A Time to Mourn and a Time to Dance.

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“A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As a child, I spent countless hours at our family’s country house, ‘La Morita’. We would travel there every weekend with relatives and friends. The adults would play cards, dominoes or bingo in the evenings after a tasty home-made meal. All of the children would laugh often when sharing stories at the hammocks zone, play Marco Polo at the pool, ride horses in town or hike the mountains at sunrise.

I certainly miss ‘La Morita’. Those memorable times were filled with joy. I don’t remember experiencing any sadness then. Our families were united, loved one another, and were energized by fellowship, outdoor activities and mesmerized by the beauty of nature.

As I grew older, I soon realized life was not ‘picture perfect’. There are moments filled with contentment and other times filled with great distress, anger, emotional pain, grief and/or sorrow.

God promised to be right there with us thru it all – the fun, the boring, the best, the ugly and the worst times.

The Lord is our Refuge. He will never leave us nor forsake us. That is His promise.

When dad passed away, mom relocated back to our home country in South America. Since then, I have only seen her once. We don’t get to walk at the local park nor shop at ‘Sawgrass Mills’ Shopping Center anymore. It has been over two years since I last had a meal with mom at the table. I miss her voice, enthusiasm and most importantly her presence. I wish I could sit with you right now and share the details of my next trip to Florida. The truth is I may never be able to visit mom again and this is a reality I have recently come to terms with. I am in a season of loss, grief and sorrow indeed. It is time to weep, mourn and embrace the loss of mom’s current living situation, geographical distance and deteriorating health conditions.

Are you grieving at this moment, my friend? Are you reminiscing on ‘how’ your past circumstances are quite different than todays? Perhaps, you are facing an ‘unexpected’ loss and you are quite overwhelmed with the intensity and impact of the sudden challenge.

Do not be dismayed or broken-hearted, my friend.

We are in a season of grief but His mercies are new every morning. Today is filled with opportunities for us to briefly reminisce about the past then spend the rest of the time counting our blessings. We have been blessed for all the countless memories and unforgettable moments with our loved ones. They have left their ‘forever’ fingerprints on our minds, hearts and souls. My heart rejoices every time I think of mom.

Let us not dwell on the emotional distress or pain of our recent past. Let us acknowledge our loss, lament and journal our painful thoughts until we are comforted by His promises. Our Lord listens to our melancholic cries and painful thoughts and He comforts our shattered hearts over time.

We will dance once again as soon as our hearts are healed and restored.

Lord, there are so many seasons in our lives and some are difficult to process and get thru. I know we may be in the midst of a tough season. As we lament our losses, we know you are comforting us with your faithfulness, morning mercies and compassion … You hear all of our cries and wipe our tears away. You heal our brokenness and bind our deep wounds. You are our only Hope and Refuge. Turn the gaze of our hearts towards the beauty of all of your promises and fill our hearts with never-ending Hope.

Lord, I’m willing to embrace the new season in life. Spring is here! Flowers are blooming. I want to rejoice once again. Jesus, hold my hand and come with me and waltz together at the dance floor.

In Jesus’ name we boldly pray, Amen.

“You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,” Psalm‬ ‭10:17‬ ‭NIV

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm‬ ‭147:3‬ ‭NIV

“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Psalm‬ ‭9:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” Psalm‬ ‭27:4‬ ‭NIV

Photo courtesy: Jared Weiss @ Splasher

A Steadfast Love

When reading the book of Hosea in preparation for an online Bible study, I was so overwhelmed that I did not finish the rest of the book that night. I immediately shut the Bible and sat in my recliner silently for a few minutes.

I was in shock the way the Holy Spirit convicted me.

The prophet, Hosea, was encouraged to marry Gomer, a prostitute. Gomer was promiscuous yet Hosea faithfully loved his beloved wife.  I was blown away by Hosea’s steadfast love.

Hosea 5: 4 highlighted the importance of acknowledging God in everyday pursuits. I was appalled when I was convicted of my sinful nature; ” … a spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the Lord.” My initial thoughts were, “Me? not possible!”  yet I felt repugnant.  When I envisioned myself having ‘a spirit of an harlotry’, I was ashamed for grieving the Holy Spirit then.

