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.

  • Everlasting God

    Wow, what a week. I heard someone joke that they feel like a 4th grader is writing life right now: “and there was this virus and everyone was scared, and then the world ran out of toilet paper…yeah and then there was no school for like a month and then it snowed!”

    In light of recent events, this “new normal” may have you feeling isolated or afraid and wondering where God is. It is hard to see how and where He is working in this when an itty-bitty virus manages to bring our entire world to a grinding halt. 

    It might feel like God is disinterested in our plight, or that He is absent in our time of need. I understand that. You may be feeling torn between alternating waves of faith and fear of the unknown, combined with guilt that the wave of faith didn’t completely wash away the fear. 

    My sweet friend, God is not only present and active in our situation, He is big enough to love us through all our fears and doubts. In Isaiah 40:26-28, God is responding to the Israleites who were feeling weary and afraid too, and they are reminded just how big God really is.

    “Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.”

    This scripture paints such a beautiful picture of God’s sovereignty and power, but also His attention to detail. I couldn’t tell you the name of more than five stars, let alone all of them. In fact, I can’t even see all of the stars from my limited perspective. I certainly couldn’t tell each one where to go and how to shine, night after night, without fail. 

    But God can behold the entire universe in one glance. He created each star in every galaxy and knows each one’s name. He pays attention to every single detail. Nothing escapes His notice and care. 

    Scripture then goes on to remind the Israelites that God gives the same close care and attention to the details of their own lives. 

    O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights? Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.”

    God sees their troubles. He pays attention to them and cares deeply for their needs. Then He calls them to a deeper understanding of who He is.

    We have exactly the same opportunity that the Israleites did. God sees our troubles now. He pays attention to us and cares deeply for our needs. He is calling us to a deeper understanding of who He is: strong, capable, constant, present, attentive, powerful, creative, caring and just. He is big and strong enough to carry the oceans in the cup of his hand and yet He wants us to know Him and be in a personal relationship with Him.

    He is here now, walking through these bizarre times with us. He holds us when we are lonely and is patient with us when we are unsure and fret. Later in the book of Isaiah, God reminds us that He will give us strength and power when we are weak and weary. 

    So even if we feel isolated or powerless and small in the wake of current events, remember that we are not alone. Our Heavenly Father is right by our side, working powerfully in the world. Look up, keep your eyes on Him. Then look for glimpses of Him working in the world around you. 

    He is working through the person serving their neighbor, and the family putting together free lunches for kids in need. He is working through the kindness shown to the grocery store clerk and gas station attendant. He is working through the creativity and brilliance of the scientists looking for ways to cure this illness. He works through the nurses and doctors caring for their patients, and through parents as they comfort their children. He hears every single prayer of praise and concern, and takes them all to heart. He is present and active this very moment, both in the world and in your life. Because of His great power and incomparable strength, there is not a detail he misses, nor a care that gets overlooked.

    He is the Everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. Before there was anything else, God was there, as He is now, and will be tomorrow. Let’s continue to look up and follow him, so that we may remember His character and experience His peace. May God may work through us to bring joy and hope to those around us, in any circumstance. 

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  • Letting Go of Busyness

    For a long time, I struggled with a feeling of weariness that I just couldn’t shake. No matter how much I slept, I was still tired. No matter how much I tried to create margin in my life, I was still spread too thin. I wasn’t happy and neither was my family. We were perpetually in survival mode. It wasn’t until I read Isaiah 41:26-31 recently, that I realized I had forgotten God’s vastness and sovereignty. I needed to be reminded of His perspective and power and stop trying to survive on my own strength alone. 

    My optimistic nature, which is usually one of my strengths, had become my weakness. I had convinced myself that I could balance working multiple jobs with crazy hours, all while still excelling as a wife, mom, friend, church member, etc. I wanted to believe I could do it all because I felt useless if I couldn’t. I love serving people and being helpful, and that is not a bad thing. But my identity and worth got tied up in that, and my self-esteem started to feed off of the pats on the back and the “atta-girl” compliments. I wouldn’t go skydiving for a million dollars, but I would jam-pack my schedule to get the rush of accomplishment and to hear someone say in admiration, “I don’t know how you do it!”

