PRN – An All New Podcast!

It’s here!  The first promo episode of my new Podcast – PRN, Pause Renew Next!  I hope you enjoy!

Full transcript below:

Thanks to Gopherwood Studios, for the use of their studio and equipment!

Welcome to PRN – Pause, Renew, Next, the Podcast. I’m Ginny Detweiler, and I’m so excited to share with you in this episode, the vision that I have for this podcast.

For those of you who are new to the Pause, Renew, Next, concept, let me explain. It seems that our culture is constantly speeding up, and with it our schedules and thought lives. It’s no wonder that many women feel constantly overwhelmed and stressed out. Our faith can be affected by busyness and stress as well.
Pause stands for taking some time to be still – some quiet time to allow your body and brain to calm down so that you can soak in the Word of God and listen to His voice.
Renew, stands for a time of reflection, shifting perspective, allowing what you read in God’s Word to change you from the inside.
Next is the part where we move on with our day – being able to put the Word into action and apply it to our lives.
Although this ministry was born out of a blog, the truth is that many people just don’t have time to read blogs. Podcasts are where it’s at. Information and entertainment on the go. I’m including myself in this too. I love podcasts and often listen to podcasts while I do chores around the house or on my drive to work! This podcast will incorporate the Pause, Renew, Next mentality, but will have a different format. We’ll be focusing on three main subjects I like to call the 3 Ss- Soulcare, Scripture, and Stories.

Soulcare, because as busy women, many of us lack in this department. Sure, soulcare has many things in common with self-care, but I just really like the term better, because I feel it encompasses the whole person – relationships, body, mind, and spirit.
Scripture – because it is at the root of all truth. It is living and active. It has the power to change us.
The part I am most excited about are the stories. I think we all love a good story. My hope is that we will hear stories of faith on this podcast that will leave us encouraged and challenged. A few years ago I was thinking about how few times I hear people tell stories of how God has answered their prayers, performed miracles, sustained them through hardship, met them in suffering, etc. I decided that I would write down the stories of faith from my family members and make a book. Of course, I never actually did it. Follow through, and all of that….
Still, I hope that is what happens with this podcast. That women of faith will be encouraged by each other’s testimonies of God’s faithfulness and goodness…Maybe even get a glimpse of what it really looks like to live for His Kingdom.

In Hebrews 12, Paul likens the journey of faith to a race. He writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

My vision for this podcast, is that you have a cheering section on your race. Know that you’re not alone. This race is hard. It takes endurance, encouragement, and sometimes even a little physical therapy.
In some podcasts, I will be telling stories of women of faith who have already finished their race. If anyone has something to teach us about how to run well, it’s a finisher! We need some of those in the great cloud of witnesses to pass on their wisdom to us who are still setting our pace.
In other podcasts, I will be interviewing women who have stories to tell about how they have seen God move in their lives and how he has increased their faith.
Most of us are not famous or extraordinary. So, don’t expect that everything you hear on this podcast will fall into those categories. No, it’s the ordinary and mundane where God often meets us and sustains us. And these stories will not really be about the women and how awesome they are, but about Jesus, and how he has moved and is moving in their lives.

For the remainder of this first podcast, I would like to focus on soulcare.
I am an energetic person, and I always have a million things to do. It’s very hard for me to slow down and make myself be still to have quiet time with the Lord. Add to that stress, or worry, or children misbehaving, and you might as well forget any kind of sustained concentration. I’m sure many of you can relate.
Do you ever go to have quiet time with Jesus, and just feel like you can’t concentrate? Like the day has been so stressful, and your thoughts are running a million miles a minute. Maybe your phone is sitting there, just waiting for you to check Facebook. Maybe your brain is still checking off your to do list. It’s hard to get your body and your brain to slow down enough to really meditate on God’s Word, isn’t it?

Deep breathing can be a really helpful exercise. It helps our bodies slow down, and often when our bodies slow down, our brains can calm down too. Picture watching a baby, or a cat or dog, taking a nap. You’ll notice their bellies go up and down while they sleep. This is how we breathe when we’re peaceful or at rest – we belly breathe. When we are stressed, afraid or angry, our bodies do everything much faster – our heart rates increase, our thoughts race, and our breathing gets more shallow and faster as well. Deep breathing is an exercise that can help you slow down.

I’m going to call it belly breathing, because when you breathe deeply, your belly should expand, not your chest. Imagine a balloon opening up and expanding down into your belly when you breathe. Let’s practice together.

