Please Take Care of YOU!

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This week, we have the chance to hear Shauna Niequist talk about her book, Present over Perfect, with Oprah! I especially love this video because it serves as such a great reminder that three spokes of our OVERALL health:  body, mind, and spirit  – are intrinsically linked.  We are our own version of a trinity, sisters!  Just as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are three unique entities yet also one united source, we are too!

Our power pack scripture for the week speaks to this truth:

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Now, we are NOT God, of course, or even mini-Gods. That’s  not what I mean. But we ARE created in His image.  And the truth of the matter for us as humans is that we are at our own personal “best” when all three spokes of our wheel are functioning and in balance together.  When one piece of our “triune”,   is out of whack, it does affect the other pieces. Each part needs nourishment and nurturing.

Yung Pueblo Quote

 

Next week, we’ll begin a 4-week study of the connection of our spirit and our mind, and how we can learn to lean in and on God to help in the fight with things like anxiety, fear, depression, attacks on self-esteem, etc. THIS week, we’ll watch this video from Shauna and Oprah to hear about the importance of self-care and its effect on our overall health.  Our homework will focus on mindfulness and living in the present moment!

Let’s watch Shauna describe what happened to her when her own life got out of balance and how she got back to a well-balanced place.  Here’s the link!  Enjoy!

If you are following along at home with our study, click this link for Week Three Homework!  And if you like all the extra goods (!), click here for Week Three Resources!

See you next week, sweet sisters!  Be good to yourself this week – body, mind, and spirit!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

 

 

 

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The JOY of Gratitude! (She PERSISTED Week Two!)

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Gratitude Quote

Here’s a little Bible trivia for you. In scripture, how many times to you think God speaks to us about gratitude in the New International Version?  Well, according to a word count website, christianbiblereference.org,  it’s 340 times.

That’s third in frequency only to directives regarding love, which comes in at number one at 551 times, and fear at 366 times (one for every day of the year plus leap year)!

We understand the importance of love, of course. It’s the very fabric of Christianity and woven into our DNA!  And we can also understand the need to reassured about fear and anxiety and to be directed to trust God! But gratitude?  Why would it have such a prominent place in terms of scripture themes?

Dr. Robert Emmons (UC-Davis), has helped to open the Greater Good Science Center at UC-Berkely to not only scientifically study gratitude and its effects on us, but also to promote the practice of gratitude world-wide.

Emmons and his associates have scientifically studied some of  the positive effects of a regular practice of gratitude (practices range from keeping a written daily gratitude journal, recording gratitude in some other way [like the 365grateful.com project we read about last week in  our Flow Book:  The Book That Takes It’s Time] to simply thinking of three things you are grateful for at the end of the day). The first thing they discovered is that you can rewire your brain to be happier by simply recalling three things you are grateful for each day for 21-days.  It all has something to do with neurotransmitters and the chemicals and hormones and stuff!  Basically, gratitude actually rewires the neuro-pathways in the brain to help release more happy chemicals than in the brains of folks who do not practice.

In addition, they identified these seven benefits mind and body benefits to the regular practice of gratitude:

  1. Strengthens relationships and helps to make new ones
  2. Improves your physical health and motivates you to take better care of yourself (less illness, quicker recovery times, exercise more, eat better, see doctors on regular basis)
  3. Improves psychological health (lead to improved memory, happier outlook, and a diminishing of depressive feelings and anxiety)
  4. Increases empathy and decreases aggression behaviors
  5. Improves sleep (one study states that if you spend 15 minutes recalling things that make you thankful at the end of the day will help you sleep better, deeper, and longer that those who do not)
  6. Improves self-esteem and helps you become an encourager of others
  7. Increases your mental strength and fortitude and makes you more resilient in times of hardship

Those are some pretty powerful and peace-inducing changes you can make to your body and your mind, right?  But, spiritually speaking, what’s so special about being grateful, other than the politeness of saying thank you?

Phil 1 3-4 Card

 

Gratitude breaks down the barrier between the mind and the spirit and is a TRIGGER for joyful and worshipful prayer!  How awesome is that?!

When we feel a sense of gratitude for something God has provided, (and let’s face it, it all comes from God!) our spontaneous response is prayer!  We don’t thank God because it’s the polite thing to do.  We thank God because we can’t help ourselves!  It’s our soul’s response to His goodness and our reward is His joy in our hearts.

Ann Voskamp, in her book 1000 Gifts, dives into the spiritual significance of gratitude.  She traces it back to the Greek word, eucharisteo, which, in Greek, encompasses the words:  grace, thanksgiving, and JOY.  Hang onto that for a sec, because we will be circling right back to it.

There is something called cognitive dissonance and that is a psychological term that means you cannot think and believe two polar opposite things at the same time. Like, you can’t be proud of your work while simultaneously being ashamed of it.

So with that in mind, you cannot feel gratitude in the spiritual sense (which we now know means grace, thanksgiving, and joy) and ALSO be sullen, burdened, and angry.

 

I did an informal poll over the weekend and asked people, spiritually speaking, what could they use more of in their lives. Unanimous two responses?

Peace and joy.

Okay.  So let’s do a quick recap of what we already know:

  • Number one thing gratitude does for your mind? Brings you peace.
  • Number one thing gratitude does for you spirit? Brings you joy.

Looking for more peace and joy in your world? The answer is to practice gratitude.