In the book of Hosea, the ‘spirit of prostitution’ addressed Israel as a nation who had been unfaithful to the Lord, and disregarded His commands. The nation was corrupted and rebellious. Israel maintained a ‘spirit of prostitution’ when the people did not acknowledge the Lord.

A couple of years ago, the Holy Spirit had convicted me of excessive retail shopping. As much as I have been mindful of frivolous spending in the recent past, I continue to overindulge myself. I always find the best excuses such as, “I truly need this new tote for the upcoming trip.” In my most recent retail experience, I even messaged the retailer and encouraged her to ship the personalized item no later than the 10th of this month. I was precise and persuasive. I was a woman on a ‘lifestyle’ mission.

Have you ever been in pursuit of joy? Have you ever been in pursuit of satisfaction? I find both satisfaction and joy in retail therapy. Do you have a personal habit that you wish to break but have not been able to do so as of yet?

I realized how much I had grieved the Holy Spirit that afternoon. I had monogrammed another handbag for an upcoming trip. If you and I were having a late afternoon coffee break, I would have shared with you how much I love to shop. I spend time on the internet searching for beautiful totes. I am quite obsessed with totes, I admit. When I shop,  I forget about the reckless, spending habit and my unwillingness to change my desires. It sure is an ongoing struggle!

Every time I choose retail therapy, my soul is not fulfilled and it will never be. Nothing on this earth will fulfill my deepest longings. When I fail to pray, I am not relying on His comfort or rest. When I neglect His Word and do not step out in obedience, I am being rebellious. When I do not acknowledge His presence in today’s plan, I am being self-reliant and prideful. The book of Hosea convicted me of having a ‘spirit of a prostitution’ when I obsess over anything else for either joy, satisfaction or relief and disregard the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

Lord, please forgive me for not acknowledging your ways or stepping out in obedience.

The Lord will remain faithful in the midst of our sinful acts.

He wants for all of us to repent, change our careless ways and acknowledge His presence in all we do. “…Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:2-3 NIV)

Lord, please forgive me if I get so distracted by frivolous spending that it drives me away from your presence. I know I can be rebellious, disobedient, prideful or unwilling to change my selfish ways. I can be quite stubborn too.

Help me. Forgive me. Love me. Do not give up on me. You are a God of second chances.

I dislike having the ‘spirit of a prostitute’ but every time I pursue pleasure instead of God’s ways, I am exchanging His eternal perspectives for temporary ones. I am exchanging a Holy Beautiful lifestyle for a lustful lifestyle that may lead me astray.

Lord, I want to renew my mind and change my actions so I may pursue a Holy Beautiful Lifestyle always.  I pray I acknowledge you in everything I do, be prayerful and press on.

Jesus answered, “It is written: worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” (Luke 4: 8 NIV)

God is steadfast and His reckless love is bountiful.

Psalm 51: 1-12 (NIV)

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so  you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

In Jesus’ name I boldly pray, Amen.

Photo courtesy: Ornella Binni @ Splasher

Abide in Me

When life gets hectic, I have a choice whether to take the next step or honor a break. I can either slow down and pace myself or continue to hustle ‘non-stop’ all day long.

The Lord wants me to spend time with Him throughout the day, every day. I will bear fruit in everything I do when I rely on His wisdom and strength.

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  John‬ ‭15:5‬ ‭NASB‬‬

When I don’t rely on the Lord for His rest and wisdom, I am typically frustrated, exhausted or even ill at the end of the day. Has your energy ever been depleted at the end of the week? I literally crashed this past weekend. I was emotionally and physically spent. I felt overwhelmed, overly anxious, empty and had a headache for a couple of days. When I neglect the Lord, I typically rush thru my morning readings and fail to take short breaks throughout the day. I do not take time to pray when facing adversity.

