My Christmas tree is sideways. Kind of. Well, not really…but it’s seriously slanted.
After my son and husband spent all that time hooking the thing up to the top of the car and carrying it in the house, paying special attention to my request that they bring it through the back door and not the front so that pine needles would not get everywhere…I did not have the heart to tell them to straighten it.
So now it is slanted.
It is slanted when I glance at it from the kitchen.
It is slanted when I walk past it in the living room.
It is slanted when people knock on my front door and they walk in my house.
It is slanted when I adjust the presents just-right under it.
Part of me wants to hate the slant. It’s not perfect. The other part of me sees the slant for what it is: a reminder that Christmas imperfections are to be expected.
There will likely be moments when: People get upset. I feel overwhelmed. I go to my closet for my own time-out. I get annoyed. Family does something I don’t like.
Slants in Christmas don’t mean the whole holiday is wrecked, they just remind me that I have and need a Savior. They remind me — I’m human. They invite me to pray and to breathe deep.
Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway? Imperfect people desperately in need of a perfect Savior. This is what Jesus came for.
With this sort of mentality, I can remember slants are only moments. They come and they go, but God’s love for me endures forever. I am not defined by a passing moment, I am defined wholly and completely by Jesus’ love. With this, imperfect happenings, traditions, and inflated expectations cannot take me down.
There is a Savior and He came for me — and changed everything.
I see slants, I pray, and then I carry on. I feel offense, I remember how much Jesus forgave me and I move on. I deal with hard people, I throw my hands up and say, “I surrender” to God and I entrust them in His hands.
How can you brush off slanted moments and carry on in His love and grace, both to others and yourself?
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)
There is one spiritual weapon many of us forget about. We don’t think to use it, to leverage it. It’s too bad, because this weapon keeps us strong. It prevents us from getting battle-weary and war-torn.
Before I tell you what it is, let me tell you a story…
My daughter, Madison, loves to fall. She will look at me and say, “Hey, Mommy, I am going to fall backwards. Catch me.”
She will make her body rock-hard and strong like a plank of wood and then she’ll fall backwards. Knowing I’m behind her, I catch her.
She calls it a “trust-fall.”
Again and again — she trust-falls. Everytime, she knows I will catch her. Because “I-have-her”, this INCREASES her joy. This adds to the fun. This makes her feel strong and taken care of.
How many of us are trusting God to catch our fall?
To trust-fall is to know that your All-in-All will save you. Will help you. Will strengthen you. Will be there for you. Will even — add to you…
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jer. 17:7-8)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3:5-6)
Trust. It has promises and benefits tied to it.
Parents hopes their kid trusts them when they say not to have candy before dinner. There’s a good reason why…
In the same light, God has good reasons why He’s completely worthy of our trust. May we trust that He will make good even when in the bad. That He will help us, even when we don’t know how to change. That He will show us, even when we see no answers.
When we fall, we can trust God to catch us. He is the best trust-fall catcher, ever.
Rather than relying on our ability to catch ourselves — our understanding — we rely completely on Him and His better plan.
“But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.” (Is. 40:31 NLT)
Prayer: Father, give me the grace to trust you more today. I want to trust you with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
I found myself thinking that phrase in my mind this morning, as I made coffee. I am not sure where it came from, other than the fact that a day ago I was standing strong with Christ, yet, this morning I was crying my eyes out…
Hmm… Why is it one day we are all prayed up and ready to go and the next we’re whining that we’re not okay?
Nothing changed. Yet, I’ll tell you why this happens…in part, it’s due to sneaky devil!
He roams in the night…
Seeking to discourage us…
Desiring to steal God’s goodness from us.
Hoping to kill what is life.
Aiming to destroy hope…
Same tactics, different day. So what!?
The devil never stands a chance against Jesus. This thought immediately annihilates even his best-laid plans.
The devil cannot defeat Jesus.
Beyond this, I’ve learned a couple breakthrough points, as it pertains to defeating the devil. Many of the points can be pulled from Ephesians 6:14-18 Message.
