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brown grass
Christian Living, Encouragement, Intentional

You have a choice to make

A few years back we moved into a new home. It had a decent sized yard so the first thing my husband wanted to do was start a garden. Unfortunately, the whole yard was grass. There was no previously cut spot of exposed dirt for a garden. We had to start from scratch.

brown grass
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This involved cutting up the sod and tilling up the dirt. Many sweaty and exhausting hours later, we finally had a rectangle of space for our garden! We planned out the rows, decided on what we wanted to plant, and put the seeds in the ground. Within a week or two, the sprouts started to appear. 

But, they weren’t the only ones. The grass wanted to take it’s space back. For a time, we let the grass go, mingling in with the newly sprouted seedlings. But the grass was more aggressive than the beans and peas and we couldn’t let it go any longer.

We took to weeding, pulling out the grass and weeds at their roots. Unfortunately, because the weeds had become so prevalent, it was hard to pull the bad plants out without disturbing the good ones. The weeds would have caused a lot less havoc if we had gotten to them sooner.

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a lesson in the garden

Sometimes we find ourselves wanting to experience the goodness of God without first having to go through the pain of acknowledging our sinful state.

Admitting we are sinful and selfish and of no worth in ourselves is painful. The roots of those thoughts and patterns run deep within us. Like weeds that have grown knee-high, the tendrils have wrapped themselves around the soil of our hearts and it takes more than a two-finger tug to free them. When you rip those weeds out, you end up disturbing the dirt around it. Imagine your heart like that garden dirt and having the weeds of sin and self, with their well-established roots, being ripped from your soul. There is going to be pain. There are going to be tears.

He does it because He loves us

In order to get to the mountaintop of joy, that deep worship experience with your Father, there has to first be pain. This isn’t because God is hateful and vindictive and wants to see us suffer. It’s because He knows, if left to our own self, we will create more havoc and pain than if we would turn to Him and allow Him to work in us. It’s better to fall on the mercy and discipline of a God who knows all, than be subject to the revenge and punishment of a fallen world that is temporal.

If you are relying on your feelings about God to be your basis for why you follow Him, then you are planting your garden before even tilling up the ground. You don’t have to be a green thumb to know that if you plant seeds in a garden that has not been weeded or the ground worked, then those seeds have little chance of getting past the hard earth and overgrown weeds

Be willing to go through hard things

To experience God in His fullness, to know His heart of love and mercy, you need to be willing to let Him do the painful process of tearing out the roots of sin and working the ground of our hearts so that the seeds of Truth can have fertile soil to grow. We can take comfort in knowing that if we bring a humble heart to God, asking Him to root out the sin in our lives, that we will be forgiven and healed. King David knew the experience of admitting sin and falling on the mercy of God. He had committed murder, adultery, and lies – to name a few. And he sings of God’s goodness and speaks of it throughout the Psalms.

man in black shirt and gray denim pants sitting on gray padded bench
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The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

 (Psalm 34:18 ESV)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

(Psalm 147:3 ESV)

Those who do not think they need healing will not seek a physician. But those who know of their injured and sinful state, desire a Healer.

Those who do not think they need healing will not seek a physician. But those who know of their injured and sinful state, desire a Healer. Click To Tweet

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:31–32 ESV)

The reason we seek after Him matters

We need to be careful that we are not seeking something to just treat the pain, but instead something to heal the sickness. Are we going to God to feel better, to have an experience to play to our feelings? Something that can make us happy in this often-despairing world? If that is what we are after, just like a medication, it will only last until the effects wear off. But, if we seek something to cure our sickness of sin, then we are searching for a good thing. Because Jesus, who dies once for all, has made a way for our sin to be forgiven, for the sickness to be healed, and a path to our Father made clear.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. (Acts 3:19)


So, the question is this: what are you going after? A God who makes you happy or a God who makes you whole?

