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God Is Good – All the Time!

20170914_182822Cyclamen – September 14, 2017

 

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I’ve been thinking about this verse lately. Specifically, about how hard it can be sometimes to give thanks and worship God in all circumstances, especially with all that’s going on in the world these days. Sadly, less people seem to seek God, let alone worship Him. It’s become more difficult to rejoice and be thankful.

Why does the Lord ask us to do something that sounds nearly impossible at times? It’s a part of God’s command to love Him (Matthew 22:37), not just because He deserves it, but because He loves us so much, He knows what’s best for us, and by His grace He makes it possible. For me, maintaining a thankful heart keeps my mind from dwelling on any present hardship and instead focuses it on His indescribable love and grace. Hope lingers and grows as I recall how He has brought me through similar circumstances in the past. I don’t always know what I’m doing, God does, and by His grace He’ll continue carrying me into the future. So I rejoice and worship!

There’s really nothing else on earth quite like the deep peace and overwhelming love I experience in worshipful prayer: the eyes of my heart looking heavenward and my soul laid bare before my creator, with full trust in God’s care for me. His Spirit removes each thorn of sin as I confess it, replacing every ache with an inner strength and a sense of wholeness that is hard to explain. I am filled with gratitude for all He has done for me, in me and through me!

Here’s a little poem I wrote after a particularly uplifting time of prayer led to praise:

“A Peace of Praise”

Praise the Lord Jesus Christ forever!
The earth and everything in it are His.
I am His child
I am His unfinished masterpiece
I am His gem
I praise my Lord, my King, my Savior.
Peace comes like a wave;
All doubts, fears, anger, pain
disappear.
I can truly say
there’s nothing on my mind,
there’s nothing wrong,
because my Lord Jesus is on the throne
Peace will ever be my song
Forever!

7-6-94
©Ladeena Bell

A Thankful Heart
Worship truly is the natural out-flowing of a thankful heart. The more I praise Him for what I have, the more I realize just how good He is to me, and in turn how good He is overall. Yet worship in its purest form is praising God for Who He is, not just what He does. Only out of full surrender and the deepest trust can I say “God is good” even when my circumstances are not.

Made For Worship
God thoughtfully created us to glorify and to worship Him (Psalm 8:4-6; Isaiah 43:7). We are made in His image, meaning that we each have emotions, thoughts and a will. As a result, sometimes we suffer when people exercise their free will by inflicting harm on others, or because we live in a fallen world and on a planet that is constantly shifting. Yet, the hurt, doubt and fear we feel do not make God any less worthy of worship. No, He is perfect in all of His ways, and His love for us never fails (Psalm 136:1).

How easily we’re able to rejoice and worship the Lord, particularly in difficult situations, reveals how deeply we know and trust the God we say we believe and follow. Only by daily acknowledging our need for Him in prayer and trusting that He truly is who He says He is, can we avoid living like mere “fair weather Christians”. My prayer for you and believers around the world is that you will trust Christ with your whole heart, and keep praying and praising every day, even if He doesn’t take away your burden or rescue you from every trouble.

My relationship with Jesus Christ is the firm foundation of my life. He lightens the load and lifts my spirits as I surrender my cares to Him (Psalm 55:22). He will do that for you, too, if you let Him!

Faith Notes
Even If – by Mercy Me is a powerful song that speaks of praising God in all situations, and being able to say (or sing!) “it is well with my soul” even in the midst of struggles.
(Note: Link will open up in new window.)

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Bell  All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Do Not Lose Heart!

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“A Dandy Sunset” – September 25, 2017

I’ve been ruminating over what to write about next. There’s been so much animosity, sorrow and distress in the world lately: Hurricanes and flooding in the Gulf Coast. Raging wildfires here in the Northwest and elsewhere. Puerto Rico demolished by Hurricane Maria. Ongoing political dissension. Earthquakes in Mexico. The looming threat of nuclear war. The list goes on… there’s so much to pray about! With all that in addition to dealing with my own stress and physical issues, I really needed to slow down a bit and try to relax. Like millions of others, I’ve been experiencing what one might call “drama fatigue”, and just want to hear some good news for a change.

