Stop Looking For Encouragement and Start Offering It Instead

 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you….(Eph 6:22).

Someone out there needs encouragement. I don’t know about you, but I love encouragement. I love it when people offer it to me. Wrongfully, I almost expect them to.
I think this reveals something about my heart that is still growing and changing. Although there’s nothing wrong with being blessed by encouragement, it is never wise to place such high expectations on others. It’s as if we’re looking to people to remind us that we’re OK and that we are enough. Truly, the only person who can satisfy us with true encouragement that fills the soul is the Lord Jesus Christ.
If no encouragement is offered to you by someone on this earth, be reminded that the Holy Spirit, that dwells inside of you is always seeking to encourage you. Truly, you can drink from a well that never runs dry for your thirsty soul. Sometimes, when I’m looking for encouragement from others and don’t get it, I have to stop myself and go looking for my Father. As I sit myself down at the shores of His great love, I am filled to the brim with the goodness and encouragement of my Father.
Although the Spirit reassures us, this doesn’t dismiss us from offering encouragement to others. Since we’re often looking for encouragement instead of offering it we miss out on great opportunity to bless someone else. Truly, this kind of blessing is far better than always receiving the praise we’re looking for.
I wonder then, who you can be an encouragement to today? Who can you serve, not expecting anything in return, but truly, out of a desire to simply be a blessing? I’ve got a few people in mind and I’ll start by asking the Lord how I can bless them today, in Jesus name.
Abba, I want to live my life as a blessing. Although I love encouragement, I don’t need it to keep living in how you’ve made me. Truly, your Spirit encourages me if I’m willing to drink from the well of living water that lives inside of me. May my cup run over with that kind of love bursting inside of me, in Jesus name, Amen.

Every Man Needs to Hear, “You Have What It Takes”

and the wife must respect her husband….. (Eph 5:33).

Yesterday, during the many times when I wanted to speak, the Lord told me, “Heather, keep your mouth closed. Your husband has what it takes.”
As I sat there for two hours in the AutoZone parking lot with my husband as he struggled and wrestled through hooking up a converter on the truck and trailer we were borrowing something inside of me kept saying, “He’s going to figure this out.”
Since I know my husband, I know how much grit he has when it comes to figuring things out he’s never done before. I’ve watched him strain and struggle through multiple projects around the house as he’s put his very best towards accomplishing something so frustrating that most people would have given up and given in. I know I would have given up on that truck and trailer yesterday. But, my husband didn’t and at that moment, my role to play was as his helpmate, lifting him up and supporting him, allowing him to just do his thing.
Sometimes, as wives, and just as people in general, we get in the way of letting people figure things out and be who God has created them to be. We feel the need to insert our own “help” or opinion and end up discouraging them instead of uplifting them. It’s hard for us to sit on the ground at AutoZone for two hours, saying nothing, but “how can I help?” It’s a whole lot easier to say, “Just give up, this thing just isn’t going to work.” But, doesn’t that speak to a man that he doesn’t have what it takes? Every man needs to know, whether it’s his wife, mother, friend or sister, that he has what it takes.
There came a moment when my husband said, “I just can’t do this. I’m done. I don’t know what to do.” And for the first time, I felt the Lord’s grace to say to him, “You did your very best.” It would have been so easy to say, “I’m really disappointed. Now how are we going to pick up all that furniture?”
Don’t you see, so much of life isn’t about getting things the way we want it, like furniture on the day we were hoping to pick it up. It’s about coming alongside people, supporting, loving and encouraging them to become their very best in how God has shaped and wired them. Sometimes, that means supporting people through struggle and failure. It means that we must always be willing and prepared to say, “I’m still so proud of you and I still believe in you,” and show it through our words and actions.
Trust me when I say that I have not always been this wife. In fact, I’ve been the exact opposite. It took me a long time to figure out how to truly listen to the Lord and keep my mouth shut. Now, because of it, I got to see the Lord work through my husband as I learned to take a back seat and play the life-giving role of an encourager. Thankfully, my husband didn’t give up but kept plowing forward and finished the job. I knew he would.
Lord, help us all to be people who lift one another up and now tear each other day. Help us not to speak discouraging words when it could be so easy to do. Forgive us when we make life all about us. Help us now to have grace for our loved ones and to be their support system, in Jesus name, Amen.

Disarming the Enemy

Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord… (Eph 5:19).

