God illuminates our Darkness!

 


And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea,and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Mark 4: 37-41 (NASB)

In the midst of a storm or should I say a tsunami, do not forget to look up to Jesus first.

God challenged and refined me for almost four years although he did not give me more than I could handle at the time.

Have you ever been choked or paralyzed by a life storm? Have you ever experienced unbelief? I sure did yet cried out boldly and loudly, ‘help me with my unbelief, Lord’ periodically. Some of you may be going thru some challenges today… If you are going thru a storm, how would you label your storm? 

I labeled mine, “The Pit of Darkness.” The Lord was ahead of me working out every detail of my dire circumstances. 

“Lord, You light my lamp; my God illuminates my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28 HCSB) Let us never forget He is our Light in our journey.

A few months after my dad had passed away, I was promoted to a regional leadership platform. Today, I oversee the quality of clinical services for close to 1,300 children and adolescents. During this time of grief and sorrow, I was asked to make daily Clinical decisions on behalf of these needy children. While I successfully provided adequate coverage, I was also intertwined with family affairs and daily decision-making processes on behalf of my dad’s Estate.

My “pit of darkness” was steep and intense. I will explain next.

I was out of breath at times and my health was compromised on several occasions. My life circumstances definitely got grotesque before the circumstances got any better. I know our Lord will train us for today’s battlefield. His Truth reminds me, “He trains my hands for war; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.” (Psalm 18:32 HCSB) The Lord will fight on our behalf, we just need to be still, be quiet, listen and follow His lead (Exodus 14:14).

“Every time my eyes were not on Jesus, I was horrified even paralyzed when facing these stressors,” I thank the Lord for having a supportive husband who challenged me to take the next step in the midst of confusion, chaos, loss, and persecution from those who resisted change. Most importantly, I have a great God who clothed me with inner strength and filled my heart with hope (Psalm 18:39). He makes my way perfect (Psalm 18:32).

“The Lord is My Banner” (Exodus 17:15).

I was overwhelmed and frazzled at the beginning of my leadership role, I experienced a panic attack on one of my business trips. At the end of the first year, I literally experienced heart-attack symptoms such as discomfort in my arm, pain in my chest and shortness of breath. In my second year, I experienced severe vertigo signs. In one occasion, the medical doctor ruled out a brain tumor with an MRI!

I thank God for ‘good health’ today!

The season of grief and sorrow, a fast-paced demanding work environment and family distress contributed to the pit of darkness. Slowly but surely, I began to read His Word daily and started to journal as I dealt with these life stressors.

I knew I had to handle these life stressors God’s way! It is the only way, my friend.

Once I was convicted, I prayed for His strength, mercies, and inner peace. I begged the Lord to show me ‘how’ and to give me the strength to persevere thru it all.

Three years later, I changed the cultural climate at work, implemented new systems and mobilized community resources for the least restrictive placements, and held strategic, monthly conference calls with the former Commissioner.

At this time, my eyes are on Jesus and no longer on my circumstances. In Christ, there is victory without a doubt!

Out of the pit of darkness, the Bible Reading Journal Series was birthed.

There will be seven volumes addressing the core spiritual disciplines that involve life application, confession, repentance, forgiveness, thanksgiving, and prayer. In the midst of the storm, let us not forget to look up to Jesus, not our circumstances my friend.

In my darkest moments, I felt hatred, unforgiveness, resentment, loneliness, isolation, and depression. These negative emotions took root in my heart temporarily. When I was convicted of the darkness in my life, I knew I had to look up to Jesus immediately for His help, guidance, inner peace and most importantly a new heart! 

He was forgiving, compassionate and faithful.

As soon as I would inscribe His Word, apply the lesson learned that morning, and submit my prayer requests, I was able to focus on the next task, experience less distress and endure the hardships at work.

His grace and faithfulness carried me one day at a time.

And, when I submit all of my prayer requests at sunrise, my heart and mind are in peace and I am much better prepared for today’s battlefield and the unexpected events.

