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I Want To Go To Church….

It’s true, I want to go to church.  Not the new social distanced, CDC guidelines church.  I want to go and sit among my people, singing worship songs that stir the heart to lift my eyes to the heavens, hands raised, the Spirit moving in and around all who are there, worshipping the Almighty God.  I want to feel the love from people I’ve known for years.  People who have walked with us in this journey with God.  People who I’ve knelt at the altar with, hands clasped together, tears dropping on the carpeted steps as we pray together over heart issues, brokenness, sickness or just for a fresh touch from the Savior.  I want to sit and listen to the pastor, called by God, share the Word and the message God has given him for us.  I want to mingle with my people, hugging them, holding hands, touching faces, smiling and laughing and just generally enjoying a warm fuzzy from all the love!  It’s been five months since I have sat with these people.  We’ve all tried to stay connected, but it has been more difficult than we anticipated.  Heck, harder than we could have imagined, because we never would have imagined this forced isolation.

Last Sunday, I went to church with my daughter and her husband.  They attend another church that has been having in person services for weeks.  They had a staff member that had Covid19, but it was contained and he had not been around any other staff and he quarantined for the two weeks.   Anyway, as I entered, staff and volunteers wore masks, but people were happy and talking and laughing.  We were directed to a row of chairs that were social distanced, as directed by the CDC guidelines.  People removed their mask as they settled into their seats. When the music began to worship.  It was so sweet and genuine and heartfelt.  This wasn’t my church, but these people were still my people.  They longed for gathering together, just like me.  They needed this corporate worship, just like me.  They needed to sit among their people, just like me.  Suddenly, the craziness of the outside world began to slip away.  At first, I truly struggled to sing out.  I was trying to soak it all in.  It was almost difficult to relax and really allow myself to worship.  I closed my eyes and allowed my other senses to absorb it all.  And then it happened, I sang out!  The wall around me collapsed.  The cloud of frustration, of anxiousness, of the continuous onslaught of media, it all slipped away.  I found myself smiling for no apparent reason.  Soon the pastor stood before us and shared the Word.  I was still smiling during the entire sermon.  I’m sure I looked ridiculous, but I truly did not care.  I was sitting among my people.  I only knew about eight people in the room, five of which were my family, but I was with my people.  People who are believers.  People who put their faith in God.  People who are family because of their faith.  People who, just like me, need to gather together and worship.  I was still smiling when we left.  I hugged my daughter and her husband and headed home…..still smiling. I was so happy.  I felt like I could breath.

I believe that many of us feel like this.  Like we are holding our breath.  No way did we ever imagine the first time we heard Coronavirus or Covid19, that our churches would be closed down for five months and counting.  aWe has no clue that we did would be controlled by outside sources telling us how we could do church.  That a virus would create such a sense of fear, we would willingly back away from meeting together, from hugging, from standing any closer than six feet to each other. Five months.  Can you even wrap your head around that for just a moment.  During these five months we’ve seen through our tv, computer or phone screens, things happening across our nation that have just piled on the fear.  Racial unrest, rioting, protesting, looting, violence, mudslinging, politicians stirring the pot, media reporting and lying to us,  all causing division and fear right and left.  When normally we could stand in a room together as believers and hear truth spoken, bowing and praying together for wisdom and strength and healing, now we are scattered.  We all have tried desperately to stay connected through livestream and Zoom.  It is so hard.  People with small children find it difficult to try and experience worship this way.  Too many distractions.  Teens are drifting away and choosing not to join Zoom gatherings.  Adults who haven’t gathered are trying to stay faithful, but are finding other things to do on Sunday mornings with their families.  I wonder, if we are ever able to gather together again as a church, will there even be that many people who will gather?  Five months is twenty Sunday’s with no church.  My aunt once told me it takes 21 days to form a new habit.  So will it take only 21 Sundays for people to form new habits and not make church a priority anymore?

I don’t want this to sound like church is the most important thing.  Because I know that the most important thing is God and serving Him, and sharing the the gospel whether we are able to attend church or not.  But we humans are needy and we need to be with our people and not isolated.  I trust God.  I know He’s using this for His glory.  We just have to remain faithful to Him.  I just don’t want to be trusting people who have their own agenda and who will manipulate people, even an entire nation, to be able to control them.  With all the unrest and division, the time we need to gather the most to find strength and encouragement has been taken away.

