Complacency Leads to Neglect

At some point, I decided to start playing solitaire on my phone as a way to pass a few moments here and there and also to push my brain. It was hard, though, so I opted to start off easy, playing only one suit, and build up as I got better at it.

But I forgot my purpose. Once I mastered the single suit, I just kept playing at that level. I didn’t even work on increasing my speed or decreasing the number of moves I made. I just played the easy stuff to pass time.

I was complacent. No brain growth required.

Too often, we do the very same thing with our faith. We learn that faith is a necessity if we want to please God, so we “put our faith out there” for something. It may even be a legitimate stretch for us to trust God to shut down a headache or lead us to the best parking spot. But then we grow comfortable in that level of faith. We think we’re walking by faith because we always park up front and center, but forget that faith is like a muscle and must be stretched to grow.

Just like I got comfortable at the level I’d chosen for my solitaire games, and as a result I’d forgotten that a large part of playing the game in the first place was to push my brain, we get comfortable with our faith level and forget that a large part of using our faith is to push it, to stretch it, to make it grow, and to build its endurance.

“Endurance?” you ask? Yes, endurance. I heard a man point out, once, that one of the meanings of “little,” as in Jesus referring to people having “little faith,” is “short lived” or “not lasting.” In other words, sometimes we start out walking in faith just like Peter started out walking on the water, but then when our trials get more challenging and the wind blows stronger we are distracted and start to sink. That is a lack of endurance.

So, just like we should exercise to build our physical endurance, we should use our faith actively to build its endurance. Then, when it is challenged, it will keep holding us up.

I did start adding more suits to my solitaire games. I’m also determined to work more on my physical strength and endurance. My faith? Right. It will definitely not be neglected!

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Carry Your Own Cross

“And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me,
you cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:27 NLT

I’m reading through the book of Luke in preparation for Christmas, and after much thought decided I needed to back up to this verse for a bit.

We celebrate Christmas in honor of Jesus, who is the greatest gift. He came, by His own choice, to die so that we could live. It’s important to note that He didn’t come to bring salvation as it is sometimes casually viewed – essentially a get out of jail free card. He came so that we can LIVE. We aren’t only looking forward to eternity in His presence, but to a full and abundant life right here, a life that counts where His Kingdom is concerned.

Foundational to living, truly living, is being His disciple. Those who heard Him that day, in Luke 14, knew exactly what He was saying when He used the word “disciple.” To be someone’s disciple is to follow their example in all things. It is also to accept and act on their instruction and guidance as they strive to help you mature. Jesus was actually making the offer to all who heard Him, but few would accept the invitation. Why?

In verse 28 He commanded them, “But don’t begin until you count the cost.”

This is wisdom, as He warned in Luke 9:62 NLT: “But Jesus told him, ‘Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.'”

Jesus had already let them know in verse 26 that, if they wanted to be His disciples, they had to count Him as more important than everyone else in their lives, including themselves. And then came verse 27: “And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”

This verse is quoted so often than I’m not sure we really see it anymore, that we’re not paying full attention to what He’s saying here. I even remember thinking, during one of the really bad times with my husband, “If he is my cross to bear, then I will bear it,” but this verse means so much more!

“But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the Law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse of our wrong doing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.‘”

Galatians 3:13 NLT

As Christians, we look at this verse and we love it. And why not?! This amazing act of mercy, Christ taking all of our sins on Himself, washing them away with His own blood, changed our lives forever!

But let’s go back to the gathering in Luke 14 and think about where their heads were, where their thoughts must have gone. They couldn’t see what was coming. They were limited by their own knowledge and experience. In their world a cross served one purpose, and Jesus had just told them they would have to take up a cross that would be particularly their own. They wouldn’t be helping Him carry His cross as Simon the Cyrene was forced to do. He was asking each of them to take up their own cross.

This had to set them back, throw them for the proverbial loop. Because they knew.

