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December 2018

22 Dec – The Nativity

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Our first nativity was over 20 years ago when I sent my very obliging husband all over the city collecting various animals I had located to be part of the Christmas play. Eventually he had stowed in the back of a borrowed station wagon 2 baby goats, a managory of chickens, guinea pigs, and several rabbits which either noisily bleated as they poked their heads out of the car windowsmor snuffled about in the front seat as he drove carefully home. My task was to collect a sheep I had found from one of the neighbouring hobby farms, and which I, being a sheep farmers daughter thought would be fine to walk down the road back to our home. Sheep though are not especially clever and think only about eating, which I discovered it liked doing a lot of as I struggled to drag it home. Once safely installed in the nativity scene it remains in my memory as the sheep who in the middle of the play decided to urinate all over “Mary’s feet”, causing everyone to burst into hilarious laughter. Poor “Mary’ was not amused.

Not to be deterred by such events, the next year we put on a Christmas event which was the first time we’d done a community event which included the FULL nativity – as in a choir, dancing children, barn animals, camels, turkeys, chickens, alpaca’s, dogs and a donkey. I remember all the organisation and busyness before the evening, with the musicians practicing their singing, the people playing the Christmas characters rehearsing their parts and getting their costumes organised, and in amongst it all us having three children suffering the end stages of chicken pox.

This particular year we had a live donkey, and had organised to have Mary and Joseph enter through the audience. My brother-in-law played Joseph that year, and “Mary’ dutifully rode upon her donkey. Somehow unknown to me the donkey decided it didn’t want to go where Joseph was leading it, and down the back of the audience poor Mary was being whirled round and around at an uncomfortable speed on the back of this wayward donkey as Joseph attempted to bring him under control. This resulted in Mary half losing her costume and being quite a dishevelled state as she finally made her way through the enthralled crowd.

To top it all off as Philip my husband shared his Christmas message and proceeded to give an opportunity for people to invite Jesus into their lives, the alpaca, one of the main stable animals right in front of the audience decided it was an ideal time to get amorous with it’s mate. This “excitement” seemed to trigger the turkeys, chickens and even the donkey into a symphony of squawks, clucking and braying which totally overrode Philip’s evangelistic endeavours.

Not to be deterred Philip kept right on preaching above the noise and chaos happening behind him. As a result even with all the laugher and amused giggles, people’s hearts were touched by his message of God’s love and forgiveness. That night regardless of all the activity and noise, people met Jesus in the simplicity of the truth that we don’t have to be lonely, sick, broken, guilty or a sinner anymore. For Jesus invites all of us to know Him personally.

Sometimes it takes someone or something to stand up above all the chaos and point out to us the truth and what life is really all about, much like Philip did on that, and many other Christmas Eve’s like it. For when our life is over, only one thing will really matter; Did we get to know Jesus the Son of God? All the Christmas presents we buy, the long hours we work, the degrees we study for, the meals we prepare, the perfect holidays we take and the houses we build and buy won’t matter. What will matter is whether we spent time getting to know Jesus, who for each one of us made the effort and sacrifice to come on that very first Christmas day.

As Christmas draws near, prepare to enjoy all the season brings. Wrap the presents, celebrate as much as possible and make memories with your friends and family. But don’t let Christmas go by without searching out and looking for Jesus. Listen for him, that you might hear him call you aside. Let this Christmas be the one in which you hear Him tell you of His love, forgiveness and the good things He has planned for you.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. (John 3:16)

This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.” (1 John 4:9-11)

 Prayer: Jesus, please forgive me where I have fallen short of all that you made me to be. Forgive me for my mistakes, where I have allowed the noise of the world around me to shut you out, and have let other people or things take precedent in knowing you. This Christmas I want to meet and get to know you regardless of the noise. In Jesus Name Amen.

21 Dec – Enjoying the season

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At this time of the year when everyone can get very busy with Christmas preparations, end of year parties, shopping and the general rushing about we can start to feel and resemble the Grinch if we are not careful. Rather than enjoying the season and all that it can mean we can let go of our peace and lose our joy.

However contrary to “Grinch thinking” we all have the capacity within us to live a life filled with joy, and especially at this time of year. When our hearts are glad and cheerful it benefits our whole body, heart and mind. Medical research reveal that cheerful people have less heart attacks, healthier blood pressure, lower cholesterol, weight management, and decreased stress levels. These studies match what the bible says in that, “a cheerful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 15:15)

In studies reported by the Journal of Positive Psychology researchers discovered that subjects were able to control feelings of happiness by simply trying to become happier and using the right methods to encourage it; the key is to look within and discover those things that make us cheerful. It doesn’t need to be big or flashy like the latest new car or an overflowing bank account, but just for us to regularly look into our hearts and discover the wonderful opportunities for joy in a relationship with Jesus and the amazing things all around us.

