Go Forward!

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Welcome back, Dianne, to your blog-site! Where on earth have you been???

Afraid. Lazy. Procrastinating. Involved in other stuff. Unmotivated.

But as to the fear part? Yeah. Afraid. Afraid that if I put to put pen to paper, I would say something stupid. Except. When one doesn’t say ANYTHING, then one has said nothing at all! And no one is ministered to or inspired or motivated or directed to the Word. Nothing happens when one doesn’t do anything!

About three years ago, a rescue pit bull and I had an unfortunate encounter in which I was forced into his territory unannounced and without his permission. A complete surprise to both of us. He got mad and attacked and I became afraid of all dogs for nearly a full year.

During that time, I read some powerful verses that the Holy Spirit used to speak to my heart, motivating me to overcome the fear of dogs. I mean, seriously? At my age? I had to overcome.

 “But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.”

Exodus 14:13-15

Don’t you just love what God said to Moses in verse 15? In today’s vernacular, He may have said something to the effect, “Shut your mouth and get moving! This dry bed won’t stay dry forever! Move!!!”  When I read that, I thought, well, okay! I’ll move! I’ll start working on not being afraid! I’ll stand my ground when I see a dog! I’ll walk up to a friendly dog on a leash and let them sniff the back of my hand as I had done before the encounter with the protective pit. And over some time and pushing down the anxiety in my belly, the fear subsided and I grew calm and in control of my emotions around dogs again. Thank you, Lord!

Since overcoming that huge fear, I decided I needed to overcome the fear of publishing my writings. I had been working on a project for over three years. It was time to take the next step and seek out a publisher. After all, I knew the Lord was directing me to write this story. I was still camping in the belly of the great fish, and becoming quite comfortable.

As I moved, He moved. He moved people into my path to help me take the next steps! Energized, I kept moving until finally my project reached completion and it is now available to those who want to check out my first ever published work on Amazon: Friendship Forged Deep on the Desert Front Porch.  This blog-site is the exception.

Overcoming the fear of the next step is essential for growing and living. Honestly, I grew weary  of  hearing of so many friends accomplishing their goals, even in our middle age! And, I was tired of seeing my project half completed and not out there for someone else’s eyes and heart.

Is all this to say I’m no longer afraid of anything? Do I not experience the knot in my stomach when something threatens me? No, sadly, I experienced fear or anxiety just the other day.

Last Friday morning at our ladies Bible Study which met at the church, before our discussion in Philippians chapter two, I let the ladies know that a couple in our little beach church possibly had the COVID virus. They had chosen to self-quarantine for the next fourteen days.

 Suddenly one of our ladies burst into tears. “I was to be with my grandchildren tomorrow! I was around that couple’s dog last week!” Quickly she got out her mask and put it on. Slowly most of the rest of us followed suit, though, the past several weeks we had been together and even exchanged warm much needed hugs. What was happening?

Right there in that tiny room in our small church a palpable pall fell over the room.  I felt enveloped in a shroud of fear!

Throughout the rest of the day, the angst built, especially when in conversation with my Sweet Mama who told me all about the Harris County judge’s mandate to wear masks everywhere and stay home! Oh my! I thought, my husband and I just need to go home. Sadly, I even un-invited a friend for dinner that night.  Can you imagine?! I got swallowed up in anxiety and fear! Where was the mantra “Do not fear”???

 My husband and I made plans to go back home to Houston and watch the service on Facebook Live. Now, watching the service on technology is not bad in and of itself. It is bad when it is motivated by fear. And this decision was just that.

Allow this old soul to be quite vulnerable with you.  That Sunday morning, I brought my hot tea and Bible out to the front porch of our beach home, Doves Rest, and opened to Colossians chapter one and read ,

“He rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son…..” Colossians 1:13 NLT

Friends, God spoke to me. He lifted me out of the fear and the restraints it held around my spirit.

After reading this passage I knew we needed to stay in town and physically attend our church service, by golly! When I told my Beloved who said, “I only want to make you happy,” the shroud of fear fell completely away.

The joy of the Lord is real, friends. The fear of the enemy is also real……and deadly, in the sense that it can truly keep us from abiding in the presence of the One who loves us more. It can cripple us. It can send us home before the Lord wants us to go home.

Ya’ll! We, who are in Christ, are commanded to walk in the confidence that He has us! He goes before and behind and through us! He doesn’t want us to dwell or sit in fear!

These times are full of confusion; full of sickness, full now, too, of some of those whom we know who are contracting this virus; we know of folks with other medical concerns; in need of surgery, friends who can’t get to their own parents due to this virus! In all these situations, we pray, we bring these concerns to Him and ask Him to heal, be near, provide peace, strength, etc. And then we let. It. Go. We continue to operate in the faith that what we brought to the Lord He will take care of. Because He loves us!

“What I know for sure,” as Oprah says on the back page of her magazine, is that it is never ever too late to go for the passion you have in your gut and make it a reality. It is essential to move when the Holy Spirit moves you if you want to get out of the belly of the great fish and experience what He needs from you to bring about His purposes for His kingdom. If you want to grow close in your walk with Jesus, then get up and move when and where He directs and you’ll be amazed at the Joy He provides when we obey Him! Even in hard assignments, you’ll know that it is Him who brings the joy.

