Love One Another

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“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

We recognize people by their uniforms, identify people by their badges, and classify people by their actions. As followers of Christ, love is our uniform. It’s our badge, our mark of affiliation. Love is the driving force behind our actions, the effectiveness of our skills. Love is our testimony to the world that we belong to Jesus.

Yet, loving others can be difficult! I believe Jesus knew just how difficult it would be. Of all the things He could have said during his last hours on earth, some of his final instructions to his disciples were to believe and to love. Believe and love, two actions with supernatural characteristics, difficult to measure, and cultivated by effort and perseverance.

Four times, Jesus uses the word “love” in these verses. It makes me wonder if He repeated the word so it would make its way from our short-term memories into the long-term memories of our hearts. Love is an expression of the heart and sometimes expressions of love baffle our minds. The depth and cost of Jesus’s love is astonishing. He loved us so much that He sacrificed his life for ours and that is an overwhelming truth. It was the greatest expression of love. A love that redeemed us, restored relationship with God, and granted us freedom that set us free. It is in this love, He calls us to love one another.

On our own, loving others can be difficult. When abide in Him and believe in His trustworthy words, He supernaturally provides what is needed through His Holy Spirit, so others can know and experience forgiveness, grace, and love too.

This Easter weekend, how can we love others well? How can we live out love like Jesus? And how can we wear love as our a uniform, as a badge, so that others would know we belong to Him?


A Small Role in the Greatest Story

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Kings came to towns with proclamation and grand processions of their riches, power, and splendor. Yet, Jesus, the King of Kings, chose a donkey for his entry. A young, humble donkey, never ridden before, specifically chosen by Jesus (Mark 11:3). A donkey born for purpose- to work and serve a master. What an honor and task this young donkey was given, to carry the King, through a crowd of joyful people waving palm branches and praising the Lord. Jesus came through Jerusalem in a humble way, to proclaim peace and love, to serve, to seek and save the lost. Ultimately, Jesus came to give his life for the penalty of our sins so that we may be restored in right relationship with our Heavenly Father and so we can experience the forgiveness, freedom, and love that comes with trusting in Him.

The donkey had a small, specific role in the grand love story of Christ.  We have roles in His story too. As followers of Christ,  we are born with purpose, chosen specifically by Jesus to serve in His name. We are carriers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we are to deliver His message of hope and love through our words and actions. Yet, some of us are still tied to the post outside the door (Mark 11:4). Tied up by our fears, insecurities, doubts, and exhaustion. Tied with things holding us back from fully living, freely serving, and fervently loving.

Let me remind you, you have been chosen.

You have been chosen to be the mother or father of your children. You have been chosen to be a friend to another. You have been chosen to be in the right place, at the right time. You have been chosen to lead and love well. You have been chosen to feed and clothe the hungry. You have been chosen as an ambassador of peace and proclaimer of love. You have what it takes because He chose you and He believes in you!

This Passion Week, I am praying we rediscover the passion and purpose of our callings in our lives. I’m praying we refocus our gaze on Jesus, seek Him out, ask Him for help in all circumstances and free us from the things that keep us bound. On Sunday morning, I pray we will praise Him as a large crowd of  people who truly, deeply know what it means to be forgiven and loved. And I pray we will embrace our roles with fullness of joy and peace of heart knowing we have a role in His story.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:16

Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26–29.

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11


Paralyzed in Fear or Reenergized in Faith- A Reminder and Charge to Followers of Jesus

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In light of the news coming out of Texas yesterday and this morning, I wrote these words to my sisters at Centerpoint Sisterhood but I feel they are relevant and appropriate to all followers of Jesus. As a community of believers, we all need to be reminder of God’s promises and His Sovereignty. If you are a follower of Christ, I hope these words will be encouraging to you too. And please know I pray for you! I pray the words I write would be helpful, uplifting, and encouraging in your lives and in your journey of faith and that they find their way to those who could use them. If you have questions of faith, my message box is always open. God Bless you and yours! 

Dear Sister,
It seems as if every day there is a new story. A heartbreaking, devastating story of senseless evil and violence, but I encourage you to take heart! He has overcome the world! Jesus knew these things would take place and He gave us His words in John 16:33. Words for times like these. When things make no sense in logical ways, when it seems easier to place the blame on policies and illnesses and motives, when the darkness seems to have won, remember He has already won! He has overcome and He reigns! He is sovereign over all things.

In these times, look for the good. Look for God’s grace and His glory. Do not be paralyzed in fear but reenergized in faith. The enemy wants us stopped cold in our tracks, he wants people to be fearful to walk into churches, scared to gather in Jesus’s name. But we will not be stopped!

We will continue to gather, continue to serve, and continue to praise and lift high the name of Jesus!! And we will be women of prayer! We will pray, pray, and pray!!! Pray for the victims families, pray for those who are suffering, pray for all those who are lost, pray for our community, pray for the world, pray for peace, and for God’s strength to continue to do the work he has started in us for His glory.

I am praying for you today. Praying that the Lord would give you spiritual sight to see the truth and see the spiritual battle at hand. I’m praying you would put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. I’m praying that the Lord’s would give you courage and strength so you can step forward in faith. I’m praying you would find time to dedicate to prayer and time to rejoice in the fact that our God is not in the bit surprised by any of this and that He is sovereign over all things. I am praying for you, for peace and comfort and that you will shine brightly for the Lord in a darkened world. Go! Serve and love others in Jesus’s name!

With love , your sister, Shanna xo


Circles of People, Circles of Prayer

 

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It was Thursday night. It had been a long, good week but I was tired. On top of our usual routine busyness, there had been a MOPS meeting to prepare for and a Sisterhood message to finish. I had just finished making dinner and I was craving some moments to myself. To my kids delight, I let them eat their dinner on trays in front of the TV. The sound of Miles from Tomorrowland and quiet kids gave me some peaceful moments to take a deep breath and strategize my next steps. I could only manage to think one step ahead and doing the dishes seemed like the next logical thing to do.

I stood at the kitchen sink and sighed over the mountain of dishes. The dishes were not going to get done by staring and sighing so I began to scrub and circle the dishes clean. The warm, soapy water became a salve to my weariness. And as I scrubbed, I became overwhelmed. So overwhelmed, I began to weep. This was a different “overwhelmed” than I have become accustomed to. Not the overwhelmed by busyness or by my to-do list or by expectations, but overwhelmed with deep gratitude for my life and the people in it.

Right there in my kitchen, in the quietness of my heart, memories came back to me so clearly I felt as if they were present time. One by one they came. I could smell things, feel things, and see details of things I had forgotten. I was with people who have long gone to be with Jesus.

I was a little girl standing in the church kitchen, looking up into the faces of a circle of kind, older women. The women were smiling, chatting over their work of cleaning up the communion cups. They welcomed me in their space and allowed me to eat the leftover communion crackers. I felt accepted and safe.

I was a little girl sitting in an oversized metal folding chair among a circle of other folding chairs placed around the small living room of my childhood home. Each chair was filled by a Godly man or woman. Some held hymnals and others large, beautifully tabbed Bibles in their laps. Their songs of praise beautiful. Their prayers powerful. I felt accepted and safe. 

I was a preteen kneeling on the rug in my parent’s friends living room, not quite happy that all my other friends were out at the movies and I was at a Bible study. Regardless of my inside-ungrateful-attitudes-struggles, I was still still in the circle and I listened to God’s word be discussed and life struggles shared. I felt accepted and safe.  

I was reminded of the countless times my parents had us hold hands around the kitchen table. This happened with whoever was joining us for dinner, when we needed the Lords’s guidance, or when we were praying for someone who needed prayer. I felt accepted and safe.

Circles of people, circles of prayers. Accepted and safe. 

These were the people my parents chose to surround me with. Faithful, Jesus-loving, people who seeked God with all their heart. These were people who let me sit at their feet, invited me into their discussions, welcomed me to participate, let me ask my questions, and loved me through my attitudes and seasons of growing up.

They were not perfect people. They struggled with life. They went through trials. Some of them lost their way. But these are the people who God used to shape my life. These are the people whose stories and testimonies shaped how I saw God and Jesus. These are the people who have prayed circles in and around my life.  Prayers I am just starting to see answers to. These are the people who I wept to God in gratitude and thanksgiving over.

Somehow, the dishes seemed to get done quicker than I thought. I lingered in the memories as long as I could. I didn’t want to leave. But the call of “Mommmm!!!!” brought me to my next task. I wiped the tears from my eyes and heading into the living room to fulfill some random request. The feeling of overwhelming gratitude remained.

I want my children to have what I had. I want to leave a legacy like my parents have left for me. I want my children to grow up in circles of Godly men and women. To be able to sit at Jesus-loving people’s feet, invited into conversations about faith, feel safe enough to ask questions, sing songs of praises and embrace their part and purpose of the Kingdom of God. I want my children in circles of imperfect people who know they need Jesus, where powerful prayers are prayed, where life struggles are prayed through, where testimonies of God’s faithfulness are declared.

Circle of people, circles of prayers. Where they feel accepted and safe. 

As I write this, I am overwhelmed and weep again. This time for the people currently in our life. Our faithful parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters. Our Godly friends. Our intergenerational church family whom I love so much. People who have graciously given us room to grow in our faith and have come alongside us, encouraging us in our parenting and leadership, and loving us unconditionally. People who have welcomed our kids at their tables, fed them, watched over them, given them smiles and a hugs, invited them into prayer circles and to join them in singing songs of praise. Imperfect, Godly men and women, who know they need Jesus, who pray circles around them and encourage them with their words.

Circle of people, circles of prayers. Accepted and safe.   

 


Questions?

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For those who are brokenhearted. For Vegas. For those grieving losses of all kinds. For those struggling to find hope through difficult seasons. For those living through unimaginable situations. For those who are navigating through the uncharted territories of life. For everyone, every day with big and little questions. Questions are okay and answers are not always on-demand. Sometimes our whys do not get answered. Sometimes injustice, evil, and fear seem to have won. They do not win and will not win. Love wins. Love overcomes. Love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18)

Lift your eyes and heart heavenward, trust in the One who overcame death, do not rely on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), and pray! Pray your honest, heart-wrenching, questioning prayers. Cast your cares and worries on Jesus. Find rest and refuge in Him. Jesus knows what suffering, agony, and grief feels like and He has the power to mend broken hearts and redeem lives. Pray for one another. Come alongside one another. Help carry each other’s burdens. Love one another. Be bold in faith and bring it all to Him.

 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;

    he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Psalm 34:18 (NLT)

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

John 14:1 (NLT)

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

John 14:27 (NLT)

 But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

1 John 4:4 (NLT)

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

John 16:33 (NLT)

 


“Shanna, Shanna”

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Our days are filled with urgent and important things vying for our attention. Within the day’s whirlwind of busyness, it’s easy to focus on the urgent and lose sight of the important. It can be a struggle to favor crossing items off our to-do lists to spending unscheduled amounts of quality time with people. It can be difficult, feel uncomfortable, and might seem plain impossible to stop and rest. We have become tightly scheduled and overbooked. White spaces on our calendars are a rare find.
 
And I can be the worst culprit. If I am not intentional, my pace of life can be all consuming and exhausting. I can easily fall into the race of rushing from task to task, place to place, activity to activity. Instead, I want my life to be one of making time for others, resting in my surroundings, finding beauty in the quietest places, and tuning out the voices of the world to focus on hearing His voice. I want my legacy to include, “She made time for others and she loved well.”
 
It’s true, tasks, meetings, errands and chores need to get done but not at the expense of the quiet, more meaningful, and important things in life. There needs to be a balance.
 
This is a real, age-old struggle. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus enters the home of a woman named Martha. “Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
 
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
 
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
 
Just replace, “Martha, Martha” with your name and read it again- “Shanna, Shanna, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”
 
It grabs your attention, doesn’t it? If that one thing Mary was doing was stopping, listening, and resting at the feet of Jesus, I think following her example would be the best thing we can do today. I want to challenge you to take a few minutes to reevaluate today’s activities and give more attention and focus to the quiet, important things in your life. Relationships, people, listening, cheerfully helping, joyfully serving, answering with kindness- those types of things. I think we will find the urgent things are not as urgent as we thought they would be and the important things are more important and needed than what we thought. Have a great day! ❤

Walking the Way of the Cross

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Good Friday was a good Friday indeed! For the last couple of years our family has joined with members of other churches in our community for a walk down Main Street. We take turns carrying a big wooden cross, singing hymns, stopping along the way to pray for businesses and places of importance in our community.

It’s a time when denominational lines are crossed. Methodists, Catholics, Baptists, Congregationalists, non-denominationalists come together to remember and thank Jesus for His great sacrifice. The focus is on Jesus and our community.

As I followed the cross, watched people take turns carrying it, listened to the happy chatting and the singing around me, and joined in prayer for our town and our neighbors, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with love and peace. When Jesus walked the earth, He lived in community. He created community. He loves community.

Through His suffering and great sacrifice on the cross He became The Way for us to have community and relationship with Him and The Father. When He went to Heaven, He gave us the Holy Spirit as a guide, a helper, to have community with Him. And He left us with a whole community of other believers and followers of Jesus to work together in Kingdom work and provide encouragement for each other.

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This is the community I witnessed yesterday and one I have experienced in my own life. When my burdens have been too much to bear, my sisters and brothers have held me up in prayer and have come alongside me with truth and encouragement. When prayers have been answered, they have celebrated and thanked God with me. When others have crosses of pain, regret, loneliness, suffering and grief, the community of Christ should come alongside to help each bear their crosses. Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” And when prayers have been answered and hope and love reigns in a situation, we need to be celebrating and praising God together.

Together, in our town, the community and body of Christ are praying and celebrating. We are praying for the peace, love, and the hope that comes from Jesus to shine through us so brightly that others will want to join in community with Him. We are celebrating hope, the blessings, and answers of prayers that chains have been broken and the lost that have been found.

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I am eternally grateful to Jesus for what He has done for me. And I am incredibly thankful I live in a place where churches can come together and we can express our views openly.  I know that others around the world do not have this “luxury” and for them and other communities of believers I am praying for safety and strength. Happy Easter weekend! Peace and grace be with you!