Paralyzed in Fear or Reenergized in Faith- A Reminder and Charge to Followers of Jesus

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In light of the news coming out of Texas yesterday and this morning, I wrote these words to my sisters at Centerpoint Sisterhood but I feel they are relevant and appropriate to all followers of Jesus. As a community of believers, we all need to be reminder of God’s promises and His Sovereignty. If you are a follower of Christ, I hope these words will be encouraging to you too. And please know I pray for you! I pray the words I write would be helpful, uplifting, and encouraging in your lives and in your journey of faith and that they find their way to those who could use them. If you have questions of faith, my message box is always open. God Bless you and yours! 

Dear Sister,
It seems as if every day there is a new story. A heartbreaking, devastating story of senseless evil and violence, but I encourage you to take heart! He has overcome the world! Jesus knew these things would take place and He gave us His words in John 16:33. Words for times like these. When things make no sense in logical ways, when it seems easier to place the blame on policies and illnesses and motives, when the darkness seems to have won, remember He has already won! He has overcome and He reigns! He is sovereign over all things.

In these times, look for the good. Look for God’s grace and His glory. Do not be paralyzed in fear but reenergized in faith. The enemy wants us stopped cold in our tracks, he wants people to be fearful to walk into churches, scared to gather in Jesus’s name. But we will not be stopped!

We will continue to gather, continue to serve, and continue to praise and lift high the name of Jesus!! And we will be women of prayer! We will pray, pray, and pray!!! Pray for the victims families, pray for those who are suffering, pray for all those who are lost, pray for our community, pray for the world, pray for peace, and for God’s strength to continue to do the work he has started in us for His glory.

I am praying for you today. Praying that the Lord would give you spiritual sight to see the truth and see the spiritual battle at hand. I’m praying you would put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. I’m praying that the Lord’s would give you courage and strength so you can step forward in faith. I’m praying you would find time to dedicate to prayer and time to rejoice in the fact that our God is not in the bit surprised by any of this and that He is sovereign over all things. I am praying for you, for peace and comfort and that you will shine brightly for the Lord in a darkened world. Go! Serve and love others in Jesus’s name!

With love , your sister, Shanna xo

Circles of People, Circles of Prayer

 

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It was Thursday night. It had been a long, good week but I was tired. On top of our usual routine busyness, there had been a MOPS meeting to prepare for and a Sisterhood message to finish. I had just finished making dinner and I was craving some moments to myself. To my kids delight, I let them eat their dinner on trays in front of the TV. The sound of Miles from Tomorrowland and quiet kids gave me some peaceful moments to take a deep breath and strategize my next steps. I could only manage to think one step ahead and doing the dishes seemed like the next logical thing to do.

I stood at the kitchen sink and sighed over the mountain of dishes. The dishes were not going to get done by staring and sighing so I began to scrub and circle the dishes clean. The warm, soapy water became a salve to my weariness. And as I scrubbed, I became overwhelmed. So overwhelmed, I began to weep. This was a different “overwhelmed” than I have become accustomed to. Not the overwhelmed by busyness or by my to-do list or by expectations, but overwhelmed with deep gratitude for my life and the people in it.

Right there in my kitchen, in the quietness of my heart, memories came back to me so clearly I felt as if they were present time. One by one they came. I could smell things, feel things, and see details of things I had forgotten. I was with people who have long gone to be with Jesus.

I was a little girl standing in the church kitchen, looking up into the faces of a circle of kind, older women. The women were smiling, chatting over their work of cleaning up the communion cups. They welcomed me in their space and allowed me to eat the leftover communion crackers. I felt accepted and safe.

I was a little girl sitting in an oversized metal folding chair among a circle of other folding chairs placed around the small living room of my childhood home. Each chair was filled by a Godly man or woman. Some held hymnals and others large, beautifully tabbed Bibles in their laps. Their songs of praise beautiful. Their prayers powerful. I felt accepted and safe. 

I was a preteen kneeling on the rug in my parent’s friends living room, not quite happy that all my other friends were out at the movies and I was at a Bible study. Regardless of my inside-ungrateful-attitudes-struggles, I was still still in the circle and I listened to God’s word be discussed and life struggles shared. I felt accepted and safe.  

