Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Love"ly Thoughts - Day 16 He Loves Us - Even When We Mess Up

I'm welcoming a guest blogger this week as I am out of town for a few days with family. My friend, Julie Salva, has agreed to share some of her "Love"ly thoughts with you as we continue our countdown to Valentine's Day. Julie has a heart for Christ that shows in everything she does - Mom, Wife, Bible Teacher, Business Owner - she's a busy lady! And she also has the enviable ability to rock a pair of high heels with any outfit. 
That's courageous in my book! 
Enjoy hearing Julie's heart this week as she shares with you. 
With a Courageous Heart, 

“Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.  You will see him there, just as he told you before He died." -Mark 16:7

So, I had just messed up again…hard to believe!  
In fact, I messed up with the same thing I ALWAYS seemed to mess up with…again and again and again.  I don’t know about you, but I have a “thorn in my flesh” (to borrow from Paul) that just binds me up continually!  As I pray, I tell God that I’ve got it this time, I won’t mess up with this again, that THIS time….I have control, no need to worry about me ANYMORE!   

Well, guess what…..I WILL mess up again with my issue, and you’ll mess up with yours!   It’s enough to want to throw in the towel sometimes, don’t you think?  At least, that’s what the devil would sure like me to do!

Before I beat myself up too badly though, let’s think of Peter. 
You know Peter, don’t you?  He’s the one who walked on water towards Christ (of course he took his eyes off Him and sank...but that’s another devotion!).

In fact, in Mark 5, Peter SAW Jesus raise a child from the dead!  If ANYONE knew that Christ was the Son of God, it was Peter.  He said it in Matthew 16:16 - “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. this verse from Mark, Peter has just denied Christ three short days ago.  In fact, Peter denied Christ AFTER Jesus had told him he would….you could say he had a heads up!  

Can you imagine how ashamed Peter felt?  In fact, we don’t really need to imagine, because scripture tells us he broke down and cried (Mark 14:72).   I think that Peter was so disappointed in himself, because he had done exactly what he had told Jesus he wouldn’t do.   
How hopeless he must have felt.

Yet, the phrase in today's key verse, “including Peter”, is one of my favorite phrases of hope in the bible!  It tells me that Christ KNEW that Peter needed to see Him.....that Peter needed to know he was forgiven.  
In fact, if you’ll permit me to “guess”, I’m pretty sure I know how Peter felt.  Hopeless.  

See, I can relate, because I’ve felt that, every time I mess up.....again.  But praise Jesus....I don’t stay there!  Mark 16:7 reminds me that even after I mess up AGAIN, Jesus is still looking for me, counting me as one of His own, and specifically wanting me to join Him in fellowship again.  
Although I may want to remove myself from His presence because I am ashamed, He specifically seeks me out and gently reminds me that I am His, and that His plans include me.   
I’m willing to bet they include you too.  

So, my Love-ly thought....Forgiveness.  
Undeserving....unworthy......yet, forgiven.


Monday, January 28, 2013

"Love"ly Thoughts - Day 15 A Love of a Friend

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." -Proverbs 17:17

Sometimes it doesn't take a lot of words to make a really big impact. 
Sometimes just a hand to hold or a neck to hug or a few simple words spoken with great love are all we need to keep going. 

I find this to be so with the friends that God has blessed me with. The adage that "God knows what we need right when we need it." is so true and this was driven home to me today. 

My husband and I had some awesome truth spoken into our lives today, by friends that we love and cherish. 
They wanted nothing more than to be an encouragement to us because as they said "When you are the ones doing the encouraging all the time, you need someone to encourage you."

And it was enough. 
Enough to fill our tank and remind us why it's so important to keep going. 
We know that Satan wants nothing more than to destroy us. He hates us because we love Jesus and seek to live our lives following hard after him. 
And he's been having kind of a field day in a few areas of our life recently. 
But we can't allow him to win a victory over our weaknesses. 

