March Madness: When What You Really Want is JOY

I have a friend who laughs easily.

I just adore her.  She’s a friend who will laugh at our stories, who will giggle at the funny things of life, and just find joy.

I LOVE being around people like that, don’t you?  You can probably think of those in your life who laugh easily and just bring a sense of joy to wherever they are.

laughing-girls

Joy is the antidote to anger.

However, there have been seasons in my life when anger and frustration have stolen my joy.  I came from a family history that was entangled with stories of anger, stories that I’d seen and experienced, some I’d only heard about.  And soon after I had children of my own, I realized that the opportunity to continue that story was more than ready to present itself.

One day, the Lord brought me to a defining moment with this one question: “Is this what you want?”  Did I want to continue with this legacy of anger, both for me and my children?  Of course, I said no.

However, it was one thing to have an epiphany.  It was whole other thing to do something about it.

And so I began a journey with the Lord that has been an incredible catalyst for change in my life, a change that can only be explained by His transformative power.

You see, I had to come to the point where I had to decide whether or not I really wanted Him to do a work in my life.  Did I want to just keep trying harder, working smarter to do better, or did I really want Him to change me from the inside out?  Did I want “sin management” or transformation?  Because there’s a big difference.  When I’m in sin management mode,

  • I am striving to respond correctly to the situation.
  • I am focused on fixing the immediate problem.
  • I am constantly analyzing my emotions.
  • I am trying over and over to just do the right thing.

Sin management is all about the immediacy of the moment, maintaining control and being a problem solver.  It’s working feverishly to just get a bandaid on the issue.  It is striving to not mess up, to “be a good Christian” and do the right thing.

And it’s exhausting.

Transformation, however, allows for a completely different perspective (thank you, Jesus).  When I am living and breathing out of His transformative work in my life,

  • It is God who is at work in me.  Not me at work in me.
  • He goes before me and straightens my path.
  • He changes my eyesight to see with His joy and grace.
  • He changes me from the inside out.

When I am striving towards sin management, the focus is on me, my reactions and how I did.  When I am operating out of His transformation, He gets all the glory.

It sounds so great in theory, doesn’t it?  Typed up here in black and white it reads so easily, when really, on the pavement of every day life, it can get so muddied.  I’ve talked with women who feel so stuck in the grip of anger, women who want so desperately to have hope.  Women like you and me, who want to be free and live stories of beauty and redemption.

So today, if that’s you, and we were sitting at my kitchen table having coffee, here’s what I’d say…

You do not have to stay stuck.  God is able to take the beautiful and the messy of your past and show you His redemptive glory in all of it.  God does not waste a hurt.  Wherever you are at, God is not about keeping you under condemnation or shame.  Galatians 5:1 says that “it was for freedom that Christ set us free.”  There is freedom available, for you, today.  You don’t have to stay stuck.

Ask God to give you a new vision for your future.  He has dreams and plans for you . . . for your future.  However, we so often get so caught up in surviving that we can’t see how to truly live.   Ask God for sight . . . to see beyond your circumstances, to see His future for you.  What would God have for your future?  What do you want it to look like?  For me, I wanted to no longer be stuck in a cycle of sin and shame, but to be a woman and a mom who was strong in the Lord, who was marked by love, and patience, and joy.  Oh, to be marked by joy.  I’ve soaked in this quote from Ann Voskamp often,

What do I want my children to remember — my joy in clean floors, made beds and ironed shirts — or my joy of the Lord? You will be most remembered by what brought you most joy.

What might God have for your future?  Spend some time dreaming with Him.

Pursue that dream with the realization that the lives of future generations are at stake.  My life is so much bigger than just me.  Future generations are directly impacted by the decisions that I make.   The moment I fully took this in, it got real.  I could no longer just operate out of sin management, I had to be changed.  Here’s what that meant for me…

  • I got on my knees.  A lot.  I would kneel by my bed and cry out to the Lord, praying that I would no longer be conformed to this world, but that I would be transformed by the renewing of my mind that I might prove what His will was in my life and in my children’s lives, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).
  • I found scriptures and clung to them, ones that encouraged me to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, knowing that my anger does not achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20).
  • I asked friends to pray for me.  Bringing it out into the Light among trusted friends was vulnerable, but allowed for accountability and support.
  • I asked my kids to forgive me when I messed up. There is power in admitting your sins to your kids.
  • I asked God to show me how He sees my children, and then asked that He would show me how to love them like He does.  

Oh, I’ve fallen short.  But He is forever faithful.  His dream for my life is always accompanied by His strength to accomplish it.

And finally, I would encourage you to trust that God WILL change you from the inside out.  God has the amazing ability to transform a life with His power, His grace and His redemption.  God is always writing a story of redemption in our lives. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart
 and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways submit to Him, 
and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  Spend some time looking at the details of this verse.  Take note that we are not responsible to make our path straight.  It is God who is going before us, making our path straight.  