    This brand of busyness is just as idolatrous as worshipping a beautiful, handcrafted, golden statue of a day-planner. I valued the approval of others more than the approval of God. I put the rush of accomplishment above the priorities that I knew God had called me to first. I was hustling so hard, that I burned out and no one was getting my best. I had placed my identity in being the “Girl who Gets Things Done”, instead of in being the “Daughter of a King.” 

    My misplaced identity had me sidestepping God’s perfect plan and priorities and following my own plan, which was leading nowhere fast. 

    My eyes were opened one day when I almost collapsed from exhaustion. I had been working a long shift and had not taken the time to eat or take a break. Suddenly, the room started to spin and my legs buckled under me. I caught myself on the counter before I fell to the ground, and tried to act like it was nothing, but inside I was scared. My body had never given out like that before. There was always a reserve, I had always been able to push a little further. I clearly remember thinking, “This is not good. It’s time to stop.” 

    I went home and slept for what seemed like days. I spent time resting and recuperating. During that time, I had to be honest with myself. I asked God to forgive me for relying on my own strength, and for not taking better care of myself. I repented of intentionally tuning out His voice, when I knew He was trying to lead me toward a better way. 

    I could not continue the way I had been living. I poured all my hopes and dreams out to God in prayer and started seeking wise counsel. I decided to turn down a big job opportunity that I had been agonizing over. It would have fast tracked my career, but it also would have locked me into the same schedule that had me struggling to take care of myself, my family and my ministry–the very things I felt convicted to better prioritize. 

    I slowly started saying no to other things too. I would block off whole days on my calendar where I wasn’t allowed to plan anything but rest and family time. I started to pray about my commitments before I made them so that I could give my best, or at least have the wisdom to know when saying yes would result in spreading myself too thin.

    It was hard to let go of some things, but in letting go, I was acknowledging God as Lord of my life again-not me. He began to restore my heart, and remind me of the things that were truly important and not just the things that seemed urgent. 

    I took myself off the throne and made room for the Rightful King. And in doing that, blessing was not far behind in the form of peace, clarity of mind and God’s perfect provision. He was not holding good things back from me-I was holding Him back from giving them. 

    Another job opportunity came, and this time the schedule fit perfectly into balance with where God was directing me. He was faithful to provide, and by trusting Him, I did not have to engineer my future. It was secure in His hands.

    I share this in love, in case you are weary from pushing yourself to the limit and running on empty.  I tell you this in case you are like me—too busy, and feeling like you can’t put anything down. It can be done, it must be done. Together we can do it. God loves us too much to stand idly by while we run ourselves ragged on a hamster wheel. Time to hop off, and start experiencing God’s love and abundant life for real. 

    If you are feeling weary and struggling with knowing what to put down, I want to encourage you to take a few minutes today to write down everything you do in a given day. Then pray over each thing on your list. Ask God to give you the right perspective and to soften your heart to His wisdom. Talk with a trusted friend or family member who knows your strengths and weaknesses and can offer helpful insight. It’s hard to lay down our pride and ask for help sometimes, but I’ve found the relief and peace you experience when you finally do is profound.

    I know there are seasons of life that are just busy and sometimes that is truly beyond our control. But if you find yourself saying “things should calm down in a couple more weeks” and years go by without it ever calming down, it might just be time to reevaluate things. 

    Give God your schedule and your weariness and let Him restore your strength and your hope. May he renew you and bring you peace.

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  • Power to Soar

    He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:29-3

    We all experience weariness at some time or another, whether from life’s circumstances, events beyond our control, or just running ourselves ragged. Day-to-day stuff like job demands, kids sports schedules, appointments and the list goes on, can eat up any margin we may have had in our daily routine. Life left to its own devices can exhaust our physical and mental strength and make us feel weary. Even youths (the people we would least suspect of being weary) get tired and weak when they are running on their own strength.

    But those who hope on the Lord renew their strength! In Hebrew, the word for hope is quavah and is defined as the anticipation of a future that is better than the present. Biblical hope is not based on circumstances but on trusting in God’s character. Helping the weary and helpless is part of God’s character!

