One Word for the Year

If I am ever asked to describe 2020 in one word, I think I would struggle to pick one right off the bat. How do you describe a year that has been unlike anything you’ve ever experienced? How do you describe a year that has been somewhat beautiful but also devastating? How would you describe 2020 in one word?

Just like any year, we’ve all experienced many different seasons and changes within 2020. I think this time around though, we’ve had more time to reflect on the year. When I think back to what my life looked like in January of the year, I remember feeling very anxious, overwhelmed, and somewhat lost. I didn’t know what this year was going to look like. I thought I needed to have a game plan for the year and know exactly how I wanted my life to play out. I thought I needed to fix myself in a lot of ways but didn’t know how or where to start. I felt busy, tensed, and pressurized.

I spent a few moments this morning reflecting on this past year. For me, the way I view this year is in multiple different seasons. Looking back at my journal, I had to break this year up into four different parts. This helps me to understand where I have grown and what areas of my life still need some shifting.

To answer the original question of this post, I think I would describe this year as complex. According to Google, the definition of complex is “consisting of many different and connected parts“.

I think this word could be used to describe many different years in our lives. But, the reason I chose it for 2020, is because I am starting to see how God used all the parts of this year to shift my attention, focus, and mindset back on Him.

When I look back on this year, I can see that many different struggles, months, and seasons contained different parts of my story, my growing, and my becoming. I can also see how the events around the world greatly affected my personal life and how it is related to my story as well. Most of all though, I see how I struggled with things at the beginning of the year that I don’t struggle with anymore, or at least not as much, mainly because God has shifted my view and perspective on things.

Certain things have to happen in your life in a certain way to have a certain outcome that God can later use for His Kingdom.

I’m not sure what ways or outcomes this year has brought you. But, I believe that this year was not wasted time. Some things might not have gone the way you thought. Heck, things might not be going the way you thought as you are reading this. However, God’s love is still evident even here.

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. – Romans 8:27-29

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:37-39

Our Creator has always had a plan. His plan is still in process for this year as well. He is working all things out for your good. Even the things that are tough, hurtful, and difficult to overcome.

The beauty of this life is that we don’t have to have all the answers and know all the ways things will work out. Because our God already knows. He already won the victory when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We already have freedom and an inheritance waiting in heaven.

Remember this, life can be beautiful. Life can be tough. Life can seem like it will last forever. However, this life is only temporary.

We’re able to take this life day by day. We don’t have to do this life alone either. We can rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us, shape us, and grow us in this lifetime. We can lean on one another and learn from one another as we go through life as well.

I want to challenge you to take some time either today or this week and reflect on this past year. Remember the different parts and challenges it brought. Remember the different emotions you might have been feeling and the different events that took place and those that didn’t happen as you thought they would. Think about how you felt and what you struggle with at the beginning of the year, and if any of those feelings or challenges have changed for you.

I hope this challenge will help you to see the growth you’ve made over the past year. I also hope it will encourage you to set some new goals for the month of December or going into the new year.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

With love,

Claire

Fruit of the Spirit: GENTLENESS

Over the past few weeks, we have learned about what it means to live a holy and pleasing life for the Lord. We have talked about living a life full of faith, being kind to others, and seeking joy during difficult circumstances. Today, I want to continue this series with gentleness.

WHAT IS GENTLENESS:

When the Bible mentions gentleness, most of the time, it is speaking about how we should act gently with one another.

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” – 1 Peter 3:14-15

What I find so interesting and wonderful about the different attributes of the fruit of the Spirit, is that they are all somewhat connected to each other. For example, gentleness is related much to kindness and love. But just by living in a manner that is holy to God, we are embracing all the attributes of the Spirit in a united way.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:1-2

WHAT DOES THE LORD TEACH US ABOUT GENTLENESS:

When I think of the word gentleness, I think of my words. The words that I chose to use when speaking with others and the meaning behind those words. Many things flow from our heart, but one that is deadly to ourselves and those around us are the words we speak.

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” – Matthew 15:18-19

Think about it, when we are connecting and interacting with each other, the majority of the time, we are speaking words to others. But the question is “Are we using a gentle heart when speaking to those around us?”

Here’s where I don’t want to confuse you though. Having a gentle heart does not mean you are a pushover. It doesn’t mean things don’t bother you or you can’t stand up for yourself. You totally can. But it is in the way you do it that is the kicker. The attitude you use, the way you speak your words, and the meaning behind it.

I have been reading a book called “Speak Love” by Annie Downs. I recently found it at Barnes and Noble, and I truly just thought “You know, I need to take the time to get better at learning to be more mindful of the words I speak and acknowledge when my words can hurt.” But one point Annie brings up is that we learn how to act in a holy manner by learning about God.

“God is our example. How God uses His words is how we can learn to use ours.” – Annie Downs

We see God using His words to create life at the beginning of Genesis. We also see God using His words through the life of Jesus. When Jesus was ministering or fellowshipping with His disciples, Jesus would stand up for Himself and His Father even when people tried to attack Him. However, He did it gently.

I truly think the reason Jesus was able to speak in such a way (other than being God Himself) was that He loved everyone around Him. His heart was good, gentle, kind, and true and it allowed Him to speak gently and lovingly to those around Him.

LIVING WITH A GENTLE HEART:

I don’t have a perfect answer for living with a gentle heart, but I can tell you the things I try to do.

Learn from God’s words. Reading scripture and meditating on how God speaks to those, such as Abraham, Moses, and Noah gives me a way of how I should handle my interactions with those around me. And learning about how Jesus speaks to those around Him, gives me hope that I can speak truth in the life of others because of the power of the Holy Spirit.

“for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” – Luke 12:12

Set your mind on things above. I was reminded this past week that in a lot of situations when I get frustrated, overwhelmed, or confused in life, things really aren’t as bad as they seem. And things could always be worse. We will suffer in this life. But remember that this is our temporary home and a heavenly kingdom is in store for us in the future.

“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.” – Hebrews 11:16

Be mindful and take your time. It is very important to allow yourself time to think before you speak. I think we live in such a busy and rushed world that we are used to immediately putting our words on paper or out into the world. But, it is perfectly okay to take time with your words.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” – James 1:19

I hope that this week, you can not only see how God is speaking to you in different ways around you, but you can learn more about how God sees you and loves you. Be gentle with those around you and with yourself. Take things day by day and focus on the present place God has you in.

With love,

Claire

Search for Significance

“I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem, I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom, and also knowledge.” Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” – Ecclesiastes 1:12-18

Solomon was the richest and highest person in all of Jerusalem during the time period that he lived in. Other people envied him for all the fame and wealth that he had. The man had everything he wanted, but it was all still so meaningless to him. Maybe, on the outside, he looked like he was living the best life, but Solomon wasn’t satisfied.

Sometimes, I feel like I fit in with the “other people” category in this story. I want things that other people have such as grades or fame. Maybe, you can relate. But we have to remember that even when we have those things, we still won’t be satisfied. Solomon had all he wanted and still wasn’t satisfied because the only thing that can satisfy us is Christ.

Jesus is the only one who can fulfill us. It’s pointless to try and find that fulfillment in other things. Jesus knows that we are hungry and He tells us that HE is the solution.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” – John 6:35

Jesus sees that we are hungry. He knows that our desires are real and wants the absolute best for you. He wants you to spend your life well, but sometimes, this causes us to settle for less. Sometimes, we are searching for all the wrong things, like Solomon. We want the fame and the wealth, but Solomon knew it was all meaningless.

The Bible tells us that the only thing that will satisfy you is Christ. If we fulfill our lives with things or activities that don’t put Jesus first, then we will never be satisfied. You won’t be pleased and you will have lost more than you actually gained in those things.

Jesus came to give you life and He won’t stop looking for you until you are for Him. He is the bread of life that was broken for you. You don’t need to have this constant search for significance because it is found in the one that has saved you.

Love always,

Claire

 

Be Bold Like a Lion

Is fear stopping you from becoming the person God wants you to be? Is fear keeping you from experiencing the power of God?

Going to these questions, fear stops me sometimes. I have a fear of rejection that the people I talk to won’t like me or think I’m strange. I have let this fear stopped me from telling people about Jesus before. However, God tells us that we don’t have to fear because if you believe in Him, His spirit is always with you.

In Acts, chapter 4, there are two men that show the boldness of Christ. But before we get there, let’s talk about what’s going on before this story begins. Jesus has already been crucified and resurrected. Jesus has been taken up to heaven and has told the disciples to go and tell the all the people to the ends of the earth about what Jesus has done. In Chapter 3 of Acts, this is where the first part of the story starts.

Now, Peter and John have been going around, teaching the Israelites about the story of Jesus. During their journey, Peter and John are stopped by a beggar asking for money that cannot walk. They do not give him money, but instead this is what happens:

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. – Acts 4:6-10

The man jumps to his feet and begins to walk. He goes into the temple and everyone recognizes him and wonders how can this man walk now?? Peter then begins to explain that he did not heal the man, but by faith in the name of Jesus Christ, this man can now walk.

Now this is where things get interesting……

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand. The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. – Acts 4:1-10

Now keep in mind that this Peter that stands here and shows much boldness, is the same Peter that denied knowing Jesus, three times. He is also the same Peter that doubted Jesus when he tried to walk on the water. Peter has made some mistakes in the past, but he still shows his boldness even though he isn’t perfect.

As Christians, we need to have a desire to make a difference for the kingdom, and most of the time, that requires us to be bold. But when we let fear get in the way, we tend to want to hide. If you go to Genesis 3:6-10, God is looking for Adam and Eve. He says “Where are you?”, and Adam says “I was afraid, so I hid.”

It is so easy for us to let fear overcome us and say no to boldness. The enemy wants you to do that. He tricks us in to doing that all the time. But we need to have boldness when sharing the truth about Jesus Christ. Like I said, we need to have a desire to make a difference for the kingdom. Whether that’s inviting people that don’t know Christ to your church, or just telling people around campus about Jesus, we need to have boldness in that.

Maybe, it’s not fear that’s getting in the way for you. Maybe its doubt or shame or guilt or etc. But whatever, it is, Jesus what’s you to overcome it and find boldness.

Going back to one of the first questions I asked y’all, God wants the absolute best for you. God isn’t the same as “everybody else”. He’s not just some other person. He doesn’t want fear or doubt or shame or anything to stop you from experiencing all He has planned for you. He’s your Father and God sent His son to this Earth to die for YOUR sins because of the love He has for YOU. So, find courage through Him and let His Spirit allow you to be bold.

Love always,

Claire