I was reminded of the countless times my parents had us hold hands around the kitchen table. This happened with whoever was joining us for dinner, when we needed the Lords’s guidance, or when we were praying for someone who needed prayer. I felt accepted and safe.

Circles of people, circles of prayers. Accepted and safe. 

These were the people my parents chose to surround me with. Faithful, Jesus-loving, people who seeked God with all their heart. These were people who let me sit at their feet, invited me into their discussions, welcomed me to participate, let me ask my questions, and loved me through my attitudes and seasons of growing up.

They were not perfect people. They struggled with life. They went through trials. Some of them lost their way. But these are the people who God used to shape my life. These are the people whose stories and testimonies shaped how I saw God and Jesus. These are the people who have prayed circles in and around my life.  Prayers I am just starting to see answers to. These are the people who I wept to God in gratitude and thanksgiving over.

Somehow, the dishes seemed to get done quicker than I thought. I lingered in the memories as long as I could. I didn’t want to leave. But the call of “Mommmm!!!!” brought me to my next task. I wiped the tears from my eyes and heading into the living room to fulfill some random request. The feeling of overwhelming gratitude remained.

I want my children to have what I had. I want to leave a legacy like my parents have left for me. I want my children to grow up in circles of Godly men and women. To be able to sit at Jesus-loving people’s feet, invited into conversations about faith, feel safe enough to ask questions, sing songs of praises and embrace their part and purpose of the Kingdom of God. I want my children in circles of imperfect people who know they need Jesus, where powerful prayers are prayed, where life struggles are prayed through, where testimonies of God’s faithfulness are declared.

Circle of people, circles of prayers. Where they feel accepted and safe. 

As I write this, I am overwhelmed and weep again. This time for the people currently in our life. Our faithful parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters. Our Godly friends. Our intergenerational church family whom I love so much. People who have graciously given us room to grow in our faith and have come alongside us, encouraging us in our parenting and leadership, and loving us unconditionally. People who have welcomed our kids at their tables, fed them, watched over them, given them smiles and a hugs, invited them into prayer circles and to join them in singing songs of praise. Imperfect, Godly men and women, who know they need Jesus, who pray circles around them and encourage them with their words.

Circle of people, circles of prayers. Accepted and safe.   

 

Questions?

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For those who are brokenhearted. For Vegas. For those grieving losses of all kinds. For those struggling to find hope through difficult seasons. For those living through unimaginable situations. For those who are navigating through the uncharted territories of life. For everyone, every day with big and little questions. Questions are okay and answers are not always on-demand. Sometimes our whys do not get answered. Sometimes injustice, evil, and fear seem to have won. They do not win and will not win. Love wins. Love overcomes. Love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18)

Lift your eyes and heart heavenward, trust in the One who overcame death, do not rely on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), and pray! Pray your honest, heart-wrenching, questioning prayers. Cast your cares and worries on Jesus. Find rest and refuge in Him. Jesus knows what suffering, agony, and grief feels like and He has the power to mend broken hearts and redeem lives. Pray for one another. Come alongside one another. Help carry each other’s burdens. Love one another. Be bold in faith and bring it all to Him.

 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;

    he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Psalm 34:18 (NLT)

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

John 14:1 (NLT)

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

John 14:27 (NLT)

 But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

1 John 4:4 (NLT)

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

John 16:33 (NLT)

 

“Shanna, Shanna”

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Our days are filled with urgent and important things vying for our attention. Within the day’s whirlwind of busyness, it’s easy to focus on the urgent and lose sight of the important. It can be a struggle to favor crossing items off our to-do lists to spending unscheduled amounts of quality time with people. It can be difficult, feel uncomfortable, and might seem plain impossible to stop and rest. We have become tightly scheduled and overbooked. White spaces on our calendars are a rare find.
 
And I can be the worst culprit. If I am not intentional, my pace of life can be all consuming and exhausting. I can easily fall into the race of rushing from task to task, place to place, activity to activity. Instead, I want my life to be one of making time for others, resting in my surroundings, finding beauty in the quietest places, and tuning out the voices of the world to focus on hearing His voice. I want my legacy to include, “She made time for others and she loved well.”
 
It’s true, tasks, meetings, errands and chores need to get done but not at the expense of the quiet, more meaningful, and important things in life. There needs to be a balance.
 