Then, just when I think we all might be able to take a (short) collective breath, another tragedy unfolds, this time in Las Vegas. When I overheard there was a mass shooting, at first I avoided the news. Later as I took in the full scale of what happened, my mind shifted to the big picture, thinking of the countless souls who don’t know the Lord, many of whom are reaching a tipping point in their lives. Just one more calamity, and they could suddenly tumble off of the mental and emotional cliff into despair, potentially becoming the next headline themselves. At each painful turn, the world’s need for the Lord becomes more apparent. They say evil wins when good people do nothing. It also wins for lack of hope.

This past week I’ve been torn between wanting to escape, trying not to think about anything, and yet at the same time, wanting so badly to go out and evangelize the world that so desperately needs to experience the love, HOPE, peace, joy and forgiveness that is only found in Jesus Christ!

So, what have I been doing? Praying A LOT, taking sanity breaks, and writing as I feel led; trusting that God uses my blog to help others lean in a positive direction, and perhaps put their trust in Him. As I go about my day, I still look for little ways to shine God’s love into my corner of the world. Though I’m not an expert in the field of psychology, and I’m not a certified counselor or a particularly gifted public speaker (which is okay, because after all, I have two ears and only one mouth!), what I can do is be quick to listen to others, slow to speak and slow to get angry (James 1:19-21). To rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), and offer hope.

As we pray for those going through hardships and pain, we can take comfort knowing that God cares for us and grieves with us. Yet He is still on His throne. He knew these things would happen, and somehow He will bring good from the bloodshed in Las Vegas.

Indeed, just as other events before it, humanity came together in extraordinary ways to help others in their time of crisis. In the days following the shooting, reports surfaced about several off-duty police officers, firefighters, and nurses who happened to be at or near the outdoor concert, and ended up tending to wounds and pulling the injured to safety. I believe it is no coincidence that those public servants were there. As horrific as it was, the death toll surely would have been higher had they not been there and willing to stay or put themselves in harm’s way when the bullets began flying. God is merciful (Isaiah 30:18).

As servants of Christ, in the midst of evil and loss, we must not become weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9), but keep fighting the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy 6:12); merely resting when necessary so God can fill us back up. Heaven forbid that I myself should become too bone-weary or “drama fatigued” to write something positive for this blog! I’m learning to view and engage the folly and evil of this world only enough to know how to best pray and show others the way out of the dark. For our struggle isn’t against what we can see, but the enemy who is at work behind the scenes, in the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6:12). But our Lord is stronger! Our best weapon is prayer, our sword is God’s Word, and our motivation is love. And if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

As I’ve written before, the birth pains (disasters both natural and man-made) will continue until Jesus comes back, and no matter what happens, we know Who wins at the end of the story! Instead of fretting about what’s going wrong in the world, I am trusting that in some small way He is helping me to be a part of what’s going right.

As I stay focused on Jesus, leaning fully on Him, I’m filled with a contagious hope as the Spirit reminds me that He is with me, that God will work things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13)!

Do you have a contagious hope?

Pray, listen, accept His love, and fall on His grace.
Then share that grace and love with others.
Hold onto your hope, for God is faithful (Hebrews 10:23)!
Don’t give up the fight!

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 & 16

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Bell
All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Dare To Be Different!

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Tulips – April 18, 2017

Last Sunday evening , on my way home from serving at Simonka House, I was chatting with a younger friend of mine. We were talking about being a light where you are, and being true to who you are and who God called you to be. We agreed that it’s difficult for many people not to go with the crowd. Without thinking, I said, “It’s hard to be a shining light if you’re too busy blending in with the dark.”

It is definitely hard to be different in this world, to stand up for what you believe. The world makes it easy to go down the wrong path. The road to destruction is wide, but narrow is the path that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). It isn’t easy being a Christ follower because living for Him goes against the flow of the world (Colossians 3:1-17).

