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Alive and Rested…

girl sitting by water - REST - for 2-12-20 blog

Photo by léa b on Unsplash

Recently, I heard a fantastic word on festooning scripture. You may have read my previous blog (And then it was a New Year…) on this subject. So, I thought I today, I would share with you the reflections I experienced while using Psalm 23 to practice.

Pastor Christine Suh, Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Fellowship Monrovia, was the guest speaker at the Fellowship Moms Bible Study.

Festooning basically means “to decorate”. Pastor Christine then shared that she would teach us how to festoon scripture into our soul. That definitely caused me to pause. She also explained the beautiful benefits of time spent personalizing scripture to our current life circumstances.

I’ll also add, that God’s Word is not a merely a story book. It’s not a place where we can see how scripture fits into our life, or how God fits into our life. Quite the opposite. Spending time in God’s Word shows us how we are to live with God as the center of our life and how we can live so as to honor Him and glorify Him through all that we do. 

To festoon is to personalize. And because God’s word is alive, He can personalize it to us every time we decide to spend time with Him. That’s the heart of the good Father. He knows His children and what make each one of us respond to His voice.

As Pastor Christine continued with her teaching, she also showed how most passages have three parts:

  • Orientation
  • Disorientation
  • Reorientation

I love this so much because these three qualities speak of how He works in our life to show us our path and purpose. God is the God of order and not chaos, so in no way do I want to confuse you at all. Let me be clear ~ God is ALWAYS oriented perfectly! We as humans are the ones who get disoriented and confused. This is why scripture is written the way it is:

  • God gives us perfect direction ~ every time.
  • When we get disoriented, God is there to keep us stabilized with the truth of His Word.
  • Finally, God is there to refocus us and remind us Who is He, what He can do, and what our path is.

With that, I welcome you to join me in this exercise of festooning scripture! Go ahead and first read through Psalm 23 (printed at the bottom of this blog using the Amplified Bible version). After each verse, these are my first initial thoughts and feelings as I personalized this scripture.

Here we go ~

(Orientation)

Vs.1 “The LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me], I shall not want.

~ Thank you, Jesus, that You are always faithful to lead me on the path You have set forth for me to travel. In that path, there is no fear of being lost, in danger, or abandoned. No matter what, You will always provide for me all that I need. It may not be what I think I want, but it will be exactly what you have planned to satisfy my needs.

Vs.2 He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still and quiet waters.

~ I’m grateful that You take me by the hand and gently lead me to places where I can find rest from my weariness; to places where I am able to rest in a peaceful state, and my mind is given rest from the distractions around me. I am thankful that there are opportunities that You provide for rest, and when my eyes are on You, I am able to see those times for what they are.

Vs.3 He refreshes and restores my soul (life); He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

~ You are gracious Lord to bring refreshment to my soul through your Living Word, through prayer, all with the opportunity to bring You glory & praise. I’m so thankful that by pausing in my day to read scripture, pray, and apply it to my life, that I can be refreshed even through the storms when they arise.

(Disorientation)

Vs.4 Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.

~ You know there will be times where I will allow my thoughts to wander away from Your truths & promises, causing confusion, disorientation, doubt, and fear. BUT ~ Your loving discipline will bring me back & Holy Spirit will wash my heart & mind clean with God’s truth over & for my life. I am grateful for Your gift of a comforter in the Holy Spirit.

(Reorientation)

Vs.5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed and refreshed my head with oil; My cup overflows.

~ I’m humbled Lord by how You want to celebrate me; how You intend to gather me to Your presence to bless me beyond measure with all Your love and protection, guidance and rejoicing. With You there is nothing that I lack. When I’m filled with You, the overflow of my life will be unmistakably filled with You.

Vs.6 Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, And I shall dwell forever [throughout all my days] in the house and in the presence of the LORD.”

~ You have called me by name, You have reconciled me to Your heart, You have come to save my soul and not condemn me. With You there is safety and joy, and that whatever trials and events come my way to cause disorientation, You will cover them and bring me to a place of peace. Forever!!

Whoa ~ such refreshment! Praise God!

I would love to encourage you to choose a scripture, maybe start with your favorite Psalm, and give it a try. When we truly meditate on God’s word and what He has to say to us, our soul cannot help but feel refreshed and renewed! Our soul and spirit long to be with the Father and what a beautiful privilege and blessing we have to openly read scripture and share with others what the Lord has done in our life.

