Tag Archives: wonderstruck margaret feinberg

The WONDER of Forgiveness…

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This past summer, I learned an interesting tidbit of American history this about dams. Now, dams themselves have been around for as long civilization.  Dams are structures that help control the flow of water for irrigation, prevent flooding, create reservoirs for times of drought, etc.  But it has only been really within the last century or so that technology and structural engineering techniques have made it possible to create dams powerful enough to generate massive amounts of electricity .  But in order to do so, they change the landscape of the land surrounding them by actually flooding over entire valleys and the towns in them.  The result?  Hundreds of towns across the country have been strategically and intentionally flooded and are underwater.

So there are actual man-made lakes around the world that look beautiful and tranquil on the surface, yet lurking just below the surface (in some cases as little a 5-10 feet below the surface). Lovely to look at, but a little suspect for swimming!

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One of the things we know is important to Jesus is that we are women of integrity. Believers whose outside appearance authentically represent the state of our insides.

How do I know? Well, many of you will recall this verse from our study of the Beatitudes:

 You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. Matthew 5:8, MSG

When we, as believers in Christ, refuse to forgive someone, we become like those flooded lakes. We may look good on the surface, but anyone digging any deeper into our spirits better watch out for some jagged wreckage in there.

We block God’s mercy – we dam up grace – when we refuse to forgive.  We gotta learn to let that forgiveness FLOW.

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But how? Especially when the issue seems so unforgiveable to us.  But this is where the supernatural power of true reconciliation, when we actually take our unforgiving hearts to God, gets going.  Because for the big stuff, we cannot do it by ourselves.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Mathew 19:26, NLT

When Jesus says everything is possible, he means everything. So how do we do it?  Girls, this has been a bit life altering for me and I’m just getting used to it, but listen to this for a sec:

1 Peter 5:5-7New English Translation (NET Bible)

…all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.

CAST. YOUR .CARES. 

That’s where we begin.

Cast your cares, cast your cares, cast your cares! Your cares include issues surrounding forgiveness, girls.  So, in all humility, on your face, cast your cares.  You say to him, “Lord, this issue with forgiveness about __________ is about to crush my spirit.  This is beyond painful and it is splitting me in two.  This is compromising my soul integrity. I cannot do this alone and I need you.  So I’m giving it to you because only YOU can do something positive with it.”

And so the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit within us begins. And then we change our mindset. We move our minds up and out of the mucky mire of unforgiveness with purpose and intent, because we KNOW we have a faithful God and we let Him know we fully expect Him to work this out.

Of course, all of that along with the humility of saying we know He will work it out in His time and within His will for it. We know He wants us to live with forgiving, merciful, grace-filled hearts.  That’s how we know we can expect a victory here.

I get it. I’ve lived with stuff that I find it almost impossible to think God could forgive someone for so how in the world am I supposed to do that?  Nowhere is it written that it’s going to be easy.  But because scripture says ALL things are possible with God, I’m going to try.  Regardless of/with whom it is I need to reconcile and regardless the issue – myself, someone else, or even God.  I’m going to try.

Following along with our series, Wonder-FULL?!  This is our LAST week of wonders!  Finish up reading the main book, Wonderstuck, and complete week 6 in your participant guide!  Meet us back here next week for a wrap up of the series and a special announcement of what we’re up to in 2017!

Peace, love, and WONDER!!!

Wendie

 

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“I love bread!” (Me too, Oprah ;) !)

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I was so incredibly excited when Oprah signed on with Weight Watchers.   I mean, I’m thrilled that she’s getting healthy and all that.  But honestly, the best part was when she said, – ON NATIONAL TELEVISION –  “I love bread”!

Breakfast toast with red heart jam symbol on a red checkered table cloth.

ME TOO, Sister Oprah! Me too!

My favorite kind of bread is homemade and hot out of the oven, fresh as can be, and with special touches (like organic sundried tomatoes baked right in and homegrown rosemary sprigs on top, and maybe even a little finely shredded artisan cheddar thrown in for good measure) that everyday, store bought brands just cannot produce.

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(Excuse me while I salivate…)

I’m coming out of the anti-gluten closet and admitting it.  I’m a girl who loves artisan bread.

I ALSO love craft beer and single vineyard wines.

I like small batch iced teas and I love the health benefits and freshness of organic food.

I’m “all-in” on the farm-to-table movement.

I completely support the sustainable food agenda.

I’d much rather each a whole food than one that’s been processed.  And don’t even get me started on stuff that’s been genetically modified or chemically enhanced.

(Let’s ignore my diet coke habit for the moment, shall we? *Ahem.*)

People  who love and care this much about food know ONE THING for sure: the process is just as important as the end product.

For instance, a food artisan knows everything about the ingredients and process of what she’s making, and often uses traditional methods.  Why?  Because she’s learned that tried and true ways of doing things endure; traditions create consistently masterful products.

The craftsman makes his product by hand, using minimal processing and checking each step of that process to ensure it is done to his specifications for a quality product that he’s proud to call his own.

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The small-batch creator believes in taking the time and effort to make each batch just so, just right, to please her consumers and make them feel special in receiving something that got such care in creation.

The food producers, shops, and restaurants who subscribe to the farm-to-table philosophy understand the value of cutting out the middle-man and ensuring the good stuff is coming directly from the maker.

And everyone who buys into the concept of sustainability is 100% on board in making sure that the resources we have will not be used up or destroyed so they can replenish as needed and continue for as long as possible.

