Becoming UNentitled…

As I sit at my desk, on the cusp of a New Year, there are many thoughts rushing through my mind.

Will I make New Year’s Resolutions?  Will I keep those resolutions?  Should I not make any resolutions?  Do I really have to make any just because it’s “the thing” to do?  Oy vey!

So I’ve decided NOT to make any resolutions ~ I have decided to make an intentional decision to become UNentitled.

Entitlement is a word that is thrown around a lot these days.  Especially in terms of the younger generation of teens and early 20-somethings.  Here’s a shocker for you though…we all of bits of entitlement strewn around our life.  And it’s time to pick them up and get rid of all of it!

Just in case you are curious as to whether or not you walk around with any entitled attitudes, let’s start with my favorite thing to do ~ word study!  To give this little exercise a bit more gravity, insert the word “yourself” in place of  “a person”…if  you really want the impact, read the definition out loud.

Here we go…According to the dictionary, ‘entitle’ or ‘entitlement’ means: 1. to give (a person or thing) a title, right, or claim to something; furnish with grounds for laying claim.  2. to give (a person) the right to do or have something; qualify; allow.

Still don’t see it?  How about this…have you ever said any one (or more) of the following:

*It’s my right to be upset.  That person cut me off on the freeway.

*It’s my right to be offended.  She was rude to me.

*I’m allowed to angry.  My kids don’t listen to me.

*I’m allowed to be irritated.  My husband doesn’t notice what I’ve done all day around the house.  Do the clothes magically clean themselves?

*It’s my right to hurt. No one understands me and no one really cares about me.

*I’m allowed to sit in my pj’s all days, watch my dvr’d shows, and let everyone fend for themselves because I’m just plain old tired. (yeah..no…this one isn’t personal or anything…)

To be truthful and honest…I’ve been there at various points in my life and have muttered these phrases (and probably others that are just as inane) and felt completely justified in doing so.

                      God’s Word is full of proof that the                             exact opposite is true.  

We are not entitled to anything except death, without trusting in the Lord to save us from our sins.

Proverbs 18:2 (HCSB) is pretty clear as to what kind of person we are not to be, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions.”

To be even more clear, in Jesus’ own words He tells us how we are to live our life.  Matthew 16:24-26 (HCSB) says, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life?”

We don’t like words like ‘deny’ or ‘lose your life’ ~ those do not resonate with our sinful nature of doing whatever we want, when we want, and how we want.  The challenge is there but becomes less when we do follow the Lord and take up the things in our heart that are actions and issues that Jesus loves and is concerned about.

Whether you are a parent or not, you have undoubtedly come across the infamous outpouring of emotional trauma when someone cries out to you, “It’s not fair!”  Oh, that’s my favorite (she says with a smirk!)  My girls know what my response to them will be…every time they say it….”The fair happens once a year and it’s where you can get funnel cake.  Move on.  Life’s not fair.”  I know they hate it when I say it, but I say it with a smile.  Most of the time, they have no idea that that little phrase and the half-smile on my face is what is saving them from a total mommy freak out!

There is responsibility we have to take when we sin and are disobedient.  We do not get to pick and choose what rules apply to our lives.  Simply because we don’t like certain scriptures in the Bible, or laws of the land, or rules in a household, does not preclude us from being accountable when we stray from those statutes.

Ezekiel 18:25-27 (HCSB) says,But you say, ‘The Lord’s way isn’t fair.’  Now listen, house of Israel: Is it My way that is unfair? Instead, isn’t it your ways that are unfair?  When a righteous person turns from his righteousness and practices iniquity, he will die for this. He will die because of the iniquity he has practiced.  But if a wicked person turns from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will preserve his life.”

Our generation of children do not have the corner market on the “it’s not fair” statements. The Israelite’s of the Old Testament have been saying it way before them!

Read that last sentence in Ezekiel again.  What a beautiful promise the Lord gives us!  When we turn away from what we think is our “right” and what we “are allowed” to do, and turn toward the Lord and what He calls us to do, He will ‘preserve our life’ and He will do it immediately!!

On a total side note, a really fun thing that is happening right now as I finish writing this post, is that I have a house full of teens ~ all Seniors in high school…about 25 of them…and they are delightfully loud and full of joy!  They are getting ready to surprise one of their friends for her 18th birthday.  My daughter has been decorating all day and preparing for this event.  The exact opposite of entitlement.  All of these amazing young people have chosen to set aside their own agendas, their own plans, in order to honor one of their friends and make her feel special.  I love this and I’m so excited to be a “fly on the wall” as I listen to them excitedly plan where to hide and when to yell, “SURPRISE!”

