I grew up in church. Baptized at 5 years old, proudly proclaiming my faith and coming up grinning at the water dripping from my baby face.
I learned a lot about rules in church, enough to realize by 11 years old that I was basically doomed to be a failure. Add to it un-diagnosed attention deficit disorder and the gift of almost instant assimilation of information - I spent much of my childhood in trouble.
I remember sitting in the pew (number 89, every week - we were Baptist) and listening to the story of the prodigal son, wondering if anyone would ever be that overjoyed to see me come home. If God is reflected in our parents, then God was tired, slightly annoyed most of the time, and just needed me to be quiet, get my work done, and stop making a fuss.
When I hit my 20's life began to heat up. I escaped the cult with my faith in God more or less intact. I came home and attended a local college, and met a local young man who seemed too good to be true. (Say it with me now...) I couldn't believe my good fortune. Even as we were driving to the church, my father was offering me $5,000 and a trip to Atlantic City if I'd turn the car around. (#45987 things I wished I'd done differently)
Flash forward 9 months - my husband is heading to court for shoplifting, we're in counseling for his pornography addiction, he's been diagnosed an obsessive/compulsive liar, and now his fists ball up when I question his spending habits. Oh... boy....
When the divorce is finalized, I'm now THE black sheep of our very conservative family. My Mennonite aunt sends me letters and tapes begging me to reconsider. All of the sudden, I'm that prodigal... eating the pigs' food and dreaming of days when my only sin was not paying attention to the sermon.
So if the cult didn't turn me away from my faith, divorce broke me. I was A.N.G.R.Y. I felt betrayed by God (never mind it was my idea against the advice of a wise dad) and decided I was done. I turned my back on God and what followed was two years of a very dark time. Promiscuity, drinking, complete abandonment of my faith and the life principals I'd been raised to respect.
Until that night.
I woke up in the middle of the night, alone in my apartment. (My Christian roommate had left, a childhood friend I drove away with my carousing.) I had the distinct impression that I wasn't alone. I sat up, very awake, and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw It.
There in the far corner of my room was a writhing mass of black with sharp, gleaming eyes. It was contained, I could tell, but not by what. As I watched, it moved like a thousand snakes with something on its tail - but all the while never took its eyes off of me.
In an instant, I knew. I had rejected Jesus and here was one to take His place. (Matthew 12:45) Time. To. Choose.
Being a prodigal instantly lost its romantic allure. I sat there, cowering, until the light came through the windows. Within days I had given up my apartment, confessed my waywardness to my parents, and moved back into their house. There wasn't a fattened calf for me. Just a 24 year old with her tail between her legs and a curfew.
Today's verses reveal the heart of our Heavenly Father: He'll do whatever it takes to bring us to Him. He has come to RELEASE, RECOVER, FREE, and PROCLAIM. His focus is on the lost. Always has been.
As I read these verses and I thought back, I realized that it's so true, "the Father of lights... does not change..." (James 1:17)
As His followers, we have responsibilities in this crazy time:
I have no idea if we are in the 'end times' or not. It really doesn't matter, my (our) purpose is the same regardless - our souls safe in Him, we are to do His will, follow His leading, trust His plans, and gather and care for His sheep.
Especially the ones wandering in the desert - and then throw a party for everyone single one we bring home.
Read the bible verses and study at She Reads Truth - Celebration
"So here I stand, [hands] high in surrender, I need you now. Hold my heart, now and forever, my soul cries out. Once I was broken, but you loved my whole heart through. Sin has no hold on me - 'cause Your Grace holds me now. " (Click here to listen to Whole Heart, Hillsong United)
This morning I woke with that song playing in my head, and I took a moment to sit in the quiet, and just listen and let my heart soak in the promise of Grace.
When Jesus was in the midst of the desert temptations, he was, as its explained, at his physically weakest. Tired, hungry, thirsty, alone, and I think, emotionally raw. You see, Satan tempting him wasn't some big evil monster with flaming red horns and a pitchfork.
He was Lucifer - one of the most trusted, one of the bearers of light created to bring Glory to Jesus and His Father. Lucifer was heartbreak, and betrayal, and sadness, and loss - all in a suave, smooth-talking, beautiful figure. When he met Jesus, I wonder if Jesus experienced the heartbreak of loss, the piercing pain of betrayal?
If so, Jesus answered with the most powerful weapon He possessed - Words straight from His Father's mouth. Words that protected while they loved, words that challenged as they bolstered, words that cut through lies even as they offered wholeness and healing.
And I wonder, when Lucifer left him, did he leave with a bit of sadness himself? Did he hear those words and recognize the love and healing and restoration that even then he was being offered?
