Bethany's BlogWords of Encouragement

The Freedom of Armor




Put on the whole armor of God

Just recently I listened to Brene Browns video "the call to courage." She had me laughing, crying, and pondering. It wore me out, actually...I laid down after she was done talking and had a little nap. While listening to her, several thoughts popped in and out, like " I could do that!" "I can't imagine doing what she does!" "I need to work on being more courageous."  "Being vulnerable is way tooooo scary for me!"

Through it all, I came to the conclusion that she is absolutely right. To be courageous, we must be vulnerable.  Then, the thought of God's armor flooded my mind. I wouldn't normally put vulnerability and God's armor together, so I opened my Bible to read through Ephesians 6, again.

"Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil......Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness., and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace: above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one."

To be courageous, we must be vulnerable enough to tell the truth, to live truth, to allow truth to penetrate our entire beings. It must be firmly girded around our waist, holding up every action and thought. It is the foundation of righteousness, and the stability of peace. Truth enables us to hang on to faith and face the battles with courage and hope.

The quest for truth has been at the center of my life for a long time, and I've learned that it involves a lot of soul searching. Truth is incredibly vulnerable. When we live in that place inside of ourselves it requires the courage to ask ourselves a lot of questions. We have to be vulnerable with ourselves and courageous enough to tell ourselves the truth of our motives in our everyday situations.

For me, this can be big things in life or small simple choices. When I am faced with choices, I am also faced with the question of motives and identity. What does this choice  say about my motives? Does this line up with who God has made me to be? Am I living in the truth of Who God is? sometimes I am able to be vulnerable with my self and others and answer courageously, other times, I falter. Even in those situations, the times I falter, it takes courage to recognize it, and vulnerability to talk about it.

I've discoveerd over the years that when I ask questions of myself and of God, He demonstrates courageous  living to me. Jesus is the truth. His examples of courage inspire me to continually live in that place of vulnerability with Him. He was courageous with everyone around him. He stepped outside the box and spoke truth in ways that changed lives. He showed others his heart, which in turn challenged them to look at their own hearts. This is courageous, for sure.

So, I'm continuing to set out with the armor of truth wrapped around me. The motive of righteousness secure in my heart, and the assurance of peace in all that I do. The lies that fly my way will not prevail! 

May you walk in courage today as well!

The Pages of Your Life

Books, I love to read books. There's always a new story, new information, words put in a new way. Books are full of endless possibilities. As I've mentioned many times, reading is an everyday event for me. I recently finished reading the book of John in the Bible. so good! I love the Passion Translation mostly because it's poetic. Brian Simmons, the translator has a way of flowing words together that resonate deeply with me.  A great example of this is John 3:16. "For this is how much God loved the world-he gave his uniquely conceived Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life."  God sent His Son, Jesus, so that we will have eternal life! Right now, today. "God did not send his Son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be its Savior and rescue it!" Jesus did not come to live on earth so he could go around and point out everybody's sin. His purpose was not to condemn us or judge us, but instead to love us. All of us. Jesus himself received a lot of judgement and condemnation because of the company he kept. He hung out with prostitutes, drunkards, people with major health issues, and rebels. He ate with them, walked with them, became involved in their lives. He told them stories.

I think this in itself is pretty convicting. I mean, how often do I hang with prostitutes? Is it in my weekly schedule to go to the local bar and just listen to people? When's the last time I visited the sick?  What about you? How would you answer these questions?  

It can be challenging to love others the way Jesus loves us. I've been praying about it a lot. I can see that one factor that gets in the way is fear. God says that there is no fear in perfect love, I do not have a perfect love. When I consider living a radical life like Jesus did, I know that things are going to have to change. The pages in my book cannot be laced with fear. Fear of safety, fear of what someone might think, fear of inability. The fears can be endless if we let them, right? 

What is keeping you from living love on every single page of your story? Radical, intense love?  

Or, maybe you do, and I admire that. It's a mama bear kind of love that is willing to put ourselves out there for all of God's children. Now, I've been a mama bear before when I believed my children were being threatened. I've also been chased by a real mama bear, and it's no picnic.  When I think of the intensity of those moments, I think of how much bigger, stronger the love of God is for me. HE SENT HIS SON! This is a lot of love. He drove love through all the fear and saved His children so that they could live!  His finger was not shaking up and down at us proclaiming all our shameful ways, no, no. Instead His arms were open wide to us with love. He wrote our destiny in our books with great care and love.

"The Light of God has now come into the world, but the hearts of people love their darkness more than the Light, because they want the darkness to conceal their evil. So the wicked hate the Light and try to hide from it, for their lives are fully exposed in the Light. But those who love the Truth will come out into the Light and welcome its exposure, for the Light will reveal that their fruitful works were produced by God." versus 19-21

How many times do we stay hidden because the fear of exposure overwhelmes us? The Truth of his Light bids us to come to him and be released from the darkness, to let the fear go. I have stayed hidden on more than one occasion because I did not trust that his Light would be safe and free. Once I stepped into his Light and truth, the love of his warmth enveloped me. This is how Light works. This is what he writes in our books, Light, truth, relief from the blinding darkness.

