What would a flourishing life look like for you? Take a moment to imagine… Instead of surviving your days, you savor each moment. Every hour you feel dazzlingly aware of God's love and presence. Join Margaret Feinberg for this 52-week devotional that’s like reading a treasured letter from a longtime friend. Through her winsome stories and heart for Scripture's healing beauty, you'll discover deep encouragement on every page. Beautiful coloring pages beckon you to slow down and reflect on Scripture. • Plant yourself in the depths of God’s love. • Grow in courage through persistent and consistent prayer. • Blossom in freedom by facing the fears that hold you back. No matter what you've been through or what you're facing, God longs for you to thrive. The lush life awaits. Are you ready to flourish?
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About the Author
A self-described "hot mess," Margaret Feinberg is a respected Bible teacher and speaker at churches and popular conferences such as Catalyst, Thrive, and Women of Joy. Her books and Bible studies, including The Organic God, The Sacred Echo, Scouting the Divine, and Wonderstruck have sold nearly one million copies, have received critical acclaim, and garnered extensive national media coverage from outlets such as CNN, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. Margaret was recently named one of "50 Women to Watch: Those Most Shaping the Church and Culture" by Christianity Today, one of "30 Emerging Voices" by Charisma Magazine, and one of the "40 Under 40" who will shape Christian publishing by Christian Retailing. Margaret lives in Utah with her husband, Leif, and their superpup, Hershey.
Read an Excerpt
Live Loved. Live Fearless. Live Free.
By Margaret Feinberg
Worthy Publishing GroupCopyright © 2016 Margaret Feinberg
All rights reserved.
THREE WORDS YOU NEED TO HEAR
* * *
Three words exist that you must hear from God today. No matter what your circumstance, this trio of syllables breathes life, imbues hope, infuses joy:
Lucky for you and me, these three little words emerge again and again throughout Scripture. Each page reveals the bigheartedness of God and his endless reservoirs of love.
"I paid a huge price for you ... That's how much you mean to me! That's how much I love you! I'd sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you" (Isaiah 43:4 MSG).
That's just one seedling from the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, Jesus talks about love, teaches about love, models love. He even sacrifices his body because he loves you so much.
Why does God use the entire Bible and thousands of years of history to talk about love?
Because he wants us to flourish and knows that can only happen when we hear and believe those three words.
Maybe like me, you are all too aware of your faults and failures, your shortcoming and slipups. While we may never ask someone, "Am I loveable?" we spend oodles of time wondering.
I confess that sometimes I modify my behavior to satisfy their silent cravings. I orchestrate an adorable outfit so I can receive more compliments. Or I try to win someone's affection by purchasing them an outrageously generous gift. If the person responds with affirmation or accolade, I pretend it's nothing at all. Yet deep down, I wish they'd say more. Perhaps their words would dull the ache that accompanies my suspicion that I'm not lovable.
Perhaps you do that, too.
Yet God alone provides satisfying responses to our deepest doubts, our most mangled fears. Through the spyglass of Scripture, we see the abundant love of God isn't just some abstract theological idea, but a gift that is real and that we can experience every day.
Recently, I confessed to God that I felt unlovable. As I aired my feelings, I reflected on his expressions of love in the Scripture. When I arrived at Psalm 33:5: "The earth is full of his unfailing love," my eyes grew damp. The response swelled like sea surf before crashing over my soul.
God's fierce love is abounding, bounteous, crammed, bursting, jammed full, running over, teeming, overflowing, never in short supply. Divine affection orbits and permeates and saturates. God's love never ends. Tears plopped on the page.
The emotional reaction left me puzzled. I'm not a teary person and go to great lengths to avoid becoming misty — including avoiding all Nicholas Sparks movies.
By then I was weeping.
When I regained my composure, I realized Scripture exposed my hidden questions, doubts, and angst regarding God's love. I believe in my cranium he loves me but strain to receive his affection in the fibers of my being.
On far too many days, God's love doesn't feel palpable or perceptible. Though I proclaim God's love to others, such divine affection often feels like it's for someone else, anyone else, just not me. Yet the passages reveal God's love as closer, more faithful, more bountiful than I comprehend in the nooks and crannies of every day.