Today, I not only inscribe those Scriptures that speak to me when I’m reading the Bible, but I read these verses in different translations, apply them to my life, and step out in obedience.

As I go thru any of my journals, I have an opportunity to confess to God any sin(s) whether it is unbelief, anger or unforgiveness. I also ask the Lord to help me forgive those who have hurt me throughout the day.

Counting my blessings fills my heart with gratitude.

When I surrender and write out my prayers and praying for others, our Lord comforts me every morning.

I am boldly praising Jesus today! “Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; He has thrown the horse and its rider into the sea.” (Exodus 15: 21)

In Christ, there is victory so look up in the midst of a life storm. Do not fix your eyes on the circumstances, my friend.               

Join the FB Bible Reading Journal Community today!

Bible Reading Journal: Growing Closer to God One Day at a Time.

Bible Reading Journal Series 2019

Volume 1 & 2 & 3 (Available Now on Amazon)

The Bible Reading Journal: Growing Closer to God One Day at a Time.

Bible Reading Journal: Growing Closer to God One Day at a Time.: “Your Word i… https://www.amazon.com/dp/1793923728/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_U_x_BmWwCbJH8J0HQ via @amazon

The Bible Reading Journal: Rest and Be Refreshed.

Bible Reading Journal: Rest and Be Refreshed.: “Your Word is a lamp to my fee… https://www.amazon.com/dp/1794685421/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_U_x_gnWwCbA0V0NCK via @amazon

The Bible Reading Journal: Praise and Be Content.

Bible Reading Journal: Praise and Be Content: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet… https://www.amazon.com/dp/1795055677/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_U_x_OnWwCbVRW0168 via @amazon

Volume 1 (Spanish Version, Spring 2019)

El Diario de Lectura de la Biblia: Cada vez más cerca de Dios, un día a la vez

Volume 4 & 5 (Summer 2019)

The Bible Reading Journal: Trust and Be Courageous.

The Bible Reading Journal: Mourn and Be Comforted.

Volume 6 & 7 (Fall 2019)

The Bible Reading Journal: Forgive and Be Restored.

The Bible Reading Journal: Love and Be His Light.

The Bible Reading Journal 2019 is now available on Amazon.com

Be Well-Rested!

“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 NIV

Lord,

I am lifting up all of my burdens and hardships to You at this moment.

Help me find rest for my soul so I may be ready for tomorrow’s battlefield.

At times, I am quite overwhelmed with simple tasks, intricate relationships at work or at home with my loved ones.

It is an ongoing struggle, Lord!

In You alone, I find my rest. I want to be mindful of regular breaks throughout the day so I may rest in Your Word always.

The most important event of my day is to focus on You, Lord. I want to focus on You day and night.

Yes, Lord, I will always need your wisdom and inner strength even when I am feeling brave or confident about troubling circumstances.

Help me not to be weary or burdened.

One of my biggest challenges is to forgive those who have hurt me in the past… You want me to forgive immediately (Colossians 3:13 NIV) just the way You have forgiven me. Not once or twice, but seventy times seven! Lord, this is a true challenge when I am still hurting. Help me forgive everyone and help me be discerning as I move forward in relationships.

Help me be hopeful always, and restore all distant relationships.

Our Lord is the Prince of Peace and does not want for my heart to be troubled (John 14:27 NIV). He is always with me wherever I go (Psalm 118:6 NIV).

Praising Jesus for His Faithfulness, peace, forgiveness and compassion.

Lord, give me wisdom and discernment to do good so I may not only forgive but bless others at all times.

Strengthen my heart. Renew my mind. Refresh my soul.

I need to fight “the good fight” and do all the work you have prepared me to do.

I want to be well-rested so I may be courageous and Brave in all I do in Christ.

In Jesus’ name I boldly praise and pray,

Your beloved daughter,

Amen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you would like to journal as you rest on God’s Word, check out the selected Scriptures in the “Bible Reading Journal: Rest and Be Refreshed.”