In this next season of blog posts, may you find something from current events, or a prayer; but above all, some encouraging message that will carry you for the day from His Word through the experiences He brought me. Now. Go out with joy and be led forth in His peace.

Father, we all get afraid of things at times. I know. When I let my mind wander too much into the “what if’s” I can get into serious trouble. Lord, may those of us who call your Abba Father and your Son, Jesus, our Savior, walk in a manner of trust and reliance on You in our daily-ness of life. Thank you, Lord, for helping us to overcome our fears and rely on You! In Your name, Amen.

Engaging Conversation….join in!

There will always be a remnant.

Susan and I have to schedule our phone chats because we tend to be so long-winded. We don’t call one another very often, so when we do sit down for a scheduled phone call, our so-called short chats end up lasting two hours! The time always flies, becoming the richest part of my day.

After Christmas and all decorations had been put back up in the attic, Susan texted, “Is this a good time?” I grabbed a notebook, pen and my cup of tea before responding, “Call me. I’m ready!”

“I can’t believe your church even has ten Christmas Eve services!” I exclaimed early in our conversation. “We began this year the weekend before Christmas, so I’m counting the two Saturday services and the three Sunday services then all the services on Tuesday, Christmas Eve. ”I could feel her excitement and sensed her smile coming through the airwaves. But, ten services??? What dedication!

“I don’t have any family to speak of, as you know, so my family are my church, so I had no problem being up there that often. Food for the hungry soul. I had more fun! Each service brought different people and a whole set of needs with it. Good times!” I was so grateful she had a vibrant ministry/purpose at her beloved church.

What was even more amazing was that both of our pastors, living two states away, preached on Anna and Simeon who were there at the Temple performing their assigned rituals, even in the midst of the corrupt money-changers! Described in the Word, as righteous before God, they were committed, dedicated, and consistent in their walk with Jehovah God. They stayed true to Jehovah in obedience and trust in Him.

The time that Anna and Simeon lived was considered the four hundred years of silence. God closed His mouth to the nation Israel because they would not listen to him through the prophets. However, the world was being prepared for carrying the Gospel to the far ends of the earth, as the Romans expanded their Empire by designing state-of-the-art road systems their armies and trade routes could easily navigate, as they brought communities under their rule. God’s omniscient hand was over all that went on those four hundred years, so that when He brought His Son into the world, the world was ready to hear about Him.

Yet, in that long period of silence for the Israelites, there was a remnant of faithful followers whom God allowed to witness the fulfillment of prophecy that He would provide a Savior such as Simeon and Anna. How cool that they never lost hope! In fact, according to Scripture, Simeon served his Jehovah God enthusiastically!

He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come!”

Luke 2:25.

His excitment sounded like Susan! Oh, how glad she was to be serving her Lord through greeting at her church! And her zeal was contagious!

Look at what happened the day Mary and Joseph brought their eight day old son into the temple to be presented before God:

At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.” Luke 2:25-38. NLT

As my friend and I chatted on about Anna and Simeon, we thought of other devout souls at that time. We came up with a short list – Zacharias, Mary and Joseph, and Joseph of Arimethea. We are so sure there were other Jewish people who devoutly stayed true to the teachings of Jehovah, longing for the promised Messiah, or even a sign from God.

As we pondered this story in the Bible, I told Susan I was now calling her “Anna!” She laughed.

What does their testimony say to us today?

In the midst of all the bad news, the corruption in the world; death, anger, unrest, and even misbehavior in some of our churches, God sees a remnant; the faithful, committed, and obedient.

Stay the course, dear reader, to the One who loves you more. This year, continue to seek His Truth found in the Bible; continue to ask questions; stay in fellowship with other Believers who love Him; and tell others of the great things He has done in your life!

Lord Jesus, may my eyes stay on You. May I be one of whom you say is devout, committed to the task set before me, and obedient to Your Word, even in the midst of the corruption going on around me. May I ever be found faithful. Thank you for rescuing my soul from the evil in this world. In Your name, Amen.

Tea and Luke – Nothing Better!

Last month a dear friend sent me a birthday gift that said, “I see you.”  It arrived one morning in a box that my Beloved found on the steps of our beach home, Doves Rest. He brought it upstairs. There inside was another box! A box of Holiday English Teas! An Advent Tea Calendar! Who would have thought? Only Tammy. She and I share a love for books and tea! Be still my heart! A perfect gift for an avid tea sipper!

 Each December morning, I walk into the kitchen, make Beloved’s coffee, heat up the hot water pot, and open a new box containing a new single tea bag. I read the outside of the tiny box with the tiny print and see herbal tea, or white tea; black tea or green tea, including all the special ingredients, such as licorice, cinnamon, orange peel, etc. I pour the hot water into my chosen cup with the new tea bag, grab my Bible and sit in my Lady Recliner and look in Luke to read the chapter of the day.

“Lord, show me what you want me to know from this one chapter,” I whisper to Him as I stir the tea bag around in the cup and arrange myself in the chair. The perfect morning ritual, I cherish the time and the teas!

What has He shown me in these stories of the Life of Jesus?

