I had the opportunity recently to speak to middle and high school students. What do you share with students of this age? You share your own story. I did not like myself during those years. I struggled deeply with my self worth, considered myself fat and ugly, and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be my friend. I even shared with them a picture of me in ninth grade that I had written on it “ugly.” The words we call ourselves matter.

There were lots of life experiences that contributed to those feelings, but we all have times when we are hard on ourselves. These words can be with us for a lifetime. They change how we act in the world, and they change our brain.

The tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. (James 3:3-6 NLT)

The words we call ourselves can corrupt our entire body. This scripture is as much for what we say to ourselves as it is about what we say to others. We know words have power. They have power within ourselves, as well. All I need to do ist art thinking about the negative things I have called myself and I can feel my mood dip. I can feel my spirit hurt.

Here’s the thing. All of these things I have called myself are lies. They are not who we are. The students and I made a list of the words God calls us. Many of them are in the cross above. We are created in His image and that is what He sees in us. Holding onto the lies is denying who we really are. We are God’s beloved children. He speaks words of affirmation over us to remind us who we are.

I had the students claim new words to replace the ones they were declaring as lies. As we are instructed in 1 Peter not to speak evil or tell lies. We prayed these new words over our lives. I sincerely wanted them to be kinder to themselves, and I needed the reminder to be kinder to myself because the words we call ourselves matter.

What words do you call yourself? Are they words of truth or words of lies? What new words do you need to claim for yourself? What is God whispering in your ear about who you are? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

Sometimes inner cleaning requires getting out the heavy equipment, and doing some deep cleaning. I have things in my life that carry deep roots. Things that have not been easy to get rid of in my relationships.

I grew up in a family where the priority was to put on a good front for anyone outside the family. We were instructed to never tell our secrets, never let anyone know the family wasn’t perfect and never talk poorly about your parents.

On the surface this doesn’t seem so bad, but it easily leads to shame and perfectionism. Then the idea of my family (husband and kids) not being perfect started to cause anxiety, stress, and fear. Except, consciously I knew I had nothing to fear. What my brain knew didn’t stop my body from reacting. It lets me know that there is still work to do. It lets me know that God is still working on me.

“One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered. 28-29 Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. (Hebrews 12: 27-29 MSG).

This deep cleaning has been difficult, layered and exhausting. In some ways, power tools and ventilation masks have been necessary. This is a root I don’t want planted in my kids. I want it to stop spreading. These generational roots take a lot of digging to get completely out.

The scripture promises a thorough housecleaning to get rid of all of my historical junk. Identifying this root, examining my behavior and handing over the roots and fear to Jesus has brought change, measurable change. Change, I can see in my everyday life.

It’s easy to think that deep cleaning is too much work. It is easy to think it won’t make a difference. It’s easy to live in the trap of “this is just who I am,” This work often takes the assistance of a professional and yet there are times when God enters in and provides a clean sweep.

Are you ready for a new life? Are you ready to do some deep cleaning? Are there roots in your life that you would like to get rid of for good. Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Recently, my son had texted about wanting to leave school early to go to work. Texting is not a great way to have a conversation. We went back and forth. He wasn’t getting the result he desired. He continued to push back against my response. I was getting irritated. He then made the comment “be smart,” I was was now irate.

I began having a great argument with him in my head. I was putting him in his place. I was winning when God twisted it for me. I was sitting in a meeting and began to write this on the agenda:

God do you get as irritated and frustrated when I badger you? I know I can push and push You for what I want. I know how to through a good tantrum when things are hard. I can whine with the best of them. Do you get irritated with me? I know that “no” is for my own good. I admit I don’t always see the refining you are doing. I always see how boundaries are for my benefit. Redirecting my priorities can give me focus when I need it. God, do I irritate you?

Then I read this scripture.

3-6 That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus! (Romans 15:3-5 MSG)

“May our dependable steady and warmly personal God…” This phrase tells me the answer. God doesn’t tire of me. God doesn’t get irritated with my badgering. He knows why I care deeply about a circumstance and He knows the best way through it. He continues to guide me through it even when I act like a two year old. Thank you God for loving me when I act like a two year old.

How do you act when you get irritated? How do you think God responds to you when you badger Him? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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No, I don’t want to. No, you can’t make me. No, go away. No. No. No.” Sound familiar? Sound like a two year old? Better yet, sound like a teenager? This was the response I received from my teenage son in an attempt to get him up for church on Sunday morning.

My frustration was definitely rising. I really wanted to grab is feet and drag him out of bed. My patience had worn thin. Do I force it? Do I exert consequences? I wrestled with this as I finished fixing my hair. What would exerting force accomplish? Would I actually get the result I wanted?

It didn’t take long for me to start thinking about all of the times I have done this to God. How many times has my first response to his requests been no? How many times have I thought God’s plans are too hard? How many times have I thought I’m not capable of doing what He asks? How many times have I said no because I didn’t feel worthy?

In fact, I have been doing it again this past week. I was asked to take on a new role at church. My first response was eh. I said I would pray about it before making a decision. I said that primarily to bide time. My first thought was “no.”

