WARNINGS, PATIENCE & PRAYERS! 

(Originally published January 8, 2021)

James 5

All throughout the book of James, he is trying to teach complete dependence on God. At the beginning of chapter 5 James addresses the rich people in his audience. Not because James thinks it is impossible for a rich person to have complete dependence on God, but because it is more rare for a rich person to have complete dependence on God. Many times a very wealthy person will begin to depend much more on their own wealth and riches than they do on their God. Apparently also their were rich people in James midst who were wicked, they used their wealth to oppress their workers. This would be the audience that James was talking to in the first part of chapter 5. 

“Behold the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” James 5:4

Jesus had pointed out that it is more difficult for the wealthy to have complete dependence on God. 

“And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’” Mark 10:23 

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:25 

But Jesus, nor is James saying it is impossible. They are just pointing out where our dependence should lie, where our faith should lie. Regardless of how much wealth someone has. A wealthy person may have to make a more conscious effort to be sure that their faith lies in God, rather than their own riches but it is not impossible. 

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’” Mark 10:27 

James next addresses suffering. 

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also be patient. Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:7-8

When we have something that we are praying for, something that we are having to wait a long time for an answer, James is using the illustration of the farmer waiting for his crops to show us how we should be patient while we wait for an answer. A farmer plants his seeds, then he waits. Much the same way, we pray the prayer, then we wait. I love the phrase he uses here “establish your hearts”. When you are waiting for an answer to a prayer you must “establish” your heart. You must plant your heart in Jesus and let Him sustain you while you wait. He goes on to use the steadfastness of Job as his example. 

“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” James 5:11

We can look to Job as our example, he remained steadfast in the face of unimaginable affliction and while we all still may shake our heads at how much Job had to endure, we also see how God blessed Job’s steadfastness in the end. Also, we see how Job’s story is used to build our faith! I am sure while Job was enduring the afflictions that were heaped upon him that he never dreamed his story would go down through the ages and that people would be using his example to endure hardship thousands of years later. One thing we can learn from Job, God will never waste our pain. 

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” James 5:13-14 

James is covering all bases here. We should pray when we are suffering, we should sing praise when we are happy and if we are very sick we should call on others to pray. Our job is to pray, it is God’s job to act. 

“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:15-16

Clearly not all sick who are prayed for receive physical healing on earth. Many times, I think we are afraid to pray for physical healing because what if we don’t receive the answer we want. James is saying here, we should pray with the knowledge that the Lord can handle it. I love the last line of those verses and I especially love it in the NKJV. 

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16b NKJV

When we pray do we pray fervently? The word fervent means “having or displaying a passionate intensity”. Are we coming boldly to the throne of grace of the Most High God and laying our requests down with the knowledge that He will answer. I saw this statement in my studies of commentary. 

“Effective prayer must be fervent, not because we must emotionally persuade a reluctant God, but because we must gain God’s heart by being fervent for the things He is fervent for.” 

Yes, when we begin to pray for something we pray for the answers we want but at the end of the day even if the answer doesn’t come as we want it, when we pray with fervency, what we gain is far greater than the answer we were pursuing, because in the end what we gain is our hearts intertwined with our God’s. 

Draw Near To God!

(Originally published January 7, 2021)

James 4

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:1-3

Everyone has their own agenda, and when everyone has their own agenda there will be quarrels and fights among them. We see that in our homes, we see it in our communities and we are seeing it play out in our country. James says you do not have because you do not ask and when you do you ask with the wrong motives. What we as Christians have to remember are James next statements. 

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4

We do not want to be friends with the world and the worldly things that are going on around us. We also have to remember that no matter how bad things may appear, God is still on the throne and He is still in control! 

“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:6-8

Where do we fit in with all the mayhem going on at this time. We must remember and live in the grace that comes from God. James says resist the devil. This word for resist means ‘stand against’. We have to stand against the devil in our own every day life. And when we do that he will flee from you. It goes like this, if you have something that is a tug for you, a sin that you wrestle with, and you feel the pull to do that sin, the more you stand against it, the more you resist it, the easier it is to resist it. As you stand against it, you feel stronger and the devil, who is trying to entice you to it, because he knows it is your weakness, will over time stop trying to entice you to it. The best and really the only way to stand against or to resist the devil is to get closer to God. God desires relationship with us, He doesn’t need it, but He desires it, and if we do our part and work toward relationship with Him, He will in turn draw near to us! 

