Brokenness to Beauty

Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life


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Love is …

Love is …

 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13 NLT).

 

Love is … easy, love is hard. Love is … simple, love is profound. Love is … a command, love is a choice.

Jesus said to his disciples, “You must love each another, just as I have loved you” (John 13:34 CEV). Jesus means these words for me because I declare I am his disciple, a learner and one who seeks to obey him. If you are his disciple, this command is for you as well.

My choice to love was made when I chose to follow Jesus. Same for you. We chose to obey his words, his commands. And he commands us to love each other.

This love is not just human love for friends. This love is well beyond and above that love. This is the “as I have loved you” love of Jesus; God’s love.*

“This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13 CEB).

“As I have loved you.” Now that’s a thought we can chew on for some time.

As I move toward the final stages of writing prior to publishing the Bible Study for my book, Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life, I’ve crafted a page of etiquette for Bible study group behavior.

Sounds funny, a page on etiquette, but these reminders are needed. The points simply remind us of how we should act with one another. It dawned on me that these points of etiquette are actually ways we can love one another in a small group setting. Or anywhere, anytime.

I want to share with you some of the easy ways to love one another, excerpted from my Bible study group etiquette page:

“Value each person in your little community of the Bible study group. Give each other the respect due each one. Commit to:

  1. Show up. Someone said that 90% of any task is just showing up. Be at the group meetings (barring an emergency). And when there, be present. “Be Here Now,” attentive and engaged in the moment. This is for your own benefit as well as the benefit of the others. You never know what God may speak to you through another person, or what God may impress on another through you. Sometimes you just being there is all the encouragement someone else needs (Hebrews 10:24–25).

 

  1. Do your work. The week before you meet, do the work for the upcoming lesson in preparation for the group time. The more effort you put into the study, the more you will get out of it. Solomon said, “The soul (appetite) of the lazy person craves and gets nothing [for lethargy overcomes ambition], but the soul (appetite) of the diligent [who works willingly] is rich and abundantly supplied” (Proverbs 13:4 AMP).

 

  1. Be generous and share the discussion time. Be short-winded so others may also participate in the discussions (1 Peter 5:5–7).

 

  1. Be a better listener than a talker. Bible study discussions are not the place for giving advice or counseling. You are not meeting together to solve anyone’s problems but to learn what God has to say in his Word. “Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving] (James 1:19 AMP).

 

  1. Be trustworthy as you listen. What is shared in the group discussions stays a secret with the group. These things are not to be told to anyone else. “He who goes about as a gossip reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy and faithful keeps a matter hidden” (Proverbs 11:13 AMP).

 

  1. Be a Berean Christian. When questions come up, don’t default to traditional, current, or even “common sense” ideas, but search the Scriptures like the Bereans did to find out what God has to say about the issue. He does have a word to say about it. And unlike the words of men, God’s Word “endures forever” (Acts 17:10–12; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:22–25).

 

These are some easy, simple, yet thoughtful ways we can love one another in any group setting, and these few guidelines will serve as our standard of etiquette for this Bible study group.”

Though the above points are designed for a small group setting, they are applicable in most life situations. I’ll let you make the leap to apply these principles, rooted in God’s Word, to your everyday life, at home, at work, at school, at church, and everywhere. I’m working on it too.

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35 CSB, emphasis added).

 

Daily Verses

 

How can I move from my limited, human brotherly love to Jesus’ love, to love as he has loved us? A song just reminded me of the only way– “I’ve Been Crucified with Christ,” (by Robin Mark) quoting Galatians 2:20:

“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 CSB, emphasis added)

Listen to the song here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoZWRfXdh4w

I want to cooperate with Christ and let him live his life through me. That’s the only way to love others as he loved us.

Love is … all of the above, and so much more. In Christ we can do this.

 

The Bible Study for Brokenness to Beauty has yet to be published; hopefully, by autumn it will be available. However, the book Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life may be purchased now at Amazon books. Click here to go to Amazon.

