Rise and Shine!

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The word “rise” seems to be a popular buzzword these days, and it can mean many things. My first overall thought is to rise above circumstances with hope and courage, but it goes beyond that.

Lately it seems to have taken on a decidedly defiant meaning: rising in protest against various laws and decisions, in furious opposition to the authorities who made them. I keep hoping and praying that people will rise above the anger and instead direct positive energies toward activities that will truly make a difference.

Here are several positive ways we can rise:

Rise to God’s command to love one another (John 15:12-21). Take the high road when confronted with divisive or demeaning remarks, knowing a gentle answer deflects anger (Proverbs 15:1, NLT).

Rise above our initial reactions to look at the facts for what they really are. Verify them with a credible source before believing posts and comments, and only pass them along to others if it is helpful, loving or encouraging in some way (Colossians 2:8).

Rise above the negative opinions and fears of others, holding on to the unshakable knowledge that God loves you and has a plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11), while keeping in mind that the same applies to others, too.

Rise to defend the oppressed, assist the weak and the needy, and pray for the persecuted. Lift up those who are low in spirit. In doing so, however, act with respect to the authorities God has put in place, and without repaying evil for evil (Romans 12:9-21).

When we wait on and trust in the Lord, He gives us strength to rise up and soar on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31). We can have expectant hope and indescribable peace even in the face of an uncertain future.

Rise to every occasion with confidence in the skills, gifts and abilities the Lord has given us. We win at life by having a winning attitude (as opposed to a whining one). Philippians 2:14

Rise and shine! Thank the Lord for each day we can rise out of bed and share the light of God’s love with others. Every day is a gift and we should raise our eyes to the heavens with thankfulness for His grace, mercy and infinite love (Psalm 59:16).

Like the yeast that causes bread to rise, we should all be the gently powerful force that spreads the love of Christ wherever we go. Encourage and lift up others with caring words, sharing the hope we have in Him – in big and small ways – with all we meet (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Let us all rise and be counted as faithful followers who study and live out the Word of truth in our lives (2 Timothy 2:15), yet remaining humble, fully relying on His grace.

Rise up in resolute faith to accomplish goals, win games and spiritual battles, at times succeeding against all odds because we serve a God with whom all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)! If God is for us, it doesn’t matter who is against us; for we are more than conquerors through Christ (Romans 8:31-39)!

Rise in unity of spirit. We were called to one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. We serve one God, who is over all and through all (Ephesians 4:4-6). The enemy seeks to divide us by twisting the truth. Fight the real enemy by praying against his schemes and standing strong in God’s Word! Build each other up so that with one heart we will glorify God in what we say and do (Romans 15:1-6)!

Let us raise our hands and pray for those in authority, interceding for those in government positions on all levels (1 Timothy 2:1-8), without anger.

Rise, and keep on rising, even when the night is long or the days are full of troubles. Nothing we do for the Lord is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58), and He works all things for the ultimate good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

Finally, when I think of the word “rise”, the hope and joy of our salvation springs to mind. I await that glorious day when those who have trusted Christ will rise and be together with Him forever (1 Corinthians 15:52)! In the meantime, our mission is to bring as many with us as we can!

More of God’s Word

“Arise and shine, for your light has come!” Isaiah 60:1

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

Faith Notes

Here’s a new song by one of my favorite artists. It is part of the reason I’ve been thinking about the word RISE: Rise – by Danny Gokey
(Note: Link opens in a new window.)

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Frozen or Free?

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For some folks, this time of year is difficult. Hearts can feel as frozen and cold as the ground, and the crisp air can easily feel stinging instead of refreshing.

Several days ago, the northern Willamette Valley was graced with several inches of snow. It was beautiful, and still is; however the lingering cold front quickly turned a winter wonderland into dangerous conditions for travelers. It reminds me of a Christmastime in my not-so-distant past.

2003
My husband and I were visiting his family in Washington state for Christmas. It snowed while we were there. In fact, we were having so much fun with family members (some we rarely saw), that the decision was made to stay an extra day to romp in the deep snow. I remember talking with my father on the phone. He’d been especially vocal about wanting us to come back to Oregon and spend more time together. My dad was quite disappointed that we weren’t returning just yet; however we still ended the conversation on good terms.

About an hour into our journey home, Mom had called, asking me to phone when we arrived. We happily discovered that it had also snowed a bit there, so as I stood by our front door, looking at the other-worldly landscape, I called. She let me know that Dad had remained in bed all day, and had passed away peacefully in his sleep a few hours earlier. Mom had checked on him a few times before realizing the final time that he wasn’t breathing. This was three days after Christmas. Sadly, not everyone could make it to the funeral, due mostly to the hardened snow and ice that stubbornly coated the roads that whole week.

Thankfully, my father and I talked and spent time together during the months leading up to Christmas. He’d been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis (from inhaling fumes during a truck electrical fire) the previous year, and had been using oxygen for a few months, but it was still somewhat of a shock. Though I sort of regret not returning more quickly to see him for a few more moments, we had already talked things out the best we could, and I had shared my faith with him. We had made peace.

