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

In the Shadows

On a recent trip out of town with my husband, we took a bunch of photos…and of course posted them on social media!  In many of them, I was in the shadow of my tall husband because the sun was so bright.  I couldn’t open my eyes in the photos, and I don’t like taking photos with my sunglasses on.  I know, I know…big problems of life here!  One of my darling witty daughters commented on one photo saying, “So sad that you’ll always be in dad’s shadow.”  It actually made me laugh since I had CHOSEN to be in his shadow so I didn’t have to squint into the sunlight or leave my sunglasses on.  I wrote a reply saying, “I like to think of it as shelter from the heat!” And the next moment, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, “In MY Shadow is exactly where you are supposed to be.”  Whoa!  I love it how God can even speak to my heart through social media!  LOL!!

I’ve been mulling over this whole idea between “in the shadows” and “in shelter of” for the past two days now.  And here I sit now chatting with you!

Shadow ~ “a dark figure or image cast on the ground or some surface by a body intercepting light; shade or comparative darkness; darkness especially that of coming after sunset; shelter; protection.”

Shelter ~ “something beneath, behind, or within which a person, animal, or thing is protected from storms, missiles, adverse conditions, etc.; refuge; protection from blame or incrimination; a dwelling place or home considered as a refuge from the elements; to be a shelter for; to place under cover; to protect; take under one’s protection; find a shelter.”

Psalm 91:1, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Isn’t that beautiful!  This verse in Psalms completely captures the unique quality of the beauty that combines being in the shadow AND being sheltered by the Lord ~ at the same time!

Take a quick look back at the dictionary definition of the word shelter.  Now think of this meaning in spiritual terms.  When we are sheltered beneath the wings of our Heavenly Father (Psalm 36:7*), we are able to sing with confidence!  He is able to protect us from the storms of life, from the missiles of discontent blasted off from the enemy, and from conditions in our life that are meant to distract or make us dissatisfied with the Lord.  When we make our home with the Lord, we can take refuge from the arrows of the enemy and trust that He will extinguish the deadly fires of dissatisfaction.

Notice as well what I’m pointing out here….the attacks from the enemy WILL COME!  They are inevitable simply because we are children of the Most High God.  We are reminded in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  And how do we maintain a sober and alert mind?  As we read scripture, we are sheltered by the Word of the Lord and all that comes into our mind from Him enables us to wage a victorious battle against the lies of Satan.  This verse maintains that the enemy is “like a roaring lion” ~ it doesn’t say that the enemy IS one…big difference there!  It also doesn’t say that we as Christians are like sitting ducks waiting to be picked off ~ we are moving targets that the enemy tries to pin down, but we are NOT to be passive!  NO my friend ~ we are to be ever-moving about our life, navigating the path that God has set us on, and be ready to press into the Lord when the battle wages.  And the battle will be tougher on some days than others.  There will be seasons of hand-to-hand combat, and seasons of less contention ~ but every day we should be ready for whatever comes our way.

Another reason to remember to put on the proper battle gear ~ the Armor of God!! (Ephesians 6). Oh, and here’s one of the most comforting pictures in scripture to me ~ I don’t have to worry about constantly looking behind me to see what’s coming.  I can use all my energy (mental, physical, and spiritual) to move forward knowing that I’m protected because God has my back!  Isaiah 52:12 says, “But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”  YES!!!  My God and His angel armies are sheltering my life from all that I cannot see as I move in concert with what I can see and follow God’s leading in how to combat the enemy as he tries to throw me off course! I don’t know about you, but I gave myself chills here!

We have an endless supply of reminders in God’s Word of how the Lord protects, shelters, and shadows us.  But we have to be IN and involved in spending time in the scriptures to know this.

When the heat of battle is beating down on your head ~ hide in the cool shadow of the everlasting God.

Blessings,

René

Psalm 91 verse 1

{ photo taken on our trip as we drove through the Presidio in San Francisco }

 

All Bible verses found on http://www.biblegateway.com, NIV version
 * Further reference: Psalm 36:7, “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

 

 

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

Life Quakes

Have you ever experienced an earthquake?  If you live in Southern California….I bet you have!  With the current El Nino going on, there’s been a lot of information in the news lately about natural disasters ~ floods, rains, winds, and even some earthquakes.  In fact, yesterday (1-17-16) was the 22nd anniversary of the devastating 1994 Northridge Earthquake.  I will never forget that event.  And I still can’t understand how they went from declaring it a 7.9 all the way down to a 6.7 ~ it’s got to do something with insurance and what they pay out after a certain pointage.  But that’s another blog for another day.

That day, in the wee hours of the night, my husband and I awoke to the most violent shaking and rolling ~ it was absolutely terrifying!  I remember standing up in bed because I couldn’t get my footing on the floor; I jumped off the edge of the bed, through the doorway and landed in the hallway.  Still haven’t figured that one out yet, but that’s really what happened. Our oldest daughter was only 4 months old at the time and in her own room.  Because the quake was rolling up and down, AND shaking side to side, we couldn’t get her bedroom door open.  We finally did and it took us a bit to find her…bouncing all over her crib.  Those minutes we experienced are something that will always live with us; and will always be thankful we survived!

