Lean In

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Is there anything more precious than having a sweet baby lean against you?  And if you get the blessing of rocking them to sleep, you know when they’ve drifted off because they become as limp as a forgotten houseplant and they lean all their weight on you.

Recently I’ve heard several people use the term, “Lean in” when referring to trusting in the Lord during a hard time.

I love that!

It conjures up in my mind the picture of that little baby leaning in so hard that they rest completely on the one holding them.  Isn’t that exactly what we need to do with our dear Savior?

I don’t know what burden you’re carrying today, but can I encourage you to lean in with all your heart, your emotion, your baggage, and burdens?  Lean in until you feel your weight being transferred to Him.  Allow the Lord to carry you and your struggles today, and then enjoy the rest that will follow!

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him (lean on Him), and he shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:5,6

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Finding the Will of God

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High school students taking geometry class have no concerns as to whether or not they’ll come up with the right answers for these math problems.  Oh, they’re no good at formulas, theorems, and postulates, because they either skipped class or perusing Facebook during class, but it’s no big deal!  Why?  They have every confidence that to get the answers all they have to do is ask Google!!

That sad scenario was passed on to me from a long-time geometry teacher recently.  He said that his students don’t study or put time into learning the in’s and out’s of geometry when they feel sure that Google can give them the answers for homework or tests.  He reminded them that they are sadly mistaken.  In order to do well in his class, they need to spend some time alone with their book, their notes, assignment their homework.

Before we get too hard on those failing freshmen, perhaps we need to check and see how we go about getting our answers.  Oh, we might not need formulas for geometric shapes, but how do we go about getting directives from God?  When we need to know His will, aren’t we often eager to just find the quickest way to hear it?

I think of Elijah when he was on the mountain.  Do you remember the story?  He had been running from Jezebel – the wicked queen who was hunting his life.  God told him to go stand out on the mountain.

And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

Elijah thought he would see God in Big ways – a wind, an earthquake, a fire, but no.  God didn’t speak to him in BIG ways – he spoke in a still, small voice.

What truth does this show us?  We might want to know God’s will so much, and we think (or even say!),

If God would just show me what to do, I’d do it!  Can’t He just tell me what I’m supposed to do?

But God doesn’t write it in the sky.  He doesn’t thunder His voice to us while we’re sleeping.  So, how does God reveal His will to us? 

It comes when we do what Elijah did.

  • Get alone with God.  We must take the time regularly to set ourselves apart with the Lord so that we might be still.
  • Don’t do all the talking.  We need to open His Word and read.  What to read?  Start with the psalms and pray them back to God.  Praise Him.  Love Him.  Sing to Him.  Ask Him what/where you should read next.  Be still and listen for the Spirit of God to direct your thoughts.  Read after asking God to illumine the Word to your heart.
  • Pray about what you don’t understand. One day when I was studying the life of Elijah, I got to the part of the story that we’re talking about today.  I didn’t understand it.  So, I prayed and asked   “Lord, what does this mean?  Why did you tell Elijah to go out on the mountain?  What about the wind, earthquake and fire?”  Then I sat still and listened.  I continued to read the passage silently.  It was then that God showed me…
    In order to hear my voice, you must seek me in the Quiet Place – not in grand miracles or loud demonstrations of my power.  Listen for my voice, still and soft. 

Maybe that passage has always been easy for you, but when God showed me that Truth, I wept and rejoiced over its understanding.  How simple.  How profound.  There are no 1,2,3 steps to get an answer from God.  God loves us enough that in order to show us His will, He wants to have a relationship.  We draw near.  We read His Word and come to know Him.  We listen.  Then we learn.  We get up from our Quiet place after who knows how many hours, or days, not just knowing His will, but also being so close to Him that we’re not afraid to go do it!

Elijah got his marching orders from God that day.  So will you and I, when we do what that geometry student needs to do – take time to draw near and listen to the Teacher.