Let your soul be festooned with the everlasting and perfect Word of God!

Blessings,

René

(Psalm 23 AMP) The Lord, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me],
I shall not want.

2 He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still and quiet waters.

3 He refreshes and restores my soul (life);
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the [sunless] [a]valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You have anointed and refreshed my head with [b]oil;
My cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell forever [throughout all my days] in the house and in the presence of the Lord.

 

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Don’t Be Like Edmund…

Dont Eat the Turkish Delight blog - plain pic

Photo by Salih Akyürek on Unsplash

The first time I ever heard of Turkish delight was when I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narnia set of books by C.S. Lewis. Edmund, one of the children in the story, was offered some of this supposedly tasty treat by the White Witch, who was disguising herself as the Queen of Narnia. Anyway, it sounded completely disgusting to me, even though I knew it was supposed to be some kind of candy. But eight-year-old me thought, ‘no thanks’! And why would you take candy from a stranger anyway???

Then, I tried some last year! Ha!

My husband and I had the opportunity to have an overnight layover in Istanbul on the way to a work event for him. The tour guide who met us at the airport had a lovely tour of the heart of the city planned for us. One of the spots we went to was a local street market that made fresh Turkish delight and the owners insisted we try as many flavors as we wanted.

All I could think of was Edmund in the story, how he stuffed his face with this stuff. He was never satisfied and was left by the Queen wanting more. He blindly promised the Queen whatever she wished because he was blinded by the desire to have more of her Turkish delight.

But it was so good! We tried their traditional pistachio flavor, then chocolate rolled in pistachio, then some other nut flavors, and some other fruit flavors. Oh man! So sweet and delicious! And it did leave me wanting more.

As we know, eat the yummy stuff, but in moderation. Don’t obsess about it or put it above every other thing in our life.

This reminder of Edmund character and his clear obsession with Turkish delight made me think about myself.

What is my ‘turkish delight’? What do I give more thought to than I ought? What distracts me from operating from a place of obedience to God?

We all have those things in our life that we put too much focus on. And when we do this, we lose track of what the good things are that the Lord desires us to seek.

I’ll be honest with you. My biggest distraction each week is that thing that my Granmarie lovingly referred to as the “boob tube”. This was coined by the adult generation of the 1950’s when TV first came out. They were concerned that kids were spending too much time watching TV and allowing it to “dumb them down.” And that’s when there was like 5 channels to watch! Today there are over 50 networks and more than 1000 channels to choose from. You could scroll through all the channels every day and never be satisfied.

And then there’s social media ~ same thing…scroll for hours and days…and never be satisfied.

There’s only one source that can fully satisfy the heart, mind, and soul of every person on the planet ~ it is the Lord.

And He gives us the CHOICE to follow Him or not. 

We don’t have to wait for Him to open up Facebook Messenger to read our note to Him. We don’t have to wait for Him to accept our ‘follow’ request on Instagram. We don’t have to wait for Him to return our call. We don’t have to wait for an email reply.

He is present.

He is available.

He is waiting.

He is patient.

He is kind.

He truly is just one step away ~ no matter how far we have strayed, it just takes one step turning around toward Him, to reach Him again.

I think one of the best parts of my relationship with Jesus is that He is completely and always trustworthy. He never betrays my confidences. He never lies to me. He always encourages me even in the midst of discipline. His love has no ulterior motives. His plans are always for my good even when I don’t understand them. He never offers me something good in order to trick me into doing something wrong. He always builds me up. He always cares for my heart when I am sad. He will always be my protector. He will always be my defender. He will go into battle on my behalf. He is the giver of true peace.

And oh, so much more!

The truly best part ~ He is my salvation. He has saved me certain spiritual death. I will never be separated from Him and will in fact see Him face to face one day.

He is so very good! {and that’s putting it quite mildly!!}

So, what in your life has the enemy made you think is better than a relationship with Jesus?

What’s your ‘turkish delight’?

Whatever it is, give it to the Lord. Even if its minute by minute, or day by day, come to the Lord with your hands open and ask Him to fill it with what is important to Him. Jesus will absolutely show you what is important to Him and how His plans for you are good.

Savor these few verses today my friend ~ turn around and you’ll find Jesus right there ready to gather you up in His arms!

Luke 9:23-24 says,  23 “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross daily [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake, he is the one who will save it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God].”