Here is a new poem I wrote about daring to be different:

“Dare To Be different!”

God’s love through us reverses the tide,
goes against the flow of selfish pride.
We’re called to serve as His hands and feet,
showing compassion to all we meet.
Not by power, but by His Spirit alone
we follow His lead – our hearts are His throne!
Living for Him, we shine most brightly
giving up things once held so tightly;
To humbly walk the narrow way,
honoring Him through all that we say:
Speaking grace and truth, in equal parts,
lovingly engaging wayward hearts.
So dare to be different, let His light glow,
Dispel the darkness with the hope you know.
Dare to stand out, lead with truth and love,
pointing everyone to the Father above.

9-23-17
©Ladeena Bell

As Christ followers, we obey God and not men (Acts 5:29), and some of our ways will seem strange to others. Hopefully, because of the outrageous love of God that we show, it will seem more intriguing than odd. For example: Success in the world’s eyes means “looking out for #1”. In God’s economy, success comes when we look out for others’ interests, often above our own (Philippians 2:3-5). As God works in and through us, His quiet power will shine brighter than the flashiest sports car, biggest gleaming trophy or glittering jewelry! If you’re smiling when the world says you shouldn’t be, that gets people’s attention.

Overall, living and sharing our faith takes a lot of prayer and humility. When we do engage others in tough topics, we can remain true to our faith and beliefs and still be loving about it. Many well-meaning Christians have preached (truth) more than they have shown love (grace), and turned people off (although these days, it seems that just appearing to have differing beliefs seems to offend some people). We must balance God’s truth with love. To love others as He loves us, the key is to abide in His love (spend time with and daily surrender to the Lord) everyday through quiet time, prayer and reading His Word. After all, it’s not really us who is doing the loving, but Christ in us! In our human strength and power, we can’t love the way God calls us to – only by His power can we love and serve the way we are commanded to in His Word (John 15:9-13; 2 Corinthians 3:5).

That being said, we should never back down from calling sin for what it is, and not candy-coat what God so clearly states in His Word. Sharing God’s truth with love, the ultimate goal must be salvation, not to convince others that we’re right and the way they are living is wrong. It’s not about being right, but about God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. Our part is to humbly share. Whether they reject the message or not, it isn’t about us, for Jesus himself said people will hate us because of Him (Matthew 10:22). There will always be a few folks around us – even extended family members – who merely tolerate a Christian’s presence. Yet those are the souls who need our prayers the most!

Dare To Be Different!
Where there is hate, show love. Where there is anger, offer forgiveness. Where there is fighting, be a gentle force of peace. Where there is selfishness, show love and give sacrificially. Where there is hopelessness, show others there is indeed hope, and more love, peace, and joy than what they’ve experienced before, in Christ!

Pray, be available and watch how God moves when you dare to be different!

“..for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” Philippians 2:13-16a

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Bell  All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

My True Home

DSCN9075Yellow Rose (Thinking of Texas, Louisiana & Florida) – September 10, 2017

Last week I discovered that the house my husband and I had most recently rented was torn down. Driving over to the old neighborhood to check it out, my nostalgia turned to disbelief as I neared the corner where a house, huge willow tree, fence, ash tree and shop once stood. My eyes filled with tears, staring at the vacant lot which was now only dirt, gravel and a few stakes surrounded by a chain link fence. A large sign announced the townhouses to come.

It’s amazing how attached we all get to places and things. There’s a keen sense of loss when the familiar disappears, either by wrecking ball, fire, storm, or simply relocating. It feels like small pieces of ourselves and our memories go with it.

Yet, as a follower of Christ, I know this world is not my home. As the old song goes, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…”*. I am in fact an alien in this world (Philippians 3:20), because by His Spirit, the Lord has made His home in me (Ephesians 3:17)! Feeling a little wistful about things is okay, but my ultimate happiness and security do not hinge on where I live or what I have.