So.  I will continue to pray.  I will continue to watch livestream from our church.  I will continue to Zoom with our Lifegroup.  I will continue to study His Word.  And, I will go to church with my daughter and her husband on Sunday mornings.

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Be Still

It’s been a little over two weeks since I have blogged.  I think I’m out of the honeymoon phase of this quarantine life.  I have spent a lot of time being quiet over the last two weeks.  I am finding myself being very introspective.  And.  I’m tired of talking about the quarantine life.  I just want normal to come back.  I’ve been a little anxious that what I once knew as normal will never be normal again.  Already words like quarantine, social distancing, physical distancing, pandemic, sheltering, Zoom and Google Duo have become a normal part of our conversations.  I just read about something called “chunking”, yeah, look it up, it involves our brains and processing enormous amounts of information.  It’s a real thing.  All this while celebrities try to console us with “We’re all in this together” from their million dollar homes and high-rise apartments, like they can even relate to middle income America!  We can’t go out, we can’t go to the beach (legally) and we can’t go to church.  So I guess I went dark after April 7th, my last post.  My heart wasn’t up for writing more encouragement.  My house arrest with my big guy, the love of my life, had ceased to feel like “fun”.  I mean, it’s not horrible, but 24/7 with a 6’4″ guy who loves to push my buttons (sometimes) has made me just get in the car a few times and drive around.  Not his fault, but mine, for allowing myself to let all of this press in and mess with me.

Then, it happened.  God stepped in….and told me to stop my pouting.  He brought me to a familiar verse….one that most of us know.  “Be still and know that I am God…”           Psalm 46:10.  I know you are smiling and nodding your head at the obvious meaning of these eight words.  But wait.  When I sat with my Bible in hand, staring at those words, I actually asked God “What the heck, God, I know this verse, I get it, you’ve orchestrated events that have forced us all to stop with the busy lives and slow down.”  But, in His patient and gentle way He deals with this hard headed child of His, He patted me on the head and spoke gently to my heart.

He showed me that He led me to this verse, not to tell me to stop going, going, going and not to show me that He was depriving me of “fellowshipping” with my peeps.  No, it isn’t about physical movement at all.  He wanted me to sit, and still my mind.  To stop thinking of something else to do around my home while quarantined.  To stop watching movies.  To stop texting my friends that I was over all this.  To stop mullygrubbing (yes, that is a real word).  To allow my mind to slow down and focus on Him.  Be still.  And know.  That I am God.  Yes, I knew this.  But I needed to breathe deeply, to experience rest, to listen to His voice, to read His Word, to worship Him.  And I am.  I have been quiet for eighteen days.  Yes, I have slowly worked on and finished a couple of projects.  I have slept until He got me up.  I have sat quietly on the couch and listened to worship music.  I have sat on the porch and just enjoyed the late afternoon breezes.  I have stopped myself when I begin the onslaught of self-condemning thoughts that often run around in my head.  I’ve thought a lot about what I need to write.  And I am waiting quietly for His answers, His guidance.  He has a plan for me.  Maybe I’ve been so busy, in my head, with trying to figure out the how, the why, and the when, that I have been unable to hear His voice.

So, I’m not saying this whole Coronavirus craziness is just for me.  But I am saying that I am learning in the midst of forced isolation to listen to His voice.  I haven’t figured it all out, yet.  But I know that I will continue to “Be still” and listen until it is clear what He wants me to do.

I still want to go to the beach, I still want to hang out with friends, I still want to hug people…..but I will take this time to understand what it means to “Be still.”

 

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Day 14 – Pandemic Encouragement

Isaiah 26:3-4 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you,  because he trusts in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”

I don’t know about you, but I feel the need to escape the constant onslaught of COVID19 information.  I’m over this being the topic of conversation and media 24/7.  I want to sit with friends and drink coffee (or tea) and talk about something else….anything else!  I want to drive to the beach and enjoy the waves crashing on the beach.  I want to go to church!!!!

With the constant broadcasting of information and conflict over COVID19 social or physical distancing, statistics of state by state cases and deaths, and whether to have partial or complete quarantining, I have to wonder if there is anything else going on in the world!!!  Or is there something going on that we don’t know about.

At any rate, this morning I ran to scripture for encouragement and truth.  And there it was, the best wisdom possible….God’s Word telling me to let my mind stay on Him.  He is my everlasting rock.  He is trustworthy.  So simple, but so true.

