Resolutions, Change, Truth

In order to remove a bad habit, a sinful style or consistent poor choice successfully, it must be replaced with something good, better or healthful. One can not simply remove the bad and expect to flourish. A gardener doesn’t just remove the weeds, they replace within the soil seeds that bear good fruit. A builder does not simply tear down a decrepit house and leave but instead replaces it with a habitable home.

Just the same as the physical world so it is in the spiritual world. Read More


To Survive or Thrive This Christmas?

Christmas is about love.
Specifically, God’s love for us…
as He sent Jesus down to earth.
Christmas exists because of this love.
So, how loving are we being this season?

How many of us celebrate to the verge of chaos? Us women tend to try to squeeze in every last drop of memory making into our schedule.  We have a mental list of all the things we are suppose to do during the Christmas season.  The “we-have-to’s” list at the expense of our own sanity.  The “suppose-to’s” at the cost of our emotional stability.
… as if being a Super Woman is our priority?  or are we really barely hanging on?  I hear more and more how people are just trying to survive the holidays.  That is just sad.  Truly sad.

What if?   What if we just stepped back and evaluated our plans?  What if we paused when things begin to feel overwhelming?  What if we just simply skip out on a festive time when our gut just says “it’s just not working right now”?

I can’t help but think of 1st Corinthians 13.  Those famous verses about love.  That perfect love that Jesus was, is, and always will be.  Here is a hard question as we reflect on this beautiful season of love that came to life long ago.  Are we being loving?  Are we being kind?  Are we not easily angered?  I didn’t say the answers would be easy, yet they’re worth evaluating in ourselves.

Christmas isn’t about how we make things look (hello social media), or about how much we can get done, but about how we make others feel when we are around them.  Friends, this is a beautiful season that God has blessed us with.  The hope that is found in Jesus Christ is the true gift.  Let us not waste it on hyped expectations.  Simplify where you can, be intentional where you truly are called to be.  Your (sane, calm, joyful) presence is the present to offer your loved ones most this year!  God bless, and Merry Christmas!!


Depression Sucks

Life is hard. Life without Jesus is even harder. 
I’m a believer, for sure, 100%! Jesus is my Lord. But I don’t always live that way. Sin easily creeps in. Lies begin to penetrate the Armor He has given me. 
How is it that someone can go from such a strong foundation in the Truth to crumbling under the weight of life? How is it that someone can be so sure of God’s calling to wanting to throw in the towel? How do we get so lost from the path that God is leading us on? What is it that causes us to detour? 
How is it that I have ended up in a pit of dark depression when I have walked in His great peace, His beautiful truth, and unfailing love? How did I become so focused on everything except Him? Why am I back in this wretched place; I thought we conquered this once and for all, God.
I may never know the answers to these questions. At least, perhaps, not this side of eternity. 
This is the beginning of a post that I started back in May. God knew where I would be today, writing about that very abyss I had been avoiding over the last year or more…
Several times this year I have been taken to the edge. The very edge of what looks like a black abyss. A place where there is no hope, no peace, no joy. Not death. At least not physical death. Perhaps crossing over the edge could have led to a slow spiritual death. I will never know, because my God is a good God. He is faithful to answer prayers and bring us to place of hope and healing. As a friend reminded me, “Joy comes in the morning. It may not be the next morning. But it may be the morning of whatever season you’ve just come from.”
God is good. (All the time. He never changes). And He is good at being God. It is I who has changed. So where have I gone wrong? 
This is a question only Holy Spirit can answer, and I’m not going to find the answer in my Pastor, or my friends, or my husband. No. This answer needs to come from the Author and Perfecter of my faith, the Finisher of my Salvation, my Rock. My God.
Have you ever come to a place like this?
Remember the Truth. As hard as it may be to stand at all today. Remember you are can stand with His strength, on His truth, and on solid ground.
For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of the darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken’ struck down, but not destroyed…
(2 Corinthians 4:6-9)
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
(Matthew 11:28-30)
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:6-7)
For me, I know the His Truth. But I haven’t been living in that Truth. And life circumstances made a storm great enough that I found that black abyss. But God is good, and He is bigger than any storm I will face.

