“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

~ Ephesians 4:32

IMG_0393At our Spring Hope4Hollywood Ladies Tea: Stories of Courage, Mary Taylor shared how God challenged her to forgive. Read her courage in action:

My brother Jamie was three years older, and loved to shall we say, annoy me. Despite growing up in the same house, we never learned to talk, to share, to help each other. We were strangers who occupied the same camp, with an unspoken truce drawn. I felt a true sense of loss and regret.

Fast forward a few decades where we each had one child yet rarely saw one another. Then in 2012 Jamie developed throat cancer. My four other siblings were unable to be with him, and I was 2,000 miles away. That left me out right? Well, no. The Lord ever so gently laid it on my heart that I was the one to go, saying, “This will be blessing for you.” “God, how could this be a blessing for me? I questioned out loud. “Because you have always wanted to know your brother better.”

One night a few weeks later as I helped Jamie into bed, I realized that his shoulders that once were so broad and strong, were now bony. The little boy who had once teased me was now scared, sad, quiet, and dependent on me. I held him close as we both cried. As each day passed, I could feel the change happening more and more–we were seeing each other through new eyes. I wasn’t a stranger any more, I was his sister who could pray and laugh with him again.

Ephesians tells us to be kind and tenderhearted, forgiving one another as Jesus did. I realized that when Jamie and I let go of the past we discovered that tenderhearted feeling, that positive force of God called forgiveness. I learned that His grace was sufficient for us, and it will be for you too. Trust Him.

Who do you need to forgive?

How can you rely on God’s courage to take steps towards reconciliation?

~In July, Mary Taylor delivered a eulogy for her brother Jamie who passed away.

You can read more of Mary’s stories at her website: theschoolmarm.com

~Learn how to take practical steps of forgiveness at our Fall Forgiveness Journey beginning Sept 10. (Join us in person or via Skype) More info here: https://hope4hollywood.com/current-study/

 

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Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-11

At our Spring Hope4Hollywood Ladies Tea: Stories of Courage, Leslie Carcamo shared how God grew her courage through struggles of being born with Spina Bifida. Here is an excerpt from her testimony:

“My story of courage begins even before I was born. When my mother was 4 months pregnant, God began to infuse her with the courage that she would pass on to me. The doctors insisted that she have an abortion because they were convinced that I would never walk. My mother persisted, however, and on April 25, 1989 I was born with Spina Bifida. Out of the 3 types of Spina Bifida I was diagnosed with the most severe type. Minutes after I was born I was taken away from my parents for my first surgery.

During my teenage years I became very frustrated with myself which slowly descended into a dark depression. I even questioned my existence. Although I never suffered from bullies, I was my own bully. I constantly told myself: “I am not good enough.” I was in and out of the hospital for surgeries and often missed a lot of school.  1 Corinthians 12:10 says “…for when I am weak, then I am strong.” I believe that in moments of weakness and hopelessness we collide with God’s strength and find courage. These “collisions” have helped me to break through a mindset of defeat and ignited a belief in God’s promises for my life.

In 2011 I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication-TV Production. Today I drive a car which many (including myself) thought impossible and in 2015 I went to Malaysia for 3 months to study Ministry.  I now realize that my true limitations are not physical, but in my mind. After many surgeries, I have been left with physical scars on my body which are a constant reminder of God’s strength and power at work in my life. Most of all, I am learning every day how to hold onto the courage my mom passed on to me 28 years ago.

Where in your life are you facing insurmountable obstacles?

How can you rely on God’s strength and courage in the midst?

On coming to the house…they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” ~ Matthew 2:11

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Three wise men traveled afar to bring three specific gifts to the baby in the manger. These gifts were chosen based on who Jesus would become.  Gold, associated with Kings, pointed to Jesus as the King of Kings. Frankincense, an oil used in Jewish worship and anointing, demonstrated that Jesus is worthy of worship. And Myrrh, a perfume used in burial, foreshadowed Jesus’ suffering and death.
 Jesus calls us to bring ourselves to Him as a gift this Christmas. However, the experiences we’ve had often makes as feel as though we are unworthy to be given as a gift. Maybe we even feel like our life is like a 5 dollar white elephant gift. But perhaps this is what Jesus is planning. An exchange, where we bring something  broken or worthless in hopes of trading for something better?
Isaiah 61 says:
I will bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.
 
This Christmas, let us exchange what we have for what God is offering. In exchange for our sorrow, let us unwrap His gift of joy. In exchange for our pain, let us receive His comfort. And in exchange for our fear, let us open the gift of peace.
 
Which of God’s gifts do you need this Christmas?
 
How will you unwrap His gift today?
 

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”~ Psalm 34:18

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At our Fall Hope4Hollywood Ladies Tea: Stories of Faith, Veronica Garcia shared how God grew her faith in the midst of struggles with a broken heart. Here is an excerpt from her testimony:

“I turned the big 30 this year and I told myself I wanted to do things I’ve never done before. I’d been single for 10 years, which is crazy to believe but that’s how long I prayed to God that I didn’t want another break-up and broken heart and would just prefer to wait for my next boyfriend, my husband-to-be. It wasn’t until February this year that I ended up meeting online a really awesome and sweet guy. According to his profile, he was a follower of Christ and we shared a common love of music, art, the outdoors and food! He did the right things that impressed me right away by calling me, pursuing me and even taking me out on a proper date. Soon after, just two months into our relationship, my boyfriend broke up with me. This was a very hard hit because from the way things were going, I really believed it was heading for a possibility of marriage some day and he had expressed those things as well. So I was left feeling really confused, angry, hurt and crushed.

I started taking morning walks by myself and during those, God and I had many conversations. I kept asking, “Why did this have to happen? Why did I even start dating? Why did you bring him into my life to end this way?” I was tempted to carry the label ‘unwanted’ with me but I knew this was a huge lie from the enemy. A lot of mornings I felt like God wanted me to pour out my heart and my questions while I remained silent. Some mornings I just walked and played worship songs. I wanted to let those words wash over me and position me back in a posture of worship. One afternoon, I listened to a song that so intimately spoke to me as the words felt so familiar to my situation:

Tell Your Heart to Beat Again
by Danny Gokey

 

You’re shattered like you’ve never been before, the life you knew, in a thousand pieces on the floor.
And words fall short in times like these, when this world drives you to your knees.
You think you’re never gonna get back, to the you that used to be.
Tell your heart to beat again, close your eyes and breathe it in.
Let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace.  

 

Then I started hearing God, not answering the why questions but just telling me to open my eyes and see what He would do around me. I felt God tell me that it was finally time to come out of my pit of sorrow and start proclaiming life back to my heart, my mind and my soul.”

Where is your heart breaking today?

How can you ask God to help you heal your broken heart?

Devotional Contributor: Veronica Garcia  https://veronicagsuazo.wordpress.com

 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” ~John 14:27

word_peace_in_sand_187143Peace Be With You. Shalom. As-Salaam-Alaykum. These greetings show that Peace is central to the life of faith. However, we live in a world where the threat of violence both locally and abroad has become the norm. Recent events have left us wondering: Is peace even possible?

In John 14:27, Jesus promises to give us His peace. The peace Jesus offers will ease our troubled hearts and calm our fears. However Jesus’ peace is different from the world’s, because He calls us to go beyond personal peace to become peacemakers. In other words, rather than just seeking peace for ourselves, He calls us to share the peace we find with all who seek hope. In light of the perpetual violence we see again and again, we must remember that peace is powerful. For it is His peace that has the power to not only change our lives, but also the world around us.

What peace has God given you?

How will you share this peace with others today?

 

 

 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” ~Ephesians 2:8-9

AGR6CMBIn Ephesians, Paul explains grace as an unearned, “not able to work for” gift from God. As a gift, grace needs to be received and opened. God’s grace has the divine power to rescue and save us, not just eternally but daily.

However, the world gives us mixed messages about grace. Author Max Lucado writes in his book Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine, “We talk as if we understand the term. The bank gives us a grace period. The seedy politician falls from grace. We describe an actress as gracious and a dancer as graceful. We use the word for hospitals, baby girls, and pre-meal prayers. We talk as though we know what grace means. But we’ve settled for a wimpy grace that never causes trouble or demands a response” (7). This week, let us take time to receive God’s grace. Let’s embrace grace.

Where in your life do you need to embrace grace?

How will you share this gift with others this week?

 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~Phillipians 2:3-4

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In this post, H4H Team member Veronica Garcia shares her insight from her recent participation in our H4H “Gifts of Imperfection” e-course.

As I went through Brene Brown’s “Gifts of Imperfection” e-course, one guidepost titled “Letting Go of Comparison” stood out to me. Brene teaches that truly letting go of comparison is a practice which requires constant awareness. She also taught that tapping into our creativity allows our individual and original expressions to be unique, and in turn, help us to stop seeing ourselves as “ahead or behind, best or worst” (Brown, 98).

This has been a constant struggle as I tend to look to others and measure their successes and failures up to mine. Living and working in Los Angeles’ entertainment industry continually brought up this insecurity in me. However, going through H4H’s ecourse  and discussing weekly Bible passages brought me a new perspective. It helped me to appreciate my gifts and encouraged me to embrace the journey that God has me on. I’ve been challenged to look for ways to serve those I compare myself to and may be jealous of. I had never thought of turning this insecurity into such a positive action. Most of all, I was reminded we are all on a purposeful journey that no one else can walk through but us!

In what ways do you compare yourself to others?

Instead of comparing yourself  to others, what specific ways can you serve them this week?

Devotional Contributor: Veronica Garcia https://veronicagsuazo.wordpress.com/

 

 

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!  Do you not perceive it? ” ~Isaiah 43:19

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On the first day of the new year, we greet one another saying, “Happy New Year!” This first day is “happy” because after what was a challenging 2015, the New Year is a time for renewal. We set goals, make new resolutions, and celebrate the hope of things to come.

Isaiah reminds us that God grants the grace to start anew saying, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Do you not perceive it?” Perceiving the “new thing” that God is doing is not simply forgetting the difficult things in our past, but rather it is allowing God to renew our hope, strength, and perspective. Ultimately, the “thing” God is making “new” this year is us.

Where do you need God’s renewal?

How will you allow Him to make you new this year?

 

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” ~Isaiah 9:2

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During the holidays, Christmas lights decorate our homes inside and out. We wrap our Christmas trees with lights and hang them from our roof. These lights switch on at night so they shine brightly and beautifully in the darkness.

The prophet Isaiah also spoke about light saying, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”

Our small, strung together lights not only display the beauty of Christmas, but also as Isaiah teaches, help dispel the darkness. As we celebrate with lights this season, let us be mindful that shining our lights will illuminate the world around us.

How has God’s light dawned in your life?

Where is He calling you to shine your light today?

” Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” ~1 Thess. 5:18

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Thanksgiving is the time of year when family and friends gather to share food and fellowship. But we all know that the best part of Thanksgiving is the leftovers where we get to turn one elaborate meal in many more enjoyable meals.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul states, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” If God’s will is for us to give thanks in all circumstances, perhaps these are the “spiritual leftovers” of Thanksgiving. God is calling us to turn a one day a year holiday into a daily practice of giving thanks.

What are you most thankful for?

In what ways can you express your gratitude today and every day?