John 3:16-18 promises us, 16 “For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] [a]only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world [that is, to initiate the final judgment of the world], but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Whoever believes and has decided to trust in Him [as personal Savior and Lord] is not judged [for this one, there is no judgment, no rejection, no condemnation]; but the one who does not believe [and has decided to reject Him as personal Savior and Lord] is judged already [that one has been convicted and sentenced], because [b]he has not believed and trusted in the name of the [One and] only begotten Son of God [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, the One who alone can save him].

You are dearly loved ~ Jesus, through salvation, has literally loved the hell OUT of you! Hang on, read that one more time a little more slowly. Because of the gracious gift of salvation, we have everlasting life with the Lord. We are saved from the penalty of sin which is an eternal death separated from Him in hell. 

Again, whatever ‘turkish delight’ you think you are enjoying, or think you need to live a full life ~ it ain’t got nothing on a truly free life in Jesus. I’m praying that you hear my heart for you today ~ praying for you to come to a real place with the Lord and receive His grace for your life.

Jesus is better than anything this earthly world has to offer. I promise!

Blessings,

René

 

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Clean your sword…

Clean Your Sword blog - Battle Ready text

Photo by Ricardo Cruz on Unsplash

Have you ever heard this phrase? It’s usually referenced in terms of battle field protocol. After the battle was over, the soldiers were required to clean their sword before putting it away. This is practical and necessary. Not only would it be super gross to put away a dirty sword, the soldier would not be able to use that sword in the next battle. They would not be able to draw their swords quickly because they’d be stuck in their holders. The swords would not be able to do the job the soldier needed them to do because the blades would be dull and corroded. All the debris from battle would have gotten crusty and probably would’ve smelled awful too. Sorry for the imagery here, but it’s true.

I mean, you have to clean all your knives after you cook so that the utensils will be put away clean and ready to prep all you’re cooking the next time you’re getting dinner ready.

This past week at church, I sat in on a really fun class at church that is beginning to go through The Chronicles of Narnia and the spiritual connections between that series and the Bible. There was part of the story in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, where Aslan tells Edmund to clean his sword. It was such a pivotal moment in the book for Edmund and the brief conversation we had in class about this has definitely lingered in my brain this week.

It immediately had my mind racing with biblical imagery of battle. In God’s wisdom, and when the people were following Him with obedient hearts, the battle was always victorious! So many battles that the people prepared to fight in didn’t even have to raise their swords at all. In these battles of the Old Testament, the Lord was showing His people the true reality of wars in the spiritual realms. But there were also times that the people didn’t listen, taking matters into their own ‘capable’ hands and those battles were usually always lost.

If you are familiar with the book of Ephesians in the Bible, then you know there is a whole section dedicated to equipping the Christian for spiritual warfare. Before I go there, the Bible references swords a little over 400 times. All to do with battle of course.

Hebrews 4:12 says, For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Why does a sword need to be double-edged you may wonder? Well, when a soldier is adept at using their sword, they are able to wield it with such power that whether they hit from the left or the right, the sword will find its target every time and win. This is why the author of Hebrews uses this visual, comparing the Bible to a double-edged sword.

But how are we as warriors in the spiritual realm wield the Bible properly as a “two-edged sword”? In short, very carefully.

There are plenty out there who unfortunately use God’s Word to bring shame, disgrace, and defeat to those they deem inferior. Oh friend, if you have ever had someone use God’s Word to make you feel less than, please accept my apology on their behalf. Please believe and know that every scripture in the Bible is meant to draw us closer to the One who created each of us. Are there verses that deal with hard things like sin, obedience, disobedience, purity, and ways to live our life? Absolutely! But they are not there to make you feel like a worm.

The Bible is God’s love letter to you to let you know how truly LOVED you are by Him!

In Ephesians 6:10-17, we read a beautiful portion of scripture called The Armor of God:

The Armor of God

10 “In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might. 11 Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.

13 Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious]. 14 So stand firm and hold your ground, having[b]tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), 15 and having [c]strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news]. 16 Above all, lift up the [protective] [d]shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

In these short 8 verses, we see the perfect and complete description of what we need to do in our life today to be fully prepared to do battle. Whether that battle is in a hard conversation you have to have with someone, in disciplining one of your children, in decision-making times in your life, and of course in the spiritual realm.

God doesn’t say anywhere in the above scriptures, “Hey, if you’re tired or just feeling out of it, you can just pick the piece of armor you want to put on for the day and you’ll be good.” NO WAY!

Can you imagine actually going into a physical battle and deciding, “I’m just too tired to get ready. I’m having a great hair day and the helmet is totally gonna mess that up. Oh, and that shield is really heavy so I’ll give myself a rest today and grab it tomorrow.”

That would be ludicrous ~ and it would bring certain death!

So why do we as Believers do that to ourselves all the time?!?!?!

God tells us to be completely dressed in His armor so that we can successfully win the battle against us! These six pieces of God’s armor are all needed:

  • The belt of Truth
  • The breastplate of Righteousness
  • The ‘shoes’ of Peace
  • The shield of Faith
  • The helmet of Salvation
  • The sword of the Spirit

When we secure the truth of scripture around us, choosing to live rightly before God, walk in a way that brings peace to all situations, protecting our hearts with a deep faith in what God says about us and about who He is, keeping our minds clear and focused on the One who saved us from spiritual death, and properly utilizing God’s Word; then and only then are we truly prepared for battle.

It means that every day before we go to sleep, we must take care of our armor so that it’s ready for us to put on the next day. If we have battled, we must go before the Lord and have Him help us clean away the debris of the day. As the visual God gives us that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, how do we ‘clean’ that sword? This kind of stumped me for a minute and I asked God to show me what that means.

The Lord gave me a picture of a beautiful bible sitting on a coffee table, but that’s the extent of its use. It was simply decorative. The owner loved the bible enough to show all who entered that they had one but they had no idea what was inside.

We keep the ‘sword of the Spirit’ clean when we open it and do not let it collect dust or be on show for others to see. What’s important is the love letter that is inside for us to read and allow to permeate our heart, mind, and soul.

So, when you have those days, because we all do, where it seems like nothing is going right and everyone is against us…take a quick look at what you are ‘wearing’.

Did you try to go into battle on your own? Did we pick and choose what part of God’s armor to wear that day? Or worse yet, did we run out of the house spiritually naked? Yikes! Trust me, this is as much for me as it is for you that are reading this.

God does not waste words because His words bring life. 

Today, I would like to encourage you to allow God’s good Word to breathe life back into your soul today. Whatever battle you have been fighting, STOP! Take a pause to get dressed for battle and if you are weary, ask the Lord to help you put on His armor. The Lord’s armor is not too heavy ~ it is for your protection.

And remember, when the battle is done, clean your sword, shake off the dust of war, and trust that your Commander-in-Chief will take the night-watch for you!

Blessings,

René

 

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Holding Grief & Joy…

Is it really possible to hold grief and joy at the same time?

Yes, I do believe it is.

November is a precious month to me because of what happened two years ago. I learned to hold grief and joy, together in my heart, like a mother would hold two newborns in her arms. You cherish both, you learn from both…one does not have to win out over the other. But man, it’s so hard to hold them both.

Our oldest daughter got married two years ago at the beginning of November and it truly could not have been a more perfect day! After three days of torrential downpours (which in SoCal is always a shock!) Saturday dawned with a freshness in the air, a promise of the joy to come that day! The blue sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds, no sign of rain at all. Watching your child get married is a surreal thing. It brings you back to your own wedding day. I was keenly aware of this man who was marrying my daughter, I knew him before I knew him because I prayed for him for 24 years. I trusted that the Lord was watching over this man who would one day capture my daughter’s heart. What tremendous joy!! I get teary every time I think of this fantastic privilege to see a prayer come to life. It was a perfect day.

The weeks that followed however, I would not classify them in the “perfect” category. I think this is when I began to learn how to hold grief and joy in the same embrace.

The Friday after the wedding, my husband was struck with a terrible case of shingles…on…his…face! It was awful and painful and a bit terrifying. He was on medication and had many doctor and ophthalmologist appointments to make sure the virus didn’t affect his vision. It was so painful to watch him go through it all.

We had just come from such a high high and now experiencing a tremendous low.

On top of that, a few days before the shingles hit my honey’s darling face, I discovered why my neck had been hurting for a few weeks. I had somehow popped the top right back rib out of place. I would seriously rather give birth without drugs (because I have!) than feel the pain of having a rib put BACK into place several times before it finally stayed in place. Oh, the tears and the ugly-cry that happened in the chiropractor’s office for the first week or two of treatment! Thankfully it was where my now married daughter worked, so she was a bright spot in my day!

So, in the span of a few weeks, we’ve got…wedding…popped rib…shingles…we had enough riding on the emotional rollercoaster of life and were looking forward to things settling down.

