Category Archives: Struggles

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

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Stop Acting Like Such a Martyr (and actually BE one)

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This one. This final beatitude.  This one sort of feels like the biggest oxymoron of all – and on the surface, it’s not a comfortable one to consider.

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,  for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.  Matthew 5:10, NLT

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Um, I’m no martyr. I think I’ll take a pass on this one, but thanks anyway, Lord!”

Not so fast, sweet Beatituder! By now, you should be well aware that nothing in these eight amazing verses is really as it seems!  Nine weeks ago, did you think you’d be praying to be humbled, aching to be hungry, pleading to be meek?  Did you understand how much you’d want the strength to withstand the grief necessary to be merciful?  Did you anticipate longing for the depth of what it means to have a heart filled with Godly integrity or feeling comforted by the struggles you might face as a person who strives makes peace?

And did you ever imagine being honestly happy to say – “I am thrilled to be persecuted for my belief in Jesus?” Get ready to utter those words.

This last beatitude sums up the journey we’ve been on, sitting at the feet of Rabbi Jesus on a dusty hillside on the outskirts of Capernum. We began listening to Him as He outlined the things that were most important to Him from a heart perspective.  We started in a posture of submission, face down before Him admitting our need for Him.  Each week, we raised our heads just a little higher, listening more intently, watching and learning from His example how to change our hearts to a place where they mirror his.  And we are ending here, still on our knees, but with our heads up, with the hands of God himself cupping our faces saying “Well done! I’ve got you now.  No one can hurt you anymore. No matter how hard they try.  You are home.”

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For most of us living in the Western World, and with the freedoms that accompany it, will not have to experience the physical persecution of Christian martyrdom.  We should never make light of their sacrifice and circumstances, and they are to be praised and honored for their willingness to endure whatever physical persecution comes their way for their Christian beliefs.

But remember that the beatitudes aren’t usually about physical states of being; they refer to our spiritual state. So we’d be wise to consider what spiritual persecution looks like and why experiencing it ushers us straight into God’s waiting arms.

There is no coincidence that this beatitude follows the one about being peacemakers. The opposite of peace maker is peace stealer or peace thief.  The one who wears that title is also named Satan.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.           John 10:10, NLT

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9, NIV

We have an enemy. He wouldn’t even bother toying with us if we weren’t a threat. And taking this walk through the beatitudes makes us a threat because anything we do that makes us become more Christ-like causes Satan angst!

That’s why Jesus ends His beatitudes here, with an assurance of protection forever, given to those who take this journey with Him.

Jesus is your flack jacket. All the darts, bullets, and flaming arrows aimed directly at your heart because you are His are absorbed by Him.  His arsenal of protective gear is endless.  Whatever evil tries to weave into your world, God Himself will simply reweave for His good.

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Our first and our last beatitude act as book ends and the blessing for both is: “…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.  Heaven is our ultimate destination; the place of healing, rest, peace, and love.

No matter how many times your heart and soul are pierced and rubbed raw (aka persecuted) by tragedy, illness, disappointment, grief, betrayal, or sin, as long as you are His, you will healed.  How can you be sure?  Here are three beautiful snippets of Truth for you – one from the Old Testament and two from the New:

“Joseph replied… ‘Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now…’” Genesis 50:20, NLT

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:38, NLT

“God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”  Revelation 21:3-4, NLT

Spiritual persecution is real and is an unfortunate reality of living in this world. But Jesus, in his closing beatitude, gives us the ultimate assurance His mighty protection when we are hit by it – His home.

How do we rewrite this beauty of a beatitude? How about this:

Blessed are those who are a target of evil because they love Jesus, because they will find themselves woven snuggly into God’s protective arms.

Can you believe we’ve completed all eight beatitudes?! It’s true!  Next week we wrap it all up, and start to look forward to the holiday season!

Are you following along with us online? Click here for your final week of homework!  And if you’ve been digging our music choices, click here for our most FUN song of the series: “Ain’t Nobody by The Sidewalk Prophets.  I totally TRIPLE DOG DARE you not to tap your toes along with this one!  😉

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week: Walk the Talk

 

Begging for Mercy (even if you don’t think you need it)

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Mercy.

Such a short word for something so incredibly huge.

