Archive - September 2015

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Moment of Impact
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Pray For Me
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No Exclusions
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Check Our Motive
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Don’t Drink the Water

Moment of Impact

It has been such fun to journey alongside 200 women at Vineyard Cincinnati as we ask God to speak to us individually.  Just as exciting to me is to hear what He is saying to others around me!  Not doing a specific study right now?  No problem.  Each post I’ll include the Scriptures to read as a launching point.

Not working your way through the Seamless study guide?  No worries. You can do a little pre-reading in Genesis 7 and 8.

What stood out to me….

Chicken enchiladas with chips and salsa was what I ate for dinner a few hours before the nurse called to tell me my mom had died.
I remember the look in the doctor's eyes when she told me my pregnancy was not viable.
"Law and Order" was on the TV and the walls in our house were still painted peach the moment I learned my childhood best friend had been tragically killed in an accident.
Two tears rolled down my grandma’s cheek when I showed her pictures of her family as she lay in hospice, unable to speak.

The initial impact of these events is vivid to me, yet for all of the grief and poignancy of the following weeks, all the other details seem to be blurry.

The storms in life can begin in an instant and are often fierce. The moment of impact leaves images burned in our minds and scars on our hearts.

While Noah had a bit of a heads-up concerning the impending rain, he didn’t actually grasp the concept of what God was telling him. There had never been a flood before, and some scholars argue there had never even been rain. He was planning for something his mind could not envision.

The rain was finished in 40 days. Noah and his family did not exit the ark for almost an entire year after the rain stopped. As the days lingered between impact and exit, Noah was in a continual process of waiting and trying. I try to imagine how Noah felt as his naive expectations of what the flood would be became a sober reality.

 

I wonder what went through Noah’s head when, after 220+ days on the boat, they could finally see the first mountain top.

Was Noah disappointed 47 days after the view of the mountain when the dove still returned to him with no place to land?

Did the people cry tears of joy 2 weeks later when the dove went out and did not return?

How was it waiting the next 2.5 months before the Lord commanded them to come out of the ark?

 

When the downpours of life stop, we are often unprepared for the difficulty in the waiting that follows, as the drying of our tears is a process.

While Noah knew of the 40 days, I can’t seem to find anything indicating he was prepared for the following 8+ months. However we also don’t see mention of Noah scrambling for answers, flipping out because it was taking longer than he thought. He waited and he tried. Waited and tried again.

How can we recognize and surrender our self-imposed expectation of the timeline of healing and trust in the ultimate Healer to be in process with us?  God hasn’t forgotten or forsaken us. He is patient and working as we take steps to survey the land. Can we hold loosely to the forecast and replace our assumptions with trust in Him?

October 6, 2011, the fall after my mom died, her birthday was so difficult. I was sad for all the birthdays we wouldn’t have together and all of the ones wasted in years before. I’m pretty sure I sat in sweatpants with no makeup and wallowed in my well-deserved sadness.

Last year, my phone rang about 10 am on October 6. It was my dad “just calling to check on me.”  And I had to ask him why.  I didn’t wake up and remember it was her birthday.

Life has gone on, the waters of grief have rescinded surrounding my mom’s death, and I didn’t even recognize it happening. The process was so hard in the moment, I was caught off guard by how far He had brought me in my daily walk.  God has been and still is so good to heal me.

Do I still think about my mom, my grandma, my unborn child, and my friend?  Absolutely.  Cry, almost dial their phone numbers, and see them in my dreams?  Yep, often.  But I am no longer drowning.

One of the very first storms in all of creation was healed by a slow, almost unnoticeable process.

Those of us in the middle of a hurricane-like storm right now, hold on tight and know the healing process is happening, whether we physically recognize it or not.

Feeling like the rain stopped but your eyes are barely above the water?  Ask for more of His grace and celebrate when the water is down to your shoulders.  God will dry will you off.

For the lucky experiencing the calm reflection of the sun in far off waters, seek after Jesus with all the energy within.  We will need to remember the life-vest keeping us afloat so we aren’t left scrambling when the clouds begin to roll in.  

 

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At around my Addison’s age, there I am as the witch in the middle, next to Heath and my best childhood friend, Marki.

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My mom and dad on their wedding day, 1981.

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Ashlyn is our only child lucky enough to have met my Grandma Carol.

 

Pray For Me

We have made it through the entire book of Ephesians.  I pray we are even a sliver more like Jesus than we were when we started.  The Word of God may not change, but it certainly changes us!

If you haven’t had a chance to pick up either Seamless or Living Beyond Yourself, grab your copy online or come join the Women’s Community at Vineyard Cincinnati.  Either way, sign up for email notifications and we can discuss how God is changing us through these studies.