What are you going after? A God who makes you happy or a God who makes you whole? Click To Tweet
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Anxiety, Depression, Encouragement, Intentional, Love Your Neighbor, Relationships

3 time-wasting busters

We all like the idea that our time is not wasted, yet how often do we fall into the time warp of distractions: social media, emails, procrastination, streaming videos, and lack of priorities. We know these things can suck up our time, but yet we fall into their traps time and time again. How can we break free? 

With small, intentional moments.

Of the myriad of things we do each day, we want something to count– not just in a quantifiable way, but in a soul-filling, joy-inducing way.

God’s word calls us to be purposeful with our time, even calling us to “redeem” it. To redeem something means that you buy it back. But, how can you take back something that is fleeting and slipping away constantly?

We have an Enemy that wants to distract us, to keep us from our mission of spreading the Gospel and God’s love. Every moment spent distracted from that work is a moment that he has won. So, to redeem the moments we are in right now, we can intentionally take it from the enemy that wants to distract us, and focus these moment on lasting things. We can take a temporal moment and use it to fulfill something on an eternal timeline.

Sounds great, but how?

Be aware that you are an ambassador
Colossians 4:5-6
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Even when you don’t think anyone is watching, someone is. It may only be one person, but to that person you may be the hope and encouragement they need to desire to seek a joy-filled life like yours. Keep your words kind and be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you.

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Encourage others with God’s Word
Ephesians 5:19
…Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…
The world is full enough of discouragement, be the one to encourage. Find ways to spread the hope of Jesus to your fellow brothers and sisters. Be willing to take the time to listen to another’s hurts, be willing to pray, and to point them back to the hope of Jesus.

crop psychologist supporting patient during counseling indoors
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Look for ways to do good
Titus 3:8-9
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 
There is always an opportunity to do good. Prayer, generosity, showing grace, choosing selflessness – these are all excellent and profitable. Choosing to step away from discussions that you know will go nowhere, choosing instead to have those intimate chats with a person’s heart can move more obstacles than a rant on a social feed.

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Your turn. How are ways you can redeem your time this week? Where can you take back the time that the Enemy distracts and use it for furthering God’s Kingdom work? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

photo of vegetable salad in bowls
Anxiety, Encouragement, Intentional, Money

Is it time to address that grocery budget?

A 2-step plan to tackle anxiety

A few years ago, ‘the grocery store,’ would not have been a place that I would have named as one that caused me anxiety.

At one point in time, in order to save-more-to-give-more, we kept ourselves at a weekly grocery budget of $50 – for a family of 5. We had to get pretty creative, but there was always enough food to eat. And trying to make it all work out was more of a fun game than stressful.

assorted vegetable lot
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But the conditions of the last few years has made that $50 goal a distant memory. For one, our 3 children are no longer elementary kids with sizable appetites, they are 3 teenagers with bottomless pits. And I don’t have to tell you about the rising food prices.

Lately, as I walk the aisles of the store, I can feel the anxiety creep in. Between an entire type of food no longer being available (yogurt?!) or some things causing twice as much as they used to (potatoes?!) I start to feel the cloud of doom and gloom and wonder how we’re going to make this all work.


One morning in the grocery store, as my panic started to rise, I stood still in the cereal aisle. My heart and mind needed a reboot. So, I stood there and prayed silently to God. Asking Him to calm my anxious heart and to also remind me that He is the provider of all things – back when we paid $50 and even now when we have to pick and choose what to get to make it all fit in the budget.

I have found, when it comes to anxiety, that being still and being active go hand in hand. First, we need to make ourselves ‘be still’ because it’s the exact opposite of what our body feels like it should do. But being still and remembering our God is in control is paramount. Once we have centered our mind on this thought, then we can move forward with the doing, the ‘being active.’

