There are very few Westerns I am interested in. The last one I really remember loving was Tombstone. Yes, it was a movie not just a pizza, and now you know I am really much older than you thought. Today the kids and I went to see The Magnificent Seven. First, it was great. But this is not a movie review. I only mention it because there was a line in the movie that really struck me. Not like “Wow! That was good,” but like “Wow!That is truth.”
A small town is being taken over by thieves, and a man named Sam gathers a group of men to help fight for the townspeople. Sam has a painful past, and as the men make their way to the town, one of Sam’s friends asks Sam why they are going to enter this fight. Sam tells him the people need their help, but his friend knows Sam’s past, and his response is stunning. He says, “Just making sure we’re fighting a battle in front of us not behind.”
Just making sure we’re fighting a battle in front of us not behind.
So I ask you, are you fighting a battle in front of you or behind? If you aren’t sure, here’s a clue—if it involves regret or shame—it is probably a battle behind you. This is so important! We have to know what we are fighting and why.
As a mom, as a wife, as a believer there are a lot of battles ahead of you. I’m sorry if this is news to you. I hate to be the one to tell you, but someone had to. You are at war. You have an enemy. I will give you some strategy though:Pay attention to the battle you are in. The enemy loves to wear us out fighting for something that has already been won. Your past has passed. If you have sin that you haven’t confessed or apologies you haven’t offered, go take care of business with the Lord and those He brings to mind. But if you have placed your sin and brokenness in His hands, there is no place for shame or regret.
The Apostle Paul said, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
If anyone had reason to get stuck in shame and regret it was Paul. He was basically a first century terrorist. He approved and assisted in the killing of Christians to the point he was known and feared by them. And here he is saying to forget what is behind. We cannot literally forget our past. I don’t think that would even be a healthy thing for us to attempt. Sometimes we do have to revisit the past to allow the Lord to heal areas of hurt, but we e don’t have to live there. We don’t have to do battle there. And we can let go of the shame and condemnation because our sins have been paid for by Jesus on the cross. And we can press forward—keeping our eyes on where we are headed and Who we are headed toward and not looking back in regret and shame. That battle is behind us.
So, I encourage you today to look at your battles. Are you fighting the right one? When we let go of the battle over our past, we have energy to fight the battle at hand. For our hearts and our families today. No matter what our mistakes or sins have been, no matter how much failure we have experienced or the brokenness we grew up in—our future is the same in Christ Jesus. The ground is level at the cross. We all need a Savior. If Jesus can transform a Saul into a Paul, imagine what He can do with you. Pick the right battle. Satan wants to keep you in the past, so you never step into your future. You have a glorious future in Jesus, not just eternity with Him beginning in heaven, but eternity with Him beginning now – bringing light into darkness here and on earth, defeating the powers of darkness. Your battle is today. And your victory is assured.
Jesus, show us what battles we have been fighting that are behind us. Make sure we are fighting the battle in front of us. Settle in our hearts and in our spirits anywhere we are struggling with shame or regret and wrestling with things that need to be laid to rest at Your feet. Fill us with Your peace over our past, so we can press on toward all You have for us.
Author: Brooke Kireta
When my kids were younger, we made chocolate chip muffins almost every Saturday morning.
I had the luxury of raising my kids before the gluten–free, non-GMO, organic craze hit, so I could make, without guilt, Betty Crocker muffins. I know, so awesome. I can feel your jealousy. Or your judgment, it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.
But I digress. Back to muffin making.
Chocolate chip muffin mix was a staple in my pantry. (Don’t judge. I feel you trying not to. You can do it.)
Some days I would ask the kids to help me make muffins just because I liked spending time with them.
They would line the muffin cups with paper liners. Then we would mix all the ingredients together, spoon them into the cups, and wait for them to bake.
One day I was spending some time with the Lord really struggling with prayer.
Specifically why we pray.
It seems at times like my prayers don’t make a difference.
It was the struggle of—if God is just going to do what He’s going to do—why do I pray?
And in the middle of this conversation, the Lord started talking to me about muffins.
He reminded me of all the times I had made muffins for my children (and it is quite a few…I still feel no shame over it…)
Sometimes, I was making muffins because muffins were just what I was going to make for breakfast.
Other times, I had asked one of the children if they wanted to help me make muffins because I wanted to do something with them. If they said yes, we had muffins. If they said no, we didn’t have muffins.