This is a real, age-old struggle. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus enters the home of a woman named Martha. “Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
 
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
 
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
 
Just replace, “Martha, Martha” with your name and read it again- “Shanna, Shanna, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”
 
It grabs your attention, doesn’t it? If that one thing Mary was doing was stopping, listening, and resting at the feet of Jesus, I think following her example would be the best thing we can do today. I want to challenge you to take a few minutes to reevaluate today’s activities and give more attention and focus to the quiet, important things in your life. Relationships, people, listening, cheerfully helping, joyfully serving, answering with kindness- those types of things. I think we will find the urgent things are not as urgent as we thought they would be and the important things are more important and needed than what we thought. Have a great day! ❤

Walking the Way of the Cross

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Good Friday was a good Friday indeed! For the last couple of years our family has joined with members of other churches in our community for a walk down Main Street. We take turns carrying a big wooden cross, singing hymns, stopping along the way to pray for businesses and places of importance in our community.

It’s a time when denominational lines are crossed. Methodists, Catholics, Baptists, Congregationalists, non-denominationalists come together to remember and thank Jesus for His great sacrifice. The focus is on Jesus and our community.

As I followed the cross, watched people take turns carrying it, listened to the happy chatting and the singing around me, and joined in prayer for our town and our neighbors, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with love and peace. When Jesus walked the earth, He lived in community. He created community. He loves community.

Through His suffering and great sacrifice on the cross He became The Way for us to have community and relationship with Him and The Father. When He went to Heaven, He gave us the Holy Spirit as a guide, a helper, to have community with Him. And He left us with a whole community of other believers and followers of Jesus to work together in Kingdom work and provide encouragement for each other.

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This is the community I witnessed yesterday and one I have experienced in my own life. When my burdens have been too much to bear, my sisters and brothers have held me up in prayer and have come alongside me with truth and encouragement. When prayers have been answered, they have celebrated and thanked God with me. When others have crosses of pain, regret, loneliness, suffering and grief, the community of Christ should come alongside to help each bear their crosses. Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” And when prayers have been answered and hope and love reigns in a situation, we need to be celebrating and praising God together.

Together, in our town, the community and body of Christ are praying and celebrating. We are praying for the peace, love, and the hope that comes from Jesus to shine through us so brightly that others will want to join in community with Him. We are celebrating hope, the blessings, and answers of prayers that chains have been broken and the lost that have been found.

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I am eternally grateful to Jesus for what He has done for me. And I am incredibly thankful I live in a place where churches can come together and we can express our views openly.  I know that others around the world do not have this “luxury” and for them and other communities of believers I am praying for safety and strength. Happy Easter weekend! Peace and grace be with you!

The Germiest and Messiest Places

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There we were in one of the germiest, grimiest places to be-a public restroom. The three of us, heads huddled together, looked down into the bowl of the toilet. I could see it. In my attempts to protect my children from the germy seat with layers of toilet paper, my favorite earring had slipped from my ear and splashed into the “pool of germs.”  Fortunately, it had not gone down into the abyss but instead lay sparkling, mocking me from the depths of the “clear” water.

Ummm…. now what? Should I stick my hand in the water and get it? NO!! No, I could not bring myself to do it. Maybe I could fish it out with something but then I realized my purse was outside with a friend. Deciding I really needed to have my purse, if not for some gadget at least for some comfort, I sent my oldest daughter to get it for me.

As I waited, I opened the door of the stall. I felt a little loss, needed some sympathy, and possibly some help from my fellow bathroom compadres. And on a more practical level, I wanted to make sure no one  flushed the toilet. Then all hope would be gone.

I tried to make eye contact with the women who came through the door. I stated my plight loudly enough for most to hear. Some women ignored me but many women curiously andwith empathetically peeked into the bowl, shaking their heads as they left, and agreeing it was a bad situation.

And then there was Linda. Oh, Linda!

Linda was different. She heard my appeal for help. She listened to my situation and decided to do something about it.  Without giving it much thought, Linda rolled up her sleeve and heroically reached deep into the toilet waters retrieving my earring. She carried it over to the sink and scrubbed her hands and scrubbed my earring. Then she carefully dried my earring and handed it to me with care and the instructions to CAREFULLY and THOROUGHLY sanitize my earring before I wore it again. (That will NOT be a problem, Linda! I promise!) I thanked her over and over again but she just smiled and said it was really no big deal. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal to Linda BUT it was big deal to me!

You know, I cannot help but think of what it would be like if we were all a little more like Linda. I am not saying we need to stick our bare hands into germy public toilet bowls. (Although, carrying plastic dish gloves in our purses may come in handy one day.)  What I am saying is this, what if we went along our schedules and agendas with the readiness to be interrupted? What if we tuned our hearing and focused our sight on the cries for help from people around us? What would it look like to join people in their messiness?

There are a lot of people who are stuck in messy and unhealthy situations. We often worry we don’t have what it takes to help and so we ignore or walk on by. While we cannot pull people out of their situations or fix things for them, we can come around them and let them know they are not alone.  We can care for them by providing a listening ear, a smiling face, a hand on the shoulder. We can join them in their messiness by not judging them and “wash” them over with prayer, friendship and love. And then we can “wrap” them in a big hug.

Most of all, we can help people find resources, hope and the One who defeated death. After death has been defeated, is there anything Jesus can’t do? Remember, Jesus met people in the messiest places, surrounded by the germiest people and He was their hope and new life. When we come before Him with our messes or better yet, when we come before Him together with our messes, we can expect that Jesus has the power to save, to rescue, and make ways for people when there seems to be no other ways possible.

For those of us who are followers of Jesus, we are called to walk in His ways and with His Spirit upon us we are called to preach the good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovery of the slight to the blind, and set those who are oppressed free. (Luke 4:18-19) Most of all we are called to have faith and LOVE! (1 John 3:23-24) I think love starts with listening and looking for those in need.

So Linda, wherever you are, THANK YOU AGAIN! Thank you so much for your kindness.

And thank you Jesus, for allowing me these unusual, uncomfortable, and hilarious situations I often find myself in. What I learn from these “opportunities,” I hope will always be for your glory and your Kingdom work. ❤

PS Please note that this picture is a reenactment in a thoroughly cleaned and sanitized toilet. I wish I had snapped a picture during the unfortuante event but it was the last thing on my mind. LOL

400 Years of Silence

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I scratched the letters B-A-B-Y on a young, green pumpkin and then quickly hid it among the tall grass and tangled, prickly vine. The word would grow as the pumpkin grew. My hands instinctively rubbed my belly as if to warm the life growing in body. I looked towards the bright, blue sky and with a smile mouthed a word of thanks.

A baby, my prayers had been answered. Counting the months, I calculated when I would be “safely” past the first trimester and when it would be “safe” to announce our news. I had it all planned. Our new addition would be adorably announced on social media with a glorious, orange pumpkin full-grown from our own garden. Three pumpkins in a row, one inscribed with the word “baby,” all lined up on the porch step. One pumpkin for each of my children. How perfectly-pinteresty it all would be!

I couldn’t wait to tell my other two children, our family, and our church but I was cautiously optimistic. God had shined his face upon me and had taken away the pain of an early miscarriage. A miscarriage I had experienced only a few short months before. I was relieved nothing was wrong with me but was it really safe to say anything? What if this baby was taken from me too? Doubts and fears flooded my happy heart and I decided to commit to silence.

The silence seemed to be the correct discipline. Only a short week later, my fears became a reality and I lost my baby in a second miscarriage. Angry, hurt, and confused, I walked to the garden with tears streaming down my face, ripped the young, green pumpkin from its life source and threw it as hard as I could into the neighboring woods. It smashed open where it landed. My actions did not make me feel better, it made me feel worse. I felt abandoned, forgotten, and lonely. My faithful prayers had not been heard. If God was so close, why did he feel so far away? And why couldn’t I hear Him? Was he just silent to everyone or just to me? As hard as I tried, I couldn’t hear a thing. Not a peep, not a whisper, not a word…..


It had been four hundred years. Four hundred years of silence since anyone had heard anything from God. Not a peep, not a whisper, not a word.

New religious sects had developed during the Inter-Testamental period (the time between the Old and New Testament.) These groups added many rules and requirements to the law of God and this gave way to avoidance and passive views of religious life.

