Category Archives: Faith

Cul.Ti.Vate! Our Summer 2018 Series!!!

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Cul-ti-vate: (verb)

To foster the growth of something through nurturing and encouragement.

This last week in Chicago has been like a real-time viewing of  time-lapse video of spring.  Each day, it was like you could see the greenery and flowers growing right before your very eyes! Pure magic!  And a sure sign that, regardless of how long winter hung around this year, seasons really do come and go.

If you have ever lived in this area of the Midwest, you know that spring is short lived.  It lasts about a two or three weeks and is nestled in between snow and frigid temps and the heat and humidity of Chicago summers!  So, these few weeks are when we all bust out to Home Depot and get busy planting fledgling flowers and gardens, tidying lawns, and pulling out the patio furniture.  It’s all about hope for what is yet to BLOOM!

Spring brings with her so much hope for all measure of possibilities!  And along with the sunny days and warmer temperatures, we also experience rain and storms which are necessary in cultivating the growth that will surely be a result of our hard work in and on the ground.  

Ground level.  That’s were our efforts need to be focused to get the growth growing, girls.  You plant something too far down, it never gets the chance to sprout up into the light.  You plant it with roots exposed  instead of right a ground level, it withers from the lack of being nurtured by the soil.

Growth requires ground level cultivation.

We can all use a little cultivation these days, right? And, really, is there a better time to renew and grow than summer?!

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This summer, I hope you’ll join us as we take the time to slow things down just a bit and focus on what matters, and take time to cultivate people, experiences, and moments for ourselves and for those we love!

We’ve got great blog posts, fun resources, and a fabulous summer …breathe box…(TM) to get us digging into what God has planted in our hearts.

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“Do not despise small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin!”

Zechariah 4:10, NLT

If it matters to you, CULTIVATE it!  Because all good thing start small!  You guys, good things all begin at GROUND level. 

Our Cultivate summer series starts right here on the blog on MONDAY, MAY 28th!  We have lots of great things in store for you  so mark your calendars,  and get ready to grow with us this summer!

 

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

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Anxiety. We can either pray, or we become prey.

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You guys,  the struggle is real.  The anxiety struggle, I mean.  And as we learned last week, it can come from just about anywhere, anytime.

For instance, several years ago (okay, it was 20 years ago…) I was on an airplane.  It was one of those tiny little puddle jumper things with propellers that was supposed to fly me from Chicago to Indianapolis.  Just looking at the thing made me jumpy!

And here’s the thing.  I was a nervous passenger to begin with; I always had been.  But sitting on the runway at O’Hare, looking up at the dark and stormy sky wondering how this tiny little plane was going to fly through it, my anxiety ramped up to all kinds of crazy.

We took off and about 10 minutes into the 45 minute flight, the plane got caught in the thunderstorm storm.  It was struck by lightening (apparently, this isn’t a big deal to airplanes, but I assure you it INDEED was a BIG FAT DEAL to me), the plane dropped about 1000 feet,  and the oxygen masks dropped down.  Yes.  THOSE masks.  The ones you are instructed to put on YOURS  first before helping others.  The only problem was, I couldn’t move because my body was frozen in fear.  And I wasn’t traveling with anyone.  And the flight attendants were busy in the chaos. So…no mask for Wendie.  Luckily, it was some sort of electrical malfunction from getting electrocuted in a tin canister in the sky (!) and we actually didn’t need them.

Anxiety, anyone?

Obviously, since I’m sitting here writing, all turned out well. We turned around mid-flight and landed safely back at O’Hare.  But, OH.  I was SHOOK, sisters.  SHOOK.    I was convinced, actually, that I’d never board another flight in my whole-living-life.  This was going to be problematic, though, because I lived in England at the time and traveled often for my job.  Um, red flag alert.

(I think now is a good time to tell you that I eventually got back on a plane and sort of overcame this weird fear of flying.    How was all this possible, you ask?  Well…I sought hypnosis treatment from a certified hypnotherapist in England who also happened to be a dentist  – I’m totally NOT kidding you so you can now begin to wonder about my healthcare choices.  But that’s SUCH a long story.  Saving that beauty for another day… 😉 I love cliffhangers.)

