nap time.

I have never been “good” at sitting still. I like to be doing something. I was the child in school who detested nap time and preferred to be coloring or playing instead.

Little has changed in adulthood for me. With the exceptions of an illness or a beach chair, I seldom nap. I still would rather be doing something more fun, more exciting than taking a boring nap!

Although I have outgrown (and graduated!) from grade school, I have not outgrown spiritual school. God teaches me new things every day, and sometimes we spend more days that I would like to admit reviewing the same lesson. Oh yes, the school of God is no joke! He asks me to recall important information I have already received in order to learn from my mistakes. Some of his lessons make no more sense to me than organic chemistry, and his examination style puts my pharmacy professors to shame!

As if all this were not enough, God also insists that I take nap time. I try to explain that I am “too busy” to stop and nap, but it is no use! I try to argue that I am not even tired, but He disagrees!

Hear the words of our Lord Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28, ESV

I sometimes do not even realize that I am tired and worn out until I finally stop. I also do not realize how heavy my burden is until I set it down.

Jesus commands us to come to him with our heavy burdens and our worn down souls so that He can give us rest. I hear you Jesus! I sure do not intend to disobey, but I do have a tough time knowing when my burden has become heavy and when I am tired and need rest!

Perhaps you can relate? We live in a culture that never stops and is always looking for the next best thing. It is so easy to get caught up in the social pressure of doing more, being more, going more. However, trying to keep up with the pace of the world brings nothing but frustrations and disappointments. The world will tell us we are not doing enough, but Jesus tells us the opposite. See my previous post for more about living in God’s timing: Standing on an hourglass

Jesus tells us that we are doing enough.. perhaps we are doing too much! Our loads are sometimes far heavier than we are made to carry. The burdens are not intended to be solely ours. Burdens can be anything that we are carrying around: guilt, sin, frustrations, worries, jobs, to-do-lists.

Jesus continues: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:29-30, ESV

In Jesus’ day, a yoke was a wooden frame joining two animals for pulling heavy loads. It was also a common metaphor within the Jewish community for the religious laws that they were required to observe. There were so many laws to follow that practicing faith had become exhausting. [Remember, that Jesus was born into the Jewish community. Christianity began with His ministry on earth.]

One particular group of Jewish leaders, the Pharisees, were very judgmental and strict about the Jewish laws. Other groups of Jews felt guilty and “heavy burdened” from trying to obey all the laws they imposed to stay in God’s good graces. [See the book of Leviticus for all the many Jewish laws.] Under the Jewish law, the only way that people could receive forgiveness of their sins was by offering sacrifices at the temple, and the priest had to make the sacrifice on their behalf. How exhausting! I would be on a first-name basis with the temple priests for sure from going so often!

Jesus offers a lighter yoke, an easier way to do life. He tells the people to come to Him [instead of the temple priests] to lay their burdens down. Jesus not only will forgive us for our sins; He will also help us carry our heavy loads with no judgement for what we bring to Him.

Jesus, are you serious?! My loads are embarrassingly heavy, and I really do not want anyone to even see what I am carrying around! He says to bring it anyway!

Jesus wants us to come to Him, is willing to take our burdens, and wants to give us rest. He does so because He loves us, unconditionally and always. 

My hope is that you are able to recognize when you are weary and when your load is too heavy to bear, that you go to Jesus for rest, and that you allow Him to lighten your load. I assure you that He is more than willing to help and is waiting for your arrival!

ESV = English Standard Version Bible

propel women.

Several years ago, I had the privilege to attend a Women of Faith event in Houston, Texas. I was inspired and encouraged by all the speakers I heard throughout the weekend: Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Lisa Harper, Sheila Walsh and Christine Caine.

I began following each of the ladies’ ministry journeys and learning and growing from the materials they were producing. When Christine Caine created Propel Women, I immediately was drawn to her prophetic vision that had developed into a deep and genuine passion to encourage, empower and equip women to do the Lord’s work in everyday life. Yes! I could not wait to learn more!