They knew…
The cross was a sign of being cursed.
The cross was a very public tool of death.
The cross was a clear mark that you were a criminal.
The cross was intentionally demoralizing.
The cross was a cause of shame for the criminal’s family.
The cross was physically backbreaking before you were even put on it.
The cross was an incredibly slow and agonizing death.

If anyone wanted to be His disciple, they had to accept the reality that the cross, at least figuratively, could very well be in their future. Far from offering them the life of comfort many were currently enjoying, the life His abundant miracles might have implied, the life of sunshine and roses that Christians sometimes foolishly promise to potential converts today, He was laying out a heavy truth.

And here it is.

As Christians, genuine disciples of Jesus, while we look forward to the mountaintop experiences, it’s best to be prepared for the hard seasons that will inevitably come, to consider the cost ahead of time and be ready so that we won’t be tempted to look back. Like Jesus, we can expect to be hated, vilified, attacked unmercifully, laughed at, and more.

So… are you ready?

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

I Repeat: Get Into the Bible!

I’ve leaned a lot, lately, on getting into the Word of God, making the Bible a vital part of your daily walk. And I’m not just talking about reading a chapter a day so you can mark it off some checklist. James 1:22 (NLT) hands out a warning: “But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”

Most people who call themselves Christians think the Bible is optional. They’re wrong. It’s not. Period. It is no more optional than food is. Without food, our bodies aren’t healthy. Without the Word, our spirits aren’t healthy.

And don’t think you get enough Word while sitting in a pew on Sunday morning. You don’t. I don’t care how good your pastor is, he cannot “feed” you enough to make you grow into a mature, healthy Christian. That requires you digging into the Word for yourself on a regular basis, just like you eat meals regularly. If you doubt me, I challenge to you read – truly read – Hebrews or James and see what those ministers had to say about the importance of actively making God’s Word part of you.

Fact: It’s easy to assume you don’t need something you don’t have. I can testify to that on a physical level. For years, I’ve been dealing with some issues that I finally took to my NP friend who put me on a supplement that not only dealt with those issues but others as well. I had no idea I needed this stuff, but I did. The same holds true for the Word of God in our lives.

Am I hitting hard on this today? Yes. I try to be kind and loving and all of that, but I see great unrest in the church, many who are giving up because they don’t know how to fight, others who… Not going there. I’ll just say this: In all the falling away that I see happening, one thing that seems consistent is a lack of grounding in the Bible. Our faith must be rooted in the Word of God. Jesus, in the Parable of the Sower, in Mark 4:17, says, “But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.” As I see it, one of the largest failures in the church today is the failure to develop a relationship with The Word. 

In case you don’t realize it… John 1:1-2 (NLT)
“In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.”

The Word is Jesus. Jesus is the Word. Do you want to know Jesus? Well, then…

So yes, if you are a member of the majority that hasn’t made the Bible a priority in your life, I challenge you to adjust your priorities right now. With the challenge, I’ll also suggest two tools that can help you start and maintain a Bible habit.

First, because it goes into a lot about Bibles and how to study as well as offering reviews and a whole section that gives you the chance to apply my personal Bible study method, I encourage you to snag a copy of my book, Experiencing the Bible. It comes in three formats.

Experiencing the Bible: A Guide and Journal

In Experiencing the Bible, I not only explain various study methods, including my own, but also give you the chance to try my method out for yourself. Part two of the print version is literally passages from the Bible accompanied by my personal reactions to them, all running parallel with journaling lines that allow you to respond to the passages I’m focusing on.

Experiencing the Bible is also available for ebook lovers. You can get it at Amazon. You can also find it in a variety of formats at Smashwords. (Hint: At Smashwords you set the price. Honestly, you can pay whatever you want, including nothing!)

If you prefer to listen to your books, Experiencing the Bible is also available on Amazon in audiobook format, recorded by Nancy Higgins.

Experiencing the Bible Journal
Obviously, the ebook and audiobook versions don’t offer the journaling option, but you can still read or listen to my notes and then pause to journal your own. Any paper will do, of course, but I went ahead and created a matching journal as well. 

