A Breath of Promise when Following-through

july24fLast Sunday the worship team led our church in the song “Yes and Amen”. As we sang my mind wandered to my volunteer position at the Women’s Emergency Accommodation Centre. The ladies there come from many different backgrounds and cultures, some struggling with addiction, others with mental health diseases, and some with life circumstances that have suddenly left them financially poor.

It’s not an easy gig, I must admit.

But almost every week when our team starts with worship, these ladies choose the song “Yes and Amen” and sing out the words of His faithfulness and how He keeps His promises. These ladies struggling with battles of addiction I do not fully understand, and fighting to overcome their health and financial difficulties, humble me. And I start to see them as the bravest ladies I know, ladies who walk toward and in victory regardless of their circumstances.

Yes, some are tearful and fearing, and trying so darn hard to create a better life but running into obstacle after obstacle, but they have hope. And that hope also comes from us four or five ladies that show up on Monday nights for an hour with snacks, songs, and God’s word.

It’s not an easy gig, and one I have considered letting go of time and again.

Recently I was challenged by this statement from Love God Greatly:

“Believe God’s promises, be strong and brave in the land He has strategically placed you in and trust Him as you face your battles, always remembering you never fight alone!”

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Joshua 22:3 For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the LORD your God gave you.

Joshua was complimenting these Israelite tribes on their follow-through with carrying out their duties to help out the other tribes to conquer land on the west side. Once they completed helping, these Israelites could settle down in their promised land on the east side of Jordan. They diligently completed the work God has placed before them, before moving on.

So often, when things get hard, I can pull away and move on to something else before completion. But God calls us to bravely continue, to be faithful where He has strategically placed us, and to live out His promise that we are never alone in our battles.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord God will be with you wherever you may go.”

Can I get a Yes and Amen to that?

“Follow-through is vital to God’s work. Beware of the temptation to quit early and leave God’s work undone.” NIV-Life Application Study Bible commentary on Joshua 22:2-4

What work is God asking you to follow-through on presently?

Would you like to have Breathing Spaces be part of your daily routine? These journals include captures of Breathing Spaces in places like Georgia, Florida, Iceland and the Canadian Rockies!

Linked up this week with Soaring with Him and #TellHisStory

A Word Teaching

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Just prior to the Christmas season, I was blessed to be taught a bible study method by Bonnie Gray, author of Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. As a thank you, Bonnie offered a live online bible study course for the women that had contributed to her publication platform. I first discovered Bonnie through her blog and always appreciated her kind, encouraging comments regarding my own writing and photography.

Over those few evenings when Bonnie Zoomed with us from her living room in California, I learned she attended bible college, taught bible study methods for many years, and once even led a singles ministry.  I also learned how to deeply seek the meanings of scripture and what God is saying to me through His words. And it’s changed me, in a very good way, on how I now approach my bible reading.

During our time together, she had us in Mark 6:45-52 as we observed, interpreted, and applied His word. She guided us in the understanding why it is in the interpretation of God’s word where most of our time is to be spent. She showed us how use the tools within https://www.biblestudytools.com/ and https://biblehub.com/

I was sad to see it end, and hope that one day Bonnie will offer a ‘train the trainer’ course so I can dive deeper into this bible study method and teach others!

But I digress…

What I really want to share is what I began to see when I read the following lines. And how just two lines in scripture rerouted my course, taking me ‘home.’

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Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. Mark 6:52

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed in the boat with them, and the wind died down. Mark 6:51

In the passage, it struck me how “immediately” is repeated, and that word ‘made’?–well it shouted out at me. Jesus made his disciples get into the boat, made them leave the party early so to speak. See, Jesus had just done the impossible. He fed 5,000 people with five loafs of bread and two fish. Five thousand people had just witnessed the miracle of Jesus! I can imagine the excitement of the disciples. Now….now…surely there were enough believers to make Jesus their king, right there and then!

But Jesus led the disciples away and made them get into the boat. I wonder if they objected? I can imagine Peter trailing behind Jesus as they walked away from the crowd, muttering to himself, and then standing in the boat as it sailed away from shore, shaking his head in wonderment as Jesus dismissed the crowd on land. The circumstances seemed to be exactly right for what he wanted to achieve, however Jesus was calling him back to the boat to travel to Bethsaida, where he, and the disciples Andrew, Philip and John had called home.

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Jesus knew it wasn’t His time yet to be crowned. And He knew His crown was not ever to be a crown made of gold and silver. Instead it was to be a crown of thorns He’d bear as He hung on a cross, fulfilling His Father’s purpose for eternal salvation.