Point 1: You can’t just know about truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation, you have to have activate them in your life. This means dedicating yourself to knowing truth and to being truthful. To wearing the the righteousness of Christ morning-by-morning. To receiving the peace Jesus left you. Etcetera…
Take what is theory and make it living.
“Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life.” (Eph. 6 MSG)
Point 2: “God’s Word is an indispensable weapon.” (Eph. 6 MSG)
Read it, think it, speak it, wield it. Enough said.
Point 3: “In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” (Eph. 6)
Pray. Pray. Pray. Get your eyes off of you (because that is a mindset the enemy loves to work through) and think of who you can love.
Be alert. There are things happening around you, that prayer can — and will — immediately defeat if you have your eyes open. Don’t be a sleepy Christian. Noticing what is happening in your world and your heart. Pray against anything that is not of God.
Stand firm and stand strong. Just like a big wave passes, so too shall this enemy attack as you continue to trust in your God.
Does it feel like you are going through some things? That you might not come out the other side in one piece?
I remember years ago, I didn’t think I was going to make it… It was the physical pain of what I was going through that was excruciating. If I judged the agony 1-10, I would yelled I was at a level: 100.
I thought I was going to die. The pain was that excruciating.
In my case, it was an extreme and super fast birthing-a-baby moment, with increased side-effects. As we drove down the street furiously, I remember thinking that my husband couldn’t help me escape my body. Nor, would he drive on the sidewalks like I was instructing him to. I remember coming to the stark realization that the only one who could really help me — was God. I thought — if this is a glimpse of hell — I want nothing to do with it.
Only Jesus could save me.
Only Jesus was there for me.
I was in the inferno alone. For many of us, it may feel that we are in the fire or storm alone.
But, we are not — alone. Another is there with us — Jesus. He is always in the storm.
Remember, Jesus was in the boat with the disciples when the storm hit. He was there when Jesus walked on water. Not only that, but He was in the fire when Daniel went in. He was also at the tomb when the women came, likely, sad and weary from the crucifixion.
Be it an angel sent by Jesus or Jesus himself, He was in the storm and the fire.
Jesus is in your storm. He is in your boat. He is in your fire. He awaits outside every circumstance you may see that looks like a tomb. He knows how to rise above that. I truly thought I was going to die, yet Jesus helped keep me alive. I birthed a beautiful baby girl. Jesus was with me. He was in my trial.
And, Jesus, himself — is there, with you. He, himself, is ready to help you.
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.” 2 Thess. 2:16-17
If the Rescuer, Redeemer, Restorer, Healer and Helper goes with you, what does this mean for you?
About “Rest Now”
Rest Now offers permission to breathe. It exposes the lies that distract, tire, and bully us, so we don’t strive for rest but love from it, like Jesus did. Learn how to
– create boundaries that allow you to overflow with love
– say no so you don’t hate yourself later
– ditch passive-aggressive behaviors in favor of healthy conversations
– embrace permission-giving thoughts to create mental space for God
I’ve tried my best to not to agree with fear this CoronaVirus season. And, for the most part, I’ve won. I’ve been at peace in the midst of this mayhem-producing world. Until, today, a Walmart incident got the best of me…
I was on a school supply hunt with my two, I-have-a-bazillion-and-one-questions, kids in tow. Trying to focus, while looking high and low, I found treasures and shoved them in my cart. Then, I marked the things off my list. I had this shopping-thing down. The only issue came when — near the toilet paper lane — I inadvertently drew a black pen mark right down the side of my brand new light pink purse. Grr…
Completely not thinking, I ripped my mask off. I licked my finger and rubbed, rubbed, rubbed. I licked and rubbed. I wasn’t about to let that ink, set in. I got it; I won!
Or did I? Then, it settled on me — what had I just done?!
I just licked the finger…that had touched that Walmart cart, that held the 50+ school supplies I had handled, which also swiped the much-walked-over floor when my school supply paper dropped only a few aisles back. The very cart that probably dozens of other people had used, before me. What had I done?