That will bring freedom and joy to a weary heart every time.

My friend, His dream for your life is always accompanied by His strength to accomplish it.  You don’t have to stay stuck.  Ask Him to give you a new vision for your future.  Pursue that dream knowing that the lives of future generations are at stake.  Trust that God is changing you from the inside out.

Then live as if the JOY of the Lord is your strength.

______________________________

God, thank You that You are forever pursuing me, that You don’t count my sins against me.  Thank You that You don’t waste a single hurt in my life, that You are using it all for my redemption and for Your glory.  Show me how You would have me live.  Take me out of the mind-set of sin management and trying to fix my problems with my own strength.  Transform me from the inside out.  Give me a new vision for my life, one that is filled with Your love, your grace.  Show me a future where You are my God and I am your daughter, walking transformed by the renewing of my mind.  Give me the strength to pursue that dream with all that I am, that my life may be a powerful testimony of You to future generations.  Help me to trust You at every point along the way, knowing that You are going ahead of me, making my path straight.  Praise You, Jesus, that Your dream for my life is always accompanied by Your strength to accomplish it.  Praise You for your freedom, for your never-failing love, and Your joy that gives me strength.  Amen. 

 

March Madness: WHY do we get so Mad?

We got a puppy.

Last month we decided to find a sweet puppy because we are just dog people.  Our first baby, Dakota, we’d had for 13 years and lost him on New Year’s Day.  So very soon afterwards we began the search and found this little angel.

photo-3

Yep, she’s adorable.

But even as I type this morning, I’m about ready to lose my mind with her.  I woke up early to write, while it’s quiet, and nobody’s up because it’s Spring Break.  This angel decided to wake up before the sun, which of course she never does on a school day, and just pitched a whiny FIT when I tried to get her to go back to sleep, and has been a total puppy spaz since 6am.  I’ve been racing around the house desperately trying to keep her quiet so she doesn’t wake up the kids, and all I want to do is write!

Seriously I just want to write, why can’t I just write?!

After about the 6th time of getting up to let her out to pee again, my word, I got back to my computer, began to see through the fog, and realized how rapidly my heart was pounding with my frustration…as I’m writing about “why do we get so mad?”.  Right.

We all have moments like that, don’t we?  Moments that are as benign as a dog that’s interrupting your morning, to being frustrated at your co-workers, to arguing with your spouse.  We all experience these, and we all get frustrated.  But where we get into trouble is when these moments turn into patterns that begin to take root and take over.  When these moments turn into patterns, our default becomes anger, until we find ourselves years down the road, constantly consumed in an emotion that was never intended to have so much power.

What are your triggers?  What typically sets you off?  Because what I’ve found, is there are certain events, or people or circumstances that can usually cause me to get frustrated.  What are those for you?  Maybe they look like this:

  • Your traffic-filled drive to work
  • Your co-worker’s attitude
  • Your finances
  • Your family dynamics
  • Your mom’s input on your life or parenting
  • Your children’s decisions
  • Your spouse’s schedule
  • How the decisions of others are now affecting you

These circumstances can set off a whole host of emotions in us, often times leading to anger.  But what I want to suggest is that anger is often times a secondary emotion.  Often times anger is a result of another primary emotion.  Here are a few possible primary emotions that lead to anger, you can probably think of more:

FEAR - We get afraid of a person or a circumstance, which turns into anger.  A great example of this was a few years back we were with my in-laws at the Grand Canyon.  My mother-in-law is deathly afraid of heights so it was all she could do to even get near the edge.  She was so afraid someone would plummet off the side, she walked slowly and intentionally everywhere we went.  So…being the sweet daughter-in-law I am…I decided to mess with her a little bit and loudly slid my foot along the gravel making it sound like I was slipping……oh, not wise, I got an initial look from her of complete terror, immediately followed by daggers of death.  She was not pleased AT ALL and it took a while for her to not be mad at me.  Her primary emotion was fear, but it quickly turned to anger.  (She does still love me, thankfully, and has since forgiven me.)

One year we were with a group of friends at Havasupai Falls, Mooney Falls specifically.  Everyone was climbing to the bottom, which was not an easy hike, straight down with only the help of these ridiculously rickety wooden steps and chain hand-holds.  I was gripped in fear, my knees were shaking, and tears were beginning to come.  My husband did everything he could to encourage me, but I totally turned on him because suddenly he was to blame for all the horrors of my life – the steepness of the climb, for not telling me it would be this bad (he swears he did), and for dragging me there in the first place.  My primary emotion was fear, but it turned into anger, which was pretty intense towards my man.  Oh, we were both pretty happy when that climb was over.