Through the Word Bible App
(Excerpted from Experiencing the Bible)

I’ve used the Through the Word app pretty much every day since I first discovered it. The concept is simple. They’ve put together teachings on every chapter in the Bible and then offered up a variety of ways in which to listen to them. 

To start, download the Through the Word app, register, and then take time to complete their introductory session. While you might want to dive right in (and you can, by heading straight to Browse), it really is best to start here. I know because I didn’t and wish I had. 

Once you’re ready, you can walk through the Bible one book at a time in any order, or you can browse their topical options under “Bible Journeys” or “Bible Topics.” My first foray was into their End Times collection, which uses chapters from Daniel, Thessalonians, Jude, Revelation, Proverbs, Joel, 1 Peter, and 2 Peter, and I could not limit myself to one session a day. The things I found myself learning were fascinating and valuable! 

Since my current course is to read through the whole Bible, I’m working through the books in order, and I’ve fallen into a rhythm with its chapter-by-chapter audio guides. I begin by reading the current chapter in my Bible, making notes as I read, then I listen to the audio guide, usually making more notes as I do. I learn so much in these short messages! And when I say short, I’m talking less than 10 minutes per chapter. At the completion of each chapter’s audio guide, I’ll then listen to a reading of that chapter in whatever translation I’ve chosen. 

The app offers options. Hit browse and you’ll see that you can follow various Bible Journeys. (i.e., The Big Picture [Overview of the Bible in 25 key chapters], Foundations [Genesis, Daniel, Romans], Glory & Grace [Isaiah, Galatians, 1 Corinthians]) You can also select specific chapters, Study by topic (i.e., Faith, Peace, Marriage, Anxiety, Prayer), or choose selections from your preferred teacher. 

The commentaries are done by a variety of teachers: Kris Langham, Peyton Jones, Jonathan Ferguson, Sandy Adams, and Skip Heitzig. Each has his own personality and presentation style, and I appreciate them all. 

One thing you’ll want to do right away is hit Settings and choose your preferred Bible translation so that you’re listening to the passages in the version that best serves you. Your options as of this writing are CSB, ESV, NIV, and NLT. 

All of this is FREE. You will have the opportunity to make donations to the ministry to help keep it free, but you’re never asked for money; you’ll hardly ever hear money mentioned at all. 

CURRENT NOTE: There have been updates, including the introduction of some new instructors, since I wrote that review. They’ve also recently released a major app update that, among other things, introduces the option of inviting others to join you in your studies. I am looking forward to trying this option!

Please, understand that I only hit hard on things like this because I care. The Christian walk isn’t easy. It isn’t supposed to be easy. We’re caught up in a war with the devil whether we like it or not, and babies don’t fight battles.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Submit or Be Burned

No, this is not a “turn or burn” post. I’m straight up talking to Christians today.

A few months ago, God told me that the Church, meaning the individuals who make up the Body of Christ, has two choices: Submit to the fire of the Holy Ghost or be burned up by the fires of tribulation.

Not surprisingly, I was in no hurry to share these words publicly. They could be taken in several different ways, and I’ve been talking to God about what He meant by them. I do think there is an element of us having to submit to the Holy Spirit if we don’t want to miss the Rapture and be burned by The Tribulation, but I believe this warning is more immediate in nature.

I’ve been doing some intense Bible study lately, working my way through several Old and New Testament books, and see more clearly than ever the truth Jesus spoke when, in John 16:33, He said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” That’s the New King James. In the New Living Translation (NLT) it’s, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.”

We like to think that when you accept Jesus as your Savior life becomes a walk in the park. Consequently, we’re sometimes surprised when things don’t go the way we want them to, when we pray and our prayers aren’t answered like we would choose to have them to be answered, or when others in the body of Christ hurt us whether intentionally or on accident. We don’t want tribulation, trials, or sorrows. But you know what? 1 Peter 1:6-7a (NLT) says, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine.” (emphasis mine) So your godly reaction to the trials is the proof of your faith.

