Open Invitation

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Be still, stop striving, let go… and know that God is God” Psalm 46:10

This is the verse I’ve been pondering for the past week, so imagine my
wonder when I looked up from the path I was walking and saw this incredible
image. The sun was piercing through the trees like a spotlight in the middle
of the night almost making the bench glow. I heard God whisper, “Come sit with me.” 

Why is being still and quiet so difficult for us? Why do we find more value
in being busy and to-do lists than sitting still and quiet? Why do we feel
lazy or guilty when we take time to sit with our Father? Why do we always
feel as if we need to be in constant motion?

These are the questions I’ve been asking myself and learning the answers to
for several months. We are in a constant battle with the world, and its
definition of purpose, success, and meaning. Over and over again, women tell
me that they struggle with saying “no.” Of course, I can relate and have to
practice it myself. It’s funny to think that such a small word with only two
letters can hold so much power over us. The guilt, shame, and fear of
letting someone down can be overwhelming. 

So, today, I want to leave you with a few examples of when Jesus Himself
said no and I pray it will give you the freedom to say it as well. The
beauty of learning to say no is that there is more time to spend with the
Lord and to focus on the few things He has called us to do for Him and do
them well. 

Jesus said no to Peter, who wanted to him avert His destiny on the cross.
Jesus even called him a stumbling block. Matthew 16:21-23

So, we can say no to friends. 

Jesus said no to His family when they claimed Him as their own. Mark 3:31-34

So, we can say no to our families. 

Jesus said no showing His great power and coming down off the cross as
soldiers mocked Him and He hung with criminals. Luke 23:35-39

So, we can say no to those mock us. 

Jesus said no to the crowd who was calling Him to be King. John 6:14-16

So, we can say no to those who call us into something we know we aren’t
called to do. 

Jesus even said no to the religious leaders who warmed him to stop alleging
He was the Son of God, even though He knew it would lead to His death. John
9:35-39

So, we can even say no to those at our church as well. 


Photo from 10/14/19 – North Carolina Art Museum

Not As It Seems

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It’s not as it seems. Our puppy, Gypsy, isn’t taking a walk on top of a house! As I walked our puppy through the art museum, I found an intriguing structure that allows you to walk on a rooftop.

Looking back on this picture, it helped me grasp the idea that I sometimes deceive myself.  I realized that when I’m asked to do something and I say no or decline, it feels as if I’m letting someone down, being selfish, or missing out.

Does anyone else have a difficult time saying, ” no” or “normally I would, but this time I can’t.”? These feelings are not as they seem. They deceive us into doing things we don’t have time for, don’t enjoy, add stress to our lives, and God hasn’t called us to do.

And most importantly, drain us the energy, creativity, and joy of doing the things God has actually created us and called us to do.  When you look through the gospels, you will find that even Jesus no. In fact, he said no to situations we would all do most anything to avoid: death, family, a show of power, becoming king.

Jesus said no to Peter who wanted to him avert His destiny on the cross. Jesus even called him a stumbling block. Matthew 16:21-23

Jesus said no to His family when they claimed Him as their own. Mark 3:31-34

Jesus said no showing His great power and coming down off the cross as soldiers mocked Him and He hung with criminals. Luke 23:35-39

Jesus said no to the crowd who was calling Him to be King. John 6:14-16

Jesus even said no to the religious leaders who warmed him to stop alleging He was the Son of God, even though He knew it would lead to His death. John 9:35-39

If Jesus said no to some of the hardest things we could ever imagine, how can we allow guilt to keep us from saying no to a few tasks and activities? Surely, our God who created the Universe and threw the stars in the sky has created and called someone to step up to the task.

Next time we are faced with a situation that requires a yes or no answer, maybe we should remind ourselves, we can’t do it all and not everything is our job! God’s got this!

 

Brevity

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I found our puppy playing with this Cicada. He was at the end of his life so he didn’t have much left in him, but enough to spudder around and generate his shrill distinctive buzz. I actually stopped and pondered their short lifespan and it made me sad to consider the brevity of their life. They incubate underground for around 17 years and only emerge to enjoy the sun, rain and life for a brief five to six weeks.