    In the same way that God was faithful to save the Israelites in the days of Isaiah, He is faithful today to work on our behalf. Hope is being confident, knowing that God’s character does not disappoint and He never abandons us. When we lean in and hope in the Lord, it allows Him to breathe new life into our lungs. His Spirit stirs in our hearts and we can begin to imagine how it just might be possible to have a better day ahead. Even when we are powerless, we miraculously find the strength to stand, and then to step forward by His strength and power!

    We can tap into that power by doing what Jesus did: spending time with God. In His presence, we are renewed, our strength is restored, and we become more and more like Him. In the presence of His Spirit, He brings order to our chaos.

    Spend time with Him, pray to Him, bring your cares and worries and fears. Lay the them at His feet and He will give you His perspective and wisdom about what is truly important.

    I can imagine Him whispering in our weakness…

    Your power is limited, but mine is infinite.

    Your perspective is shortsighted, but I can see the whole big picture in one view–have hope!

    Your heart can only take so much, but I am here and can carry it all for you.

    I love you infinitely more that you can fathom.

    You may stumble and fall but I will pick you back up again. Over and over.

    You don’t have to be perfect because I am and my grace/love/favor is enough.

    You don’t have to struggle and strive to engineer your future. I know every step you have taken and will take and I have great plans for you.

    Stop pushing past your limits. You don’t have to manufacture strength, instead draw near to me and my presence will give you strength and peace.

    Spend time with me, learn to recognize my voice and how I move in the world. Get to know me and I can lead you through anything.

    Stick close to me and we will SOAR.

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  • Hope and Healing

    “Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.” Psalm 33:22 (NLT)

    I’m not sure what it is exactly about this time of year that stirs a deep melancholy in me. It’s hard sometimes to put my finger on why. I’m sure there are lots of factors that color my outlook with a general shade of gray. The weather is not stellar in Oregon this time of year. We haven’t seen the sunshine in weeks and I probably need to take some Vitamin D and level-up my fruit and veggie game. 

    I think there is probably more to it than that though. We are coming off the busy holidays, full of hustle and bustle and plenty of distraction. Now things are quieter. There’s more time and more space to breathe, rest, think and process things that maybe I’ve been putting off dealing with. 

    Whether it’s stress and anxiety or pain and grief, if I don’t take time with Jesus to honestly process how I’m feeling, I cannot truly find peace. I will miss out on the hope of healing and the joy that surpasses any circumstances I may be facing. 

    As women, we have to slow down long enough to take stock of our emotional health and well-being. Whether you are dealing with big, serious stuff, or just day to day frustrations, we can bring all of it to Jesus and process it in the safety of His loving-kindness. Like Psalm 33:12 says, we are surrounded by His unfailing love, and in Him we have hope.

    This song by Audrey Assad reminded me of the importance of taking time to observe what you’ve lived though, so that you can find healing and hope. It is my prayer for you today friend, that whatever is weighing on your heart, whether it’s something big and obvious, or a subtle melancholy hanging around in your headspace, don’t run from it. Lean into Jesus’ loving kindness to “calm the raging of the wound. May your healing be a clearing in the woods, and may you breathe in deeper than you ever could before.” 

    Read the full lyrics here. © Audrey Assad 2020

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  • Presence & Power of God

    When I think of the power of God, my mind, like most people’s, turns toward the grand and mighty things he has done in the history of humanity. I picture the parting of the Red Sea or Jesus miraculously feeding five thousand people from what was the Bible-time equivalent of a modern-day Lunchable. I think about the power He had in His very touch to heal and save and redeem. All of these acts and miracles tell of God’s greatness and power. And we have access to that same power through the Holy Spirit. The very power that raised Jesus from the dead resides in us as Christ-followers.

    But sometimes I don’t feel powerful or ready to take on the world, or even the tasks right in front of me. Sometimes I feel small and quiet and still, or over-busy and stressed and spread too thin. It’s easy to forget that even in those moments, there is power. Just being in the presence of God and inviting Him into our busy, into our chaos, or into our heartache is powerful beyond what we can comprehend. One of my favorite songs is called Fall Afresh by Kari Jobe. Here’s the chorus:

    It’s the power of Your presence
    That changes us
    Your glory all around us
    And we’re undone
    You open up the Heavens
    And fall afresh on us

    I love that in this song, the power of just being in God’s presence is enough for the moment. It is in His presence that we become more like Jesus. It is in God’s presence that we find strength, peace and hope. It is in the company and care of our Lord that we are refreshed and renewed in our body, mind and spirit. We don’t have to go far to find Him either. God promises that when we seek Him with all of our hearts, we will find Him. He declares “I will be found by you”.

