Far More Generations

Think about the women in your life. How does the youngest girl you have a relationship with impact you? What kind of relationship do you have with the oldest woman in your life? Think of the women in between, both consistent contributors to your life and the most influential. I hope your life contains a richness of women who offer a wide range of life experiences, a variety of personalities, and diverse interests and gifts.

We are often most comfortable with people who are like us. Sadly, the message we increasingly hear in our culture is we can only be understood by people like us. We may believe those are the only people whose input we can trust. We may feel they the only people we should turn to for perspective. We are told they alone have the right to speak into our lives. We may draw lines between “us” and “them” that rob us of different experiences and perspectives.

Relationships that cross generational lines offer far more life. Older women offer wisdom and experience. Women in the middle generations offer insights on balancing challenges as they strive to support aging parents and maturing children. Young women offer enthusiasm, optimism, and connection to our culture. Each generation faces unique challenges and possesses unique gifts.

Despite our differences, women of all ages have commonalities. We all have hopes and dreams. We all experience love and loss. We all face challenges. We all sin. We all are made in God’s image. We all want to experience far more life. Sisters in Christ share a faith, a future, and fellowship that is not impacted by the number of candles on their birthday cake. God has given us a common role in each other’s lives:

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)

Women of any age can help others become more Christ-like. We can sharpen and be sharpened by others, which leads to far more life. Although age differences can feel awkward, Christ provides a connection point. We can always pray for each other, share encouragement, and study God’s Word together.

We may feel awkward with other generations because what we give each other is not the same. A sense of inequality in what we have to offer and what we receive can be a barrier. For an example, an older and younger woman cannot trade babysitting. Or one may need help with meals or cleaning while the other has no practical needs at that time. We can become uncomfortable receiving from another generation because we are not sure what we “owe” them in return. But if we shift our perspective, we realize that removing debt is not the goal.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another. (Romans 13:8a, NIV)

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV)

If we trust the other woman is giving lovingly and cheerfully of her resources, there is no debt or inequality!  It is okay to ask once, “How can I repay you?” or “Are you sure this is okay?” Humbly accept the answer, trusting her to speak truthfully. We build connection by lovingly and gratefully giving and receiving different things from each other. This connection helps us experience far more life.

As a college student, I formed a friendship with a woman who I later found out was just a couple years younger than my mother. Our age difference was not a factor. I learned a lot from observing her life and asking questions about a variety of situations that I, as a young adult, had yet to experience firsthand. She appreciated my support and encouragement as she traversed a hard season of life. Our relationship was centered on a mutual desire to love and serve God, not on the specific situations we faced.

There are many formal opportunities for us to build relationships with women from other generations: at work, at church, at the gym, in community groups, through shared hobbies, and more. But being in the same place at the same time may not be enough to form a connection. Take initiative to get to know women from other generations. It can be as simple as asking them for advice or offering to pray for them. It can be a few minutes face-to-face when you are already together or a special time you arrange in advance. You can use social media or go “old school” and call!  Do not assume someone else is too busy for you, instead, if you want to get to know them, initiate. You may enrich your life in ways you never imagined! 

In addition to the blessing in your own life, pursuing intergenerational relationships at a time when others are turning away from people who differ from them gives you a chance to be a picture of God in action.

Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other. (John 13:35, GW)

Enjoy the richness of all your relationships this week as you live far more life!

Sisters,
How have older and younger women helped you grow in far more life?
What hesitation or reluctance do you have about pursuing relationships with women from another generation?
What do you have to give? What do you need? How can giving and receiving enrich your life rather than just adding more to your to do list?
Pray for your plans to initiate sharing far more life with a woman from another generation this week.
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso

Being a Lamb

A recent Sunday message from Psalm 23 ended with the question, “Will you make yourself a lamb under God the Shepherd?” It sounds simple enough on the surface, but that is actually a deep question!

The roles of God the Shepherd are described throughout Psalm 23:

  • He satisfies His lambs.
  • He makes His lambs rest.
  • He leads His lambs.
  • He restores His lambs.
  • He guides His lambs.
  • He is with His lambs.
  • He disciplines His lambs.
  • He protects His lambs.
  • He comforts His lambs.
  • He feasts with His lambs.
  • He chooses His lambs and sets them apart for His noble purposes.
  • He exceeds the needs of His lambs.
  • He endures with His lambs.
  • He will spend eternity with His lambs.

Of course we want all of those benefits! But the phrase “make yourself a lamb” caught my attention. We cannot experience God’s shepherding unless we are willing to place ourselves under his care and take on the nature of a lamb. What is that nature?

