Women's Ministries

Free Refills….

Our family went out for a special celebration dinner the other night, and our server was on top of the refills!  Our water glasses never completely emptied, and the lemonade our daughter sipped on was refilled several times.  When the server asked to refill it for the fourth time, my daughter politely declined, “Oh my no…but thank you. It was delicious though but I’ve had enough.”

Have you ever wished that your favorite macchiato or cappuccino would have free refills too? Oh yeah! Especially on those days when I decide to hole up in a local coffee shop and focus on my writing…a free refill would come in handy for sure!! But I’ll take the free cups of water you can get…probably better for me anyway!

So what fills you up? 

Is it the job you strive at day after day and feel you are getting nowhere?

Is it the daily responsibilities of being a mom? a wife?

Is it the accolades of the community you’re a part of?

Is it the message preached on Sunday morning at your church?

Is it how many “likes” you receive on your latest social media post?

What fills up your heart? your soul? your life?

I’ve gone round and round with ALL of the above questions and ALL of them cup up empty for me in the long run. Don’t get me wrong…I absolutely LOVE being a wife, mother, mentor, teacher, speaker, and yeah, I get sucked in to the social media game more than I’d like to admit. So what do I do?

Simple answer ~ God’s Word!

Simple solution ~ READ God’s Word and spend time in prayer with Him!

Reality ~ I don’t always make the time for it like I should!

And here’s the real secret….

JESUS OFFERS FREE REFILLS!!!

John 7:38 declares, “He who believes in Me [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Me], as the Scripture has said, ‘From his innermost being will flow continually rivers of living water.’””

Will you sit with me here for a moment and soak in this verse? Read it again and picture it? What do you see?

I see a beautiful meadow with a gentle river winding its way around the area, no beginning and no end. But it is continually moving! Which means there is a source from which water flows INTO it and there is a destination where it’s going to pour into. Jesus is the only person who can do this for us. I’ve struggled enough over the almost 50 years of my life to know that I cannot ever, like EVER, be my own source of a fruitful life! I just end up being poured out with nothing to fill me back up. When that happens, it’s like I’ve said to Jesus, “Oh…spend time with You in Your Word…not right now, but thank you. Those verses I read the other day were really great but I’ve had enough for a while. I’m good!”

Can you imagine that? ~ But we do it all the time!

Even for the most spiritual person that I know, I know they are not doing it alone. They rely on the Lord to fill them up with what they need for the moments they serve and pour themselves out to bless others.

I cannot be a healthy and happy wife, mother, mentor, friend, servant, teacher, or community member if I’m only relying on myself to do all of that.

I’m sure that whomever you are reading this, we are probably in different seasons of life. But there is a common strategy to keep you filled up…

…read the Bible and pray!

Here’s another secret…

There is no where (like…NO WHERE) in the Bible that says in order to be a real Christian, or to get a good spot in heaven, that we have to sit and read the Bible all day long!  So in the name of Jesus ~ be released from a prison of thinking you are under a time constraint!

He just simply longs to spend time with you! And that is going to look different for everyone in all the various seasons of life! 

Some days as a young mom, I’d run the shower to get ready in the morning and read a few verses ~ and then I’d pray them for the rest of the morning. Some days I would finally find some alone time after I got my girls to bed.  I love having the ease of devotional and bible apps that we have in today’s world and weave them into my daily routine. Now that my husband and I are basically empty-nesters (we just dropped off our youngest at college yesterday to begin her Sophomore year!) I do have more time. So I can take on that “Read the Bible in 90 Days” challenge. Which has been amazing to have started on that journey, using a journaling Bible for the first time has been so much fun!

But whether it was a few quick verses, a devotional book or app, or several hours reading a hard copy of God’s Word, there has been ONE consistent addition and that is prayer.

Prayer can happen all. day. long!

You’re simply having a conversation…but a conversation with the God of the Universe! The Creator of all things including YOU! He knows you intimately. He wants to hear how your day is going. He wants to hear what is challenging you and what is causing your worry. He wants to celebrate the big and little accomplishments with you.

If you’re having a hard time connecting with that, think about the conversations you have with your people…

You pick up your kids from school and your first question bound to be, “How was your day today?” or “What did you do at school today?”Really? Nothing? It’s so much more fun when they actually answer you instead of saying, “Fine.”, “Nothing.” Seriously!

When you talk with Jesus…TALK to Him! Share your joys and sorrows, your hopes and fears, your accomplishments and concerns, your wants and needs ~ He really does want to hear them all! And with any good conversation, there has to be a lot of LISTENTING too! Don’t talk AT Jesus…but WITH Him. Try this, before you begin to pray to the Lord, ask Him first to give you a heart and ears to listen to what He wants to share with you. As you pray, more often than not, He will begin to reveal answers and solutions to you about the problem you are bringing to Him.

John 4:10, 13-14 is the most beautiful picture of the living water the Lord gives {as He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well},  “Jesus answered her, “If you knew [about] God’s gift [of eternal life], and who it is who says, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him [instead], and He would have given you living water (eternal life).” Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water that I give him will never be thirsty again. But the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water [satisfying his thirst for God] welling up [continually flowing, bubbling within him] to eternal life.””

Doesn’t that just make you take a deep breath and slowly let the truth of God’s words here rush over your heart? Go ahead…close your eyes, breathe in deep and let it out slowly…thank the Lord for His living water. The life of His words in scripture. Jesus wants to give you refills of His love and direction EVERY DAY! Your first “cup” was the day you received Him as your Lord and Savior, and it was free! Through your free gift of salvation, like a glass of refreshing water on a warm day, we can be refilled every time we seek Him out.

Whether through scripture or prayer, you are receiving your free refill every time!

It doesn’t mean that you will live a trouble free life. This I know for certain. But my life is much better lived within the continual flow of His salvation and in the bubbling in my spirit of His words, than when I try to use other things to fill up the space and void in my life. Not one thing can ever replace or refill what the Lord can give me. Nothing I strive for or earn, no fame, no pats on the back, no “free drink reward”, can ever truly fill me up.

Give yourself the freedom in Christ today to receive fulfillment from Him ~ it’s free!

The only thing it will cost you is your pride and stubborn resolve to “do it on your own”, but how’s that been workin’ for ya? How about giving that a rest, so that you can have true rest in the soul refreshment that Jesus can give!

Drink in the free refills from Jesus ~ and you’ll have all the living water you need!

Blessings,

René

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Teachers, Uncategorized, Women's Ministries, Writers

Authentic Joy…

What come to your mind when you hear the word ‘joy’?

Candy ~ Almond joy?

Songs ~ Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee

Or different variations of the word JOY ~ happiness? Delight? Pleasure? Enjoyment? Bliss?

Or maybe on a more serious note, you’re wondering when the last time it was that you actually felt joyful?

So much of the idea of success in the world today is based on individualized aspects…What makes you happy? What lights you up? What moves you? What’s your passion? What drives you? Do those things!

But what happens on the mornings when you wake up and the answer to those questions are a big fat nothing? Then what do you do?

John 15:11 says “I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.”

So this is what I want to focus on the blog today ~ how to have joy everyday no matter what the circumstances.

Joy is defined as, “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation; a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated; the expression or display of glad feeling; festive gaiety.”

There are over 300 references to ‘joy’ in the Bible, so I’m going to throw it out there, this is something that is important to the Lord…something that He wants us to understand and embrace for our benefit. As opposed to the word ‘happiness’ which is only mentioned a mere eight times. Joy and Happiness are totally different…even though the definition of Joy contains the word happiness.

Happiness is fleeting and is usually attached to an event or how a person makes us feel.

Joy on the other hand, is a state of being. It is a way we can feel no matter what circumstances we are experiencing.

Oh…but there’s one more word I want to touch on before I share a story with you ~ FEELING.

The most important thing I can tell you about feelings is that many times, okay, most times, they aren’t to be trusted as the absolute in how we respond to a situation. Feelings are temporary. I love the quote, “Never make permanent decisions based on temporary feelings.”

