Love Fearlessly

Alexis Patterson, GFC Lutz

“Our relationships are a reflection of our personal commitment to God.” I know that is a bold statement; especially if you have a difficult relationship in your life. But, please hear me out. I married a man that has his own, but very different relationship with God. For a woman like me, who is all in with her relationship with God, sometimes it can make our union hard to navigate. We don’t always see things the same way, we may not fight the same way, and we certainly aren’t connecting with God the same way. So, how can this union reflect the relationship we should have with Him? Love fearlessly. Our goal in marriage is to be the imagery of Christ and the Church. I’ve had moments in my marriage as I’ve grown to understand more of our purpose as a couple where the enemy will try to use what God has brought to my spiritual sight against me. The enemy will try to make me feel like we will never be what God has purposed us to be. I know from experience that I am not alone in this area. I have spoken with countless women and received many prayer requests for challenges in marriage that have come from spiritual differences. When there is a recurring theme like that in my life, I’ve learned to lean in because there is most likely an assignment for me there.

Loving fearlessly means that we lead with love. It means that we no longer love based on conditions. Loving fearlessly means loving others to the life that Christ Jesus lived, died, and resurrected for us to have. I made the statement earlier that our relationships are a reflection of our commitment to God because how we love others, especially our spouses, can reveal how we relate to God. Now, I have to be honest- this concept challenges me. I am not perfect in how I give love to my husband. There are moments when I fail my husband in showing up armed and fearless for the battles we may face. Sometimes I even allow my insecurities in our lack to change the goals and vision I have for our marriage. I struggle when I feel the blows of the enemy invading our marriage with confusion, doubt, and generational curses. But, I’m writing to tell you that God is so sweet. Even in the moments when my heart and mind want to cave into every negative thought I choose to believe: 

  1. Satan can have no authority in my marriage when I choose daily to honor and surrender my husband and our marriage to God. 
  2. God’s purpose and plans for us are GOOD – and I am believing that for my marriage. He is working it out!
  3. My husband was God’s idea. He created him. He is pursuing him and longs to soften and have his heart more than I could ever want that for him.
  4. God has compassion for our struggles and uses them to build us up – Remember marriage was God’s great plan and ALL God’s plans are GOOD.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth.” 1 Corinthians 13:6

Reflecting on these truths helps me to get back up and love fearlessly. My husband is wonderful! There is so much I love about him and we get the privilege of doing life together, raising our beautiful children, and laughing all the way through. Truly, I married my best friend. We unite on so many fronts that I can see why the enemy would be threatened. We have our weak spots and, everyday, we have to stand firm on God’s word. I’m reminded in Ephesians 6:12 that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities, power and the rulers of darkness. It is not my place to change my husband’s heart, that is the role of the Holy Spirit. I am to be consistent in my own faith and unswerving in my pursuit for what God has for us. My role in our relationship is to keep praying in agreement with God’s intent for marriages over our marriage. My role is to be a beacon of light and hope for other women who share similar struggles. And, finally, my role is to love fearlessly while reflecting my personal commitment to my Lord and Savior.

If you’re reading this and you feel your marriage isn’t the banner of what a marriage should resemble – please shift your focus to God’s promise and design. You’ll see a change first in your heart and then in your marriage. Don’t be afraid to love your husband fearlessly. Don’t try to make him fit into your conditions of deserving or earning your love. Love like Jesus, be fervent in prayer, and be bold about the promises of what God can do in your lives. 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we are grateful for Your intentional design for marriage. We honor You in lifting up every man and woman that struggles to see how his/her leadership and love should resemble You. Lord, You are generous for giving us the right to relationship, first with You and then others. We ask that You touch every union brought together for Your glory. Father please strengthen every relationship and break every stronghold keeping us from growing. Our request is that we learn to lean on and trust in You and the great plans You have for our lives. You declared marriage as holy and sacred, Your promise points to that Your design for marriage is obtainable for all Your children. Every answer to Your promise is Yes and Amen. We Thank You for the movement of the Holy Spirit right now as we pray. In Jesus name, Amen.

Livin’ On the Edge

Lisa Santelli, GFC Lutz

A few months ago, I hit a wall. From work, travel, ministry, and fun, it was jam-packed goodness. Running full throttle with little breathing room. But, months before, a couple friends reached out to let me know they would be in the area during one of my busiest weeks.  Knowing my calendar was already planned to the max, adding them in wasn’t leaving any recovery time.  Fast forward to the day we were supposed to get together and complete exhaustion struck. Talking to one of my besties that morning, she sensed my fast fading, convincing me to cancel with my friends. My soul felt sad tension. At that moment of disappointment, I realized, I left no room for margin.