I know there is also the stance that says if things are going badly for you it’s because you’ve sinned. Now, before I go any further let me say we can, through our sin, open doors that invite the devil in. I did that very thing once while driving. My husband and I were arguing, and I was so angry with him that I couldn’t have heard the voice of God if He’d been sitting beside me yelling out a warning. As a result, we were in a potentially deadly accident. My sinful anger opened the door but thank God His grace brought us all through it alive. Having said that, no, the fact that you’re going through “It” does not necessarily mean you’ve sinned. As I quoted above, Jesus said we WILL have tribulation in this world.

Yes, it’s clear in the Old Testament that Israel’s sin brought on God’s judgement repeatedly. But here’s the thing, it’s also clear that the judgement was to serve a purpose: It was to draw God’s people back to HIm. In Ezekiel alone we see the phrase, “Then they will know that I Am the Lord,” 54 times!

Throughout Scripture we see that it is the fire, the trials and tribulations, that purifies us. Walking through the fires of tribulation with our focus on God, actively choosing to submit to Him and His Spirit, burns off the things that don’t belong. For illustration, the bonds that held Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego burned off when they were thrown into the fiery furnace. They were in the fire, but they were in the very best company (Jesus) and were walking around freely. And to top it all off, they didn’t even smell of smoke when they walked out.

It is going through the fire that strengthens us, building our faith and enlarging our testimony. That sounds counterintuitive but think about a metalsmith forging a sword. The heat and the pounding of the hammer are both necessary to turn a simple length of metal into a warrior’s blade. If the metal could talk, would it choose to be treated so? Maybe, if it had a vision of what it was destined to become.

So, understanding that fire is necessary for spiritual growth, there are a few things we need to consider. First, just like Israel had the choice to move on into the Promised Land or spend forty years walking in circles in the desert, we have a choice. When going through trials we can either actively submit to the Holy Spirit in the midst of those trials, doing what God tells us when God tells us to do it, so that we can learn, grow, and be purified and strengthened by them, or we can lean on our own strength and not only be burned up but face having to go through the same fire again. We’ve all seen this happen. That’s why there’s the saying that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting to get a different result.

And then there’s this, which is the point I believe God was getting to: Although trials are a natural part of this life, they don’t have to be a necessary part of our growth. Yes, I mean some trials can be avoided, IF.

“Submit to the fire of the Holy Spirit.”

Do you remember from when you were a child, or if you have children, how some things are learned the hard way and others by paying attention? One child learns not to touch the hot stove because he ignores his father’s warning and gets burned. Another child doesn’t need to touch the stove to grasp the concept because he pays attention to what Dad says. For him, the physical fire isn’t necessary for growth because he understands and submits to His father’s instruction. He avoids the fire because he obeys.

The Holy Spirit, if we submit to His will, can bring us through the fires of our lives uninjured just as surely as those three Hebrew boys were brought through their fire, but that’s not all. If we submit to the fire of the Holy Spirit, obeying God’s will and doing what He tells us instead of having to learn through hard experiences, we can grow without trials and troubles. I would much rather grow this way!

Also, do you remember what I said about the blade being willing to go through the “torture” if it had a vision of what it was destined to become? The Holy Spirit can give us that vision. My pastor says often that it’s not what you are today that has the devil attacking you; it’s what he knows you have the potential to become. It is a sad thing when the devil has a more powerful vision for your life than you do! Ask for that vision; it will carry you through anything!

Not so sure about that? Jesus dreaded the Cross. In the garden, He begged God to find another way to save us from our sin. Nonetheless, He submitted, and in Hebrews 12:2 we see the vision He had, how He focused on what really mattered. “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.”