Audible singing has a way of disarming the enemy. I can recall, not long ago, in deep anguish, and pain how I would sing to the Lord. It was the only way I could free my thoughts and mental worries. Truly, it was God’s way of soothing my broken heart. As I sang to Him, I sensed His goodness near to me and His heart wrap around me.
You see, the enemy loves to sing songs into our hearts as well. If we are not careful, they will become the ones we allow ourselves to listen to on repeat. They sing dreadful melodies of doubt, discouragement, and despair. They joust against us, seeking to steal our joy and confidence in Christ.
Can I be really honest? I don’t always sing the songs of God into my heart. More often than not, I sing the songs of doubt, discouragement, and fear, but I want to sing the songs of praise that disarm the enemy and sing of my victory in Christ.
God is always waiting for us to choose praise. He simply waits for us to come to Him with praise. When we do, His mercy floods our hearts and minds as we meet Him there at the crossroads of doubt and faith. As the song of the enemy intersects with the songs of our Father, the Heavenly Hosts sing louder and their praise shouts forth of the beautiful victories of God in our life.
So wherever life has brought you today, sing songs of praise. Truly, this is where your victory is found, in the middle of the songs of your Father whose heart is for you and whose mercy is endless.
Lord, I want to sing songs of endless praise. Songs that set you up as the true king of my heart. Truly, you are a good, loving and mighty God. I have this joy in my heart and singing unlocks that joy, so let my heart sing forever of your love, in Jesus name, Amen.

Exposure is Scary….But it Disarms the Enemy

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them…(Eph 5:11).

Exposure is scary, isn’t it? Opening up about our struggles and our pain is never easy, but when do step out in courage to share a part of our story that is less than desirable, we begin to find healing for our souls. Yes, this is when our lives collide with God’s grace so that His life starts to become formed in us with ever increasing glory.
We cannot shine very brightly for God if we are unwilling to bring the darkness we wrestle with out into the light. Yet, if we are willing to do so, we find that the darkness within us becomes disarmed as we surrender to the light.
I know this to be true, because, in dealing with my husband I feel closest to him when he is shares something vulnerable with me. I feel like he trusts me and knows that I will receive him with love and so when he shares it makes our relationship grow. But, every time he closes himself off and doesn’t let me in I never sense that we are moving closer towards one another. I always sense a disconnection.
The same goes in our walks with God as we journey together with other believers in the body of Christ. Until we are willing to open up about ourselves, our struggles and our mistakes, we will stall our growth in Christ and our victory over the lies of the enemy.
The enemy knows how to deal with us, keeping us from bringing things into the light. He’ll convince us that we should be ashamed of ourselves, it’s not safe to share this with anyone and if others found out they would completely reject us. These are lies. There are those within the body of Christ who understand their own need for grace and they too will receive you with it, if you would be so bold to share.
Lord, help me to live fully transparent before others, because I want to grow. I want the lies of the enemy to be disarmed in my life so they don’t hold power over me anymore, in Jesus name, Amen.

Learning to Let Go of the Expectations of Others to See Jesus

we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ…(Eph 4:15).

The head of the church is Christ. The one I should be looking to for guidance, direction, joy, and purpose, but if I could be quite honest, He is not the head I look to the most. My mind tends to get locked on the faces and expectations of people. This stifles my ability to hear clearly from the Lord, because of the names, faces, and requests of others that seem to fill my heart more often than my love for wanting to simply do what pleases God.
I know that I truly want to honor God the most, but whenever my heart drifts towards pleasing people and gets focused on their faces instead of His, it’s hard for me to live fully alive in the person of Jesus. Jesus becomes a person in the background, instead of my closest friend. His headship in my life is replaced with the desire to please other people. These talking heads always have lots of opinions, which steer my heart away from being centered and focused on God.
Amongst the noise and clatter of the expectations of others, we must take time to simply be still before our Father to hear clearly from Him. This requires solitude and rest and intentionality to keep our gaze fixed upon Him.
So much of my life has been lived to please other people. I have seen the face of my Father very little in my heart and mind, but I want to see Him and be led by His grace. I want His headship in my life to be what directs my path and holds me close to Him.
Lord, be my hiding place. Be my joy and delight. Be the one I fix my gaze upon. Jesus, awaken my soul. I long to be close to you, Amen.

