Category Archives: Faith

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

 

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Would You Go to Jail for Jesus?

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“So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding.”

Hebrews 6:1, NLT

That’s our guiding scripture this series, sisters, and it’s a good one!

Here it is in The Message:

Hebrews 6-1

I love that!  Let’s grow ourselves up a bit in how well we know our Savior, sisters.

Why?  Because many of us believe in God but don’t live in a way that clearly bears fruit, or shows, that we honestly know Him.

In the book, The Christian Atheist,   Craig Groschel states that 94% of the American Christians claim to believe in and follow a God that is good, loving, and benevolent.  But he goes on to surmise that 94% of American Christians aren’t living in a way that would show others they hold that belief.  He begins his book with this:  “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”  In other words, do you know Christ so well that your outward behavior conveys that you know Him.

Take a sec and ask yourself that question. And then take a sec to consider the disciple, Peter.  When the going got tough, he wouldn’t admit to even knowing Jesus, let alone let himself get convicted for it.  And if Peter could do that, the “rock the church was built upon” Peter?  Um, well then, you better believe you and I are capable of that same level of denial in both word and deed.

“People claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live.”

Titus 1:16, NLT

In our time here on Earth, I doubt many/any of us will actually be placed on trial for being a Christian, so we may never actually have to utter the words that we do not “know Him”. But we do deny Him when we live in ways that don’t mimic or reflect His heart.  Why do we do that?

Maybe it’s because we haven’t spent enough time with Him to really know Him.

THIS is why we are back at Bible study this fall: to get to know Him so well that our lives reflect Him in all we do.

We cannot know Him personally unless we spend time with Him. Bottom line.  And that means spending time with Him in more than just a mass or church service here, or a Bible study meeting there.  Girls, we need to be looking for Him.

You’ll be able to find him if you’re serious, looking for him with your whole heart and soul.

Deuteronomy 4:29-31, MSG

I love this quote by a 17th century French archbishop (Francois Fenelon):  “There is only one way to follow God:  to not take a single step without Him, and to follow with a brave heart wherever He leads.”

These spiritual disciplines we are about the begin studying together are ancient practices, or ways, in which we can seek that voice of God so that we can achieve that goal of not taking a single step without Him and following bravely and in faith where He leads.

“What God wants is reverential intimacy. He wants us close enough to Him that we know His heart – close enough to hear His heartbeat.  He wants to look in our eyes, and He wants us to look into His.  He wants us to hear His voice above all other voices we entertain.”  David Benne, Surrender to Love.

Girls, in order to know Him, we need to hear Him.

Did you know that the word obey comes from the Latin word audire, which mean to listen, or to hear.  And so, in order to know Jesus, we need to hear.  We need to be “all ears”.

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey [hear] his commandments.

1 John 2:3-6, NLT

Every single spiritual discipline we will study, practice, and try together this fall has a common thread – we are learning to listen for His voice.

I love when I can bring things full circle. Last fall, we completed Margaret Feinberg’s study, Wonderstruck.   A few years before writing Wonderstruck, she wrote a very cool book about understanding scripture from the viewpoint of shepherds, farmers, and bee keepers.  It’s called Scouting the Divine.  I’ll park myself right here for a minute while you click this link to read something from that book that just might just blow your mind about the importance of getting to know His voice.

john 10 27, 29

Is  that perfect or what? He promises that we can hear His voice, and that when we follow Him: He. Will. Not. Let. Us. Go.

Amen to that. Jesus is not content to just sit around waiting for us.  He’s pulling up the chair, calling your name, cupping your face in His hands, and saying, “Come closer.”

What will you do? Because you do have a choice.  As for me,  I choose to scooch my chair right up next to His to hear Him speak to my heart. I will rest my head in His Holy hands. I will let Him disciple me (which is the root word in discipline, derived from a Greek word that simply means “gentle tutoring” – how awesome is that?) so that I can get “convicted” in the courts of heaven for being a follower of Christ.

Such good stuff, right? If you are interested in following along with us here online, click here to find out more about our study, Come Closer!  If you are in our physical studies OR following along online with the Enjoying Jesus book, please read Chapter 2, Days 1 and 2 (on prayer) for next week!

Are you rocking our playlist? Click here to hear the first song on our list: Testify by NEEDTOBREATHE

Each week, we will end  with a short phrase based on scripture that we can call to mind throughout the week, that helps us to set the tone each morning and throughout the day and helps remind us that we are seeking to infuse every moment of every day, not just Bible study morning and Sunday at church, with a deepening of our spiritual relationship with God.

This week, let’s recall that scripture from John 10:27: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.”  Our intention phrase/mantra this week is:  “Jesus, help me hear you today.”  Maybe you pray it before your feet hit the ground in the morning.  Maybe you say it several times during the day to remind yourself He promised you’d know His voice.  Maybe you use that short prayer in difficult moments or in simple celebrations of joys.  Maybe you turn it into a prayer of gratitude as your head hits the pillows at night:  “Jesus, thank you for speaking to me today.”  Use the comments section below to let us know how YOU hear and experience Him this week!

I pray blessings and love over each of you this week. Can’t wait to meet you back here next week for some thoughts on coming closer to God through prayer!

Peace, love and joy,

Wendie

 

 

I’m Stuffocating. (a First Tuesday* post!)

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I used to love email.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  Those days when you’d open your inbox and it would have super fun and entertaining notes from people you actually knew

These days, though, opening my inbox feels a lot like going to the real, physical mailbox at the end of my driveway:  just one more “box” filled with junk.  Advertisements, bills, political circulars, coupons, and catalogs from stores I’ve never heard of clutter to the point of “stuff-o-cation”.  I almost hate to open it!  Ninety percent of the messages in that box are from people/companies I don’t even know.  Sometimes I delete 100 emails a day.  It all just feels so…impersonal.

stuffocating

Letters, postcards, and once treasured emails from my beloveds have been replaced by text messages and snapchats and social media posts that can be seen by hundreds (if not thousands) of others. Don’t get me wrong, I love scrolling through Facebook and Instagram as much as the average person, but my heart aches a bit for that special feeling I used to get when a letter or email would arrive JUST for me.  That excitement of knowing someone intentionally wanted to get MY attention and share a little love with me made my heart super happy. It was personal, in a good way.

Lately, I’ve been learning a lot about Jesus and the way He communicates. I’m learning that He personally seeks us out and actually cherishes time spent in our presence.  Interestingly (and quite counter-culturally), He’s not in the business of mass mailing His agenda and platform out to the myriad of mailboxes (and inboxes) around the globe, and He isn’t sitting at His laptop waiting for Likes and Loves on social media, YouTube, and blogs.  He’s in the business of dwelling with His people.

pitch that tent

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

John 1:14

I absolutely love the usage here of that word: dwell.  Translated from its original language, it means “pitches a tent”.  Can you even imagine?! JESUS came to camp out with us.

YOU and ME.

Camp out! As in, “Let’s do this together – in person. Face to face.  Life on life.  I’m intentionally pitching my tent with yours.  You’re that special to me.”

We don’t need a mailbox, an inbox, a social media account, or television to connect with Him. But what we DO need is space for His tent and His Word in our heart so we can DO life alongside Him.

“Watch how I do it and learn my methods (…because you seem to make it all so complicated when you try to do it on your own).”  Matthew 11:29 (my personal interpretation in parentheses!)

His Word is alive and well and begging for us to watch how He did it so we can replicate that love, that grace, that MERCY all around us. The problem comes when we stop looking to Him and instead clutter things up with all our own stuff.

This spring, in order to get serious about pursuing an intentional life of dwelling and camping out with Jesus, I’ve made it my mission to quiet down a bit and start the process of decluttering my own “space”, physically, mentally, and spiritually. It’s an ongoing process, sister friends, and often feels a bit slow-going!  But one thing God has got very serious with me on is the fact that I have become laden down with “stuff”.  On every level.  And in order for Jesus to comfortably pitch that tent with mine, I need to clear Him room.

Maybe you do, too?

create space for Jesus

Take a minute and answer this question for yourself: what’s stuff-o-cating you?  Is it physical clutter that needs clearing?  A preoccupation with emails and social media accounts that needs to be curbed? A habit or way of doing things that just doesn’t serve you anymore?  Is it a relationship that drains you more than energizes? Your physical being that could use to be cleaned up and cleared out a bit?  Start with one thing, just one thing, that you can begin to clear a little space within to make Him a little more room.  If there’s one thing you can be certain of, His deepest desire is to hang out with you.

“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.’”  John 14:23

Home sweet (uncluttered) home.  Doesn’t that sound awesome?

Practical Application:

  • Pick one area (body, physical space, mind, spirit) where you feel stuff-o-cated right now.
  • Pray this prayer (or one of your own): “Lord, I want nothing more than for you to come and pitch your tent next to mine! Right now, though, I’m feeling really overwhelmed and cluttered in the area of _________. I want to relinquish control of this area in my life to you. I want to clear it in such a way that makes more room for YOU! Jesus, help me to clean it up and let go of what doesn’t need to be there. Help me to use what You intended me to have in this area in the ways in which You have always planned. Show me Your way because I know it is better than mine. Forgive me for letting things get out of Your control. Thank you that You love me so much that You get personal! Help me not to feel guilt or condemnation over this clearing out, but instead to deeply know Your delight in my obedience to listening to this call from You. Lord, I am so looking forward to all our camp outs to come! In Your mighty name, Amen!”
  • Get quiet and let God guide your next step. Accept that it’s always one step at a time, girls. And remember that sometimes things gets messy before they can be completely cleaned up. 😉
  • Consider these scriptures as you start to “un-stuff yo-self” (pray them out loud, write them down, read them when you get up and before you go to sleep) to keep your mind focused: John 1:14; Luke 12:16-19; Luke 12:29-31; John 14:23.

Happy De-Stuffocation, sweet friends! I’m praying for you!!!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

*PS – Today is the launch of a series I’m calling “First Tuesday”! It’s my intention to post here on the FIRST TUESDAY of each month with a fresh look at scripture alongside some practical life applications to make it relevant to YOUR life!  The First Tuesday of the month is a special day around here because our local “emergency sirens” are tested at 10am!  Our Tuesday Bible Babes have come to LOVE those sirens because whenever we are in session, we stop what we are doing and offer prayers of gratitude to God for the privilege and freedom to be worshipping together!  It’s become our habit that (even when we aren’t in Bible study session) as soon as we hear those First Tuesday sirens, we drop to our knees and pray for one another! Check back here on Tuesday, June 6th for a lively post about How to Have a Good Summer, Spiritually Speaking!  You won’t want to miss it!  😉

Is God Really Interested in Hanging Out with Me?

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Here’s a seriously strange confession from me: there have been moments in life when I’ve questioned God’s existence. 

Actually, I should more accurately say this: there’ve been moments when I’ve questioned God’s presence in my own little existence.

I know. It sounds odd hearing that from me – a woman who runs a women’s Christian ministry.  But you know what?  I’m human.  And we can be a cynical, disbelieving bunch, we human beings.  I mean, one of our most often used phrases is, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  And if I don’t see it (or FEEL it), does it really exist?

Just because we can’t see something, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. A caterpillar inching along a leaf in a large tree may see the leaf itself, but not notice it’s attached to a gorgeous oak tree. Likewise, a person admiring the tree from a short distance away may very well not see that cutie, tiny caterpillar on the leaf.  Regardless of the visibility of the tree (OR the caterpillar) to the observer, both exist.

gen-28-15

The presence of God also exists, regardless of our ability to sense it.   The COOL thing is that we see the pattern of this assurance from Genesis (the very first book of our Holy Bible) all the way to Revelation (the final book).

Experiencing the presence of God is something so intimate that scripture records the following:

  • He planned you from the beginning of time;
  • He was there/orchestrated your conception;
  • He attended your birth;
  • He willed you to take your first breath;
  • He knows every single breath you will ever take;
  • He bends down to listen anytime you ask;
  • He delights in delighting YOU (so cool right?);
  • He gets you out of messes;
  • He protects you even when you don’t know or think you need protecting;
  • He is there when your eyes finally close to this world;
  • and…He meets you the moment your soul takes flight and He welcomes you home for eternity.

isa 43-2 to 4.png

So with all that Truth just begging us to believe that we are ALWAYS in His presence, why aren’t we always living in awe of Him in our lives? It’s because there are things, people, and circumstances that pull us away from experiencing God.

Rob Bell, in his book, How to Be Here, says the disconnect can begin with something as simple as an everyday distraction, and then easily move on to boredom, then cynicism, and finally despair.

So how do we protect ourselves from those things? How do we STAY connected to the wonder of the presence of God in times when we feel so very alone?

We begin by taking each one of those scenarios and turning the tables on them!

For instance, the opposite of distraction is mindfulness and focus, right? Well then, anchor yourself in the present moment, even if you have to create something tangible to do it – like our poppy stickers from our goodie bags this session or even a quick moment or two of mindful meditation on His goodness.

Purposeful activity combats boredom. I place devotional books or inspirational music around so if I start to feel bored of my everyday routines of driving or even tedious work, I can take a few minutes to reconnect to His goodness without getting lost in mindless activity.  Listen to a quick podcast or watch a video of your favorite spiritual teacher for some inspiration.

Surrounding yourself with people, activities, and environments that are life giving (instead of “battery drains”) chases away cynicism and feelings of “why me” and “why NOT me”! I go to the Arboretum to drink in His beautiful creation.   I call a friend who always lifts me up and makes me giggle.  I take a yoga class and breathe deeply.  Anything that moves my mind up and out of the temptation of complaint and self-pity works here!

Despair is a place and experience that we will all find ourselves in at one time or another. Fortunately, most of us don’t stay there long.  But if and when you do find yourself at a loss for purpose and hope (because that IS what despair is), my advice is to seek medical, therapeutic and pastoral assistance. All three can help lessen the depth and length of that you spend in that gulley and place you back into a mindset of experiencing God’s healing presence.

Finally, remember our first week of this series and the one question we asked you? (You know the one:  how do you know that you KNOW that YOU KNOW God is good and is with you?)  Well, if ever you start to feel at a loss for His beautiful presence, I want you to go back to that question and pay attention to your response.  However you answered it, let that be your first line of defense.  Because it’s  your own, personal,  GO TO thing that returns you to the knowledge of God’s presence in your life.  Let it anchor you to the truth that He’s never left you, not even for a nanosecond.

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Following along with our wonder-full series?! This week, you can read chapters .002 and .003 in the black book and complete week two in the participant guide!  Are you a fan of contemporary Christian music?  Then check out this most awesome song, “Eye of the Storm”!

See you back here next week for an eye-opening look at the important of UNFORCED rest…it’s not as easy as you might think! 😉

Peace, love and JOY!

Wendie

Expecting Miracles

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“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27

Have you ever been astounded by God? I mean, has he ever just surprised the ba-geezers out of you with something He does and knocked your socks off in awe when it happened?

It can be as personal to you as a Godwink (those moments when you realize God showed up and orchestrated something JUST for you…the person you absolutely needed to see in that moment, a song on the radio that brings you immediate peace, a glimpse of something that reminds you He is near and in control?)…

OR it can be something a bit more grand, say a Godwonder?

A miracle, even?

This summer, as I was reading through our current study (Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg), I decided to take Margaret’s challenge and pray to be reawakened to the wonders of God in my life.

It started simply enough with this five-word prayer:  “God, show me Your Glory”.

I HIGHLY recommend that prayer.  Like, highly.

Little by little, I started to hear and see things around me that I had sort of become oblivious to:  beauty in nature, “coincidences” in relationships, and miracles of all shapes and sizes in the lives of people around me.  It was a beautiful thing.  And my confidence in “Divine Expectation” began to regrow – especially for those around me.

For instance, my friend, Alicia prayed a very similar prayer before she headed out on a family summer vacation this year in Florida.  That trip remains a highlight of their year!  They experienced dolphins and manatees approaching them (in their natural environments, mind you – not contrived swim situations), and even happened upon a sandbar as the tide went out COVERED in a multitude of sand dollars – which they had only seen in souvenir shops and airport gift stores.  I was SO excited for them!

And, if I’m honest, I was also a little envious.

In mid-July, my gorgeous girl and I headed to Florida to spend a little “R&R” on the Gulf Coast with my parents.  We go once or twice a year, but this time, I felt God calling me to do something just a little different:  GO TO THE BEACH!

Beach umbrellas ellas ellas cropped.jpg(copyright Ella Connors, 2016)

I know.  It sounds weird.  We visit that area often so you’d think the beach would be a staple in our vacation “diet”.  But you see, my Ella doesn’t like the beach.  As a matter of fact, she hates it.  It scares her.  And it has scared her since she was little.  Nothing dramatic ever happened to her, she just gets a bit panicked there.  Overwhelmed.  Uncomfortable. And so, for the last 10 years of visiting Florida, we’ve avoided the beach.

But this year?  God was telling me – GO.  And so I planned my trip, with DIVINE EXPECATION of meeting Him there.  I’d go alone so Ella wouldn’t have to experience the anxiety and panic she always gets.  She could stay at home with my parents and I’d spend my day there, waiting for Him to show up and show off for me, like He had for Alicia.  I prayed for my own beach miracle:  I wanted to encounter wild dolphins.

The morning I’d set aside for my beach trip arrived and, sort of last minute, my parents somehow convinced Ella to come along and we all packed up the car and headed to Anna Maria Island.  This, I thought, was sign that God was about to unload a mighty miracle of dolphin family proportions!

We unloaded the car and set up half way between the ocean waves and a beachside restaurant where we planned to have lunch. Ella was determined not to get in the water, just collect shells with my mom.  But me?  Well, I was diving in head first to go find my dolphins.

After about an hour or so (and still no dolphins), I noticed Ella actually IN the water and reaching her hands down into the sand underneath, pulling up treasures to see, touch, and put back in.  I smiled, of course, seeing how God had made sure everything was calm enough as to not disturb my dolphin search.

ella-and-the-shella(Copyright Wendie Connors, 2016)

At lunchtime, we headed up to The Sandbar Restaurant.   After eating, Ella and my parents decided to head back down to the beach for more shell finding and splashing in the Gulf.  I stayed up in the shade to finish my drink, knowing we’d be packing up soon to head back inland for the day.

I thought about my prayer for my own beach miracle.  I had been so sure He’d meet me there. I’d expected the dolphins, and while it had been such a great  day, I have to admit that I was wondering where He was that day.

A nanosecond later, this verse bubbled right up into my brain:

“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.  I will be found by you,” says the Lord.  Jeremiah 29:13-14(a) NLT

“God”, I wondered, “I’m looking so hardWhere are you?”

I looked up and straight out into the ocean and my heart burst wide open into a million pieces.

Right there, right in front of me, was my beach miracle.

Ella was diving in and out of the waves, her eyes wide with joy and confidence.

My own personal beach miracle, my very own “dolphin” daughter splashing and laughing and unafraid and begging me with her crazy waving to come swim and dive with her in God’s beautiful ocean.

That day, I swam with my wild dolphin (or turtle, as the case may be… 😉 )!

ella-as-a-turtle-cropped(copyright Wendie Connors, 2016)

Girls, we need to learn to believe God for miracles.

In doing so, we also need to stop praying for what we think they should look like.  Our God is not limited to one kind of miracle.  We tend to sort of box Him in when it comes to divine expectation because we cannot even imagine the wonders of which He is capable.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. Isaiah 55:8 (NLT)

I don’t want to be the kind of  person who boxes Him in. I need to remember He has infinitely more than one miracle up His sleeve, more than ONE miracle with which to bless me.

Yes, sometimes He shows off with glorious ostentatiousness, like Alicia’s entire sandbar full of sand dollars! And yet other times, He quietly blows our minds by loosening anxiety’s grip on the heart of a teenage girl, and sets her free to glide and flip and dive through the water like a dolphin, reminding us that His goodness and grace in granting miracles cannot be contained.

How about you?  Would you be so bold today to pray that five-word prayer:  “God, show me Your Glory”?    He wants to amaze you, girl.  Let Him.

Here’s a link to our favorite song this week: “Anything Is Possible“, by Matthew West!   Also, if you are reading the Wonderstruck book with us, read chapters .000 and .001!  You can also complete Week One in the participant guide if you are working at Level 4!  See you back here next week as we explore the Wonder of His Presence!  So good, right?!?!

Peace, love and WONDERFULL joy!

Wendie

 

 

 

 

 

Five Things You Can Find Today for More JOY!

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“Nature is one of our greatest spiritual teachers.” Oprah Winfrey

Good lord, I LOVE Oprah. She is one wise sister friend!  And that quote right there is one of my favorites because I think she is spot on – all the lessons we need to learn about life can be found by observing the wonders and rhythms of the world around us.

We learn the character of God in these wonders, don’t we? I mean, who else but a loving and creative God could design and make such diversity, resiliency, and beauty and put it on display for all of us to experience?

NTS Week 7

From the gorgeous flowers that bloom each spring, to the powerful weather that races across oceans, we can see and learn the value of appreciating amazing moments AND riding out the storms.

From the wide range of races and languages and dialects across the globe, we can learn that the goodness of God’s love is universal.

From the resiliency of the changing seasons we can experience that, even when things look bleak, a new season of growth is around the corner.

From the gentleness and grace of a sunset, we can plug into a peace that is unlike anything else.

All of these life lessons are ours because we have a Father in Heaven who loves us so much he wanted us to be surrounded by a natural world that would remind us of His goodness and care.

Earth from Space

Take an easy hike outside this week and find things that meet the  criteria listed below!  Take pictures of them (you could even record them if you are more auditory than visual) or simply make of note of them in your notes section on your phone or journal.

  • Something beautiful. (Colorful flowers, a blazing sunrise, a hawk in flight, a moving song, etc.)
  • Something unique. (Individual shells along a beach, your child’s smile, the night sky tonight, a bird chirping, etc.)
  • Something resilient. (Ivy growing on a brick wall, a bird rebuilding a nest, WEEDS in your garden ;), cicadas humming their end-of-summer tune, etc.)
  • Something powerful. (Storm clouds, rushing water, a bonfire, thunder claps, etc.)
  • Something peaceful. (Gentle waves, wispy clouds, leaves rustling in a soft breeze, a prayer whispered in the chapel, etc.)

Thank God for all the amazing “miracles” he created for your enjoyment and for the lessons we can learn by simply taking it all in and experiencing the ebb and flow of the seasons and all the wonder they bring. Regardless of the season, let him remind you that he is always good.

If you are following along with our easy 2016 summer series, we have reached our second to last week! Can you even believe it?!  Only one more week to go!  But never fear as we are already cooking up what’s coming next!  We will announce our fall study in a few weeks.  In the meantime…

Click here for the following easy goodies:

  • Link to this week’s mantra and scripture card!
  • Link to this week’s yummy menu and recipe cards!
  • Link to purchase/find out about our July book, Giddy up, Eunice, by Sophie Hudson!
  • And click this link for another great tune this week by MercyMe, “Flawless” – one of my all-time favorites!!!

Have an easy week, sweet friends! See you next week when we wrap up the easy summer series!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

 

 

How to Stay Hydrated, Spiritually Speaking!

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Have you ever been dehydrated? Not necessarily the feeling like “I’m a wee bit thirsty”.  I’m talking about the kind of physical dehydration that causes symptoms like fatigue, irritability, headaches, and confusion.

Most of us can treat that kind of dehydration ourselves with water, electrolyte drinks, and rest – making sure we replenish and rebalance the fluids in our body so that we aren’t losing more than we take in. Once we are able to do that, our symptoms disappear and we feel re-energized and able to get back to the business of our lives.

Lemon Slices in Water

But what happens when we find ourselves spiritually dehydrated? Like when we feel irritated by the needs of others when, normally, we wouldn’t have batted an eye when asked for help.  Or when the everyday tasks we usually handle with ease become just a list of headache-inducing duties that cause us to feel resentment and discontent.  Or when we lack the motivation to even lift open the cover of our Bible or devotional to drink in what God has waiting to pour into us.

Been there? Me too.  How do we satisfy that thirst?

We go to meet Jesus.

NTW Week 3

The secret is to treat our dry spirits the same way we treat our parched bodies. We stop expending energy and find a place to rest.  We fill up on what we need to repair and regroup.  And in order to try to prevent it from happening more often, we learn from our experience.  We remind ourselves the importance of noticing the signs of dehydration and treating our bodies when we spy the very first symptom.

Better yet, we act preventatively to keep ourselves in a state of satiation – we fill up continuously with just the right amount so the symptoms that accompany a deficit stay at bay.

single heart on beach

We soak ourselves in the beauty and wisdom of scripture. We open the Bible and read over our favorite verses and let them speak to our spirits.  We spend time at God’s feet meditating on those written words and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal their healing power over us.  We ask Jesus to meet us where we are and we accept his invitation to give us time to rest in Him.  We resolve to keep watch over our “spiritual dehydration symptoms” and ask the Holy Spirit to prompt us to action when we are tempted to ignore them, forgetting where that leads us.

Take inventory of your spiritual hydration level this week. Feeling a little “dry”?  Carve out time to meet Jesus at the Well and at the Table.  Bring your cup, sweet friends, and get ready for a long, cool drink of delicious Life.

He’ll be waiting for you there, I promise!

Following along with easy 2016?  If so, here’s what you can do to stay hydrated this week (click the easy 2016 link to print up anything listed below):

  • If you are reading Simply Tuesday along with us, try and finish it up this week! We’ll be headed onto Giddy Up, Eunice in July!
  • Get out and display Week 3’s Note to Self! Remind yourself to stay hydrated!  😉
  • Looking for an easy dinner option?  This tomato tart is simply delish!!!!  Click the link above and scroll down to Week 3’s menu card and recipe!
  • Get your mindset right with our ALL TIME FAVE song by Rend Collective, “My Lighthouse” !

Have a great and easy week! See you back here next Monday for a few thoughts on THOUGHTS!  😉

 

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

She did what she could (and it was enough)

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Do you ever wonder if doing your best is doing enough?  Do you struggle with the feeling that your actions are big enough to count? Sometimes I do, too.

Here’s the truth, though.  Our purpose matters.  Regardless of what they look like on the outside, our actions have big significance.

Remember the story in the gospels of Mary of Bethany  anointing Jesus with an expensive bottle of nard?   We read about it a couple weeks ago – right before Easter. (You can click here to read it!)

I’ve read that story a gazillion times and heard it even more, AND taught it with a variety of lessons in mind. But one thing I never considered before was that line, right there:

She did what she could when she could—she pre-anointed my body for burial. And you can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she just did is going to be talked about admiringly.  Matthew 14:8-9, MSG

Matt 14

(Photo and beautiful artwork cred:  Tammy Mill 2016)

In other words, “Leave her alone. She did what she could in this moment out of love and compassion.  And it’s a big enough deal to me that I’ll make sure she’s remembered because of it.”

I get choked up because I think Jesus is speaking to each of us through this passage. He chose a girl, an ordinary sister friend, just like you and me, to be remembered throughout eternity because she did the one thing she could do in the moment.

She took what she already had on hand (scholars are quick to point this out because the cost of that nard would’ve been equal to about a year’s wages for the average MAN in those days and there was no way she had that money) and offered it to Jesus as a willing gift of devotion to the man she knew to be her savior, OUR savior.

Mary of Bethany did what she could.  She gave from the treasure trove of gifts she had been given.  She acted with what she had.  She acted where she was.  She acted when she felt moved to do so.  She acted without being asked or invited.

Think about that.

She wasn’t asked to do it.  I mean, strictly speaking, Jesus never said, “Hey Mare!  Can you do something really cool and over the top for me right now?  You know, something I can hold up as an example for my followers for years to come?”  Nothing like that is recorded as happening.

Mary felt the call of the Holy Spirit, the need to do something only she could do, out of her love of someone, in this case Jesus, and so she did.

Today I want to challenge each of us to tune our ear to that still small voice that must have called to Mary that day. The one that says, “You know, I think you could be of some help here.  You can do something that may sound or feel a little weird at first, but could really be important.”

Like, when someone keeps popping into your head that you get the feeling could use your time or a phone call today. Or when you sense someone needs a meal or just a big, fat Portillo’s chocolate cake dropped off on her porch.  Or when your wallet has the rare time of being a little heavier than normal and the food pantry flyer just ended up in your mailbox.  Or when you child says to you, “can you just sit on the edge of my bed for just a little longer?”  Or even just the hungry look of your coworker who forgot their lunch compels you to share the last few bites of your favorite sandwich.

Little things matter.  Little things have lasting consequences.  Little things become big things and become the miracles that change lives.

Miracles. They start with an offering.

So, whatever “it” is today, do it. Whatever “it” is tomorrow, then do it, too.

Inspire Week 10

Whatever it is, it is your purpose. Big or small.  Visible to many or only to one.  It doesn’t matter who knows, who sees, or who cares.  What does matter is that you do what you can, when and where you can do it, with what you have been given.  Just like Mary.    You give what you have as an offering and let God do the rest.  Because even if no one else notices, even if no one else seems to care?  Yeah.  Well GOD cares.

As we’ve learned together this session, we have ample opportunity to strengthen our purpose muscle. Through worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and yes – even evangelizing. Our gifts and talents can weave and soak right through even the most difficult of places because we CAN do all things through Christ who strengthen us.  Thank you for walking it out with us this season.  Our ministry team and I continue to keep you in our prayers as we break for summer.

AND SPEAKING OF SUMMER…!  Get excited because we have another super fun, super laid back summer series in store for you!  Stayed tune because all will be revealed in a few weeks!  😉  In the meantime, here’s little sneaky peek into our logo:

easy strawberry logo 1it all wide open for you RIGHT here on Thursday, May 19th!  😉  Stay tuned, sister friends!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

 

 

Why I’m Not Ashamed of Being an Evangelist

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“Evangelism”, “evangelist”, and “evangelizing” are words that can get a bum rap, can’t they? I mean, on one hand, evangelism can come off fake and hypocritical.  Yet on the other, it IS the “great commission” we are all lovingly called to as Christians.   But it can seem so daunting, right?

One of the greatest things Rick Warren tells us in the closing chapters of The Purpose Driven Life is that evangelism simply means sharing your own love of Jesus with other people.  Now THAT I can do!  How about you?

Not sure yet?  Check this out:

Have you read the book in the Bible called Nehemiah? It’s an Old Testament book that chronicles the life of the prophet Nehemiah.  Now, there’s a lot of history and background about this guy that is pretty interesting, but the gist of this story is this:

After the exiles returned to Jerusalem, the main temple was rebuilt. But the wall around Jerusalem wasn’t.  This was a pretty big deal because it was in a state of total disrepair, and left the city open to attack and pillage (isn’t that a wackily fun word to say?!).  You see, the state of a city’s wall represented power, protection, and beauty.  To have the wall rebuilt would be a huge help in protecting the temple and ensure the continuity of worship there.

Now,  Nehemiah was not a resident of Jerusalem, although his father and his father’s family were. Nehemiah himself was actually a high servant of a king who ruled over the Persian Empire.  He was living in another town called  Susa at the time (about 445 BC).  A friend from Jerusalem came to visit and told him about the disarray and this really weighed heavily on Nehemiah.

He asked the King for sort of a “sabbatical” to go take care of things because he felt God placed a vision and call on his heart to go and organize the people of the city to rebuild it. The King granted him time away and told him that if he felt it was from God, he definitely should go.

Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and began to inspire and encourage the residents (each according to their abilities, station in life, and talents) to rebuild the wall together.  And low and behold, a mere 52 days later, the entire wall was expertly rebuilt.  There was opposition, of course, but the wall WAS rebuilt in an unprecedentedly short amount of time – one that shook their enemies to the core because they realized the only way it could’ve been done was by the help of God and everyone doing their part.

My favorite part of the story has to do with the priests who were working on the wall. Nehemiah instructed them to start by repairing the section right in front of where they lived.

