Savor this Season

I have often said that my son has taught me joy and my daughter has taught me to be brave. This is not to say that my son lacks courage or that my daughter is not joyful. A better explanation is that my son can squeeze joy out of places and circumstances where I fail to see any and my daughter possess the ability or skill to be brave in the face of the unknown in a way that has eluded me for most of the decades of my life.

Last fall I was trying to express this idea to my friend April Hinkle and I said to her about my son “Max has a way of sucking the joy out of every situation.” I smiled sweetly and started to go on with my story and she stopped me and said: “Um, that doesn’t sound very nice about your son?” I realized that I didn’t mean that he sucked the joy out but that he squeezed it out as in to get it all, every last drop, nothing wasted or left un-enjoyed. 

I will forever be glad that she interrupted me to clarify. I wonder how many times I have relayed that sentiment incorrectly? I love the way that Max can find a way to savor a moment and be silly about big and small things. He truthfully has been difficult to parent some days because it is hard to discipline a child that is inappropriately funny!

If ever there was a time for fun and laughter it is now. This season has been full of moments that are difficult to savor. This year of 2020 has held some pills that were hard to swallow. There has been a lot of disappointments and grief.

“…a merry heart does good like a medicine.” ~ Proverbs 17:22

We need some good medicine. We need some belly laughs and silliness to cheer our hearts. As we have been creative and innovative with our lives – learning how to work from home, attend school and church from home, we also must relearn how to have fun.

I hereby challenge you to be silly: Create a theme day, a photo booth, an inhouse mailbox to leave your family funny notes, organize a neighborhood parade (follow all the social distancing rules), have a dance party in your kitchen, make a music video. Share them with a friend and challenge them to silliness too. Click here for more Silly Challenge ideas

My friend April has influenced me yet again. Her family created a music video, a fabulous parody of the song “That Thing You Do” from the movie by the same name, written and directed by Tom Hanks. My son Max and I watched it over and over. This just happens to be his favorite movie and I have a cherished picture of him acting it out when he was only 2 years old! (pictured above)

Savor this season and the good things it holds. I hope you laugh till it hurts and you treasure these memories in your heart forever.

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Pondering & Gratitude

Happy Mother’s Day!

Often times without my even being aware of it I am looking for pieces of my life story reflected in others. This is especially true when it comes to motherhood, I tend to gather up pieces of other’s stories and try to emulate them. The mothers in the Bible top my list of mentors, and many times I have intentionally taken one of their characteristics as my own.

When Jesus God’s Son was born he entered the world through an earthly mother, Mary. And as the angels sang and the shepherds visited I believe Mary was in what I would call a state of over stimulus. Becoming a first-time mom is overwhelming. Giving Birth to God’s Son is a big deal and welcoming groups of visitors into a borrowed cave has to have had some lasting impact on the psyche. Luke in his historical gospel simply says: 

But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. ~ Luke 2:19 NKJV

Mary became a mother to the Son of God and she pondered ALL these things in her heart. As my children were beginning to grow more and more independent of me I began to ponder things in my heart. I followed Mary’s example and stored things away to remember later when things had calmed down.

Like the first time, my son drove away in our old pick-up truck all by himself! (Pondered! Check!) Or when my daughter put up the first five points on the scoreboard at a basketball game. (Pondered! Check!) 

Why do I store things away in my heart? Because I want to reflect or ponder them later, savor them and not forget the precious daily moments of those I love. How do we know that Mary pondered these things in her heart? She must have later shared them with the community of Jesus’ followers! The way that we know she did this is that she shared her life, her heart, and her memories.

Almost every morning as I am drinking my first cup of coffee I write in my gratitude journal. In the early, quiet hours of the day, I list at least three things from the day before that I am grateful for. And, often included in these entries are moments I have pondered in my heart in connection with my children.

“No matter what’s coming at you today, the thing is: No amount of regret changes the past, No amount of anxiety changes the future, Any amount of grateful joy changes the present.” ~ Ann Voskamp, #1000Gifts

Just like Mary our lives are shared with others. We influence others, we pass on our attitudes and viewpoints. We can also choose to pass on a perspective of gratefulness.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. ~ Romans 8:28 NKJV

Gratitude isn’t always easy but it is always possible. May you have many reasons to ponder this day!