*Agape love: “Agape love involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will. It is distinguished from the other types of love by its lofty moral nature and strong character. Agape love is beautifully described in 1 Corinthians 13. https://www.gotquestions.org/agape-love.html 

Scriptures are taken from https://www.biblegateway.com

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Living Like You’re Dead

I’ve had a blog post rattling around in my mind for several days, yet unwritten. Then I read Bills’ post this afternoon. It is so true and powerful, I had to share it with you. Bill always teaches and challenges me. I hope you will feel the same way after you read this post, take to heart what he says, and implement what is needed to rise to the challenge of God’s Word spoken by our brother Bill.

Unshakable Hope

The title of this blog might seem like an oxymoron, but I hope to convince you otherwise.

I have come close to death several times even before ALS entered my life 21 years ago. With each brush with death, the more I am able to identify with death and eternity and live my life accordingly.

You might think that viewing my life as having one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel would be a depressing way to live, but I’ve discovered just the opposite; it’s a very liberating way to live, at least, from a Christian point of view. I think it’s also the viewpoint that Christ intended us to have.

In the days leading up to Christmas every year, Mary and I always watch “It’saWonderfulLife” and the 1951 version (the best version) of “AChristmasCarol.” After…

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God’s Delights, Our Delights

I feel good when I’m creating something with my hands. There is an interesting phenomenon I became aware of one day several years ago while working on a project. I don’t remember what I was working on or even when or where this realization first came to me. But it was an actual physical sensation of pleasure radiating from inside me. An “inner smile” is the best way I can describe it. It comes unexpectedly when I stop to take a break from working on the item or when I finish a project. And when I sense that inner smile, it makes me smile on the outside too.

It has come at times when I’ve written a piece that has come together through struggle (as most of my writing comes). But when I found the words that were “right,” that resonated in my soul, there was that smile coming from the inside.

More often, though, I’ve sensed that inner smile of pleasure when I’ve been caught up in the creative process using my hands. It has come while creating a mosaic, adhering pieces of broken or cut glass into designs on a substrate. Or like the other day, when I was gluing a paper dust cover onto the back of an old 30″X 40″ frame I had refinished. This frame now holds a large filet crochet piece I crocheted over the course of several years, and a couple of moves across the country (from California to Georgia to West Virginia, a long time ago).

This inner smile I experience, this pleasure at doing something creative, not only causes me to smile outwardly but makes me think of the pleasure of God, that is, the pleasure God takes in his children when we are being and doing what is right and good, in love, reverence, and trust in him.

I started looking for just a few Scriptures that speak to what brings God pleasure and found these (this is not an exhaustive list, of course):

I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. (1 Chronicles 29:17 ESV, emphasis added)

Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 NASB, emphasis added)

His delight is not in the strength of the horse,

nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,

11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,

    in those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalm 147:10-11 ESV, emphasis added)

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV, emphasis added)

At that very time (Jesus) rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.” (Luke 10:21 NASB, emphasis added)

Doesn’t it make you smile inside, and out, to read some of the things that bring joy, delight, and pleasure to our God? Think of it, we don’t have to be superheroes or wildly gorgeous or do some great feat of strength or daring to please him (sounds like what the world goes after, doesn’t it?). We don’t even have to be “wise and intelligent” in this world to bring joy to our Father. Maybe a sigh of relief is more accurate as a response to what God values and seeks in his children. Because I’m sure not any of those things.

To bring joy to our heavenly Father we only need be like little children in our simplicity and humility, loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind. And loving and treating others the way we want to be treated (Matthew 22:37–39; 7:12). “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets,” Jesus said (Matthew 22:40). In other words, these two commands of God are the Bible in a nutshell (Romans 13:8–10).

And since God has given us everything we need to live a godly life in Christ Jesus (2 Peter 1:3), we can do this, we can make God smile. He’s given us his Spirit to live in us; “Christ in [us] the hope of glory.”

I’m working on cooperating with God. And learning. It’s my life goal to bring a smile to my Father’s face.