Let me tell you a little story ~

In January 1999, we were six months in to living in our dream home in Pasadena…white picket fence and all. My husband had a great job in the entertainment industry, money wasn’t an issue, we had two healthy daughters and decided to try for a third. Life was fantastic. I was so happy because I had everything I wanted. Did ya catch how many “I’s” were in that last sentence??

And then God decided to change the course of our life. It wasn’t horrible, but it was hard!

My husband came home one evening and said, “I’ve been praying a lot lately and I really feel that God wants me to quit my job and open my own company. I know this will mean that we will have to trade in our cars for less expensive ones and figure out if we can keep the kids in private school, oh yeah, and we’ll have to sell the house.”

Well, he told me how he felt, so I was gonna tell him how I felt…

I can still picture the scene in my mind; he was standing by the staircase and I was one stair up so we were just about eye to eye. I non-to-politely (honestly, I was downright rude about it), told him that he couldn’t possibly be hearing from God and I didn’t care what he felt because he was wrong. It was definitely NOT one of my proudest moments as a supportive Christian wife. But my husband truly loves me like Jesus does and he was so patient with me.

He just smiled, asked me to pray about it, and said that when I was ready to talk about it, to let him know.

That made me FEEL so mad!

Had I allowed my feelings to continue to prevail, I would have missed out on experiencing what true Joy can be.

It took the next 9 months to deal with all the things that I was feeling. How my heart ached at the thought of selling our dream home and moving again. How sad I was to be losing a very comfortable salary. Then I started realizing that all the things that were making me sad, were just things. I would still have my family and how could I walk away from doing what the Lord had asked us to do.

To step out in faith requires that we operate in the Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23a says, “But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

I love how the Amplified version of the Bible describes peace as being something “inner” ~ and what is on the inside of us is what ends up coming to fruition on the outside of us. Through this passage we can see that authentic joy has nothing to do with our happiness; it has everything to do with where our identity comes from.

The worst thing my husband said to me that night was that we would have to sell our house. It was MY house. I had big plans (literally…we had just finished paying for an architect to draw up remodeling plans a few weeks prior). I had already imagined our future Christmases, our girls coming down the staircase for prom & taking pictures in front of the Batchehelder fireplace, how incredible our back yard would look as we hosted friends and family for their weddings amidst fragrant bouquets of flowers and covered in a canopy of fairy lights.

I felt cheated. I felt mad. I felt slighted. I felt my dreams weren’t important.

And for what….a house?

The last day of work for my husband at his original job, was November 19, 2000. For the next decade, I learned quite intimately how I must trust the Lord to be my strength, my hope, my delight, my joy.

Proverbs 10:28 is quite thought-provoking, “The hope of the righteous [those of honorable character and integrity] is joy, But the expectation of the wicked [those who oppose God and ignore His wisdom] comes to nothing.”

Yeah, the Holy Spirit doesn’t mince words here.

And I battled between spiritual integrity and selfish expectations for a long time. It was not pretty.

On the outside, I would plaster on that happy face. But deep down, and many days it bubbled barely beneath the surface, I was angry. And I’m sure you know this…but you cannot be both angry and joyful at the same time. It’s like expecting to bite into a luscious donut and all you get is tofu…they don’t go together…like at all…ever!

Why did we have to struggle so much? Paying our bills, the mortgage, keeping food in the fridge, and gas in the car….seriously? Didn’t GOD tell my husband to quit a perfectly good job and create a new one? Wasn’t it GOD that whispered to the heart of my husband to do his work for Him?  How can GOD direct us to start a Christian company and not bless it?  I mean, really. I was even dyeing & cutting my own hair (oh yeah…it was not a good look…) and stopped getting manicures.

I knew it was petty. I knew that God was in charge. I knew that we would receive blessings from God that would be nothing less than miraculous. I knew all of that in my head, but my heart was in complete denial & filled with frustration pretty much every day.

Proverbs 17:22 summed up my life, “A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.”

Well, the second half of that verse sums up my life for far too long.

We moved ~ God graced us with a beautiful new home.

We tried for a third child and had a healthy daughter.

Our cars were different but they were great ~ and paid for!

Our girls were able to remain at their private school ~ total miracle.

We had the support of our church community.

And I still loved my husband.

Things were looking up.

Then the ceiling in our kitchen started to fall down…because of a burst water pipe…from the upstairs bathroom…

Really?

Happiness disappeared like a vapor and Joy…inner peace…that wasn’t even part of the plan anymore. I moved into survival mode.

For the next 18 months, the Lord took us down a road that I still look back on in amazement. Within the first few weeks, I realized that I needed to change my perspective real quick or I was going to implode.

Actually, I didn’t realize it on my own…thankfully I have wonderful mentors and friends who spoke hard truth to my deaf ears and hardened heart. God wasn’t punishing me, my husband, or our family. He was using this time to prune out of my heart what didn’t need to be there in order for His purposes to be completed within me and throughout my life as a witness for Him.

I was broken but knew deep down I was still blessed. I had to pray often for my joy to be renewed. Very often in the beginning!

Psalm 16:11 promises this, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

Where is my joy? It’s in His presence.

Where are the pleasures of life? In His right hand.

Hello! Life changer right there!

We lived in a local hotel for 6 months then moved to a furnished apartment for one year while our house/kitchen went through insurance denials, mold abatement, insurance stalemates, lots of waiting, finally remodeling, then suing the insurance company and moving back home.

I had to learn how to have joy ~ a joy that didn’t come from anything around me or from anything I could produce. I had to rely on the Lord to move within my heart, mind, and soul to create His perfect joy.

I had to ask Him for it…and He gladly answered that prayer!

Part of my responsibility as a wife was to be a support to my husband however I could…happy wife happy life…but not just happy…joyful. As a Mom, my daughters needed as much stability in their lives as possible. At 2, 6, and 8, none of it made sense.  And sleeping together in a pull-out sofa lost its charm pretty quick!

What’s a momma to do…pray!

So I found things I could be joyful about…

Living in a hotel meant I had room/cleaning service…every day!

Apartment laundry rooms meant I could get 15 loads of laundry done in about 3 hours instead of 12…yeah…Every.Week!

Apartment living meant it only took 45 minutes to clean house instead of all day at home.

In both locations, I brought in photos from home and hung them on the wall with those fabulous 3m hooks. I brightened up the beige walls of the apartment entry way with big colorful maps of the USA and one of the world that I found at Costco. I restored part of my sanity by donning a mask & going to our house and getting my sewing machine so I could be creative. I mean, I had all that “free time” that I didn’t have to spend doing laundry or cleaning, right!?!

One of the best ways that the Lord humbled me to learn how to receive His joy was to receive help from others. I didn’t want to be a charity case. But a very wise friend reminded me of how I felt when I was able to bless others with a home-cooked meal, or free babysitting, or a paid-for date night…people wanted to do that for our family now. It’s hard to be on the receiving end, but it’s so worth it.

My attitude began to change and I began to see our reality through the lens of authentic joy. A joy that is not borne out of circumstances, but out of following Christ and choosing to be obedient to what He calls me to walk through.

Once we were able to move back into our house, our life didn’t suddenly become easy.  The money struggles were still there but my husband and I would pray, “Okay Lord, you love to show off to Your children how well you can provide…let’s see what You’re going to do this time!” And we really meant it! And He would always come through. There isn’t enough time to recount the miracles of how God provided for our family during that decade, but it was phenomenal!

Just one quick story, that is still a bit emotional for me to think about, was how we literally had no food in the fridge. We finished up the last of the cereal, eggs, and milk, and used up the rest of what we had to make three little lunches for our girls to take to school. My husband and I prayed before I left to take the girls to school, that God would provide a miracle for us to be able to feed our family. I won’t lie, we were nervous but we trusted God.

As I exited car line and went down a side street, I pulled over and cried and knew I needed to discard my pride and call my parents to help us…and now that I have grown children, there really isn’t an age where that momma heart doesn’t kick in to want to help out your kiddos.

As I held the phone in my hands praying for God to give me the courage to call, it rang…it was my husband…he said, “Everything is great and I’m fine, but you need to come to the office before you go home.” I told him I was about to call my mom about the grocery dilemma and he told me to “wait. Come to the office.” Fine!