How will you lay aside your “rights” this New Year?  How will you decide to set aside your agenda in order to honor your friends? Your family?  What will you do when you feel the ugliness of entitlement begin to rise in your heart?

Stop and breathe and pray!

Whatever we ask of the Lord, that is according to HIS purposes and goals for our life, He will easily and surely give to you.  When you ask Him to give you a patient heart with your children (no matter how old they are!), when you ask the Lord to give you grace with the people driving slower than you on the freeway, when you feel offended by someone does or says, when you feel unappreciated ~ ask the Lord to fill you with His peace…with His goodness…with His grace.

And He will absolutely and perfectly do just that!

Enter each day with an attitude of service ~ trade out the entitlement and choose to find those ways to bless others.  You will not be disappointed when you follow the path that God has for you.

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Blessings,

René

 

 

My Whole Life is Going to be Busy…

Ironically, I began this post two weeks ago…I should’ve known!  Every day is full of busyness and guess what…every day for the rest of your life will be filled with busyness!  It just cannot be an excuse any longer.  We will always be busy with something ~ even if that “something” is doing nothing.

I know that I make plenty of excuses as to why things don’t get done.  I also realize that there are times when I really need to get things done and accomplish specific tasks, but I can’t do them in a timely manner because I’m still dealing with something that should have been taken care days (or months) beforehand. Time just gets away from me and I’m sure you have experienced this too.

The times I feel the worst about being “too busy” is when I have not scheduled things in my day appropriately and the consequences are usually ones that my family has to pay.  Dinner is not ready at a decent hour.  Dishes are piled high in the sink for the third day in a row.  I’m late picking someone up, or dropping them off.  And the consequence I deal with the most is staying up far too late to finish up a bunch of little tasks that I could have done during the day so that I could go to bed early and stay healthy.

But this blog isn’t about all the “shoulda woulda coulda’s” in our life; and it certainly isn’t intended to bring on guilt.  We all do that to ourselves far too easily anyway!

My hearts desire is to encourage you to take a step back, breathe in deep, and know that through all the busyness of life there are ways to create space.  The Lord has been giving me great ideas on how to do this and I want to share them with you.

Now, if you have little ones and you’re reading this…trust me, I remember those days and sometimes your day (or your week!) just buzzes by in a blur and you realize you’ve been wearing the same clothes for a few days and can’t remember the last time you washed your hair.  But it’s all worth it when you look back and see all that you did for your kiddos.  You being present with them, reading a book or playing a game, just being WITH them is way more important that what you have on or what your hair looks like.  There are still ways to find those “spaces” in your day, so hang in there.  They look completely different than that of someone who doesn’t have little ones at home, and it’s supposed to.

Sometimes that “breathing space” is all in our head…and in a great way!  Romans 8:5-6 (NLT) says, “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”  

Simply by filling our mind with the Word of God and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our thought processes (ie…how we manage our time and daily tasks), then we will have peace.  Notice that this doesn’t say we will have perfection.  It means that we will be able to deal with all the craziness of life in a peaceful way.  It means that when we need to speak into a situation, we can speak life instead of death.  What I mean by this is that we can be encouraging instead of nagging to our children when they need to pick up their toys, or their disaster zone rooms.  We can peacefully find ways to let them know how important it is to pay attention to what you are asking of them instead of knee-jerk reactions of hollering at them to just get it done.

So if we are too fill our minds with scripture to draw from when we need, how are we to accomplish this?  Life is just so busy!

Here’s the best answer ~ our God is an incredibly creative God and He created you perfectly so He has the exact answer for YOU!  Ask Him to give you ideas that will blend in with your family activities and with your particular daily tasks.

Let’s face it though, it’s super easy to find time to scroll through social media or even sit and read a few blogs (thank you by the way!).  I’m right there with ya!

I want to encourage you to find what works for YOU!  One of the greatest benefits you will recieve is that the more time you spend with the Lord, the more time you will WANT to spend with Him.  The more you are filled up, the more you can pour out to others and then run back to the arms of your loving Father who will gladly fill you up again and again and again!

HE WILL NEVER EVER RUN OUT OF WHAT YOU NEED TO BE FILLED!!  EVER!!

Acts 2:25-28 (ESV) remind us what King David penned in the Old Testament, For David says concerning him,“‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’”

So…ideas…here’s a few that I will be implementing into my new schedule.  Take a peek and see what might work for you, or how you can tweak it to work in your schedule.