Wiped Clean
In a way, it is a blessing that the house we called home for seven years is gone. There were good and bad memories, and now the slate as well as the lot are wiped clean. It’s time to build something else. Something better.

Similarly, reconciliation is a long process that starts with a demolition of sorts. You have to break things down and get back to basics before you can begin to build again. The same is true for ending relationships and starting over, however I’m still praying and working toward healing and restoration. My life is continually under construction as the Master Builder works out His will in and through me!

True Home
I’m looking forward to what God has in store, both in life here on earth, and my true home in heaven that will never be demolished! Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you….” (John 14:1-4). In the King James Version of the Bible, it’s described as a mansion, but I’d be happy with a quaint country cottage, log cabin in the woods, or a cozy beach bungalow! Really, though, no matter what form it takes, just to be with Him in heaven will feel more like home than anywhere on earth!

Here is a poem I wrote about my true home:

“My Home”

At home with my Savior,
heart’s door open wide;
No fears or worries there,
for love and peace abide.
His will, my goal,
His love, my only need,
His guidance through all things,
my willing soul to lead.
I’m in God’s holy family,
trusting in His perfect plan;
Committing all to His control,
though I don’t understand.
But wisdom comes with patience;
Through the Spirit, with my sword,
I simply pray for contentment,
for my home is with the Lord.

©Ladeena Bell
6-6-93

Where is your home? Where do you turn when what’s familiar goes away? As followers of Christ, we have hope for today as well as the glorious promise of heaven: eternal life with the Lord, where tears, loss and pain are no more. The hope of heaven that I carry in my heart lightens my spirit and gives me strength during the uncertainties and losses of life. Remembering how far I’ve come, I have joy knowing His plans for me are perfect and good (Psalm 18:30). Every step taken and every word written leads me closer to heaven, trusting that as I bear witness of His grace, by His power others may also experience that reassurance. I hope and pray that you have the hope of heaven that comes through personal belief in Jesus Christ.

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all of the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

Faith Notes
I love this song about our true home: Where I Belong – Building 429
Note: Link opens up in new window.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Bell  All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

 

*Credit: Albert E. Brumley ©Copyright 1938

I Still Have Hope! Do You?

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I really didn’t mean to take a two week break. Things in my personal life threw me for a loop even before Hurricane Harvey flooded Texas and Louisiana, wildfires ravaged the Northwest and Hurricane Irma began tearing a path toward Florida.

The relationship that was on hold is not yet resolved, but at least we’re in the same state. I wish I could say that things were progressing nicely, but we still keep hitting the same old roadblocks. The added stress caused chronic headaches and increased my fatigue, which severely hampered my desire and inspiration to write. Thankfully I’m better now.

What Differences?
The eclipse was a literal bright spot of these past few weeks. It was amazing! Here in Salem, Oregon, we got a perfect view of God’s handiwork. It reminded me just how small we all are, and more alike than some prefer to admit. There was a short-lived peace as all eyes peered heavenward, setting aside their differences, if only for a while.

With the floods and wildfires, there arose entirely different reasons for setting aside differences. What an encouragement to see people rise up in love and compassion, helping others in times of crisis and disaster! It’s one of the good things that God brings out of what the enemy uses for evil. Strength and resilience is tested and grows through struggle and heartbreak. If life was always easy, we’d all be a bunch of wimps!

Here’s a poem I wrote about the source of my strength, and hope:

“Only God”

Only God has the answers for every troubled soul;
Only Jesus’ blood has the power to rid us of death’s hold.
Only God will be here now, understanding all we go through:
Because He loves us so much, He helps us in all we do.
Only Jesus is the answer to your deepest of desires;
In this contrasting world, His love smothers hateful fires.
Only God will be listening when all courage disappears:
When other people turn away, He’s the One Who always hears.
Only God will be here tomorrow – we may be at the end of our rope;
But God works all things together for good, and gives us hope.
For Jesus walks close beside us along the path of light;
As the Spirit guides our hearts, we’ll reflect His love into the night.

