Summer Shore

Summer Shore is co-founder of Revive Ministries, a writer, speaker, and co-host of the Experience Revival podcast. She has been an on-air personality in Christian radio for the past 6 years and has been speaking and teaching for 18 years, using humor and real-life experiences to connect with women, speak to their hearts and draw them closer to God. She also enjoys singing and leading worship whenever she can. Summer and her husband, Jake, have been married for almost 20 years and have 3 boys that keep her on her toes! Summer loves spending time traveling and going on adventures with her family, especially if it involves going to her favorite Cuban restaurant. When she’s not on the air or working with Revive, you’ll find her curled up in a fuzzy blanket with a mug of chai tea and, you guessed it, a Hallmark movie. You can connect with her on Instagram @summer_shore.

  • Beholding the Savior

    Often when we think of the Christmas story, we think of the early days–the angel appearing to Mary, her miraculous pregnancy, Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem, Mary giving birth to Jesus in a manger. Every detail of the story is incredible and inspires awe and wonder. 

    But Jesus continued to grow, and even though Mary knew before he was born that he was Immanuel, God with us, Jesus was also her little boy. She tended to his scraped knees when he fell down, and made him soup when he wasn’t feeling well. As he grew into a man, and his ministry began, Mary was no doubt filled with a sense of wonder at hearing about him healing the lame, the sick, and the blind. Mary must have marveled at how God was working in their midst through Jesus. As a mom, I can’t help but think she would have been filled with nostalgia as she remembered cradling Jesus as a baby, and overwhelmed with awe as she watched him turn water into wine and raise Lazarus from the dead. 

    I wonder when the moment was that she began to see Jesus, and all the incredible gifts He had through the Father, and realized that she was beholding the Savior. Was it a certain miracle that He performed that made her stop and recognize God in flesh standing before her? Was it something He said or a Holy Spirit feeling that would prompt her to see Jesus as Lord and worship? 

    What will that moment look like for you, when God’s love breaks through the noise of our everyday hustle and bustle and you behold the Savior in your midst? 

    Perhaps it will be in the soft glow of the Christmas lights as you soak in God’s peace and feel His presence wrapped around you like a warm blanket. Maybe it will be in the face of your child as you pray over them, or in the lyric of your favorite Christmas carol.  It could be in the kind word from a friend or loved one who sees you when you feel invisible and forgotten. Maybe you’ll see Him holding you up in a storm you are currently facing. Whatever it is, in every moment, Jesus is with us, miraculously breaking through the noise and chaos of our world to be our Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father and Strong God. 

    Advent is a season where we wait, expectantly for Jesus to come. We celebrate what God has done in the past, marvel at what He is doing now and wonder at what He will do in the future, thankful for His hand of love and provision at every turn. Look for Him in the details, see Him guiding your steps and holding your heart. He promises He will never leave us, that He is always with us. This advent season, may we cease our constant striving, be still and behold the Savior.

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  • Treasuring Immanuel

    And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 

    “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

    When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:8-19

    There have been times in my life when there’s been a plot twist so big that words fail me and I’m left to ponder in quiet stillness. This uncharacteristic calm is something that still surprises me, especially since I’m typically the kind of person that processes things out loud. But sometimes there are just events or circumstances in life that are so big, they are beyond our comprehension. In those moments, I find the only way to make sense of things is to sit with the Lord and let Him make sense of it for me. 

    So I’ll steal away to a quiet, comfy place in my house, or to a coffee shop where I can write and think and pray. Inevitably, as I sit with the Lord, I am overwhelmed with a feeling of safety and peace. He is my safe space, my refuge. He’ll never judge me for feeling like my thoughts are chaotic and scattered. He is patient with me and helps me lay out all the pieces of the puzzle so that I can begin to process and see where God might be at work. Without fail, He leads me gently to a place where, even if I can’t see the whole big picture, I can at least see Him. 

    I imagine Mary had several of those moments in her life where life took such a big turn that words just failed her and she had to just sit with the Lord and take it all in. I wonder if that’s what Mary was experiencing in Luke 2:19 when it says,  she “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” 

    In this part of Mary’s story, she had just given birth to Jesus, in a barn, after days of traveling. She would have been beyond tired, and this was likely not the birth scenario she had imagined. Sitting in that barn, looking at this little baby who was fully God and fully human must have felt so surreal, so beyond comprehension. In these moments after Jesus’ birth, she would have been busy caring for her newborn, focused on his needs and on resting and healing herself.  Having strangers suddenly drop by may not quite have been what she envisioned. But when a group of shepherds show up at the stable after an angel of the Lord tells them of Jesus’ birth, Mary is gracious. Instead of shooing them away or recoiling at what may have felt like an intrusion, Mary is generous with her time, with her heart and with Jesus. 

    As the shepherds stood there amazed at the foot of the manger, they recognized that this baby was the Messiah. Maybe it was in that moment that Mary zoomed out and saw a bigger view of an even bigger picture. Perhaps it was then Mary realized that she and Joseph were not the only ones who believed that what God said would happen, was now finally happening. Immanuel, God with us, had arrived. 