Life's difficulties, disappointments, and flat out disasters often twist our perspectives of our core identities. They convince us we do not belong, we do not matter, that our lives are inconsequential. The coarseness of life can close us off from absorbing and receiving God's good gifts.
Like a plant seeks water, punching through packed soil, splitting solid rock, in some cases moving mountains to drink from an underground spring, we are created to thirst and discover the fullness of life found in God and his love.
After I finished reflecting on Scripture and dried my eyes, a prayer emanated from my lips:
God, open me to the fullness of your love. Awaken me to your divine affection.
I wondered why I hadn't done this sooner. Love is the foundation for faith and knowing God, yet I'd never set apart specific time to marinate in the truth of God's fierce love. I ended my time hopeful — and yes, even happier.CHAPTER 2
THE NATURE OF LOVE
* * *
How do you recharge your emotional and physical batteries? Some people frolic in the ocean. Others prefer stillness and solitude. Others draw energy from celebrating with a crowd of friends. For me, the wonders of a hike in the mountains rejuvenate my core.
Maybe that's one of the reasons I find Jesus' teachings magnetic. He loves to instruct from nature, about nature, with nature. He preaches from stony mountaintops, wheat fields, even the middle of a lake. Farmers and foxes and hens take leading roles in stories. He handpicks fisherman as disciples and nicknames himself the Good Shepherd. Divulging his nature through nature, he orders the squalls and sea spray obey him.
What does Jesus' affection for creation have to do with love?
In one of Jesus' most famous sermons, he speaks of creation to unearth a crucial dimension of love.
"Look at the birds of the air," Jesus counsels in Matthew 6:26, followed by, "See how the flowers of the field grow" (v. 28).
Jesus says those who follow him are to become birders and botanists, people who fix their eyes on ravens and lilies, specimens that display the good, the lovely, the admirable. But this command is more than an invitation to join the Sierra Club.
If we're living in white-hot pursuit of God, Jesus says, the focus of our lives will shift. Everyday details like what's missing from the brunch menu to the ever-changing fashion boots trends will lose their importance. We will become less fussy and more grateful.
Jesus insists on this refocusing. Life tends to draw our gaze downward in discouragement and inward in selfishness. But Jesus tells us to squint outward and upward. We must branch out to admire the robins, canaries, and hummingbirds and listen to them whisper rumors of another world.
Their physical presence reminds us of the invisible God who holds together all things. Though we may be tempted to question or doubt God's loving-kindness, these feathery friends display God's unbridled love for his creatures.
"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6:26)
There's more. Because Jesus' encouragement to focus on nature is lassoed to a lesson about why it matters.
"See how the flowers of the field grow ... If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith?" (vv. 28–30).
Jesus' teachings beat back the propaganda that we don't matter to God. That we must strain forward on our own. That the weight rests on our spines. That we master our own destinies.
In this pen of hogwash, Jesus turns our eyes to the featured creatures and asks, "Are you not worth much more than they?"
Jesus highlights our incalculable worth. Our preciousness cannot be weighed in carats. As God's prized possession, we do not have to live our lives grasping for that which is freely given.
Being planted in love means perceiving our immeasurable value to God.
The first century Jews to whom Jesus preached should have known this truth already. The Old Testament speaks of God as jealous and possessive, and the ancient writers meant this in the best possible way.
God's people are referred to as God's possession. The repetition of "I am your God" and "You are mine" echoes from the Bible in the laws, the decrees, the commands, the calls to holiness.
God's love for you can be seen in nature because if he created masterpieces like a tangerine sunset or a crimson rose, imagine how much more artistry he accomplished when he created you.
When you're tempted to believe you aren't worthy of God's love, take a hike. Literally. Rush outdoors and observe God's handiwork. Look over here and there and everywhere. Eye the furry and the feathery. Observe the vivid, velvety, and wooly creations.
Consider the careful craftsmanship behind fashioning one breath, one wing, one petal. Reflect on the loving care the Maker takes in every creative expression. They are beautiful, but they pale in comparison to you.
That's how much God loves you.CHAPTER 3
CONFESSIONS OF A RECOVERING PERFECTIONIST
* * *
Hello, my name is Margaret Feinberg, and I am a recovering perfectionist.