Politically, Rome was a dominating and an oppressive authority. The Roman Empire was so large, land had been divided and placed in the overseeing hands of the Herods. These men’s lives were filled with political intrigue, murder, violence, sexual immorality, deceit, and hatred. 1 Times were dangerous and uncertain. Hope was waning in the deafening silence.

God was about to break in. His silence was about to be shattered.

In Luke 1:5, we are introduced to a priest named, Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth.“Both of them righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.” (Luke 1:6)

With a life devoted to faithful service, one might think it would have meant a blessed life. But Elizabeth was barren and having no children in those days would have been humiliating and disgraceful. The Jewish Rabbis said that seven people were excommunicated from God and the list began, “A Jew who has no wife, or a Jew who has a wife and who has no child.”  We can only imagine the whispers behind her back and the longing for a baby in her heart.

Divine interventions come at God’s timing, not ours. When the time came for Zechariah’s division of priests to be on duty, Zechariah was chosen by lot to go into the inner temple of the Lord (Luke 1:10.) This would have been a huge deal and a great honor. There were no less than 20,000 priests altogether and about 1,000 priests per division.3  Zechariah had just won the holy lottery.

On the day of his service, Zechariah stood by the alter, praying his life-long prayer for a child, burning incense, when an angel of the Lord appeared to him (verse 11.) Startled and gripped with fear (who wouldn’t be?) the angel responded, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to name him John.” (verse 13)

Your son will be a joy and delight to many (verse 14,) one who will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah to ready a people prepared for the Lord. (verse 17.)” Zechariah’s response to the angel’s news was one of question and doubt (can you blame him?) and the consequence of his disbelief was silence. He was unable to speak (and some say unable to hear- Luke 1:62) until the day his son was born.

Elizabeth, became pregnant and remained in seclusion for five months (Luke 1: 24.)   We are granted insight into her heart with a response of praise. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (verse 25)

A baby. A miracle baby was coming. A baby who would make way for another miracle baby. Against all odds, this was really happening….

 


 

I stared at the positive sign. It was the fifth test, the fifth positive test. How could this be? The timing did not line up. There must be some mistake but how could five positive signs be wrong?

I had just come back from a four-day conference and retreat. I had been surrounded by Godly women, sat under the teaching of faithful people who had inspired and challenged me and my faith. I knew it was a special place and I had been there by divine intervention. I needed healing and restoration and I wanted not only to feel God but I wanted to hear from Him too.

It started as a peep, then a whisper, and then words. “Lay it down at my feet. Surrender your plans and your desires. In my time, not yours.” I did not fully understand but I faithfully made a decision to obey a voice I felt had long forgotten me. I surrendered it all-the fear, the control, my plans- and I left the conference full of peace and hope. I was not fully healed. I knew there would be more work to do, difficult times ahead but I was on a path of healing and God’s silence had been broken.

The blood test from the doctor came back positive, the first trimester came and went, I broke out of my own seclusion and silence and shared the news we were expecting a third baby. No pumpkins lined up but cute little shirts just as “Pinteresty.” This was really happening….

Nine months went by and when it was time deliver my son, he tore into this world through an unexpected C-section. The silence of our life was shattered by his colicky, incessant cries. His first year was challenging. I lived on a limited, allergy free diet and little, very little sleep. I struggling to hear any peep, whisper or word from God. Something was different this time though, I knew the silence did not mean avoidance or abandonment. I knew what I felt did not equate to what was true.

In a sense, the Lord used that time and my son as a way to prepare my heart for a deeper, more dependent, and richer life in faith with the Lord. My babies (the ones in heaven and ones on earth) created an atmosphere that has helped me remember the importance of repentance, dependence, and to stay the path of the Lord even when its hard, goes against all odds, and when it seems God is silent and far away.

Some of us may wish a message from God would come to us. We might feel like God has long forgotten us or his silence is sign he no longer cares. I would like to encourage us to hold on to hope. Listen in the silence for a peep, whisper, or word. Take heart in knowing God hears your prayers (even when we don’t feel like he does.) And be ready with a prepared heart for the Lord’s divine intervention and startling interruptions in our life.

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  1.   Swindoll, C. R. (1984). John the Baptizer: Bible study guide. Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living.
  2. Barclay, W. (1975). The Gospel of Luke. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.
  3. Barclay, W. (1975). The Gospel of Luke. Philadelphia: Westminster Press