Posted in Good Mom Award, Gratitude, Memories, Thankfulness, Tradition | Leave a comment

…of Fireworks and Marigolds…

In these uncertain times, I want to encourage you in your unique areas of influence. Perhaps you share some of my titles? Being a ministry leader, pastor’s wife, mother, author, and a friend are some of the ways I interact with my world. I hope that you will gain some courage and joy from this piece of my story and that you will uniquely and faithfully continue forward in yours.

…of fireworks and marigolds…

Many years ago I was struggling over my own worth. I had been comparing myself to a friend and of course, came away feeling not good enough, small, ineffectual. Comparison is a game that no one can win. God gave me a word picture. What flashed through my mind was a firework display and a little row of marigolds all growing in a flower bed. I knew instantly that my friend was the firework in this analogy. She was flashy, loud, and colorful. She had pizzazz and some boom. I felt that I did not draw attention that I was like the marigold small, ordinary and someone that others would take little notice of. I knew that God was telling me that I was indeed the marigold in this illustration. Now you should know that I dislike the color orange, and what color are marigolds? I also find that they have a distinct order, not fragrance, but odor. Marigolds are a border plant intended to keep away pests and they do so by their unpleasant scent.

Fireworks are wonderful and beautiful. They draw our attention and awe. They also last for just a moment and then are gone forever. But, though a marigold is small and orange it is also consistent, faithful. Marigolds can endure the harsh weather of both ends of a growing season and they also have the ability to reseed themselves. They will last into another season, long after this one you can return and count on a marigold to be literally blooming where it was planted!

I don’t know if you see yourself as a firework, a marigold or perhaps some other character in the garden of life. You may feel like Queen Esther did with influence forced upon you in a season of time you would rather avoid. I know for certain that God created you in a unique and gifted way for the life you live and nothing is lacking or need be compared to someone else. My dear friend, Jodi Detrick, says this about our individuality.

“Diversity with unity, within the framework of truth, is God’s design.”*

In other words, our differences combined and united on the foundation of Truth (God’s Word) is how God designed the Body of Christ to function. Uniquely, not comparing ourselves to others but using our distinct influence in a consistent and faithful environment. Much like Queen Esther in the Bible, we have been given this rare opportunity in our lives “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14) to influence those around us in a spectacular way. You and I are similar to Queen Esther. We have lived the moments of our lives up until this point in history in a way that makes it possible for us to influence others in a firework kind of moment. But we are only able to participate in this way because of all of the Marigold moments before. We will also have many Marigold moments to come. Long past this strange window in time where we have a literal captive online audience, our daily flower bed existence will still have great influence. Not because we wowed someone with a flashy, loud and colorful presentation but because we could be depended upon. It is a consistent life of faith that produces true influence. It is the moments of bitter wind and hot sun and not enough water or far too much that defines the way we have grown and reproduced after our own kind.

Dear friend, let me encourage you that what you are doing now is no accident. No sudden shot of color into the darkness. No, you have been planted and endured many seasons to shine in this one, yes, and even more important to continue forward for many more seasons to come. Queen Esther was brought to her position by her obedience and faithfulness. She executed her influence and used her talents and abilities with excellence, and then after the chapter of her life that we can read about closed she remained Queen. We can assume by her former actions that she continued in obedience, faithfulness, and influence. Just because we haven’t read about her later years does not mean that other chapters were not written.

We have the rare opportunity to be both the firework and the marigold but let us not forget that we come to great moments of influence because of all of the small, ordinary, faithful and consistent moments of influence. Be steady my friend, keep repelling the pests; keep reproducing after your own kind. Our work is not done in only one season.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted into the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is nothing but goodness in him!”  Psalm 92:12-15

 

*Jodi Detrick, The Jesus-Hearted Woman,(Springfield, MO: Influence Resources,2013), 225.

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Community ~ Memory ~ Identity

2019 finds me once again coming out of a long winter’s nap.

I have begun the stretching and the peaking out from my seasonal hibernation. This introvert loves the cozy, dark, limited expectations of the winter season. (If only we could do this without the cold and bad roads!)

My first tentative toe in the water experiences this year have involved a looking back.