I like my life and my house and my workspace to be tidy and clean and in proper order. When I fail, I beat myself up. When I succeed, I don't take time to rest or celebrate before moving on to the next task.
Perfectionism ranks among the worst flaws because of its natural positive feedback mechanism. A perfectionist lives frustrated by flaws, and since perfectionism is a flaw, perfectionists exist in a constant state of frustration.
Even if you're not a perfectionist, you can still become discouraged by your flaws. Perhaps that's why Jesus' roster of disciples provides great comfort. One might expect Jesus to handpick the best and brightest. Would you expect any less from the Son of God?
Plus, tick-tock, Jesus only has thirty-six months of ministry. He can't afford to take unnecessary risks if he hopes to accomplish his mission in such a short span of time.
But, as it turns out, Jesus would have made a lousy kickball captain. He doesn't select the strongest, most agile players. He skips over the smarty pants valedictorians and Ivy League graduates. Instead, Jesus assembles an improbable team.
Luke 6:13 records: "When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles."
Peter — impetuous, brazen, competitive, waffler
Andrew — lives in the shadow of his brother, Peter
James — a son of "thunder," edging for the front row
John — a son of "thunder," full of hot air and swagger
Philip — limited by his experience
Bartholomew — lacks a filter
Matthew — shady past as a tax collector
Thomas — must I remind you of his colossal doubt?
Simon the Zealot — freedom fighter
Jude — way too quiet, not likely to be selected for class president
Judas — a greedy backstabber
What's-his-name? — that obscure guy no one can remember
A list like this makes the perfectionist in me as nervous as an introvert at a housewarming party.
Jesus takes an enormous risk. His every act endures heavy scrutiny. Religious paparazzi tail Jesus snapping mental images of his movements, his comebacks, his companions. The trackers share their discoveries with the religious hierarchy. They spend hours dissecting every syllable, every interaction.
Luke 6:7 says, "The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus." The religious powerbrokers work around the clock to snare the Son of God, so he can't afford a roster of liabilities.
The religious leaders nitpick Jesus. By contrast, Jesus' screening process for his disciples elevates the lowly. He reminds us that the kingdom of God doesn't expand through the work of religious paparazzi and spiritual overachievers. God isn't limited by our imperfections.
God fiercely loves us through our flaws and imperfections — not in spite of them.
Sometimes I count my flaws as reasons to be disqualified by God. Maybe you do, too. I've never been the keenest in any class, the swiftest in any sport, the most agile in any activity.
As a senior in high school, I took the SAT for college admission. I scored a 410 in English. I think you receive a score of 400 for writing your name at the top of the page. Yet despite the absence of a large vocabulary and creating far too many nonwords (according to my husband, Leif), I've published dozens of books and Bible studies.
Our weaknesses and flaws can become portals for God's grace, windows to display his glory. When imperfect people trust God and do their best to follow him, they become glimmers of goodness, and we can only assume that something or Someone else must be at work.
Jesus' selection of the disciples reveals that God's affection for us never wavers — whether we score big or run up a deficit on life's ledger.
No matter how you feel about yourself or your life today, Jesus invites you to find your way back home to the open arms of the Father. To be enfolded in his warm embrace. To bask in his joyous grin over you.
Whenever your flaws overwhelm you, think of the flawed followers of Jesus who are revered as apostles. He loves you just as dearly as he loved them and offers you the privilege of serving him. Just as you are.
Live loved amid your many flaws. You're in good company.CHAPTER 4
LIVE LOVE AND GIVE LOVE
* * *
Love's short four-letter construction is deceiving. The word seems so simple: L-O-V-E. But trying to understand love can leave your head spinning. What does that four-letter word look like? How does it work? And why does love seem so difficult to conjure up when it comes to that nasty next door neighbor?
Adventurous by nature, I converted my questions into a spiritual caper. I scoured the Bible from front to back, from alef to tav, to log teachings about love. From this, I developed a catalog of the characteristics of love. If I knew how to identify love, I could spot it among counterfeits.
A curious pattern soon emerged: Love moves. While I imagined love like a colossal ruby-red heart that sat stationary, love wiggles and squirms more than a sugar-filled toddler.