We don’t have to be rich, or good-looking, or famous, or smart, or … anything except actively loving God by “abiding in him,” which is obeying his word, and loving one another (John 14:15; 15:10, 12).

So our response to our gracious and merciful God should include these elements (again, this is not an exhaustive list):

Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Jesus, in Luke 10:20 ESV, emphasis added)

Your words were found and I ate them,

And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart;

For I have been called by Your name,

O Lord God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16 NASB, emphasis added)

In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. (1 Chronicles 29:17 ESV, emphasis added)

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2 HCSB, emphasis added)

Trust in the Lord and do what is good …

4 Take delight in the Lord,

and He will give you your heart’s desires.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;

trust in Him, and He will act,

6 making your righteousness shine like the dawn,

your justice like the noonday. (Psalm 37:3-6 HCSB)

As I said, this is not an exhaustive list. You can add to it Scriptures that come to mind about what God values and delights in. Consider setting a goal for your Scripture reading in 2018 to look for these sorts of verses that clearly state what gives God joy and pleasure. And make being and doing those things your life goal. I guarantee that will give you an “inner smile” of pleasure.

May your New Year be filled with God’s delight in you!


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A ‘Christmas’ song I never thought I’d hear-a reblogged post

Today I am reposting an article by Dr. Jim Denison, from his blog Denison Forum. The subtitle is “How we can respond to the secularity of the season.” This is such a pertinent topic, and the article so well written, I wanted to share it with you.

We need to be reminded that though we believers in Jesus want to proclaim that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” and would like to rip Christmas out of the hands of the secular world, that isn’t exactly the Spirit of Jesus, in any season. A lot more could be said about the history of the time we call Christmas; about what Scriptures teach us about how we are to live in relation to God and men, at all times of the year; and how we, ourselves, actually celebrate Christmas. But I won’t in this post.

I’ll simply say, Jesus said we are the light in the darkness of the world. We are to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves, while we take every opportunity to do good in this world, to those in the family of faith and those outside the family of faith.

I hope you’ll consider what Jim Denison has to say in his excellent article below.

A ‘Christmas Song’ I Thought I’d Never Hear: How we can respond to the secularity of the season

It was a strange weekend in the news.

Astronauts on the International Space Station made headlines after making pizza in space. Back on earth, the Pontiac Superdome survived implosion due to a wiring error. The first and only full supermoon of 2017 was last night. And college football fans are still debating the decision to include Alabama rather than Ohio State in this year’s tournament.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about an event over the weekend that drew no news coverage whatsoever. My wife and I were watching one of the plethora of Christmas specials on television when a musical group presented a rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The now-famous lyrics begin:

Imagine there is no heaven / It’s easy if you try / No hell below us / Above us only sky / Imagine all the people living for today.

I never imagined that I would hear “Imagine” performed as a Christmas song. But that’s how secular the holidays have become.

According to Gallup, 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, but only 51 percent describe the holiday as “strongly religious” for them. One in four American adults say December 25 is simply a cultural holiday, not a religious holy day. Only 49 percent of those who celebrate Christmas believe that the Virgin birth is historically accurate.

How should we respond to the escalating secularity of this season?

Using a pagan ship to witness to Caesar

Acts 28 tells the famous story of Paul’s voyage to Rome. As I was reading the narrative yesterday, I noticed this irony: the apostle was carried to Rome on “a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead” (v. 11). These “twin gods” were Castor and Pollux, the twin sons of Zeus. They were believed to be deities that protected sailors at sea.

Such idolatry was anathema to the Jewish people. Saul the Pharisee would likely have refused to sail on a vessel dedicated to pagan gods. But Paul the apostle knew that he had a higher purpose. God had called him to be “a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings” (Acts 9:15). Before his shipwreck at Malta, God said to him, “You must stand trial before Caesar” (Acts 27:24).

Now the Lord had provided a way for Paul to fulfill his call. And the apostle was willing to use the things of the world to accomplish the things of God.

This was Paul’s pattern throughout his ministry. In Athens, he used the pagan altar to “the unknown god” (Acts 17:23) to introduce the one true God. After he was rejected at the synagogue in Ephesus, he “withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus” (Acts 19:9).