So, a friend loves at all times - that's a carbon copy of Jesus - loving us at all times. Even when we are unlovable.
Even when we are burdened. Even when we just want to run away. 
Because a brother (friend) is born for adversity. 

Dear Jesus, 
I thank you for the friends you've placed in our lives who know our hearts. 
Who are willing to speak truth into us even when it's hard. 
Who are willing to walk the roads of adversity with us. 
Who will pray over us in Your name.
Thank you for recognizing our need of you and allowing your love to reach for us through others. 
You are an awesome God, and you always know just what we need, right when we need it.
In your HOLY name, 

With a Courageous Heart,

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Holy, Perfect and His Plan

I love early mornings with the Lord. 
This morning we are home from church, both me and my hubby sick and praying not to give it to our daughter or anyone else. And as much as I miss being with our church family, I would have completely missed this awesome word from God if we were on our usual pattern today. 

I was up before anyone else - my norm on the weekends - and as I was sipping my coffee by the fireplace, I picked up a John Piper book that I've been studying. 
Take a look at the scripture that truly leapt off the page at me:

"For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." - Hebrews 10:14 (ESV)

Oh, how incredible is that?! 
Here, read it in the NIV84 translation:

"because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." - Hebrews 10:14 (NIV84)

Christian! Are you excited by that statement?! 
Listen to what He is saying - We are perfected by our simple faith that Christ died for our sins and by our relinquishing control of our lives to Him - we are made perfect by His singular sacrifice! 

Not following me yet?
Here, read it from The Message:

"Every priest (that's us!) goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem. As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in. It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process. 
The Holy Spirit confirms this:

This new plan I’m making with Israel
    isn’t going to be written on paper,
    isn’t going to be chiseled in stone;

(And don't miss this part!)
This time “I’m writing out the plan in them,
    carving it on the lining of their hearts.”

Not only has Christ's sacrifice of His own life made the way for our perfection in Him, He's making sure that we never forget what He's done for us. 
He's "writing out the plan in (us)". 
"Carving it on the lining of (our) hearts." 

You know, God doesn't have a Plan B for the world. 
It's ONLY through Christ's death and resurrection that we are offered salvation.  
WE are His plan. 
God chose to save the world - His creation - through the perfect sacrifice of His perfect son Jesus Christ. 
He's chosen to use us - the redeemed, the saved, the perfected - to share that salvation with others.
He's "writing out the plan in (us)."

But look - as exciting as that is, it's not what got me really excited over his word this morning! 
I know, right?!! Oh, it gets BETTER!
Here it is: 
Philippians 3:12 says "Christ Jesus has made me his own."

Now, read what John Piper wrote - 
"That very statement is the key to endurance and joy. "Christ Jesus has made me his own." All my reaching and yearning and striving is not to belong to Christ (which has already happened) but to complete what is lacking in my likeness to him." 

This means that yes, by Christ's sacrifice we are perfected, but because of our faith in him, we are being made holy. The Bible calls it sanctification.
I call it amazing! 

Here, read more of John Piper's words:
"One of the greatest sources of joy and endurance for the Christian is knowing that in the imperfection of our progress we have already been perfected - and that this is owing to the suffering and death of Christ."

"The joyful encouragement here is that the evidence of our perfection before God is not our experienced perfection (our salvation), but our experienced progress." (our sanctification)

Do you see??
It's SO awesome! 
NONE of us is perfect. No, not one of us. 
But we are made perfect to God by the saving grace and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

Our sanctification - the process of making us like him; making us holy, is a process in which we are becoming what we already are in him. 
Saved. Redeemed. Holy. 

Our lives in Christ are a journey of transformation. 
To transform our earthly selves into the holy likeness of Christ. 
A transformation that will only be complete when we are finally face to face with the one who made us and saved us. 

Christian - take heart! 
You are perfect because you love the perfect One, the sinless one who died so we, the sinful could be redeemed.
So when you mess up, when you drop the ball, when you fail and falter and stumble your way through this Christian life - take heart!   
It's part of the process. 
Because we are human, we, the sinful but saved, are the example of Christ's love for the world. He's written it on our hearts for all time and through our journey of being made like Him, others will be drawn to His amazing, saving grace.  