Breathe in slowly through your nose, filling up your belly. Now hold it for one or two seconds. Then slowly exhale through your mouth. Let’s do it again. Inhale through your nose, hold it a for a second, then slowly exhale through your mouth. You can do this a few times in a row. You’ll probably notice after a few breaths that you feel calmer. There are some really cool apps out there with visuals that you can use while you deep breathe. The great thing about this exercise is that you can use it anytime, anywhere, and no one has to know you’re doing it – before a test, at church, before a speech or presentation, or when you’re late to work and you’re feeling really stressed.
Try taking a few deep breaths before you read the Bible the next time you’re feeling unable to concentrate. I am warning you not to try this exercise if you’re doing your quiet time on your bed. You might just fall asleep instead!
Well, that’s it for our intro podcast.. Next week, we’ll be looking at the life of a woman who really did live a pretty extraordinary life. I’m not going to tell you who she is, but I will give you one hint: she was really great at hiking!

If you like this podcast, feel free to subscribe, or you can find it at my website: pauserenewnext.com. New podcasts are released each Tuesday, and new blog posts each Friday. Follow PRN on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. If you enjoy it, please spread the word!

This is Ginny Detweiler with PRN: Pause, Renew, Next, the Podcast. May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

Trials by Fire

At some point in the life of every believer, a trial will come that will test their faith.  With trials come frustration, grief, and desperation.  Maybe in your trial, you believed that if you were faithful God would take the struggle from you, but He didn’t.  Maybe you have done everything you  know to do, asked the right questions, prayed the right prayers, and sought counsel from wise people, but nothing seems to change.  The trial just will not be lifted.

If so, you’re not alone.  In fact, in the New Testament, Peter warns believers:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.        I Peter 4:12 & 13

In other words, if you walk with Jesus long enough, a trial is bound to happen. Trials solidify and increase our faith.  They help build spiritual muscles.  They also let us experience suffering with Christ.

Wrestling when under trial produces endurance and increases the strength of our faith

Wow, there wasn’t a lot of sugar coating to that delivery was there?  Trials happen – expect them. Great, but where is the good news?  I am totally getting there, I promise, but to illustrate walking through a fiery trial (literally),  let’s look at the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago.  If you don’t know the story, it can be found in Daniel, chapter 3. Here is a summary of the story:

The King of Babylon, Nebachadnezzar, had an immense, golden statue constructed, and he commanded all of his officials to bow down to it.  The whole scenario was a little pompous, but for the average official obeying his command was of no real consequence.  This was not the case for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago. They were Jewish transplants, having been taken captive and brought into Babylon as teenagers, and they followed Yahweh only.  So, when the music played, they refused to bow down.

In every situation, you can count on some tattle-tales to arrive on the scene, and this scenario was no different.  Some astrologers told the King that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago had not bowed down to the statue. King Nebachadnezzar was incredulous!  He warned the three men that, if they would not bow down, they would be thrown into a fiery furnace.

I think this definitely qualifies as a fiery trial.  It doesn’t get much warmer than that.  Still, the three men did not back down but boldly replied:

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  Daniel 3: 17-18 NIV

The King was irate and ordered the furnace be heated up seven times hotter than normal.  He commanded that the three men be thrown in.  The fire was so hot, that even the men who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago into the furnace died in the flames.

Now this is where the story becomes utterly amazing!

When the king looked into the furnace, there were men walking around.  How could they be alive? Not only that, but there was a fourth man in the fire, and he looked like “a son of the gods.”

Most Christians throughout history believe that He wasn’t “a son of gods” but the Son of God.  Jesus himself entered the fire with those men.  The King hurriedly called them out of the furnace, and the three men exited the fire unscarred, unburned, without even the smell of smoke on their clothes.

The King was so amazed and moved by this miracle, that He proclaimed that no one in the nation could ever again speak badly of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago.

What can this story teach us about how to live by faith through trials?

  1. We can trust that if He doesn’t save us from the trial, Jesus will be with us in the midst of it. He will never leave us to struggle alone.
  2. If He does not spare us from a trial, then we can know with certainty that He will work the trial out to increase our faith and increase His glory.

Pause:  Open your Bible and read Daniel 3.  If you felt distracted the first time, take a deep breath, and try reading it again.