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:10

We should live our day to day life in humility and grace. As we draw nearer to God and we live in the humility that all we have are blessings from Him and that He gives us the grace to go through every day, it is amazing to see how many blessings can come our way. I am not saying that life will be perfect. We still live in a fallen world, and there are still going to be sickness, and  strife that happens all around us. But I truly believe that if we live in the grace He gives and follow His will, that He will lead us to many blessings. 

James carries on to say that we should all realize also that this life is short. We don’t know what is coming at us tomorrow. 

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” James 4:13-16

I don’t think James is telling us here not to make plans at all. We have heard it said “Failure to plan is planning to fail”. However, we must submit our plans to the Lord. When you submit your plans to Him and allow Him to lead you, then you are living in the grace that He gives. 

Lord, help us to live humbly in the grace that comes only from You. Lord we desire to draw nearer to you and we are grateful that as we draw near that you draw near to us! Show us Your way that we may walk with You!

Blessing and Cursing

(Originally published January 6, 1921)

James 3

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1

Years ago, I was asked to speak at a women’s conference at our church. I was so afraid to say yes to it at first. I prayed about it and asked the Lord to show me if this was something that He wanted me to do. I wasn’t sure I could get over my fear of actually opening my mouth in front of a large group of people and actually having sound come out of it. The next Sunday our pastor stood in front of our church and told a story of little children asking him if he ever was afraid to stand in front of the church. My ears perked up. He went on to say that yes he was afraid but it was not for the reasons they thought, it was because he was afraid of not handling the word of truth rightly or being taken wrong and of not living out what he was preaching. I realized in that moment that my fears had been misplaced. I didn’t need to be afraid of looking silly or if my knees were going to knock together or if I would trip going up and down the stairs, that if I was going to speak at a conference I needed to be afraid of not handling the word of truth correctly and then of not living it out. I am not saying I never get afraid of those other things too. But I do realize that if I write, or if I speak or if I lead a Bible Study then yes, my life will be judged more strictly than if not. I fear what your opinion of my Jesus would be more than if I were to look silly to you. I pray that I can live up to my writing of who He is. 

James also expresses that we all will stumble and if anyone can control themselves so as to never stumble that he would be a perfect man. Then he gives a lot of language to the tongue. The tongue is a small member of the body, yet it is the hardest member of the body to control. He compares it to the fact that we can put a bit in the mouth of the horse and we can guide the horses whole body by that bit. The rudder of a ship is small yet it guides and turns the whole ship. Much the same the tongue is small, yet with it we can build things up, we can edify others and praise our God. But we can also tear things down. 

“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongues is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” James 3:5-6

I have let my mouth get me in trouble more times than I can count. I have destroyed relationships and I have seen other peoples relationships destroyed by things said. I am still trying to learn how to control my mouth. James calls it a “restless evil, full of deadly poison”. I pray that I can get my tongue under control before I take my last breath and I pray that I will be forgiven for the things I allow my tongue to say before my brain can catch up and stop it. 

“With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not be so.” James 3:9-10

I beg forgiveness of anyone I have said something that was stupid or came out as cursing another person. I want to praise and bless God with my tongue and I pray that I will be able to tame my tongue. 

James goes on to discuss wisdom from above. 

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” James 3:13

There is a difference in what the world calls wisdom and the wisdom from above. We can see the big difference in these days. I don’t want any part of the earthly wisdom that is around these days for sure. We are surrounded by thoughts and practices that are different from what 

Is in God’s word. 

“This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” James 3:15-16

I think we can say that we are surrounded by disorder and vile practices. But we should seek the wisdom from above. 

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 17-18

I pray that we will seek the wisdom from above and that we will allow that wisdom to help us to tame our tongues so that we may bless people and God! 