    As the shepherds left to go tell everyone what they had seen and heard, Mary was left in the stillness, in a quiet moment of solace to ponder and marvel at all God had done, was doing and would do in the days to come. She knew they were on the edge of something big, and even though she couldn’t see the whole big picture, she could see God in the face of her newborn baby.

    In our lives we experience many twists and turns. We experience events when time seems to stand still, whether for better or worse. We too can sit with the Lord in safety and peace, and see his face in the midst of whatever we are going through. He was then, and is still, our hope, our comfort, our Immanuel, God with us. 

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  • Quiet Confidence

    As we enter into this advent season, my mind often turns to the women who played such an instrumental role in the Christmas story and what it must have been like to see the life of Jesus unfold firsthand. 

    Often we focus on Mary, the mother of Jesus, and understandably. A teenage, unwed virgin bearing the Son of God warrants noticing. But I’m also struck by her older cousin Elizabeth, who’s own miraculous story is intricately woven into the beautiful tapestry of the Christmas story.

    The name Elizabeth means “God is my oath” and it couldn’t be a better fit for her. In Luke 1:5-60, we learn that Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah were well along in years, but had no children. In Elizabeth’s day, a woman’s value was wrapped up in her ability to be able to bear children, and not just children, but a son to carry on the family name and her husband’s legacy. With each passing childless year, Elizabeth and Zechariah’s disappointment would have been profound. But where faith might falter for many, they instead leaned into the Lord’s faithfulness and continued to pray for a child. They continued to serve in the church and in their community. Elizabeth’s years of disappointment deepened rather than destroyed her faith. 

    Imagine her surprise when an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah to tell him that they would be parents to a son and they should name him John. And he wouldn’t be just any son, but great in the Lord’s eyes, a joy and a delight and one who would help prepare the hearts of all Israel for the coming Messiah. 

    I can only imagine the flood of emotion and wonder that must have rushed over Elizabeth in that moment. Even though she was well past her childbearing years, she would be having a son! In her joy, she praises God, saying “How kind the Lord is! He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” (Luke 1:25 NLT)

    What I love about Elizabeth is that she is a picture of calm, and quiet confidence. She appears to be unruffled by life and seems to take everything in stride. No doubt she experienced all sorts of emotions and feelings, but when we see her described, she is not ruled by her emotion, but by her faith. That quiet confidence came from her relationship with God and her heart being open to the Holy Spirit guiding and helping her. Her confidence was in God, because He has always been faithful. And now she was literally living out a miracle in her own story. 

    Because Elizabeth knew God, she didn’t question how He was working. She was secure in who He was, therefore she was secure herself. This translated to many different areas of her life: how she dealt with disappointment, grief and possibly shame during her childless years, as well as how she interacted in her relationships. Establishing her identity and confidence in the Lord, positively impacted her relationship with her husband by helping solidify their faith as a couple. It rippled out into her extended family and to her friends and neighbors as they shared her joy when her baby was born (vs. 58). Her God-confidence influenced how she navigated the unexpected surprise of a baby in her later years and how she related to her younger cousin, Mary, when she came to visit with the news that she too was pregnant with a miracle.  

    This interaction between Mary & Elizabeth is perhaps my favorite part of Elizabeth’s story and such a beautiful example of God’s provision of community. As baby John leaps in her womb upon hearing Mary’s voice, Elizabeth immediately recognizes that Mary is the mother of the Lord. It makes sense that she would recognize God’s handiwork having just experienced a miracle of her own. The joy and wonder she and Mary share as they marvel at how the Lord is at work in their lives, and through the lives of their children is a treasure.

    What a gift God gave them in being able to relate so deeply to one another, even just to process together all that was happening and unfolding.  It is such a beautiful example of God’s perfect provision and timing. John was going to prepare the people’s hearts for Jesus’ arrival. Had he come when Elizabeth had first prayed for a child, too much time could have gone by between John’s teaching and Jesus’ arrival, and the hearts of the people may have again grown cold. Perhaps God was preparing Elizabeth all this time, knowing that Mary would need a caring and wise, mature mentor to help her navigate the difficulties that lay ahead in her own story. Whatever the reasons, Elizabeth’s quiet confidence and mature faith, no doubt blessed Mary more that we can even know. 

    As we reflect on the Christmas story and the anticipation of Christmas itself, I want to encourage you, in your own season of waiting. Maybe you are bringing your own persistent prayer ever before Him or you’re eagerly awaiting the day when the Lord returns and sets all things right again. Perhaps you are experiencing the chronic disappointment of life not going at all the way you had hoped or planned, or you’re reeling from a sudden, unexpected change you didn’t see coming (good or bad). Know that the same God who loved and provided for Elizabeth, loves you and will provide for you too. He sees you and knows your needs. As you lean on Him, you can trust wholeheartedly that He will cultivate in you a faith that leads to joy and security in any situation. Because of your relationship with God, you too can have quiet confidence that God is working powerfully in your circumstances, and that the story He is writing in your life will also be one of His perfect provision and profound love. 

