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A Strategy for the New Year

My friend, it is a new year and a new day. I am eager to bring fresh thoughts, insights, and strategies to this year. We may all be weary of the conflict and uncertainty in our world, but there is a strategy for success that I see ahead.

Maybe you are like me and you lean toward auto pilot. We all value some kind of routine and we try to streamline our decisions. We often want to use last year’s strategies to solve this year’s problems. But check this out: “And David inquired of God, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?” The Lord said to him, “Go up, for I will deliver them into your hand.” (1 Chronicles 14:10) Time and time again, David inquired of God what he should do in new situations. In this story, the Philistine army had gathered to fight David as the new king over all of Israel. David followed what God said to him and defeated the Philistine army, saying “God has broken through my enemies by my hand like a breakthrough of water.” (v 11) 

Was it one and done? Nope, because the Philistines attacked again. “Therefore, David inquired again of God, and God said to him, “You shall not go up after them; circle around them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees.” (I Chron 14:14) The first attack by the Philistines David asked God if he should go up against them and God said yes. It happened again and David asked God again but this time God said no, don’t go up but go around. David obeyed what God showed him and he won.  The chapter ends with this statement: “Then the fame of David went out into all lands, and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations.” (1 Chron 14:17)

Does it matter what God said yesterday? Yes, and what is He saying TODAY? We can’t make God fit a formula or a system. Each new day brings new challenges and new opportunities. We must inquire of Him every day, Lord should I go up against this enemy? Lord should I spend time and energy in this direction or should I invest somewhere else? I’ve inquired of God when I faced challenges in parenting or in my marriage and I’ve gotten different marching orders. Sometimes He will reveal that I need to take a more gracious approach; other times He has whispered this isn’t even the real problem. Walking with God is not a formula! We enjoy a relationship with Him where we hear His voice and we follow His lead. God alone knows the best strategy for our business, our marriage, our health, and even our nation.

In the coming months I will be adding some structure to my blog so that you as a reader know what’s ahead and so that I am sure to cover what’s important. Each month I’ll answer questions that I’ve gotten from you, my readers as well as focusing specifically on how to hear from God. I’ll continue to share what has encouraged, inspired, or challenged me recently. I’ll end each month with an interview of someone God has used in my life.  I’m hoping to post the interviews in video format– I’m telling you now so that I have accountability to make it happen!  I’ll also be sharing what music, books, or podcasts have been rocking my world. Please go to http://www.MargaretAllen.org and scroll to the bottom of Mondays with Margaret to sign up for the blog as an email every Monday morning rather than catching it on social media.

It’s a new year to discover new strategies! Get my book Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion on my website or anywhere books are sold. Take the time to invest in your spiritual journey this year.

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Garment of Praise

On the morning of New Year’s Eve I nestled into my comfy couch with a Bible and a delicious cup of hot coffee. Before reading, I took one quick scroll through Insta stories and my eye caught on a scripture that a young friend of mine posted (Thanks Sam!) And just like that–no gif, no emoji, just a plain screen with a verse on it, God captured my attention. I read Isaiah 61, the verses that Jesus quoted when He first announced His ministry:

“He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to 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.”

I’m pierced by the phrase “garment of praise.” As I sat with my coffee, I felt God state matter-of-factly, Maggie you need a new garment.  My breath caught in my throat. Yes? Garments can be taken off or on and I guess somewhere in 2020 I took off that lovely garment of praise and put on one of low-key sadness. It wasn’t like a heavy coat of depression, but it was more like an undershirt. I wore it under a jacket at the beach or sweats at home. I wore it while we played cards during the holiday and while I cooked our meals. Can anyone relate to this? Like a low-grade fever, sadness doesn’t stop one from working and going about the day. But it does flatten our response to life. Perhaps it insulates us from anxiety but it also dampens our joy. And I don’t know about you, but I was made for joy!

So, I got up off the couch and imagined Jesus standing there with a beautiful garment of praise. Would you like to do the same? As we turn with our back to Him and slip one arm into the sleeve and then the other, He bestows on us what He promised: a garment of praise. Will you accept it? Wear it? Admire it in the mirror? (Yes, praise does look good on you!) Wear His garment of praise in the car, at the beach, while you cook. Declare God’s goodness as you go to sleep and when you awake. 

After Jesus read Isaiah 61, He said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled” and He sat down. (Luke 4:21) Think about it: He heals our broken hearts, proclaims freedom from oppression, and comforts us. He gives beauty instead of ashes, joy instead of mourning, and praise instead of despair! Jesus acknowledged the heaviness this life can bring and He declared Himself as the remedy.

Just four days into 2021 I have already won in the difficult choice to put on His garment of praise when my mind, will, and emotions screamed despair. Can I just tell you how good that felt? Come on! We are made to wear His praise. Here’s my prayer: God, we praise Your holy Name. From the rising of the sun to the setting of the same God’s Name is to be praised. For breath in our body and strength in our bones, we give You thanks. In every trial and every comfort, we give You praise, O God for You are good and Your love endures forever! Thank You Lord for giving us a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Dear friend, if you are desiring spiritual growth, please go through my book with a friend! You can find Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion at www.MargaretAllen.org or anywhere books are sold. If you want to get this blog emailed to you each week, go to my website and sign up at the bottom of Monday’s with Margaret.