And I think I’m going to leave it right here: Submit to the fire of the Holy Spirit or be burned up by the fires of tribulation.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Check me if you still doubt. Here are a few verses to get you started.
Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 43:2, John 16:33, Romans 5:3-4, Romans 8:28, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Hebrews 12:11, James 1:2-4, James 1:12, 1 Peter 1:6-7, 1 Peter 5:10

What Would Happen?

Consider the situation.

You are sitting in church. Your mind has been wandering, but suddenly your pastor says these words and they catch your attention.

“…especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen.”

“What?” You jerk up. “What did he call me? ‘Spiritually dull’?! I listen!”

And he continues, explaining that, while you’ve been saved long enough that you should be teaching others, the teachers keep having to come back and instruct you in the same basic principles over and over.

His previous words still ring in your ears: “Especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen.”

You’re perturbed, but as you glance around the room, wondering if anyone else thinks he’s preaching to them personally, he continues. “You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.”

“Now wait a minute! That’s going too far! I am no baby!” The thought surges forward even as, deep inside, you start to wonder. “Am I?” You listen intently, growing increasingly uncomfortable even as a new hunger starts to build inside you.

“For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.”

You want to shout, “I don’t know how to do what is right? I’m here aren’t I?!” but you sit silently, not so sure the words are true…not really.

“Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.”

You hear what he says. You are truly listening now, and your attention is caught by two words: Training and Skill. “What training?” you wonder. “What skill?”

My question is, “What next?”

If a random pastor were to stand up and preach this sermon to his congregation today, what would happen?

If your pastor were to preach this sermon to your congregation, what would you do?

What would be the result?

Hebrews 5:11-14 NLT
There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

I Need These Nights

I just got home from our church’s monthly worship night. It’s one hour of nothing but worship-me and God. I need these nights. I need them for a variety of reasons.

One is that it’s a service for which I have no staff responsibilities. If you are on staff at your church, you know this is huge. For regular services, although I am definitely taking part, I am also sensitive to anything I might need to deal with as a staff member. In services, for instance, my phone is by me at all times in case another staff member texts with a question or needing help. At WILD Worship, we all put our phones away so they can’t distract us.

Two, I’m a worshipper. Yes, I worship in service. Yes, I worship at home. The atmosphere on these nights, though, is distinctly different. There is no substitute for groups of people coming together for the express purpose of worshipping God. This is true unity and it is a blessing.

Three, there are no distractions. It’s more than just putting away cell phones. It’s low lighting that helps minimize visual distractions. It’s going in knowing people are free to get up and move around, which means you don’t even think about them. You can more easily focus on God and God alone.

Four, and this is the point of the night: God. This hour is ALL about my personal relationship with God. It’s not just me singing awesome words to a song I know or being uncomfortable with a song I’ve never heard. I would get into these nights if the songs were sung in a language I don’t even understand.

Why? It’s WORSHIP. It’s getting face to face with God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. Part of the time that means me singing the songs with an engaged heart. Part of the time it’s me singing or praying in tongues. Part of the time it’s just us, God and me, talking. A lot of the time it’s me listening while He talks.

And He does talk to me on these nights. While He has my undivided attention, He reveals things to me, gives me visions, explains things I’ve been wondering about, and more. I go into these nights knowing we will talk, expecting Him to be right there with me, and He has never failed to come.

Five, when He’s there with me, I have no choice but to self-check. I live an active God-focused life — praying, studying His Word, and in general spending time with Him every day, pretty much keeping up an ongoing conversation. Even so, knowing that I will sense Him there beside me during that hour, I start these evenings with my focus on me, checking my heart, seeing if I’ve let my attention shift in the past month, and repenting as needed. This is my monthly reality check, and I value it in part for that reason.

I value these nights. I treasure them. I need them. I dare say we all do.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C


Photo excerpt from Inspire Bible, NLT, Tyndall House Publishers, Inc.

In John 13:3-7, we learn something vitally important. Verses 3 through 5 tell us, “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.”

I think about this scene and wonder what went through the disciples’ minds as Jesus rose from the table.

“What is He doing? Is He going somewhere?”