At the end of November my father-in-law, Jim, passed away. It wasn’t completely unexpected but it’s still never easy. My husband and I were able to be there the night before and have our time with him and we knew that was a huge blessing.

As I sat at the funeral home with my mother-in-law and two of my sisters-in-law, my own mom called and said that I should make my way to my grandmother’s apartment as soon as I could. Again, not completely unexpected, but still came as a shock. Her goal was to make it to her great-granddaughter’s wedding and we’re so thankful she was able to!

As I drove the hour from Orange County to Burbank, I cried and pleaded with the Lord to give me one more day with my grandma. I knew our little family couldn’t handle two deaths on the same day.

God was so gracious and there was my sweet grandma Marie, fully dressed with her shoes on, resting comfortably in her lift chair. She was sleeping, but she had changed so much. My grief took over, and I bolted from the room. In the midst of my own mother’s grief, she comforted me in mine. I knew my amazing grandmother was so close to heaven and I didn’t know how I could deal with it all.

But let me tell you part of the secret of holding grief and joy together…it’s what my grandma said to me when I went back into her apartment.

I sat down next to her and held her hand. She opened up her eyes, that were still sparkling with all that grandma love, and said how happy she was to see me and patted the back of my hand. But she could see the grief in my eyes. Her next question, “How’s Jim?” She had closed her eyes after asking for a just a bit, long enough for me to try and pull myself together. When she opened her eyes and say the tears streaming down my face, she just said, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry. But we know where he is.”

This is how we hold grief and joy at the same time.

She knew was she was not far from seeing the Lord face to face, something she was joyous about, but she was still able to have a tender heart toward my sadness.

We cannot press down and suffocate the grief.

We have to face it.

We cry and we are sad. Maybe we are confused or mad.

Those feelings must both be experienced fully to come out of pain on the other side and be okay.

But in the grief, there was joy knowing that all the pain and suffering my father-in-law experienced was completely gone. He was wholly healed and I love to imagine my staunch Missionary Baptist father-in-law, dancing and singing praises in heaven to the King of Kings. That is joy!

I spent the rest of the day with my grandmother, and much of the family began to come in. We gathered around her chair and celebrated her. We told stories and every now and then, she would too. When she finally needed to rest in her own room, we were able to go in individually, and have some time with her. And I treasure the knowledge that she prayed for her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren every single day! What a legacy of faith!

Those moments too were held together by grief and joy.

None of us wanted to leave that night because we knew what was coming.

The next day, I arrived and checked in with my parents who’d gotten there a while before me. We thought we had a few more days. But as quickly as the hospice nurses arrived to do their assessment, days became moments. They rushed us in, my parents and I, and we had the honor of singing her into heaven.

Another moment held together with equal parts of grief and joy. 

Yes, equal parts.

The next few weeks were a bit of blur as we had services for both my grandmother and my father-in-law. And all of that in the midst of preparing for Christmas. Family coming into town, hosting dinners and being together as much as we could. Even in all of this, the experiences are different for everyone. Our oldest daughter was a newlywed. Our middle daughter lives out of state. Our youngest daughter was navigating her Freshman year of college. My husband was still dealing with the effects of shingles. And I could now get dressed without wincing in extreme pain.

The physical and emotional pain. The grief and the joy. 

They don’t always take turns.

Sometimes they arrive at the same time.

But here’s the best part, as I believe we are created in the image of God, He orchestrates our life and helps guide us through those times when we are required to hold grief and joy at the same time. He is in fact an expert at this.

That moment on the Cross, when His beloved Son took upon every single sin and all depravity of every human being that had been born and was still to be born, He had to look away. The grief that God the Father had to sit with is unimaginable to me. But He did it because of the magnitude of joy that was brought on by Jesus’ death and resurrection ~ the joy that we now had the free gift of reconciliation with our heavenly Father.

Here’s a passage from Matthew 27:45-54 ~ take some time and ponder this in your heart of how God the Father had to hold grief and joy at the same time…

45 “Now from the sixth hour (noon) there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.). 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud [agonized] voice, [j]Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 47 When some of the bystanders there heard it, they began saying, “This man is calling for [k]Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran, and took a sponge, soaked it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49 But the rest said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him [from death].” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud [agonized] voice, and gave up His spirit [voluntarily, sovereignly dismissing and releasing His spirit from His body in submission to His Father’s plan]. 51 And [at once] the veil [of the Holy of Holies] of the temple was [l]torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split apart. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints (God’s people) who had fallen asleep [in death] were raised [to life]; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they entered the holy city (Jerusalem) and appeared to many people. 54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The Lord has felt it all ~

Every feeling.

