Finding Favor

The Bible defines favor as ‘gracious kindness’; approval from a superior; a special privilege granted. (See also grace)

This has been on my mind a lot lately. What does it mean to have favor with God? Does God’s favor come in material things or in our gifts and talents and how He uses us? I think some people use it incorrectly and assume if someone has been able to purchase nice things, cars and a big house, they have found favor with God. I don’t believe God’s favor comes in the form of material things. He tells us to lay up our treasures in Heaven – not in earthly things.

I believe that the Lord’s favor comes in His perfect timing and not always when we are doing everything right. We always fail to measure up. He does it when it pleases Him. To bring glory to His name. To show others who He is. We know that grace is a gift and we can’t earn it, it’s the same with favor. God bestows His favor on who He chooses.

He saved me from a tragic car accident- not because of who I was but because of who He is. I am who I am today because of Christ and His grace. He uses us to show others who He is and point them to Christ- to glorify His name.

There are times when we are trying to achieve a blessing by our own strength or by the ways of the world, God may have to cripple our self-sufficiency to make us trust Him more. We see this in Genesis when God causes Jacob’s hip to render out of place- then He had to submit to God and trust Him. I feel this was what happened to me with my accident. I had gone as far as I could on my own, trying to control things myself, hold tight to things I needed to let go of. God showed me favor by saving my life but He used this accident to show me He is in control; not me. It took this to jolt me awake and make me pay attention to what He was doing in my life and made me trust Him more.

Noah found favor with the Lord because he walked in close fellowship with God. He is an example of righteousness, obedience, courage and faith. The closer our relationship with God and the more we use what He has given us the more we will receive.

Favor goes hand in hand with blessings, which can look very different depending on the circumstances at the time. Do you think accepting a ride with a stranger in the middle of a bad part of town is a blessing? I didn’t either, actually it was one of my greatest fears at the time. But to the homeless woman I was shadowing, who had a broken foot, it was one of the greatest blessings she had in a long time. We can’t look at what others have or don’t have and say they aren’t blessed or have more things and say they have more favor than us. Each person has his own journey. You never know what led them to where they are today. I came through the fire to get where I am. Not everyone has the same experience or journey but we all have the chance to live close to God and follow Christ. We all have unique gifts and talents to be used to help others and glorify God. So don’t look at your neighbor and think they have it all, I wish I was her. She is already taken. Be you. You do it better than anyone. Let God lead and see where He takes you.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. Luke 12:31 (notes: Life is not measured by how much you own.)

…to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. Luke 19:26

The Truth in a Nutshell

Let’s get straight to the point. God is bigger than ALL of this! Anything to the contrary comes from a place of fear and panic and is nothing but diabolical.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) God has always provided. He will continue to provide and protect His people. This is the same God who shut the mouths of lions. God is not the author of confusion and chaos.

Let us be the calm in the storm. Let us sing praises to His name and be grateful for the little things we usually take for granted. Don’t drink the chaos Kook-aid, ya’ll. (I am pretty sure that is a long, lost proverb.) We can be smart, stay safe and not be fearful.

No matter what happens, God is with us. We can trust Him with the outcome. Share this truth with someone today who might need a word of encouragement in the middle of the storm.

When this is all over, go on that trip you’ve been thinking about for years, take the leap of faith and do that thing God has been nudging you to do, get out and enjoy God’s creation in nature, see other parts of the world…start marking those items off your bucket list. If you don’t have a bucket list, it is an excellent time to make one.

Be kind. Share with others in need. Show love. God’s got this…and us!

By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Hebrews 11:33-34

#ThrowbackThursday

Hidden Treasure

Too much fun not share again…this trip was in 2018.

Tucked away deep in the hills of North Carolina, I found a gem called “Sapphire.”

In and out of down pours, half the day, I traveled the treacherous curvy roads in search of the Brook Trout Inn. Nestled in the side of a mountain, the quaint little inn was friendly and welcoming.

Just like home away from home, they provided all the necessary ingredients and appliances to make yourself some breakfast in a cozy sitting room off from the main lobby.