Today and especially as Christmas draws near choose joy and look for those things that bring a smile to your face and lift your heart. Things like to:

Try something new

Spend time with loved ones

Do something out of the ordinary

Slow down and enjoy your food, a good cuppa, and the great outdoors

Put on some uplifting music

Give of your time, talent, and energy

Encourage someone

When practiced in the long term these small joys both internally and externally are powerful enough to create and cultivate cheerfulness in our lives and make us feel more generous, friendlier and healthier.

Choose to cultivate cheerfulness and you will soon cast off any Grinchiness this Christmas.

I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” (2 John 1:12)

You make known to me the path of life;you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)

Prayer: Lord help me to be more aware of those things that bring me joy, and that I would centre in on them and give more time in my day to those things that bring joy. In Jesus name Amen.

 

20 Dec – Feast food

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I have to say that I love Christmas. I love the presents, the giving, the food, the lights, the laughter, music and family time. I love that we get to remember specifically that Jesus came to bring peace to all mankind.

In our house we celebrate the most on Christmas Day and especially lunchtime. There is a lot of food and if one is wise you pace yourself to be able to eat and enjoy this special Christmas meal. The problem is that leading up to and even on Christmas Day there is always so much other food available before the real meal. You could easily snack yourself full before you even got to the main course, and so spoil your appetite.

As I was contemplating the need to eat in stages and to not fall into the trap of ruining my appetite I realised you could say the same about a relationship with Jesus. In each of us is an emptiness that is designed and vacant for the specific purpose of us having a relationship with Him. If we are spiritually aware we recognise this emptiness inside and choose to invite Jesus into that place in our lives.

We can however also waste a lot of time and energy “snacking” on things that never truly satisfy in an attempt to fill this emptiness. We can even make the mistake of relegating Jesus to the background if we do know Him because we are filling up on other pursuits rather than seeking a deep and meaningful relationship and connection with Him. This snacking can come in many forms such as travel, careers, relationships, money, the accumulating of material possessions and seeking after success. In themselves these are not bad things, but in comparison to the completeness that we find in a relationship with Jesus they don’t compare and could be typified as snack food when we could have the ‘roast dinner” in Jesus who is the real feast.

This Christmas time I encourage you to not fill up on those things that act much like snack food. They taste good initially, but leave you feeling hungry and lacking in true sustenance overall. Instead choose to feast on the goodness of Jesus and a growing meaningful relationship with Him that will fill all the empty places in your heart and bring you lasting  peace and joy. (John 10:10)

Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live.” (Isaiah 55:2)

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form. And you have been made complete in Christ,who is the head over every ruler and authority.”(Colossians 2:9-10)

Have a listen to this song by Kim Walker to encourage you today to be filled with His love and presence.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyNYdC5XUmo

Prayer: Lord please help me to recognise where I have been “snacking” on those things that were never designed to bring me lasting true peace and joy in an effort to fill the empty places in my life. Would you please come and fill my heart and life up with your love this Christmas . In Jesus Amen.

19 Dec – A bitter pill to swallow

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There is a saying “it’s a bitter pill to swallow,” which means something that is very unpleasant but must be endured and accepted. Most of us know what it is to have to face difficult or uncomfortable situations or be told something we’d rather not hear. However I wonder how often we “swallow” things we were never meant to “eat” of or that Jesus wants to carry  amd bear for us?

Perhaps instead of casting our cares, disappointments, stress and worries upon Jesus, we often take far to literally the idiom “swallow the bitter pill” and find ourselves in a place of accepting or enduring hard situations, relationships and life’s tough places rather than appropriating the truth of what Jesus has done for us?

Jesus doesn’t want us to have to carry or “swallow” the bitterness of life, for when we swallow something we are partaking of that thing and it then becomes a part of us, when in fact Jesus “swallowed” all the bitterness for us already when He carried and died for all our griefs, sorrow, sin, sickness and pain.

The question then to regularly ask ourselves is what are we eating of? What are we accepting or enduring? Is it pain, disappointment and bitterness like the bitter pill or are we eating those things that are good, true, pure, lovely and worthy of giving a shout about?

For there are some pieces of information we shouldn’t, for our own good eat of; there are some relationships that aren’t healthy and there are some situations where Jesus never expected or planned for us to face alone.

