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Slowing Down

Recently I had the opportunity to teach a discipleship class on Bible translations and offer a brief overview of how to study the bible.  I wanted to come out of the gate with a listed fist full of the most excellent and current resources Amazon can provide!  But instead, I opened with “S-L-O-W  DOWN!”  We are a ‘grab & go’ society!  We fly into circumstances and jet out just as fast; we do the same with our devotions and study time.  We seem more concerned with that glorious moment of ‘Check’ in our daily reading box that we miss understanding what we’ve read.  We close the Book, put our half-drunk now cold coffee on the counter and head out into our day.  If we think of it – there is a quick over the shoulder glance with a rushed “Thanks Lord…”

Slow down.  The Bible is a Spiritual book, not to be all-mystic and such, but it is, spiritual.  Paul says it is “God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…”’ (2 Timothy 3:16) Folks, it’s our manual.  As the Pastor of Hebrews declares it is “living and active… it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Why rush the divine process.

Slow down, pray before you even open The Book, and invite the Author to walk you through it.  Pray while you’re reading, “Show me Lord, speak, teach, grace my heart to hear and heed…”  In doing so, we not only read the Word, but we allow the Word to read us!  God designed His holy writ to be interactive.   As we close that wonderful Book, pray… ask Holy Spirit to take the words you just read and speak them to you throughout the day.

Slowing down.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

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My Response

I was recently reading an article on our secret mindset of God.  You know, those things we wouldn’t dare share or even write in code in our journal.  I was taken back to a mindset, back to years ago. Confession is good, I pray this encourages someone.

I lived in the shadows of disappointed for about 5 years, 5-solid-anguishing-years.  Survival was my number one goal, and to be very frank, getting through the day without eye contact was hefted to the top of my priority list.  I was in full-time ministry, loved God, served my church and sat on the other side of Starbucks tables sincerely encouraging other women in their God journey.  But then life rolled in, thick dark discouraging, disappointing clouds filling each corner of my horizon.  In my steps to salvage my marriage, a marriage that was never happy,  I stood in front of 40+ women and after 5 years of teaching, I told them I was stepping down. Within the year, the marriage failed, and soon my ex-husband was remarried. I was now working full-time outside the home in a job I HATED, just to pay the bills and take care of my two sons, who at the time were 9 & 15.

I clung to the one-liners, “Draw near to Him so He can draw near to you …Press in to worship and He’ll meet you there … God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  All true, but at the time I didn’t see them flooding my reality.  I found that following stepping down from ministry, that women treated me differently, they distanced themselves, there were no invites for coffee, lunch or even chat time on the phone.   I felt alone.  It was painful.  One gal had the arrogant nerve to come up to me in church (Yes, I was still attending church, HOPING it was my lifeline) she stepped forward, with an accusing tone, and no love of God in her, and proceeded to tell me she could not figure out how “I” could let all this happen, she thought I was a ‘woman of God…’ etc… (tears) … etc.   Although she didn’t know my home life or the history of my story, her voice rattled around in my head and heart, those words slid down and found their place among my own self-tagging of ‘worthless’.  We know that the enemy of our soul will use any and all circumstances to break us and I … I was allowing it.  I was broken.  In that dark time, in my pain and confusion, I put my calling, my Bible, and any relationship I thought I had left with God aside, not disowning, just – aside.  And with slumped shoulders and down casted eyes, I made incredibly STUPID mistakes.

But!  I LOVE the ‘But…’ of God, someone told me in that dark season, that yes, I was broken, but was I broken over what breaks God’s heart?  I was beyond broken over the unmet expectations that lay scattered all over the floor.  I was torn in two with what happened to my family. I was shredded with the accusing and hurtful words of others.  Although all valid, it wasn’t until I realized I needed to be broken over my ‘response’.  Life is tough, life is hard, I just assumed because I was God’s, I was His, that what Paul wrote, stood as a monument I bowed to, ‘that ALLLLLL would work out for good’.  MY definition of good!  The restoration process didn’t start until I genuinely (keyword – genuinely) understood God’s love.  ‘I’ was defining God’s love by how ‘I’ thought HE should act, to me and for me.

Now nearly 10 years later…  I am no longer falling for or allowing the enemy’s breaking tactics, he attempted to destroy me and destroy what I was going to speak into others for God’s glory.  God loves me!  He loved me then, He loves me now. I am a daughter of the Most-High God, I walk in my calling and my Bible is right here and read – devoured daily!  My head is up, my eyes are clear and looking – I am seriously accountable to 5 Godly women.  I repented for my response to ‘life’ – how I assumed I should get special treatment, that somehow I was exempt from the ick, the pain, and disappointments.  That my response took me in a tailspin of despair and yes, sin I hurt God with my response.  I put it all out there on God’s table, honestly and transparently.  One by one, us together, me and the God that loves me, we took things off the table and He put them away, far away.  God’s grace-filled filing system, ‘away, far away.’   God restored me (not ME doing it) He re-created me. (See David’s honest words in Psalm 51) I am married to an amazing Godly man, now have a granddaughter, and I’m teaching again, teaching with passion, teaching from the platform that GOD LOVES ME!  And when those ugly accusations of worthless begin to resurface, I think of the woman at Jesus’ feet, (and have this posted on my bookshelf), when others began to spout off, Jesus tells them, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much.” (Luke 7:47)  And we all know we can only love, ‘because He loved us first!’ (1 John 4:19)