It’s grace wrapped up in unconditional love.  It’s offering love, forgiveness, and grace when human nature would say what the recipient truly deserves is the exact opposite.

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Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.  Matthew 5:7

Let’s dissect this definition of mercy a little more:

Grace: a noun that refers to offering/granting a desired action/item/sentiment that the recipient did not earn.  It doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve it, it simply means there is no reciprocation for the gift, nor has the recipient done anything, or done any work, or contributed in any way to the giver that may have made the giver feel obligated or inclined to give the “gift”.  It is a a gift, in-kind, with no strings attached.

Examples: Bringing a meal to your friend and her family when she is going through chemo.   Offering rides to neighborhood kids – just because!  A foot rub for your spouse at the end of the day.  A bouquet of flowers for your daughter’s room to brighten it up.  A conversation over a cup of tea with an old friend even though your schedule is jammed.  Many times, we are also graced in return for these efforts.  But we don’t do it for repayment or anything like that.

Grace is something we do well, at least for the most part. Grace is the “good girl’s” middle name, isn’t it?! 😉

BUT…

Mercy: a noun that refers to offering/granting something the recipient did not earn…AND ACTUALLY DESERVES THE OPPOSITE.

Examples: Offering rides to the neighborhood kids – right after they egged your house.  A foot rub for your spouse after he criticizes the messiness of the house and the subpar dinner he believes you just served.  A bouquet of flowers for your daughter’s room even when she screamed “I HATE YOU” at the top of her lungs as she left for school this morning.  It’s forgiving a devastating betrayal – as in really forgiving it…and forgetting it, too.

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Now, when things are going well for us, it is possible to dispense a little mercy on others, isn’t it (especially if we love them)?  We take our little mercy-filled eye dropper and start doling it out – sometimes just a drop, but other times (if we are in a really good place…!) we can send it out in a nice, steady stream until the dropper has emptied.

But what about when the mercy we need to offer comes with the price tag of forgiveness? When someone has done you such a wrong that instead of love and mercy, you feel resentment?  Instead of drippy tears of sweet mercy falling from your dropper, it’s suddenly filled with thoughts of revenge, anger, and incredulous indignation at the thought of granting grace, let alone mercy?  Can you EVEN imagine?!

Not so easy, is it.

I read something interesting recently by Brene Brown, author of Rising Strong. She says, “In order for forgiveness to really happen, something else has to die.”

In other words, deeply embedded into the concept of mercy is grief. In order to be merciful, you will need to let go – or grieve – your own ideas, expectations, thoughts, JUDGEMENT, etc. on how things should be.  You have to say goodbye to your will and once again return to a posture and attitude of meekness (remember, that means eyes on God – focusing on His will – see Matthew 5:5 lesson).

The ultimate act of mercy was God offering His only son as the means by which we are saved.  Can you even imagine the grief of that sacrifice?

It won’t be easy on this side of heaven to accomplish it. But at least with this Beatitude, we are reminded to try.  We’re becoming more and more like Christ with each attempt at mercy.

Jesus demonstrated pure mercy throughout His ministry and continues to dole it out like a fire hydrant that has been unplugged, spraying the water out in seemingly never-ending streams.

So how can we rewrite Matthew 5:7?  How about like this:

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Blessed are those who let loose the hydrant valves of mercy and douse ALL who need it, for they will be soaked through by it as well.

According to the Vatican’s website, the jubilee year (beginning on December 8th – the Year of Mercy) has its roots in the Monastic law when every fiftieth year was made holy for the Jewish people. Debts were canceled, slaves were freed, and lands were restored to their “original owners.”

Pope Frances cites the scriptural focus for the jubilee year will be Christ’s command from Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Which, if you’re keeping notes here, is tucked inside Luke’s version of Matthew 5 – only he calls it the Sermon on the Plain!)

When Pope Francis was interviewed on his reasons and thoughts in calling for this to be The Year of Mercy, beginning in December, he said this: Mercy is not “a prize for the perfect but powerful medicine and nourishment for everyone…”  Ooooh, that’s good.

Everyone gets mercy from Jesus. No one gets carded at the door.  No one.

Can I get an AMEN?!

Following along with us online?  Click here for this week’s homework! Need some tunes to keep you busy while you work?!  Click here for this week’s song, Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle.

