But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33

 

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are beingtransformedinto his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

 

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We have this cute young lady who has been living with us for several months. My husband has dubbed her the Energizer Bunny. So it isn’t surprising that in her dialogues and answers she often uses an enthusiastic, snappy, staccato, “yep!”

 

So guess what I hear coming out of my mouth these days? Yep. Literally. And it’s probably not so cute coming out of an almost 52-year-old.

 

Then there’s my daughter. Her go-to phrase is, “That is so real.” So lately when I hear a statement that rings especially true, what do you think has been sliding off my tongue like a canoe down a waterfall?

 

Whether I like it or not, the people I hang around rub off on me. Like when I touched my hubby’s freshly-painted robins-egg blue walls. Marked.

 

And I am influenced by others’ actions as well. Which got me to thinking… Although who I hang with did not make my initial list for 2018 goals, I decided it was something I needed to add. Who do I want to influence me? Since I want to be like Jesus the most, it struck me that I need to hang around him a little more than I do.

Continue reading

 

 

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Our culture applauds what we can produce, what we can show, and what we can upload. But God notices us even when we are tucked away in hidden places. 

 

Click HERE to listen to the podcast of Jo's interview with Sara Hagerty on her book, Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to be Noticed. 

 

Catch Jo live on Connecting Faith every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

 

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It’s growing more and more popular with the new year to choose a singular word to set the course over the next 12 months vs. making resolutions. 

 

I’ve done it myself—one year was “risk-taker”, another was “be”—and it’s a good, focused strategy that can really jumpstart people to become their better, created selves. Those years, I chose to bravely say yes to opportunities I may have otherwise passed up, and I was reminded to live in the moment instead of distracted by the buzz of my phone or the demands of tomorrow. 

 

But last Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me a Giving Key necklace with the word “believe” stamped on the gold vintage key, and I haven’t picked a word since. It seems this simple accessory has pointed out more than once that it’s time to believe in God’s promises, actually live like His power and grace is real, and rest in His presence when circumstances and evil pull me away. 

 

I’ve been tempted to choose something fresh with this mint new year, a new focus, a clean slate. But I can’t get myself to do it... because I realize I still haven’t mastered it. I can’t yet claim I’m strong in the whole believing category.

 

I still live in fear when I walk into a doctor appointment, instead of trusting that my times—and my babies’ times—are in His hands.  

 

I still am disappointed when bad news comes my way, instead of hoping and declaring that I will see the goodness in the land of the living and trusting that God is still moving behind the scenes. 

 

I still quiver over the possibilities of the future, when God calls me to be strong and courageous because He not only has already gone before me, but He promises to never leave me nor forsake me.  

 

And I still rely on my own strength and understanding to fix problems, lead in ministry, and generally live through my day, when God’s Word clearly says He is the vine, we are the branches, and apart from Him we can do nothing—but remain in Him, and we can do everything. 

 

These are the things that have already been written and spoken, and because my God is faithful, what He says will surely come to pass. Yet here I am, over a year later, growing but still struggling with believing. So, when I’ve thrown around other words to mark my year—like joy, giving, patience, family, and sacrifice—it all seems… less than. Because if I’m truly growing in my faith, studying His word, and claiming His promises, then everything else will follow suit. I don’t need to focus on myself; that’s always how God’s people got tripped up in the Bible anyways. I need to focus on my God, because when I do:

 

I’ll live with joy of the Lord as my strength.

I’ll give to the church and to those in need.

I’ll be patient in tribulation, and I’ll bear with one another in love.

I’ll love my family as I love myself.

I’ll walk confidently in this day the Lord has made, instead of worrying or fearing what’s around the corner.

And I’ll give myself to the God who gave up everything for me.

 

Quite simply, if I’m believing, if I’m growing in my faith of God, His Word, His character, and His plans, then I’ll become the person I’m created to be. So until my faith is perfected, which won’t be until the final day when I meet my Everything face to face, then I will not tire of this focus and of this calling. I will not change my course, and I will not turn my eyes back on myself. 

 

That is my prayer for us all. As God’s children and holy people, with every day and with every new year, may our believing grow stronger, more active, and more powerful as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Champion who initiates and perfects our faith. He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:14

 

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When it comes to dealing with your "stuff," peace IS possible. 

 

Click HERE to listen to Jo's interview with Kathi Lipp. on her book, Clutter Free: Quick and Easy Steps to Simplifying your Space. 

 

Catch Jo live on Connecting Faith every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

We're kicking off the New Year with our sweet friend, Hannah Sorvik Fordice, who has a blog of her own called Rubble and Rescue. If you've had a tough 2017, you too may be wondering how 2018 will unfold. Praying her words will minister to your soul...

 

 

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Last New Years Eve, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table next to an unopened bottle of champagne I had planned to bring to a friend's house; in my hands was a pregnancy test with two pink lines in the viewing window. 

 

At the time, my husband was in a work rotation that included night shifts, so even though it was 3pm he was sound asleep in our bedroom. I gently shook him awake (Im fairly sure my hands were shaking so hard, I probably only had to touch his arm for the effect), and said, "good morning hun, guess what?" and handed him the test. 

 

It was a new year, a new life, a new start - everything was full of promise. My resolutions included informing our parent's of their newly minted "grandparent status", creating a birth plan, learning how to change diapers, and decorating a nursery.

 

But like most new years resolutions... it didn't quite happen how I planned. 

 

Tomorrow it will be New Years Eve again, and I can't help but look at the last year and wonder, what the hell happened? 

 

My parent's house burned down, my dad died, I miscarried our baby and had emergency surgery, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with brain cancer, I quit my job to become a caregiver, had a complete mental break down, frequented the doctor for various health concerns, my niece and my uncle had open heart surgeries and seven months after her diagnosis, my mother-in-law also died. 

 

That is SO not how I thought 2017 would go. 

 

Call me crazy, but here at the turn of another year, instead of resolutions I keep having reservations. 

 

How do I believe that God has good plans in store for my life when so much bad has happened? How do I trust in the promise of an abundant life when so much has been taken away? How do I start to dream again, to open my heart again, to love again? 

 

And maybe, just maybe, you find yourself asking the same questions this year. 

“My heart’s been torn wide open, just like I feared it would be, and I have no willpower to close it back up.”
— Marie Lu, Champion
 

To be honest with you, I don't really have the answers. I wish I didn't fear the phone ringing, the fireplace crackling, or the possibility of becoming a mom again. I wish I knew how to expect good news instead of waiting for the other shoe to fall. These fears are real and I don't deny the uncertainty of life. 

 

But this I do know: living in anxiety instead of anticipation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you constantly worry, even the wondrous becomes wistful and opportunities become wasted.

 

To live in fear is to suppress a fruitful life. 

 

This year has broken me time and time again and it sure as heck wasn't what I dreamed of at the table last New Years Eve. Perhaps you know the feeling.

 

- But - 

 

Hopefully I have been formed into a better shape, pruned into a more fruitful person - and my gosh, I pray the same for you friend. 

“I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape. ”
— Emily Dickinson
 

Whatever questions you bring to the table here at the turn of the year, whatever baggage is weighing you down, I propose this resolution: 

 

To be open to love and in turn, to cast out fear. For "There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear." (John 4:18) 

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open up to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. ”
— John Lennon