* After dropping off the kiddos at school, make a quick pit stop at a local coffee shop or park with the express intention of reading through your devotional…and NOT to meet up with a girlfriend, at least until after you have had your time with the Lord.

* Put your devotional time in your calendar to make sure you don’t over-schedule your day.

* If you have to sit in car-line (not gonna lie…super glad that part of my day is over!) go EARLY!  Take your Bible, devotional, or whatever study you are going through with you and work on it in the car for a bit without any distractions.

* Wake up earlier ~ I don’t like this one, but I know for me that God is asking me to give Him more of day and for me it means to wake up an hour early.  It’s gonna be a struggle for the first few days, but I’m committed to getting back to this. {As I write this, my last daughter is a Senior in high school and drives herself to school, so my “early” is probably a regular time for y’all}.

* While you are driving in the car instead of listening to the radio, take that time to pray to the Lord ~ share your day with Him…what you are doing, where you are going, how you would like direction for the tasks ahead.  Or listen to some praise music and allow the Holy Spirit to flood your soul with uplifting songs.

* As you sit down to the computer or to watch your favorite DVR’d TV show, ask yourself if you have spent time with the Lord yet.  If you haven’t, take that moment to read some scripture and pray.  And if you don’t know what to pray, pray aloud the scripture you were going to read.  And if you’re really stuck, look at the date on the calendar and find the chapter in Proverbs that has the same number and pray the verses you read.  I promise that even if you physically don’t feel refreshed, the Holy Spirit will refresh and renew your mind.  Scripture NEVER leaves you empty ~ it will always fill you up!

* While you wash dishes, do the laundry, finish up housework ~ you can spend time with the Lord too!  Thank Him that you have a home to care for and a family to fill it up.  And when you’re done, thank Him that you had the energy to accomplish all that you did.

Cheesy or not, there’s just a few to get started with and I bet the Lord is giving you great ideas already how to combat the busyness of life with the calmness of His Word.  I’d love to hear from you to see how God is working in your life to bring you peace and life.

I will always be busy.  You will always be busy.  That busyness will look different in everyone’s life ~ stop comparing yourself to others.  Allowing the Holy Spirit to sway your life in the direction of spending time with the Father will always result in the same thing ~ a life of peace and calm that will help you in your time of need as well as in the moments when you are needed by others.

When you hold the empty cup of your day to be filled with the everlasting joy and strength of the Lord, you will be filled to overflowing…and that’s a promise!

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Blessings,

René

 

Jesus IS Enough…

The past few months, I will admit that I’ve let so many circumstances get jumbled up in my brain so much that they traveled into my heart, and created quite a bit of havoc in my thinking!  Did that makes sense?  I hope so…and not that I would wish the same upon anyone else, but I sure hope I’m not alone here.  Just being honest with you.

Why do we that?  Why do we take an event, a circumstance, a conversation, a tone or a look, someone’s body language ~ and create an entire narrative that begins to haunt us whether we are asleep or awake.  Why do I allow my thoughts to grab hold of something, dig in its proverbial teeth and not let go?

Flippant answer ~ because we’re human.

Real answer ~ because we want control…and we want what we want when we want it…that’s why!

Oh, don’t get me wrong…when I have those sleepless nights and days filled with “what if” scenarios that mess with my mind and confuse the reality of life, I definitely pray.  I pray and ask God to take those things from my mind.  I pray and ask the Holy Spirit to fight the battle on my behalf.  I pray and put on the whole armor of God.

And He does…the Lord has never not answered a prayer.  Maybe not always how I want it to go, but He always answers me!

But sometimes, just five minutes later, I’ve let the door of doubt crack open just enough that the enemy throws another log on the fire of frustration & anxiety. {Sigh!}

Most days, I stay in the battle until God relieves me from the issues at hand.  And nothing feels quite as victorious as a victory with the Lord against the spiritual forces at play!  However, I’ll be honest with you…some days, I just want to curl up and binge-watch InkMaster (don’t judge me people!) and eat some chocolate!

But here’s the best part of all of this…

Jesus IS Enough!

He really is and He can prove it ~ actually He doesn’t have to prove anything to me because He is the Alpha and Omega…the beginning and the end.  But He shows me in His scripture, He shows me through “Verse of the Day” texts I get on the variety of apps I have on my phone, He shows me via a text or phone call from a friend who “just happened to be thinking of me in that moment” and wanted to encourage me in my day.

