Friday, July 8, 2016

Surrendering our Country and our Lives

I have debated on whether to comment on the recent events. I've seen some really well-written comments, some hate-filled comments, and some ignorant comments. I hope mine will fall into the first category.
Our country has lived a long time without the feeling of danger or violence around every corner. That is changing pretty dramatically as of late. The truth is, however, there are people who live with violence every day. Both here, and around the world.
Our country is broken. Not because of race issues, but because of sin issues. Race issues are a symptom, not a cause. When people don't acknowledge a sovereign and loving Creator of all people, they don't recognize the value of each and every person. As our country continues to shove God aside and kick Him out of our lives, honoring and respecting people will continue its downward spiral.
There is violence, there is racism, there is hate, there is evil, because we live in a fallen world. Many of us stay fairly isolated from this and we've gotten very complacent. Myself included.
Not all cops are racist or cruel, just like not all young black men are violent criminals. There is a small segment in every population group that propagates evil and negative impressions. There are also people who simply make bad decisions in one moment of time that causes many negative consequences.
The answer is never retaliation, revenge, or condemning a whole group of people. Ever.
The answer in each one of us is to look squarely at the truth of living in a fallen world. A world that has never and will never be perfect. A country, though while I still believe is one of the greatest in the world and in history, was never and will never be perfect. Because the world and our country are filled with and run by imperfect, sinful people. Some more than others, true, but we all fall short of perfection.
No amount of name-calling, hate-spewing, or violence will solve a single problem in this country, or in our individual lives, for that matter.
The answer in each of us, once we've looked realistically on this fallen world, is to then turn to the One who is perfect. Who did live a perfect life. Who loves perfectly. To humbly fall on our knees before Him, repent of our own sin and any contribution to discord, accept His grace, and seek His power to be more like Him.
Faith cannot be something we glance at or play at, but it must be real, lived out every day for His glory. Only then will we see the path to joining together in true love, despite those who will never choose that path and will always breed evil and hate.
As long as we're living on this fallen earth, there will be people who choose sin. Let us just be sure that we instead choose God's grace, mercy, and love.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

God Brings us to Safety

But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
Acts 27:43-44

I've been reading through Acts the last several months, slowly, taking only a chapter or section at a time. It's been truly amazing! What God reveals of Himself in the faithful telling of the early Jesus followers. The miracles He performed. The power He gave. The love, justice, and callings. It's been such a blessing!

I may go back and look over my notes (I've been reading with some friends and we share our thoughts and lessons God's teaching us) and share some from previous chapters, but as I sat down today to write, the last couple of verses from chapter 27 came forward.

In chapter 27, Paul is being transported to Italy as a prisoner. He's spent somewhere between 2-3 years in prison already, and now he's making a treacherous trip via ship. We can only imagine the discomforts of traveling on a cargo ship with almost 300 people 2000 years ago. For weeks. In a storm for days.

I'm sure the passengers and crew were weary. Tired. Scared. And ready to give up.

We don't have to experience those exact conditions to feel the same way. There are a variety of life circumstances that bring us to the end of our rope. During these times, it's hard to remember that God is still sovereign and He is still with us.

Like Paul did.

During the whole retelling of this journey by Luke (which seems to be a firsthand account, since much of it is written using "we") it never seems that Paul loses his cool. He doesn't seem frightened at all. Actually, he seems full of confidence. There is only one place this kind of confidence comes from - from a most intimate relationship with the Lord.

By truly living in a way in which every single detail of your life is surrendered to the Lord, as I believe Paul did.

We can too. Because living surrendered means we trust that God will bring us safely to shore. That He'll sustain us through the storm. That our life is really His, not ours.

Paul had this calmness even though he faced possible death once he reached his destination. This is because he knew He belonged to God and owed God his very life. God provided temporary safety for the boat passengers and crew after the ship ran aground, and He will do the same for us.

But the most important safety God brings us to is eternal safety. If we can keep our eyes fixed on that, we will experience the same peace Paul did despite any storm that comes our way.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Battling the Flesh

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. 
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Matthew 26:41

At times, it seems like these words written over 2000 years ago were written just for me. Why is it that I so desire to live in God's will and be obedient to Him  I let my flesh rule so often? The answer is found right here: the flesh is weak.

I know I'm not the only one struggling with a weak flesh, evidenced by the conversation I had with a good friend this morning. She shared her own struggles of the flesh.

While it seems like this verse was written just for me, the truth is we all struggle against a weak flesh. What the exact item that trips us up doesn't really matter. 

