God Is Bringing Restoration

R: Revived and rejuvenated, we will no longer feel dormant

E: Energized and encouraged, excited to experience growth

S: Saved and sustained, God doesn’t let us stay in our withered state

T: Taken under God’s wings, touched with tender, loving care

O: Order and organization will replace the chaos and confusion

R: Risen spirits, resuming what was halted and recovering what was stolen

A: Amen, alleluia, our All-powerful God–with God all things are possible

T: Thriving, thankful for all we’ve been given, our hopes for today and tomorrow

I: Inspired—innovations and ideas instilled into us to propel us forward

O: Only One can restore us, only One fills the hole in our hearts to make us whole

N: Never hopeless, not broken, not dead, now we are made new by God

Let us be ready to allow God to bring about a restoration within us.  God has a grand design for our lives.  When God plans our extreme makeover, the result will be amazing. With God we will not just be returned to where we were in the past.  We will be made better.  God, moves us higher—bringing about a renewal, a rebirth, a resurrection that brings us closer to Him and to our best-self ever.

With Love,

Kerri LeVanseler

Dealt a Cruel Hand

Dear God,

Why does life have to be so cruel sometimes?  We love you.  We trust you.  We pray.  We have faith.  Then our circumstances change.  We are thrown into the pit.  Despair.  Anger.  Fear.  Sadness.  These emotions take over our thoughts.  How could this happen?  God, you promised to be my protector.  Where are you now?

Our hearts cry out…

  • I didn’t want my loved one to die.
  • I didn’t want to have this illness.
  • I didn’t want to lose my job.
  • I didn’t want that person to walk out on me, to let me down.
  • I didn’t want to be hurt and broken.

But here I am.  The worst has come to be.  What do I do now?  To whom do I turn?

God, is it possible for us to thank you for all the good and light in our lives and not hold you to blame for the darkness and the bad?  God, let our hearts know that you are not the dealer of this cruel hand.  The world is made up of individuals who are free to make choices.  We are physical beings with fallible physiologies.  We live in a natural environment with consequences and where bad things happen to good people.  There are a host of causes, some within our control, some not, that bring us to the place we find ourselves.

God, please let us remember that you are light, goodness and love, always, everlasting, unconditional, freely given, love.

Darkness comes, evil exists, people hurt one another and bad hands are dealt.  The hand is lost.  But, God, I will remember, you are not the dealer, you are the inventor and creator of the game.  You see beyond this round.  You see the big picture, how everything fits together.  You see this cruel hand and reach out to me with compassion.  You carry me through.  You mold me and shape me for a big win in the game of everlasting life.  I can know this hand is not the end.  God, you will keep me in the game. Next rounds will be played.  And, God, I know you will be at my side.  With you God, there will always be a victory!

Amen

A Sprinkle of Salt & Sweet

A sprinkle of salt or the taste of sweetness gives flavor to what we eat.  As humans, we often crave foods that are salty or sweet, sometimes going overboard on how much of these snacks we eat since these flavors please our senses.  One taste is not always enough. These terms, salt and sweet, don’t just describe food, they are also used to describe a person’s character.

“You are so sweet, the salt of the earth.” 

Being the “salt of the earth” means you are a very good and honest person, respected for your pure heart.

Being a “sweet” person means you are kind, gracious, thoughtful, forgiving and loving.

These characteristics add flavor to life, creating more joy and peace in relationships.  It is God’s will for us to be the salt.  He blesses the peacemakers and the pure of heart.  If salt loses its taste, it is worth nothing (see Matthew 5:8,9,13), just like us without love, we are nothing (see I Corinthians 13:2).  

When the devil steps in to spoil our thoughts, making them distasteful, focus on the good of Jesus.  We can keep letting Jesus flavor our thoughts.  Even when things go sour or get bitter, the addition of love will make it better.  Each day we are judged by the flavor and content of our character.  We “must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.  Let us not seek to satisfy our desires by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.”1  Strive to be the salt; strive to be sweet.  When we open our hearts, we can accept the help of Jesus to love our enemies.

Let us sprinkle salt and sweetness into the lives of others.  With loving actions applied generously, unconditionally and with a pure heart, more people will experience the sweet life.  O, taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” (Psalm 34:8)  Accepting God’s love and blessing others by passing love along—there is no other flavor that can ever top that.

__________________________

[1]From Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” Speech, August 28, 1963.

5 Top OFI’s for 2021

Opportunities for Improvement

With the New Year, some of us reflect on what changes we’d like to make in our lives. Perhaps a resolution or two are made. Annual professional and personal goals are developed and written down with the intention that this action may strengthen our commitment to achieve the objectives. 