In the printing and graphics world, we deal with margins and bleeds. The margin references the border around the design. The bleed refers to the design going to the full perimeter of the page. Increase the margin and you get a larger border. And, if it “bleeds”, the design runs all the way to the edge.

Too many of us are living on the edge…and possibly bleeding out. We have decreased our border by reducing the marginal space in our lives. We think we can do it all. We are pouring into everything and everyone around us, filling up all the spaces, but forgetting to fill ourselves back up.

Creating margin in our lives is different than practicing Sabbath rest and different than our daily time in God’s word. A Sabbath is sacred time surrendered to God with the intent of drawing closer in relationship to Him. Adding margin sets up boundaries focused on our relationship with ourselves and others. It could be creative space, reading a book, exercise, or coffee with a friend. Or, maybe, just a really long nap. This is not selfish. It is self-care, which is both healing and refreshing. Both Sabbath and margins should be scheduled and protected times.

Just a couple weeks ago, still in a busy season, I was presented with multiple opportunities to serve, and I needed to make decisions. I wanted to help with it all but, I felt God pulling me back. One opportunity was a two-day event. As I showed up for the second day only, a sweet, spiritual mama gave me a hug and said, “I missed you yesterday. Where were you?”  My response, “I needed some margin.” God showed up that day both to minister to me and through me. Leaning into His “yes” and “no” always brings spiritual blessings. We undervalue the right to say “no”, but it makes our “yes” so much more impactful when it’s guided by the Spirit.

Proverbs 4:23 says, Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. By adding margin to our lives, we are creating a boundaries around our hearts. We are declaring our time is sacred, allowing ourselves to rest, reset, and reevaluate all that flows through it. Inviting the Holy Spirit into these moments provides greater peace and strength so we are equipped for all God has for us.

Last, it would be amiss not to address the opposite which is having too much margin. Some may have a lot of extra time and are hesitant to step out. Maybe through the pandemic, what started out as some hibernation has turned into full-blown isolation. I want to challenge you to step out of your comfort zone. Sign up for something new. Show up to serve. Invite a friend to coffee. We aren’t made to do this life alone.

Lord, release the pressure of this world that makes us feel we must show up and do it all. Give us wisdom and clarity in the assignments You have planned for us. May we lean in and be obedient to both the “yes” and the “no” of Your will for us. Order our steps. Remove any guilt from the things we are willing to do and think we should do. Instead, fill us with Your peace and strength. Create  boundaries around our hearts, our time, and our relationships. Refresh us mentally, physically, and spiritually. Let Your beautiful light shine brightly on us and through us. Let us feel Your love and grace. In Jesus name, Amen.  

 

 

 

The Wrestle

Jen Clements, GFC Lutz 

Have we ever considered that often as parents we strive to portray an attribute or lifestyle to our children without showing them the process? While it’s not always pretty, the blessing is in the process. Often, we don’t want them to observe the struggle of becoming, the hard parts of the battle, because we’re afraid to show the challenges along the way. How many times have we said to ourselves or others, “I never want my kids to see me struggle?” But, shouldn’t we?

I want my kids to see me struggle and wrestle with God because, in watching, it builds their faith and my own. We should allow our kids to have a front row seat to our testimonies. Allowing them to see parts of our struggles:

  • With my faith and then choose to trust God.
  • With my marriage and work it out.
  • With being tired and yet faithful to still to go to work.
  • Making the sacrifice of cooking vs. eating out and reflecting good money management.
  • Paying my tithes first in the scarce and bountiful seasons.
  • Facing health challenges, seeking God’s face, and winning.
  • With killing my selfish pride and embracing humility.
  • With learning to love people difficult people who mistreat me.
  • Choosing silence even when I’m right (still lots of work to do in this area).

There are things that I can’t talk them through. Though, Lord knows, I have tried! But, they can learn by watching me walk through! If we pull out a Honey Baked Ham catered meal for every Thanksgiving because we can afford it, our kids will never know Grandma’s recipe. When we give our children things and have them see the end result of a struggle, we’ve created a lifestyle and appetite for a way of living they haven’t achieved themselves.