I've been on a journey to living surrendered for a while now, and I've experienced times of victory and times of defeat. Sometimes those fluctuations are a result of changing circumstances, but more often than not it's when I'm not faithful in my time with the Lord.

There's a reason Jesus told His disciples to engage in the battle of the flesh with prayer. It is the strongest weapon we have against giving into our desires. Prayer engages the Holy Spirit and wells His power within us. Prayer refocuses us on the eternal instead of the temporal. And prayer reminds us to praise God for the things He has given us already instead of the things we want.

Battling the flesh is a day by day, sometimes moment by moment fight. We will never win it on our own, but already have victory in our Savior. To live in that victory we have to be willing to fight. To ignore the flesh. To redirect it. To beat it into submission.

Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 9:27 - But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

We've been convinced that depriving ourselves of something is bad. That hard work is bad. That discipline is a negative thing. But biblically, these are all to our benefit.

Yet, even though I know this, my flesh tells me the opposite. For for this decision, this day, I will double down in prayer and seek God for His strength to build up self-control in me to I can resist the flesh. It won't be easy. There may even be tears. But, when I have victory, oh how sweet it will be! Won't you join me?

Friday, January 29, 2016

God is Good, But He Isn’t Very Nice

In “The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis, Lucy asks Mr. Beaver if Aslan is safe.  Mr. Beaver replies, “Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good.”  If you are unfamiliar with this book, Aslan is an allegorical picture of Jesus.  Mr. Beaver’s words used to confuse me.  How can someone be good, but not safe?  I came to understand that the God who created the universe with just His words was not to be trifled with.  Sort of like your dad when he said, “I brought you into the world and I can take you out.”  Only much, much more serious.

But now I’ve come to learn a different, deeper meaning to this.  Somewhere I read that the Lord isn’t interested in making us happy.  Instead He is interested in making us like Jesus.  (I apologize to whoever said this because I cannot remember where I read it.)  And sometimes that is a very painful process that does not feel very safe at all.

Like a lot of people, I believed that Jesus had the power to save me.  I also believed…sort of…that He had the power to change me.  At least I said I did.  But my actions showed that I believed that I had to remake myself into someone who manifested all of the Fruit of the Spirit all of the time.  That is really hard.  There is a reason it is the fruit of the SPIRIT and not the fruit of the WILL.  That is because it is impossible to will yourself into being that.

However, that did not stop me from trying.  And, as I look around, it doesn’t stop a lot of other people from trying too.  I truly believed that I had to earn God’s approval.  Salvation was a gift, but not approval.  And so, I held on with every ounce in my being.  And it worked for quite awhile.  Sort of.  Well, not really.  But I managed to cover up my foibles from the outside world.  But I knew that I was totally failing the Lord.  And I was sure that He was watching me and just shaking His head in disgust.
I was deeply unhappy and started realizing that when I tried to do things in my own righteousness, I was getting the glory.  I wanted God to get the glory, so I told Him I was going to let Him have total control.  I expected that, even if everything wasn’t sunshine and rainbows, I would now begin to deal with the problems that came my way effortlessly.  And, deep down, where I don’t even admit it to myself, I thought there wouldn’t’ be any problems anyway. 

Boy was I wrong!  I expected the Lord to either calm all of my storms or calm me.  Instead the storms hit harder than ever and I fell apart.  I didn’t even like being around me.  I was one big raw nerve and so, so reactive.  I think I went a little bit crazy.  Maybe more than a little bit.  I was an absolute and total mess.  And partly because of my mess, life got harder.  I started having panic attacks.  It was horrible.

I had looked at my grand experiment of letting God take control of my emotions as taking a step off of a cliff, expecting that either there would be something under my feet or I would be given wings.  But instead, it was like God shoved me right off that cliff and let me fall and lie at the bottom, broken into pieces. 

That’s not what I signed up for.  It’s not what anyone tells you happens when you start trusting God.  Everyone tells you how God shows up and gets you through.  But that is not what happened to me.  God really pushed me off that cliff.
Why would He do that?  Why would He cause me, his daughter who was just trying to trust Him, to crash quite publickly.  What kind of witness is that!  There were a lot of non-Christians watching this play out.  I’m sure this didn’t cause them to move any closer to the Lord.  “If that’s what being a Christian is, I don’t want any part of it,” was what I was sure they were thinking.

See?  God is not safe.  And pushing me off that cliff was certainly not very nice.  But God knew that the only way to change me into the woman He had always intended me to be was to cause me to fall apart to the point that I couldn’t fix myself.  Only He could bring it about.