    Take a moment now and listen to the song here. I pray that whatever your circumstances today, however you are feeling, that being in God’s presence fills your heart to overflowing. May you find power in His presence, and rest in His arms. 

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  • Reflecting on God at Work

    Last year was a mixed bag for me. Overall, it was a good year with more moments of joy than stress. There were times when I could clearly see God’s provision and love. And there were other times that I waited in silence, anxious to hear some whisper of hope from my Lord. 

    Honestly, that was probably a lot of us. Each day had its own ebb and flow and rhythm that we danced to, doing the best we could to care for the people in our life, keep the house respectable, and all the plates spinning. 

    But in the midst of the busy day-to-day, it is so important to take a moment, breathe deeply and reflect on how God has been at work. When you do, you might be surprised how much it changes you and your relationship with God.

    Take the story of Joshua in the Bible. Moses had been leading the Israelites for decades in the desert and when he dies, Joshua is appointed as the new leader. His first assignment is to lead a ton of people across the Jordan river which is, by the way, at flood stage. This is not an easy task, but God reminds Joshua to be strong and courageous because He has given him everything he needs to complete the task before him. (If you ever need a good pep talk-check out Joshua 1:1-9)

    Joshua obeys God and we see in Joshua 4:1-7, he leads the people right up to the edge of the water. As soon as the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant dipped a toe in the water, the water upstream stopped flowing and they all crossed on dry ground. It was very reminiscent of when God had parted the Red Sea years earlier. While they were crossing, Joshua told the leaders of each tribe to gather stones from the middle of the river, and set them up where they would sleep that night, so that they would always remember how God had worked that day, but also so that they could build the faith of others by telling them about what God had done.

    So the Israelite leaders stopped and collected large stones just as Joshua had instructed them. Joshua set them up to serve as a reminder of what God had done, giving them hope and courage for the future. 

    It was paramount that they stopped right then and there to honor God and recognize His deeds. Their journey was far from over. They still had to go on to Jericho next and bring down a city fortress. 

    But Joshua knew that in the time it would take the Israelites to travel to Jericho, it would be all too easy for them to forget what that God had done to get them there. Their fear of the unknown before them would be too overwhelming and they would easily lose sight of the One who was holding everything together. 

    We’re not much different, are we? It doesn’t take long at all for us to forget all that God has done. We too can become desensitized to His presence in our day-to-day routines, or as we face the fearful unknown before us.

    It is equally important for us to stop and recognize God’s presence, power, and provision in our lives, and the New Year is a perfect time to do just that. As we put 2022 in our rearview and look ahead at 2023, it’s important to stop and take stock of what God has done in the past and what He is doing in and around us now. As we take this time to reflect and remember, our faith and trust in Him will grow and He will grant us boldness and courage for the future. Then we are able to share with those around us how God is real and at work every day.

    In every circumstance, good or bad, God has been present, active, and moving, working on your behalf. Because of His great love for you, He will continue to go before you and give you courage and strength, and hope. 

    What could you use as a memory stone in your life? Perhaps you could write down some of the ways you’ve felt God’s presence or seen His provision this past year, and put it someplace you will see it regularly. Maybe there were times you witnessed His power in situations where you could not have succeeded alone. One of the ways I have been filled with awe this year was seeing God work miraculously in the lives of people I love and have been praying for. You could even download the image at the top of this article, print it out, and write your own “God-moments” on the back. 

    However you choose to, today or tomorrow, take just a couple minutes to “set out some stones”.  Remember how God has worked in the past, recognize God’s faithful presence and love in the present, and look forward to the wonderful things He has in store for the future.  

