“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” - God (Isaiah 30:15)
I've been contemplating for weeks how to return to these devotionals... Many readers are personal friends and have followed my journey this past year through the valley -
and rejoiced with me from the miracle of the mountain top.
As the months go on, I'll share more, but tonight I didn't want to lose the moment of walking outside at dusk and hearing the last of the birds, the gentle sounds of the chickens from their coop, and the rustle of the dogs in the tall grass of the field.
I felt compelled to share these photographs and encourage you to make time today (tomorrow) for quietness.
The verse that came to me as I walked outside is from Isaiah. And it's a promise. God is promising Israel (and us) that if we bring our thoughts, our actions, our Selves, back to him and really rest in Him, that we will find salvation. Not in our own doing. Not in proving to Him that we are... whatever we think we can be that doesn't require his grace. Our salvation will not come from anything other than resting in his promise of salvation. And in that resting, we will experience quietness. And trust. The trust that is learned only through quietly resting in the promise that it's not up to us. From that, will come confidence. Confidence that we have only do to what we are directed to do, and all will be as it should be.
Rest. Quiet. Confidence.
Settle in, dear ones. Settle in and watch God work...
God, our God, will take care of the hidden things but the revealed things are our business. It's up to us and our children to tend to the terms of this Revelation. - Deuteronomy 29:29 MSG
"Trey, go ahead and choose your shirt for today." His eyes lit up as he ran his hands over the hangers. He took his time, looking at each shirt, and finally picked one. The novelty of picking his own clothes, clothes that were hanging within his reach, made him smile. "This one! And this one!" he yelled proudly.
Later that morning, he took one of his shirts off, and hung it carefully on hanger and put it back on the rod. I watched amused as he straightened up the hangers.
The sense of empowerment and ability radiated on his face.
I believe that our heavenly father feels the same sense of goodwill and pleasure in us when we begin to realize the truths he has placed within our reach. In each stage of our spiritual journey we are presented with deeper thoughts, challenging truths, and difficulties that present us with the opportunity to trust.
In my life, trust is what I call an experiential truth. That is, the more I experience, I more I learn to trust. Oftentimes, it comes only after very challenging and difficult times. At each of these points, God places within my reach new thoughts to assist me in this deeper realization of our relationship.
Early in my faith, I questioned everything. When my faith was questioned I panicked. How could I express what I myself didn't understand? But with each experience, with each passing year, I have come to a place where I can comfortably say - 'I don't have an answer for that. All I know is that my faith comforts me. I am secure in my salvation. I am guided by truths that feel solid and firm to me. I hope that someday you experience this hope.' I believe that God smiles proudly when we are able to settle comfortably in his love for us.
Within our reach, at each stage of our spiritual walk, is the simple truth that God loves us and that Jesus paid the price for our salvation. Having accepted that sacrifice, we are now children of God and while we will continue to experience wonderful as well as hurtful situations - we have the hope, in the midst it all, of eternal life.
Today, be encouraged. It is not on you to explain God. Simply LIVE God's love, learning to trust even as you experience ups and downs. Believe that God will reveal truth to you each step of the way, and don't fret about what you do not know yet.
Do you have the hope that I talk about? If you don't, and you want to, please contact me. I'd love to introduce you to my daddy, my heavenly father.
"So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us... is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen?
“But I want a NEW one!” Trey screamed.
I flinched and raised my voice even louder, “That's ENOUGH! You broke it after I warned you to be careful!”
Tugging at my heart-ears, I heard an inner prompt. “This isn't about the toy, Rosalyn.”
Taking a deep breath, with a screaming, crying, kicking four year old in the back seat, I pulled the car over into an empty lot and shut it off.
Trey was immediately alert, “Why are you stopping?!”
I unbuckled his seat belt. “Trey, come here and sit in my lap.” He cautiously crept to the front and I folded him into my lap. “Just sit with Momma. I know you are sad that your toy is broken. I understand that you are angry that I won't get you a new one. I think that you have a very sad heart right now – especially with all of the changes at home. I wonder if you are mad at Momma that Daddy isn't living with us right now...? Go ahead and cry, baby. Momma will hold you.”