Enjoy your week, sweet friends.

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  Are you pure (in heart)?

Hungry for More

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“It was missing a piece. And it was not happy. So it set off in search of its missing piece.” The Missing Piece, Shel Silverstein

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(image copyright, Shel Silverstein)

Many people live with a hunger and thirst in their spirit for something they don’t know how to quench, or even what it is. They try filling that hunger with things that don’t quite fit and, often, it leaves them even more ravenous for the soul-level answer to the emptiness inside them.

The delicious news is that the road to fulfilment can be found and it isn’t hard to digest!

The fourth beatitude is the appetizer on the quest for that missing piece!

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.  Matthew 5:6

I love that Jesus uses the metaphor of food and drink here to symbolize our desire for spiritual fulfilment! After all, we experience these physical sensations as soon as our bodies are in need of sustenance and refueling; it only makes sense that our spirits need refilling regularly as well.

The Greek word translated here as “hunger and thirst” means to “heartily desire something as a vital necessity to life itself”.   In other words, our bodies crave something major in order to sustain life. (Rumor has it there are people on this earth without an appetite and need to be reminded to eat. I hate them already. Just kidding, kind of… 😉 But for the majority of us, our natural instinct for food and drink kicks in as physical hunger and thirst so that we can continue to live!) Same thing happens spiritually.

And what Jesus wants us to hunger and thirst for is righteousness. Please don’t get tripped up with that word!  It’s not legalistic or meant to make you feel inferior!  That word is translated from a word that simply means “to be alright, and have everything functioning well within the will of God”.

“‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Matthew 4:4, NLT

So, if you follow me and  if we make that connection spiritual, Jesus is telling us that if we do not continually feast on His word, we will waste away spiritually.  That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun…

Activity arouses our hunger, doesn’t it? This past weekend, the Chicago Marathon was held. A friend of mine who ran in it said he was so hungry after, he ate a small pizza, a milkshake, three bananas, a chopped salad, and drank about a million glasses of water! And this was all before cheeseburgers and fries for dinner!

That made me think about this week’s lesson and how we get so hungry spiritually. The more we are tested and tried spiritually and wrestle through it, the hungrier will we be. Ring the dinner bell, people!  It’s time to load up on the Word!

Here’s a great quote from Jennifer Dean Kennedy:

“Scripture is God’s word. Jesus is the Living Word, the Word embodied, and He lives in me. I think about it like this: Jesus, present in me and in me eternally, breaks the bread of the Word and feeds it to me, bite by bite. Like food in my body, it is digested and made available to my spirit, to my mind, to my emotions. I absorb it into my soul’s cells where it releases power and cleansing and nourishment and growth….It transforms. It renews the mind. It restores the soul. It energizes and corrects.”

Here’s the cool thing about filling up on Christ:  Jesus taught his disciples for three years. He handpicked them, lived and traveled in close proximity with them, share with them everything he possibly could: meals, miracles, healings, lessons, visions, and prophecies.

So, as we move through these powerful lessons on becoming more like Jesus, do you see a pattern developing?   He begins his lessons with the disciples getting their hearts ready, then he shifts a bit and says, “Now, here are the things I want you to focus on”, and then spend the next three years demonstrating to them how to do it.

Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Matthew 11:29, MSG

Spiritually filling up is a daily process that need repeating, just like getting our daily intake of food and drink! Luckily, in Jesus, we can continually go to the source, fueling up for what’s ahead.

God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. Romans 8:28-29, MSG

In Shel Silverstein’s follow-up book to The Missing Piece, he paints a beautiful word picture of what it’s like to watch the “One” who is full in action, listen to “His” advice, and then to mimic “His” movements:

“Then, slowly…it lifted itself up on one end…it began to move forward. And soon its edges began to wear off…and its shape began to change…and then it was off and rolling…” The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, Shel Silverstein

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(image copyright, Shel Silverstein)

Is that beautifully cool, or what?!

So how do we re-write this one, beatitudinally?!  Like this, sweet friends:

Blessed are those who fill up on the good stuff from God whenever they feel “hungry”, for they will be rightfully satisfied and refueled.