In a split-second my heart started pumping. Am I going to get sick now?
Fear wanted to grip me. It wanted to make me anxious. It wanted to make me relive that moment. It made me think about myself sick, within a week. I could hardly listen to my kids.
What would I do? I stood at a crossroads. I could either obey God and not fear or I could let my worries overrule His command.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10
I could either walk by a Spirit of fear or by the Holy Spirit…
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7
Grr… I know the enemy too. If you give him an inch he’ll, before long, take a mile. If you fear for five minutes, by the time you get home it will be full-blown. If you worry about it endlessly, by the end of the day it will be all you can think about.
I repented of my fear and released my body into God’s care. If He created the whole of me, He can protect me from a measly germ.
And, then I went on enjoying my kids, singing music, and enjoying the breeze of the day.
Where is fear trying to gain an inch in your life? Shut him down and shut him down, quickly…lest he gain a mile.
Someone has taken advantage of me. By all appearances, it seems they’ve used a position of power to force my hand. They’ve taken from me. It smells like trickery because I am left the fool. Now, I have no choice but to do what they want. Grr…
Yet, the more I pray, the more I feel God nudging my heart: not to fight back, but to give-in. Yes, to give in to what they want.
It feels like the lesson of this situation wants to stick to my heart. It tries to teach me that I am weak. It wants to convince me that people will take advantage of me again.
I can’t trust again. I must rise up and be powerful, so I don’t get hurt.
Yet, God speaks differently.
In His Word, I am reminded of the time the Arameans were coming against Elisha and the Israelites. Here, the enemy had the whole city surrounded and was about to strike. Elisha was trapped; the others had a clear advantage.
At this point, Elisha used wise prayer; He asked God to blind His enemies. When the forces finally opened their eyes, they quickly discovered they were defeated. They went in the wrong direction. The Israelites had won.
Although Elisha used a powerful powerful prayer strategy, this is not the part that most speaks to me. The part that speaks to me is how Elisha appeared to give way, to give in, to an enemy.
Take a look…
Once they had the Arameans trapped, “The king of Israel … shouted to Elisha, “My father, should I kill them? Should I kill them?”
“Of course not!” Elisha replied. “Do we kill prisoners of war? Give them food and drink and send them home again to their master.”
So the king made a great feast for them and then sent them home to their master. After that, the Aramean raiders stayed away from the land of Israel. (2 Kings 6:21-22)”
The enemy didn’t just get food, they got a feast. Why was this able to happen? Because they trusted God more than the people who hurt them.
And, this is what speaks to my heart today. I can trust God more than the person who hurt me. Why? Because God holds all power. God holds the purse-strings to everything. God makes armies bow. God brings redemption where things were stolen. God restores. And, He is always faithful.
Much more do I want to rely on God, than to allow a person’s actions declare who I am or how I will act. No. I won’t do that. God wins. He knows.
So, I go ahead and prepare a feast for someone who is acting like an enemy.
I have learned something that has changed my family. It is simple and profound.
The learning is founded on these 2 concepts:
One: Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6)
Two: I follow Jesus.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (My.16:24 ESV)
Note here: Jesus is not the Prince of Conflict. Nor the Prince of Double-Mindedness. Nor Prince of fear.
Here, in the busyness of my day — I can ask myself: Am I following and pursuing peace, or lesser things?
Doing this makes me a wiser decision-maker.
For instance, this helps me to:
– consider if hanging out with the friend with the gossipy-potty mouth will make bring me peace afterwords.
– if saying yes to the 60-hour a week job will create a peace-filled home.
– if debating my husband is increasing peace between us.
The amount or lack of peace in our life often is a good indicator of how we seek and follow Jesus in our lives.
Sometimes, often actually, I have to literally go the other direction from my feelings which seem to scream at me to attend to them. Yet, when I do this, the result is almost always a million times better than the short-term pleasure of reacting. I can benefit in this way, when I take time to consider outcomes.