As I studied this scripture, I began to see myself at the boat, defiant and resisting Jesus. “But I know what is best! Yes, I’m tired, hungry, and overwhelmed by the crowd, but I can’t step away from the party. Look what I’ve started! How can I just walk away?”

And Jesus’ gaze is gentle as he tells me, “I’m making you go across the waters, to a place you’ll know as home.”

“Trust Me.”

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I can imagine my body swaying slightly as the boat sails me away, over the waves, as I watch Jesus on land take care of the crowd, dismissing them.

Jesus is taking care of the details as I sail where He wants me to go.

So, as January 2019 comes to a close, my ‘goal’ book still stays closed, as I make my way to shore not sure what will come next. And whenever the wind feels against me, and the waves rough underneath me, He’s shown me through His word that I am “to take courage”, and “don’t be afraid.”

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All I need to do is let Him in, let Him teach me, and still me with His presence.

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What has God’s word taught you lately?

Linking up today with Soaring With Him Ministries

 

A Single Opinion

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Recently while serving at an event at my home church, I found myself in the volunteer room with two other single ladies. Our ages varied in decades–from the 30’s to the 60’s. Two of us were divorced and one never married.

I gave the name of a Christian Singles Group to one of the ladies after hearing her want of meeting other singles, particularly men. And the conversations of dating came up with varied experiences and opinions especially regarding online dating.

Personally I haven’t done online dating in over 15 years and it scares me! If I am to date, I’d much prefer the friends to dating kind of way. However, since I haven’t dated for a few years now I recognize I cannot be an authority on it at all! haha!

And I no longer attend single events. When I first came back to the church ten years ago, a single’s group was a wonderful place where I met other singles, and I made women friendships that still carry on today.

Like I imagine any church ministry, the singles ministry is not without it’s challenges. Good — no excellent leadership is needed. I’ve seen single ministries end due to lack of leadership. And believe that is a wise decision for churches.

I’ll often hear “the church isn’t serving singles well” from singles and those married, from elders and pastors.

But I wonder instead of the question being “How can churches meet the needs of singles?”  it could be “How can singles meet the needs of the church?”

I know I may be getting some backs stiffening up with that question! I hope you can provide me with grace as I further the thoughts.

When hearing singles hearts, I hear their inner cries of wanting to belong, to be known. It’s a need we all have. As Christians we learn that our heavenly Father knows us. He knows every hair on our head (Luke 12:7) and that we are more valuable to Him than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31). We know we have great worth in His eyes because we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8) through the sacrifice of His only son (John 3:16). We know we are unconditionally loved (1 John 4:16).

No matter your status–single, divorced, widowed, married–His truths apply.

You are loved, worthy and valuable. And that includes in the church community. You add value to the church and provide a need that only the unique, wonderfully made you, can provide.

So to the single, my hope is you know you are already known, that your worth is securely planted from your identity in Christ and He has service for you to do, needs to be met by you that may include needs in your own church community. And maybe even ask yourself, a pastor, a friend–What’s a need in the church I can meet?

To the church community as a whole, my hope is we serve like God calls us to serve all–with humility and without “selfish ambition or vain conceit.” This serving of others includes no discrimination or labels but with tenderness and compassion because we are all “one in spirit and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-4).

Back to the experiences and opinions on dating as a Christian….well that might be future post! haha!

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What are ways you could serve as a single at your church, or, if not single, encourage singles as part of the oneness within the body?

Lynn J Simpson, Certified Professional Life Coach at Inspiring Hope In You

Linked up today at Holly Gerth-Let’s Have Coffee

And It’s All So Beautiful

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. Luke 12:27

There’s a greenhouse just a five minute drive from my home. Not a greenhouse in a traditional sense as it is open year around with a restaurant serving organic greens and gluten-free treats, and gifts galleries that change with the calendar celebrations.

Christmas time fills the floor with decorative trees and already overflowing shelves with ornaments, wreaths, and garland.

Approaching Valentine’s Day more red and white candles, silk and real roses rest on bursting shelves of trinkets, jewels, and framed mottos.

Now, drawing near Easter, pops of pastel colours adorn the interior design with baby blue vases, soft pink stuffed bunnies, and sun set orange ribboned baskets.

I walk past all this splendour into another room unseen from the entry. All my senses refeshen in the humidity that seems to steam from the hundreds of cacti plants that rest on shelves against the walls, stand in tall pots in the corners, and more aesthetically arranged on round tables creating a centre aisle.