Then, other times, my kids approached me and asked me if we could make muffins.
Most of the time I said yes because, well, who doesn’t want muffins??
Sometimes I had to say no. But if they had not asked, we would not have ever had muffins on those days.
As the Lord is showing me all this, He tells me that prayer is a lot like making muffins.
Sometimes, there are things He is going to do whether I ask or not—it’s just what’s for breakfast that day.
Other times, He invites me to partner with Him to accomplish something through prayer.
If I say yes to His nudge and enter into prayer, then His kingdom will come in that area— muffins will be made.
If I say no, if I ignore His invitation, then whatever He is inviting me into partnership over will not happen, there will be no muffins.
Then, other times, I approach Him and cry out for something, and He moves simply because I asked.
He had not planned on muffins, but because I asked, He is going to make some. And sometimes, no matter how I beg or plead or cry, the request I make is not going to happen.
I am not getting muffins.
Sometimes the answer is no.
There is no formula for prayer because it was never meant to be formulaic.
Prayer is relationship. Every time, every situation, is an opportunity for my relationship with Him to grow.
Every time I enter the kitchen with Him and talk to Him while we line the muffin pan and mix ingredients, every time I sit with Him while we wait on the muffins to bake, my understanding of Who He is and how He loves deepens.
We grow closer in the process.
When He tells me I can’t have muffins even when I really want them, I get to grow: I get to learn to love when I don’t get my way;I get to learn to trust when I don’t understand. Every time I enter the dialogue with Him over muffins, I make room for Him to become bigger and greater in my life than before.
So go buy some Betty Crocker chocolate chip muffin mix, turn on some worship music, and tell the kids you and Jesus are making muffins. It will change your life.
Word of the Day:
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2,NIV)
Jesus, teach me how to pray. Not just for answers but to find You in the process. Help me to know You in a real way—to lay down all my attempts to figure You out and get results. Create in me a longing to know You more than anything else.
Author: Brooke Kireta
My youngest is homeschooling this year, which lends itself to downtime. In between subjects, when my brain is trying to recuperate from figuring out high school geometry (which, by the way, I do not consider to be real math... when the answer is in the form of a paragraph it is not math) to decompress, we sit outside and watch the butterflies.
We have two large butterfly bushes and although we have butterflies every year, this year has been something spectacular. Giant yellow and black swallowtails, along with several other varieties, have covered the bushes.
We watch them and photograph them and talk about them because...well, because we are basically giant nerds I guess. Something struck me though as we sat and watched the way they flutter and flit from flower to flower and bush to bush so gracefully and effortlessly.
These beautiful creatures began as caterpillars crawling on the ground. Fat, fuzzy, creepy crawly caterpillars. Not only do they now have gorgeous wings and colors, but they also no longer crawl—they fly!
Of all the superpowers, this is the one most people want. To be able to fly. But that is not even the most remarkable thing: the incredibly striking thing is butterflies never forget they are butterflies.
Not even for a second.
What if they came out of the cocoon with those dazzling wings and a voice whispered (or yelled) to them, You aren’t really a butterfly. Who do you think you are thinking you can fly? You are just a fat, fuzzy caterpillar that will never leave the ground.
What if they heard that voice and in spite of the transformation that had taken place, in spite of the wings now attached to their slim, nimble bodies, they believed they were still what they once were and instead of taking off in flight, they walked away feeling shame that all that time in the cocoon, all that time waiting in the darkness, had produced nothing.
Would they be any less of a butterfly? Of course not, but they would miss the joy of flight.
And others, like myself and Halle, would miss out on the beauty of that flight. And not only would we miss out on their beauty, but our entire ecosystem would be thrown asunder without their performing their designed function for the world. So they would still be butterflies, but they would miss the joy and the purpose of their lives. All because they believed the lie that transformation had not taken place.
Are you believing the lie that you hear whispered in your quiet moments, maybe inside your head, or maybe it’s a voice coming from somewhere around you—friends, family ,church (because the only way we would believe those voices is if they came from someone whose opinion actually mattered to us)—the voice that whispers (or maybe yells), You aren’t really a new creation. Who do you think you are? You are just a big mess and no matter how hard you try, you will never leave the ground.
This is painful to even write because I know how often I still listen to and believe that voice in my own life.