    Merciful God and Father, sometimes it is hard to see you at work in the moment. Please help us to see you with fresh eyes. Help us to see how you have been at work in the past, in the blessings and the tough times. Help us to recognize your handiwork, so that we can see it now, as you work in and around us. Father, you have promised us hope for the future. You go before us and call us to be strong and courageous because you are always with us. Help us to look forward to the future, with the faith and strength that you give, knowing that we are your beloved children and that you will never leave us. We trust that in the same way you led Joshua, you will lead us and provide for our every need. Help us to draw close to you and follow you always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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  • Everlasting Father

    During the Christmas season, I find my thoughts and daily rhythms are directed more readily toward Christ and God at work in my life and in the lives around me. It just feels like a season of miracles and my heart is perpetually on my sleeve. I can’t listen to Christmas songs without feeling all the feels and my kids lovingly tease me that I’m gushy. I absolutely love it. I’m so overwhelmed by the magnitude of God coming to earth to save us that I can’t hardly stand it. I am a completely different person because of that night so long ago.

    One of our family traditions growing up was to read the story of the birth of Jesus in the Bible, then each of us would say something we are thankful for. At the end my dad would pray.

    I love hearing my dad pray. He approaches talking with God with such confidence, the way one would after years of conversations and steadfast relationship. There is no sign of hesitation, no doubt in his voice that he is seen, heard and loved by God Himself.

    He always begins his prayers, “Our Heavenly Father, we praise your name.” It’s modeled after the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13.It is something that I still admire to this day and often begin my own prayers by addressing my Heavenly Father.

    When I was little I’d try to imagine what our Heavenly Father looked like. I remembered our family prayers and that God is our Heavenly Father. I couldn’t picture what that looked like exactly, He seemed so ethereal and intangible, so naturally, I imagined my Dad. He is a good Dad, much like I would expect God to be. So my picture of God looked like a gentle and kind Latino man who makes the best pancakes and does great Monty Python impressions.

    As I grew up, I learned about Jesus, but I honestly never thought of him as a father type. A friend, comforter, wise person, and sacrificially loving to the point of giving His own life for mine. But “father” never really occurred to me.

    So when I first heard the names given to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6-7 of Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, I struggled to connect a bit with the title of Everlasting Father. I just had never related to Jesus that way.

    The more I studied the Bible, the more I began to understand that Jesus is a complete reflection of God’s character and nature. He is Emmanuel, God with us. God in flesh, come to earth to reveal His character and nature to us. He can relate to all of our feelings, emotions, troubles and joys that we live daily. He has both an earthly perspective and an eternal one, making Him the perfect Everlasting Father. He can both relate to and guide us, empathize with us and care for us.

    He is truly eternal, he’s always been here and always will be. In John 1:1-3 we see that not only was He present for the creation of all we see and know, all of creation was made through Jesus.

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

    John 1:1-3

    Jesus also reflects God the Father in how he relates to everyone around him. The way he interacts and cares for people perfectly mirrors the love of The Father.

    • He is compassionate, showing mercy and tenderness. He calls the little children to him and nurtures their faith. (Matthew 19:14)

    • He holds us accountable and spurs us on to live a life that is right with God, the way a good father does.  (John 8:1-11)

    • Jesus sits with us when we are hurting and cares for us in our time of need. (John 11:1-41)
    • He encourages us to step out in faith, yet is there when we need rescuing. (Matthew 14:22-33)

    • He loves us so much that when we were still sinners, he took our place on the cross, redeeming us and saving us from death. (Romans 5:6-8)

    • Then he conquered death so that we will neer be separated from Him again. (Romans 8:34-39)

    These are just a few examples and stories where we see Jesus loving, serving and living as the Everlasting Father. He demonstrates the character of our Heavenly Father over and over, in every word of healing and every act of compassion.

    Jesus, The Everlasting Father is a tangible, relatable reflection of our Heavenly Father. When we try to picture God the Father, we need look no further than Jesus. What’s even better, is that as we get to know him, we can better recognize Him at work around us.

    This Christmas, as you turn your thoughts toward Christ, lean into the arms of The Everlasting Father. Let Him comfort you and care for you. Trust in Him, knowing that He is faithful and there to rescue you when you need it most. The more time you spend with Him, The Everlasting Father becomes even more familiar and comforting, so that when you go to pray, you can approach Him with confidence and without a doubt that you are seen, heard and loved. So very much.

