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.”

 

Out of the Heart – Continued Encouragement

Today I was reading through a study I have been doing for some time in Ephesians, when I read something that I know I have read plenty of times, but it echoed over and over in my mind.  The text referred back to verse in Luke 6:45 “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”  Or basically the mouth speaks what the heart is full of…..I sat back against the couch and chewed on this thought.  A verse came to mind in Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?”    Our hearts are the epicenter of who we are.  We can change our looks, our location, and our language, but at some point the truth of who we are, which lies within our hearts will flow out of our mouths.  The truth will be known.

During this time in the world we live in, when we are quarantined, isolated, uncertain, the truth of who we are will be revealed in what flows out of our mouths.   Sometimes anxiousness will cause us to allow frustrations to escape through our words.  Sometimes we speak without thinking.  But it is then that the truth of what lies deep in our hearts will cause us to stop, ponder our words and realize we have spoken with harshness or anger.  It is then we step forward and apologize, ask forgiveness, and then ask God to forgive us and help us to think before we speak!  But I believe, also, that those that know of God, but don’t have a true relationship with Him, will be revealed by what proceeds from their mouths.  

It has taken me 59 years, but I am finally learning to “not” say what first comes to mind.  I haven’t perfected this skill yet, but I find myself thinking about what I am about to say, and deciding to just say nothing.   You may have already conquered this skill, but I have struggled with it my entire adult life.  I sometimes over share, I sometimes speak what comes to mind, and I sometimes say what truth is about a particular situation whether it is necessary or not.  And I confess I haven’t always asked God if I should say something before it is released from my mouth.  I have prayed and asked God to help me in this area and I realized a few months ago that I was thinking before I allowed something I was thinking to escape my lips.  I wanted to say “Hey, I was about to say something, but God said no and I didn’t!!!” But decided to keep it to myself! I want to walk in a way that honors God.  Whether in the middle of a pandemic or living in what used to be normal life.   I remember hearing a former music pastor tell the choir I was a part of, to ponder in our hearts our questions, as he was giving us instructions.  So I am trying to ponder my thoughts before I release them!  But I digress from the verse that I first shared.

During this time, when we have so much time, ponder what is in your heart.  Think about the words that flow from your mouth.  Do they honor God?  Are they uplifting?  Are they encouraging?  Are they loving?  Are they beneficial?  I want to encourage you to examine your heart. Determine whether He is the Lord of your heart, your thoughts, your life.  I am taking time to do the same.  We are spending time with family and possibly friends 24/7, which could be a stressful time, maybe we need to isolate to a quiet place (even if that means hiding in your closet) and allow Jesus to minister to our hearts and minds, and reveal what is in our hearts.

Love y’all.

 

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.

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.

 

 

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!

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!

 

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

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.

Day 4 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Sadly I realized at about 2:30am this morning that I did not post encouragement for today…..uhhh…..yesterday!  And, sadly, the verse I was going to post on was about love.  Not sadly that it was on love, but sadly it was on love and I forgot to post in the midst of all the love going on in our family!!!!

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

All that love in two verse in John, in the midst of a global pandemic, in the midst of a suggested/requested quarantine, and I forget to post!  Let me state my case for forgetfulness.  I actually didn’t totally forget, but I let the day get away from me.  Yesterday was Molly Grace’s 21st birthday.  The baby of the family.  Our baby girl who loves birthdays and family and cake and is the best present opener EVER!

My two older girls braved the pandemic and hit two stores and a bakery in an effort to try and make it a normal day as possible.  Life is so full of uncertainties right now, we felt the need to do our best to gather and celebrate, before we are forbidden to gather and celebrate even as families.  We found Flour Girls open and willing to let me in to purchase a dozen cupcakes to deliver to her office.  We pulled up to the front door of her work, crossed our fingers they would let us in, even though we weren’t there for an appointment.  I waltzed right in and up to the counter where she sat smiling and surprised. I kept the required 6 foot distance (after putting the box of cupcakes on the counter) and sent all the air hugs possible to our baby girl.   I dropped off the older daughters and went home to begin the preparation for the birthday party.  I found party decor in a box that I had been saving and  decorated the dining room.  I baked a strawberry cake, with chopped up strawberries in it and topped it with cream cheese icing.  We prepared her favorite Shrimp Bisque and set the table.  The family all arrived at 6:00 (thankfully there is no curfew as of yet) and we celebrated her life.  Somehow, in the midst of everything going on, we needed to do something normal.  We have five more birthdays and a new baby coming in the next few months, and we aren’t sure how it will all play out.  We are being bombarded everyday with COVID19, or “the Corona” as we like to refer to it, whether the information is fact or not.  Shelves in stores are getting less stocked as time goes on.  Numbers in our coastal city, Mobile, or creeping up, as they are across the nation.  Weddings and baby showers and other events are being cancelled every day.  School has been cancelled.  Churches are becoming techno smart in order to stay connected with their people.  People are becoming unemployed all around us.  And this verse couldn’t be more accurate today, right now.

We need to love.  We do not need to fear.  We need to celebrate.  We need to remind ourselves and others that God is in control.  We need to be smart, but we need to still gather in small groups if we can.  We need to breathe in and breathe out.

So I am sorry for getting caught up in the preparations for her birthday celebration.  But the gathering of our family did us all good.  It felt normal.  And for a couple of hours of food, fun, laughter and celebration, we loved on each other.

Be as normal as possible.  It doesn’t have to be a “big” deal, but keep on hugging, laughing, and reaching out others, even if hugging isn’t possible.  Happy birthday, today, to all those who are sitting at home, working at a desk or out looking for toilet paper. (I still don’t understand or obsession with this one).

And.  Just for the record.  We only had 9 and 2 little people (ages 2 and 2 months) which could technically be considered as 10.  So we didn’t break the rules!

As a side note…..I am not encouraging excessive touching or spreading of germs. We should all respect the fact that there is a virus out there that is contagious and we should be careful.   So maybe air hugging is the best option for now.  And keep your groups at 10.  And no sneezing or coughing in anyone’s direction!

Day 3 of Social Distancing Encouragement

Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful.”

There is a lot of wavering going on.  Whether it is in the news, the internet, the grocery store or in a conversation with friends and family.  Wavering is about “becoming weaker, faltering” and I hear the conversations of people I know ranging from the world is coming to an end to a myriad of conspiracy theories.  But for now, I want us to focus on the conversations of believers.  As believers, people who express faith in an all knowing, all powerful God, we need to stop the wavering.  We know in our hearts that God is bigger than this situation, but our minds are soaking up every news report, every article, every Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter post.  It is causing conflict in our souls.  Stop!  Don’t waver!  Reach out and hold on as tight as you can to the confession of where your hope is, in Jesus Christ!  Let’s be smart, mind you, wash our hands, social distance yourself from crowds, be aware of any change in your physical health, but goodness, move your focus to scripture and worship, and reminding yourself that you trust God above all else. Speak His truth, not the endless flow of true or fake news flowing through the media 24/7.  He is trustworthy.  The world is not.

I am not, in any way, making light of being informed, or of the suffering that is rippling around the world because of this virus.  But we cannot succumb to the fear that satan is using to make us feel weak and vulnerable.  His efforts to divide and separate us as believers will not work.  We’re smarter than he thinks we are.  We are finding ways to connect without breaking the rules or endangering others.  We will still gather and share God’s Word, whether in tiny groups or through streaming connections.  We will pray for each other.  We will find out about needs and devise creative ways to meet the needs!  We are His people.  He has equipped us.  Why?  Because He is faithful.  So shoulders back, chin up and no wavering.

Love y’all!