Everyone has a story to tell. When we make the connection between our story and God's great story, we come away with HIStory, which involves each and every one of us.
"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." - Corrie ten Boom
Hail crashes down on us this morning. Only after lightning awakens us and thunder shakes the earth and our being to its very core is hail released. The torrential stormy weather sits outside our bay window and demands our attention like a movie on large screen. Wow! His power, His glory, His creation come to life. Can this be a message from The God we fear and His reminder that He is still in charge?
Just as quickly as it came, it's gone. The sky is clearing and the sun is piercing through the clouds, no, it’s fully shining on my back lawn. I look up and see blue skies - spectacular. The storm comes in and wreaks havoc, it places fear in us and it shakes us. But if we can rise above it, we can fear The One who holds it all together instead of fearing the damage it may cause. It’s having the right kind of fear. It’s the loving and faithful kind of fear that says “I trust You LORD.”
The storm is a reminder of the mighty God and majestic LORD who reigns. We forget to fear Him and through our worry we say “You are not great enough for this trial.” But He is! He is greater! And He stands above and looks upon us with loving eyes and reminds us that He’s got this! He always has and He always will.
So throw yourself into prayer before, during and after the storm hits. Before, because you "trust an unknown future to a known God." During, that He may carry you high above the stormy waves. After, to give Him all deserved praise and glory for strengthening you during the storm.
The night before the presidential election in November, there was a serene, peaceful and beautiful sunset view. It was like no other. This morning, on the eve of the presidential inauguration, a storm hits hard. Both call us to look up. Some are celebrating and some are mourning tomorrow’s reality. Wherever you are on the spectrum, pray. Pray hard, pray faithfully, pray lovingly for God’s guidance and protection on the government and people of our nation. May the church be lifted high these next 4 years and may our love for His people outshine any politics. We are advent people awaiting His return. This is not our home so let’s live with our eyes pointed to eternity.
And remember, there is a higher power that reigns above any government and nation. A kingdom that reigns in truth, in love in mercy. So don’t place all of your trust in the incoming president and government and don’t place all of your worry and disdain on them either. Choose trust instead of worry, choose love instead of division. And now, let’s pray...
Damaris Urizar Avila
As a young child I certainly had not grasped the intensity of this truth: His breath in me. I struggled with my identity and it impacted every facet of my life. I longed to be like everyone else around me, an identity grounded in commonality. But because I was raised in what you could call cultural dualism (raised and influenced by two cultures), I was neither American nor Guatemalan. I couldn’t see that I was both but only felt that I was neither. The trips to Central America only reminded me of how American I felt. The American history classes and the holiday traditions at school only reminded me of how Guatemalan I felt. How easy it is to see what we aren’t instead of what we are and to then feel isolated and lost in the chasm between two worlds.
But as I lean in to The Word of God, I see the beauty in my reality because of His truths. Beauty so profound it penetrates my heart and soul. I learn that Christ’s identity as God and Creator is my identity. He is my God and my Creator, therefore I am His child and His creation. How’s that for cultural dualism? I am both so this makes me 100% His. My newfound identity in Jesus, forever lavishly rich as His child and creation. My identity fully embraced because of His. No matter where your story starts or where your past has taken you, you are His.
I now know who I am because of “I AM.”
Embraced by His love,
Damaris Urizar Avila
I’m reminded this morning that procrastination is a terrible path to follow. Procrastination in calling the friend or family member that is hurting, procrastination in embarking on a journey that will lead to a safe haven but just requires too much sacrifice at the moment, procrastination in starting the year off reading The Word daily to nurture your hungry soul. It is that we lack faith in what is unseen. We are looking to the things that are seen and felt and we don’t want to take that leap.
If for a moment we could stop and have faith that what awaits us on the other side of that which we are avoiding, is greater than the pain and struggle we are facing today. Choosing to leave procrastination behind and diving in headfirst will bring us to that reward that much more joyfully.