 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 10:35-36 NIV).

Then I did actually take time to reflect and pray. It became clear that my negative reaction was an effort to pull away from the church which is precisely why God is nudging me to say yes. So here goes, I’m going to lean in, trust God and see what He has in store. My prayer is that I get to see His hand at work in unexpected ways. I’m trusting He knows what I need more than I do.

Are you saying no in places where God wants you to say yes? Is that instant “no” the best choice? Are you trusting God to lead you into what you need not just what you want? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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I don’t enjoy exercise. I do it because it is good for me, although I never regret it once it’s over. We subscribe to a streaming service so we don’t have to leave the house to sweat and create sore muscles. It is all about keeping blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol low.

It is true. I feel better when I’m exercising regularly. My clothes fit better. I have more energy. I’m even kinder to others. However, I struggle to keep a similar discipline in my spiritual life. Prayer, worship, study, and community are all important aspects of spiritual fitness. Prayer has been a solid discipline in my life for some time. The rest come and go often in spurts. I’ll start bingeing on reading and studying for several months and then go months without stretching my understanding of Jesus and scripture. It is so easy for spiritual flabbiness to set in.

You’ve been raised on the Message of the faith and have followed sound teaching. Now pass on this counsel to the followers of Jesus there, and you’ll be a good servant of Jesus. Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart. This is why we’ve thrown ourselves into this venture so totally. We’re banking on the living God, Savior of all men and women, especially believers. (1 Timothy 4: 6-10 MSG).

Here’s the deal. Spiritual exercise also reduces blood pressure, stress hormones, improves sleep, reduces anxiety, and helps me be kinder to others. When I am living a spiritually disciplined life, I am calmer. Life’s challenges are easier to handle.

I know when i have been neglecting my spiritual wellbeing. I get easily agitated. I snap at hubby and the boys. I don’t feel at peace internally. I know it’s time to assess and get back to my spiritual exercises and reconnect myself to Him. Prayer, mediation, reading, podcasts, worship, friends, nature are the variety of ways I connect to Jesus. What is on your list of spiritual exercises?

How do you care for your spiritual wellbeing? What a exercises are your favorites? How do you get back on track? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Bad things happen in life. It can feel like you are headed into a long dark tunnel. You don’t know what is on the other side. Somebody hurts you and everything around you gets a little darker. It starts to feel lonely. It is hard to see a way out. You start to wonder if you have been rejected by God.

I have believed for a long time that a person’s wellbeing encompasses physical health, emotional health and spiritual health. It is easy to find professional help and guidance for physical and emotional health. Spiritual health can be far more difficult. While prayer and worship are important they don’t alway bring the wholeness the spirit needs, and a pastor isn’t generally equipped to heal deep wounds.

Let me elaborate. As a young girl, I experienced traumatic events that I didn’t fully understand. I knew they weren’t right, but I didn’t know how to handle them. I pulled inward and began to distance myself from anyone that could potentially hurt me. The darkness of the tunnel set in. I began to believe that all these bad things must mean that I had been rejected by God.

This was a spiritual issue buried deep within. Consciously, I believe these scriptures. I know God’s deep love for me and all of us. But, that little girl within me still felt rejected. How could God love someone if He let’s others hurt her? This belief lived deep inside effecting physical and emotional health. It was time to revisit this belief and let it go claiming these scriptures and others that remind me that God’s love for me is genuine and true.

11 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 NIV).

The Lord appeared to us in the past,[a] saying:“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV)

It was with skilled counsel that I was able to work through this. Dealing with the emotional aspects has been vital. Dealing with feeling rejected by God has given me a sense of wholeness and joy that has been missing for a long time. I am no longer in the dark tunnel.

God is the master healer, restorer, and generator of everlasting love. Seeking health physically, emotionally and spiritually has brought me to wholeness. Incorporating my spiritual wellbeing has left me feeling truly loved by God. My heart is full in a way that is brand new. This hasn’t been a simple or easy process and I’m probably not done. But, my heart knows without hesitation that Scripture holds true; God’s love is unfailing and everlasting.

Have you ever felt rejected by God? How have you worked through it? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Sometimes coming to agreement is difficult. We want what we want. My understanding of needs isn’t always the same as others. Yet, we are called to be in agreement. How do we make that happen?

It reminds me of one of the Seven Habits by Stephen Covey, think win-win. The concept is not to compromise but to keep working until both parties win. Recently, we started bed shopping. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for us it was.

My hubby is very tall. I am not. He rarely sleeps in the bed due to his back. The chair and couch are his locations of choice. As we began mattress shopping, it became clear he needed an adjustable bed to accommodate his back. The best position for him is not the same as my best position. How would we find one bed that would work for both of us?

It took time and lots of research to come up with an option that would fit our budget, but we did. Two separately adjustable bases. One on each side of the bed. He can even have a different mattress if needed.