This is a typical response of my self-reliant tendencies or should I say pride? I may be in such a rush that I can barely whisper at Him and say, “I’ve got this, Lord, I don’t need your help right now. Take a break and allow me to take the lead.” Who am I kidding? This attitude will not help me get too far ahead. I will not bear much fruit.

Our bodies react to life stressors when working under these conditions for a prolonged period of time without much rest. Cumulative stress has an adverse impact on our lives without a doubt. It affects us emotionally, physically and spiritually over time.

Let us be mindful of our time with the Lord so we may bear much fruit at the end of the workday and be able to manage stressors in a healthy manner.

I cannot accomplish much without Him. Even if it is an on-going struggle, I can never overlook this issue ever again.

Help me, Lord, to be wise with my schedule at work. I want to maintain a reasonable life balance so I may care for my mental, physical and spiritual well-being throughout the day. I need rest and frequent breaks to stop and meditate on your precious Word. I want to relax at the end of each day, dig deep in your Word, maintain good nutrition and sleep hygiene so I may not be burned out by the end of the week.

In Jesus’ name, I boldly pray.

Amen.

“LORD, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.” Jeremiah‬ ‭17:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come, and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” Revelation‬ ‭22:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”John‬ ‭4:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Photo courtesy: Rawpixel @ UnSplash

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.

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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.

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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.”

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Photo: Tami Parker Theobald

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

 

Heart Connections ~

There is no rush or urgency most weekends. The slow rhythm in tempo is invigorating on Saturday mornings. I get to choose the time I wake up, relax throughout the day, change plans as often as needed and choose a variety of activities.

On this date…

I met up with two of my girlfriends for breakfast!  I had not seen them for a few weeks and we wanted to celebrate the Holiday season, have a gift exchange and get caught up before the New Year.

“How much fun is that?!”

The Holiday season is here and tender hearts intentionally connect…

The gift of friendship is an eternal gift.

We blessed our hot meal, laughed at times, confided in each other, took snapshots, rejoiced over answered prayers, exchanged gifts and prayed over our most recent circumstances. We celebrated for over three hours and didn’t even notice the crowd behind us nor the level of noise at the restaurant. Even though the restaurant was ‘jammed packed’, we truly enjoyed each other’s company.

Heart Connections are distinct, cherishable and memorable.

I’ve got to admit spending quality time with a girlfriend in our local community brings joy to my heart and these unforgettable moments are forever treasured in my mind, heart, and soul.

God is relational. He is love. He wants for all of us to connect and love one another as He has loved us (John‬ ‭15:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬).
God created all of us to live in a community so we can love, help, support, pray and encourage one another. I truly appreciate quality time with all of my girlfriends whether it is in person, by telephone or on social media!

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I realized how blessed I am for having godly friendships in my life. Yes! Each perfect gift is from above. Friendships are priceless for all the eternal blessings they bring to our lives.

It is a privilege to establish and maintain a friendship for a period of time. Some friendships last for a season and others for a lifetime.

Value the present moment and make unforgettable memories with a friend today!

Gift of Time: When we prioritize our day, week or month, let us consider reaching out to our network of friends and take the time to connect. God wants for all of us to fellowship with one another regardless of our ethnicity, race and socioeconomic status.

Love everyone, and learn the difference in fellowship styles!

Gift of Listening: When I spend time with sisters in Christ, I am heard and understood. If I have a concern or an unresolved issue in my life, I am able to openly voice them and process my upsetting thoughts and emotions without being judged.

Gift of Love: True friends love me for ‘who I am’ and they accept my character flaws. These trusting friends are accepting and nonjudgmental.

“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.” ‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Gift of Vulnerability: An ability to be transparent in a relationship is critical for growth and intimacy. When someone is vulnerable, She will entrust you with information that shall never be shared with anyone else.

Trust is an essential ingredient for a forever friendship.

Gift of Fellowship: We all celebrate differently. When sisters in Christ celebrate, we all honor Jesus Christ in their thoughts, speech, and actions.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians‬ ‭2:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Friends are not selfish and are much more concerned about the well-being of others.

In a community, we grow and have an opportunity to sharpen and encourage each other, and a true friend will make us accountable for our actions.

