Weakness to Strength

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! We probably recognize these lyrics to a popular song, but they speak truth. The battles God allows in our stories serve a higher purpose. When we press in to him in the midst of them we are strengthened. Just as the rest of this verse from Hebrews 11:34 says, “Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle…” 
Lets ponder that last part– THEY BECAME STRONG IN BATTLE. It doesn’t say God lead these great heroes of faith to gain strength before he lead them into battle. It says that it was in the battle that they grew in strength. 
If you are walking through some things today that test your faith, I encourage you to press in and allow God to grow you through it. And if you’ve been through some battles, pause for a moment and look back to who you were before them and who you are now because of them. Then give God praise. It changes our perspective when we recognize we wouldn’t ask for the things we’ve walked through, at the same time we wouldn’t change them because they made us who we are today.

Amy O’Donnell 

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Keep Going

Keep Going(As recently posted on Arrows, blogsite of Pastor Laura Koke, co-Pastor of Shoreline Church in Austin, TX. To read her blogposts as well as posts by guest writers, go to http://www.pastorlaura.com.)

My daughter is very persistent. If she wants something she will ask for it again and again each time hoping she will hear the answer she is longing for. While we have to shape this trait in her right now to steer it into a positive direction, we recognize this tendency is a positive one that will take her far in life.

Many of the key people of The Bible had this same thread woven through the fabric of their lives. Abraham and Sarah persisted through years of infertility. Moses persisted through a stubborn pharaoh’s hardened heart. David persisted through years of tending sheep and running for his life after he was anointed the next king. The Israelites persisted in marching around the wall of Jericho for seven days.

All of the people mentioned held a promise from God. All of them faced a reality far different from that promise for many years of their lives.

Have you ever wondered –

  • What if Abraham and Sarah gave up on trying to conceive a baby?
  • What if Moses stopped at the ninth plague?
  • What if David threw in the towel; deciding it wasn’t worth the wait and trouble?
  • What if the Israelites stopped marching on day six?

None of these people stopped short of the prize. They kept going. They persevered.

Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” These amazing hall-of-faith people modeled this in their lives. They believed God would do what He said He would do.

For me, it’s not hard to see where my daughter’s persevering personality comes from. After three boys and generations of no girls born into the family, we were told by countless people it was unlikely we would ever have a girl. And yet, I held a dream in my heart time wasn’t taking away. I believed God placed that dream there and He could do anything to bring it to pass. And when Kylie FAITH entered this world, I was so thankful I never gave up.

What promise of God are you holding onto? Whatever it is, my prayer for you is that no matter what you see happening in the natural you will keep going, keep moving forward, keep hoping, keep pressing on, and whatever you do — never, ever give up.

Amy O’Donnell

© Copyright March 5th, 2014

Happily Ever After

Recently, Kylie and I had a chance to watch a movie together, just the two of us. We don’t get these opportunities very often. Typically at least one of the guys are with us and of course, when they are, we aren’t often able to watch a full-out girly girl movie, at least without a battle. So on this rarest of days, we seized the moment and picked the movie “Enchanted”.

If you aren’t familiar with Enchanted, it’s a super cute movie about a princess from an animated fairy tale land, where there are no troubles or worries; that is, until her soon to be mother in law fears losing the throne after her son marries. To protect it, she banishes the princess to real live New York City, where she has to quickly find support in simply surviving. She stumbles across a man (surprise 🙂 ) who feels compassion for her and takes her in. Over time, they fall  in love and she realizes he is her one true love, and they marry and live – ‘Happily Ever After.’ Her prince charming from fairy tale land, who had followed her to New York City, also met the girl of his dreams, and she followed him back to animated world where they also marry and live ‘Happily Ever After’. So for all, it was a happy ending!

As it wrapped, I was reminded how much I still love happily ever after endings. I think it’s because, I’m a girly – girl and a hopeless romantic. As I pondered it, I couldn’t help but feel joy in thinking my story would end with a happily ever after ending, as would anyone else’s in Christ. We know we will go to Heaven one day and live for all eternity with our one true love!

As comforting as that is to me, and as much as I treasure that thought. I still can lose sight of it in the day-to-day realities of life. For example, David and I have been through a lot this past year. As I talked with my mother in law about it all recently, who is by the way, much nicer than the one in Enchanted, I told her how I feel sometimes we are living an amazing God story, and I just want to be able to turn the page and read what happens next. I know the end is good, but I just wish I could glance ahead a page, or even a chapter or two and see what God has in store in the time between now and then.