I pulled in and walked slowly to his office. He sat there with tears streaming down his face holding a card in his hands. He held it out to my and said, “Just open it.” It was a beautiful floral design, “Thinking of You” kind of card. Inside it read, “Dear Bancroft Family, You are always in my thoughts. Love, Jesus”. Then my husband handed me another little envelope that had been inside the card.

It was a $300 gift card to Ralphs grocery store, written on it with a black sharpie, “To the Bancroft’s ~ Love, Jesus”.

He provided more than enough.

And I still have the card as a reminder that Jesus sees our needs. And that He shops at Ralphs!

Romans 12:11-13, “never lagging behind in diligence; aglow in the Spirit, enthusiastically serving the Lord; constantly rejoicing in hope [because of our confidence in Christ], steadfast and patient in distress, devoted to prayer [continually seeking wisdom, guidance, and strength], contributing to the needs of God’s people, pursuing [the practice of] hospitality.”

I learned that there is no “last minute” with God ~ it might feel like MY last minute, but it’s His perfect timing! God has shown up for us every single time.

We have known plenty and we have known want.

But most importantly, we have always known that our joy rests in Him and not in our circumstances.

That is true authentic joy.

To trust the Lord with EVERYTHING! You don’t have to be happy when you go through difficult times, but it is possible to be joyfully content in the midst of the struggle.

Blessings,

René

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Teachers, Women's Ministries, Writers

Your View: Windshield or Rear-View…

Are You Looking Out the Windshield or the Rear-View Mirror?

I got the idea for this discussion topic from a sermon I heard the other day on the radio.There’s a reason why the windshield on a car is so large and the rear-view mirror is so small.

We need to have a wide view of what is out in front of us so that we can see where we are going. The point of driving somewhere is to move forward to get where we intend to end up. We don’t drive backwards to get to our destination. Right?

I know these concepts are not mind-blowing or something new…but I think it’s a good reminder every now and then to take notice of where our attention lies.

Rear-view mirrors, and side-view mirrors for that matter, aren’t bad though…they are completely necessary.

When we look up to check the rear-view or side-view mirrors, that’s just it…it’s just to take a quick look to make sure we are not in danger of being in an accident or causing an accident as we move about the road. We are not to allow our focus to linger because if we do, we are bound to run into the car in front of us.

Our past is like those smaller mirrors.

There’s a warning bell that sounds in your heart or your head, when you’re about to veer off course.  It’s the alarm that alerts us to check ourselves. Are we about to make the same mistake for the millionth time? Are we about to say the wrong thing to someone…again…knowing it won’t work? Did we forget what happened the last time? And if the mirror checks don’t work, then when we drive over those little bumpy-things (I’m sure they gave a name!) that’s a physical AND audible alert that we need to correct our path or we’ll soon be in trouble!

When we look into the side mirror, we can see that car speeding up really fast to our left and make that quick decision to WAIT to move over.

When we look into our rear-view mirror, we can see that car speeding up behind us or flashing their lights at us, and decide we need to move over and let that person go on their merry way albeit too fast and not get involved in their crazy. We can also see the red lights of a fire truck or police car, alerting us to move over because there’s trohbke ahead!

So how does that this translate into our spiritual life?

What side glances get you off track?

What kinds of things do you think you should be focusing on in your “front windshield”?

Let’s look at some scripture that talks about looking forward or behind.

Proverbs 4:25-26 (AMP) “Let your eyes look directly ahead [toward the path of moral courage] And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you [toward the path of integrity]. Consider well and watch carefully the path of your feet, And all your ways will be steadfast and sure.”

 Right there in scripture ~ “…look directly ahead…”  When we direct our gaze straight ahead, like through a large windshield, we will see the path that clearly leads to integrity!

Hebrews 11: 23-29 (AMP) “By faith Moses, after his birth, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful and divinely favored child; and they were not afraid of the king’s (Pharaoh’s) decree. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, because he preferred to endure the hardship of the people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of the Christ [that is, the rebuke he would suffer for his faithful obedience to God] to be greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt; for he looked ahead to the reward [promised by God]. By faith he left Egypt, being unafraid of the wrath of the king; for he endured [steadfastly], as seeing Him who is unseen. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood [on the doorposts], so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch them (the firstborn of Israel). By faith the people [of Israel] crossed the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; but when the Egyptians attempted it they were drowned.”

 I love that these verses in Hebrews remind us that it is not simply looking ahead & fixing our gaze on the Lord; it is through FAITH that we can accomplish this daily task.

 We are also instructed in God’s Word to take His direction for our life very seriously. When He tells us not to look behind us {dwelling on past sin; obsessing over something you think you’ve missed out on; staying stuck in a cycle of unforgiveness; etc.} then He means it!! 

Genesis 19:26 (AMP) “But Lot’s wife, from behind him, [foolishly, longingly] looked [back toward Sodom in an act of disobedience], and she became a pillar of salt.”

God also shows us through scripture how He provides the way out of a situation. One that is getting a bit frightening or unsettling. In Genesis 22:13 (AMP) we see just that…“Then Abraham looked up and glanced around, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering (ascending sacrifice) instead of his son.”

 Let go of the past and start moving forward! Maybe it’s an actual physical move out of the environment you’re in (work, neighborhood, state…). Maybe it’s a shift in your heart ~ an attitude you’re having is causing disruption in your spiritual life. 

Luke 9:61-62 (AMP) “Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord [as Your disciple]; but first let me say goodbye to those at my home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things left behind] is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Don’t linger on looking into the smaller windows. Look through the bigger lens of God’s Word…through His windshield!

Blessings,

René

 

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Teachers, Uncategorized, Women's Ministries, Writers

Hearing the Shepherd’s Voice…

I recently had the joyful privilege of traveling with my wonderful husband on two business trips back to back…first stop, Singapore!  Then on to Snells Beach, New Zealand (about 90 minutes north of Auckland).  It was absolutely amazing to be able to travel to these two locations.  And they couldn’t have been more different!  We actually took advantage of being able to check two bags for free ~ one was packed for the 90 degree humid weather of Singapore and the other for the 60 degree rainy weather of NZ!  I was so grateful for the two companies that made the allowance for me to attend these trips with my man!

What I want to focus on in today’s blog is the lesson the Lord taught me in New Zealand.

I don’t know about you, but honestly, the first thing I think about when I envision the land of NZ is…wait for it…The Lord of the Rings & Hobbit movies!  Yes!  I admit that I love these movies!  And Air New Zealand loves these movies too ~ they have a channel within their onboard “movie channel” dedicated to just those six movies ~ awesome!  Of course, the other thing I think of is sheep….lots and lots of sheep!

Staying in Snells Beach was a blessed retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  And honestly…away from the hustle of “regular life.” Rolling green hills, the bay on either side of the little town.  To one side you could see the Mahurangi Harbour and on the other, Kawau Bay.  I felt a little bad that Tony was working more on this part of the trip, but I was delighted with the gift of some time alone to see what the Lord has for me next.

We arrived quite late in the evening, so it was very dark upon our arrival to our little apartment on the campus where the animation studio is where Tony would be working for the next few days.  The next morning, he was off to work after breakfast in our room and I joined him a few hours later for lunch at the studio.  He happened to be walking over to the apartment when I was on my way over to meet him, and I couldn’t help but grin and say, “I’m walking around in New Zealand today!  How cool is that!!”

But soon, I would be driving around the area ~ and on the “wrong side” of the road and the car!  If I may brag…I did quite well!  And it was so much fun!  But I digress to my point….

The sheep!  Seriously ~ they were everywhere!  And I loved it!  So many different breeds and color combinations, but still the same.  Either lounging in the sunny spots in the pasture, or head down munching on the luscious green grass of the farms where they lived.  And I desperately wanted to cuddle one of those little lambs ~ you see it’s Spring time over in NZ (September) so there were little lambs prancing around all over the place!

One of the men that Tony is working with on this project, also runs a small farm filled with cows, a bull, pigs, piglets, and SHEEP!  He indulged my wish and ran after a little lamb so I could hold him.  Oh.My.Word!  The cutest thing ever!  And he was only about 10 days old.  The eyes of his sheep-mama and the eyes of the ram were on me constantly…what was I going to do with their little lamb?  Oh man…I wanted to take that cute black and white lamb home with me!  I know…I know…not practical!  And they grow up!  HA!

