Thousandth Generation

Over Christmas, we went to Mississippi to see family. While we were there, on one occasion, my grandparents, mom, brother, and I were all sitting around the kitchen table. My Nana was telling us that when my Papa and her were raising my mom and aunt, they had wanted to start a housing unit/apartments for single mothers and their children – who could otherwise not afford.

My mom said that that was so interesting, because now our family works and helps single mothers. How fascinating is it that God can pass those desires on to the next generation?

And that reminded me, or the Holy Spirit reminded me, of a verse in Scripture. Several, actually, are fairly similar, so I’ll list them all.

“‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,” ~ Exodus 34:6b-7a

“For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments,” ~ Exodus 20:5-6

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,”                   ~ Deuteronomy 7:9

In my ESV Bible, it says that when the Scripture says “thousand” or “thousands” here, it is referring to it in the sense of generations.

GENERATIONS. Y’all, how crazy is that?

We read the first part, like in the second passage, and think, ‘oh how could God put that on the children?’ But there’s always more to it than what we first see.

When you look at the Scripture, the whole Scripture, you begin to realize how tiny three or four generations (and at that, this only applies to those who hate God) is compared to a thousand generations.

Note: Anyone can come to faith in Jesus, repent, and start anew.

If you estimate about every thirty years – give or take – a new generation collectively begins, then this gets even larger. This means that, if you take it at its literal/face-value context, the Scripture is basically saying a period of time equaling about THIRTY-THOUSAND YEARS. 30,000.

That is amazing.

Now that we understand this, let’s recall what the Scripture was saying.

“keeping steadfast love for thousands,” 

showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments,”

and

“who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.”

I love the concept of the Holy Spirit DNA. Granted, when I say that I am not asserting that being in a Christian family makes you saved. It does not. Becoming a believer is a choice that no one else can make for you, but you.

Loin devant #lecarrouselparis @yo.saba.saba:

However, Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The way children are raised has an incredibly powerful impact on whether or not they will even have a walk with Jesus. Does that mean if you weren’t raised in a Christian family you will not become a believer? Or if you have raised your children to follow Jesus, that they will not turn from that? No. Free will must still be accounted for, but as the Proverb says, a child is not as likely to depart from a parent’s teaching.

I think that it’s so cool how the Lord can put a desire in the heart of the parent – to begin planting those seeds. Yet, not mean for it to come into fulfillment until the next generation.

As I’m writing this, the Holy Spirit reminded me of another incidence where this occurred. David and Solomon.

“Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.'” ~ 2 Samuel 7:1-2

Here, David is finally at rest. He is king and from the text, does not appear to be fighting. But he realizes something: while David is living in a marvelous home, the ark of God was still in a structure made of cloth. He desires to build the Lord a home for the ark. What a godly thought to have! Who wound possibly refute that? But, in God’s plan, it was not yet time for this to occur.

“‘When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.'” ~ 2 Samuel 7:12-13

The Lord, here, is referring to Solomon. Solomon will build a house in the name of God. And that is exactly what happened. King:

“Then he called for Solomon his son and charged him to build a house for the Lord, the God of Israel. David said to Solomon, ‘My son, I had it in my heart to build a house to the name of the Lord my God. But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth. Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.” Now, my son, the Lord be with you, so that you may succeed in building the house of the Lord your God, as he has spoken concerning you.'” ~ 1 Chronicles 22:6-11

I think this is so cool, because it reminds me of my family. My Nana and Papa had a desire to start a housing establishment for single mothers and their children to live in. They wanted to help them. However, God did not intend for that to occur yet.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” ~ Isaiah 55:8-9

Instead, the Lord had His plan. And my family and I became involved with single mothers and helping them, and their children.

~ Southern Dreamer

Compassion and Grace ~ A Journal Entry

Recently, I found a passage in the Bible that really touched me. The whole chapter is Isaiah 54. As someone who struggles with perfectionism, I often times tend to see God almost as a dictator. I find myself often thinking, oh no, I just thought that. And that thought usually ends up going in the direction of me fearing punishment from the Lord.

"Shame says that because I am flawed, I am unacceptable. Grace says that though I am flawed, I am cherished.":

Isaiah 54:10 says, “‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

That’s not the only mention of ‘compassion,’ in Isaiah 54, however. Other references to it are, “but with great compassion I will gather you” and “with everlasting love I will have compassion on you.”

For some reason, I tend to forget the fact that God doesn’t expect me to be perfect. He knows I’m a flawed human. He is not expecting me to think, say, or do the right thing all the time. Psalm 103:8 states, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” and a few verses later it says, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

Merriam Webster defines mercy as, “kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly,” gracious as, “marked by kindness and courtesy,” and compassion as, “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”

Next time my mind starts going in that habitual way of thinking, I am going to try and remind myself of the type of God we serve, one who is merciful, gracious, compassionate, and understanding.