We are embarking on a kitchen remodel this New Year. The idea was all so exciting and compelling as we ordered all the new items and décor. Well, exciting… until this morning. The packing that awaits me feels like a never-ending obstacle course. Moving is one of the things I loathe most because of the packing it requires. The need to remain organized so that I don’t go crazy looking for that one dish or spoon at a later date is of utter importance. But truly, the packing cannot be avoided. I cannot skip it altogether. I shall have to try and embrace it.
But aren’t putting things off so much like a lack of faith? We don’t fully comprehend or embrace the outcome so we avoid it. We don’t want to be inconvenienced, because, well, comfort trumps discomfort as does doing things the easy way versus the hard and right way. When we try and work things out in a way that bring about more palatable means, the end is never as rewarding. So we look to procrastination or doing things the easy way. But if we look to Jesus in our struggle, we find truths that remind us why we should lean in to Him and take His hand before jumping in.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
We look to faith and believe that though we cannot see the outcome at this very moment, it is coming. The final product will be far richer and greater than we can imagine. Every step of the way He is filling us with more of Him. Every step of the way He is leaving His fingerprints in our hearts, so that when we reach the end of this journey, we will be reminded that He was with us all along and He will never leave us. And we will fully embrace the next journey ahead and will not procrastinate but will instead dive in headfirst without hesitation because what awaits us far surpasses the obstacles we will endure getting there.
Our lives are like a kitchen remodel. We are being refined and remade when we journey with Christ.
He is installing new and shiny and precious natural stone. Your life is like a love letter being written with the very hands of the living God, “not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:3).
He is tearing out the old and non-functioning and bringing in the new. “… the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
He is sanding us down and refining us. “For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.” (Psalm 66:10).
So whatever “thing” you are putting off today, embrace before jumping in. He is reaching out to hold your hand. Lean in, grab His hand and take the leap.
Damaris Urizar Avila
There's this light that beams through my room in the mornings. This light that calms and soothes my inner angst. It's a softness yet a firm reminder that His light is my lifeline. His light is always light is always bright is always might! This might I carry inside of me because of His light. This light follows me wherever I go. Behind me, beside me, within me, all around me. The only light that is truly victorious awakens me every morning with beauty more profound than ever. This light is the light that connects us all to Jesus and to each other. So when you ache we ache, when you cry we cry, when you get up, we get up. This, the beauty of communion, the way of Jesus, He hurts and He rejoices with us. There is no brighter light, there is no greater love.
This Christmas receive the greatest gift there ever was and will ever be. Unwrap the gift that is found within the Christmas tree all wrapped in scarlet ribbon and receive the gift He came to give, Jesus.
Our sins forgiven
Your blood given
All wrapped in a scarlet ribbon
Fear is a crippling feeling. It’s a devastating phenomenon. It comes on quickly and sometimes lingers for way too long. If only it lasted long enough to help you see how brave you are but left before making you feel your world is falling apart. I have experienced both in my life and have vowed to never go back to the crippling kind of fear.
I think about being sick three years ago and never being diagnosed. It was a rollercoaster ride of pain and suffering yet immense peace and life-giving scripture reading and communion and relationship with Jesus. It transformed my life and led me to become a writer and start this very blog. It was a time of painful introspection and beauty and growth. But I was happy I could say it was in the past.
As it would be in God’s mighty plan, I find myself yet again in this painful situation. But this time it’s different – very different. He has brought me back to a place I thought I would never visit again, except this time I’m not visiting with the same fear and anxiety as I did in the past. He carried me through this once before and I know He will yet again.
In my waking hours I look up to the skies and ask Him to make me strong. I read the verse that is up in my kitchen chalkboard: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It reminds me each and every time that He is making me brave. There is purpose in the struggle. There is purpose in the affliction. There is purpose in the trial. I’m going to ride high above the waves because He takes me there. And the past doesn’t have to cripple me but actually remind me of where I’ve been and Who got me out of it. It is all about Him. It is always about Him. His constant love, His constant communion, His constant provision in my life.