Today don’t feel like you have to keep on eating of the hard things of life or that it is always necessary to simply endure and swallow the bitterness. We were never created to live like that and Jesus went through a lot on a Cross to ensure we didn’t have to live afflicted and beaten down by life. He swallowed the “bitter pill” of a wooden cross so that we could live free, casting our cares upon Him and receiving in return His strength, comfort, peace, joy and fullness of life. Choose to “feast” on Jesus and His goodness and throw that bitter pill away.

Surely He has borne all our griefs and carried our sorrows….He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5 NKJV)

Jesus said, “ I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect – life in Its fullness until you overflow.” (John 19:10 TPT)

Prayer: Lord thank you that you have already carried and bore every grief and sorrow I could ever face. You took the “bitter pills” so I wouldn’t have to. Today I’m throwing any “bitter pills” away and choosing to “eat” of the life you have for me. In Jesus name amen

18 Dec -Make some room

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I often think of the innkeeper, who when Mary and Joseph arrived at his door chose to turn them away with a “no room here” sign. He didn’t make room for Jesus on the first Christmas and as a result he missed the privilege of housing the Son of God at his birth. His actions however didn’t stop Jesus from being born or God’s purpose being fulfilled in history, but the innkeeper’s choice did prevent him from being in the midst of one of, if not the most significant moments in history.  The innkeeper missed it, simply because he wasn’t aware enough of what was happening right in front of him; he wasn’t reading the signs as the wise men were that a King was about to be born, nor had he noticed anything different about the young couple standing on his doorstep on that night.

Sadly we far too often live as the innkeeper did, unaware of the times and seasons and what God is doing in our midst. We get caught up in the day-to-day business of life and all the hustle and bustle around us. Unfortunately when we are satisfied with living in such a way, where as a whole we can’t even remember what all the fuss and bother is  about half the time, our lives are filled with meaningless activity. 

However God warns us not to be so self-sufficient or always so busy chasing after other things that we forget and make no room for Him. Him.  “In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God”. (Psalm 10:4)

This Christmas I encourage you to take a moment to think upon the story of the innkeeper who turned away Mary and Joseph and failed to make room on that first Christmas. Don’t let your story be the same and fail to make room for Jesus in your life or the opportunity to get to know Him. Don’t miss out on experiencing the peace, purpose and indwelling power that comes through having God in your life. Because if we never do take the time or opportunity, we could very well overlook the very purpose we are here for in the first place and what God is releasing on earth right now.

You might think you have a good life now much like that innkeeper thought he was having a good night. His rooms were all full, the cash was flowing and everything looked great. But what if you could have an ever better life; a more meaningful, purposeful, peace filled, joyful life, wouldn’t you want to know about it? Wouldn’t that innkeeper and his family have made it possible for Jesus to be born in their inn if they had discerned what was about to happen in their neighbourhood?  (Luke 2:7)

Jesus said, ”Listen! I am standing and knocking at your door. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will eat together” (Revelation 3:20)

Make room in your “inn” today and invite Jesus into your life. And when you do don’t relegate him to the back shed or barn, but give him the run of your house and keep making Him feel welcome with your whole heart, everyday, in every area of your life. For then you will discover the purpose, peace and power that comes through knowing Him.

Jesus said, ”Listen! I am standing and knocking at your door. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will eat together”.

Prayer: Jesus, I make room in my life for you today. Forgive me if I have heard you before and answered, but then relegated you to the “back shed”. Forgive me if instead of welcoming you into my “house”, and making you feel welcome everywhere and in every way, I’ve chosen to push you to the side. Today I choose to open every area of my life to you and to make room for you with my whole heart. In Jesus Name Amen.

17 Dec – Focus

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I read a story today about a man picking strawberries in a strawberry patch. This man would pick a strawberry here… and then he’d look up and see another strawberry a couple of rows away and off he’d run to pick that berry. Then he would look up and see another berry a few plants away and off he’d go, again and again and again all across the patch. In the time it took him to fill one bucket, others around him had filled ten.

That’s because this man’s eyes were always wandering across the strawberry patch looking for the easiest berries to find, instead of staying focused on what was before him. The bible says that a fool is like that, but “the perceptive find wisdom in their own front yard; fools look for it everywhere but right here“ (Proverbs 17: 24 –The Message).

Many people look for the “easiest berry” in the patch, the quick fix and they’re always seeking an easy way to get ahead in life. They are constantly comparing themselves, their families, their jobs and their potential to something or someone else. And they are never satisfied, often ending up doing far less with their lives than they could have.

God doesn’t want our lives to be full of toil or to be marred with disappointment and unrealised dreams. He is right here with us, desiring to speak and lead us into far more than we could ever find, or dream up by ourselves. (Ephesians 3:20). So often however we can be found rushing all over the earth searching for meaning, fulfilment, and instant gratification when God is closer to us than the very air we breathe. It’s just that we can simply ignore Him!

But “God intended that they (we) would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being.”  (Acts 17:27-28)

He wants to impart vision and dreams, and for us to be focused in life, knowing where and what we are called to do each day. He wants to fill the empty void within each one of us and reveal our best life. Sadly though we can all be like the man in the strawberry patch, running frantically here and there, searching for meaning, success and happiness but never fully achieving or reaching our goals and potential. It is far too easy to wear ourselves out through our incessant “doing doing, doing”, when Jesus wants to lead us in the way of bliss and a joy filled, meaningful life. (John 10:10)

As the New Year approaches take time to look forward into the year to come. What has God placed in your heart to focus on? Are you responding to His call and listening to His voice? What progress in your walk of faith and growth as a person do you want to make? What does God want to reveal and build into your world, both internally and externally? How will you make better use of your time?  

Last minute New Year resolutions are often forgotten within a week. But when we come to God and ask Him for fresh vision and for Him to unearth the dreams and desires He has placed in our hearts we are far more effective in getting where we need and hope to go. We tend to meditate upon the things God has shared and spoken to us longer, and it helps to share these things with others, so that they can pray and encourage us along the way.

This new year choose wisely what is most important in life and then hone your focus in that direction. Ask God for His wisdom and trust and allow Him to lead you in the right direction. In God we find everything we need; His love, joy, peace, hope and even courage when we face adversity. So let’s focus on the year ahead with wisdom, and not be like that man in the strawberry patch, wearing ourselves out for little reward.

So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority”. (Colossians 2:10)

 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps”. (Proverbs 16:9)

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believing, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.”(James 1:6-8 The Message)

Prayer: Lord thank you for this New Year ahead. Help me to be focused on what is really important and not be blown by every thought or fancy that pops into my head, or by those around me. Keep my eyes firmly ahead, to where you are leading, that I may follow. In Jesus name Amen.

16 Dec – Like a box of chocolates

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Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” (Forrest Gump)

Life is like a box of chocolates loaded with surprises, some delightful and some downright disagreeable. The yummy ones of course are easy to swallow, but the ones we don’t like so much are sometimes hard to stomach.

Those yucky ones however, determine our depth of character. It’s in the moments we would rather spit out and forget about, that we either choose to run to God or run away from Him. He never promised He would lead us “around” every trial, but that He would be “with us” in every trial, leading us through. That He would never leave or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)

Life can serve you up some down right awful moments. When my 24-year-old brother was killed I was faced with a choice regardung how I was going to let that shape my perspective and view of life.  It was in grief that I learnt the importance of the choices we make and how what we do in the midst of trials is largely up to us. We can sit there sucking on the bitter moments, reliving them over and over, or we can face them, pain and all and allow God in and work through it with Him.

It’s in that space you learn that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). It may nor look good at the time but He does work to bring good if we continue to trust and walk with Him.

I made a decision not to live in silence or fear but to make the most of every opportunity and the most of my life.

My brother loved the saying “Just do it”. Just do something. We are alive so shouldn’t we make the most of it? Shouldn’t we find out what God’s plan and purpose is for our life and then go out and “just do it”?

Is that always easy? No. But if we walk with Jesus we start to discover that “He will make everything beautiful in His time”. (Ecclesiastes 3:11.) Even if at times we just have to go to a place of trust, knowing God loves us and it is going to be ok, and that He has a hope, plan and a future for each one of us.

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the daysordained for me were writtenin your book before one of them came to be”. (Psalm 139:16)

Where are you today in your walk? Are you enjoying the sweet taste of good times or a series of unexpected, unpleasant events?

Today whatever you are going through, rely on Jesus and His love for you. He will get you through the distasteful portions of life and make the sweet ones even sweeter.

Life is like a fantastic box of chocolates. (I happen to like the Vanilla caramel ones). It’s loaded with surprises, opportunities and challenges. But remember it is like a box of chocolates, so it’s worth unwrapping!

Prayer: Lord thank you Lord that you have given me life. Help me in every season of life to be grateful for the sweet times and to learn to trust you more in the distasteful moments. Thank you that you are faithful and promise to work all things together for my good. In Jesus Name. Amen.

15 Dec -The wrong end of the stick

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This is a repost but it’s something we all need to remember…. don’t get the wrong end of the stick!”

