Unity

A kingdom that is divided cannot continue, and a family that is divided cannot continue.” -Mark 3:24-25 (NLT)

The body of Christ is a family, and if we are not united we cannot continue. We cannot perpetuate the gospel, contribute to the kingdom, or in any way attract a lost world to its Heavenly Father. Without unity we are rendered ineffective; impotent; paralyzed; useless. Churches are destroyed by dissension. Marriages crumble when there is no unity. Without a common bond there is no fellowship.

Unity in the body of Christ is a foundational need. We must learn to agree to disagree when the issue is not a salvational one. To argue every little point of doctrine is simply immature and petty. “Now dear brothers and sisters, I appeal to you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so there won’t be divisions in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” -1 Corinthians 1:10 (NLT). “United in thought and purpose”, that is what we need to be. We need to keep our focus on The One who unites us, and His plans and purposes for our personal lives, and for the body of Christ as a whole.

I do not believe that doctrinal divisions are God’s will. To me, they are a manifestation of man’s stubbornness and pride. That’s just my opinion, which is of little value, really. The point here is that whether we are Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, or Non-Denominational, if Jesus Christ is our foundation – the glue that binds us – we are family. If this family is to continue to be effective here on earth, we must be in unity.

Arguing amongst ourselves, leaving our church family because our pride was wounded, taking on offenses that are rooted in nothing but ego, only serve to divide us and sabotage the work of Christ. I’m not saying you should never leave your church. There are valid reasons for moving on. We need to make sure our reasons are indeed valid, Spirit led and not simply a matter of pride or bruised ego . . . Or because we didn’t like the color of the church walls. God may have put you in that church to improve the decor!

When we are in right standing with God, listening to His Holy Spirit, following His guidance and direction, we will be where we are supposed to be. No church is perfect, no person is perfect. There is NO perfection this side of eternity, so stop looking for it. Be where you are supposed to be, set aside pride, and be honestly open to what God wants you to do. Make unity a priority. Take selfish thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, and fervently love your brothers and sisters in Christ, with all their imperfections.

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”. -1 Peter 1:13 (NKJ). Don’t put your hope in the worship music, or the amount of charisma the pastor possesses, or the congregation. Place your hope nowhere but in Christ, and He will never steer you wrong. He will keep us in unity. Amen!
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A Prayer for Help

Dear Heavenly Father,

We need Your help!

Help us to keep walking through these dark days, finding joy in even the smallest things.

Help us to focus on the good and share grace and mercy with one another.

Help us to forgive, the way we would like to be forgiven when we do or say something thoughtless.

Help us to find the truth amidst all the lies.

Help us to remember that not one of us is You. None of us are perfect. We are all flawed and broken in some way, and in need of love and compassion.

Help us to be peace and light in a dark and tumultuous world.

And help us, Father, to never lose hope!

In the hope-full name of Jesus I pray! Amen!

The Key to Carefree

I had a thought today about responsibility and worry. Mainly because I read this this morning: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” -1 Peter‬ ‭5:6-7‬ ‭NASB‬‬. And: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” -Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬.

Some of us are natural worriers, I daresay moms especially. Our jobs are so huge and we put so much pressure on ourselves to get it right. There is so much to be concerned about! But, WHY do we worry? For me, it’s felt like a kind of obligation. If I don’t worry I may come across as unconcerned. People may think I don’t care. Sometimes. Other times I fear failure, or I’m afraid of the pain that would come with something bad happening – either physical or emotional pain. The bottom line it seems, is fear.

What if I totally trusted God and His sovereignty over my life? What if I did exactly what His Word says and cast my cares on Him? What if I truly was anxious for nothing and rejoiced in every day that He made for me? Even if my worst fears came true.

So what if people think I don’t care? If they think that, they don’t really know me and their opinion matters not! Bad things happen in this life; terrible, tragic things. My hope, however, is not in this life. My hope is in Jesus Christ and spending eternity with Him. This life is but a breath. Why waste it worrying when God has much better plans? Even when He allows the world to have its way in my life, He’s there controlling it and working it for good.

