I Used To Think I Needed People

I used to think I needed “people”.

Last year, if you had asked me if I could ever see myself joining an online Bible study, I may well have gotten a good long chuckle out of the question. I’m a people person, you see.  I am invigorated and filled with joy at being with others.  Being able to reach out and hug the neck of a friend, or lay a reassuring hand on the shoulder of another mama, or look into the eyes of a sister and share in some joy with her?  That’s The Stuff I live for.

But, God…

He had other plans for me.

Life turns, as it is want to do. And as I looked around me at All The Quiet and the lack of necks to hug, I realized that I had a choice to make.  I could say #YesToGod in whatever He had for me in this new season; or, I could stand with my hands clenched tight wondering about the road ahead and what it would look like and where it would lead and if I would like it and… That’s no way to spend a day. Or a season. It’s just not.

So… I heard the messages God seemed to be sending me.  The ones he sent through His Word. The ones He sent through precious friends urging me to stay plugged in, For The Love.  He sent me a podcast or three, and a radio broadcast or two, and a magazine article or four, about the growing trend of online Bible study.

Light dawned on this marble head of mine.

I heard.

My heart said, “Yes God. I will do this thing. I’ll engage right here.”

Although it felt like a small thing, this yes to God, it wasn’t.

I am beginning to see that it was a surrender. And a beautiful one at that.

I stood ready to be amazed by what this new obedience would bring.

And, what did it bring?

It brought a much deeper appreciation for the self-discipline required to crack open the Word of God with the intent of digging in deeper. Without a team to urge you on in person, or a table with 10 sets of eyes looking at you for your next thought on a passage of scripture, or the agenda for the next hour and a half in front of you and the clock to remind you that you need to stick to it.  Thank God for giving us a spirit of self-discipline!  I’ve been needing that Spirit, something fierce, these last few months.

This particular “yes” to God brought a realization of how very different the rhythms of online Bible study are than in real life Bible study.  Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are all available to me 24/7.  I can hop on and engage in a conversation about what all of this obedience looks like whenever I am able, or whenever I feel led to.

And, maybe most significantly, my “yes” brought me back to an awareness of my need for daily grace. What attempts to compete for God’s attention for you, my friend?  Because, this little sinner can tell you, the list is long over here.  L.O.N.G.  And it can even get a little whack-a-mole ish.  My husband pops up and says things like, “Hey! Remember me?  We used to kiss a lot.”  And just when I think I’ve got the endless stream of twitter feed/facebook status/blog comments under control,  the Sweet Children pop their noses up close to mine and attempt to nuzzle, reminding me that there is real life love to be given, too.  And don’t even get me started on the dust bunnies that come out of nowhere, the books piled high in hopes of being read, or the magazines from 2011 that hope to be perused in this decade.

That little yes that I uttered? It brought a beauty to obedience that I’d never seen before.  It brought a startling beauty to surrender. I can maneuver through my day knowing that God will be woven throughout every thought, word, and deed.  I can do no thing apart from Him anyway.

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In saying yes, God gave me the eyes to see and the ears to hear that I don’t necessarily need “people”. But I do necessarily need Him.

And in Him I will remain.

Yes indeedy.

I’m participating in a weekly blog hop over at Proverbs 31 Ministries’ Online Bible Study.  If you’d like to read how other hearts are responding to the book “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God” by Lysa TerKeurst, click the button below!

OBSBlogHop

Dripping Grace

Grace_Upon_Grace_MissindeedyWhen do you feel God dripping His grace on you?

I feel it when I am as low to the ground as a human can get without becoming a part of it.

To those of us who have messed up – and good – and felt mercy in a palpable way, that grace is a gift of great significance.  The relief that floods in after being forgiven can bring me to my knees.

At no time is grace more evident to me than when I, in my desperate attempt to matter, muck it up with others I love. It is then that I deserve nothing but condemnation. And instead, I hear, “That’s okay.  We all make mistakes.”  Praise God for His mercy, through others, in those moments.

Why am I surprised when, time and time again, while working through an inward struggle, I crack open my Bible to read and find The Very Verse needed to both convict my heart of my rebellion and encourage my heart of my redemption?

Grace.

In spades.

Right there.