FAITH, LOVE, WORKS

(Originally published January 5, 2021)

James 2

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” James 2:1

James is pointing out that we should not show partiality between the rich man and the poor man. We should welcome whomever into our churches. I have often heard the story of the pastor who dressed up like a beggar and sat outside the doors of his church to see if anyone in his congregation would stop and talk to him. When no one did, and it was time for his sermon, he walked up the aisle of the church and took his place in the pulpit much to the surprise of his parishioners. I wonder how I would respond. I was in Jackson the other day and I saw some people holding signs on the street corner asking for money. I will admit I did not give them money, I’m not sure that would be a good idea either, BUT did I harbor in my heart against them? Was I accepting of them? Would I have stopped if they had been better dressed? Or how would I have treated them if they had come into my church? 

“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” James 1:8-10

We can’t be nice to the rich man and not nice to the poor man. We should be accepting of all people in the same way, especially when they walk in the church doors. 

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” James 2:14

Now wait a minute Paul told us we couldn’t work our way into the kingdom of God and then here James is telling us that we have to have works? Not exactly, in my studying I found a saying. 

“faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone” 

True faith will always produce works. As you fall in love with Jesus you can’t help but want to work for Him. You can’t work your way to Jesus, first it will wear you out, but also He wants your heart not just what you can do for Him. But if you cultivate and develop that relationship with Him, He will lead you to the works that He has for you, and it will not be burdensome. It will be fulfilling to you. 

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one, you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder!” James 2:18-19

It’s really not enough to just believe in Him, you have to love Him, to want to follow Him, to have faith in Him. I know people who can play the game and can quote scripture but it’s like James said in chapter 1, you have to become a doer of the word. You have to let it change you. Whether you are 9 or 99, there is always something there to change, and there is always and will always be, until we get to heaven, something new to learn and let Him do in your heart. I never want to stop learning from Him. I never want to stop changing, I never want to stop working for Him. Sure, the lessons I am learning now are different than the lessons I learned 20 years ago. There are things I learned and things I may have struggled with then, that I don’t struggle with anymore. But there are still lessons to learn and work to be done. If you still have breath in your body, there is something for you to do. As long as there is breath in my body there will always be something to do, to learn, to work for Him. To love Him is to work for Him! 

Joy, Trials & Blessings! 

(Originally published Jan. 4, 2021)

James 1

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.” James 1:1

James starts right out of the gate here increasing his credibility as a follower of Christ. This James was the half brother of Jesus, but he does not use that title as a hook for his audience. James, calls himself a “servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. This is important because if you remember back in the book of John, Jesus’ brothers were not supportive of his ministry. But at some point James had become a follower of him as the Christ and not as his brother. 

He jumps right into his teaching with the following verse. 

“Count it all joy, my bothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

If you have followed along with my devotions at all, you know that I have had trouble with this verse in the past. For so long, I could not imagine counting all joy my trials as it says in verse 2. This is why you need verses 3 and 4. It is not the trial itself that you count as joy, it is what the trial produces in you. When we go through trials we can either run from God or run to God, and what we do is what is going to be the measure of the faith we have in God. If we run to God, knowing that He is the only way we can get through the trial then we are exercising our faith in God, and that produces the steadfastness, or patience (NKJV), or perseverance (NIV). As our patience, steadfastness, perseverance grows it produces in us perfection of our faith. 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all with our reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6

God loves to give us wisdom and He will give it generously and it is one thing we can ask of God that will never bring reproach from Him. He wants to give us wisdom to understand His word. We need to know that He will always give us wisdom if we just ask for it. I know that I have found in my quiet times, that I can open God’s word and I can read the words on the page and I can close the book and then wonder what it was that I just read. But if I pray before I open the word and ask God to give me understanding of it, that is when something will stand out to me, That is when He will give me a word that feels like it was meant just for me, but I must ask for that understanding, knowing and believing that it is His desire to give it to me. 

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

When we remain steadfast under our trials and wait for God’s answer under our trials, and we stand the test of time, we receive a “crown of life”. What James is saying here is that when we endure trials and we persevere through them, it is worth it. When we hold fast to Him through whatever we are going through and allow Him to do the work He will use it for His glory. I know I am making this sound so easy by the words on the page. Please know that I know it is not always easy. There are times I have had to drag my will to persevere, to the cross. It is not always easy, there have been times that I have cried and felt like the answers that I wanted, that I needed would never come. But I can honestly tell you that through tears, and through heartache and through pain, He has never let me down. I have felt battered and bruised at times, but I also know that He doesn’t waste my pain and that if I lay it all down at His feet He will redeem it and He will be glorified and that will make it worth it in the end. 