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  • Be Still and Know

    1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. 7 The Lord Almighty is with us;  the God of Jacob is our fortress. 8 Come and see what the Lord has done,  the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The Lord Almighty is with us;  the God of Jacob is our fortress.

    Psalm 46:1-11

    One of my favorite verses that has brought me comfort and peace over the years is Psalm 46:10. “Be still and know that I am God”. It has been a gentle reminder of God’s sovereignty, love and provision, especially in times of stress and difficulty.

    Today, however, I read the whole Psalm instead of just my favorite verse, and noticed some things I hadn’t noticed before. My favorite verse that brings me so much peace is surrounded in the Psalm by chaos and destruction. In verse 2 and 3, Scripture paints a picture of a world in tumult and crisis—mountains falling down, and oceans roaring and foaming. In verse 6 it speaks of nations in uproar and kingdoms falling. I couldn’t help but reminded somewhat of the state of the world today.  Honestly, there are days I don’t think I’d be the least bit surprised to hear that a mountain had fallen into the sea or that some other new calamity had befallen us. It is 2020 after all.

    But all of this chaos described in Psalm 46 is also contrasted with the true and steady character of God. He is described in verse 1 as an “ever present help” in trouble, our refuge, our safe place. In verse 7, we are reminded that God is with us. And in verses 8-9 we see that God will bring about an end to fighting and strife and make wars cease.

    The truth is, God is far bigger and more powerful than any worst case scenario we can imagine, and I can imagine a lot! Even when the world seems out of control, God is always in control, so there’s no reason to be afraid. This amazing truth was exactly what my heart needed to remember.

    In verse 10, God is giving a gentle but powerful command to us to “be still” and know that He is God. He tells our frantic hearts to cease striving, with the same loving authority that He commands the winds and the waves. He calls us to surrender, cease striving and rest assured with absolute certainty, that He is God.

    Dear friend, as turmoil and chaos seem to swirl around you, run to God, our refuge and strength. He is mighty and immovable, and with Him we are safe and secure. He is here and He is in control. We don’t have to fear. In Him we are more immovable than the mountains themselves. Lean back into His loving and capable arms, and rest assured. Breathe deep of His presence and find peace.

    Almighty God and Father, 

    Today our world feels chaotic and overwhelming. Our hearts are weary and we need to find refuge and rest under your wing. Be our help and present hope. Help us to cease striving and fighting and remember that you are greater than anything we will face in this world. You alone are strong enough to hold us steady when the wind threatens to blow us over. Help us to lean into your loving arms and feel the power of your presence and protection. Thank you that we can give you our worries and burdens and you exchange them for peace. Hold close each person praying this prayer now. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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  • Giving God The Heavy Stuff

    “Ping”. There it is. Another notification, another status update and late breaking news report. With the advent of social media and instant access to what’s happening all around the world, we are flooded daily with knowledge of more information than we are truly capable of processing. Major world-wide events, politics, and local tragedies stream in real time through a tiny hand-held screen. Sometimes for me it feels as though the never ending flood of information is inescapable.

    During the week, I work as an on-air personality, reporting the daily news for a couple of local radio stations. Before I go to bed each night, I brush up on what’s happening out in the great, big world. Then when I wake up in the morning, I check in again to catch any of the late breaking stuff I may have missed while we were sleeping. I’ve rejoiced at seeing God at work in some of the stories I read, of neighbors helping neighbors and churches serving in their communities. The sad reality is that the majority of stories I read in the news are bad. That’s how the news machine works. I have to try to compartmentalize things and stay objective, keeping the negativity and suffering at an arm’s length and focus on the positive when I can. Some days though, a certain headline, or detail of a story will literally bring me to my knees.

    One morning, as I was sitting at my computer, scrolling through the headlines, my eyes fell upon a story of a driveby shooting that injured several local teenagers. The article included an eyewitness account of a local mom who ran to the scene to help. I read her words and how she cared for these wounded kids, praying over them and speaking love and comfort to them in their moment of terror, and I found myself weeping uncontrollably. It was all just too much. I turned off my mic and held my head in my hands and sobbed.

    As the tears rolled down my face, I worried that I might not be able to pull myself together in time for the next broadcast just minutes away. I knew that my shoulders were not broad enough, or strong enough to carry the weight of all the feelings flooding in that morning, and I began to pray. I prayed for the families that lost children that day, I prayed for the mom who stopped to minister to the wounded, for the group of young people who did the shooting, and for my fragile heart that only my Heavenly Father could restore from this overwhelming ache. When I whispered a weak ‘amen’, I breathed deeply and felt at peace. Even though I could not reach directly into these difficult situations in the world, I knew my prayers could. I let God carry the heavy for me, turned my mic back on, and finished the morning news.

    You see, we are not meant to carry this much. Because of technology, we are privy to every tragedy that unfolds in almost every corner of the world. Our news feeds are full of them, stirring in us a sense of helplessness, hopelessness and profound anxiety. As fellow humans, we feel compelled to act, to speak out to do something. But what can we do? We can’t be everywhere at once and even if we could, we have limited resources, strength and wisdom to fix all the things.