More than a string of letters, a word can change based on its function. My elementary English teacher called this the "part of speech." Though I often think of love steady as a noun, love glides like a verb. Much like a liquid, love splashes and splatters, infiltrates and infuses, careens and cascades. The imagery stirred my longing to dive into the subterranean depths of God's love.
The more Scripture I explored, the more I believed and received God's love. Then I smacked into 1 John 4:19–21: "We love [God] because he first loved us ... Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister."
Because of its verby nature, love cannot become dammed up with us. The L-word floods into our lives, nourishes our spirits, then animates our actions. We fill with love and then we spill with love. When we drench others with love, God refills and overflows our holding tanks.
I prayed to become more attuned to the needs of others. The changes were slow like the way dripping water reshapes a stone.
An elderly woman needed a place to sit. I gave her mine.
A father of two at the checkout seemed rushed. I offered him my place in line.
The lady next to me in the waiting room wanted to chat. I put down my magazine and enjoyed her company.
People appeared before me that I hadn't seen before, or rather, hadn't wanted to see before. Living loved nudged me to engage, to embrace, to serve each one — even in the slightest of ways. More than anything, I desired that these people lived loved, too. Overflowing with God's affection, I longed for as many people as possible to join the party and discover how beautifully loved they are.
This transformational process didn't come without a struggle. I argued uncharitably with the customer service guy of my cell phone carrier. I snipped at a sales clerk for her slow service. Leif returned home late from work to find me critical instead of compassionate.
If you try to give the love you've received from God, expect moments of wincing and strain. Love that is shared with you must be spread to others.
When you flounder and fail to dispense, don't give in to defeat. Instead, seize the opportunity to recommit yourself to living loved and giving love.
The way of love rumbles and tumbles, a mysterious path fraught with failure and frustration. When you're tempted to throw up your hands and yell, "I can't," listen for the still voice of God to whisper:
"No, you can't. But my love can."
Excerpted from Flourish by Margaret Feinberg. Copyright © 2016 Margaret Feinberg. Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsYour Invitation to Flourish,
How to Use This Devotional,
Planted in Love,
1. Three Words You Need to Hear,
2. The Nature of Love,
3. Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist,
4. Live Love and Give Love,
Rooted in Trust,
5. A Casting Call,
6. How to Grow in Trust,
7. When You Feel God Let You Down,
8. Not the Only One in the Details,
Grounded in Wisdom,
9. Draw from the Right Source,
10. The Best Friend You'll Ever Have,
11. When Only Fools Rush In,
12. Ears, Heart, and Hands,
Nourished by Community,
13. The Power of Pairs,
14. More Than a Meal,
15. Flocking Together,
16. When Church Bruises,
Springing with Courage,
17. Dare to Draw Near,
18. Reflect on the Name,
19. Mending a Divided Mind,
20. Holy Chutzpah,
Growing in Grace,
21. The Warranty of Everyday Grace,
22. When Life Doesn't Add Up,
23. The Pharisee in Me,
24. Silhouettes of Grace,
Prepared for Drought,
25. Treasures of the Wilderness,
26. Found in Hiddenness,
27. The Beast of Temptation,
28. The Art of Remembrance,
Protected from Floods,
29. The Flood of Busyness,
30. Downpours of Distraction,
31. The Torrent of Multitasking,
32. Cloudless and Clear Skies,
Budding with Hope,
33. Find Your Hotdog Cart,
34. Spur Hope,
35. Hope in Waiting,
36. A Much-Needed Stump Speech,
Blossoming in Freedom,
37. Where Forgiveness Goes,
38. Free to Love,
39. Goodbye to Good,
40. Risky Business,
Ripening with Resilience,
41. The Source of Renewal,
42. The Great Physician's Prescription,
43. A Helper in Healing,
44. The Gift of You,
Bursting with Life,
45. Word Power,
46. Time for an Eye Exam,
47. How to (Not) Enjoy Life,
48. When Words Come Back to Hurt,
Cultivated by Christ,
49. Deep and Wide,
50. Foxes in the Henhouse,
51. Good Riddance to Comparisons,
52. An Invitation to Reside,