Above the Horse Gate, the priests repaired the wall. Each one repaired the section immediately across from his own house. Nehemiah 3:28, NLT

No worrying about the enormity of repairing the entire city wall. No worrying about how big this job was going to get or how long it would take.  Just “think about what’s right in front of you.  And when you finish, help your neighbor.  Do what you can.  Today.  And then tomorrow? Well, do what you can tomorrow.”

Ephesians from Tammy

(Photo and artwork:  courtesy Tammy Miller, 2016!)

I want you to try something. Image you are sitting at a round table with 8 or 10 other people.  Now envision everyone standing up and making a circle around your table.  (I love this image because we can see each other’s faces and it reminds us of being able to stand shoulder to shoulder in support.)

Now imagine everyone turning and facing OUTWARD. At this point, you see only what’s in front of you, and maybe just a smidgen of what your neighbor sees.  THIS was Nehemiah’s goal:  to get people to focus on what was right in front of them and to then get to work on that.

That’s a pretty brilliant idea, if you ask me.  Because, this way, the task at hand doesn’t seem daunting; instead it seems doable.. And in the doing, we each strengthen the Kingdom.

Do what you’ve been called to do, authentically, right-smack-dab wherever you are. That authentically piece is important.  Your “story” is vital to you reaching others.

Inspire Week 9

Be the one who builds the connection to the heart of another.  Bring Jesus to someone else and bring someone else to Jesus.  For me, THAT’S evangelism.  Not reciting some fancy, pre-planned speech or inviting everyone you meet to go to church with you on Sunday (not that those are bad things… 😉 ). Evangelism is simply lovingly extending yourself in your own “front yard” (and even beyond!) as an outward sign of Christ’s love for people everywhere. Can you do that?  I bet you can!

Are you following along with our on purpose series?  Would it surprise you to know we only have ONE week left?!?  It’s true!  So here’s what you need to do this week to FINISH STRONG (you’ve come this far, keep it up!):

  1. Read Days 36-42 in The Purpose Driven Life
  2. Complete Week 9 in the Inspiration/Scripture Booklet
  3. Watch this video of EVERYONE’S favorite song from this session, “Breathe” by Johnny Diaz!

Check back next week as we wrap up this series!  It’s been a honor and pleasure to walk it with you!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

 

You is kind; you is smart; You IS Important! ;)

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Psalm 116 tammy

Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Psalm 116:2, NLT

Did you ever read the book, The Help? Maybe you even saw the movie?  Even if you didn’t, you might be familiar with the following lines:

you is kind

I just love those lines. That towel hangs in my bathroom as a daily reminder of Truth.  If I get quiet enough, I can imagine God whispering those very words to me; and then adding, “You is loved.”

That’s the thing isn’t it – that “getting quiet enough” bit. This world we live in is a pretty noisy place.  We all need what Oprah calls a “morning oasis”, even if it’s at night!  A time when we can quite literally step away from noise and chatter of life to honestly get centered, talk to God, and let Him get a word in edgewise.  A time when we make the choice to chase away the mental lists that clutter our mind and hit the reset button on the remote that controls them.  A time when we can just be in His presence and soak it in, little by little, like the slow trickle of a hose placed on a newly planted tree, so that when we get up, we no longer dying of thirst in our spirits.

tangle for peace

In our study book for this session, A Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren tells us that if isn’t important when it happens, where it happens, or what it looks like; the important piece is that it just happen.   For our souls to be saturated with Truth, we need to cooperate with God in the filling! My challenge to you this week is to find 20 minutes or so each day to get quiet enough to experience God.  Let Him remind you why you’re here; love on your tired heart; reassurance your anxious mind; heal your rattled body.  Whatever it is you need, He already knows and is waiting for you to sit a spell with Him over it.

Don’t know how to get started? Here are a few of my favorite (paraphrased) suggestions:

  1. Shauna Neiquist: Mediate on one world or one image that reminds you of God. Maybe it’s a heart, the word “love”, or something in nature. (Meditation isn’t simply the emptying of the mind, remember. It’s also the filling of it with Truth. If you know how to worry, you know how to meditate! 😉 )
  2. Oprah Winfrey: Talk a walk outside and focus on your breath. Let God bring images to mind. Nature is one of our greatest spiritual teachers.
  3. Anne Graham Lotz: Read scripture. Respond to God with your own paraphrased version back. He loves to hear you speak His word!

Create your own version of a “morning oasis” or even a bunch of different ones and share them with us here!

If you are following along with us in our on purpose series, make sure you’re up to date from last week’s assigned homework!  Catch up through Week 8 in your inspiration/scripture booklet.  AND enjoy an awesome song by Jordan Felize about filling up on God!  Click here for “Satisfied”!

See you back here next week as we begin to wrap up our Winter/Spring 2016 series!!!

 

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week: Get Your House in Order