Among the many truths He has shown me thus far, my heart melted when I opened my Bible up to the eighteenth chapter. He spoke straight to the soul of my being.

“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.”

 Of course the Lord Jesus knew the struggle of this mother’s heart, since the day before, one of her sons told her church was boring; he wasn’t so “into Jesus like you are right now, Mom.” Jesus knew my struggle to let go of my sons, as they live their lives different from the way they were raised at home and in the church in the ways of the Lord. Keep on praying, He told His disciples, as the woman who persevered in getting the unjust judge to hear her request. (Luke 18:3-8).

In the nineteenth chapter, the Lord was “passing through” when He walked into Jericho, but we know He passed through with a purpose in mind. As the crowds walked with Him into town, a short man heard he was walking through and sought him out. The multitude was too tall for him to see Jesus. He scrambled up a nearby tree – a sycamore – and saw the One whom everyone had been talking about. He was good at eavesdropping, for no one talked to him, a tax-collector. He had been hearing how this wandering Teacher had healed the sick and brought hope to the hopeless; He even touched a leper and the leper was made clean! The short man had to see this guy!

I’m sure this curious short man was intending to watch what this Teacher/Healer was going to do from his perch. He had no expectation that this famous Rabbi was going to have anything to do with him.

“Hey! Zaccheus! Come on down from there! I’m going to have supper at your house tonight!” Whoa! Jesus not only spotted the short tax-collector, but called him by name! And was headed to his house for a meal! Zaccheus scrambled down that tree and stood in front of Jesus. He was shaking all over from excitement and embarrassment, as he blurted out, “Master, I’m going to give half my possessions to the poor and pay back what I stole from people up to four times!”

Jesus was thrilled with Zaccheus’ pronouncement for then he said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Zaccheus was a seeker. He climbed up that tree to look for Jesus. He was searching for a way to get back into the good graces of the community – to know the Jehovah God of his ancestors better.

Reading through the book of Luke has brought me as close as His breath over me. Yesterday, talking with one of my single moms and the struggle her daughter was having right now, I knew this mom would be drawn closer to Him if she stayed in the Word, especially now. We talked about that. She agreed. Earlier in the month, a dear church friend expressed genuine joy at how she was learning so much she never knew just by reading one chapter a day.

Several friends have been reading a chapter a day in the book of Luke this month, as it seems to be the easiest Gospel to read this month that we celebrate the birth of the One of whom the book is about! It’s not too late to join us! Just start with this day – this chapter and read forward – to the real reason Jesus came to this earth. We celebrate His birth this month, knowing all along His purpose in coming was to die for our sins.

What do you think the Lord would show you as you read through this Gospel, one chapter at a time? I know this: I have hope that as I persevere in prayer, the Lord will draw my sons closer to Him, creating in them a longing, a seeking and He promises to save those who are lost.

Merry Christmas, dear readers!

Advent Keeping Christmas – Peace

Children were asked to describe peace.

“Peace is calm.”

“Peace is when you can play in your room and your little brother is playing in his and not bothering me.”

“Peace is quiet in the house. No yelling.”

“Peace is the community coming together.”

“Peace is being nice to someone.”

“Peace is space for yourself.”

Our pastor said peace is more than all of those sage responses from children. He proceeded to share various scriptures with us which described peace. But his videos and translations of peace from Greek didn’t resonate. Not until he said,

Peace is Jesus.

Our music director is the most humble person I know. Usually artists and performers come with just a bit of self assurance bordering on pride. We Believers hesitate using the word arrogance when talking about one of our own, but you don’t have to worry with this servant heart. He plays gigs all over our island, toting his guitar and inviting a bass player or violinist or drummer to join him. He doesn’t really seem to care what the instrumental mix is.

When we first started attending this little resort church, which resembles the early Christian church in so many ways, I noticed that he would include whoever expressed any interest in making a joyful sound to come up and join him in the praise and worship part of our service. He included a few small children to play those annoying wood blocks one Sunday. Having put up with that hollow wood tone the little ones mindlessly banged on in my music classroom for twenty-nine years, I gathered up the two wood blocks and brought them home with me. Needless to say, they haven’t been missed.

A few weeks ago, our music director asked me to take over the music for yesterday’s worship, as he and his wife would be out of town. Certainly. Consider it done, I told him. Our other esteemed players; violinist, guitarist and drummer, said they would be there. They had put up with my erratic rhythm-keeping only one other time when Jim was out. It wasn’t smooth, but they were most gracious. This time, I thought, I would practice and work hard to get it all right.

I invited two ladies to sing with us, as singing while playing the keyboard do not come naturally for me. Yes, they said. We rehearse an hour before the service. Thanks for coming. They came, bringing some ideas of their own. Rehearsal was bumpy, to say the least. A time or two, I had to check my inner spirit. As much as I had prayed over the service, the singers, all of it, still, there were going to be some personality challenges, including questioning the one in charge a time or two, with minutes before worship started.

When those questions were raised as to how it all should go, my mind went straight to all the times I had acted the diva with Jim. And I reluctantly thanked the Lord for the kind rebuke. I calmed my spirit and pressed on.

The pastor’s message on peace pierced my heart, especially after our first two worship songs. Oh Father, I whispered down in my soul, please help us to bring you and our beloved intimate congregation a more musical worshipful sound.