    But God can.

    Isaiah 40:12-14 says “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding”

    God is truly Omniscient, knowing every detail of every situation before it even happens. He can see the past, present and future all in one view and knows exactly what to do. He is Omnipresent, able to be everywhere at once, reaching into situations that I cannot. He sees each and every person in their need and is closer to them than the air they breathe. He is Omnipotent, strong enough to carry the heavy. He commands the wind and the waves and will bring justice like a river. He lifts up the weary and gives us His strength, and brings down the oppressors, and one day He will set all things right again.

    I think I sometimes buy into the lie that to be effective in the world, I must be all these things too. All-knowing, all-powerful and everywhere at once. When I find myself overwhelmed by the concerns and weight of the world, and I turn to God in prayer, the pressure fades and I am reminded of the truth. God did not create me to carry the world, He is already doing that.

    God created me with a different task in mind. The truth is, while my influence and power are limited, God’s is not. I saw this best explained by a friend of mine, who shared the idea of 3 concentric circles. It gave me a great visual reminder of what I am called to carry and what must be given to God.

    The center circle represents my circle of influence. Our circle of concern will always be bigger than our circle of influence. But when facing a problem or crisis in the world, it can be helpful to discern where we actually have direct influence.

    For example, I cannot solve the evil that is racism. But I can have influence over my children and in my household. I can teach them that all are created in the image of God, and to see the belovedness and beauty in everyone. I cannot solve hunger around the world by myself, but I can feed my neighbor or volunteer at my local food bank. I can’t stop depression and anxiety for every person that suffers, but I can be intentional about caring for my own mental health, or call and check in on a friend and care for theirs.

    God is glorified in all of these things. He has placed you exactly where you are, in this season, for a reason. He has good works prepared for you (Eph. 2:10)and has given you influence to make a difference.

    Sometimes the big things happening aren’t so far removed. They are happening right under our own roof. Loss and grief, financial stress or difficult relationships. They all have the potential at any moment to feel too heavy to bear. It might seem easy to compartmentalize things we see out in the world, but how do we handle it when it’s right in our own family?

    In Matthew 10:29-31 we find reassurance that no detail, need or concern is beneath God’s notice and care. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

    Dear one, the very same God that can carry the weight of the world, sees you and can carry you too. It may even be that someone else’s circle of influence will overlap into your situation, and they will be bearers of blessing, comfort and relief.

    We can go to God with every concern (1 Peter 5:7). It is in prayer that God meets us where we are, shoulders our burdens and equips us for good work in every season. He is faithful and kind and big enough to handle anything life throws our way. God is the One that gave us hearts that care deeply in the first place. And then He placed us in positions of influence where He can guide us and shape our lives and the lives of others. Sometimes we can’t see it in the moment, but God is working through you right where you are.

    If the world feels like a bit too much to bear right now, take stock of your circles. It’s ok for your heart to break over what breaks the Lord’s heart too. There are real and heavy things happening in the world. But God has already overcome the world! Ask Him to show you what you can and can’t influence, write it down, and then wrap all of it up in prayer. God is all knowing, all powerful and working in every detail. He’s got this, and He’s got you too.

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  • Finding Purpose in the Midst of a Pandemic

    Have you ever watched a movie that is so quotable that it seems like there’s a quip for every situation in life? One of my all time favorite movies is the comedy Legally Blonde. It makes me laugh every time and never gets old. And there is always a quote that I can pull out of it that will apply to almost anything. I mean, who hasn’t done the “Bend & Snap” in a department store dressing room just to be silly? 

    There’s one scene that keeps running through my mind lately, that seems to sum up pandemic life right now. It’s just after the main character, Elle Woods, goes through a bit of a crisis in the form of an unexpected breakup. While Elle sits in an aimless funk, her best friends discuss the sad state in which they find their friend:

    “She had eight grilled cheese sandwiches. She stuffed them in her mouth all at once. It was so sad. We thought she’d be the first to walk down the aisle…and now she’s totally adrift.” To which her other friend agrees, “Totally.”

    Totally adrift. This is exactly how I’ve been feeling lately as we idle in this prolonged state of pandemic-induced isolation. Every day looks like the one before it, starting early with working from home. The rest of the day, despite having a to-do list a mile long, I struggle to get motivated as the demands of household chores and “What’s for dinner?” interrupt any momentum I’ve gained. By the time evening comes, I am exhausted and feel like I have nothing to show for it. It feels like all the things I am passionate about and that fuel my purpose, have been put on hold in this pandemic.

    Maybe you feel like I do, “totally adrift” and struggling to find clear purpose or vision, or to get any traction on your goals. Your job may look different or your role may have shifted. Maybe you aren’t able to volunteer or use your gifts in the ways you once did, like coaching for a sports team or having people over for a home cooked meal. 

    What I am realizing is that our purpose may look totally different than it did before the pandemic. In every situation, God invites us to use our gifts and talents to bless others and to glorify Him. When seasons of life change, our immediate purpose may also change and it can be challenging to discern what that might look like when we are limited by our own perspective. 