Then He took off His robe, which had to really make them wonder. And when He poured water into the basin? Had they figured it out at that point? Maybe?

If so, I’ll bet they were shooting truly startled glances at each other, trying to decide who would speak first. Their Rabbi, this man they had followed, who had led them and taught them, loved them and corrected them, was behaving like a common household servant.

By this time, they surely knew He did nothing without purpose. But what was His purpose? They had to wonder.

“You don’t understand now what I am doing,” Jesus told Peter, “but someday you will.”

The reason for what Jesus was doing – serving – is rooted in verse 3: “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God.” Jesus knew exactly who and what He was. He had absolutely nothing to prove to anyone, no doubts about Himself.

This passage has been used often to remind us that as Christians we are here to serve, and that is the clear message here (v. 12-17). But there is, perhaps, a less clear message waiting for us as well. It is the man who does have something to prove that refuses to serve, but demands service. It is the unsure man who requires that a pedestal be planted firmly under his feet.

Jesus could serve readily as He did because He was confident in Who He was. This is key. As Christians, we need to pursue a genuine understanding of who we are in Christ Jesus. Once we grasp the fullness of this revelation, it will be nothing for us to kneel and wash another’s feet. Service will have become part of who we are.

I have seen this over and over in those with whom I serve. My pastor, who is also my boss and a tremendous man of God, reminds the staff often that to follow Christ is to serve, and we should check our hearts if we ever forget this fact.

But what about those that some would call Christian celebrities? Yes, if they truly follow Jesus, they serve. You may not see or recognize their service for what it is, but I assure you it’s true; if they wholeheartedly follow Jesus, they serve.

John Ramirez is one excellent example of this. He comes to our church every year, and draws large crowds when he does. The last time he came, he showed up at the church early on Sunday morning – just walked in the front door like anyone else. Some of us were setting things up for service and he joined right in, picking up the end of a table to move it into place. When urged to stand aside and let others handle it, he reminded us that we’re all servants, him included, and assured us that he wanted to serve.

That’s what I’m talking about. He knows who he is in Christ Jesus! Yes, he is John Ramirez, someone we look forward to being with every year, but first and foremost he is a follower of his Lord, Jesus Christ, and that is what really matters.

Child of God, remember who you are, whose you are. Yes, as a son or daughter of the Most High, you are indeed a very important person. You have absolutely nothing to prove to man, because you have already been approved by the One who really matters. So set aside all pride and need for validation. Be confident in who you are and follow the example Jesus set for us: Serve.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Forgiveness Isn’t an Option

Yes, you can forgive, and you must!

You’ve heard it preached over and over. I’ll even list a couple of scriptures at the end of this post.

You’ve probably even seen articles online that show the benefits of forgiveness. I’ll include some of those at the bottom of this post as well.


Are you one of those who sit there convinced that it’s not possible? Your situation is too hard. The wounds go too deep. The betrayal affected too many people. That person has never asked for forgiveness, so you feel no need to give it.

Still…not optional. Yes, I said it. Forgiveness is not an option. For the Christian, it is a command. For everyone, it is a physical and psychological necessity. If you read the Bible, you can’t avoid it.

Remember what Jesus said on the cross? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” There is a part of me that wants to correct Jesus. “Oh yes, they did! They knew exactly what they were doing!” Doesn’t matter. Even before His death, burial, and resurrection, He was asking forgiveness for the collective “us.” Jesus forgave. We received. (Well, I hope you’ve received!)

Consider the Apostle Paul when he was still Saul. He was hell-bent on destroying the new movement that became Christianity. Those followers of Christ, starting with Ananias, could have refused to forgive him after he met Jesus. If they had, if they had denied his right to minister on the Lord’s behalf, he may never have written what we know today as about 2/3 of the New Testament. But they did forgive, and he did write, and we received.

I could keep on with accounts from the Bible, but let’s bring it forward to today. Bear with me, if you will, as I share two examples from my own life.