This time is different, very different. He has surrounded me with merciful and understanding doctors. Doctors that have diagnosed me and want to see me feel better. Healing doesn’t always come as an overnight miracle. It often comes as a million little daily miracles. Because every meal that I eat, every morning that I wake, every step that I take is a miracle from my Heavenly Father. It’s a journey that is far more worthy of my time and energy than any destination.
So when fear tries to make its way into my life, I will face it with Truth. Jesus loves me, He is with me and He is healing me. It’s a million little healings every day. He restores my soul, He feeds my fear with overflowing grace, He pours more of Himself over me and coats my aching pain with His promises. So I will sing “my spirit revived in Your story (Hillsong)."
by Damaris Avila
John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ”
I truly love reading about John the Baptist and learning from him. Above we read that John “testifies” to the Truth that Jesus was and is. He comes in proclamation of what was prophesied and its current fulfillment. This is why He cries out in such exaltation and confidence. He wants all to see the manifestation of the Son before their very eyes. I believe He is overcome with joy at the revelation that is unraveling before him. What was told to him is coming to pass and I imagine he wants to yell from the top of his lungs, “look, listen, believe.”
John humbly reiterates that though Jesus comes after him, He actually was before him. In other words, John was sent ahead of Jesus to point the people forwardly towards Jesus but also backwardly to Jesus. It is interesting how this works. Because Jesus is infinite, all directions point to Him. He is behind us and He is ahead of us.
This is so profound when we think about the trials we go through in this life. Jesus in His infinite existence both past, present and future, fills us with Himself through every difficulty in life. This symbolizes His very presence through every stage of our afflictions. He surrounds us as He surrounded John the Baptist and all the people at the time. Just when we feel like we can’t take one more step, totally depleted by our current trial, Jesus reminds us that He is right there with us. Just like He was back then with the people of Israel (both Jews and Gentiles) He is with us today. He is in your presence wherever you are at this moment: in your workplace, in your office, in your classroom, in your living room, in your bedroom, in your car - He’s all around you. All we need to do is call out His name and He will listen.
There is always a purpose in our afflictions. And I think about how John the Baptist cried out and pointed everyone to Jesus and his eternal presence. Might we do the same? In our most difficult days and through our trials might we dare to cry out and point those around us to Jesus? Maybe that is the point of it all. Psalm 23:2,4 says:
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters...
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
To testify in the midst of our trials to The One who comforts us and leads us through green pastures and quiet waters is the highest hope we can give to others and the greatest glory we can give to Jesus; hope that is within demonstrated outwardly. It is hope looking out at a 360 degree angle. Hope towards the future because of He who “is” and hope towards the past because of He who “was.”
Jesus before me,
Jesus behind me,
Jesus beside me,
Jesus within me,
Jesus all around me.
In His great love,
Broken hearts cry out today. Their pain echo in the winds and their tears fall upon us. The divide is so very palpable and real. What do we do with this pain, both those who feel it and those who see it? We have a grave responsibility to one another on both sides of this divide. Responsibility accompanied by great potential to cross over and love and embrace heartfelt feelings. Today more than ever, our compassion and love can reach new heights. No longer bound by policies and ideologies but fully surrendered and sacrificed in outstretched love. Love that is greater than any other feeling within. Love that reaches over and says I’m sorry, I understand, I see you, I hear you. Love that is unconditionally displayed and overflowing. May we rise to the occasion today and reach deep within and believe in hope that love will triumph. May we be lovers of love; “agape” love.
“It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.” – Martin Luther King
May love take us to new heights and to new relationships. Relationships that will teach us the art of listening, noticing and ultimately loving.
May our love spread like wildfire. Unstoppable, Uncontrollable, Incomparable. May they know us by our love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
-I Corinthians 13:4-8.
“He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has — by what I call "good infection." Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”
– C.S. Lewis
He reached down from heaven and touched us. His love so profound He dwelt among us. He visited our temples, our homes and our cities. He walked our streets, visited our markets. He entered our world to draw us out of it. That He could reside in our hearts.
Forever live in our hearts
Forever love through our hearts
Forever light the world from our hearts
This mission He accepted. This mission He embraced. This mission He accomplished ever so personally and present.
He was present in love, in grace, in power and He bestowed upon us the greatest gift there ever was and will ever be: Himself.
“How I long for the months gone by,
for the days when God watched over me,
when his lamp shone on my head
and by his light I walked through darkness!
Oh, for the days when I was in my prime,
when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house,
when the Almighty was still with me
and my children were around me,
when my path was drenched with cream
and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil.”
- Job 29:1-6
We were nearing the end of our 12-day anniversary trip through parts of Europe. We had rented a car and had ended up in Northern Spain. We were in absolute honeymoon delight visiting palaces, beaches, restaurants and friends. Our daily walks, talks and hand-holding were things I could get used to. But our precious girls, whom we missed terribly, awaited us and we became more eager to see them.
It came unexpectedly, the sudden anxiety, stomach pain and nausea. One minute I had been enjoying kisses on the beach and the next I was laying in bed in fetal position totally inconsolable. I wanted the pain and discomfort to go away. In my head I kept repeating “please, not again.” I remembered all too well the last time I had felt this sick 3 years prior and I didn’t want to go back there ever again. I scrambled to figure out what had happened and why these symptoms had overcome me so quickly.
I longed for the days just 2 weeks earlier where I was in my home cooking and playing with the girls; the simple, yet fulfilling days of taking care of my family: soccer practice, dinner, homework, bath time and giggles. I so desperately wanted to transplant myself to one of those days. I became desperately homesick and I was 5,649 miles away from home.
I traced my steps and figured out that the sandwich I had eaten earlier in the day was the likely culprit. So if it was food poisoning then it would pass in 24 hours time. I quickly realized, however, it wasn’t going to pass so quickly and I still had 3 days and 3 flights ahead of me before reaching home.
“I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.
You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
you toss me about in the storm.
- Job 30:20-22
I pleaded with The Lord. I questioned The Lord. I waited for The Lord, to no avail. The pain seemed to increase and the anxiety along with it. My visits to the bathroom increased and I was awfully weak and altogether bedridden the last day of our trip. The huge mountain that lay ahead of me at this point: 2 flights (14 hours total) taunted me. I pleaded with The Lord. I questioned Him. I waited for Him, again.
In the meantime, my husband’s sweet and tender care were all God’s blessings and love poured over me. He made every effort to nurse me back to health. He never left my side and he prayed over me and read me Psalm 91.
As I think about the last three days and the pain and anguish, what sticks out to me most now is that it served a purpose. Marriage was designed to demonstrate the relationship God has with His church/His people. It is through our husbands that He pours out His great and unconditional love for us. It is perfect, tender, unending love. Marriage is a gift that should not be taken for granted but rather nurtured and prayed over.
In the middle of the storm, I pleaded with God to take away the pain and anxiety. I begged that He who holds us in His hands would end it. He chose not to because it would serve a purpose as we see Job’s anguish did too.
But He never left me alone. He got me through every step of the way. When I could no longer mumble my prayers and could just say “Jesus, Jesus, “ He rescued me out of the prison I was in. When I felt emotionally, spiritually and physically weak, He strengthened me. And He brought me home to my precious and darling girls!
Though the process of physical healing is still not over, I know that I know that I know that He who holds us in His hands showers us with His perfect love, “agape” love even when we can not see it.
Be encouraged today oh sweet reader. Jesus is your great comforter, lover and provider. The mountain is enormous, the storm tempestuous, the struggle impossible. But remember “...’With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ “
Held by His perfect love,
Damaris U. Avila lives with her loving husband and their two inquisitive and sweet girls. Through personal storytelling, she invites women to share and see themselves in God's story. She leads young girls through BeYOUtiful Girl Time, a sisterhood where girls are encouraged to become the women God designed them to be.
"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people."