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at this natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:22-25

When we open God’s word and we read it, we have two choices. We can check the box that, well I did that today, or we can let it work in us, we can be doers of the word. We want to be doers, the doers of the word let it change them, the doers of the word have the tools to persevere in the trials, the doers of the word will minister to others even when things may not all be going right in their world. The doers of the word will be blessed. 

I pray we will be doers and will be blessed!

REVIVE

I don’t know about you but I am looking for Revival in 2022. I think our world is a bit tired of the way things have been for the past couple of years at least anyway. I know my heart is. So today I want to be intentional about setting myself up to revive my spiritual life.  

Yesterday we talked about making goals for the upcoming year. I hope that you have thought about it and made a few goals for yourselves. I talked about my practical goals my health, and my creativity and exercising my mind. And I talked about some spiritual goals. 

One other thing I do every year about this time is I choose a focus word for the new year. I have been praying over that this week too. I think my focus word for the new year will be ENOUGH. I have picked out several devotionals in the Youversion app to read that have the word enough in it. But as I think through that word there are lots of things that come to mind. 

Webster’s definition of enough is: 

 In or to a degree or quantity that satisfies or that is sufficient or necessary for satisfaction: SUFFICIENTLY

I like that definition. 

I want to live from the fact that I am ENOUGH in who I am in Jesus. I have always struggled with feeling like I was enough. I am not smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough. I have always felt like I fall short of being enough things to people. What I want to know and what I want to remember is that I am enough for Jesus. Whether I am liked by people is not nearly as important as whether I am liked by Jesus! I am enough for Him because of what He did for me on the cross. 

I also want to know that Jesus is ENOUGH for me. Even when things don’t go my way, Jesus is ENOUGH. When the world feels like it is falling apart from pandemics or riots or craziness, Jesus is ENOUGH. When the diagnosis comes or the healing that we’ve been praying for doesn’t, Jesus is ENOUGH. When there is more month than there is money, Jesus is ENOUGH. 

I am not sure where else the word ENOUGH will take me this year, but I am looking forward to finding out. 

What about you? Have you set your goals? Do you choose a focus word for the year? Whatever it looks like for you, the most important goal I think any of us can set is to get with Jesus every day. I’d love to hear what yours are if you are so inclined to share. 

But for now, please have a safe and Happy New Year! 

REFOCUS

I have spent the first part of this week looking at the past year, hat has worked and what has not. I have spent time resting in who my Father made me to be and in His love for me. I have focused my mind on the things that I know restore me. Today I want to start to look forward. I want to look at some personal goals that I have for the New Year. I don’t like to call them resolutions as resolutions are made to be broken. These are things I want to do to be a better me. 

  1. I want to get healthier. Oh I’d love to lose weight but to me saying I am going to lose weight sounds like a resolution. I don’t want just losing weight to be my focus but I want to exercise more and to eat better. If weight loss comes that will be the bonus. 
  1. I want to be more consistent in my creativity. I think creativity fuels my heart and my soul. I am a better person when I am tapping in to my creativity.
  1. I want to read more. I have set goals of a book a month in the past and attained them but it’s been a couple of years since I have done this. I think it’s good for my mind if I keep reading. 
  1. And my main focus is my spiritual goals. I will stay in the word in some way.   

I am still ironing out how my spiritual goals will look this year and the direction for Restore. I’d love to hear from you if you had an idea for the direction you would like for me to take. But I also have reading that I do and studying that is for no one but me and Jesus. In the past I have read the Bible through. This past year I was listening to the Bible through in the NLT. For study I usually start with the ESV and then I will read other translations to get clearer understanding of scripture but listening has been just for me and Jesus. One year I chose to read through the gospels every month and another year I read through them every quarter of the year in different translations. Did you know there are 89 chapters in the four gospels? That is perfect for reading a chapter a day for 3 months. 