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1794685421/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_api_i_H9LuCbD7CVR03 #Amazon

Photo: Tami Parker Theobald

In Christ, I’m Alive and Free!

My dad wanted for me to become a famous concert pianist at a young age. He even dreamed about traveling together for competitions and performances over the course of my adolescence.

My Dreams were different. I wanted to help people in their distress so I became a mental health provider and achieved my ‘American Dream’ over the course of three decades.

Now, my friend, there is nothing wrong about having dreams or specific goals in today’s world. It is healthy to be intentional about our daily, monthly, quarterly and yearly goals.  Our Lord even recommends for all of us to be purposeful in life and maintain a clear vision; otherwise, we would perish in the long run.

”So go ahead and be intentional every day in pursuit of your American Dream.”I am thankful for accomplishing my ‘American dream’ and so much more. I know God had the best plan for me and He even took me further than I ever imagined or expected.

Be cautious though not to be blindfolded along the way… I know I was!

For so long, I was so proud of my career pursuits and hardly ever acknowledged God in my plans early on in my career.

When our goals become idols, “I must attain this right now” attitude, we may neglect God’s will. I was disobedient and even rebellious when I was on the ‘fast track’. I worked 70-80 hours a week, did not rest a day, smoked up to two packs of cigarettes a day, rushed throughout the day so I would get to the next action step, never had time for family or friends, completed three graduate schools’ programs in a timely manner, and finally attained professional licensure in two different States and a worldwide Board certification at a high price and cost!

Whew!

I am quite exhausted right about now just thinking about the energy I spent all of those years striving for peak performance. Do not be impressed, my friend. I am not here to boast or impress anyone.

I’m here to share briefly with you about the damaging effects of idolatry.

I have been an overachiever since my early college years. I can now relax and enjoy my professional career! I thank God for His wisdom and discernment in the past decade otherwise I would have probably self-destructed. I never had an opportunity to be still and allow God to speak to my heart much less time to renew or be transformed by His Word.

If I would have known He was already there fighting on my behalf, I would have listened to all of His whispers, obeyed His commands and waited on His promises to be fulfilled in His perfect timing. His Truth reminds me today, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus‬ ‭14:14 NIV

I’ve got quite a few regrets today such as: broken, strained and distant relationships with family members, significant upper-respiratory health issues, and the fact I never had time to consider having children.

I was in bondage for way too long! Yes, I was indeed.

Trapped. Blind. Lost. Dead in my transgressions.

The ‘American Dream’ blindfolded me. I was self-centered and selfish when achieving all types of goals.

Until one day…

I heard the Gospel preached at a local Church, It finally came all together. I admitted I was a sinner who was dead in my transgressions and caught up with today’s cultural pursuits and success track.

God was relentless in His pursuit and He never let me go… I finally surrendered it all and started to renew my mind with His Word, my life was transformed thereafter.

The Cross has the final Word, sweet friend, not the ‘American Dream’.

I am now free from the ‘American Dream’ bondage.

I still work hard in everything I do, but my purpose is not to please man anymore. My main purpose is to maintain an eternal perspective, fear our Lord and glorify Him at the end of the day in everything I do.

In Christ, I’m alive and free.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:1‬ ‭NIV

How about you my friend? Do you fear man or are you pleasing the Lord today?

We all have a choice.

I chose Christ.

I am alive and free today.

43435E00-42C4-4648-8023-0465291BCE3DPhoto Courtesy: Andressa Voltolini

Two Foundations

B3B764A8-9AE2-4C55-BF11-CCCEC0C57EE9.jpegPedro Sousa @ Splasher

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell-and great was its fall.” Matthew‬ ‭7:24-27‬ ‭NASB

Several years ago, I was standing on sinking ground with my Faith walk. Church attendance was ‘hit or miss’, bible reading was inconsistent, and prayerful life was nonexistent. I was distant from the Lord. I was consumed by ‘cultural busyness’ and distracted by a fast-paced lifestyle. No margin for rest, adequate self-care or time for His Word.