I am choosing to take a step away from the constant blasting of pandemic information and to focus back on regular life. (Whatever that is right now).  I will let my mind be on His Word and His character.   I will let other things occupy my thoughts other than the uncertainty that is shaking our country.

Wherever you are right now, whatever you are doing, take a deep breath.  Read these words in Isaiah written way before 2020, but so applicable for us to cling to right now.  Allow His perfect peace to wash over you and spread through your spirit like a warm blanket.  Snuggle up in it and enjoy some time with Him.

Love y’all!

 

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Day 13 of Encouragement During These Weird Times

Romans 8:37-39 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“Nor anything else in all creation”.  Those words really jumped out at me today.  I’ve read these verses so many times.  They are familiar to you as well, I am sure.  I have always found comfort in the fact that nothing, absolutely nothing could separate me from my relationship with God.  Nothing I could so personally.  Nothing in this world.  No disease. No virus.

We live in a world of uncertainty.  More than ever we are all feeling that truth.  We have modified our lives to avoid contracting a man made disease that has been released on us like some modern weapon.  We are functioning in a new normal.  It changes almost daily.    But “it” still cannot separate us from the love of God.

We are more than conquerors.  Because no matter what happens neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God.  We do not have to fear anything today, nor anything to come.  We do not have to tremble at the powers that rule over us.  We can know the peace that He offers.

So today.  Today close your eyes and take a deep breath.   Breath in God’s love and release all the tension, doubts, fears, weariness, anxiousness and concerns.  Allow the love of God to wrap around you like a warm blanket.  Accept His love.  Be secure in His love.  He is walking through this with us.  Trust Him.

Love y’all.

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Day 12 of Encouragement

You didn’t miss anything, I haven’t posted in 3 days. AND I shortened the title.   I’ve been thinking.  Thinking about what else I can say that hasn’t already been said.  As I lay in bed last night, familiar scripture ran through my mind.  Psalm 23.  I thought about the meaning of these words in light of today.  And I was comforted by the sense of peace that these verses bring to a trembling world.  We tremble when we go out.  People in our medical facilities tremble as patient after patient come in with this rampant virus.  Mamas tremble as they watch their babies playing in a shut down world, and they consider the measures they will take to protect them.  Fathers tremble as they think about job loss and providing for their families.  The elderly tremble as the news repeatedly report that the elderly are at the highest risk.  Cancer patients tremble as they know their compromised immune systems could not fight off these germs.  Pastors tremble for wisdom on how to shepherd in this strange time and how to minister when we are told to social distance ourselves.  Police and Fire Fighters tremble at every call they have to make as to whether they will be infected, or worse, take germs home to their families.

Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Let me stop right there for a moment.  We can rest in the truth of a shepherd who will provide our needs, and while we are all disconcerted over confinement to our homes, maybe it is God “making” us lie down in green pastures.  A time to be still and to rest in Him and not be fearful.  Allow Him to restore your soul during this time.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

This time may feel like we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  We may not have the virus ourselves, but the affects of the spread of this virus is casting a shadow over everything in our lives.  But we do not have to fear, for HE is with us.   His rod and staff comfort me.  The rod represents His authority and the staff represents His guidance in our lives.  Knowing these two things, His authority and His guidance in our lives do comfort us.  As His children, His hand is active in our lives, guiding and leading us.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

God’s provision in our lives is dependable.  We don’t need to panic as many people are doing.  We do, however, need to be sensitive to the needs of others and help when we can.  Because we have more “free time” we can spend more time seeking Him.  We can focus on His will for our lives.  We can get a perspective not cluttered with the busy-ness of events, entertainment, and all the go-go-go that we experience in our everyday lives.  And then we can shout as loud as we can, for ourselves and those around us “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and then I will camp out in the house of the Lord….FOREVER!”  (I don’t know why I added the quotes there, because I obviously paraphrased the exact wording!)

So today.  Rest beside still waters.  Think about the glory, the goodness and the mercy of God.  Shut down the news reports.  Block out the uncertainty.  Eat a good old ham sandwich…or peanut butter and jelly….and sit at the table and give thanks.  Allow your cup to overflow with His goodness.  Speak truth into the lives of those quarantined with you.  Tell Bible stories to those kiddos that are in your house.  Sing worship with them.  Of course do school, too, but integrate God into everything.  What an opportunity you have to wrap them in God’s Word and teach them to live a life that honors Him.  Ask God for wisdom, for discernment and peace (and maybe patience!).  He is faithful to give it.