The same is the case when it comes to our money. Maybe you, too, feel the anxiety when it comes to your money and the food budget. When I feel the anxiety rising, I tackle it with the “be still and be active” approach.

fruits on glass top display counter
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  1. Be still. Remind yourself that God is the provider. There is an old hymn we sing at church, some of the lines include, “This one thing assures us, whatever betide, the heart cheering promise, the Lord will provide.” Whether it’s scripture or song lyrics, have a line that you can repeat to yourself when you start to feel anxious about the grocery budget. Force yourself to be still, remember the promise that God will provide, and thank Him for the provision He has already provided.
  2. Be active. Make a menu. This one is actually hard for me. I would prefer to just cook off what I feel for that day. But, to really stick with a budget and not over-buy, creating a weekly dinner menu is crucial. Often I have themes for different days of the week to help me when I’m not feel creative (which is more often than not!) Meatless Monday, Sandwich Wednesday, and Noodle Thursday are just a few.
  3. Be active. Stick to the plan. No matter how great the deal is, if it’s not on your list, don’t get it. If you feel like you absolutely have to, then swap out for something else on the list.
  4. Be active. Go meatless. No, you don’t need to be a vegetarian! But, one night a week, cook with beans or some other protein instead. Just one night a week will help whittle the expenses down. When you do cook with meat, cut the amount in half. Throw half the sausage in your marinara and put the other half in the freezer for the next week. You’ll still get the flavor and help stretch the food further.
  5. Be still. Respond in gratitude. Once the groceries are loaded, before you even turn on your car, be still and thank God. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father (James 1:17), including the milk and eggs. Stop and respond in gratitude, acknowledging your Provider and rejoicing in His goodness.

Your turn! I’d love to hear your tricks and tips for helping your food costs go further. How do you handle the anxiety that comes with budgeting?


Encouragement, Help, Intentional

Yes or No – 3 Questions to help you decide

I’m always excited about “volunteer plants.” These are the random vegetables that just start growing in the Spring without any help from me. Maybe it’s because I’m not that great at gardening, so when plants spring up green and thriving, I get a little giddy.

 

A couple years ago the volunteers coming up were pumpkins. I had tossed the remains of a pie pumpkin in the tired-out Autumn garden the October before. April came around and we planted a few rows of green beans. The beans came up alright, and right in the midst of all those beans, were some sprouts of pumpkin. I wasn’t expecting those sprouts, but there they were. Because I loved the idea of a bountiful harvest of pumpkins, I let them go, to see how they would fare.

Hindsight came to show, that, despite them being small and welcome in May, they became overwhelming and intrusive in July.

The green beans that came up 6 weeks earlier could barely see the sun, choked out by the explosion of pumpkin vines. We ended up with some pumpkins in the end, but we didn’t get a whole lot of green beans, which was kind of the original plan to begin with.

 

I learned my lesson that year. And this year, when the volunteer squash and tomatoes popped up – some were ripped out and some were transplanted. It pained me to have to rip out perfectly healthy plants, but I knew that if I didn’t pare down, nothing would really grow well.

Kind of like life, right?

There are a lot of things that we can say ‘yes’ to. And they can all be really good things.

But too many good things packed into a life means nothing is really thriving. Sure, they may all be growing…some. But nothing is really thriving and producing fruit like it should.

And, just like paring down the plants in the garden beds, choosing to say no to a good thing can be painful.

 

But, let’s not be quick to say no just because it feels like our life is too full already. Because, it could be exactly what God has brought across your path. So, how do we determine when we should politely decline, admitting that we can only grow green beans this year, or move ahead with a yes?

  1. Am I in a season where I can give this commitment the time and energy it deserves? Maybe a few things have dropped off your plate, making room for this in your schedule. If I’m already booked sun up to sun down, then this may be someone else’s yes and not mine.
  2. Would I be saying yes out of obligation or is it the Spirit prompting me? Being a people-pleaser, I really have to check myself on this one. You don’t want to commit out of obligation, that will only breed resentment. But, if the Spirit is telling you to move, you better move.
  3. Does this line up with my convictions and priorities? If you are finding your schedule full and there just isn’t any more room, it may be a good time to take a look at what you’ve already committed to. Is your life full of things that line up with your priorities (i.e. faith, family, etc) or has the schedule seemed to fill up with busy work and other people’s priorities that have been placed on you. If you are wanting to take on something new, something that does line up with your priorities, then some paring down may need to happen to allow that.

This is not an easy exercise. But if we are wanting to thrive, instead of just survive, it is necessary.

Your turn! What do you think? Do you have some volunteer plants in your own life that may need addressed? Do you have a hard time saying no, too? How do you combat the pull towards over-commitment?

   

Free Downloadable Guide

3 questions to help you decide

https://livewithintent.org/resources/
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Encouragement

An open letter for the start of school

This letter was originally written when my oldest, now a sophomore in high school, started kindergarten. Though the letter’s focus is towards kids, there are reminders in there for all of us, regardless of our ages. If you know of a friend that needs this reminder too – please share it with them!

brown and black wooden chairs inside room
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Dear Child,

You are a treasured child of the King.  The world is going to tell you that you are going to lose, but take heart – THEY DON’T KNOW THE RULES.

Don’t take it personally when some kid makes fun of your mismatched-on-purpose clothing choices or the stuffed animal that you brought in for show-in-tell or calls you some name that brings tears to your eyes.  They only call you that to make their own selves feel better.  There is something about you that threatens them.  And by calling you out on your ‘lameness’ somehow makes them feel like you are back to their level.

I want you, dear child, to be sure of yourself, knowing God has created you as a unique individual, with unique qualities and tastes.  The best person you can be is YOU, not an imitation of someone else.

People’s valuation of you should not matter, only God’s valuation of you should.  Measure yourself by His ruler, by His Word, not by the measuring stick of your peers.

Love God, show others God’s love, despite their actions toward you.  Remember, you don’t need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends that you can be certain of. 

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There will always be someone richer, cooler, smarter than you.  That’s just life.  But there will also be others who are poorer, wallflowers, back of the class.  That’s life, too.  

But God doesn’t play favorites and you shouldn’t either. 

 Treat each peer as an equal, someone who is loved by Jesus, and in need of Jesus’ love. 

THIS is what I want you to know before you go to school, dear child. 

 It would save you a world of heartache.  But I know you, like me, will have to discover this for your own self.  I can only hope you figure it out sooner than I did. 

You are so excited to start school and I love your excitement for learning.  May it continue to grow and to motivate you to learn more, not only about your world, but about others, about God, and about who you can be for Him.

I love you fiercely,

Mom

Download your own free customizable and printable letter HERE!

https://livewithintent.org/resources/
Uncategorized

what sunflowers can teach us

I’m out for a morning run. Though the sun has been up for at least an hour, it doesn’t feel like it. The clouds are heavy and hang low. There is a slight mist in the air and the everything looks gray. There aren’t even shadows on the ground as there is no sunshine to make them.

bed of sunflower
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As I head down my familiar path, I run past a field of sunflowers. As it is late July, the flowers are in full bloom. I know their heads are bright yellow but I can’t see any of them. I am running past the field on the west side and all I can see is the backside of the flowers.

The entire field of sunflowers is facing towards the east. Towards the sun.

We know sunflowers do that, follow the sun’s path. It’s how they got their name after all. But, what intrigues me today about this fact is that there is no sunshine this morning to follow. The clouds are so thick and dark I can’t even pinpoint where the sun is in the sky.

And yet the flowers are turned in the sun’s direction. Even though they can’t see it, they know it is there. Even though the sun is blocked by clouds, they still know where to turn.

sunflower in field

In Psalm 27:7+8, David writes these words, “Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! 

You have said,

 “Seek my face.”

My heart says to you, 

“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”

David knew what it was like to have a bad day. King Saul, with an army at his disposal, was openly seeking David to kill him. Though David had been anointed as king, he sure wasn’t living the life of one. Then, when he was king, there were people trying to throw him from his throne, even his own son. David had some hard times, yet, during those times, he wrote beautiful songs to God. A heart cry that we, too, can relate to.

When hard circumstances come, it can be easy to wallow in our grief and self-pity. But God has a better plan for us than that. We can do as David did and seek God’s face. When the road gets rough we can turn to worldly comforts and explanations or we can intentionally turn to God’s word, approach Him in prayer, and seek His face. 

Just like a sunflower that turns towards the sun, even on the cloudiest of days, we can pursue our Father, even when it feels like He isn’t there. The clouds may be blocking the sun, but it’s still shining. Our hard circumstances may be large and overwhelming, but God is still working and in control.

If you are in the middle of one of those cloudy seasons right now, take encouragement from Psalm 27. The last two verses of the Psalm can be a daily reminder as you wait for the clouds to disperse and the sun to shine again: 

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (vs 13+14)

Isn’t that a spark of hope?! We don’t have all the answers and there isn’t any magic phrase that will suddenly make everything alright. But even when the sun is hidden behind clouds, even when we’re beaten down and our soul feels wilted and weary, we can still turn towards the Son. We can seek out His truth, His promise, His hope. It doesn’t make the hard go away, but it helps us to be able to endure.

So, friend, if you’re feeling bent and weary, if your soul is floundering as it tries to find the sun amidst the clouds, please, hold on. Keep those roots grounded in the Truth, turn your soul to the Son, and seek His hope and promise for your hurting heart. And if you see another who is broken in this way, be the one who reminds them that the sun is still shining. And remind them to turn towards the Son.

more resources
https://livewithintent.org/resources/
Uncategorized

On disappointment and hurt

David hunkered down behind a boulder, gasping for breath and trying to slow his heart and mind. Once again, he was pursued. He had done nothing wrong. In fact, he had gone out of his way to go above and beyond to prove to his enemy that he meant no wrong. Yet, King Saul wanted him dead and was relentless in his pursuit.

You’ve most likely not had to hide in caves, lead a band of men devoted to protecting you, and navigate the tricky relationship with a king who wanted you dead. But, you’ve most likely had someone speak wrong of you, tarnish your reputation, or treat you in a way you didn’t deserve.

Psalm 43 is a heart’s cry for when we feel wrongly accused or treated unjustly. It’s only five verses long but it leads us through the process of crying out to God, seeking His truth, and resting in His promises.

To read the rest of the article, head over to A Good Day blog where this post is being featured!

https://livewithintent.org/resources/
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Encouragement, Intentional, Relationships

4 ways God is not your dad

For over a decade I have worked in the social service field. A recurring theme among the cases that I work with is absent fathers. Children are being raised by single moms, the father long out of the picture. Sometimes a dad will show up at court, but usually because rights are going to be terminated and he wants to try to stop the proceeding. Other times the father is in the picture, but he is neglectful or abusive, creating a level of trauma for the children that will leave scars – both physically and emotionally.

Perhaps you have your own story of absent fatherhood. Nearly 25 percent of American households are mother-only homes. Maybe your father has always been in your life but there are hurts from your childhood, even ones your dad is unaware of, that still stick with you today.

Because fathers are part of humanity, they are also prone to the sin nature we all possess. And with the high amount of fatherless children, many can get the distorted idea that all fathers are prone to this – even our heavenly Father. It can be difficult to believe that a God who calls Himself our Father could do any better than the actions of the dads we know. We project our hurt from our own fathers onto Him and assume the worst.

But our God can stand up to these allegations and is the perfect example of Fatherhood. Scripture is full of the promise of this. The following are just 4 of the ways that God is a good, good Father.

family of four walking at the street
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  1. His patience knows no end. 