Yes! You heard me right. I was standing on shaky territory.

I was a reckless woman who did not read or act on His Word. I was vulnerable and helpless. “Enemies of the heart” took root in my soul from paralyzing fear, doubt,  hatred, unforgiveness, isolation to bitterness. I was resting at the bottom of the pit,  ‘darkness of depression’, in the midst of loss and separation, and overwhelming life circumstances. I was grief-stricken with dad’s sudden death, overwhelmed by a regional leadership platform and troubled by mom’s relocation back to South America.

My world had drastically turned upside down in less than three months.

But God …

He never left me or forsake me.

When the Holy Spirit convicted me of His faithfulness, I immediately turned back to His Word one day at a time. Re-building an intimate relationship  with the Lord was a gradual process yet it was worth the time and commitment.

Spiritual disciplines; repentance, forgiveness, thanksgiving and prayer transformed my life one day at a time.

He is my Refuge, Comforter and the Best Counselor. He is my Rock today. The more I read and apply His Word to my everyday life, the closer I am to the Lord. His faithfulness, favor and grace are evident, and His mercies never runs out.

I am standing on a firm foundation today. How about you my friend? Would you stand next to me? Jesús Christ is our strength, inner peace and our only hope.

“You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess.”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭5:33‬ ‭NASB‬‬

“by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.””
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭30:20‬ ‭NASB

“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭18:2‬ ‭NASB‬‬

“This Faith Journal is an experiential journey for you to deepen your relationship with God.  As you read God’s Word, His promises will strengthen your heart and following the guided prompts will inspire forgiveness and restoration in your relationships. Journaling helps you build a prayerful life that allows you to rest on Him when burdened by today’s challenges.  Journaling His Word invites the Holy Spirit to counsel and guide you through burdens, hardships, and pain.” 
Kathy Bornarth, MA, LPC, President of the National Association of Christian Journal Writers www.nacjw.com

376F9AC2-1A06-4E38-8977-7F9C6A46D068.jpeg

 

 

 

In Christ, I’m Alive and Free!

My dad wanted for me to become a famous concert pianist at a young age. He even dreamed about traveling together for competitions and performances over the course of my adolescence.

My Dreams were different. I wanted to help people in their distress so I became a mental health provider and achieved my ‘American Dream’ over the course of three decades.

Now, my friend, there is nothing wrong about having dreams or specific goals in today’s world. It is healthy to be intentional about our daily, monthly, quarterly and yearly goals.  Our Lord even recommends for all of us to be purposeful in life and maintain a clear vision; otherwise, we would perish in the long run.

”So go ahead and be intentional every day in pursuit of your American Dream.”I am thankful for accomplishing my ‘American dream’ and so much more. I know God had the best plan for me and He even took me further than I ever imagined or expected.

Be cautious though not to be blindfolded along the way… I know I was!

For so long, I was so proud of my career pursuits and hardly ever acknowledged God in my plans early on in my career.

When our goals become idols, “I must attain this right now” attitude, we may neglect God’s will. I was disobedient and even rebellious when I was on the ‘fast track’. I worked 70-80 hours a week, did not rest a day, smoked up to two packs of cigarettes a day, rushed throughout the day so I would get to the next action step, never had time for family or friends, completed three graduate schools’ programs in a timely manner, and finally attained professional licensure in two different States and a worldwide Board certification at a high price and cost!

Whew!

I am quite exhausted right about now just thinking about the energy I spent all of those years striving for peak performance. Do not be impressed, my friend. I am not here to boast or impress anyone.

I’m here to share briefly with you about the damaging effects of idolatry.

I have been an overachiever since my early college years. I can now relax and enjoy my professional career! I thank God for His wisdom and discernment in the past decade otherwise I would have probably self-destructed. I never had an opportunity to be still and allow God to speak to my heart much less time to renew or be transformed by His Word.

