By Trudy Loots

 

I grew up on the East coast of Florida in Jacksonville but have lived in the Tampa Bay area for the past four years. One of the first differences I noticed between the two places was the waves. The Atlantic Ocean boasts huge waves that the Gulf of Mexico only receives if a hurricane or storm rolls through.

 

I was listening to a worship song recently that stated:

 

“I’ll stare down the waves
Cause You own the tide
I still myself and know
You wait for me
On waters wild
Where faith walks above the storm”

 

The waves in my life come in the form of interruptions, loss of control, disappointments and let-downs. Basically, things I didn’t plan for.

 

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When I was a little girl I would stand on the shore and try to jump over or dive into the waves. I usually ended up with a sandy bikini or swallowing salt water. When I try to fight the waves of life on my own, within my own capacity of thinking, I usually wind up with the same result, a sandy bikini and a runny nose.

 

 

God never asked us to fight the waves alone. He asks us every day to trust in Him.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 says “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

 

The same God who controls the tides is the same God I’m able to have a direct conversation with anytime I face the waves of life!  I get to declare my trust in him and submit my waves to HIS control. I get to ask for HIS influence when I can’t stand what life is throwing at me. Better yet, I can ask Him for specific requests of what I desire. Praying His will above all things and rest knowing he is in control.

 

If you’re like me, you can get stuck in doubt. You think that you deserved that “wave” or certainly God has a reason that “wave” needed to knock you off you feet and you’re supposed to just stay put and let the waves keep you down. Whether the waves are coming from a person, an organization or even your own doings, you don’t move. You become a victim along the shoreline. Doubt quickly sinks your feet into the ground like sinking sand.

 

God warns us against this type of thinking in James 1:6 “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

 

image2I don’t know about you, but I am deciding to stop playing in the waves and instead stare them down.  I can rest because my Heavenly Father owns the tide!

 

God, show us how to live with our confidence in you.  Search our hearts and see what’s there.  Show us how to trust you when things don’t go the way we planned.

By Kristin Bonham

 

How can I survive this world?  How can I face the day when the tragedy and terror is creeping in?  When the stories on my news feed are more frequent and closer to home?  How can I do everything right to keep myself safe and my kids safe?  What about my parents and others that I love?  What do I do when bad things happen?

 

When I was raising my kids, bad things happened.  They had accidents that could have had much more severe outcomes.  There were times that our safety was threatened.  My awareness for the pain in the world and possibility for pain in my life became more heightened.  Fear became a constant voice in my mind.

 

Fear was not only running around in my head, it had a grip on my heart.  It would wake me up after a beautiful day with my family and parade images in my mind that were not reality.  In turn, I would try to come up with new strategies and plans that would guarantee protection and peace.

 

Fear was a driver.  It drove me to arrange things and avoid things.  It had a front seat and would coach me through realities with “what if”.  I imagined that other people couldn’t see it because I hid it well.  I engaged enough to cover it.  I learned a language that promoted safety and masked itself as wisdom.  I could talk myself into believing I was not trying to control outcomes and sell that belief with “I know God is in control but I am helping”.  “I know God is my provider but I have to have a back up plan.”

 

This is the extreme of my struggle with fear.

 

The fruits of fear are insecurity, worry, anxiety, control, manipulation, anger, jealousy, competition and sabotage.

 

There has to be a better way to live.

 

I came to terms with my fear.  The terms were:  I AM NOT LIVING WITH YOU ANYMORE.  Period. End of story.  I am not entertaining you. I am not planning for the worst thing to happen.  I am not giving up my peace anymore.

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That became my pursuit.  A better way to live.  When fear would try to motivate my decisions, I would push through and take the risk.  Instead of letting it drive me crazy, I let it drive me to God.  When it would wake me up in the middle of the night, I would pray.

 

I realized that my peace would never come from trying to avoid pain.  I’ve been in pain.  I’ve experienced loss and grief.  I know that I cannot plan and arrange my life well enough to have the security that silences fear.  There are things that are out of my control.  There are people who are out of my control.

