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

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

 

lovers gonna love.

This post is inspired by one of my new tanks from the light blonde shop. I am borderline obsessed with all these super cute tees and tanks hand-made by a fellow Jesus-loving lady. You absolutely must check it out!

Lovers gonna love. Haters gonna hate. Most of us prefer to be called lovers, although we are often tempted to behave as haters. It is so easy to be selfish, yet so difficult to be selfless. God knew when he created us that we would struggle to love others. The flesh innately knows how to hate, so we must depend on God to teach us to love.

“Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.” – Psalm 32:10, ESV

God pours his spirit of love into our hearts when we accept Christ as our Savior. Don’t miss that. His perfect love POURS directly into our hearts… no filters, no rations, just pure love.

God promises to the Israelite captives in Babylon: “I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” – Isaiah 44:3b, ESV

Paul reminds the church: “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:5, ESV

This outpouring of love is available for us anytime and anywhere. Faith in God offers us a limitless supply of His perfect love, pure and holy, and all we must do is ask. His love is like a well that never runs dry and never quits providing.

“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear … We love because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:18a-19, HCSB

God’s love is steadfast, as in, it is not subject to change. He promises us that his mercies will never run out, they will never expire, and He will renew them for us each and every morning. Yes! Every single morning.. not just Monday mornings.. and they are never-ending. I find great comfort in knowing that when I ‘run out’ of love, God can refill my tank and send me back on my way to do his work.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV

We must remember that, as Christians, we are not only called to love those of OUR choosing, but to love everyone. Loving others takes on different forms in different situations. Sometimes we show love from afar with our prayers, sometimes we show love up close with our compassion, and sometimes we show love by not showing hate. Refraining from hating requires us to let go of our judgements and trying to look at the person as Jesus does. It is hardest for me when the other person is showing hatred to me or someone close to me; however, there is no “unless scenario” in the following passage. [Translation = we still are called to love!]

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen. And we have this command from Him: The one who loves God must also love his brother.– 1 John 4:20-21, HCSB

Seriously, John? The beloved disciple did not pen this letter from a luxurious yacht on the Mediterranean. He had walked with Jesus in his earthly ministry and had survived the subsequent condemnation, repression, hatred, and violence shown to the known followers of Christ in those early days. He relocated to Ephesus after the Romans destroyed his church in Jerusalem around A.D. 70, where he most likely wrote this letter.

The man had every reason to hate! (I would have!) Instead, John looked to Christ for his strength of heart and source of love. Faith gave John the ability to look beyond all the haters and still be willing and able to trust God and His Word whole-heartedly.

Lovers gonna love. Haters gonna hate. Faith will do the same for us as it did for John when we focus our eyes on Jesus instead of our surroundings. Choose God. His love is PERFECT!

ESV = English Standard Version. HCSB = Holman Christian Standard Bible