“There’s something about giving up that actually empowers.” – Todd Pierce
All of my life, I’ve been known as the horse girl. If you talk to anyone who has briefly known me, they will probably say I like horses. My first memory of being around a horse was when I was about three or four years old. Some horses lived in a pasture down the street from our house, and my parents would take my brother and me down to pet them.
Unfortunately, one of the horses bit my brother on the ear and me on the top of my head. For some people, having a horse bite you may be a good reason to avoid them, but it had the opposite effect on me.
It’s something I can’t really explain, it just didn’t bother me.
As I started following Jesus during college, God began to shape my love for horses in an interesting way. I began to notice how there are parallels between our relationship with God and a horses’ relationship with its trainer or rider. I’ve seen and heard things from different trainers that have helped me see my relationship with God differently. One of the best and most beautiful examples I have found is a video from Riding High Ministries. This video shows Todd Pierce, a horse trainer, working with a horse and using it to point people to Jesus.
I love how he works with the horse and presents such a powerful picture of what it looks like for us to come into a relationship with God through Jesus. There is so much you can get out of watching this video.
I want to share something that has stood out to me as I’ve watched it over and over (and over and over).
The video starts with this horse nervously running circles around Todd. Todd talks about how so many of us are like this horse. We think if we just run in circles, we can ignore God as He stands in the middle waiting for us. Eventually, we’re all faced with a choice. We can keep running around, refusing to turn to God, or we can surrender our lives to Him.
Over time, this horse decides to turn toward Todd. He gives up and surrenders. The rest of the video is a relatable picture of what it looks like to surrender. It’s not always easy, and sometimes it’s extremely uncomfortable.
Because God Loves You
You’ll notice at one point in the video that the horse doesn’t want to let Todd go on his right side. When Todd moves his hand toward the right side of his face, the horse pulls away and shakes his head.
Slowly and gently, however, Todd is able to get to his right side. With each step Todd makes in the training process, the horse wrestles with wanting to let him in, and its instincts are to protect itself. Todd keeps pushing this horse and making him uncomfortable.
“Because I love him, I have to get into these spaces.”
Because God loves you, He has to get into those spaces you don’t want Him to see. Maybe it’s something from your past that has left you frightened and scarred. A sin that you don’t want God to see, either out of shame or because you still kind of enjoy it. Or a part of your life that God wants to take control of, but you’re not ready to give it to Him.
He loves you, and He refuses to leave you. He has to be able to heal those wounds. Allow Him to root out sin and have complete control over your life.
From my personal experiences, it’s not always fun to let God in. When I see that horse jerk his head back in fear, resisting Todd’s hand, I see myself several years ago when God asked me to surrender specific things in my life. It was hard to give God control over something significant, but God showed me that my identity is in Jesus alone.
He took my love for horses and reshaped it in a way that glorifies Him. When I see Todd’s compassion for this horse as he struggles to give up, I felt the struggles with sin in my own life.
This is what it means to be in a relationship with Jesus. It can be uncomfortable at times. But when you fully embrace it, it can be truly beautiful and even powerful.
Surrender is Not Easy. But It’s Worth It.
To some people, this submission can look like weakness. Some people will watch him put the saddle and bridle on and think, “Oh, he’s broken the horse. He’s taking away its freedom and power.”
We live in a culture that doesn’t want someone to tell them what to do. If you do what someone tells you, like submitting to God, you’re weak and that’s a bad thing.
As Todd demonstrates with this horse, surrendering to the right person can actually set you free. I think there are several reasons why we don’t like the idea of submission and surrender. Part of it, as Todd points out, is just because of our sinful nature. There is just something in all of us that can’t allow God to be in control.
The truth is, when you give up and surrender to God, you’ll find that it’s the best thing you could possibly do. It’s not easy. It’s not always going to be comfortable. But if you stick with it, you’ll see over time that it’s completely worth it.
By Jennifer Lynch
As a mother, you want to do everything you can to protect your baby. You take every precaution to keep them safe. But with everything that happens in the world, we can’t always protect our children. However, we can love them, snuggle with them, and help them understand what is in the world around them.
Over the past year, the world has been in an uproar. It has affected us all in different ways. The Lord tells us not to fear because He is with us. As believers, we look to that, but as fleshly humans, we have a tendency to question the fear within us.
As a child, we are just learning about relationships, spiritual guidance, and personal contact. Over the last few months, my child has struggled with this pandemic. She has adjusted to wearing masks and knows the rules about being six feet apart and not having close contact with people. As adults, we understand how to deal with unknown circumstances, but to most children, none of this makes sense.
