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Song & Verse: Running in Circles by United Pursuit


I’m so forgetful
But You always remind me
You’re only One who brings me peace.

Thank You for Your Peace, Father.
Thank You for remembering Your purpose and plans for me.
Thank You for the many seeds You’ve planted and nurtured in my life.

I come
To tell You I love You
To tell You I need You
To tell You there’s no better place for me than in Your arms
To tell You I’m sorry
For running in circles
For placing my focus on the waves, not on your face

Thank You, Father, for being sufficient.
Thank You for being more than I could ever expect or ask for.
Thank You for being Everything – my All in All.

Father God, I thank You for loving me. Thank You for teaching me love relationship by relationship. I may forget lessons occasionally, but I always remember love. Thank You for filling me with Your Spirit, Father.

All glory, praise and honor to You.

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Reaching for the Real by Gwen Smith

September 29, 2015
Reaching for the Real by Gwen Smith

Today’s Truth

He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. (Daniel 6:10b, NLT)

Friend to Friend

The mug in my hand was filled with warm, dark roasted incentive. I cozied in on my favorite couch corner, breathing in the quiet. Settling my heart before the all-loving One, my whispers rose to heaven. I was desperate for God’s presence and power to fuel another busy day.

To my surprise and great delight, as I cracked open the Good Book a tiny distraction flew into my peripheral vision. A hummingbird had made its way over to the orchid arrangement on the side table of the deck outside. The artificial orchid arrangement. The nourishment that little flyer sought could not be found in a plastic and silk imposter, so the humming bird flew away.

I smiled and shook my head at the very notion that the little bird was looking to be fed by a fake flower. But less than five minutes later the hummingbird hovered near the orchid again.

You’ve got to be kidding me! I thought. What about plastic and fake did you not understand the first time, little guy?

And just like that I was humbled before God.

Yes. I do this too, Lord.

I do this when I look to the approval of others to validate my significance. I do this when I’m upset and I reach for something salty-crunchy instead of reaching for the Bread of Life. I do this when I find my security in the success of my children, in the numbers on the bank statement, or in promotions or positions at work.

Jesus is not our fast-pass to get through the pearly gates. He is our Sustainer, our Strength, our Comforter, our Deliverer, our Hope, our Defender, our Provider, and our Healer. He is behind us and before us. He loves us perfectly and. He is the very-real, very-alive, and very-able Lord we are all hungry for.

When I need soul-strength, nourishment, that will get me through the next few minutes, hours and days, it is vital that I go to the living source. To the unending power, perspective, and portion of Jesus.

The Bible shows us many great examples of this. Daniel found himself in an impossible-by-man’s-standards situation when a decree had been passed that violated and compromised the very core of his beliefs. He didn’t freak out. He didn’t run to talk to his friends about it. He didn’t post or tweet of his frustrations with the government. He turned to his Lord.

“But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God” (Daniel 6:10).

Not only did Daniel pray, he gave God thanks! In the middle of a life-threatening situation, he focused his heart with prayer and gratitude. I should too.

Hannah was another great example. She had real problems with fleshy, prickly people. Hers was a long-term situation with no simple solution on the horizon. She didn’t pretend she was okay or distract herself with things that didn’t matter. She got on her knees and got real with her very real God. She poured her soul out in the presence of the Lord and was met with the provision of His grace.

“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly” (1 Samuel 1:10).

Just like Daniel and just like Hannah, I need to turn to Jesus with my worries and my woes. I need to pour out my heart to Him when I am feeling empty. I need to turn to Jesus continually, remembering to give thanks.

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
You give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”
Psalm 36:7-9

When I turn to the Word and to His presence, I am nourished in unfailing love. I am hidden in His shadow. I am invited to the feast of His goodness. My eyes are illuminated to see beyond my struggles by the One who shines brilliant as the Light of the World.

No more fake flowers. I’m reaching for the real. Jesus is the sweet Rose of Sharon. He is the Lily of the Valleys. (Song of Solomon 2:1-2) He is the Vine that is vibrant with life. (John 15) He is the Living Water that flows eternally and quenches every thirst. (John 4)

And He. Is. Mine.

Let’s Pray

Dear Lord, You are faithful and kind, and all that I need. Thank You for every trial that leads me to pray. Please keep my heart from wandering toward fake flowers and help me to turn to You instead.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn

What fake flowers do you often fly to?

CLICK HERE to spend a few moments in response and reflection as you listen to the song “You Are Mine” that I’ve posted on my blog.

More from the Girlfriends

Gwen Smith is a co-founder of Girlfriends in God. She’s also a popular Christian speaker, author of Broken into Beautiful, co-author of Trusting God and Knowing God by Name, a songwriter, and worship leader. Connect with her on social media here: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. (And, YES… she’s on Periscope too!)