HURT – Think of the last time someone hurt your feelings, you felt misunderstood or embarrassed.  Your first reaction was one of hurt, which most likely turned into anger towards that person.  Maybe your co-worker embarrassed you or discredited your work in front of others.  Maybe your sister is pregnant and she’s going to take the boy name you’ve had picked out since you were 14 (totally happened to a friend of mine).  The initial emotion is one of deep hurt, but it turns into anger, doesn’t it?

DISAPPOINTMENT – I think this is a biggee for us.  We get disappointed when our plans don’t go according to our expectations.  Expectations are HUGE in our lives ~ we anticipate how a date night will work out, how a planned birthday party will go, how a vacation will be.  We plan and we anticipate and we hope and expect things to work out.  But plans change or people happen and our day turn into something different than we expected, and we are so disappointed.  Disappointment that quickly turns to anger.

My husband and I were overwhelmed with disappointment at the length of the adoption process for our boys.  We anticipated nine months which turned into two years.  We regularly battled frustration towards so many things, from the immigration red tape, to the Haitian government policies, to at times, if I’m honest, God.  Why couldn’t He make all this go so much differently?

Expectations are huge, aren’t they?  Expectations are played out in so many ways:

  • Type A personalities work a plan and put systems into place
  • Type Not-A personalities expect others to go with the flow
  • Moms expect their kids to obey
  • We expect our parents to parent us in a certain way
  • We expect God to respond to our lives in a particular way

And when these expectations are not met, we often default into anger.

So what sets your anger into motion?

Here’s something to think about today:

#1 – What prompts you to get angry?  

#2 – (And this one is even more important) ~ WHY has that become a trigger?  What about that causes you to get mad?  Is it because you’re hurt?  Or maybe certain expectations have not been met?  “WHY” is such a great question for us to ask and can often open us up to what is really going on underneath.

The “WHY” question has been huge for me, allowing me space to take a step back to analyze, instead of panicking to take a step forward into action.  Because what I found is that by racing forward to fix the situation or my angry response, I began to find myself in “sin-mangement”, instead of being truly transformed from the inside out.  More on that later this week…

I’d love to hear from you.  Let’s bring this out into the Light, right?  I have heard from so many of you that have said you struggle with this, and how it’s been a stronghold for so long.  Let us hear from you, and let’s hold each other up as we seek to be healed up and set free.

Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.   James 1:19-20 ESV

When Your March Madness has Nothing to do with Basketball

A few years ago my husband was traveling quite a bit, leaving me at home alone with four kids.

Four.

Little ones, like 5, 4, 3 and newbie.  It was rough.  Sometimes it was all I could do not to be bitter at him, or at least at the freedom he seemed to have as he got on another plane.  And my little ones, they are precious for sure, and I prayed and prayed (and prayed!) them home through our adoption process and then throughout my pregnancy.  But oh. my. word.

I remember being home one afternoon while my husband was out of state, feeling completely overwhelmed and mad, hiding myself behind the door of my bathroom and just losing it.  Crying.  Reeling from the anger I’d felt and the sting of the words I’d just used towards my kids, again.  Drowning in the shame of once again going over the top with my reactions and feeling like a total failure.  Would this ever change?  Would I ever be able to “handle” this or would anger always get the best, or the very worse, of me?

I wonder if you’ve ever felt this way.  Angry at your kids, angry with your husband, your family, your friends.  Stuck in this cycle of getting good and mad, then feeling guilty, followed up by defeat and shame.  Desperately wanting a different story.

What’s your story?  What’s been your journey with anger and those high intensity emotions?

I so wish I could sit across from you and hear your story.  Because we all feel so deeply, don’t we?  We are passionate women who feel big and loud and express it with strong intensity.  Often.

Interestingly enough, God created us with this intensity.  He wired us to feel emotions deeply.  He created us with our five senses, to see, to hear, to touch, to smell and to taste, and to experience life around us fully.  To live life full of breath and wonder, taking everything in deeply with colors and smells and flavor.  We were wired to experience life with all of our senses and with a full range of emotions.

Anger is one of those emotions we were wired to feel.  Which sounds crazy, as destructive as it can be, but anger is just that.  An emotion.  In fact, anger can serve as a very good response in our lives:

  • Anger can stir us to stand up for social justice.  Just try and talk to me about human trafficking and see if I don’t get all fired up.
  • Anger can cause us to protect those we love.  Anyone had the “mama bear” awakened after someone came against your child, or family member?
  • Anger can cause us to stand up for ourselves.  For the woman in an abusive relationship who has said “that’s it.”, anger can serve as her catalyst to get free.

Even Jesus Himself got good and mad in the temple one day (Matthew 21:12), flipping tables and going off on those around Him because of the way they were treating His Father’s house.  If the possibility of being angry is in Jesus, it’s definitely in us because God created us that way.

Anger is an emotion that is normal and at times, necessary.