If you’re seeking God’s will, don’t go ask people.  Don’t look for a quick way to find the answer.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

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What to Do When You Don’t Reach Your Goals

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My LG phone has set up a Health app for me.  I didn’t really want it, but I went ahead and set a goal of 10,000 steps a day.  The frustrating thing about it is that I don’t have my phone with me every second of the day!  There may be hours that it’s sitting on the counter charging while I’m running all over the house – upstairs, downstairs, inside, outside, working like a horse, while my phone is sitting there sneering at me, not logging one single step.  At the end of the month I got the message you see pictured above,

You didn’t reach your goal last month.

It may be helpful to change your goal to 9,000.

But you know, even though I know that this app isn’t correct, this message made me think.  Sadly, I’m afraid that is my heart’s inclination when something is hard. Change my goal. You see, then I can feel better about myself.  We each have two choices ~

Lower the goal and feel good about me

or

Raise the bar and feel good!

That doesn’t apply only to physical health goals, it applies in all areas of life.  But let’s think about one area in particular – our Christian life.  Do we…

  • set a goal to read through the Bible?
  • sign up to attend a 12-week Bible study?
  • commit to witness to the lost?
  • agree to help with a ministry at church?
  • volunteer teach a Sunday school class?
  • realize we need to pray more?
  • pledge to give to Faith Promise missions or to tithe faithfully

Then things happen.  Life gets busy.  We feel overwhelmed.  We get caught up with other responsibilities and we carelessly lay aside the commitments we made.  We get the mental message:

You might want to lower your goals.

After all, it would be easier.  It would make life less complicated.  We might feel better about our self.

But not really.

When we have set a spiritual goal for ourselves and then the Holy Spirit brings it to our mind, unlike my Health app, He will always be accurate.  He knows.  He sees.  Oh, not to make us miserable, but to help us, like the 10,000 steps would benefit me.  He desires to bring us to a place of obedience.

So when you realize you’ve missed the goal, all you have to do is start again.  When this new month rolls around in a few days, I’ll have another clean slate with my LG Health app!  Our gracious God forgives and wipes the slate clean when we tell Him we’ve messed up again and we need His help! 

As far as the east is from the west,
so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

What spiritual goal have  you set aside? What responsibility have you shirked?  Perhaps this post is the Lord’s gentle way of nudging you to get you back on track.  Confess it, ask for His help to do it, and then take the next step in following through. We don’t live our Christian life based on feelings, but when you obey He gives joy, so you will indeed be feeling better when you get back on track!

Oh, and look at the message I just got on my phone…

 

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Another lesson for me is, wear something with pockets so my phone will track every single step I take!!

Do you have spiritual goals you need to give attention to?  Start back today!

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The Healer of the Family

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This coming Wednesday in Pioneer Club I get the joy of teaching a Bible lesson I’m not sure I’ve ever taught. As I’ve pondered this Bible passage, I’ve realized how important this little two-verse story is!  It’s the story of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law being sick with a fever.

But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her.

.And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.

Mark 1:30-31

So why would this be in the Scriptures?  Why should we tell the children this story? Why do you and I need to read it? I believe it’s because it speaks volumes about the care we should have for our family.  Just as this family looked after the needs of this mother who was sick, we need to put the same kind of efforts into our family relationships.

  1. They loved her.
  2. They wanted to do the best thing for her.
  3. They got the best care for her needs.
  4. She showed her gratitude by serving.

It’s so simple, yet so powerful a message of family life as God intended it.

Loving, caring, giving, gratitude – all attributes every Christian family should have.

But so many homes today are filled with fighting and bickering, bitterness and grudges.  The thermostat in the home is set at the high temperature of STRIFE.  Heated discussions., sassy children, and hot words of anger fill the rooms instead of love, forgiveness and kind deeds.

James  3:16 says,

For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

Confusion.

Every evil work.