I Lied to My Husband….Then…I Tried to Approach God and Couldn’t….

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence…. (Eph 3:12).

Before we can be honest with God, truly honest with Him, we must first be honest with others.
This morning as I was preparing to spend time in the word the Lord convicted me about a little white lie I told my husband this morning. I didn’t follow through on something I said I would do and so when he asked me about it, I panicked and changed the story. In the moment, it felt fine to twist the story a little bit so I could save face, but later on, as I went to approach God I realized that I had to be honest with my husband before I could come before God in full confidence.
So I called my husband and confessed my little white lie. I understood that the reason why I didn’t tell the truth was because of a lack of trust. I didn’t trust that I would be received with love and so I changed the story to avoid what I feared.
How often do we do this with others? We fear we won’t be welcomed with love and so we twist, manipulate and make things up so that we don’t look bad to other people. Yet, trust cannot grow unless we’re willing to walk through growing moments with others. The kind of moments when we admit our failures, they do the same and we offer grace, understanding and love for one another. When we grow with others, through honesty and love, we become more bonded together in the body of Christ. The longer we try to hide our screw ups and shortcomings the further we stray from unity.
Sometimes honesty hurts and it makes us look bad. Quite simply because we have to show a part of ourselves to someone else that isn’t perfect. A part of us that has shortcomings, flaws and imperfections.
What I have learned over the years though is that honesty really is the best policy, because most people, unless they are puffed up and prideful appreciate someone who is wiling to admit their mistakes and shortcomings, because they know they have plenty of their own. So if things don’t feel right between you and God, maybe its because things aren’t right between you and someone else. It could be time to start being honest about the places you need to go with others that at first might make you look bad, but in the end could lead towards building and establishing greater trust with one another.
Lord, I want to be honest before others, so that I can come before you in full confidence. Help me to live in your grace so I can love others well, point them to you and live knowing that I don’t have to be perfect. Help me to live that grace today, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

When My Insecurity Tries to Convince Me I Just Don’t Belong….

 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household…(Eph 2:19).

Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong? Like maybe you were too different, too uncool or that you didn’t have things all together so there wasn’t a place for you? Yeah, I’ve felt that way too.
Mainly because I’ve allowed shame to whisper something into my heart that just isn’t true. Although it is true that some people try to keep us away through their own controlling behaviors, it is more likely that we are keeping ourselves away because of something wrong we believe about ourselves.
In fact, just yesterday, my heart and mind were swimming with thoughts of, “if you don’t operate this way, you’re not going to fit in here, you won’t be wanted, so you need to conform to this standard.” Quite frankly, that standard was something that had been shaping in my mind overtime through fear and doubt. I was doubting my calling and my security in Christ. By leaning into fear, I allowed my thoughts to carry me away into a place of shame.
Shame is a prison, set up to keep us from our true freedom in Christ. It shackles us from truly being able to live in how God has made us. Once we let go of shame, we can finally start to live fully alive in the person of Jesus who lives inside of us. We can grow and become not who we believe others want us to be, but who God is shaping us into through Christ.
I wish I could say with full certainty, “I don’t care what people think of me!” But, honestly, I’m just not fully there yet. I hope to be someday, but in the meantime, I’ll keep clinging to the grace, truth and mercy of Christ to find freedom for my own soul.
Lord, I trust and believe that you are good. I know that I have a true treasure in you. I know that I have been made new by your love. I don’t have to fear or doubt. I can live free from shame. I can dance in your love that sings over me, in Jesus name, Amen.

Failure To Act

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love…(Gal 5:6).

The other day I posted something on my wall about a woman who had experienced some hurt within the church after her divorce. Based upon the response to this post it became very obvious to me there are many others who have experienced similar pain, including myself.
Many have dealt with feeling rejected, forgotten, left alone or even abandoned by the church. Unfortunately, these are commonplace when the church is full of selfish people who are just like me.
There have been numerous occasions when I have thought to myself, “I should really call that person,” or “I should do something for them,” but then I don’t. It’s easy to look at our church hurt and get mad at the people who didn’t serve us the way we would have hoped. It takes a lot more effort to look within our own selves and ask the hard question of, “When have I not helped when someone was hurting?”
Trust me when I say that our selfishness and inaction has played a part in someone else’s feelings of rejection or abandonment. I’m certain this is true. The very fact that I’ve sat around and thought about how hurt I was only revealed that the biggest problem in the church was not the other people who didn’t serve or love me, but my inability to look past my own selfish needs and hurt to serve someone else.
Yes, until we start with the person we look at in the mirror every day and deal honestly with our issues of selfishness we will never move to be a church that looks outside of ourselves to care for hurting people.
Lord, I want to serve others as you would. Forgive me for the selfishness that keeps me stuck on my own pain. Help me to look past my pain to see others who are hurting. Jesus, grant me the courage to act when I see that others are bleeding from within. I want to be an agent of change through your love, in Jesus name, Amen.