I recently was given the great privilege to speak into women’s lives in two areas that are seasons I have completed. I wrote some advice to women in their twenties, the information I wish someone had told me two decades ago! And I spoke to a local MOPS group (Mothers of Preschoolers).

Dear Twenty-Something“* gave me the opportunity to see who I have become in the last twenty years. What I have learned that makes me who I am and who I want to be! No matter your age I would urge you to sit down and write out some advice you have learned to live by. This is intentional living. It reminded me of the Life Markers I wrote and spoke about in 2017. It caused me to go back and make sure I am remembering what I have learned and that I am living by those markers I have decided are important to me.

The theme for MOPS in 2019 is Find Your Fire and our specific topic was Surrender Daringly. I used to lead a MOPS group. I used to parent toddlers. Oh, where does the time go? I know a thing or two about surrendering to the demands of motherhood! How we choose to daily enter the waters of motherhood is all about attitude and choices – do we let it happen to us or do we Daringly Surrender to the choice we have made to mother?

I have come away from these two wonderful opportunities to speak into other women’s lives with a great yearning to not forget who I am, and where I have come from. I also kinda want to borrow a toddler so I can keep attending MOPS!

“…community is especially important at certain life stages…communities…can do the work of reminding [us] who [we] are…the community of the church can remind us of our identity in Christ.” ~ Lauren F. Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath (103-104)

“Memory is identity. Memory grounds us in who we are, where we’ve come from. Memory shapes us and guides us.” ~ Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God, Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (195)

This Winter’s Sabbath Season has made me so very grateful for the communities and circles that have shaped and guided me!

I would love your thoughts…

 

* Dear Twenty-Something originally published at mrscharityrattray.com on February 8, 2019.

Posted in Good Mom Award, Gratitude, Memories, Sacrifice, Tradition | Tagged , | 1 Comment

All Things Beautiful ~ Part 3 of 3 “Beautiful in God’s Time”

God has a plan to fulfill the dreams and the purpose He has established for you.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter  various trials,knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing~ James 1:2-4

Our life doesn’t always look perfect, complete, lacking in nothing. We often feel undone. But because we know that God is good and that He never changes we can also rest in His perfect will for us, that He has a plan and regardless of timing He loves us.

“It is about rejecting the myth that every day is a new opportunity to prove our worth, and about the truth that our worth is inherent, given by God, not earned by our hustling.”  ~ Shauna Neiquist, Present Over Perfect

We reflect our Creator we are made in His image. He does things well. He is interested in the details of our lives.

“The most difficult part of mature faith is to allow ourselves to be the object of God’s delight.”   ~ Alan Jones

People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.  ~ St. Augustine 

One of the tragedies of our life is that we keep forgetting who we are.”  ~ Henri Nouwen

We are God’s children and we can trust His timing!

In Genesis 37:1-11 God gives Joseph dreams for his life. God never changed the dream or the plan. What He spoke to Joseph came true, but it took a very long time to come to pass. Joseph endured betrayal, slavery, and imprisonment before coming to power and his family bowing down to him like he saw in the dreams.

We see through all of the situations that Joseph faced that never once could he rely on human intervention to save or deliver him. We also see that he did not become bitter or resentful.

The restoration process is clearly visible in Joseph’s story, He says to his brothers who sold him into slavery “You meant to hurt me, but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people, which is being done.”  ~ Genesis 50:20 NCV

God redeemed goodness out of slavery, imprisonment, and starvation! He made Joseph’s life beautiful in His time. God has good plans of restoration for you and I as well.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.   ~ Ephesians 1:4 NIV

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  ~ Ephesians 2:10 NIV

God who never changes decided long, long ago that He would choose you and use you and your life for good.

Restoration is not a quick, prefabricated project that is thrown together. It is a deliberate and planned removal of the unwanted, a detailed refining of that which is to be preserved, and an addition of that which was not before. ~ Barbara Stephens

The final piece of our restoration quote speaks of addition. Adding what was not before, another way to say that is fulfilling dreams.