The next day, a new friend there, took me to a magical place…Sheep World!  Yes…this is a real place!  I was able to help sheer a sheep and feed a milk bottle to a one month old fluffy whjohn-10-verse-4ite lamb.  This was seriousness cuteness folks!

But the whole time, I could not get out of my mind the fact that Jesus is referred to so many times as the Lamb of God.  And we, as His followers, are often called His sheep. (yes…I took this pic…there’s more!)

In this passage, we read that sheep follow their shepherd because they recognize his voice.  But how do they know which voice to follow?  They are trained and they learn what to listen for.  A tone of voice…a familiar call or command…a unique whistle ~ they know their shepherd’s voice!

We are called to do the same with our relationship with Jesus!psalm-95-verse-7

But we have to spend time with the Lord in order to KNOW His voice and to discern His commands and callings.

Do you see what it says here in the last part of Psalms 95 verse 7?  “If only you would listen…”

If only we would take the time to listen to the voice of our Savior.  To spend time deep in His Word so that we recognize His voice.

 We spend so much time on so many other things that we think we fill us up.  Yet, I know that when my focus is on expecting outward things to complete me, I end up feeling totally empty.  Christ is the only One who is able to fill up all the empty spaces and seal up all the cracks in my heart.

There were a few other key moments of those two “sheep days,” that God revealed to me.

As I was holding the little lamb that was almost 2 weeks old, was noticing how the huge horned ram was standing at attention in the field.  He did not allow his gaze to be interrupted.  I felt in that moment that this is how God the Father intently looked upon Jesus the Son, as He entered the world as a defenseless baby ~ as the Lamb of God.  The Father’s eyes are never off His children.

When we let the little lamb go and put him down onto the grass, he bleated his little heart out!  All the other mama sheep out there started bleating back…with the exception of his actual mama.  That was confounding to me!  What was happening here.  Then I looked back at the lamb and he was pacing back and forth, unwilling to step further.  He just stood there and bleated like crazy.  In that moment, I felt God showing me that when I stand in one place and act like a crazy person yelling out to God, without actually focusing on Him peacefully, even if He was calling out to me I wouldn’t be able to truly hear Him.  Once the lamb stopped calling out for his mama, started scampering toward the herd, all the other sheep began to quiet down.  His mama never took her eyes off her baby, and she began to baa for her little lamb. He immediately heard her voice ~ and ran straight to her.

That little lamb took the time to HEAR the voice of his mother so he could easily identify where to run!

The last moment to share was how the sheerer/shepherd (at Sheep World) was telling us how the sheep get from the hidden tops of the hills down to the corral.  With just a few verbal commands, he sends one of his trusty sheep dogs out to round them up.  That dog took off, jumped the corral fence, tore up the hill and began bringing those sheep down the hill in about 2 minutes.  This dog never barked…he only LOOKED at the sheep to get them where he wanted them to go.  And his goal was to bring the sheep as close to the shepherd as possible.

Now, this may be a stretch, but hang in there with me for a minute.

Jesus is referred to as our Shepherd* mulitple times in the Bible. The Holy Spirit is referred to as our Helper**/Comforter*** in God’s Word.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t bark at us ~ He uses the truths of who our Shepherd, Jesus, is and whispers those truths to our hearts.  His goal is to bring us back around as close to Jesus as possible.  Once we are close to our Shepherd, we can be cared for as needed.  We may need to be sheered ~ ridding our self of the excess in our life.  We may need to be fed ~ filling up our soul with the Bread of Life.  We may need to be washed ~ being cleansed from the filth of sin that creeps in.

Take the time my friend to get to know His voice.

Listen and run to Him.

Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you back to Jesus.

Blessings,

René

p.s. ~ Just because I love the joyful freedom of the picture…here’s one more from the trip!

rene-holding-a-little-lamb

* mentioned 34 times in the ESV: https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=shepherd+Lord&qs_version=ESV

** John 14:26 (ESV)

*** John 14:26 (ASV)

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

Jesus Chose Judas…on Purpose!

Have you ever thought about this fact?  I’ve been a Christian since I was 8 years old….almost 40 years….and it has only been until recently that I’ve truly pondered this truth.  And I’ve truly marveled at this idea!

Jesus. Chose. Judas. On. Purpose.

ON PURPOSE!!!

When Jesus began His public ministry, we see the journey He took in choosing the 12 disciples.  Throughout the first four gospels of the New Testament, each author introduces the disciples at various intervals, but they all follow the same path.  John the Baptist had been preparing the people for years, during his public ministry, declaring to them that the Messiah was here and coming to save them all.  Remember now, that John and Jesus were cousins….John’s mother, Elizabeth, was visited by Jesus’ mother Mary while they were both pregnant.  John lept in his mother’s womb at the sheer nearness of the Savior that Mary was carrying (Luke 1:41).  God ordained even in that moment to prepare John spiritually for the ministry he would have in proclaiming the good news that the Messiah was on His way!

One more thing that had to happen before Jesus began His public ministry was that He was sent into the wilderness by God the Father, to endure various temptations brought on by the devil.  Let me be very clear here ~ Jesus cannot give into temptation because He is fully God.  And as fully man, Satan tried to tempt His earthly flesh, but Jesus was never in danger of giving into any of those temptations because He is fully God.  This part of scripture shows us a few things.

One is that, God will always give us a way out of any temptation we face in our lives.  ALWAYS!!  (I Corinthians 10:13).  Secondly, Jesus wanted to show us the key principle to use when the enemy is trying to tempt us is to go to scripture.  Speak the truth of God’s Word into whatever the situation might be and keep the devil out of our life.  There is nothing Satan can say that will ever trump the truth of what God’s Word says.

Satan tried to tempt Jesus three times and each time, Jesus reminded Him what the truth was.  Satan’s job is to distract us from what God says is true; to try and manipulate God’s Word to make us think God is wrong and that His word doesn’t apply to our life.  Everything Satan used to tempt Jesus, were things that already belonged to Jesus as the Son of God.  There was nothing Jesus would gain from giving into temptations.  We need to remember this because we are God’s child and as such we have been given the same authority over the principalities of the earth.  We can tell Satan to hit the road and never come back!

After going through the 40 days in the wilderness and being tempted three times, Jesus didn’t jump up on the proverbial stage and declare His power and demand to be listened to.  He went to find his cousin John the Baptist, and asked to be baptized. So John did just that ~ Jesus of Nazareth was baptized in the Jordan river and,  we read in Matthew 3:16, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.”  What a powerful sight to behold that must have been!

Now, Jesus was ready to choose his disciples.  The 12 men who would become the cornerstone members of the Christian church.  Just. Twelve. Men. Not perfect men, not special men, not men with high ranking jobs….just human beings who were willing to follow Christ when He called them.

You can read all four gospels to get a unique perspective on who was chosen and how they were chosen, but for today’s blog, I’m going to be primarily using the books of Matthew and John.

In Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus begins by choosing Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, then James the son of Zebedee and his brother John ~ all four were fisherman and do you know what their response was, vs. 20, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” and in vs. 22, “and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

There was absolutely NO hesitation!  I love that and wish I was more like that!

In Matthew 10:1-4, we read how He sent out the disciples to begin their ministries along with Jesus and look what He does, Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

So you can see ~ these were just ordinary men.  Fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot….and a betrayer.

He taught these men all that He knew and unfolded parts of the mysteries of heaven (healings, preaching, casting out demons) to them in order to give them authority to preach God’s truth throughout the lands.  

This all included Judas.

Why would Jesus do this?  Because He KNEW what Judas was going to do and He knew that it needed to happen.  Jesus chose this disciple, this friend, knowing Judas would betray Him.  Jesus had to make sure that His disciples, and all of His followers, would realize that it HE wasn’t caught off guard by His arrest and subsequent crucifixion.  One of the ways that Jesus made it clear He knew what was going on and what was about to happen, is these passages in John 13 ~

vs. 18-20 ,“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’ “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.””

vs. 26-30, Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.  As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.  So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.”