Love y’all.

 

 

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Day 9 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Romans 8:26-27 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

I don’t know about you, but I have been in that place.  Unable to articulate the words that are in my heart.  At a loss for the right words.  How about you?  Even now, in the midst of this situation that has captured our entire country, many of us bow our heads to pray and can’t find exactly the words that best describe our state of mind.  I find myself just sitting at my dining room table, Bible open, soft instrumental worship music playing, and I am just sitting in silence while I try to focus on God, try to think of exactly what I want to say, and not wanting to repeat the same words over and over about killing the Corona virus.  I don’t feel fear.  I’m not even overwhelmed.  But there is a feeling of weakness.  I am thankful that God, knowing the limitations of our human spirit, made a way for the words we cannot even utter to be heard through the interceding of the Spirit.  Relief!  That is what is felt instead.  Peace.  Not chaos or fear.

Today, just sit in His presence.  You may not even know how to express what is weighing on your heart.  But allow the truth of the Spirit’s intercession on our part to wrap around you like a warm blanket.

Love y’all!

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Day 8 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Jeremiah 29:12-13 “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Most people know the verse that precedes these two verses declaring the Lord has plans for us, but these two verses are so much more comforting with the promise that if we seek Him we WILL find Him.  We want to know that God hears us.  Perhaps it is that we humans are self-centered at the core of who we are, or maybe as believers it confirms the hope we have in Him.  Being heard somehow affirms the belief or faith we have in an  all knowing, all powerful God.

But here is something we should consider in this seeking and finding….it often involves our wrestling with God, because while we want to seek and find God, we don’t necessarily want the necessary changes that must be made to our lives in order to walk closer with Him.  Wrestling with God is life altering.  Wrestling with God can leave wounds and scars so that we can be reminded of the change that God has done in us.

We have been given a unique opportunity of time to seek God.  Time to open His Word and hear His voice.  Time to wrestle with Him over areas in our lives that need to be examined.  Time to wrap our minds around what He wants us to do in this next season of  life and to strengthen our faith and determination to stand strong and do it!

I encourage you today to be still.  To seek Him.  To have a time of worship through music.  To honestly ask Him what He wants you to do next.  To pray and ask Him for discernment and wisdom.  If we seek Him, we will find Him.  If we pray, He will hear us.  Let’s do it with all our hearts.

Love y’all!

 

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Day 6 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.”

Today has been a heartwarming day.  The weather was gorgeous, we started the day at 9:00am doing Lifegroup on the Google Duo (we’ll use Zoom next time) with our 10-12th grade girls class, followed by online worship with FBTC praise team and Pastor Derek.  It almost felt normal.  While it was awesome and unique, it just doesn’t replace the face to face fellowship with our church family.  But we have to keep telling ourselves this is temporary.  We must keep our eyes on Him and let Him be our strength and shield.  I like the shield part…..shielding us from the Corona!

A quick word knowledge right here.  The word “exult” means to feel or show triumphant elation or jubilation.  That word “elation” means great happiness and exhilaration. Chew on that for a moment.  Re-read that verse with that definition in the place of exult.  It’ll totally change the impact of this verse.

Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts and I am helped; my heart feels triumphant exhilaration, and with my song I give thanks to Him.”

I want to insert a happy dance right here.  I don’t know about you, but I needed this today.

I’ll stop right here with a little bit of transparency.  I had a rough evening last night.  I think the week of “self quarantine” and lack of contact with friends and regular schedule, plus the constant news updates from my big guy caused a meltdown.  Sadly, my last 5 days of encouragement didn’t seem to hold a candle to the overwhelmed feeling in my soul.  I allowed the chaos and confusion of this world to seep in and start a small fire of fear.  I told my big guy to stop talking to me and after I cried a few tears of uncertainty, I was better.  I read some more scripture.  Prayed really hard.  Listened to worship music.  And I felt myself stepping away from the edge of the pit.  However, sleep evaded me.  I tossed and turned and could not get to sleep.  I resorted to Melatonin and within an hour I drifted off.  I woke this morning with a much better outlook.  I reminded myself of the complete truth of this verse…..He is my strength.  He is my shield.  And I DO TRUST HIM!  And I am helped.  My spirit was lifted.  He reminded me with His Word that whatever happens, whatever the next weeks look like, I can trust Him.  I can choose to declare His faithfulness and redirect my emotions when I feel things closing in.

So let me encourage you right now.  This ain’t over yet.  Be strong and courageous. We may be staring down two weeks of lockdown, tighter than the last week or two we’ve experienced.  We will need to sing…..a lot!  We will need to declare His faithfulness….a lot!  We will need to remind our hearts that we trust Him….a lot!  Because we are silly humans who have the attention span of a gnat.  We will need to connect via Zoom, FaceTime, Google Duo, Skype or whatever else is out there to connect over the internet with friends and family and a remind them as well.  Let’s commit to having an attitude of gratitude over the next couple of weeks and to treat each other and ourselves with kindness.

Thank you for coming back and reading each day.  Please “like” my posts on my blog, if you don’t mind and follow me, if you aren’t already doing so.  Also feel free to share with your email list of friends….I would GREATLY appreciate it.

Keep the faith

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We Gotta Have Faith

I was reading over the lesson for our 10th-12th grade girl’s Lifegroup for tomorrow, when one of the scriptures just grabbed hold of my heart.

Hebrews 11:5-6 “By faith Enoch was taken away, and so he did not experience death.  He was not to be found because God took him away.  For before he was taken away, he was approved as one who pleased God.  Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

I know this scripture. It’s not foreign to me.  I’ve heard countless sermons and Sunday School lessons on it.  The church has taught us the priority of faith over works, and this scripture drives home the understanding of why faith takes priority.  Without faith works would never happen.  If we don’t believe he exists, we can’t draw near to him.  And to believe, we have to have faith.  And to have faith, we have to believe.  Without faith and without belief, we have no motivation to do anything.  Sure, we can do things out of habit.  We can become ritualistic in the things we participate.  If we allow faith to slip down the list of priorities, what are we doing anything of eternal value for in the first place?

And here we are in March, 2020, lives altered, the busy-ness of life being ceased, separated from friends, family, schedules, activities and we are struggling.

As I read this verse, a neon light was flashing in my head, “you must return to faith”.  We are good at telling others to have faith, we are good at announcing that we are confident because we have faith and we proudly wear t-shirts and tattoo’s announcing our faith.  But how is our faith when everything is removed.  Suddenly we have more time to do nothing.  To be quiet.  To do projects.  To talk.  No more running here and there, filling all our time with endless activities.  I think God wants us to stop.  Be still.  Return to faith.  I mean seriously get in His Word and really, really read it and understand what God is doing.  He is in control.  No matter what we think is happening in the world, HE IS IN CONTROL.  Things look scary.  An indulged America is not sure what we will do without an endless flow of toilet paper, fast food and entertainment.  It’s time we step back and look at Him and not the world.  Take a close look at your heart.  Where is your faith.

I pray I am not overcome by fear. I pray I do not lose faith.   I pray I do not allow the daily onslaught of what seems like an imploding world to govern how confident I am that God is in control.

I pray I draw near to Him, I pray He approves of me and is pleased with me.  And I pray that he rewards my faithfulness.

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Day 5 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Hebrews 10:24-25 “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encoruaging one another and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

Tomorrow is Sunday.  For many of us, it is the day we get up, get dressed, get in the mindset of worship, and gather together as a church family.  But things have changed.  Tomorrow we will gather in front of our t.v.’s, laptops, and even our phones too tune in together to do church from our homes.  It will be weird.  We may have some glitches.  But we won’t be neglecting to meet together!

As I’ve been thinking about how it will all go down tomorrow morning, I was trying to think of how we can still be believers reaching out to people around us who are stressed, afraid or uncertain, when I found a pack of index cards while I was looking for candles for the birthday cake yesterday.   It was like a big lightbulb going on in my head.  I could put the instructions to access the service tomorrow on the cards and deliver them to my neighbors.  I will tape them to their mailboxes and hopefully they will use the information to join us for “church” in the morning at 10:30am.  Let me encourage you to do the same.

See y’all at church in the morning…..(well, I won’t actually see you, but I will imagine us all sitting together).

Be sure to be praying tonight that everything runs smoothly and that God will move, and lives will be changed.