There are times that we may have felt like we have used up our dad’s patience and have gotten “on his last nerve.” Thankfully, we do not have to worry about this with our Heavenly Father. Psalm 103:17 says “from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.” And Psalm 106:1 says “for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Not only does God’s patience and kindness never wear out, but God’s ability to forgive you never runs out either. We never have to worry about our Heavenly Father berating us with our past failings and mess-ups. Psalm 103:12 assures us “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” 

2. He loves you no matter what. 

Some fathers cause their children to feel like they need to earn their father’s love and respect by accomplishing great things to make him proud. Thankfully, God is not a father like that. Romans 5:8 tells us that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

While we were still sinners, messing up and not measuring up. When we were still oblivious to Him and His love, God sent His Son to die in our place. This unconditional, sacrificial love is unlike anything you can experience on this earth. God is a Father who chose to love us and we didn’t do a thing to earn it.

photo of man in raising baby under blue sky
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3. He is always available.

God never has a bad day, is never in a sour mood, and is never too busy or distracted for His child. When you are in relationship with His Son, Christ Jesus, you have complete access to your Heavenly Father’s ear, His heart, His focused attention. Hebrews 4:16 tells us we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” In Zephaniah 3:17 we have the promise that “the Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

4. His discipline is for love and protection.

If you were disciplined out of anger and impatience, this one can be hard to understand. How can a loving God show discipline without also inflicting pain and suffering? In Proverbs 3:11-12 we are reminded: “do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”

Have you ever had a circumstance in life where God does not give you what you are asking for? Or a time when something you love is taken away? Because God’s ways are always perfect and He can see your entire life laid out before Him, we can trust that our Heavenly Father was either protecting you from something or disciplining you out of love, or both.

selective focus photography of child s hand
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As we think on God as a father, in what areas of our life have we projected negative attributes from earthly fathers onto our Heavenly Father? Do we have hurt and scars from our own experience that is causing us to not completely trust God to be the perfect Father to us?

If you have a positive relationship with your dad, be sure to encourage him in his role, thanking him for the love and example he gave you. If you have pain from your dad, or your dad is no longer around, take your wounds to Jesus. Ask Him to redeem the scars and hurt, to turn the ashes of your past abuse into beauty for His glory. Take your doubts and hurts to the Heavenly Father, the One who is truly capable – and willing – to listen, heal, and restore.

Depression, Encouragement, Intentional

a message to Jeremiah is one for us, too

You may be familiar with Jeremiah, also known as the weeping prophet. At around 20 years of age, Jeremiah was called into service by God, prophesying the coming exile of Israel and Judah. The Israelites were wandering away from God and God was trying to call them back. Jeremiah was faithful when God gave him a strong word and challenged him to execute that word. 

If you’ve read through the book of Jeremiah, you know it’s heavy reading. There is a lot of warning and devastation. Jeremiah didn’t have light-hearted things to say, but he was faithful to the task that God had called him to. However, Jeremiah had to have had low points, especially when everyone around him despised him for his words and doubted what he had to say.

At one point, in chapter 15, Jeremiah cries out to God. Despite Jeremiah doing exactly what God had called him to, he was met with hatred from others and a life of isolation. He likened it to “pain unceasing, a wound incurable, refusing to be healed.” (vs 18)

mountains with author quote

You’ve most likely not been in the same spot as Jeremiah, crying out to a large, lost people group who refuse to listen. But you may have felt alone as a Christ follower in the middle of a world that seems to be getting increasingly troublesome. You may look around and see people who are not following God’s ways, prospering and seeming to have it all. You may be in the middle of a calling that feels hard, unending, and isolating. Jeremiah felt that, too.

God had an answer for him, and He has an answer for you:

If you return, I will restore you,

    and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,

    you shall be as my mouth.

They shall turn to you,

    but you shall not turn to them. (vs 19)

God’s reply is relevant for us today as well. Three things we can do when we feel overwhelmed by our pain, circumstance, or position:

  1. Return and be restored. Repent of any sin in your own life. Be restored so you can serve God with a pure heart.
  2. Speak good words, not worthless ones. When we speak the words of God, if we are immersed in His scripture, then the words that we speak to others will be truth-filled and loving.
  3. Be the influencer, don’t let them influence you. It can be easy to get swept up in the latest news, ideas, and fads. But we are called to be in this world, not of it. We are effective servants of Christ when we choose to be influenced by the Word, not the world.