And so, in His goodness, He began picking up my broken pieces and putting me back together.  Sometimes I would think I was all better, only to find that He would have to break something new.  It was not fun.  There was pain.  There were buckets of tears. 
But now I’m not the woman I was a few years ago.  I’m so glad not to be her any more.  I know that I cannot hold myself together.  Ever.  And I don’t need to any more.  I am amazed at my current ability to manage the stress that comes my way.  Things that used to overwhelm me no longer do.  Things will happen and I will wait to see when the anger is going to erupt, but it rarely does.  Because I am the recipient of much grace, I am much more willing to give out grace to others.  And I am much happier.  Truly happy and full of joy, not the weak substitute that I used to manufacture on my own.

I can’t give you a step-by-step plan to go from crazy to sane.  There is no step-by-step plan.  I just went to Jesus and asked Him to help me love Him more, for Him to be more real to me, and for my life to be centered around Him.  I asked him to reignite my sense of awe in who He is. I read the Bible.  I prayed. 

Looking back, He was not very nice to me.  He hurt me and caused so much anguish in my life.  But He was at work to turn me into a woman after His own heart, who knows that her only hope for sanity is in Him.  When things do bother me, I know that the way out is through Him.  My Bible has become my refuge.  So, I am thankful for the process, no matter how hard it was to live through.

If things are hard for you right now.  If you feel like God has pushed you off a cliff to break apart, He probably has.  And the new you that He is fashioning is so much better than anything you could have done in your own power.  It is worth the pain.  Aslan is indeed on the move, and He is not safe.

By Elisa Gray

Monday, January 25, 2016

God is Completely Good - Prayer & Response


I praise You for who You are! You are good, holy, perfect, sovereign, love, gracious, patient, faithful, marvelous, wonderful, priceless, awesome, and amazing. I can't even begin to comprehend Your

Complete Goodness.

There is nothing evil, selfish, prideful, or harmful in You. Not even a drop. My fleshly, sinful heart and mind can scarce imagine it. No wonder everyone falls at a mere glimpse of You.

My heart wonders; let it stray no more. Do not turn from me. Make me faithful. Mold me to be more like you. I do not ask for forgiveness in this moment because I know your mercy and grace has flowed over all my sin already. It is washed away completely by Your blood. Thank You, Lord!

Thank you!!

Response: You're welcome, My daughter. My love for you is infinite. Draw close to Me and I will draw close to you. Soak in my love. Bask in My love. Receive my glory. I love you, My precious child. I love you.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Word of the Year - 2016

Have you ever done a word of the year? Do you have one for this year?

This is the second or third year I've had a word I've used to keep me focused where God is leading me to focus.

This year my word is...


It's a big word with big meaning. The purpose behind it is to keep me focused on the commitments I've made so I can follow through with them and not get distracted away from them. It also means to be careful what commitments I make. To commit to only the things God is leading me to. Then do them with full commitment.

So far, I've been able to stay focused and committed to my 2016 projects. (And a few from 2015 I didn't stay committed to.)

Alas, it is only January! So, my prayer is that I stay committed to seeking the Lord daily in what He desires me to do. What His will is, instead of just what's on my agenda. Hopefully, I'll be able to share in February, March and even all the way through December that, by God's grace, I've stayed committed.

This is an especially big undertaking because of what I feel God's called me to do this year;

* Write a 12 book mini-ebook series on being #transformed.
* Keep consistent on my blogs.
* Video blog to communicate even more effectively.
* Go to Africa on my first international mission trip.
* Finish a few book projects started last year.
* Be effective in my time usage.
* Keep homeschooling and loving my babies
* Be consistent and available for my hubby and support him as he begins to build our new house.

Whew! I'm so glad I know it's God that strengthens me, and not me! I'd be worn out already.

Instead, thought, because He's keeping me grounded and energized through spending time with Him in prayer, I know I can do all He's called me to do this year.

Your list may look completely different. It most likely does. But whatever your list looks like, whatever your word is, commit it to the Lord, and He'll give you everything you need to do everything He's called you to do.

I'd love to know what your word is for 2016! And to hear what God's doing in your life. Comment below or email me at And, as always, I invite you to join my mailing list at my website to keep updated on all the things God is doing.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Friday, January 22, 2016

Be Still - A response from God

My daughter,

Be still.

Be held by Me. Do not settle for less. Do not turn to the things of this world, even the benign things, for comfort and restoration. You are Mine and I cherish you and love you with an everlasting love. I have called you for something greater. Do not settle for good.

Do not fear or draw back from the work or the difficult. Do not rely on yourself or your own strength. You are right that you cannot do it all - in yourself. But nothing is impossible for Me and in Me you can do every single thing I call you to do. It may not look like you expect it to, but it will always look the way I intended it to.

Be still, draw near to Me, and I will fill you.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Lord is Always Working

Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.

Habakkuk 1:5

I have been living in a holding pattern for almost a year now. Last year started off with the realization of a long-lived dream. After looking for waterfront property and attempting to buy 4 properties over 12 years, it finally happened. Not only that, but our house went on the market and sold within 2 months. We were on our way to living our dream.

Then the roadblocks started going up. It took way too long to get the plans done. Then it took too long to hear back from the county once we submitted them. Then the surveyor took forever getting the results to us. Then the county asked for a laundry list of additional items.

Almost 10 months later, we don't even have our building permit yet. It is not the hardest, most tragic trial ever anyone lived, but it hasn't been easy, either.

However, God continues to use the situation I'm in to lean into my faith in Him, His goodness, and His plans.

This morning when I woke up, I heard the Lord direct me to the book of Habakkuk. As I lay in bed starting to wake up I listened to the words of this prophet and the Lord's response. And He spoke to me.

My situation is not one of violence, iniquity, and destruction, but it is one of things not getting done as they should (or as I'd like them). The similarity is others are not doing what they should and I'm being affected.

As Habakkuk did, I have cried out to the Lord. I have begged, pleaded, and quite frankly, whined. 

In His great graciousness He has not chastised me. Neither, however, has He given me what I want when I want it. What He has done is say almost the same thing He said to Habakkuk:

"Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told."

It is a reminder that the Lord is always working. Even when things don't go our way. Even when they don't seem just or fair. Even when we can't see Him working. He is. Always.

And I am so grateful. Because He knows so much more than me. And is so much more good and righteous than me.

I may get frustrated and impatient at times, but then I will choose to trust in the Lord and His plan. That is true surrendered living.

(I'd love to hear how God's calling you to surrender! Comment below or email me

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Lord is trustworthy - A Prayer

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
Proverbs 3:5-7

Thank You for being trustworthy. I praise You and lift up Your holy name to be honored and glorified throughout the earth. Thank You for being a loving guide. Your love, wisdom, grace, and mercy go beyond my comprehension. Your faithfulness abounds. Your shelter and protection never fail. Let me never forget who You are. Continue to teach me more about You. Forgive me when I allow other things to pull my gaze off of You and distract me from the details of Your plan for my life. Help me to not trust in or act based on my own understanding. Forgive me when I don't acknowledge You. You alone are worthy of all praise! Give me the strength to turn away from all evil. Let it not get as much as a toe-hold in my life. Let me not compromise or be complacent. Help me to be committed to the things You've called me to do and love well those You place in my life. Let every day of my life be filled with service and love.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Remind Me, a Prayer


Remind me every moment of every day that You are still in control. Thank You for Your love, faithfulness, mercy, and grace. Help me to be the woman You created me to be. Let everything in my life bring glory to You!

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God hwo loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Learning in Prayer

Prayer is something that I have done for decades. Even before I became a believer, my sister and I would say the Lord's Prayer together at night, each being in our own beds on opposite sides of a wall. From those early, innocent prayers, God has taught me much about conversing with Him. It seems like I fall asleep and wake up most days talking to Him.

However, I have known for a while that my prayer life has lots of room to grow. There always seems to be someone or something important or in need that I leave out with my fairly quick, if frequent, prayers. I also often fail to stop and listen. To really engage the Holy Spirit interactively. He is there. He has invited me. But I tend to move on too fast to the next thing.

The Lord graciously reminded me this past weekend of His invitation to sit with Him, dwell with Him, and rest in Him. My desire is to be faithful in accepting that invitation. I know the blessing in doing so is unimaginable and I commit to no longer be "too busy" or too distracted to spend that sweet time with the Lord - not just quantity, but quality.

In giving myself some accountability, and hopefully to be a blessing, I'm going to start regularly sharing my prayers here. Not all of them, some of them are just too private and personal. But when I sense it could draw someone other than me closer to the Lord.

I will also sometimes include or post the Lord's response back to me. It may be weird for some to consider the Holy, Mighty, Sovereign God of the Universe would talk to us, but it is scriptural and truth. He loves us enough to lead, guide, direct, and pour into us to make us more like Him.

I hope that you are blessed by my sharing of what God's teaching me about and in prayer. I also invite you to share your prayers and God's responses to you.

Monday, January 11, 2016

God uses Steadfast Obedience

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Today's post is a blessing from our guest blogger, Angie Seal.

What an amazing God we serve. All throughout the bible God used obedience.

We forget these days that God cares more about obedience than perfection and think "I'm a good person" or "I''m a good church goer," but we aren't committed to being obedient. 
I learned about being committed to obedience about 4 years ago and it has changed my life forever. 
My mom and my mother in law both passed away within a 4 month span. I was devastated to say the least. My sister became very angry at everyone including God. Despite my own pain, or maybe because of it, God put it on my heart to start sending her encouraging text messages. So every night I sent her a text with a scripture, a thought on how to apply it in today's world, and a prayer. 
4 years later the nightly text to her has grown to 65 people, 1 email list, and 3 Facebook pages, EVERY NIGHT. It has also led to a daily devotional book. By the grace of God, I haven't missed one night. 
Through those text God has revealed to me soo many things, but one of the most important things I needed to learn was to be committed to obedience. I stand firm knowing that "today is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2) and my "Hope is in His word." (Psalm 130:5) 
I choose to seek Him on purpose in my daily life and I desire to live a life that glorifies God's holy name and I invite you to do the same. You'll be blessed more than you could ever imagine.

Angie Seal

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Give Thanks

Thanks, Thank You, Gratitude, Thankful, Appreciation

Oh give thanks to the LORDcall upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
This is a verse I've been meditating on this first week of the new year. It's such a simple verse, yet as I have worked on memorizing it, meditated on it, and prayed it, God has used it to do some amazing things.
The list could go on and on. The problem is, I don't always focus on the blessings in my life. God is teaching me to do so more often.
The next part of this verse reminds us to call on the Lord when we're in need. When we have struggles or challenges. When we simply need perseverance to do the same thing today that we did yesterday. When we need strength to make changes for the better. He is always there and always available for us to sit at His feet.
Lastly, because God is always good and providing for our needs, there is always something of His goodness we can share with others. First, how He saved us by His grace, bringing us from death to life. How He's provided time and time again in difficult situations and trials. If we are walking consistently with the Lord, He is always doing a new work in us we can share.
These are the lessons God's teaching me, along with a few others. All from focusing on one verse and listening to His voice through it. And I am so grateful for what He's doing in and leading me to through these lessons.

Psalm 105:1

Most of those things are within me. He is using the simple aspect of being obedient in reading His word and planting it in my heart to transform me and teach me to surrender some of the little things - specifically my thoughts.
There are always things to give thanks to God for. My short list for today is:
* A place to live
* Plenty of food to eat
* A walking buddy
* A Bible-teaching, -living pastor
* A house with heat
* The sun shining
* Friends who pray for me
* The opportunity to share what God's doing in my life
* My husband
* My children
* The ability to homeschool
* Our homeschool coop
* My laptop

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Journey of Surrender

Hands, Two, Palms, Light, Hand In Hand, Hand Holding

It seems as if every time I reach a point of surrender, there is very little time to rest before God calls to my attention another area of my life that I'm clinging onto desperately. An area, item, relationship, dream, or goal that I would be better off laying at His feet.

Currently, that item is my living situation. Almost exactly a year ago, my husband and I had a contract accepted to purchase a piece of property. We put our house for sale and prayed it would sell quickly so we wouldn't be bogged down with two payments for long. God answered that prayer. A short two months after putting our house on the market, we moved out and closed on the sale. It had gone faster than we ever dreamed. And I thought this was a great start to the journey we were embarking on - the building of our forever house on the water where we'd desired to live for years. (For my husband, it's a life-long dream.)

Having things moves so fast, I was full of enthusiasm and optimism, hoping to have our new house ready to at least host our annual Christmas family dinner in December. But day by day, week by week, month by month, time slipped away without anything being done. Now here we are 9 months out of our own home and don't even have a building permit yet. There are various reasons, but at this point, the reasons don't matter. They don't change the fact that I've been without my own home, living at my in-laws house (8 people in less square footage than we had for just our family of 6 previously).

This is not where I wanted to be. Not even close. God and I have had some serious talks about this situation. While I have some legitimate complaints about people not doing what they need to do in a timely manner, making those complaints doesn't change anything. We still are where we are.

And through that, God is teaching me to surrender. Surrender my own timeline. Surrender the details of how I thought my dreams would be realized. Surrender my concept of control over anything. And surrender other people.

None of this is hard. There are days I'm very frustrated with the complete lack of progress and road blocks that keep cropping up. 

But God.

He is using even this to mold me, shape me, and grow me. His desire is that in everything I trust in Him, grow in Him, and glorify Him. He is working greatly in me and I know it will turn out for my good, as He promises.

That doesn't change reality, but prayerfully it will change my thoughts and heart and teach me to surrender even the most difficult things to Him.