Being carefree does not equal irresponsibility. It equals trust and faith that I can do my best and give God the rest, and He will handle things in the best way possible for all concerned. I have to trust that even the heart-wrenching situations are for some divine purpose that I may or may not be privy to. I am His child, He is my Heavenly Father who knows best. Trust is key to being carefree.

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Undaunted

I’m reading a YouVersion devotion right now entitled Undaunted by Christine Caine, and man is it speaking to me! Living with Cervical Dystonia leaves me feeling a bit daunted. I love the Lord and know that He is good. I also know that He is sovereign over my life and I often wonder why He allowed this to happen to me.

I could shake my fist at heaven and be angry with my Heavenly Father for letting me suffer this wretched illness. I could even turn my back on Him and some would think that understandable. However, that’s not how I feel. Yes, I am confused at times because I can’t see the big picture that He sees. I don’t see the purpose that He does, but I do believe there’s a purpose.

God doesn’t do things willy-nilly, just for the heck of it. He is a good, kind, and gracious Father who has blessed me far, far beyond what I deserve. He sent His only Son to pay the penalty for my sin. Jesus cleared all charges against me and believe me, there were many!

Because of what Jesus did for me, these things are true: “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” -2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:8-9‬ ‭NASB‬‬. I may feel confused at times, mourn the loss of health and full function at times, but it is well with my soul.

My soul is protected in Christ. “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” -2 Thessalonians 3:3.  So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10.

God has a plan and my job is to trust that plan. I can trust Him because He has proven Himself trustworthy to me even though He had no obligation to do so. The bottom line is that regardless of how I feel, in Christ I am undaunted!

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Finding a Voice

I was fairly oppressed as a child – the oldest of six. We weren’t allowed to voice our opinion in our dad’s house unless it was the same as his. Once in a great while, however, (and never around dad) if the situation seemed important enough I would speak up – rather bluntly. It was rare, but it happened. My mom used to tell me that I was tactless. Most of the time, I communicated with my eyes. My dad called it “fire eyes” and it usually got me in trouble. Funny little aside that reminded me of that: my sister recently said to someone about me, “She won’t confront you, but she can give you a look!”

Then somewhere in my twenties I experienced an awakening, if you will. I discovered that I had definite opinions and I enjoyed expressing them. I became a little more outspoken. The tact was still missing though. I called it like I saw it and your response was up to you. I was very confident in the fact that I was not responsible for other people’s feelings. This continued into my thirties until I got some very negative responses to my “straightforwardness”. I clammed up again.

I’ve gone back and forth like that most of my life. Only those closest to me have always known what was on my mind. Those with whom I felt safe and not judged. Finding the balance between truthful and tactless has always been a challenge for me. I love and admire people who speak their minds without fear. They speak with confidence. These people call it like they see it in a truthful way. That’s all. It’s just the truth and you either respect it or you don’t. I think it’s an art that I never mastered.

The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” -Ephesians 4:15. I’ve come to learn over the years that God’s love is gentle, yet firm. There is no fear involved. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, -1 John 4:18a And the fear of man . . . The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” -Proverbs 29:25.

So, for me, I see this as the balance: Speak TRUTH, make sure it’s coming from love and not pride or the need to be right (which is kinda the same thing), and be concerned with what God thinks of your words. Also, check to be sure that what I want to say needs to be said. “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” -Ephesians 4:29. This doesn’t mean that we’re just supposed to blow sunshine.

Sometimes the truth can be hard to hear. It doesn’t feel good or helpful at that moment. That doesn’t mean its not. And even Jesus didn’t shy away from some name-calling and finger pointing when He was calling out evil. He called a spade a spade. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” -Matthew 23:27-28. So, we’re not talking about walking on eggshells or treating people with kid gloves. I’m saying that if I call someone out for being a hypocrite, I’d better be sure that what I’m saying is true and for someone’s benefit.

Even now, at almost 60-years of age, I still struggle with fear in the search for my voice. I think it’s time I got over that. I think it’s time I coupled the voice of that young woman who called it like she saw it with the maturity and wisdom I’ve gained in over 25-years of walking with Jesus. There has been SOME! I’m afraid I haven’t gained enough wisdom to be perfect, and never speak out of turn again, but there’s no perfection this side of eternity anyway. Was that just a run-on sentence? Anyway, I’m done being afraid to speak my mind. From this day forth I shall be true to me and to my God. Fear be damned!

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Poetry Corner

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This poem was originally written ten years ago for my sisters-in-Christ. It’s about spending quality time with Jesus, something that’s more important than ever in today’s world. May you be blessed with His peace and comfort! 💕💕

Take Me Away

Take me away to a quiet place.
Let me gaze contentedly upon Your lovely face.
Speak to me in gentle tones,
Just you and I, together alone.
Let me feel Your presence and hear Your voice.
I long for You only, as if I had no choice.

Take me away to a quiet place.
Let me rest in the safety of Your loving embrace.
Where peace like a lazy river flows,
And perfumes the air like a sweet smelling rose.
No chaos, no drama, no stresses of life.
Just tranquility and comfort, freedom from strife.

Take me away, just You and me,
To a quiet place where we can just be.

                                                                                            ©Brenda Lenz, 2020

Not Afraid to be Vulnerable

I did something today that I didn’t really want to do. I was afraid that it would offend some people. I was afraid that I wouldn’t explain myself clearly. I was afraid that it would create a backlash that I wasn’t willing to deal with. I was just plain afraid. I did it anyway.

Christians are called to share their lives with one another; to confess our sins to and pray for each other – “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” -James‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭NASB.; to share life’s ups and downs – ‬‬Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” -Romans‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭NASB; and to help each other in times of trouble – ‬‬Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” -Galatians‬ ‭6:2‬ ‭NASB. We call it fellowship. I consider myself a Christian yet I have failed at fellowship more times than I can count.

This past year and a half has been a tough one since my diagnosis, and I have gone from not too bad to worse, symptom-wise. I have stopped a lot of doing and going. I don’t go grocery shopping alone anymore, I don’t go anywhere where there’s not a table to lean on or a particular type of chair to sit in. I haven’t been to church in months, and in that absence I have had one person keep in touch with me on a regular basis. Not what I expected from the church.

On the flip-side, I have not reached out either. Maybe a stray notecard here and there, Facebook likes or comments on a post now and then, but no real connection. It’s been easy to get wrapped up in my own life and adjusting to my “new normal”. It’s easy to sit here and take on a victim role. That’s not healthy and thats not how I want my life to go. Playing the bitter victim just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and I don’t like it. So, I did what I did today.

A couple of days ago I joined a group of women from my church doing a YouVersion devotional together. Today, Day 2, some of the women shared how much they appreciated the women at our church, how they were always there for them and it meant so much. I commented on how my experience had been the opposite. I shared, basically, that I wanted to change the lack of fellowship I felt within the church we’d been attending for about 8 years.

I wasn’t bitter or angry, I just wanted to be honest. I own my part in the situation, and I guess if I were to be really honest I wanted them to own theirs. I wanted to know that my absence didn’t go unnoticed. Fellowship is a two-way street and sometimes some of us are more needy than others. I’ve said this before and I need to remember it as much as the next person. We can’t share life’s ups and downs, and bear one another’s burdens, if we don’t share!‬‬ I assumed more people knew my situation than maybe actually did. I should have expressed myself sooner.

None of us are perfect. We ALL get wrapped up in our own families and day-to-day lives, and next thing we know it’s next month – or even next year! This has to change! Especially within the church! We need to get back to making time for other people. When I was a kid and someone invited our family for dinner, it was common practice to return the favor. Nowadays it seems like hospitality is almost a lost art. I can’t remember the last time anyone invited us to dinner and vice versa. Well, actually, I can remember the last time we had company for dinner, but it was Thanksgiving. I don’t think that counts.

It’s never easy to express disappointment or say something that might rock the boat. Although when I was younger it was a different story. My mother used to tell me I was tactless. I just thought of it as being honest. Sometimes I think I need to be that young girl again, not afraid to tell it like I see it. I think we should all be as honest, sprinkled with some love and grace. We in the church especially. Jesus was honest. He told it like He saw it with no apology. I want to be like Him. Speaking the truth in love, His kind of love – honest and fearless. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear . . . 1 John‬ ‭4:18‬a ‭NASB‬‬. I want to be better at fellowship and not afraid to be vulnerable with those considered my sisters-in-Christ. I pray that for all of us and that today was a start.

🙏🏻😊💕

The Wind and The Waves

A lot of us are familiar with the story of Peter walking on the water toward Jesus. “And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”” -Matthew‬ ‭14:25-31‬ ‭NASB‬‬

How many of us right now have taken our focus off of Jesus and put it on the storm happening all around us? It is so easy to get caught up in the wind and waves of the news; whole countries on fire, earthquakes where there normally aren’t any, global pandemic with alarming fatality numbers! Just to name a few of the waves. Worldwide storms as well as storms right in our own homes threaten our sense of peace and security. The enemy seeks “only to steal and kill and destroy”, but Jesus came that we “may have life, and have it abundantly.” -John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭NASB‬‬. Life is much richer, and we are more productive and helpful to others, when we aren’t drowning in fear.

When we trust that God is in control and His plans for us are good – “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” -‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NASB‬ we can be at peace regardless of life’s circumstances. This doesn’t mean that we are exempt from having anything bad happen to us. It means that what happens to us will have purpose and our souls are protected. The Lord will be with us and see us through it all. We don’t need to fear illness, calamity, or even death. Death is merely the vehicle that delivers us into His Presence – the best place we could ever be!

It’s sad, yes. This life is full of heartache and pain, we all experience it and we don’t always know the whys and wherefores. And yet, for believers in the Lord Jesus Christ there is peace and hope in all circumstances. We can focus on Jesus and walk above the storm. It doesn’t mean that we’re not affected, it means we’re affected differently. “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” -‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:8-9‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Don’t focus on the storm around you. Read the news, keep up to date with what’s happening, but keep your FOCUS on Jesus, the One who controls the storm. In Him there is calm and peace . . . and hope! Always hope!

Love & prayers,
Brenda 🙏🏻💕😊

Transparent

There’s a buzzword in Christian circles – “transparent”. We say that it’s a good thing and it basically means to be honest and open. When you’re transparent you’re not a pretender. You’re real about your life, your feelings, where you are in your journey with Jesus. My grandmother would probably have balked at that word. I’m sure they didn’t use it much in her day, or my Mother’s day, or even early in my day. I’ve been a Christian for 24-years and it’s probably only in the past 15-years that I’ve been hearing that word among my brothers and sisters-in-Christ.

Why do we even need that word? Because Christians are excellent pretenders and some of us finally got to the point where we couldn’t stand the pressure. Constantly wearing our “happy church faces” is exhausting. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re happier. It doesn’t exempt you from the harshness of life and having bad things happen to you. It only means that you deal with it a little differently because someone else is steering the boat. Someone with a much greater knowledge of what’s ahead and how to navigate.

I was raised by professional women. My mother was a secretary and an entrepreneur. My grandmother was an all-around businesswoman, active in the Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Sons of Hermann, and very professional. My grandma taught me to put my best foot forward and how to project a professional image. I never saw her cry. I never heard her complain. I never saw her without her hair and makeup done until she was in her 70’s and battling Alzheimer’s. I adored my grandma and she was a strong role model for me. She also was not a professing Christian. “Transparent” she was not and neither was I for most of my adult life.

I still struggle a bit with the whole transparency issue. I believe there is such a thing as TMI (too much information). I also don’t like to be a downer, and I am terribly vain. I prefer to have it all together and look it. I have a couple of people in my life with whom I share any deep dark feelings that come along, and even then I do my best to sugar-coat it a little. I remember one time when I was totally and completely transparent and that was when I shared my salvation testimony with my home church. Afterward, I was amazed at the amount of people who told me how shocked they were at my history. They would never have guessed any of it to look at me. That told me that either I was a really good pretender still, or the transforming work of Jesus truly is miraculous. I prefer to believe the latter. Especially since I was on a quest at the time to be more real and drop my “happy church face” (unless I really was happy, of course 😊).

We are called to “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. . .” -James‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭NLT‬. ‬ We are also to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” -Romans‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭NASB. We can’t do these things without being transparent with one another; honest and vulnerable. It’s not easy, I know, especially for those of us who are more old school . . . and it’s not impossible. I’ve done it and I’m getting better at it with the Lord’s help. There is no perfection this side of eternity. NO ONE person and NO ONE’S life is perfect, no matter how it looks on Facebook or Instagram. Trying to pretend perfection is, I have come to believe, a waste of energy.

While I always have a reason to be joyful in Christ, I may not always be happy and that’s okay. Jesus never promised me a life of constant happiness and freedom from trouble. Quite the opposite, in fact. Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” -John‬ ‭16:33‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬. He has overcome the sin that caused this fallen world we live in and one day all will be made right! What a great thing to rejoice over! In the meantime, happiness that depends on circumstances comes and goes.

We Christians are called to be there for each other and to remind one another of our source of joy. We give each other hope, encouragement, comfort and friendship in a very special way. We call it fellowship – “friendly association, especially with people who share one’s interests”. -Merriam Webster’s Dictionary. However, if we don’t know that someone has a need it’s difficult to meet it. If we constantly are upbeat and look and act like all is well, that’s what most people are going to think of us – that we’re okay – regardless of the truth of the pain we hide inside.

I’m still a work in progress and will be for the rest of my life. I’m still working on the whole transparency thing and that’s key – that I keep doing the work and don’t give up. It’s difficult at times. Pride is a huge obstacle to transparency, and pride is a big part of human nature. Fortunately, with God all things are possible – even overcoming pride! “Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” -Matthew‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

😊💕

Focusing on the Christ in Christmas – Epilogue

“For, At just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen.” -‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭6:15-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Christmas is such a wonderful time of year. Even amidst the sadness and turmoil of this world, special cheer and goodwill can be found. Somewhere in the twinkling lights, beautiful music, and overall atmosphere of the holidays, a little joy can be found for even the saddest heart. That’s what I believe anyway, and I believe it because my heart gets very sad at times, even (or maybe especially) at Christmas.

Remembering loved ones who are no longer here, or missing loved ones who live far away can spark a whole slew of melancholy emotions. There is plenty in this world to be sad about and if I choose to dwell in “MelancholyvilleI could be sad my whole life! Wouldn’t THAT be fun! Not! So, instead of focusing on Christmas memories that make me sad, or the whole commercial aspect of Christmas I choose to focus on the true meaning.

Christmas means that I have a best friend who is bigger and stronger than any bad or sad thing that could happen in my life. It means that I am saved from the penalty of every sin I’ve ever committed. The baby whose birth we celebrate grew up to be the Savior of my soul! Actually, He was BORN to be the Savior of every soul that accepts Him as such!It’s about so much more than trees, presents, and twinkle lights. It’s about eternity and where I’m going to spend it, and it’s about navigating this fallen world with someone who has already overcome it!

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read my humble thoughts on things. I am forever grateful for that first Christmas and everything it means for me. I am so thankful for the blessing of my family as well and I’m taking these next few days before Christmas Day to focus on them and the One whose birth we celebrate.

Wishing you a blessed and meaningful Christmas full of more love and joy than you’ve ever known!
Merry Christmas!
Brenda 🎄😊💕