And my little man sat in my lap, put his head on my chest and cried. Really cried. For broken toys, for unmet expectations, for his missing Daddy and for his hurting heart. I cried with him and prayed for wise words.
Barely above a whisper, I spoke the words that we both needed to hear: “No matter what you do, I love you. Your anger and frustration don't scare me – I will hold you until you can feel calm in your heart again. I will always love you. Nothing you do will change that. You can tell me anything, it's okay. I love you. You are special. You are going to be a powerful force for God. God has amazing plans for you. I will do everything I can to help you become who God needs you to be.”
And I knew that I was speaking to my own heart. And maybe yours.
Today, be encouraged: “No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39 NLT)
There's so much I don't know. And frankly, that upsets me. Because I'm an analyst by trade and a researcher, and I love to KNOW things.
So not knowing something causes me, on a good day, distraction. On a bad day, it completely stresses me out.
And lately, I've been on a journey that involves me asking the Lord for direction at each step. When this particular adventure began, I had many unflattering conversations with God that made me look like the spoiled brat I can be.
But I am learning. I am grateful for a heart that has exhaled. I find myself pausing in moments of uncertainty and looking for the sense of settledness, of 'sound mind' that is my internal indicator of God's path.
Today, be encouraged. God promises to SHOW YOU exactly what you need to know. Many of those things will knock your socks off - hence the whole 'great and mighty' comment. So, inhale, plant your feet firmly, and exhale with strenght. Then claim the promise: 'God has promised that when I call to him, he will answer me. He promises to show me. He promises to show me great and mighty things, things that I do not know yet. Thank you God for this promise! In Jesus' name, Amen.'
The Lord our God will we serve, His voice will we obey
Thanksgiving meals are done an over, most of the leftovers are finished, and we're now onto thoughts of Christmas goodies: cookies, cakes, caramel popcorn...
We're all filled up, aren't we? We love our tasty foods, at least in this house!
When Trey turned four, I began asking myself - What is he filled with? How will he learn to fulfill his purpose God's way? I found a verse in The Message bible that helped me:
As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work.
If I wanted Trey, and myself, to do our work God's way, we needed to know how God thinks. We needed to 'fill up' on God's thoughts.
And so, we began memorizing bible verses together.
The verse above from Joshua is one that we just memorized together this past week. In the coming weeks I'll focus more on Jesus' birth, and in a few years we'll both have a treasure trove of truth to call on.
Are you discouraged at the worldly focus you, and your family, are developing? Memorizing bible verses is a great way to combat that. 'Filling up' our minds with God's thoughts doesn't take much: we choose a shorter verse, and a few times a day we recite it together (I usually try to make it rhythmic, it helps us with memorizing), then again at bedtime.
Here's a challenge for you - this week, as a family, recite the verse above from Joshua. Encourage your children with the promise of a reward, something simple, if they can recite it unprompted in a week.
Fill your family up with the healthy, wholesome spiritual food of God's thoughts, and watch their thinking change.
This time of year, my small homestead is full of demanding customers. It seems as though every morning I am met with a slew of complaints.
"Waiter! This breakfast took waaaay too long!"
"Waiter! I've been standing here for an hour!"
"Waiter! This service is horrible. I want to speak to the manager!"
Of course, this is all quacked, clucked, barked, meowed or neigh-ed, depending on the 'customer'.
And then I head out and have a good inner-giggle when I stand in line at the grocery store and I swear, my chickens and ducks are in line with me.
My point though is this - we all want to go straight to the top. How many of us have asked to speak to the manager at one establishment or another?
Lately it's been impressed on me that MANY of us are experiencing life struggles that have us wanting to 'speak to the manager'. You know who you are. And I'm in line with you. Suffice it to say, my current struggles and challenges are NOT what I thought I signed up for. And sometimes, I just look up and roll my eyes and say, "Really?! THIS is you being all in charge? THIS is your plan for me?"
