Love is an interesting thing—it has more facets than we can count. One uncommon facet is loving people we only know in public, or who we only know on social media. [I preempt this by clarifying this post is OFF any kind of personal, proverbial soap-box.] Over the years, I’ve had a handful of bold people private-message me on Facebook with the intent to “vent.” Collectively, one assumption I could glean from these, is: they think I have it good. Maybe I do…to them at least. But in my private life and private prayers, I’m battling things and my loved ones are battling things that wouldn’t qualify as “having it good.” I don’t shun people who feel compelled to vent—it comes with the territory of the call. However, one lesson it’s taught me, is: who people are in public isn’t always indicative of what they’re dealing with in private. And Jesus would say, “love them.” Jesus exhorted us to love ourselves, our neighbors, our enemies. In my summation, that would mean loving people we know privately; and those we only know publicly (or on social media). I don’t know which one you fall into, but according to Jesus, it doesn’t matter. The ground is level at the cross and there are enough rooms in our Father’s House. And in the end, love wins. ❤️
Several years ago, I was in the kitchen making DJ a snack, when he struck up a conversation: “Mommy, I want to ask Jesus into my heart.”
“You do? Do you know what that means, DJ?”
“It means I’ll get to go to heaven.”
“It means that He will help me read and write.”
“Can you pray it with me, mommy?”
“DJ, do you know what Jesus did for you?”
“He helps me do everything.”
“Do you know what He did on the cross for you?”
“He died for all my sins.”
Then DJ hopped down, and with Raul, asked Jesus into his heart. When they were done, he came and whispered in my ear, “Now Jesus can speak to me.” That night, we didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t have time to call a parenting hotline or Google, “How to pray with your kid.” But what I do know is Jesus makes himself known to all people, everywhere, all the time (see Ezekiel 38:23, Romans 1:19). For five years and 12 days, He had been making himself known to DJ. And that night, DJ chose to make himself known to Him. I hope you know Him too. ❤️
This question (today’s title) hit me like a Redline Energy Shot. Recognizing I couldn’t get it out of my mind, I yielded to it and used it for today’s post. I hope it encourages someone. Many of us, go many places, many times a week, and “put on” a smile. I suppose an argument could be made that that is fake, but is it? If we were to weigh on scales the amount of times we should show up with a smile vs. show up with sorrow, I believe the scale would tip toward smile. But consider this: if I am a Christ-follower, a smile covering my sorrow isn’t fake, if it is Christ-like. A smile is contagious, so it is a powerful witness. A smile is visual proof that the joy of the Lord is my strength. A smile can turn my entire disposition strong, even if my soul is weak (a powerful rudder for the Heather-ship, says James 3:4-5). A smile is part of God’s creation for my face–He wanted us to have this facial option. Since God smiles upon me (“May the Lord smile on you,” Numbers 6:25) I should smile. But what about the hidden sorrow behind the smile? I’m gonna do what you might not expect: validate the sorrow. Sorrow is REAL! Psychologists (and even the bible) say some may even have a tinge of sorrow their entire life span. But take heart, we are in good company. The bible says Jesus was, “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” (Isaiah 53:3). You’re not fake if you have sorrow behind your smile. Maybe you’re just normal, real, and Christ-like. One caveat to the hidden sorrow, make sure you are not letting it go unattended. For sorrow, left to its own, can become unnecessary depression or hardened bitterness. Deal with your sorrow with Christian counseling (let me know if I can help you find one); and don’t doubt that you are still smiling.
When we choose solitude it is a good thing (Jesus himself chose time for solitude). But sometimes life will give us seasons of UNCHOSEN loneliness. During these, perhaps no one is texting you, “liking” your posts, including you in everything, pouring encouragement into your tank, or all of the above. It’s a big world and you feel like the smallest one in it. Jesus experienced this too. He hung by nails on a cross, separated from the world; and the bible tells us what he did in his final, loneliest moments: he cried to God and he talked to God. If all we depend on is the encouragement of the world–what will we do when the world isn’t there? In my former seasons of unchosen loneliness, I had no access to community. I had to learn to look within (not around) for encouragement. Seeking encouragement from within, I discovered there was a bounty of encouragement there. A “still, small voice” reminding me that I’m God’s royalty! His heir! His favorite Heather Michelle Funk Palacios! My soul whispered to my loneliness that my Master-Artist was still actively showcasing me, His masterpiece, to this world! Maybe others were finished with me, but if HE wasn’t finished with me–I wasn’t finished with me! I learned to encourage myself by His declarations over my life and His promises in His book. Today, if you are “unchosenly lonely,” I hope you seek encouragement from within. They say it’s lonely at the top–your Savior would know from being abandoned atop a cross. So He gets you! And right now, he’s ready to encourage you, from within.
