Willful Obedience

Just as Jesus was coming out of the water, He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.” – (Mark 1:10-11, NIV) 

But as Jesus was coming out of the waters, He looked up and saw the sky split open. The Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove, and a voice echoed in the heavens. “You are My Son, My beloved One, and I am very pleased with You.” – (Mark 1:10-11, VOICE) 

 

In an act of obedience, Jesus went out to His cousin, John, in the desert, and asked to be baptized. At first John was reluctant, as he knew that God was doing something incredible through Jesus, and did not feel worthy to baptize Him. After a brief exchange, John agreed, and as he did, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God made His presence known, and proclaimed from above, who Jesus was and how He felt about Him. The obedience of both Jesus and John opened the way for God to make Jesus’ significance known. I can only imagine the awe and wonder that took place in those who were nearby. Not only did they witness His willful act of obedience, but they saw the Spirit of God descend upon Jesus, as they heard the voice of God. Though we are not the Son of God, we are His children. When we choose to willfully obey, we make room for others to see His power and goodness at work in and through us. Our charge is to love God and love people. As we do, His heart is made known to those around us, whether they realize it is Him or not. May we ever seek the Lord and walk in willful obedience, so that He may make Himself known to those around us. 

 

The power of God, willful obedience

A choice to obey; 

God makes His heart known, 

When we walk His way. 

As children of God, 

We each have the call; 

To seek the Lord’s strength, 

And show love to all. 

May we one day hear, 

A similar claim; 

That God’s pleased with us, 

As we’ve walked His way. 

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You sent Your Son to show us Your goodness and grace. Thank You that You empower us to do all that You say. Forgive us for the times that we have ignored or delayed in walking out the things that You call us to do. Teach us to trust You more, so that we love others as we are loved by You. Show us how to love those around us in a way that expresses Your loving kindness. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we walk in willful obedience to all that You ask. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Grabrick and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:2

Beholding New Blessings

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits. – (Psalm 103:1-2, NIV) 

My soul, praise the Lord! Every part of me, praise His holy name! My soul, praise the Lord and never forget how kind He is! – (Psalm 103:1-2, ERV) 

O my soul, bless God. From head to toe, I’ll bless His holy name! O my soul, bless God, don’t forget a single blessing! – (Psalm 103:1-2, MSG) 

 

This morning, after perusing Facebook while my coffee was brewing, I discovered the story I have watched unfold over the last five years through countless runs (that we affectionately call therapy sessions), poured out with complete honesty and zero ill intent, as my dear friend commemorated in writing, her journey to freedom through faith and forgiveness. Her story and my own, though different, had some common threads that ultimately led to a similar outcome. This story tells of one dream being destroyed, while tremendous blessings of God’s faithfulness tenderly delivered she and her children into an incredible new chapter, with many more blessings yet to unfold. These verses, written by David, are amazingly appropriate as my heart responds with joy and praise for all of His faithfulness and blessings poured out over the past several years. The freedom, goodness and grace received are remarkably evident. Though the story seems to be one of extreme heartache, the other side of it holds dreams realized and hopes restored and made far greater than one could begin to imagine. God is faithful, even on our darkest nights, as His light comes and reveals the truth, hope and good that are meant to remain. May we hold fast to God and His grace, ever praising Him for every blessing He pours out upon us as we choose to allow Him room to lead. 

 

With all of my heart, 385ace51-24e7-416b-8430-0515506705ec7822422687448967530.jpg

I choose bless Your name; 

For You are the One, 

Who does what He claims. 

You take our heartache, 

Darkness and despair; 

And lead to freedom, 

In Your tender care. 

Where hope seems but dashed, 

You mend and renew; 

Your blessings poured out, 

As we trust in You. 

All thanks be to God, 

Whose faithful indeed; 

He loves us to life, 

And meets all our need. 

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You turn stories of darkness and despair into ones of healing and hope and beautiful blessings. Thank You that You turn our ashes into beautiful stories of Your redemption and grace. Forgive us for our times of fear and doubt, as You alone are the One to work all things out. Teach us to trust You in every season and circumstance, as You have a far greater plan that our limited understanding can grasp. Show us how to love those around us well, as You use our stories of struggle to illuminate, encourage and bless those who are in their own spaces of darkness. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we bless You with all of our being for the hope, goodness and promise that You have for us all. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Grabrick and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

(God) who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. – Psalm 103:4-5

 

*Click on “This story” as highlighted in the text to read the story to which I am referring.

To Encourage and Build Up

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. – (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV)

So encourage each other and help each other grow stronger in faith, just as you are already doing. – (1 Thessalonians 5:11, ERV)

Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it. – (1 Thessalonians 5:11, MSG)

 

Just as the Thessalonians were called and reminded to encourage and build one another up, (as they had already been doing) so too, we are called to do the same. It is incredible the difference that encouragement makes, even in the small things. The other day at school had been particularly long, as we were winding up a week of testing across campus. Kids were wild and tired of being assessed, and teachers were equally exhausted. At lunch, I happened to see a downcast look on a colleague’s face, so I said, “Hey, only two more Fridays!” Their whole demeanor shifted, and I walked away smiling at the thought as well. Interestingly, after I had eaten lunch, I wandered back through the office and heard different friends with whom I work, speaking the same words of encouragement to one another. Though it was not a spiritual truth being shared, it was a word of encouragement offered at the right moment, and its impact seemed to be a bit farther reaching than I would have imagined when the words were spoken. May we ever seek the Lord for wisdom and words to encourage and build each other up, for as we do, others too shall follow.

 

Let us encourage, Do Right and Build Up

Find ways to build up;

Pour into others,

And help fill their cups.

For as hope is built,

The same is passed on;

Each growing stronger,

New strength to hold on.

Go forth in His might,

Build up each other;

Together we rise,

Sisters and brothers.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are our Source of encouragement and You build us up. Thank You that You call us to be in community where we encourage one another and build each other up, per Your design. Forgive us for the times that we have been too caught up in our own chaos to look beyond ourselves to encourage and build up those around us. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would seek You for wisdom and words as to how to best encourage and build up those around us. Show us how to love others well. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we seek You for wisdom and ways to encourage and build up those whom You have placed around us. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

And the Lord said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you.” – Exodus 33:19

Consider Love

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. – (Hebrews 10:24, NIV)

We should think about each other to see how we can encourage each other to show love and do good works. – (Hebrews 10:24, ERV)

Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. – (Hebrews 10:24, TPT)

 

I love that this biblical concept has been made tangible to many as people seek to “pay it forward.” One small spark of kindness, generosity or grace can set off an incredible chain reaction. The great thing is, we can love and encourage others through small and simple things. The Passions Translation tells us to “discover creative ways to encourage others and motivate them toward acts of compassion…” I so appreciate this, as some of the seemingly smallest acts of kindness have had the greatest and most lasting impact on me, as they often come when I have needed them most. It costs us nothing to choose to offer a kind and encouraging word or to reach out a helping hand to one we see in need – we simply must choose to extend what we have received to those around us. May we seek the Lord and listen to His leading, so that we may discover creative ways to encourage each other and extend acts of kindness to all.

 

Let us consider, Ambassadors of Love

How to choose love well;

Honor each other,

May our actions tell.

Tell of His goodness,

Extend hope and grace;

Each act of kindness,

Demonstrate His ways.

Choose seek discover,

To love and do good;

Compassion offered,

God’s grace understood.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You that though we do not deserve it, You come near and extend encouragement and compassion toward us in tangible ways. Thank You that You call us to look for ways to encourage and love one another as we reach out in ways that others can grasp. Forgive us for not always choosing words or ways to inspire those around us to greater love. Teach us to trust and rely on You to be our Source and Supply, so that we will encourage and motivate others toward compassion and acts of kindness. Show us how to love those around us in a way that spurs others toward love and good deeds. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we receive the love and encouragement that You offer to us and then go and give likewise to those around us. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. – Psalm 145:8

No Room for Them

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. – (Luke 2:4-7, NIV)

 

This portion of the Christmas story seemed to strike a new chord within my heart this past week, as my pastor pointed out the scandal and outrage that would have been associated with an unwed woman expecting a child who was engaged to a man with whom she had no intimate relations. Joseph came from the house of David. His heritage was quite significant, and his family name was likely known. Everyone was expected to return to the place of their familial ties for the census, so it is quite conceivable that Joseph had numerous relatives who were also traveling to Bethlehem at the same time. Under normal circumstances, a family would have traveled and stayed together, yet Mary and Joseph made the journey alone. Their isolation leads me to believe that they were being shunned by the family, and left to their own devices to survive. Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, they were unable to find a proper place to stay. What I found intriguing is that each version of scripture that I read, says that “there was no room for them. This leads me to believe that perhaps there was room, but they were turned away because of societal standards, and left stranded and a bit desperate. Who was the inn keeper who did at last show some compassion, and at least allow the pair shelter as the time drew near for Mary to give birth? It is both incredible and admirable to think of Mary and Joseph and all that they must have gone though, just to get to the stable birth. Additionally, the thought of the two of them having to deliver the Son of God in their surroundings is overwhelming. She was quite young and he was a carpenter; nothing in their life experience had likely prepared them for what they endured, other than the very presence of God with them. May we continue to ponder with awe and wonder, the miracle of God with us, this most holy season.

 

Hard was the journey, No Room for Them

To travel alone;

This chosen couple,

So far from their home.

Upon arrival,

No room granted them;

Just a small stable,

In old Bethlehem.

The time had arrived,

For the babe be born;

Courage delivered,

Wrapped Him in cloths torn.

No isolation,

Could stand in God’s way;

Strength to them granted,

Right there in the hay.

Though they’d been alone,

It did not last long;

For angelic hosts,

Announced this with song.

The shepherds they came,

They followed the light;

In awe and wonder,

On that holy night.

The baby swaddled,

God’s very own Son;

The faith of this pair,

God’s will had been done.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the miracle and wonder that surrounds the story of You sending Your Son to us as a baby, in humble beginnings, to make Him approachable to all. Thank You for showing us Your faithfulness through the hearts of the people that were part of Your story, and modeled what it is to trust in You. Forgive us for forgetting the depth of Your love that sent Your Only Son to us so that we could have life in You. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would pause and ponder in wonder, the miracle and the majesty of all that You have done. Show us how to love those around us in a way that gives insight and understanding to Your goodness and grace. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we allow Your story to fill our hearts and minds this Christmas. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. – 2 Corinthians 1:3

The Foundation of Wisdom

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. – (Proverbs 9:10, NLT)

Wisdom begins with fear and respect for the Lord. Knowledge of the Holy One leads to understanding. – (Proverbs 9:10, ERV)

The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord; the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. – (Proverbs 9:10, CEB)

 

The sort of fear that comes from respect and reverence for our Redeemer is the very space that results in real understanding as to who God is and how He loves. As we grow in our understanding, wisdom weaves its way into our hearts. To know God, one cannot help but stand in awe and wonder as to who He is and how He loves, in spite of who we are and all that we have done. Growing up, I had a healthy fear of my mom, not because she was scary or unkind, but rather because I wanted to do well and please her, as she did so much for me. It is much the same with God. Though He has the power to determine the number of my days, He is a loving God and the fear that leads to wisdom, is more one of recognizing who He is and how One so incredible could care for individuals among the billions alive on the earth. I want to choose well and be wise because He has chosen me. May we ever seek to know the Lord with proper awe and reverence, so that we may find wisdom to walk in His ways.

 

The fear of the Lord, Refreshment Through Repentance

Is where wisdom’s found;

True knowledge of Him,

Leads to choices, sound.

Real understanding,

From the Holy One;

Is granted by grace,

As we seek the Son.

Help us choose be wise,

With respect and fear;

Trust the Holy One,

For He will draw near.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that as we fear and revere You, You reveal more of who You are and how You love. Thank You that the more that we know You, the better our understanding becomes to make wise decisions. Forgive us for not giving You the proper praise and awe that is due, and for not seeking to understand more of You. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would ever pursue Your will and Your way. Lead us to walk in wisdom according to Your will. Show us how to love those around us in a way that demonstrates respect and reverence for You, and inspires good judgment. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we seek Your wisdom with reverent hearts, desiring to do Your will throughout our days. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23

Comfort in Mourning

God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. – (Matthew 5:4, NLT)

Great blessings belong to those who are sad now. God will comfort them. – (Matthew 5:4, ERV)

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. – (Matthew 5:4, MSG)

 

Yesterday was a very heavy day for me. As I made my drive in to work, word of the tragedy that had taken place the previous night in Las Vegas flooded the airwaves. Grief gripped my heart like a vice, as I thought of the families who were suffering both with loss, inexplicable harm to loved ones, and the wait in not knowing if those dear to them were safe or had fallen in harm’s way. Sadly, my grief grew as I learned of the loss of an incredible woman, who had been lovingly invested in her church, community and family, and tragically died shortly after childbirth. It is in these moments, these seasons of sorrow, that I look to the Lord for comfort and some sort of sense to be made out of all of that which seems so senseless. Though I do not think I will ever completely understand why such horrific acts and terrible tragedies occur, I must cling to the promise that God blesses and comforts those who mourn. He is our comfort and our place of peace, even when nothing seems steady nor secure. May we ever cling to Christ, who is our comfort, as He will bless and embrace those who mourn.

 

God brings His blessing,Comfort in Mourning

To all those who mourn;

He’s our safe harbor,

Through all of life’s storms.

He’ll be our comfort,

When flooded with grief;

The One to embrace,

As love grants relief.

When tragedy strikes,

And hope seems but gone;

Bring grief to the Lord,

He’ll carry us on.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that even in the midst of sorrow and heartache and so much tragedy, You are present to provide Your comfort. Thank You that Your arms embrace us, even when we cannot bear to lift our eyes from the weight of our sorrow. Thank You that You meet us in our mourning and bless us with Your comfort. Forgive us for not turning to You in our grief. Teach us to trust You more, as You alone are the Provider of comfort and the One who blesses us in the midst of heartache. Show us how to love and comfort those who are grieving, so that they may know Your comfort in a tangible way. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we seek Your comfort in our times of mourning. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

May God Almighty grant you mercy. – Genesis 43:14

Pursue Righteousness and Love

Whoever pursues justice and treats others with kindness discovers true life marked by integrity and respect. – (Proverbs 21:21, VOICE)

People who try hard to do good and be faithful will find life, goodness, and honor. – (Proverbs 21:21, ERV)

Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor. – (Proverbs 21:21, NIV)

 

This passage is an excellent reminder for me this morning, as it is a guiding principle in how I walk out my days. Over the last two weeks, despite every effort and strategy in my educational arsenal, I have had a few students that are struggling to respond to our established expectations. Each day is a fresh start, and I greet each individual with kindness and anticipate good things from and for them. Sadly, the behaviors of a few have made me have moments of questioning my career. Thankfully, when I look at the big picture, God has given me an abundant life. I am surrounded by incredible friends, family, and colleagues, I have two terrific teenage boys, we do not lack anything, and I am loved very well. All this to say that my charge is to press on and continue to be faithful in that which I am called to do, and continue to seek answers for those who are struggling to settle in. May we pursue righteousness and love, for that is where life, prosperity and honor are found.

 

Those who seek justice, Pursue Righteousness and Love

And choose to be kind;

Discover respect,

Integrity, find.

For when we do good,

A faithful life choose;

Goodness comes our way,

As grace is infused.

So let us try hard,

Be faithful and just;

God’s love will be clear,

As we choose to trust.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You call us to pursue justice and treat others with kindness. Thank You that as we do, Your hand is made evident in our life. Thank You that we are not expected to do this on our own, but You equip and empower us by Your grace to love as we are loved by You. Forgive us for not wanting to pursue righteousness when we feel we have been wronged. Teach us to trust You in all things, and to choose to place things in Your hands, and follow Your leading rather than our own. Show us how to do good and be faithful in a way that demonstrates Your love in a tangible to those who need it most. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we pursue righteousness and love because You are righteous and loving. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. – Psalm 34:8

How Impossible Becomes Possible

Remember, what is humanly impossible is possible with God. – (Luke 18:27, VOICE)

He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” – (Luke 18:27, NLT)

Jesus answered, “God can do things that are not possible for people to do.” – (Luke 18:27, ERV)

 

The mountains that lie before us, no matter how great or small, can be climbed or moved when we rely on Christ. In our own strength, there is much that is seemingly impossible that stands before us, beckoning to be accomplished. Through human insight and understanding, it seems we may as well stop before we even start. However, if God has called us to something, He will lead us through it. The seemingly impossible becomes possible, as we choose to be led by faith and not by sight. God’s grace, goodness, provision and strength, carry us further than we ever thought we might go. May we look to the Lord and be led by faith, rather than staying stuck on the seeming impossibilities that stand in front of us.

 

Mountains before us, How Impossible Becomes Possible

That seem far too high;

Passable in Christ,

When on Him, we rely.

No height that’s too great,

Nor valley too low;

All that’s before us,

With us, God will go.

So trust in the Lord,

And see what He’ll do;

Mountains will be moved,

As we’re carried through.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that what is impossible for us, is possible with You. Thank You that in You, all things are possible. Thank You that You do not call us to anything that You are not also willing to strengthen, equip and carry us through. Forgive us for our fear and lack of faith when we see the seemingly impossible standing in front of us. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would see the seeming impossibilities as opportunities for Your power to be demonstrated in incredible new ways. Show us how to love others in ways that help them to see the possibilities before them rather than the obstacles. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we trust You to do the impossible in our lives, as only You can. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of Your love; in Your great mercy turn to me. – Psalm 69:16

Grace Unearned

And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is – free and undeserved. – (Romans 11:6, NLT)

And if He chose them by grace, then it is not what they have done that made them His people. If they could be made His people by what they did, His gift of grace would not really be a gift. – (Romans 11:6, ERV)

Grace is central in God’s action here, and it has nothing to do with deeds prescribed by the law. If it did, grace would not be grace. – (Romans 11:6, VOICE)

 

God’s grace at first glance, seems to be a paradox, as how could He possibly give such undeserved goodness and love to a sinner, such as myself. That is the amazing thing about His grace, He gives to the undeserving, and loves without limits. Each time I am made aware of His goodness and grace, I recognize just how incredible His love is for me, despite all of my flaws and failures. Yes, I love Him and long to serve Him, but I am a work in progress, and am far from having “arrived“. Perhaps that is the point. As we recognize our own shortcomings and see how His goodness is complete, we are ever aware of our need for Him in our lives. May we rise up in thanksgiving for God’s goodness and grace, and give Him thanks for the gifts that we’re given, though we deserve them not.

 

We cannot earn grace, The Wonder of Unfailing Love

For God freely gives;

Because He is kind,

We have life to live.

Every good thing,

That comes unto us;

Is thanks to the Lord,

And His Son, Jesus.

There’s nothing we’ll do,

And no words we’ll say;

That can earn His grace,

Or take it away.

All thanks be to God,

For kindness and love;

It is undeserved,

These gifts from above.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your kindness to us. Thank You that it is not given for good works that we do to somehow earn it, but rather You give grace out of the abundance of Your love for us. Thank You that it is free and undeserved, reminding us that You are God and we are not. Forgive us for the times that we either take Your grace for granted, or try to somehow earn our way into a good space before You. Teach us to trust You more, so that all that we say and do is motivated by our love for You. Show us how to love those around us with kindness and grace, so that they too, will long to seek Your face. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we receive the grace that You freely give, and praise You for who You are. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; …my hope is in You all day long. – Psalm 25:4-5