1 John 4:10

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:10

Being the month of Valentine’s Day, it’s only natural that our thoughts should turn to love.

It’s one of those awkward words in the English language has holds such significance and meaning, and yet is so imprecise that it creates great confusion and sometimes heartache as well.

In the Greek, they have many different words for “love” to connote the different motivators behind it. Brotherly love, romantic love, familial love, charitable love, etc.

But what, really, is love? No matter who our love interest is, this is love… Caring enough for another person to sacrifice our wants and needs for them.

Parents do this every day, putting their hopes and dreams on hold as they learn to live vicariously through the dreams and accomplishments of their children.

Spouses do this as they recognize that someone else’s happiness completes their own. [Read more…]

Getting Swept Away by Holiday Madness?

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

This post originally appeared on one of my other blogs, but was used as well as a Word Weavers’ devotional.

I wrote the following note to my best friend recently, but I wanted to share it with you too, especially at this time of year. I don’t know about you, but I’m personally guilty of trying to cram too much into too little time and space. What’s really important to me though, and what I’m trying to convey through this flurry of activity and spending, is my love for the people I hold dearest. So, why do I make it so complicated?

Hmm… I’m sitting on the plane, trying to work on my intro presentation for Thursday. I’m pulling together some material that I think is pretty good. If nothing else, it’ll be entertaining while giving them a sense of who I am and what I do…

When I got to the airport and checked in, my ticket said “seat requested.” I later learned that meant that I didn’t actually have a seat on the plane, although I was confirmed to be on it. I reminded the nice lady at the gate of my request for an aisle seat, and she said she’d see what she could do. Then she cheerily handed me my new boarding pass and sent me on my way. When I saw seat 21A, I thought to myself, “that’s not an aisle seat!” But, since she hadn’t said anything, I thought maybe, somehow, it possibly could be?

As I boarded the plane, it became quickly apparent that I had a window seat. (Ugh!) The two seats next to me stayed empty for quite awhile, even as the flight crew did their best to herd everyone on the plane like cattle and get them situated as quickly as possible. I began to hope that maybe the seats were free, or at the very least that when the people did come, perhaps one of them preferred the window.

When they did finally arrive, I said absolutely nothing, grateful that I had a seat and could move freely about as I chose. The wife in the couple is ill. I don’t know if it’s MS or ALS or what, but she’s having a tough time of things, and she needs the ability to get to the lavatory as quickly as she’s able when needed. Her meds are rough on her, but her husband takes very good care of her.

Then, he decided to do the same for me, saying it makes him feel useful. :-) When I opened the tray to put my computer on it, it had the remnants of someone else’s meal on it. So, he cleaned it for me while I held the laptop, which I’d already gotten out and had nowhere to go with. He was also watching over my shoulder as I worked on my presentation, commenting on what he likes. When drinks were served, he situated mine on his tray since mine was occupied with the laptop.

Rich Is Not How Much You HaveThey both settled in for a nap about 45 minutes ago. Hands tightly clasped together, arms looped. Her head on his shoulder. She periodically wakes up and runs her hand over his, feeling his chest, his heart beat, his cheek, his forearm and back to reach for his hand. Such tenderness and love. I’m ashamed of having pitied her. She is richly blessed…

As much as I’m crammed in between the window and his elbow with no room to move (and pitying sardines), I’m touched by the scene unfolding next to me and, admittedly, envious. I’m reminded of a sign I have in my office at home. It says “Rich isn’t how much you have, or where you are going, or even what you are. Rich is who you have beside you.” 

Thanks for being in my life. It certainly feels much richer because of you… Your friendship enlivens my world. Thanks for stimulating conversations, a listening ear, the freedom to be silly and all of your support. It’s special to me.

Don’t let the busyness of the season sweep you away, when what’s really important is those who stand beside you.

How are you taking time to slow down?

1 Corinthians 14:1

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

1 Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. Most of all, try to proclaim his truth.

I recently attended a high school talent show. My daughter was in it, and I was eager to hear her sing in front of a live audience. Watching her, I knew she was in her element.

The neat thing was, so many of the other performers were too. Whether their acts were intended to entertain, inspire, mystify or move you, each of them were in their element, using their God-given talents to make a difference in the world.

The final performance was a teenage girl dancing with a friend to Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” a tired and worn-out song if ever there was one. Yet, what made this performance so exceptional, one worthy of the standing ovation it received, was that the girl who choreographed the dance was leading her friend in the movements. This friend has Down Syndrome. But in those moments on stage, she was free to embrace who she was and flaunt it for the world to see. The joy and excitement she felt shone on her face and was palpable to the audience.