And my failure at times seems to reinforce that maybe I haven’t transformed. Maybe all the time I’ve spent waiting in the dark was just that- waiting in the dark. Not a transformation, not a new creation. Just wasted time in the dark. But I know enough now to know this lie is what the enemy wants me to believe- that I am and will always be what I once was. That all my effort and all my trying has been in vain, that I will never get off the ground.
But maybe that’s not really where the transformation is supposed to take place— in my behavior.
Maybe the cocoon and time in the darkness that really matters is the time Jesus spent there: When He suffered and died, spent three days in the grave, and rose again.
Maybe He was resurrected for my transformation.
Maybe my transformation is less (okay, maybe not just less, but not at all) to do with me and more (okay, everything) to do with Jesus and the price He paid.
Maybe the transformation comes with the believing more than the doing.
If a butterfly spent all its time trying NOT to be a caterpillar- what a waste!
It doesn’t have to try to not be a caterpillar. It’s not a caterpillar! If the resurrection of Jesus made me a new creation then I don’t have to try to be a new creation or to not be an old one. I am a new creation in Christ Jesus.
Grace. Grace. Grace. We must embrace grace. Not just embrace grace but truly and wholeheartedly believe grace is what we actually get. Mostly we believe we get a second chance. “Ok- you screwed this up the first time. Now I’m going to forgive your past- but going forward try to straighten up and act like a Christian.” How utterly hopeless for us if this is true! Thank God, it’s not. But so often we settle for living according to a set of prescribed rules and trying hard not to mess things up again. And when we do- because we will, especially when we are butterflies trying not to be caterpillars- then shame becomes our closest companion instead of the Holy Spirit (Who is actually our Comforter and Teacher not the Shamer and Guilter). We think if we feel guilty enough or bad enough for long enough about our caterpillar behavior then we will finally get it together and get off the ground. So we keep trudging around hoping one day to be good enough to fly and ignoring the beautiful wings that are on our backs.
Jesus is my righteousness.
Jesus is my forgiveness.
Jesus is my new life and my future and my past all at once.
Jesus says I am a new creation in Him.
Jesus says I can fly now.
Not one day later on when I get all this religion stuff down- like memorizing enough scripture or praying without ceasing or all the nots and the shoulds.
Jesus says right now, in this moment, in my weakness and failure and victory and glory (because we all have all of those on any given day) right here I get to use my wings. Today I get to belong to Him and never be unworthy. Never be unloved. Never be left behind or left out. He is mine and I am His.
So why would I spend my life walking around with a new body and wings attached to my back and never fly just because some voice says I can’t? Jesus says I can. Maybe all I need to do is believe Him.
Word of the Day:
“...be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2)
Jesus, thank You for the finished work of the Cross. Thank You for loving us and believing we were worth the price You had to pay. Now help us to believe it. Help us to see ourselves the way You see us—new creations in You. Give us the mind of Christ. Help us to truly believe we aren’t just forgiven, but we are transformed simply by Your life flowing in us and through us. We don’t have to work hard or try hard or behave really well—we just have to believe You are who You said You are and You did what You said You did and that is enough. Give us a heart revelation of grace. Help us see we were made to fly. Amen.
Author: Brooke Kireta
It is 2016, which means Olympics . I love it! The dreams, dedication, and sacrifice of the best of the best …it is inspiring on so many levels. Not inspiring enough to make me put down the cookie dough and start training …but inspiring in other ways.
2016 was truly special because of Michael Phelps. This was Phelps 5th Olympics. His very first Olympic competition was in 2000 and by 2008, he was being compared to Mark Spitz who was considered the greatest swimmer of all time. Phelps’s response to the comparison was incredible.
After saying he was honored to be compared to Spitz, Phelps said, “I don’t want to be the second Mark Spitz. I want to be the first Michael Phelps. I want to do something no one has ever done before.”
Wow. Just wow. I get emotional when I read that quote.
Partially because we now see eight years later that is exactly what Phelps has done, and we are so grateful he never settled for being another version of someone else.
And partially because I know how often I would settle for being the second someone else— sometimes anyone else.
Who do you compare yourself to and come up lacking?
The girl with the perfect figure, the mom whose kids are always well-behaved and well-dressed (okay, they don’t even have to be well dressed...fully dressed would do...not missing shoes or socks or my personal favorite, underwear)
The mom of five who homeschools, runs her own business volunteers for a local charity, and still has a home-cooked meal on the table (she has to have a deal with the devil right?)?