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Girlfriends in God
P.O. Box 1311
Huntersville, NC 28070

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What are you teaching your children?

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But you should continue following the teachings you learned. You know they are true, because you trust those who taught you. Since you were a child you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise. And that wisdom leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for correcting faults, and for teaching how to live right. Using the Scriptures, the person who serves God will be capable, having all that is needed to do every good work.  ~ 2 Timothy 3:14-17

The one collective comment I’ve heard about me and my siblings about us as children throughout life is “You were well-behaved children.” Some would comment on how clean my mother kept us and how well-spoken we were. Growing up, I used to take slight offense at these comments. To me, the admiration, awe and surprise implied the speaker expected something different from us and a lot less from my Mom. Seeing as how our lifestyle was the only reality I knew, I couldn’t understand why people were so impressed that my Mom had clean, well-spoken and well-behaved children.

Of course, as I grew older, I was able to recognize why folks were impressed with my mother’s mothering prowess. She had dropped out of eighth-grade to have me and she was the daughter of a sixth-grade dropout who worked the Mississippi cotton fields who became a young mother a couple of years later. People don’t expect much from poor, under-educated teen moms. But Mom didn’t raise us with any concerns of our financial and social disadvantages. We were aware our resources were limited and we were aware we were sometimes dependent on the kindness of others for bare necessities. The primary lesson Mom hammered home was respect for other people. She taught us this by constantly telling us to do to/for others as we would have them do to/for us. That was paramount. She kept us aware of our treatment of other people.

I think in retrospect, that respect is what struck people the most. We respected people’s space. We respected people’s possessions. We respected people opinions. Most of all we respected people’s homes. When we went visiting, we sat down where we were told to sit down and didn’t move until we were told to move. That may sound foreign to folks today, but adults knew how to tell children to go to another room to play or to go outside and play. And when we were let loose to play, we played hard. But when there was no place to play, we sat down obediently and respectfully and waited for the visit to end.

Yesterday, I hosted a woman and her two young daughters in my home for the third time. I came away from the experience as drained as I had come away the two previous times. She is a woman who intentionally became a single mom in her late twenties. Her fears of life and her distrust of people have her teaching her daughters the absolute worst about human nature. However, she sells the fear and death she feeds them as love. She has told them their fathers are dead and she is the only person in the world who loves them and who is there for them. Truth is she wanted children; she didn’t want a man or a husband because she has known only abuse at the hands of men – beginning with her father.  Perhaps more damaging, she constantly tells them that they are better than she is, smarter than she is, more than she is. The result? Financially and socially disadvantaged children who are disobedient, dismissive, rude, ungrateful, and unappreciative. Why highlight financially and socially disadvantaged? Because these children will be largely dependent on the goodwill of and good intentions of people they encounter through their growing years to improve themselves in life.

Just as I was. My brother was. My sister was. People wanted to teach us, show us things and share opportunities with us. All the way up to the job I started four years ago that I was wholly under-experienced for. My manager said in the interview, that she can teach anyone what they need to know to work for her, however she couldn’t teach chemistry. What she called chemistry was my ability to speak with her and explore similarities in our backgrounds and personalities where there would appear to be none from the outside, because she was decidedly financially and socially advantaged. Essentially, the way I comport myself and the way I’ve embraced opportunities offered to me over the years are the elements that stood out to her.

Before the woman and her children left my home yesterday, I admonished the oldest girl for her rudeness as a guest in my home and I advised the mother (out of earshot of the girls) that she needed to work on teaching her children appreciation and gratitude. She assured me she was teaching them and that they had said “thank you”. I told her that their “thank yous” are meaningless when their treatment is so dismissive and entitled. Then I told her so many words, “I don’t deal with unappreciative and ungrateful children in my own family, I’m not obligated to deal with yours. If this is how they act when you’re around, how do you imagine they act or receive from others when you’re not around? At school, when people are trying to give them something or help them with something?”

She looked taken aback and I, quite honestly, was irritated that I felt the need to say such to someone I had invited into my home. I am a very laid back hostess, mi casa es su casa, help yourself to whatever you need. So for guests to make me feel as if the hospitality I am offering isn’t worth their respect, well that takes quite some doing.

I called a long-standing friend afterwards to vent and her summary was, “Wow, if someone told me they didn’t like my kids, I would have a lot to think about. But it’s all her fault, whatever she’s doing….”

I started to defend the mother, but truly, what is her defense? Low education? Low income? No family support? Limited economic choices? I’m a product of all that and so are many people I know. None of those situations can prevent a parent from teaching their children to respect their parents, respect others and respect themselves.