“Peace is waking up each new morning and committing the entire day into the hands of the Lord Jesus; totally surrendering and submitting your day’s agenda to Him. That means unclasping each finger off your own plans. Make your list of the many things you have to do. Then lay it on the table, pray over it, giving it to God. He promises to bless you with that peace that does indeed surpass all understanding.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

“And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

As I sat there on the second row next to Beloved I heard the Holy Spirit whisper in my soul, “I’ve got this. Just do what you practiced doing and it will go well. Trust Me.”  And in my heart of hearts, I yielded. Immediately my angst left my heart. I relaxed my hands and the peace that I had read about all these years in the black and white pages of my worn Bible became reality in my soul.

When it came time to sing the closing songs of the worship service, the singers sang, the instrumentalists played and the Holy Spirit’s presence was felt all round. Afterward, I hugged and thanked the ladies with genuine Christ-love and soon after a precious regular attendee walked up and said, “Please play the piano more! It was lovely!” Be still my heart. When we don’t expect it, the Lord showers such encouragement and love. How her words ministered all the way to the soles of my feet!

 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27

Father, may I daily apply what the Pastor said this morning, yielding up my agenda for Yours. And when someone wants to challenge me, as usually happens, may I remember to pray and respond in the way that would bring you honor and glory. Surely, Lord, your peace is real and does surpass all understanding! Thank you! In Your name, Amen

Rejoice! He is with you now!

shopping together

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14

You, Jesus, are IMMANUEL, God with me. At all times. Down the aisles of Kroger, looking for my mother; looking for her particular brand of chocolate cookie; getting the right size cereal box. God with me in the car searching for the right house after my GPS has said, “You’ve reached your destination.” In the dark. God with me when one of my single moms calls as I’m driving in rush hour/Christmas shopping traffic on the other side of town. God with me. Absolutely.

A normal Tuesday with Mom, with some added errands and a phone call, I hoped Jesus wasn’t tired of hearing from this silly sheep, because I called on Him every single time I needed His help and every single time He led and every nearly every single time I whispered, “Thank you, Jesus.”

This promise that Immanuel, meaning God with us, is the foundation for your joy! It is a true, real promise that can be fleshed out through your faith, your trust, your belief in Him who said it and it came true! Rejoice, Beloved, knowing that your Savior will surely never leave nor ever forsake you! Do you rest in that fact? Do you remember to call on Him? Let not Immanuel just be words in a Christmas song sung only on Christmas Eve only to be forgotten when you get home.

“…..He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

After driving around town I managed to pull into a familiar parking lot and park and talk to my single mom safely, undistracted, for as long as she needed. In her struggle to co-parent her troubled teen daughter with her former husband, she admitted to needing to lower her expectations, to consciously be thankful for all the little things she gets to do with her daughter and stop dwelling on the poor behavior. I think there will be less triggers with my daughter and my ex-husband if I choose to back off some when I’m with them, she said. Wise words.  Praying it is practiced.

Breathing prayers for wisdom as we talked, the Lord reminded me of the disciples He called to be His everyday companions for about three years. Were they the cream of the Jewish crop? Had they been schooled in the best rabbinical synagogues of the day? Hardly. They were simple men, schooled in common crafts of fishing, tax collecting, and studying. “Consider Matthew,” I said to my sweet mom. “He was a repulsed tax collector! Can you imagine the treatment he got from the other disciples? And Jesus chose Him! Jesus was, in effect, saying to all twelve of these guys, “look to me for your source of help, and do this. Love one another.” Right. In spite of their former jobs before they were called to follow this……this man who tells them to love one another? What I think I was trying to tell my mom was……in loving your wayward daughter, find ways to love her through her poor choices and behavior and then……be thankful.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,….and be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

And she agreed. She is growing in her trust in the Lord. We were merely edifying one another in  the fact that our joy in the Lord, Immanuel, comes from calling on His name for all help, and giving thanks when it comes. The thankful heart affirms in our heart that He is with us. Immanuel and in His presence is true fullness of joy!

“ In Thy presence is fullness of joy!”Psalm 16:11

This Christmas season, may we all consciously give thanks as we call on Immanuel to help us every step of the way and to be more real to us as we celebrate His birth. May there be meaning! Resounding joy that God became flesh and dwelt among us!

Thank you, God, for sending.

Thank you, Jesus, for coming!

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for reminding!

Christmas Eve candlelighting

 

You know when the Holy Spirit is Present

 

sitting around the table

“…..not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25

This morning I gazed at our dining table that seats six, marveling at how in January of this year, three of us sat at one end of the table eager to begin the first Community Bible Study. We prayed. We shared some of our lives. We read the Scripture from week one in the study book Open your Bible. We prayed and hugged and wondered. Would the Lord indeed bring more friends to the table?

We hoped we would see His hand in this fledgling beginning.

I continued to gaze at the table. In early March God brought Sherry with her friend Terry. Sherry wanted to return, but her husband’s health pulled her away for a number of weeks. She hungered for this time. We promised to keep her in the loop. Terry’s life was full and getting fuller. She enjoyed the study, but we have not seen her since that first visit.