I have a friend. I love her dearly, and I hurt for her often. She is a loving and generous person who used to serve God openly, freely, joyously, but something has changed her, caused her to withdraw in many ways.

There is one person, another Christian, against whom she holds implacable unforgiveness. Did the person genuinely do her wrong back in the day? Quite possibly; I don’t know their story. But that really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that the roots of unforgiveness and bitterness have grown so deep and strong that now pretty much every aspect of her life seems to have become choked by those weeds. Yes, she has a hard life, but so do a lot of others who haven’t chosen her path.

Others like me.

Let me pause here and say that I’m well aware I am far from perfect. I know this. What I am, however, is living proof that you can walk through hell and come out the other side victorious.

My story starts over forty years ago when I unknowingly married a narcissist. During those years, he abused me in pretty much every way but physically. I lived under his thumb without even realizing it for a very long time – without understanding that my life wasn’t normal. He had multiple affairs. He ignored everything that was important to me unless paying attention to it played into his plan and made him look good to others. He squandered his really good income so that I ended up having to earn money for the “unimportant” things like homeschool curriculum for the boys and clothes for myself.

Then, when it became hard for him to find a “position,” he stopped working; a regular job was beneath him. This left me doing all I could to pay the bills he easily ignored.

Eventually, we ended up living in a house that was literally falling down over our heads because he couldn’t be bothered to maintain much of anything, ever. Lest you think I exaggerate, first we lost gas because the line started leaking and he “couldn’t afford” to fix it. Then the water pipes started bursting and when his quick patches didn’t hold he gave up. We were left with only electricity for years, and I paid that bill. The walls had so many holes in them that I couldn’t stuff them all well enough to keep anything out. I once ended up in the ER with a bug in my ear as a result of that. And the roof? One room was off limits because half the roof was completely gone, and when it rained it rained inside our only bathroom. Years… Today, looking back, that blows my mind; I felt so trapped in that…place. (NOT just talking the house here.)

And then there were the women. The first affair I know about happened in the early 90s and either he thought I was a complete idiot or he was flaunting it in my face. (Him having the affair was my fault of course. He was an expert at gaslighting.) The last affair he tried to have was in 2014. Strange as it seems, it wasn’t until then that I actually stopped loving him. It was the point at which that tiny flame was at last doused completely.

My primary focus through most of the past forty years has been on staying right with God and growing closer to Him. As a result, I learned to forgive. See, if you’re actively watching your spiritual walk, when things stop feeling right, when you can tell that you’re “off,” you stop. You pause, take a good look at yourself, and ask God, “Where have I gone wrong?” In those early years, it was almost always unforgiveness towards Jack or someone else that nailed me. God had to school me over and over, but I eventually learned how to genuinely forgive and do it quickly. (Note to Self: As soon as you hit “publish” on this post the devil is going to see to it that you’re tested.)

So, my regular readers know that Jack passed away in October. I can honestly say that, regardless of all he had done, all he did until just a few weeks before his death, I forgave him. I chose not to walk in unforgiveness, but in forgiveness, which meant that when unforgiveness popped up I actively stomped it out.

I prayed for him often. I very much wanted to know he was right with God even if he were never right with me. He asked me to pray the sinners prayer with him days before he went into the hospital for the last time, and I rejoice that he did, that now, in Heaven, he is finally the man God always meant him to be.

Decades of abuse could have destroyed me. It did not. I did more than survive those years. In spite of dealing with anxiety and occasional bouts of depression, I thrived. I had to battle each and every day, but just as daily workouts strengthen muscles, those daily battles strengthened me. I came out stronger, and one of the reasons is my determination to deny the devil the option of using one of his greatest weapons – unforgiveness – to bring me down.

Forgiveness isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Forgiveness Verses (There are many more.)
Matthew 18:21
Mark 11:25
Luke 6:37
Ephesians 4:32

Benefits of Forgiveness (There are many more.)
Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness
The Many Benefits of Forgiveness
The Power of Forgiveness
The Physical Benefits of Forgiveness

Drop it!