Look at the parts of these verses above that I put in bold ~ JESUS KNEW WHO HE CHOSE AND WHAT JUDAS WAS GOING TO DO!

There is no question about it.  This is further proof that every part of Jesus’ life was determined only by God the Father.  Human minds did not bring God the Son, Jesus, to earth.  Human minds did not determine where and when Jesus’ public ministry began.  Human minds certainly did not dictate the why and how of His crucifixion.  And most importantly, human minds did not and could not comprehend the beautiful resurrection of Jesus, completely the plan that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, devised to bring about restoration and salvation!

One last piece to today’s writing that I feel cannot be missed, is a simple but an impactful fact. Jesus was betrayed by a friend. Just like Jesus knows hunger, exhaustion, delight, sadness, and the joy of obedience to the Father, Jesus knows the pain of betrayal.  I’m sure like me, you don’t become friends with someone knowing they will betray you. Why on earth would we put ourselves through that kind of pain from the beginning of a friendship?  Sometimes we are betrayed by someone we may have had an inkling was not a good influence on us, but most often the experience is one of the friend who chooses at some point in the relationship to turn against us ~ to betray our confidence, our trust, or the sincerity of our heart.

Rest assured my friend ~ Jesus knows this pain all too well.  Cry out to Him and He will hear you.  As with Judas, there was a purpose in his relationship to Jesus. May I suggest that the difficulties in friendships you may have had in the past, or may be currently having, have a purpose.  It doesn’t matter your age, a betrayal of friendship can cut to the heart.  At a recent women’s retreat I attended, the speaker made it very clear that forgiveness of a betrayal (no matter how big or small) does not mean that you have to automatically trust that person again. Forgiveness can be freely given ~ Trust must be earned.

Betrayal may feel like a wound that is impossible to heal ~ and you’re partly right…you can’t do it on your own.  Only our Comforter, the Holy Spirit can come in and bind that wound and heal it in order to make us stronger for what’s coming next.

Jesus is the best friend we can ever hope to find.  He will never betray you.  He will never use your vulnerability against you.  He will never sell you out.

He will always have your back. He will always care about your feelings.  He will always have time for you.

Jesus will always love you.  

Romans 8:38-39 declares,For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Oh, and one of my absolute favorite reminders of God’s love for me ~

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

Blessings to you my friend,

René

2 Thessalonians 2 verses 16-17

 

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

If You’re Happy and You Know it……..

I bet you’ve heard that old song, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” I’m sure you know the rest….so are you?  Is your new year’s resolution to be happy? How about just wanting to enjoy every moment?  EVERY moment…really?  Or do you want to be better?  What does that even mean by the way?  To “be better”….better than what?

I looked up “happy” in my handy-dandy bible app and found that (depending on the version you like), being happy is mentioned between 20-45 times in the Old and New Testaments.  If you are apt to take verses out of context, you could argue that God wants you to be happy.  Well, you’re partially correct.  The ways in which we can be happy are:

* When we are saved from our enemies

* When we speak with wisdom

* When we experience the goodness of God

* When we receive correction from the Lord

* When we do not follow the path of wicked men

* When we take refuge in the Lord

* When we remember that God chose us for His own

* When we care for the poor & show kindness to our neighbor

* When we find our strength in the Lord

* When we delight in the Lord and praise Him continually

* When we walk in the presence of the Lord

* When we seek the Lord with all our heart, mind, body, and soul

* When we wait patiently for the Lord

Best thing that I see in all of these references ~ it’s NOT about ME!  It’s ALL about HIM!  Is this as much a relief to you as it is to me?  I cannot be happy on my own.  I will never be able to be happy simply because I choose to be and live in such a way to make that happen.  That is not the reality in which God has laid out for us.  When we put ourselves aside, follow the Lord’s leading, and walk in the direction He has chosen for us, praising Him no matter what comes along that path, THEN we will be happy.  THEN we will have happiness that comes from a place that is beyond our control.

But really…..is it happiness that you want and are striving for?  I think the underlying emotions that we are searching for so much in our lives is that of contentment and peace.  Now, hang on to your hat….contentment and peace are absolutely intertwined with being happy. However, BOTH come from resting in the Lord and trusting Him with all your frustrations, messes, irritations, sadness, and in your joyful times too.  In all of it!

There are over 300 verses that talk about peace, and again, there is absolutely nothing you can do to gain peace for yourself on your own terms.  Same goes for the 7 verses that speak on having contentment.

One of the most difficult times in my married life is when my husband and I (along with two other amazing couples from our church) felt called by God to start up a faith-based children’s animation company.  All six of us, with greatly differing personalities, were all on board for the entire time we had our company; that this is what God had called us to.  Had we not all had the unique commitment to find our contentment, peace, and happiness in the Lord, I don’t even want to think about where we would all be today.  Little did we know that God was going to ask our three families to truly live out the verses that Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13, I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Before we started our company, my husband had a very successful career with a major animation studio ~ pulling in a generous 6 figure yearly salary + bonuses.  And we left it because God asked us to.  Not quickly, but we did jump off the proverbial cliff of faith God called us to.

The lowest financial point when we had our company, was when we had about $80.00 total (like, yeah, eighty dollars….that’s it) for the month.  And then we were invaded by ants.  I seriously, VERY seriously, HATE ants!  Long story short, although my sweet husband was angry that he would have to use his $5 allowance for lunches (think Costco $1.50 hot dog special!) to buy me a can of ant-killer spray, he did it anyway.  That day, at a VONS in town, my man walked out of there somehow only paying .05 for a huge can of Raid.  Yep…no misprint there…FIVE CENTS!  We went back to the that location several times looking for the checker that helped him find the right store promotion and use our rewards card to get this deal, and never found her again.  Angels are real people ~ we met one and she helped us kill the ants!

Relating this very small part of our story, brings tears my eyes even now as I remember the hardship we experienced.  But the tears are not because I’m sad.  The tears are not because I am disappointed that God apparently didn’t mean for our company to last.  The tears are for the joys within the trials that we learned….individually and together as a family.  I honestly wouldn’t trade what we went through because it made my faith in the Lord stronger.  It made me know beyond a shadow of doubt, that God fully and completely cares for me and what happens to me.  It taught my daughters to know that God is always there because He loves us and wants the best for us.  We learned to live out in practical ways, “for my good and God’s glory.”  He cares more about my relationship with Him, than in what my bank account says!  🙂

God’s peace passes way beyond our understanding!  Our minds are incredibly finite when it comes to such things.  I want to encourage you to look up scriptures on peace, and read them over and over again.  Ask the Lord to wash over your heart, mind, and soul with the words of His promises.  His peace comes to those whose trust is in Him; to those who believe in His words; to those who reside within the borders of obedience to Him; who are faithful to follow Him.  Then peace, no matter the circumstance you find yourself in, will envelop you like nothing else.  It doesn’t mean you are skipping down the street throwing confetti & glitter in the air.  It means that your happiness finds itself generated in the overwhelming knowledge that God calls you His own and loves you more than you know.

Oh, and God has a sense of humor!  I have a TV channel playing a contemporary Christian pop music station.  A song called, “Happy” came on and I found it on youtube, so of course, I’m adding in the link to this blog.  My favorite verse is this one:

“No, I cannot count the ways
You have made my life so blessed
All I know is that You came
And made beauty of my mess”

Isn’t that beautiful!  I love music that reminds me of the greatness of my God and how very much He cares about me.  And no wonder ~ God is the creator of music! Part of the reason is written in Zephaniah 3:17 because He had something special planning for music and it involves YOU! It says, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”  Just one more way that He wanted to connect with us on a spiritual level.

The days I want to simply stand in church and NOT sing, are the days I know that I MUST sing.  I can feel the groaning of the Holy Spirit calling out to me to lift my voice in praise ~ to unveil my mind from the prison of hurt, anger, or pride, and humble myself before the Lord.  There’s nothing that snaps me out of a bad mood faster than trusting my heart to a time of worship to the Lord.  The musical chords and words of the song, literally wash over my heart and shine the light of the Jesus on me!  Whew!  If you have ever had this kind of experience, you know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t ~ my friend, get to your nearest radio and find a station that plays great praise music.  I’ll listen to just about all of it, but anything from Hillsong or Bethel Music will absolutely and positively minister to you!!