The artisans who create these kinds of foods and drinks have two things in common:

  1. They are intentional in what they do (meaning they put thought, care, and time into each part of the process); and,
  2. They are specialized in their trade, not diversified (meaning they don’t have a million different things going on) which allows them to focus on the passion of their particular trade.

That’s pretty amazing stuff right there, don’t you think?!

So, what if we applied these concepts to something spiritual in addition to food? What if we used these ideas to radically affect our prayers and how we spoke them?

I think we’d be equally as nourished spiritually as we are when we eat cleanly!

I’m encouraging each of  us to do one (or more!) of the following things this week as we set some time aside for intentional prayer:

  • Apply the principle of organics: cut out the stuff that doesn’t need to be there!  Don’t be so verbose, adding in all kinds of words that don’t add anything to the purity of your prayers.  Keep it simple, sisters, and just say what you need to say as simply as possible. Then quietly sit back, waiting for Him to speak back to your spirit.

 

  • Use the concept of small batch creations and artisan work: be intentional in how you speak your prayers, carefully thinking about them and making little notes for yourself before you dive in.  Use traditional methods passed down to you from previous generations that honor the sacred process of prayer.  Use time-honored prayers you’ve heard in your own faith tradition to enrich your prayer life instead of saying those prayers as rote and perfunctory obligations.  Rewrite them in your own words in order to make them come alive to you again.

 

  • Subscribe to the main idea behind the farm-to-table “theology” and cut out the middle man! You have a direct line to Jesus!  Don’t “worry your prayers” with friends and hope God was listening while you did it; instead, sit down with God one-on-one and offer him your best instead of worn out and tired thoughts and prayers.  (“Go to the throne, not the phone!” 😉 )

 

  • Focus on sustainability in your prayer life. Try different methods until you can settle in on one or two that make it possible for you to be consistent and create quality, positive interaction between you and your Father.  Tend to the “soil” of your prayer life – if you will – which basically means to get your heart in the right condition to not only offer up gratitude and praise, but also to receive nourishing sacraments like forgiveness and loving correction.

Good soil can take years to cultivate, right? And even a novice gardener like me knows that sometimes the fields you use to grow something great need to be rested every now and again to maintain and regain their efficiency.  So be patient with yourself in this process and remain flexible in trying new things along the way, okay?

sunflower-field

The important thing is that you DO commit to trying to create something artisan with your prayers. Why?  Because it will make the difference between a processed, plastic bag of white bread and a hot-outta-the-oven, multi-grain loaf bejeweled with morsels of deliciousness!

Following along with our Wonder-FULL series?  (You can click here for more info!)  We are reading chapters .005 and .006 in the Wonderstruck main book and completing section 4 in the participant guide!  And check out our song of the week:  “In Your Hands” by Unspoken.  This acoustic version makes me SO happy!  Enjoy!

Peace, love and JOY!!!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  The Wonder of Friendship

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

You are Wonder-FULL. I mean it.

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Oh girls. OH MY GIRLS!  It’s here!  We’re live and in person and it’s WONDER-FULL!

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You know all those times when you somehow get all caught up in the distractions of today and lose sight of what you thought the day would be?  Or maybe you’re the type that starts out with the right mindset, yet somehow finds yourself replaying the mistakes of yesterday? Or…are you like me, and just find yourself obsessing over what “might” happen tomorrow?

Who am I kidding?  I fit all three categories.  Amen?

No matter where you fall on that spectrum, we’re here to remind you that…

GOD IS ALWAYS GOOD.  He isn’t a task master.  He never is scary.  He never yells at you over what you did yesterday.  And He isn’t planning some icky, crazy,and unexpected “surprise” for tomorrow.  He’s on your side.  And He thinks you’re pretty incredible.

And He’s given you a life that’s wonderful...in terms of… FULL of WONDER.

Will you join us today in embarking on a study that helps us rediscover the goodness of God in ALL things and in ALL circumstances? Will you take a chance on the God who created ALL the beauty in this crazy universe and start believing that you are part of that wonder?

Will you anchor yourself to the present moment without letting the past pull you back or the future freak you out so much that you cannot see the wonder that is already filling your world?

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Say YES!  Join us this season for an eye-opening look at our good, good Father and all He has prepared and surrounded us with – even when (maybe ESPECIALLY when) we can’t seem to perceive it?

Sound fabulously wonder-full?!  Yeah.  We think so too.!  Join the all women in our area and the 600 women online following our study with us!  Click here for the full scoop – it’s going to be awesome!  We can’t wait to see you back here next week for our first lesson!

And here’s a question for you:  How do YOU know, that you know, that you KNOW you are experiencing the presence of God?!  Is it in nature?  Is it in music?  How about when you are creating something?  Or maybe when you are immersed in scripture?  In the faces of your kiddos?  The feisty (but-oh-so-cute) faces of your pets?  In the power of the ocean?  No matter HOW you know, we want to hear it!  Comment below for a very cool give-away!  We’ll announce the winner and the prize next week!

Welcome back to Bible study, sweet sisters!  We are super excited about this series and hope you will be too!  He’s always doing something new, isn’t He?!  That’s why it is ALWAYS an adventure to be His.

Annnnnnd…if you know me, you know I’m always going to leave you with a cool link to the coolest new songs.  So here is our song for this week, “Come to the Table” by one of my ALL TIME fave bands, The Sidewalk Prophets ( I LOVE their unplugged version from their “Family Room Sessions” instead of the radio edit version – I’m totally sure you’re going to love it, too!)!  Click here to enjoy!

Peace, love, and WONDER-FULL JOY!!!

Wendie

Up next week:  Magic!!!