Is that what we want inside our home?  If we allow strife, that’s what we  will get.

I have a sad memory  from years ago of a grieving family who were at the casket of their mother.  She was now in heaven, and the family knew there were bitter feelings they had never reconciled.  This family had “solved” problems with shouting matches, that of course did no good.  Now their mother was deceased, and their hearts were hurting, filled with regret, and sorry they hadn’t taken care of it before she closed her eyes in death.

Standing at the grave of a loved one is not the time to make peace. It’s today.  Don’t let strife and confusion and every evil work typify your family.  Instead, allow your relations to  enjoy the forgiveness you received at the cross.  Life is too short and family is too precious.

Let’s be like Simon Peter and lovingly go get the best help we can for our family – let’s run and find Jesus!  We must bring Him in on each situation and problem.  We must care for the needs of our parents, siblings, and children, forgetting our own.

Does your family have a need?  It can be met in Jesus.

(Tomorrow will be continuation of this post.)

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Birthday Reflections

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Birthdays ~ we have one every year, and mine just happened to be yesterday.  To be honest, there are days when I sigh at getting older, but I’m finding that the way to beat the blues is to enter each year (and each day) with a thankful heart.

As I sat and reflected on my birthday, I came up with this list of SOME of the blessings that have fallen to me in this last year.

  • The blessing of getting to share God’s Word and speak to women.  This last year I spoke again at a Pastor’s wives retreat not long after my birthday.  You typically don’t get asked to speak when you’re still “green” in ministry.  But when you’ve weathered the storms and can still smile and love God with all your heart, you have validity in your message. I also had the blessing of flying to Michigan and doing a ladies’ retreat at a great church.  That was so wonderful.  The ladies encouraged my heart.  The time up north was beautiful as we looked out the windows at the drifted snow.  I am so amazed at the blessings and joys God gives me in allowing me to serve Him!
  • Thanksgiving with my parents. I am so blessed to be four hours from my parents and be able to spend time with them.  Family grows dearer with every day.  I realize more and more how precious a gift it is to be with them, to glean from them and show love to them.  This year was the first time it was just my husband and me with my mom and dad.  We put their Christmas tree up after dinner, watched Christmas movies with hot bowls of popcorn in our laps, and took drives in the country.  It sounds like its own kind of Hallmark movie, doesn’t it?  It was.
  • Days of retreat at a lake cabin.  To have dear friends who allow us time at their cabin that we might refresh ourselves is a blessing I cannot even describe.  We didn’t need as many days to rest up when we were younger, but to have a day away gives us new vigor for the ministry and refreshes our weary bodies!
  • Christmas with our grown children.  If you think Christmas with your little kids was fun, wait until they’re all grown and you see their faces with their spouses sitting around your dining room table. My heart was as full as my dining room table as we ate, laughed, reminisced, played games, opened the Scriptures, prayed and shared gifts.  Wow.  How sweet.
  • Enjoying a second trip to Israel.  This would never have happened in my younger days!  First, there was no desire to go.  But also, the demands of parenting wouldn’t have allowed it, nor would our bank account!  But God graciously provided in every way, and this second trip was even better than the first!
  • Special times away with my husband.  As in the prior blessing, our times away years ago were few and far between.  We enjoyed dates near home, and that was great!  But now we can go away for a night or an afternoon and not worry about homeschool, or schedules of children at home.  We went to DreamMore resort in Pigeon Forge for Valentine’s Day and had so much fun!  We’ve enjoyed Pigeon Forge Wyndham Resort a couple of times, as well.  Afternoons at Biltmore are a favorite for both of us as we stroll the gardens, forgetting pressures and concentrating on communication and time together.  We realize that every day we have together is a gift from God.
  • Becoming a (foster) Grandparent.  Though the twin boys my daughter and son-in-law are caring for are not our flesh, they were born in our hearts!  They’ve completely taken over every chamber and we are blessed to be a part of their lives and smother them with love!!  I had no idea how full this time in my life would be! Wow, just wow.
  • Ministering to children, both at home and church.  My weekly Bible club with my neighbor children is such a joy to me. What a gift to get to pour God’s Word into their hearts and minds.  Pioneer Club at church has been another way to get to serve God and minister to first and second graders!
  • Our first family vacation.  I shared about that here on my blog, but I can’t leave that out of my blessings!  It was so much fun!

This doesn’t include the times I’ve spent in God’s Word, hearing from Him, and talking to Him in prayer.  I’ve left out all the sweet hours of fellowship with friends and family, in our home, in theirs, at church, in restaurants and other meeting up sites.  Even on my birthday yesterday, we had “fellowship” in the hospital where my poor brother-in-law is recovering from surgery due to fall from a roof and subsequent severe injuries.  We gathered in the waiting area and prayed, read Scripture and waited together.  Those are not the planned kind of gatherings, but they do become sweet blessings because they add to the depth of my life as I reflect on the joy of having a family who can hold hands and run to God’s Throne together.  Years ago I may have regretted spending my birthday at the hospital, but not this year.  It’s a reminder that every day’s outcome is how you view it.  This was all orchestrated by God’s hands, allowing us to have planned a trip home at this particular time.  Only God knew why we needed to be here.

My birthday was filled with blessings and my heart is full.  One last blessing is the growth of my blog.  Thank you to each of you who read my posts regularly.  Thank you to those who have followed me recently. Thanks to those of you who comment and encourage me. I am amazed that others read what I’ve written, but I’m so very grateful!  I trust that as the year progresses, God will grant wisdom and help to make this worth reading each day.

What blessings would you recount on your birthday?  If you haven’t, start making a list in a journal today!

Another year older, but even more blessed,

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When My Obedience Looked Like Disobedience

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Every week for over a year, I have met with a small group of women  from my church for a time of prayer.   On a week morning we gathered together in our church’s counseling room, chair bumping into chair, and we shared one another’s burdens and we prayed for our church. We prayed for the lost. We praised our God.  We wept together.  We rejoiced when the pleas to God had been answered.  It has been a huge blessing in my life.

But then I had to stop going.

The Lord began tugging at my heart with a burden for the shut-in of our church, for the sick, for the stragglers who visited, then were missing.  I wanted to do something for them that would be helpful and practical.  The Lord brought to my mind the thought of cooking or baking for these folks and periodically taking meals or treats for them to enjoy.  But with an already full schedule,  each day obligated to this or that, how would I ever accomplish this?  I began to pray and seek God’s direction.

One day my husband and I went on a little afternoon excursion away from home.  We had time to sit and talk and share our hearts.  I poured out to him the burden God had given me, and the frustration of not knowing how I could serve others from my home and my kitchen when every day was so full.  God gave him such wisdom and it was so clear to him as he said,

God has given you a burden to use your home to serve Him.  You need to focus your ministry out of our house.  You can pray in our home as well as at church.  Ask others to join you, if they’d like.  You all could pray and then cook together.  It’s what you love to do, and God is the One who has placed that burden on your heart.  Do it!

I felt as though a burden had been lifted off of me, and I knew at that moment that this was exactly what the Lord wanted me to do.  But that meant that I could no longer attend the morning prayer meeting at church.  My next thought was, “What will my friends think?  It looks so unspiritual to stop going to prayer meeting!”  But I knew that my not going to this morning prayer time was in obedience to what God was asking me to do.  When I shared this with my prayer group, they rejoiced with me, as I should have known they would!

It’s so easy to think that I have to do it all. It’s easy to put the guilt on myself and worry about what others will think if my obedience looks like disobedience.  But God’s Word says~

The fear of man brings a snare. Proverbs 29:25

I could’ve let my fear keep me at our weekly prayer time (not a bad thing) but I would have missed out on the blessing that this step of obedience has brought!  From the very first morning when I began this new cooking ministry, I had absolute peace that I was obeying God!  My heart was filled with the joy God gives AFTER we obey.  We want it before the obedience, don’t we? After all, it would make it a little easier!  But no, we obey, then God gives joy!

It was truly hard to say “No” to that weekly prayer time in order that I could say “Yes” to this burden of baking, cooking and visiting our church folk. Another wonderful thing is that some of the ladies have been able to join me.  We stop and pray for each person we’re taking a meal to.  We cook and stir up delicious food, and then we deliver it.  It has been wonderful…even if it did start out looking like disobedience!

Do you ever feel like you’re responsible for doing it all?  There’s freedom in listening to God’s directives and obeying Him.  He gave us gifts to use that will never be contrary to His Word.  Are you serving Him in obedience?  There’s no greater joy!

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My Most Embarrassing Moment and a Lesson About Priorities

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Have you ever been asked about your most embarrassing moment?  Mine is ingrained in my mind like a freeze-framed DVD on the computer screen.  It happened like this –

Our four year-old daughter, Whitney, was attending pre-school at the Christian school in our area.  Ministry was busy and finances were tough.  Then out of the clear blue I got a phone call from the principal where our daughter was attending pre-school.  It seems they were in dire need of a second grade school teacher because the current teacher had quit.  He asked if I would pray about teaching the class for the year.  The whole year?  How could I swing that with all my other responsibilities as a wife, mom and pastor’s wife?   As my husband and I talked and prayed about it, we felt that perhaps this was the Lord providing for our needs.

As we prayed, I also consulted with my parents for their advice.  I clearly remember having a phone conversation with my dad where he discouraged me from taking the position because of the age of my little girl and her needs.  She would be home in the afternoon when I would still be at school.  I regretted later not heeding his warning!  But we reasoned that she would have time with her daddy while I was gone.  We failed to consider the many ministry responsibilities that would call for his time.

So, yes, I took the teaching job.  From the very first afternoon when I saw my husband pull out of the school parking lot with our daughter in tow, I regretted signing my name on the dotted line of that teaching contract!  But now it was too late.  We got into a routine – Whitney rode to school with me in the morning where she went to pre-school and I headed to the second grade classroom.  Her daddy picked her up at noon when her class was finished and they would visit church members together in the afternoon or she would play while he studied.  Some days, due to the need to visit the hospital or attend a funeral, she would spend the afternoon with a friend and fellow-pastor’s wife.  When I would hear that they had made cookies, played house or beauty shop, it would tear my heart in two!

Along with school, of course, were my ministry responsibilities.  I tried to keep up with activities and the people of our congregation.  One evening, desiring to show my concern, I approached a woman whose mother had been very ill.

“Mae, how is your mother doing?” I asked.  Her expression turned to disbelief, and she said in a somber tone, “Denise, my mother died two weeks ago.”

At that moment I wished could die!  How embarrassing!  I apologized for my blunder and somehow found my way to my seat where my face slowly returned to its natural color.

That’s what happened as a result of having too many plates spinning in the air and trying to keep them all going.  Now one had crashed to the floor – and in church of all places – the place where I should have been demonstrating care and concern!  I realized at that moment that I was doing too much, and that I wasn’t giving ample time or attention to the things that were most important.

Though that year was difficult, I learned the greatest lesson from that experience.   I learned what my priorities were, and working outside my home while I had children to raise was not one of them!   Hence, that was my first and last job, not because I was too lazy to work; I had just learned the hard way that the best (and most fulfilling) job for me was raising my girls and being a help-meet to my husband.  Nothing else in the world really mattered.  There were still times when I’ve felt I was spinning plates, but I had learned through my embarrassing moment not to allow those plates to be the ones that were closest to my heart.

How do you balance all the busy things going on in your world?  Is there something you feel the Lord would have you to give up?