I know this was a simple example, but it makes the point keep working to be in agreement. There are many places for disagreement in life. I often want my way and think I”m right. It’s easy to dig in my heels and demand my way. The problem is it doesn’t accomplish anything.

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[a] in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1 Corinthians 1:10 NIV).

We are encouraged to be united in mind and thought. No, we can’t agree about everything all the time. However, I do believe there are more situations where we can work to agreement. We have to be willing to listen first and listen closely for what we have in common. I need to look for more places for agreement. The bed was just the beginning. Next, it’s where the dirty clothes go.

Do you naturally look for agreement? Do you like to dig your heels in? Are you willing to try harder to bring people together? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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The other morning I woke up around 1;00 am and had two phrases from a song going through my head. “The prison walls started falling, and I became a free man that day.” I couldn’t remember any other part of the song just those two liners. Then it hit me. It was a David Crowder song called Red Letters.

Typically when this happens, it is a song I have been listening to a lot and I turn it into a prayer as I fall back to sleep. This time I took it as God speaking into my life. He was telling me the walls are falling and I am free. Life has a way of challenging us even shaking our foundation, but one thing has remained unshakeable.

The last six months have been filled with walking into my past and changing the grip it has had on me. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions. The waves of sorrow come when it’s least expected.

Throughout this entire process, God has been my safe place. Even when I got really mad at him, I knew his gentle strength would still be there for me. He has been this solid rock for me for decades. These last months he has literally taken difficult memories and made them tolerable. He has reminded me that I am his precious daughter. He reminds me that nothing in my past defines me or makes me less than. He has been an unshakeable force of strength, love and grace in my life.

God, the one and only—
    I’ll wait as long as he says.
Everything I hope for comes from him,
    so why not?
He’s solid rock under my feet,
    breathing room for my soul,
An impregnable castle:
    I’m set for life.
7-8 My help and glory are in God
    —granite-strength and safe-harbor-God—
So trust him absolutely, people;
    lay your lives on the line for him.
    God is a safe place to be. (Psalm 62:5-7 MSG).

God has been unshakeable in my life, so I am becoming unshakeable in my faith. He is my solid rock. I want others to see how unshakeable his is through my life.

Is God your solid rock? How has he been a safe place in your life? Do you need to lean in closer and trust that he is your safe harbor? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Sometimes it’s my kiddos who get the wheels in my brain turning. Sometimes they even teach me a thing or two although I hate to admit that part. Earlier this week my oldest was telling me about a friends testimony that used the parable of the mustard seed. It had made a story he had heard often in Sunday school take on new light and invigorate his faith.

This, of course, meant that I had to take a look at this often sited parable to see if I saw anything new, as well. I needed to remind myself of the strength that comes from a tiny seed.

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32 NIV).

The tiny mustard seed grows quickly. It digs deep and strong roots. It can become a vibrant tree that adds to the vitality of the soil. It gives the soil nutrients that protects it and other plants from pests and weeds.

Later in scripture Jesus chastises the disciples for having a small faith and that even the faith of mustard seed could move mountains. Mustard seeds are very small, no doubt, but they are mighty. To become the deep rooted, life giving tree it becomes, it takes a faith that is nourished, strengthened, so that it can grow and develop into the strong plant it has the potential to become.

We all have that potential. We all start with a small faith that is immature and needs nourishment. We all have the potential to become deeply rooted and strong.

I often feel like my faith is small and insignificant. I wonder if I could move the mountains in my life. The truth is, I can’t. God can. It takes a deeply rooted faith, trust in God to move the mountains. Mountains of shame, doubt, illness, fear and so many more plague us. He gives us the strength to move through and over them. I want faith like a mustard seed. I want to continue to nourish my roots in Him to grow strong in faith.

How about you? Is your faith able to traverse mountains? Is it like a mustard seed? How do you deepen your roots? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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I’m sick. For the last several days I have been nursing a nasty head cold. Cough, congestion, and fatigue have plagued my days and my nights. My eyes just want to stay closed, and I need to take out stock in Kleenex. I have loaded my system with Airborne, vitamin C, essential oils and a decongestant. None of this has made the road to health any quicker. I think I’m missing something.

When I”m sick, when someone I love receives a diagnosis, I head to the internet. I research best options in all forms of healing. Eastern methods, Western methods, drugs, tinctures, alternative options are all on the table to restore health. When it comes down to it, I just want to feel better. I want health restored.

I often forget the power of God in healing. I know it cognitively. I even pray for restored health. Do I believe it? Do I trust God to restore health and bring healing? Do I declare it for myself and loved ones? Honestly, not very often. These scriptures remind me what I have been missing.

“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”  (Jeremiah 5:14-15 NIV)

“But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 30:17 NIV).

I do think God has given us many ways to bring health and healing, but there is one I need to lean into more. I need to remember these promises are for all of us all of the time. I don’t need to wait until I deem the health issue severe enough to offer the prayer of faith. This needs to be my first course of action not my last. I have seen prayer make a difference. I know the promise is true. Do you?

What do you do when you are sick? What is your first course of action? Do you declare the promises of God? Do you take to the internet? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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