However, the anger I’m referring to is the one that goes over the top.  The kind that is…

  • out of control
  • destructive
  • volatile
  • full of condemnation

The kind that finds you weeping in your bathroom after you’ve just lost it with your kids.

Anyone?

Why do we get so mad?

Let’s spend some time here, exploring a few of the why’s of this whole thing, why we allow our anger to come in and consume us, damaging our hearts, and hurting those we love.  Let’s expose wrong thought patterns and loosen the grip of shame.  Come with me next week and let’s allow the Lord to transform us, to heal up some of the wounds we have, and set our feet on a path to restoration. . . hope . . . and redemptionbelieving and living as if the JOY of the Lord is truly our strength

Join me next week.  Let’s bring this into the Light.

Let’s turn this March madness thing around.

Maybe Sit and Soak Here, then do the Resolution Thing

His blue eyes sparkled as he told me every last detail.

My five-year-old’s eyes slay me.  And with so many stories to tell during these holiday-days, I am often completely taken with the joy in his eyes. 

I use to sit in wonder of those moms who seemed to actually enjoy school breaks with their kids.  I was not that mom.  I feared them and would have mini-panic attacks at how I would pass the time and keep their ever moving minds and bodies occupied.  

But this break has brought about a different reaction.  I want to sit and soak in every moment.  Soak in the stories.  The laughter.  The mess.  Sit still . .  yes, sit still . . . and look on with remembrance at all that God has done in my children’s lives in the past year.  Remember His workings, in my own life.  How He’s called me to live in the present.  To stop comparing.  To slow down to see the joy in their eyes.

We are so quick to move on, aren’t we?

relogio do tempo

We want the next thing, the next challenge, the next answer.  The next year.  We want to move on.  So much that’s been hard, difficult, painful.  Yes, so much.

But what has been good?  What has been good from this holiday, from this season . . . from this year?

What if we took some time today, as we cross into January 1st once again, to pause and look back?  Instead of marching forward with resolutions and resolve, what if we first stopped to remember?

When we stop to remember, we say yes to how God has worked in our lives.  

When we forget, or move too fast, our hearts become too self-sufficient.  Too quick to self-fix.  Too cold to hear Him.

I need space to remember.

I am learning that while I must have plans, and hopes, and dreams, my soul needs that quiet place to rest.  To reflect.  To take note of how great is my God and how mightily He has moved in my life.

It’s difficult to find the time, isn’t it?  In our fast moving world, it’s nearly impossible to slow down.  However, we hear so often stories of those who’ve lost sight of God’s goodness.  Stories of those who have forgotten the great wonders He has shown them, the miracles He has done (Psalm 78:11-12, Nehemiah 9:16-17). 

I want to remember.

Would you do the same?  What is your story from this year?  Stories of wonder.  Stories of delight.  Stories of pain and challenge.  How would you recap your holiday-days?  Below are some possible questions to ponder.  Maybe take a moment to remember and share your story with your Father . . .

  • What are your top two experiences from 2013?
  • What made them reach the top two?
  • What would you take from those times into 2014? (relationships, laughter, love, forgiveness, experience)
  • How have you seen your own walk with the Lord deepen this year?
  • How has that impacted your every day?  Your relationships?
  • What Bible passages or specific verses have meant the most to you this year?
  • Why?  How have these Words impacted your life?
  • How have you been strengthened as a result?  Changed?  
  • What has been difficult or painful this year?
  • How has this hurt shaped you and drawn you to the Lord?  
  • How does this bring you joy, knowing that your struggle has brought a greater dependence, wonder and love for Him?

Is there one word that would wrap up His goodness in your life this year?  If so, write it down as your Ebenezer, or your stone of remembrance.  Tell Him about it.  

Then look up.  And know that your Father has heard every drop of your story.  That He has seen your path this year, He has walked with you.  He is still with you.  He has been completely taken with the joy in your eyes, for He Himself was slain, to bring about your very own story of redemption.  

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross . . . Hebrews 12:2

 

 

 

Anyone in the Labor Pains of Adoption?

November is National Adoption Month.

As a mama who has walked through both domestic and international adoptions, this month stirs up so many emotions.  Emotions of both joy and pain.  Thoughts of birth parents, stories of orphanages.  The hoops, the paperwork.  Monthly pictures sent of those sweet smiling faces, just waiting.   Oh, the waiting.  It really is the hardest part.  I’ve often said that when you adopt you may not experience physical contractions, but you LABOR those children home.  Anyone?

My friend, Diane, has experienced those labor pains.  Two long years of incredible highs and heart-shattering lows.  The waiting, the wondering, the unfulfilled hope… so much at times that it seemed she couldn’t take any more.