What are your goals for the year? If you are looking for resources to read the Bible through, let me suggest the Youversion app. I use Youversion every day in my reading. I will read short devotional plans and I will let it keep my place on my Bible reading plan. Don’t get me wrong I do still love to get my Bible in my hands but I will read in the app a lot too and it tends to keep me on track. Also there is a podcast by Tara Leigh Cobble called The Bible Recap. She will give you a reading for the day and then you can listen to her recap what you read. It is a great tool for understanding. She will point things out in scripture that I just simply did not see there. 

The most important thing is to get into scripture. 

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Don’t choose reading your Bible through in a year just to read the Bible through in a year. If you choose just one verse a day, or one Psalm a day or to read through the gospels in a month or 89 days, read it with intentionality. I used to set the goals and then get caught up in the goals. What is most important to me now is to read and then let it do its work in me. 

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22

The bottom line is I can read scripture every day to check off the box, but that is not what I want. I want to read scripture daily to let it change me, I want to keep my spiritual life healthy just as much as I want my physical life and my creative life and my mind to be healthy. I hope this week you have been looking at what goals you can set for the New Year too. 

RESTORE 

Well, it’s no wonder that I would use this word during my inventory week is it? This is my catch word. But why? What does this word mean to me? 

“He restores my soul? He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3

I have learned what it means to let God restore my soul. Especially when I feel like I am at the end of myself. My task is to set myself in a posture to be restored by Him. It is not just going to happen unless I am in the right posture or frame of mind. I must set myself ready to be restored. Now I know that God could strike me like He did Saul on the road to Damascus. But I have found that He moves in my life more when I am in a ready posture for Him to do so. He restores me when I am looking to be restored. He WILL lead me in paths that are for my good and for the good of others if for no other reason at all because I am His and it is a strong testament to Him not to me. 

Have you found the things that restore your soul? One of the most important things for me is a my daily time I spend with Jesus. Long lazy mornings with my Bible and my journal on my porch are the constants that I must have and do for soul restoration. Especially after a long busy, hustle and bustle season. And might I add, its imperative DURING the long busy season as well if I am to accomplish all the tasks that are put before me. This week, this inventory week, I am quite blessed to work for a school so that I don’t have to hit the door running immediately after the busy holiday season. I usually get at least a week after Christmas to spend my time reflecting, resting and asking Him for the restoration my soul needs. 

What are some things that restore your soul? I like to, and need to take more long walks. I am not a power walker for exercise, although I need to be, but if life seems to be beating up on me quite a bit, I do notice I handle things better and differently when I engage in long walks. I also love kayaking and while our lake has been down for quite a while, that is not something I have been able to do much of this year. I look forward to spring and hope to do more of it. There is nothing like being on the water early in the morning just floating along and taking in God’s beautiful creation. 

Another thing that restores my soul is being creative, painting or sewing. I find that when I take time to busy my hands, that my mind doesn’t have quite as much time to busy itself. It helps me to get out of my head just a bit and to create. Painting is my go to creative outlet these days but I have been a seamstress and I have done ceramics in the past. I believe that God gives every one of us a creative outlet and that it is meant to give our soul restoration. Think on it, what’s yours? It could be cooking or organizing. It could be any number of things. You will know it when you find it and once you find it you will know when you need it for your soul. 

This week is a week for me to think on the things that will restore me. And to spend a little time in them and to set myself up for them in the future. 

Think on this for yourself. Ask yourself a few questions. Are you weary? Is it just being tired coming off of a busy season or is life in general or circumstances getting you down? Have you been through some sort of loss? A job, a relationship, a ….. person?  If you have you may need to take an inventory too, or you may just need to take an inventory just because we are leaving one year and entering another. Whatever your reason when you are taking your inventory, ask your heavenly Father what you can do for soul restoration? And then do it! I say this because we can sit around all day and think about taking a long walk and never get around to it. But when I make myself, when I go put on my shoes and actually head outside and do it, is when I will feel better. The same for painting, I just gave up my studio because my son moved into it for a while and the place that I paint now is a little less convenient than my former studio. But when I take the extra steps it takes to get some paint on me and on a canvas, my soul just feels better and more like it can take on the next steps of life. 