I John 4:7 (HCSB) says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

What about those times that we allow ourselves to dwell on actual things that have truly happened and have made an indelible mark on our heart?  The intentional harsh word from a friend?  The cruel comment made about you by someone that didn’t realize you could hear them?  The friend who gossips about you and it gets back to you (because you know…it always does)?

Those are not false hurts.  Those wounds happened TO you, and are not because you are trying to control the situation.  Those moments of heart-pain are most difficult to process, because they weren’t an accident.  They weren’t stories concocted in the “what if” part of your thought life.

But still my friend, even in those times {and maybe ESPECIALLY in those times}, Jesus IS Enough!

Psalm 123:2-4 (HCSB) says, “Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand, like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand, so our eyes are on the Lord our God until He shows us favor.  Show us favor, Lord, show us favor, for we’ve had more than enough contempt. We’ve had more than enough scorn from the arrogant and contempt from the proud.”

The Lord’s eyes are always on us.  He is always near to gather us to Him and show us comfort. The Holy Spirit is always available to act as our advocate at the foot of the throne when there are no words that can come out of our mouth. Jesus understands deep wounds of the heart.  He knows the damage gossip and untruths can cause.  And He knows the frustration of a situation that isn’t going as planned.

Matthew 6:33-34 (HCSB) is a promise that has truly become a comfort to me, But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Yes…that is actually quite comforting to me.  Living the Christian life does in NO WAY…like ZERO…promise an easy ride.  You can search the scriptures but you will never find that promise.  Jesus knows that everyday will have troubles of its own ~ some days the troubles are like tiny little pebbles we can easily cast aside, and some troubles seem as difficult to traverse as it would be to climb Mt. Everest!  Yet, He is there through it all!  While on earth in His human form, Jesus went to spend time alone in prayer and conversation with the Father.  If Jesus did this…we have got to make time with God a priority as well!!

This passage from John 14:7-9 is one that I absolutely LOVE!  Jesus is enough in part because He is not alone either.  He is a part of the Holy Trinity.  They work together, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to watch over us and care for us when we are hurting and struggling with life.  Read these beautiful words,“If you know Me, you will also know  My Father. From now on you do know Him  and have seen Him.” “Lord,” said Philip,  “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (emphasis mine).

When we see Jesus working in our life, when we feel the Holy Spirit guiding our thoughts and actions, when we know that God is putting the details of our life together ~ we have seen the Father.  We have seen the Trinity.

So with all these truths and promises, what do we do as Christians in this life?  Ephesians 6:19-20 (HCSB) encourages us this way,Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.”  The Apostle Paul wrote these words when he was ending his letter to the church in Ephesus.  We can have this same prayer as we go about our typical day, or a quite atypical time of life.

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We need to be bold in our daily walk, in the testimony of our life, and in our speech and habits.  The sinful humanity of life in this world, will do its very best to get in our way every single day.  But we already have the victory in Jesus.

Jesus IS Enough.

Let me leave this posting with verses from Romans 12:9-21.  If you are ever wondering how we are to act in the face of real (or imagined) issues, here is the answer.  With the strength of God who created the heavens and the earth, you absolutely can life out your days with honor as you bring glory to the Father who loves you and wants you reconciled to Him.

Love must be without hypocrisy.  Detest evil;  cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.  But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.”  {Romans 12:9-21, HCSB}

Blessings,

René

God crossed enemy lines!

My heart is breaking for our world…for the sadness that seems to have covered our nation…

However ~ I am not without HOPE!  

No matter where I have found myself in my life, there is always HOPE!  I do not say this as a cute little “christian-ese” phrase…I totally and absolutely believe it!  But it is not MY hope that I have tucked down in the marrow of my bones.  It is the hope that my precious Lord gives me every day.

But what do we do when we feel without hope?  What do we do when we see those around us crippled by hopelessness?  Sometimes, well let’s be honest ~ most of the time ~ we cannot fix someone else’s sense of hopelessness.  But we can pray and we can cry out to God for help.  Why?  Not because He is a proverbial genie in a bottle, but because He cares for us immensely more than we really can comprehend.

Let’s think about this…

From the time that Adam stood next to Eve (Genesis 3:6-7), and they both ate of the fruit of the forbidden Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God crossed over enemy lines to get us back!  In that moment, He began His mission of reconciliation between God and man.  He searched them out in the Garden of Eden, and He did so in love.  He did not stomp about the garden yelling for Adam and Eve to come out of their hiding place (because…you know…He knew where they were the whole time!)  How it must have caused God to cringe as He watched His creation take the bait of the enemy!

