Theme Word 2023: Patience

The new year is here (2023!) so once again it’s time for me to choose a new theme word to help guide me through the year. Do you do something like this? Some people prefer selecting an anchor verse or word.

Focusing on an over-arching word—a quality, an attitude, or an action—can give me direction all year long and also helps me focus on more fully implementing that new word in my life. It’s a practice I highly recommend. I can honestly say it has benefited me time and again.

This year God directed me to the word patience. Yes, I know most people would be afraid to choose this word for fear of what circumstances God might bring into their lives to give them opportunities to practice patience. But the truth is, God has already placed me in a situation that will require great patience for the forseeable future—and patience is not something that usually comes naturally for me.

Thank goodness patience is a fruit of the Spirit. That means as a child of God, the Holy Spirit who is within me will help me grow in patience as I ask him, yield to him, and depend on him to empower me.

I know it won’t be easy, though, because as long as I’m on this side of heaven, I also have my old sin nature waiting to rise up and war against the refining work the Lord is doing in my life. This makes me doubly thankful for God’s promise to all of us to one day complete the good work he begins in us (Philippians 1:6).

Is there a good work God wants to do in your life this year—a word that he’s led you to claim as your theme word for the year? If so, I’d love to hear about it so I can encourage you along the way. As for me, I’ll be over here patiently growing in patience—I hope!

being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,” Colossians 1:11 NIV

*What is your theme word or anchor verse for 2023?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free! Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

Photo by Girish Dalvi on Unsplash

Comfort and Encouragement for You This Christmas

*I am taking a blogging break the rest of the month. God bless you and yours this Christmas season!

For some of you Christmas may be different this year. Some of you are hurting. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially. I pray my words today will be a balm to your spirit and soul this Christmas season. And never forget—God sees you. He loves you and sent his Son to be your Savior and ever-present Friend.

And now, from my heart to yours:

I’m thinking of you this season, friend,
Knowing your heart must ache,
While others fill their homes with cheer
You must be struggling to just feel normal.
Life’s changes hit fast and hard sometimes
And often knock us to our knees,
It’s okay to take time to rest and heal
It’s okay whatever you’re feeling.
While in the midst of heavy-hearted days
May the joy of Christmas come through at times,
May Christmas peace surround and support you
May you notice things to be grateful for.
And with these thoughts I’m sending love
And hoping both offer some comfort and peace.
May God’s tender touches be yours this season, my friend.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given . . . And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 NIV

*Feel free to share with those you know who are hurting this Christmas but please include attribution “written by Cheryl Barker.” God bless one and all!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, comes out in early February. Sign-up is free! Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by mseckingtonCreative Commons License

We’re Not Too Little to Lead in God’s Eyes

“There is the little tribe of Benjamin, leading them . . .” Psalm 68:27 NIV

I love the nuggets of encouragement found in the Psalms. I think I could read there every day and never tire of it.

The psalmist David wrote the words above as part of a passage that describes the procession of Israel—God’s people—into the temple. And wow, what a scene of celebration and praise. Singers, musicians, maidens playing tambourines. Dancing surely broke out, too, right?

One tiny detail I don’t want us to miss is who lead the procession. It wasn’t Judah, the greatest tribe of Israel. It was Benjamin. The little tribe.

The tribes of Israel were named after the twelve sons of Jacob. Benjamin was the youngest, the little brother (Genesis 49:1-28). Likewise, and as mentioned in Psalm 68, the tribe of Benjamin was “the little tribe,” the smallest in numbers (Numbers 1:20-43). In the standards of the world, Benjamin—the brother and the tribe—probably didn’t have much clout.

But look who was given the pleasure, the privilege, and the responsibility of leading the procession of God’s people into the temple. That’s right. It was Benjamin. The little tribe.

What an example and what encouragement to us. We don’t have to be the biggest and best to be a leader. We can be the little brother, the little sister. We can be small in size, in renown, or in ability. We just need to be willing to serve, to put ourselves out there like the tribe of Benjamin did.

So, if any of us have been feeling too little to lead or too little to fulfill a task God has given us, let’s be encouraged by the little tribe of Benjamin. We too can lead. We too can serve. We’re not too little in God’s eyes.

“I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ,” Ephesians 3:7-8 NIV

*Has God ever used you to be a leader when you felt little?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, comes out today. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free! Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by cbcmemberphotos2477; Creative Commons License

Do It On the Basis of Love

“. . . I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love.” Philemon 9 NIV

Have you ever been asked to do something that the world might call crazy or naïve? Many times as believers we are called to do just that.

The apostle Paul’s words of appeal above come from a letter he wrote to his dear friend and fellow worker Philemon. Philemon’s slave Onesimus had apparently stolen from him or wronged him in some way and then run away. After that, Onesimus met Paul and became a Christian and was then ready to return to Philemon and make things right between them.

This is where Paul came in. He acted as an agent of reconciliation, appealing to Philemon to welcome Onesimus back as if he were welcoming Paul himself (read the short book of Philemon for the entire beautiful story told in just twenty-five verses.)

In other words, Paul said, if you love me, forgive and welcome him. More than that, the implication here is also an appeal to act out of love for Christ—to extend the love that Christ himself would extend.

I wonder if there are any situations in our lives right now where the Lord might be saying, “I appeal to you on the basis of love . . .” Has someone wronged us or someone we love? Or maybe a person noted for bad or even criminal behavior has recently come to know Christ. Many times our first reaction is to say, “Yeah, sure.”

But what would the Lord have us do? I think his message to us would be the same as the one Paul sent to Philemon so many years ago—if you love me, forgive and welcome him.

How can we do any less than offer forgiveness when the Lord has extended unconditional love and forgiveness to each of us? Let’s do what he wants us to do. And let’s do it on the basis of love.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 NIV

*Who will you forgive on the basis of love today?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early November. Sign-up is FREE. *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by qthomasbower, Creative Commons License

Guard and Gift Acrostics: 2022 Theme Words Refresher

**I will be taking a blogging break the rest of this month. See you back here in early August!

Half the year is gone now so it’s time to give more thought to my 2022 theme words for the year—guard and giftFor me, the creative exercise of writing acrostics is an excellent way to go deeper in my consideration of my theme words each year. Doing so helps me think of different aspects of the word.

As I remind myself of and reflect on guard and gift, I pray you are encouraged and inspired to apply these words to your life as well. And not only that, but if you chose a theme word of your own this year, maybe reading this post today will inspire you to do something similar with your word. Whatever the case, friends, may you be blessed as you read!

Give no place to unforgiveness, bitterness, revenge, unkindness, pride, or people-pleasing.

Understand all the wisdom, power, and riches you have in Christ as you seek to make wise decisions and exercise self-control.

Ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and empower you each day to stand against the schemes of the evil one.

Read, memorize, and plant God’s Word in your heart.

Declare that God is your rock, your fortress, your deliverer, your refuge and shield, the horn of your salvation and your stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 NIV

AND

Given by God from the fullness of his grace.

Ideal for your needs in this particular time.

Favor upon favor flowing from love.

Treasure for your spirit, heart, and soul.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 NIV

*What is God saying to you about the words guard and gift today?

*If you’d like to hear more about why I originally chose guard and gift, click over to my 1-4-22 post. Hope it blesses you!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early August. Sign-up is FREE. *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me. p.s. If you sign up after noon July 28th, you will be included in all future Life Notes giveaways but not in this current giveaway.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Randy Tan Travelogue, Creative Commons License