 

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I asked God to open my eyes so I could see where fear was a filter in me and he did.  The picture that comes to mind is a river with big boulders rerouting the water. Then rocks that are seen when the boulders are gone.  Then the stones that are scattered around that I can avoid if I’m looking.  At times, it’s a pebble in my shoe that causes me to adjust my gate until I pause what I’m doing and remove it.

 

This is my journey… freedom from fear.

 

I trust you God, no matter what.

 

Bad things are going to happen.  When I think about the pain people are experiencing, it is hard to imagine their depth of grief.  It takes my breath away.  I can’t go through my day without them on my mind.  It makes it hard to fully believe that I can trust God no matter what.  But I choose to.  I choose to say NO WAY and I’m breaking up with fear.

 

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves… and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”  Romans 8:28 The Message

 

Thank you God, that you open the eyes of the blind…. And that is me.

 

Jesus, be present.  Comfort us.  Heal wounds.  Bring hope and freedom.

By Carrie Roden

 

My living room was littered with suitcases and swimsuits, and my brain was littered with ten thousand to-dos. It was the Monday of the last week of school, we had somewhere to be every night of the week and we we preparing to leave on vacation as soon as school got out. Right in the middle of all of that crazy, God spoke to me. He spoke as clearly as He had ever spoken before.

 

mercy-graceJust the day before, I heard Pastor Craig speaking on the Ten Plagues from Exodus in such a clear and powerful way that even though I know that story well, I left the service with fresh truth about both the judgment and mercy of God. After witnessing so many people experience a brand new encounter with His mercy, it was impossible not to feel humbled and thankful for the grace that none of us deserve.

 

Back to Monday evening, I still had the ideas of judgment and mercy heavy on my mind. Because I am a person wired with a strong desire for justice. And though I prefer God to be light on the judgment and heavy on the mercy when it comes to me, that is not my tendency when it comes to others.

 

Some of you may have heard Matt talk about the difficult year we had before coming to Grace Family.  Without going into detail, we endured very public embarrassment complete with accusations, exaggerations, and lies told about our family. Everything in me wanted to set the record straight. I wanted to answer the accusations, clarify the exaggerations, and expose the lies. There was just one problem. My dad.

 

My dad was at the center of all the controversy, and as the leader of our family, he gave us our marching orders to take the high road. (I asked if the high road had an off ramp, and he assured me it did not.) We would not defend ourselves. We would not clarify. We would not retaliate. We would not seek justice or revenge. He accepted that though the Lord had not caused the confusion, He had allowed it, and it would be up to Him to reveal the truth and bring the good out of it.

 

I wish I could say that I saw the wisdom in his words and wholeheartedly agreed. But in reality, I was furious. His directive offended every justice-seeking bone in my body. But I did as my dad asked because I believed he deserved that respect. And though there was no part of me that felt he was right, I willed myself to stay on the high road. And slowly, over time, my feelings began to change. I eventually began to see the wisdom in my dad’s instruction and how heeding it protected my character.

 

There is no doubt in our minds that even though there were those who tried to do us harm, God used the circumstances for our good. While we continued to give Him glory for that, I knew that I was still holding onto some unforgiveness that prevented me from being completely free. And wouldn’t you know, the first small group I began at Grace Family was a Freedom group!LHW.NewMercy1

 

One of the important steps in the class is to make a list of those you need to forgive. I was embarrassed at how long my list was! I wouldn’t even tell Matt how many names I had on it! I couldn’t help but laugh a little at how easily the names and faces came to mind as my list got longer and longer. And being the rule follower that I am, I prayed about every last one of them. Now, let me be clear: I did not begin with any feelings of forgiveness in my heart, but I willed myself to pray and ask God to do the work in me. Slowly my feelings beginning to change. Once again the feelings came only after the obedience.