Next thing I knew, I was co-leading a Propel Women Chapter at my local church and gathering a group for the conference that would be held in the fall of 2016 right here in Mississippi. [Y’all, NO ONE holds their events in Mississippi! This was HUGE!]

At the conference, I was afforded the opportunity to meet other chapter leaders from the region as well as meet the ladies of Propel Women! A few months later, Propel Women invited me to write an article about my amazing experience at their event.

It is my great privilege to present my first published article: My Story at Propel Women.

I hope you find encouragement in my story and can see that God indeed hears us and has a purpose for our lives. Opportunities exist around us daily to see His hand and to hear His call; our eyes and ears must be open to Him, and we must also be attentive and willing to respond in obedience.

This passage spoke to me often during the time period that I reference in the article. These words sustained me during a seemingly silent and lost time, a season of searching and waiting. In retrospect, I can see that God not only met me right where I was, in the middle of the thick, but He also guided me out to a better place and is still leading me today.

“.. Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all… Always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good… He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:14b-21,24, ESV

ESV = English Standard Version

facebook friend.

The other morning I was sitting outside, drinking coffee and enjoying the beautiful weather. I had my Bible open and was reading the day’s lesson in my study group’s current series, A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit: 5 Habits From the Book of Ruth by Nicki Koziarz.

Someone walking by stopped and looked from my books to me and said, “Oh. You are doing your spiritual part of your life.” After I replied, “Yes, I’m doing my Bible study lesson,” and he walked on, I kept thinking about his words.. doing .. your .. part of your life..

This person has known me for many years and has been a regular church attendee for as long as I have known him. His comment was not one that I would expect from a fellow Christian. Something just did not feel right about his awkward words and behavior.

Two questions kept running through my mind:

(1) Does my faith in God encompass my entire life and being or just “a part” of it?

As Christians, we are commanded to live out each day in a Christ-like manner, displaying the love of God in every facet of our lives. As I strive to meet this commandment, am I exuding the love of God in all my daily activities? Do I walk each day on the path God has laid for me?

(2) How can I encourage fellow Christians to seek a [more active] relationship with God?

Going to church does not equal having a relationship with God. I have many Facebook friends; however, I do not have a personal relationship with each person, only the ones that I engage with in community and fellowship. God desires more than Facebook friend status; He desires for us to be actively engaged in a personal relationship with Him. Yes, He wants a personal relationship with you, with me.. not just a select few of us, but everyone!

The following passage is from the letter written to the church at Phillipi. In it, the apostle Paul reminds the community of new believers that the goal they are striving towards is Jesus Christ, trusting Him and knowing Him in a personal relationship. Faith is strengthened within a community of believers working towards a common goal and encouraging each other along the way. Paul suggests that practice makes perfect, as he urges the church to imitate him in his walk of humble dependence on Christ.

“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” -Philippians 3:12-21, HCSB

Let your faith infiltrate every part of your life. Let the perfect love of Christ absorb into every fiber of your being. Allow God to work through you and display His majesty in all that you do. Encourage one another to walk in faith at all times and to seek the leading of God. Set good examples for fellow Christians to follow, and mimic the Christ-like behaviors you see others displaying. We become what we practice.

HCSB = Holman Christian Standard Bible

tight quarters.

We all know that God commands us to love thy neighbor. For such a simple and straightforward command, it sure can be hard to do sometimes. At least, it is for me!

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a Propel Women workshop in Orange County, California! It was quite a long journey from Mississippi but worth the 5:55am flight and long travel.

On my flight out to California, I sat squeezed into a middle seat between two large men. As I struggled awkwardly with finding a comfortable position in my “tight quarters,” I was reminded of the commandment to love our neighbors. I settled in to four hours between the two snoring giants and let my mind wander. The thought struck me:

How often do we find it hard to show love to those that are closest to us? 

