As I can I want to offer a fresh word of encouragement sharing from my experience how our Father God meets us in the middle of loving and living out our faith to draw others to freedom. The road to freedom can seem long and hard not unlike the experiences of those living as refugees from war torn nations, those walking out of years of abuse and pain in broken relationships, those facing the reality check that comes with unplanned pregnancy, and the great journey to healing from trauma. I fully believe we are offered so much more than we ever experience as Christ followers. We settle for a life in bondage to the elemental nature of this world and continue to live as Hagar when in fact we are daughters of Sarah.

Galatians 4:31
31 So, brothers [and sisters], we are children not of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

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1 Thessalonians 5:9-12  (CJB)

For God has not intended that we should experience his fury, but that we should gain deliverance through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, 10 who died on our behalf so that whether we are alive or dead, we may live along with him. 

11 Therefore, encourage each other, and build each other up — just as you are doing.

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who are working hard among you, those who are guiding you in the Lord and confronting you in order to help you change.

We all need a place and people to share our stories with.  Not just a place to "co-misserate" but a place to really experience being built up, learning to respect and care for each other in our differences and in our purposes, to learn, to rest and to grow.  I am thinking this week of a group of people with whom I have shared that place of learning, leading and building up as they gather to encourage, share stories and come together in faith that the Lord is using all our efforts and hearing our cries to release those bound, to stop the oppression among us and to open paths of life.  I am so glad for these groups and individuals and their stories.  I have been encouraged, sobered, and challenged especially in learning contentment and remaining steadfast in the work before me, challenged to a higher level of excellence and to get up again after major roadblocks, frustrations and losses.  This is a journey that we individually take but is made all the better through the forging of the bonds of co-laboring together in the work of our dear Lord and Savior.

It is sometimes in the moments when life has slowed down and you can get the long view - seeing what lies behind and catch a glimpse of what lies ahead - that you see and feel how you have been changed and molded by the ones walking and journeying with you. My heart, my mind, the way I relate to my family, co-workers, to clients, to others in housing ministry has been built up by each interaction, each word of encouragement, each testimony of God's faithfullness and promise of what can be done when we work together. I encourage each one of us to continually put ourselves in places where we can be guided, confronted to change, and built up.

May your eyes be open to those the Lord has set on the journey with you!  May you in turn encourage each other!  

May you be changed and challenged by the relationships that build up!