Category Archives: Discipline

focuses on the spiritual disciplines

Say Hey! It’s Monday <3

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pc/Sarah Vie <3

Happy Monday to you!

It’s looking like a rainy day here in the Heartland and I am not complaining. We need a good rain.

Our weekend was super chock full of activities, as was the entire week preceding it. 

A glimpse at the calendar last night revealed we are having a repeat this week.

Do you transition well from season to season?

I struggle a little switching gears and can sometimes get stressed out when our calendar has too many back to back events with very little white space in the margins. 

I get overwhelmed. 

It is funny because when we were raising our kiddos, there was no white space and I think I just went on coffee and adrenaline for about 25 years.

Which is probably why it seems like it passed lightening fast.

 

When their activities started disappearing one by one from the pages of our calendar, at first I was terrorized by the lack of events and activities that had filled every day for so many years.

We kind of function in what we adapt to, don’t we?

I have to confess that my natural responses to stress are not health-promoting. 

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Among other not-so-wise go to’s when overwhelmed:

I am an emotional eater…

prone to take a nap to avoid facing an overabundance of tasks…

a rebellious procrastinator who will do anything BUT the thing that needs to be done…

and an escape artist who will find excuses to hit a store or a coffee shop rather than attack her list of errands. 

None of those things prove effective in eliminating the sources of my being overwhelmed. 

It is always a fight to choose the right thing for me. 

I have to make conscious decisions and keep a tight rein on my will to flee the more unpleasant tasks of doing what needs to be done.

And this too is part of being saved and sanctified. 

I have a helper to keep me on task and also to lead me, at appropriate times, to still waters for refreshing and regenerating. 

I just read a great quote last night in one of my devotionals, Ordinary Graces by Lucinda Secrest McDowell*.

Lucinda actually quotes from another book by Gail MacDonald**

Gail McDonald at some point focused on the instruction from Deuteronomy 30:19 as her focus for decision making with these two words:

Choose life.

She says:

“We can eat a candy bar or an apple but which leads to greater quality of health?We can watch TV or read a book, but which leads to a greater quality of growth? We can say a loving word or a critical word, but which conveys the quality of personal nourishment?” 

I would add that the choice of our book is a way to choose life.

Also, when I think about the unhealthy choices I am prone to make in times of stress often lead me to speaking to myself in negative and critical ways. 

Choosing well leads to more good choices. 

I am endeavoring this week to choose life. 

How about you?

What are your areas of weakness during times of change or stress? 

Let’s pray for each other to choose well this week <3

 

*Lucinda Secrest McDowell, Ordinary Graces (Nashville, Abingdon Press 2017), 227

**Gail MacDonald, In His Everlasting Arms: Learning to Trust God in All Circumstances (Los Angeles; Regal, 2003), 151

VBS 2018 Day 5 <3 For such a time as this

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I started Monday with a quote from A. W. Tozer in the September 11 devotion from the book Tozer on the Almighty God:

 “The whole Bible and all past history unite to teach that battles are always won before the armies take the field. The critical moment for any army is not the day it engages the foe in actual combat; it is the day before, or the month before or the year before.” 

Today we are looking at how this truth plays out in the story of Esther.

I hope you will take time to read through this short book sometime today, but in summary for our time together let me refresh your memory.

Esther is the cousin of Mordecai, who takes her to raise as his daughter after the death of her parents. They are Jews living in the highly fortified city of Susa in the Persian Empire.

After the King of this Empire is displeased with and thus dethrones his wife Queen Vashti; a bizarre game of Bachelorette ensues.

Young girls are gathered from all over the Kingdom and brought to the palace to be groomed and prepared as candidates for the Queen job.

Esther is among those taken and in obedience to Mordecai, keeps her nationality a secret.

In a weird kind of fairy-tale (unless you really think hard about this whole sordid event and then, yuck…) the King falls for Esther, she is crowned Queen and seems to develop a super loyal staff because she is able to maintain communication with Mordecai and still not be found out as a Jew.

Whew…that was as brief as I could make it. Hope you could follow!

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So all is well except Mordecai refuses to bow to a man named Haman, a descendant of Israel’s arch enemy – the Amalekites. (for more background read 1 Samuel 15…the Bible is better than Netflix, people!)

Haman hatches a plan to annihilate the Jews and tricks the King into signing a decree to kill all of them. There will be no battlefield. It will just be a legalized, mandated massacre.

But Haman has picked a fight with the wrong people group and God is not about to let His people be destroyed.

Mordecai finds out and notifies Esther that intervention is needed ASAP.

The Jews need a miracle and God has set up the path through the crazy circumstances by placing one of His own on the right hand of the King who can change the course of this evil plan.

But the pre-work that Tozer talks about needs to happen and so the first battle that is waged is in Queen Esther’s heart.

Because when Mordecai sends word to her that she needs to let the King know what is about to happen, Esther does not jump at the chance to come to the aid of her people.

She explains that the King has not called for her in thirty days and if she marches into the palace without his invite and he is displeased, she would be worse off then the ex-queen…she could be killed.

