His banner over me is LOVE

A banner is a flag or some type of paper or cloth bearing a symbol, logo, slogan or other message. Did you know that God goes all out and to extreme measures to send banners of His Love and adoration for you daily? Even beyond the normal & ordinary ways. His wonder is all around.  Are your eyes opened to see? He uses creative ways to speak to you.

This little story happened this week and watching it unfold was pretty cute.

My son begins his venture into high school in less than two weeks as a freshman. He is at “fish” camp this morning learning all about the new journey he is about to jump into. He’s ready to start this new chapter of his life of growing up. He realized Homecoming is only 2 weeks away from the first day of school. He started thinking of a girl he wanted to ask to go with him. The whole ask process is way different than when I was in high school. Friends would just simply ask someone to go to homecoming with them and that was it. Nowadays there is a lot of thought and preparation going into the question. It’s a big deal!

My son and his friends came up with an idea to hand make a really big banner with the question …(girl’s name) Homecoming? They spent two hours stenciling and hand painting 12×12 letters on a giant 10 ft banner. They were so happy with their creation and artwork. They rolled up the banner, trying to keep the wind from blowing it away, and fit into the back of my truck. They stopped at central market and he purchased a long stem rose and gummy bears as a little gift to go along with the banner question to homecoming. His friends set up the meeting place with her friends. He hid behind the rose bushes and fountain at the town square and waited for her to walk up with her friends and he popped up from the bushes with rose in hand and then she saw him with this huge 10ft banner asking her to homecoming. She almost cried! She said YES!  This sounds like a setting to a cute movie I would like to watch. Boy asks girl to homecoming… I know I’m mommy here and seeing my little boy growing up makes my heart happy!

This began stirring in my heart seeing this rather large banner and the expression of time and thoughtfulness it took to plan this invitation out. This banner got me thinking of the ways that we can speak to others or receive words from others. Along those lines was the thoughts of how God creatively designs banners for us to see.

God will send out His rays of love and grace and share it in the most creative ways. In a banner held high, He will speak of His love for you. He will shout it from the mountain tops. He will declare it from the roof tops. He is in love with you! He will also show you in your little baby the love that He has for you. When you look in that sweet little reflection that is a part of you… God’s grace in one tiny face.

Slowly, sweetly, He speaks. Listen. Look around and see. Capture the signs and sounds around you.

He brought me to the banquet room, and His banner over me is love. Song of Songs 2:4

Ears to Hear

shutterstock_175071470I am a listener. I absolutely love to listen! I was once given wonderful advice that has really stuck with me as I have grown. That istake the time to love and listen to whomever is in front of you at that moment. Really focus in and give them your full attention and allow them time to talk. Communication and connections being made.

Throughout my days it may be my husband, or my 2 sons, Embrace Grace mommies and babies, family, friends, team members and so many others that I come in contact with. I love to listen as they share stories, events about their day, and other fascinating factors that they encounter. The highs and lows of life. Ups and downs and everything in between. I engage and listen intently on what they have to share. One of my most favorite to listen to is God. He always knows exactly what I need to hear at the perfect moment.

A few days ago I was intrigued with this movie I had rented and my little seven year old walks in trying to talk to me. Shhhhh… Mommy is watching a movie. I’m trying to hear what they are saying… please be quiet. I can’t hear when you are talking… A few minutes later he is chatty again. I again ask him to be quiet. A third time he begins to talk and says something that captured my attention and I immediately grabbed the remote and paused the movie and was all ears. Ready to listen.

Mommy, his voice sounds like God’s. I look over at him in total amazement. I ask him to repeat again. His voice sounds like God’s mommy… The characters voice was a really deep voice. This man has been in so many movies. One being Simba’s dad on the Lion King. His voice is very distinctive and captures the audience when he speaks.

My son and I have many talks about him hearing God and how He speaks to him. He will ask God questions and relay the answers. In their sweet innocence and childlike faith it just comes naturally for children to hear God speak.

As we are sitting on the couch I look intently into my son’s eyes and desire to know more about this voice that sounds so familiar to him. I ask him so when you hear this voice, what does He say? He replies. Umm… What’s the word? He thinks for a second. Oh yeah, he cheers me on. He says you know like when I am playing baseball. I will be on first base. He (God) tells me to run to second. Run to second. Then when I am on second He says run to third you can do it, run to third. He encourages me to run. His voice sounds like that man on the movie mommy.