Now isn't that awesome news on a Sunday morning?! 

With a Courageous Heart, 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Love"ly Thoughts - Day 13 - A Love that Sustains Us

"Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak."
-Isaiah 40:28 - 29 

Are you weary today friend? Tired? Drained? 
Seems that there's a lot of that going around. I'm certainly no stranger to those feelings, and after a week of ups and downs with a few "Surprise!" moments thrown in, I'm feeling a big wrung out. 

So, I'm keeping my words few tonight, but the good news is that they are packed full of the abundance of God's love for you. And me. 

Even when we are tired and weary and worn out - God NEVER is. 
In fact the God who created all things loves us so much that He gives us strength even when we think we can't take another step forward. 
Pretty amazing huh? That GOD cares that we are tired. Weary.  He knows all of the things that have drained us dry.
He cares about every aspect of our being and has promised to sustain us - even when we just don't have any gas left in the tank. 

Rest in that truth tonight friend. 
Don't let the evil one rob you of the complete rest that can be found in Christ. 
Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually. 
The amazing LOVE of God sustains us through every weary moment. 
His love alone allows us to rest in perfect peace. 

With a Courageous Heart, 

Friday, January 25, 2013

"Love"ly Thoughts - Day 12 - A Love that Cleanses Us

"By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me - a prayer to the God of my life." Psalm 42:8

I love watching the snow fall. Especially on days when I don't have to go out in it - Ha!
No, really, I love standing at the window holding onto a warm mug of coffee and watching those brilliant white flakes fall to the ground. 
There's just something quieting about watching all those tiny individual flakes create a soft, fuzzy blanket on the ground. As it continues to fall, we watch it pile up, eventually covering the ground, so all you can see is pure white. And no matter how unsightly the view from your window is on any other given day, when the snow falls, it makes everything it touches beautiful and pure once again.

When you think about it that way, a snowfall is a lot like God's amazing love for us. Our verse today tells us that "the Lord directs his love". And much like He directs where each flake of snow will fall, he knows just where His love needs to go in our lives to envelop us in His warmth.

We all have places in our hearts and lives that are unsightly - wait. Let's just call it what it is - ugly. No sense dancing around it. We have some ugly places that so desperately need the Love of a forgiving God to cover.
To cleanse. To make new again.

And since He loves us SO VERY MUCH, all we need do to receive his forgiving love is to ask for it.
But do we do it?
How often do we stop and examine that big ugly spot on our heart?
It's much easier to avoid it, isn't it? Introspection is hard because then we have to deal with the ugliness.
Funny thing though, the more we avoid it, the bigger it grows. And that ugly little spot becomes a big ol' ugly stain - most of the time, right where everyone around us can see it.
If we're lucky, we have friends who speak truth into our lives and are willing to say "Hey, ya wanna do something about that stain?"
And they walk with us down the cleansing path. 

But even if we don't, the song of God's forgiving grace is always there for us.
We just have to be open to the melody, willing to hear the tune, and respond to the beauty of the song of His mercy.
When we do, God directs His amazing Love to fall like a fresh, cleansing snow in our hearts.
And it fills us with a warmth that wraps us up and reminds us that we are His precious ones and most dearly loved.

With a Courageous Heart, 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Love"ly Thoughts - Day 11 - Love that Never Disappoints

"We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." - Romans 5:3b - 5

We all know them. 
People who come into our lives with such promise. 
By all appearances, they bring a breath of fresh air and sunshine with them and we are bedazzled. 
They make such a great impression on us right away that we fail to see that they may not be all they appear to be. 

We develop expectations based on the first glow of that relationship and naturally we want to see the good in someone who has so captured our attention and enthusiasm. 
So when they fail to live up to those expectations, it hurts. We feel betrayed. We are bewildered because we just didn't see it coming. And truthfully, we wonder what's wrong with us that we didn't see it sooner. 

Well, what's wrong with us is that we are looking for something we will never find in a relationship that cannot possibly provide it. 
Because people will always disappoint us. 
And when we look to human relationships to provide what only Jesus can, we set ourselves up for that disappointment. 

We are all sinful, fallen creatures. 
We all fail. 
We all disappoint. 
Everyone of us. Every day. 

But thank God we have a hope that exceeds all our earthly disappointment. The struggles we endure with human frailty produce perseverance because we know we must go on. We have no choice but to continue to put one foot in front of the other, even when we've been hurt terribly by the actions of others.  

Thankfully, God uses the perseverance he develops in us to grow our character. To build on the foundation of His great love that is being poured out for us to stand on. 
Because every time we are disappointed by someone, we learn from the experience. 
Parents call these 'teachable moments'. 
Character building exercises. 
Call it what you will, it is a painful process that teaches us as much about who we are in Christ as it teaches us about those who hurt us. 

And the beautiful gift at the end of each character building exercise is HOPE. 
Hope is the vessel God uses to pour His LOVE into our hearts. 
Because the greater our hope, the more we know of His love for us.  

A love that holds us close when we are hurt. 
A love that whispers in our ears "I am with you even in this struggle." 
A love that never disappoints. 

With a Courageous Heart, 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"Love"ly Thoughts - Day 10 - Lavish Love

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" - 1 John 3:1

It was really, really cold here today in Virginia. Rarely does the temperature get down into those low, low numbers on the thermometer - but we woke up to 10 degrees today. 

By contrast, even though I was physically cold all day, I was completely warm on the inside. 
My heart was full. Full of the lavish love of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ. 

There was nothing notable about this day, nothing exceptional. 
Except for the exceptional LOVE that leapt from the pages of my Bible as I read this morning. I love reading the words my Heavenly Father has written for me, for all of us. 
The Bible has been described as God's LOVE letter to us and the lavish depths of His LOVE for us are so evident with every turn of the page. 

One dictionary definition of lavish is this: to expend or give in great amounts or without limit
If that's not a clear picture of what God does, has done and will always do for us then I don't know how else to define it.

Are there times that you don't feel the Father's love? Are there times that you feel anything but lavished on? 
I know I've been through those times, we all have and if we're completely honest about it, we have only ourselves to blame. We are after all "children". His children, dearly loved, but children nonetheless. 
Children are disobedient, willful, stubborn, prideful, selfish.....need I go on? 
Those are the actions that leave us out in the cold, out of the warm embrace of God who wants only to lavish His love on us. 

I've promised myself that the next time I experience a cold snap on the inside, to remember to move back towards the source of warmth that never fails us - and be lavished as only He can do. 

 With a Courageous Heart, 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"Love"ly Thoughts - Day 9 - Loved From the Start

"For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful,and I know this very well." - Psalm 139: 13-14

I've wrestled with this all day, but if I'm being true to God's call on my life, I have to address this issue today. 
Today of all days. 

January 22, 2013 - 40 years ago today, our Supreme court made abortion on demand legal in our country. 
No matter what side of this issue you fall on, we've all seen the statistics. Read the news articles, heard the rhetoric. 
Everyone has something to say. Even if they never say it. It's impossible to not have an opinion on life or death, because they define our existence. 

The politicians and the activists and the clinics and the medical professionals and the protesters and the counselors and the churches all have something to say. And depending on where our personal feelings lie is usually where we lend our ear. To hear those who affirm our stance. 

In my 48 years of life on this earth, my own feelings on abortion have changed dramatically. 
Having my daughter and becoming a Christian 4 months afterward were my watershed moments and I had to choose to believe God and the truth of His word - or not. 

The truth is that we are loved from the start - we are remarkably and wonderfully made. 
We are created in His image.
We are God's dearly loved children and are encouraged to imitate Him.
We are loved with an everlasting love. 

The Bible tells us "You shall not kill.". 
It tells us to Love God with all our heart, mind and soul and to Love others as we love ourselves. 