  • Lambs listen for their Shepherd’s voice and obey His commands.
  • Lambs do not follow other shepherds; they only follow their own.
  • Lambs trust their Shepherd completely, they know he will not harm them.
  • Lambs flee danger.
  • Lambs depend on their Shepherd for protection, they have no natural defenses.
  • Lambs understand they are safer in the flock than alone and stick together.
  • Lambs only take in what is healthy for them; they don’t consume garbage.
  • Lambs do not complain about being in uncomfortable or painful situations.
  • Lambs are content to follow and let the Shepherd lead.

Lambs in God’s flock experience far more life. They know the Shepherd will provide all they need for a full, satisfying life. They do not worry. They do not live in regret. They are free to enjoy each day as it comes.

We find it hard to be lambs. We want to determine our own course, be in charge of our own life. This verse too often describes us, just as it described God’s flock in Old Testament times:

The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the Lord pasture them like lambs in a meadow? (Hosea 4:16, NIV)

Our stubbornness, pride, and insistence on getting our own way prevent us from experiencing far more life of a lamb under God’s care. God desires to lead us to a place of safety and abundance within His protective boundaries, but we resist. In those moments, we trust ourselves more than we trust our Shepherd. We prefer to blindly forge our own path in search of what we need rather than follow Him to the place He knows will meet our needs.

This reminds me of a friend from college who demonstrated the life of a lamb following her Shepherd. When challenges arose, she recited this Psalm:

My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131)

My friend was an intelligent, independent, capable woman. She was a leader. She did not shirk responsibility or have a low opinion of herself. But she was realistic about her position before God. She recognized He was the perfect Shepherd and found far more life as a lamb in His flock. She trusted Him as her leader and accepted the tasks and opportunities He provided, believing He was always working for her good. She was content to follow Him rather than needing to forge her own path. She understood a lot but also recognized that there was much she did not understand. And in those areas, she was willing to trust her Shepherd and believe He had a plan and purpose to bring her far more life.

Lambs were sacrificed as atonement for sin in the Old Testament. And the Bible refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God because of His sacrifice to atone for our sins. But God has also raised Jesus to the role of Shepherd. This glimpse of our future in Heaven with Him is exciting:

They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ (Revelation 7:17, NIV)

Our Shepherd is leading His lambs to the most wonderful pasture imaginable, Heaven. And we will remain there — safe and satisfied — forever. But we can also experience His presence and provision now. That is far more life: being a lamb in the flock of God the Shepherd.

Sisters,
Have you experienced God the Shepherd as described in Psalm 23?
Are you more often “stubborn as a heifer” or like a lamb in the meadow?
Do you take on responsibilities and concerns that are not meant for you? What makes you hesitant or reluctant to be a lamb in God’s flock?
Will you choose to be a lamb under God the Shepherd today and experience far more life?
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: David Padfield/FreeBibleimages.org



Far More Community

I recently conversed with a woman who considers herself a follower of Jesus but not a Christian. She has met many “Christians” whose lives do not reflect Jesus. As a result, she views Christianity as a man-made system rather than a relationship with God. Sadly, she is not alone in this experience. At least in the US, the term “Christian” has multiple meanings, many of which are not God-glorifying.

The foundation of Christianity is an individual relationship with God. But God does not intend for His children to live in isolation from each other. He wants us to be interconnected as we pursue the common goals of becoming more like Him and sharing His message with others. This Bible passage describes the community of Christians immediately after Christ walked the earth.

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. (Acts 2:44-47a, NIV)

This depicts far more life. They sacrificed their own comfort to meet each other’s physical needs. They gathered to learn from God’s Word and celebrate Jesus’ work in their lives. They enjoyed meals together and shared God’s blessings. This led to a positive reputation in their city as people observed their lifestyle. They shared life and reflected Jesus in their interactions.

The Bible is full of examples of shared lives. Eve was created after God proclaimed it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). During the flood, God only names Noah as being righteous, yet he saved his whole family (Genesis 6). The Israelites traveled as a group (Exodus 12:37) and lived in communities based on their family line (Numbers 1:52). Forty-seven New Testament verses instruct Jesus’ followers how to relate to one another, with the majority specifying how to be united and love each other. As the following verses illustrate, we are stronger together.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV)

We help each other grow. This is not always an easy process. As iron is sharpened, sparks are produced, but the result is a more useful tool. Our interactions with people may lead to sparks of conflict, but they ultimately create an opportunity for us to become more refined and Christ-like. As we navigate these moments, we challenge each other to grow and become all God created us to be.