God's Grace by southern-dreams on Polyvore featuring art:

Note: I created the second picture/collage, but the quote is not mine. And the other picture comes from Pinterest 🙂

 

The Bird of Hope ~ A Journal Entry

I’ve always loved to write. Even from a young age, I would staple and tape my own paper books together. Besides story-telling though, I also enjoy writing poetry. Songs, I believe, are a form of poetry. They are poetry with music. The hymn ‘Amazing Grace,’ after all, did not always have music accompanying it. I like to think that it was more of a poem, than a song, in its original state.

Picking one poem that is my favorite, really is an impossible task. There are so many beautiful ones! However, for some reason or another, a poem by Emily Dickinson has always stuck in my mind.

‘Hope is the thing with Feathers’

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
 bird of hope by southern-dreams on Polyvore featuring art:

I love this poem. Even though it’s short, the message of it is important. Hope. Hope is a powerful thing. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” This is so true.

In my own life, I’ve gone through times where I’ve struggled with doubts and worries. And one time in particular, caused me to feel exactly what that verse says: sick. Fear drowns out hope. Worry only amplifies that.

It is critical for us to remember this, so that when we do go through difficult times, we can consciously cling tightly to the anchor of hope that has brought many a weary traveler far.

Grace…Not Perfection

Well. You’ve probably figured by now that I’m a perfectionist.

Full House! One of my favorite shows growing up!

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Anyway.

Now that we’ve covered that I am a perfectionist, the rest of this post will probably make more sense.

As a perfectionist, legalism is something I struggle with. I want to do everything right. All the time.

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Ah. Mary Poppins. Sadly, however, I do not do everything perfectly. And this…sort of drives me crazy. Especially in my relationship with God.

If I don’t read my Bible in the morning, forget to read Scripture altogether, or neglect any sort of devotional reading…it’s instant guilt.

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My mind whispers…you must be a terrible Christian. What kind of Christian doesn’t read their Bible every single day? Or forgets to read it?

Yep. Good ‘ole perfectionism. Constantly lurking in the back of my brain.

Logically, I “know” what God’s grace means. We’re no longer under condemnation. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

Heck, Romans 11:6 takes it a step further, saying, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

And my brain is all like…

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I can’t wrap my mind around the fact of grace. In the world we live in, the grace that Jesus offers doesn’t exist. And adding my naturally perfectionist nature to that, my reaction is more or less…

When you’re sitting in class and the professor dares call on you: | Community Post: 27 Times "Hannah Montana" Accurately Described Being A College Student

Recently, I was heavily feeling that perfectionist, legalist guilt. I had not read my Bible in the morning three days in a row – *gasp*

And then I saw this, scrolling through Instagram one of those nights.

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Cue me staring at that for several seconds like a deer in the headlights.

Well. God couldn’t have gotten clearer. He may as well have painted it in neon colors: LET MY GRACE BE ENOUGH.

I’m literally blanking on what to write after that. I think that was the message that God wanted me to share with y’all. So my fellow perfectionists, as we battle the enemy of perfection, let’s remember God’s wondrous grace and that we no longer have to fear his reaction if we mess up.

Jesus died for that. His blood covers all of our screw ups: little, small, and big.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Heck, I know half the time I’m still thinking ‘oh crap, I just thought/did this. How is God going to punish me?’

And that’s totally not how He wants me to think. Sure, there are consequences. But as Amy Carroll said in Breaking Up with Perfect (a book I’m currently reading), one of the lies of perfectionism is that, “God is a taskmaster who rations out love in measure with our output.”

That, of course, is not true at all. God is not a taskmaster. He will love us regardless of whether or not we are “perfect” and have everything “together.”

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As we go into this weekend, I hope we can all remember to accept the grace that God so readily gives!

~ Southern Dreamer

 

Prison of Fear

Everyone has fears. Some are small, others are big, and then, there are those that completely and totally overwhelm us.

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Fear is a tricky thing. It can creep up slowly and over time; perhaps subconsciously, until it rears its ugly head in our face. In other cases, it can come suddenly and without announcement. Maybe you’ve been through something traumatic and suddenly things that you did not fear before, are now quite terrifying.

I think, sometimes, we visualize fear in a one dimensional picture: snakes, the dark, experiencing change. But fear can also be the root cause of other issues in our life. Perfectionism (I fall into this category :p): fearing that you must be perfect, fearing the punishment or reaction if you are not. Being a people-pleaser: fearing that you have to make everyone happy, fearing the reaction of others if you say something that contradicts their own beliefs.