My parents and sister were living just a mile from the epicenter.  My sister woke up looking out her bedroom window…which was about 5 feet ABOVE her bed!  True story!  My parents have a CalKing bed and they weren’t able to grab on to each other because the shaking was so violent.  Once they could get out of the house, they ended up staying in our little 600 sq. foot apartment for about 8 days before they could go home.  One day when I came in from the daily washing of bath towel, everyone was watching a video clip of a man shoveling the bits and pieces of kitchenware into a trash can, items that had previously been dishes, bowls, platters, cups, mugs, and family heirlooms.  Now, when I had left the apartment to put the towels in the dryer everyone had been watching the news.  So, upon returning and seeing the video clip, I thought they were still watching the news.  I commented on how awful it must be for that family who’d lost everything.  My husband, parents, and sister all turned and looked at me as if I’d said something odd.  I reiterated that I felt really bad for those people and how it’s going to take a long time to get back to normal.  That’s when my Dad looked at me, tears in his eyes, and said, “Rene’, that’s OUR house.” I was stunned….words failed me.  It did takes years to recover, but recover and rebuild they did!

A few years ago, when I was homeschooling our youngest daughter, we were studying earthquakes in her science book and it talked about the Northridge quake…so of course, I recounted the story of our experience.  🙂

While we continued studying together, it was interesting to me as I read through the points and terminology they used in the science book as it related to earthquakes: focus, fault, creep, and epicenter.  We’ve all heard those words before, and living in California, we hear those words A LOT!  But as I was reading through the definitions with my daughter, I couldn’t help but feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit revealing to me how these particular words relate to us in a spiritual sense.

Let me share with you these definitions:

Focus: the point underground where an earthquake starts.

Epicenter: a sudden movement of Earth’s crust.

Creep: slow movement of Earth’s crust along a fault.

Fault: a crack in the Earth’s crust.

So, have you had any “Life Quakes” lately?  Anything been creeping down a fault line in your life?  I found it very interesting that it is not the epicenter that is the place where the earthquake begins and originates – that is called the ‘focus.’  So where is our focus? What is at our center – what is centered at the core of our heart?

Earthquakes happen when there is too much pressure in the core of the earth and along the underneath area of the earth’s crust.  When pressure builds up near a fault line, there is sometimes a sudden movement (epicenter) or a slow movement (creep) in the earth’s crust to relieve that pressure.  Earthquake!

I bet you didn’t think you were going to get a mini Science lesson this morning when you woke up!  Well, hang in there with me…by the time I’m done writing this post, I hope you can see how we experience “Life Quakes”, but thinking in terms of the above definitions.

When we have cracks in our facade, and the pressure builds from all the stuff we have going on underneath, my friend, there is gonna be movement that happens ~ some will be a slight little shudder that we barely notice; some will be a shaking so intense we cannot help but to seek cover and rebuild.

Life Quakes come in many different shapes and intensities ~ car accidents, bounced checks, losing a home, losing a family member, difficulties with friends or children, job loss, marital issues; and the list can go on and on.  Sometimes when God shakes things up in our life, we wonder “Where the heck did that come from?” And sometimes, we know exactly where it has come from.

Sometimes the pressure that builds up in our life is from our own doing ~ worry, fear, anxiety, sinful actions, etc.

Sometimes the pressures comes from spiritual bondage or warfare.

Either way, the Lord IS going to allow a “life quake” to happen in order for that pressure to be released; for the sake of rebuilding to occur!

Isaiah 43:1-3 says, Now this is what the Lord says— the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel— “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.  You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. For I Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior, give Egypt as a ransom for you, Cush and Seba in your place.”

These verses have long been a calming passage to me.  It’s not “if”, but “when.”  Our response to the shaking is not only an indication of where our focus is but it is a visible sign to those around us of how we are choosing to deal with those events that shake up our life…those life-quakes.

If we go running and screaming into the unknown, we may experience severe injuries by falling debris.  But when we stand firm, under a stronghold, with our head down and our neck covered, we can walk away from the disaster virtually unscathed.  We can walk through the rubble, out into a clear space.  We can look back and get rid of the unimportant stuff that was causing confusion, and we can sift through the pieces to find what really has true meaning.

Psalm 9:9-10, The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.  Those who know Your name trust in You because You have not abandoned those who seek You, Yahweh.”

Psalm 18:19, He brought me out to a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.”

During the Northridge earthquake, numerous new stations shared a variety of survival stories.  Some were humorous ~ yes, there were plenty of folks who ran outside in their birthday suits!  Some were terrifying.  Some were extremely tragic. Everyone had a story to share. Everyone experienced the very same earthquake, but depending on how close they were to the epicenter of the quake made a difference in what kind of story they had lived through. My little family and I were 14 miles away from the epicenter.  We had a few things fall off shelves, but did not have any damage or loss.  My parents were less than one mile from the epicenter and lost everything in their kitchen, most of all their photos fell from the walls, their house moved off the foundation, and every single window in the house was shifted out of their framing.  Because of the varying proximity to the shaking, our rebuilding and recovery time was vastly different.

Psalm 34:17-18,The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.”

When those tremors begin in our spirit, we must pay close attention to them.  The Lord is getting ready to do some remodeling ~ and maybe even some relocating.

LET HIM!!

God has brought me nearer to Him in the past decade as never before, and it’s all due to a variety of life-quakes our family has experienced.  But the remodeling and rebuilding I have personally gone through with the Lord is completely worth it!  It doesn’t mean that I’m not freaked out a little when I feel a tremor.  However, in the back of my mind I can choose to be excited to see what God is going to do next!

Read the following verse and let it wash over you as a balm to any “quake wounds” you may be experiencing today ~ Psalm 19:14, May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”

Just as we cannot predict earthquakes, we cannot necessarily predict life-quakes.  But as with earthquakes, we can be prepared for them when they occur.  We can do the same with life-quakes ~ we can prepare our hearts and minds as we daily read God’s Word and choose to trust Him with our life.  We can put on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) so that we are protected in the stronghold of the Almighty Hand of God.

Take heart my friend ~ He will provide a way out!

Psalm 34 verse 17 and 18

Blessings,

René

 

 

 

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