Disappointment and even bitterness can hold us captive, a captivity that will lead us in the wrong direction.  The only way out is our God!  It took me years to realize I needed to put it out there, honestly – genuinely and without attempting to help God with a detailed outlined expectation, like we (especially women) obsessively enjoy.  I surrendered, to His love, to His grace.  As a friend recently shared “God didn’t cause it, but He will use it!”   I can honestly say, God is using it ALL – I am a better version of the God in me because of it!  God’s working out is not how we would do it, He does it RIGHT!  (Please lean in ) “And it is good!

How is your secret mindset of God?  

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Music is an amazing tool God uses:  This was my progressive worship journey… when I could not raise my head, when my hands too heavy  (Keep singing folks!  Keep singing)

When in the midst of God restoring my heart: I sang this over & over

Now, now… as I stand in front of others teaching them about our God:  “Sing with me How great is our God…”

Prior Moments

Yesterday at church during worship, there was a pause, pause of silence in-between songs.  I LOVED it!  It wasn’t long, only about 8 seconds, it was extremely noticeable, for it was a holy pause of reverence.  The silent pause set the tone for the rest of worship.  How often do we pause?  We are a run-full-force-forward society that taking pause seems awkward.  As I sit to review my teaching notes for an upcoming session of Inductive Bible Study in our discipleship class, I pause.  A preparative pause.  I take my cue from Ezra.  WHO?

Ezra was a scribe and a direct descendant of Aaron of the Old Testament; he was full of passion and zeal for God and God’s word.  He along with Nehemiah was instrumental in creating an environment for revival among the Israelites and rebuilding the Temple.   One verse that jumps out defines the sincere outcome, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.” (7:10 NKJV, emphasis mine)  Ezra prepared his heart.  Prepared his heart to seek, to do, and to teach.  In the Hebrew, the imagery is not just merely putting God’s word in front of him, Ezra put himself in front of the Word.  Yes, there is a difference.

We need to purposely take pause, creating ‘prior moments’ and position our heart, mind, and understanding.  How often do we grab a mug of coffee, slide into our comfortable chair and open the Bible and begin reading?  What might be the outcome if we were to pause before opening the Book?  Before reaching for our pencil and journal?   A quick 8-second pause of reverence might make noticeable difference, setting the tone for what came next.  Revival and rebuilding!  Perhaps a sincere prayer of “Father show me, teach me, speak to me.”

May we like Ezra purpose with prior moments and prepare our heart.

* We can read Ezra’s story in the short book with his name and the sequel, Nehemiah.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Expectation!

There is a story of a farmer that had an icehouse, during the winter he and his workers would cut ice blocks from the nearby pond, and then place them on a bed of sawdust in the icehouse, and cover the ice blocks with more sawdust.  At one point, the farmer noticed he lost his beloved pocket watch in all his work.  He and his workers went in frantically raking through the sawdust to find the watch, but to no avail, it wasn’t found.  The farmer’s son, about age 10, heard of the situation and at noontime, while the workers were on break, he slipped into the icehouse, and after a lil time, he came out with the watch in hand, giving it to his father.  The farmer was so excited; he asked, “HOW did you found it!” The boy answered, “I laid down in the sawdust, laying there quietly, I just listened.”

What a beautiful example of purposeful positioning with EXPECTATION!  King David penned, “In the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation.” (Psalm 5:3b) David didn’t sit there filling the conversation, he leaned in – leaned forward in eagerness, expecting God’s response!  He knew if he were quiet enough, he would hear Him.  How often do we too go in looking for God, noisily, raking around, turning things over?  Perhaps if we were quiet, so very quiet and still, we’d hear Him.

Laying in the sawdust, leaning in – leaning forward in eagerness.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

Sticky Note From God

“Backup.” For the past week or two every time I opened my laptop I would see the now bent and ruffled orange sticky note that simply read, “Backup.” I put it there to remind me.  Each time I sat down to study or read emails or peruse through Facebook, that sticky note was glanced at, unheeded and then quickly forgotten.  Although I had set the reminder there for me to take action, it soon became familiar. So familiar that I really didn’t give it much notice anymore.

As I took the sticky note off yesterday (AFTER I finally backed up the computer) I felt Holy Spirit nudge me that at times I treat others the same, (OUCH!)  and Him as well (DOUBLE, “Ouch!”)  We do that, don’t we?  We take less notice or tend to overlook what is right in front of us because it’s something we always see.  Oh, we take for granted the familiar!  Paul writes to the folks in Galatia, “Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone…” (Galatians 6:10 NLT)  How can we do good when we don’t see them – we are looking over their heads at something or someone else?  (Well, we shot that opportunity right out of the sky).