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  • Wonderful Counselor

    “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” – Isaiah 9:6-7

    If you’ve ever heard Handel’s Messiah, you may already be familiar with this part of the book of Isaiah. This choir girl can’t even read it without hearing a full orchestra in her head. But whether you are singing along right now, (or not), chances are the words are at least somewhat familiar. This passage of Scripture was written over 700 years before the birth of Christ, and yet it gives four names for the One that would be coming: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

    For the Israelites awaiting a Messiah, these names gave them a glimpse of their Savior, long before Jesus was born. They revealed parts of God’s character and foretold of a time that was to come, the promise of a world made right.

    For us though, it can sometimes be challenging to connect deeply to something that was written so very long ago. How can these ancient words have bearing on our lives today?

    Between now and Christmas, we will be taking a look at each of the names given to describe Jesus in this verse, and how that can help us to experience hope, joy, peace and love this holiday season.

    The first name used to describe the long-awaited Jesus, is Wonderful Counselor. There are plenty of Bible verses telling us to seek wisdom and to cherish wise counsel. God even promises to give us wisdom when we ask! (James 1:5) Wisdom is important, but to counsel is so much more. A good counselor takes wisdom and applies it. They encourage you to do, say and think things that will lead to the best life for you.

    In Christ we have even better than a good counselor, we have a Wonderful Counselor. One that inspires awe and, well…wonder! He knows us better than we know ourselves, because He created our inmost being (Psalm 139:13). Jesus the Wonderful Counselor also has God’s eternal perspective that sees the whole big picture at once. Who better to guide us and teach us when our own human perspective is so limited?

    When my husband I and I were first married, I got really sick and wound up in the emergency room. It was pretty scary and honestly, we hadn’t navigated anything like this before. We felt so helpless in these uncharted waters–newly married and having to make some big medical decisions with little life experience to guide us. Thankfully, everything turned out ok. But oh how I longed for our parents to live closer, for someone older and wiser to step in and show us how to walk through this and somehow end up better for it.

    What I realized in that moment and what I cherish now, is that we were not alone.

    Not for one moment.

    Psalm 32:7-8 reads, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

    In the New Living Translation, verse 8 reads, “The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”

    There wasn’t a single moment that our Wonderful Counselor was not watching over us with loving care. As we prayed, He helped us make wise choices and I saw His hand of provision and guidance at every turn.

    I still see Him working in our lives, teaching us which way to go, always guiding us under His loving watch and care.

    In Jesus, we truly find a Wonderful Counselor. And He is not a distant God who cannot relate. He was both fully God and fully human.

    There is no other religion or tradition where the Creator and Ruler of All Things, humbles himself and becomes one of us.

    There is no other God who can say from experience, “I understand.” and mean it.

    What’s more, who else can say that they planned ahead millennia for what you are facing right now? Dear friends, I’m here to tell you that Jesus did. Thousands of years before you were born, God had a plan. He sent a Wonderful Counselor who sees you and watches over you with a loving eye. Someone to guide you and teach you which way to go. In sending Jesus, He made a way for you to never be alone. Not for one moment.

    The season of Advent is about anticipation. We remember the story of the Savior’s birth long ago and we eagerly await the day when He returns. And in the meantime, we can know that He will guide us and watch over us in love.

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  • Overflowing With Thankfulness

    Do you ever find it hard to be grateful this time of year? Not that you aren’t sincerely thankful deep down, but experiencing the emotion of gratitude in a real way can be challenging during this busy season. Especially when the pressure is on to do all of the holiday things, while keeping your sanity and trying to live #blessed.

    “There is so much to be grateful for” echoes in my mind as I engineer the schedule to fit school conferences, work meetings and planning sessions. At the last minute I might throw caution to the wind and schedule a coffee date because miraculously, I still have friends who get me and my weird life.

    I am sincerely, truly grateful, but I’m also kinda tired. When the day to day wears me out, it is all too easy to drift into self-preservation mode. It’s hard to be thankful, because my blessings also make me want to take a nap.