Wendy came in March. She brought her grief and tears. We sat and listened and prayed for wisdom as to how to comfort her. God heard us and brought yet two more to the table. Violet and Suzann, new to the table, had no idea what God was up to! Did any of us? Yet, we each look back and see. We see how He brought Violet from California; Suzann from a neighboring city for the purpose of touching Wendy, who had come from Ohio. At the first tear fall, they knew the sorrow that weighed Wendy down for so long. They reached across the dining table, touched her hand and said, “Grief Share saved my life.” Eventually it saved Wendy’s.

Continuing to gaze at the table this morning, I’m reminded of Pam’s coming. Her needs were so great. We hugged and prayed for her. She had to return to her home state to rescue another granddaughter. We kept in touch. Over the summer she returned with granddaughter in her secure guardianship. So many more hurdles, yet. Pam knows this meeting in the Word, the Fellowship, the Love is her lifeblood. She makes our meeting a priority.

Throughout the late spring and into early summer, God brought Sam, Pat, Mari, another Nancy, and Sharon. Others had come to visit; they shared, were prayed through, but their lives are preventing them from coming each week. We added them to our little directory. How can we not?

Beginning in late July, we had to move away from the table. We were overjoyed that now we who had put our feet under the dining table were all coming at once! From three to five to six, then seven squeezed around, all making room for one more. But when ten came through the door, we all knew. It was time to move to the couches and cushioned chairs of the den, bringing dining chairs to fill in the circle. Ten then eleven of us! All regulars! Be still my heart.

The question was asked. What have you learned?

What have you taken home with you? The unconditional acceptance. The love. The prayers. The “one anothers.”  The “fellowship of the mat.” Just knowing there are folks praying for me. And in the hour and a half of our closing meeting before a much needed short break, we knew, as we talked through II Timothy 3 and Hebrews 6:19 that the Holy Spirit was truly present. He was comforting each of us as we gathered round one fighting cancer, and lifted up others with health issues, friends in need, and as we closed reciting the Lord’s Prayer, as we had come to do, it was all we could do to just breathe.

We were each so aware of His Presence.

women praying together two

Before the ladies come up the stairs to our home, each chair is touched with a word of prayer. The lesson is prayed over continually. He is truly the reason we gather together. Yes, we fellowship. We share prayer concerns, but we are challenged in the Word and reminded how much our Father loves us and values us and wants us to want Him.

When you yearn for a Bible study with women, He hears the deep desire of your heart.

You don’t need a Bible School degree, or even the most popular Bible Study book by the most popular author! You just need a teachable heart and your Bible and He will gladly be there with you and one or two friends! He wants us to gather together to study His word. He will make it possible.

Remember to give Him all the credit.

As I prayed for His will this day, moving my eyes away from the table and onto the chairs around the den I wondered what His plans were for our new study of the survey of the Bible. Who will He bring? I know there are other ladies in our community who want to hear of His love for them. So we are praying for others to invite and in this interim time we will continue to pray for one another and keep in touch. It’s what we ladies do best!

God bless you as you reach out to your friends in your community to tell them about the wonderful love of the Father!

encouraging one another one

 

 

 

Inquire of the Lord

woman seeking God

“I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

 Psalm 34:4

While camping in the Old Testament I’ve noticed something about who has really fought some battles and who should get the credit for the victories. Whenever the Philistines drew up in battle array against the Israelite army King David would do something first, maybe even before putting on his sword. He would “inquire of the Lord.” And the Lord would inform David of whether to fight and even gave him the battle plan!

Take a look at Second Samuel 5:17-19. “When the Philistines heard that they had anointed David King over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek out David; and when David heard of it, he went down to the stronghold. Now the Philistines came and spread themselves out in the valley of Rephaim. Then David inquired of the Lord, saying “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You give them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.”

Was David asking permission to fight a battle? He had been fighting battles for years, and really, though he had just been anointed King over Israel, he knew the Lord. He remembered all the times the Lord had protected him and his flock from prey. He remembered all the times that the Lord had been his shield from the searching eyes of King Saul. He had been “inquiring of the Lord” for many years. This was a habit!

David had an ongoing relationship with His Lord. He knew the Lord would be with him in these battles. All David had to do was…….inquire of Him.

Look a little further down in the chapter at verses 22-25 for a very creative battle plan: “Now the Philistines came up once again and spread themselves out in the valley of Rephaim. And when David inquired of the Lord, He said, “You shall not go directly up; circle around behind them and come at them in front of the balsam trees. And it shall be when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then you shall act promptly, for then the Lord will have gone out before you to strike the army of the Philistines.” Then David did so, just as the Lord had commanded him, and struck down the Philistines.”

God is not ever a God of routine or habit. He uses creative approaches to keep His children dependent on Him; trusting Him; obeying Him. He wants us, His children to ask and obey His instruction so that He gets the glory for the end result.

Did all the kings of Israel inquire of the Lord before going out to battle? King Saul sought the Lord at first, but over time he took matters into his own hand. At times he even sought the counsel of a medium rather than inquiring of the Almighty God. I Chronicles 10:13-14 confirms “So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the Lord, because of the word of the Lord which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it, and did not inquire of the Lord. Therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse.”