It would appear she has grown accustomed to the trappings of her existence. Perhaps she had children by now and would be banished from them and from her home and her status and all that had become her life.

She had forgotten who she was…and Whose she was.

Mordecai gives her these words as a wakeup call…

“Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther 4:13-14

So Esther battled first…in surrender and fasting and prayer and obedience.

And then she moved forward with careful steps until she boldly identified the cruel plot of Haman.

The law could not be changed, but the King was able to decree that there would be a fair fight and the Jews could defend themselves against their persecutors.

Haman was hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai, and all his house and property and authority were handed over to this faithful servant of God.

The Jews were victorious over any who dared to try and destroy them.

Like Esther, we were all placed in this time and place for a reason. 

Maybe not one as dramatic and historic in appearance as Esther’s story, but all impactful for the Kingdom to the extent that God has given us influence.

We all battle our addiction to comfort, familiarity, assimilation into the culture we have grown to know; and, even if we don’t love it, we have learned to adapt to it.

Whether we are biding our time by taking care of daily life or called to a moment of truth where we must surrender and obey, are we being mindful always…of who we are…and Who we belong to…for such as time as this?

Every day of VBS we have had a snack.

Today I would challenge you to consider one of your meals a “feast” or a “fast” and remember Esther as she fasted and prayed for three days and then God prepared a table for her in the presence of her enemy. Think about how God strengthened her and gave her courage to do what needed to be done.

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May God bless you and guide you as you ponder this today <3

VBS 2018 …. Battles <3

Hello and welcome to Grown Up VBS 2018!

If you are new to the blog, I did this last year and some people liked it a lot. (I see both of you waving a thumbs up in the corner of my eye…)

So if you are interested in checking out that series you can do so here

There is a  week of posts on the 2017 theme which was about when we feel we are “lacking” something and what God has to say about it. You just move through the prompt at the bottom to go to next post. Because I can’t imagine you have anything better to do than that, right?

This year our theme will be “Battles” and it all started with a note I took in my quiet time from A. W. Tozer’s September 11 devotion in a book called Tozer on the Almighty God, compiled by Ron Eggert. 

Based on Mark 6:31: 

And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.

There are two amazing quotes from Tozer that I took down and chewed on for quite a while and oh, how I hope and pray this is not a copywrite issue…but here they are…

“The whole Bible and all past history unite to teach that battles are always won before the armies take the field. The critical moment for any army is not the day it engages the foe in actual combat; it is the day before, or the month before or the year before.” *

and

“Preparation is vital…We can seek God today and get prepared to meet temptation tomorrow; but if we meet the enemy without first having met God, the outcome is not conjectural; the issue is already decided. We can only lose.” *

I can relate to this clearly in the minor skirmishes of a relatively normal day and the train wrecks of life that have side-lined me for a couple of years…or more. 

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In my mid-30’s, when I realized I needed a daily time in God’s word, I began reading the Our Daily Bread devotion each day.

With three small children to tend, sometimes I didn’t get to it until the end of a day and invariably on those days I would discover exactly the counsel I could have used at some point that would have guided me into a wiser choice. 

I learned by experience that, for this girl, starting the day with Jesus is better for me and everyone around me. 

An example of preparation that happened months before would be the timing of our church doing an intensive read through of the New Testament in 90 days. 

It was a push, but I dug into that challenge whole heartedly and with gusto. 

Shortly after we finished, I inherited the role of caregiver for my aunt (severe dementia), my father (stage 3 of Alzheimers) and my mom (completely broken down mentally, physically and emotionally from trying to care for the other two for too long.) 

With children ranging from 7th grade to freshman in college, I had little to no time for personal spiritual development when I desperately needed it…but God. 

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We got through the initial crisis that brought them to our town and the hard days ahead of finding different facilities and while I was completely overwhelmed, my head stayed above the waters. 

I knew without a doubt, God had bolstered me good in those 90 days to face a battle I did not even see on the horizon. 

So this week we are going to look at some other people’s battle stories found in Scripture. 

As I have been preparing this series in my thoughts and prayers, I am led to listen to the new Michael W. Smith song. 

It is so simple I didn’t think much of it the first few times I heard it because he repeats the same line over and over…”this is how I fight my battles…” and I kept waiting to hear how he fights them and then with more repetitions, I would get distracted and think I missed the key phrase. 

But finally I heard it enough times that I finally got the point…

This is how I fight my battles…I sing. 

I praise. 

I repeat the simple truth that makes up the rest of this song…

“when it looks like I’m surrounded, I’m surrounded by You….” 

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I hope this week we will see that no matter how complex the battle is, the strategy is always the same …. 

Now go grab your goldfish crackers and google the song by Smitty and meet me back here tomorrow <3

 

*  from : Tozer on the Almighty God a 366-Day Devotional compiled by Ron Eggert; Wingspread Publishers 2004

 

When surrender does not mean defeat <3

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Good morning! 

We are certainly enjoying some wonderfully perfect (in my book) weather the past week, and I have enjoyed having quiet time out on the porch. 

While my present surroundings have been most pleasant, my read through of the Bible has been in one of Israel’s most difficult periods. Since I am using the Chronological Bible for 2018, I have been reading from a mixture of prophets as God’s people are facing the consequences of generations of growing apostasy. 

This week, as I sat sipping coffee and relishing the fact that I had to put a light jacket on, my heart and soul were in a vise grip of angst as I read of the Babylonians building siege ramps outside the walls of Jerusalem and the King of Judah deciding maybe it was time to ask God for a favor. 

Both Ezekiel and Jeremiah speak God’s word and clearly articulate the bad news, good news of Israel’s future. 

God is firm in His judgment of this stubborn and wayward people and the time has come to pay the piper, so to speak.

The city will be taken. 

Anyone who refuses to leave will die and anyone who surrenders will live in captivity for a set period of time. 

But God also affirms that after their years of discipline have been completed, He will bring them back. He will bring prosperity once again to His people but more importantly, He will give them a heart to love Him and honor Him and worship Him again. 

This is not the plot of a movie we want to see, is it?

We don’t want to pay to see Bruce Willis surrender to the terrorists in a Die Hard movie or Aragorn to tell the men of Rohan to stand down at the Black Gate in Lord of the Rings.

We love the thrill of taking a battle stance and fighting it out to the end…even if the end is more like the Alamo…at least they all went down fighting. 

But in this historical battle, the God of Abraham is telling His children the way to win is to surrender. 

This summer, the band of brothers in our family have been enjoying the antics of super athletes competing on crazy hard obstacle courses on a show called Ultimate Beastmaster. 

And while I cringe at the name every time, I have to admit it has been entertaining to snuggle with them in the afternoon and watch an hour of these young people attempting to push their bodies through a gigantic playground of adult monkey bars and climbing apparatus. 

Often one of the athletes will reach a point where all physical strength has been spent or timing has gotten off and this powerful athlete simply cannot go on to the next level. 

Dangling from a bar or rope with shaking arms, unable to propel forward, the competitor will simply release and drop into the water below. 

Surrender.

It’s a whole different thing than defeat. 

Like dropping into that pool of water when it is the only choice left, we drop into grace sometimes by giving up and letting go. 

There is a time to fight and to push through, but there are also times when we must listen to the voice of God and choose to fight no more, but instead, surrender to the circumstances and allow Him to do what only He can do. 

We cannot make these choices on our own, but we must be tuned to His voice. 

We must hear the call to fight, the call to stand and the call to lay it all down and just drop into grace. 

I pray today for each of us to live our lives daily in such a way that we would know and hear the voice of our Lord and we would have obedient hearts to do according to His word to us <3 

When seeking an audience with a King…

I am moving along through the Chronological Bible and keeping up with my plan to read it through in 2018.

My current passages this week were in Ezekiel. 

Don’t check out on me here.

If you have never read Ezekiel, you should.

It is so full of imagery and powerful messages from God that I am having to be disciplined to stay on track in my reading each day to not go off on a search for more…

oh I will go on a search for more…

but my morning quiet time has to stay focused so my questions are adding up in my notebook for a later study time.

However this morning I came across a passage that is concise enough to share with you. 

While Ezekiel was prophesying God’s message to the people of God as they were exiled to Babylon:

so…

a real person..

speaking the real word of God…

to a real group of people..

in a real point in history…

it also speaks to us. 

Because, God’s Word IS alive and active and produces His activity in us. 

Today I noted in my journal a portion from Ezekiel 14:1-11.

In the passage, the situation is that the elders of Israel came to Ezekiel to seek God’s Word for them and for their direction.

However, God knew that they came to the prophet AFTER they had already set up “idols” in their hearts and minds. 

“Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of them?”  Ezekiel 14:3 NKJV

Wow. 

Does that resonate with any of you?

I have done it.

I see people of the faith do it all the time.

It’s called deciding for ourselves what is important and right and paramount in our existence and then going before God and asking Him to put His seal of approval on it. 

I just had a lengthy discussion this week about the disconcerting trend of Christian leaders who are going in search of information in Scripture to support something they have already decided to try and defend. 

We can err either way on this…on the conservative side or the liberal side of the faith. 

But if we have established in our own minds what is right and then go into Scripture looking for whatever God would say to support us, we are no better than these blind leaders of Israel. 

And we can expect no more than they could for God to give us an audience for such an inappropriate request. 

We must be so very careful to enter into God’s Word with a heart that desires to know HIM…not the answer to our current issue, not the validation for something we wish to be okay..no.

We enter into His Presence to KNOW HIM and to LISTEN TO WHAT HE HAS TO SAY to us about whatever HE WANTS US TO KNOW.

We enter into His presence by realizing our capacity to have set up idols in our hearts and our tendency to put right in front of our sweet little faces the very things that cause us to stumble. 

And in this humble posture of acknowledgement, we approach the Throne of the Lord our God…and we wait…for His Word to be revealed to us. 

May you find Him as you seek Him…and remember…He knows what is in your heart better than you do…so bring it simply and honestly before Him each and every day. 

Much to ponder from such a small portion of Scripture – be blessed and encouraged to come before Him with a clean heart, ready to listen and respond.