So a few days ago, in the midst of one of those moments, I asked the Holy Spirit to lead me to a verse that would be helpful. I opened my bible and read:
" 'If my covenant with day and night wasn't in working order, if sky and earth weren't functioning the way I set them going, then, but only then, you might think I had disowned the descendants of Jacob and of my servant David, and that I wouldn't set up any of David's descendants over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
But as it is, I will give them back everything they've lost. The last word is, I will have mercy on them.'"
You might be wondering what this has to do with your life, your challenges. For a moment I did. Then I saw it. The promise. The black and white challenge to the lie that your life, my life, is out of control.
See, if we can be distracted with the lie that our lives are spinning out of control, we can distracted into believing that WE have to fix it. But the gold lies in God's challenge - basically, 'Hey, is there still night and day? The way I set it up? Yes? Then relax. I HAVE this. You're going to be okay. I'm still in charge. I'm still in control. Bottom line - I will have mercy on YOU. Chill out.'
Feeling life your life is spinning out of control? Stressed about your husband, your wife, your kid, your mother, your job, your finances, your house...?
Today, God wants to encourage you to take a deep breath and watch the sun set tonight. Then watch it rise tomorrow.
Then, exhale. God's got this.
I've yet to meet someone who hasn't at some point expressed fatigue, weariness or that emotional thin-ness that comes with being human. Especially those who strive to live intentionally - and especially moms with young children.
2012 has been a challenging year for our family. The death of my father-in-law, long work hours for my husband, the inevitable marriage struggles, the work of raising a highly intelligent toddler, and my own spiritual and personal growth, have in truth left me feeling, well, fatigued.
With each challenge though, I see God's face and hear his voice. An encouraging word from my mother on my parenting techniques... An offer from a friend to use their pool... Friends that offer me positive perspective on my life... Hearing my son say 'I love you Mom' out of the blue...
With each encouragement, I hear Jesus whisper into my life, "Give that fatigue back to me, daughter. No need to carry it. Let me give you something lighter." And in those moments I exhale the fatigue, deliberately letting it go. Inhaling, I allow Jesus to fill me with hope and energy and purpose.
Galatians 6:9-10 says, "So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith." (MSG)
As the mother of a toddler, I love that last part: "..starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith." It's a serious reminder and directive that our FIRST priority is to ourselves, then our family (the people closest to us) - spouses and children, then parents and siblings, THEN our church family, THEN our larger community, THEN... well, you get the drift.
If you're feeling over-fatigued, I would encourage you to check your priorities. If you aren't ministering in order, my experience is that as you realign, you'll find more energy. And if you still feel fatigued, it's time to make that conscious decision to give it to Jesus, looking for the hope and encouragement he'll be offering to you.
And claim that promise - "...at the right time, we will harvest a good crop..." God is in charge of the timing, but your efforts and energy will pay off.
Today, God wants to encourage you to never give up. Today, God wants to encourage you to recheck and if necessary, realign your priorities. Today God wants to promise you hope.
“Look, Mom, look at my worm!”
I poked my head out the backdoor, to see Trey holding up a rather spindly-looking worm.
“Nice worm, Trey.”
“Can I eat it?” The look on his face was somewhere between revulsion and hope.
“Sure, go ahead.” I said.
The look on his face went to surprise.
“Well, I wouldn't eat it, but if you want to try it for yourself...”
Eyebrow raised, Trey looked at the worm. Gingerly, he put it up to his mouth. I tried not to hurl.
As it touched his lips and he opened his mouth, I thought, 'Oh my goodness, he's really going to eat it!
The tip of his tongue touched the worm. I cringed.
“Blech! Eew!' Trey began rubbing his hands over his mouth, the worm falling unharmed to the ground.
“How did it taste, buddy?” I worked to keep my tone relaxed, and my face straight.
In my limited mom experience, I've come to the conclusion that my son does best when he learns by doing. Many times I'll hear parents say, 'Don't do _______ ,you could ______.' and I'm sad for the child and the lost opportunity to let kids learn by doing. (I realize that there are times when safety comes first. But sometimes, let's admit, it's more about inconvenience, or worry what other people will think, than what is actually good for the children.)
You know what I love about God? He knows that our tendency is to 'eat the worm'. And he gives us direction and guidance, and sometimes just lets us experience life, knowing that our decision may not be healthy or helpful or even a good idea. But he gives the space to eat the worm, and come back to him and say, 'So... that wasn't what I thought it would be... What was it you told me to do God?' And he smiles and loves us.
