Category Archives: Discipline

focuses on the spiritual disciplines

Monday reflections <3

This weekend our women’s ministry team hosted the first ever retreat in a local setting. 

We kept it in house, with speakers from our own church and the whole theme was about pausing from our busy-ness to connect and refresh and get closer to God and each other. 

It was lovely.

Let’s just say when you bring 80 plus females together on a beautiful outdoor campus in perfect fall weather…there will be a lot of personalities, sharing, talking, eating, laughing, crying and all the feels.

Our three teachings centered on removing distractions so we can fully worship God, coming to terms with repentance from ways we have walked away or refused to obey and then just being still and knowing His voice.

I was made aware of some heavy needs and longings that have been added to my prayer list and I feel like I know some of the women who attend our church in a deeper and better way. 

Yesterday as we sat in service and I saw several new friends and old friends and pondered what it means to be in community with the Body of Christ, there was a point where the children were brought from their classrooms and led up on the platforms of both meeting places so that our pastor could pray a blessing over them. 

We watched them in all their wiggly cuteness as they climbed up on the stage and as always, I loved watching them as their eyes scanned the many faces out in front of them.

As one by one they recognized a parent or grandparent, a huge smile and wave would indicate they had found them.

I was reminded of a time when Sarah was in high school and I attended a huge concert at one of the local school auditoriums. I had gotten there early and found a seat near the front. 

The rows filled up quickly all the way to the back and there was a large number of students who had attended as well as families. 

As the orchestra eventually came in, Sarah was seated in the front row and I watched her as her eyes scanned the rows above me. She was looking for someone and I wondered if she had some special friends who were attending or perhaps a fellow who had caught her eye at school and she was interested in seeing if he came. 

I could tell she was searching and then lo and behold her eyes rested in front of her own chair and she saw me and her smile brightened and chased away the furtive searching look. To this day I am humbled to tears that it was me she had been looking for. 

Notoriously late, she would have assumed I had to sit way up at the back…so she had been looking to see if I was there. 

I have always been reminded of the joy that swelled in my heart when she found who she was looking for and it was me.

I think how God, our Father, must sit at times waiting for our eyes to finally search Him out of the crowd of options and faces and what sweet communion it is for Him and for us when finally we focus solely on Him and we cease all striving and just take Him in. 

Be blessed today on your journey. 

You will find what you seek.

Seek Him with all your heart. 

He is right in front of you <3

And another thing…. <3

For those of you who wonder why I pick the pictures I do…this critter was resting on the path as I walked in beautiful Miami last year.

Here I was, enjoying the sun and warmth and green of Florida in February when this thing, that was just being what it is, kind of added a new element of yuk to my happy.

If you are cool with snakes and lizards and all things reptile, God bless you. In my rational mind I know they serve a purpose and were created by the same amazing Creator as I was…but I would prefer they stay completely out of my sight and presence.

Thank you very much.

And now I am going to jump to the topic of today which is forgiveness and just keep that visual of my scaly, path-sharing nemesis in mind.

Today I did a Facebook live thing on Session 6 from Finding God Faithful and shared about the video teaching this week.

Kelly opens with a conversation she had with a young participant in the Joseph study who asked her when she thought Joseph forgave his brothers.

As she pondered it with this teen, they mused if it was when he was making the trek to Egypt as a purchased slave…was it in Potipher’s house…or in prison? Was it when Pharaoh got involved and Joseph could begin to see God’s plan working out? Or was it when he saw the brothers standing in front of him asking for food for their families?

Kelly shares that they agreed it had to be all of the above.

She talks about how at each stage along the way of the 22 years between the time the brothers first threw him into the pit until he faced them again in the role of Pharoah’s right hand man, Joseph would have worked through a process of forgiveness.

He would have had to go to God over and over with the hurt and the questions and the pain of what had happened and what might have been; facing what was taken from him and yet keeping his heart tender and renewing his trust that God was still sovereign.

She states what we all know but sometimes need to be reminded of…

Forgiveness is a process.

Often when the hurt rises up again in some of my personal stories of betrayal, or I am reminded, because of an old photograph or a conversation, that a choice was made by another person and now I live with a loss of some kind…I tend to berate myself and consider that my “forgiveness” was phony.

Like that lizard up above, I can be going on and think I have moved past the pain and am walking in forgiveness when suddenly something pops up along the path and reminds me afresh of what was taken from us.

I love the way Kelly’s study and video remind me that our stories are on-going and even when we forgive someone, there will be places where we have to lean back hard into God and deal with a new reminder of how we were wronged.

I think of the ways I have hurt others or let them down and I would hope that when they remember my offense, they would not hold it against me all over again but would find the strength in God to forgive me and extend me grace and mercy.