Unfortunately, the goals and resolutions made in January can leave us with guilt by February if we have failed to take the actions we had initially planned. Instead of being aspirational and motivating, thinking about our goals just brings us down as the weeks fly by without progress being made. Let’s “think small”, doing little things to move us in the right direction. Define your OFIs, Opportunities for Improvements. Here’s a top five list that I am sure will help you make the most of the year ahead.

  1. Lose Weight—Don’t carry around heavy burdens that drag you down spiritually. Put the load you are carrying on to God to handle. If you are carrying guilt, let it go knowing you are forgiven and loved. Be thankful that you don’t need to deal with that extra weight as you face your future as a lighter, brighter you.
  2. Be More Active—sometimes we hear a small voice that tells us to take an action. Help someone in need. Encourage someone who is down. You are busy. They don’t want me to bother them. I don’t know them. No excuses, follow the voice and act with kindness, it may be God telling you what you should do. Pray and act out your faith, you will be amazed at what can happen.
  3. Stop Smoking— When something happens that has you fuming, stop and breathe. Don’t fan the flames of your anger thinking about how it is unfair or how wrong someone or something is. Getting mad and exploding never helps a situation and more often than not people can get hurt.
  4. Eat Healthy—Seek out God’s word and other sources that feeds your soul and nourishes your spirit. Making healthy choices of what you are taking into your body and mind will make you stronger, more resilient and allow you to reflect the best version of who you were meant to be.
  5. Get Organized—Each of our lives is full of stuff, stuff we own, stuff we have to work on, stuff we enjoy and love, and stuff we don’t like and want to avoid. Too much stuff can be a problem whether it is too many thoughts circling around our brains or too many items cluttering up our lives leaving us stressed out. It helps to get organized and prioritize what is most important. Ask God to help clear up your thinking and to follow His will for what matters most. Purge out the stuff that isn’t good. Focus on the positive stuff, the things and people that build you up and give you peace. Look for small steps to take or problems that you can solve so that the life you are living has meaning and purpose. You are worth it!

Will We Be Ready in the End?

Our world – in a mess,

Civilizations acting uncivilized,

Super rich, living in excess,

Extreme poverty, with people living on the edge,

Brutality and abusive behaviors occurring,

Some dismissing the value of young innocent lives,

Spreading disease forcing people to be separated from their communities,

Battle lines are drawn, with fighting between politicians and leaders,

Natural disasters wreaking havoc on cities and in the countryside,

People feeling hopeless and depressed,

No one is in direct control of their circumstances,

Humanity is overwhelmed by what is happening.

This is the world that Jesus was born into. Or is it 2020?

Back then, Jesus came as a babe to grow and teach us all a better way of living. He came to us weak and unprotected. He came, not to create a religion, but to demonstrate love and compassion.

He left us with the Holy Spirit and our sins forgiven. He left us with the keys to God’s Kingdom and the path to life everlasting with Him.

When Jesus returns, He will come showing His power and authority over all. He will return quickly and His reward will be with Him.[1] He will return when least expected and will reward the servants who are ready.[2]

Are we going to be ready for the end? What are we all waiting for?  God is alive today.  No one needs to wait until the return of Jesus in the flesh in order to experience a new life.  He is here with us, everywhere.  God has invited us to come to Him and if we only ask, He will come into our lives.  Let anyone come who desires to drink freely from the water of life.[3]  We plead with you, encourage you, and urge you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy.  For He calls you to share in His Kingdom and Glory.[4]

In the past, present or future, we are told we must be ready.  It could be your individual life which can end unexpectedly, or an end may come at a more global level.  Be ready at all times.  God has given us time to bear good fruit.  We may be given more chances, but why wait another moment?  Be ready in case the end is now.  Give your life over to God today.  Live with love and kindness.  Show compassion to your neighbors, your family, friends and those who treat you as their enemy.  That way, when it is the end, we will be ready, ready to celebrate and relocate to our true home, eternally with God.


[1] Based on Revelations 22:12

[2] Based on Luke 12:38-40

[3] Revelations 22:17

[4] Based on 1 Thessalonians 2:12

Prayer for Open Doors & Windows-

Photo by Alessio Cesario on Pexels.com

Dear God— I am very grateful that You made Your Presence known to me. From that day I have known in my heart and mind that You are REAL and that has changed my life, my thoughts and my priorities. Thank You for all that You do everyday and the love You give whether I am at my best or at my worst. You are by my side. You can be trusted. You prepare a place in Heaven for me when life on Earth is over. Nothing can ever harm me because You are my protector. You give me strength and carry my burdens when I need a rest. I praise and thank you Lord.