In the time of Jesus, the Jewish religion had divided into several parties, or sects. The most popular group, known as the Pharisees, prided themselves on their strict adherence to Mosaic law. A very self-righteous group, they placed higher value on appearance then morals. Jesus was often tested with questions regarding the law of Moses and the prophets throughout his ministry. The Pharisees saw Jesus as a threat, rather than a messiah, to the Jewish nation. They considered his radical display of love to ALL people (not just Jews) to be an abomination to the faith. His generosity to everyone was unprecedented, and it threatened the religious exclusivity that they cherished. At the time, the Pharisees observed all Jewish laws and customs, yet with misplaced motivations to do so. Jesus teaches that having a heart for God is more important than going through the motions of practicing faith, that giving one’s heart to God is more important than performing ritual sacrifices and offerings.

In the following passage, a scribe is inquiry which of the commandments is the greatest. Keep in mind that Jesus is speaking radically about ideas never heard of before. Today, 2000 years later, his ideas still seem radical and difficult to ingest fully. Imagine how bewildered they must have been hearing the words of our Lord:

A scribe asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. – Mark 12:28-34, ESV

Did you catch that? Jesus told the scribe “Good job! A+” for his wise answer. All the scribe did was repeat Jesus’ words back to him.. big deal! Read it again. Jesus saw that the scribe answered wisely, and commended him on his faith. Jesus must have seen a heart full of faith as this scribe not only gave the right answer, but spoke it with genuine belief in the words he had said aloud.

This scribe was no dummy; he believed at first sight! Surely his heart must have been stirring in awe. Jesus spoke with such authority in his words that Mark tells us that no one else there even dared to ask any more questions. Wow! In a few mere sentences, Jesus shut down their game of 20 questions. His authoritative truth swept in and knocked them mute.

Hear the words of Jesus recorded by the apostle John:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. – John 5:25, ESV

Eternal life. The kingdom of heaven. Jesus tells us these everlasting rewards are available for any who listen to him and believe what he says.

He does not instruct us to love the neighbors of our choosing, but to love everyone. For me, sometimes, proximity can be an enemy. I wonder if the scribe wanted to kick any of his neighbors in the synagogue that day. I would have! Life presents so many opportunities to knock some sense into our neighbors. However, Jesus said to love them!

So there it is: the unavoidable commandment to love all, no matter their distance, or lack thereof. I find that the power to even attempt such an impossible feat comes only through God. We receive the ability and will to love others when He pours his perfect love into us. Only then can we pour out that unstoppable love on our neighbors.

Disclaimer: The closer your neighbor is to you, the more likely you are to get splashed with that awesome love! Tight quarters get hot; you will be amazed at how refreshing that little splash will be!

ESV = English Standard Version Bible

bye. grudges, part 2.

I wrote earlier this year about grudges (see Grudges make smudges. ) and the energy they can deplete from your being. A grudge will hold your joy hostage before you ever knew what happened. Now that I am (one year older. one year wiser.), I have learned even more about the long-term effects these grudging ailments will have on your health. They are not worth your time, only your goodbye!

The day will come, even after you have diligently “spring-cleaned” your heart of any known grudges, that an old grudge will bubble to the surface. It may be older than your grandma, but still feel as fresh as a new baby. DO NOT STRESS! This horrifying, and possibly embarrassing, moment of recollection is NOT a sign of early onset dementia or temporary insanity.

I struggle to identify the revealing source sometimes, but if it is the work of the enemy, I am certain that God can turn that evil to good. He can use the upsetting memory as a way to prune you, to cleanse your mind of hateful thoughts and shameful memories, and ultimately draw you closer to Him. These blasts-from-the-past may be brought to light because they are a barrier between you and God. Ouch! Let it go, sister!

There is a catch. He only heals what we reveal. Anywhere that our hearts have hardened, the LORD can renew and refurbish, but only if we are willing to acknowledge our wrongdoings and repent. God forgives all things. We must just ask Him.

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.” – Psalm: 103:8-11, ESV

Read these words of assurance again, and again. Know that God loves you and will forgive you. Know that his grace and his mercy extend further than your eye can see and your mind can comprehend. Know also that God only wants His best for His children. He corrects us in love, so that we can grow closer to Him and the perfection He planned for us.

Take heed of this spoiler alert: this is where the enemy enters the scene:

“Be sober-minded: be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8, ESV

What? Ole Pete just put “lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” to shame! Total stalker status.

YOUR ADVERSARY (as in someone against you) is prowling around just looking for someone to destroy. In the words of my mother, “Horrors!” He is just watching and waiting for a chance to prance on you, to catch you when you are down and not on your guard. What better opportunity for his attack than when you are pouting about getting scolded?

Although it may feel like God is defining your impurity, He is actually refining your purity.

Hang in there, and remember that trials will come. We will be tempted and tested, and we will stumble and fall. By the grace of God, stand back up and seek His forgiveness. Repent and let it go! His love covers all things, even the dreadful grudges we may hold.

 ESV = English Standard Version Bible

 

 

autopilot.

Do you ever feel like you are on autopilot in life? Perhaps you are going through the motions without much thought to your actions? Maybe this lasts for a day or a week or even an entire season? Regardless of the length of time spent in this auto mode, the awakening results are the same. You realize that you have gotten from point A to point B with little recollection of your journey. What a strange feeling it is.

I have buzzed through many seasons on autopilot and hated the remorse for days past that ensue. This year during Lent, I have aimed to slow life down and focus my attention on Christ. I long to see more than ‘Fish Fridays’ and ’40 days without’ this year, to turn off autopilot and engage fully in the Lenten season. Who knows what all I have missed in years past?

I want to see the events of Holy Week come alive before my eyes and feel the nearness of Jesus along this journey. This season I have chosen to follow an adapted Lenten discipline suggested by my pastor, titled: Once a Day, Once a Week, and Once a Month.

  • Once a Day: take a few moments for prayer and devotion, quiet time spent with God
  • Once a Week: fast from a meal or a pastime and spend the time in the Word of God
  • Once a Month: fast from whatever forms of information or technology distract you from others for a whole day

Two weeks in, and I am loving this discipline so much that I may keep it going after Easter!

“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:24, ESV

My “Once a Day” quiet time in the morning has been my favorite part of the day. I have come to crave that quiet and still moment before the day begins to just ‘be’ in God’s presence. Some days I have read an entire passage, some days just a verse. Some days I have journaled, and some days I have not. Most importantly, each day includes some form of prayer with praise and gratitude.

“My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God… Blessed are those who dwell in our house, ever singing your praise!… They go from strength to strength… No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” – Psalm 84:2,4,11b, ESV

“Once a Week” I have chosen to forego television. Instead of watching a beloved (nonsense) show, I have used the time to open my Bible and read. Honestly, it was strange at first, but not anymore! I have enjoyed the peaceful respite from the busyness of the social world and have found myself wanting to replace evening television with reading more often than once a week. The gospel of Mark has completely captivated my attention this Lenten season. I have seen God’s faithfulness and love light up off the pages, as the apostle’s recount of Jesus’ ministry comes to life right in front of me.

Jesus speaks to his disciples about his purpose and ministry on earth: “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” – Mark 4:22-23, ESV

I have learned this Lenten season that God is faithful. God is just. He keeps His Word. He never forgets us. He never loses sight of us. He who loves us can be trusted wholly. 

“The works of His hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.” – Psalm 111:7, ESV

“He who calls you is faithful…” – 1 Thessalonians 5:24, ESV

ESV = English Standard Version Bible

 

one year older. one year wiser.

March 3. One year older. One year wiser.

Today is my 35th birthday. It is peculiar. I do not feel 35, but then again, I don’t know what it should feel like. I questioned the accuracy of my birth year yesterday (just to make sure!), and my mother and the US government agree on 1982. My mama said she “was not only an on-site witness, she was there a day early, waiting on me to arrive!”

So there we have it: I am indeed 35. 