Getting the wrong end of the stick is a phrase to explain when someone misunderstands, misinterprets, or misconstrues a situation. It occurs when we misunderstand what someone has said or a situation.

It’s fairly easy to “get the wrong end of the stick” if you are not careful, are prone to jump to conclusions, have a low self-esteem or are easily offended. Case in point would be today when my eldest daughter texted me a link to a website. We have six beautiful children and our youngest is now eight so I know what it is to have some extra after baby kilo’s to lose, and the work it takes to do so.

Today my daughter innocently sent me the link to a website called “losebabyweight.com” and then attached a healthy recipe for one of my favourite desserts – sticky date pudding. I had quickly looked at the first part of the message and wondered briefly why she was sending me a losing baby weight website, and if it was her subtle way of telling me I still had baby weight to lose. I could  easily have “gotten the wrong end of the stick”, especially if I had been feeling bad about myselfmor had been lacking in confidence about my appearance. As a result I could have misconstrued the situation and even gotten offended.

However I did none of those things because I stopped and reread the message again, took the time to check out the yummy recipe, and realised she was helping me by finding a healthy sugar free alternative that I could make. We had a chuckle and I commented back, “no baby fat, just stretch marks”,and that was that.

But you can see how “getting the wrong end of the stick” can easily cause a lot of misunderstandings and often be the culprit for people getting upset. We all at times need to stop and make sure we aren’t “getting the wrong end of the stick” by choosing instead to hear the other’s person’s heart regarding what they are doing or saying and not jump to conclusions because of our own undealt with issues, self esteem, or mindsets about particular situations and people. Many a friendship has been broken, relationships have suffered, families have been torn apart, workplaces have become toxic and even churches have become places of offence and bitterness, rather than centres of love and understanding through people “getting the wrong end of the stick.”

All of us can benefit from continually being students of good communication, people skills and determining to walk in grace and understanding on a daily basis.

So how about we throw the stick away and extend our hand and heart’s instead, as we seek to stop, listen and understand.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”(Proverbs 10:1)

“Don’t say anything that would hurt (another person). Instead, speak only what is good so that you can give help wherever it is needed. That way, what you say will help those who hear you.”(Ephesians 4:29 God’s Word Translation)

Prayer: Lord please help me to not jump to conclusions or misunderstand what someone has said when I am relating to others. Help me to let go of all of those things and to trust you to take care of my heart as I seek to listen, love and understand. In Jesus Name Amen.

 

 

14 Dec – How are you feeling?

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When we are in touch with what we are feeling our emotions can reveal to us what is hidden in our hearts and what we love, trust and fear.

God has an order to how He has created us in that He made us to have feelings and emotions, but that we are to be governed not by these  feelings but by the truth of what He says about us and our lives.

He never planned for us to primarily allow our feelings to form our thoughts and responses about Him, our circumstances or our future, however neither does he want us to live void of emotions and feel nothing.

“Our emotions are designed to be guages not guides. They’re meant to report to us, not dictate to us. The pattern of our emotions helps to give us a reading on where our hope is because they are connected into what we value and believe. “(J.Bloom). If we are struggling to keep our emotions from leading us into places we’d rather not go, or into pity parties, hissy fits, outbursts of anger, moodiness and depression then there is a problem.

The problem arises when our emotions have stopped being guages, and have become our guides, and we grow accustomed to listening and being led by them. Sadly if we stay in that place we will more often than not fail to abide in peace and therefore miss enjoying the abundant life that Jesus wants to give us.

Instead He calls us to be people who live life at a deeper level, continually feeding our spirits and the depths of our being with whatever is true. For it’s from this place, with and in God that the issues of life spring from and where we discover how to love fully and to walk in grace, humility, integrity and peace.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the spring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Today if you are struggling with feelings, whether it be that you hate feeling anything and have disconnected your heart from your head, or in contrast your emotions are leading you into negative or out of control places, I encourage you to ask for God’s help to get in touch with what you are feeling and to put things in their rightful order in your internal world.

Place Jesus in the center of how you feel, think and act. Determine to allow Him and His word to serve as your guide, so that your feelings can become a blessing and a helpful guage rather than a hindrance and blockage to your relationships, your understanding of who God is, how much He loves you and how you respond to others and your circumstances.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

And the peace of God , which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 4:7)

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Prayer: Lord please help me to keep you at the center of who I am and what I think, feel and act. That my feelings will be a guage to the condition of my heart to help me understand how I am feeling but that your truth would be my guide as to how I respond and live today. In Jesus name amen

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