I’m grateful for taking this journey alongside Kristan.  While I felt called to work through the two studies above, I’ll also being following along with her through the book of Acts.  I’ve had a sneak peak at her first week and I promise you’ll want to follow along too!

Ephesians‬ ‭6:18-24‬ ‭NIV

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”
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What stood out to me…

In elementary school when I would receive all A’s on a report card, I was supposed to call my out-of-town grandparents to share the good news. I loathed this experience. In my mind, I had done what I was supposed to do, and to receive praise for it seemed insulting.

Because of my immaturity, I assumed my progress was solely of my own doing. I wasn’t able to recognize the work of others to keep me fed, clothed, and healthy as factors in my success.

As a child, I didn’t realize my attitude of taking care of things on my own was actually robbing those around me from experiencing joy through my experiences.

The apostle Paul had grown in maturity in the Holy Spirit and his connection enabled him to do what would have been impossible on his own. He has been beaten and imprisoned while spreading the Gospel. From prison, his mission becomes to encourage groups of believers and mentor others.

In his maturity, Paul recognizes what he is called to do can not be accomplished on his own; it is through the power of the Holy Spirit. In asking others to pray also for him, Paul gives others a chance to be a part of what God is doing in him and through him for the Kingdom.

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It can be easy for many of us to help stir up others. We can spend our entire day encouraging, helping, and praying for others.

Let us not forget to give others the opportunity to walk out the Gospel by going to the Father on our behalf as well.

 

Father, thank you for the opportunity to walk beside Kristan and pray for her.  It has been a blessing for you to share words of encouragement for her through me and to get to see your faithfulness to those. 

Protect me from myself when my pride threatens my vision to see the need to include others in my journey.  In every moment, may I remember my partnership with the Holy Spirit living inside of me and the fact You intended life to be in community. 

Amen.

 

No Exclusions

The last 10 weeks working our way through Ephesians has flown by.  It has been fun to chat with so many people both online and in person about what God has revealed to each of us as we have dug deeper.  My trust in the character of the Father is deeper now than it was when we started together.  My prayer is you are different too. 🙂

It has been so much fun on this journey with Kristan and others, so I wanted this next season to be an adventure along side others as well.  Since I love the Women’s Community at Vineyard Cincinnati and they are studying both Seamless by Angie Smith and Living Beyond Yourself by Beth Moore, I am going to dive into those as well.

I’m not exactly sure if I’ll keep the same schedule, so make sure you sign up on the right to receive an email with any new posts.  Then pick up one of the studies above, grab your Bible, and believe we won’t look the same at the end of this time together.

Ephesians‬ ‭6:10-17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
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What stood out to me…

In high school, I was betrayed by an ex-boyfriend with a lie that would ultimately tear my best friend at the time and I apart. As I stood in the kitchen at my grandma’s house and begged her to let me transfer schools, I couldn’t imagine at the time anything being more devastating.

Fast forward a few years to college. I was planning a wedding, working 30+ hours per week, and finishing my degree in education. I felt overwhelmed and wondered how I would manage to keep it all together.

More years than I want to count later, our family has endured the exhaustion of newborn babies, the heartbreak of miscarriage, and the inexplicable grief as we have buried several loved ones.

Life happens, and it doesn’t matter what stage we are in.  Many of us would love to go back a decade or two and tell our younger selves we didn’t even know what stress is yet, but at the time, we wouldn’t have believed the older versions we have become.

It seems Paul knew we would all experience adversity. He doesn’t list any exclusions for age or stage of life, just the statement we would in fact have our struggles.  When we did, we would need to be reminded of next steps to take; steps to push forward and move ahead with grace and mercy.

A few weeks ago, Kristan reminded us on her blog: “whenever you see the word ‘therefore,’ it is your job to figure out what it is “there for.” Everything in verses 13-20 of Ephesians 6 is a rubric to remind us of our assignment in our current struggles.

No endeavor is too small, no battle is insignificant.

Whatever we face today, there is a Christ-centered action we can take to protect our mind and hearts and move forward.

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For Monday, read our final entry, Ephesians 6:18-24

Check Our Motive

Often I need to experience something more than once to really begin to soak in the truth.  A few weeks ago I wrote about what I was learning regarding motive, and today it was reinforced differently.  Paul seems pretty adamant in Ephesians to get his point across about how important the motive of our heart is and not just our outward action.  Just like any parent, the Father knew He would have to repeat Himself a bazillion times throughout His Word to have a prayer of catching our attention.  Today He did. 🙂

Ephesians‬ ‭6:1-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.”
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What stood out to me…

A few weeks ago as I was dragging the day’s plethora of dance and school items out of the van, I noticed a weird cream inside the back-seat cupholder. Further investigation revealed sunscreen was not only in the cupholder, but in perfectly formed squiggles across a few seats and arm rests as well.

imageAfter confronting the girls, it was apparent no one would budge easily. They were both adamant they had not done it and someone must have broken into the car. At this point, their big brown eyes had their dad convinced of innocence, however this mamma has been around the block too many times.