Every emotion.

Every hardship.

Every trial.

Every joy.

Every happiness.

With Him, we can do the same. We can experience grief and we can celebrate joy.

And we can do this at the same time.

We can hold grief and joy together.

Blessings,

René

Holding Together Grief and Joy - blog pic

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

 

Christian Communicators, Christian Mentors, College age women, Millenials, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, women, Women in Ministry, Women's Ministries, Writers

When the storms come…

I’m a California girl through and through. People don’t think we have weather in SoCal but we do! In the summer we’re wearing light weight clothes but at night, it can get cold…enough to put on a sweatshirt with our shorts! And once you hit September through March, you’re experiencing Winter when you first wake up, Spring in the later morning, Summer in the afternoon, and Fall by the time the sun goes down. Yeah, yeah, I know…but it’s all the seasons!

One thing that I’m used to living in SoCal is the earthquakes. I like that I don’t know they are coming. I like that they only last a minute or 90 seconds. I like that when they happen, I’m usually with people. I like that we can talk about a 30-90 second event for the next few days like we survived something tremendous. I’m thankful that I’ve never lost anyone in an earthquake, but I know plenty of people who have lost almost all their belongings in one. Including my own parents. They stayed with us in our tiny 600 sq. ft. apartment for a week after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Unbeknownst to me, they had popped in a video of the aftermath in the house while I was out doing the daily load of towels. When I came back inside, I thought they were still watching the news and I said, “Wow, those poor people. They are literally shoveling their kitchen belongings into a trash can.” My parents and husband looked at me and my Dad said, “Poor people? Well, yeah. That’s our house.” It was completely unrecognizable.

But we were in it together.

A few years later, I was visiting my sisters-in-law and their families when they lived in Naperville, IL. One of sisters-in-law had recently had twin girls and we had come for a visit. We convinced her to come out with us, just the moms, and have a day out to have lunch and do some window shopping in the cute downtown. And then it started to sprinkle. Then it started to rain. Then it began to pour like mad. And then it happened…the sirens started blaring for a tornado warning! My sister-in-law did the driving & was trying to reach her family to make sure her husband and my husband had gotten all the children down to the basement. It wasn’t funny, kinda like Mr. Toad’s wild ride and I’d never experienced such crazy rain!

But we were in it together.

That brings me to my experience last night and the inspiration for this blog.

I was alone.

I’m in the Dallas, TX area right now for a conference (shout out to The Declare Conference!) for Christian Communicators. As I was almost at my hotel, it was sprinkling a bit and the lightning show was incredible! After I was settled in, I realized I had time to get to the nearest Trader Joes to grab something for a later dinner. Then I heard a HUGE clap of thunder. I looked out my window…the rain was going sideways because the wind was so bad! Needless to say, I just went down to the lobby to see what they had; not much by the way, and I ate my frozen dinner with two coffee stirrers like they were chop sticks…it worked!

I wasn’t worried until the TV signal went out. Oh, and it cut out right after they declared a tornado warning.  WHAT???!!!! The rain, thunder, and lightning got worse. But I could still get text messages out. I didn’t feel quite so alone as I asked a few friends and family to pray for me and the whole weather situation. After about 20 minutes or so, the TV came back on and I felt confident that it’d all be okay. Some time went by and then my phone buzzed to life with a “Your area is experiencing a tornado. Please seek appropriate shelter nearby.” And then the sirens began to wail!

Are you kidding me? I was going on over an hour with this crazy weather! I called my husband just to hear his voice and he was very kind to comfort me in my fear.

So, I grabbed my phone, the charger, my clothes and tennis shoes, and my tote bag with my id and laptop in it, two of the pillows off the bed and holed up in the bathroom.  I was so thankful that my phone was charged and that through it all, that TV signal may have died, but I could still talk with my husband. I didn’t want to think about what was going on outside so I asked him to tell me every detail of an event he had gone to that night. Seriously, I wanted to hear it all. I felt safe enough to open the door after about 20 minutes because I heard the TV go back on. That must mean the tornado had passed. And indeed it had.

But in those moments…okay that 90 minutes…I was fearful and I was going through the storm alone. I didn’t want to be in that hotel room by myself. What if had been really bad? What if the tornado ripped through the place? I kept texting with my family and they kept encouraging me. They were with me, but I still felt alone. Finally around 2am I was able to fall asleep. Praise the Lord for that!