And then I realized two things. *Don’t worry – this isn’t one of those live every day like it’s your last day blogs.

1. Our life may be more than six weeks long, but it is very short compared to eternity. In fact, James describes our lives as a mist that appears for just a little while and then quickly vanishes.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. James 4:13-14

This encourages me to live following God and to cast my worries on Him. To do the most with it that I can, but not to please others . . . Just to follow God’s lead.

2. Some people live their lives just like the cicada incubating and living lives of sin and confusion until they come to know God and then they truly live. With God’s grace we can put all the past behind us and move towards something more. A life and heart full of grace, compassion, love and vulnerability. We may not get it right away, but as long as we are here there is hope. I type this especially for those of you who have been praying for a loved one or friend to find Jesus and it feels as if it will never happen. I have those people in my life too. It can be discouraging, but there is hope. We can’t give up. God adores them and will not stop pursuing them because the great love He has for all of His children.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Cor. 5:17

And even when we know God and follow Him with all of our heart, soul, and mind. . . We will royally mess it up sometimes. Knowing God and believing in Him doesn’t make us perfect, only forgiven. It also gives us a heart that strives to know, follow and be more like Him.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Cor. 4:16-17

The brevity of this life is just as real as the eternal life that we are promised by God through His word.

May we all live it with wide open hearts and eyes upward.

Giants

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I recently had the opportunity to speak at a women’s retreat. My prayer is that I left the women there half as blessed as they left me. It was apparent as the sessions, days and time together continued that there were many women facing giants in their lives. Giant challenges, trials, sins, and situations that were consuming them, draining them, frightening them and filling them with doubt.

It reminded me of this picture my son and I took while we were at the beach this summer. The sun was setting and cast an unusual twist on our shadows. It made us look ten times taller than we actually are. Two things stand out to me after my weekend and looking at this picture.

One, when we are looking to ourselves to solve a problem or correct it on our own, those terrifying situations seem unsurmountable and too big to take on. But when we realize God is with us, it can put our fears and the situation back into its proper place. There is no problem too big for God, but all of them are too big for us.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”Matthew 17:20

Two, we forget the God we serve is better and stronger than we could ever imagine. He is bigger than any problem, sin, situation, and trial that comes our way and we can count on Him for our rescue and strength.

The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person, Zechariah 12:1

What giant(s) are you facing today? No matter how big and overpowering they seem, God is bigger. I pray you will feel His presence, love, wisdom and courage in ways you never have before. I pray your trust in Him grows with each step you take and that you lean on Him for all the heavy lifting. He can move mountains!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Dust It Off

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All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17


Incorporating scripture into our lives and conversations is something we should do, but I believe over time, when we use/hear a scripture to often, the words can become dull to us. Sometimes, we have to pick it up and dust off the cobwebs. So, I will often study scripture by picking apart one or two scriptures that I hear or use often. This week I did just that with 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

First, I began by pulling out the key words and defining them.

Teach – to impart knowledge or make known

Rebuke – to take someone to task, show sharp disapproval because of someone’s actions or behaviors

Correct – to alter or adjust so it can be set right

Train – practice and instruction over a period of time

Complete – having all necessary parts, elements or steps

Equipped – to make ready for service or action

Second, I rewrite the scripture using the definitions in place of the words.

All scripture was given to us by God to impart us with knowledge, reprimand us for inappropriate behaviors, alter our course for success and instruct us over time (I LOVE THIS part! Notice we aren’t supposed to get it all right once we become Christians. We continue to receive instruction and practice over time) so that as children of God we can have all the necessary parts needed and be ready for action when God calls us to accomplish His plan and good works.

These first two steps slow us down and help us look at scripture in a deliberate way.

Third, I reread the scripture(s) and let it come to life in a new way. Allowing it to reawaken with meaning and hopefully pierce my heart in a new and profound way. Meditating on it, sending up prayers of gratitude for it and now (most recently) capturing an image from my daily life that ties it together visually for me.

What scripture do you cling to, have on your wall, bumper sticker, t-shirt or dish towel that you need to grab and dust off?