Now I am asking for help. How do I do my part to lead people to see that You are real? There are so many people hurting, Lord. They think that this broken, messed up world is all there is. They think it is foolish to put their trust in anything they cannot see and prove. I pray that they can know You. Pushing words about Your Peace falls on deaf ears. Doors may close that I am trying to open with words of Your Love for them. Lord God, teach me, guide me to say the right things when I am given the window of opportunity. Please, Lord, reach them, touch them, show the nonbelievers that You are there. Make it personal in ways only You, Our God, can do. Whether they are seeking You or not, open the doors and windows and let Your Light flow into their lives.

Once they feel Your presence and see that You are REAL, their lives can be filled, their hurts can be healed, You can comfort them in their troubles. They can receive Your Love and have hope for their future. Don’t wait God, they need You now. We all need You now and always. Sending praise and thanksgiving for open doors and windows for You to enter into the lives of those who don’t yet know You.  Bring about the changes for good that come from a personal relationship with You, our amazing God. 

Amen 🙏

Ageless Wisdom

These days it seems like true wisdom is in short supply.  People often accuse one another of being ignorant and having poor judgement.  Our society idolizes youth and beauty, with actors, musicians and athletes in their 20’s getting a lot of attention and “air-time”.  These “kids” may have notoriety, but have they gone through enough life experiences to be able to share wisdom with the world?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The dictionary says that wisdom is…

  • Experience and knowledge together with the power of applying them
  • Prudence, common sense
  • Wise sayings

To say someone has wisdom is a superb compliment.  When people apply that wisdom to problems and propose solutions, it is a great benefit to others. 

In the Bible, Solomon, son of David, became a king at the tender age of twenty years old.  God came to Solomon in a dream (1 Kings 3:5-14).  God asks “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”  Solomon replies that even though he is king, he is like “a little child who doesn’t know his way around.”  “Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong.”  The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom.  God gave Solomon what he asked for and more.  (1 Kings 3:28) …the people were in awe of the king, for they saw the wisdom God had given Solomon for rendering justice.  (It is too bad that Solomon didn’t exercise that wisdom when it came to women later in his life.)

Today, where can we find wisdom and how can we ourselves become wise?  Many have gone before us and they have learned much that can serve as a foundation of understanding as we face questions and look for answers, whether it is in the written word or by consulting elders. (Proverbs 19:20) Get all the advice you can, so you can be wise the rest of your life.  Looking to those who have lived their lives with integrity, we can gain valuable insights of what is right, just and fair.  (Proverbs 2) Tune your ears to wisdom and ask God to grant “a treasure of common sense.”  God will lead you to pearls of wisdom, if you search for them like hidden treasures.  Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends who have chosen to avoid evil and find joy in doing what is right, have a wealth of knowledge to share. (Proverbs 1:8-9) My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck.  Just leaders and godly educators teach and show the way to those who follow and stay on the path of the righteous.  The understanding that you gain from listening to their wisdom and the discipline you build by exercising good choices will keep you protected and safe. (Proverbs 2:7) God is a shield to those who walk with integrity.  This is what God wants for you.  Have respect and awe for our God who holds immense power over everything and all wisdom of the ultimate truth.  He is willing to lead us to wisdom as we listen and follow His instruction and great consul.  In these ways, we can have ageless wisdom as our guide so that we find more peace and joy in living.

Let God bless you and keep you. Amen.

Through the Fire

Photo by moein moradi on Pexels.com

What image comes to mind when you think of fire and flames?

  • A campfire with friends and family all around?
  • Sitting by a fireplace warming up on a winter night?
  • A candle burning while eating a romantic dinner or enjoying a peaceful moment of contemplation watching the flame flicker?

Or is it an image that is just the opposite of peaceful?

  • A forest fire destroying trees, wildlife and homes in its wake?
  • A fiery, explosive emergency where people are at risk of getting hurt?
  • Hell and damnation, the fire and brimstone images of death without freedom and forgiveness from sin?

The images of fire and flames are used in many ways within our culture.  The invention of the wheel and the discovery of how to make fire are great innovations of our prehistoric ancestors.  Being “fired up” or having “fire” can refer to a person’s passion, energy, desire and drive.  Whereas “being fired” means the loss of a job.  Fire is often used in connection with purification.  Forging metal with fire changes the characteristics of the material, getting rid of impurities and allowing for molding into new shapes.  Baptism by fire references a personal ordeal someone goes through.  God’s holy fire can be descriptive of the transformative power of God’s love.