What happens when we can’t make our Ikea furniture look the way it does on the outside of the box? We get frustrated and sometimes, we throw the whole thing out—-or p, at least I have. Let’s not have them easily overtaken by the storms they’ll one day experience.  Let’s have them see us navigate trials so what they’ve seen will one day help them navigate as well.

I take Philippians 2:12 seriously and I’m about each of us working out Christ in us. Let’s be living examples not vocal ones who try to speak a spiritual lesson that they will one day experience. I want my three boys to fully expect to wrestle with God on some issues. As parents, we want them to know that sacrifices are always necessary, and we need them to see that they can overcome each and every one of life’s obstacles with God leading the way. 

Equipped for Each Day

Alexa Zerrate, GFC South Tampa 


Wake up! Get ready! Drive to work! Work hard! Get the kids! Grab something to eat! Get home! Clean the house! Get ready for tomorrow! Go to sleep!…. Rinse and repeat!

But, I forgot the most important one…  Hear Him, talk with Him, and invite Him into the day.

It seems that no matter what I try to do, life finds it’s way in to control my time, my hours, and everything in between. Galatians 5:16-18 says, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

When I hear someone talk about the constant battle between the flesh and the spirit, I think that this battle is not necessarily a sin that goes against the ten commandments of killing, lying, stealing, etc.  But, it is in opposition with the most important directive mentioned in Mark 12:30, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

If God is calling me to love Him with all of myself, it doesn’t just mean during the times when I am on my knees by myself with Him. It means that every day I am ready for the battle, I am ready for the plan God has for me, and that I need to have constant communication with Him, and have my daily meetings (God and Me time) for Him to lead me.

This is a call for us to breathe, pause, and remember to order our priorities so that a journey of only 11 days may not take us 40 years. Let’s remember Mark 12:30 and put it in practice inviting Him into our days each and every day. He will guide our steps and light the way!

JESUS: Perfect Teacher, Example, Sacrifice.

Alexis Patterson, GFC Lutz

John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

This season highlights the promise fulfilled through the birth and crucifixion of our Savior, Jesus Christ. As believers, we find ourselves reflecting on the amazing and glorifying promise of our redemptive Savior. God’s promise of a true King that would dwell among us in flesh on this earth, the Lamb of God who would sacrifice His very life to fulfill prophecy and the promise many Old Testament prophets shared … that He would save the souls of many. Jesus, the perfect teacher, the perfect example, and the perfect sacrifice.

Jesus, fully human and fully God. Jesus, who would conquer death. Our one true King, a King that wasn’t recognizable to many who anxiously awaited His arrival. The King that would be a servant among us. He modeled every holy example of how to live as a child of God. He is Royalty, He is Sovereign, He is God. I try to imagine what it must have been like to live in such a time when all that you have been waiting for and anticipating finally came. What it must have been like to witness God in the flesh. Would I have received Him? Would I have been skeptical? Would I have been enthralled and enthused by His ways, His teachings, and His miracles? Do you know how it feels when you have prayed for that special something in your life and when God finally fulfills that promise to you? I imagine similar emotions running through all that witnessed Jesus in person. Parts of you are so excited that it’s finally happening, your prayers have been answered and there’s that other part of you that wonders is this real? Is this my answered prayers?

With obedience He would teach, lead, disciple, and eventually pay the biggest price there could ever be paid. For Jesus, there was no price He wouldn’t pay to do what the Father sent Him to do. During the days leading up to Easter, I reflect on what happened that day when the great exchange was made. It was an exchange of my sin, my waywardness, my shame and guilt for cleanliness and reconciliation to the Father. The toughest day for God would be the best day for me. The sacrifice that would be made so that my atonement would take place. He is Jesus, the Perfect Teacher, the Perfect Example, the Perfect Sacrifice.

God knew the mixture of emotions we would have accepting His gift of the Savior so He ensured that He would leave us with more to hope for and less to doubt. Before we were ever created, God then and now has given us so much evidence pointing to Jesus. Patient and steadfast God requires us to wait for His final promise to come to pass. Do you believe it, do you receive it? Our King is coming back for us! As I await, patiently and steadfast I know the Holy Spirit dwells with me everyday until the day comes when Jesus makes all things new. Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Prayer:

O Most High God, Thank You for your promises. We are waiting with anticipation for all things to be made new. Today, I am grateful for your Word, the Word that became flesh, the Word that was with you in creation and came with all power and glory to redeem the lives of your children. We focus on Jesus as you have asked, knowing that He is the way, the truth and the light. Father, Thank You for the sacrifice of your Son. In Jesus’ name, Amen.