Maybe you are in the middle of those labor pains:

  • Maybe you are stuck in the middle of the mounds of paperwork, wondering when and how everything will be accomplished.
  • Maybe you’ve submitted every last piece of documentation, yet they just need “one more thing”.
  • Maybe your home study needs to be renewed.  Again.
  • Maybe you are afraid of all the unknown pieces that haven’t come together yet.
  • Maybe you feel like it’s just never going to happen.

Oh, friend, I so get that.  You are not alone.

A friend once told me that sometimes when you’re in the middle of all this crazy adoption stuff you just need to hear the stories of others to know that you are not, in fact, crazy.  That there is hope, even if you can’t see it.  

So today, this . . . this post (and her subsequent ones) from my friend, Diane.  It is so beautifully written, such an honest portrayal of a mother’s heart, searching and longing for her child.  My prayer is that it will encourage even just one of you, to know that you are not forgotten, there is hope, and that God is intentionally making a way for you.  And for your family

“Two exact years. There were moments after we began this process that we thought we couldn’t go on. It was too hard. Too painful. Very little has been easy with this adoption. This process has taken more turns than any ride at Lakeside.”  Continue reading…

 

When You’re in the Middle of it All

Today, I’m over with my friend, Becky Harling.  She is an incredible speaker and author, mother of four as well as our our lead pastor’s wife.  This amazing woman of God is the author of a new book called “The 30 Day Praise Challenge”.  It is absolutely changing the way that I approach life (if I could give each of you a copy of this book I would!).  Today Becky invited me to share about a recent experience that had all the makings of good reality TV turned crisis.  Join me today… 

 

My entire family was in our backyard, pruning back the beginnings of fall from all our dead flowers.  

On this day, for whatever reason, I put my eight-year-old daughter in charge of the garden shears…yes, the big metal hedge shears you would use to trim tree branches (no, I don’t know why…).

As I held up the end of a huge flower for her to cut, my girl lined up the blades and mistakingly cut into my right index finger.  I painfully yelled for her to stop, and while she hadn’t taken my finger off, I knew it was bad.   Continue reading… 

When You Have A Dream

The year was 1963.  

Fifty years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King stood and delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  And while this is a huge iconic moment in American history, for our family it’s straight up reality.

In 1963, a woman by the name of Helen Parker was living in northeastern Indiana, raising a family and leading her church’s little youth group.  She had heard about an event that was going to take place out in Washington D.C., a March for Jobs and Freedom.  

For whatever reason only known to her heart, Helen Parker knew she had to be there.  

And not only did she need to be there, so did the students of her youth group.  There was no internet in 1963, this event was not trending.  But news of it had reached across the country.  She understood it was going to be big.  Historical.  

She understood that the next generation had to get this one right.

So she loaded up her car, teenagers and all, in the late August heat and drove east.  As she arrived in D.C. and descended onto the Mall area, what a sight it must have been.  She described her little entourage as “a few grains of salt in a sea of pepper”.  

Helen Parker was not just some random lady.  She was my husband’s grandmother.

program

As she stood there that day, she heard Dr. King’s famous speech.  She heard his words and dreamt with him.  She heard Dr. King as he spoke of a day when his children “would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”, a day when “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers”.  She listened.  She took notes.  She probably sang.

MLK

What a day.

What a powerful day.  So much she saw and experienced.  So many words proclaimed, so many prayers surely offered.

As it came to a close, as she loaded up her students and began the long journey back to Indiana, I wonder what conversations took place in that car.  I wonder if they understood the historical depth of the event they had just witnessed.  I wonder if they had any idea the impact those words would have on the life of our country… my guess is that they could not have possibly known.

My husband’s Nana couldn’t have known how that day would be remembered.  She couldn’t have known the full impact of the power of that speech.

She couldn’t have known how her decision to be there on that day would ultimately impact her family for generations to come.

Generations yet to be born.

Because ten years after that iconic day, her only daughter had a son…

and he would grow up to be a man…

who would fall in love with a girl named Julie…

and together they would have a family…

and their little black boys would hold hands with little white boys and white girls… as sisters and brothers…

fam

How could she have known?

What a legacy.

Today I stand humbled at the prayers of Helen Parker, and the dreams she had for her country, for her family.

I am brought to tears when I look at my children and see the realization of those answered prayers.

I am challenged by her unabashed bravery in the face of racism and hatred, to stand on behalf of those who are painfully oppressed.

And I am compelled to passionately continue her amazing legacy of prayer for our family, and the generations yet to be born, that they would remember the stories of those who have gone before them, and set their hope and their future on God alone.

O my people, listen to my instructions.
    Open your ears to what I am saying,
    for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
    stories we have heard and known,
    stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children;
    we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
    about his power and his mighty wonders.
For he issued his laws to Jacob;
    he gave his instructions to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors
    to teach them to their children,
so the next generation might know them—
    even the children not yet born—
    and they in turn will teach their own children.
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
    not forgetting his glorious miracles
    and obeying his commands.