If I would have known He was already there fighting on my behalf, I would have listened to all of His whispers, obey His commands and waited on His promises to be fulfilled in His perfect timing. His Truth reminds me today, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus‬ ‭14:14 NIV

I’ve got quite a few regrets today such as: broken, strained and distant relationships with family members, significant upper-respiratory health issues, and the fact I never had time to consider having children.

I was in bondage for way too long! Yes, I was indeed.

Trapped. Blind. Lost. Dead in my transgressions.

The ‘American Dream’ blindfolded me. I was self-centered and selfish when achieving all types of goals.

Until one day…

I heard the Gospel preached at a local Church, It finally came all together. I admitted I was a sinner who was dead in my transgressions and caught up with today’s cultural pursuits and success track.

God was relentless in His pursuit and He never let me go… I finally surrendered it all and started to renew my mind with His Word, my life was transformed thereafter.

The Cross has the final Word, sweet friend, not the ‘American Dream’.

I am now free from the ‘American Dream’ bondage.

I still work hard in everything I do, but my purpose is not to please man anymore. My main purpose is to maintain an eternal perspective, fear our Lord and glorify Him at the end of the day in everything I do.

In Christ, I’m alive and free.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:1‬ ‭NIV

How about you my friend? Do you fear man or are you pleasing the Lord today?

We all have a choice.

I chose Christ.

I am alive and free today.

43435E00-42C4-4648-8023-0465291BCE3DPhoto Courtesy: Andressa Voltolini

Drop The Magnifying Glass

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Lord,

At sunrise, I bring all of my petitions to You and reflect on my blessings with a grateful heart. When I am reclined in my favorite living room chair, the thinking process is smooth, friendly and convenient. I even have the time to ask you to search my heart and allow extra time for you to speak, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm‬ ‭139:23‬ ‭NIV‬‬.

My time with you at sunrise is a delight!

Philippians 4:6 reminds me of how important is to breathe, take a break, arrest all of my disturbing thought(s), surrender these troubling thoughts to Christ and pray with You in thanksgiving. Most importantly, you do not want me to be anxious about anything. You are already taking care of all the details and fighting the best battle on my behalf.

At times, it is an ongoing struggle to react well in the midst of adversity or when faced with the unexpected or a life-altering moment.

Do you ever struggle my friend? I hope your struggles are not as debilitating as mine. The ”what if’s” in life will bring high levels of anxiety and distress without a doubt.

I immediately anticipate the worst scenario when I intentionally answer all potential ‘what if’ questions. It is like holding a magnifying glass closely, searching for both irrelevant and relevant clues and creating my own, ‘Pelicula de Accion’, action movie with a dramatic plot and ending. Every time I am creative with an imaginary action movie, I imprisoned myself at a maximum-security prison.

Confined. Shackled. Helpless. No Freedom.

Lord, help me put my trust in you alone (‭Psalm‬ ‭56:3‬ ‭NIV)‬‬. Help me establish a steadfast, prayerful life. I want for prayer to be my immediate response to shocking news, unexpected circumstances, troublesome, threatening or disheartening information. I need your help. I cannot do this on my own.

Please forgive me, Lord,  for all of the times I have overreacted.

I lose perspective when I think about the worst scenario and even catastrophize at times. When I catastrophize or visualize a tragedy, I experience a full-blown anxiety attack. Shortness of breath, restlessness, heart palpitations and debilitating fear are some of the symptoms I typically experience.  If I cannot breathe well, I may not think clearly much less pray right there and then. At that point, I am no longer able to reflect on or apply truth to my personal circumstances.

I have to stop the “what if” line of questioning, my sweet friend! It is where it all starts before the decision-making process goes downhill.

Your truth reminds me that our emotions are fickle and the heart is deceitful (Jerimiah 17:9).

The Lord wants for us to think of whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable—“if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Recently, I freaked out over an email that I was expecting for quite some time. My emotions were hijacked when I held a ‘magnifying glass’ closer to the printed information on a web-article. The more information I read, the more “what if” questions I answered without any evidence.

Once my overwhelming emotions blurred my vision, I then anticipated the worst scenario when I read over the leader’s profile at work. Her track record in past performance was outstanding. She was a Judge in our local criminal court. She is highly respected and her flawless reputation was palpable. I was quite excited for this young woman to be selected for a three-year term. I kept reading the web-article for relevant details. When I read the word PROSECUTOR, it jumped out of the page and I completely lost it as soon as I visualized being cross-examined in our future, casual conversations at work.

“How irrational was that? Lord. I already had a movie plot with a dramatic ending ready to be published!

An irrational thought led to irrational emotion and before I knew it I was gasping for my next breath. By the time I finished reading the article, I was paralyzed by the high level of anxiety. Once my emotions were hijacked by the visualization of day-to-day cross-examinations, I felt threatened and fearful of the upcoming change at work. I literally thought the new leader in command would cross-examine employees outside of a courtroom. How irrational was that?  Friend, there is no need to answer. I bet Satan enjoyed every minute of my agony and emotional distress as I failed to pray and created my own short-lived, dramatic action movie after I had answered all of the potential “what if’s.”

I am not honoring Satan’s deceitful plans by answering any “what if,” the question. The enemy’s scheme is to plant the seed of doubt, confusion, and/or anticipation. I will probably stop, take a deep breath and change my focus next time I ever think of another “what if”. I plan on quitting this vicious cycle right there and then.

If you are an attorney, my friend, I have great respect for what you do. As a matter of fact, I have great working relationships with local attorneys and even served as an expert witness twice in the past. It was quite uncomfortable to be on the stand at first and I even disliked the motives behind cross-examinations. It is definitely outside of my comfort zone.

But God…

Your eternal perspective is my refuge. I stand on Your solid ground when I stand on your Truth.

Lord, may all of my meditations be pleasing in your sight! (Psalm 19:14).

You always hear my cries, petitions and it comforts me in the most debilitating circumstances (Psalm‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭NIV).‬‬

I am ready to ditch the magnifying glass so I may experience victory in Christ! You are the author of my Faith and the Prince of Peace.

In Jesus’ name, I boldly pray, Amen.

Photo: Marten Newhall @ Splasher

Let us sit next to Jesus:

Inscribe and Meditate

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the highest will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings, you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Highest your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With a long life, I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭91:1-16‬ ‭NIV

Memory Verse

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭23:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Weekly Challenge

Every hour take a few minutes for breathing and stretching exercises.

When in distress, stop, take a break and breathe immediately. Then, pray to our Lord. He is our Refuge and Prince of Peace.

Serve One Another

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:10‬ ‭NLT

Mom was gifted in the kitchen area. For years, she cooked and baked for anyone who visited her at the last minute. She never complained about the preparation time for mealtime or the number of visitors she had at any given time. She was hospitable, fed a multitude and smiled often (1 Peter‬ ‭4:9‬)‬.

The kitchen area was her joy at breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

She fed everyone around the table with simple, traditional recipes yet tasty ones. The ‘arepa’, the Venezuelan bread,  was available all day long. It is easy to make with only three ingredients; flour “Harina Pan”, water and a pinch of salt.

Voila! you had Venezuela bread baked in less than 20 minutes. If I was hungry and mom needed extra time in the kitchen, I would always eat an arepa or two with shredded cheese prior to any given meal time.

Mom’s kitchen was always open. Everyone was invited. I bet you, my friend, would have also been invited in a heartbeat.

Mom had the gift of hospitality indeed. She used it well and serve others wholeheartedly and unconditionally. Part of mom’s legacy was to bring people together in her cozy and informal kitchen table day after day.

We are equipped  differently though. His Truth reminds us of how each one of us is gifted differently and uniquely. “He has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.” (Ephesians‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭NLT)‬‬

I miss mom’s cooking and all of her Venezuelan’s dishes today!