In hard times we survive by being together. I have stood by two families as they faced crisis situations recently. The first was already connected to a community and immediately turned to them for physical and emotional support, knowing the requests would be a natural extension of existing relationships. They felt peace knowing the needs would be met and were comfortable asking because they had walked with others through hard times. The second family’s crisis led them to realize they were not connected and didn’t know where to turn for support. They felt alone and overwhelmed with all that faced them. When a community stepped up to care for them, it was uncomfortable at first. But as they experienced provision of their basic needs and emotional support, they were grateful. The experience has led them to look at life through a different lens and will probably result in them becoming more connected to a community.

Christ-followers are not the only people to live in community. People can band together around any number of shared goals or preferences. But Christian community has a uniqueness: our connection will continue for eternity! God does something special when His children share their lives on earth:

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35, NASB)

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4, NASB)

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13, NASB)

When we live a disconnected life, we miss opportunities to love and be loved. We miss opportunities to experience and reveal God’s power at work, to overcome human differences, and display a unity that is possible only through Christ. We miss opportunities to show God’s love in action as we supernaturally love others through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Far more life is a connected life. It is giving and receiving love in both the big moments and the everyday moments of life. It celebrates and mourns together. It works and plays together. It dreams and plans together. It works through differences together. The result is that we become greater than the sum of our parts; shared life is richer and more impactful than isolated life. We experience God in new ways and show a more complete picture of Him to everyone we encounter. We live far more life.

Sisters,
Are you living an isolated life or a connected life?
What hesitations do you have about connecting with other Christ-followers?
How have you been sharpened by others?
How have you experienced God’s love or provision through others?
You may have been hurt by others. Talk to God about those situations and ask Him to help you find a safe community to join.
Find far more life taking the next step in connecting with others this week.
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Jennifer Marsh


Above the Clouds

Sometimes our life circumstances are dark clouds that overshadow us and feel like more than we can bear. Well-meaning people try to comfort us, often by saying, “God will not give you more than you can handle.” But this can lead us to doubt God’s goodness or believe we have done something wrong to deserve trouble. It robs us of far more life.

I think that sentiment is a misquote of this Bible verse:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (I Corinthians 10:13, NIV)

What God actually said is He will not give His children more temptation than they can handle. If you have a relationship with God through Jesus, He will never allow you to be in a situation where sin is your only escape; He will always provide a righteous way out of temptation.

While that is a relief, does it mean that God allows more than we can handle to come our way? Consider this Scripture passage: 

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.  (2 Corinthians 1:8b-11a, NIV)

Paul felt like his situation was more than he could handle. In fact, he thought he was going to die. But he states a perspective on his difficulties often eludes us: “…This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God…on Him we have set our hope…” There is a higher purpose: God wants to draw us to far more life in Him above the clouds!

Let’s be honest: we are proud, independent people. We put a lot of faith in our own abilities. This makes sense, because there is a lot that we can do in our own strength. God has created us in His image with incredibly powerful minds, reasoning abilities, and creativity. But we are not all-knowing or all-powerful. We cannot do everything. We need God’s help. Far more life recognizes that God is our ultimate source of hope and help, especially when we are facing more than we can handle. And we will face more than we can handle in this life.

Consider these verses Paul wrote earlier in the chapter:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV)

When you face storms in life, do you think of it as a call to seek God’s comfort? As I write this post, my niece is having a stormy week. When she feels fear, hurt, or insecurity she toddles over to a trusted adult and lifts her arms, seeking to be picked up. She snuggles as close as she can and accepts our comfort. When she is filled, she wiggles out of our arms and toddles off to play. Like a toddler, God wants us to seek comfort from Him during our storms. He loves to fill us up and give us what we need to keep going.

This verse points out another truth: experiencing trouble enables us to relate to others. And turning to God for comfort equips us to share the power of a relationship with Christ with those suffering apart from Him. This has prompted me to pray this during some of the hardest times of my life: “Lord, I do not like this storm and wish I was not in it. But I trust You will use it to help me connect with someone else and offer them the comfort You are giving me now.” God has been faithful to make this happen and allow me to see good come from hardship.

Notice the verse says God comforts us in all our trouble so we can comfort others in any trouble. We are tempted to think only those who have experienced similar storms can comfort us. Sometimes that creates a special connection, but the comfort God gives is able to transcend a lack of specific experience.

How do we face more than we can bear with far more life?