    In times like this, it is especially important to see things from an eternal perspective. In order to do that, we must be in communication with God, spending time with Him and listening to the Holy Spirit. When we do, God helps us realign our perspective and vision with His. We begin to understand that He can do wonderful things through us right where we are, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. Who we are, our gifts and talents, may not change dramatically from season to season, but how God uses them can! And it just might blow our minds what He can do.

    In my own times of sitting still with God and listening recently, He reminded me of a few truths that have fortified my relationship with Him and given me a clearer sense of His presence, of my purpose and how I fit into His greater story. Spending time with God and intentionally focusing on the following things became a discipline that helped me regain my bearings and anchor purpose again in Christ. I would pick one thing to focus on for a while, and talk with God about it as we went through our day together. 

    1) Pay Attention. God is Present, God is Working powerfully through this. God is close at hand. Don’t miss it.  (Philippians 2:13)
    It’s easy to slip into autopilot mode, adopting a “hunker down and wait it out” mentality. But if you stay on autopilot too long, you just might miss some of the amazing things God is doing all around you. God will feel more and more distant as you miss seeing some of His best work through His people, as they care for the elderly, feed the hungry and help sustain communities and one another. How might you fit into that? 

    God can use your gift of encouragement to send a text message to lift the spirits of someone who is lonely. God may inspire you to check in with a friend who can’t leave home, and bring her something from the store. God may prompt you to smile at the stranger who looks weary and worn down and that smile may be what saves them that day. God is working! Pay attention to the opportunities He presents to you to make an impact great or small as you go through your day. And watch how He is working through others as well. You’ll find He is much closer than you may have thought. 

    2) Remember God’s works of the past, how He has redeemed you over and over. He has done it before, He will do it again. (Deuteronomy 7:9)
    Sometimes despite my best efforts it is hard to see God at work, especially if I am suffering personally. Our human nature tends to turn inward, and seeing the bigger picture can feel impossible. Looking back on how God has redeemed my story over and over, helps me to experience His love in my present difficulties. Remembering God’s faithfulness, how He has never left my side, and has walked with me each step of the way, helps me to have hope for the future. He has never failed me yet, and He won’t fail you either.

    3) Worship. (Psalm 138:1-3) Sit in the presence of God as He meets you in your need. Leaning on Him to find comfort, strength and peace. Take a look at the rhythms of worship in your daily life. What takes priority in your day? Maybe you have a dedicated time to sit with God, or maybe you check in with Him throughout the day, walking through it together as you would a friend. Living prayer is talking with God about what you are doing together. Take time to be aware of His nearness, observing His hand of providence and provision in all things great and small.

    4) Recognize God is sovereign and powerful. (Isaiah 40:25-31)  God is sufficient to meet our every need. God sees further than we can, and knows more about our situation than we ever will. Recognize that God is God and you are not. Don’t for one second forget just how big He is.

    It can be easy sometimes, if we are not careful, to underestimate the Lord. Especially when turmoil seems to surround us, we can sometimes transfer our own feelings of helplessness onto God. But God is neither weak nor helpless, He is not absent, indifferent or incapable. He can hold the sea in the cup of His hand and calls the stars out one by one. And this giant God, cares deeply for the everyday details of our lives. He will sustain us and see us through. Do not mistake His gentleness for weakness. His power, goodness and might are incomparable and undeniable. And He is working powerfully on our behalf, even this very moment. 

    5) Realign your value, perspective and peace in who Christ is and the unshakable Kingdom you have access to because of Him. (1 Peter 2:9)

    When we are more isolated, it’s easy to get in our own heads and our perspective becomes narrowed. It is important to realign our perspective with what God says about us. Our worth does not lie solely in our roles, relationships, or appearance, but in our unwavering status as a Daughters of the King. We have access to all the privileges, resources and benefits of His Kingdom. So stop for a moment and zoom out to see the big picture of God at work. As He cares for people and works through them around the world, making the sun rise and set each day, and sustaining the whole of the world with ease. Then zoom in to see Him caring about and providing for every tiny detail of our lives. There is no detail beneath His attention. No situation in which He will not enter to save you. Our hope and our peace comes from the love we experience from God and the fact that we are safe, significant and strong in His Kingdom.

    While we couldn’t plan ahead for all that 2020 would bring, God did. We don’t have to feel totally adrift, wondering when all of this will end. We can have a renewed sense of purpose right here, right now, when we remember the truth about who God is and who we are in Him.

    It is His voice of comfort, wisdom, perspective and peace that will lead us through the mess and into victory. If we cling to what we know to be true about God, we will not be shaken by circumstance, and our purpose, while it may look different, still stands. God will faithfully lead us through any season and give us renewed strength and purpose to make an impact, right now, right where we are. Each day has new opportunities to use our gifts in new ways to bless others. Don’t underestimate what God can do through the simplest acts of love in His name. We just might change the world. 

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  • Believing God Loves Me

    “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them…We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:15-16,19 (NIV)

    Do you know and believe that God loves you? I know that can be a tough question. It’s one that’s worth asking because it’s where our identity in Christ begins–with us believing in, and relying on His love for us. 