    I was recently reading in Matthew 14:13-21 about the miracle of Jesus feeding a crowd of five thousand people. While many may be familiar with this story, something I hadn’t noticed is what happens right before it. Jesus gets word that his cousin, John the Baptist, was dead, cruelly executed by King Herod. Jesus slips away to a solitary place, no doubt to pray and grieve and regroup, but before His boat even lands at his destination, the crowds that had been following Him, caught up and were pressing in on all sides, desperate for Jesus to speak to them and heal them.

    As the day turns to evening, the crowd grows hungry. The disciples’ resources are few and their inclination is, understandably, to send the people away. After all, they only have five loaves of bread and two fish, there’s not a lot of daylight left, and they are out in the middle of nowhere.

    And then there’s Jesus.

    When He sees all the people before Him, He has compassion. He sees past the inconvenience and the overwhelming logistics, straight to their hearts. In the middle of His own grief and fatigue, Jesus loves them and heals them.

    It would have been understandable if He didn’t feel up to the task, but Jesus saw things from an eternal perspective. He regularly spent time alone with God the Father and knew the Source of His strength and perseverance. Because of this, instead of being overwhelmed, burned out and ineffective, Jesus had the strength and power He needed in that very moment.

    While the disciples fret about what they lack, Jesus prepares to do miraculous work and invites the disciples to be a part of it. Jesus asks them what they do have and instructs them to bring it to Him. He takes their meager offering, looks up toward heaven and gives thanks to God. Then Jesus multiplies their resources to bless and sustain the people in the crowd: physically by feeding all of them (with leftovers to spare) and spiritually, by building up their faith in God and all that He is capable of doing.

    Sometimes, when we feel like we’re a few loaves and fishes short of a miracle, it’s easy to start thinking that what we have isn’t enough for God to do anything meaningful with. But what if instead of stressing about what we lack, we brought what we do have to the One who is infinitely more creative and resourceful? I can imagine Jesus looking toward heaven, thanking God for our meager offering and then using it to do exponentially more than we could ever have imagined.

    And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

    Colossians 2:6-8 NLT

    Just like the disciples who followed Jesus, we cannot multiply loaves and fishes on our own. But we can stay close to the One who can. Jesus continued to spend time regularly with the Father, being filled and replenished so that He could continue His work on earth. We too must spend time regularly with the Father and continue to follow Jesus so that our roots can grow deep and we can be filled. We can build our lives on Christ and in doing so, our faith is built up as we witness God at work (even in our craziness of life). We will then overflow with thankfulness out of the fullness of our hearts. What a thought to be overwhelmed not by life’s pressures and stress, but with genuine gratitude as Jesus works in us and through us!

    So as the calendar fills up and you feel spread thin, my question to you is this: What do you have? What can you bring to Jesus? Bring Him whatever you got! When you follow close to Him, and build your life on the unwavering foundation of Christ, He can use even the most unlikely of things to do amazing miracles!

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  • Shame Part 4: Mistakes, Forgiveness & Redemption

    The past several weeks we have been taking a bit of a deep dive into the topic of shame, and how it can alter our perception of who we are and how we walk around in the world. There is so much more to talk about than what we can cover in a few short articles, but hopefully we can at least begin a journey together of leaving shame behind. 

    We’ve discussed some of the things that can bring on shame: comparing ourselves to others to determine our worth, or letting insecurities go unchecked until they hold us captive. Sometimes it is the actions or words of others that cause shame, making us feel small and unworthy of love. 

    Today, we are going to talk about the source of shame that could possibly be the hardest to let go of, the shame of our own mistakes and bad choices. We can be our own worst critics to begin with, but throw in an actual, real-life-consequences-type of mistake, and we can get sucked down into shame before we even realize it. 

    In our first article we drew the distinction between guilt and shame, and I think it’s important to visit that again in this context.

    Guilt is a healthy emotion that serves to show us where we are wrong and prompt us to take steps to fix the problem. Shame works in a loop, where we relive our mistakes over and over with no hope of ever fixing it. Shame redefines our identity by those mistakes, whereas guilt can spur us on to overcome them, without changing our overall value as a person.