  • Far more life is admitting we have more than we can handle and crying out to God for help.
  • Far more life is seeking His comfort.
  • Far more life is placing our hope in God, His written Word, and wise counsel to guide us through our challenges.
  • Far more life is renewing our mind by replacing worry and fear with His peace.
  • Far more life is offering God’s comfort to others.
  • Far more life is remembering that God will more than make up for our struggles in this life when we are with Him in Heaven. (2 Corinthians 4:17, John 16:33)

God will allow more than you can handle in your life. But He loves you and offers you hope, help, comfort, and more. Far more life allows Him to lift you above the clouds. What a wonderful place to be!

Sisters,
Have you believed God will not allow more than you can bear? How has that hurt your relationship with Him?
When you face hardship, what temptations come with it?
What barriers do you face in turning to Him for comfort?
Is there someone with whom God wants you to share His comfort?
Fly above the clouds this week as you find far more life in Him!
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso

Imitate Their Faith

I recently attended a celebration of life service for a woman who lived far more life. Despite facing three occurrences of cancer within six years she focused on Jesus and lived far more life to the end. She loved Him with her whole heart and trusted Him with not just her life, but also her death. It was both encouraging and humbling to hear testimonies of the impact she had on others, simply because she loved and obeyed Jesus to the best of her ability every day she remained on earth. I was starting to compare myself to her — and feel guilty about how short I fell — when her pastor shared this verse:

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7, NIV)

Remember your leaders. Leaders are people of influence in your life. This is definitely referring to those with spiritual authority over us (pastors, etc.). But I think many of us have additional “leaders” in our lives who do not hold an official title or role. They lead through their example and influence.

Who spoke the word of God to you. Good spiritual leaders rely on God’s Word for their wisdom and direction. They apply it in their own life and lovingly share it with others. Their goal is to help you better understand and follow God so you have far more life.

Consider the outcome of their way of life. Do not simply trust a leader’s words or blindly follow because of their title or personality traits. Look at the results in their lives. Are they consistently modeling far more life? Does their personal life honor God? Are they respected by their leaders, peers, and followers? Do you want the same results in your own life?

Imitate their faith. We are not instructed to imitate a leader’s specific actions or choices. Rather we are instructed to imitate the faith of those who live far more life. Faith looks different in each of our lives. But we can learn from those whose faith has grown through facing challenges with God. We can recognize areas where they have far more life, ask how their faith developed in that area, and apply ourselves to growing, too.

Why is this important?

 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10, NIV)

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1, NIV)

Sisters, faith is the foundation of your relationship with God. Faith believes that God is real, powerful, and seeking you. Faith professes that Jesus paid the penalty for your sin and saves you from eternal separation from God. Faith provides peace with God, which is your first taste of far more life. This faith is not blind; it usually follows an experience that proves God exists and loves you.

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12, NIV)

Faith enables us to build a relationship with God. We can talk to Him, even ask Him for help, without fear. God has graciously made our faith an “all-access” pass to Him; He is available 24/7/365 and is eager to interact with us. As we look to Him through eyes of faith, we witness His work in and around us.

“But my righteous one will live by faith…” (Hebrews 10:38a, NIV)

As we grow our relationship with God, we live more and more by faith. We discover that following God’s instructions leads to far more life. The more we see the benefit of living by faith, the more willing we are to yield to Him.

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:17, NIV)

Faith changes our motives and actions. It prompts us to share God’s love with others because we believe His love is the best gift they could ever receive. Faith urges us to generously give our time, energy, and money to those who need it because we trust God to supply our needs. Acting by faith brings us far more life.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16, NIV)

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (I Thessalonians 5:8, NIV)

Faith equips us for spiritual battle. Believing God’s word is true, powerful, and relevant is our defense against the lies that Satan hurls at us. Since our enemies are spiritual, our weapons must be spiritual as well (Ephesians 6:12, 2 Corinthians 10:4). As a follower of Christ, entering the battle is not optional. A growing faith will encounter spiritual opposition.

At each stage of our faith journey, looking at the examples of others who are further along can be helpful. We can learn from their victories and mistakes. Far more life is often the result of a hard-fought battle, but can also come through following God’s instruction to imitate the faith of our leaders.

Sisters,
Who are the leaders in your life?
What about their faith can you imitate?
Are you starting, building, learning to obey, or acting on your faith?
As you consider the spiritual battles you are facing, whose faith can you learn from?
Thank God for your leaders who are modeling far more life and joining you on your journey.
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso