Forest of Tranquility

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Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13

This may be taking “finding God in the ordinary” a little too far, but it’s my life. A world of Legos, painting finger nails, ninja’s and stuffed animals. The joys of having both a boy and a girl.

As I was reading my son his favorite book The Official Guide to the Lego Ninjago Masters of Spinjitzu, I found God. Now, I have to admit, the first time I read this I considered writing a blog about it, but said to myself, “that is way too far out.” After reading it again last night and having the same reaction I knew I must write. After all, my world this year has been “joy” and out of joy comes tranquility. Here is what I read:

“One of the most peaceful and beautiful spots in all of Ninjago, the Forest of Tranquility, is a heavily wooded area with abundant wildlife, food, and water. Over the centuries, it has been home to many of those who prefer to be one with nature rather than dwell in cities or villages. It is a most unusual place. Life remains balanced here, despite the absence of any kind of predators. Although there is little rainfall, fruit grows on the trees and other plants thrive as well. It is difficult, in such a place, to imagine that the world is being stalked by skeletons from the Underworld. Perhaps, in the midst of our adventures, I will make time to allow my ninja to rest in this place for an evening. It might well calm their spirits before our true battle begins.”*

I couldn’t help but think – this sums it all up. This life we live, putting on the armor of God, battling the adversary. Clinging to His truth and protection.  This is the essence of what God offers. The marrow. He wants to fill us up from the inside out with comfort and peace – joy and tranquility.  Oh, to bask in the Father’s light and protection.

So, my brain translates that paragraph about the Forest of Tranquility like this:

One of the most peaceful and beautiful spots I have ever experienced, the shadow of my Heavenly Father’s wings, He provides manna, provision and all one needs to survive.  Over the centuries, it has been home to many of those who prefer to rely only on God rather than self. It is a most unusual place and difficult to find. Life remains balanced here, despite worldly things that pull and tug for attention. Although there is no fee, no special form, no price to pay to enter everything thrives and is vibrant. Everyone is  welcome to enter. It is difficult, in such a place, to imagine that the world is being stalked by roaring lion. The ruler of the darkness. Perhaps, in the midst of our day, we will make time to allow our hearts and minds to rest in this Holy Place. In His written Word. His mighty presence. It might well calm our spirits before the battle begins.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

*Ninjago Masters of Spinjitzu Official Guide, Greg Farshtey, The Lego Group, Scholastic, pg. 87-88

In Spite of

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Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7

“Be still so I can sew this on.” “Sit still while she is cutting your hair.” “Just, be still!” This may be one of the most over used words in a mom’s vocabulary!

Still is a funny word if you think about it. It has two definitions that are essentially the opposite of one another. Still can mean “an absence of movement” or “the continuance of an action”. I often encourage women to sit still and quiet their minds to read God’s word and listen for His whisper. Today, let’s consider the other definition of still. The “in spite of and nevertheless” meaning.

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” Job 2:3

Do you still find peace in spite of your circumstances? Do you still see God in the details even though it wasn’t the outcome you wanted? Do you still find comfort in His word and under the shelter of His wings even though something priceless (love, life, friendship) has been ripped from your grasp? Do you still find yourself full of joy even in the most difficult of situations?

If the answers are yes, there is no doubt you have found the key that opens a human heart and allows the Holy Spirit to come and dwell within. If the answers are no, there is still time to learn. In spite of all that has transpired. There is still time to trust. In spite of all you have done and all you haven’t. There is still time to find the key. To turn it over and live a life of gratitude among ruins.

So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?” . . . Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him. Daniel 6:12-14

Daniel faced death by a lion’s jaw for praying to Our God. Yet, he still prayed three times a day. How do we find the key to opening our hearts and turning our lives over? How do we still find joy in the trials? Give thanks for all? That desire to let God in and turn the pain into peace? That amazing grace and unconditional love that can only come from One?

Open the Book, dear friend. Read the only Truth there is. Embrace His love letters to you and to me. Practice finding Him in all you do, thanking Him for all He has given and accepting His gifts you can not earn.

**GodChick Devotions: Putting Down Roots is now available. You can check my website for two upcoming book sales/signing opportunities or look at Amazon.com.**

Slow, Steady, Savor

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Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles. Philippians 4:12-14 (The Message)

We have specific “dessert” nights so the kids don’t expect a treat every night after dinner. When the kids do get a sweet treat, I have one who gulps it down in one or two bites and keeps moving. While, the other savours each bite, making it last longer than anyone thought it ever could. “I still have half of mine left!”, she will proudly say.

Worrying about my daily “to do” list, the pile of laundry that needs folding, the lunches that need to be packed and the event that needs to be planned. I thought about how often I gulp down God’s word. How I rush through His love letter and lessons for me. Missing out on the glory of His works, the mysteries He desires to reveal, the kindness He wants to show, the plans He has, the TRUTH. His truth! All because I take a large and hurried swallow of His word. How wasteful! Why even take the time to go through the motions when I’m not slowing down to savor this moment with Him? Moving so fast it’s only a blur will get me nothing but a check on the “to do” list.

But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple. Psalm 5:7

How do I approach the Prince of Peace with reverence, awe and passion in the midst of the daily grind? How do I slow my mind down enough, steady the spirit and savor His holy word? It’s not enough to try. I’m not satisfied with that anymore! I know God isn’t! No more “trying”!  It is time to turn desires into action, take a breath realizing that to make it work it will require more than I have. Allowing the Holy Spirit to take over ever fiber of my being, seeing Him at work in my daily grind, trusting He is in every detail and He ALONE is King.

Our King desires a meeting. Will you carve out the time? He wants to steal a few sacred, quiet moments alone with just you. Are you willing to listen? He wants to make you feel special and loved in a way you have never experienced. Is your heart open to accept it? If you approach Him with a slow, steady, savoring heart, He will penetrate it and your life and change you in ways you never imagined.

I pray today is the day you begin to take pleasure in His presence.

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD. Psalm 89:15

I don’t need help!

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If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open. James 1:5-7 (The Message)

Our son’s Kindergarten homework started this week. He was excited to be like the big kids, but wasn’t really excited about actually having to do it. Our daughter was excited she had a real student to work with. Like a lot of little girls, she is a great teacher and wants to help him with his homework, but her efforts are usually met with anger, resentment and whining! He does not want his sister to help him and makes it very clear. This results in hurt feelings, tears and a mommy who is worn out from playing referee.

Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Psalm 40:4

I thought of the times that God has been there waiting for me to ask Him for guidance and help, but I never asked. I thought about the times that I felt Him tug at my heart letting me know that I was making the wrong decision and I moved forward anyway. I thought about all the times He desired for me to seek Him first and I chose another direction. It also brought to mind all the times I was angry with the trials I was enduring or resented the fact that I was held accountable to standards that others were not and how much whining He had heard me do about situations or circumstances.

When I consider of how hurt and frustrated our daughter gets when she is offering her time and knowledge to be helpful and it’s refused and rejected –  it hurts me as I realize I have made my Savior feel this same way so many times in my life.

Do not be far from me, my God; come quickly, God, to help me. Psalm 71:12

I have to pray about this daily. I have to pray that God gives me the courage, strength and power to rise above myself and this world and seek Him. I have to pray that no matter what my “happiness level” is, I always have joy from the Holy Spirit residing in me. I have to pray “not me, but you God!” everyday. I have learned that I don’t have the capacity to do these things on my own, but sometimes I am forgetful. I have to rely on His power to make these things happen in my life. I admit that for years my desire to handle things on my own was stronger than my desire to hand it over to God, but now I find it so refreshing, empowering and uplifting to realize it isn’t up to me. All we have to do is turn it over – God takes care of the rest. Are you willing?

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:17-19

Make it Right

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The idols speak deceitfully, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd. Zechariah 10:2

“Well, she gets to do it!” and “He always does that.” I’m sure you see where I’m going. You can probably add a few more examples of the “it must be OK if they do it” arguments. I hear it from my children all the time and always respond, “Well, just because they do it, doesn’t make it right.”

I have recently started noticing that adults (including myself) use this same excuse or technique to make ourselves feel better about our actions, transgressions or sins. That sad part is, if you have any moral character at all and you compare yourself to many of the things going on in our society you are going to look like Pollyanna, but that doesn’t give us a license to take our actions to the edge of what is appropriate.

I hate those who cling to worthless idols; I trust in the LORD.  Psalm 31:6

Handling our problems with denial or “retail” therapy can be just as damaging as turning to drugs and alcohol. Simply put, anything we lean on more than our Heavenly Father is an idol and ALL idols are detested by God!  He doesn’t care if society accepts your idol or if your idol isn’t considered as bad as another idol. To God – they are ALL idols and He detest them!

Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. 1 Samuel 12:21

We are called to love as Jesus did and live as He did, but we can’t unless we are allowing the Holy Spirit to overtake our thoughts, actions and hearts. No matter how many times we try on our own – we will fail. No matter how hard we work to fix things on our own – we will fail. We were not created or made with the capacity to be a light in the world without Christ. Give up! Give in! Turn it over and rest in the safety of His wing. Turn over your idols and Trust in Him!

But don’t let it faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed, sure of the integrity of your teachers—why, you took in the sacred Scriptures with your mother’s milk! There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.  2 Timothy 3:14-17 (The Message)