Renew:  Are you currently facing a trial that is testing your faith and resolve? If not currently, have you faced a trial like this in the past?  What truths can you hold onto that help you stand strong in your faith in the midst of hardship?

Next:  If you are currently facing a trial, ask others to pray with you about it. There’s no need to face it alone.  If you are not currently going through a trial, but you know someone who is, pray for them.  Ask how you can help support them.

May we have faith to see the fourth Man in the fire with us!

Pause, Renew, Next!

 

Provision for Today

I am not a planner by nature, unless it’s for something fun.  I could plan for vacations for hours on end. For normal plans, however, if it’s important, it better go on the calendar, because I do not generally think far in advance.  As a mother of four, there is plenty to keep me busy each day without thinking about the future.

On the other hand, if I am worried about something, I begin thinking far into the future.  What will happen, when….?  What will happen if…..?  For example, I may not worry about finances day to day, but if we receive a few unexpected bills, then I am immediately on the worry train.  I find myself ruminating on all of the possibilities and trying to come up with solutions. When our brains are in the midst of worry,  it’s difficult to remember that in the present we have everything we need.

The Lord commands us not to worry, telling us repeatedly in His Word that He will provide for us.  Often, He gives us just what we need for this season, or for this day, because He wants us to learn to trust Him.  Trust is the antithesis of worry.

He taught the Israelites about daily provision in the book of Exodus.  There they were, wandering in the desert, running out of food, when the grumbling and worry began.  God answered their needs by giving them a special, heavenly food, called manna.  When they awoke each morning, manna was covering the ground, and they were to collect just the amount they needed for that day. If they collected extra manna to store it up for the future, it would rot. Through this process, the Israelites learned to rely on God, their Provider, for what they needed each day.

Jesus taught the same idea in Matthew 6, preaching that God cares for us and that He will give us what we need.  He advises:

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:34 NIV

In fact, this blog post came about in a similar fashion.  Since yesterday was a holiday, we had family at our house all day, and I did not have a chance to sit down and begin today’s blog.  In the evening, I tried to sort through ideas, but my brain was too exhausted from a day of fun, food, and people.  So, I prayed and went to bed.  As I awoke this morning, half praying (and half still asleep), I had the very clear thought: “manna.”  He gave me the idea at just the moment I needed it and not before.

Clearly, He wants us to know that He will provide for our needs today.  You can bank on it.

Pause: Find a quiet moment and read Matthew 6: 25-34.  Meditate on these verses for a few minutes.  What stands out to you?

Renew:  What are the areas of your life in which you find yourself worrying?  Is it difficult for you to remain in the present and trust that God will provide for your needs?  One helpful way to combat worry is to remember times that the Lord has provided for you in the past.  Journal, think through, or tell someone about a time that you were worried and the Lord provided just what you needed, when you needed it.

Next: Which verse in the above passage is most comforting to you?  I challenge you to write that verse down and put it in a place that you will look often: for example, on your bathroom mirror, on the dash of your car, or in your wallet. When you find worry creeping in, read this verse out loud to yourself.

In Matthew 6, Jesus says:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33 NIV

That’s the ticket.  If we’re busy seeking His kingdom, then we’re about His business, and we have less time to allow worry to creep in.  Our perspective is aligned with His if we are about His kingdom’s work.

May we have eyes to see His kingdom, and may we trust that He will provide.

Pause, Renew, Next!

 

Courage – Reinterpreting Fear Signals

A few years ago, my husband and I were asked to give a short presentation about our adoption journey during a service at our church. As I sat there, waiting for our turn to speak, I could feel my anxiety rising.  My heart was pounding, and my stomach was tied in knots.  I was getting more and more nervous by the second.  “There is no logical reason for this response,” I told myself, “You shouldn’t be scared.”  After all, I was going to be talking to my friends and family.  My body didn’t believe me, however.

Thankfully, I knew that my body was doing what it does under stress – the fight or flight response.  So, rather than interpret those body signals as danger, I instead reminded myself that my body was helping me rise to a challenge.  (Because even in front of friends and family, giving a short speech really is a challenge!)  That perspective shift can be the difference between cowardice and courage: being able to push through, interpreting fear signals as a challenge to be conquered.  I’m not sure that I exactly “conquered” the presentation, but I was able to do it, and that in itself is also a victory.

The definition of courage

When I think of a Biblical example of courage, Joshua comes to mind.  As the book of Joshua opens, we find that Moses has just passed away and left his right-hand man, Joshua, in charge.  Joshua is faced with an enormous task: to lead the children of Israel into the promised land.  Moses, the greatest leader Israel had ever known, had not been able to accomplish this task.  The promised land was full of enemies to be conquered before it was to be theirs.

Joshua was well-equipped for the task though.  He had been mentored under Moses’ leadership. Not only that, God gave him a few direct and precious promises to encourage and embolden him for the task:

Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you,  just as I promised to Moses. Joshua 1: 3 ESV

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will not leave you or forsake you.  Joshua 1: 5 ESV

Joshua 1:9

Being given these promises was a key factor in Joshua’s courage. Knowing that God was promising the land to him, and that He would never leave or forsake him, was paramount to his being courageous in leading God’s people into battle. The context of fear changes when we have the confidence to know that we can take on the challenge! It changes fear from an insurmountable obstacle to a necessary struggle in the quest for victory.

Joshua lived thousands of years ago, but the promises are still true for believers today.  Jesus sent his followers on a mission too – to go and make disciples in all nations. As he sent his apostles out, just as God sent Joshua centuries before, he promised them, “Behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 19-20)

That promise is for us today!  If we are in Christ, He is with us always.  He will go before us and will give us the strength to do all that He calls us to do in His name.

Pause:  Close your eyes and ask the Lord to reveal His Word to you.  Now read Joshua 1: 1-9.  What stands out to you in this passage?

Renew:  Think about times in your life when you were afraid but were able to act with courage anyway.  What caused you to act with courage in those moments?

Next:  Contemplate the phrase: “for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  If you were to own that phrase and fully believe it, how would it change the way you live? Repeat this phrase to yourself as you go throughout your day, thanking God that as a believer, He is not just with you, but His Spirit lives in you.

May you be filled with courage to take on any challenge that the Lord may lead you through!

Pause, Renew, Next!

Mess or Masterpiece?

One evening this week, I found the living room floor covered with toys.  It was late, I had been at work all day, and I was exhausted.  Briefly I considered telling the boys to pick up the toys, but I was too tired to care. So, I planned to do some general clean up in the morning.

A messy floor or a form of art?

I tucked my three year old into bed, and, when I returned, I found my 7 and 10 year old huddled around a pile of toys. They were exuberantly moving them around to make patterns on the floor. “Come here, Mom; look what we made.”  I came closer and looked.  “Cool, that’s very creative,” I praised.  “What is it that you’re trying to make?”

My seven year old responded sagely, “Art, Mom.  Art can be made of anything, you know.”

Now, if the situation had been slightly altered, say, we had guests coming over or the boys had already tried my patience throughout the day, then my response to their creativity would certainly have been different.  I would not have stopped to notice what they were doing before I commanded them to put up all of the toys and clean up their mess.

A similar scenario happened earlier in the week.  I have one child that learns through hands-on experience.  Although in some ways this makes him incredibly creative and an out-of-the box thinker, it also means he often makes messes and is impulsive.

One evening we had guests for dinner, and plastic cups were left on the counter overnight.  The next morning, I sat down to start homeschool with the boys, and they were all gathered around the counter in the kitchen.  I came over to find that this child had taken two cups, stacked on top of one another, and had poked a hole with a toothpick in the bottom of the top cup.  He had filled the cup with water, and it had begun shooting water like a fountain.  He even had the foresight to put a cup and pan underneath it to catch the excess water.

Again, my first reflex was to tell him to clean it up and yell at him for making a mess when it was time to start homeschool.  Instead, I admired his invention, telling him it was really creative, because honestly, it really was.  I would never have thought to do that.

Much more frequently than I like, I find myself stifling my children’s creativity, telling them to wait when they have something important to tell me, and barking commands while trying to maintain some kind of order and control.  It makes me wonder how many times I have missed little sparks of joy and creativity because of my own grown-up agenda.

Proverbs 14:29 says:

A patient person shows great understanding, but a quick-tempered one promotes foolishness.

Proverbs 14:29 HCSB

Patience is not my strong suit, and I have had plenty of “quick-tempered” moments with my children. Those moments usually result in bad attitudes all around. However, when I am not rushed and when I have time to observe and listen to my children, I do find myself understanding their motivations. I am better able to appreciate their ideas and their exuberance for inventing and creating.

Pause: Are you feeling tense or stressed today? Stretching can relieve some muscle tension.  If it is comfortable for you, stand up and reach your hands towards the ceiling, stretching out your back muscles. Take a moment to stretch any other muscles that are feeling tense.

Renew: Now, read over the Proverb above. Think about a time that you were patient, and it produced understanding in your life.  What is it that you better understood?

Next: Think about a relationship or a situation in your life in which you find it difficult to be patient.  In fact, you might even find yourself feeling “quick-tempered.”  Pray, think, and journal about ways that you can work towards more patience in this area. Then, put one of your ideas into practice.  Observe whether you gain any new “understanding” in this relationship or situation as you practice patience.

May you (and I) be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger today.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Look at Me, Look at Me!

I am not proud of it, but I can admit that I am a people pleaser at heart.  I mean I really, really, really desire recognition and approval. Thankfully, I am aware of this unhealthy bent in my personality. Even so, I find myself falling into the trap of worrying what people think much more often than I would like.

Case in point:  a few weeks ago, a professional post was made about me on social media. I felt the need to keep checking how many people had “liked” or even more hopefully, “loved”  the post.  A few hours passed, and the response was lackluster.

How many likes we receive is not a reflection of our worth or value

Two sides of my brain warred with each other.  The rational side said things like, “You know that your value doesn’t come from Facebook posts.  Instagram is not an accurate reflection of who you are and what you are capable of.”

The irrational side of my brain, argued back, “It does too matter. People are on social media all the time.  Surely they’ve seen this post by now. If I had the right kind of professional reputation people would be liking that post.”

Before the war could get too far out of hand, I prayed about it.  Almost immediately, I looked at my phone’s Bible app, and would you believe it?  The verse of the day was Galatians 1:10.

Am I saying this now to win the approval of people or God?  Am I trying to please people?  If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.  Galatians 1:10 ESV

Not often do I get a response that quickly from a prayer, but I was so thankful that day that God’s response was immediate and on target.  Point taken. It’s not people’s approval I should be looking for, but His. Thankfully, as His daughter, I know that I already have His approval.  If there’s a refrigerator in Heaven, my picture is hanging on it.  I know I am loved deep in my bones.  How can I know that I have his approval?  Acts 13:39 says: “everyone who believes in Jesus receives God’s approval.”

No Facebook post can compete with that.

Acts 13:39 GW

Even knowing I have God’s approval, I know that I will fight this battle until the day I die, because the battle for approval is really about my own pride. The minute I think I have won the battle, it arises again through a new situation.

I’m not the only one who struggles with the battle for approval. People-pleasing is a common struggle.  Although often it is unhealthy, the root of it springs from a very pure and healthy need: to be loved, to be valued, and to be approved.

To deny that need is not the answer.  I cannot win the battle by saying, “I just don’t care what anyone thinks.”  I would be lying to myself.  However, I can shift my thinking by reframing the thought to, “God approves of me, and that’s what matters.”

He is the most important factor by far, but He created us to be loved by people as well.  His church is made up of people, and He calls them His body. Maybe anonymous strangers on Facebook don’t love me, but my tribe does, and they matter.

An epilogue to my story:  later that evening I checked that post again. By then, it had multiple likes and a few shares. Those shares came from my closest friends and family, announcing to the social media world how proud they were of my accomplishments.

I can also receive affirmation from those who know me best and love me, faults and all.  Besides God, they are my biggest supporters and advocates.  At the end of the day, they’ve got my back, and that is a very good feeling.

Pause: Take a deep breath and exhale.  Read over Acts 13:39 (above) a few times.  Close your eyes and meditate on what this verse means to you.

Renew: Read Galatians 1:10 (above) again.  Do you find that you are often struggling to please people?  If so, think about the underlying needs that are causing this.  Paul says, “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.”  Consider why pleasing people could be at odds with being Christ’s servant.

Next: This week, when you find yourself noticing that you want to be liked, to be approved of, or to be validated, take stock of the underlying motivation.  Is it healthy or unhealthy?  If unhealthy, start talking back to those thoughts: “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.”  Choose to remember those who do approve of you, particularly Jesus, and revel in it for a moment before moving on with your day.

May we know that we are loved and keep our eyes focused on what matters.

Pause, Renew, Next!

 

 

 

My Insidious Garden Foe

I have a general affinity for plant life.  However, there are two plants that I absolutely cannot stand. One is poison ivy, for obvious reasons, and the other is Bermuda grass.

In case you have never had to battle Bermuda grass, let me regale you with my struggles.  The grass is incredibly tenacious, grows anywhere the sun shines and at a rate that must rival bamboo.  Once Bermuda has taken root, it is nearly impossible to ever be rid of it.  Its growth is almost vine like, and it doesn’t just grow on the surface level of the earth.  For good measure, it grows under the surface too.  In fact, it can grow several feet below the surface.  Don’t try to smother it with mulch or pine straw: that will help it grow even faster.  It has crept into our sand box and has even slithered between boulders and into my flower beds.  Most obnoxiously, we have to battle it all summer long to grow our vegetable garden.

A beautiful garden under attack from all sides by Bermuda grass.

Don’t get me wrong.  My husband and I have put up a good fight. We’ve pulled, we’ve weeded, and we’ve even sprayed.  For the last two years, we have covered our garden with a tarp for throughout the winter to starve the remaining Bermuda grass from receiving any light. Still, when we uncover it in the spring, tiny yellow tendrils are already popping out of the dirt.   We’ve battled it throughout the summer – weeding, hoeing, and tilling to save our garden from its grasp.

A few years ago, I heard John Piper preach a sermon on sin.  He likened sin to Bermuda grass.  After the above description, I’m sure you can understand why this is a fitting analogy.  Like sin, plucking Bermuda grass at the surface level seems effective in the short term.  Over time, however, you find that the grass, like sin,  has grown deep shoots, much deeper and hardier than you ever realized.

The longer I walk with Jesus, the more aware I become of my deep need for Him.  There are layers to my sin.  Sure, there are the surface sins that everyone sees. Then, there are the ones that are a little further buried: not as obvious, but just as insidious.  In fact, some of the sins that grow the deepest roots may be ones that have been growing unseen for a very long time.

Paul writes:

The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.   I Timothy 5:24

I think about this analogy in the summer when I’m indignantly pulling Bermuda grass out of my flower beds and garden.  While fighting to yank it out by the roots, I think,  “Take that sin!  Go back to where you came from!”   It’s really great for anger management!

As hard as I try to pull my sin out by the roots, it is nigh to impossible on my own.  No self-help strategy can get it done.  Only Jesus’ blood can overcome it. Only by God’s grace are we able to flee temptation and not give in again to yokes of slavery from which Jesus has set us free.  Sanctification is a long and painful journey, full of sinful weed pulling to make room for the good fruit that Jesus will grow in its place.

Pause:  Spend a few moments thanking Jesus for the sin that He has forgiven in your life and for the ways that He is making you a new creation.

Renew:  Take some time evaluating the sin in your life (the bad habits, faulty thinking, or ways that you hurt others).  What are those surface sins that seem most obvious?  Which sins are lurking further under the surface?  If you have not already done so, confess these sins to the Lord.

Next:  If there is a particular sin that the Lord has convicted you of, and that you are having a hard time mastering, consider finding accountability in that area – someone who has previously struggled with the same thing, a mentor, or a wise person in your life that will lovingly hold you accountable and pray with you as you do some uprooting.

May the Lord open your eyes to the depths of your own sin and the vastness of His righteousness and saving grace.

Pause, Renew, Next!

 

Milk and Bricks

President Lincoln came into office despised by half of his country. The North elected him, and the South quickly rejected him in exchange for their own president. He worked long and tirelessly to reunite a country that was tearing apart at the seams.

In the middle of his term, after one of the most infamous battles of the Civil War, he delivered the famous Gettysburg Address. Edward Everett, a renowned orator of his day, spoke before Lincoln. His speech was eloquent and two hours long.  Contrast that with Lincoln’s 272 word address. Yet, Lincoln’s speech was the one that has been memorialized as one of the greatest speeches in our country’s history.  It is memorized in classrooms across the United States.  Using his words wisely, Lincoln spoke peace, meaning, and importance into a tragedy. He sought to unify and bring healing and equality for all United States citizens.  His words were powerful.

The tongue is like a fire. Watch it closely!

Words have the power to heal or to destroy, to unite or to divide, to encourage or to tear down.

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. James 3:5

Imagine if Lincoln had used his tongue to kindle hatred instead of peace. The thousands of angry and grieving listeners may have needed only a spark to light a forest fire of animosity and further division.  Perhaps history may have progressed differently.

What we say matters.