Sadly, some souls may not have had that privilege, and may muddle through the holidays with a palpable emptiness and bitter regrets. Many others try to ignore unresolved differences with estranged family or friends.

The good news is, we don’t have to live like that!

Hope & New Life
The gift of Christmas is for all time! Hope came in a manger, Jesus bore our sin and pain on the cross, and then the promise of a powerful new life sprang from the tomb!
Put another way, if we come to Him with hope and faith like a child, trusting that He knows and has taken on all of our sorrows and mistakes, then He creates beauty out of the ashes of our life!

No matter what you have been through, whom you have lost, or how badly you might feel things are messed up, there is ALWAYS hope, ALWAYS forgiveness and ALWAYS renewal available through Christ!

Forgiveness
If you have been hurt, just remember what Christ did for you. He endured pain and all kinds of temptations, ultimately taking the punishment for all of our screw-ups, on the cross. Our sins did not put Him there, but in awesome love, He willingly gave up His life for ours. Nothing anyone has done or could ever do will come close to that. We have forgiveness through Christ, so we must forgive others. Before we even come to the manger or “go tell it on the mountain” and offer praises, “if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you” (Mark 11:25).

If you get along with all of your family members, count yourself especially blessed! If that is not the case, do what you can to pursue reconciliation and patch things up. Just remember: In the end, you can only do what you can do. The rest is up to the Lord. We are each responsible for our own choices and ultimately accountable to Him.

In Summary…
All of us know folks who have lost loved ones. Show them extra patience and love.
If someone has hurt you, forgive them. (You’re really releasing yourself!)
If you hurt someone, ask for forgiveness. (Humble yourself by taking responsibility for your part.)
Like Jesus, they may reject us. Love them anyway. (1 John 4:11)
They may not accept forgiveness. Forgive them anyway. (Romans 12:20)
Don’t let the winter snow chill your heart. Let His love melt it and make a new start!

The greatest gift of Christmas is love.
Don’t wait! Claim it, embrace it and then double it by sharing it today!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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

Accentuate the Positives!

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After reading a blog post that a friend of mine published recently regarding taking offense too easily, it got me wondering: What’s the difference between being offended versus disagreeing? I hadn’t pondered that question until recently, because honestly, I hadn’t allowed myself to be offended by much of anything.

Keep the Peace

While growing up I learned to let things slide in order to keep the peace with my father. My survival mechanism was to focus on the positive attention (gifts) while ignoring or placating the negative. My father’s actions didn’t always make sense, and many times his words were hurtful. So I gleaned what good there was in situations, and mostly just stayed out of his way. This approach actually served me well, at least until I was a teenager; then it converted to being defensive. But that’s another story.

It took me a long time to realize that I viewed God similarly to my earthly father, although in a much different light: He is God and I am not; He will do whatever He wants, I will adjust, and it’s okay. The BIG difference is that I trust that God truly knows what’s best and His plans for me are good (Jeremiah 29:11). My Heavenly Father was there for me when my earthly father wasn’t. That I could trust God so implicitly from a young age is something for which I am immensely grateful. My life could have easily gone the way of bitterness. Instead, the reassurance of His faithful love is obvious in the many poems He’s inspired me to write over the years.

Offense vs. Disagreement

So, back to the subject of perceived offenses. Due to my upbringing, taking offense didn’t make much sense to me. However, in recent times, stronger emotions have emerged, bringing internal reactions I’m not used to or prepared for. But the question remains: am I actually personally offended, or am I simply not happy about or disagree with whatever it is? Thankfully, my reactions lean more toward dismay than anger.

Take the hullabaloo surrounding kneeling during the national anthem. Does that offend me? Well, they aren’t doing it to me personally, they’re simply trying to make a statement in order to raise awareness. So, no, it’s more that I don’t agree with their methods. Personally I think it’s silly to kneel and point fingers at the problem instead of actually going out and doing something about it. Unless you’re kneeling to pray with those with whom you have the problem. That might accomplish something.

The Real Battle

In fact, no amount of debating, finger-wagging, hypothesizing or protesting will do any good. It will only widen the divisions between us. We have to stop fighting each other and fight the real battle: the one for our souls. The enemy would like nothing more than to keep us distracted, up in arms about everything and nothing, and at each others’ throats about what we think is right. He laughs with evil glee every time we reply with a retort or say something negative instead of sharing God’s love.