Welcome Others Into Your Life To Speak Hard Truths…If You Don’t You’ll Stall Your Growth in Christ

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?… (Gal 4:16).

Have you ever spoken the truth in love to someone only to have them shut you out and turn you away? I have.
Have you ever had someone speak the truth to you and you’ve done the very same thing? Turning your back away from them because your heart was too hard and stubborn to receive what they had to say? Yeah, that’s definitely been me too.
I have learned, over the years that the heart in need of the most change is my own. It’s not “those people” or “those Christians” who just can’t seem to get it together, but it’s my own heart that is in need of God’s transformative love. You see, when I embrace this reality I’ll be much more likely to welcome people into my life to speak hard truths that I need to hear instead of surrounding myself with people who just tell me what I want to hear.
Have you ever sat in a church service thinking, “This is my time to impress other people, I’ve got to look good so people see how great I am at following Jesus.” Maybe that’s just been me, but if you’re anything like me, you’ve put up a facade to try and keep up an image to protect yourself from fully being known. Being fully known means exposing the true you. The person with flaws, insecurities, fears, pride, and doubt. Yes, the person who needs freedom, but who keeps hiding.
Stop hiding, it’s only hurting you.
The shocking thing is that some of our churches are actually set up to create this kind of atmosphere. An atmosphere that helps us stay hidden because when the altar becomes more about a show than a place to come and be broken it’s easy to hide our wilderness wanderings and go to the altar to praise ourselves instead of God.
As we lift up our hands to God, we too need to bow our hearts in humility. For when we do, we welcome others to come close and speak hard truths into our lives for the glory of God and for our own growth in Christ.
Lord, I want to be like you. Forgive me when I hide my junk from others out of shame. Please help me continue to be transparent, in Jesus name, Amen.

Shame Keeps Us Stuck, Grace Sets Us Free

LORD, you are the God who saves me;

day and night I cry out to you…(Psalm 88:1).

I’ve had moments of crying out in my heart to God of deep pain and overwhelming need. There were seasons, I can recall when it felt as though my heart was being ripped open as I begged the Lord for mercy and help.
Sometimes, because I felt so weak, and so exposed before the Lord, I felt like a failure to Him. I carried deep shame in my heart as I cried out to Him because I was convinced that if I had done better my life wouldn’t have turned out this way. Even though I was crying out to God for mercy, I was beating myself up at the same time for the circumstances that had come into my life.
I remember at one point the reality of my pain became so devastating that I asked the Lord to take me from this earth. I didn’t want to deal with the shame, pain, and feelings of failure any longer. I wanted to sit safely in my Father’s arms away from such despair. I wanted freedom and release from that which was mounted up against me.
Yet, I learned something deeply valuable as I came out of that season. I learned that I didn’t have to stay there. If I could be quite honest, shame kept me there much longer. Shame whispered doubt, despair, and discouragement, trying to convince me that redemption wasn’t the way out, but that fleeing my circumstances was. But you see, there’s something about persevering through the pain that changes us. Pain has a way of reshaping us where shame has a way of capturing us and holding us in bondage. It keeps our heads spinning in unbelief and doubt. It causes as to flap about in the sea when God has thrown a lifeline of grace to our souls.
Don’t carry shame with you over your circumstances in life. We all face trying times. We’re not perfect people. We don’t have it all together. The longer we believe that’s what God and His church expect of us, the longer will keep drowning in despair and shame. Let your heart be set free today to know that God has grace, freedom, and redemption for you to walk forward in during your time of need.
Lord, thank you that you see me and you love me. Thank you that I am not defined by my past, nor my present woes. Truly, all things work together for us for our good, to make us more like Jesus. Forgive us, Lord, when we give in to despair and shame. Help us instead to embrace our freedom that is in Christ, in Jesus name, Amen.