I want to do the same.

And the reason for all of us to do this is because Christ died ONCE for ALL.

Think about that.

He doesn’t die every time one of us sins.

He died ONCE.

And we live in THAT amazing grace and forgiveness all the time.

So that out of that mercy, we can extend mercy, grace and forgiveness…

every time we are reminded of the offense.

One baby step at a time until we finally make it home <3

Saturday night live <3

It’s a foggy and overcast Monday here in the Midwest. Yesterday was an absolutely perfect fall day and Saturday was a super-soaker. 

It was raining when we woke up and I don’t think it stopped the entire day. 

I worked downtown and listened to it hitting the back door and watched it splatter on the sidewalk out front and conversed with customers about how miserably wet and cold it was from 10-4. 

Russ was up north since Zach was working as well on Saturday.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to attend services Sunday morning due to travel so the plan was that I would go the 5:00 on my way home and we would meet up after that to eat leftovers together.

Thankfully the typical gale force winds did not accompany this day of showers and so I was able to use my umbrella to get safely to the truck two blocks away. 

But as I unloaded my bag in the back and climbed up in the front seat, I felt the chill of dampness down in my bones. I turned on the wipers and engine and turned the heat up high as I navigated away from downtown. 

Every ounce of me wanted to just head right on past the puddled parking lot as people were making their way into our church. 

I was alone…it was dark and soggy…and I had worked all day.

Besides, we have a live feed of the service now and I could just sit in the comfort and warmth of our home and watch that while I waited for Russ. 

But I felt drawn to go to real live church and so I told my flesh to hush and I pulled into a space. Before I could change my mind, I grabbed my dripping umbrella and headed in. 

Not seeing anyone I knew, I took a seat by myself down front but then I saw someone across the way I have been trying to track down.

I went over and chatted with him. One of the couples I know well were sitting in a pew right in front of that conversation. They spoke and the husband greeted me and as he shook my hand, he slipped me two little Hershey’s Pot-of-Gold bars. 

They laughed at my surprise. 

I went back over to my lone seat just as another friend and her husband came down the aisle. I asked if they had room and moved my stuff to sit by her.

I don’t get to see this friend as much these days and my heart filled to the brim to be able to just stand shoulder to shoulder with her and sing words of praise to our God. 

We know quite a bit of each other’s stories. We know the deep cries of each other’s hearts and we also know some of the incredibly amazing ways God has done the impossible. 

Behind me was another family of friends. They were celebrating their son’s birthday, just as we were celebrating Joely’s fourth on the same day. 

Again, my heart was filled with gratitude for the lives and ways God has worked in that friendship. The way He weaves our stories together.

And I would have missed it if I had just driven on and tuned in on my computer while I sipped a hot tea. 

I am thankful for the technology our church has been able to acquire so that when we are sick or traveling we can “attend” church. 

Last Sunday Russ and I listened to the service as we got ready in a hotel in Austin. 

But an online church will never take the place of the living Church – the Body of Christ. 

Flawed, yes.

Made up an odd mix of people? 

You betcha. 

Imperfect men and women and children, seeking to know and serve our Perfect God. 

Being perfected and transformed more and more into the image of His Son. 

This is the Body of Christ.

And it is too beautiful to miss for any reason <3

Rocky Road makes a great ice cream but a lousy way to travel….<3

Good morning and yes, this is a day early so don’t forget to show up for any Friday commitments tomorrow! Ha!

I am sending this out today because we are leaving super early in the morning to catch a flight to Dallas and then drive on to see John for the weekend. I may be just a tad excited…as in whhhheeeeee!!!!!!

Since I will be struggling to get out the door looking presentable, I figured I would just write you all a day early so here is the thought for this week. 

This summer Russ decided it was time for a new vehicle for me and he purchased a really pretty blue car. Like I have no idea model numbers, makes, style names or any thing but this car is such a beautiful shade of deep dark blue it makes grown men weep. Not kidding. I had one this color a number of years ago and people noticed it and would comment on the color and this happens now with the new one. 

And I guess God wanted to keep me from the sin of idolatry over it because we have had several run ins with rocks that have already caused some deep nicks in the paint and now a crack in the windshield. 

It’s the latter that I want to discuss with you today. 

It happened on the interstate as I moved over into the left lane to allow a car entering from a ramp to merge into the flow of traffic. 

I don’t understand this behavior of a fellow traveler, but it happens from time to time that you move over to make room and then find yourself driving in tandem with the other car. It’s like they speed up immediately and then drive alongside you at the exact rate you are going. 