I'm a pretty simple person. I know that life is full of gray areas, and I'm usually the one to try and see all sides of an issue, but this is a pretty simple issue to me now. 
Either it's life, or it's not. 
If God created us the same way He creates life today, and He never changes, then how do we choose to believe that life is a gray area? 
If God is who He says He is, then who are we, the created ones, to question His authority?

I have learned not to. 
Because He is sovereign. 
And I am not.

My life has been a journey from one extreme to the other with a whole lot of gray in between. 
And I know that if I'd believed the truth about the vastness of God's love for me at the start of my journey, my roads would have traveled in a far different direction than they did.

Someday, I'll share my whole story with you. We all have one, all different, all with gray areas. It's the gray areas that God uses to mold us and shape us and bring us to the place where He can use us for His glory. 
So, because of that, I'm grateful for my gray. 

Many hearts are wounded and hurting across our nation today - so many silent voices - living and unborn. As we mark another year of this momentous decision, I pray for all whose lives have been affected by it - on both sides. 
Because in the end, we are all God's children. And we are all dearly loved. 

"This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands." - 1 John 5:2

Monday, January 21, 2013

"Love"ly Thoughts - Day 8 - Homesick

"Now let your unfailing love comfort me, just as you promised me, your servant." - Psalms 119:76 NLT

Today would have been my Dad's 77th birthday. 
I miss him. A lot. 

Not a single day since he went home do I not think about him. 
Not one. 

And you know, it's not like I talked to him every day when he was still traveling here on earth. But when he was here, I always knew I could. 
Now that he's gone, I can't. And that hurts.

Dad and I didn't always have a great relationship either. Those teen years, well, he really didn't know quite what to do with me and honestly, he was pretty absent for much of that time. He worked 3 jobs trying to put food on the table for us and when he was home, I was holed up in my room, pretending to work on homework.
We both knew that there should have been more, but neither of us knew how to get there. 

It was years later, after so many mistakes and heartaches, after my daughter was born, Dad told me how much he regretted those years. And that conversation opened up a relationship and easiness between us that bonded us. Probably stronger because of what it had taken to get to that place.  
My heart hurts when I think of the years we missed out on, but I'm so happy for the years we enjoyed. I always told my Dad not to live in the past - we couldn't change it, so why dwell on the regrets? And that's what I hang on to today - the relationship we built, he and I.

As I was on my way to the second ice rink of my day today, yes, my daughter was off school and skating testing and lessons kept us running; a song by Mercy Me came on the radio in the car. 
You may have heard it, it's called "Homesick" and every time I hear it, I feel it. 
Longing for Heaven. Longing for my real home. Longing for my Dad. And my Grandma. And my best friend. 

The longing for Heaven is palpable sometimes. As Christ-followers, this Earth is not our real home, we are simply traveling through on our way to our real home. The Bible calls us aliens and foreigners because of that fact.

The longing for my Dad and my Grandma and my friend Missy hits me like a wave sometimes. Knocking me down and taking my breath away. 
But this is where I feel the strength of God's LOVE for me. He picks me up out of the surf and wraps me up in his loving embrace and reminds me that I'm not alone. He has promised us His unfailing LOVE and He NEVER FAILS to deliver it. 

Dad, I miss you. I can't wait to see you again at home. I know you don't worry about me because you know that God's got me. He's watching over me Dad, and He brings peace to my heart when it starts to hurt for you. He whispers in my ear to just hold on. Hold on to Him and someday, I'll be home too. 

With a Courageous Heart,

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Love"ly Thoughts - Day 7 - Tough Love

"Do not despise the Lord’s instruction, my son, and do not loathe His discipline; for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in." Proverbs 3:11-12

One of the hardest things a parent does is to discipline their children. 
I say that unequivocally without any hesitation. Can I get a witness??

It has been a pretty tough couple of weeks here in our home. 
Tough because we have one of the best daughters in the world. 
And she rarely messes up, but when she does it catches us so off guard that we have one of those "who are you and what have you done with my daughter" moments. 