My hotel was fine, our area was totally fine, but seeing the news in the morning, it was not fine for so many people. A church, a home depot, schools, homes ~ most with their rooves blown away and trees that had landed on top of the rest. My heart broke for those who were coming back to their homes and businesses, only to find them demolished. Yesterday they had plans, but today, they are entering a season of unplanned rebuilding.

This is why we need our people in a storm. 

We need a hand to hold, a hug to comfort us, or a text to remind us that our people are praying for us. We are not built to weather a storm alone.

But through the storm last night, I wasn’t truly alone. I know the Lord was with me, but He has created community and that is why we have such a strong desire within us to be surrounded by our people. The ones who support us, calm us, laugh with (or at!) us, ugly cry with us, sit in silence with us…the ones who know what we need in those stormy moments.

We will go through storms in life, that is promised but we are also promised that they will not overtake us. The Lord will always be with us. {Isaiah 43:1-3a}*

The Lord has used storms to protect His people {Exodus, chapter 14}, to bring the Word to the unsaved {Jonah, chapter 1}, and He has used storms to remind us of His power {Luke, chapter 8}. The storms that the Lord allows to come into our lives don’t always make sense and sometimes they are extremely painful. But there is always a purpose. There is always a way out and an opportunity to bring Him glory through the stormy season He brings us out of.

I’m thankful that the One who calms the storm lives in me.

Blessings,

René

we are not alone in the storm - blog - 10-21-19

Photo by Gavin Spear on Unsplash

Isaiah 43:1-3a But now, this is what the Lord, your Creator says, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you [from captivity]; I have called you by name; you are Mine! 2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

 

Christian Communicators, Christian Mentors, College age women, Millenials, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, women, Women in Ministry, Women's Ministries, Writers

…And at the Right Time…

For most things we get in life, they are preceded by a time of waiting. It can be as simple as waiting for a tray of chocolate cookies to bake to gooey perfection, or as difficult as waiting for a health diagnosis to come in. And so many experiences in between.

I remember when we were getting ready to have our first child, we immediately were trying to figure out when the baby would be born. We were off a little bit according to the doctor, but we had our due date! I was beyond excited ~ not to be pregnant all summer long, but that faded in the dreams of that little one arriving. At our check-up the following month, I was devastated to find out the due date had changed. I was now told I’d not be delivering for another ten days. I cried all the way home, which completely baffled my husband.

He lovingly reminded me that just as God had allowed me to become pregnant, He also knew the exact day and time of her birth. It wasn’t in my control. It was all in His perfect timing! Thankfully I listened and changed my attitude…because that baby girl arrived TEN days after my due date! And it was of course, in the Lord’s perfect timing.

It’s so great to know that we can learn from the best when it comes to waiting for the right time!

1 Timothy 2:5-6 AMP gives us the example about Jesus. He was God and man for his whole life. Yet, Jesus paid attention the Father as to when it was the right time to reveal Himself as our Savior that had come to rule and reign. Because Jesus was so in tune with the Father, He was ready for the time when it came for Him to complete His task on the earth and become the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  These verses read:

“For there is [only] one God, and [only] one Mediator between God and mankind, the Man Christ Jesus,” who gave Himself as a ransom [a substitutionary sacrifice to atone] for all, the testimony given at the right and proper time.”

It wasn’t just the right time. It was the proper time. There was not a minute that came too early or moment that lasted too long. It was perfect.

You might be thinking, well of course it was perfect…it’s Jesus…there’s no way I can get to that level.  And guess what, you’re right! But that’s part of the reason Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross. Yes, it was to bring us into a reconciled relationship with Jesus but it was also to send us the gift of the Comforter ~ the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:26-28 tells us this:

“In the same way the Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words. And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes [before God] on behalf of God’s people in accordance with God’s will. And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.”

There are so many beautiful nuggets of truth and promise in these verses…go ahead and read them again. What do you feel the Lord is whispering to your heart right now? What prayers are lingering there? What plans are you fretting over? Are you dealing with a situation that no one else knows about? Oh, my friend, especially that last one ~ Satan wants you to feel that you are all alone but that is a LIE! As a believer in Jesus, the Holy Spirit has made His home in your heart and soul and mind. He is with you ~ you are NEVER alone! Yes!  The same God that spoke the universe into reality, is the same God who gives you the power and strength to make it through the most difficult of circumstances.