“Restoration involves a relationship with a Good God. Daily inviting Him to wash old wounds, highlight talents and joys, and courageously add things we are too timid to admit we dream of accomplishing.”  ~ Melisa Turner, But God…A Doctrine of Hope

Robin Jones Gunn in her book Victim of Grace speaks about the dreams in our hearts. She asks “Where do these foundational inklings inside us come from? Does God plant seeds of our dreams deep within before we’re born?” She goes on to discuss the idea that some dreams grow and some do not and that “It seems to have very little to do with the dreams themselves but everything to do with the One who planted the dreams inside us. God has been a Planter, a Gardener, from the beginning…He is the one who plants and uproots. God gives; God takes away…The conclusion I came to was this: God is God. He can do whatever He wants. But what he wants most is a relationship with us.”

Believe God will fulfill the dreams He has planted in your life!

Choose to pursue a relationship with Him instead of striving to accomplish the task or dream itself.

Lord, draw us close to You, that as we know You, we will trust You and Your timing.

Posted in But God, Dream, God's Unchanging Character, Hope, Redemption, Restoration | 3 Comments

All Things Beautiful ~ Part 2 of 3 “A Diverse Creation”

He has made everything beautiful in its time. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11

We have discussed how God can redeem goodness from all the situations in our lives. This time I want to explore how God refines what He has already woven into the fabric of our lives.

13 You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. 14 I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well. ~ Psalm 139:13-14

 The diverse way that God has formed each of us is intentional.

17 But in any case each one of you should continue to live the way God has given you to live—the way you were when God called you… The important thing is obeying God’s commands. 20 Each one of you should stay the way you were when God called you…Brothers and sisters, each of you should stay as you were when you were called, and stay there with God. ~ I Corinthians 7:17-24

God will help to refine us as we live in Him and obey His commands, but we do not throw out our talents, personality, interests, our character traits and become clones! He created us diversely on purpose.

“Salvation means the healing and rescue of a body that is brought back to the way it was intended.”  ~ Eugene Peterson

“From the moment a life is surrendered to Christ, the redeeming work of sanctification begins. My inclination to tell stories was being sifted in this sanctification process.” ~ Robin Jones Gunn, Victim of Grace

Robin Jones Gunn is a renowned fiction author, she goes on about this concept and her desire to reach around the world for the Gospel.

“My Dad loved the stories I told about my overseas travels. I loved that as I told him these stories, every word was true. Nothing was made up the way my stories used to be when I got in trouble at the dinner table for ‘exaggerating’ and ‘going on and on about nothing’. Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith as he is called in Hebrews 12, truly has redeemed the hidden gift he placed inside me before I was even born. He gave me a gift, he redeemed the gift, and now he is using that gift to reveal his Great Story to others.”  Robin Jones Gunn, Victim of Grace

Remember our quote on restoration from Part 1?

Restoration is not a quick, prefabricated project that is thrown together. It is a deliberate and planned removal of the unwanted, a detailed refining of that which is to be preserved, and an addition of that which was not before. ~ Barbara Stephens, Psalms of Recovery: Meditations for Strength and Hope

“Restoration involves a relationship with a Good God. Daily inviting Him to wash old wounds, highlight talents and joys, and courageously add things we are too timid to admit we dream of accomplishing…We often see our spiritual development as a way to correct what is wrong with our flawed sinful character. Would you consider with me what is right with your character? Do you know your strengths or have you been too focused on your weaknesses?” ~ Melisa Turner, excerpt from But God – A Doctrine of Hope

Diversity is what gives the body of Christ strength!

“Diversity with unity, within the framework of truth, is God’s design.” ~ Jodi Detrick, The Jesus-Hearted Woman

“Friendship isn’t forged out of sameness…” ~ Shauna Neiquist, Present Over Perfect

Friendship does not equal sameness, we must give each other space to be ourselves. The same can be said for the body of Christ, so we must not compare or compete.

“It is only when you understand God’s truly unconditional love that you begin to understand the worth of your own soul- not because of anything you’ve done, but because every soul is worthy, every one of us is worthy of love, having been created by and in the image of the God of love.” ~ Shauna Neiquist, Present Over Perfect

We must learn to trust God with our diversity and strive to please or obey only the One who created us.

Real freedom is freedom from the opinions of others. Above all, freedom from your opinions about yourself. ” ~ Brennan Manning

Who will we let determine our worth?

Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. ~ Galatians 1:10 NLT

Whose servant would you be? It would always be changing, exhausting. Rest in knowing that the God of the universe created you intentionally and uniquely. Concentrate on refining the fabric of your life, not striving to be like anyone else.

“Comparison will either lead you into pride or insecurity, but resting in God’s unique love for you will set you free. ~ Lisa Bevere

It is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. ~ Ephesians 1:11 (MSG)

Do you know your strengths, your talents, your joys?

How could God use your diversity within your community?

I urge you to take the time to journal your thoughts on this. Write down how you feel God has created you uniquely and praise Him for this gift of freedom to be yourself.

A suggested resource: Strengths Finder 2.0

Posted in Be yourself, But God, Diverse, Freedom | 2 Comments

All Things Beautiful ~ Part 1 of 3 “Redemptive Goodness”

I had the great privilege to be invited to speak at Wenatchee First Assembly of God’s women’s retreat earlier this Fall. Our theme was He makes all things beautiful in His time based on Ecclesiastes 3:11.

In our first session together we explored God’s Redemptive Goodness.

A Time for Everything Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.

Some of you are now humming the song by The Byrds “Turn, Turn, Turn”.

Seriously, though can God truly redeem goodness from everything? Can He make all things beautiful? When things are dead, uprooted, torn down, scattered? When they feel hopeless, thrown away like garbage, or when there is silence, hatred, and war?

And through Christ, God has brought all things back to himself again—things on earth and things in heaven. God made peace through the blood of Christ’s death on the cross. ~ Colossians 1:20

There is an ugliness to this life and the world we live in. So many things in that list that we fear, so much suffering, hurt, and destruction.

Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. ~ Psalm 130:7

Full redemption is possible. God can bring ALL Things back to himself, He can make All things beautiful. He can do this because of His goodness!

There is no other God besides me. I am the only good God. I am the Savior. There is no other God. ~ Isaiah 45:21b NCV

Every good action and every perfect gift is from God. These good gifts come down from the Creator of the sun, moon, and stars, who does not change like their shifting shadows. ~ James 1:17 NCV

It is important to distinguish that evil was never in God’s plan for our lives. These bad things develop outside of His perfect will for our lives. Mankind steps out of God’s plan and creates pain, disobedience, war, selfishness, slavery, and unrest.

“God created nothing evil. It is we who brought forth wickedness.” ~ Tatian, the Assyrian, 2nd Century Theologian, Book of Common Prayer

“Evil is all that lacks the goodness of God.” ~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

All is not lost because a Good God makes restoration possible!

Restoration is not a magic wand that God waves over the destruction in our lives and poof we are all better. Restoration is a process. God’s redemption does not make evil good, it extracts goodness from these situations so there is purpose and nothing is wasted.

Restoration is not a quick, prefabricated project that is thrown together. It is a deliberate and planned removal of the unwanted, a detailed refining of that which is to be preserved, and an addition of that which was not before. ~ Barbara Stephens, Psalms of Recovery: Meditations for Strength and Hope

Barbara Stephens indicates that restoration is a three-step process: remove, refine, and add.

This is the redemption story – God removes our sin and separation from Him, He refines who we are, and He adds what is missing.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? [sounds like our list above]…No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Romans 8:35, 37 NLT

Our circumstances do not change God’s character! God does not change and His love for us does not change.

We have to learn to interpret the mysteries of life in the light of our knowledge of God. Until we can come face-to-face with the deepest darkest fact of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know him. ~ Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Are you redeemed? Reconciled to God?

Have you received Salvation? The full redemption of being brought back to Christ?

If so then you are unable to be separated from God’s love no matter what has happened.

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” ~ Isaiah 44:22

Respond to the offer of redemption God has offered you…please don’t wait!

Are there other things that need to be redeemed in your life?

Is there something God wants to reveal to you in HIS time? Is He saying now is the time to beautify or redeem ____________ (fill in the blank)? Restoration and refinement are always possible.

Can you give God permission to redeem goodness from All things in your life?

Lord, we pray over the hidden corners of our hearts and lives, reveal to us where you are patiently waiting to redeem goodness. Let us stand on the truth of your never changing character and your unfailing love. Reveal yourself to us in your perfect timing.