Mom is no longer able to cook for others or bring people together. She does not even remember her favorite recipes anymore due to the progressive disease of Alzheimer’s. Mom will always be remembered for her long-standing legacy of ‘bringing people together’ around an ordinary tabletop and most importantly serving all of us well.

“If you would ask me today if I have any regret(s) in life?” I painfully admit to one… not ‘getting together’ with others to do life in the kitchen area just like mom did for decades. I did not inherit mom’s gift of hospitality nor was it a priority of mine in life in the past.

Friend, we don’t have to be gifted in this area in order for us to serve lovingly and compassionately. There are so many different ways to connect and serve others well in life.

As I watched others in social media this past Holiday season, people were reunited with family and friends and celebrated together over a Holiday feast. I was so delighted to witness others do life together. I wish I could have been part of these reunions and extend grace, serve well and love on everyone at the celebration.

If this was you, my friend, just know you have embarked yourself on the most unforgettable journey in life by creating memories with loved ones, friends and relatives. God does not want for us to be alone (Genesis 1:18).

We were born to socialize and be part of a community.

My husband and I  have agreed to open up our home for regular gatherings with women, men and/or couples in our local community who are willing to do life with us. Women, men or couples who are willing to embrace an opportunity to learn from each other, encourage one another, and build community over the course of time. I am also going to learn not only ‘how to’ cook but develop a passion for simple hospitality, not the elaborate type or Martha Stewart’s style.

In God’s economy, we will bear fruits in His perfect time and season (Psalm 1:3). Lord, help us build relationships in our local community. I am trusting in Your timing and provisions.

Author Margaret Feinberg describes ‘table time’ as transformational. An opportunity to connect, live and grow together. Every time I gather with others, there is always an opportunity to know the other person a bit more. When we connect and learn about each other, we are doing life together and making memories for years to come.

Jesús appreciated living life around others and visited many communities throughout His three-year ministry. He would sit down at a table with all of His friends and blessed their meal times. Jesus always brought the multitude together and valued connectedness in His local community.

As I embark on a new journey in the kitchen area, I am not sure where to start but I’m being prayerful and intentional about building community at my kitchen’s tabletop. Mom was the perfect example of sharing her time with others. It was her priority in life.

Do you enjoy the preparation time before any social gatherings?

I bet it is a lot of work and some of you may or may not even have time. I  never had time in the past myself.  I don’t need to have all of the answers right now. I may not need to worry about who is coming or if I will set up the table right.

All I need is to have a desire for community and being around others. I love people so I plan on taking time to gather, not be busy or rush thru our time together and serve others well one moment at a time.

What about you, my friend? How are you planning to serve others this year? Are you ready to schedule margin for ‘community building’ in your calendar?

Lord, help us find godly friendships in our local communities, in Jesus’ name I bravely pray,

Amen.

Let us sit at Jesus’ feet:

Meditate and Inscribe

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter‬ ‭4:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”‭Galatians‬ ‭5:13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Memory Verse

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭34:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Weekly Challenge

Check out at least three YouTube.com cooking videos and select a new recipe of five ingredients or less. Tip: Insert “recipes with less 5 ingredients” on the search engine in youtube.com

 

Photo Courtesy: Calum Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Intentional!

Lord,

Every year I choose a different action word to be mindful of and prayerful throughout the entire year.

Believe, trust, surrender and persevere were my last four choices.

These words have made an impact on my life and recurrent themes play out in today’s life happenings.

‘Intentional’ is the new choice for the upcoming year.

Help me be more intentional, Lord!

Since I was a young adult, I have always been intentional, passionate and committed to all sort of personal and professional goals.

Graduate school – check. Marriage – check. Relocation – check. Build a new home – check, check, check. Leadership- check. The endless list continues to be checked off today.

I praise God for all of His blessings and provisions over the past five decades.

I was never intentional with friendships though!  I struggled to slow down on any given day and visit a friend.