If at that moment of pain and struggle, Jesus' first response was to stand tall in the words of His Father, who am I to offer less?
Continue in our study with us today at She Reads Truth: Meditation & Memorization
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Eph 2: 4-5)
Yesterday I was out running errands, enjoying the sunshine coming through the sunroof and the quiet of being the only one in the car.
I was thinking through (re: worrying) the week's events, and realized that my blood pressure was steadily rising and I was actually beginning to breathe faster, trying to catch my breath, as I reran the week through my mind.
In a flash, I thought - I should listen to 'The Blessing'.
As the notes and lyrics washed through me and around me, my (non-driving) hand lifted and I began to praise God for all the ways He'd blessed me, my family and friends, my town, my state, my country. Tears streamed down my face and I was overwhelmed with peace, love, and assurance.
And then a series of verses, long memorized, came to my mind and I began to speak out loud words of hope, promise, challenge and truth:
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
Do not turn to the right or to the left, turn aside your foot from evil.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? ...in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.
(Romans 8: 31, 37)
Friends, today's reading is a challenge to memorize a verse. Many of us, myself included, skim over these parts of a study. I can attest though, that holding His Word in our hearts is a weapon of defense and a gift of blessing. I challenge you to make it a point to read this bible verse out loud seven times each morning and each evening - by the end of our study, it should be well-etched in your mind, for use when you need it most:
"Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance." 1 Timothy 4: 7b - 9
You can read today's study entry at She Reads Truth - Weekly Truth
It's always the 'one more thing', isn't it?
I'm going along just fine, listening as best I can to the leading of the Holy Spirit, spending time in prayer and my bible each day, making time for fellowship, staying aware of my schedule, and then - BAM.
In a flash, the excitement of being included, or the stress of a financial hit, or fear of illness or injury, or strain of a relationship completely blindsides me. I act impulsively or instinctually, and the next thing I know - the peace in my heart is gone. I'm exhausted, weary, emotional, uptight, anxious, and depressed.
It used to take me days, even weeks to put my finger on what went wrong. These days though, I've allowed the Holy Spirit to speak so loudly into my life that sometimes its within a day or even hours that I feel the gentle tug on my heart reminding me that I moved without seeking Jesus and His Best for me.
Today's readings about obedience can seem overwhelming, especially to a newer Christian, or an exhausted Christian, or a Christian who feels like they've 'tried everything' but peace remains elusive. Here's what I've learned: if peace remains elusive, It's usually because I know what I'm supposed to do,, but it feels more scary to do it than not do it.
I've learned that when I can't figure out where I'm out of step, I need only listen to my own body. When I think about giving up that 'thing' and I experience a tightness in my chest of 'oh heck no'. When someone makes a loving suggestion that involves change and I immediately argue or explain why that won't work. When I read something about healthy changes and my response is defensive - these are all indicators to me that the Holy Spirit is trying to get my attention but my natural self (sinful self) is rebelling.
Saying 'no' to that opportunity... Saying 'yes' to making healthy changes... Asking for help and being vulnerable... Taking time away from toxic relationships... Making time for fellowship with people of Jesus... (Can you think of one?)
When my peace is in short supply, the most effective way of finding it again seems to be to step back and ask Jesus where I'm out of step with Him - and then asking for His grace to give me the strength to make necessary adjustments.
We have the Holy Spirit - we don't have to 'grit our teeth' and 'dig deep' to make ourselves obedient. (Could be why I'm so tired, because I'm trying to do it all on my own.)
Doing what Jesus calls us to do is about surrendering - recognizing our own inability to change our own hearts, asking the Holy Spirit to fill us with grace to be obedient, confessing our own blocks (control, fear, anger, etc) and then asking for wisdom and truth in moving forward.
And listen, it can be a process! Years ago, I was given a prayer that went like this - Lord, please give me the grace to be willing to be willing.' That's not a typo - sometimes the best we can do is to pray that our heart will be willing to experience a change in heart!
I'm praying for you today that the Holy Spirit would move in your heart, especially if you are lacking peace, so that you can get back in step with Jesus (into obedience) and relax into His love and the balance He offers.
Follow along on today's devotional readings here at She Reads Truth - Obedience
I love my country, and my family for generations back have served in the armed forces as well as in civil service. I embrace the truth that this world is not my home - heaven is - yet I engage in the political process as a citizen and I am proud of my New England heritage in the Founding Fathers and my German Immigrant heritage as well. In the midst of all that, the current political climate has me on my knees - for our country and our kids' future. I'm sharing an essay written by a fellow American. I appreciate her thoughts and her sentiments, and while I may not agree with it 100% (for instance, the American Revolution actually gave us our country, so in that instance, political violence created our nation), there is much to think about here - no matter which side of the aisle you claim. - Rosalyn
Guest Author: Faye Calfee
Amid the bombardment of images of what took place at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, too little time has been spent thinking about why it happened.