And I breathe.

I breathe in this place where not a ribbon or jewel or ornament occupies.

I step slowly scanning the various cactus plants, some barely two inches in length, some warped in their roundness, others gangly in their tallness. Some bodies plentiful with spines, others edged with scattered thorns.

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And it’s all so beautiful, in it’s rawness, it’s unadorned form.

What is it that draws me to this place where beauty and refreshment comes from the misshapen, the undressed? Where symmetry isn’t and where thorns are exposed?

Maybe it is stirring in me that restlessness for that perfect place of ancestry, in a Garden where all was perfect, nothing hidden until tampered by temptation.

Maybe it is stirring in me to remember, to be, to come exposed, scars, wounds, prickles, and thorns, no adornments that mask.

Because we are all so most beautiful, my darling, in our raw, unadorned form.

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You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. Song of Songs 4:7

Come surrender your hidden scars
Leave your weapons where they are
You’ve been hiding, but I know your wounded heart
And you don’t know how beautiful you are

I’m tired of hiding who I really am
Underneath these alibis
I want to know who you really are
I want to meet you here tonight
We’re not born with these defenses
We’re not destined for this pain
We hide ourselves and put the fig leaves on
But a mask can never cover up this shame

                                                                                                             Jon Foreman

 

The Call Part 2-The Present

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“I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire.” Nehemiah 2:2-3

It was my turn to share. I looked down at my notes. Paused. The circle of friends resting on the grass too, hold pages still for bibles and journals as the breeze played, wait.

Even though Nehemiah was very much afraid, he put himself into action, I read aloud from my journalling notes. Prayed first, always, and then even though afraid, put himself into action. Fear, being afraid is never from God, yet sometimes–truthfully–I see it as a reason to not take action.

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What am I so afraid of?

I look up, my friends locked on me, waiting, whole-heartedly listening, encouraging, and supportive. This is only the first station on this mornings Soul Formation event, the fourth I’ve facilitated from an idea emerged during a leadership course. Four other small groups are also rested on grasses that circle an urban pond, Canada Geese drifting in the waters, some with huddles of goslings following.

Why do I fear following whole-heartedly?

Nehemiah was sad, his heart breaking over the ruins of his city, Jerusalem, and the walls that had not been rebuilt.

His heart breaking, he wept, fasted, prayed.

And then he took action, approaching the king, afraid, but asking him favour to take leave to Judah to rebuild.

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His heart-breaking over a cause, he felt the fear but did not let the fear stop him to take action to rebuild. He refused to allow the fear to become more powerful than God.

He refused to allow the fear to become more powerful than God.

I continue to look down on my journal notes from the first station where we read, reflected, and responded to these passages I had picked in Nehemiah and Chronicles.

In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered. 2 Chronicles 31:20

A King this time, not an exile, yet also sought God wholeheartedly. Hezekiah, like Nehemiah, fasted, prayed, obeyed and prospered.

And then it happened. The fear exposed, in blue ink, a playful breeze lifting the page corners.

I’m afraid of what prospering is. Feels like a lot of pressure….How will I be taken care of? 

Nehemiah, with guards set up strategically from his enemies, did build that wall. Hezekiah, although at a time did fall into pride, did always turn to obedience and prospered.

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For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you. Isaiah 41:13

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called, those he called; he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8: 28-30

Called according to his purpose.

Called through the invitation to serve and honour Him, like Nehemiah and Hezekiah, whole-heartedly seeking God’s guidance through prayer, first,  in all things of this world.

Called in the understanding of being predestined through the knowing of God’s love that  changes us with a new perspective, a new mindset and an understanding of security in treasures in heaven, not on earth.

Called to live in the security of God’s love, His wisdom and His protection, always.

Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

My companions, my friends, these sisters ‘n brothers in Christ, affirm me. They understand the fear that can come from whole-heartedly following a hearts desire to serve in a way that may not prosper in money, in relationships, in treasures on this earth.

It’s a choice to let go, surrender, and do even when afraid.

It’s a choice to let go of pride, repent, and be obedient.

It’s a choice to trust, and follow the call.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

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We stand, my companions and I, on a solid ground of grass, the breeze rustling leaves in trees of the park. I glance to the pond where a mother goose awaits for one of  her goslings that has drifted behind. Her baby turns in the drift of the pond that leads back to her, and swims.

Is there a step you’ve been called into and like Nehemiah, stand before it afraid? Or like Hezekiah, been called to let go of pride and take a step into seeking His will again for you?