10-10-94
©Ladeena Bell

Near the End?
We’re told in Scripture that there will be various calamities, wars and rumors of wars before Jesus returns. All that’s happening right now may be only the beginning of the “birth pains” (Matthew 24:6-8). We know from His Word that it is all going according to His plan, so no matter what happens, whether storm, fire or threats of war, I know my God is still on the throne. I don’t understand how all of the puzzle pieces of life go together, but He has the puzzle box and sees how glorious the finished picture will be!

In church last Sunday, we had a missionary couple speak about their work in India. It was refreshing to hear some good news in the world. Of special interest to me was just how many unique dialect groups live in isolated and remote villages that have yet to be reached with the Gospel of Christ. With all that’s going on in the world today, many folks are wondering if Jesus is coming soon. Yet the Bible says that the Good News must be shared with ALL nations (all groups and tribes) before He returns (Matthew 24:14), and that doesn’t seem to have happened quite yet.

Shine and Serve
While we’re still here, the call to shine His light and serve others remains on those who claim to be followers of Jesus. The biggest disaster that can befall your family and friends won’t come from earthquakes, fire, flood, or the like. No, the biggest calamity is that loved ones might perish without ever standing on the solid ground of hope or experiencing the cleansing power of forgiveness by grabbing the life ring that is saving faith in Jesus Christ!

The darker this world becomes, the more obvious the light that we carry becomes. Be a beacon of hope! Help and donate whatever you can, but more importantly: pray for those affected by the disasters both near and far. Pray that those without hope will find it in the Lord, through the prayers and actions of the believers who surround them.

Faith Notes
Here is a great song that expresses a lot of my thoughts right now:
I Have This Hope – by Tenth Avenue North
(Note: Link opens up in a new window.)

“I lift my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

Blessings to you, this day and always!
©Ladeena Bell
All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Eclipsed By Glory

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Tomorrow morning the sun will be eclipsed by the shadow of the moon. Scores of people across the nation are converging in the path of totality, getting prepared to witness the celestial event.

The total solar eclipse reminds me of a few metaphorical truths:

Just as the light of the sun will be darkened by the moon, a spiritual darkness has been threatening to overtake the Son’s light on the earth. As I’ve written before, we as Christians must do all we can to keep our minds and hearts focused on Jesus, and He will give us the strength, wisdom and courage to continue shining the light of the Son into the darkness of hate, ignorance, pride and selfishness. Living for Christ, our lives are to be eclipsed by His glory and love; for all we do, are, and have is from Him, and so we joyfully share that with others. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven .” Matthew 5:16 (KJV)

When struggles try to dim our view, making it hard to see around the next corner, that means we’ve taken our eyes off of Jesus! “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Here is a poem about staying focused on Jesus the Son:

“Sonset”

The Son is the center of my life,
and just as the sun above glows,
With each passing hour of day
love for my Savior grows.
At the break of day, my soul rejoices
along with the sparrow’s song,
And at high noon, I still sing a tune
for His light in my heart shines strong.
Then at the day’s close, the ember yet glows
– my soul’s fire brightly aflame;
As the sun sets, the sky blood red,
I give praise to His holy name.
For in the Son, my sins set low,
nevermore to be seen;
At the dawn of day, my mistakes far away,
I begin again wholly clean.
Following the light of the Son,
I shine for all to see;
Forever to the Father and Son above
All honor and glory be.

10-10-93
©Ladeena Bell

The eclipse also reminds me that without the shadows – either of the moon or the dark of night – we wouldn’t appreciate the the light as much. That’s why when those who’ve had especially hard-knock lives come to the full knowledge of God’s love for them, their experiences make them even more credible and powerful witnesses of His mercy and grace to those who are still in the darkness.

Finally, though the moon will darken the sun for a period of time, it will not shade it forever. As followers of Christ, we have a confident hope that though the prince of this world works to fill it with sin and darkness, his days on earth are numbered. Ultimately, the Son will emerge victorious when He returns once again in the clouds! No one but the Father knows the day or hour (Matthew 24:36), but the conquering Light is coming!

No matter where you are, whether you’ll get to personally (safely) experience the eclipse or merely see it on a screen somewhere, I hope and pray you take these truths to heart and be encouraged!

Blessings to you, this day and always!
©Ladeena Bell
All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

A Life Overflowing

DSCN7529Drift Creek Falls – November 4, 2016

The love of God is amazing! It lasts forever, and it is deeper and stronger than any human can fully experience on this earth. Growing up in the faith, I learned that God’s love for all of us is so complete that He sent His Son Jesus here to live, teach and then die on the cross to take the punishment for our sins (Romans 5:8). Then He rose again so that we could have new life – a life overflowing with the love of God.

When I was 13 years old, I believed that for myself and began to follow Christ. However, with so much of my emotions muted or trapped behind an inner wall, my experience of God’s love was also limited. There were faint glimpses, often only during the safety of quiet times with Him. Thankfully, that has changed.

Here’s a poem I wrote about the love of God:

“God Is Love”

In all my failings
God is patient
In all my fears
God is faithful
In all my desires
God is complete
In all my calm memories
God is consistent
In everything I receive
God’s fingerprints are on it
In all my accomplishments
God gets the glory
In all my hasty actions
God still moves slow.
In my impatience
God reminds me
Life is short
Eternity is long.
In my selfishness
I forgot
God is love
and others don’t know
God loves them
just as much.

5-29-95
©Ladeena Bell

Bearing Fruit

I’ve been slowly reading through a devotional book entitled “Abiding In Christ”. The latest segment speaks about bearing fruit, and how the purpose of each Christian is to bear fruit in serving others, by God’s power and to His glory. The main driving force is always faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6), living to joyfully serve Him in all we do.

I got to thinking: In my own life and walk, have I been more than a “clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1), just doing what is right or what is expected, but not from a place of deep love? Being kind, colorblind and non-judgmental is great, but it is a shallow substitute for the selfless love that God calls us to share. Thankfully, by His grace God works with me, as He does with everyone who humbly looks to Him. The Lord uses us right where we are, if we let Him. In all my weaknesses, God is truly my strength (2 Corinthians 12:9), and He helps me grow and improve every day. As I’ve experienced God’s love more powerfully in my own life, His love overflows more freely to bless others.

God Sighting

Recently I stopped at a yard sale. It was nearing five o’clock, so as I browsed, the homeowners chatted with me, asking if I could use this or that for cheap. A few minutes later, as I began pawing through some clothing, they said I might as well just take whatever clothes I wanted because it was all headed to Goodwill. Without a second thought, I told them that I volunteer at Simonka House women and children’s shelter, and they could definitely use the clothes. Intrigued and excited, the family asked about the shelter, and then began asking what else the shelter could use. Before long, the family had eagerly helped me fill my entire car with clothes, luggage sets, bedding and children’s items. They said their kids would be especially happy knowing that their unwanted things would be a blessing to other kids! The ladies at Simonka House were very happy to receive such a generous donation, and it was also an incredible feeling for me!

If I hadn’t spoken up, those blessings would not have been passed along in such a meaningful way. As the Spirit works behind the scenes, it is becoming more natural for me to reach out of myself to care more deeply, to be more empathetic, and to be more engaged with others. As long as I remain pliable to the Lord’s direction, He faithfully leads me step by step, in preparation for whatever He’s got planned next. I have to say, it’s been awesome so far!

How about you?

If you know the love of Christ, pray for opportunities to share His love, and stay open to His leading.
If you used to know His love, it’s not too late! Turn back to God with an honest heart. He will forgive and transform you!

Faith Notes

One of my favorite songs is Your Love by Brandon Heath
(Note: Link opens up in a new window.)
God’s love meets us where we are and fills our deepest need! Once we’ve experienced His love, we can’t help but share it with others!