Unity

It’s my prayer and hope that we at Healthy Follower may spark a revival by the inspiration of Holy Spirit as we write, and that we as the women of His Church would stand united in love, walking in a manner worthy of our calling.
     Ephesians 4:1-3 “Therefore, I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” 
     Let’s pause there and consider what this calling is that Paul is talking about. I think it’s easy to look at this passage and think that it’s for those who have been called to a “high”position-pastors, elders, church leaders, missionaries… but that’s not the case. Paul is writing to a church, not the pastors. We are all called to something. 
     You cannot begin to assume that this Scripture is only for the leaders of the faith. God did not call us all to be pastors, or elders and deacons, or worship leaders. Look at Ephesians 4:11 “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors, and teachers…” (no, this is not a comprehensive list…) But for what reason did He give us a specific calling and gift? “…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God…” We all have our own calling, in order that the body of Christ, the Church of Christ can grow and flourish. So that we can help our fellow brothers and sisters develop in their relationship with Christ so that they too, can help His Church grow. Love begets love, discipleship begets discipleship. And this is what creates unity. Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for [sisters] to dwell together in unity!”
     Can I just point out here in this piece of Scripture in the Psalms, that there’s an exclamation point? You don’t see that often in Scripture. I’m an expressive writer and use exclamation points probably more than necessary, so this should really grab your attention. At least, it grabbed mine.
     But have we fully answered the question: what calling is Paul talking about? 
     If we look at the beginning of His letter to the Ephesians we can see in the very first lines he writes that we are called to be holy and blameless. We have redemption because of this calling. We are called into His love. It’s the calling that I know many, if not all, of you have answered. As my dear friend tells the little children, it’s when Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart and you answer the door to let Him in. 
     God has called each one of us into His family. We are His workmanship, his prize possession, His creation that is, in His own words, “very good.” He has predestined us for adoption into His family to be His daughters. We are wives, mothers, grandmothers; we have all been called by God Himself into a role that no one else can fulfill. That’s why He created you. Because He needed you to fulfill a part of His eternal plan. This is your purpose, and this is His will for your life. He is your calling. 
     So then, that leaves the question: how do I walk in His calling? There are so many ways when you look at our lives and the Church. So many ministries, service projects, volunteer opportunities, hearts to touch-where do we begin? Or as I have often cried out to God in desperation, “How do I do this life!?” I’m glad you asked, because my buddy Paul has the answer! We start with our own hearts. If we don’t love God, we can’t truly love others, because God is love. 
     We are to walk with God in humility, gentleness, patience, and showing tolerance for one another because we love, AND we are to be diligent in preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Simple, right? … Maybe if we weren’t so sinful.
     These characteristics and traits that are mentioned appear to be outward actions. However, God has taught me over and over again that the outward actions of man (and by man I mean me) are an expression of what is happening within. So as I said before, we start with our own hearts. Proverbs 4:23 “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” These qualities are your“springs of life.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is the “Love Is” passage. Love is patient, kind, long-suffering, not easily angered…”springs of life.” Fruit of the Spirit, Proverbs 31, Titus 2-”springs of life.” All of these traits and attributes are a direct result of your relationship with God, good, bad, or needing improvement. 2 Timothy 1:14 “Guard,through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” Use the armor of God, the breastplate of righteousness, to protect and guard the treasure you’ve been given. 
     However easy it is to say to guard your heart, guard the treasure, it’s not always that simple or that easy, is it? God didn’t call us in order that life would be easy. He did call you with a tender voice and hand, with compassion dripping from His lips as He said, “Come to Me because I see that you are weary. I see that you are burdened with the weight of your sin. I see the burden you carry that is your marriage, your addiction, your need for control, your need for perfection. I see you. Come with me, rest in My presence. I will hold your hand as we walk through this together; I will carry you when you’re too weak, I will pick up the broken pieces of your life and replace them with My love and truth.” 
     This calling is not easy. Our calling is to be holy, blameless, set apart. Our calling is to be in the world but not of the world; to be the salt and light to a tasteless and dark world. Jesus talks about sin in the most extreme way. There is no place for sin in our lives. He said to pluck your eye out, cut your hand off if it is causing you to sin. What’s your eye, or your hand?
     Is it the TV, phone or computer that’s distracting you from time with God or time with your family? Is it a friend or a group of friends that without fail always ends up gossiping or bad mouthing someone or chose to live in such a way that leads you down a crooked path? Getting rid of your sin has to be extreme. But it will still look different for every single woman here. 
     One of my biggest sin struggles is laziness, and it is directly tied to the TV. I’m an all or nothing kind of personality too. Netflix has new episodes of my favorite baking show? I’m binging! I watched just about an entire season in one day. I could pat myself on the back and say, “Well, I’m improving. At least I was doing housework during this binge.” Or I could be honest and say I knew better. Especially with some of the content that I was exposing my young daughter to. Why would I knowingly choose to expose my daughter to a show (or anything for that matter) that normalizes homosexuality, adultery, and premarital sex? Because I’m selfish. Really, though? All of that in a baking show you ask? Yeah, in a baking show. You can’t escape the devil. But you can protect your family from him, you can guard your heart, your life, your treasure, and your calling from his schemes. 
     Let me tell you what. With the reminder of my selfishness, and another TV mishap that had horribly inappropriate content…I’m done. I’m taking a break. Fasting from TV. And really, what’s the point anyway. There is so much more I can do with my time and with my family than watch a rectangle with lights.
     Check out verses 20-24 in chapter 4 of Ephesians. In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” 
     Ultimately, sin, no matter how small it may seem to you, distracts and separates us from God and from our calling. This then begins to disrupt the unity to which we are called as the body of Christ. We limp through life rather than run with endurance; our sight becomes dim to the things of Heaven as we focus on the things of Earth. Peace turns into dissension, gentleness into anger, humility into selfishness and pride, and unity turns into denominations. 
     “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:14-15, 17‬
     I pray that we would remember the grace that was so freely given to us. For unto “each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” The gift of His life. The sacrifice that Jesus made can not be earned-you can’t earn a gift. That’s why it’s a gift, isn’t it? Because someone loved you so much that they were willing. Jesus was willing to die for you. AND He was willing to live for you. That’s why He came back to life 3 days after He was crucified. All you have to do is be willing and open to accept that gift; to open your heart and life to Him. 
     The point in all of this is that Jesus is your calling, His Father, God, called you, and Holy Spirit is there continuing that call everyday. When we daily commit ourselves to our calling then unity is possible. But how we live that calling out will be different for every person here. Thank You, Jesus. Because I cannot see myself being doing my call in the kitchen; bless all of you who enjoy cooking. It is not for me! Although, maybe I shouldn’t say that out loud, God might hear me…We all need to fulfill our own calling, and it’s ok if your calling now is different than it was 3, 10, or even 20 years ago. I have had several different seasons of specific callings: serving in Nursery, Youth Group, serving my family, serving women. It was all for the same purpose-to build others up, spur them on, allow them to grow and develop so that one day they would also contribute in the same way to ultimately build the body of Christ. 
     Do you know what I really enjoy about this passage? My man Paul doesn’t leave us guessing at how to accomplish our calling. There are practical tips right here, and I didn’t have to think of them. Verse 25: don’t lie, speak truth, if you’re angry don’t sin, quit stealing and freeloading and looking for hand outs, work hard, don’t say anything that will give you Hand Foot Mouth. Pastor Cary Wacker calls it Foot Mouth Disease; you say something and realize you’ve just inserted your foot into your mouth. But we as women tend to be a bit more expressive, but the concept‘s the same. [Hand clasped over mouth, expression of horror]. Hand Foot Mouth. Scripture says that instead our words should be be encouraging, uplifting, and imparting grace to any who might hear. Imagine your life, your family, the Church would look If we held every word to this criteria. 
     What is Paul’s next get fit quick tip? Verse 30, don’t grieve Holy Spirit…listen to this translation. “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.” ( NLT). We are to live in a manner worthy of our calling. I’d like you to understand what it means to grieve God’s Holy Spirit. Genesis 6:6. Psalm 78:40. Isaiah 63:10.
     As we finish out our time here in Ephesians, I will let God’s Word do the remainder of the teaching. Ephesians 4:31-5:2, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
What is Holy Spirit stirring in your heart? What sin is He calling you out of? What freedom is He calling you towards? What ministry is the acting out of your calling?

Joy

An apology is first and foremost necessary: I am deeply sorry for my lack of writing. Sheri and I had planned to do a post every week this summer to offer y’all encouragement, but that hasn’t happened, and it’s my fault. Moving, then not moving, then moving again, pregnancy (first trimester has been awful), and life has sidetracked the mission that God has given us. I ask for your forgiveness and pray that I may be more focused.

Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

Let me tell you what! 4 months ago I could have written a book on joy, but the last couple months with the way that my life has been going…well, joy has been lacking.

As some of you know, I struggle with depression. I’ve lived in it and with it for longer than I haven’t. But over the last few years I really went to war with the enemy. Claiming back the ground that my Savior died for. No longer would I be dictated by feelings. No longer would I stand for the lies that swirled in my head. No longer would I be a victim to the enemies schemes. I was in a battle for my life! It was a long hard year (or more) of constant inner work. But I can stand before you today and say, “I am free. Because my Jesus said I am free indeed!”

This process of trusting God in ways I had never before, having great faith when I wanted to give up, and choosing to believe what He says about me is true led me to discover, that just like love, joy is a choice.

Joy is completely determined by your proximity to God.

The sheer joy I feel pulsing through my body when I’m doing the Lord’s work is not only contagious to those around me, it’s confirmation that I’m doing what He has called me to. When I can find joy in God’s Word after an argument with someone close to me, I know that it’s because my heart was longing to be close to Him. When someone looks at a snippet of my life and wonders how I could possibly be standing under the weight of that which I carry (whatever that burden may be at the moment), I know it’s because my joy is not determined by my circumstances. My joy is my salvation (Psalm 51:12).

Joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

In His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

God’s character brings us joy (Psalm 63:7).

God created you and called you to His name with a shout of joy (Psalm 105:43).

Joy is healing (Proverbs 17:22).

When we abide in Him His joy is in us, and that joy will be whole and complete (John 15:1-11).

I have also discovered that joy is not happiness. They are not the same thing. Joy is a choice, happiness is a feeling and feelings are fleeting. Joy is not determined by your circumstances, whereas happiness is. Think about it. You’re happy when you get a compliment, but then you stub your toe and that happy feeling fades with the pain. Of course, we have experienced that happiness can last for more than a mere moment; I assume that when you buy your first house, along with anxiety, fear and dread there is some amount of happiness. Which I will also assume can last for days. (Obviously, we haven’t bought our first home yet…in the process of…).

As a believer in Jesus Christ, you already have joy abounding, because it’s a fruit of the Spirit. You may just need to make some changes in your life to experience it (more). What works for me is not going to work for you. But I do believe that for everyone-young, old, man, and woman-your proximity to God determines the amount of joy you will experience. I know this from personal experience, and as you can see from the Scripture passages above, the Bible says it too.

The takeaway:
1. You already possess joy as a believer
2. You’re proximity to God determines your amount of Joy
3. Joy is a choice
4. Joy is not dictated by your circumstances

My prayer is that the eyes of your heart would be opened to understanding what true joy is. That your relationship with Christ would flourish, and in that newness with Him you would experience and forever crave the joy that He gives.

What have you found to be the most joy inducing activity or action or thing in your life?

For me, it’s simply being in the presence of the One who loves me. Whether that’s through singing a song, writing, studying His Word, serving or something else entirely. Being with Him gives me the greatest joy I have ever experienced. A joy that cannot be taken away.


Does God Honor All Our Works?

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

During this writing there was a resurgence of needing to follow the law, specifically circumcision in order to be a “good” follower of Christ. We still struggle with this today: healthy and wealthy way of life, serve enough, give enough, go to church. We as humans twist what the Gospel truly is, and we always will-because we are flawed. We will focus on what we can see, which is works. And we forget that God doesn’t want our works or our goodness or our money or our presence in a building, He wants our heart and life. When we do this, there is always an outpouring of love and worship to Him which is often seen in our works, service and giving. But it’s the heart behind it that matters!

”For Christ [it] means nothing…”

Does God appreciate and honor our good works when our heart intentions are not focused solely on loving and worshipping Him?

“…but faith working through love.”

This word, “working”, means to energize.

Our heart filled faith energizes us to love.


Let’s Talk LOVE

LOVE.  It’s the first Fruit of the Spirit mentioned in scripture.

I’m not gonna get into what love is as that is a whole ‘nother Bible Study in itself.  And I’m not going to get into the different types of love.  What we will focus on here is the LOVE that is displayed when we let the Holy Spirit dwell in our hearts.

When we allow God to lead our lives, the first fruit we begin to bear is love.  Now I’m pretty sure this must come first as all the other fruit is created when love is at the center.  It’s like a tree, where all the new growth is budding.  Those buds represent love.  As love sprouts forth, all the other Fruit of the Spirit will burst from the fresh blooms of love.

So how do we let love pour from ourselves?  Willingness.

Personally, I created a morning habit.  I wake up and say, “Lord, who do I get to love on today?” 

Let us not miss opportunities to love on others because we are so caught up in our own lives. 

Love is beyond feelings and emotions; it is an act of giving of oneself.  Even on tough days and rough moments, carry on, and love anyways!

Is there a screaming kid out in public?  Give the mom an reassuring nod.
Is there an elderly person unloading groceries in their car?  Offer to help.
Do you know of someone facing a new medical diagnosis?  Be there to listen.
Is your spouse cranky today?  Offer grace.  (do it-it’s worth it!)
Has someone just had a baby?  Volunteer to do laundry or clean a bathroom.
Know anyone moving?  Get over there and help pack or help move big items.
Is your child melting down or having bursts of fits?  Hug them, then listen.
Has someone lost a loved one?  Just be there.  No expectations.  Your presence is enough.

The possibilities of sharing love is endless!  What are some ways you are going to live-out-loud love today?!