Through this “secular” strategy, the apostle reached far more people than if he had limited his ministry to the “sacred” synagogue. As a result, “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (v. 10).

Lost people don’t know they are lost

How would Paul approach the secularization of Christmas in our day? I believe he would offer this reminder: most lost people don’t know they are lost. They may be as religious as the Romans who dedicated their ship to false gods. Or they may not be religious at all.

Either way, they are deceived: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Here we learn that most secular people who ignore Jesus at Christmas don’t know better. They don’t intend to insult our Lord or his followers. They celebrate the secular traditions of the season with no real knowledge of its spiritual significance.

I know because I was one of them.

Growing up, my family never attended religious services at Christmas or any other season of the year. We never gave a moment’s thought to Jesus’ birth at Christmas.

But that didn’t mean we intended to insult those who did. I wasn’t antagonistic to the gospel—I was oblivious to it. I heard the truth about Jesus only after two men knocked on my apartment door when I was fifteen years old and invited me to ride their bus to their church. Prior to that invitation, I was lost but didn’t know it.

If Christians had responded to my secular Christmas observances by treating me as their enemy, they would have pushed me further from Jesus rather than drawing me closer to him. Instead, members of that church reached out to me with loving compassion. They understood my lack of spiritual knowledge and taught me what I needed to know.

I will quite literally be grateful to them forever.

How can we reach people who are where I was? One way is to use secular holidays to teach spiritual truth.

For instance, Martin Luther was the first to add lights to Christmas trees; he did so to point to Jesus as the “light of the world” (John 8:12). Holly wreaths with their sharp, pointed leaves were chosen to represent the crown of thorns Jesus wore on the cross; their small red berries symbolize his drops of blood. Evergreen wreaths likewise signify eternal life in him.

Nearly every Christmas tradition can be used to share timeless truth. If our Lord could use a ship dedicated to pagan gods to bring the gospel to Rome, he can use this secular season to bring Christ to our culture.

This is the promise, and the invitation, of God.


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Thanks-living

Unshakable Hope

Even though I cannot eat (by mouth) anymore, I still love the Thanksgiving Holiday. (I no longer have to worry about that gluttony thing).

Over my 21 year journey with this horrible disease called ALS, I’ve become a more grateful person. I also seem to notice ingratitude in myself and in others more than I did before ALS entered my life.

Through my observations, I’ve concluded that ungratefulness and unhappiness go hand-in-hand. Think about it, have you ever known a happy ingrate? Yeah, neither have I.

The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” – Henry Ward Beecher

The Bible doesn’t tell us to be happy, which leads me to believe that not even God could teach happiness. However, the Bible repeatedly tell us to be thankful:

“...let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts…

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How to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Say

“How to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Say” is a blog post by Sarah Forgrave (www.sarahforgrave.com), an introduction to her new book Prayers for Hope and Healing. I read Sarah’s article when she guest posted on Debbie W. Wilson’s Refreshing Faith website.

What caught my attention immediately was Sarah’s reference to her long-time approach to prayer; it was very much like what I’ve written about in my book Brokenness to Beauty, the ACTS in prayer which was so beneficial to me when I discovered it.

Here’s what I wrote in Brokenness to Beauty,  Chapter 11 “Prayer: Just Do It … But How?”:

“I distinctly remember when, as a college student, I cried out … in frustration to God. My ‘prayer life’ wasn’t working. I would make my prayer list and start my prayers by asking God this and that for so-and-so, and I meant it wholeheartedly. This would last for a day or two, but time after time my fervor would dwindle into mechanical words read from a list. I knew I had to pray with my heart, but I didn’t know how to maintain the transfer from my head to my heart. I sincerely yearned to communicate with God and effect change through prayer on behalf of others in need, yet I usually ended up feeling that I was falling short. I didn’t know what to do about it, so I did the only thing I did know to do: I asked God to help me.