Gift of Prayer: Sisters in Christ pray for one another. We all have different needs, challenging circumstances and emotional distress.

42AA477E-3386-478C-B4A1-2A696B77AF26Photo Courtesy: Ben White @ UnSplash

Let us sit at our Lord’s feet:

Inscribe and Meditate on His Word: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:12-13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Memory Verse: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:11‬ ‭NIV‬

Weekly Challenge: Call a friend, wish her Merry Christmas and invite her for a cup of coffee or a meal at your house.

Create an opportunity to learn more about each other and pray for each other.

Empowered by Jesus: A Fountain of Hope.

“Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope!”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Photo Courtesy: Evelyn Mostrom

Lord,

You are a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, and God of Hope. (Isaiah 9:6)

“How remarkable is that?!” We are never alone. He is always with us. He is our beloved Immanuel (Matt 1:21).

You are our Savior who shines a bright Light to the World!

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew‬ ‭1:21‬ ‭NIV‬ . My heart rejoices when I think of you, Jesus, as my Savior, who rescued me out of the pit of darkness. You were crucified at the Cross on my behalf. You cleansed me from all of my sins when I humbly brought them all to your attention, surrendered my heart and pinned my repentance to the Cross.

I have been set free for eternity.

You chose the ordinary, the unexpected and sinners like us!  Your heart is pure and willing to save us all.  

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV.

Lord, you are our only source of true Hope and my Salvation. You are an indescribable gift to my heart and soul.

I wait expectantly for miracles to unfold throughout the day. We all have a fresh start at sunrise! Yes, you are the source of my confidence as I make decisions all day long. I am not trusting any of my circumstances or people who are in my sphere of influence.

I am trusting you alone, Lord.

Life circumstances abruptly change and relationships either evolve over time or change, a few of our friends walk away unexpectedly and others lose contact when they move away geographically.

But God…

I can trust you to be always faithful. Your character never changes regardless of the season of the year. Lord, you never cease to exist, never disappoints and your love never fades away.

How incredible it is to fall in love with Jesus all over again as we move forward in a new chapter of our lives, a fresh start in the New Year.

I have always enjoyed the Holiday season. It is my favorite time of the year.

It is a season filled with unlimited opportunities for festivities and my heart is always filled with gratitude by Thanksgiving. I treasure the smell of freshly-baked carrot cake and chocolate chip cookies, and beautifully wrapped gifts under a 6 foot tall Christmas tree ready for the gift exchange event. It becomes an unforgettable season when we all fellowship, serve, encourage one another and celebrate with family and friends.

Let us be mindful though, Holiday seasons are quite a challenge for many. It has been for me in the past few years! Many of us are hurting silently and others may be too ashamed to reach out and voice their emotional angst.

There are sisters in Christ who may not have friendly neighbors, and others do not have family or friends to share the Holidays with. Many end up skype-ing or Facetime-ing their loved ones who may live in another country, some may even be suffering in a hospital bed or bedridden or perhaps you have lost contact with loved ones over the years. Everyone’s circumstances are different yet our struggles are universal. We are all united by our sense of distress or loneliness or sadness over the Holidays.

The struggle is real!

If this is you, my sister, just know the only connection that truly lasts until eternity is our intimate relationship with the Lord. He will always be inviting, unconditional, steadfast,  and faithful.

He is our beloved Immanuel. He is with us all the time!

My Holidays were redefined three years ago when dad passed away and mom relocated to our home country in South America. Since then, I reminisce every year in how I used to spend every holiday season with my folks. We traveled, and celebrated together over four decades. I treasure our unforgettable memories in my heart today.   I just didn´t know how painful and lonely this season was going to be until recently. I certainly miss both of them! My heart aches at times when I am in touch with their absence.

Are you feeling lonely this Holiday season or experiencing distress or emotional pain? If you are experiencing anguish then just know you are not the only one. Take refuge in our Lord´s presence. He will comfort our tender hearts and will love on us every day until we rejoice in His presence. Our Lord is near the broken-hearted and saves everyone whose spirit is crushed (Psalm 34:18).

