Quiet Reflections

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The quieter you become, the more you can hear. –Ram Dass

It couldn’t have been a more perfect ending to the day. The light breeze rippled over the surface of the lake creating a watercolor reflection of the peachy-blue, dusk lit skies. Gentle waves lapped up against the shore in a relaxing rhythm inviting me to slow my breath to its beat.  My family’s silhouettes bobbed up and down in a canoe as they paddled out toward the sunset. Echoes of their laughter bounced back to me with joy. I stood at the water’s edge to take it all in. The scene before me seemed like it was painted just for me. Painted with attention to detail and brushed with peace and love.

The rush to get to camp and the busyness of the day melted off every tense and tired muscle leaving puddles of unwanted, unnecessary stress on the shore. I felt lighter, freer. Peace quieted my mind and made space in my heart to hear. To hear is so much more difficult to do than to listen. At home, I listen to the noise of the world and responsibilities at high volume. But here, at camp, God had cleared my schedule and removed distractions. He quieted the noise and had my full attention. I was ready to receive and hear. And here are a few things I heard…

“Be still, know I am God.” Psalm 46:10

“Let me teach you and give you rest.” Matthew 11:28-29

“You are mine.”  1 John 3:1, 1 Peter 2:9

“I made you in my image, wonderfully and fearfully made, with a purpose.”  Psalm 139:14, Ephesians 2:10

“I delight in you.” Zephaniah 3:17

“I have great things planned for you and your family. “ Jeremiah 29:11

“Let me go first. You are not alone.” Deuteronomy 31:8

“Rest in the confidence of my faithfulness.”  Psalm 91:4

“Enjoy life and all I have given you.” John 10:10

And, “I love you. Abide in my love.” John 15:9, Jeremiah 31:3

God wants to paint a scene of peace and love just for you too. It might not be a lakeside sunset, but He KNOWS how best to get our individual attention with a pursuit of love, grace and mercy. God wants to help quiet our noisy hearts to embrace a quiet one, to move from half listening to wholeheartedly hearing.  So, be ready to be caught off guard (in a good way) and be ready to receive what He wants to you to hear.


“Don’t Weep”

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He was all she had left. Death had stolen her husband and now had taken her only son. It had robbed her of her family and her future, and left her in this hopeless, desperate position. What would she do? What could she do? A woman of her time had no ownership of anything, no control over decisions, and now she was alone. With a deeply troubled heart, she took a deep breath and continued walking along the dusty, crowded funeral procession, her cheeks stained by streams of tears.

At the city gates, the funeral procession was met by another large crowd. This crowd following and traveling with a great teacher and healer called Jesus. The crowd yielded to let the procession go by and one among the crowd waited and watched with loving eyes. He saw the grieving widow and knew. He knew every detail of her situation. Jesus always sees what others can’t and always knows what others don’t.

Deeply moved by compassion, Jesus went to the woman. Gracious and compassionate eyes met sorrowful and distressed ones. With care and gentleness, he spoke to her, “Don’t weep,” he said. Then he went to the open coffin, gently touched the side, and with the power and authority in all of heaven and earth, Jesus commanded the dead men to “Arise!” At the command of his words, the dead man sat up and began to speak. The crowd was stunned by awe and wonder, they glorified God as Jesus reunited the boy and his mother. Jesus miraculously restored a life, a family and futures at those city gates.

This is the Jesus I love and serve. My Jesus is full of compassion and power. He is watching, willing and wanting to bring restoration to our lives, relationships, and our futures too. His heart breaks for the hopeless, the mistreated, and the sorrowful. Jesus meets us right where we are, in the messiness of our situations, our pain, and our despair. Nothing surprises Him and no situation is too big or too hopeless for His touch. He has the power to turn weeping into wonder. Turn pain into praise. And turn fear into a faith. But we need to meet him and His gaze. Though it may be difficult and situations challenging, we need to keep stepping forward in faith, keep trusting Him as a Great Teacher, Great Healer, and Powerful Savior. A Savior that has the compassion to say “Don’t Weep” and the authority to say “Arise!” to bring life back to our most desperate and dead circumstances. So be encouraged, for nothing is impossible with God.

A Widow’s Son Raised to Life found in The Gospel of Luke 7:11-17


A Small Role in the Greatest Story

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Kings came to towns with proclamation and grand processions of their riches, power, and splendor. Yet, Jesus, the King of Kings, chose a donkey for his entry. A young, humble donkey, never ridden before, specifically chosen by Jesus (Mark 11:3). A donkey born for purpose- to work and serve a master. What an honor and task this young donkey was given, to carry the King, through a crowd of joyful people waving palm branches and praising the Lord. Jesus came through Jerusalem in a humble way, to proclaim peace and love, to serve, to seek and save the lost. Ultimately, Jesus came to give his life for the penalty of our sins so that we may be restored in right relationship with our Heavenly Father and so we can experience the forgiveness, freedom, and love that comes with trusting in Him.

The donkey had a small, specific role in the grand love story of Christ.  We have roles in His story too. As followers of Christ,  we are born with purpose, chosen specifically by Jesus to serve in His name. We are carriers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we are to deliver His message of hope and love through our words and actions. Yet, some of us are still tied to the post outside the door (Mark 11:4). Tied up by our fears, insecurities, doubts, and exhaustion. Tied with things holding us back from fully living, freely serving, and fervently loving.

Let me remind you, you have been chosen.

You have been chosen to be the mother or father of your children. You have been chosen to be a friend to another. You have been chosen to be in the right place, at the right time. You have been chosen to lead and love well. You have been chosen to feed and clothe the hungry. You have been chosen as an ambassador of peace and proclaimer of love. You have what it takes because He chose you and He believes in you!

This Passion Week, I am praying we rediscover the passion and purpose of our callings in our lives. I’m praying we refocus our gaze on Jesus, seek Him out, ask Him for help in all circumstances and free us from the things that keep us bound. On Sunday morning, I pray we will praise Him as a large crowd of  people who truly, deeply know what it means to be forgiven and loved. And I pray we will embrace our roles with fullness of joy and peace of heart knowing we have a role in His story.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:16

Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26–29.

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11


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)

 


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


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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Advent-“Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” Day 16-17-18-19-20-21-22-23-24-25 Craft Ideas

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The most wonderful time of the year is here. A time of anticipation, expectant waiting, and preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. One of my family’s favorite ways to be reminded of the treasures and gifts of this season is reading along with Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping The Greatest Gift. 

Last year, my girls and I crafted an ornament each day to correspond with the daily advent readings from the book. This post is the last in a series of ornament/craft ideas which I have created and collected. You can find the complete collection for Day 1-2Day 3-4-5-6Days 7-10, and Days 11-15 by clicking on the blue links.

There many ideas on the internet for Bible story crafts. Below are some of my original ideas, borrowed ideas, and ideas inspired by talented artists and bloggers. Credit for any borrowed idea is noted below the picture. If you decide to make and share one of my craft ideas, I would to love to see it. Tag me on Instagram or send me a link to your blog post.

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Materials: card stock, markers, scissors, glue (hot glue), clothespin

I loved this craft idea from His Wondrous Work and thought “Why not turn it into an ornament?” I printed the templates on two pieces of colored card stock (one piece skin- tone and the other gray) and then carefully cut them out. The whale needs to be sticking out beyond the clothespin so Jonah can pop out without getting stuck. Make sure you line up the whale and Jonah on the clothespin before gluing the pieces down. I had to move the whale further up the clothespin in order to make the pieces fit properly.

http://www.hiswondrousworks.com/JONAH%20and%20the%20GREAT%20FISH%20Craft.pdf

day17advent

Materials: can, black card stock, twine for wrapping around the can, sand, paper-piercing tool , glue

Wash and dry a small can (I used an Old El Paso Chilies can.) Wrap and glue twine around the outside. Create a cityscape with black card stock. It took me several trials to get the right size city to fit into the can. Once I had the correct size, I used a paper-piercing tool to created the windows and doors. Using sand and glue,  I made desert at the bottom of the can. Then, I folded the bottom of the city so it would stand upright and glued the city to the sand.

For added effect, hang the ornament near a small tree light to add background light.

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day18advent

Materials: pipe cleaners, gems, hot glue

To make the crown, I followed the directions listed at the link below. After the crown had its basic shape, we “blinged-out” our crowns with faux pearls and gems.

http://littleinspiration.com/2014/01/diy-photo-prop-crown.html

day19advent

Materials:  toilet paper roll, silver paint, sharpie marker, gray card stock, Stampin’ Up Dimensionals.

Paint the toilet paper roll silver. While waiting for the paint to dry, cut out the top of watchtower from gray card stock paper. Once dry, draw bricks and a door on the tower with a Sharpie or black paint pen. Put Dimensionals around the top and wrap the tower paper over the Dimensionals and around to a close. This will give the paper a small lift and make the shapes have more depth. Hole punch and string to hang.

day20advent

Materials: Chalkboard paper, silver glitter gel pens or paint markers.

At back-to-school time, I had bought a chalkboard banner from Target’s dollar spot. For this ornament, I cut apart the banner and used one of the circles to write on and decorate. Super easy and cute.

Here are other craft ideas for Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story.

http://biblecraftsandactivities.com/crafts-for-zechariah-and-elizabeth/

day21advent

Materials: sandal template printed on colored card stock (see link below); something to lace with (twine, small ribbon); hole punch.

For today’s reading and craft. I decided to focus on “Prepare the Way” rather than “Thunder in the Desert.” This adorable sandal craft template has easy directions to follow which are found at the link website below. The sandal is a bit large (it might fit a toddler) for what you might think of as a traditional sized ornament but in our house the bigger the better. 🙂 It is really cute and great for lacing and shoe tying practice.

http://www.jesus-without-language.net/john-the-baptist-matthew-3-make/

day22advent

Materials:  1 rounded clothespin, 3 regular size popsicle sticks, 2 half-popsicle sticks,  half of a pipe cleaner for halo, 1 white feather for wings, paint, glitter

Paint the top of the rounded clothespin as a head with hair. (I made the angel one-sided so the side not seen does not have to be painted perfect.) Paint the bottom half of the clothespin white. Paint all the popsicle sticks white and sprinkle glitter over them while the paint is wet. Once the paint is dry, hot glue the two longer popsicle sticks on the back of the rounded clothespin. Glue them close together but slightly angled away from each other. Glue the third popsicle stick on top of the other two, directly in the middle. Glue one “wing” (half-sized popsicle stick) on at a time. Then take the feather and hot glue into place over both of the wings. Make a small ring for a halo. Glue in place.

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day23advent

Materials:  card stock (glittery silver, gray for the saw; brown or wood colored for handle); handsaw template (see link below), scissors and glue

I saved the image of the saw pattern found from the website below and made it smaller in a word document. I made it so two templates could fit on my page. Then I traced each part of the saw, glued it together, and punched a hole for the string. The hardest part of this craft was tracing and cutting out the teeth on the saw blade.

http://patternuniverse.com/download/saw-pattern/

day24advent

Materials: white card stock, paper punches (circle and ovals), straw or raffia, brown paint

Cut the card stock into a circle. Paint hand with brown washable paint and stamp off toward the side of the circle. Add “hay” and make baby Jesus with the punched shapes. Add a cute, little face. 🙂

day25advent

Materials:  glittery gold scrapbook paper, fabric scrap

It’s Christmas! In consideration of Christmas day and all that comes with it, today’s craft is a very simple one. Cut a star out of the gold scrapbook paper and a red cross out of the fabric. Glue the cross on the star and hole punch.