I chose this location because it was nearby the fly-fishing excursion I had planned for the next day. A guided wade trip on private waters led by Headwater Outfitters.

My helpful guide, Chris, supplied all the necessary equipment including the awesome waders and boots. All I had to do was show up. The weather was a bit threatening with storms the night before. But, the morning of my trip, the sun was breaking through the trees hitting the water with a brilliant glow, as I maneuvered the slippery rocks, with one hand on my guide’s arm, like an usher leading me to my seat at the theatre.

The play was magnificent as the rainbow trout put on a show just for me. What a thrill to set the hook on a 20-inch trout and have it leap out of the water making a big splash as I reeled him in. Once the hook is set, the trick is knowing when to reel and when to let it run with the line while keeping the rod high and bent until Chris swooped him up in the net.

He agreed to one photo before leaping back in the murky waters to warn his friends of my arrival. Looks as though I caused quite a stir, so we moved up stream to find another hiding place.

The trout wasn’t the only hidden treasure I found that day. I saw a blue heron gracefully soaring above the tree line. A dragonfly floated by to say hello just as a mayfly landed on Chris’ arm. As we hiked around the trail to dip back in another area of the river, a swallowtail caught my attention.  

I would have loved to taken photos of the swiftly flowing water crashing over the rocks under the canopy of trees, but I was sort of preoccupied with fishing and not falling, so I didn’t chance taking the camera with me.

What a blessing to be out in nature and experience God’s beauty and creation as I mark another one off the bucket list.

The day before my trip I woke with this in my thoughts: “Search for Me throughout your day like hidden treasure.”

Colorful Communication

I find it fascinating that dragonflies communicate using the vibrant colors of their bodies through infra red and UV spectrum. They also have tiny antennae, so vision is their primary means of navigating and capturing prey. Remarkably, they can rotate their heads nearly 360 degrees, giving them an almost limitless field of view. What a great perspective in a colorful, unique form.

I have always liked rainbows. Their colorful message gives us a great perspective on God’s promises. I can also relate to color in a different way. I think color represents creativity and gifts from the Spirit.

I realized that all my gifts are a form of communication. The way I express my creativity to encourage others in various ways. I think God is equipping me with all forms of communication that honor Him in everything I do and is answering my prayers in profound ways.

How ironic to be given such colorful forms of communication for someone who went from never communicating on one end of the spectrum to being forced to fully communicate every thought on the other end of the spectrum.

Neither of these were a healthy form of communication. I began to pray about it and ask God to help me have healthy communications – I knew there had to be a middle ground in there somewhere. I just needed help figuring it out. I also pray that I never hurt anyone with my words but lift them up, encourage and inspire them.

I believe God has poured out His precious gifts upon me in a delightful, colorful array of communicative expression like I have never experienced before. I am so grateful and want to be a good steward of each one.

The magpie is a colorful bird, related to crows, which uses its voice to express itself in sometimes loud fashion. It encourages us to speak up and be creative with our spoken words.  I believe I have found my voice and am using it to the best of my ability to serve my Heavenly Father.

But there is another expression of communication I am working on- listening. I also pray that I listen to understand and not to respond. That I listen to discern God’s voice. That I listen and respond with courage to be obedient and follow where He leads. Sometimes listening is more important than speaking. I pray God will show me when to speak up and when to listen and give me the right words at the right time to help others in profound, beautiful ways.

When the Spirit reveals something to me it’s like the early morning sky opening to a new day with an elegance beyond words. Brilliant hues of early morning colors revealed in a moment of clarity unlike any other thought or word. An idea so wild and beautiful it could only come from Him. I am in awe of His glory and goodness towards me every single day.

Survivor

As an abuse survivor, I began looking back at my life to see how I got there. I didn’t just wake up one day in an abusive relationship. The layers I am peeling back are a much longer story, but it started with my definition of love being distorted at a very early age. For me, it wasn’t one big thing that happened, as a child, that I can point to that caused me to become that person. It was a million little things. That were just subtle enough to not be perceived as a problem at the time. But overtime, layer upon layer they escalated into the big thing-my darkest moments.