Following along with us via the blog? Click here for this week’s homework!  Want to hear what we’re listening to this week?  Click here for the yummiest song of our entire session “Be Held”, by Casting Crowns.  It’s HONESTLY almost everyone’s favorite on the CD!!!  😉

Much love and gratitude to each and every single one of you!

Wendie

PS:  The two Shel Silverstein books mentioned here are NOT to be taken as direct metaphors or allegories regarding this week’s lesson.  Simply take them at face value for the word pictures used in this post!  Thanks!  🙂

Up Next Week:  Beggin’ for Mercy…

I’m So Sorry

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“The Church is where Jesus heals, not where He measures sin.” Pope Francis.

In studying the first Beatitude from Matthew 5:3 last week, we learned to empty ourselves of ourselves and take a posture of total reliance on Jesus as our savior. This week, we build on that premise and learn that coming to Him with a repentant heart makes all the difference in the world in our healing.

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Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Matthew 5:4

Jesus himself does not specify or indicate precisely what kind of mourning He was referring to here. BUT, as we are beginning to understand, the Beatitudes are not necessarily speaking about emotional states of mind or physical states of being. Instead, they refer to our spiritual state.

We live in a fallen world; one in which sin has made a home. Foundationally, sin is the root of things that cause us all kinds of pain.  Simply stated, sin is something bad that separates us from something good.

The kind of spiritual mourning Jesus is most likely referring to in Matthew 5:4 is not from the loss of a person, possession, personal power, or even a position in life.  It’s about mourning and grieving as a result of sin.  And believe it or not, that’s a blessing.

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“The Spirit of the Lord God is on me. The Lord has chosen me to tell good news to the poor and to comfort those who are sad.  He sent me to tell the captives and prisoners that they have been set free. … He has sent me to comfort those who are sad, those in Zion who mourn. … I will take away their sadness, and I will give them the oil of happiness. I will take away their sorrow, and I will give them celebration clothes.”  Isaiah 61:1-3, ERV

Man, I love it when God repeats himself in scripture! That’s a big deal – like, a really BIG deal. And Jesus KNEW his audience (the disciples, remember) would know He was quoting this gorgeous piece of comfort from the prophet Isaiah when He delivered the first two Beatitudes.  They would also be aware Isaiah was relaying a message that directly referred to the repentant hearts of the people of Israel over the exile their own sins has caused.  And because of their repentance, God assured them of His comfort once again.

What does a repentant heart look like, practically speaking and in a bit more “modern terms”?  If you did the Romans study with us (and even if you didn’t!) you are most likely familiar with the story of the Prodigal son.  You can click here to for a refresher on that story!  He wants us always to come home.

 

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“God’s children are hardwired to run home when the storm comes. It is the heaven-born instinct of a repentant soul to seek shelter from all ills beneath the wing of our Father.” Jennifer Dean Kennedy, Set Apart.

Many a lost soul has been converted on the doorstep of a crisis, and you should know God is MORE than okay with that – it may even be His plan for some of us!  Life has a way of tripping us up. We have a way of falling for it (and on a regular basis)! Sometimes, we create the sin. Sometimes, sin creates itself. Either way, we don’t like it and, therefore, it brings us grief and mourning.

But Jesus hasn’t forgotten you. If you’ve come to Him with a heart of sorrow and repentance, He’s already working on “it”, whatever it may be, and He knows what your heart feels today.

Whenever I think about human, spiritual mourning, I think maybe Mary, the blessed Mother of Jesus, had it the worst, really. She didn’t ask for “this”. She didn’t wake up one day and head to the fertility clinic and ask to be the Mother of God as an unwed girl.  She didn’t ask to raise a child that others would mercilessly mock. She didn’t ask to watch as her son was brutally murdered – all as a result of the sins of human beings.    She didn’t ask for any of it.  But, she accepted her assignment. Only to be told the following by a prophet named Simeon:

“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother…A sword will pierce your soul, too.” Luke 2:34-25

Sin brings so much brokenness and grief and pain and mourning to this world. But I pray you find comfort in the FACT, the TRUTH, that your God sent His son to save you from it; He came to offer you comfort through reconciliation to Him and eternity.

So, if we were to rewrite Matthew 5:4 to a more modern version, it might sound something like this:  “Blessed are those who have the honesty and humility to admit their sin and their pain and be convicted of it, because in the end, Jesus cleans up your mess, wipes away your tears, and brings you Home.”

