“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! ❤

A Safe Place with a Pint of Ice Cream

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Twelve hundred. That is the exact number of calories in an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s Super New York Fudge Chunk. Long before my hips showed any adverse signs from indulging in excessive amounts of sugary treats, I would down a pint of ice cream in one sitting.

I was never alone in the endeavor and I always had two pints of Ben & Jerry’s with me. One for me and one for my best friend. Eating a pint of ice cream was the extent of our high school craziness. This was one of the many reasons why I loved her. Instead of going out and partying, we were both happily content staying in, talking, and watching the TV edited versions of Dirty Dancing and Ghost.

I vividly remember the laughs, the tears over broken hearts, the questions we tried to answer, and sharing our hopes and dreams. When I think about these times, the thing I treasure the most is the feeling that has lingered all these years. I remember feeling safe.

My friend had provided a space where I could be vulnerable and authentic. She was always the first one I wanted to run to and tell the things on my heart. And she always received me with patience and kindness.I knew I was loved no matter what I shared.

I am sure we had our disagreements and differences but I seem to remember more agreements and similarities. Boys, distance, and life took a toll on our friendship and eventually separated us. Over the span of twenty years, I have thought of my friend often. At every big life event. When hopes and dreams have come true. When loved ones have passed. When I watch a romantic comedy. And every time I eat Ben & Jerry’s.

It’s because of her that I think the solution to most of life’s problems can be worked out with a good laugh, a good cry, and a pint of ice cream shared in a safe place where hearts can be exposed.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my friend and the gift of friendship. It doesn’t take much to see and hear the scary, confusing, unjust things happening in our world. In all of our interactions, I wonder if we are thinking before we speak (or post.) Are we responding to others in love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?1 Or are our responses filled with hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, or envy? 2  Are we providing a safe place for hearts to be exposed?

There is a little piece of scripture I have read a thousand times but I keep going back to read. It captures the interaction of two women who were very dear to each other. Two women who were thrown into unplanned circumstances.Confusing, possibly scary circumstances that included many unknowns in the days to come.

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”–Luke 1:39-45

“Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then returned home.”–Luke 1:56

This passage makes me think of God’s power, his glory and the miracles in impossible things. But I also think of God’s incredible KINDNESS. Kindness to knit two women together, to be there for each other, to support and help each other through their callings and life’s situations. I wish I could have eavesdropped on Mary and Elizabeth’s conversations in those three months. The passage highlights the joy they shared. Wonder, amazement too. But did they also share a lot of laughs and cries? Did they discuss their futures-share their hopes, dreams, and fears?  Did they expose their hearts?

I think yes to all of those questions. Mary and Elizabeth were like us in many ways and I think God shows the same kindness to us. He brings people in our life that pour into us when we need it most and who can help us navigate through callings and life together.

In a world that might not feel safe, we can be safe places for each other. We must think wisely before we speak. Pray for patience, kindness, and self-control before we hit “post.” Listen with our hearts. Speak life with our words. Find purpose in our days to use our time wisely and leave people better than how we found them. We can provide safe places for hearts to be exposed, allow raw emotions to be displayed, and with joy share in people’s hopes and dreams. And finally, we can praise God for the gift of friendship, community…and good ice cream. 😉

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1.- Galatians 5:22-23

2- Galatians 5:19-21

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

Seek and Believe-A Study of the Gospel of Luke-Scripture Plan

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You will watch a generation of Christians-of Christians-set the Bible aside in an attempt to become more like Jesus. And stunningly it will sound completely plausible . This will be perhaps the cleverest of all the devil’s schemes in your generation. Sacrifice TRUTH for LOVE’s sake. And you will rise or fall based upon what whether you will sacrifice one for the other. Will you have the courage to live in the tension of both TRUTH and LOVE?

– Beth Moore

If we are going to be a generation of Jesus followers who follow Jesus well. A generation who keeps His commandments, live like Him, love like Him, then we are going to have to think like Him and KNOW Him well. We can sit under good teaching, read books by good and faithful people, and we can discuss things of faith with others BUT when it comes down to it, each of us, as individuals need to know how to distinguish between truth and lies (with discernment given by the Holy Spirit.)

The only way to get to know someone well is to spend time with them. To get to know Jesus, we need to go right to God’s word. Spend time in prayer and read scripture. Jesus wants us to seek Him, ask questions, believe in His words, rest at His feet, and experience His love as we learn to walk faithfully with Him.

Over the next months, our Sisterhood will be studying through a series on the gospel of Luke. We are going to focus on getting to know Jesus well- what he did, what he said, who he said it to, who he associated. My prayer is through our prayers and scripture readings, God would work on our hearts, help us become more like Jesus, and know both TRUTH and LOVE so that we can become faithful disciples and more willing servants of Him.

Below is a scripture reading plan for the Gospel of Luke. There are five scripture passages for each week. Grab your Bible, grab a journal, maybe a cup of coffee. I have developed a tool, using Luke as an acronym, to help in our study of the scriptures. As you pray and read through each of the scriptures, I hope you find what God has for you to discover.

Please join us (virtually) and in person at our Sisterhood gatherings on this journey to seek and believe in Jesus, Son of Man. I will be praying for you!

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L- Look towards God in prayer ( Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9)  Don’t go to  the scriptures looking for your idea, go searching for his.

U Read prayerfully and carefully to understand  Proverbs 2:1-3, “Call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding. and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of  the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

KKeep and store commands within your heart– Proverbs 2:10-11,” For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant for your soul. Discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you.” Deuteronomy 11:18

EExplore– What does this mean to me and my relationship to Jesus? How does it apply to my life? Where can this passage lead to me to deeper and new places with Jesus? (James 1:22, Ephesians 5:1-2)

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Click link below to download plan….

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