In Genesis 3:8-13, we see how God asked questions of Adam and Even, and listened to their excuses as to why they had disobeyed.  Hello to the beginning of placing blame, deflecting the issue onto someone else, and basically trying to get out of trouble for something you know you did wrong!  But God listened.

I imagine Him sitting there in the Garden, talking with Adam & Eve, but NEVER taking His eyes of the Serpent in the background.  When He had heard enough, He had no choice but to hand out discipline.  I imagine Him then standing tall and stepping between Adam & Eve, to face the Serpent.  God gave out the first line of punishment to the Serpent (verse 14 & 15).  Upon creating Adam & Eve, and showing them all the delights of the Garden, He told them all of the things they could do and all that they could eat.  Only ONE THING could they not take part in, and what would happen if they crossed that line.

In that one moment, so began the earthly journey of our lives ~ being pursued by the God that loves us so much that He crossed enemy lines by sending His only Son to the earth to bring us back to Him.  We cannot handle seeing the glory of God the Father, but He planned it all so that we could look upon His Son and see the face of God.

I think the ultimate act of ‘crossing the enemy lines’ is when Jesus was resurrected and during the 3 days of His death, He went down into the belly of hell and took back the keys of death.  Jesus, the Son, overcame death forever.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the absolute confirmation that we are so loved by our God.  He wants to be reconnected with us through the resurrection and salvation of His Son.  Jesus Christ has the victory of EVERYTHING!  There is nothing in our life, in our neighborhood, in our nation, in our world, or in our universe that He has not ALREADY overcome!  The power of the Creator of the Universe lives within us when we humble ourselves and receive Him as our Savior.

There has not been one generation, even since the beginning of the first family created by Adam & Eve, that has not bucked up against God having control of their life.  King Solomon writes an entire book (Ecclesiastes) about how there is ‘nothing new under the sun.’  Read these words that were penned centuries ago and you will see that they could have been written by any number of journalists today…

Ecclesiastes 1:8-10, All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.  What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”?  It has been already in the ages before us.” 

God is not surprised by unrest, by hate, by unkind actions, by war, by bitterness, by thoughts/acts of revenge, or by disobedience.

God is full of love and second chances for us to come to Him.

Psalm 36:6-8, Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord.  How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” 

Psalm 66:19-20But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!”

Romans 5:7-9 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

Oh…these are just a few of the promises in God’s word about how much He loves us and what He will do to bring us back to Him.  There are so many eloquent passages in God’s Word that speak of His great love for us!

If God is so willing and able to cross enemy lines, we have the same power to willingly and ably cross those same lines of the enemy around us and stand for Christ!  Calling out to receive Him and call Him Savior grants us the access to that kind of spiritual power! Stand up for the things that make His heart cry out, stand up for those who cannot defend themselves, and stand up for those who are without hope.

Be the light to the world ~ that shines hope and faith to everyone around them.  If there are hardships that you are going through right now, don’t mope around like you are powerless!  You have every gift of the Holy Spirit within you to conquer every single aching moment of life you will encounter.  It is one of our callings as Christians to show the world that they can have hope in this dismal world.

You can overcome!

John 16:32-33 says, Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

…and in Romans 12:21, we read, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

 I know I have quoted a lot of scripture in today’s blog, but there are no words that I could imagine that would so succinctly state what is in my heart to share with you.  Take heart today that you are not alone.  You are not defeated.  You are not in a losing battle.  Trust in the truth of God’s Word, even when (and especially when!) you are feeling a bit hopeless.
You have the victory in Christ because He crossed enemy lines
to get you back!
I John 5:3-5 promises, For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Blessings,

René

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Seasons change….

Well, it’s officially been the “Fall” season here in SoCal for almost a month.  And do you know what that means? Well, it means something different here than it does in almost every other state in America.  It means our brownish lawns (due to the water shortage) actually look acceptable.  The brownish hue to our mountains seem to be promising that they are just in hibernation and will burst forth with beautiful green come the Spring.  It means that we still hit the 90’s several times a week.  Literally, I’m serious…at this very minute, my weather app tells me it’s a balmy 89 degrees outside, with tomorrow and Friday promising to hit in the low 90’s, then by the weekend it’ll creep down to a chilly 80 degrees on Sunday.  Really people, my heart just did a little happy dance because on Monday & Tuesday next week, it says we’ll have a high of 73 degrees and…wait for it…RAIN!  TWO DAYS of RAIN IN A ROW!!  A change of season…

Okay, okay….I’m calm now.  Honestly, I know that just because it is forecasted to actually be cold (yeah I know…72 isn’t actually cold, just go with me here) and rainy next week, it could change.  I won’t be too surprised, but I’ll be disappointed.  When we think of all the seasons in our own life, we could say the same thing.  The things that we have planned are amazing and exciting.  Then things that are completely out of our control happen, and we are sad, angry, irritated, feeling let down, and may walk around in a fog for a bit wondering if the sun will come out?  Will our season change to a better one?