Dripping onto me right from The Very Word  itself.

Yes indeedy.

Drip Your grace onto me, Father God.

Please.

And make my own heart willing to drip it onto others with abandon.

One Foot in Front of the Other

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Some days, this mama doesn’t want to put one foot in front of the other. Some days I just want to lie down and take a nap.

Most days, however, that’s just not on the agenda.

Things like getting the car “fixed”, making a quick fix for the dolly that’s missing her arm, fixing lunch, or satisfying my dark chocolate fix – those are the kinds of things that are more often on my agenda.

And I don’t know about you, but there are times where I am flat out busted!

And those are just the physical moments.

Then, there are the spiritual ones.

The dark shadow that just won’t pass, or the feeling that I don’t measure up, or that nagging sense that I am not doing all I can to maintain my spiritual health – those are the moments where I desperately need some pep in my spiritual step because the mishaps are a-plenty.

But, there is grace galore. God knows when to administer that good swift kick in the shorts – and when I just need a gentle reminder to take my spiritual vitamins.  You know, those little “things” that power us through the weaker moments?

Physical health is within my control.  So, too, is my Spiritual Health. I want to be able to stand firm, and be courageous and strong – especially on those days where I am so double dog tired that I don’t think I can take one more step!

So, here are three spiritual vitamins that I commit to “taking” to keep “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead”,:

1. I will choose to take the spiritual vitamin of time spent soaking in what God has to say about this life I am to live. For Him and to the glory of His Kingdom to come.  When I am confronted with the option of hitting the snooze button or rolling over and grabbing my Bible for a short quiet time in God’s Word, I will choose to see those 10 extra minutes of sleep as inconsequential in light of eternity.

2. When I am too tired to keep at it, I will stand firm.  I will not be ashamed to ask for help from The Very One who knit my feet together in my mother’s womb. He is waiting.  I will take the spiritual vitamin of prayer and swallow it holy wholly!

3.  I will release All The Chaos and All The Busy and let God take over the battle for me.  I love how Tracie Miles puts this, in her book Stressed-Less Living:

God can effortlessly still the brutal waves in the raging sea of our lives, but we have to put our lives in his hands before he can do so.”

I mean, seriously, what better multi-vitamin is there?

One foot in front of the other, indeed!

Five Minute Friday – Beloved

BELOVED

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Back in the stone ages, when Sweetman and I were dating, two other couple-friends asked us to participate in an at-home study of the Song of Solomon by Tommy Nelson.  We, being in the enamored dating stage, agreed.  Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into!

You see, I discovered, throughout the course of that 8 weeks, that the word “beloved” has some pretty powerful connotation.  I gained a greater appreciation for how artfully scripture was woven together and for how powerful the use of metaphorical language can be.  (Ma! Look at what big words I’m using!)

Prior to this study, the word “beloved” was useless to me in my everyday second grade classroom environment.  I’d hardly go around calling colleagues “beloved”; or worse yet, my little seven-year old students.

After completing this study, however, I began to see lots and lots of people I’d come into contact with as “beloved”.  Oh yes, I would!  I saw the crotchety 61 and a half-year old teacher down the hall, just biding her time until retirement, oh-so-tired of it all, day in and day out, as beloved.  I saw the sweet little guy who was bused in from the Big City, and was always hungry for whatever snacks could be scrounged up, as beloved.

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And I began to see myself as God’s beloved.  And the more I saw myself that way, the more I saw how desperately God wants us to know that He sees each and every soul that passes before my eyes on this earth that way, too!  And it affected me deeply.

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*Shoot! I wanted to keep right on writing about that.  It brought back some pretty vivid memories of my feelings during the time of that particular study.  Even better, some of the new thought patterns and behaviors it prompted within me.  I will never forget how powerfully the following verse affected me :

Do not stare at me because I am dark,
    because I am darkened by the sun.

Song of Solomon 1:

I was especially taken with that verse, in the midst of this Love Song book of the Bible, because it promptly took me out of my “love” frame of mind and plopped me down in the middle of one of the busiest streets in our Big City.  All I could see, in my mind, for weeks and weeks, was the overly darkened skin of homeless after homeless person that I’d pass when walking the street.  Usually on my way to obtain some frivolous pleasure or activity.  That one verse made me love each person, darkened by the sun, through God’s eyes.  And it was humbling.  And convicting.  And it prompted a desire in me to act on that new view. 

Ooooh, I’m getting all hyped up just thinking about it again.  I LOVE how words, inspired and written thousands of years ago, can hold such sway even in 2013, don’t you?

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I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for her Five Minute Friday prompt, again.  This community writes for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt without editing.  Then we link up and make sure to encourage another writer, or five, as well.  Click the button below to join in or read some pretty spectacular thoughts on this week’s prompt.

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To Read or Not to Read… Ahead

book list
 
I read something in my devotional recently that left me indignant. This one, seemingly insignificant, line ignited a little firestorm of conversation inside my head. It happens often. Some of the best conversations I have, are with myself (or my conscience. But that’s another story…)
 
What riled me up so? This…
 
“Also, by knowing the end of the story, I can decide if it’s worth the time to keep reading.”
 
Oh! Mylanta! I just gotta tell ya, nothing – and I mean nothing – has ever ruined a good story for me like knowing the end from the beginning. And to read that someone would deliberately choose to read ahead so that they could know the end and decide whether they wanted to bother with the rest, the middle, the meat of the story? Ugh!
 
That was my first thought, anyway. “UGH!”
 
My next thought was quite different. I began to weave together pieces of some of my favorite stories. Stories that captured my emotions from the very first page; words that continued to pull my heart-strings or pique my intellectual curiosity or make me long for justice right on through until the very final paragraph. Thinking through these stories, I quickly came to realize that I would have continued reading them even if I knew how they would end.
 
Why?
 
It’s simple, really. All of the good stories, all of them, have a story line that is so central to the human condition that anyone can identify with them. We can identify with one or more of the characters in specific and sympathetic ways. We can see ourselves in their choices. Their angst reflects our own. The ending is one we wish we experienced ourselves, or we could have, or wonder if might have even been feasible for us. We read these words and sentences with so much emotion that it’s no wonder so many book lovers will tell you that they are exhausted at the end of a great read. They might even tell you that they felt a little like they were coming down from an incredible high.
 
Have you ever experienced a story like this?
 
I have. Many times over. And I experience the story each and every time I pick up my Bible and read. I experience afresh the awesome and inconceivable love that the God of the universe has for me. I’ve read before that the Bible is a collection of God’s love letters to you. And to me. I’ve always found that trite. After so many years of reading this one story, I now realize that it’s not trite. It’s Truth.
 
The ending was revealed to me back in 1996 when I read the Bible through, cover to cover, for the very first time.
 
Even so, I’ve decided it’s well worth it to keep reading. Because this is the best kind of story to know the ending to. A True story. The True Story. And if you haven’t read it in a while, it’s the best book recommendation I could ever make.
 
And intentionally reading the ending first? It’s actually encouraged. Oh yes indeedy!

Five Minute Friday: Welcome

 

I’m linking up with Lisa Jo Baker over at The Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Friday again.  Today’s prompt is a welcome one.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)  Read on to find out why. (If you’d like to join in, click right here.)

 

 

Welcome…

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Front doors are a universal sign of welcome that herald different feelings for each us.  For me, it depends on whose front door I am entering.  A new friend?  I’m a wee bit nervous that the state of her home will prove how very un-Martha-Stewart I really am.  A new organization?  I wonder if I will fit in with this group of peeps.  An old friend’s first house?  I’m bursting with excitement for them!

 

It doesn’t matter what I’m feeling, the front door is almost always a sign of welcome.  I look at the cover of my trusty Bible much the same way.  It’s a “welcome” to me.  It’s a powerful invitation to come in, sit down, stay a while.  As soon as I turn back that cover, I am headed into a part of This House that is sure to either delight, inspire, encourage, challenge, or convict me.  Much the way walking through the doors of a physical place can.

 

I can dress up my Bible’s front door all I want – with beautiful artwork, leather binding, an engraved name- but if I don’t ever crack open that cover and see what’s inside? Well, it’s a bit like standing at the front door of someone’s home and not ever seeing all that’s behind the door.  All that whatever is behind the front door can possibly entail.

 

That’s a welcome I can answer to any time.