It’s that not knowing, that makes faith so important. We have to trust God with the unseen future and difficult trials. While we can’t know each season before it unfolds, and even what life holds for us on any given day; we do know the one who holds every day and every season of our life, and with Him we know that no matter what comes our way He promises to work all things out for good for those who love Him.. (Romans 8:28).

So as we wait for our happily ever after ending to come, we live this amazing God adventure with faith, surrendered hearts and hope, knowing that ultimately God has the final say in all things. He is faithful to complete everything He begins, to bring beauty for ashes, to never give up on us and to love us with out end. For me, knowing how faithful God is makes each day a joyous God adventure.

I hope the same is true for you. As you look ahead to new chapters, new seasons, and even to what this day holds, I hope you will trust God with each moment and allow Him to lead you step by step. When unexpected twists and turns pop up, when a chapter ends, when the plot changes, keep your eyes on Jesus and remember God will work all things out for your good! Now, go!

Copyright © 2012 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

There Might Be Monsters

For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7 (KJV)

Fear is a very real emotion. While the emotion is a valid emotion, what the fear relates to may not always be valid. I know this from my own life experiences with fear, as well as from watching the people around me.

For example, we have four kids. They stagger in age from six to fourteen, and because of their varying ages they go to bed at different times. Kylie, our youngest, is the first to go to bed. Occasionally, we ask her to go upstairs and get ready for bed, while all the rest of the family is downstairs. Every time this happens, without fail, she gets very upset, bursts into tears and says, “I can’t go upstairs by myself… I’m scared! I can’t do it, I can’t!” You see, in Kylie’s mind, she thinks there might be monsters or strange people upstairs out of sight, just waiting for her to come up so they can jump out and scare her, or grab her. I remember thinking things like that when I was little. I was afraid to look under my bed at night because of what might be underneath.

Hopefully, all of us who are now adults have outgrown our fear of the dark, or of what might be lying beneath our beds. But our imaginations are still very active, and our thoughts can produce feelings of fear that cause us to shrink back or hesitate to go boldly after the life God has for us. Fear of failure, fear of what people are thinking, fears of not being successful or of not accomplishing all we think we are supposed to, fear that we will fail as parents or spouses, fear that things will never change, are just a few of the many fears that we can struggle with. We can become paralyzed with thoughts of things that are not even a part of our reality; a fear of what might be, or of what might happen.

I love the reminder that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Fear is not from God, and when fear thoughts pop up in our mind we need to move quickly to get those thoughts in line with God’s word and our hearts fixed back in a position of trust in Him.  As we trust Him, surrender our lives to Him, depend on Him to empower us and keep our eyes on Him, He turns our fears into faith.

So, the next time fear thoughts pop up in your mind, remind yourself what God’s word says about your situation Remember that He loves you and has plans for your life – to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future (Jer 29:11).  Affirm the truth to chase away the thoughts, imaginations, and lies of the enemy – Greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world (1 John 4:4). You can do all things through Him who gives you strength (Phil 4:13), and God will never leave you nor will He ever forsake you (Heb 13:5). Then boldly continue to move forward in faith, believing the best is yet to come!

Copyright © 2012 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

Faith Assignments

 Have you ever noticed in The Bible some types of encouragement are seen multiple times?

 One that has always stood out to me, is the encouragement given over and over again to the men and women on special faith assignments. In some form or fashion, these leaders were told that God would never leave them nor would he ever forsake them. This same message was given to Jacob by God, to Joshua via Moses when he was blessing him, to Joshua by God himself as he prepared to lead, and David said it to Solomon when he passed the baton of leadership to him.

 As these amazing leaders were sent out on their missions (or faith assignments), to battle the unknown and lead with courage, they were encouraged through the reminder that God was with them.

 Jesus said something similar to his disciples in Matthew 28:19-20, in the Great Commission. He said, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

 I love that, tagged on to one of our faith assignments, we are given the same reminder, “Lo, I am with you always.”

 I have needed that reminder many times in my life –  in ministry, in parenting, in relationship struggles, in times when I wondered if my dreams would come to pass, in moments where God asked something new of me that was out of my comfort zone.. In each of these areas of my life, what fills me with courage is the reminder that I am not alone. Jesus is with me.