A few years later I was introduced to a simple way of entering into God’s presence in prayer, one that’s easy to remember and rooted in the Scriptures. It changed the way I prayed and as a result, changed my life. It is called the ACTS of prayer.[i]

The acrostic stands for:

Adoration. Approach God in humility, reverence, and awe, and worship him for who he is. We learn about him as we read and study the Bible. He is holy, and we must approach him as such (Luke 11:2).

Confession. Sin acts as a wall between us and God, effectively blocking our prayers (Isaiah 59:2). We need to be sensitive to God’s Spirit on a daily basis as he speaks conviction to us, confessing and repenting of all known sin as soon as we are aware of it. That way, communication with God remains open (1 John 1:8–9).

Thanksgiving. The greatest acceptable sacrifice we can make to God (along with laying our lives at his feet as a living sacrifice, as Paul tells us to do in Romans 12:1) is the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise (Hebrews 13:15). Our prayers are to be seasoned with gratitude.

Supplication. This is the part we normally think of as prayer: asking God for something (Luke 11:9–10). Our requests must be couched in the reverence and worship due to God as we seek first his will in the matter, with our prayer purged of known sin through confession and repentance, wrapped in trust, and infused with thanksgiving.”

As I wrote, “It changed the way I prayed and as a result, changed my life.”  It became the pattern for most of my prayers. When I read Sarah’s article, it seemed she used a similar way of praying.

But I also wrote in Brokenness to Beauty, “There are, of course, times when all we can do is burst out, ‘Lord help me!'” There are times when we are so burdened and feel so deeply our need, we cry out like the psalmists did, in the agony of our heart. We still approach God in humility and reverence, but we burst into his presence in the agony of our situation.

I think this is what Sarah found as well when she experienced tremendous physical struggles coping with a chronic disease,  and she found prayer too was a struggle. Her method of approaching God felt insufficient in her time of need.

I understand fully, having lived with a chronic disease for over 50 years and having faced the trauma of breast cancer and treatment, and then the fractures of both my femurs, rods surgically implanted in them, and months of physical therapy. Life gets hard at times and what is familiar can seem inadequate for the present struggle.

That’s why I want to share Sarah’s blog post with you and introduce you to her book, Prayers for Hope and Healing. If you are struggling right now, or know someone who is, and prayer seems just as hard, the old familiar patterns inadequate, this article and Sarah’s book may be just what you need.

Prayers for Hope and Healing by Sarah Forgrave

From the back cover of Prayers for Hope and Healing:

Amid Pain and Weakness…There is HOPE

Serious or chronic medical issues bring a litany of painful and confusing feelings that only someone else who’s been in a similar situation could possibly understand. Sarah Forgrave has walked the difficult road you find yourself on. And she empathizes with the uncertain future you face.

No matter the road ahead, you don’t have to face it alone. Even in the depths of your worst emotional and physical pain, God is right there beside you, offering His comfort, love, and peace.

As you read these heartfelt prayers and devotions, let this book be your manual to help navigate the difficult set of emotions that come with health issues. Read it front to back or go directly to the devotion addressing how you feel at any given moment…when you need it the most.

Above all, know that you are never, ever alone.

Read Sarah’s blog post as she shares “How to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Say”:

For most of my life, I approached prayer like a checklist. It went something like this. Adore God. Confess my sins. Thank Him for His forgiveness. Ask Him for what I want.

This checklist helped fill the awkward silence, but when life got hard, so did prayer.

Suddenly my adoration wasn’t so quick to rise to the surface. Instead of confession and gratitude, I was mad at God for letting me hurt. There were plenty of things I wanted Him to do, but I frankly didn’t have much faith He would follow through on them.

Have you found yourself in the same place?