Join us next week as we tackle the concept of a meek and mild savior…! 😉

Following along with the homework for our series?  Click here to access the link to Week Three Homework (I really, really love Level 2 Homework this week so if you can find time to delve into it, I highly encourage you to do so!).  Liking our song selections?  Then you’ll want to click here for this week’s music by Third Day, “I Need a Miracle”!

Praying for a blessed week, sweet friends!  Until next week, God bless.

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

(Photo cred and rights:  Ella Connors and Wendie Connors, 2015, all rights reserved.)

P.S.  Did you like that adorable puppy picture above?!  Then you are sure to love this one!  Welcome to the world, Scout B.!  Who’s-a-good-boy?!?!?

Scout B by back door

The Significance of Your Labor(ed) Day

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If you woke up this morning (and since you are reading this, I’m going to assume you did), then you’ve been given a day with a purpose set out before you.

In God’s economy, nothing gets wasted. So while today may seem mundane or even useless in your eyes, it’s an important piece in the vibrancy of someone else’s.

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That school lunch you just made for the hundredth time? It’s the fuel to spark creative energy to get your precious child through the school day.

That counter you just wiped? It’s the altar your teenager uses to unwind after a mindboggling day of information overload at class.

That clean shirt you just hung up from the laundry? It’s the confidence booster your spouse was looking for to slay that morning presentation.

That coffee you just made in the office breakroom? It’s the warming, pick-me-up your co-worker needed after a long night rocking a sick child.

That walk you just took your dog on? It’s the breather you needed to clear your mind and reset your patience level to deal with the next task on the to-do list.

That tenth “tuck me in again, mommy” you just did tonight is the physical embodiment of love that will linger all night in the sweet dreams of your darling kiddo, providing the restorative sleep she needs most.

You get the picture, right? If God gave you another day to be here, He had good reason to do so, whether you see it or not. He doesn’t do anything without purpose; remember that.

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So no matter what “today” might look like from your perspective, the view from heaven is pretty significant. Live it and labor it well, sweet friends!

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”  Colossians 3:23, NLT

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(Photo creds for this post go to my incredible, budding photographer, Ella.  Go ahead, tell her how beautiful they are!  😉 )

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up next week: THE BEATITUDES BEGIN!!!!! WOO HOOOOOOO!!!

 

Keeping It Clean (why a nice detox is a good idea…)

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Feeling sluggish?  A little foggy headed?  Need a little help getting rid of things that slow you down?

I was, too.

So I’m in the middle of what’s called “three-week nutritional cleanse”. First, let me tell you that from my perspective it isn’t a lot of fun. No wine, no grain, no dairy (heavens me, this one is the worst – cheese is truly given to us as a gift from God!), very little animal protein…you get the gist. But I can ALSO tell you, my body is happy with me for doing it. My tummy feels better, my skin looks better, I’m sleeping better, and my brain is functioning at a little bit faster speed than it has in a while. All good stuff and, honestly, those benefits are all the main reasons I’m doing it.

This morning, though, I woke up feeling very discombobulated and uncertain in my soul. A friend of mine who is knowledgeable on these things told me to expect this to happen about ½ way through the 21-day detox because, according to her, once your body starts to clean up all the junk physically, the spirit isn’t too far behind it. In other words, my heart needs to dump what’s clogging my spiritual arteries, as well.

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My body is busy getting rid of things it doesn’t need anymore (and even things it never needed in the first place) because I’m feeding it correctly and letting it heal, and I’m realizing I need to do the same thing with my soul.

So, starting today, I’m adding a little spiritual cleanse to my nutritional one.  And so for me, I’m matching the two goals up and creating one: get rid of what I no longer need and fill up on what makes me healthy.

For the next few weeks, I’m cutting out mindless television. I’m adding some more quiet time with my Bible and conversation with God.

I’m turning off talk radio and tuning into what feeds my soul – K-Love.

I’m trading afterdinner social media checks for some quality check-in time with my high schooler and my husband.

I’m telling the voice of fear and shame to take a hike and listening instead to the steady voice of Truth.