Even though we are surprised and challenged by the seasons in our life, God never is.

The verses in Psalm 139:15-16 are a perfect and beautiful example of what I mean by this.  Actually, the entire chapter of Psalm 139 is full of promise and faithfulness.  Read these intentional words and let them sink in to your soul…

My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery]. Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.” (Amplified Version).

God saw our whole life before we were born; before we began to add to our own story; before everything!  He is absolutely a loving God and His heart breaks when we sin, when we choose to walk a different way than what we know to be right.  He does not rejoice in our suffering.  He does not anticipate with glee any hardship we go through.  He is good…He always has been and He always will be.

There are plenty of times in my own life when I doubted God’s goodness.  When kids in high school spread rumors about me and my friends did not come to my defense.  When the people I thought were my friends actually began believing those lies and never came to talk to me about it.  When the boy I thought wanted to marry me, changed his mind and moved to another state. When plans would not work out like I wanted them to and it meant taking a harder road to accomplish various goals.  When our family hit hard times and had major financial difficulties.  When other kids were horribly mean to my children and appeared to get away with the damage they caused. When my mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, and good friends, all went through cancer (and thankfully beat it!).  When my aunt and other other friends and family members were ravaged by cancer and did not make it through.  So many things happen in our life that we don’t understand.

In all these seasons, God was there.  God knew what was going to happen, how it was going to happen, why it happened, and how it was going to end.

And all of these tough seasons have brought incredible fruit to my life that I wouldn’t have otherwise tasted.  I know the importance of speaking up when lies are being spoken.  I know the indelible imprint you will make in a friends life when you believe their story.  I know the vigilance that is needed to keep our kids safe.  I know the joy and harmony that God brought me in the man that HE intended for me to marry.  I know the humble gratitude of the anonymous grocery store gift card arriving in my mailbox at exactly the right moment.  I know the peace and relief when a friend or family member is healed of a disease.  And I know the mourning of friend and family member, will turn to dancing when I see them again in Heaven.

I’m not going to sugarcoat anything here and tell you that I always handled myself in a spiritually sound way.  Nope!  Many many times I cried to God how unfair life was.  How unfair He was!  After all, if He loves me so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for me, why in the heck do I have to go through a bunch of garbage in my life?  Why does life seem to be easier for other people than it does for me and our family?

Sadly, many times I reverted to a season of being a whiny little baby.  Instead of going for the meat of God’s Word to fulfill and sustain me, I chose ice cream and candy bars.  And where did that get me?  In a new cycle of self-hate and doubt that I would never matter to anyone or amount to anything.  I vacuumed up all the lies Satan was sprinkling out before me. He was tickled pink by my decisions toward destruction, while my loving Heavenly Father was heartsick that I was not turning to Him.  How selfish I was.

The brightest star that God created is the Sun.  It is one singular orb that illuminates the entire world.  Not all at once, not all with the same intensity, but with distinct purpose, direction, and intention.  If we had sunlight all the time we would suffer from heat exhaustion, burns, and drought…just to name a few.  We would not know the joy of a cool evening breeze on our face, or the intense radiant beauty of a sky filled with stars on a cloudless night.

Think about your favorite season?  I personally love it when it stays between 65-75.  I am not a heat-loving person.  But if I never experienced heat, I wouldn’t know the complete bliss of wrapping up in a warm blanket with a cup of tea on a chilly night in winter. (Yeah…it happens a few times a year!).

Even when we are encountering a stressful season, where things seem bleak and spiritually torturous…God can and will bring the rain, the cool breeze, the warm blanket.  It is possible to have peace within the storm.  I’ve lived through enough storms of every level, that I undoubtedly know this is true.  When I am faced with tough seasons now, I am much quicker to run to the Father.  To read His love letter of scripture, to pray and allow the Holy Spirit to pour out the oil of gladness over my soul, to fix my eyes and gaze on His holiness ~ that is the beginning of living peaceful in the midst of the storm.