I have been reflecting this week over the last ten years of my life, namely, the lessons I have learned and areas where I have grown. Through intentional rumination and an enlightening session of self-debriefing, I have constructed a list of the top things I wish I had known (or listened to!) when I was younger. I hope this list speaks to all, regardless of age or gender or current season of life.

things i wish i had known 10 years ago….

1. Life does not end at 30! Seriously. Despite popular belief and urban legend, this is simply not true. Some may even argue that life does not begin until 30! So far, I am loving the 3-0 club! Quit thinking you are old. I will tell you like I tell my customers: OLD has three letters and therefore, three numbers!

2. Life comes in seasons, and the grass always looks greener on the other side. All seasons have their ups and downs, joys and heartaches, fears and victories. One is not better than another, just different. You cannot compare apples to oranges, so focus on enjoying your season because it will come to an end.

3. The storm is coming. It is unavoidable and impassable. Build your life on the firm foundation of Christ, the solid rock, and you will be able to weather the storm. Notice the psalmist does not say he will not be shaken at all, rather he will not be shaken greatly.

“He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.” – Psalm 62:2

“But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The LORD knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the LORD depart from iniquity.'” – 2 Timothy 2:19

4. Friends come and go. People naturally gravitate towards others in the same life season, as common activities and interests change accordingly. Life is a beautiful blend of various stages of life and different time frames between them. Do not take it personally when a friend moves into another season without you. Do not fear that you have been left behind or left out. It is simply not your time to move into that season.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

Be intentional in finding friends. Remember that to have a friend, you must be a friend.

5. Love where you are..right here, right now. God is faithful, and His time is perfect. You cannot fully enjoy anything when you are mostly absent. Embrace your current season of life, and make the most of it. The right here’s are not always pretty, and the right now’s are not always convenient. You never know what purpose God has for you in your current place. Keep God at the center of your life, and He will give you joy and purpose. my plans.

Think of the Queen Esther’s obedience to God’s call. She and her Jewish people throughout Persia and Media were facing imminent death and extinction. The encouraging words of Uncle Mordecai to his niece, the queen: “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14b

6. Time is precious. Spend it wisely. Find what is important to you, what matters to you, and invest your time there. Be respectful and mindful of other people’s time. Do not continue to engage in a relationship for which you see no future, simply for the sake of being in a relationship.

7. There is no vaccine to protect you against heartache. The body develops no immunity to heartbreak. Your heart will get shattered, and you will try your hardest to superglue it back together. Your fix will only be temporary. Let the master designer truly heal your broken heart. His powers far exceed your hot glue gun and duck tape collaboration.

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18

8. Mistakes are unavoidable. You will make them at work and in your personal life. Learn to recognize your error and make corrections with grace. Regrets will come, often at the worst possible times. Acknowledge and address them, but do not let them linger. Learn your lesson, forgive yourself (and others), and move on.

9. Social media life is not real. What you see on TV and on billboards is fabricated. People post only their best online. Don’t fall into the trap of wishing for their seemingly beautiful lives (see #2). Quit comparing yourself to a photo that has been staged, edited, and filtered. Focus on what is real and true. Heaven’s reward system is not based on jean size.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” – Colossians 3:2

10. You are complete in Christ. No exceptions. It is uncanny how easy it is to forget this simple truth. Do not condemn yourself when you do. Know that we all lose sight and wander off sometimes. Jesus can find you and heal your blindness. I expect that grasping the fullness of completion in Christ will be a lifelong journey. Fullness = completion

Through the power of the LORD through his disciple Ananias, Saul regained his sight and was filled with the Holy Spirit. He was baptized, ate some dinner, and in his newfound strength, started seeking God and preaching on his journey to fullness in Christ (Acts 9).

“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend … and to know the love of christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19

11. God speaks. Take time to talk to God. Make prayer part of your daily routine. He is always there to listen and wants to hear from you. The hardest lesson in prayer life I have (am still) learned is being quiet and listening. You will not hear his voice if you are talking the whole time. God has manners and does not often interrupt our chatter. Be still, be humble, be quiet, and seek Him earnestly in prayer. He will speak to you.

All passages are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible.