessings You have graciously given us. Use us to bring honor and glory to Your name. Allow us to be a vessel in the work You are doing in others lives. Use us to bring others closer to You. Fill our hearts with your peace, love, and joy. Allow us to grow closer to you daily. Deeply bless this Christmas season in a new way. Provide all we need.

Amen

Living Loved

Living loved is an adorable phrase. It would look perfect on my wall or on a t-shirt. The concept is lovely, but actually living loved that is a different story. I had to ask myself, am I living loved? Honestly, it depends on the day. Many days, like tonight I do not feel loved and I do not feel like I am living loved. Living loved shouldn’t be dependent on our circumstances or the people we encounter it should come from the stability of the love Jesus pours out to us. This is a new concept for me. Maybe living loved is a new concept for you as well. We can work through what this practically looks like together.

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To live loved I need to be filled with God’s love.“I needed to reconnect with the One who knows how to breathe life and love back into the dead places. Jesus doesn’t participate in the rat race. He’s into the slower rhythms of life like abiding, and , delighting, and dwelling…” I need to have my quiet time, daily. Ideally, this would be three hours minimum. Realistically it is usually an hour and a half to two hours. No, it’s not impressive I am desperate for my time with God. Just like the amount of time everyone’s body needs is unique to them so is the amount of quiet time one needs.

Living loved is pouring out love. Some days this comes naturally. However, I become discouraged when I feel as though I am endlessly pouring into certain people with no response. Finding balance when pouring into people is essential. Blessing others  ultimately blesses us. Walking into a situation as Lysa says looking to bless others.

Precious friends, ” and live in love as the Anointed One loved you—so much that He gave Himself as a fragrant sacrifice, pleasing God.” Ephesians 5:2The Voice

Lord,

Enable us to lived loved completely confident in You. Thank you for the depth of Your love. Allow us to pour blessings into others lives. To invite others in and help them to feel loved. Fill us with Your goodness. We love you.

Amen

Uninvited Devotional Two

Many wonderful people in the Bible felt left out, lonely, and less than. Uninvited, as we do today. I just began reading The Friends of Jesus by Karen Kingsbury where one of the main characters is Simon the Leper.  Talk about major rejection!

Most of us have heard the term leprosy in the Bible, but how much do we truly know about it? Probably a little less than we would assume. Leprosy is a bacterial infection, it is also known in the medical field as Hansen’s disease. It is slow progressing. It is also called chronic though today there are treatments and it is listed as curable. One treatment option, of course, is none other than Prednisone. Some symptoms include but are not limited to pain in joints, pain in the skin, changed in skin color, tumors, nerve injury, weight loss, and organ damage.

In Biblical times, treatments weren’t available, therefore people who contracted this illness were sent to live in a leopard colony.  Leopards were viewed as sinful. They were seen as unclean. In addition, to the physical pain, those inflicted with this disease encountered deep emotional wounds. They were treated as if they were dead by those they cherished. They were isolated by the community they dedicated their lives to.

“Large crowds followed Jesus when He came down from the mountain. And as Jesus was going along, a leper approached Him and knelt down before Him.Leper: Lord, if You wish to, please heal me and make me clean! Jesus (stretching out His hand): Of course I wish to. Be clean. Immediately the man was healed. Jesus: Don’t tell anyone what just happened. Rather, go to the priest, show yourself to him, and give a wave offering as Moses commanded. Your actions will tell the story of what happened here today.” Matthew 8:14 The Voice Translation

Walking through chronic illness and the rejection that accompanies it is a challenge. Healing does not always come in the way we expect, but the blessings may be larger than expected and God will receive glory from our story. You might feel like a leopard; an outcast, but you are the most beautiful princess in the Father’s eyes. You are a Blood Bought Baby Girl of Jesus Christ and He has a beautiful purpose for your life. I hope you are learning how to live loved.

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Helping Other Despite Illness

Before stepping into my currently reality, I was able to serve others regularly. I was able to help at free dinners, do yard work, mission work, help out with a retreat, youth group, and a few other small things. I love to help. I figured I would only need to step back slightly for half a season due to my health (mainly due to getting answers and five operations in four years). However, that was not reality. My limitations weighted me down as I realized how I had been serving was no longer an option physically. The desire to be used burned with in as I pleaded with God to use me in any way. This is still something I am working through.

I adore running Chronically Hopeful, but there are days it doesn’t seem like enough (there is plenty of work, but I wanted to serve more).  Most of you know that right now I am leading with a few other women two online Bible studies. I have also joined the ministry team for my online Church.

When God lovely nudged my heart to lead Come With Me, I attempted to tell Him I was too busy. Can you guess who won that disagreement? He did hands down. One of the chapters we are reading this week is about Jesus’ presence in a storm, specifically when the disciples woke up Jesus in a panic followed by Jesus simply rebuking the storm.

We all encounter different trials in different seasons of life. Trials come so that God can discipline us, mold us, enable us to comfort others, and bring us closer to Him all while bringing glory to His name. The Bible calls us to carry one another’s burdens. Do you know of someone in a trial? Trials are demanding. Support is essential during these times.

Most people who follow Chronically Hopeful are chronically ill, so the remainder of this post is written with you in mind. How can I support someone when I am physically limited? It can be intimidating to offer help when you feel flawed. You might be turned down completely, I have been many times, but that’s okay. Offer whatever you have to God, “not enough becomes more than enough when we give it to God.”

Keep in mind the little things make a big difference. Everyone needs encouragement. The simplest notes of encouragement go a long ways. Use Facebook, e-mail, or snail mail. A short note with a Bible verse or a line or two are excellent ways to start. If you want a little more of a challenge write an entire letter and be personal.

Find an in person project that is short term and can accommodate you needs. This might be assisting in the nursey at church, being a greeter, making a meal for a family, or helping a child with homework in the neighborhood.

There is nothing like being in person, but at times illness traps us either keeping us homebound or sucking the energy (and spoons) out of us. Volunteer online. I know at first it is a strange concept. Support groups can use help with events or managing pages or responding to comments. Online Bible studies are another option.

Do you find it difficult to reach out and help others? Share your struggles. Share ways you have been successful in this.

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Online Bible Study

Being mainly homebound is difficult. We long to be as normal as possible, yet our bodies seem to fail  repeatedly. Technology paves the path to socialization. Of course, being in person is ideal, but not always reality.

We weren’t made for isolation, yet slip into its trap all to often. Community is an essential aspect of life.

Online Bible study, is a fairly new concept. It provides a wonderful chance to get into the word of God, grow Spiritually, and to have some degree of fellowship. A Bible study or small group can also provide accountability. This is by no means only for those with a chronic illness. Just like at most churches, you get a mix of people coming from all walks of life.

About a week ago, I began my second online Bible study through Proverbs 31 Ministries. Proverbs 31 Ministeries is an excellent resource for women of all ages. ” Wherever a woman may be on her spiritual journey, Proverbs 31 Ministries exists to be a trusted friend who understands the challenges she faces, walks by her side, encouraging her as she walks toward the heart of God.”

I began participating in a Proverbs 31 Ministries Bible study about a week ago. We are reading, I know His name by Wendy Blight. In addition, to reading a section of the book daily (Monday – Friday) we have a private Facebook page where we are able to share with one another. For this particular study, there are a lot of women. For me, at this time, it is not realistic to read every comment (though I did try). I aim to read five to ten post and comment on a handful.

Another online women Bible study is Good Morning Girls, by Women Living Well. I highly encourage you to consider joining some type of Bible study or small group either in person or online. If you think you would benefit from an online setting make sure to do your homework, find out what the group believes. And, of course, pray over it before jumping in.