So I don’t want you to be happy ~ not in the way the world calls out to our sinful nature to be happy.

I want you to be happy because you have found peace and contentment in the Lord.  Because you have found delight in honoring the Lord and in obeying the call He has on your life.  Because you have chosen to put yourself aside and step out in faith as the Lord directs.

Then, you will be truly happy!

Blessings,

René

Psalm 34 verse 8

https://www.biblegateway.com/

http://www.metrolyrics.com/happy-lyrics-ayiesha-woods.html

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Uncategorized, Women's Ministries

Grieving With Hope

There have many things I’ve seen & heard about in the last week that have centered around moments brought on by grief. Friends who are mourning the loss of a family member, the extreme tragedy in Paris due to the terrorist bombings, loss of life in various middle Eastern countries, friends who have loved ones dealing with cancer, and others who have lost jobs. There are a variety of ways we experience loss and just as many ways we grieve those losses.

Like you, I’ve experienced various losses in my life and haven’t always handled the process very well.  My first brother died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) at 3 months old ~ I was 23 months old and I remember that day vividly.  I realize now that the way I processed my “2 year old grief” was to become the little momma…everyone’s caretaker to make sure everyone was happy.  I was blessed with several great grandparents and great aunts & uncles, and a great multitude of cousins ~ which meant by the time I was 18, I had attended about 10-12 funerals.  I remember when I was about 31, I attended my first funeral service where the person was not a Christian.  I almost came unglued during the service when this woman’s children looked up toward the ceiling of the church and said, “Well Mom, wherever you are, I hope you are happy and maybe I’ll see you again sometime.” I cried all the way home.  Deeply saddened for this family who was not only dealing with the loss of their sweet mom, but adding to that grief was the knowledge that they didn’t have the hope and security in Christ’s salvation.  I also cried with relief knowing that my daughters would never have to wonder where I was after my time here on earth is done.

This can be a very touchy subject for some, and I do not mean to offend.  What I want to offer you is Hope.  In Christ, through His salvation, we have a hope that is full of grace and mercy; and frankly, totally incomprehensible.

John 3:16-21 beautifully illustrates God’s promise, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

The latter half of these verses readily bring to mind the Paris tragedies that happened this past Friday.  The people who organized these heinous acts are evil. Pure and simple…they. are. evil.  Because sin came into this world (Genesis 3), satan became the ruler of this world.  Satan’s goal is to wreak havoc over the entire earth; to make every good thing God created into something twisted; to turn God’s Word around to make it sound legalistic and unattainable.

My friend ~ look to the truth of God’s Word here in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

In the book of John, chapter 14, the truth that is celebrated on these pages of scripture fills me with great hope and great joy.  Verses 1-7, Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”” 

In verses 15-17 of chapter 14, John writes, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” 

But I think my favorite part of John 14 is in verse 27,Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” 

Let me just say…the entire book of John is an amazing account of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ & I recommend that you take a moment and read the whole book.  It holds a brilliant light up to a dark world, proving that Jesus IS who He says He is.  He WILL do what He has promised to do.  We do have salvation through Him and we will be with Him again someday.

But sometimes you have seasons of doubt, usually as a result of some kind of grief you experience.  This is not a concept that is readily spoken about in the Christian church today, and I personally think this is part of the reason why so many Christians become disillusioned with the Word of God and His promises.  No one wants to take the time to walk that dark road of doubt with someone, encouraging them to persevere and make it out back to the light of truth.  God knew we would deal with this emotion of doubt.

One answer comes in Romans 3:3-4a, What then? If some did not believe, will their unbelief cancel God’s faithfulness? Absolutely not! God must be true, even if everyone is a liar,” Just because I may at times doubt in God’s plan for my life or for this world; just because I may at times have a hard time believing that God’s goodness will overcome ~ those human feelings do not in any way nullify the purity and surety that is God.

The NIV Bible version mentions the word “grief”, 32 times in scripture; the word “grieve” or “grieved”, 30 times; and “grieving”, 3 times.   Collectively, that is 65 mentions of grief.  But just like God, He wants to show us His heart and remind us what is true.  Guess how many times the word JOY is used in scripture?  50? 100? 150?  Nope….over 240 times!!!  And the word HOPE is written about 180 times! Mathematically, that’s EIGHT TIMES the amount of God calling us to focus on what is good and truthful, joyful and hopeful…..instead of focusing on the pain of grief.

Psalm 30:11-12 King David joyously declares, You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”

 

For this blog post, I turned to my friends on Facebook and asked them, “What does the statement, ‘grieve with hope’, mean to you?”  Here are some snipits of what they had to say:

“The grief of Christians is very different from the grief of non believers because we have hope that all pain will pass away.” 

“I grieve with hope everyday knowing that my mom is with Jesus and I will see her again. Our view of heaven is very different when someone we love so much is there.”

“The hope that I have in Christ, brings me joy and I know that because of Jesus being my hope.”

“My hope is in that which I do not see … Which is a future with no more tears, no more pain. It’s literally too good to be true – and yet, miraculously, it is true, and there lies my hope.”

There are times and seasons when prayers go unanswered – and we have no idea why! When there are doors we so desperately want to have opened wide and God, in His Wisdom, keeps them closed – or slams them shut!! If we remain in Him, if we persist in prayer and stay in the Word – when our soul is anchored in the Lord, we will soon see His purpose and His reasons.”

“In life, it means to me that broken relationships grieve our hearts, but in the Lord there is hope for healing. In death, it means that when we lose another fellow believer we have hope of being reunited in heaven.”

 

Lamentations 3 verse 24

I am so thankful for the input of these dear friends who shared their heart.  My prayer is that through their words, and through the truth of God’s scripture, that you will begin a new journey of turning your uncertainty to surety, your sorrow to joy, and your grief to hope.  There is HOPE!

Blessings,

René

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

Good News from a Far Country

It is always so wonderful to me when I hear good news “from a far country.”  Sometimes, the distance really isn’t that far, but just far enough.  If you ask some of the people we know, asking them to travel to the Pasadena area from their homes seems like we are asking them to travel to a far country!  LOL!!  Really….20 minutes?  In SoCal, that’s a quick trip! If you aren’t from this area, I’m sure I will bewilder you when I tell you that in order to visit my sweet niece, her husband, and their three beautiful daughters, it takes an hour AND 7 freeways to get there…yes, I said SEVEN!  But it’s always worth it!

We have friends & family from all over the country…great places to visit…Montana, Tennessee, Washington, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, Texas…just to name a few.  At this point in time, the most “far country” person in my life is our middle daughter who lives in Kona, HI.  And soon she will be ministering with YWAM in an area in Southeast Asia…that’s REALLY REALLY FAR!  I’m so beyond thankful for technology that allows us to keep in contact so easily.  Our oldest daughter used to live in Seattle and many times that seemed like a far away country.  And with our youngest still at home, I think she sometimes feels like high school is a foreign country!  🙂

When I was in the 6th grade, my teacher was a darling little woman from the Philippines.  We learned very quickly, however, not to underestimate her authority in the classroom.  Small but mighty is a great description for her!  At that time in the L.A. area, the public school systems were beginning to severely decline in their organization.  These poor teachers wouldn’t find out what grade they were teaching for the year until practically the day before school began.  Surprise surprise that the first 4-6 weeks of school, we didn’t have the books or curriculum that we needed.  But with Mrs. Hidalgo in charge, our little class did not suffer from “nothing to do” syndrome.  We were learning about foreign countries, and she taught us how to write our first research paper.  I remember I was given the country of Venezuela and I think I still have that report somewhere ~ I was quite proud of it!  After we were done with that, we all received our new pen pal (through a national service that matched 6th graders with other students the same age in foreign countries).  Christl from Belgium became my new pen pal friend ~ and although it’s not 1-2 letters a week that we would send/receive from each other back in the day, we still exchange Christmas cards all these years later!  I even had the privilege of meeting her in person about seventeen years ago.  It was so amazing to hang out in Ghent with her and see where she lived.