But , this is not something we do quickly, nor should we treat it as a “to do item” on a list of chores! It’s not just:  “QUICK!  Name three things you’re thankful for – GO!” and be done with it. It’s something we do persistently, intentionally, mindfully, prayerfully.  As Ann Voskamp says, “It takes a full twenty minutes after your stomach is full for your brain to register satiation.  How long do you think it takes your soul to realize when your life is full?”

I Belong to Jesus Mug

THIS is where we start getting intentional about mindfulness:  what it is, why it’s important, what it does for you, and how to begin a practice of it.  Our readings this week will be on mindfulness and gratitude and we’ll be stepping into exercises from our books to help nurture it!  Click here to access the homework exercises and click here to access additional resources for this week!

Go enjoy your week, sweet friends!  And get into the gratitude groove! 

I am GRATEFUL for YOU!!!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  A Special Conversation with some special guests!  😉

 

Always, We Begin Again. (She Persisted Week 1)

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Is there anything better than opening a beautifully wrapped gift?  And… drum roll PLEASE…here is what was waiting for the girlies inside this semester’s …breathe box…!!!

Breathe Box Contents Collage

Amazing stuff, sisters:  Two books, a journal, twelve power packed scripture cards on an adorable wood slat frame, an Emily Ley de-cluttering guide, a pail in which to store gratitude cards, a custom-blended “Per-SISTER” essential oil roller ball, prayer cards, an awesome “Nevertheless she persisted” desk sign, our song list, and  – what has become a favorite item in our boxes – Sugarfina Bubbly Champange gummie bears!!!   So, SO awesome!

St Benedict Quote

Our “in-person” studies began again this week and we had such a ball reconnecting and setting the stage for this semester.  Our new motto is:  “ministry with a side of moxie”.  We thought it fit well with us AND with this semester’s title of “She PERSISTED”, don’t you agree?

Each week, we will post here Wendie’s condensed teaching notes (she’s a wordy girl… 😉 ) for those of your following online!  Each post will have a recap of large group teaching along with links to “homework” you can do to follow along with us!  AND, there will be an additional link to a section of extra resources for you explore  – should you be interested.

If you want to follow along online, all you need to do is to get your hands on copies of the following two books AND something to write on.

Box inside with books only

A Book That Takes It’s Time (Smit, VanderHulst), and 100 Days to Brave (Annie Downs)

 

[Please note that while we LOVE sharing a lot of our “stuff” (and we do it for free), we request that credit be given where credit is due.  In other words, don’t take stuff you find here and pass it off as your own if you didn’t write it or create it.  That’s just not nice.  And we love nice. 😉  Thanks, friends.]

You can also click here for the She PERSISTED homepage for additional info on this study semester!

So here we go – Week One of She PERSISTED (make sure to read ALLLLLLL the way down for information on our big giveaway this week!)…

To be persistent means to pursue with zeal. I love that word, zeal.  It’s strong.  It’s purposeful and full of intent.  It’s sort of intimidating – in a good way – because it gets your attention and makes you perk up a little at what’s coming next.  So what are we looking to persistently pursue here this session?  Grace.  God’s grace.  And living in that grace regardless of our season or circumstance.

But what does that LOOK like?  I think it looks and feels a lot like this:

Galatians 5:22-23; The Message (MSG)

22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

 

I want to be relentlessly persistent in my pursuit of this grace-filled way of living as Paul describes in verse 23.  Girls, go back and read that again!!!

That, my friends, is the Message version translation of the characteristics of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, namely: love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

This session, this series of Bible study, we’ll be actively studying and practicing ways (big and small) in which we can learn, weave, and nurture these Christ-like characteristics into our daily lives.

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Your breathe boxes were chock-o-block of awesome tools that will help us get from here to there! And your first homework assignment is sort of a spring board off of which all other activities will begin.

If you were with us last semester, you know my love of all things Hygge (pronounced HOO-ga). If you recall, Hygge is the Danish custom of cozy comfort in all things from physical surroundings to clothing to food to relationships.  In the interest of keeping things consistent (and the fact that I can’t seem to un-Hygge my life at the moment), Hygge will once again be woven into this semester.

With that in mind, the very first homework assignment you are tasked with this semester is to create for yourself a Hyggekrog. My “Hygge Bible” (aka – Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge) lists the number one thing you can do for yourself to make your life more Hyggelieg is to create a Hyggekrog, or your own little cozy nook.

And in case you’re wondering, YES.  There is a spiritual connection to this!  Daniel (as in “Daniel and the Lion’s Den” ) gives us a glimpse into the importance of having your own space to retreat and go to for your own quiet time with God (see Daniel 6:10 for proof that I’m not making this stuff up!  😉 )

Your job this week, before you tackle any other homework, is to create your own Daniel-style Hyggekrog! I don’t care how big or how small it is, or even if you have to share it with someone else in your house.  Research tells us that one of the best ways to build the habit of prayer is to create a single spot to go to each day.  Hygge tells us that space should be comfy, cozy, use a level of light that is pleasing to you, etc.

One cool use of you breathe box is, if space is limited, it can be used as a Hyggekrog suitcase for all your BS materials.  You just pop your box of materials by a window, add a candle and a cozy pillow, and VOILA – instant Hyggekrog!  The idea is to create a space for yourself that is for your quiet time for scripture reading, book reading, journaling, etc.  Here’s mine!

Hyggekrog only 1

Now, some of you are going to say there is no space available and no time when you would be able to use said space anyway. I’m going to go back to what I said at the beginning – we are going to be persistent in our daily pursuit of God this semester.   Make it a priority;  and where there’s a will, sister friend, there IS a way.   Let it sink in, pray about it, and see what just might transpire.

hyggekrog night 1

I just had to show you another picture of my hyggekrog!  This one was taken in the evening!  Okay, maybe the salt lamp foot warmer and the pink fuzzy blanket are a little over the top, but come ON – so Hyggelieg!