God is powerful enough to fight my battle!
Do you seek and pursue peace?
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14)
He said, “You may want to invest in some snake boots.”
Snake boots? Who’s heard of such a thing? I certainly hadn’t. I had no idea snake-proof boots even existed. But, apparently, in this part of the country you don’t want to go near water without them. You just might find a Copperhead attached to your ankle.
The whole way to our trip location, all I could think about was — these snake boots… We’ve got to be safe…
Finally, we pulled off the highway to head into an outdoor store. Handling the boot, I noted — it was heavy. The material was tough and strong, thick and heavy. So much so, a snake couldn’t penetrate. Nothing would harm my kids with that boot on. Because of the foresight put into it — it was bulletproof, or fang-proof for that matter.
Foresight is not only protection for snake predicaments but for life’s problems and attacks.
Ephesians 6 emphasizes this:
“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:11-12)
These days, we MUST put on God’s armor:
The belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.
If you’re wearing truth, you won’t be overrun with worry and fear. If you remember that you have right standing with Christ, your every wrong won’t try to ruin you. You’ll remember nothing can steal your eternal position with God.
The shoes of peace that come from the Good News.
Jesus defeated death. He has overcome the power of sin. He is ruling and reigning. His kingdom has no end. There is good news available to us, all the time. This is peace.
Peace guards it’s heart and mind in Christ Jesus, remembering — there is always hope.
“Take heart! (Jesus has) overcome the world.” (Jo. 16:33)
The shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.
Doubt opens us up to enemy assaults. Here, we question what we are doing, why we are doing it and we wonder if God really will…
Faith in God pleases God. Faith believes. It hopes. It prays. It often sees God show up in amazing ways! It is the answer to many of our problems.
Salvation as a helmet, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (see Ephesians 6)
The more we fill our mind with truth of God’s Word, the more arsenal we have to kill the lies of the enemy. Truth not only establishes us — but to reestablish a brother or a sister in need. We are strong when we are strongly rooted and founded in God’s Word.
God’s Word will never fail; God’s word stands forever.
When we remember that salvation is our destiny, we find real and present rest. Nothing can steal the joy of knowing where we’re going. We live for eternity rather than here and now.
Ultimately, we are strong in the power of the Lord’s might. We don’t need snake boots; we have the armor of God!
So much is raging. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you. CoronaVirus and racial tensions are high. You’ve likely seen or heard the stories of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. My heart breaks.
Like me, you may be asking, how do I deal with all this? How do I stay near God and not fear? How do I act justly in the face of things I cannot control?
“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mi. 6:8)
Love mercy. Act justly. Walk humbly.
“Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:8).
When the outward position of our heart is love, the inward strength of our spirit gets revived.
When I respond with mercy and humility, the love I give WILL NOT fail them, or me. It cannot. God says it is so. It doesn’t matter if my love seems small. If it appears insignificant. If it only affects one person. It will NOT fail.
One small act can change the world.
One small blessing can heal wounds.
One small person can make a huge difference.
One small word can bring justice to many.
A mosquito is small but can have a huge impact if you spend all night with it. A headlight isn’t too big but shows you the way to greater lands. A hug is small but it can change everything when you haven’t had one in 4 months.
Scientifically, it’s even been proved that a small act of love can start a chain reaction of love. Love is contagious. Just think of what happened after Jesus came on earth; now Christianity is all over the world. And, it happened through love.
Just as much as fighting can spread, so can a wildfire of love…
Let’s the be ones to start it…
We will not win wars on Facebook. Or, with political grandstands. Or, with high and grandiose opinions of how things need to change. We will win the war of the world through love, the love of Christ — touching nations, touching people, touching hearts, reaching out, listening, helping, understanding, sacrificing, and uplifting those who need help. Defending, the oppressed. Being present with those in need. Speaking up.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” (Prov. 31:8-9 NLT)
We were poor and helpless in our sin and Jesus stood up for us. His love won the day and, now, it wins our every day, from this point straight into eternity…
I don’t have every answer. Far from it. But, what I do have is a wild and unbelievable belief in the love of Christ to change the world. Let’s become activated in it. Let’s do instead of sit around and wait for politicians and people to come up with the answers. We have Christ in us! HE is the hope of all glory! (Col. 1:27)
Prayer: Father, fill us with your love. Grace us with your power. Show us the marginalized, the people in need, those that are taken advantage of…we want to help them. Give us eyes to see how we can help and move. Do not permit us to carry bitterness and anger towards others. May we be change-agents according to your cause. We love you. May we love every person, everyday independent of color or nationality. Teach us how to love like Jesus. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
My friend Catherine and I set out for a lazy summer stroll through the neighborhood just before the fireflies emerged to start their party. We chatted about raising boys, working husbands, and decorating dilemmas. When we arrived back at her house, she invited me to come in and look at some fabric swatches for a new sofa. Before I knew it, a few minutes had turned into a few hours.
“Oh, my!” I exclaimed. “It’s ten o’clock. I’ve been gone for over two hours! I bet Steve’s worried sick. He doesn’t even know where I am. I’d better give him a call before I start back home.”
When I dialed our number, the answering machine picked up…which made me just a little mad.
“Steve, I was calling to let you know I’m at Catherine’s. I thought you’d be worried, but apparently you don’t even care because you won’t even pick up the phone!” Click. I said my goodbyes to Catherine and left feeling dejected. “I’m wandering around in the dark all alone and he doesn’t even care,” I mumbled to no one in particular. “I could be lying in a ditch injured, or dead for that matter! I don’t think he even loves me.”
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I noticed Steve coming toward me on his bicycle.
“Where have you been?” Steve desperately asked. “I’ve been riding all over the neighborhood looking for you! Do you know what time it is?”
When we arrived home, I quickly erased that angry voicemail. Whew, I thought. That was close.
A few days later, Steve called me from work. “Sharon, have you listened to the voice mail lately? There’s something you need to hear.”
So, I used my cell phone to call my landline.
The message went something like this: (The voice of sweet Southerness) “Hello, you’ve reached the Jaynes’ residence. We’re unable to answer the phone right now… (enter the voice of Cruella De Vil) “I was calling to let you know I’m at Catherine’s. I thought you’d be worried, but apparently you don’t even care because you won’t even pick up the phone!” (Return of sweet Southerness) “At the sound of the beep, leave a message, and we’ll get back with you as soon as possible.”
“Oh, my goodness!” I screamed. “How did this happen! How many people have heard this over the past three days?”
I called the phone company, and they explained that most likely during the thunderstorm we had a few days earlier, a lightning strike must have merged and scrambled the message.
I was mortified. I think God was too.
The Bible says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10). That all went down in one single voice mail.
As women, I am amazed how quickly we can flit back and forth between blessing and belittling, praising and putting down, cheering and critiquing—all in a matter of seconds. God has given us incredible power in our sphere of influence, and it begins with the words we speak.
In Genesis 1, we read that God created everything we see with but a word. He said, “Let there be,” and then there was. Then on the sixth day, when He created man and woman in His own image, He did something amazing, astonishing really—He gave us the gift of words.
Few forces have greater impact then the utterances that pass our lips. Our words can embolden a child to accomplish great feats, encourage a husband to conquer the world, reignite the dying embers of a friend’s broken dreams, cheer on a fellow believer to run the race of life, and draw a lost soul to Christ. Words start wars and bring peace—globally, and right in our own homes.
Sharon Jaynes is an international conference speaker and author of 24 books, with close to a million sold. For ten years, she served as vice-president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and co-host for their daily radio program. Sharon is the co-founder of Girlfriends in God, Inc., a ministry that touches nearly 500,000 women daily through internet devotions. Sharon is also a popular guest on radio and television programs such as Focus on the Family and Family Life.