“… God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:8b-11

Extra Credit

Colossians 1:3-14

Blessings to you, this day and always!
©Ladeena Bell
All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

The Pursuit of Peace

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Every day, in our own ways, we all pursue peace. Conflict, uncertainty, worry and fear can easily tear us down and immobilize us if we let it.

As someone with chronic digestive issues and anxiety, peace is essential to my physical, mental and emotional well-being. Yet the peace we all need goes much deeper than simply managing stress or thinking happy thoughts!

The peace I’m referring to is not the kind the world promises, but the peace of God. Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) His peace is truly otherworldly! The best way I can describe it is: a deep sense of rightness, of inner calm despite outward circumstances. It is not merely lack of negative thoughts, but a clean sweep of emotions that leaves only a wholeness of spirit with a sparkling sense of absolute confidence in God.

So how do you get that peace? Philippians 4:4-7 shows us one way: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

As a Christ follower, I believe finding peace and discerning the will of God all comes down to these main habits that, when learned and practiced, keep us STABLE in an increasingly uncertain and hostile world:

Seek God – Accept and believe who He is, not merely what He can do for you.
Trust God – Surrender your all to His perfect love, holding nothing back.
Abide in Him – Spend time in praise, prayer, worship and reading His Word.
Be thankful – Count your blessings and thank God for what He is doing in your life.
Love others – Look for ways to encourage and serve others without judgment.
Every day – The more you look to Him in all things, the easier it becomes.

Prayer in particular brings me incredible peace. “On-the-go” prayers are okay, but God really shows up when I stop and find a quiet place (no rush), set aside my desires (no agenda), humbly ask for His will or what I should do (no pride), and trust in His love completely, regardless of the answer (faith).

No Holding Back
In the book of Psalms, David boldly shared all of his joys, sorrows and frustrations with the Lord in prayer. He didn’t hold back, because he knew God could take it. Yet no matter the situation, sooner or later he circled back to praise, ultimately reaffirming his faith and trust in God.

My prayers are much like David’s: because of my chronic digestive issues, I will sometimes whine about how I feel or what I can’t eat. Yet my discomfort never diminishes the deep sense of peace I have in knowing the Lord. In fact, quite often my prayers switch from complaining to praising God in the same breath, knowing that the Lord is SO very good to me!

Peace in Decisions
Peace for me is also an integral part of decision-making. Much like David did, I inquire of the Lord directly, asking specifically, “Lord, should I…?”, and pause to listen. Listing off each available option one at a time (even those courses of action I don’t really want to take), I keep asking until, with one option, the concern loosens its grip on my heart and the peace of God which passes all understanding gently carries my soul to that place of reassurance.

Lasting Peace
There are many ways to find peace and contentment: meditation, exercise, creative arts, etc, but the best way I’ve found is through my relationship with Christ. Everything else is temporary, and simply scratches the surface.

Are you looking for lasting peace? A hope that endures? If you don’t have a relationship with God through Christ, peace may feel more like a short calm before the storm, shallow contentment or even numbness. If so, you are missing out! Look no further than the great peace and love Jesus offers. Nothing else comes close.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Bell  All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Positively Thankful!

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Today is a milestone: a year ago I followed God’s lead and created this blog. I set out on this electronic journey not knowing exactly what I would write, how many photos I’d take (hint: a LOT), or how long this trail would go. This endeavor has been both a challenge and a joy so far, writing and sharing what God’s been up to in my life.

This day I’m pausing to give special thanks to God for who He is and all He has done. I thank Him for my incredibly supportive friends and family, and I thank Him for all the blessings great and small that He has seen fit to grant me each and every day.

To those of you who follow my humble little blog, whether you’ve recently begun following, or you’ve been reading from the beginning, thank you so much. I have appreciated every “like”, comment and share, and look forward to hearing more.