Every part of the earthly creation comes to play with our spiritual story.  God created the world very specifically with incredibly detailed functions.  He created light and dark, day and night, man and woman, and seasons.  We are created with the same distinction and purpose.  We are meant to grow and change, to rejoice in the knowledge of who God is and how we are to honor and glorify Him with our life.

Reading through a bible study on Ecclesiastes is a wonderful reminder of just that.  Christian or not, most everyone is familiar with the beginning words from Ecclesiastes chapter 3, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven:” ~ not just some moments in time, but in every single moment.  In some ways going through this study, I feel like I’m reading Ecclesiastes for the first time and I’m loving it!  It is proof once more that the scripture God fashioned into the Bible we have known for centuries now, is just like He is…the same today, yesterday and forever.  Take a moment to read through the book of Ecclesiastes and see what I mean!

I believe the main purpose for the changing seasons of our life is to constantly bring us back to the knowledge that God alone is the sustainer of our life and the ONLY ONE who can fill the gaps and emptiness we experience.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

God alone satisfies our every desire, wish, want, and need.  He is the director and perfecter of the seasons in our life.  Allow Him to till the soil of your heart, to plant the goodness of His Word, and to harvest the completion of that work that He started in you before you were born.

Live blessed and live loved, in every season, by the God who created the Universe.  He took His time with you ~ now take your time with Him.

Blessings,

René

psalm-139-verses-15-and-16

{all scripture verses are taken from the Amplified Bible Version}

Church is not the Feast…

What words come to mind at the mention of “Feast”? Choice foods…Best quality…delectable treats…luscious desserts…more than enough…fully satisfied…special occasion…invitation only…

It’s quite the ‘christianese’ phrase, and we hear it all the time…”I go to church to be fed.”  But is that really the place we are supposed to be fed?  Is this the location we go to feast?

I’ve recently been contemplating this idea of what is the true purpose of gathering together on a Sunday morning (or Saturday night…you know what I mean)?  Are we to be gathering together on one particular day because that is the only time we are being fed?  A few weeks ago, I heard an interesting statement and I have not been able to get it out of my head.

“Church is the menu.  Church can be an appetizer.  But, Church is not the Feast.”

There are over 1500 mentions of the word ‘feast’ (or phrases that indicate a feast) in the Bible.  Most of these references are talking about all of the amazing Feasts that God set in place in the Old Testament.  These were specific opportunities for the Israelite’s to stop what they were doing in their every day life and create space to worship and honor the Almighty God.

There are seven annual sacred Feasts of the Old Testament, commonly referred to as the “Feasts of Remembrance.”  These 7 Feasts are: Passover (Signified the Redemption of Israel); Feast of Unleavened Bread (Signified the Sanctification of the Israel); Feast of the Firstfruits (Signified Resurrection of Israel as a free people); Feast of Weeks (Pentecost: Signified the Origination of Israel as the Covenant people Of Yahweh); Feast of Trumpets (Signified the calling Israel to judgment); Feast of Atonement (Signified the Atonement of the Covenant people); and the Feast of the Tabernacles (Signified God’s presence with His Covenant people; looked forward to the coming of the Messiah).*

All of these feasts were filled with celebration (AND lots of eating) of what God had done for the people. How He had freed them from Egyptian slavery, how He had given them a new land, how He saved the people from the Angel of Death, and simply how He had provided for them year after year, generation after generation.  But they were also filled with times of offering sacrifices to God through the Priests.  This is, of course, a very very brief overview on the Feasts of the Old Testament.  But my point is this ~ these feasts were special times set aside to do one thing and one thing only…to worship and honor God.  This is the same kind of attitude I believe we need to have today, and I don’t think it only happens on Sunday.

The word feast can be a noun or a verb.  As a noun, we see that it means: “any rich or sumptuous meal; something highly agreeable; a periodical celebration or time of celebration.” As a verb, it means: “to have or partake of a feast; to east sumptuously; to dwell with gratification or delight.”  I love that last part of the definition!

To feast with the Lord is to dwell in the presence of your Host with a grateful attitude, delighting to be at the table and enjoying the richness of the sumptuous bounty He has to offer us! (R.A.B.)

I’m not saying here that you cannot be fed by the Word while you are at church.  This is what the speaker that I referenced earlier meant as well.  We need to go church and worship with the community of believers for several reasons.  First and foremost, God calls us to be together.

