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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The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge:
but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.
Proverbs 15:14

What parent is there that would want their child to remain an infant all their life? As cute as our babies are, we rejoice at each step of growth as they mature. In the same way, as we continue on this journey of walking with the Lord, we have must first have a relationship with God by receiving Christ as our personal Savior. After that, the natural outflow from our spiritual life should be growth.

We all experience dry spells, but for the most part, we should be making progress spiritually. It is aided by purposeful focus. We will purposefully seek knowledge if it is our desire to grow in the Lord more each day.

In order to go beyond just floating along in our Christian life, we need to dig deeper. The means that one woman, Elizabeth George used was:

  1. She never bought a skirt or pair of pants without pockets in it. At the beginning of the week she would write a new memory verse on a 3×5 card and would take it out all day long and read it and work on hiding that verse in her heart. What verse are you currently working on memorizing?
  2. She had “Five Fat Files.” She purchased five file folders in order to tuck away information on Biblical subject matters. She was to pick five areas in which she wanted to grow in expertise so that she was filling herself up with knowledge in these areas.

    In order for us to follow this advice we need to ask ourselves (and pray about) what we’d like to be known for. Do you want to be known as a woman of prayer? Mentoring? Soul winning? After you’ve chosen your five Biblical topics, seek knowledge in these areas. You’ll then know what subjects to be studying. We can’t read everything, but when we have chosen five areas, we have a better idea of what kind of books we should be looking for. We’ll know which workshops to attend when we go to a ladies’ retreat. We’ll clip articles from magazines on those subjects, or print off information we read on the Internet. We can talk with people who are excelling in those areas and ask them questions.

It really helps to funnel our attention to a much smaller focus, and then to seek knowledge especially in those five areas. How will this aid your spiritual growth? You’ll be anxious to get out of bed in the morning to jump up and get in God’s Word to learn more what He says about those five subjects.

Along with filling your five fat files, Elizabeth encourages us to code our Bibles. If you’re seeking knowledge about prayer, mark a P next to each verse you read about praying, a person who prayed, how to pray, Jesus’ prayers, etc. If you make a study of the Women of the Bible, role of women, older women, place a W beside each passage you find about them. Each day as you read your Bible, read it with a pen in hand; that is an act of faith, revealing that you’re certain the Lord is going to show you a nugget that you need to mark.

This kind of study is the main stream to ministry. As you fill yourself up in these five areas, you’ll be like a teapot jumping on the stove. You’ll be so filled with knowledge from God’s Word that you’ll be pouring out on other people. Like the woman that Elizabeth learned from, women will seek you out to get wisdom from the areas in which you have grown.

So, what kind of ministry will you have from the outflow of your spiritual growth? By His grace, let’s each choose those five areas and start growing!

Because of His grace,

Refreshing the Hearts of Others

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Last week my husband and I were standing alongside this stream pictured above.  How refreshing it was to stand in its bubbling song.  There is just something about flowing, moving water that invigorates!  If you’ve ever stood a stream’s edge in the countryside you know what I mean.  I could’ve stayed there all day!

Two weeks ago I was given a handout entitled, Twenty Ways to Refresh.”  Due to the nature of my blog and my desire to refresh others in their heart, home and life, I gravitate to the word, “Refresh.”  Harold Vaughan, the founder of Christ Life Ministries, is the epitome of Encouragement and he is the author of this list I was given.  When we refresh others, we are pouring life into them, like that flowing stream did for me!  If you’re like me and you have difficulty thinking of ways to encourage others, this list will help you.

Today I’ll share the first ten:

  1. Greet people on Sunday mornings (at church) with a smile.  It is okay to let your face say that you are happy to be at church.  Go out of your way to say, “Hi.” Ask questions about the lives of others, and listen attentively.
  2. Visit the widows and shut-ins of your church.  Take an afternoon and visit three or four.  Sit, talk, listen and be willing to look at their photo albums – all of them.
  3. Have a mouth that is overflowing with grace and is slow to wander down any other road.
  4. Show up each Sunday morning with a mental list of three or four people that you are going to find and minister to.  Many of us walk into church with an attitude of, “I wonder who will minister to me today.”  Nothing can be as drastically encouraging to a local church’s membership than a people united in the understanding that they are there to serve and love one another.
  5. Be a Monday morning encourager instead of a Monday morning critic by sending your pastor an email detailing what you appreciated about his Sunday sermon.
  6. Don’t rush out of church on Sunday mornings.  Be one of the last to leave because you are taking the time to talk with everyone you can.
  7. Often remind others of the benefits of salvation and the graces that flow from union with Christ.  Let it season your conversations.
  8. Routinely have a crock-pot meal or roast cooking on Sundays and spontaneously invite a visiting family or family in need for supper following the service.  (See my Successful Sunday Dinner series!)
  9. Seek out those visiting the church, get to know them, and introduce them to others.  Find connections, and be a networker to the glory of God.
  10. Aim to remember people’s names and greet them by name each Sunday.  This takes work, but it can happen.  (I go to my seat and write their names in my journal, with a brief description of the person!)