 

The same weekend Pastor Craig spoke about God’s judgment, I learned some truths had been very publicly revealed about two of those names on my list. And though the revelations didn’t come as a surprise to me, I knew they were shocking to many.  I couldn’t quite process how I felt about any of it. It wasn’t until God spoke to me in the middle of my crazy Monday, and said, “Leave the business of judgment up to me” that the past 15 months of willing myself to stay quiet, wading through feelings of doubt and betrayal, and the feeling that truth would never come out, made much more sense to me.

 

Wanting to be certain of what I thought I heard the Lord say, I went to Scripture.

“Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.”  Romans 12:19

Well, that lined up pretty clearly, and what do you know? My dad was on to something!

 

And then there was the other thing I heard the Lord say: “You can trust Me to defend you. I’m the only one who knows the tears you’ve cried, and you can trust Me to defend you.” Then He showed me: You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”  Psalms 56:8

 

Not every name on my list has been dealt with the way I might deal with them, but they don’t need to be. Because I am not in the judgment business, as I have a pretty full-time job in the mercy-receiving business. But I do know that I can trust the Lord to be very good at the judgment business, as He alone has perfected the blend of judgment and mercy.

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I don’t know what wrong has been done to you, and for some of us, there is nothing that can be undone to ever make it right. I don’t know what lies have been told about you or when or if the truth will be revealed on this side of eternity, But I know this: Our Father does know. He knows every wrong. He knows every lie. And He knows every tear you’ve cried as a result. They are precious to Him. I also know that He is better at the judgment business than we are, and we can trust Him alone to defend us, in His time, in the way He knows is best.

 

 

 

By Chrissy Mayer

 

I have had the pleasure of leading a passionate group of women since January of this year. This group started with me and a casual mention that I was going to be doing a study on the topic of dreaming and running hard after God with everything you’ve got.  The group took on a life of its own and we ended up with 30 women who were saying yes to God.

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Over the past year, these same words keep finding their way back to me through Word, or song, conversation, or caption, art, or prayer:

Awaken, Empower, Equip, and Unleash.

God began to unfold what this looks like.

 

 

 

No more allowing the enemy to tell us how we are unworthy or unfit.

We must do the work of surrendering our secrets, our pain, our disappointments to God. Our compost, the messiest waste of our lives, becomes the most fertile soil for God to birth something great. Out of our pain, we are able to see others pain, and because we have tasted freedom we become passionate about others freedom.

 

No more apologizing for using our gifts and talents, instead apologize for not using them.

We must do the work of discovering and acknowledging our gifts. We must accept our God-given responsibility to our generation and own it. We must do the work of growing our gifts. And most importantly we must get over ourselves and our fears and trust that what He calls you to that He will be faithful to see through.

God knew you before you were, and He put you right where He wanted you.”                                                                                                               Craig Groeschel

 

No more comparing ourselves with other women.FullSizeRender-4

We must fight to be inspired by other women – not intimidated. If our only purpose on this earth is to love God and love others, then ladies, for the sake
of mankind we have got to get it together! We must stop wasting time looking at her and saying “but she”. It is a mere distraction. A ploy. A weapon of warfare. So you do you – and do you well!

We must fight to find our tribe. Time and time again it is made evident that there is a very certain Power found in community with other like-minded women. We must fight to link arms with three types of women: the one running ahead of us, the one running beside us, and the one running behind us. We stay in our lane while we spur one another on to greater things. We have each been called to run our own unique races.

 

No more living out moments without intention.

We must realize that even in the seasons of the wait, the mundane, or seemingly purposeless, it all matters. Regardless of our wiring and our stories, we are called to love first.  There’s no need for us to sit around waiting for a booming voice from the sky when it comes to discovering our calling. We are called to care for the things we see right in front of us and anything or anyone else we can touch.

God is accomplishing a thousand tiny purposes at any given moment around us. We won’t always know what He is doing, so let’s leave the stuff we don’t know to God and believe that He will guide us. It may feel quiet and we may even feel forgotten but God is constantly moving and working out His plans all around us. So our job is to simply trust.

 

“Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God.”

Philippians 1:27-28 MSG