When you don’t even know what to pray, the Holy Spirit is there on your behalf. I can recall a few times in my life where the pain in my heart was so deep, I thought I’d never recover. The sobbing was so intense and unending that I couldn’t even form the words to pray and ask God to help me. That is right when, at the perfect timing, the Holy Spirit comes in to minister to us and go before God with the groanings of our spirit. When those tearful experiences were over, what was left was a peace that I could not explain except to know that the Lord had truly taken care of my heart at that moment.

So, whatever you have going on in your life right now, and as hard at may seem in the moment, trust that God sees you. He hears you. And He will answer you in just the right and proper time.

And if you are coming to Jesus for the first time today, welcome! Praise the Lord that you have chosen to allow the Lord to reign in your heart. I’d love to encourage you too to find someone in your local community to walk alongside you in this new adventure of following Jesus! God bless you!!

Blessings,

René

At just the right time - blog post

Photo by Stefanos Kogkas on Unsplash 

 

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Christian Communicators, Christian Mentors, College age women, Millenials, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, women, Women in Ministry, Women's Ministries, Writers

When our Flame is the Brightest…

If you’ve ever been to a Christmas Eve candlelight service, or a candle light service of any kind, have you ever noticed that your flame is the brightest when you are helping the person next to you ignite their flame?

Seriously, try it! Even if you’re home by yourself, grab your matches or one of those clicker thingys & go light a candle. The very moment the wick ignites, the flame of the two components merge, the height of the flame increases, and the glow of both together is so bright!

This is what happens in our spirit each and every time we engage with another person. There is a heightened awareness of God moving in our lives & the desire to shout His glories from the rooftops definitely increases.

Hang with me here while I keep going with some “candle lighting” analogies.

Sometimes when lighting candles around the house (which makes my husband crazy, but hey, I’m a fireman’s daughter so I know what I’m doing!) it takes longer to light some candles than others. Some wicks are ready and waiting & that first burst of the lighter flame in their direction, they spring to life. Some wicks are covered by an excess of wax, so the lighter flame has to be held directly to the wick to melt the wax before the flame can take over. And every once in a while, the lighter will go out before the wick is lit. You’ve got to click the lighter a few times & try again.

It’s all about patience & readiness.

2 Timothy 1:6-7 champions us to run after the fire of God, “That is why I remind you to fan into flame the gracious gift of God, [that inner fire—the special endowment] which is in you through the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination]. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].”

God’s Word reminds us to fan the flame of God’s goodness ~ of His gift of salvation which we can pass in to others. Some people will readily accept the truth of scripture & believe Jesus as their Savior. Some need a bit more time to allow the lies of the devil & what the world says about God, to melt away from their heart and mind. And sadly, some will be resistant to whatever truths are presented to them about who God is and how much He loves them.

The imagery of fire and flames are all over scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Nehemiah 9:12 {AMP} says, “And with a pillar of cloud You led them by day, And with a pillar of fire by night To light the way for them In which they were to go.”

Isaiah 43:2 {AMP} holds a beautiful process, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.”

And I for sure would’ve loved to have seen the gift of the Holy Spirit come upon the people as stated in Acts 2:3, “There appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were being distributed [among them], and they rested on each one of them [as each person received the Holy Spirit].”

We are not meant to keep the fires of the Lord that burn within us to ourselves. We are called to share that fire ~ to bring light to the dark areas of this world, to shine brightly to those around us which hopefully causes them to be curious and ask us why we are different. If you have ever had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with anyone, and you see the spark of hope ignite in their eyes, it’s truly incredible. Witnessing that proverbial “light bulb” moment, you can see the spark grow into a flame and then into a full blown fire of joy as the Lord becomes their Savior.

So how are you lighting the fire of God in others today? If you are feeling stuck as to where God is calling you, just ask ~ He’ll tell you! The best way to hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit is to be in prayer everyday so that you are accustomed to know what God’s voice sounds like. Hearing from the Lord continues to bring the flame in our souls up to the surface. And then we can’t help but share it! The great thing too is that as you light more and more souls on fire for God, your flame will not diminish…it keeps going & becomes brighter!

Let your fire for the Lord be contagious! Wherever you are, start a wildfire for the Lord and watch those new flames burst forth and ignite!

Blessings,

René

Bright Flame blog September 2019

Photo by Josh Howard on Unsplash