Lord, relieve our troubles of our hearts and free us from anguish always (Psalm 25:17). Hear our prayers and comfort us today!

Let us embrace a new season, a new dance, a new song of praise as we all move forward into our Holiday celebrations this year! I am beginning to embrace new traditions nowadays and reaching out to others makes a difference in one’s life.

We may not have our beloved family member or a close friend this Christmas, but we will always have an intimate fellowship with our Lord.

In Jesus’ name, I bravely pray and boldly praise my King of kings.

Amen.

Let us sit at our Lord’s feet:

Inscribe:

“But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.” Psalm‬ ‭9:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm‬ ‭25:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” Psalm‬ ‭31:24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Meditate:

“Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants, the descendants of Abraham, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob. He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations, He brought out his people with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy; he gave them the lands of the nations, and they fell heir to what others had toiled for— that they might keep his precepts and observe his laws. Praise the LORD.” Psalm‬ ‭105:5-8, 43-45‬ ‭NIV

Memory verse: 

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” Psalm 105:3-4

Weekly Challenge:

Let us be hopeful during these Holidays in the midst of our loneliness or sadness or distress. Reach out and encourage someone to come alongside you.

HOPE redefined:  (H) Help a stranger at the grocery store or an elderly person at your local community, (O) Order a meal for a homeless person or a cup of coffee for a church member (P) Prepare a Holiday cookie tray for a neighbor or friend or co-worker, and  (E) Enjoy listening to Christmas Carols or soft music as you drive to work or write down a list of today’s blessings in a journal at sunrise. The possibilities are endless. Be creative when your HOPE is redefined this Holiday season. Share the greatest news of the World, Jesus Christ. He is the best gift anyone can receive.

 

Empowered by Jesus: Hope that Never Fails.

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:31 NIV

How many times do I feel burdened at the end of the day? Quite too often I must admit!

All life stressors whether it is a fast-paced leadership role, unemployment, toxic stress, a chronic illness, financial hardship or death of a loved one will have a long-lasting impact in our lives. These life-altering challenges are mind-boggling, paralyzing, or debilitating and will alter our minds, spirits, and bodies over time.

Be mindful, these stressful circumstances will blindfold us if we do not take care of ourselves well, and reach out for support or assistance or guidance. We may even lose perspective or vision for the future if we dwell on our circumstances for a prolonged period of time.

Lord, help us reach out to you when we are in distress and give us the courage to talk to someone if we are living in dire moments. Help us take good care of ourselves; good rest at night, healthy meals and help us engage in daily, relaxing activities while we persevere thru the hardships.

Help us take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. We belong in your arms. We want to bathe our burdened souls in Your refreshing stream of living water (Psalm 36:7-9). We want to be renewed, refreshed and empowered to take another step towards our future.

He restores, empowers and strengthens our minds, bodies, and souls every day. Let us hold on to His eternal promises and never let go! (1 Peter 5:10).

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Photo courtesy: Juliane Liebermann @ UnSplash

I heard shocking news recently. One of my colleagues committed suicide. I sat in the living room astonished when I heard she ended her life so violently. I am in disbelief today and heartbroken for her children. “How come she never reached out to any of her colleagues, family or friends for help?” Forgive me, Lord, for judging her.

The holiday tragedy touched the core of my soul. It also altered the lives of many who cared and loved her in our local community.

Lord, I pray if anyone is currently contemplating suicide, please extend grace, love on her, strengthen her mind and heart so she may seek help right now. Encourage her to dial the 24 hour suicide hotline now, 1-800-273-8255. There are also other free resources available for us to tap into nowadays in our Churches and the local communities.

Be alert my friends!

If we drift away from our only source of Hope, Jesus Christ, the enemy will isolate us, lie, condemn and destroy our lives. The enemy will whisper, “there is no other option” and will drag us all the way to defeat.

But the Truth says, “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)

In Christ, our lives can be transformed so do not be ashamed if you need help, my beloved friend.

My prayer is for us to rise above our circumstances and be empowered by Jesus.

img_1517-2Photo courtesy: Sam Bark @ UnSplash

“How can we soar on wings like eagles?”

Eagles fly higher than any other bird so they can only fly with other Eagles.

As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17 NIV)

Our enemy detests for us to live in a community whether it is in our local church, neighborhood or in social media. If we encourage one another in the midst of hardships, we will be able to weather adversity and be stronger and wiser over the course of time. Let us maintain close fellowship with Jesus and with one another. Together, we will conquer the enemy.

“Yes, Lord, hear our prayer.”

Eagles have excellent eyesight and focus.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Jesus Christ is our central point of focus in life. Let us be prayerful, submit our requests and petitions with thanksgiving, and praise Him in the midst of our agony and despair.

Let us be more like Jesus in character and not allow our emotions be kidnapped by the enemy. The enemy wants for  us to be defeated yet there is undeniable power in the Cross. In Christ, we will conquer mental and emotional distress, and soar on wings like eagles.

“Yes, Lord, hear our prayer.”

Eagles rise above storm clouds and they rest on their wings.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Lord, I pray we have the strength to persevere thru it all. If we are weary, let us hold on to You tightly and never let go of Your grip!  He will give us the rest and the overwhelming peace we need. Since Jesus has already defeated the enemy, we can live victoriously always with great expectations for our future.

God gave us free will so we may choose Life. Let us cherish every moment. Today is a gift from the Lord. Let us wait expectantly for all the possibilities to unfold.

In Jesus name, I bravely pray.

Amen.

Let us sit at our Lord’s feet:

Inscribe and Meditate on:

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Psalm 28:7 (NIV)

Memory Verse:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:4-9)

Challenge for the week:

Contact a friend or family or church member this week and schedule a visit.

Empowered by Jesus: Original by Design.

Lord,

Thank you for creating me in your image. I am ‘original’ by design. Even though I am a sinner, I am your beloved daughter. I deeply treasure the royal kinship with the King of kings. I am loved and forever cherished by our Heavenly Father and His only Son.

”How amazing is that?!” I am a child of God (John 1:12).

His truth reminds me of how wonderfully I was created even though I tend to be self-critical at times. Let me never forget ‘whose I am’ ever again. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm‬ ‭139:1-4, 14, 24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I am … Chosen. Forgiven. Redeemed. Loved. Treasured. Set Apart to God.

“How special is that?!” I am unique and one of a kind.

No one can snatch me out of my Father’s hand either (John 10). I feel protected and secured right about now, Lord.

You always hold me close to your heart.

I praise you boldly and will sing a song of Thanksgiving always!

I am alive and well in Jesus Christ.

Let me be mindful of our enemy though, the father of lies, who wants to destroy or distort our  well-being and your divine master plan. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” John 10:10 NIV. The enemy planted the seeds of doubt and insecurity and convinced me I was ‘not good enough’!
Back in high school…
My girlfriends and I were gathered outdoors in the patio for a short recess and held an informal conversation about college. Everyone was inspired about future possibilities and asked relevant questions to the School Counselor. When our morning break ended, everyone rushed to their scheduled classes except me. I was unassured of the aptitudes needed to succeed in college so I asked for the counselor’s opinion.
After a brief silence, she answered gently “I don’t see you in college.”
“Ugh? Did I hear correctly?” I silently asked myself, was downhearted then walked away in disbelief.
Was I not good enough for college?” this sentence repeatedly echoed in my mind for the rest of my high school years. Discouragement settled in my heart soon thereafter. I never inquired again about college admission, SAT prep courses or career choices.
The self-deprecating message ‘not good enough’ replayed in my mind intermittently for almost three decades. It was a lie the enemy had planted in my mind and it played out throughout college and career life. I never thought I was good enough.
Academic life was ferocious
But God…
He granted me the confidence to overcome insecurities, fear, and doubt. By breaking down challenging tasks into manageable action steps, developing effective study habits, and learning from past mistakes, I overcame hurdles in both my personal life and career development. In Christ, my spirit was renewed every day, a steadfast character was built, and spiritual maturity evolved over the years.
The unexpected materialized twenty years after high school graduation!
I poured some Colombian coffee in a mug, grabbed the wireless headphones out of the leather tote then rushed to the home office at sunrise, “Lord help me be alert, organized and articulate in today’s conference call”  I whispered to myself. As I dialed the conference number, I meditated on His promise, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” Ephesians 3:20 (NIV).
I was astonished about the progress all team members had made so far in previous conference calls.
I was invigorated when the State Commissioner’s genuine appreciation for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) was initially displayed.  ABA is a treatment modality for children and adolescents who are diagnosed with intellectual disability and pervasive developmental disorder.
Never in my wildest dreams, did I expect to be in a regional leadership role much less conversing with a State Commissioner at 8 a.m. on a monthly basis! God’s vision is bountiful. I’m not letting the enemy plant another seed of doubt in my mind ever again.
No more lies, Satan, not today or ever again!

Lord, you have orchestrated favorable circumstances in my life. When these circumstances are unexpected, overwhelming or tragic, you give me the strength to persevere thru it all.

I am shifting my attention and focus to your heavenly ways and I will embrace your never-ending grace when I fail or experience setbacks. I know you love me even though I’ve got plenty of character defects (John 16).

“I am a work in progress.”

You are a forgiving, loyal and merciful God. You love me for who I am even at my worst. I am devoting the rest of my life to serve and worship you, “Serve and worship the awe-inspiring God. Recognize his greatness and bow before him, trembling with reverence in his presence.” Psalms‬ ‭2:11‬ ‭TPT‬‬

My heart is filled with gratitude, Lord.

Some say I have a type A personality. Others may not even notice the difference! I am much more interested in what you have to say, my Lord. Help me not be bothered by others’ critical opinions.

Man’s critical opinion is irrelevant. Your eternal view matters to me the most.

“How can I maintain eternal focus today, Lord?” I have asked myself repeatedly over the years. There are so many distractions, temptations, and earthly influences.

The more I know your truth, the more I witness how your truth has set me free.

I am engraving all of your precepts in my heart so I may never forget them or sin against you (Psalm 119:11). I enjoy meditating and discovering heavenly treasures in your Word every day! I take captive every thought on fruitless habits and ask for your strength to overcome temptations.

Apart from you, I cannot do anything, Lord (Psalm 16:2, John 15:5).

Yes, Lord! Help me overcome today’s temptations.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John‬ ‭15:5, 7-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

When I am drifting away or get distracted Lord, gently nudge me back to you so I may abide in you and bear much fruit. Your spirit of truth guides me and shows me how to persevere thru turmoil, confusion, chaos, and uncertainties (John 16:13). In the midst of life happenings, I would like to grow spiritually and be much more steadfast in my walk with Jesus.

The Holy Spirit gifts us with a range of blessings. Thank you, Jesus, for the power and blessings of our forever companion, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit filled life is full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness. goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

I need help with self-control, Lord.

I believe but help me with my unbelief when it comes to frivolous spending. I have thought of  being ‘not good enough’ to build a retirement plan. I know this is a lie!  Help me stop and walk away from the next shopping extravaganza. Some days I do well and other days I just want to shop non-stop. One of my current concerns is to manage the finances well and display self-control when faced with temptations over the Holidays. I want to be content with all I have today. I’ve got enough! Help me stay within the boundaries of my established budget. I am worthy of maintaining a solid retirement account. Yes, Lord! I know you want me to be a good steward of your resources.

I know if I rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, I will have the strength to walk away from needless spending. I need wisdom every time I make financial decisions and your strength to walk away from temptations of all types.

In Jesus’ name,

I bravely pray.

Amen.

Let us sit at the Lord’s feet:

Inscribe and Meditate: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Memory Verse: “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” 2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:3-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Weekly Challenge:

Identify a lie that has played out in your life over the years. Pray for God to replace it with His Truth.

Weekly Tip:

His Truth will set you free (John 8:32).

 

Photo Courtesy: Javier Reyes @ Splasher89CF692D-36A3-4CA8-BA9A-4BAE7064998C