May we SEE and heed the sticky notes of God, right in front of us.  Our family, friends, and the pile of stuff we are tripping over.

Right in front of us.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

A Day I Can Forgo

It’s here, THAT season, it’s already in stores. Halloween.  Stores have freshly stocked shelves with 30% off ticketed items by the rows. Tons of stuff! Okay, I am not fully certain of the weighted measurements, but there’s lots of ‘blackness.’  Black cats, witch hats, spiders, eerie tombstones and yes, the ever dreaded skulls.   I LOVE the fall, it is my favorite season, the colors are so rich, I decorate seasonally my home with the warm orange, burgundy and brown tones, (my mantle pictured above) but Halloween does not roll this gals socks.

I am often asked why I have chosen not to celebrate Halloween, why I don’t find it ‘all in fun.’  What is fun about it – the basic theme is of fear, death, and witchcraft, um… no, not for me. Before I get all kinds of comments, emails, texts, and smoke signals, please let me explain, why (for me) I chose not to.   My family used to do the Halloween thing when I was little, sure I wore the thin fabric climb in costumes with the sweaty plastic masks.  But, after I came to understand and was adopted as a daughter of the Most High God, learning of His Majesty and His glorious light, I do not participate in the day of darkness. Yes, you would say darkness and light struggle 365 days a year, why be bothered by one day, one-singled-out-day.  A day I can forgo.

For the life of me, I cannot understand WHY someone would voluntarily, even cheerfully submit themselves to haunted houses and ghost hunts.  All in fun?  No, not for this gal.  I have seen and experienced too much from the dark side to play with it like a child’s toy or pretend in dress up.  While the ‘all in fun’ is masked with candy, parties, costumes, and laughter, in the background when no one seems to notice, there are cultic activities taking place.  The number of self-identified witches in the U.S. is doubling every 2 years, those deeply into the occult take this holiday very seriously and yes, the dark forces they are dealing with are very real!  (* See the history of Halloween below)

Paul wrote, “Hate evil and cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)  Is it God-honoring if we are clinging to good, while we cheerfully allow evil to run rampant around our feet?  That running around could soon become a snare.  Sadly, there are many who ‘all in fun’ participate in seemingly innocent activities, when ‘our great enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.’ (1 Peter 5:8)  We need to remember darkness ALWAYS has an agenda!  Always.  It will come again and again for any crack, any opportunity to subtly peek in with the ugly and demonic.  If not addressed, it will crawl in, slither about quietly.  If we think it will stand up in the middle of the room and wave “Here I am!” then we are only fooling ourselves.

According to Wiccans, Halloween is the time when the veil between the living and the dead is considered to be the thinnest, they celebrate and take advantage of such status.  And by the way, (standing a lil taller on my soapbox) there is no such thing as a ‘Good Witch’ regardless of how Hallmark wants to title it.  Adding one more (not in detail) note. For satanists, Halloween is one of the most important celebrations of the year, it is documented in their ‘book’ that after one’s own birthday and another icky day, Halloween is most important. I chose not to give detail on this subject, satan (lil ‘s’) is not worthy of my time or to have his name capitalized or in print.

Gently climbing down off my soapbox (as not to hurt myself) and dragging it back to the corner.  You are loved.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

*History of Halloween: “Halloween’s customs are thought to have been influenced and dated back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities, this done in attempts to appease them. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.” [History.com] In addition, other articles speak of folklore that costumes were worn so as to disguise the living, so the dead returning could not identify them. Also, the bonfires were built with the intent to keep the souls of the dead from falling to earth.

The Pause of YOU!

This morning, on my drive to take my son to work, while his ‘67 Mustang looks GREAT, nicely parked waiting for a new engine,  he is successfully deposited and I sit quietly on my way back home.  There is no music, no radio, and no deep-toned voice reading to me the book of Hebrews.  While the car was quiet, I too sensed a ‘quieting’ coming over me.  As the quiet caught my attention, I began to thank the Lord – I KNEW it was Him. To be very frank, my mind is usually firing in multiple directions.  (SQUIRREL!) But not today.  Quiet.  There was Presence. There was peace. It is amazing how God knows what and when we need to experience Him – His acceptance, comforting, renewing, and refreshing.  This verse came to mind:

The LORD your God is with you,

 He is mighty to save;

He will take great delight in you;

He will quiet you with His love;

He will rejoice over you with singing.”

 – Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV, emphasis mine)

To put this verse in context, in Zephaniah’s day, the Lord had brought judgment for the sins of the people, He speaks of lifting His hand on those who come humbly and trust in the name of the Lord, now He is rejoicing and He is restoring.  He is now comforting, renewing, and refreshing.  You can almost hear the tender whisper: “He will quiet you with His love.”  How many of us can use some renewing – some quieting?  Perhaps we need to stop trying to fill the quiet, turn the noise off.  Perhaps the quiet is our God trying to get our attention.  His Presence, His peace. Do whatever it takes to not miss it, miss Him.

Thank you, Lord, for the pause of YOU!  For being a ‘with you’ God, and because You love us, You quiet us.

Happy Friday.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)