Yesterday I was checking my daughter’s folder from school and noticed a drawing. Of course, I am always excited to see her thoughts out on paper. This time, it was a little heartbreaking. There on the paper were five stick people all standing by each other. She colored a big blue circle around them. The coloring page template was supposed to be a representation of what her dream would be. “That all of us can play together” was written in the upper right corner by the teacher. This struck my heartstrings. Her dream is to play with her friends and have contact with those around her.
I set the drawing aside and went about the day. I decided to do some crafts with both of my kids that afternoon—a DIY fairy jar. As we were reading the directions, I noticed that they were supposed to write down a wish and put it in the jar. Just a little extra piece to make the project magical. I handed it over to my youngest child to help her write her wish. “I wish that COVID would go away” was the wish. Again, my heart broke.
This pandemic has been affecting my child more than I could have imagined. We genuinely don’t think about the appreciation that a hug can make, a touch of a hand, or playing with the same toys. This pandemic is hard on all of us, but our children struggle even more. For a kindergartener learning how to build relationships in a world where you can’t interact in close quarters, it is very difficult and hard to understand. The Lord built us to love one another and to be close to others (John 15:12).
My daughter thrives on interaction. This goofy, fun-loving child now worries if she will get in trouble if she gets too close to someone. She worries that she will never be able to hug her teacher and play with her friends. This is the time our kids are learning to build relationships. They need some normalcy in all of the craziness of this world.
As parents, we need to keep our eyes wide open. We need to watch for these signs in our children. We need to be there for questions that may need answers. We also need to hold them close, hug them daily, and let them know that we are there for them. We don’t have the answers to what will happen next. We can only deal with what happens today. We can also pray with them to give them hope that Lord is walking with them through it.
“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble in dread before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 AMP.
Be strong for your babies. They look to you for guidance. Trust in the Lord through everything we face. Only He can walk us through it.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
During this busy Christmas season, let us be reminded of our purpose. Let’s enjoy it with peace and thanksgiving instead of stress and overcommitting. May we be challenged this holiday season to seek God first in the things we commit ourselves to and to keep our eyes on Him.
Kirby King, a local author and Life In Abundance workshop facilitator, shares her personal experience with saying “yes” to rest and “no” to busyness. Click here to read more.
I confess….I have an addiction: food. I love food of all kinds. But I love it so much I’ve damaged my God-given shut-off alarm! However, if I’m truly honest, my addiction isn’t necessarily to food. No, my addiction isn’t food, but instead it is an addiction to “me”.
I want what I want. I want what I like. I want what stirs happy feelings and comforts me (however briefly). Yeah, I’m addicted to me, my flesh. I struggle resisting what I think I need and then struggle even worse when I try not to overeat.
Way too often I get in my own head and the hamster wheel of negative thoughts and feelings increases to 100 miles per hour. If I am feeling strong that day, I can use my tools (Bible reading, accountability, gratitude list) and calm the spin, or stop it completely. Well, for a while, that is.
One day, I woke up in a frustrated, defeated funk. My thoughts were sliding down a slippery slope and I prayed during my devotions, “Please Lord, transform my thinking today to positive thoughts!” I knew where my thinking would lead if it kept going in that downward direction. I had certainly been there before.
See, I had made a conscious decision nearly 30 days prior to work on my health by eating healthier and being more active. Did I want to lose weight? SURE! But even more so, I wanted to like myself again and continue to be around as my grandchildren grew up. Unfortunately, my typical pattern has been to go strong for 1 month. I experience victories, but then my addiction to “me” reawakens. Eventually, I give up.
On this particularly “down” day, I was approaching my 1-month mark since starting my commitment again. With my rut pattern of thinking, my brain (and Satan) reminded me and reared it’s ugly head, taking me back to a place of defeat again.
As I drove to work that day, my mind continued to slide into a pit. I tried brushing it off and putting it out of my mind. Thankfully, I work with people who care about me, know me, AND who call me out when I need it. After a grateful time of talking and encouragement, the Lord reminded me of a post I had put on Facebook the previous day. It was the verse found in 1 John 5:4, “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.”
I have to admit, my faith is often less than a mustard seed size, especially that day. But I realized it’s because I’m looking at myself to achieve these hard things. I’m reminded that only God can achieve true victory in and through me. My role is to just keep my eyes on Jesus!!
Today, I confessed my addiction to “me” and my fear of failure (again) to God; and now to you. God answered my prayer that day. I am trusting He will break this cycle of failure and surrender to defeat, because I surely can’t do it in my own strength!
God didn’t transform my thinking immediately, nor did He do it in the way I perceived in my head, but He did do it that day! I will need to pray this promise from Him often as I struggle with negative thinking. For now, I can go back to that day in my mind (and my prayer journal) and remember how He honored my prayer. God loves me and I am forever grateful!
I believe there may be others of you, like me, who have patterns of defeat. You begin strong but ultimately give up. Your addiction or struggle may be very different from mine. As the patterns are repeated, you get frustrated, anxious, depressed, and scared because you believe you know what’s coming. However, I encourage you to stop living according to a faulty belief. Use the lies and truths outlined below to identify what you’re feeling right now. Then look up the Scripture indicated and pray, pray, pray! It is very powerful to insert your name into the Scripture and pray it out loud.
By Karen Grotler
By Mandy Bentley
Olive shells are my favorite seashell. I have collected many through the years and every time I find one I get so excited. Sometimes they are nice sized shells, but most of the time they are small. Either way, I get just as excited no matter the size.
Chosen was my word for 2019, as anyone who know me can tell you. Try as I might to move on to another word for 2020, God has other plans. That word creeps up in practically every facet of my life. My best friend even made me a mug with the word “chosen” printed on it and the scripture 1 Peter 2:9. I have clung to that verse for well over a year now. I could go on forever about how impactful this word and scripture has been in my life.
One day, my son and I were walking on the beach, and as always, I was scoping the sand for one of my treasures. We had been walking a while with no luck. Just as we were nearing the path off the beach, I looked down and saw a tiny white-bleached Olive shell. I just about cried. Seriously. My son was almost as excited as I was. He said, “Mom we never find shells in this part of the sand.” My response was that God wants to please us and He knew how much I wanted to find one of those shells.
The following morning during my sunrise beach walk and talk with the Lord, it was heavy on my heart about that shell. I knew there was something more God was trying to tell me. I asked Him to show me. As I headed back up to the path, I looked down and saw ANOTHER even bigger Olive shell than the one I had found the afternoon before! I cried sweet tears because I knew that was only God showing me how much HE loves me.
Immediately, I was reminded of a scene in a movie where the character says if you don’t want to say “I love you,” you can mouth “Olive Juice” and it looks like you are saying “I love you.” Now I am unhinged. God was telling me I love you using my favorite shell, and He wanted me to know that He wants to give me the things I desire in my heart, both the big and the small ones. He died so He could do just that. He wants the same for you. Pay attention and see if you don’t see him mouthing “Olive Juice” to you right where you are.
“Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
By Mandy Bentley
I spent many years as a carriage tour guide in Charleston, SC. There was one house on the tour route called the Earthquake-proof house. The foundation of the house was built on a bed of palmetto logs.
Palmetto trees are spongy and porous, which is why they can withstand hurricanes. They can bend with the wind and are rarely uprooted under extreme pressure from the forces of nature surrounding it.
The reasoning behind building a home’s foundation on a bed of palmetto logs was that if there was an earthquake, the shock of the quake would be absorbed in the log and prevent extensive damage to the home. It worked for Fort Moultrie during the Revolutionary War. The palmetto logs absorbed the cannonballs and prevented damage to the fort. This is why the Palmetto Tree is South Carolina’s state tree.
When an earthquake occurs, it starts from deep within the core of the earth. There is an unsettling and then a shifting which forces shock waves to the surface of the earth. These shock waves first reach the foundation of a building. Then, that shock moves up to shake the entire building.
If the foundation is strong it can withstand the shock. If it isn’t strong, then the shock causes the building to crumble, or at the very least, to be severely damaged. Before there is even a chance to stabilize the building after an initial earthquake, there is usually an aftershock. At times these aftershocks can be known to last for days.
Today on my morning beach walk there was a Palmetto log that had washed ashore. It reminded me of the Earthquake-proof house and how mighty and strong those trees are. Able to absorb the massive shock of an earthquake and save the structure it supports. We should be like these trees in regards to our faith…“but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:13.
To stand firm means to remain steadfast in conviction despite attack or efforts to persuade. No matter what rocks our foundation, we stand firm in our faith because we are rooted in Him. Those “shocks” are going to come, whether it be one big one or many smaller ones. Standing firm means that in every attack we do not waver. God’s Word says that if we can do that, the end will be sweet for us. I choose to stand firm, earthquake-proof.
Photo by Andrew Martin from Pixabay.