Tonight, will you lay in bed, restless, because you have so much to do tomorrow? If this were a rhetorical question: GUILTY as charged. Sometimes, it not only keeps me from falling asleep, it wakes me up in the middle of my sleep. This is not good. In the bible, Jesus had a very short window to get everything done. We have our whole lives–he had about 3 years. To perfectly and brutally redeem the world, heal people, raise up a team, wash feet, preach, perform miracles, care for mom, clean out churches, raise people from tombs, comfort women at wells, just to name a few. He had a full agenda. He–of all people–should have had the burdens of the next day keeping him restless at night. But one very profound verse tells us that in the midst of chaos (and literal storm) he rested. Mark 4:38, But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” This verse kicks my butt. But it also comforts me. If Jesus could get it all done in the very short window of time he had, So. Can. I.……So. Can. You. Here’s the way I see it: if God didn’t think we could get done *what HE needs us to get done* in each day…He woulda made longer days. Don’t stress. You’ll have enough time for this day.
I heard a mentor say, “If you want wisdom, read Proverbs for thirty-one days.” Proverbs is thirty-one chapters, so you literally get a chapter-o-wisdom every day for a month. It’s like hooking my soul-vein up to an IV-drip with a bag of wisdom-plasma, every day! I highly prescribe it! Today I read, “The fears of the wicked will be fulfilled; the hopes of the godly will be granted.” O M Geeeeeee!!!!! Coulda used this verse forty years ago when I first started trippin’ with unnecessary fear. Just in case you tried to skim, I’m typing it again: The FEARS of the wicked WILL be fulfilled; the HOPES of the godly WILL be granted. I am not wicked because I am God’s kid. Since I’m not wicked I don’t need, have, or want to fear. It’s not in my make-up. It’s not in my subconscious. It’s not in my past, present or destiny. I am godly and according to this TRUTH, my hopes will be granted. So will yours. And our hopes “might be,” “perhaps,” “based on,” “depends if,” …. no. Our hopes WILL be granted. This verse–alone–should shrink our fears to raisins; and embolden our hopes to mountainous lava-tops. Tell your fears where to go. And give God your hopes. Expect your hopes, not your fears, to be granted. If you wanna join me in this 31-day Proverb Wisdom Tour, let me know. We’ll do it together!
When I was little, I remember a season where our home was somber. My Dad’s best friend, Craig, had taken his life and my dad had to identify his body. Over the last decade, I’ve had two childhood friends, a cousin and several in our community take their lives. I hurt *hard* for these families, friends and their losses. But I don’t understand the level of their loss. I can’t speak on their behalf. As someone who attempted suicide, I can speak on behalf of that. I have lived to see the goodness of God and his personal hand in a comeback. He determined the day I would arrive and I trust his timing on the day I will leave. It’s too big of a burden to be responsible for the coming and going of one’s life. If I would make myself a permanent victim of Suicide – I’d make hundreds/thousands more left to senselessly deal with it. No matter how deep the valley, how dark the sky, how slimy the pit, there are people who need me and you. We can not be replaced by anyone else. I love this verse about the preciousness of life when Jesus promised, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Some of us may feel like our life has been stolen, but with Jesus, we can get it back. I hope this encourages someone today.
Who is your enemy? Maybe you don’t have one. Take a minute to give God thanks for that. But maybe you have one. Either you made someone your enemy or they made you theirs. These are tough seasons. Everything in you wants to fight the enemy OR get even with the enemy OR get others to align with you against the enemy OR compromise your integrity for the enemy. Several years ago, I had one. I had someone against me, who hurt me. And you bet my instinct was to do everything I just mentioned above. It was a tireless, daunting, full-time mental-job to work against my instinct and do as God would do…love them. Jesus said to love your enemies. If that isn’t a fleshly-contradiction, I don’t know what is! But it doesn’t matter if it’s a contradiction or in opposition to our instinct, God said do it. Because He’s mean? No. Because he modeled it at its worst, and love always wins. Jesus LOVED his enemies that betrayed, beat, whipped, abandoned, slapped, spit, nailed and murdered him. And HE WAS HUMAN with instincts, but He did not serve them. There’s an old saying, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” What if we give that an addendum? “Keep our friends close and our enemies close…because Jesus did and in the end, love wins.