Jesus Christ was intentional in all of his relationships and created community everywhere he went. He enjoyed sitting around a table with his twelve disciples, took time to help others, healed many, fed thousands, shared valuable lessons in all of His parables and teachings, interacted with people from all walks of life, and walked alongside sinners in his short-lived ministry.

Jesus shared his life with the twelve disciples and got to know them well.

Jesus took time, was never in a hurry or busy for His beloved family, friends, and others. When His timing appeared to be delayed, Jesus’ had a divine purpose and glorified our Abba Father along the way.

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭2:46‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I have friends in different States and in various countries. Geographical distance is not an excuse in today’s economy; social media, facetime, and other available phone applications make our lives so much easier today to stay connected. Travel opportunities are even affordable nowadays.

I still struggle today in connecting with friends who appreciate a two-way conversation at a kitchen table. I would rather be checking off tasks from my ‘to do’ list than sharing a meal with a friend at her house. Both personal aspirations and work consume my time. Busyness was my ‘numero uno’ (number one) excuse for decades! I was way too busy. Community was not a priority then.

Because I never took time to nourish past relationships, I am now embracing the pain of loneliness in my everyday life.

I live far away from immediate family and relatives; dad passed away several years ago, mom has Alzheimer’s Disease and the few friends I do have, I have failed to connect and do life with them over the course of time.

It is never to late to recognize the value of community though.

I am now ready to change my ways, Lord, show me how!

Local community offers a sense of belongingness and brings joy, fulfillment, and comfort to our hearts and souls. Unforgettable memories are created over the course of time! Friends make a difference in one’s life. Doing life together is priceless.

I will always treasure the memories I created with my folks and childhood friends.

Being intentional in relationships may be defined as ‘sharing one’s life’ with a friend or two in truth and action at a kitchen table. Since I do not know how to cook, I hardly ever invite others for a meal at my place.

Lord,  I want to be intentional with heart connections! My heart’s desire is to be more like Jesus, one connection at a time.

A text message was the starting point for me…

It was mid-afternoon when I received a text message from one of my local friends, “We would love to have you and your husband for dinner this afternoon.”

I was thrilled and immediately accepted it.

My husband and I would like to socialize with local friends more often. There is only one problem…we have not made friends in our local community as of yet. We have co-workers at our job site, professional colleagues in our network, acquaintances in Church, long-distance friendships and relatives, a ton of virtual friends yet no one to share life in our local community.

“Isn’t that strange?” Not really. When you are so caught up with professional goals, challenging family circumstances or just everyday life happenings, it is not unusual to neglect community.

When we arrived at our friends’ home, we were warmly welcomed. We exchanged ideas at the dining table, learned more about each other and wrapped up the evening with corporate prayer. The highlight of the evening was when my girlfriend admitted she did not know ‘how to’ cook yet she had been watching videos on youtube.com! I was pleasantly surprised by her honesty. I soon realized I could learn to cook by watching chefs as well. When we both admitted to our struggles in the kitchen area, I was no longer alone and in distress. Perhaps I too could learn simple recipes at age fifty-one and start having friends over my place real soon.

It is never too late to learn a new skill or establish a new habit or have a new dream in life. I choose to be intentional in the kitchen next year, and most importantly nourish the relationship of selected friends whom I want to do life with.

Have you considered connecting with a local friend today? Slow down and be intentional with a friend or two this week.

Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone? I’m already searching for easy recipes. This is definitely a foreign topic for me.

“ Progress not Perfection” is my new motto.

Let us schedule a visit with a friend and don’t excuse yourself!

In Jesus’ name, I bravely pray.

Amen.

Let us sit at our Lord’s feet:

Inscribe and Meditate: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had a need. Every day they continued to meet together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47 NIV).

Memory Verse: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV).

Weekly Challenge: Are you ready to be intentional today? If so, what would be your first step?

Photo courtesy: Priscilla Du Preez, Blubel & Toa Heftiba @ Splasher