How Peculiar are you?

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.

1 Peter 2:9

This verse in 1 Peter gives us our identity and purpose.  As Christians we are a chosen people who belong to a God who transforms our lives from death to life; with love, grace and mercy.  We are a “peculiar” people; now this description I find very interesting and identifiable!  Is God calling us strange and unusual?  Lets find out what Webster has to say about this word Peculiar.

1. Characteristic of only one person, group or thing. Distinctive

2. Different from the usual  or normal

We are a chosen people who belong to God (distinctive). We shout praises to Him who has brought us out of the darkness into HIS marvelous light (different unusual).  It appears that we encompass the totality of the definition of “Peculiar”

When we accept Jesus and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit we become “peculiar”. You see, we now belong to a distinctive group, [the family of God] and we will begin a process of different and unusual behaviors as we begin the transformation from the old to the new.

We begin to bear the fruit of the spirit which is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  This fruit is contrary to the sinful nature of mankind and therefore is very often perceived as strange or unusual behavior.

Let’s put this into perspective.  Love is the very core of a believer’s life. Love covers a multitude of sins.  This means that because of our identity as a chosen people we choose to love as Christ loved us.  This is most definitely a “peculiar” love because it is a love not based on any action or merit but unconditionally and freely given.   We have joy that also is not based on any action or the current condition of our circumstances, but is a “peculiar” joy that comes from our focus on our heritage and our inheritance which far surpasses any circumstance we may find ourselves in.  We aspire to peace as much as it depends on us by exercising  patience, kindness, goodness and self control.  When the non-believing world looks at us they should see a “Peculiar” people; distinctively linked to one God with behavior that is different from the norm.

In your home you should have a servant heart. Your posture should be that of how can I serve my family today, instead of what has my family done for me today; or the attitude of “look at all I have done for you”.  It should come from a life surrendered and a humble heart.

At work you should have a servant heart.  Being a team player who wants to accomplish what is best for the business not what’s best for your own personal gain.

You should have a Christ like heart for people.  Just as Christ loved you abundantly with grace and mercy, you should reflect that same love to those you come in contact with.

I know what you are thinking, are you crazy? No not crazy just “peculiar” thanks for noticing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your “cookie”?

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.         Philippians 4:19

 

It is our nature to be dissatisfied, always craving more and aspiring to have what we determine to be the best in our lives.  Success and fulfillment are not bad desires but they are desires that can only be truly satisfied by the One who created you.  You were uniquely created for a purpose; therefore, you have a personal journey specifically mapped out to reach YOUR destination.

I have a friend whom recently used an analogy that brought clarity to my impatience.  I would love to share it and see if it changes your perspective.  God is our ultimate father and he knows and wants what is best for us.  It is like us as mothers and fathers wanting to give our children their desires. My friends analogy: When they come to you with that desperate face and really “need” a chocolate chip cookie; you want to let them have the delicious cookie but you know that a nutritious, more fulfilling dinner is being prepared and you don’t want the cookie to spoil their appetite for the better option.

Oh, I am the little girl. Always wanting the cookie when it comes to God asking me to wait for the best He is preparing for me! I argue and rationalize why I need the cookie and what the cookie will do for me right now.  The perfect Father in all of His glory denies me the cookie; see’s my tantrum and rains down grace, wisdom and discernment to calm my spirit and strengthen my resolve as I wait for the best.

Our minds and emotions are the greatest weapon used by the enemy to keep us from enjoying the journey to our best.  He loves to change our focus from the truth God speaks into our lives to the negative things he can point out about our current condition; which most often fail in comparison to the big picture.

Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God  (1 Peter 1:18-21, the message)

I personally experienced this as I became restless in my current job situation. I pursued other options that in my mind were more appealing. In the process however, God revealed to me the blessings in my current job that far outweigh the negative I was allowing myself to focus on.  In my change in focus came gratitude over attitude. I am content being exactly where God has me in this phase of my unique journey.   I will make the effort to embrace my surroundings for all they have to offer me both in opportunity and service.

 

So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time.  Live carefree before God: he is most careful with you. (1 Peter 5: 6-7; the message)

 

I am learning to be content in where I am and who I am.  God cares about the details of our life and wants us to have life and life more abundantly; nothing less.  He wants us to have the extravagant meal he is preparing for us which makes our cookie, that was once so appealing, look like rubbish.

What cookie are you begging for?  Don’t you want to learn patience and focus on the truth that God is preparing for your best?  This my friend, will be more than you could every dream or imagine.

Now to Him who is able to do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us.   Ephesians 3:20

The journey is just as important as the destination.  Focus on the light. Do not fall prey to the shiny distractions that want to darken your mind and play with your emotions.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of  God in Christ Jesus for you.  1 Thessalonians 5:16

 

 

 

I’ll leave the light on

“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them.  I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.  These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them”. Isaiah 42:16

Darkness can be so “all encompassing and overwhelming”. Strangely enough, we can easily become so adjusted to it.  What was once an uncomfortable and uncertain place, (with endless whispers from the enemy) over time can give us the false illusion of security and familiarity.  The light that could illuminate our situation and bring us clarity and wisdom, eventually becomes a distant flicker.

Sin rolls into our lives like a foggy morning; clouding our judgement, our vision and the paths we are walking.  Disorientation and false illusions of satisfaction and happiness, lead us further and further away from the light.  After years of wandering in the wilderness of self satisfaction and self gratification; wallowing  in pity and shame of the things we have done and even things done unto us; we can no longer find our way home.  We stake our tents in the field of deception and darkness, covering ourselves in a blanket of false security. Unknowingly making ourselves prey to the thief who comes only to steal, kill and destroy. Lying there in this darkness, defeated and broken down we cry out in desperation that somewhere in the midst of the things we cannot see, we will find a beacon of hope.

Enter Jesus: who came so that we may have life and have it to the full! His very presence illuminates our surroundings and calms our fears, giving us a new perspective.  He takes our hand and leads us out of the wilderness and into a new territory that He had always intended us to dwell in.  His light reveals the beauty we had lost sight of.  His peace is now what encompasses us.  We no longer walk alone or blindly along the rocky path but instead with a light that guides us.  Understanding now, that we do not take any step alone.  He begins to smooth out the rough spots and pitfalls we have created while in the darkness.

He has never left us nor forsaken us. The light has always been there wooing us to come and allow Him to show us the way.  The way – to walk within His peace, to dwell with Him in gardens of hope, love and grace.

More than anything, He wants us to experience His love and accept His gift of redemption and eternal life.  He paid the highest ransom to free you from the bondage of darkness. Embrace the freedom that has been provided. Shake off the mirage of chains that are holding you back and run, run to the arms of the Savior where you will find light that leads to life! You are never too far away or too far gone.  The light never goes out; it burns eternal for all who are seeking refuge and healing.

God is faithful. The same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  He will leave the light on for you.

Between a rock and a hard place

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned.”                 Isaiah 43:2

What comforting words we find in Isaiah as God promises that His children are never alone. He calls them by name, He redeems them and paid a high price  to rescue them.  How easily we forget His promise or speak it with our lips but not allow the truth of it to penetrate into our life’s in times of trouble, uncertainty and potiential devestation.  This became very personal this week as Irma headed straight for Florida where so many of my family reside.

Why is it so easy to allow our thoughts to be replaced with those of doom and gloom? Our  immediate response to the storms of life so often is to panic and try to analyze and control the outcome of something completely out of our grasp.  Why does hitting our knees in prayer seems to be the last resort when we have exhausted all energy and emotion on finding a more hands on solution?

These very words found in Isaiah were prayed over my children and their families the night before Irma was going to hit Florida.; yet I found myself anxious for the first time in a long time.  I found myself calculating the what if’s that are so readily available in a mind running wild instead of resting in the truth and comfort of God’s word.   I have come to realize that it is so easy to quote a familiar scripture, throw it at a storm in your life whatever it may be; but that is not where the power is found.  The power is in allowing His truth to illuminate your situation.  Speak it over and over again if necessary, personalize it make it real and tangible to your current  circumstances.  God never intended for you to fight the battle on your own. He has provided the sword of the Spirit which is His word.

Are you in turbulent waters right now? Are things brewing all around you that seem impossible to overcome? Are you in over your head?   “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you!”  Here is your life saver. He who walks on water will walk by your side through any and every trial you may face.  He is the Alpha and Omega the beginning and the end; nothing catches Him by surprise. He has already stood in every place you will ever encounter.

Know that no circumstance you face, no matter how consuming or overwhelming it may appear, is stronger than your redeemer. “And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned.”

I strive to truly grasp the overwhelming love and grace of my savior.  To be able to have peace in all circumstances knowing whose I am and who has my back.  I want God’s word to come off the pages of the Bible and dwell in my heart and soul in such a manner that they penetrate deep and choke out the weeds of fear and anxiety.

 

 

 

What will it take to make me Bold?

 

It is so easy to withdrawal from this adventure called life and tuck yourself away safely in the confines of comfort and routine never venturing outside the box of your false sense of security. That is not where God intends us to anchor down. We were not placed on this earth to be robotic and conforming but to be adventurous and enlightened; to embrace the many little hidden blessings he rains down on us each and everyday. Many of these blessings are not found in the safety zone of our comfort but when we step out into the unknown fields. The more out of control we are the more in control God becomes and we find ourselves in a place of insecure security.

My word for 2017 is BOLD when I first received this word from God I was extremely intimidated. It sounds like such a overwhelming word for a meek and mild soul like me. So often I have question whether God has me confused with another Tracy; one with much more confidence, strength and endurance. How was I going to build myself up to fulfill this word which would require me to overcome so many insecurities and fears.

I decided to retreat to my quiet place armed with a blank canvas and array of paints and ask God to reveal to me what it was he wanted me to know about this word Bold and how He was going to apply this to my life. The message that flowed through the strokes of the paint brush revealed an entirely different perspective to this overwhelming word BOLD!

Believe in my
Overwhelming
Love and
Delight in you
and Boldness will be the result

Wow when you put it like that the word becomes so much less intimidating and more empowering! If I only would grasp the overwhelming love of my father then how could I be anything less than bold. He also gave me this scripture as a visual of this love and delight:

Zephaniah 3:17
“The Lord your God in your midst , the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing”

The visual of the almighty God, King of Kings singing and dancing over me definitely makes me feel so less intimidated by my fleshly weaknesses and fears and infuses a power that cannot be denied. If the King of Kings delights in me to the point of singing and dancing over me how could I reflect anything less than the light that is shining down on me! There is no darkness that this earth can produce that can overcome or dim the light of God as it beams down from heaven and shines on those who earnestly seek Him.

In the most intimidating circumstances, I carry a strength a marking that cannot be erased, dimmed, snuffed out! Even though in the flesh I may still have those feelings of intimidation and fear they are but fiery darts from an enemy who carries no weight. They are false illusions intended to distract me from the overwhelming truth of the power I have dwelling in me.

God also revealed three things he wanted to share with me. Key word being share, not teach or show but share with me. They are adventure, intimacy and beauty.

I am making a conscious effort to walk within the boundaries of a love God is trying to reveal to me; but in life and the many twist and turns it brings, it is often hard to believe in his overwhelming love and delight in me and therefore be bold and not retreat. I am grateful that God never gives up on us and His love is eternal and fierce it pierces through the darkest places in our life and reveals the adventure and beauty contained within and therefore changes our perspective and draws us closer to greater intimacy with Christ.

“On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.” Psalm 138:3

 

Do you find yourself in a dark season of life? In a rut of the same old routine? Does there seem to be no hope, no way out, no light at the end of your long tunnel? Draw closer to the only one who can illuminate your path and infuse your soul with hope. Jesus. Believe in his Overwhelming Love and Delight in you and step boldly forward to the next adventure filled with beauty and intimacy with Christ.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

 

Life in full bloom – in honor of my dad Richard Shepherd

Spent the morning weeding and pruning the flower bed. Made me stop and think about how a flower can appear to be dead and no longer vibrant; however when you prune back the dead branches the flower then regains its vibrancy and sometimes even blooms more vibrant than before. This is what God does in our lives if we allow him. He prunes away the dead weight of sin therefore allowing us to bloom to our full potential. As I survey my flower bed I remember the plants I rescued from the throw away bins last year that are now some of my healthiest; fullest; most colorful plants. Really glad I did not shrug them off as hopeless. So excited to think that is how God sees us. With a little pruning our lives like the flowers can bloom. God sees beyond the weeds and dead branches in our lives never giving up on the true beauty he knows we have the potential to achieve. So grateful God doesn’t leave us in the throw away bin!

God who vindicates me


 

Vindicate- (1) To clear of accusations,blame , suspicion or doubt with supporting arguments or proof. (2) to defend maintain or insist on the recognition of (3) to demonstrate or prove the value or validity of; justify (4) to exact revenge for;avenge.

God has vindicated me; making me clear of blame, shame and sin by sacrificing His only son Jesus Christ for my sins past, present and future.

He is my defender! He stands in the gap and covers me with amazing grace !! Insisting others see me as He sees me, through the blood of Jesus;  clean without blemish, His daughter, His bride, His prized possession, the apple of His eye. My past pain, loss, bad choices, rebellion all thrown out! Clean slate. Jesus death gives me the right to accept and receive pardon and not be condemned for my past sins.

He gives this broken, shamed, scared woman who has made bad decisions that have tainted her reputation, value. He says you are forgiven, you are loved, you are important, you were created in MY image! You are well loved and highly favored. You are so valid to me that I justified you and secured your eternal salvation with me! How much more could I do to prove my love for you!!

Revenge is mine says the Lord (Romans 12:19) You need not carry the burden of un-forgiveness or anger; lay it all at my feet. I will make all things as they should be. I will always protect you! I will never leave or forsake you.

God is our vindicator in every aspect of definition. He has it covered. He is the complete and perfect provider of vindication! What an enpowering and comforting thought to truly understand that He has got your back!!

image


 

 

Does God really give a flip about me?

 

“As the father loved me, I also have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commands, you will abide in my love, just as I kept My Fathers commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:9-11

This week has been an amazing experience in trusting God and plugging in to his source in all circumstances. Monday morning I received a phone call that after a routine mammogram an “abnormality” had been seen and I would need to come back for more images and further evaluation. The fact that I work at a cancer center only heightened the possibility that this was going to be my diagnosis. I had signed up for a class on the names of God and it was beginning on the evening after receiving that call. As I opened God’s word and begin to dig deeply into Who He really is my spirit began to find calm in the mist of the unknown. At the end of our study for the evening we were ask to write a prayer of praise thanking God for all He had created for our pleasure. I began to write and my spirit smiled as I thanked God for one of my favorite things, sunshine I even drew a sun and colored it bright yellow; I then laughed as I thanked God for my second favorite thing which is chocolate in any form and the way it can also brighten my mood or put a smile on my face. While at work the next day, I turned to find a box of chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing and a card on my desk. Upon opening the card I found a big sunshine with a smiley face looking back at me with the words praying for you in this time of “unknown” a tear came to my eye as I felt the very presence of God and the intimate way He was showing me that my heartfelt praise to Him the night before had been a pleasing fragrance to God! What an amazing testimony it became, as I shared the significance of the gift and how it was a message straight from the hand of God with the person who had delivered it!

I wish I could say I never had a doubt or fear from that moment forward, but to be completely transparent my old companion “anxiety” came a knocking. The voice of anxiety wanted me to ponder the possibility of a cancer diagnosis and fear the consequences that would bring. For a moment I did entertain the thoughts but as I felt fear and anxiety creeping through my veins I rebuked those thoughts and began to instead name the blessings that could come from what appears to be a blessing less diagnosis.

•God had brought me to this job 5 short months ago; it gave me health insurance benefits and probably ensured I would do my yearly exam and find the problem before it got any further.

• I would have more empathy for the patients as I walked in their shoes.

•I could use this situation to instill the importance of good health habits and yearly checkups to my daughter.

•God had given me the word “joy” for this year and I was going to learn how to have joy in all circumstances and He was preparing me for my destiny!

I never once thought that this would be anything other than bad news. But one thing I never lost sight of was “who” held my future! I kept my eyes on Jesus and my ears tuned to praise music all of which was powering me through the 4 day wait for the revealing of the unknown!

My heart leaped with joy as they told me it had been a false alarm; the new images cleared things up! Whew! what an intense 4 day journey that had become. I learned so much through this event being allowed in my life. I saw that God had changed me from the inside out and when my old companion anxiety came a knocking it did not find a comfortable place to hang out! Praise God! I also got to experience a very personal very caring God who, as I sought His comfort and guidance, filled me with a joy that made no earthly sense under my current looming circumstances , yet testified to His presence in my life to those around me.

A study of the word Joy revealed the Greek word Chara derived from Chario who’s definition is ” calm delight; gladness a feeling of calm and control no matter the circumstances or your emotional state”

I praise God today for my report of good health! and for sunshine and let’s not forget chocolate!!!

Abiding in the Love of Christ

“ As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now abide in my love” John 15:9

This year for the first time God has given me a word for the year and that word is Joy. In the short amount of time that I have had this word, God has revealed to me such a deep breath taking truth. The only way we can find real genuine joy is to abide in God’s love. God spoke to me in a devotional with these words “Apart from love, our potential for experiencing joy remains flat like a lifeless balloon. LOVE EXHALES THE FULLNESS OF JOY.

God created us with a deep desire and need for love; however, we try to fill our cup with all the wrong things. God is the only source by which our cup can be filled to overflowing! He tells us that if we will seek Him we will find Him. “ And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:13 He is not an elusive God who is unreachable; quite the opposite He is a personal God who wants an intimate relationship with us!! When we truly get this concept, this overwhelming, breathtaking love, then and only then, are we free to be all that God created and specifically designed us to be. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” John 8:36

The enemy slithers around us as women all the time spewing his lies and distorting the picture we have of ourselves. He tricks us into basing our self worth on the most trivial things. Take Valentines for an example how much emphasis do we place on how lovable and worthy we are based on whether or not we receive a valentine from that someone special? How often do we feel left out, unloved, unworthy during this time of year? My sweet sisters this is the biggest lie of all.

Know this truth you are worthy and lovable to God. “ For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16 It does not matter where you have been or what you have done His love is unfailing, unending and never runs out. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” John 3:17

I am sure most of you are familiar with the story of the Samaritan woman at the well and her encounter with Jesus.  I am today’s version of that woman at the well. I had my innocence taken from me at the age of 5, I was adulterous, I was a divorcee, I was a control freak, I was anxiety ridden and the list could go on. I have seen some dark, dark times in my life; and just like with the woman at the well, Jesus knows all these things about me yet He ask me to sit at His feet and drink from the cup in his hand. Deep, refreshing gulps of his love and grace. Now I, just like the woman at the well, want to run and tell others come let me show you this man Jesus the Messiah; for He knows all that I have done and yet He loves me, He calls me daughter and restores my life with Living water so that I may thirst no more!!!! “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” John 4:14

One of my favorite songs is “The More I Seek You”  It is a song that deeply reflects the love of God and the desire He has for an intimate relationship with each and every one of us. I would like to ask you to do something for me as we prepare to listen to this beautiful song of worship and adoration of the King. Close your eyes. Picture Jesus as He was the man sitting at the well.   The words of the chorus of the song say “ I want to sit at your feet, drink from the cup in your hand, lean up against you and breath, feel your heart beat!!!” Truly vision sitting at Jesus feet not in front facing him as if you are at a teaching but sitting with your back pressed up against His legs and leaning into Him; feeling His presence and the love flowing out of His cup. A love that is so overwhelming and all consuming, melting you as it washes over you. Worship the lover of your soul! Allow Him to refresh and restore you tonight. Take a long, deep drink of the living water He has to offer and find fulfillment knowing that you will thirst no more.

Happy Valentines from the lover of your soul, the source of true everlasting love!