In Christ, I’m Alive and Free!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whew!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trapped. Blind. Lost. Dead in my transgressions.

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

Until one day…

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ, I’m alive and free.

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

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

We all have a choice.

I chose Christ.

I am alive and free today.

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

Drop The Magnifying Glass

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

‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Lord,

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

My time with you at sunrise is a delight!

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

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

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

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

Confined. Shackled. Helpless. No Freedom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But God…

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

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

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

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

In Jesus’ name, I boldly pray, Amen.

Photo: Marten Newhall @ Splasher

Let us sit next to Jesus:

Inscribe and Meditate

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

Memory Verse

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

Weekly Challenge

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

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

Serve One Another

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you enjoy the preparation time before any social gatherings?

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

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

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

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

Amen.

Let us sit at Jesus’ feet:

Meditate and Inscribe

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

Memory Verse

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

Weekly Challenge

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

 

Photo Courtesy: Calum Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Intentional!

Lord,

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

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

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

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

Help me be more intentional, Lord!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A text message was the starting point for me…

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

I was thrilled and immediately accepted it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“ Progress not Perfection” is my new motto.

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

In Jesus’ name, I bravely pray.

Amen.

Let us sit at our Lord’s feet:

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

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

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

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

 

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.