So how do these stories play into the theme for today?  Here’s the verse that I read in Proverbs 25:25“Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”  I don’t know about you but on a hot day, or a day that I haven’t had enough water, drinking a nice cool glass of water has a remarkable affect on me.  The taste of it on your tongue immediately begins to quench that thirst, then the flow of the water just hits you as swallow and you can feel it going down, refreshing all parts of your body.  Now, I am not a doctor, but I do know that the water doesn’t actually travel into all parts of your body like it’s filling up a water balloon.  But the EFFECTS of that cool water nourishes your entire system from the top of your head to the tip of your toes!!  Okay, I’ll wait…go get a glass of water and then come back!

Proverbs 25 verse 25

I am continually amazed by the healing properties of water ~ so of course the Lord would use water in so many analogies and parables throughout His ministry.  Water into wine (John 2), the Woman at the Well, (John 4), the commandment of the water’s power (Luke 8), and being baptized by John the Baptist as He began His ministry on earth (Matthew 3),  just to name a few.

Water is remarkable ~ it brings life, it nourishes, it refreshes, it cleanses, it is powerful, it is gentle, it is perfect and cannot be duplicated.  Sound like Someone else I know ~ Jesus has all of these attributes and more.  And more importantly, Jesus cannot be duplicated.  I would like to challenge you to look at areas of your life where you are seeking to fill your life with things (or people) that cannot truly fill you.

John 7:37-38 provides a beautiful picture of how truly simple it is to receive the Lord and the blessings He intends to give us ~ “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Isaiah 12:3 prophesied with these words, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

And the promises that will be fulfilled in God’s perfect timing, found in Revelation, are some of the most beautiful words in all of scripture to me ~

Revelation 7:17“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Revelation 21:6“And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”

Revelation 22:1-2, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree werefor the healing of the nations.”

Revelation 22:17“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”

Throughout my life as I have served the Lord, as I have had seasons of drought, seasons of plenty, times of doubt and thankfully more times of trust, the promises of the Lord my God have remained true and steady.  Praise the Lord that my faithLESSness doesn’t weaken His faithFULLness!  *I know I spelled that wrong…but wanted to highlight the best part of God’s fullness in my life!*  He showed how faithful He is to give me what I need just last night on the eve of my birthday.  (Yep!  Today is the big day….and I am proud to say that I am 47 now!).  The enemy was working over-time, trying to make me feel inadequate because I had (again!) not accomplished all that I had thought I would in this past year since my last birthday.  I was beginning to go down that dark road of doubt and sadness…I could literally feel the joy of the day being choked out of my heart.  Had I done ANYTHING worth it in this past year?  Yes!  By God’s grace…YES!  Had I failed at some things and not come close to completion on a few others, you bet.  But did that make me less deserving of God’s grace and unconditional love?  No way!!  God has given me a most amazing husband who is such a tower of strength and encouragement ~ he doesn’t let the self-pity thing go very far, reminding me that he loves me no matter what.  And more importantly, reminds me that God loves me despite my failures.  It is in those times of failure and disillusionment that I need to not just turn to the Lord, I need to break out full speed ahead and RUN to my Savior!

Jeremiah 31:12, “They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more.”

I want to be like a well watered garden and no longer languish through life!  I want to flourish with joy and contentment in all areas of my life, trusting that God has good things planned for me!  And I want that for YOU too!!

My first “Happy Birthday” message came from my Kona girl at 1:18am.  I woke to the sweet sounds of my husband and two girls at home singing “Happy Birthday” to me. I have received more texts and and humbly abundance of well-wishes and blessings from friends and family near and far.  I have had “Good News” from far-away places.  And I live in a place today knowing that the Living Water from my Lord sustains me like no other.  I am a Daughter of the King and He is radiant over me with His goodness.  I can function from a mind-set where I know that I have salvation that I cannot earn or purchase, but an eternal life that I have been given through the price Christ paid on the Cross.  I can declare the truths and promises about me and for me, that the Lord has set forth ~ I do not have to walk on that dark path of doubt.  God has a plan and path for me ~ and for YOU ~ and guess what….Satan cannot walk on that path with us.  He can’t!  He’s not allowed.  He can only stand on the sidelines and try to lure us away, tripping us up with his lies and deceit.  He cannot dwell in the same place as the Lord.  Because you are HIS, you are safe.  I am in His strong and mighty hands.

Isaiah 46 verse 4

These sweet words in Isaiah are like water to my soul and joy to my heart ~ I have a long way to go until I have reached “old age” but I have the fantastic knowledge that God will be there with me each step of the way.  He will guide me, carry me, bear my burdens with me, and save me for Himself.

My birthday wish to you ~ that you allow the Lord to bring you His good news of salvation and grace.  He’s waiting right there for you and will never turn away from you.  Trust me ~ I know that I wouldn’t have made it to my 47th birthday without the strength I have received over and over and over again from the Lord.  HE is my greatest gift and I know my Father loves me.  He loves you like crazy too!!

Blessings,

René

 

Bonus note ~ just as I was writing this blog, I received some “Good news from a far country” ~ Savannah called to say “Happy Birthday!”  What a joy!  Oh, and these photos (with the scripture on them) are from the gorgeous drives I was blessed to take with my friend Jenn in Montana last week.

 

**All scripture references can be easily found on http://www.biblegateway.com

 

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

But God?!

“But Mom!  That’s not fair!”, “But Dad!  Mom said I could!”, “But why?  I don’t deserve this!”  Sound familiar?  How about, “But God?  Why did this happen? Why did I lose my job?  Why did my friend have to die?  Why can’t I have a lot of money?  Why do I have to go through this trial?”  And so on and so on.  We’ve all been there….at least, I’m pretty sure we have.  If you have never ~ like, ever! ~ found yourself questioning God on any aspect of your life that didn’t seem fair, please tell me how you do it.

In recent bible studies and scripture reading, I have come across a phrase that I’ve probably seen a bunch of times before, but it is hit me freshly in the past few months.  I know I’ve said it before (and I did in my bible study group this morning!), I absolutely and thoroughly LOVE that God will shine a light on a passage of His Word in a new and impactful way because of what He wants to teach me in that specific moment.  God’s Word never changes, but we do and when we get closer to Him and are careful enough to study His Word, we can see things in a brand new way that we never did before.  God’s Word is alive and well people!  It ain’t going anywhere!!

So, what’s the phrase?

But God…

These two words are used congruently in the Bible about 35 times. And I made sure to read all of them so that I would be beyond certain of what I share with you today.

In each of these circumstances, God was either giving a promise, giving a warning, or giving a way out.  But God.  The word ‘but’ is a conjunction, but can be used as a preposition, an adverb, a noun, or an idiom. The definition found in dictionary.com says: on the contrary; yet; except; save; unless; if not; except that (followed by a clause, often with that expressed); without the circumstance that; otherwise than; who not; that not.

So these verses can be described by saying: yet God, except God, save God, unless God, if not God, who not than God.  God’s Word never wastes a letter, even a three letter word, ‘but,’ can describe a wealth of emotion in the circumstance.

2 Chronicles 20:15 and he said, “Listen carefully, all Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat. This is what the Lord says: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast number, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 

Job 28:23 “But God understands the way to wisdom, and He knows its location.”

Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.”

Ephesians 2:4 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us,”

These verses bring joy to my heart in knowing that God is for me!  I do not have to be afraid of the world and what is in it, but I do need to be aware of what is in the world and what is going on in the spiritual realm so that I can be protected.  As you just read in Job 28:38, God knows where His wisdom is kept and He knows how to impart that wisdom to us.  God always provides a way out of a difficult situation.  But what happens when we feel God isn’t being fair?

One of the things I’ve said to my girls in the past (that they don’t particularly enjoy) is when I hear them say, “But that’s not fair!”  I respond with “Fair?  Fair is a place where you can ride a Ferris wheel and eat funnel cake.”  I laugh…they usually do not.  For the most part, it stops the complaint from going farther.  One of the hardest parts of having my three lovely girls, is when they feel one sister is getting something that they aren’t.  How many times have I had the conversation with one of them about how the big sister gets to have this certain privilege and you don’t…because you are 9 and they are 15.  Six years doesn’t seem to be a huge age gap, but it is.  And it doesn’t seem fair.  When the 15 year-old was 9, they had the same rules, but the current 9 year-old doesn’t remember that because said 9 year-old was THREE!  I guess in a way, we were riding a Ferris wheel!