Have you ever seen a dog chewing on something that would potentially harm it, and watched the owner give the sharp command, “Drop it!”?

Twice this week I’ve heard God say, “Drop it!”

The first time was when worry was trying to set in. Having dealt with anxiety and depression in the past, worry is a dangerous thing for me to be chewing on. Nevertheless, I was letting myself dwell on a certain mistake I’d made, and all of its possible repercussions, when I heard God’s voice. “Drop it!”

After I paused and intentionally dropped it, taking control of my thought processes, I had the vision of the owner and his dog. I laughed, and realized this particular lesson is one I’ll remember.

Then, today, I was mulling over how someone had misrepresented me. I know it sounds shallow, but that’s something I really don’t appreciate. The thing is, when you continue to dwell on something like that, chewing on thoughts of how offensive someone’s actions are, you venture into the realm of unforgiveness, which is seriously dangerous territory. I was headed in that direction when, once again, I heard the command, “Drop it!”

Dropping those thoughts took a little more effort, and some help from God, but I got me under control and I thank Him for it. I cannot afford to get into the sin of unforgiveness. I can’t afford to let anything at all hinder my walk with God.

So yeah…

When He says those words, I’m gonna make like the dog and drop it!

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Awaken by Priscilla Shirer

I’ve done a few of Priscilla Shirer’s Bible studies through the years, so when I received this book as a gift I knew I’d been given gold. When I saw it was a 90-day devotional, I dug right in, and after only two days I knew I had to share.

Who is Priscilla Shirer? Well, the bit of information that caught my attention when we began that first Bible study was that she is Tony Evans’ daughter. She is much more, but having known of his ministry for years I felt confident I could trust her and was pretty sure I would enjoy her teaching. I was right.

As well as being a focused wife and mother, Shirer has been in full-time ministry for decades. She’s written books and Bible studies, speaks all over the place, and runs Going Beyond Ministries with her husband. She’s got the spiritual goods.

So… Awaken

The book starts with a two-page introduction. I realize most readers skip the introduction. Don’t. It’ll only take a few minutes to read, and will help prepare you for what’s coming. One of my favorite sentences in this section is, “The majority of what you’ll encounter here are personal whispers from God’s Spirit to my own over the last decade.” This is one of the things I value most about her in all of her works. She speaks to us what He has spoken to her. The adventure, the journey, is real.

After the introduction, you head straight into Day 1, which hits you right in the heart in a good way. She likens our need for God, for all He has to offer, to the Israelites’ need to gather manna first thing in the morning before the sun came along to burn it all off.

It took even less time to read this devotion than it did the intro, but I’m still thinking about it. This is a parallel I’d never considered, and there’s a lot to unpack. In other words, it did exactly what it was supposed to do. It made me think and keep thinking.

After each devotion, you’ll find two more pages set aside just for you. Entitled “He Speaks to Me,” this section gives you the chance to answer a question, to see how what she has shared applies to your life. I encourage you to really think about your answer and take the time to write it down in the journal space she’s provided. You may not be comfortable recording your thoughts in this way, but I’d like you to remember two things.

  1. This is your book. No one else needs to see it, so it’s a safe place.
  2. There are probably many times in the past that God has shown you exciting, even astounding, things but you forgot them. (Or is that only me?) Recording triggers remembering.

The book is a 90-day devotional. That’s only a 3-month commitment if you do it every day. And if you choose not to do it daily? Well, I certainly won’t judge you. I will say, however, that I’m sure you’ll gain something every time you choose to dive in. I have, and I’ve only just finished Day 2.

So why didn’t I wait until I’ve done more before writing this review? Two reasons. I “know” Priscilla Shirer, and am confident in her consistency. Also, it’s December 29th, which gives you time to grab a copy for yourself and start on January 1. I can’t think of a better way to begin a new year than to focus on getting ever closer to God.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C