Yeah. I know. Just like cutting out wine, bread, and cheese – this is going to take commitment and I may falter a time or two. But restoring my spirit is essential to keeping me in tune with God’s voice and His will for me and the life He placed me here to live.

You know what I think is so cool? God is constantly providing us with opportunities to rebuild and reshape our hearts. He grants countless options for spiritual detox! And one of the most amazing places we can see this for ourselves is in the very familiar, but often misunderstood section of Matthew 5: The Beatitudes! For all the things our precious spirits experience, feel, and grovel through, we get a promise of blessing as a sacred reward for each one as we empty ourselves of – well, ourselves, and fill up on Him.

I hope you will join me this fall as we dive into The Beatitudes together with our Fall 2015 Bible study series, be blessed. We start up our local studies the week of September 14th and will spend 10 weeks uncovering all the beautiful blessings wrapped up in just ten verses.

be blessed logo rustic

Next week, I’ll be back to tell you more about the series in general and how you can follow along here on the blog. In the meantime, would you consider one way in which you might be able to give yourself a little spiritual detox for the next week? If so, leave a comment; I’d love to hear your ideas and encourage you along the way!

Enjoy your week, sweet friends!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

PS – simpl.if.I central will be taken off the blog week so be sure to print up anything you need/want this week! 😉

simpl.if.I: Be Nice! (Summer Series Week #8)

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I’m one of “those” moms who cannot wait for the first SECOND of summer break. The thoughts of three blissful months of no arguing over homework, no making of lunches, and POSSIBLY sleeping just a wee bit later fill me with complete glee! And the fact that we are on our very own schedule just makes it even sweeter!

BUT. (There’s always a big but, isn’t there?!)

There ALSO comes a time every summer where I begin to think, “Hmmm…maybe summer break could be a teensy bit shorter”. This thought comes to mind because, to be completely honest, I’m not feeling so “nice” anymore.

The kitchen never seems to be clean. The laundry somehow multiplies. The gas in my car is constantly on empty. Our checking account feels a bit skinny. And my patience feels even skinnier.

Anyone feelin’ me today?

And so, upon waking this morning and realizing my less than stellar attitude about summer vacation (which continues for three more weeks, mind you), I spent a little time with one of my favorite truth tellers, Paul, who reminded me of the importance of being nice to others.

Be Nice Romans 1220

For me, praying God’s word back to Him is like picking up the phone to call a friend. Then sitting quietly and meditating on it is like giving Him the time to answer back. And today, He answered – loud and clear.

In the midst of my complaining to Him about all the things that were annoying me, He gently revealed to me that He wasn’t the only one to whom I had been complaining about it. Apparently (and embarrassingly) I had somehow exchanged my Mary Poppins bag of tricks that was always at the ready for spontaneity and teenage girl FUN, for a sack full of sour puss comments.

Whoops.

And in that moment, I understood that complaining about what I had been looking forward to for so long wasn’t my best plan.  I needed to change my perspective because my current mindset wasn’t helping anything. God showed me a great way of getting back to summer joy mode with my girl: remember the good things.

ephesians 5 15

The thought that I kept hearing in my head was this: “Remind Elle who she really is”. And as I thought about that, I realized this: who on this Earth is closer to her and more able to see the God-given goodness and beauty He placed within her than me? Who (other than her dear daddio) spends more time with her, loves her more, appreciates her, and celebrates her more than me?

God was prompting me to BE NICE and remind her of THOSE things, not the ones that were annoying me (because I’m sure she’s got her own list of what I’m doing that annoys her…)!

So, in between drop off at one camp and pick up an hour later,  I spent a few moments jotting down a list of the amazing things that make her unique to this world and so special to me. It wasn’t a long, multi-paged novella or anything like that! It was actually just a short-but-sweet bullet-pointed list of her beauty – inside and out.

When she got home, I watched as she found the card and read it. She smiled big and gave me a huge hug. She thanked me for the surprise love note and “being so, so nice” (her words, not mine) and reminding her why I loved her so much.

I caught her several times throughout the day opening the envelope to read the card again. She smiled each time. I had indeed surprised her with goodness and it felt so good, so sweet, to be blessed by an obedience to God’s prompting.