Posted in God's Unchanging Character, Love, Redemption, Truth | 4 Comments

Chosen for Influence ~ Part 3 of 3

Chosen

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you                                                  to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.  ~ John 15:16a 

The final portion of our key verse speaks of producing eternal fruit, this comes after our chosenness, using our individuality, following rest or sabbath.

God created man and woman on the sixth day…on the first full day of existence for Adam and Eve, God rested. And so did Adam and Eve…After a busy day of being created, the next thing we did was hang out with God for a whole day. Then work began…From this we see an important principle of life: We are to work from our rest, not rest from our workFruitfulness happens in stages and seasons: abide, grow, bear fruit, prune, abide…We cannot bear fruit if we do not spend time abiding.  ~ Mike Breen and Walt Kallestad, A Passionate Life

Influence is a representation of Christ in YOU! We are Chosen for Influence – that we might bear fruit.

“…all nutrients of heaven are offered to us…He brings us into a fruit-producing life that feeds and nourishes others. God chooses us, and we choose Him.” ~ Rebekah Lyons, You Are Free

We use our influence to help build the Kingdom of God, as a result of being rooted in Him, drawing on His strength.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. ~ John 15:4

There is a parable about a Useless Tree in Luke 13:6-9 that I find fascinating. What I noticed about the tree in the story Jesus tells is that it did not need uprooted but restored to health. It needed fertilizer and good soil added to its current location. This reminds me of one of my all-time favorite quotes:

Restoration is not a quick, prefabricated project that is thrown together. It is a deliberate and planned removal of the unwanted, a detailed refining of that which is to be preserved, and an addition of that which was not before. ~ Barbara Stephens, Psalms of Recovery: Meditations for Strength and Hope

A three-step process: remove, refine, and add. If we feel useless like we are not producing fruit perhaps our soil needs to be restored.

Do you need to add or remove something from your current situation…more exposure to God’s Word, an accountability partner to help remove weeds or rocks, a fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit, some Sabbath/Solitude/Prayer?

We know from the Parable of the Sower that the types of soil were the crucial reason the seed did or did not grow. So we can ask ourselves are we producing fruit? Are we dwelling in God’s house, planted in good soil, resting in His presence?

God uses us to spread his knowledge everywhere like a sweet-smelling perfume. ~ II Corinthians 2:14b NCV

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. ~ John 15:16-17

An effective influence is sweet smelling and rooted in LOVE!

But our God helped us to be brave and to tell you his Good News.                    ~ I Thessalonians 2:2b NCV

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. ~ Acts 4:13 NIV

The way we have courage is to be with Jesus, abide in Him.

Never doubt that God has chosen you and given you the strength and ability to bear fruit. Remember that your individuality is going to make your influence look unique compared to others.

He who thinks everything must bloom when the strawberries are in bloom doesn’t know anything about apples. ~ Greek Proverb

For further encouragement to allow God to use you in His time and within your own unique style, I recommend reading The Trellis and the Seed: A Book of Encouragement for All Ages by Jan Karon.

But the godly will  flourish…in the courts of our God. Even in old age, they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. ~ Psalm 92:12-14

You are Chosen, Chosen to be YOU, and Chosen for Influence.

Posted in Chosen, Courage, Love | Tagged | 2 Comments

Chosen to be YOU ~ Part 2 of 3

Chosen

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.  ~ John 15:16a 

We are chosen by God.

God does not change, therefore he does not change His mind or His love for us!

…for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. ~ Romans 11:29

Irrevocable is a big word that means set in stone.

I want to remind you of a blog I posted in 2015 entitled “Mom, is that you?” I shared in this post how I made some supposedly questionable decisions regarding the parenting of my children and the running of my household. A picture is worth a thousand words, I sent my children to school looking like this:

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Long story short, my husband questioned my choices, yet I could tell as he spoke to me that he clearly adores me! My chosenness as the wife and mom and my performance of those duties are two very different things.

You and I are irrevocably called even in our imperfection.

We have the freedom to separate our performance from our title as a child of God.

…When a child fails, he will be grieved because he has hurt his parents, and he will be corrected and disciplined. But he is not afraid of being thrown out. His basic confidence is in belonging and being loved, and his performance does not change the stability of his position. ~ David Seamands

We also have the freedom to be ourselves. When we come to Christ we do not throw out our talents, personality, interests, our character traits and become clones!