So when we feel life isn’t being fair, where to we go?  We can run to the everlasting arms of Jesus and He will absolutely comfort us.  We can have strength from the Lord as only He can give and learn to be satisfied with what is going on in our life.  It is definitely a learning process to be content and satisfied.  If we could come by contentedness easily, we wouldn’t need the Lord.  We wouldn’t need to rely on anyone but ourselves.  Then we ultimately wouldn’t need a Savior.  How sad is that thought.

There is nothing that we can summon up within ourselves, all by ourselves, that will truly amount to anything.  The gifts and talents we have, have been given to us by the Lord.  We have a choice what we are going to do with them, but unless we submit those choices to the Lord, disappointment will be around every corner.  Again…and cautiously I say…submitting our will to the Lord and being obedient to the call He has on our life, does not guarantee a blissful life free of problems.  I know I’ve written on this idea before, but I think it bears repeating simply because it’s something we deal with often.  Sometimes we deal with it on a daily basis.  Well, I do at least…and I bet I’m not alone here.  I get caught up in running off down a path that I’m sure will be pleasing to the Lord ~ I’ve prayed about it, I’ve received counsel from others that I trust, all the pieces seem to be coming together ~ and then I ask God to join me on my journey.  Did you catch that?  “My journey.”  This is completely backwards.  I truly may be taking correct steps forward, but unless I submit that desire and choice to the Lord, I’ll end walking on the edge of the path God has for me, instead of right smack down the center of the path where He is leading me.  I need to join God on His journey that He has planned for me.

There are also several occasions in scripture where we see that God has had to discipline His people because they have walked off the proverbial path.

Romans 11:22 Therefore, consider God’s kindness and severity: severity toward those who have fallen but God’s kindness toward you—if you remain in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.”

This verbiage may surprise you…that God can be described as kind and as severe in the same sentence.  But He is.  His kindness went so far as to create a plan where Jesus His Son, would come to earth and through His death and resurrection, create a most beautiful free gift of salvation ~ a reconciliation and a restoration of our life back to our Heavenly Father.  How many of us have a pure heart of kindness that we would die for someone in order to save them?  (!! I do not believe that we can die and save someone to eternity, by the way…just wanted to make that clear!!)  But really, our hearts, due to their base sin nature would never be able to do that for anyone.

Only God.  Except for God. If not for God.  ~  We would be lost.

Before we start thinking we are doing so well in terms of how we serve the Lord, how we honor Him with our praise and thanksgiving, we must remember that even in those activities we can become full of ourselves instead of full of the Holy Spirit.  God does not abide in the self-elevation we are guilty of.  Just because we “aren’t’ as bad as that guy over there,” doesn’t mean we are free from being disciplined due to sin in our life.  Luke 16:15 says, “And He told them: “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight.”

It amazes me sometimes that I can forget that God knows my heart and my mind.  I cannot hide anything from Him, so why in the heck do I think I can get away with unconfessed sin.  Afterall, I’m not being hunted by law enforcement, I haven’t killed anyone, I haven’t robbed anyone, so I’m a really good person.  But sin…is sin!  I know I am being pursued by the Holy Spirit to live a righteous life.  I know I need to be truthful in love so as not to destroy a dream that a loved one has shared with me.  I know I need to speak encouragement into the lives of those around me so that I do not destroy the tender heart who shares vulnerably with me about their life.

But God….

I am so very glad, beyond thrilled really, that God has intervened to bring me back to Him; that He wants to pursue me back to relationship with Him.  And He loves me enough to show me in His Word that He has a plan; a perfect plan.  I am thankful for His mercy and grace in my life.  Let me encourage you to trust the Lord, believe that our Heavenly Father has the best life for you.  Turn to Him in the darkest moments and ask Him for strength, as much as you honor Him with praise and thanksgiving in the best of life’s moments.  If you do not know the Lord today as your personal Savior, I would love to pray with you and for you ~ message me!  But you can start by reading the book of John in the New Testament ~ simply opening up a Bible or typing in http://www.biblegateway.com and put the word “John” into the search bar.  Holman Christian Study Bible or New International Version are the easiest to read.  Let me know if you have any questions!

Blessings,

René

Job 28 verses 23,28

*http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/but?s=t

*”but God” search:  https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/quicksearch=but+God&qs_version=HCSB&limit=500

 

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

Captive OR Captivated?

Are you living a life that is held captive by something or are you living a life that is captivated by Someone?

What’s the difference you say?

BIG difference!

To be captive by someone means to be “a prisoner;slave; made or held prisoner, especially in war.”  To be captivated by someone is the opposite, to attract and hold the attention or interest of, as by beauty or excellence ~ one is negative and one is positive.

If you are familiar with the Old Testament, there were laws set in place by God that the Israelite’s were to follow.  These laws served an important purpose in their lives as God’s people were able to focus on serving Yahweh (God the Father).  There were covenants made between God and His people (all throughout the book of Genesis); the 10 Commandments given to Moses by God on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20); a variety of Festivals honoring God (Exodus 23); sacrificial offerings for forgiveness of sin and for celebration (the book of Leviticus); and other laws that were given to the Levitical priests (the book of Numbers and Deuteronomy).

So. Many. Lists.

In the New Testament, Jesus came with the express purpose of teaching us directly about the Father and the grace & mercy He was offering.  Jesus wants to reconcile and redeem ALL of the people back to relationship with God the Father.  However, it just seemed “too incomprehensible” to the Jewish leaders of the day to believe that everything they had been doing for centuries, were no longer needed.  Jesus wanted to shed light on the fact that the Jewish people were living as captives to an old set of laws that didn’t need to be practiced anymore.  Why?

Jesus coming to earth as a man AND at the SAME TIME as part of the Trinity, and eventually fulfilling prophecy of being crucified and risen again, we mind-blowing!  By each miracle, by each teaching, by each healing ~ and ultimately by His Resurrection, Jesus made the absolute and FINAL sacrifice for us.  With that fulfillment of Old Testament promised prophecy, the old laws that governed the Jewish people (and all people for that matter) were finished.

The gap was forever bridged by the cross.  

The throne room of grace was opened for everyone to enter into and sit at the feet of the Father.  The Holy Spirit was made available to live in us and be our Intercessor.

But habits can be hard to break.

There are so many amazing truths that have come to fruition by the coming, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we can move from being captive to the old laws, to being captivated by the beauty, grace, and mercy of the Lord.  HIS ways are meant to be attractive to us, to hold our attention so that we can live a full and complete life.  Hear me when I also say that these promises of the Lord do not mean we will be exempt from troubles.   If I could sit across from you at one of my favorite coffee shops, I would listen to you as you poured out your heart and hope to encourage you not to lose hope…to not lose faith in God’s goodness.

At bible study today, one of the women in my group shared a powerful image with us.  We were talking about having faith and peace in our lives, the kind that only can come from strength in the Lord.  She held her coffee cup up and squeezed it just a bit.  She likened that motion as to what we do when we are holding “the cup” (whatever circumstance we find ourselves in) that God has given us but then we start gripping it, squeezing it as we try to take back that situation and bring it under our own control.  We have to learn to be content in the place we are at…easy or difficult…it is a place of God’s design.

No need to just take my word for it ~ read the promise from God in His Living Word in Romans 6:14“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”  I think I hear a Hallelujah from somebody out there!

My encouragement to you today as you read this, is that you make that full transition to become CAPTIVATED by the immense peace and beauty of our Lord Jesus.  When we allow our entire mental, emotional, and spiritual attention to be focused on Him, we will be able to be confident on the road ahead.  We can have faith that as we follow Him, He will not disappoint.

Romans 7 verse 6Blessings,

René

*http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/captive?s=t

*http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/captivate?s=t

*All verses found at: https://www.biblegateway.com