    For a long time, I didn’t really grasp just how much God loves me. I knew it in my head, but somehow I imagined there would have to be part of me that was worthy of it to really experience it. I felt blessed just to be in the room with Him, and rarely felt worthy of a place next to Him at the table. After all, who am I that He should take notice of me, let alone esteem me as a beloved friend? 

    As I grew in my relationship with God, He gave me a sense of belonging with Him. He showed me through his faithfulness that He loves me truly and fiercely. It’s then that I began to see evidence of His love in everyday things, great and small.  Because of Christ, I started to see myself through His eyes and gained confidence as His beloved daughter, redeemed and made whole. 

    I continue to be inspired and encouraged by the story of apostle John in the Bible. He was someone who really embraced his identity as one whom God loved. In fact, John more than once describes himself throughout the gospels as “The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved”. 

    That bold of a statement might seem a little strange and maybe even a bit self-important. But in reality, when John talked about himself as the disciple whom God loved, he was carefully choosing words to describe what was most important about him.

    John’s core identity, how he saw himself and interacted with the world, was completely founded on His relationship with Jesus. We will always surrender our lives to whatever the defining love or influence is in our life, and for John, Jesus was the defining influence in his life. 

    One example of this is in John 13:23, where Jesus is talking with the disciples. We read that John was sitting right next to Jesus, which at a glance could have seemed a bit bold perhaps. But John was confidently sitting at the feet of Jesus because he knows he belongs there. He believes and relies on the love Jesus has for him. John is secure in where his identity is. He picks the seat closest to Jesus because it’s where he belongs as one loved by Jesus. 

    I recently learned something really cool about the phrase “The disciple whom Jesus loved”.  The Greek for loved here can literally be translated as the disciple whom Jesus keeps on loving. His love for us isn’t conditional. It’s not past tense, it is new every morning. It is evergreen and unwavering. 

    Whether we overcommit and underdeliver, whether we say yes or no, if we get it all right or if we get it all wrong, we are the ones that Jesus keeps on loving. We don’t have to wonder everyday, “does he still love me?” The answer will always be, “Yes! Now get on over there and sit next to Jesus because you are someone whom Jesus keeps on loving. There’s nothing we can do to change His love, nothing we can do to lose it. God is love, and we are His beloved. 

    As we begin to see ourselves this way, as one that Jesus keeps on loving, everything changes. When our relationship with Jesus is the defining influence in our lives, every other decision, big or little, all passes through that filter. 

    John 4:19 says “we love because He first loved us.” Our love for God begins with letting Him love us. When we allow God’s love to sink into our very being, it transforms us. When we believe in and rely on His love, we find a peace and joy that transcends our circumstances. It defines and shapes our identity and how we move in the world. It gives us security and confidence. It is a firm foundation upon which to build our lives. When we experience God’s radical love, it changes everything. 

    You are God’s beloved. It is who you are. He created you, He sees you and He loves you so much. Believe in that, spend time with God and learn to trust in His love and rely on it. He will never fail you or abandon you. He has planned ahead every detail of your life and will provide for you. Take your spot at the table next to Him, as one loved by God. He is happy to have you close to Him, right where you will always belong. 

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  • The God of Details

    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whoa] have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:27-29

    Life can be so messy sometimes. No one is exempt, trials and struggles land across the shoulders of good and bad people. It can be easy to start believing that God is disconnected, removed, and distant.

    But what if God is really the One who sees every detail of our lives from start to finish, and plans ahead, knowing just what we will need, right when we need it? What if God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth could step into your situation and redeem it beyond anything you dare to dream? What if He is doing that in your life right now?

    We catch a glimpse of God doing exactly that in the story of Ruth. You can read the whole story in the Bible in the book of Ruth, but I’ll give you a sort of condensed summary below. 

    Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi was living in Moab with her husband Elimilek (say that 5 times fast) and two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, and their wives, Orpah and Ruth. Originally, Naomi hailed from Bethlehem, but famine in the land had prompted their move to Moab.

    In just a short time, tragedy strikes and Naomi loses her husband and both of her sons,  leaving Naomi to fend for herself along with her widowed daughters-in-law. Naomi hears that there is food back in her hometown of Bethlehem, and having nothing left, she decides to go there. Naomi loves Orpah and Ruth and is concerned for them, so she encourages them to go back home to their families, so they can remarry and have some hope of security. Eventually, Orpah agrees and tearily heads home, but Ruth doubles down and makes one of the most famous covenant promises in the Bible in verses 16 & 17:

    Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

    The bereaved pair go on to Bethlehem and arrive at the beginning of the barley harvest. To Naomi’s surprise, she realizes she has a relative there on her late husband’s side. He was by reputation a “man of good standing”, whose name was Boaz. (You’ll want to remember his name.) 

    During that time, it was the practice of harvesters to allow strangers, widows, and impoverished people to come after the day’s work and glean grain that had been missed or fallen to the ground. So Ruth asks Naomi to let her go glean in the fields to bring them back some grain. 

    This is where Ruth’s story could be a Hallmark movie. The field Ruth just happens to go to winds up being one of Boaz’s fields! Boaz, of course, notices her working there and invites Ruth to stay and work alongside the other women in his household, giving her food, water, and safety.

    Ruth is blown away by Boaz’s generosity and asks why he would show her such generosity, especially as a foreigner. Boaz, being all dreamy like he is, says her reputation has preceded her. He heard about what she did for Naomi and was, frankly, impressed. He blesses her saying “ May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” 

    Ruth is flooded with relief and Boaz invites her to eat with the harvesters and instructs them to let her glean and to even take some grain out of the bundles for her. She keeps working until evening and goes home with about 30 pounds of grain that day!

    When Ruth tells Naomi what happened she’s shocked! She explains to Ruth that Boaz is a relative and a kinsman-redeemer. It was a tradition in their culture that when a man died and was childless, a close relative could marry his widow. Then, the first son born from that marriage would be given the name of the deceased husband and inherit his estate.

    So under Naomi’s wise advice, Ruth continues to work every day in Boaz’s fields until the harvest is over. Then at the right time, Naomi prompts Ruth to go to Boaz and seek him as her kinsman-redeemer.

    Following Naomi’s instructions, Ruth sees where Boaz was sleeping, sneaks up, pulls the blanket off his feet, and lays down at his feet. It’s a strange custom to us in this day and age, but it’s important to know that this was not an act of seduction, but one of submission. She took a service posture at his feet, not at his side. She was requesting that Boaz take her under his protection as his wife. Boaz understood the assignment and happily agreed.

    Like every good Hallmark movie, there was one hiccup. Boaz knew there was another man besides him that was an even closer relative and had the right to be kinsman redeemer first. It was Boaz’s duty to ask him if he wanted to claim that right, knowing that he may not get to marry Ruth. After some suspense, the other relative does not claim his right, freeing Boaz to finally marry Ruth! Roll Credits!

    It is incredible to see all of the “divine coincidences” that happen in Ruth’s story. Each step of the way, we see God’s loving provision and plan unfold, meeting Ruth & Naomi’s every need and then some. 

    Are you ready for the mind-blowing bit? After Ruth & Boaz were married, they had a son and that son would become grandfather to King David, and an ancestor of Jesus Christ. Let that sink in for a sec. God was actively working in every detail of Ruth’s story, redeeming her pain and laying the groundwork for the redemption of all humanity.

    There was no way for Ruth to know that when she was at the crossroads, choosing whether to go home to her family or follow Naomi into unfamiliar territory, her decision would one day make her grandmother to a king, and an ancestor to the long-awaited Messiah.

    But God in His infinite wisdom guided their steps. Ruth and Naomi focused on Him and stayed steadfast in their faith, even when life looked impossibly difficult and painful. They stepped out in faith and God provided for their every need and worked in every detail.

    It might be tempting to think that God was just working things out for Ruth because of who would later be born in her line of ancestry. But Ruth’s story is there for us to get a clearer picture of how God works and see what faith in action looks like. 

    We all have our own story, with twists and turns, some good, some bad. God is actively working in our stories too. He is already present in the details of our lives and gives us the same love and attention He gave to Ruth and Naomi. He sees us, cares for us and provides for us in our present need, and plans ahead for our future ones.

    Through the story of Ruth, we learn that God is not distant and disinterested, He is interested and invested. He plans ahead for us and puts plans in motion on our behalf that will come together at just the right time, and in just the right way.

    I know there have been times that I’ve felt overwhelmed, knocked flat by life’s blows, not knowing what my next step should be. Without fail, when I focus on God, I begin to recognize all the ways He has already been working to meet me in the middle of the mess. 

    Shifting my focus from my turmoil to His provision allows me to zoom out, and instead of grieving my circumstances, I’m left feeling unbelievably loved that He would plan ahead for me with such love and care. God is faithful and unrelenting in His love for us. And there is not a single detail in our lives that is beneath His notice.

    When Naomi and Ruth followed God faithfully in the circumstances that were right in front of them, God used them to help establish a lineage of the coming Messiah that would change the world forever. What if our being faithful in our own circumstances could have a kingdom effect in the world? 

    We are all invited to be a part of God’s greater story of unfailing love and redemption. He weaves our story into His, paying careful attention to every detail and guiding our every step, even the ones that seem mundane. All we need to do is keep our eyes fixed on Him. When we lean in and seek shelter and protection at His feet, he never fails to give it. When we give Him our whole hearts, we can have peace and wisdom in any situation, good or bad, knowing that He is there and will lead us through. The road may be rough at patches, but ultimately, He works all things for the good of those who love Him.

    What area of your life do you see God planning ahead for you? How can you zoom out to an eternal perspective to see Him at work? I invite you to jot some things down and don’t leave out the little “coincidences”. Our God pays attention to detail and if you are looking for Him, you just might see His fingerprints on the details of your life too.