(Oooooh.  And speaking of in-flight anxiety stories, the next time we’re together, be sure to ask me about flying with a guy whom I affectionately call “Double-Double Mark-Mark” because he needed a double-double adult beverage to make it through a flight from Chicago to Sarasota.  We ended up sharing our iPad with him so he could watch “Gnomeo and Juliet” to calm his nerves.  It was all good until he offered the remainder of his adult beverage to my daughter – who was 11 at the time.  Um, no thank you, kind sir; perhaps it’s time for you to close your eyes for a bit.)

I SWEAR, you guys, I do not make these things up.

But here’s my main point:  my anxiety in those airplane moments was totally rooted in my need to CONTROL things.  Problem is, I’m not a pilot.  Not even close.

That’s the thing, really.  Control.  Well, it’s our need to have control. Which is just a dressed up word we use when we decide we need to manipulate our circumstances instead of letting God take His rightful place at the helm.  Girls, when we grab control, we are essentially saying we don’t trust Him.  And if we don’t trust Him, we are playing right into the hands of our enemy.  (See this post regarding our enemy and his manipulative ways for more info…)

Pray or Become Prey

I love this quote from Beth Moore: “When it comes to anxiety, we can cast it and pray, or we can keep it and become prey. We’re not convinced God is listening.  If we really believed He – the creator of the Universe  who has all things at His fingertips – if we really thought He was there, we would pray.”

So what’s a good Bible study girl to do in the face of such anxious times and circumstances?  Ladies, we need a plan.

Our plan is 100% scripture-based (and therefore TRUTH-based) .  It starts with knowing what anxiety is and how to call it out, and finishes STRONG with declaring Truth over ourselves, our circumstances, and even over others.

If you are interested in attacking anxiety instead of letting it attack you, click here for our girlfriend’s guide to kicking it out of our lives.  Remember from last week, it may not change your circumstance or situation, but it sure can bring you freedom from the freak-out surrounding it.  And that freedom allows us to step out in faith and take action when and where it’s needed.

God is good all the time, sisters.

isaiah 41 10 scripture card

Following our She PERSISTED study?  You can click here for our homework for week six!  Can you even believe we are HALF WAY THROUGH this awesome study?!  And for those of you who like all the extras, click here for some great online resources supporting our topics this week!

Smooches and prayers for FEAR-FREE moments this week!

Peace, love, and SO MUCH JOY!

Wendie  xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Note:  I take anxiety, on the clinical level, with extreme seriousness.  Prayer and a relationship with God have been incredible tools in my own toolbox for dealing with it, personally.  Having said that, if anxiety is affecting you in ways that disrupt your sleep, your daily life, your ability to take basic care of yourself, and/or your ability to relate to others, PLEASE reach out to a professional (doctor, therapist, pastor, counselor).  Help from every level is so important in conquering it.  If your anxiety or depression makes you feel like you want to harm yourself or someone else, PLEASE tell someone immediately and call 911.  I’m praying for you.  Relief IS possible, sweet friend.

 

 

 

Dear Anxiety, You’re Not Welcome Here

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Anxiety is hard wired into our brains and our physical body chemistry – think “flight or fight”.  Plainly put, when doled out properly, anxiety keeps us alive.

But somewhere along the line, for many, many, many of us, this security system of ours has become like a panic button that goes off all too often at a very high “volume”.

Here are two definitions of anxiety from Merriam Webster:

(1) : apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill : a state of being anxious

(2) medical : an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it

According to Max Lucado (from his book, Anxious for Nothing), the United States is the most chronically anxious nation in the world.  Fifty percent of adults over the age of 25 report seeing a doctor at least once in the past year for an anxiety related symptom. And (this one just about breaks my heart-open into a gazillion pieces):  seventy-five percent of school aged kids report experiencing anxiety on a regular basis.

