We make decisions every day about who we accept and who we don't, who belongs and who can be ignored.

When dealing with matters like this, it's good to remember that God knows no such boundaries and ignores no one.

You are welcomed now into the presence of the very One who embraces you in the same way as any other person.

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These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.... Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.

Jeremiah 29:1,4-6

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It sounds like God's people living in exile, as foreign captives in Babylon, were just trying to make it until they could return home – the sooner the better! But the message from the prophet says, “God hasn’t given up on you. You're going to be here a while, so dig in and settle down.”

I spent the past year studying abroad, and for my first few weeks there, I felt a little reluctant to invest in friendships. I knew that my time there was temporary, and I thought it might just be simpler to keep my walls up.

After some time, I realized (perhaps at God’s nudging) that I could thrive in that place! I committed to plant some seeds and to let relationships take root – and I did indeed grow!

Whether our biggest challenge is being in exile or facing school exams, God wants us to flourish right where we are. For the blessing of the Israelites in their time of distress and for us in our various situations – God won’t give up!

Meredith Shaw

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Faithful Lord, thank you for being by me, no matter where I go. Continue to guide me into your blessing. Amen.

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You are moving now into the day ahead,
No stranger to the One who has made you
And has kept you right up until this moment.

Pause today from time to time and feel
The embrace of a God who offers you welcome.
Share that welcome with all you meet.

Meredith Shaw Forssman

Meredith Shaw is a student at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She also works in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Resource Center as a missional congregations assistant. She likes books, coffee, travel, and snail mail.

I Come to the Garden Alone

Ken Medema

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