If I’m not careful I just think about it like the story in John chapter 5 about the man at the Pool of Bethesda. He laid there at the pool for 38 years waiting to be helped to get in, when all he had to do was get in himself. Let’s take the time this week and see where our souls need restoration and let’s ask Him to show us the best way! And then let’s just do it! 

Love you my friends! 

REST 

The hustle and the bustle is over for the most part. I still have a couple more Christmas celebrations to attend. Some people already have their Christmas decorations down and tucked away for the next year. I usually leave mine up until New Year’s Day. But one thing I love about this week between Christmas and New Year is that as I’m taking my inventory to see the direction God wants me to head in my spiritual life over the coming year, is that it usually brings me a little slower pace. My full time job is for a school district, therefore I am blessed to have a little down time over the holidays which cause me to have time to rest and to think on rest. 

This has actually been a bit of a theme for me recently. I keep choosing books on rest or living from a quiet place within me, or ceasing to strive. One such book I read this year was by Christy Nockels, “The Life You Long For”. It is about “Learning to Live from a Heart of Rest”. I picked up this book because I was a fan of Christy’s music and then her podcast. I’ve actually been a fan of hers long before I knew I was a fan of hers. I noticed her several years ago when I would take students to the Passion conferences in Atlanta every year. I always loved hearing her soothing voice when she sang. Then I found out that she and her husband were Watermark, a duo from the 90s in Christian music that I loved. And then I found that she wrote one of my very favorite Point of Grace songs that has become my theme song, Who Am I (not the one by Casting Crowns). But anyway in this book, Christy invited me to learn how to live as the Beloved of Christ which is who we are when we are found in Him. We live in a hurry up and hustle kind of world but when we live as His Beloved instead of always striving for the next hurried thing then we are found to be in the community of the Beloved and we live out our calling. Our highest calling is to enjoy God and to be loved by Him. It’s not in what we do for Him. It’s simply knowing Him. I do think that God gives us services to do, such as leading bible study, cleaning the church, taking food to sick or grieving people, but our calling is to love Him and be loved by Him, and when we serve out of the capacity that His love gives us then it’s not burdensome. 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Jesus offers us rest from the labor and the heavy things of life. I want to practice resting in Him. When I do that I find that whatever service that He calls me to are richer to the one who receives it from me as well as to me. He blesses my rest in Him. 

Another book I was drawn to in this season of my life is “When Strivings Cease” by Ruth Chou Simons. Ruth is an artist and a writer and most of her books feature some of her art work as well as her writing. I am in the middle of this book but it seems to be about the same theme of learning to live from Him rather than from my own thoughts of striving for the next bigger better thing. 

I want to challenge you that as you sit and reflect this week on the past year and you look to the next year and set a few goals you want to accomplish (I refuse to call them resolutions) take some time to rest in Him. This can look lots of different ways, but I suggest you start with scripture. I like devotionals, I have many and I may at any given time be reading two or three different ones, but they are never meant to replace scripture. If you don’t know where to start I would suggest the gospels, or the Psalms or Proverbs. Then just sit and listen to what He wants to say to you. I also suggest journaling thoughts. This doesn’t have to be fancy, I use composition books. I have had beautiful fancy journals but it seems my favorite thing I return to is usually just a composition book or a spiral bound notebook. But most of all, spend time with your Father. I promise you when you do that, when you take the time to ask Him for direction, when you lay all the things that tangle your mind up down at His feet, that is when you are leaning in to His heart and your heart will be more at rest. 

REFLECTIONS of 2021

This is my inventory week. This is the week that I look back at the past year and see what worked and what didn’t, what I might want to change and what I might want to keep the same. It’s the week that I think about what I learned in the past year and what I want to learn in the coming year so that I keep growing, and keep my mind as sharp as it can possibly be for a simple minded woman. Where do I want to grow in my home life, in my work life and most importantly in my spiritual life? I start this with making a list of the 10 things I learned in the past year. It’s a way to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Some I hate to admit are re-learns and some are new to me. If you allow me I will share my list here today. 