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  • Merciful God And Father, Hear Our Prayer…

    Merciful God and Father,

    You are good, you are mighty and you are just. Our hearts break with our brothers and sisters in the black community as we grieve the tragic and unjust loss of yet another soul. Our hearts ache for our friends and family who are not just grieving, but also shouldering the weight of fear, misunderstanding, bias, discrimination and hate. 

    We come to you in lament, Lord, eyes straining to see your face, and thankful that we can call upon your name. We draw near to your throne, hearts in our hands. 

    God, we call upon your goodness. May your Holy Spirit stir in our hearts compassion, love, kindness, and gentleness. Show us how to help carry the weight of our neighbors’ sorrow and share in their tears. Break our hearts wide open over what breaks yours. Open our eyes to see as you see, and our hearts to love as you love. Lord, instill in us your goodness and mercy. May every word we utter, every action we take glorify you and and point to Christ, so true healing and transformation may take place. May the light of your love shine so brightly through your people that there is no room for darkness to take hold.

    Father, we call upon your might. You sacrificed your own Son that we might live. Lord we are all created in your image, with no one person better than any other. By your son’s sacrifice we are saved under one blood making us brothers and sisters. Let there be no divide in our minds, hearts, and actions. Mighty God, let the power of your presence defeat hatred, racism, injustice, and evil. Reconstruct our hearts and our humanity through the lens of the sacrifice of your Son. Come near to us Lord, and do your mighty work in us and through us today. 

    Lord, we long for righteous justice. Our hearts burn with a desire to see to wrongs made right and justice delivered. But first Father, examine our hearts, and fix what is broken within us. Realign our vision not just to recognize injustice, but to speak boldly and to put love into action. Work in the hearts and minds of our leaders-in government, in our churches and communities and in our very own families. Please grant us wisdom and discernment, and boldness to not be silent, but instead to stand for what is right. You did not give us a spirit of timidity but your Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. Help us in all circumstances to do what is right and just. Please forgive us when we fall short.

    In all things Lord, you are God and you are good. Help us to really love one another, to hate what is wrong, and to hold tightly to what is good. 

    In Jesus’ Name, 

    Amen.

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  • A Blessing in the Waiting

    We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:20-22

    The days all seem to run together lately. While there are so many things to be thankful for, I’m also feeling a bit like a caged animal, wearing a track in my carpet from walking the same path day in and day out. It can be hard to hang on to optimism when it feels like there’s no true end in sight. I long for open roads to bustling cities where I can pop into a local cafe, and nestle into a window-seat with my lavender latte and write and work and visit with people. The things I took for granted like health and safety and community are now rare and precious commodities, locked away for another day.

    Hopefully that day is not far off, but we’re two months in and I’m standing face-to-face with my real self, with my weaknesses and wounds laid bare before me. Ordinarily I’d hop in the car for a long drive, music blaring, pouring my heart out to God, while He helped me reconcile the fact that He knows my weakness and loves me still. But instead, I am surrounded by kids that need my help, in a house that needs twice the maintenance now that we are living in it 24-7, and extra time to be stuck in my own head to stew about it.

    It’s sometimes discouraging to hop on social media and see the moms that seem to be crushing quarantine life like domestic goddesses, cooking Pinterest worthy meals and rocking craft time like they were born for it. Meanwhile I’m heating up corn dogs, loading yet another load of dishes, and praying that my kids will finish their school work before 7:00 pm.

    But here’s the thing: We are each uniquely gifted and equipped for such a time as this. There are talents and traits that I possess that make a difference in my family, my community and in the world around me. Just like my talented “domestic goddess” friends have their own set of skills and gifts that impact the people in their circles. Why should I feel bad about them just because I’m overwhelmed during this season and they are in their sweet spot?

    So shine on, you quarantine-rocking mamas! I know you have your hard days too. And it’s okay that I have mine. You are keeping your head up and inspiring others to do the same. We are all in the same sea, fighting the waves, looking to the skies and praying for a blessing.

    And that’s what I want to give to you now–a blessing. The Biblical definition of a blessing is a gift from God or to ask God’s favor upon a person. So here is a blessing for you, the weary mama, the lonely soul, the weary worker, the contented heart, and the restless one:

    I pray, dear friend, that God himself would draw near to you this very moment. May you turn your face toward the heavenly sunlight of our Lord and Father and feel the radiance of His love fall gently on your cheek like sunbeams on a summer day. With each cool breeze, may He breathe new life into your lungs and whisper comfort, peace and renewal to your heart. May you rest in the strong arms of the Savior and stand tall in the knowledge that He loves you simply because you are who He created you to be, a masterpiece, His beloved, a cherished treasure. May your heart be filled to overflowing with how He delights in you. May this knowledge that is too wonderful to comprehend, begin to settle in your heart until it makes its home there and you can’t help but believe it. May His grace be sufficient for you, filling every empty or wounded place in your heart. As deep cries out to deep, may the love of Christ fill you with joy and peace and confidence as co-heirs with Him and Daughters of the Most High. May you see yourself the way God sees you, radiant and unashamed, made righteous through Jesus’ willing sacrifice. And when you lift your gaze and rise today, may you see God at work in every detail, walking beside you at every moment, proud to call you His.

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