Tough because she's so mature that when we do have to mete out discipline, she accepts it. Doesn't argue. Doesn't cry. Doesn't try to bargain. 
She just accepts it and gets on with the business of being her. 
And she obeys it. Which is really surprising - because I'm here to tell ya' that her Momma didn't always.....
But those are stories for another post. 

Two weeks ago, we had to get her attention, pretty quickly. So we are temporarily holding over her head the only thing we had left that would do it. 
And she broke. Huge, gasping sobs and the biggest tears I'd ever seen. I'd never seen her react that way to a punishment and it just about broke me with every shake of her shoulders. 
Sometimes though, and you know it's true, is that it just has to be done. 
The hardest part for us has been sticking to it. 
In fact, I just want to tell her never mind, we'll find something else because she's being amazing - all the while the angst is eating her up inside, just making her miserable.
But I know we can't rescind what we are promising to do because, well, then the trust that she has in us would erode - ever so slightly, but it would. And we can't risk that. 

Because if a child needs anything, it's to know that they can trust their parents word. That when they say something, they mean it - even if it's discipline. 
Discipline is Tough Love. 

Just like it's breaking my heart to take the Tough Love stand with my daughter, I know that when God disciplines us, it breaks His heart too. 

But, because God LOVES us so much, He doesn't hesitate to get our attention with discipline when it's called for. 
He has promised it in His word. "The Lord disciplines the one He LOVES."
And what He promises, He keeps. 
It's why we TRUST Him. Because He always keeps His word, even when it hurts His heart. 

Which means we can always trust in His great LOVE for us. He'll never do anything to contradict Himself. He'll never play false with you. 
And His discipline leads us closer to the life He has planned for us. 

With a Courageous Heart, 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Love"ly Thoughts - Day 6 - He Showers us With His Love

"I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain." Psalms 143:6

I typically dislike rainy days. I'm really a sunshine and blue skies kind of girl. 
Rainy days have always depressed me and made me feel blue. I'm the one who's always looking for that tiny patch of blue sky that breaks up the clouds and reminds us that the sun is up there - somewhere.
But, consider this. The LOVE that God has for us is so like the rain. 

It can be: 
gentle and warm 
a steady downpour
a refreshing shower
soaking us through

and sometimes, it leaves a scent behind that reminds us that there is always a fresh start. 
A new beginning. 
Another sunny day ahead. 

His LOVE rains down and washes away the past. 
It nourishes us and cleanses us and refreshes us. 

He showers us with His LOVE. 
He is our blue sky.

With a Courageous Heart,

Friday, January 18, 2013

"Love"ly Thoughts - Day 5 - A Father's Love

"Now let your unfailing love comfort me, just as you promised me..." Psalms 119:76

I wish you could see what I see right now. 
I'm sitting in my favorite chair in the corner as I write and I'm looking at the most wonderful scene. 
My husband is sitting with my daughter on the couch . She's snuggled up under his arm and resting her head on his shoulder. Cuddled up as close as she can get to him. And I know she can feel his strength, his solidity. And it comforts her.
It's the kind of thing that makes me just melt, watching the two of them together. 

She needed her Daddy tonight. 
Even at age 15, when life should be pretty carefree and simple, things can get a little complicated. A little hard to figure out. 
And for girls especially, all the emotions of being a 15 year old sometimes make you feel like you've been hit by a truck. 

Most of the time, she and I are the ones having the heart to heart talks. She opens up to me and shares her heart and her dreams and her plans. And I know, I'm lucky. 
Believe it or not, she still loves us and isn't afraid to show it or be seen with us, or best of all, spend time with us. 
And she still thinks that I'm her best friend. 
Yes, she really does. 

But sometimes, a girl just needs her Daddy, and today is definitely one of those days. 
They're just sitting there, watching a tv show that they enjoy together. And it's enough for her, just to know he's close and to feel how much he loves her. 

That's a perfect picture of the Heavenly Father's great love for us. 
His unfailing LOVE that comforts us on the days when we just need our Daddy to hold us close. God yearns for us to call on him for comfort because He wants nothing more than to draw us close so we can experience how overwhelming His LOVE is for us. 

Even on our worst days. 
Even when we're wound up so tight we don't feel like loving Him back. 
Especially when we don't deserve it. 

God has promised to love us with an unchanging, unfailing, everlasting LOVE. 
Don't ever hesitate to crawl up in His lap. 
He's calling to you friend, right when you need Him most. 

With a Courageous Heart, 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Love"ly Thoughts - Day 4 - I Am the Clay

" Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." - Philippians 4:8

"As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand." - Jeremiah 18:6b
It's days like today that remind me that I am most definitely still clay in the potter's hand. Still being formed, shaped, molded into more of Christ's likeness. 

These days leading up to Valentine's Day I've dedicated to writing about love in 32 different ways we find in the Bible. 
"Love"ly Thoughts. 
Ya know, it sounded really good at the time - (Lord, I'm doing what you asked of me, but I'm having a hard time today following through.). 

So, what happens when you have a day that seems to be full of un-lovely thoughts? 

I began my day in God's word, reading from Philippians, one of my favorite books. 
I read a chapter from a John Piper book I'm enjoying and I even journaled. 
You'd think I'd have my batteries recharged pretty good to get me through the day, right? 

Umm, not so much. 
It's been hard to stay focused on good stuff today - I've been assaulted by the negative at every turn and I know you can relate - that's really tough to take. 
And yes, it can happen even when you started your day right where you're supposed to. 

So, what's a girl to do? 

Well, one of the beautiful things about living a redeemed life is that we have only to remember what God has told us in His word. That's the whole point of reading His love letter to us - to store it in our hearts and heads so we can CHOOSE to recall it's truths when our thoughts turn to the negative. 

Our thought life is truly a CHOICE - and yes, what we dwell on completely affects our direction and disposition. 
Believe it. 

Today, when I was angered, frustrated and irritated at the things that crossed my path, I wish I could tell you that I immediately turned to "what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely". 
I didn't. 

But the good news is that when I got a grip - I remembered these precious words from Philippians and the God who breathed them. 
And because He chose to LOVE me so very much, He just wrapped me up in His arms and whispered truth in my ear. 

There is nothing lovlier than that.   

With a Courageous Heart,

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Love"ly Thoughts - Day 3

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike."  Matthew 5:43 - 48

Today's truth is a tough one for me and honestly, it's a pride issue. 
Every time. 

I like to argue with God on this one - 

"But, they hurt my feelings."

"They are so unfair."

"I don't deserve to be treated that way."

"How can I love them Lord? They'll never change."

And that's precisely the point. Loving your enemies doesn't always change them - sometimes yes, God works a miracle in those relationships - but Loving your enemies isn't meant to change them. 

It's meant to change you. 
All of us who, because of our hurt pride dare to assume for even a moment that the person who hurt you doesn't deserve grace. 

Christ died for ALL of us. 
That means the un-lovely, the un-graceful, the spiteful, the mean-spirited, the jealous, the bullies. 

Maybe we are called to love our enemies because somehow they've never known a kind word, a caring thought, an open heart that really accepts them for who they are. It's true you know, that old saying "hurting people, hurt people." 

Yes, it's hard, this "loving your enemies". Showing kindness and a loving attitude to those who everyone else would say don't deserve it. Very hard. 

But so was dying on a cross.  

With a Courageous Heart,

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Love"ly Thoughts - Day 2

"...your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth." Psalms 26:3

That road looks pretty long, doesn't it? 

It's going to take those tiny legs a very long time to reach the end - that is, it would if she were walking alone. 
But she's not, and neither are we.

I think one of God's best promises to us is that He is always with us. 
This verse says that His LOVE is ever before us. 
He's holding the road map of our lives in his hands. 

What a beautiful thought - that He loves us SO much that He has not only planned out every detail of our lives, but goes before us like the ultimate GPS.  I guess you'd call that God's Positioning System. Umm...yeah.

Listen, I don't know about you, but sometimes my roads get pretty long. 
They are full of muddy holes and rocks and tin cans and sometimes a cowpie or two. 
I feel a lot like the sweet girl in the photo, just putting one foot in front of the other. Trudging along focusing on the ground in front of me. Trying not to step in anything.
And that's where I go wrong. 

See, the second part of this verse, this awesome promise, is "I walk continually in your truth"
Uh....that means I need to stay in His word, the Bible, the roadmap. That's what it's there for you know. To guide us in His will for our lives. It's full of evidence of His LOVE for us, yet we by-pass it so often for the latest self-help book. The hippest devotional study by a young, relevant, cool pastor. The quickie e-mail daily devotional. All to save us time or keep us relevant. 
In case you wondered, God's word is ALWAYS relevant. And it's never a waste of time to read it.

Funny how on the days that I take time to just read my Bible - no organized study, no devotional to guide me - just me and my dog-eared and much underlined copy of God's word, my steps on the long road are so much easier to take. That road is much smoother and there aren't so very many cowpies either. 

Because His LOVE is ever before us, when we take the time to continually walk in His truth, he can show us the right direction to follow. 

Rest in that truth today.

With a Courageous Heart, 

Monday, January 14, 2013

32 Days of "Love"ly Thoughts

Welcome back friends! 
I took a bit of a break over Christmas and due to some unexpected events in our family life, my break was extended longer than I'd anticipated. All is well - just in case you wondered - but God most definitely had some ideas of His own about my schedule over the past few weeks!
Ah, the best laid plans, right? 

"Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

God's word never lacks for wisdom, does it?

Even though my days have been full, there has still been so much on my heart that I've wanted to share with you all. Seems like every day God challenges me with another issue that just stirs me to my soul. 
Here's a few of the things I've been pondering: 

Religious Freedom
Gun Control
Measuring Success

I KNOW! That's quite a list I've got there, but God is not silent and I'm certainly not going to shy away from a controversial topic if He calls me to share His truth regarding it. 

Life's about to get pretty interesting around the Courageous Heart blog - hope you've got your seatbelt on!

For now, I want to tell you about what you'll be reading over the next 32 days. 
I'm very excited to do this - it's a challenge in a way, but it will be an amazing month as we focus on one of God's greatest attributes - His LOVE for us.

Did you know that in just 32 short days we celebrate Valentine's Day? 
Arguably one of the best excuses to eat chocolate in our whole calendar year. 
I mean, really - what's Valentine's Day without chocolate?

Oh yes, and there's that love thing too. 
Hey! I love chocolate - does that count? 

Ok, sorry, I'll re-focus now. Chocolate is my 'squirrel'. You'll get that reference if you've seen the Disney movie "Up". 
Alright, really, I'll re-focus now.

Over the next 32 days - beginning today - I'll be sharing 32 Days of "Love"ly Thoughts
One each day up until Valentine's Day. 

According to, the Bible has 698 references to "Love" (NIV 1984 version)

That's a LOT about love. 
Way more than those advice books you can find in your local Barnes and Noble (no offense to them). 

I figure that if God wrote about LOVE 698 times in His word, then it's pretty important for us to read it and live it, don't you think? 
There are a lot of examples of un-lovely behavior and words in our world today, so perhaps focusing on 32 things God has to say on the subject will help change at least the world within our arms reach. 
If we are close enough to reach out and hug those around us, we are close enough to show them love.

So let's start here with one of the greatest promises in all of God's word.

 Jeremiah 31:3. 
"I have loved you with an EVERLASTING love." 

It's what we all long for deep down - someone to love us for ALL TIME. 
And check it out - this verse begins with the past tense - "I HAVE loved". 
Meaning that God loves us now, has ALWAYS loved us and wait for it......

He ALWAYS will. 

Rest in that promise today. 

With a Courageous Heart,