“…God’s image has been imprinted uniquely on each of us. In God’s infinite creativity there are no duplicates; you are the only you there has ever been or ever will be.” ~ Dick Staub

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”~ Dr. Seuss

God never expects you to show up as somebody else! 

And by the way, He adores you! So let’s be clear your status/identity is secure.

God appointed you to be YOU.

It is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.  ~ Ephesians 1:11 (MSG)

We find out who we are in Christ. If you do not know who you are then I urge you to intentionally seek Him.

Psalm 139:23 reads: “Search me O God, and know my heart”. If we read the entire chapter of Psalm 139 we find that it is God who already knows us.  He knows all our actions, words and even our thoughts. [Psalm 139]

One way to get to know ourselves is to spend some time with YOU!

“When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too…Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others, I am beginning to discover.  And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be re-found through solitude.” ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Our identity is found in Christ, not in what we produce! Our worth is not dependant on what we do right or wrong, or whether we fail or succeed! We learn our worth through time spent with God. Another way to say that is Sabbath.

“Take a nap, a walk, an hour for lunch. Test the premise that you are worth more than what you can produce – that even if you spent one whole day being good for nothing you would still be precious in God’s sight – and when you get anxious because you are convinced that this is not so, remember your own conviction is not required. This is a commandment. Your worth has already been established, even when you are not working. The purpose of the commandment is to woo you to the same truth.” ~ Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

We must stop and quiet ourselves so that we can remember and know who God is, what He has done…He has chosen you and me because of His great love. And this foundation for our identity encourages us to be the truest version of ourselves.

So who are YOU in Christ? I encourage you to take some intentional Sabbath and Solitude time to seek out the answer.

You be, You, everybody else is taken!

 

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Chosen ~ Part 1 of 3

This spring I was given the amazing privilege to speak for the 15th Annual Almira Coulee Hartline Ladies Retreat! A tremendous honor, as I am almost from there, a hometown girl. But, also, because I was asked to speak on one of my favorite topics, Chosen, based on our Blossom Ministries key verse.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.  ~ John 15:16a 

Our time together was broken up into three main sessions: Chosen, Chosen to be YOU, and Chosen for Influence. Following the pattern I used last fall after our Blossom retreat, I will give you a brief summary of the sessions here in three posts by the same names.

Chosen

Why we are chosen is crucial to our understanding that we are chosen. We must realize and believe that God chose us because He loves us!

My daughter loves Christmas Hallmark movies, she has 27 of them saved in her Netflix account. There is something satisfying about the predictability of a Hallmark movie.

God’s love for you and me is as predictable as the plot line of a Hallmark romance.

“The Christmas story – it begins in the beginning, this love story that’s been coming for you since the beginning. It begins with the always coming of Christ. Christ, who is there in the beginning, the voice calling out of darkness, an echo in cosmic emptiness, speaks it by the commanding word of His mouth: Let there be…No matter your story before, this is your beginning now:  you were formed by Love…for love.” ~ Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift, Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas

Can you grasp the predictability of God’s love?

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, ~ Ephesians 3:16-18

We are chosen and this is founded on God’s love and backed up by His unchangeable character!

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! ~ I John 3:1

We are chosen by God, and because God does not change, He also does not change His mind or His love.

“…When a child fails, he will be grieved because he has hurt his parents, and he will be corrected and disciplined. But he is not afraid of being thrown out. His basic confidence is in belonging and being loved, and his performance does not change the stability of his position.”  ~ David Seamands

Ultimately we must find our security in God’s faithfulness, not ours. Our worth is not dependant on what we do right or wrong, or what we produce whether it fails or succeeds!

Your identity literally means ‘the same’ – that regardless of changing circumstances, the core of you is unchangeable, stable, the same. When your identity is in Christ, your identity is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” ~ Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

God’s character does not change even when our circumstances change.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?…No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  ~ Romans 8:35, 37 NLT

We are chosen by God and that is securely based on His unchanging nature. He says to us in John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you!”

Posted in Chosen, Christmas, God's Unchanging Character, Truth | Tagged | 1 Comment