Psalm 78

Be Still…Our Summer to Soak Finale

WE MADE IT!!!!!

Girls we made it to our last week of our Summer to Soak!  I am so incredibly thankful for every one of you that took the challenge to spend your summer soaking in God’s Word.  So many of you have shared with me that you’ve seen and experienced God in new ways, and that His Word has transformed you from the inside out.  I love it when God takes a simple verse (maybe one we’ve known all our lives) and challenges our hearts in a fresh way to know Him more…to love Him more.  God is SO faithful, always pursuing us, always drawing us with His incredible grace, power and love.  I’m so humbled, so thankful!

And so as our summers begin to slowly turn the corner and we head into what is most likely a very busy fall season, my prayer is that this last week’s verse becomes our new anthem.  My prayer is that these words become your thanks and your praise because your soul knows it well.  

This last week’s truth is simple, yet maybe the most profound:

Be still, and know that I am God.  

Psalm 46:10

This one stops me in my tracks, every time.

God has had me here all summer.  This has been His word to me over and over…He keeps bringing me back to this same message.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

I think it speaks so strongly to me because each phrase has such intentional meaning:

1.  “Be still.”  I believe God is referring here to a quieting of the soul.  Sometimes this must be done physically.  We must stop moving, we must get away to a quiet place and actually be still.  In a world that is constantly moving, we must make space to stop and breathe in the realization that God is present.  There are times in our day, however, that we can only do this mentally.  There are times when life is moving, conversations are happening and emotions are flying.  In those times, God’s word implores me to take a moment, quiet myself and listen to His truth:  “be still”.  It’s a quieting on the inside, even when the whole world is going loud and strong.  “Be Still…”

2.  “…and know.”  When you know something, it sinks deep, doesn’t it?  Think of the things you know, like the sound of your child’s voice, or the roar of the ocean.  Those things that we know rest deep within us, and nothing can shake them.  They are foundational.  Be still and KNOW…let the knowledge of His presence in your life sink deep down.

3.  “…that I am God.”  Know that He is God.  Your God.  The great I Am.   He was before time began and He is with you in your very breath right now.  He will never leave you or forsake you, His love never fails.  He is the strength and the very sustenance of your soul.  He is bigger than any trial or problem or issue you face.  He goes before you and completely has your back.  He is your shield, your protector, your Light in the dark.  That is your God, and He. is. I. Am.  

Be still, and know that I am God.

When life doesn’t go according to your plan,

Be still and know that I am God.

In the middle of that really difficult conversation,

Be still and know that I am God.

When the schedule and the kids and the fur is flying,

Be still and know that I am God.

When you want to grab control of the situation,

Be still and know that I am God.

When the news is painful and you have no idea what to do, 

Be still and know that I am God. 

In the middle of that delay,

Be still and know that I am God.

When you see unexpected beauty that takes your breath away,

Be still and know that I am God. 

When you hear the laughter of the one you love,

Be still and know that I am God. 

When you are at peace and all is right in the world,

Be still and know that I am God.

Let your heart sink into this truth.  Let it become the chorus of your day, let it be the rhythm of your breath.  Slow down.  Align your eyes to see His truth, that our God is present, reigning above every circumstance that is before you.  Nothing is out of His sight, He knows what your soul needs and He is sufficient.  Slow down.  Hear His voice speaking in the midst of the noise…be still, and know that I am God.

Say it, over and over, as a whisper, as a prayer, until your heart knows it well.

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Let it be your anthem, your prayer, your thanks and your praise.  Our God is amazing.

Ladies…I cannot believe our time has come to an end…it has been such an incredible honor and joy to have spent this summer with you.  Thank you for taking the time to sink into His Word, to soak in His Truth.

No matter what your season, no matter where God has brought you or is taking you, in closing I challenge you to this:

Seek Him – seek Him with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13-14),

Put your complete trust in His relentless love (1 John 4:16),

Do not fear, but stand strong in His power and love and strength of mind (2 Timothy 1:7),

Encourage those around you by your words (Ephesians 4:29),

Believe that His grace is enough (2 Corinthians 12:9),

and Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

Let’s be women who believe God with every fiber of our being, then live it out loud for His Glory!

A Resource…for When You Really Want to Soak in His Word

How much information can you absorb in one minute?

Every day we take in a crazy amount of info, don’t we?  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and CNN keep us updated on royal babies, anniversaries, political drama, NFL drama (c’mon Broncos, keep it together!).   We scan over headlines, posts and pictures as quickly as our eyes can fly.  You can find out a lot of dish on a lot of topics in one minute.

That can even translate into our Bible reading.  Get it done, check it off, take in as many words as possible, as quickly as possible.

But what if we slowed down, took in less, and just sat in the words of scripture?  What if we meditated on God’s Word in a slow and intentional way?