1. Trust the Process. This is probably a re-learn or a still learning. But it seems to be a theme that keeps coming up in various circles of my life. I have been walking this walk with Jesus for a long time and I have seen Him answer a lot of prayers for me over time and yes it builds my faith. Yet I still fall into the trap of wanting and wishing He would answer me immediately for some of my prayers. Yet these 3 words keep coming up over and over. I have heard them in sermons, in podcasts and even felt them in my spirit when I was praying over something so that I know that is what Holy Spirit is saying to me. When you look in scripture, rarely did you see an instant answer. David waited approximately 15 years to become king after he was anointed king. The Israelites wandered the wilderness 40 years and Israel waited hundreds of years for the promised Messiah before Jesus was born. There is a process and we humans can’t rush the process, God has a purpose and a plan for every individual and everything under the heavens. We don’t understand His timing but we can be assured that His timing is perfect. 

“This God – his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” Psalm 18:30

We can also know that the process to our answered prayers begins the minute we utter the first request. No matter how long it takes, He’s on it. 

“Then he said to me, ‘Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.’” Daniel 10:12

2. Quiet mornings are good for my Soul! This may be a re-learn too. But I know that being an early riser is what helps me to be a better person. I need my time with Jesus or I can assure you I would not be a very pleasant person to be around. 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

3. Relinquish control, I never really had it in the first place. I think the last couple of years have probably taught a lot of us this one. After two of the strangest years of my lifetime, I have learned that I may as well hold the things in my heart loosely. There are things I have wanted to hold tight to, my family, my health, my friends. I like to hold tight to the things I love. The problem is when you hold on too tight you can start to suffocate, either them or you. I am learning that I can hang on to the things that are important with more of an open hand. What I mean here is I can hold them in my heart all the while I lay them at Jesus’ feet. I can’t fix people, I can’t fix circumstances but I can treasure them in my heart and I can lay them down at Jesus feet, and I can ask Jesus to fix me in the – ahem – process!

4. Hope is not lost. Even when I think things aren’t going as I think they should, as long as I have Jesus, there is always hope. 

“And hope does not put us to shame (disappoint NKJV), because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5

Paul was talking here about having faith through our sufferings and knowing that our suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope. (see the process again!) 

5. Life may not go as I think it is supposed to but it’s usually how it should. Again, I’ve learned to take my hands off more and let chips fall where they may. Or rather to stop trying to juggle the balls in the air myself. 

6. To forgive is more for me than for the forgiven but even THIS is a process. Sometimes we think we have forgiven things in the past only to have them rear their ugly head again. I learned this reading Lysa Terkeursts book “How to Forgive what I can’t Forget”. Make no mistake there are places in your heart that will never heal unless you learn to forgive. 

7. There are still good things coming out of this Pandemic. We’ve all lost a lot. We’ve lost time with loved ones. We’ve lost freedoms that we took for granted, and we’ve lost people that we didn’t think it was their time to go yet. But every now and again, I will be in a conversation with someone and I will say “well that is a good thing that came out of the pandemic.” Things like wearing a mask in doctor’s office, we probably should have been doing that all along, or not getting up in someone’s personal space. Pay attention, I’ll bet you will discover one or two good things too. 

I also learned things that weren’t spiritual but were growing my mind and my creativity. 

8. Church finances. I took over as the Treasurer for my church this year and while I still have a lot to learn, I have learned a lot. 

9. Painting techniques. I started painting 5 years ago after the death of my sister. I look on those early paintings and what I have painted recently and I am proud of the growth. Again, I still have a long way to go! 

And my number 10 is a re-learn as well. And that is …

10. If I look for Him, I will see God in every day. It may be in a baby’s laugh, or a sunrise. It can even be in a foggy day when the sun starts to burn through and the sky is all shimmery. He can be in the eyes of your children or in the grasp of your partner’s hand, the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. I think this is one thing that steadies me and grounds me more than any other and I think it is a re-learn every year. But looking for God and finding Him makes me more grateful and when I live from gratitude, I live with purpose. 

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

Let me challenge you to make a list yourself. You may sit down and write them all at once or you may start your list and have to go back to it for a day or two but I think that it is good for us to see where we’ve been in order to map out where we are going.