I still couldn’t recognize it- until I was out of it. Looking back- hearing the truth about love- real love, biblical love; God’s love. I began the process of peeling back those layers- digging in and taking a deep dive to figure it all out. I still don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle, but I can see the big picture forming. I know it’s going to all come together someday, but it probably won’t be this side of Heaven. I do know all of Heaven is celebrating with me each time my healing goes a little deeper. I also know the enemy is lurking and attacking me each time I get a little closer, because he knows I am that much closer to helping someone else.

I feel compelled to share what I am learning about the subtleties of abuse, and the red flags, I could only see in hindsight. I share my story to make others aware, to break the generational cycles and repetitive abusive relationships, that will only continue if we don’t shed light on them. I will shout it from the mountaintops if I need to- just to be heard. It’s important to speak up and speak out to help other women who might be experiencing some of the abuse I endured and allowed in the name of love.

Not all abuse is as obvious as a black eye. In my case, the abuse came in the form of control and manipulation. The abuser knows all the right things to say- it’s called ‘grooming’ their prey/victim. They learn all too well how to sweep us off our feet and make us think they are in love with us so they can put us in a position to do anything they ask so we won’t be rejected. This type of emotional and mental abuse can ultimately lead to other forms as well including physical or in my case sexual abuse.

Here are a few of the red flags I experienced:

  • Said ‘I love you’ too early in relationship
  • Overly romantic
  • Verbal criticisms (loss of self-esteem, belittlement, shame)
  • Picked out all my clothes
  • Wanted to know everything about my past and then used the info against me
  • Said if I loved him, I would do anything for him
  • Isolation from friends/family

This is not a complete list- if you are interested in learning more about the red flags and read more about my experience – you can request a free copy of my e-book, From Victim to Victor- recognizing the red flags of abuse.

For me, a big key to my healing has been validation. I blamed myself for so long- but it is never the victims’ fault. I hope something I said shined a light on other forms of abuse- awareness and recognition are important to help break the chains.  If you resonate with any of these signs in a past or current relationship, please seek a counselor or other professional for help.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. I Corinthians 13:4-5

Protection

As I was driving to work one morning, focusing on the road in front of me, a car horn blew from somewhere nearby and it startled me. I began to think about all the distractions we have as we go through life every day that keep us from focusing on the path ahead of us.

Our car provides protection to surround us in case someone hits us. The seatbelts are designed to provide extra security if something did happen.  What if we didn’t have these protectors in our life to guard us against the potential harm that could come to us?

I began to think of it like the armor we need to put on every day to protect us from the enemy. God’s armor is our protector from potential disasters. He surrounds us with His protection if we are putting on His armor every day as precaution.

The seatbelt could be the belt of truth – the more we are in His word the more we know His truth and can guard our hearts against the lies of the enemy.

Our body armor is God’s righteousness. For shoes, we are to put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so we are fully prepared. In addition, He says to hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.

He says to put on salvation as our helmet and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God with us every where we go. We are to stay alert, so the distractions of this world don’t get us off course from the path He has set before us. We are to keep our focus on Him and seek the kingdom above all else.

That is the only way we can deter the enemy and deflect his lies.

(Ephesians 6: 14-18, Matthew 6:33)

Faith Floats

Doubt sinks ships, but faith floats and carries us to the other side.

If we let our faith be our guide, there is absolutely nothing to fear.

At a time when I needed to rely on my faith to carry out what God had put on my heart, God pointed me to this scripture.

Hebrews 11:1-40 (V1) Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

There are thirteen verses that begin with “It was by faith….” If I counted right throughout this chapter in Hebrews. the word “faith” is mentioned at least 21 times. I had to read every one of them before I got it. He wanted me to have more faith. To trust Him fully and be obedient without fear, seeking to do His will in all things.

We need to be a tree- unmovable in our faith. Deeply rooted in God’s truth.

If we rely on our faith – He will see us through. We’ve experienced what He has done for us and enjoyed a new life – now we can rest on His promises for an even better life ahead. If we remain faithful- we will receive everything we need.

I sometimes think about the things I entrusted to men in my past. Those are the things I should have feared. Yet I trusted them. I can see now where that got me. The things God asks of me are no comparison. So why should I fear Him? I know the things God is asking are good and lead to righteousness. I just need to have complete faith and trust in a God who changed my life.

Not only do we need knowledge of His truth, understanding of His word, discernment and wisdom but once He gives us all these things, we must put our faith into action.

We need to get off the bench and get in the game.

James 2:26

Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

Masking the Truth

I can relate to the raccoon on some level. I wore a mask in public for many years. Hiding truths in our lives can be like wearing a mask. We are masking the lies of our secret lives.

Anytime we feel we have to wear a mask in public and we are living in fear of someone seeing the truth about us, it is a huge red flag that we need to change things in our life and face the reality of who we are in private. If that doesn’t match up to who we are in pubic, it’s time for an evaluation.

I’m claustrophobic so the thought of crawling on my belly through a dark cave and running into cobwebs or worse, is suffocating.  But, that is what I did for many years by letting the truth of who I was in that season of life keep me in fear, in the dark, hiding from my truth and afraid to be seen or asked any questions. It was icky, like walking a massive cobweb that you can’t shake off.

I say in season, because at our core, that is not who we are or was meant to be. But sometimes we are in a season of life where we are allowing the world and the enemy to win the battle. We might not know how to fight the battle yet. But God will help us. He is the One person we can’t hide the truth. Even if we are very good at masking it to others, God knows our hearts and everything about us. I learned the hard way how miserable it is to live two lives. We may get away with it on the surface – but we are the ones it truly hurts. Being honest with God and ourselves brings honor and an integrity that leads to ultimate joy and peace.

Once we are free, we can stand up right and walk a straight path unafraid of the truth. That is a freedom beyond words that I am so grateful to receive.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

Anticipation

In today’s world we have instant everything. We want it now without waiting for it. Whatever ‘it’ is. But we sometimes must ‘wait’ on God and that isn’t easy, mostly because we aren’t used to waiting on anything else for the most part.

We can’t run ahead of God when we don’t know where we are going or what to do when we get there. Shortcuts just don’t work out as well in this arena. It reminds me of the story in 2 Samuel 18:21-32 when Joab was sending a messenger to let David know about the battle and his son’s death. Ahimaaz wanted to run and kept begging Joab to let him go too. Finally, Joab just told him to go ahead. He took the less demanding route and got to the King before the messenger but he didn’t have the message so he couldn’t tell David anything about the battle or his son– he only saw confusion. The King told him to step aside while he waited for the real messenger.

Allowing God to lead means just that- let Him lead. Sometimes that means waiting to hear from Him or making small steps towards a bigger goal, as we trust in God to show us the next step.

Since ‘wait’ seems like such a harsh word to us I decided to look up another word to use or think of instead. I like the word ‘anticipation’ as it seems more exciting. For me, it puts waiting into perspective. If we can anticipate God’s next move with excitement, we can find joy in the ‘waiting’ if you will. It’s like when we were kids and anticipated our birthday or a surprise gift.

God won’t let us down. He has the best laid plans and gifts.

Let’s look at different versions of this scripture: Psalm 27:14

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. NLT

I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God. MSG

So, you see in this illustration another way to look at waiting- as stay with God. If you look at the definition for the word wait you see 1) stay where one is or delay action until a particular time. (Merriam-Webster)

Hopefully, in looking at it in the light of honoring God and His best plan as a gift that will be for us- it will make the waiting season or anticipation easier.

5 Day Devo for the Burdened Soul

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Times are tough. We all need peace and rest. But it’s hard to fully let go and release it to God. I love this verse about about releasing our burdens to Him.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. …For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28;30

I am offering this 5 day devotional about learning to let go – please share with anyone you think needs this.

Contact me to request your free copy.

I am praying for you as you dive into it.

In gratitude…peace be with you!

Angela K. Crow