We spend so much time comparing that we never stop to think about who we really are and why we are here.
I was made to be the first Brooke Kireta, not the second someone else.
I was created to bring a piece of God’s glory and character to this earth that no one else can bring. I was made to do something no one else has ever done. And so were you. I think so few of us ever do it because we spend our time trying to redo something someone else has already done and then beating ourselves up because we don’t do it as well as they did.
If we could really grab hold of our true identity and live out of it, we would stop feeling so threatened by others and start celebrating their uniqueness. Because if I don’t have to do something better than you’ve done it—or even as well as you’ve done it— I can sit back and cheer you on in your victories and encourage you in your failures.
Because being who we were created to be and doing something no one has ever done before doesn’t mean we win every time, it doesn’t mean we are the best all the time, it doesn’t mean we are rich and famous or popular and well-known.
It is a place of confidence that we are living out of who we are and are doing what God put in us to do. As we do, we leave a legacy of hope and courage for those who come behind us and beside us.
Word of the Day:
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made
Jesus, let us be the first us that you’ve ever made. Help us to lay down striving and comparison and step into our true identity—to celebrate that we were created to do something no one else has done or will ever do. Let us never settle for being another version of someone else. Let us be encouragers. Let us build up and not tear down. Let us know that someone else does not have to lose for us to take our place— our place in You is secure. There is always more than enough room in a family. So let us truly belong to the family of God as we love ourselves and one another well.
Author: Brooke Kireta
So my life is hard right now. There are days I don’t feel like I’m going to make it.
Life is like that. We are in a world at war between God’s kingdom and the kingdom of darkness.
For this battle, God led me to the story of Jesus walking on water.
The disciples spent all day ministering with Jesus, then Jesus sent them ahead in the boat while He stayed behind to pray. When Jesus was ready to join them, the boat was far from shore and was being buffeted by waves — because the wind was against it.
The disciples were doing what Jesus told them to do, but the wind was against them.
We can be in the middle of God’s will and face ferocious winds.
Jesus came during the fourth watch.
That is 3 am. It’s dark. I have had many 3 am moments hoping and praying the night ends. Because sometimes in a storm, it feels like it never will.
And this is when Jesus decides to come to them. He walks on the waves, through the wind, out of the darkness. And the disciples are terrified.
So often when Jesus comes to us in our storms, we are so disoriented by the waves and the wind we don’t recognize Him. Instead of being filled with reassurance, we are terrified.
But Jesus speaks. He answers their cry immediately and tells them to “take courage. It is I.” If we can recognize Jesus as He comes to us, we can be full of courage.
I am still working on this.
Jesus tells Peter to come. Peter gets out of the boat in battering waves and thrashing winds and walks on the water towards Jesus.
And this is the invitation Jesus is offering me.
He is telling me to walk across the waves and winds of my circumstances. I want to hunker down in the boat in a fetal position and just try not to die, but Jesus offers so much more. He says, Come out and live. See how much bigger I am than whatever life throws at you. Experience Me in a way you never can on smooth seas or in the safety of a boat. Be filled with courage.
It doesn’t take courage to walk on a placid lake. The worst that will happen is you get wet. But waves and winds are scary. It has to be Jesus that I am walking toward, or I’m not going to survive.
So Peter steps out and walks on the water. For a minute anyway. Until he started looking around. At the waves. And the wind. Then he started to sink.
Here is where I can really relate to Peter—in the sinking. I find myself hearing from the Lord in quiet moments, then I walk out of that time alone with Him, and I see the waves and the wind. I start to sink. But Jesus is still faithful and true. Even when we forget what He has said and we start to sink, He reaches out His hand and grabs hold of us. In the moments where we gloriously walk on water and the moments where we sink like a rock—His love for us never changes.
I think we focus so much on Peter sinking that we forget something important: Peter got out of the boat. No one else did. Just Peter. Maybe he sank. But he also walked on water. He experienced the miracle of stepping out on God’s Word and finding it to be true. And he experienced being rescued by Jesus.
So in my fear over what my future holds, I am refusing to stay curled up in the boat. I am stepping out into the unknown, the scary winds, and dangerous waters because I am walking toward the One who can save me.
And He says I can walk on water.
And I would rather risk sinking with Jesus than trying to stay safe in a boat that only holds the illusion of control.
Digging Deeper: Matthew 14:22-31
Author: Brooke Kireta