It's one of the reasons I appreciate the bible. Can you imagine trying to follow the direction of a silent God? When we're looking at our worms, we can pray, hearing from the Holy Spirit, or we can open our bibles to know exactly what God thinks about the choice we are making.
(Google is a cool bible study/search help. I don't have my bible memorized and sometimes I need to know what God thinks. I can type my choices into Google: Bible verses about gossiping... or Bible verses about conflict... or Bible verses about.... Well, you get the drift.)
Today, God wants to encourage you to find out what he thinks before you eat the worm. It could save you from having to deal with the fallout of a really yucky consequence!
The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. Who ever knows what you're thinking and planning except you yourself?
The same with God—except that he not only knows what he's thinking, but he lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us. We don't have to rely on the world's guesses and opinions.
We didn't learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we're passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way.
1 Corinthians 2:10-13 MSG
"What's wrong?" Tom asked.
"It's raining. Again! My walk will be canceled... I was really looking forward to it." I sighed and picked up the phone, ready to commiserate with Kathy on our disappointment.
"Well, it's not raining down here," she said. "Hasn't rained for almost two hours."
I was reminded again that what happens on top of our mountain isn't always what is happening down in the valley.
Sometimes our lives are like that. We 'see' one set of circumstances, completely unaware that on a spiritual level there may be a very different reality. In terms of faith, what our physical eyes see may not be the spiritual truth. The easiest way around this is by using our spiritual eyes: discernment. Wisdom and discernment are our secret decoder lens you might say. When we view our life through the lens of discernment and wisdom, it takes on a very different look. We begin to see a depth that otherwise we might have missed.
I'm reminded of that when I am training Trey. My earthly concern is that he be obedient, not because I want to control him, but because I want to keep him safe and exercise the 'muscle' of learning to listen and respond.
On a spiritual level, his obedience to me will help him later in life because as adults we are asked to be obedient to God as well. I want him well-prepared and ready to listen and obey when God speaks to him. I explain to him that it's important that he choose to be obedient to Mom and Dad, because he will use that 'muscle' later on with God. I explain that Moms and Dads need to listen and be obedient to God as well.
Today, God wants to encourage you that your life is more than what you see with your earthly eyes, and He wants you to consider the spiritual world as well as your immediate surroundings. He wants you to know that He's here, in your life, and you can pray for discernment and wisdom to see life through His lens.
"And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ..." Philippians 1:9-10
"My friend!" Trey threw his arms around the little boy, and they both grinned. Long, lost buddies, they hadn't seen each other for the 30 seconds it had taken them to walk from one ride to the next.
The two almost-four year old boys had met just a few minutes before at the bouncy house. Outgoing and friendly, they swapped names and laughed until their sides split.
At the huge slide, the other little boy froze at the top. "No, like this," Trey insisted as he attempted to peel the his friends' hands off the railings and push him down. (We rescued the boy.)
Later on at the merry-go-round of cars, Trey's friend showed him how to outrace the pretty little girl behind them.
The little boys made the most of the their new found friendship, and both sets of parents marveled and enjoyed the freedom of their innocence.
I have a personal goal of leaving a smile on the face of each service person I come in contact with. There's something so rewarding about seeing a tired checkout girl's face light up when I compliment her earrings, or a young man stand a little taller when I tell him how much I respect him for the excellent service he provides.
How about approaching a young mom with children in tow at the park and complimenting something about her mothering skills? Watch her just glow.
Today, God wants to encourage you to find someone you can bless with your friendship. You may never see them again once you step out of Starbucks, or the grocery check-out, or the elevator. But a kind word, compliment, acknowledgement, or gratitude can showcase Jesus' love in a way that no sermon ever can.
"Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don't miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out." Colossians 4:5-6
Have thirty seconds to spare? Use it to build someone up. And if you really want to make the most of those opportunities, have a small business card ready with your name and email in case they want to find out more about your church or your bible study, or your young moms organization.
You'll be surprised how many new friends you can make!