And with this command comes a promise. God said that if Jeremiah would do those things, He would follow through.

And I will make you to this people

    a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,

    but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you

    to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord.

I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,

    and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless. (vs 20-21)

A simple command and a beautiful promise.

Jeremiah 15 command with mountain image

Return to God, speak good words, and influence others. Your enemies will not prevail, you will be delivered, you will be redeemed.

Intentionally go to God with your heart, pour out your complaint as Jeremiah did. And trust Him to be the keeper of His promises. 

Encouragement, Intentional, Relationships

How are you smelling?

A few years ago, when my grandparents were moving from their home into an Assisted Living facility, I helped them sort through their things in storage. I came across some old pillowcases and sheets and thought they could be repurposed into a craft project someday. They gladly passed them on to me.

Not long after, I pulled out one of the pillowcases from my grandparents’ home. I loved the vintage flower pattern and I could remember summer nights, falling asleep on that pillow, listening to the peaceful sounds of the country and farm life.

In preparing to use the fabric for my project, I needed to iron it. As I pressed the iron to the material, a sweet scent wafted up from the fabric – the scent of my grandparents’ house.

The scent was so reminiscent that it stopped me in the middle of my activity. I stood there at the ironing board and cried.

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It was such a nostalgic, beautiful scent that it took me back to the nights I would snuggle under one of my grandparents’ comforters, falling asleep on their couch. It evoked happy memories with cousins and the security of my grandparent’s home.

It brought back so many wonderful memories of time spent at their house.

In II Corinthians 2:14-16 Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (ESV)

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In the Old Testament, priests would offer up sacrifices to God for the sins of the people. The aroma of a good sacrifice would be pleasing to God. It wasn’t so much what was actually burning on the altar that created the pleasing aroma, it was more about what the sacrifice represented – substitutionary atonement for sins. The shedding of blood is required as a payment for sins and the animal sacrifice was given as a substitute for the sinner themselves. The same was said for the grain offerings, those given as the first-fruits back to the Lord in thanksgiving. These sacrifices, when given with a humble heart, were a pleasing aroma to God.

Jesus came and fulfilled the Law by becoming the ultimate sacrifice for all of our sins. And we, when claiming Jesus as our Savior, claim that ultimate sacrifice to cover our own transgressions. And, in doing so, we become part of that pleasing aroma of Christ to God.

So, how are we smelling? Just as Paul was encouraging the Corinthians, are we “spreading the fragrance of knowledge of Christ” in how we live? What aroma do we give off when we are living our daily lives and the pressure and heat of life, like an iron, is pressed upon us. When we encounter other people are we giving off a pleasing aroma or one that stinks and causes the other to wish they had just stayed away? Are our actions ones that reflect our Jesus; grace-filled and loving? Our actions and words are born out of where our heart is rooted. Our truest nature comes out when we are put under pressure or the heat is turned up. It’s not difficult to be a pleasant and loving aroma towards those who compliment us, make us happy, or fulfill a need. But when someone makes us late, misunderstands a conversation, or takes from us without permission it can be challenging to continue to give off the aroma of grace. In order to be a pleasing aroma to those around us, we need to have our heart’s scent rooted in Truth and Love.

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Is our scent one that reminds others of Jesus? Does it fill other believers with joy, and maybe a few happy tears, as they long for their home in heaven? Does your aroma give life to other believers, encouraging them on their journey?

If we are truly living for Christ, our aroma will be a sweet reminder to our fellow believers that our Jesus is a living and redeeming God. It can also smell sweet to those who do not yet believe, but have a soft heart, ready to receive the Truth. They smell that sweet fragrance and want to have that aroma, too.

Just like how that little bit of material’s scent reminded me of happy memories, I want my aroma to be pleasing to God; a scent that glorifies Him.

So, how are you smelling these days?

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This post originally was published with Kingdom Edge Magazine.