Indeed, this country has lost its collective mind because we’ve lost our hearts; lost our first love. Love is the only answer for a world gone mad. Not the self-centered love of the world, but the self-sacrificing love of God. If we ever hope to effect change in the world, we must stand united in humble but fervent prayer to the One who can direct the hearts of kings like streams of water through His hands (Proverbs 21:1) and heal our land if we humble ourselves and turn from seeking our own way (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Make A Difference

So let’s all accentuate the positives! Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Instead of focusing on what’s wrong in the world, set aside the gauntlet and lift up those in need. Take steps to love others as God loves you and do good in His name. Smile at people. Open doors for people. Pay blessings forward by giving to others who have less than you. Join or start a group that focuses on serving people. Above all, PRAY! Pray with and for people, and watch God move! Make a difference by being a bright and positive light in the dark places. The need is huge, and the call is daunting, but prayers do make a difference, if only in your corner of the world. Yet the positive ripples will extend far beyond anything you can imagine.

Who’s with me?

 

One of my favorite songs from Danny Gokey is Love Will Take You Places.
It speaks of the sacrificial, selfless love of Christ that leads us through great adventures as we follow Him and share His love with the world!
(Note: Link will open in new window.)

Extra Credit

My favorite Bible chapter is Romans 12, because it pretty much encapsulates how we should live as followers of Christ. I highly recommend reading it often, and committing at least parts of it to memory.

©Ladeena Bell
All Rights Reserved (content & photos)

The Power Of Our Words

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Words are powerful things, and must be wielded carefully! I pray before and while I’m writing every post that my words are completely directed by the Lord. Thankfully, He often gives me little reassurances through the words of a friend, a song, or a perfectly timed devotional. So I trust, even when what I write is a tad more direct and less “flowery”, that my words will not merely encourage but also inspire you and even challenge you.

Here’s a “free-word association”, in the truest sense of the… word! And, I still ended up rhyming, too, so it’s sort of a poem. Bonus!

“Words”

Say the word. Spell a word. Give the word. Write the word. Reword. Send word. Sound out a word. Words in pictures. Express in words. Choose your words wisely. Word of mouth. My word is my bond. I give my word. A picture is worth a thousand words. Use your words. Words of wisdom. Words on a page. Let a word slip. Hurtful words. Healing words. Words of hope. Sad beyond words. Sometimes there just are no words.
What’s the word? The word I love?
The written Word of my Lord above.
Words through all eternity.
Words can bring peace and unity.
Words can cut. Words can kill.
Words can lift others, joy to instill.
Words of life. Words of love.
Words sent from the Father above.
The Holy Word of God is my sword
and I use my words to praise Him.

© Ladeena Bell

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Words Of Kindness

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “practice random acts of kindness”. It’s great, if done in His name, but it is also imperative to practice speaking words of kindness. Never has that been more important than on social media, where nowadays even a single careless or unkind comment can spark a fiery series of accusatory reactions. Usually it’s best to hold your (virtual) tongue and simply scroll past. It reminds me of the old adage: “if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all”, which is good advice. So if you must comment, make sure it’s positive, loving, and sincere. Is your attitude less than humble at that moment? Just move along, partner. Better yet, close the page, walk away, and pray for that person. A wise friend once told me that it’s hard to be angry with someone as you’re praying for them! However, with the growing number of negative posts, you might be praying a lot; but that could really be a good thing!

Show Them God’s Love

Okay, here’s a tough one…what about people who are different than you, are making unhealthy choices, or whose lifestyle you don’t agree with?

The first thing to remember is: God loves them as much as He loves you. He doesn’t play favorites (Acts 10:34; Deuteronomy 10:17). No one is perfect. We all fall short of what God intends, just in different ways (Romans 3:23). Show mercy to them because God has shown mercy to you.

The second thing is: We shouldn’t expect that non-believers adhere to standards that don’t apply to them…yet. Let’s put it another way: Jesus didn’t say, “change and follow Me”, He simply said, “follow Me”, and in doing so, we are changed. In fact, the only folks we are allowed to judge are those within the believing community, those who claim to know Christ and who have agreed to His follow His ways. (1 Corinthians 5:12).

So by all means, show mercy and “love people into the faith” so to speak. You can share God’s love without necessarily condoning all they do. How? I do it by daily surrendering myself to God in humble prayer, acknowledging that I am His and can do nothing on my own (John 15:5), offering myself as His ambassador, committed to be His light in the dark places and to everyone I meet. By studying His Word and hiding it in my heart (Psalms 119:11), and by daily praying for opportunities. Also, I bear in mind that my part may be simply to plant or water; someone else may be harvesting later. Best of all, the outcome isn’t dependent on us! The Spirit does most of the work, giving the right words to say (Luke 12:12; 21:14-15), and helping guide them toward the hope that’s found in God through Jesus, the very Word of God! And His Word never returns empty (Isaiah 55:11)!

© Ladeena Bell 2016 All Rights Reserved (main content & blog photos)

Extra Credit

For more reading about the power of words, I invite you to read James 3:1-12.

Below is a link to a collaborative song by Hawk Nelson and MercyMe. It’s been playing in my head lately, and fits this post perfectly!

YouTube link: Words – Hawk Nelson ft Bart Millard 

(Note: link will open up in a new window)