    If we want to truly experience the love of God, we have to look at how our own “shame-filter” clouds how we see God, ourselves and others. 

    When shame takes hold, we wind up placing our identity, our value, our worth in our mistakes and failings. It slowly erodes the truth that we are first and foremost, God’s beloved daughters. 

    The unclouded truth is that we are His handiwork, a masterpiece, created by God to be in relationship with Him. He is proud to be seen with you. He delights in showing mercy. He pursues you, calling you by name. 

    And while we might be able to acknowledge in our minds that these things are true, it all feels like a platitude if we don’t also acknowledge that we cannot simply banish shame on our own. We cannot move forward just because we “ought to”. Growth does not come from heaping shame upon shame. It comes from compassion. We need Jesus and we need each other. 

    Look at how Jesus treats the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. The Bible says she was caught in the act (yikes!) and dragged before the church leaders to be publicly shamed. Because of the law at the time, her punishment would almost certainly be death.

    The religious leaders at the time were threatened by Jesus’ teachings and growing popularity. They asked him what they should do, with the intention of trying to trap him in the “wrong” answer.  Jesus instead starts to write something in the dirt in front of them. The Bible doesn’t tell us what Jesus wrote, much to my dismay. 

    The justice warrior in me loves to imagine that it was the hypocritical leaders’ own dirty little secrets. Maybe it was a powerful scripture that convicted their hearts or confounded them in such a way that they relinquished claim over this woman’s life, and walked away. They all just left. 

    Pretty soon it was just Jesus and the woman. He tells her that he will not condemn her to death, but tells her with loving authority, to leave her life of sin. He grants mercy and calls her to a better life. He commands her to leave the identity of sin and shame behind, and step into a brand new identity. 

    Our theme verse for this series has been Psalm 34:5 “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

    As much as I want to know what Jesus wrote in the dirt that day, I want even more to see the look on this woman’s face after being in the presence of Jesus.

    Jesus held her accountable for her actions, he didn’t let her off the hook, but neither did he define her by it. She was first and foremost a human, created in God’s image and made for so much more. 

    I can picture her transformation from fear and shame to pure radiance the moment she looked into the face of Jesus and was forgiven. No longer was she defined by her past. She wasn’t “that girl” anymore. She was given a clean slate and a new beginning by the One whose opinion ultimately mattered the most. 

    My sweet friend, we are given the very same forgiveness and redemption. Even if you haven’t been dragged into the public square with all your bad choices on display, chances are there are things you wish you could undo.  Maybe you’ve said or done things that you wish you could go back and erase. Maybe you feel like your whole life has just been one big mistake.

    Please hear me in the depths of your soul and let this truth settle into every corner of your heart: 

    In Jesus’ eyes, you are not a mistake, you are a masterpiece.

    Even in the middle of your mess, Jesus sees you as beautiful.

    Just like a beautiful work of art, your worth is determined by the artist who created you and the price willing to be paid for you. When Jesus went to the cross, he paid the ultimate price. He didn’t just take our mistakes and bad choices, he also took our shame. When Jesus died and rose again, He not only conquered sin, he defeated shame too. 

    This business of kicking shame to the curb is not just a one time deal. It is a wash-rinse-repeat kind of thing. As human beings, we will continue to make mistakes. We must continue to look into the face of Jesus and remember His unconditional redemption, mercy and love.

    The woman in the story would likely struggle with the old identity of shame trying to creep back in and take over. Maybe other people in her life made it hard to forget, while others helped her remember the truth of God’s love. She would have to be intentional about going back to that moment when she was face to face with Jesus, so that God could continually renew her strength and remind her of who she really was.  

    Time spent with Jesus, in community, in God’s Word, and in prayer & worship builds a foundation for an identity in Christ that is unshakable and grounded in truth. It sustains us and encourages us until we can see Him face-to-face again. It reminds us of who we truly are: daughters of the King, radiant and unashamed.

    Lift up your head, step out into the light and feel the sunshine on your face. You are loved, you are forgiven and you are free. 

    “The cross has spoken, I am forgiven
    The King of Kings calls me His own
    Beautiful Savior, I’m yours forever
    Jesus Christ, my living Hope”
    -Phil Wickham, Living Hope

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