Why?  Well, Lucado theorizes it all has to do with rapid changes.  We have experienced more change in this generation than any generation in the last 300 years.  Everything from technology, to travel, to instant access to anything and just about everything in between.  All good things, intentionally speaking, of course.  But they’ve come alongside our regular anxieties of daily living to sort of wallop us with daily exposure to fear.

Anxiety causes a HOST of physical problems. It can be as benign as a stress headache or queasy stomach or as quality of life altering like high blood pressure, ulcers, immune and autoimmune issues.

The effects on the mind can be equally as debilitating from panic and phobias, to depression, addictions, etc.

But how does anxiety mess or harm with us spiritually? It causes us doubt the sovereignty of God and turns us inward to rely on our own devices, attempting to take back control of things that were never meant to be our responsibility.

Lysa Terkeurst, in Unglued says this, however: “Feelings are indicators, not dictators.”  And what she means by that is that our emotions and the feelings that come from them are like  flags being waved that say, “Hey you!  Something is going on that needs attention.”  Emotions come from a gut feeling. Nine times out of ten, we do not need to spontaneously react from the gut feeling.  Instead,  we need to create a plan of action that should come from the mind, after some prayer and listening to God.

This is possible, girls! Listen to our Power Pack Scripture this week:

2 tim 1 7 card

I particularly LOVE the New King James Version on this one because it’s the perfect counter to the lie of anxiety. It gives us the confidence to look anxiety in the face and say, “God didn’t put you here so get the heck out.”

Then, we start arming ourselves with other power-packed TRUTH to help us in the battle.

You know how much I love Bible trivia, so here are a couple fun facts for you:

  • Directives regarding fear show up a whopping 366 times in the NIV; second only to LOVE (551), and just above gratitude/thanksgiving (340).
  • Philippians 4:4-8 is the most read passage in the Bible on a Kindle
  • Philippians 4:6 is the most underlined sentence on kindle

Now, I’m not so naïve to think it takes one prayer, one moment of clarity with God about it, and your circumstance changes and you never have anxiety again. If you look at the most anxious and emotionally charged story about Jesus in the Bible, it’s when He is praying in the Gethsemane.  Scripture tells us he didn’t just pray once about what was going to happen, you guys.  He went to His knees about it three times.  This thing we have with anxiety, sister, it’s an ongoing battle.

I whole heartedly agree with Beth Moore when she says that we have no bigger battle in our life-long, day-to-day living than our battle with anxiety.

But the first thing I want us to remember as we start digging deep into this topic is that we can rest in the truth of 2 Timothy 1:7 and Philippians 4:4-8. God has given us a freedom plan from freaking out.

In these next couple weeks, there is another sweet piece of scripture you’re going to want to lean in on:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  I Peter 5:7, NIV

Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7, NKJV

I wanted you to hear it in two versions. The NIV calls it out for what it is, right?  ANXIETY.  But the cool revelation about it comes  from digging down into the Greek lexicon from the NKJV.

Twice in that verse the word “cares” is used. The second use of it comes from a word that means tender loving-kindness and care, as in the type one receives from a parent.

The first “care” is translated from the Greek word, merimna, which means “anything that brings disruption and destruction to the personality and the mind.” That’s the level of anxiety He is asking us to cast upon Him. ANYTHING.  ALL THINGS.  Big, small, and everything.  Cast it ALL upon Him.

Next week, we’re diving into HOW that all looks, practically, in our daily lives.  It IS possible, sweet friends, to kick our Worry Bully to the curb and live with peace in our hearts!

Pope Francis Quote

May God bless you and remind you that your  are POWERFUL, FULL OF LOVE, and have a SOUND MIND!  For this week’s homework, click here.  For this week’s awesome extras, click here!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

PS – If anxiety is affecting your daily life in negative ways, I encourage you to reach out to a professional to help you navigate effective and positive ways of dealing with it.  This could include a doctor, a therapist, a counselor, a pastor, etc.  If your anxiety or ANYTHING else ever brings you to a place where you are considering harming yourself or someone else, PLEASE TELL SOMEONE IMMEDIATELY and seek emergency assistance.  I’m praying for you.

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

 

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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