In the Bible, there are over a 100 references where it says, “fear not” or “do not be afraid” (http://www.openbible.info/topics/living_life_to_the_fullest). By that sheer number, it’s apparent that Jesus knew we were going to have fear – BUT, that we do not have to be afraid.

John 10:10 says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

God wants us to live life in the freedom of our salvation. He does not want fear to keep us from experiencing the blessings He offers. Of course, this is easier said than done. I know in my own life, its very easy to say, ‘oh, I’m not going to be afraid. I’m going to give this to the Lord,’ but quite another to actually follow through with it.

2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Yet as the verse above says, God has given us a spirit full of power, love, and self-control. All components that help to combat fear.

Power is the Holy Spirit. If you really desire to be free from fear, this is where everything starts. The others are important too, but without the Holy Spirit, we’re trying to drive a car without gas.

The Bible says in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” Think of a time when you felt completely safe and secure. Was it when you were wrapped in the arms of your father or mother? Watching a movie in bed with your brother or sister? Similarly, God’s love is our security. We do not have to worry whether or not He will love us one moment and stop the next. His love is perfect, unfailing, and encompassing. Jesus demonstrated the greatest form of love there is: dying for us when we were still stuck in the mud of sin and unrighteousness. His love overcomes fear

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Jeremiah 31:3 and Proverbs 8:35

 

Self-control is the last one mentioned in 2 Timothy. This is where our ‘homework’ comes into play. You have to want to be free from fear and be willing to do the necessary work. Self-control does not include only physical actions, but the discipline of the mind – which can be harder in many ways since it is not a tangible thing.

And Jesus does not expect us to fight our fears or anxiety alone! Sometimes I completely forget that I can ask Him to help me to not be afraid; I’m so set on how can I solve this or how I can work through this, that I neglect the one being who can help me through anything.

Being willing to ask for help – tell a close family member or friend. Expose light onto the fear so it cannot continue to ravage around in your mind, rely on God, and put in the effort are all important parts of overcoming fear. Fear doesn’t go away on its own. It must be a conscious decision to defeat it.

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Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

~ Southern Dreamer

To Read, To Memorize

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People always wonder how to hear the Holy Spirit – to discern what is their own thought and what is God speaking to them. Obviously there is not an exact “take-home” formula for this, but there is at least one area where God has and can surely use to speak to His children: Scripture.

God can do anything, of course, but if we do not invest ourselves in His Word then the likelihood that Scripture is how we will hear Him speak does lessen, I think. Many times in our busy day-to-day lives it can seem like a tiresome task to sit down and put away everything else, to solely focus on Jesus and the Bible (I myself am guilty of this).

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At the beginning of this year, I started a chronological reading guide to the Bible. For someone who was struggling to make time to read the Scripture – and not just a devotion, and also likes structure/plans, this has proven to be a helpful tool to use.

If you’re like me, and have been struggling to make time to read the Bible, I would encourage you to either make up your own daily reading plan – perhaps a Psalm or Proverb’s a day – or Google one online to utilize.

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I remember a few years ago, when my computer was crashing. I was naturally upset because basically all of my Word documents were lost. And for a writer, that is one of the worst things that can happen.

At some point that day, I can’t remember when exactly, the v came into my mind:

(*part of Matthew 17:20*) “if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Now, I had never memorized that verse before and that’s when I knew it was the Holy Spirit who was telling me that. Yes, I had briefly read it – once, maybe twice – but I had never committed it to memory.

God used that Scripture, that at some point in my life I had read, to encourage me. If I had never read it, would that still have occurred? It very well could have since the Holy Spirit does not have to depend on our knowledge to tell us things. But the point of me saying this, is to show the importance of reading Scripture.

Joshua 1:8 says, “you shall meditate on it [Bible] day and night,” and Psalm 1:2 echoes it, “on his law he meditates day and night.”

Let us all become more invested in the Word of God, so that as Psalm 1 says, we may become, “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.”

~ Southern Dreamer

Imperfect Prayers

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Do you ever feel so much pressure to be perfect? I know that I do, and for all my fellow perfectionists out there, it can be an awful burden to carry can’t it?

Many times, I find myself praying to the Lord and as I am, any one of these thoughts could very well be flowing through my mind:

Is it too short?

This sounds terrible…

Did I already repeat that?

And the root of each comes from the fact that I feel a need to pray perfectly.

But the truth is, that Jesus does not require us to be perfect people, do perfect actions, or even, pray perfectly. The entire message of the Gospel is grace. Grace is a concept that I find so difficult to grasp and my perfectionism likely only extenuates that struggle.

Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

Grace hinges on the fact that you aren’t perfect (I see all you perfectionists cringing ;)). And as much as we hate the thought of that, it’s true. We are not perfect and never will be.