As a camp counselor (many moons ago), I used a phrase to help remind campers to use their words kindly: “Milk and Bricks.”

Ephesians 4:29

It was a quick and fun reminder of Ephesians 4:29, which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

What is the opposite of unwholesome?   Milk!

What do you build with?  Bricks!

Therefore, we could shorten the verse to a reminder: Milk and Bricks. We are to use our words for building up, not tearing down.

As we approach increasingly divisive times, let’s remember to use our tongues to put out flames, not spark a forest fire.

That’s all I have to say about that, so I’ll keep it short like Lincoln.

Pause:  Find a quiet space, and read James 3: 1-12.

Renew: James warns that the same tongue can speak both good and evil. Examine your own speech. In what ways do you use your words for good?  In what ways and in what situations do you find yourself using your words negatively?

Next:  Look for opportunities to encourage and unify this week. Get creative! For example: write an unexpected thank you note, text someone telling them how much you appreciate them, or speak peace into a moment of conflict.

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.  Colossians 4:6 ESV

Pause, Renew, Next!

 

 

 

And Hope Does Not Put Us to Shame

This week, with one phone call, I brought to a close a four year season in the life of our family.  Some decisions are difficult, and this was one of them.  My husband and I both knew it was the right decision, but sometimes knowing and having peace about a decision doesn’t take away all of the sadness that comes with it.  A door has been closed that may never be reopened, and I am left grieving.

I am grieving many aspects of this closure, but the greatest is my own unmet expectations.  I believed wholeheartedly that I would see a result that has not come to fruition. I am helpless to make it happen by my own willpower.  Only God can see it through, and He will one day if He so chooses.  Only now, it will not come in the way that I expected.

Grief has many faces.  As a counselor, I have supported people experiencing many different forms of grief: grieving love ones who have died, grieving broken marriages, grieving their own poor choices, or grieving hard transitions in life.  Grief is a normal reaction to loss, and losses are a constant part of life here on planet Earth.  Some losses are unfathomably painful, such as the loss of a loved one. Some are common and expected, such as the loss of childhood that accompanies graduating from high school.

A dead end? Or a pillar of cloud to lead us out of the wilderness?

One rarely discussed form of grief is that of unmet expectations: grieving the life you thought you’d have.  Maybe your health has taken a turn for the worse, and your future looks less active and more painful than you envisioned.  Maybe you have a special needs child, and parenting is much more complicated than you ever imagined.  Maybe you have experienced divorce or widowhood, and singleness was never in your plan.  Maybe you struggle with infertility, and it’s too difficult to go to baby showers and show support while your womb remains empty.

These losses are valid and completely worth grieving.  In fact, if we cannot grieve them, we may find the repressed feelings becoming a wellspring of stress, a root of bitterness, or a blanket of depression which isolates and keeps us distanced from others.

There is so much beauty in the Gospel: salvation, rebirth, renewal, forgiveness, and growth.  However, before the new can come, the old must be buried, which is often accompanied by mourning. Jesus died, was buried, and then raised to life, which in turn gave us new life.  Jesus said:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  John 12:24-25 ESV

Romans 5:5 ESV

 For believers, the incredibly hopeful thing about grieving expectations is that we’re not just laying something to rest.  We’re exchanging it for something better. Our loving Father has a plan much greater than you or I can know.  So, when we grieve what we so desperately wanted, but did not receive, we can look ahead with hope for what is coming.  It may still be on the horizon.  If not, eternity is the final destination, and we will lack for absolutely nothing there.  We will not be lonely.  Our health will be phenomenal.  We will be radiant.  Then, we will have new perspective and will be incredibly grateful that the Lord exchanged our paltry plans for His own.

So, I will grieve my own vision and expectation and place it in the hand of the Father, where He will exchange it for His plan.  

Pause: Take a deep breath and quiet your soul.  Read Romans 5:3-5.  In this passage, Paul begins writing about suffering and ends with hope.  How does this spiritual progression work?

Renew: Take stock of your own life.  Is there an area in your life where there is an unmet expectation or a recent loss that you need to grieve?   If so, give yourself permission to grieve.  Cry, journal, pray, talk to a trusted friend, family member, or counselor, and work through it.

Next:  Reflect this week about times that the Lord has exchanged your own plans for His.  How did it work out?  What did you learn in the process?

May the God of All Comfort embrace you and fill you with hope for the future!

Pause, Renew, Next!