Who can you surprise with goodness today? Where can you add a little helping of “nice” to this world? It surely doesn’t need to be big or monumental or even cost a single penny. It simply needs to be authentic and from your heart right to someone else’s. It’ll change someone’s day  (and improve your attitude) I promise!

Practical Application: (simpl.if.I’ed steps you can take to improve your “niceness quotient” today!)

  1. Print/find this week’s mantra and scripture card. Display it somewhere prominent to remind yourself of the JOY in surprising someone with your goodness every day!
  2. Think of ONE person who could use a little nice in her/his world this week and make it a point to find something special (big or small) to do. The blessing you receive in return will exceed what you can imagine, sweet friends.
  3. Read all of Romans Chapter 12 in the Message Version! It’s honestly one of my favorite chapters of any book in the Bible!
  4. Watch this video from Needtobreathe called “Brother”. You’ll LOVE it!

If you are reading before amen by Max Lucado alongside us, this week we are reading Chapter Seven, “They Need Help” that beautifully talks about the power of intercessory prayer (praying for the needs of others). The study guide at the back of the book is great, too, should you have time to sit down to complete it!

Well, my dears, just two little weeks left of our summer series! I can’t believe it is flying by so quickly. But never fear – the ministry team is busily planning our fall 2015 series RIGHT NOW and we will announce it at the close of the summer session! So be sure to stay tuned!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week: simpli.if.I week 9: Thank God!

simpl.if.I: Let Go! (Summer Series Week 7)

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“Let Go.”

A simple, two word statement that isn’t always so easy to do.

The first time we encounter those words is in childhood, when we playing tug-of-war over a toy with another child, or when we’ve gotten a hold of something we shouldn’t and someone who knows better is trying to ply it out of our little hands!

As we get a little older and experience times when a friend hurts our feelings or even betrays our trust, those two, small but powerful words are doled out to us by “wise counsel” who encourages us to let go of our hurt because holding on to it just makes us feel worse.

When we have children of our own and they begin to grow up and find their footing and their own way, we’re told by those who’ve been through it before that it’s our job to let them go; that holding on for dear life (even if it’s what our heart is desperate to do) will only delay the inevitable and cause other issues in the process.

When we have painful pasts (or even rocky presents) and when we work through those experiences with people and professionals who help us come to terms with it, we’re counseled to let go of what’s behind us in order to live in here and now.

That’s all good and honest and wonderful advice! But it’s just not always easy, is it?

I think the reason it’s so hard for us to just “let go” is because we don’t know where we’re supposed to “put it”! In other words, if the experience or feeling exists, it’s got to go somewhere, right? You just can’t un-feel it, or undo something that happened. It’s like cleaning out your closet – those clothes that you no longer wear or need don’t simply vanish into thin air just because you are ready to let them go; you need to clear them out and give them to someone else in order to actually be rid of them.

That’s why this week’s mantra and scripture verse are so powerful! As Christians, when we talk about letting go, we’re really talking about the freedom that comes as a result of giving it up to God and trusting that He’s got it for us. We’re not just releasing our stuff out into thin air and hoping it doesn’t come back and settle right back on us. We’re literally giving it to the only One who can take it on without judgement and fight for us through it all.

Let Go Exodus 14-14

Freedom in letting go is possible when we trust God. It’s possible whether you need to grant forgiveness or you need to receive it. It’s possible when you need to let your child navigate the newness of middle school, high school, or even college. It’s possible when the time comes to let go of your past. It’s possible EVEN if you need to release control of a situation that you are desperate to keep your hand on/in when you know it would be better if you didn’t.

At the end of the day, that’s what our soul is desperate for – spirit-cleansing freedom.

I don’t know what you might need to let go of today, but I do know that if you trust it in the hands of Christ, He will take it from you and carry it and replace it with peace in your heart. Let’s pray for each other this week as we trust God to fight for us and let’s celebrate our victory in freedom!

Ruthie Donovan

(photo credit:  Alicia Donovan, photo of her beloved Ruthie running FREE!)