HERE’S THE SCOOP ON THE GIVEAWAY!!!!! This weekend, I’ll be posting other photos of my “space” on our ministry Facebook Page (click here to access) AND on Instagram (@stringingpearlsministries).  If you post a picture of YOUR Hyggekrog on one of those social media platforms and tag us (@stringingpearlsministries) and use the hash tags:  #shepersistedspm and #hyggekrog, you will be entered to WIN A PRIZE RELATED TO HYGGE!!!  Winners will be announced next week!  (It’s a pretty good prize, girls.  You’ll want to enter!)

Okay. So, homework for this week, please click here.

For extra resources for this week, please click here.

That’s all for this week, sweet friends!  Sorry it’s such a long post!  Subsequent posts WILL be far shorter – just too much “stuff” to get in during the first week! If you’re still reading this, I love you!

Join us on social media this week and then back here NEXT week as we jump into the importance and benefits of gratitude!

xoxoxoxoxoxoxo,

W

 

 

 

She Persisted!

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It’s almost here!!!  Our Winter/Spring 2018 Bible Study Series, “She PERSISTED”, begins in just about ONE LITTLE TEENY TINY WEEK!

In case you’re wondering what it’s all about, stay tuned!  The scoop on the series will be posted next week right here on the blog!  In the meantime, enjoy this little sneaky peek into the …breathe boxes… our local participants will be receiving next week!  Our …breathe boxes… are curated with items selected to support and enhance our Bible study curriculum!  It one of our FAVORITE parts of our ministry programming!

Until next week, sweet sisters!  Enjoy the “view” 😉 !

Box Outside

 

Box inside with books only

 

Box Inside sneak peek

 

Pretty, ain’t she?!  😉  Yeah, we think so too!

xoxoxoxooxo,

W 🙂

Celebrate Good Times – COME ON! (Lessons from “Elf” ;) )

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One week.  GIRLS!!!!  One week til Christmas!  One week!  To quote Buddy the Elf, “SANTA – OMG – I KNOW HIM!!!!”

I’m super giggly about that because Elf is such a silly, silly movie!  The one liners, the Christmas kitsch, the feel good singing at the end.  Oh my goodness, it gets you in the mood, girls!  I love it!

But do you know what I love the best (besides smiling, of course… 😉 )?

Wendie as buddy the elf

I love how Buddy the Elf can celebrate just about anything.  From the world’s “best” cup of coffee, to ABC gum (Already Been Chewed …in case you didn’t already know that acronym…you’re welcome).  Buddy has the gift of worship.

As we wrap up our Come Closer series of studying 12 spiritual disciplines, I love that we are ending on WORSHIP!!!  Worship is like watching a football game and when your team scores a touchdown; your body cannot help but throw your arms in the air!  It’s spontaneous clapping at the end of a symphony performance.  It’s the tears of awe streaming down your face when you are welcoming a new baby (or even puppy, as the case may be…) into your world. (I’m such a sucker for the puppies – it isn’t even a joke.  I LOVE them!)

Big Boy Pic from Taylir

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA! Love my Fry Guy!

Worship is essentially our response –authentically and organically – to the goodness of God in the moment in which we experience it. How do we react at a gorgeous sunset?  The birth of a baby?  Even the surprise of answered prayer, the awareness of provision we hadn’t noticed before or expected.  It’s WORSHIP!!!

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Worship is our soul acknowledging His presence. It’s us reacting to His action and influence around us.

Worship 1

And it’s often one of the hardest disciplines, too, because when your team is down and the game ends and you’re on the losing end, how can you seriously and honestly praise anyone?

I’ve been there, in my own way. If  you are there right now, email me. I’ll pray for you, with you, and into you. Stick with us into the new year, because I promise we will be talking about concrete ways to build God into what you are experiencing.

But today, I’m asking that we all just take a minute or two considering worship as a form of celebration.

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You guys know I love to put myself in Bible stories, especially ones where Jesus is the leading character. Which is pretty much every story  in the gospels, so yeah.  I have this tendency to play this  supporting, behind the scenes kind of  role in all my versions of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John right next to the main characters.

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But here’s pretty much one of my faves. It’s Jesus’s very first miracle. It’s the very first story about Jesus as, like, a big boy.  His ministry is just about to launch and somehow, someway, he and his mom and some other people have been invited to this wedding in the town of Cana.  And about half way through the party, they run out of wine.  OUT OF WINE.  AT A WEDDING.  WHAT?!  Poor planners or something.  But yet…

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But yet. In the midst of the party and the food and the celebration, Mary, our Mother Mary, this brave momma of the Son of God, goes over to Jesus (because, you know it’s a wedding and they’re not at the same table because it just isn’t the way it’s done…), and, in my version, she has  her hands on her hips and she has just a touch of an attitude, and she basically says, “Um. You need to do something about this.   I know you’re trying to humble and behind the scenes and stuff like that right now.  But these people are our friends, our people.  And they are out of wine.  AT A WEDDING. And that isn’t cool.  So.  Can you help us out?”

At first, like any young adult, he gives her an eye roll. Right? “Woman, what business is this of mine?”  (He actually says that. TO HIS MOMMA.  Look it up if you don’t believe me.) But then, like all mature-ish moms, she flippantly turns around, ups His eye roll, and confidently says to the servers, “Yeah.  He’s got this.  Do what he tells you to do and then fill ’em up.”

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I think they went home that night and had the giggles and stayed up high fiving and hugging. They knew some pretty intense and awful stuff was coming. But that night? I think they celebrated. His very first public miracle was for the FUN of it.  Celebration, girls.  It’s a big, darn big, deal.  And I LOVE it.  Like SUPER LOVE IT!!!!!!!

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Girls. We gotta celebrate when the opportunities present themselves.  And here’s the even cooler thing:  He’s present in all of it if we just take the time to look for Him.  And THAT is what we’ve been discovering all semester.  All these disciplines lead to this:  our seeking and acknowledging of Him and His miracles – big and small  – in our lives.  We may not have always gotten them right or practiced them at all.  But you know what?  He saw us.  He sees us.  And He knows our heart.  He knows we love Him, that we’re seeking Him, and that we honestly just want to come closer.  And He’s celebrating with us today as we come closer to celebrating HIM at Christmas!

SO.  I’m CRAZY glad you joined us on this journey.  I am proud of you for reading and trying and questioning and trying again when things were new, uncomfortable, and even hard. And I cannot wait to tell you what’s coming in the New Year.  But that’s a post for January, sweet friends.  (Insert silly grin, giggles, hand clapping, and summersaults – because cartwheels are just too hard for this body…!)

In the meantime, here’s a little glimpse into where we are headed, which is even deeper into the disciplines we’ve been talking about this semester.  You aren’t going to want to miss this, girls.  It’s better than good…it’s GREAT!

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I wish you and yours a very Merry and WONDERFUL Christmas and holiday break.  We’ll be back here the first week of January to let you know what we are up to in 2018. 😉

Thank you, as always, for your trust, prayers, support, and love.  I send all of that AND MORE back you way.

Peace, love, joy, and GRATITUDE!

Wendie

PS – Check out what I got from some gals for Christmas… aren’t they the most clever sisters ever?!

Typewriter from Camille and Amy

 

 

Filling in the empty spaces (how to serve well)

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I like to think that I can relate just about any lesson worth learning to fountain Diet Coke.  I’ve been drinking it since I was 15 and hardly ever drink it unless it is SPECIFICALLY from McDonald’s (no lectures on how bad it is for me – you’re going to ruin the lesson here… 😉 ).  There’s something just so perfect about their magical mixture of ice and the bubbly goodness!  Basically, it’s a glass filled to the brim with the best ice ever, and then all the empty spaces in between the ice are filled up with super carbonated soda!

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That’s something special right there, I’ll tell you!

I just love that image and how it relates to the spiritual discipline of service and the outpouring of lovingkindness into this world. Basically, it’s like this:  We see a “glass” that has empty spaces, and we use what we have fill it up.

This past Sunday, the Gospel reading at Church was Matthew 25:31-46.  Go ahead and click that link and read it for yourself!  Pretty powerful instruction on how we are to SERVE here on Earth, don’t you think?

Jesus is basically saying, when He returns to take us home, we will be called to account for how well we LOVED this side of Heaven – how well we poured out of ourselves and into the lives of those around us in need.  Right there in the middle of the passage, He lists for us the myriad of needs that exist in this world:  hunger and thirst (physical and spiritual),  loneliness and isolation, captivity, needs of all kinds, sickness.  And He makes it pretty clear that we have the power and obligation to serve anyone whose needs sound anything like those named on that list.

Girls, we are called to be traveling, mobile embassies for Christ; we maintain an open door policy to invite His people in – regardless of who they are and what their circumstances – and to pour out His love into and onto everyone He chooses to put in our path.

We fill in all the empty spaces with love. And in turn, He refills us so we can keep the good stuff flowing. That’s the miracle of service!

Here’s the thing I’ve come to know-that I know-that I know about the practice and discipline of service. First of all, it’s closely tied to the concept of calling.  I believe our calling is our chance to marry up our birthright gifts (these are the gifts God gave you when He thought you up!) with our passion.  When we can do that, that’s our “calling”.  For example, I was blessed with the gift of teaching.  I also happen to have a passion for Jesus.  So I soar in my calling when I teach others about Christ!  YAY! 🙂

So, calling =  gifts married up with passion.  And when we operate in that zone, the outpouring of our calling is renewed though God continuing to fill us up so we can keep it going on.  You know what I mean, right?  When we operating in this supernaturally, “spirit led zone”, we do not get depleted.  We get things done.  We excel.  We soar.

Similarly, service (as a discipline) also taps into our birthright gifts and talents. But instead of leaning into our passion, we soar in service when we marry up our gifts with what breaks our hearts.  And that list we just talked about up there in Matthew 25?  That’s chockful of things that break our hearts.  Jesus is just asking us to pick one and serve by filling in the empty spaces of someone’s heartbreaking situation.    That’s a miracle, girls.  And once again, the flip side reward of that miracle is the refilling of ourselves so we can keep pouring out.

And here’s a really cool thing, too. Our calling and our call to service often change throughout our seasons of life and circumstances.  And you know what?  I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be that way.

esther 4-14

 

Marry up your gifts and talents with what inspires you right now-that’s calling.

Marry up your gifts and talents for what currently breaks your heart-that’s service. And your biggest impact will be where your heart opens the widest.

Take some time and talk with God about your gifts, your passions, and what breaks your heart.  See if He doesn’t give you a little insight on how you can weave those things together to make a difference not only in someone else’s life, but YOURS too.

Following along with our Come Closer series?  Would you believe we only have ONE MORE WEEK to go?!  Spend this next week finishing up your Enjoying Jesus book and get ready for a final lesson next week on WORSHIP!  YIPEE!!!  And stay tuned – we’ll announce what’s coming NEXT soon!!! 😉

Enjoy the weekend, sister friends!

Peace, love and JOY!

Wendie

 

What Breaks Your Heart? (And what are you going to do about it?)

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I could answer that question about 1,000 different ways. I think maybe you could too.

Shootings.

Terrorism.

War.

Homelessness.

Cancer.

Global warming.

Poverty.

Harassment.

Natural disasters.

Violence.

Corruption.

It’s almost easy to become paralyzed with inaction when you’re faced with so much devastation and so many things that need fixing. We don’t even know which way to move.  Do we fight ferociously to get the guns out of the hands of people who should never have them, or pour all we have into fighting against the destruction of our planet?  Should we support hurricane and wildfire victims, or give to researchers finding cures for cancer?  Will we work with no-and-low income families to give them a chance to build their lives into something better, or provide counseling for survivors of sexual abuse?  It makes us dizzy to consider all that needs to be done.

But today, the day after yet another massive and deadly shooting in our country, I’m choosing to act and want to encourage you to do the same.  Create a list of what breaks your heart and choose one thing – ONE – to address with decisive action today.

miroslav

God created us with gifts that know no boundaries and we are expected to use them. Is it your voice?  Your pocketbook?  Your hands?  Your influence?  What can you DO today to make a difference?

Sweet friends, please. Do not remain in a state of overwhelmed paralysis.  Decide what breaks your heart most today and use your gifts to serve this world and make it better, safer, sounder, more peaceful.

Do not let anyone tell you your “cause” isn’t worthy or important. It IS.

Do NOT let anyone tell you your gifts aren’t enough to make a difference. They ARE.

“For who knows if you were created for such a time and place as this?” Esther 4:14

God knows. And if you think about it, I bet you do, too.  Prayers + action = miracles.

Peace,

Wendie

 

You do you. I’ll do me.

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If there is ONE thing I can say about practicing spiritual disciplines it’s this:  it’s personal.

Even though we’re all reading the same study (Enjoying Jesus) and following along with the same series here (Come Closer), we are all getting something different out of it.

That’s the beauty of such a wonderfully creative God.  We are each unique.  We each respond to the vast aspects of His holy character and His call on our lives differently.

And while I know study and meditation may not necessary sound amazingly exciting on the surface, these two disciplines we are covering this week  are my jam.  They are my entire heart toward God wrapped up in one luscious package.  They are the love language in which God speaks to my heart and the voice with which I hear Him most clearly. There is NOTHING I love more than some good, solid alone time with my Bible, a pen, my journal, and GOD.  As a matter of fact, I even told all the sister friends this week that if Tim were ever to ask them what the perfect gift would be for me, they now know they are supposed to say:  “A weekend away at a shwanky hotel tucked away with cozy pah-jeejees (aka pajamas), Prosecco, Perrier, and a Bible.”  Well, and maybe this handsome devil, as long as someone was willing to walk him for me.

Big Boy Pic from Taylir

I’m a simpleton at heart, aren’t I?  😉

The point is, I LOVE these two disciplines and if you aren’t sure about them yet, I’m hoping to convert you today!

We read and study scripture to get to know the sound of God’s voice and heart. We get to know the things that matter to Him, to His heart, and we also get to know the things He doesn’t like.  It’s not so much knowledge for the sake of knowledge (although there really isn’t anything wrong with that unless we use that knowledge in order to be a know-it-all or to somehow distort the teaching of it).  But it’s more about getting to know what’s important to God because that information beings us closer to Him.

Think about it.  In your best relationships, you know what is important to the other person, right?  So it makes sense that we should know what’s important to God!  He reveals His character to us through His Word – His Living Word.

In other words, “study”, in and of itself, answers the questions of what does God say, what does God like, what does God want us to do.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.   Deuteronomy 11:18-19, NIV

Meditation, which of course goes hand-in-hand with study, answers the question of what does God want this information to mean personally for me? So while study could stand alone without meditation, meditation would be difficult to be independent of study because it’s hard to think about something you don’t know about!

So in order to get the most out of scripture, we should be doing both.

One of the videos for this week’s chapter has Julie talking about how meditation allows her time to dwell with a specific portion of scripture. I love that, especially if we put that in context with how we defined “dwell” a few weeks ago as in “pitching a tent with”.  So when we meditate, we are sitting down and hanging out with God and His word for a little while and letting Him speak to the importance of that piece of wisdom to us.

There are tons of different formulas to studying a piece of scripture. But the first thing we should do before we even begin the study piece of this is to come quietly before God and ask that He guides our study.  We ask that He would be with us and help us to get a little bit of wisdom out of what we are reading.  We surrender our own agenda or preconceived ideas that might be lurking in our hearts and minds, and just ask the Holy Spirit to guide our reading.

And then, I think it comes down to personal choice in how you decide to study. I found this graphic on Pinterest this weekend and think it’s just brilliant.

what to do with your Bible

I already put one in each of my Bibles, I love it so much!  Basically, study is a way for us to answer the question for ourselves:  “What does this say and how can I make this as easy as possible for me to understand.  You all should know yourself well enough at this point to know how you learn best.  Maybe you’re a memorizer or maybe you are a list maker.  Maybe you are artsy or a journal-er.  Whatever your preferred method of learning something, do that.  And don’t rush through it.  It’s not a race, it’s an exercise, a practice, a discipline.

As you first start out, you might find it difficult to decide what passage to study. You can always think about your favorite Bible stories or verses and start there.  Maybe there is something particular on your mind and heart that day and so you can use your Bible index or Concordance to look up a few verses that speak to that topic until you find one that seems to really resonate.

You can use a devotional or the gospel of the day or anything like that to get you started.  You can use any of the verses we’ve looked up so far in this study.  The key is to pick something digestible in one sitting.  In other words, a few verses or a short chapter – not an entire book.  Read it and play around with it for a bit. You will know God nudging  you to it if it piques your interest, makes you want to ask a question about it, or if you want to sort of insert yourself into the story.  Stay with the study piece until you get it.  Take it with you throughout your day, your week, etc.  Maybe read it a couple times a day.  Share the facts of the story with someone else (even if it’s me – I’m always up for some good Bible stories!).

Once you are able to close your Bible and sort of factually retell the “story” or verses you’ve been studying, you’re ready to move on to meditation!

Meditation basically answers the questions of “What does God want me to know about Him through these words and what is He calling me to do about it?”

Now. Just like study, there are a bazillion ways you can go about this.  You should’ve tried out one method in our book on day 2 with Psalm 1, which I hope was a good experience for you.  Maybe it feels weird at first, but it is insightful, right?

And AGAIN, the first thing to do is always invite the Holy Spirit to guide you through the process!  Otherwise, it’s just you deciding what YOU think about it, not what God wants to reveal to you!

I personally have used a method called Lectio Divina (which is Latin for Divine Reading), which is a contemplative sort of prayer meditation that originates from the Benedictines I think dating back to the 6th century.  And sort of like the Ignatian Daily Examen, it can be morphed a bit to suit your needs.  Here’s a graphic that explain it more clearly than I probably can in words!  If you want more info on this, just Google it!

Lectio Divina

The most important piece of this dynamic duo of study + meditation is this:  quiet your mind and ask God to guide you.  He never turns down an authentic, intimate invitation like that, girls.  And be patient with yourselves.  We are a society of BUSY BUSY BUSY.  And these disciples we are learning about and trying are all about QUALITY TIME spent in pursuit of drawing closer to God.  It’s counterintuitive to our nature.  But the payoff is well worth the time and effort!

Following along with our Come Closer study?!  Make sure you’re up to date with all the reading so far (you should be finished reading through Week 3 in the Enjoying Jesus Book).  This week, I encourage everyone to find two or three verses and attempt to study AND meditate on them!  We will be back here on the blog in two weeks (we are using next week to have extra study and meditation time!).  Get ready for the next two disciplines  (one of which is my LEAST fave…fasting 😉 ).

Here’s a great link to our fifth song by The Afters.  I LOVE it!

May God’s peace, love, and JOY infuse you FULLY this week!

So much love,

Wendie

 

It is Well with My Soul (or, “Confession in a Nutshell”)

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One of my favorite stories in scripture is the recounting of Jesus meeting Zaccheus. I love this story.  Seriously.  I totally identify with that guy.  For some of my formative years and adult life, I lived like I didn’t really care what God said about things, letting my sins sort of create my identity without giving them much thought.  But then one day, when I was sitting in Bible study (ironic, right?)  it was like I felt Him look right at me and say, “Girl, get outta that tree and get down here.  We’ve got stuff to do.  Enough of this already.”  And off we went.  Thank you, Jesus (literally)…!

“Jesus isn’t just a friend of sinners.  Jesus is ONLY a friend of sinners.”  Judah Smith, Jesus Is _________

This is super great news for me, sister friends!  Because I am Zaccheus, I am the Prodigal son (or daughter as the case may be).  I am the woman at the well.  I am Saul, who became Paul.  I AM a sinner.

And don’t get mad at me for saying this, but you are too.

So this idea of being a friend of sinners is a good entry into confession, because we’ve got a friend in Jesus.  Thank God (literally).

As we learned in our Enjoying Jesus reading this week, the word confession comes from the Greek word homologeo, which very simply means to “admit that something is factual or true”.  In other words, to confess something means to own up to doing something (or not doing something you were supposed to do, as the case may also be).

And adding to that, the word sin (as a verb – so , “to sin”) means to do something that causes someone to grieve.

So to “confess a sin” means we go before the person(s) aggrieved and admit we did something wrong. Ideally, we include remorse in doing it and add our intention in not doing that again.  But plain and simple, confession of a sin is to literally say we did something wrong that caused grief to someone else.

The purpose of confession in terms of our spiritual life is to heal us and restore us in relationship to others and God. It’s considered a discipline because it is something that doesn’t come naturally to us as humans, so we practice it.  We aren’t naturals at, “hey – I’m so glad I messed up and I cannot wait to admit it and talk about it. Woot!” So yes, it’s a discipline – something we are being led and taught to do by Jesus.  But it’s also a gift, because in doing so, we receive grace and mercy in exchange for our sin.

“The usual notion of what Jesus did on the cross runs something like this:  people were so bad and so mean and God was so angry with them and could not forgive them unless somebody big enough took the rap for the whole lot of them.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Love, not anger, brought Jesus to the cross.  Golgotha came as a result of God’s great desire to forgive, not his reluctance.  Jesus knew that by his VICARIOUS SUFFERING he could actually absorb all the evil of humanity an so heal it, forgive it, and redeem it.”  Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

psalm 103 12

According to John (the one Jesus loved…!) Jesus’ three final words before He died were: “It is finished.”  John 19:30.

It is finished. Through taking on our sins (“vicarious suffering” – I can’t even, that has me SHOOK, as the kids say… 😉 ) He somehow supernaturally reconciled us to God.

It IS finished.

Now, that might cause you pause right there. The “It is Finished” bit.  As in, “if it’s really finished and through His death He reconciled us to God once and for all, then what’s all this business about needing to confess?”

Because we are human and on the earthly plane, un-confessed sin causes us the burden of guilt. Think of Adam and Eve, right?  After that first bite, what’s the first thing they felt?  Guilt.  And guilt causes ailments in us spiritually, emotionally, and even physically when it isn’t resolved.  It literally makes us sick.  Right here, right now.

Okay? So what needed to be done in the spiritual realm is done, right?  But here.  Right here in the middle of living an earthly life.  Sin still makes us sick.

But what did Jesus say about that?

mark 2 17

We need us a good doctor, amen?

Through confession – both to God and to one another – we, as Dallas Willard puts it, “lay down the burden of hiding and pretending which normally takes a dreadful amount of human energy” and allows us to heal.

Amen to that.

I so resonated with the story in our study this week about the man who was trapped for 27 days in rubble in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. Stuck in dark, cramped place, pressure bearing down, heart beating hard, anxiety closing in.  I had a total panic attack just reading the story.  But that’s because it  reminded me a LOT of what it feels like when I’m burdened with the guilt of my unconfessed sins.

Hebrews 3:12-15 tells us that unconfessed or unacknowledged sin will deceive us into thinking we’re okay and so then it hardens our hearts against God and one another.

I’m convinced that is the devil’s favorite lie.  I think his lie of choice to people like you and me is this: “It’s fine!  You’re okay!  It’s no big deal.  No one will remember or notice anyway. Nobody knows but you and me. I got your back.”

Uh, I really don’t want the devil acting as my partner in crime, do you? So that’s when we turn to scripture to get him kicked up and out of the picture.

psalm 139 23 and 24

I need the healing light of GOD to shine into my soul. I need Him to search me because in my humanness, there may be times I don’t even realize what I’m doing is sinful.

Check out Proverbs 20:27.  One of my favorite translations of this comes from the ERV, here it is:  “Your spirit is like a lamp to the Lord.  He is able to see into your deepest parts.”

In other words, confession is God’s way of lighting up the corners in the closet of our soul so anything hiding out in there can be swept up and out into the healing gaze of God. Not for us to feel condemnation and guilt, because that’s the opposite of the gifts confession offers, namely grace and mercy.  (Remember grace is receiving something we didn’t earn and mercy is receiving grace when we deserve the exact opposite!)  But instead, the purpose is for us to experience inner healing and reconciliation in close, deep, personal relationship with God.

When we practice confession, we release God’s supernatural power to heal us spiritually.

Confession allows us to be reconciled with God’s grace and mercy so that we are able to honestly say the six most beautiful words ever: It. Is. Well. With. My. Soul.

“What do we do?  St. Alphonsus Liguori writes, ‘For a good confession three things are necessary:  and examination of conscience, sorrow, and a determination to avoid sin.”  Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline.

We examine our spirit; we acknowledge the things God brings up; we ask for forgiveness (repent), we try to right the wrong if possible, we pledge to do better next time (because that’s what regret is and it isn’t a bad thing, it’s good if we harness it because it allows us to do it better the next time), and we receive the healing that comes from it.

How does that look practically?  Well, any number of ways, actually.  You can bring your thoughts to your pastor, your priest, a spiritual director, therapist, or trusted wise counsel.  Those are always great avenues because those folks are trained and gifted in helping you make sense of what’s happened and help you see any patterns to your behavior.  They can also act as mediators if your confession has something to do with another person and emotions and feelings are running a bit too high for the two of you to work things out. Jesus is very clear that we don’t leave these things unsettled unless the other person clearly has no intentions on working it out with us.

You can also simply sit down with God and go through the steps we talked about above.  Here’s a link to something called The Daily Examen.  It’s a 500 year old prayer from St. Ignatius that opens up the conversation with God about your day and His presence in it!  Ask Him to reveal places and thoughts that are running contrary to His will for you.  Be open and honest and come to Him with a spirit of humility and he will greet you with love and tender mercy.

Nothing feels better at the end of the day than being able to say, “It IS well with my soul.”

Following along with us in our Come Closer journey this fall?  Read Week Three, Days 1-5 for next week! We’ll be back next Friday for our discussion on the disciplines of study and meditation!

Check out our song this week, “Wonder”, by Hillsong United! This video is the acoustic version and I LOVE it! There’s also an interview about the song and lots of other good stuff!   Sooooo good!

May God’s peace, love, and joy douse your soul this week!

xoxoxoxoxxo,

W

Thy Will Be Done (for reals.)

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Oh my GIRLS!  There is so so so much that we still need to discuss and digest about prayer.  Like, how and why Daniel was so good at it and how he did it.  Like, what is the secret power (if any…) to the prosperity prayer of Jabez.  Why did Job keep the faith in the face of unanswered prayer after unanswered prayer?  What was Jonah thinking when God wouldn’t let up on His will for Nineveh and Jonah’s part in it?! And..and…and…!

BUT… it occurs to me that the title of our study book is Enjoying Jesus.  Not Enjoying Daniel, or Jabez, or Jonah, or Job.  It’s Enjoying JESUS.  So why don’t we spend our time today looking at Him?

Revive Matt 1128-30

I love it! LOVE it!  So much richness in three little verses.  But right now, there is one key phrase I want you to focus on:

Watch. How. I. Do. It.

It’s little but it’s mighty.  In other words, Jesus is simply saying, “WATCH ME”.

In everything He came here to do, in all His holiness and goodness, He acted as the ultimate role model didn’t He? And from today forward in this study, we will be looking at how Jesus, Himself, practiced each of these disciplines.

First of all, through the gospels, Jesus is in constant contact with the Father. Communicating = Prayer.  Prayer was not only important to Jesus, but something He treated as a priority.

Second, when the disciples asked Him how to pray, it’s one of those rare times that He doesn’t answer them with a story or a parable.  He just straight up answers them with solid teaching on HOW TO PRAY.

I’m going to park myself right here for a bit while you look up these two nuggets: Luke 11:1-4;  and Matthew 6:7-13.

(Those might sound just a wee bit familiar to you if you’ve spent even a millisecond in a church at any point in your life 🙂 !)

If we look at those two passages, we see exactly how Jesus would like us to pray, and it basically encompasses a lot of the “types” of prayers we talked about last week and wrote for homework!

Sister friends, it’s pretty simple: we acknowledge God; submit our will to His (okay, this one is WAY easier said than done…); ask Him to meet our needs, ask for forgiveness when we don’t get it right (and for Him to teach us how to let others off the hook when they screw up – because, guess what?  They are human too).  We pray that He would protect us and the people we love and keep us from harm.  And we end by praising Him for His awesomeness!

That’s how we pray.

Our friend, Margaret Feinberg, says this about prayer:

“Speaking + Listening + Waiting = Prayer”

(She’s pretty smart, isn’t she?!)

Oh but  that waiting part; that’s hard. At least it is for me, because I can fall into the pit of a pity party if I’m not careful.  “God didn’t hear me.  I must not have prayed hard enough or had enough people praying with me or He’s mad at me or just doesn’t care enough to answer me.”

It’s all fine and good when things worked out as we would have them, right? But what about when we think He hasn’t answered us, or even worse, when it seems as if He says “NO WAY, JOSE!”?

Well, let’s just open back up to Matthew chapter 6 for a sec. I’m going to re-read just the second half of verse 10 for you here:

“May your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.”

Your will. Meaning God’s will.

In other words, “Help me to step out of the way and let You do Your thing; regardless of how You work it out. Your will, Lord.  Not the millions of options I’ve set at your feet waiting for You, God, to pick one of them. Your option. Your will be done. Not mine.”

Surrender. 

(You might want to cue the “Mic Drop” here because this is where it gets super for reals.)

Jesus uses this phrase again – “Your will be done” much later in Matthew in the garden of Gethsemane : “He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not mine’.” (Matt 26:39)

He says it again just three verses later: “Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, ‘My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, Your will be done’.” (Matt 26:42)

Let’s be clear here. Jesus is God.  He knew what was going to happen so He knew the suffering was coming.  Yet twice He prayed, “Your will be done”.  I don’t claim to know what Jesus was thinking in these moments.  But I’m asking you to just think on it for sec.  I don’t know if I’m right here or not, but I don’t think Jesus prayed those words for His benefit, or even for the benefit of the sleeping disciples; I think He said the words for ours.  Maybe a part of the reason He said those very words is so we could “WATCH HOW HE DOES IT” even in the face of death.

Thy will be done.

Now. I know firsthand how confusing this piece of prayer life with God can seem because that level of utter surrender could put us at 180 degrees at odds with our desire to believe we have a good, good Father.  AND a Savior in Jesus who will rescue us and all those we love from pain and suffering.  And yet we continue to experience things that are difficult, full of pain, and could even be perceived as cruel.

But then, this:

Jer 29 11

This, sweet friends, is the very essence of faith. Can we, when everything is stacked against us and we know that we know that we know we have a God that could swoop down and save us in a millisecond, yet He does not (at least in that moment), can we still claim that He is for us and not against us, and has good and prosperous plans in mind for us here on Earth?

Thy will be done.

“For we know that in all things God works together with those who love Him and have been called to His purpose to bring about what is good.” Romans 8:28

I love that verse because it serves as a comforting reminder that regardless of what it looks like in terms of our current circumstances, He’s “on it” because we love Him and we’ve been called to walk with Him. He’s working the good already into it even when we don’t feel it.

But you wanna know something REAL? Sometimes even Romans 8:28 doesn’t alter the feelings and emotions that accompany the disappointment that something we so madly have prayed for isn’t going to come our way now – or maybe ever – in the earthly realm.  But I hope it gives you the faith and the strength to keep praying because where you are at any given moment (and the circumstances surrounding it) are purposeful to God, even if excruciatingly painful.   He reveals Himself to us in the waiting, pulls us closer, answering our heart’s biggest desire, which is to be walking in alignment with Him and His will.

So this week, I encourage you to keep up with the prayers we started last week! And let’s add another line to the prayer we are building together this series:

“Lord, help me hear You today.

Thank you for loving me.

I know you have good plans for me; Thy. Will. Be. Done.”

Whew.  Thank you, God, that it’s Your  will and not mine.  For reals.

If you are following our Come Closer study online with us, please read the last three days of Chapter 2 in Enjoying Jesus.  We’ll be back here next week talking about CONFESSION!  I know, you’re already jumping up and down in excitement 😉 !

Check out this week’s song, “Loving My Jesus” by Casting Crowns!

Praying that God’s peace, love, and JOY infuse you FULLY this week, sister friends!  A JESUS BATH BOMB, SISTERS!!!!  😉

Xoxoxoxoxo,

W