I don’t know what the next year has in store, but I’m sure it will be good! It makes me smile to think that God is using me to inspire and uplift so many. Unlike some other websites, I’m not selling anything, but I am sold out for Christ! Liberally promoting positivity and kindness with every post, my hope is that my readers will pay it forward!

Looking through my poems, this one seemed to fit my thankful and reflective mood:

“Winding Trail”

Giddy expectation of heavenly reward.
Love follows love – and all from the Lord.
Grateful exultation of Christ my King,
Who alone understands me and gives me everything.
So very thankful, beyond what words express.
I’m loving more deeply, and happier with less.
Trusting God completely – no cause for doubt or fear.
For His promises are true; His mercy draws me near.
Grace propels me onward, great joy lights up my way.
Ever glowing in this valley, with faith as bright as day.
From blessing to blessing, each hour, wisdom grows.
As I walk in hope and peace, I conquer all my foes!
No matter what others say, my strength comes from inside:
For by His Spirit, I am free! Set apart, sanctified!
Traveling with Jesus along this winding trail,
I smile and sing His praises, knowing His love will prevail!

8-11-2015
©Ladeena Bell

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1

Extra Credit
Colossians 3:12-17

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Bell All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Pressing Onward

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I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. I’ve been overwhelmed to the extent that my usual motivation to write was actually pulled under by my thoughts and emotions, or muted by my avoidance of them.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been in a relationship limbo for two years, doing my best to follow God’s lead during this waiting period, hoping for reconciliation. Recently a couple of conversations threw me for a loop and I seriously considered walking away entirely. Yet in prayer, the Lord impressed upon me to stay the course. Thankfully some progress has been made and things are looking up. Overall I’ve kept praying that my decisions are informed by the Spirit and not yanked around by my feelings, but it’s not easy.

God Sighting
On that note: At church this morning, the topic was about being emotionally driven versus living Spirit-led in our attitudes and decisions. Thinking back, my life used to be driven by emotions, but not my own (with the exception of fear)! My reaction to the drama around me was to try and make things better, and if that didn’t work, I’d shut down. It may have seemed to others that I kept a cool head even in stressful situations, when in reality I was avoiding and compartmentalizing. Yet this coping mechanism came with a price: I missed out on some joys along with the negative stuff from which I protected myself. I still put things “in boxes”, but now at least they’re much more colorful containers!

Walking With God
Of course, God created me and emotions. In my walk with Him He has been helping me be present and engaged with others, to thoughtfully respond instead of react, and generally experience life on a deeper level as I work through all these often unwieldy feelings. For me, it has become all the more important to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

Here’s a poem I wrote about walking with the Lord through my struggles:

“Press Onward”

Even now, I know You’ll lead me,
where You call me, I will go.
At peace, though the future’s hazy,
it’s an opportunity to grow.
Struggling against myself
yet fully resting in Your love;
Scripture hidden in my heart
keeps my thoughts above.
Thank You for provision
beyond anything I’d dream,
and strength that exceeds the limits
of my earthly self-esteem.
Digging deeper, more intentional
about my faith and walk;
Rewriting in permanent ink
what used to be marked in chalk.
Leaving the old me behind
as daily I seek Your face,
I press onward with great hope
ever growing in Your grace.

1-2-16
©Ladeena Bell

So what does keeping in step with the Spirit look like? For an overview, please see my older post about TRANSFORMATION! In a nutshell: Trust God, learn more about Him by spending time with Him in prayer and reading His Word, and share the hope you find with others! Do that, and you’ll go from coping to thriving!

Overall, I mainly strive to sustain a sense of peace in my life by abiding in Christ. In part, the peace of God (which goes beyond mere emotion or understanding) reassures me that I’m on track with Him. Also, keeping in step for me means making everything I do a form of worship (Romans 12:1), and filling every moment with praise for all the good He has blessed me with in my life!

Stay tuned for more about the peace of God, especially in relation to decision-making!

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Blessings to you, this day and always!
©Ladeena Bell  All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)