To continue to read how Sarah learned to connect with God during hard times, you can see the full article here: https://debbiewwilson.com/how-to-pray/

Bio:

Sarah Forgrave is an author and wellness coach who loves inspiring others toward their full potential. In addition to her book, Prayers for Hope and Healing (Harvest House, October 2017), her writing credits include contributions to The Gift of Friendship, Guideposts’ A Cup of Christmas Cheer, and the webzine Ungrind. When she’s not writing or teaching, she loves to shop at Trader Joe’s or spend time with her husband and two children in their Midwest home. Visit Sarah at www.sarahforgrave.com, or at the following sites:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahForgrave

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/SarahForgrave

Instagram: www.instagram.com/SarahForgrave_Author

Twitter: www.twitter.com/SarahForgrave

 

 

[i] The ACTS of Prayer are explained at

http://prayercentral.net/engage-me/ways-to-pray/pray-with-acts


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Be Careful How You Live

“Be Careful How You Live” was written by Ann Van Hine. I read this post on October 19, 2017 on the devotional blog “Laced with Grace” where Ann is a regular contributor. She also writes on her own website, “Random Ramblings: Thoughts from Everyday Life.” Ann and “Laced with Grace” graciously gave me permission to reblog her post so I could share it with you.

And I wanted to share Ann’s post with you because she says so well and concisely some of the things I too have written in blog posts, in my book Brokenness to Beauty,* and in the Brokenness to Beauty Bible Study (still a work in progress). I like her illustrations that bring home the message being considered.

When I read Ann’s opening quote below, taken from Schreve’s book, I thought of Solomon’s words, “Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10).  I always inwardly chuckle and shake my head when I hear people do exactly what the wisest man who ever lived said not to do.

Equally applicable, pertaining to our future is James 4:13–15, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city … .’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’” Do we really mean “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” when we pray? Are we really taking Jesus at his word to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, not all the other stuff of life?

And we do well to take heed to Paul’s admonition in Philippians 3:13, 14, quoted below, to leave our past behind us—all the bad and the good in our lives—and hotly pursue Jesus Christ and the purposes of God. Today.

And finally, in a world inundated with distractions (read media, social and otherwise), we must learn to “Be here now,” as Randy used to teach our summer staff at Mustard Seeds and Mountains. Live in the Today God has given us.

Enough commentary. Here is Ann’s post, “Be Careful How You Live.” Leave a comment on her site or mine to let us know how God encouraged you through this little article.

In Jeff Schreve’s book Real Encouragement for Real Life, he states:

“I have found that a good number of people live in the past. They live longing for the good ole days – or mourning past failures, wishing they could go back and do it over again…God wants us to learn from the past and let go of the past. While some live in the past, others life in the future…Living in the future also robs you of the precious present because tomorrow may never come. All we have to live in is today. Certainly, we are to plan for tomorrow, but we are to live in today and make the most of each day.”

As we discussed these ideas in Sunday School this past Sunday someone commented that living in the past is like driving while constantly looking in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, I had a story about that. A few years ago, my mother was so worried about the person driving behind her that she failed to navigate the off ramp on to her street. She took down a highway sign, a light post and stopped just feet from a tree all within yards of her home. Thankfully she wasn’t injured but the car was totaled. Rearview mirrors are useful but we need to drive looking through the windshield.

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13 – 14.

I think another hazard for us today is we can be somewhere but not “be” present because of technology. I can be with you but be texting someone else or googling something. Technology is great but being present, being in the now is hard. N.O.W. = No Other Worries or Work. Giving my full attention to those who I am with at this moment for me that would be making the most of every opportunity. And isn’t that what Jesus did. He was always fully present with whomever he was with. I saw a church sign once that said, “Jesus never hurried.”  That is another great thing to strive for.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16

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About Ann:

I am a mom of grown daughters, widow of a FDNY firefighter, retired small business owner, volunteer docent, children’s ministries worker, friend, avid reader, published writer, event speaker and breast cancer survivor.  In 2015 I got a new title – Mom-mom. On long car rides, I like to drink coffee, eat sour patch kids and listen to podcasts – West Wing Weekly and the Moth are my favorites.

According to the Clifton StrengthsFinder, my strengths are achiever, connectedness, input, learner and intellection. In other words, I like “to do lists”, believe everything is connected, I’m inquisitive, love to learn and like to think.

vanhineann@gmail.com

*Purchase Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life on Amazon.