This really inspired and refreshed me!  Which one of these points spoke most to you?

Lovingly,

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Throwback Memories of My Weekend in the UP

Yikes!  I haven’t stopped to share about my weekend in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan almost two weeks ago!  Let’s fix that today!  I’ll share some of the highlights of that great time with some really special ladies!

I went to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to speak for their “Ladies Day.”  Traveling and speaking is never anything I ever sought out to do.  The Lord has put this privilege before me, and I have loved it so much.  I always learn far more than anyone I speak to!  For that reason alone, I am so thankful to my God!  But I would never/ could never travel if I didn’t have the support, encouragement and prayers of my husband.  He cheers me on every step of the way.  The picture below was on our way to the airport when we stopped to have lunch before he dropped me off.  What a man I am blessed with!

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It’s all about the People!
My friend, Kellie traveled with me and she was such a blessing.  It’s lots more fun navigating a trip with a friend at your side!

Th next picture of the pretty blonde is the sweet young woman who invited me to her church.  Lisa was a member here at our church until she got married and her husband moved them waaaaay up north!  It was a joy beyond compare to be with her for the weekend, to see her church, her home and her heart for God!

I met lots of precious women.  I won’t post them all here, but they were welcoming, open to God’s Word, and very friendly to this Tennessean!

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The decor
The ladies used the white birch around them to help decorate the platform for their theme “Deeply Rooted.”  They had verses about being rooted in God’s Word all over – on the bulletin boards, in frames – everywhere.  They did a wonderful job carrying the theme throughout the whole church!

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The Fellowship
Part of the blessing of a weekend like this was fellowship with other ladies.  Aside from our main sessions and workshops, we had times of sharing a meal, a dessert, and a game.  That’s when you really get to know others!  We had lots of fun together!  We played a game using our purses.  You know, it’s amazing what some people carry in theirs (that would be me!)

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The SNOW!!!
There was plenty of snow all weekend!  They had a few flurries while I was there, but the piles have been there since December.  As we say in the south – Bless their hearts!  It sure was beautiful – but then I got to leave it after a weekend and come home to green grass!

There’s nothing better than serving God!  Look where He takes me!  Look who allows me to meet!  Look at what He teaches me in His Word!  I never would have dreamed that I’d be so blessed, but isn’t that just like our God?  He surprises us over and over and over!

FBC ladies, thank you for having me.  Thank you for being such a blessing to me.  I am the richer for it!

Lovingly,

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Being Your Friend’s Best Cheerleader

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Years ago a kind woman took me to lunch.  I was new to the area, and she had reached out to me in friendship.  We had a fun time just chatting, enjoying lunch and getting to know one another better.  I was truly refreshed by our time together.  The next day I sent her a card thanking her for being a Onesiphorus (On-ee-sif-or-us) to me, for this man had “oft refreshed” Paul.

The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: II Timothy 1:16

My kind friend came up to me after receiving my card and asked,

“Who is “Onesie for us?!”

I explained to her that he was a friend of Paul’s, who had been a blessing, and refreshed his spirit in the ministry. We both had a good laugh over the misunderstanding.

But you know, she really wasn’t too far off base with her mispronunciation!  How does a person encourage and refresh another?  They show by their actions, words and prayers that they are one person who is all for us! It’s like having your own personal cheerleader!

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I’ve been on the receiving end many times of people who have refreshed me!  I understand what Paul is talking about!  Life in general can be so disheartening, can’t it?  Ministry can also be so overwhelming that a person can feel like they’re drowning while trying to meet the needs of others.  We could all use a cheerleader from time to time!  It’s often easy to get so focused in on our own needs that we fail to see that others could use some cheering up, but how does that happen?

Here are some ways that you can refresh others and be their “Onesie-for-us!”:

  • Stop to ask about a burden they are carrying.
  • Write a note to tell them you are praying for them.
  • Stop and pray with them about the burden.
  • Stop in for a brief visit.
  • Send a text or email with encouraging Scripture.
  • Drop by a little treat you know they’ll love – a candy bar, their favorite kind of apple, or beverage.
  • Ask if you can  ____________.  Ask specifically.  Can I bring supper?  Can I watch your children?  Can I come clean your house?
  • Invite them out – lunch, coffee, over for a meal.