As you go about your day, ask the Lord for how He wants you to deal with issues that come up. He wants to answer you! He wants you to trust Him and obey Him! Then give Him the glory!

 

woman praying in the mountains

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From whence shall my help come?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip; he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand.

 The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.

 The Lord will protect you from all evil.  He will keep your soul.

 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.

 Psalm 121

faith that moves mountains

Thank you, Lord, that you want me to ask You for guidance. Thank you that You willingly give it! You are a good, good Father! Amen

The Comfort of Knowing He has me wherever I am-Thoughts on Psalm 139

Psalm139

“O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me.” Psalm 139:1

Have you ever wanted to run away from home? Did you ever do it? I did. I packed my pink little bag and “ran” down to the very end of the sloping back yard and crouched under the cherry tree, hoping my mother would miss me. Turns out, she was so busy in the kitchen, when I finally trudged back up the hill to the house, she was still in the kitchen busying herself and hardly noticed that I had been gone! Years later,  in another house in another state, sitting behind the wheel of our family station wagon, I was so bent out of shape from whatever my mother was saying to me, that I seriously contemplated driving far, far away. But as I sat in the car, I thought of the song by Ken Medema “Lord, are you looking for me? And what makes you think you can find me?” Even then, as a teen, the words to Psalm 139 came to my mind.

“Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence?”

I just sat in the car and cried. Part of me wanted no one to find me; yet, most of me was comforted that no matter where I fled, He would be right there with me. I put the car in park, got out, and went inside to my room and cried and sought the Lord, eventually resting in Him.

Many  years later, at a ladies retreat at Camp Peniel in the San Marcos area, found me sitting on the front row with my Spiritual mom, Doris, and my sister in the Lord, Susan listening to Rose Whitelock talk about Psalm 139. With her hands she formed a small box as she quoted “Thou has enclosed me behind and before, and laid Thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high; I cannot attain to it.” Vs. 5-6. Ever since then, I have drawn comfort from that image of the Lord God surrounding me, His gentle protective hands over me.

“O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me….Thou art intimately acquainted with all my ways.” Vs. 1-3.

Do you know anyone who knows all there is about you? And is okay with how you are? Very few of us can count more than one or two folks in our lives we can say this about. We don’t want to be so well known; yet, part of us really do.  Macrina Wiederkehr, in her devotional book Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God says,

“Many of us struggle with the difficulty of knowing ourselves; thus it can be a comfort to rest in the truth that there is someone who is lovingly familiar with all our ways yet not bent out of shape. The lamplight of God’s eye shines upon our sins and weaknesses, our love, our heart’s yearnings. All is known. Nothing is hidden. A change sometimes occurs in our lives when we are able to accept God’s knowing gaze. Slowly, the “knowing of God” begins to console us rather than frighten us.” Pg. 69.

The first twelve verses became a comfort to me in knowing that no matter where my feet took me, God would be there. Flying in a plane, taking a cruise on the open ocean far from home, trying to run away, hiding even in busyness, or alone in my school room, desperately trying to figure out how to best teach the children, He is there. With me. Not as an angry Ogre waiting for me to falter, fall or fail. No. Waiting for me to let Him be seen by me. Waiting for me to lean into Him. Waiting for me to want Him. This Psalm is about a Father knowing so much about His children yet, He yearns for them to rest in Him and let Him be known by us. To draw up close to Him wherever we are, confident in the fact that there He is.

“For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb…..My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eye have seen my unformed substance.” Vs. 13-16

God made us, crafting every detail of our bodies in the exact place it needs to be. The kidneys go here; the heart, right in the middle, the multiple systems-nervous, skeletal, circulatory- weaving in and around and through the human body perfectly, intricately, precisely; just as He designed. He drew up the road map that each unique human was to follow and planted it neatly into each DNA. Yes, it’s scary. But isn’t it also so very comforting to realize that the Maker wants to relate to us as a Father to His child? That is hard. We aren’t comfortable with someone, anyone, knowing all our deepening spaces. Our true frailties. Our failed, flawed dreams. No. Not anyone.  Isn’t that why we find it hard to imagine that the Potter truly yearns for the pot to know Him, the potter so well? (Take a look at Jeremiah 18:1-6)

“How precious are your thoughts to me, O God!” How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand When I awake, I am still with Thee.” vs. 17-18.

Imagine! He has that many thoughts of each of us!

I took a walk along the beach recently and stopped suddenly and said, “Lord, thank you for loving me just as I am!” And I just let myself snuggle up into that truth. He. Loves. Me. Do you let yourself realize that He, Your Maker, truly loves you? Just as you are?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”

Vs 23-24.

 When I think those thoughts not of love or care for myself or others, remind me, Lord, to steer away from them. Lead me away from those destructive thoughts into the everlasting loving thoughts of You, your children, your ways.

Father, thank you that you know me. Help me to understand that it’s okay for me to let you further in to the deepening spaces of my soul. Help me to rest in you, to give you all my fears, to allow you to shape my thoughts with every breath I take. To be as joyful in meeting you as I am my closest friends; to want to have that intimate time with just you and to rest in the fact that you have me. You love me. You carry me. You are with me wherever I go. Thank you. In Your name, Amen.

(Check out “Fork in the Road” by Ken Medema, 1972.”Lord, are you looking for me?” is about 32 minutes in to the album) https://youtu.be/XVKgCb3CMnM

 

The Gathering at the Table

the dining table one

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

John 1:1

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

Words – Edict. Message. Speech.

It happened like this.

One day while sitting in my friend’s golf cart out at the beach access, we began to talk about desires of the heart. We had walked the mile from post to post to exercise our bodies. But our hearts were yearning for something too. Yearning for more than just another social hour.

We yearned for meat. The meat of the Word.

Since my single mom’s group in Houston  was going to start a new Bible Study in January, I wondered,  perhaps you’d like to do the same study here at Sea Isle, I asked my friend. Where in the world were all these ideas coming from? Yes! She exclaimed. I’d love a daytime Bible Study! It’s hard getting back out in the evening, she said. And besides, since Harvey, we haven’t started our ladies study back up at the church. We’ve been focusing on helping the folks in the neighboring small community. Around the same time as our conversation, a new Sea Isler from the Northeast expressed the same yearning…..teaching from the Word. Soul Food.

Thus, in January, three of us souls gathered in my home at our long glass-topped table on Friday morning at ten. We prayed. We read scripture and we shared our stories bit by bit of how God was taking care of us. As we rose from the table that first morning, we had no idea what God had in mind for us at our table at Doves Rest.

Since that genesis of three on January 19th, the Lord Himself has brought about twelve to our table. Oh, not at once! And sadly, some have lives that have kept them away far more than they would like. But the core – about ten of us has remained quite steady.

Here’s one God-sized story from our time at the table.

In March Wendy returned to Sea Isle from her home visit with family in the Midwest. She had heard there was a ladies Bible Study going on and she wanted to come. Of course, we said! Come! She came, bringing homemade brownies and a burden. She found a seat close to me. We began. Who else was there? Our first two ladies – Amber and Nancy, making four of us that morning. As we began to open God’s Word, something, who knew what was said that triggered the tears? But they came. The Kleenex was brought to the table. We listened and cried inside with her. Oh, the long held burden she had been bearing. The loss of her teen son to an illness. Four years her grief has held her. We prayed as we hurt for our new friend. When we rose to circle up and voice the Lord’s Prayer, I wondered. Would she return?

Wendy came again. And again, even as  the Lord brought new souls. One Friday, as two more ladies gathered at the table with Amber, Wendy and Nancy, we heard again of Wendy’s hurting soul. But this Friday, Violet and Suzann reached across the table, hands outstretched, hearts and words extended as they told their story. You know, they each said, Grief share helped us tremendously. In fact, the Grief share that meets here in town literally Saved. My. Life, said Suzann as tenderly as she always does. Violet had attended in her home state when she lost her husband. In fact, she said, I needed it again and I went through the course three times. The last two they asked me to facilitate. It is what got me through the dark journey. Meanwhile, she was busy on her phone. Suddenly, she raised her eyes to Wendy and said, the Grief share is meeting one more week before the end of this course next Tuesday. Why don’t I go with you that night? I’ll pick you up. They exchanged phone numbers. And with that, Wendy was on the road to healing!

https://www.griefshare.org/

Wendy continued to come to our Sea Isle Community Bible Study, as well as to our Sunday church services at our Seaside Church down the road. She opened up her home to my husband and me for Sunday lunch, followed by more folks to she and her husband’s Sunday afternoon home cooked meals.

The weekend of Mother’s Day I was in another state with a long time girlfriend to honor her son’s law school graduation. On Saturday I received this text from Amber:

“Wendy is going to be baptized next Sunday!”

Joyous tears filled my eyes. Oh, Jesus, I whispered.

wendy baptized one

wendy baptized three

 

Of course, I could not wait to return to the table the following Friday to see whom the Lord would bring to study His Word. Wendy came, along with nearly all of our core and some more! Looking intently into her eyes, I asked Wendy, what made her want to be baptized. Well, I know I went to church as a little girl and I was sprinkled, but somehow. She paused, looking around the table at all of us, this Bible Study has been making it clear that I need to ask Jesus to forgive me and to get more into His Word and get to know him more. I smiled. You believe, right? Oh, yes. I think I always believed in something, she responded, but this study has been making it more real as to what Jesus did for me on the cross. He died for me. I believe. You could see the eyes all around the table, brimming with joyful tears.

How we all knew the Holy Spirit was so with us that day. Each Friday.

What happens at the table? What is going on? Prayer. Preparation. Release. Every chair is prayed over each Friday morning before anyone sits in them. Preparation and much prayer happens before the women come; but most importantly, release. I never really know who is coming, what burden they bear, or how God will work in their lives.sea-isle-bible-study-three.jpg

So I release all expectations to Him.

For now, we are each rejoicing over what God is doing in and through our Wendy. She ordered six more Bible Study books to take back to her home in the Midwest when she leaves soon for the summer.

She is our resident missionary already!

Words. These ladies who gather around the table at Doves Rest are diving into God’s Word seriously for the first time for some, in years. They are questioning. They are struggling. They are growing. They are getting context and the story. And they are taking it home with them. Personally, I’m growing as I learn to study a bit deeper and pay attention to what the Lord wants me to present each Friday.

The take away for you? As a public school teacher for many years, I wasn’t able to get to a Bible Study very often. Not until these recent years in this new season of retirement. I’ve attended and grown and yet yearned to teach outside of a church building; to reach out to some who may or may not be regular church attenders.

Sea Isle Bible Study one

Open your hands and heart and see God move. Look around where you are and ask.

Lord Jesus, show me the ladies of all ages who are yearning for your Word. I open my hands and heart and home. I sit with you awhile with my Bible open. You teach me. You show me. You work in and among the ladies you bring to my table. All for you. In your name. Amen.

doves rest sign

We can ALL chip in and help our students!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not into your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6

416be30a1799f82ff2b52fefdc62ed47--southern-living-southern-charm

When Southern Living magazine came to our home, I pulled it out of the mailbox, eagerly turning to the very back page to relish in Rick Bragg’s latest story of his deep Southern roots.  So, with every single magazine I turn to the back page. Somewhere along the way, we’ve been receiving “O” magazine. I never ordered it and haven’t bothered to let them know our change of mailing address. Still, for a bit longer, it comes to us with the sticker of notice to let the publisher know of the new address. I’ve learned that whether I agree with Oprah’s views or not, I tend to glean something worthwhile in every issue.O magazine

This afternoon I turned to the back page – Oprah’s essay entitled “What I know for Sure.” This month she talked about what she learned from her interview of fourteen folks following several recent school shootings. “There was one answer everyone agreed on: family. Protecting family. Caring for family. Loving family.” As I continued reading her essay, I reflected on what I heard Michael Berry say on his afternoon radio show on KTRH in his tribute to Barbara Bush.

“The Bushes are a clannish people. They take care of their own no matter what. Whatever will be said of Barbara Bush, and I believe most of it will be positive, she loved and cherished her family. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with a mother who stays home and focuses on her family.”

Were you blessed with a mom who focused on her family? Are you one of those moms who cares deeply about her family? Truthfully, I don’t know of one woman who doesn’t care about her family enough to fight for them. Maybe I live in a protected world, but honestly, I’m grateful to know moms who are devoted to their children, their husband, their parents, their family.

The point of Oprah’s article was a plea for all of us to come and stand together for the good of our nation’s families. Oprah asks the question, “Can we agree to use our common sense to protect the common good?”  In agreeing with Oprah, I also hope and pray that we can stand together for our families. What does this mean?

Here’s my take on how schools could help their troubled children:

First and foremost, parents, love your children with time. Spend incredible time with them, doing things with them that don’t require phones, i-pads or videos. Parents, listen to your children. Listen to their heart; listen to them read. Then, you read to your children.  And you be the authority in your home and be in control of your child’s electronic devices.

mom and her kids

Parents, befriend your children’s teachers –they are not the enemy. Most teachers have your children’s best interest at heart just as much as you do. It’s time for you and your teachers to be on the same team.

School administrators, reach out to the retired neighbors and the seniors in the area and ask them to donate an hour a week to one on one time with an “at risk” child. The counselor knows most of those children.

mentoring a student two

Fathers of the children in the area schools, including middle and high school, commit to one hour a week to walking the school. Presence is everything. Shooting some hoops on the court in the afternoon, or sitting down at the lunch room and engaging in conversation with those who generally sit alone. Believe me, the students can tell the fathers who the loners are.

dad eating with his daughter

Moms, along with your presence on the PTA committees and at Field Day, donate an hour of your time to listening to a child read aloud, not just an elementary school age child, but even a middle school or high school student.

Do you see the pattern? Donated time of presence in the school. Eye to eye contact with the students. One on one time with the students. Retired folks, one hour a week is huge to the school in your area!

 

Churches need to rally around the schools in their area and pray for them; go to the school to ask how they may minister to the students and staff in their school. Truthfully, every principal worth his or her salt would gladly welcome their help! Last spring after a recent flood, a family near our church came to our benevolence committee to ask for some help- a mattress, some clothes and perhaps some groceries. We gladly reached out to help this family. As it turned out, the principal of the children’s school heard about the need and came to us to ask if our church would “adopt” her school, and just pray for her staff. We jumped at the opportunity! Several members met at the school and walked the campus one weekend, praying for the faculty, students and parents of that school. And now, several members volunteer to mentor some children in that school.

The first words out of my young third grade student mentee this morning was, “I told my mom what my favorite days of the week are: Friday, Saturday,” and pointing his finger at me, “Monday because I get to see YOU!” Then he pulled out his newest Pokemon card to tell me all about it. Our hour was filled with some pretty vulnerable moments where he revealed his deepest heart cry to me before we played some games together. As I walked out the door after a lovely hour with him, I thought about whether he would remember our time together this year when he gets to high school. Then I thought, I don’t know, but I’m going to ask for him next school year.

mentoring a student one

Thank you, Father, for the opportunity to get to know this young man each Monday. Thank you for the time we spend together. May all of us Believers seek your face and ask You for your guidance in how we each may reach out to the children right in our own back yard. Be with the parents of our children these days. Give them your wisdom, strength, and humility as they raise our nation’s future. I pray they’ll use the Bible as their guide always. In Your name, Amen.