Holy Ground

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As I read through Acts 7, I was reminded about Moses and his encounter with God in the burning bush as Stephen recounted it in his speech to the Sanhedrin. I would have loved to have been in the crowd for that one.

“Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. Acts 7:33

The only two times in my life I have felt as if I was on holy ground (and expressed it exactly that way) was by the death beds of two young people I loved dearly and lost way to early within just a few years of each other. When someone is dying the veil between heaven and earth seems so willowy and slight . . . it’s almost nonexistent.

I’ve often said that God doesn’t need to yell. He only whispers because He is close to us. We don’t yell in someone’s ear! We whisper in it. But here is what crossed my mind . . . Because God is always near us, mustn’t all the ground we walk be holy ground?

My mind is pondering this concept. It’s turning over and over in my heart and mind and giving me a new perspective on what I see around me, do and say.

He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him! One of your poets said it well: ‘We’re the God-created. Acts 17:28 MSG

Christ in us . . . Just as God was in the burning bush so long ago calling out to Moses. Does that take a hold of your heart in a new and tender way? I pray this thought and image begins to take over my heart with each day and that we begin to slowly realize how close God really is to us. And maybe, just maybe we will kick off our shoes in recognition of the Holy Ground we are on.

The Mind is a Corn Maze

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Yep! I know they usually say it’s a battlefield, but that felt to dramatic today and the corn maze seems like a more appropriate fall theme. That’s a glimpse of all the random thoughts going on in my corn maze.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the thoughts, fears, insecurities, memories and chatter that swirl around in our minds for the past few weeks. There are several reasons for this, but mostly because the beginning of a new school year always brings about conversations of uncertainty, worry and maybe a little dread in our house. I’ve been repeating the phases, “Tell me one thing great that happened in your day, what is one thing you can look forward to today or what is the good news?”

Keeping tabs on the wild maze of the mind is a skill I’m trying to learn about and focus more on. I’m learning that the mind really can’t be trusted. Scripture gives us a lot of details on the mind. The Bible tells us (or should I say warns us) that the mind is wicked, sinful, depraved, deceived, easily led astray and worldly. Check out these verses for yourself – Romans 1:28, 12:2, 7:21-23, Ephesians 4:23 and 2 Cor. 11:3. If you described a person to me with those same words, I would surely put up a defense when I was around them and they would not be top of my cookout invite list.

When you enter into a corn maze, it can be scary and intimidating if you go into it with no knowledge of what to expect or how to maneuver it. However, if you enter it with specific expectations, a map or prior experience/knowledge it is much less discouraging or unnerving.

The same is true of our minds, but there is a way out of the corn maze.

1. Recognizing the thoughts that churn around in the mind are not from God is vital to overcoming the oppression, discouragement, negativity, and fear that can arise within us.

2. Filling your mind with the truth of who you are in Christ and what He has promised you through His scriptures. This week, I hope you will take some time to look up the following scriptures that remind us of who we really are and not who our mind often tries to trick us into believing.

Romans 5:8, 15:7, Psalm 138:7, 45:11, 83:3, Malachi 3:17, Ephesians 1:7-8, 1 Peter 2:9, Matthew 26:28

There are so many more . . . Never stop searching and filling your mind with truth so you can overcome the wild maze of lies that like to hide and echo through your mind.


I captured these images of the corn maze at the NC Museum of Art on my morning walk when God spoke this message to my heart.

Switch It Up

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I took a new path on my walk the other day and discovered this playful art. I tend to take the same route when I walk because it’s comfortable and known. But this time I heard God whisper, “It’s ok if you have never gone this way. You discover new things when you step outside your routine.”

The unknown is scary but we have to try it sometimes to seek a fresh view. That fresh view can help us discover God’s incredible peace in the midst of a mighty storm, grace in a hostile situation and joy when not even a glimmer of light seems to be hiding in the corners of our world.

Like me, maybe your Bible study, prayer life, quiet time or spiritual meditation has gotten a little too routine. Is it time to switch it up? To open your eyes to something new the Lord has for you?