I got that list from a list of my “Onesiphorus friends” who have refreshed me over and over again!  I have to ask the Lord to turn my attention away from myself to others to see their needs.  I feel I fail so often, but I do desire to be a Onesie -For- Us! How about you?

What do others do for you to cheer you on in your Christian life?

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If It Hadn’t Been For the Lord…

I am a perpetual list maker.  I always have been.  It makes my days run smoother.  It makes me see that I’ve accomplished something.

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But sometimes that habit becomes a stumbling block because it can cause me to run on “auto-pilot.”

Breaking that down, it simply means that I run on “Denise’s ability”  rather than God’s. 

Here’s how Denise’s list goes:

  • Blog post  – I get a “great idea” in my head and type it up without praying about it.
  • Make bread – I made our bread and freeze the other loaf without asking God with whom I could share the extra bread.
  • Grocery shopping – I buzz through the store, with little thought about having a Gospel conversation with a shopper who speaks to me.
  • Dry Cleaners – The worker looked worn and worried, but I didn’t ask how her day was going and how I could pray for her.

Everything got checked off, but it was done in my strength and with my limited abilities.  Nothing extraordinary happened as result.  Denise’s abilities revealed.

This week I read Psalm 124:1 -3

 If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say;

 If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us:

 Then they had swallowed us up quick…

Israel had victory and they could say, If it hadn’t been for the Lord we would have been swallowed up by our enemy!  God interrupted their day!

That verse made me stop and ask myself – “What happened in my day yesterday that I would say, If hadn’t been for the Lord who was on my side things would have turned out much differently!”?  Did I look to the Lord to break in and interrupt my plans? Or did I do everything in my own strength instead?

Oh, that every day I would allow God to interrupt my plans.  It might look like this instead:

  • Blog post“If it hadn’t been for the Lord, I wouldn’t have thought to post that!”
  • Bake Bread“If it hadn’t been for the Lord, I would have missed meeting the new family up the street, but He reminded me I needed to take them a loaf of bread and introduce myself!”
  • Grocery Shopping“If it hadn’t been for the Lord nudging me to invite the sweet lady at the store to my church, she may never have visited!”
  • Dry Cleaners“If it hadn’t been for the Lord nudging me to pray with the worker at the dry cleaners, I never would have known that her husband was diagnosed with cancer recently.”

Do you see what a difference depending on and surrendering to the Lord makes in our day? His abilities are revealed! I have missed out on His blessings so many times, simply because I was not relying on His Spirit and power to work through me to do what only He can do.  How sad.How empty.

But today is a new day to surrender.

This situation is another opportunity to give my plans to Him!

Today’s list is another chance to see Him step in and do what only He can do!

What happened in your day yesterday that would make you say – “If it hadn’t been for the Lord THAT never would have happened!”?  How much of your day yesterday was empowered by the Spirit of God and how much was done in your own strength?  God wants to use us as His instruments, if we’ll only surrender our wills (and our lists!) to Him.

Thankful for His grace,

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Unplugged

It was a typical Apples of Gold morning – I was getting dressed while listening to my Bible app on my phone.  I was also receiving texts from friends who were praying for our upcoming mentoring class that would happen in a couple of hours.  Just as I was sending a message my phone STOPPED in mid-sentence.  It wouldn’t type or go back to the home screen. Then it went black.  The sickening feeling in my heart lived out to be true – my phone (less than a year old) died.

The kind Verizon rep at the store told me later that afternoon that there was some glitch in the phone and they would replace it, but my replacement wouldn’t be here until at least two or three days from now.  I became UNPLUGGED.

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It’s ironic that it happened when it did, because in another area of my life, as of today, I’m becoming “unplugged.”  It’s ministry.  You see, my husband and I have been given an extraordinary gift from our church – a 31-day sabbatical!  

Sabbatical is just a period of absence.  The goal for ours is to rest, refocus and reload – those are my terms. This is what I’m praying these 31 days will accomplish in my life:

  • Rest – This is pretty obvious.  We have had an exteremely busy spring and summer.  Our minds and bodies are tired.  We need to shut down and rest.  Sleep, leisure and a slower pace is our goal.
  • Refocus – It’s easy to be so busy doing that you lose the sight of where you’re headed – of what you really want to accomplish and why.  I long to take a step back and consider the days ahead carefully and then make plans that support those choices.
  • Reload – I need some time to fill up.  Time to pray, study and be alone with the Lord.  More than anything I’m praying this will be a spiritual retreat for us both.

That being said, I’m not really sure what my blog will look like in these 31 days.  I’m not planning on abandoning it, but maybe to just cool it a bit.  I might just write to give you a look into our sabbatical.  It might just be a picture or a quote – I’ll let the Lord dictate the content, as I do every day.

So, here we go – 31 days of being UNPLUGGED.

With love,

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