Hebrews 10:24-25 teaches us how important this is. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

It is incredibly vital to the life of every Christian to be in fellowship with other people who worship the Lord.  Most often this happens when we attend church services together.  Collectively praising God in song with a congregation is a visceral experience.  Being in the presence of like-minded people whose goal is to honor the Lord joyfully in song is a beautiful thing.  Guess what though?  The singing part of the church service isn’t the only “worship” part of church.  The ENTIRE service is WORSHIP!

A friend of mine recently had a funny experience, well, maybe odd is a better description.  She was about to go into the church service which was already in progress.  The singing portion was in full swing.  There was a woman already in the foyer area and said to her, “Oh, I’m not going in yet.  I’m waiting until all the worship singing is done.  There is so much of it.” (I’m paraphrasing here…but that was the gist.)  My friend looked at her in disbelief for several reasons: 1) her husband is the worship Pastor, 2) this woman’s husband played with the worship team band, and 3) this woman is involved with the choir ministry!  So my friend smiled at her and before going into the sanctuary said, “Well, the whole service is a worship service!”  She said that the woman looked horrified.

I share this story because it is a perfect example of the “menu/appetizer” mentality of so many church-goers.  They pick and choose what parts they want to be a part of.

They want to sing, but only if it’s from the traditional hymnal.

They won’t sit in worship to sing unless they are singing contemporary songs that you can hear on the radio.

If the ‘wrong’ songs are played, or if the message preached that morning doesn’t agree with them, they feel justified in withholding their tithe check that week. {Sadly, I know this one first hand as I worked as the Admin to a previous pastor and read some of the most disheartening letters to the pastor after a “failed” sunday morning.}

Not to focus on the negative…here’s some thoughts on the positive side of the church being the ‘menu’ or ‘appetizer’ ~ through the worship songs and the sermon that is delivered to the congregation, we are given delightful morsels from the Word of God.  We are given a taste of the goodness and greatness of our God.  We are able to sample a portion of what the Lord has to offer us in His Word.

Your church pastor has been given an amazing job, in that the Lord has given them the ability and opportunity to share with others all the wealth of the Feast that IS God’s Word. The pastor is not supposed to be the only person you learn from.  The church is not supposed to be the only location from which you learn in.  The pastor and the church experience each week are supposed to be the jumping off point…the place of fellowship where we can be recharged in order to go out through the rest of the week, encouraged to delight in personal time with the Lord and His Scripture.

This is where the Feasting comes in...

Personal times of worship in prayer and in song to the Lord are just as vital (if not more so!) ~ this is why I feel this is the real feast!  When we are in a quiet place, spending time in His Word and in prayer, we are allowing the Holy Spirit to lavish spiritual nourishment to our soul.  When we spend time with the Lord, we are making a statement…that we want to be more in tune with the Lord and all He has for us.  Sometimes those prayer experiences have us saying nothing at all but declaring the holy Name of Jesus.  More often than not, when I have prayed a verse or passage out loud, or sang a Psalm to Him, or just sat quietly asking the Lord to speak to my heart ~ those are the times that I have felt the closest to Him.  Of course He wants to hear from us:  what our hearts are desirous of, what we are hurting from, who or what we are having a difficult time with. But if we are always the one talking…we are unable to listen to what God is wanting to whisper to our heart.

This my friends is the Feast.

To be made aware of the voice of God and how He speaks into our lives.

exodus-12-verse-14

All those feasts that the Israelite’s of the Old Testament were called to observe were due in part to the fact that the Savior had not come to earth yet.  There was a strict process in the preparation and the enjoyment of each Feast and why/when they were observed.  But with the coming of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, we were given in Him the true Feast.  He is the Word in flesh. (John 1:14)  He is the reason we celebrate our salvation. Through Him we gain the abundant knowledge we need in order to walk through this life.  We are given the Fruit of the Holy Spirit with which to feast on.  But this can only happen when we spend time with Him and in scripture.  And the best part…we can come to Him every moment of every day!  We don’t have to wait for a special decree to enter the throne room of God and worship at His feet! What a beautiful gift and privilege!  E.V.E.R.Y.D.A.Y!!!

The time of feasting in the presence of the Lord is not meant to only happen a few times a year.  It is not even meant to simply happen on Sunday mornings. It is not something on our schedule to check off.

Feasting is to be a daily experience.  All throughout the day we are to be feasting in His presence.  To be so close to the Lord of Hosts, that we can smell the aroma of His love.  To be so close that we can feel the brush of His hands on ours, as He directs our path. To be so close that we can recognize His voice as He calls us to dwell with Him.

Come to Him and enjoy the Feast!

Blessings,

René

 

* http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts

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)