Anyone who is trying to understand the significance of what's going on ought to watch video of the last moments of Ashli Babbit, the woman who was shot and killed in the chaos.
Footage, which can easily be found online, shows Babbit standing in a hallway right off the House floor with an American flag tied around her neck. The scene around her is chaotic. People are bumping into each other, yelling, trying to get through the door into the chamber.
Suddenly, with no warning, there is gunfire.
You hear a shot and Babbit falls. People in the hallway scream. The camera closes in on her face. Babbit looks stunned. She's staring straight ahead. You can see that she knows she's about to die, which she did.
Political violence begets political violence. That is an iron law. We have to be against that, no matter who commits the violence or under what pretext, no matter how many self-interested demagogues assure us the violence is justified or necessary. We have a duty to oppose all of this, not simply because political violence kills other people's children, but because in the end it doesn't work.
No good person will live a happier life because Ashli Babbit was killed in the hallway of the Capitol yesterday day. So our only option, as a practical matter, is to fix what is causing this in the first place.
You may have nothing in common with the people on the other side of the country (increasingly, you probably don't), but you're stuck with them. The idea that groups of Americans will somehow break off into separate peaceful nations of like-minded citizens is a fantasy. The two hemispheres of this country are inseparably intertwined, like conjoined twins. Neither can leave without killing the other. As horrifying as this moment is, we have no option but to make it better, to gut it out.
The second thing to consider, and it's related to the first, is why Ashli Babbit went to the rally in the first place. She bore no resemblance to the angry children we have seen wrecking our cities in recent months -- pasty, entitled nihilists dressed in black, setting fires and spray painting slogans on statues. She looked pretty much like everyone else.
So why was she there? We ought to think about that. If you want to fix it, you have to think about that.
The only reason this country is rich and successful is because for hundreds of years, we have enjoyed a stable political system. The only reason that system is stable is because it's a democracy, responsive to voters.
Democracy is a pressure relief valve. As long as people sincerely believe they can change things by voting, they stay calm. They don't burst into the House chamber. They talk and they organize and they vote. But the opposite is also true if people begin to believe that their democracy is fraudulent, that voting is a charade, that the system is rigged and it's run in secret by a small group of powerful, dishonest people who are acting in their own interests.
Then, God knows what could happen.
Actually, we do know what could happen, because it's happening right now. It's happened in countless other countries over countless centuries. And the cycle is always the same because human nature never changes.
In the face of dissent, the first instinct of illegitimate leadership is to crack down on the population, but crackdowns never make it better. They always make the country more volatile and more dangerous. The people in charge rarely understand that. They don't care to learn or listen, because all of this conversation is a referendum on them and their leadership. So they clamp down harder.
This is the Romanov program, and it ends badly every single time. But that doesn't mean they won't try it again. Of course they will, because it's their nature. It's how we got here in the first place.
Millions of Americans sincerely believe the last election was fake. You can dismiss them as crazy. You can call them conspiracy theorists. You can kick them off Twitter. But that won't change their minds. Rather than trying to change their minds, to convince them and reassure them that the system is real, that democracy works -- which you would do if you cared about the country or the people who live here -- our new leaders will try to silence them.
What happened Wednesday will be used by the people taking power to justify stripping you of the rights you were born with as an American: Your right to speak without being censored, your right to assemble, to not be spied upon, to make a living, and to defend your family.
These are the most basic and ancient freedoms that we have. They're why we live here in the first place. They're why we're proud to be Americans. They're what make us different, and they're all now in peril.
But if you don't bother to pause and learn a single thing from what transpired Wednesday, then you're a fool, you lack wisdom and self-awareness.
We got to this sad, chaotic day for a reason.
Have you ever said or thought, "Oh, I'm not going to bother God with something like that - He's got bigger problems to think about." - and then picked up the phone to call a friend and spend hours hashing it out?
Or, conversely, been on the receiving end of such a call and listened, offered advice, and commiserated.
A spiritual discipline that I have been asking the Father to develop in me is a 'Pray First' approach to life. In practical terms, that looks like me doing my 'hashing out' with God - most often out loud - before calling a friend. The second half of my discipline includes hearing someone's challenge and responding first with, 'Can I pray for you right now?'
Prayer is our opportunity to approach God's throne of Grace (undeserved favor) with BOLDNESS - and in that approach, receive mercy, and be covered in GRACE (His supernatural help that gives our want to's feet).
Prayer is a way for us to surrender our own will and understanding in favor of His will, His all-knowing. It releases us from the pressure to 'get it right' as we rely on His Best to be done in the situation. His responses to our prayers are another avenue to learning about God, an opportunity for us to develop 'passionate patience' in waiting for his response.
Today, I am asking the Father to give you an opportunity to practice a 'prayer first' response - and continue to grow in your friendship with Him as a result.
You can read today's study at She Reads Truth - Prayer
Today's reading caught me by surprise. As I read through the bible verses, I began to reflect on my past experiences faith communities. As I read through the lesson, I prayed - Lord, what do you want me share?... Not THAT...?!
Here's the thing. That 'time with the nuns' I've been talking about had a really really dark side. I had gone to Canada to attend a private 'Christian' boarding school. Anglican. (sort of) It was led and administered by a community of people who were devoted to the school - they all lived and worked on the campus. On the surface it was an idyllic picture of Christian community.
The longer I stayed, and further involved I became though, I realized that the community part was pretty twisted. By the time I left, I understood that this well-meaning group of people had allowed themselves to devolve from community into cult. Lots twisted spiritual beliefs and outright lies. Really bad relationship practices. Lots of 'discipline' that was outright emotional abuse.
So... talk of 'community' can be tough for me. Over the years, the Father has worked on healing me from my wounds and brokenness related to living in a cult. Lots of lies to be renounced. Lots of love to receive and trust to rebuild.
Last year, I was invited to join a small group at Tri County Church - North Central Campus. And I loved the idea of it. But I was terrified. Because, in my experience, we're all just one bad idea away from spiritual and emotional abuse. ( That can become tangled up in some really awesome experiences and learning...)
Ugh. Talk about baggage.
Healthy fellowship with a group of Christians is a positive discipline (training) for me. I love being part of a small group, but sometimes it still scares me. I am so grateful to have developed deeper relationships and friendships - and to have been given another opportunity to "learn to respect and care for people who aren't exactly like me". (Without all the twisted stuff.)
If you struggle with relationship-building in your church, or don't even go to a church because of past wounds - I totally get you. Let me encourage you though - nothing replaces working through life with each other. Even when it's hard. Especially when it's a personal challenge.
Online is good for a season, zoom is a 'just for now' solution, but nothing replaces the rewards of trusting God and responding to the call to 'not forsake the assembling of ourselves' (just fancy words for - Y'all need to be together!). I'm praying for you if this is something you struggle with. If you don't struggle with it, hey, I'd appreciate any of the prayers you can throw at me and others like me.
You can find the lesson for today at She Read Truth - Fellowship
Back in the day of my living alongside the nuns, my family was a country away. There were phone calls of course, but the communication I most looked forward to was preceded by a call up to the front office, the secretaries' cubicle. She would hand me a rolled up piece of slightly filmy, almost slick paper that was sometimes still warm from the fax machine.
Yup. It was the 90's.
My dad, sitting at work in a huge converted factory building in Fall River, MA, surrounded by pounding tool and die press machines, would be thinking of me and write me a quick note. He was rather impatient, always highly efficient, and saw no reason to wait for the mail when he could just pass it through his fax machine and send up to me immediately.
I would treasure those letters, pouring over them, extracting every ounce of love, thought, wisdom, humor, and news that I could - much like a child sucking the last drops from a freezie pop on a hot summer day.
So should our 'study' of the Word of God go. Today's reading (see the link below) is a wonderful encouragement that we are here with a purpose and we can approach time with Jesus with intent and anticipation. "It's the relational knowing that makes study an act of worship and a discipline that truly and positively shapes us."
My prayer for you today is that the Father grants you an expectant heart and a grace-filled understanding as you read today's lesson on She Reads Truth: Study
Years ago, and another life it seems, I lived and worked alongside a cloister of nuns.
Within that community, my staunchly-Baptist-raised self was exposed to many new liturgical rhythms and spiritual discipline practices. I sang Gregorian chant, observed the daily offices, and spent many hours kneeling in a tiny chapel praying for requests sent in from around the world.
I developed a love for orthodox spiritual disciplines that have seen me through many difficult experiences in my life.
When I was asked to lead an online study beginning this month, we thought it was a completely different topic. And all through the previous week, my Bible readings and prayer time pointed me back to daily rhythms and disciplines of spiritual living. I was so delighted, and had a good chuckle, when we realized what the theme for this month was - our Father is so gentle and loving to prepare us for the journey He asks us to walk.
I am praying for each of you as we begin this study, especially if you are coming out of a faith tradition that may find liturgical practices and spiritual disciplines unfamiliar, that the Father will fill you with His Grace so that you can experience Him in a totally new, refreshing experience.
You can read this study along with me at: She Reads Truth - Living the New Life