Some ideas: Buy a new study Bible or Bible translation, go on a prayer walk, create a picture/drawing to go along with the scripture you are studying, do a Bible study from an author you have never read before, cook food from the Bible stories you are studying (Food At the Time of the Bible or The Food and Feasts of Jesus), take an online class (https://www.beadisciple.com), listen to the Bible instead of reading it, get 3 or 4 women together once a week for a walk and discuss a passage of scripture or simply begin journaling each day where you saw God at work in your life that day.

Let me know what you try! I pray God will honor our obedience and awaken our souls with His presence and wisdom.

 

 

Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!

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Over the summer, I experienced an overwhelming feeling to slow down and let go of some responsibilities I had taken on. I needed more margin in my life – AGAIN. I go through phases like this. I simplify for a while, then slowly begin to take on more and more until I reach critical mass and have to start all over again.

My body, mind and spirit were sending up a flare. And honestly, I wonder how long God had been nudging at my heart and trying to get my attention before I finally noticed?

I talked about what I could let go of and walk away from. I thought about it too, but it didn’t feel as if I was making any progress. My desire to enter into a deeper more meaningful relationship with God was still on my heart and tugging at me inwardly, but I couldn’t tell if anything had changed on the outside.

Then I read this:

“The experience of awakening can become so fragile and crystal thin at this point [the point when we realize we need God front and center again], we are likely to look right through it and see nothing.” Sue Monk Kidd

I had been looking right into this awakening and had not even taken notice of how my slowing down process had begun. . . Just in a way I didn’t expect or realize.

I loved this imagery and decided to seek it out in God’s creation this week. This is what He gave me.

I pray that we all become more in tune and responsive to God’s whispers, nudges and presence as we embark on a new season (fall). May we “be still and know” more of Him, His ways and His love for us with each passing day. And even if His presence in our lives is so tender and light right now, we can’t recognize He is there, may we find peace and comfort in knowing we will recognize His footprint later if not now.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

When the Same Old, Same Old is a Good Thing

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Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

I wasn’t sure what the exact message from this image was going to be, but I knew it was meant to be captured, pondered and meditated on. It has been life-giving to begin finding God not just in circumstances and in words, but in my every day surroundings.

Seeing these two beautiful butterflies sipping the tiny bit of water they could find on a scorching day, by our trash on the street, created such a grand contrast. Maybe it’s from my ministry and work at the church combined with having two teenage children, but things in this world seem so messy, complicated and challenging. Sometimes, I think we can become so overwhelmed with the mess we face that the burden seems as if it might break us.

It can feel lonely, as if we are the only ones facing the giants of the day. We can lose the sense that God is even with us and the noise of worry, busyness, fear and isolation overtakes His tender and gentle presence. I think if we are honest, we will even admit that we sometimes think He has stopped talking to us.

I have certainly expressed the desire for God to speak to me the same way He did in the Old Testament. “I might be able to discern what to do faster if He would speak to me from a burning bush (Exodus 3), float around before me everyday as a cloud so I would know which way He wanted me to go (Numbers 14), send a dove (Genesis 8), speak from the clouds (Matthew 3:17), send some angels (all through the Bible), or prophets like Zechariah.” I would say exasperated.

But God hasn’t stopped speaking to us. He has proven that to me over the past several weeks in my exercise to seek Him in the world around me . . . His world. I think our hearts and minds have gotten more cluttered and we don’t find the time to sit quietly and seek Him.

It’s us that have changed . . . Not God!

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Hebrews 13:8 (HSB)

As I’ve taken more time to be alone with God outside I’ve found His pulse running through everything. When we seek Him, His gentle nudges become clearer, we sense His heart beating within our own pulling ours closer to Him, and His still small voice becomes one that we desire to hear above any other.

There are days my heart and soul feel as dry and thirsty as these two butterflies. Days I’m seeking His living water wherever I can possibly find it because I feel lost in a dry and weary landscape. And if I stop, slow down and linger, there He is . . . In a song, a sunset, scripture on my wall, the smile of a stranger, a quick prayer lifted up in carpool or the tears of a friend grieving their child’s mistakes.

God is with us! He has not left us. He is still speaking to us. God doesn’t need the hearing aids, we do.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6