Now, if I was the younger version of me, you would have lost me at that word “meditate”.  I’d have assumed this post was about to go all New-Age on me and I’d have moved on.  However, I’ve come to know in a much kinder and grace-filled way that the word meditate did not originate from a yoga class.  The word is originally found in scripture, and it is one of the best ways to absorb God’s word.

“Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.”  Psalm 1:1-2 NLT

So what’s the difference between reading Scripture and meditating on it?

Take a look at this article about The Gospel and the Discipline of Bible Intake by Donald S. Whitney

It seems a common experience for people to read the Bible and then, as soon as they close it, forget everything they’ve read.  I think the forgetfulness occurs mostly because people spend two or three seconds reading one verse, then two or three seconds with the next verse, and so on until they are finished. How much does anyone remember of thoughts they consider for just two seconds?

Most Christians read the Bible. Few meditate on it. As a result, so many sense little spiritual impact from the time they invest in Scripture intake. So the main reason more Christians don’t find their daily time in the Scriptures more profitable has little to do with the strength of their memory, the level of their education, or their IQ.  Rather, the problem is very simple: a lack of meditation on Scripture.

If you spend just sixty seconds meditating on a verse of Scripture, do you realize that may be ten to twenty times as long as you would normally consider that verse?”

So how do I meditate on scripture?

There are so many different ways to soak in scripture.  However, all of them involve going slower and staying in the Word for transformation verses information.  Meditation opens you up to not only gather information, but to really hear what the Word of God is saying.  By engaging this way, you experience the fullness of not only loving God with your mind (information), but also with your heart (emotion) and your soul (transformation).  I love this quote from Bonhoeffer,

The Word of Scripture should never stop sounding in your ears and working in you all day long, just like the words of someone you love…ponder this Word long in your heart until it has gone right into you and taken possession of you.

Not sure how to do this?  Here’s a few ideas…

  • repeat a verse or phrase with emphasis on a different word each time
  • write the verse or phrase out, rereading it several times
  • make the verse personal, “I delight in His Word, oh the joys I will have when I meditate on it day and night”.
  • look for applications of the text, ask “how does this apply to what I’m going through?”
  • pray through the text, for yourself or for someone else, “God thank you that my child will not sit with mockers, but will delight in your word, and as they grow and mature they will meditate on your word day and night.”

The practice of meditation is simply staying in a passage of scripture until it begins to sink into you.

One of my favorite ways to sit and soak in God’s Word is the first example given, repeating the verse with an emphasis on a different word each time.  For example, take our verse from last week, 2 Corinthians 12:9, which says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

First, read through the verse, then re-speak it, emphasizing a specific word over the others.  As you go through the whole verse, place emphasis on the next word until you’re done.  For instance,

My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

 “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

Did you notice a difference as you emphasized different words?  What word(s) stood out to you?  Ask the Lord why that word or phrase.  Ask if there is something He wants to speak to you regarding that.

I encourage you to go back through our Summer to Soak Series and spend time with each verse.  Take one minute.  And see how God’s Word might take hold of you.

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Ladies, we have ONE WEEK LEFT!  Next week will be our final session, and it’s where God has had me all summer.  

Where has God had you this summer?  I’d love to hear how God’s Word has impacted your life…your comments are a blessing and encouragement to others!

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Is His Grace Really Enough?

Earlier in my life I experienced an event no woman should ever have to go through.  I was assaulted by a man who had stalked me for several months.  It was an incredibly traumatizing time, and this event, though it could have been much worse, was overwhelming.  The man was eventually caught, but plead not guilty, which meant we had to go to court.

The very last place this girl wanted to be.

The thought of going into court and facing this man was more than I could bear.  It was everything I could do to look at the date on the calendar, to visualize being in the courtroom, attorneys, the judge…it was too much to wrap my mind around.  It began to wreak havoc on me, so much so that I got to the point where I had to just shut that part of my brain off.  Whenever I would think about it, I had to compartmentalize it, shove it down into a small little box and put it as far back into my mind as possible.  It was the only way I could cope.

One evening though, God took me somewhere that blew the lid off that box.

He brought me to 2 Corinthians 12:9, which says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

This completely rocked my guarded heart, because it felt like what He was saying to me was this:

“Julie, I want you to bring out that box and open it up.  I don’t want you to lock it away, I don’t want you to be paralyzed by it.  I want you to open it up…and release it to me.  I want you to exchange your fear… with My grace.  You can walk this path, with Me.  You do not need to be afraid, because I am.  I am with you.  You are weak, but that is the best place to be, because in the knowledge of that you then allow My power to fully reign in your life.  In your admission of weakness, you will experience a renewing and a confidence of knowing that I instead will take on this burden.  I will walk for you, I will breathe for you, I will answer for you.  In your weakness, stand.  Because that’s where My power is at its best.”

God’s grace was to be my sufficiency.  My covering.  My strength.

Could it be true?  Was His grace really enough?  Ultimately, I had to decide if I believed that.

Have you ever been there?  Found yourself having to decide if God’s grace was really enough?

We are already into Week 5 of our Summer to Soak.  This time we are looking at a very familiar verse, one that many of us can or have quoted, or at least sung about.

Our Verse For Week Five

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

These ancient words written by Paul to the church in Corinth are just as poignant to us today.  Paul had a “thorn in his flesh”, and he had petitioned God to remove it.  God said no, Paul, my grace is all you need.

A difficult response to hear, I’m guessing.  But what does it really mean?  This week we will look at each phrase and allow its Truth to soak into our lives.

Grace.

It’s what sets apart Christianity from every other religion.  Grace is the very essence of God, and it says that His favor and forgiveness are free, and fully available to me.  His grace is ridiculous, undeserved and overwhelming.  In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace (a must read), Phillip Yancey says this:

Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.  Grace baffles us because it goes against the intuition everyone has that, in the face of injustice, some price must be paid.  Grace costs nothing for the recipients and everything for the giver. Grace is not a grandfatherly display of “niceness,” for it cost the exorbitant price of Calvary.  Grace is free only because the giver himself has borne the cost.

Just this one word must bring about the deepest of gratitude…grace.

His grace is sufficient.

It is enough.

Is Jesus enough?  

Is what Jesus has to offer you really enough?  Or would you say that Jesus is good, but if only you had a little more _____________.

Is Jesus enough?

For My power…

There is that word again: power.  If you were with us in Week 3 we talked extensively about this word “power”, this same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20).  Yes, that’s the same power Paul is referring to here.

Is made perfect in weakness.

This word “perfect” here means finished, completed and is the same word spoken by Jesus as He hung on the cross, “It is finished”.  Complete.  In my weakness, His power has the opportunity to be fully realized.  Not in my strength, in my weakness.  Incredible.  Ridiculous, undeserved, overwhelming.

So where are you on this?

What are the circumstances you find yourself in?  If you’re like most, your response to these circumstances probably fall into one of two camps.

One camp is Fear, and its mantra is “What in the world am I going to do?!”  Maybe you,

  • Are overwhelmed by a situation that is bigger than you can comprehend.
  • Are working frantically to try to fix a problem.
  • Have an issue that you just can’t deal with, so you’ve shoved into a back closet in your mind.

The other camp is Self-Sufficiency, and its mantra is “I’ve got this!”.  Bring it, cuz I’m gonna make this happen.  We live in a culture that says we can do it all and allows us access to EVERYTHING.  Walk into any Super Target and, as my daughter said last week, ” we can find anything we need!”  Got a problem?  There’s a grocer, hardware store, restaurant, or Starbucks that can fix that!

Which camp do you find yourself in these days?

Don’t we long to be in the camp of Grace?  That place where the heart surrenders, where the breathing intentionally slows in the midst of the unexpected or the overwhelmed and whispers…yes, Jesus, You are enough.

How Can I Soak In This Verse?

1.  Write the verse out and look intently at every single word.  Breathe in these words, think about their meaning slowly and intentionally.

2.  Ask yourself some honest questions:

  • What camp am I in, the camp of fear or self-sufficiency?
  • What tasks am I attempting to do in my own strength?
  • Is there an area of my life that I’ve shoved to the back of my mind?
  • What seems overwhelming right now?

3.  Spend some time in prayer this week, examining this with the Lord, pressing into Him for His grace in each area.

4.  Watch for opportunities to confess and watch.  Confess that His grace is all you need, then watch how He moves in power in ways that are more than you could ask or imagine.

5.  Spend some additional time in these scriptures:  Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 4:7-18, Ephesians 3:20

Our amazing God, He draws us with His kindness, with His grace.  This same grace was what found me, in the middle of my fear and all my coping mechanisms and defenses as I anticipated going to court.  This grace became my mantra as He filled me with more strength and power than I ever could have imagined.  He changed me from the inside out and gave me unexplained confidence that He was with me, every step of the way.

The time had come, and it was the day before we were scheduled to go into court.  Late in the afternoon, I received a phone call.  It was my attorney on the other line, I figured she was calling to give me some last minute information about the proceedings.  Instead, she had called to tell me that my perpetrator had suddenly and unexpectedly changed his plea from not guilty to guilty, and because of this, everything had changed:  I would not have to go to court.  At all.

Beyond all that I could ask or imagine?  You could have toppled me with a feather as I hung up the phone, so completely humbled by the knowledge that it was God alone who did that.

God alone.  

His grace is all we need, for His power is perfected in the very weaknesses of our lives.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  v.10

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How is God moving in your life?  

There is something powerful when we share our story – it brings encouragement and strengthening to so many others.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

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