As I am sitting there in total adoration and love of hearing these sweet words from my son, a wave of astonishment and awestruck wonder came over me. It really is that simple. We sometimes think that hearing God is something only some people can do. But He speaks to all of us. All the time. We simply have to tune our ears to hear His voice. To listen intently to the things being spoken all around us. The delivery comes in so many different ways. He speaks through His creation, His Word, gentle whispers, our children and so many remarkable ways. As we begin to listen with our ears and really engage in what He wants to speak into our lives it will leave lasting impressions upon our hearts.

I’m reminded of a story in the bible found in 1 Samuel 3 about a little boy that heard the voice of God. Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. The word of the Lord was rare and precious in those days; there was no frequent or widely spread vision. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had dimmed so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. When the Lord called, Samuel! And he answered, Here I am. He ran to Eli and said, Here I am, for you called me. Eli said, I did not call you; lie down again. So he went and lay down.And the Lord called again, Samuel! And Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, Here am I; you did call me. Eli answered, I did not call, my son; lie down again. Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord was not yet revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel the third time. And he went to Eli and said, Here I am, for you did call me. Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli said to Samuel, Go, lie down. And if He calls you, you shall say, Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, Samuel! Samuel! Then Samuel answered, Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening. 1 Samuel 3:1-10 AMP

May our ears, just as Samuel’s, be listening intently to hear what God is speaking to us. May our ears be in tune to hear His voice. May we have childlike listening skills to hear so clearly what is being revealed and spoken to our hearts. To encourage us. To enlighten us. To engage and entertain us. To fill our days and nights with life giving affirmations and love that will continue to lift us up and help us through whatever we may be going through. May we be able to drown out the noise, distraction and accusations from the wrong voices and be drawn to the heart and voice of God.

look with your eyes and hear with your ears and set your heart and mind on all that I will show you, for you are brought here that I may show them to you. Ezekiel 40:4 AMP

My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 2 Chronicles 7:15 NLT

Written by Salina Duffy

Hanging Out In Limbo

shutterstock_108821864Limbo= Lim’bo, Lim’bus

1.    A region bordering on hell, or hell itself.
2.    A place of restraint.

Restraint= (Hebrew) ma’tsowr (mah-tsore’)

Objectively, a hindrance.
Atsar (aw-tsar), Hebrew
A primitive root; to inclose; by analogy, to hold back; also to maintain, rule, assemble; be able, close up, detain, fast, keep (self close, still), prevail, recover, refrain, X reign, restrain, retain, shut (up), slack, stay, stop, withhold (self).

Isaiah 54:1 “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.

I have found myself on more than one occasion recently saying to myself and others, “I don’t do limbo well!” It seems as though my life and everything about it is in “limbo” at the moment, my place of residence, my passions, my healing and recovery, my job, my relationships, etc., etc., etc. I have continually viewed this as a bad place to be. Looking at the first definition above, that would prove true. BUT GOD!

As I study the second definition I am beginning to realize “limbo” is not always a bad place to be. The verse Isaiah 54:1 seems to start out as a dark place for most women, a barren place. It is a parable of not just a woman who cannot have a child, but all women who have a dream, calling, pull if you will, on their heart. We have so much that “pulls” us into all directions, and usually at the same time! Limbo can be, if we let it, a place of imprisonment, a place of despair and isolation, and really, if we are honest, that region bordering on hell! YUCK! But God wants it to be a place of recovery, refrain from harm, a stillness to stay in His presence. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 We can prevail in “limbo”! “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 We can also keep steadfast in “limbo.” “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Now, I am not saying that I didn’t struggle in my recent “limbo.” As a matter of fact and in total transparency, I actually quit for a bit! Those close to me observed this first hand. They have shown me mercy and grace during my recovery and healing. But God got ahold of me, that’s a great thing, and began to show me how to transfer my “limbo” from that region to His presence. In His presence, limbo looks like this:

L Love = “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.” Psalm 52:8

I Imperfect = “He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.” Deuteronomy 32:4

M Mercy = “His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation.” Luke 1:50

B Beautiful = “and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:3

O Open = “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” Psalm 119:148

So the next time you feel in “limbo”, or maybe you are there right now, call on God, only He can move you from the region bordering hell to His presence.

I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.
Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
THEN I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”
The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, He saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.
For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 116:1-9

Written by Kathy Easley

What Do You Weigh?

shutterstock_60419377I went into the garage tonight to do laundry. As I pushed the button to start the washer something caught my eye.  It was the scale. I walk right by it everyday. Sometimes I don’t even notice it. Sometimes I see it and look the other way and then hurry inside. Other times, I look right at it, curl my lip, and kind of make a low snarling sound. Tonight, I looked at it and it seemed to be taunting me.  I dared myself to get on it.  At first I giggled at the mere thought of putting even one foot on that stupid cube that has determined my emotional well-being for so much of my life. (Stupid box.) 

I closed the washer and took a step toward the door.  But, the closer I got to the scale the more I thought I might actually step on it.  After a couple of more steps, I was standing right next to it. Then, before I could stop myself my right foot was firmly planted on it, then my left foot, then right before my eyes the numbers started rising.  Once it registered my…ahem…weight… I had to squint my eyes to see the number. Surely it was wrong! My heart started beating really fast as I squinted my eyes tighter and tighter to be sure I was reading that middle number correctly.  It was the highest number I’ve ever seen on a scale that held me. (Outside of pregnancy, but even then, I stop looking after a certain point.) “Jesus” I said. “I need you to remind me of who you say I am. Like, right NOW.” 
 
I walked inside and sat down here at my computer to start editing pictures. But, before I started I picked up my phone and opened my Bible app to Romans 8. I’ve been hanging out in Romans 8 for the past few days.  I’ve only been reading a couple of verses at a time so that I can really mull over them and let them sink in. Today was the day to read v. 5.  But, after reading a few key words, (measuring, muscle, exercise) I couldn’t stop there. I had to keep reading.  As I read, I knew God had something to say and it wasn’t a read-between-the-lines situation this time.  Tonight, the words that normally seem like a great message delivered by Paul, became a direct response to my request, “Jesus…. I need you.” 
 
Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.
But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! Romans 8:5-11
 
Ok, so…if you “focus on God” you will eventually know where your identity lies or better, Who you belong to. You experience life on God’s terms. “God’s terms” means healing, power, acceptance, shameless, FREE, authority, revelation. It’s the life Jesus had. God’s terms.
 
I remember when I was healthy.  I remember when being in His presence and gaining a better understanding of communion was more important than eating food that brings death. 
 
I am “delivered from the dead life…” 
 
I “experience life on God’s terms…”
 
I am ALIVE in CHRIST!
Written by Crissy Terrell

Superabundantly

shutterstock_136524851Now to Him who, by the power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose [and] do SUPERABUNDANTLY, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely BEYOND our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams]. Ephesians 3:20 AMP

This verse has become my favorite verse of all times in the bible!! I see it coming true in so many ways and more to come! Beyond the beyond…My favorite verse has been escalating with anticipation and expectation! For more! Beyond what we can see. Having faith to believe and see God carry out His purpose through you and me. Does that get you excited? It does me too!

Being the word girl that I am, I am always compelled to get a definition and search thesaurus for more depth of the meaning of words. I looked up superabundant and this is what it says: Abundant to excess. Exceedingly or abundant. More than sufficient. Overly abundant. Bountiful. Extravagant. Lavish. Lush. No end. Open handed. Overflowing. Plentiful. Prolific. Superfluous.

Something inside begins stirring and inspires me to dream, ask, and pray for more! Beyond what we can see.

I just went to get our mail from the mailbox a little bit ago, and the first word that I see is an advertisement to a large store that seriously has more than you could ever need, want or ask for in one place! A girl going into register for a bridal showers dream! Amazing gadgets and gizmos of all sorts and kinds… Yep, that’s right! Bed Bath & BEYOND!

So this mailer catches my eyes instantly with the words BEYOND in bold, bright, yellow letters. I smiled and laughed and said God you are so clever! You know that you are preparing my heart for this post and you have been graciously sharing your heart with me for more of you! And then you send this mailer to remind me even more!

So I have been thinking about you. Yes you. As you are reading this post you may be miles and miles away from me. I may not be able to reach out and give you a big sweet embrace. But my words can reach out to you. There is a stirring in my heart for you. To ask God for more. Be brave. Dare to ask, think and go superabundantly in your requests. If I had a big jar that you could place your request in, what would you ask God for? Put some thought into it. Something maybe you have been dreaming of for a long time? Praying for? Wishing for? Hoping for something?

If you could put that something into words… what would that be? I am going to even take it a step further and ask you to write out your requests and give them to God. What is something BEYOND your reach that it can only come through Gods open hands. New doors are ready to swing open. Gates are going to swing wide. Hearts are being stirred to ask, dream, imagine far above and beyond!

I am praying and believing for you and the requests that you are making! Looking forward to the God winks He will send your way. You know what I mean. Those surprises that come your way and you know only God could orchestrate something like that!

Maybe a relationship restored. A healing you have been believing for. A sweet encounter that only God could have set up just for you. A delivery in some way that is out of the ordinary. Something extraordinary. A hearts desire that is waiting to be fulfilled. Winks can come in so many ways. I am asking Him to send you God Winks of all kinds!

May He do Superabundantly ABOVE and BEYOND in your life! Believing for an Ephesians 3:20 life for you and the ones you love. In your children, family, friends, church family… it stretches endlessly and infinitely beyond what we can see. God loves to work behind the scenes. In those moments you think that nothing may be happening. You have been waiting and waiting for your prayers to be answered and you think He may not hear you. Oh sweet child, He does! He Hears you and loves to answer you in His timing! There is beauty in the waiting. When the right time comes and your long-awaited prayers, dreams and hopes are fulfilled one by one… you can thank Him for answering…& then just begin to ask for more and more BEYOND!!

Written by Salina Duffy

Let Go and Let God

shutterstock_50844067My daughter and I wake up each morning and go over her memory verses. Currently they are Philippians 4:7, Philippians 4:13, Hebrews 11:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, 1 Peter 5:7, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 20:4, John 3:16, Deuteronomy 28:11-13, and the Lords Prayer from Matthew 6. Her favorite is Philippians 4:7. Whenever she has a bad dream or is upset or anxious about anything I ask her to recite it and she boldly proclaims, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart, and your mind in Christ Jesus!” and she feels better. She writes those words on her heart and takes them as a true promise. She accepts the peace God offers and she claims the protection He gives over herself and her heart and her mind and her dreams. It’s the perfect most precious example of a childlike faith and it’s a blessing to see in action.

I pray for my faith to grow more like hers each day. The last 24 hours have been difficult. Instead of claiming God’s peace and resting in His strength I have fought a bit with my own. Today I had to face my abuser in court. I had to testify as to what I endured at his hands. Needless-to-say, I was full of anxiety. Leading up to today I’ve been sick with allergies and migraines to the point of going to the doctor. I received a steroid shot at the doctor yesterday and promptly passed out in front of my frightened four year old daughter. I suffer of vasovagal syncope syndrome but I haven’t passed out from a venipuncture in years! It’s been an out-of-control couple of days.

The dictionary defines anxiety as “worry, uneasiness, nervousness, tension or stress.” Fear is at the root of anxiety, and because of that, it’s something we need to resist by the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us. Anxiety will steal that peace and joy which The Lord guarantees us, and that’s evidence enough that it’s a tool of the enemy. In Proverbs 14:30 it says, “A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body.” Since anxiety steals our peace, it can make us susceptible to sickness and disease, and I believe it can take years off of our lives. If you spend enough time being anxious you will find sooner or later that you’ll be plagued with headaches, stomachaches, backaches or other illnesses. God never intended for us to shoulder our own burdens, and trying to do so can have terrible consequences. Anxiety has the ability to zap our strength and lower our energy levels. As a result, we’ll be less productive and fruitful as employees, students, parents, ministers, or anything else we apply ourselves to. Anxiety can even harm our relationships. Those around us can suffer when our anxious thoughts make us short-tempered, depressed, or overly sensitive. If we really care about our friends, family, and others we come in contact with, we’ll do our best to walk in peace each day.

God simply desires that we acknowledge our need for Him by promptly bringing all of our concerns to Him in prayer. Our focus then shifts from our unsettling circumstances to our all-powerful God, Who loves us and wants the best for us. In other words- instead of focusing on how big your problems are, look up and focus on what a huge, wonderful, loving Creator you have! Then you’ll see little problems and a big God! As you make a conscious decision to put your trust in the Lord, God’s own indescribable peace will settle over you and quiet your fear. Isaiah puts it this way, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!” (Isaiah 26:3) Besides prayer, we can take a note from Raelee. Devoting ourselves to God’s Word can counteract anxiety. Psalm 119:165 says, “Those who love Your instructions have great peace and do not stumble.” As we meditate on God’s faith-building promises, peace and joy spring up inside of us and crowd out anxiety and fear. Sometimes a specific sin is at the root of our anxiety, and can keep us from enjoying the peace that God wants us to have. When this is the case, we haven’t failed until we’ve completely given up trying to cooperate with God’s Spirit to become all that He created us to be.

I recall awhile back I was sitting in my car and the Holy Spirit lovingly told me that I cannot both obey and disobey God at the same time. Partial obedience is STILL disobedience. I wasn’t giving God control. I wasn’t giving him my anxiety and fears and hurts but was still expecting His promises of peace and love and comfort and joy. It doesn’t work that way. You either have faith or you don’t. There’s no such thing as half-faith. So today I had a choice. Did I want to hold everything on my own shoulders like I did yesterday (and consequently passed out) or did I want to let go and let God? I walked into the silent court room and sat on the bench next to my attorney and in my mind I said, “I can do this. I can do this. I CAN DO THIS. Don’t cry. DONT CRY. YOU’RE STRONG. WARRIOR WOMAN. I can. I CAN do this. Stop….nope…not going to cry. Not gonna do it….” This process continued for the better part of a half hour. Finally the judge called our attorneys up to the stand and my adrenaline started pumping. I got hot all over. I was trying so hard to be brave but I felt the fear gripping my chest and the tears welling in my eyes. Suddenly a song that my friend wrote started playing in my head. It is a song written in Gods perspective to us. The lyrics are so comforting. It talks about how God will stick by our side. He will help us through the night. He will be with us. We will be forever His child. This song played over and over and over in my head until our first recess. During that recess I called my friend Marco who wrote the song and thanked him for it. Subconsciously, it had pointed me back to Christ instead of looking within for strength. He reminded me that God was with me in that court room and I wasn’t alone. He told me that God’s angels were fighting by my side and I can rest in Him. I walked back into the court room and for the first time since I had been in court, I prayed. I asked God to come in and take my fears and anxiety and be my strength. I let go and let God.

The rest is history. I was still an emotional wreck but I was strong. And the judge ruled overwhelmingly in my favor. God had already fought the battle for me. It was amazing.

Just before the Savior went to the cross, He gave His disciples a priceless gift. In John 14:27 Jesus says: “I am leaving you with a gift: peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” Our Savior has left us with an unshakable peace which will sustain us in the most difficult times. The apostle Paul confirms this when he says in 2 Thessalonians 3:16, “May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.” Let these words from the Savior encourage your heart today: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:34) God bless y’all.

Written by Whitney Wells

Misplaced Treasure

shutterstock_189760376I sat back in my reading time with an “Aha!” moment.  One line over a year of pondering and searching, and finally “Aha!!”…it all makes sense.  I had been seeking for an answer as to why I was having a particularly hard time in healing from the end of a relationship.  Being a natural researcher, I had taken time to look up various articles on what I was feeling and I found out that grief does not only come from the loss of a loved one through death, it comes from any kind of loss in your life.  The loss of a relationship, the loss of a job, a house.  I had gone through all of the appropriate levels of grief, and still found myself with rogue feelings that just would not conform, pack up and move out.

So there I was, over a year later, and finally I read something that clicked deep within me. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

Wow.  So few words and yet so profound.  I was having such a difficult time because I had placed my treasure (my heart and my hope) in something that was just as flawed as I was.  I invested a little (ok, a lot) more of myself than I should have, so the effects of that sudden loss were a bit devastating and hard to understand.  I subconsciously put myself “on hold,” trying to figure out what had happened, and in the meantime secretly hoped that it would all just go back to how it was.  I was living on the outside, but I had put myself on the shelf on the inside.  Finding this one sentence gave me the clarity I needed to see the big picture.

In our day to day lives, we find that those things we have put our sweat, blood and tears in, those things we have worked so hard to obtain, become our “treasures” whether we realize it or not.  We invest so much of ourselves into that “thing” that when it is no longer there, we are left wondering what just happened?

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Armed with this information, I was able to see everything in a whole new light.  Although my heart was genuine, I had just placed it in the wrong hands.

Is your treasure in the right hands?

Written by Jamie Stapleton