And the truth is, all areas of our life are really faith assignments, we need faith in every situation and role we find ourselves in… faith that God will come through, that he will give us what we need, that he will make a way when it seems like there is none, that he will work all things out for good.

Knowing God is with me always, at all times – fills me with comfort, peace, hope and joy, no matter what my circumstances look like. When I find myself focusing on my situations, struggles or circumstances, I can feel my heart sink and fear try to set in, and then I am reminded – to shift my gaze back to him. He is always there, always.

No matter what you are facing today, I want to remind you that God is with you.  Never will He leave you, never will He forsake you…. Lo, He is with you always.

Jesus Be Big In Me!

In my life personally and as a parent, I have seen again and again the way God leads us through challenges and gives us the strength to face them. My youngest son, Ethan, is a great example of this. At Ethan’s first dentist visit as a toddler, we found out his teeth had no enamel on them to protect them from cavities, and already he had multiple cavities that would have to be treated. Because of his very small mouth, strong gag reflux, and tremendous will, he had to be given a sedative and a relaxer each time he went in for treatment. Typically, his will would win out over the Demerol and laughing gas, and David and I would have to hold him down. A few times his fight persisted longer than our ability to restrain him and we’ve had to put him in a little papoose; Velcro-ing his hands and feet inside of it in order to finish. Each time, I’d cry and pray that the Lord would help him through it and heal him.

Two years ago, at age 7, he had to have several cavities filled and a root canal done. All of our hearts sank at the news that we would again have to fight this battle, and then they dropped even more when we heard these words, “Mom and Dad, We want you to wait in the waiting room. We want to see if he is better on his own.”

On treatment day, we had a very quiet drive to the dentist’s office. He was scared, he didn’t want to be restrained again, and he wanted us with him. As we pulled in, I knew I had just a moment to prepare him for what was to come. None of the typical pep talks felt right to me. Instead, I said, “Ethan you can’t do it on your own. You are not strong enough, and you don’t have to be, because Jesus in you is big enough, he is strong enough, and he will give you the strength you need to get through this. So right now, and again when you go in, I want you to say this prayer – ‘Jesus, be BIG in me’. And, when you get scared, or feel like fighting to get up, I want you to say it again, and again, as many times as you need to.”

When the procedure was over, the nurse came out and said Ethan had done the best ever. When I got to see him, I asked him if he had to say his prayer. He said, “Yes, and I felt like I was at home – watching TV, on my own couch.” And he was at total peace.  

What was true for Ethan is true for all of us, as well. Jesus said in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” When we are weak, he is strong, when it seems our struggles are too much for us – we can cry out to him for the strength to endure and overcome. We don’t have to face any situations on our own.

Held

I remember when each of my kids were learning to walk. I would prop them on their feet, wrap their tiny fingers around mine, hold tightly and then encourage them to take steps. At first they could only walk if they held my hands, but it seemed like in no time at all, they had gained the strength and courage to let go and toddle across the room on their own.

In each of their first years, there were many times I felt like I was holding my breath as they began to let go of my hands and fearlessly explore new territories. With each stumble and fall, my heart seemed to skip a beat as I would run over, to wipe away tears and help them to get back on their feet again! And those moments were foreshadowing for what was to come. In the years that have followed, I have had plenty of breath holding, letting go moments… when we took the training wheels off their bikes, on each of their first days of kindergarten or their first time away from home over night. When my oldest entered middle school and later high school, I felt those butterfly feelings again, and I could tell this aspect of parenting would not be an easy one – training them to step out along the path God has for them without me by their side, to hold their hands along the way, and pick them up when they fall.

The reality is, I can not live out my parenting days holding my breath as my kids grow and mature, and as a human I am limited in my ability to extend my reach wherever life leads each of them. I simply can not hold their hand every step of the way, but what David and I can do, is train them up in the way they should go and teach them to grab hold of the hand that will uphold them, steady them and never let them go – and that’s the loving, gracious hand of God.

Psalm 37:23-24 (NLT) paints a beautiful picture of what walking hand in hand with our Heavenly Father looks like. It says, “The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.”

 Isn’t it wonderful to know that no matter how old we are, we have the hand of God available to us at all times? There is no more fruitful, joy-filled way to live than in a life of surrender to God, placing all we are into his grasp, and allowing him to lead us each step of the way. When we stumble, He won’t let go – he picks us back up, dusts us off, kisses our aches and pains – and lead us down the path that leads to life.

 Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved