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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Melodies of His Heart

Our surroundings are way too loud for me right now” a friend gently adjusted her hearing aid when we both walked into a local restaurant for a Holiday celebration.

Has it ever happened to you that you are overwhelmed by the level of noise?  ‘Information or sound overload’ happens often, whether we are wearing a hearing aid or not. Our Lord’s voice will gradually fade out and not be heard in the midst of our hectic lifestyles or loud surroundings!

D0B6A5C6-5285-4177-8946-A7E97BBFC3F6Photo courtesy: Luca Volpe @ Unsplash

Lord, I want to hear your subtle whispers! Help me tune into the rhythms of your voice and the melodies of your heart, Lord. “You are gracious, righteous and full of compassion.” (Psalm 116:5)

We are also bombarded with tragic news on the radio, disheartening family updates, conflicting information at our work sites, countless projects at home, unwanted medical diagnosis, unresolved parenting issues or endless social media feeds.

If our days get too noisy, turn the volume down a notch so we may hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit and nourish our relationship with our only Savior, Jesus Christ and honor our Abba Father.

Yes, Lord, I want to hear the melodies of your heart!

By the end of the day, I am physically and mentally fatigued from what life demands out of me. My soul is drenched and thirsty for His living water. If I am feeling annoyed or frustrated then I know I need to stop, breath, take a short break and call on the name of Jesus.

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice,” Psalm‬ ‭95:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Let us slow down a bit so we may be in tune with the nudges of the Holy Spirit.

Lord, help me slow down and not be so distracted by technology…Your heavenly presence is my forever refuge.

35F978BF-3E4F-4E2D-B7CD-032CBE211486Photo Courtesy: Rawpixel @ Unsplash

I was surprised when I noticed my friend had deactivated from Facebook. “Did anything happen?! I was intrigued. Personally, I would miss my virtual friends so much just like I had missed seeing her smile in all of her FB posts!” I thought to myself. I truly enjoy scrolling down social media and interacting with everyone yet I do neglect my loved ones at home at times.

I missed seeing my friend’s updates on FB so I invited her to lunch one afternoon. She shared how ‘simple’ and ‘less complicated’ her life had been without social media. “What?! How could you live without FB?” I bluntly asked.

Even though I have no plan on quitting social media, I did appreciate my friend’s intent to simplify her life.  She introduced me to the ‘screen time’ application for the iPhone as an option. It keeps track of the amount of time I spend on my phone applications each day. Once the selected time is over, the selected application(s) are locked for the rest of the day unless you request an additional fifteen minutes of use or even override it for the rest of the day. I figured three hours a day for social media would be enough time for me to check in with all of my virtual friends and still have time to work a full-time job, spend quality time with family and friends on weekends and most importantly quality time with my Savior every day. Not only did I set up the ‘screen time’ for the phone applications but I also established ‘downtime’ away from technology. It even reminds me when I have five minutes left of screen time before the scheduled downtime! How cool is that?

Lord, I am ready to turn on the celestial volume of your melodies and loving tunes!

E19CFB44-6D85-4E1B-B5BF-473E40D4D298.pngCourtesy Photo: William Iven @ Unsplash

Lord, If I am not inscribing and meditating on Scriptures, writing out my praises and petitions, and worshiping Jesus throughout the day, then I know I will eventually drift away and be distant from You. Oh no! I can’t afford to drift away from you, Lord.

You have guided me thru unfamiliar territories and led the way, have smoothed out the circumstances along the way so I could endure hardships, have never forsaken me and you have turned darkness into light in my presence! (Isaiah 42:16)

Lord, I am praying over Psalm 27:8 at this moment, “help me seek your face and
help me not take my eyes off from you!”

Let us, “Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.” Psalm‬ ‭96:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Let us Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭100:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

in Jesus’ name, I bravely pray.

Amen.

Let us sit at our Lord’s feet –

Inscribe and Meditate:

“The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? 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. Hear my voice when I call, LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek. Teach me your way, LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm‬ ‭27:1, 4, 7-8, 11, 13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Memory Verse:  “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

Weekly Challenge: Try out the ‘screen time’ on your phone and establish ‘downtime’ away from technology.  Do not be surprised if you establish the habit once you have done this challenge for several weeks consecutively.

 

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.

God’s awesome presence.

“If you bow low in God’s awesome presence, he will eventually exalt you as you leave the timing in his hands.” 1 Peter 5:6 TPT

88ACCEE4-D2FC-44A8-AD7C-7E70DA5A2BFBPhoto credit: Victoria Sereda @ Unsplash

Abba Father,

You are always opening up new frontiers. I  will relax, be humble and allow you to conquer the world on my behalf (Exodus 14:14). You are in charge of all life happenings (Psalm 46:10). 

Forgive me if I attempt to hurry things up. As you know, I am impatient and don’t mind wrestling with you at times! I also know you don’t appreciate when I anticipate or imagine the worst (Matthew 6:25). Forgive me if I have worried way too often in the recent past.

You speak to me in all circumstances. 

When an incoming email calms my heart, you reassure me I’m on track… when a photo exhibits a friendship, your heart is on display and I know I’m loved…when a neighbor assists me, your commitment is manifested and I no longer feel helpless…when strangers are kind, I know you deeply care… when I‘m excited about training, I know you want me to grow and reach my potential… when I hear a ‘warning’ from law enforcement, I know you want me to be on alert, on guard and honor your celestial ways on earth.

Lord, I know you are managing all of my affairs relentlessly and faithfully. I truly appreciate how you are orchestrating all life events on my behalf.

Help me ‘be still’ (Psalm 46:10). Your palpable presence is appreciated and I know you are cheering me along the way. 

You make everything beautiful in your perfect time  (Psalm 18:30). You are an awesome God! I love you with all of my heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 22:37)

Your beloved and faithful servant.

(sign your name here, and make this prayer personal)