How often do we find ourselves in the midst of our passion, abandoning ourselves to the joy of the gifts God has given us? No self-consciousness. No recrimination. Just living in the eye of God’s purpose for us?

I don’t know about you, but I hate to admit, it’s not as often as it could be or should be. I’m so busy living my life that I forget to spend time reveling in the gifts and talents God has given me, and using them to proclaim His truth and glorify His name.

Watching these kids share their various talents reminded me that I need to be more mindful about not just sharing mine, but enjoying mine.

How about you? What gifts or talents did God given you that are gathering dust on the shelf of your psyche?

God’s gifts aren’t intended to be received and then packed away for another day, put some place and long-forgotten. They’re intended to bring us joy, make us feel connected to Him, and through that to give us opportunities to share Him with others.

I know we’re all here because writing is one of the gifts we share. But if that were our only gift, we’d all be the same. We’re not. So, what makes you unique? What gift did God give you? And when will you make some time to spend with it, to enjoy it?

The gifts He’s given us don’t have to be front-and-center all the time. But the feeling they leave us with, feelings of fulfillment and contentment, carried into the world, set us apart from others in this hurried and discontented world, and give us opportunities to speak of His love for us.

1 John 4:18

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

What do you fear most? As a business owner, speaker and a human being, there are times when I’m tempted to let my fears, insecurities and weakness stop me from doing big things. I think to myself, What?! Are you crazy? You can’t do that!

Like the first time I chose to call myself an author and a speaker… Who would believe that?

Or the first time I stood in front of an audience, hoping I could keep their attention for the next 45 minutes. What could I possibly have to say that they’d want to hear?

Or when I took a huge leap of faith to follow God’s prompting, even though it seemed like a ridiculously huge step to take. What if I fall flat on my face?

Or the first time I allowed myself to be vulnerable with a new friend or ask for help when I’m stuck with something. What if they won’t like me afterward?

We can always find something to be afraid of, if we allow ourselves to. Our limiting beliefs don’t come from our Heavenly Father though. He assures us that through Christ, all things are possible because of the strength He gives us.

So, where do these fears and limiting beliefs come from? They come from the One who fears our being made perfect in love; the One who knows he truly has no power over us. He can only manipulate us.

Our Heavenly Father is love perfected. When we step out in faith, trusting in the words of Phil. 4:13, He will drive away our fears. But we have to let Him.

If we cling to our fears because they are familiar and comfortable, we shortchange ourselves, and we fall short of the plan that God has for our lives.

Take that first step, not around your fears, but through them. Let Christ pour through your words, your actions and your everyday life, driving out fear and replacing it with perfect love.

It’s a choice, pure and simple. But one that’s hard to make, and life-changing once made.

I once heard someone talk about having to embrace your fears in order to get through them. I wasn’t certain at the time if I believed it or not. But having recently walked through multiple fear-filled choices, I can see now that the only way around fear is through it. Embrace it, consume it, acknowledge it, and then let it go. It will lose its hold on you as you pass through it.

It is only in this way that we can be made perfect, and our words will have the value God intended them to all along. Remember, God loves words. After all, His Son is The Word.

Our Unreasonable God

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

Let me ask you this question. Has your God proved to be as unreasonable as mine has? He’s continually pushing me outside of my comfort zone, asking more of me than I think is reasonable. What’s that all about?

But then, what makes me unique?

He asked Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of just one tree, while leaving everything else open to them.

He asked Noah to build an arc in a dry and arid land.

He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and to leave a country he knew for the promise of a future land he was unfamiliar with.

Then, there was that whole thing about asking Moses to re-enter the palace walls 40 years after he’d left them to demand freedom for “his” people.

He asked Elijah to trust Him when all of the other prophets were being hunted down by Jezebel and killed.
And he asked little David to stand up to a giant with small stones and a slingshot.

He asked Jesus to come and take on the sins of this world for no other reason than that He loves you and me.

Jesus asked fishermen to leave their nets and follow him, promising that he would make them fisher of men.

Let’s face it… Our God is into ridiculous requests! He asked something completely unreasonable of me this past month. Yet, in following His leading, all I could do was obey the call.

When you’re living your daily life or writing what God puts on your heart, does He ever call you to be unreasonable? Do you listen, or do you turn a deaf ear, hoping He really didn’t mean it?

I’ve been called to be unreasonable in a big way. Yet, I believe that God will bless me through the experience. So, I’m wholeheartedly following His lead, being as unreasonable as I possibly can in this limited human frame that I have, and looking forward to seeing what it is that God accomplishes through this lesson.

When God calls us to be unreasonable, it’s usually because He has something huge planned for us, whether it’s in our lives or through our writing.

He’s gifted each one of us uniquely to use words to convey His message to others. Are you resisting being unreasonable? Stuck in the comfort of being safe and normal? Make that bold statement. Step out and be unreasonable, and see what God can do through you.

2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

17 But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

As many of you know, this past year has been a real struggle for me. God has placed greater challenges before me than at any other time in my life. The death of a loved one. The illness of a child. Financial troubles. Fear over an uncertain future. Concern for a wayward child. New responsibilities. Intricate teamwork.

Yet, He has also been richly blessing me with new experiences and insights into who He is, and with life-long dreams accomplished. It can be easy at times to think that our accomplishments are because of all the hard work and effort we put into them.

I would never have achieved the rank of 1st degree black belt if it weren’t for the years I spent drilling techniques, pushing my body to greater lengths, and overcoming mental and emotional stressors.

Yet, my life is not about me. It’s about God, and what He can accomplish through someone, even as weak as I am. At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be about. And my life is more richly blessed when I follow God’s intent. When I live my life as if it’s all about me, my life is meaningless. When I live it as if it’s all about Him, great things happen.

The same is true of our writing. When we cling to a thought, theme or words that we write without filtering t through what God desires to share through us, it’s all about us. And that’s the wrong viewpoint to take. That way leads emptiness at best, and sorrow and heartache at the worst.

If we allow our writing and our accomplishments to reflect His work in us and through us, we bring Him greater glory. What better work can we do in this life than to point the way to Him?

He is the narrow gate. No one comes to the Father, except through Christ.

Let your writing today, and in the days to come, reflect God’s work in you and Christ’s redemption of you. In this way, God will bless the work of your hands and commend you for being His instrument.

There is so much more satisfaction in introducing another to Christ and to the ways of God than there is in seeking glory for ourselves. Any glory we achieve for ourselves is short-lived. Accolades we receive here will not be received again in heaven. However, serving as a reflection of God’s work in and through us is a life-changing experience.

Therefore, allow your writing to be directed by God. When you should write, when you should sleep, and what you should say.

Romans 15:4

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Over the past few days, a repeated thought has been playing at the corners of my mind. “Honor the past…” When I turned to Scripture to see what words of wisdom would be revealed to me, I realized that there are many instances where God reminds us of what He has done in the past, so that He may do even more in the future. He reminds us of where we’ve been so that He can contrast that with what He has in store for us.

While Isaiah 43:18 tells us to “forget the former things; do not dwell in the past,” God repeatedly reminds us of what He has done for us, so that we can see where we once were, and rejoice in where He is taking us now.

We’re not called to dwell in the past, where we lose sight of the present and even possibly the future. But we are called to honor the past; recognizing God at work in it and through us. While He chooses to forget the past, and has forgiven us the sins that went with it, we should relinquish shame and guilt, while still remembering what went before.

As writers, we have a unique opportunity to reflect God’s glory to others, showing what God is capable of doing through those who love Him. If we blot out the past instead, as God has done, we lose the lessons that come with our experience; lessons we still need.

It’s those lessons that are among our most valuable treasures. They are to be shared with those around us to instruct, encourage, and guide; but most of all to offer hope – the hope that can only come from the One True God, the giver and author of Life.

So, as you write, I encourage you to honor the past and the lessons God has chosen to teach you through it. Cast off the garments of fear and shame, and share the story that is uniquely yours to tell.

God has worked in your life in ways that are specific to you. But your story has the ability to encourage someone and offer hope. Don’t hold on to it solely for yourself. Be a good steward of all that God has taught you, and share it with those in need of hearing it.

In this way, we will continue to instruct each other, while allowing endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures to offer hope through our words.

Isaiah 26:12

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

12 Lord, you establish peace for us;
all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

This month has been one of great highs and lows for me personally, and it caused me to reflect on how differently I handled such times when I was child versus now as an adult.

When I was younger, struggles in my circumstances would have caused me to withdraw, cry, and feel helpless and hopeless. I would have chalked that up to the fact that I wasn’t a Christian at the time, I suppose, if it weren’t for the fact that I watched my daughter’s responses to our cat going missing earlier this week.

Our indoor cat got out Wednesday night (without his collar) when a family member left the door wide open for too long. Brody’s absence wasn’t discovered until the next morning, when I realized he wasn’t tripping me to get his breakfast.

As I juggled figuring out what was going on and piecing together how things happened, I also had to get my son on the bus and make a plan with my daughter as to what to do next. However, in the 20 minutes it took to get my son out the door and start looking in earnest, my daughter had gone from sound asleep in bed to wandering in the woods calling mournfully for her cat and crying in despair.

I recognized that hopelessness. I’d felt it at times before in my life. So, I enfolded her in my arms, we went before the Lord together and prayed, and I reminded her that we hadn’t even begun looking for him yet; there were lots of resources still available to us for finding him. I think she felt comforted by knowing I was in charge, because she soon went back inside, settled down and waited, doing her usual things.

As an adult, I looked at the resources still available, and determined that I wasn’t going to allow myself to think he was gone until 48 hours had passed. Seeking God’s leading in what to do next established peace in my heart and left hope intact.

As I spent the day doing those next things and then finally settling in to wait myself, I was amazed that within 30 minutes of finishing everything I could think of, Brody showed up, safe and sound, although a little shook up from the experience.

Sometimes these little road bumps are in our lives simply to draw us nearer to Him, to remind us that He is the establisher of our peace and He is in control.

As we write, let us be mindful both of how our own approach to Life has changed over the years and of how God’s provisions can set us free from worry if we let them. Then, write what you know.

1 Timothy 4:11-16

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Over this past week, I’ve connected with and started to get to know another fellow Word Weaver. His name is Tony Trendl. He started WW last year, just as I did, and is looking forward to honing his craft through this experience.

He posted on Facebook yesterday, his commitment to have every unpublished (but ready) piece of his submitted somewhere at all times until they are all published. So, even as he writes new material, he’s juggling the process of taking his backlog of written pieces and submitting them, following up on them, etc.

I was struck by his tenacity and capacity to accept the rejections we both knew are coming. We commiserated that it’s always easier to get a rejection if there’s also feedback as to what we can do better. But that’s not often provided to us.

The same is true in life. We put our best foot forward, and hope that it’s enough, never knowing until we meet God face-to-face whether our efforts will be found wanting or not.

Paul exhorted Timothy not to neglect his gift. I think in the crush and busy press of our lives, it’s easy to forget to set time aside to write. Yet, for each of us here, we have to remember it’s a gift we’ve been given by God. We’re not to neglect it or any of the other gifts He’s given us. We’re to be diligent in perfecting our writing, giving ourselves wholly to the task, and allowing everyone to see the progress we make.

When Tony started sharing the rejection notices he was getting, I didn’t know whether to “like” them or not. But as I saw how he viewed them as stepping stones to success, I couldn’t help but to appreciate his transparency.

What I love in Paul’s promise to Timothy is that if we persevere in our life and watching our doctrine closely (as we write), we will save both ourselves and our readers.

So, don’t be afraid to take time apart to exercise your gift. And don’t be afraid to share both the victories and challenges, as we will continue to learn from one another. As you do, you will be saving both yourself and us.

Luke 22: 31-32

Tara Alemany, Author and Speaker

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.

I’ve been reflecting this past month, as have many of you I’m sure, on the Last Supper, Good Friday and the promise of Easter. This time of year challenges us to question how deeply we feel what we believe. The pain and suffering of Good Friday sheds light on our own pain and suffering in a new way. I know that I have never carried the sins of the world on my shoulders, even if I have felt as though I carried the weight of the world there.

Whether my pain is physical, mental or emotional, it can’t compare to being nailed to a cross and left there for hours to die.

Was Jesus able to endure all of that because of how deeply he loved us, or because he knew the outcome? He knew that Easter was just around the corner?

When we go through times of trial, it is easy for our faith to waver. Where is God in times of pain and suffering? Through Jesus, God understands our pain and what we’re capable (and incapable) of in times of suffering.

Listen to Jesus’ words to Peter at the Last Supper again. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

God knows that our faith will waver at times. We’re not penalized for that. He knows that Satan will sift us in the world. It’s part of His plan. So, we’re not to punish ourselves in times of questioning and doubt. God knows and loves us still.

But we are called to strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ when our trial is over and our strength is renewed. Don’t hide your pain away, swept under the rug, once that time has passed.

Share it with others that they may be strengthened by the lessons you learned and the comfort you received. For it’s the only way to squeeze honey out of the stumbling stones in our lives, and it can be a source of comfort for those who mourn and weep after you. Know that Jesus sends us out with everything we need.