It’s something that is so easy to say, yet rather hard to put into practice: being alright with not being perfect. And I would be a hypocrite if I said that I am 100% ok with not being perfect, and not attaining what in my mind is the “perfect” standard.

Psalm 119:96 says, “I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.”

Right there, it says that there is a limit to how “perfect” we can get in our humanity. There is only so much we can do. And even with Christ and the Holy Spirit, we will never be perfect until we come into heaven and are given our eternal bodies.

Understanding this can be freeing, but really changing how your mind is set is much more difficult than “knowing” it. You can know anything and not change your thought habits or actions. Part of recovering from perfectionism – so to speak, is, I believe, giving yourself permission to not be perfect. And to not equate being imperfect or messing up as failure.

Because most perfectionists, myself included, see screwing up as failing. And we hate failure.

C.S. Lewis said, “Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success” (A/N: Taken from BrainyQuote website).

As you find yourself during your prayer time, thinking that yours is inadequate, remember that each fail forward is a step towards a better prayer life. And even if praying eloquently is never your gift, that’s ok. Jesus never said, “Thou shalt pray perfectly.” He did say, however, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

I hope that we all will find the freedom in not burdening ourselves with the ideal of praying perfectly.

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~ Southern Dreamer

 

Trust

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Trust. That one word that can ignite so many different emotions in people: fear – can I really unveil my heart to someone without it being stomped on?, anger – betrayal by one previously held in your confidence, and for maybe, a few, excitement.

Nevertheless, trust has a different meaning in all of our souls. Yet…the one being we should trust the most, the one who is the most trustworthy – God, is sometimes the least trusted of all.

Why is that? Why does the idea of really, truly, utterly trusting God incur such fright? The One who is literally incapable of being fault-worthy in someone’s trust?

Could, it possibly be, that we have become jaded by the humanity around us? Those who have manipulated our trust…disclosed our trust…or perhaps, maybe even worst, did not come through when we trusted them with something of our heart. They failed us.

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I, for one, struggle with trusting others. Especially after my trust in someone backfired. It caused me to close off – to not want to be vulnerable again. Do you find yourself battling these same emotions?

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Although I still struggle with unveiling my heart to others, my trust in God has definitely increased. And I think a major component of it is belief. Having the faith that He is going to come through for me. Really, truly believing that makes ALL the difference.

“He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you’” (Matthew 17:20, ESV).

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I love that last line – “nothing will be impossible for you.” And this is in the context of having faith the size of a mustard seed. Do you know how small, how miniscule these seeds are? Look, below, at the picture. Jesus is saying that if we would just have the faith of a mustard seed we could move mountains. Maybe it’s a mountain of fear, or a mountain of addiction. Or maybe…it’s a mountain of jaded, distrust.

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Mountains don’t move by themselves. But when you pair faith, the power of the Holy Spirit, and a willing heart that is all in, truly anything can be done. Trust can be restored and strengthened.

And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him” (Mark 11:23).

~ Southern Dreamer

*Disclaimer: With the last reference of Scripture, I just wanted to make one, quick note. If what you ask for is not in God’s will then it will not happen.

 

My Favorite Bible Verses

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I hope all of y’all have had a wonderful beginning to your week! 🙂 With school already starting and activities picking up, I’m sure life has sped up for you as it has for me.

Henceforth then, with this thought in mind, I decided to share a few of my favorite Bible verses with you! Continuing to spend time with the Lord even when life gets immensely busy is incredibly important. We do not allow ourselves to starve physically, then why would we ever intentionally starve ourselves spiritually?

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” ~ Joshua 1:9

I love this Scripture because it can apply to literally every area of your life either now or in the future. Fear and discouragement are two feelings that we experience whether we are five or fifty. This is a great verse to recall whenever fear has snatched onto your mind.

“Even perfection has its limits, but your commands have no limit,” ~ Psalm 119:96

This short verse is a good one to use if you struggle with perfectionism like myself. It reminds me that human attempts at perfection are limited and few, but God’s Word and grace have no limit.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit,” ~ Psalm 34:18

Unlike the other verses, this one was told to me specifically by the Holy Spirit during a moment where I was struggling with anger towards Him. I find it amazing how this is the Scripture He chose to speak to me. Out of all of the ones in the Bible, this one talks about the person or people being discouraged and shattered in spirit while their hearts are broken. It does not say anything about anger or judgment. How marvelous it is that God can see into the deeper issue when we ourselves do not even know it is there.

I hope one of these three Scriptures has ignited an interest and fervor for the Bible within your heart! Have a wonderful week and remember to spend time with our Heavenly Father!

~ Southern Dreamer