In my mind it would seem appropriate that a car who has been given room to enter the highway would allow the other car to get back in the lane by either really speeding up or slowing down enough to allow that to happen. But instead this car matched my speed and stayed even with me for quite some distance. I was going as fast as I felt comfortable to go (I know my speed never varied since it was on cruise control the entire time)….so I canceled the cruise and dropped back behind in order to re-enter into the right lane. 

And just as I did, a rock flew off of this driver’s tires and hit square and hard into the windshield leaving a bullet hole effect a few inches below eye level. 

I was sick and angry all at the same time. He drove off oblivious to what he had done and I was fuming. 

We took the car to a wonderful place here in town and they did a patch for $65 leaving only the tiniest little mark and I am amazed that we didn’t have to have the whole windshield replaced but I want to address something with you about this incident. 

There is something raw about how it went down that I think may speak to some of you all and frustrations that may wear on you. 

I didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, I was doing the right thing. 

I was being courteous to another driver.  I could have remained in my lane and forced him to slow way down on the entrance ramp to merge. 

I didn’t accelerate over the allowed speed limit to get in front of him, but instead decreased my own speed to get back in the appropriate lane. 

But I suffered injury anyway. 

Let me say that again in a more general way. 

Have you experienced injury or hurt after extending courtesy and doing what is right to someone? 

It hurts deeply, doesn’t it? 

Suddenly instead of being “rewarded” for doing good…you feel like you have been punished for doing good and it brings up something inside of us that is a mix of anger and indignation. 

It is in these moments that I have to remind myself all over again that my motivation for doing right and being courteous and kind to others is NOT so that I will be rewarded. My motivation goes much deeper than that and should not hang tentatively on the responses of those who benefit from my actions or even those who never even notice or are aware of them or my existence. 

Building character is a constant work in progress for us all and these kinds of insults and injuries are ways God uses to continually refine you and me. 

That flash of anger that came up was a reminder of the entitlement that lives deep in me. The thought of “I didn’t deserve this or that…” is an indication that I still hold on to the capacity to believe that I could ever  “earn” mercy and grace. 

I want you to know that our God is compassionate and I do believe He holds us when we are treated poorly or we get slapped in the face after we have done a good thing…but He also is very interested in our becoming more like His Son. 

I think there is no better example for us to model our lives after than how we find Him described in Philippians 3:5-8

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that – a crucifixion. The MSG

Something to think about as we may encounter those who might kick up a rock or two along the journey today <3 

What we call coincidence….<3

It is a beautiful sunny day here, and yet I am mindful that the southern states are experiencing horrendous flooding. A Texan friend of ours was headed to Beaumont LA and received pictures of streets that had become rivers and so turned around and headed home. It is devastating to think of what some are dealing with and our prayers are lifted for them. 

I started a study based on the life of Joseph by Kelly Minter this week and as God would plan it, the readings are overlapping the current readings for our all-church series. 

As I have gone through various portions of Genesis this week, I am once again alarmingly amazed at the dysfunction of humanity and the grace of God to not just throw us all in the scrap heap and start over. 

But He doesn’t. 

He works redemption in spite of and, curiously enough, through the flaws and failings of His creation.

Just this morning as I read the account of a young Joseph being dispatched out into the countryside to check on his shepherd brothers, I had a new discovery I had never noticed in these passages. 

Kelly suggested reading them with an eye that was looking out for how God was working in the story. 

Having preceded the study with a short devotional reading that pointed out how often we mistake God’s timing for “coincidence”, I read the passage with the intentional eye of God-sightings and here is what I jotted down from Genesis 37:12-18

* Joseph is wandering around in the middle of nowhere and a man, who happened to not only see his brothers when they were tending flocks in the area, but overheard them say where they were going next just happens to run into him. Kelly adds Jewish tradition holds that the “man” was an angel – but whether an angel or a man, it was incredibly helpful that he happened to be there for Joseph

* Reuben happened to be amongst the group when Joseph appeared in the distance and was able to thwart the “let’s just kill him” plan

* The cistern they threw him in was empty…so he didn’t drown

* The location and timing of the Midianites passing by in conjunction with where they happened to have settled to pasture, Joseph finding his brothers, Reuben interceding and then wandering off for a bit.

* The caravan was headed to Egypt, which is where Joseph would need to end up

I have read this story many times but I had never stopped to think about how God was orchestrating the whole thing. What seemed to be just one awful event on top of the next was being allowed under the direction and protection of a master plan. 

Could it be then, that what seems to be interruptions and dead ends and frustrations, the times we are misunderstood, side-lined, dismissed…that these too fall under the permissive will of our God who does all things well? 

I pray that I would increase in faith to believe that the things that seem so out of the blue disruptive to my plans are being carefully watched over by the Master of all plans. His ways are not my ways. They are higher than I could think to ask or imagine. 

Praise Him <3