Practical Application: (simpl.if.I’ed steps you can take this week to help you LET GO!):

  1. Find/print our mantra and scripture card for this week! Display it somewhere you are sure to see it and read it each time you see it!
  2. Spend time meditating on this powerful verse and share with God the places in your heart that need His healing touch of release and freedom. Journal what you feel He might be saying back to you. Follow through with any Spirit-led actions you feel Him guiding you to.
  3. Go back through all our mantras to date and see if you can’t memorize them! Remember, we started back in the middle of June with Choose God! Click here to re-read any of the blog entries and to print up a new set of cards if you need/want to!
  4. Check out this super awesome video of Rend Collective singing “Finally Free “. I had the GREAT JOY of seeing this crazy cool band live on Friday night! They were so wonderful! If they are ever in your area, you HAVE to go see them!

If you are reading before amen with us, we are reading Chapter Six, “Forgive Me”. The chapter study guide at the back of the book is particularly powerful this week so if you have time, I encourage you to complete that, too! J

We’ll see you back here next week for Week 8 (yes, I said week EIGHT!) of simpl.if.I! As always, thank you so much for taking this journey with us! We are so grateful for you!

Peace, love and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week: simpl.if.I Week 8: Be Nice!

simpl.if.I: Be Real! (Summer Series Week #6)

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Sometimes you just need to know you aren’t alone.  Sometimes you need reminding that weeping is cleansing and good and painful and hard, regardless of the reason why you’re weeping.

 Be Real Angel Statue

Jesus Wept.  John 11:35

When I read those two words from John 11 above, I honestly didn’t care why he was weeping.   I just needing reminding that Jesus wept and in the midst of it, I realized the healing power of this very short verse.  Jesus wept because he knew what it meant to be broken.  Just like us.  He wept because He knew it isn’t easy being human.  Just like us.  He wept because life is hard and He, Himself, experienced the fact that earthly life deals us blows we aren’t expecting and aren’t even able to deflect.   Just like us.  So He wept.  And therefore, it makes perfect sense to me that we do too.

 

We each weep because of a catalyst – an event.  Maybe because of a diagnosis.  Maybe because the bottom falls out.  Maybe because we can’t cope with the way it is for one second longer.  Maybe because it shatters our heart to see someone we love in shambles.  But honestly, regardless of the reason, we weep because we have been rocked at our very core.  We weep because we cannot have imagined “this” was coming.  We weep because we didn’t want it to be this way.  And we weep because we know change is coming.  But maybe change is just what we need to heal.

 

The beautiful flipside to the sadness is that we also weep when we are happy!  Can you even imagine all the times Jesus must have felt blessed tears on His holy cheeks when He looked around and thought, “My heart could burst with joy in this moment!”?  Even with all the heartache, there were most certainly tears of happiness shared around the table, too!  Just like us.

 

Weeping lets us be real, and being real is a grounding and simple and holy experience.  It puts us on an honest and transparent footing with others and, most importantly, with God.  Being real is a lifelong process that prepares us to intimately share ourselves with Him face-to-face.  To be real means to really know love.

Be Real John 11-35

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’ ‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit. ‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ ‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ ‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

 

So today, go ahead, be real.  Do the “ugly cry” if you need to – regardless the reason.  Because remember, sweet friend, you are infinitely loved and understood.

 

Practical Application:  (simipl.if.I’ed steps you can take to get REAL today!)

 

  1. Find/print our scripture card for this week: Be Real (John 11:35). Put it somewhere you can see it and read it to yourself over the course of this week!
  2. Read the verse in context of what was happening in the life of Jesus when this was recorded. Realize that Jesus experienced everything we do as humans. What a gift we have in watching how he did things.
  3. If there’s something going on in your life right now that is moving you to tears, let yourself be real enough to weep. Write a letter to yourself giving yourself permission to be mad/sad/happy/elated/frustrated. When you’ve written it, read it to God as a prayer. Tuck it into your Bible or a safe place to come back to once the emotion has faded and the situation has either resolved or lessened in intensity. It serves as a reminder that God brings us through to the other side of all things WITH Him.
  4. Check out this audio/video version of Francesca Battistelli’s “Holy Spirit”!

If you are reading before amen, by Max Lucado, this week you can read Chapter 5:  “Heal Me”.  And, if you are so inclined, complete the Chapter 5 study guide at the back of the book!

 

Thanks for joining us in this series!  We are growing together in Christ – it’s such an awesome thing!

 

Peace, love, and Joy!

 

Wendie

 

Up Next Week:  Simpl.if.I week  7:  Let Go!