As I thought over the afternoon, I realized it wasn’t the children I took issue with as much as the mother, even though I was trying to exonerate her from her children’s behavior. Her children are the way they are because 1) she taught them, 2) she encourages them in the way she taught them, 3) she doesn’t correct them. What she teaches them are lies about themselves, their situation and the world. At one point during the visit, I told her that life was not as bad as she was painting it for her daughters. She was teaching them how to fear everything and distrust everyone – even me as they were sitting/jumping around as guests in my home, enjoying/abusing my comforts and eating/wasting from my supply – all of which are acknowledged and appreciated blessings from my Father God. She’s also teaching them to worry, mostly about things they have no control over.

What a horrible outlook to have on life, every day, everywhere you go – fear, distrust and worry. Being spiritually disadvantaged is no way to live at all.

“My child, don’t think the Lord’s discipline is worth nothing, and don’t stop trying when he corrects you.
The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as his child.” ~ Proverbs 3:11–12

So hold on through your sufferings, because they are like a father’s discipline. God is treating you as children. All children are disciplined by their fathers. If you are never disciplined (and every child must be disciplined), you are not true children. We have all had fathers here on earth who disciplined us, and we respected them. So it is even more important that we accept discipline from the Father of our spirits so we will have life. ~ Hebrews 12:5-9

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Borrow someone’s flowers

The other day was a colleague’s birthday. The same people who didn’t want to publicly acknowledge or celebrate my birthday a month ago invited me to join in on the celebrations of someone they actually like. I like her too so it wasn’t a hardship… and this isn’t really a complaint…. I was asked to hold the bouquet of flowers the group got her as we walked to her cubicle, which meant I would be delivering the flowers to her.

The flowers were gorgeous and they smelled heavenly. I halted the procession before leaving my desk area and told them I wanted a picture with the flowers because a picture lasts longer.

They laughed at me; they think I’m silly. But now I have a joyful memory of someone handing me birthday flowers even though they weren’t intended for me. Look at the photo. If I hadn’t told you, you wouldn’t know. But truly my joy in that moment was as real and beautiful as those flowers were. And I gratefully handed them over to their intended recipient a few minutes later with no less joy and enthusiasm.

Today’s lesson: Joy is a state of mind. It has nothing to do with how others appreciate or value you (or under-appreciate and undervalue you). Joy is about your capacity for gratitude….gratitude even for the fleeting fragrance of a flower.

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My Hopes for My Goddaughter

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.  ~ Ephesians 1:16-17

This past summer, my thirteen-year-old goddaughter came to visit me in New York City. I’ve kept her for extended periods since she was born, so having her on my own for a four-day weekend was not a concern for me, especially since it was her second time visiting me in New York (the first time she had come with her mother). Over the years, my goddaughter has been one of my road buddies, joining me on a couple of weekend trips to visit family. She has always been a delight and I was truly excited at the thought of her and I exploring the City together.

The person who showed up was not the little girl I knew. She was sullen, silent, monosyllabic when she spoke, passionless, distant and disinterested in her surroundings. Those few days with her were by far the most uncomfortable and painful stretch of time I’ve ever spent with anyone. She was obviously hurting. She was obviously in hiding. But she refused to speak. She refused to act. She wouldn’t tell me what was troubling her, so I could do nothing to assist her. I did express to her that I love her and was willing to help her with whatever was troubling her whenever she was willing to speak and tell me what she needed.

I wrote the below passage for her while still in the airport, just after putting her on the plane back to her mother.

My hopes for my Goddaughter:

I pray that you learn to receive love and hospitality with grace and gratitude – with an open heart that is willing to give back. We get the most when we give of ourselves.

I pray that you learn to live your life fully – without fear that your personality will outshine all those around you. Use your voice – it’s the only way people will truly get to know you.

I pray you come to realize soon that no one owes you anything (I don’t owe you anything), nor do you owe anyone anything. However, we should do our best to treat people how we want to be treated. In this lies  the importance of how we give and receive hospitality.

Life is an experience, not a contest of wills. We need to show up fully to experience all that life has in store for us. Everywhere you go should be better served for having shared your presence. This means that you need to be present wherever you are. You can’t just show up, take what’s on offer and not interact or contribute to the experience. If you do, you are sure to receive far less than what was originally on offer. Ingratitude breeds stinginess.

I pray that you learn to express gratitude, give and receive love, and communicate where you are at any given moment so others can meet you where you are or where you will need them.

I pray you learn to appreciate your life and all the people God placed in your path to help you along. Appreciation breeds gratitude.

You are precious and loved. I hope you come to embrace this knowledge and allow it to build you up.