I gave my best mom speech, kissed them goodnight, and waited. Within 10 minutes a little voice came from one of the bedrooms and confessed not only her mistake, but the sin of lying as well.  While I was still disappointed with the choice to not tell the truth, the parent in me was actually proud.

My child’s intention shifted from self-protection to selfless confession.

Motive is everything.

Had I manipulated the girls by consequence into confessing (which I’ll admit I’m not always above when needed), I wouldn’t have necessarily been as proud. It would have just been a means to an end of gathering information for me, and self-serving to avoid harsher punishment for the kids. But by letting her submit with dignity on her own, the heart of my daughter had pure intentions.

Luke 15 shares the parable of the prodigal son. When the son demands his inheritance from the father, the father does not exert his authority over the son, rather watching the young man leave the family property. Many years later, when the son has used the last of the money, he humbly returns home to ask for a job from his family. To the son’s surprise, the father throws a lavish feast in his honor to welcome him back.

We could guess the father was still sad and disappointed from the years lost to the son’s self-serving impulses, however he celebrated the change in the son’s motive of his heart.

A 180 degree turn from conceited to humble.

The Lord can exert Himself over us at any time. Yet He gives us free will.

No matter what we are dealing with: small situations like smearing sunscreen in the van or a child who has turned away from his family, the Lord’s desire for the end result is submission to Jesus.

Whatever is happening in our lives and in those close to us, may we continually check to make sure not only our actions, but our motives line up with the character of God in His Word.

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Don’t Drink the Water

Ephesians‬ ‭5:21-33‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
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What stood out to me…

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As I become more sensitive to believing my first thoughts in the morning might be from God, I try to pause and ask Him if there is something He is trying to bring to my attention.

A few weeks ago, I woke up early in the morning, before I would normally wake up and immediately thought, “only drink water today.”

The longer I lay in bed, the more I think about the smell of peppermint creamer and the fact I had enough energy the night before to have the coffee pot ready. All I had to do was go down and press the button. Oh well. It will save until tomorrow and with no caffeine to drink, I’ll just eat 30 Hershey kisses for the boost.:)

As I lay there up too early and see the VERY busy day ahead of me, I decide I would only have water. Did I get why I was saying no to everything else? No, I didn’t. But I realized it wasn’t going to hurt anything (and I could go through the day not hurting anyone!) to believe it was God and take the risk. Best case scenario, I obeyed what He asked. Worst case, I drank water all day and had a caffeine headache for apparently no reason.

Throughout the day, I felt more focused than normal. And by mid day, when I really wanted my toddler-nap-time Diet Coke, I started thinking about how I wanted to need Him more than I needed anything else.

By the end of the day I started praying “cleanse me,oh God”.

These thoughts or prayers weren’t in my head or heart before this particular day.

 

Sometimes, when we catch ourselves trying to understand the big dreams God has placed in our hearts, we can catch ourselves wondering if our thoughts are too crazy to be real. If He asks for something minute, we struggle to justify why it would be important to God. In between the large and tiny God-thoughts, we often get stuck attempting to prove our thoughts were from the Lord and not just a made-up scenario in our heads.

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I often wonder if we get so caught up in the cycle of trying to figure out God, we forget the character of God.  He sees every last thought in us, yet He still wants us.

 

When we submit our dreams, hopes, questions, and general reflections to the Lord, we are declaring we understand it isn't about us or making sense of anything. It is all about Him, and not wanting to miss out on the adventure or lessons he wants us to be a part of.

By the end of my water day, I was driving and sitting at a stop light I had the thought “If I can trust you with a little, I can trust you with more. If you will obey Me in the small, I can trust you to obey Me in the big.”

Do I know for sure that God told me to only drink water for that day? No. But I know I felt His presence more as my intention was to be obedient to Him.

I had to say no to everything but water for a day as an act of submission.

As we react out of perceived obedience, it opens our hands a little more to receive more of God.

We are finite creatures. We don’t have infinite time, infinite health. Our patience doesn’t go on and on without effort. There is work to be done in us and we generally have to say no to something in order to say yes to something else.

I’m not sure what He may be asking you to submit to Him. But we can believe whatever thoughts we may have had as we woke this morning or anything standing out to you as you read this is worth paying attention to.

What will we submit to Him today in order to open our hands to receive more?

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