By going through the fire, we have felt the heat, we’ve been under the pressure of a difficult situation, we may have gotten burned, but we have made it to the other side.  The fire didn’t destroy us.  It may have transformed us, it may have molded us, it may have brought us to a place where we can appreciate that we’ve been refined.  We may gain confidence that God had a purpose for what we’ve gone through.   By going through the fire, let’s get fired up and share what we’ve learned and what we know about God’s Holy Fire. It may be just what someone else needs to hear to get them through the fire they are in the middle of.  Share the experience of God’s transforming love that lit a fire in you.  Encourage others to go through the fire.  Help them to reach the other side and be purified and transformed in ways that only God can do. 

Amen, God Almighty, we praise and thank you for refining us to do your works and to live in your image.

Keep It Simple & Breathe

Does life on earth seem to be getting more and more complex?

The pace of information coming at us doesn’t let up.  Everyday we hear more about the issues and problems our world is facing.  Listening to a constant flow of bad news often leads to anxiety and sleepless nights.  Protests, politics, power plays, and a pandemic…we’re dealing with stressors both old and new.  People are on opposite sides of the fence.  Each side takes its stand at a far distance away from the other, leaving a great divide in the middle. Often the fighting between the individualized extremes blurs the reasons behind the passion for the cause, creating a blindness for seeing possible solutions for the good of us all.  God stands ready to give us solutions to the challenges, peace in the storms, comfort when the world’s gone crazy. Are enough of us listening?

I get in my car, turning on my radio to SmileFM.  The lyrics of the songs remind me of what is important and of what God wants me to do.  Danny Gokey says it like this…

“Gotta keep it real simple”…

“We’re living in a world that keeps breakin’

But if we want to find a way to change it

It all comes down to this

Love God and love people

Next, Jonny Diaz sings…

“When the stress is on the rise in my heart

I feel you say just

Breathe, just breathe

Come and rest, at my feet

And be, just be

Chaos calls but all you really need is to just breathe.”

These are words I need to hear.  These are words to live by.  Keep it simple.  From the beginning to the end of each day, love God and never forget how much He loves you.  With people, you can’t go wrong in living by following the Golden Rule:  treat others how you’d like to be treated.  Then rest at God’s feet and just keep breathing.  God will carry us through.  Seek God’s word for the counsel and comfort you need.  Isaiah 26:3 promises that God will keep in perfect peace those who trust in Him, whose thoughts are fixed on Him.

My prayers are that we all listen to God’s voice each day, whether it is heard through the words of a song, from a friend or something you’ve read.  God uses many ways to be our guide.  He wants us to experience peace in our crazy lives.

God Bless

It’s OK to be a Weed

Weeds are a tough lot.  We pull them out but often their deep roots keep them grounded so that they can spring back up.  We chop them down, but sometimes this just encourages new, vigorous growth.  We smother them, we stomp on them, we poison them and still they keep on thriving and growing.  When there is barren land, the weeds come in and do the job of holding the soil in place to prevent erosion.  And weeds spread.  They know a thing or two about being fruitful and multiplying.  The weeds help improve the quality of the soil and provide an excellent environment for insects and microorganisms.  Think of the excellent role some weeds play for the beautiful butterflies.  Many weeds have blooms, bringing color and sweet smells and seeds, serving as food for birds and bees.  God knew that the Earth needed weeds to fulfill His purpose.

It just might be that we could learn a few things from the weeds.

  • Stay grounded and rooted to solid values, maintaining a firm foundation on God’s promises
  • When challenges and obstacles come your way, look for ways to experience growth and new opportunities.
  • If we’ve been hurt, and people and things are coming against us, rise above it, don’t let that keep you down, overcome the adversity and thrive despite the difficulties.
  • If you are in a barren place, bring life to it.  Spread your passion.  Prevent further erosion.  Bring color and sweetness to the emptiness.
  • Nourish those around you.  Build up the quality of the environment.  Be fruitful and multiply love, peace and mercy to expand the Kingdom of God.
  • Bloom. Show the beauty that comes from the spirit within.  You never know how much it could benefit those around you.

God knows the purpose He has in mind for you.  You may not be a sought after flower in the garden.  You may not be pampered and protected here on Earth.  But it’s OK to be a weed.  Be amazingly resilient.  Be tough and grow even when things are stacked against you.  …If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)