What are you afraid of? Is there something that holds you back? 

Father God, because of Your gift to us, your Son, eternal life is ours! Your love, intense and passionate, has the light and power to drive out all fear. Open the pages of our life and reveal who you are!

Deciding Faith

For the year 2020 i have a goal to read at least 50 books. I'm on my fourth book now. I like a lot of different types of books, and I enjoy talking about them. Most of the time, I like the books I read, other times, not so much. I want to tell you about a book I read last week; it is based on a true story, and even though I finished it, I can't say I really liked it.  If You Tell is the true story of a woman that abused her three daughters, killed her neqhew, and killed two friends. Her crimes lasted for years, until finally her daughter told. Not only were the methods of abuse highly disturbing, but the manipulation this mother used on her children and on others, kept them quiet for over 18 years! The girls went to school everyday, they interacted with friends, teachers, relatives, yet still they did not tell. They felt the need to protect their mother instead. When the entire story is laid out in a book; it's astonishing. The level of shame inflicted on their lives was it's own form of torture. This woman did go to prison, surprisingly her sentence was only for 17 years, which means she will be released in just a couple of years.

Now that the book is finished, I've had questions. What if the girls had told sooner?  They were afraid that no one would believe them, or they would bring more damage upon themselves. Whatever the case, they couldn't do it. But, still I wonder how their lives would've been different had they told. 

Then, yesterday as I was reading in Acts17 in the Message, this one phrase stood out to me: "He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near."  I thought of this family, the girls growing up, the mother.  I had to ask, "What was God doing?"

As I've said before, the fact that I get to ask God this question is something I love about Him. He allows me to process, think, and question. He doesn't always give the answer to me, but He does listen to me. I did come to somewhat of a conclusion. All the pain the girls endured changed them forever, but it didn't break them. They grew up, went to school, got jobs, had families. They treated their children with love and respect. They learned that truth sets us free. Free from shame, secrets, and fear.  Still, I'm battling with the "why" and I suppose I always will in some form. There is evil, and that evil makes a stain on our lives. But, feels like God was hiding from them. It feels like He was remote. It feels like He just turned a blind eye.

And so there we sit with the decision, again. Faith. Throughout all of scripture God tells me that He is near. He tells me that He loves all of us, that He will not leave us. I've wrestled with those realities in my own life many times. When I wrestle with these realities for others, I again am challenged with faith. For me, I keep praying that God will bring supernatural intervention in not only the lives of these now grown girls, but a flood of love, hope, and peace. I want them to be able to pass on the reward of truth telling to those around them, and live much better lives. I want their story to strengthen my faith in Who God is. The God of intervention, break through, and new beginnings. I want their story to catapult others into bravery, courage, and strength. I choose to believe that God's hand is in it all. The preservation of hearts is His business, the release of truth in each of us stamps out the shame of evil and pain. The sustaining power of joy in all circumstances yields fruit.  This is the answer for me today. 

What are you wrestling with today? 



Finding Beauty






Yesterday I went to a luncheon where a couple women spoke about their lives and our identity. One woman shared how her willingness to speak about the molestation she experienced as a child brought healing between her and her family, The other woman shared the deep trauma they went through when their son was incarcerated for several years, and how God has sustained them. I saw both of these women as brave, for it can be very difficult to share one's story in such a way that shows the beauty. I'm learning more with each passing year that this is who God is, He is the beauty in every story. When we are open to hearing the beauty, or even believing that it does exist, we are then able to move forward.  Maybe that is the essence of real faith? So many times there can be helplessness, despair, destruction, pain. When we are in the depths of all that stuff, what does faith look like?  Is it a tiny little glimpse of beauty somewhere on our timeline? Or, if I cannot see the glimpse, is faith hoping that there will be one?

Noah had faith that God would float the boat, He would get them through to a washed world, life would go on.

Abraham had faith that he would be a father to nations, he believed it so strongly he was willing to sacrifice the only son he had. 

Joshua had faith to do exactly what he heard God say and then watched the walls that kept them out fall down.

Every single one of them found beauty!

I wrestle with this still. 

Where's the beauty in great loss? How do we walk through it and still believe that the Hand of God is upon us? You know, stuff like the loss of a child, the loss of a dream, the loss of relationship....It goes on and everybody has to walk through.  Noah had to walk through years of mocking, hard work, discouragement to find the beauty in being saved. Abraham walked through the pages of surrender and obedience before he even saw a son.

Joshua marched and marched before he saw victory.

Where is the beauty in your story? The women I referred to earlier that told of her son being incarcerated. It would be difficult to find the beauty in that experience. She's still waiting. To me, that is the beauty, she is waiting with the hope that God will show her beauty.

I've asked God many times to show me the beauty on my timeline. Sometimes, I just can't see it, others times my eyes look in great wonder at how God stepped into my despair and poured hope over me. God prepared a path of beauty for me to follow while I questioned, cried, and despaired over the pain. He gave and still gives hope.

Whatever you may experiencing today ask God "Where is the beauty? "

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