Saturday Share with Jēnna Shook

Welcome to Saturday Share!  

Saturday Share coffeeThe purpose of this weekly feature is to provide a space for regular people to share their real-life encounters with Jesus.  It’s about living in the middle – on the way to the finish line.  Our race isn’t finished as long as there’s still breath in our lungs.

I believe we sharpen one another and delight God’s heart when we testify of His great work in our lives.  Be encouraged to put one foot in front of the other, and spur someone on while you’re at it!

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Colossians 2:2-3 NIV

I am delighted to introduce you to my feature Saturday Share writer:

Jēnna Shook

 

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In The Shadows

By Jēnna Shook

My faith journey has taken many different roads over the course of my life and like everyone else, I have faced challenges along the way, so deciding on which story to share wasn’t easy.  But as I began praying about what part of my journey to tell here, I was quite surprised at the answer I received. For it was not the story that I had even considered telling.  But the Lord kept prompting me, “This is part of your faith journey. This is partly what has built you into the strong person you are today.  Surviving.  Day by day.  Accept it.  Share it.  Share Me.”  So, today I am sharing.

“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 staff, they comfort me.”  Psalms 23:4  NIV

When my children were much younger, one morning just like any other, I was driving them to school with a plan to go on to work.  We were heading down our usual route and about to approach the train tracks about 30 feet ahead when a train appeared without warning!ss Jenna Psalm 23.4

It was August and the overgrowth of trees that were still in full bloom completely surrounded the tracks except for just where the road was. The train wasn’t heard nor seen before it appeared. The train did not fire off its whistle or give any warning that it was approaching the intersection.  It simply appeared!  We have witnesses to that fact.

 

When I saw the train I slammed on my brakes, but they locked up and that’s when a full-fledged panic plunged deep into my heart.  I knew then what was ahead of us.  I was certain I was about to meet my Maker and take my children with me.  My husband was about to lose his entire family with one single blow.

All I could think of was to cry out, “Oh God!”  I watched helplessly and what seemed like in slow motion, as our car skid for the last 20 feet of road and crashed headfirst directly into the fuel tank of that ongoing train.  I swerved the car slightly so my corner of the car would hit first.  I took the impact of the hit.  In my mind, I expected an explosion.  I expected to be gone in an instant.  But unexpectedly, that didn’t happen.

After the crash, it took me a moment to realize…we were still there.

But it wasn’t over…not yet.

At first, I was stunned until I heard my daughter screaming and I realized we had turned sideways and were hooked to the train track beside the train.  If I didn’t do something quick, we would either be pulled under the train and crushed or pushed off into the ravine to the side of the tracks.

Somehow I was able to process this and did the only thing I knew to do.  I jerked the steering wheel as hard to the right as I could and gunned the gas.  The car jumped hard, but it worked! The car swerved off the track and we hit a stop sign….the only thing that also stopped us from going straight down into the ravine below.

We were alive and safe.  God had spared us.  Death eluded us that day….barely.

Thank you, Lord!

When I regained some presence of mind, I turned around to check on my kids.  My son was fine but had come out of his seat belt during the impact.  My daughter was also okay, but visibly shaken.  I was so shocked that nothing had happened to them.  After I saw no harm had come to the kids, I turned straight ahead to try and process it all, to think about what to do, but I couldn’t think or move.

I still had a death grip on the steering wheel and I was trembling so bad I couldn’t let go of it.  The next thing I knew my car door opened and it was my husband’s aunt, who was our next-door neighbor.  With horror, she had recognized our car and ran to help. First responders hadn’t yet arrived and she was the first one on the scene.

She forced me to let go of the steering wheel and I must have passed out because the next thing I remember is waking up on a board on the ground with my neck in a brace.  There was an ambulance to the right of me and when I looked to the left of me to get my bearings, I saw the train had stopped and was blocking the road.Isaiah 45.2

But then I noticed something else.  When my eyes focused better I realized that my husband had climbed up and over the train from the other side and was now climbing down this side of the train to make sure his family was okay.  Somehow he was going to get to us, by whatever means necessary.  And he did.

When I saw the car sometime later, I lost my breath.  The car was a total loss.  I have no idea how the inside of the car stayed intact when the outside had crumbled.  But in my heart, there was no doubt how.  The stop sign that caught us was nearly completely run over, but it had held up our car, somehow.

God was good and worthy to be praised!  Thankfully, God wasn’t done with us that day.

“Because he loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him and show him my salvation.”   Psalm 91: 14-16  NIV

A few weeks later at a Fifth Sunday Service, I was asked to sing, but first I felt led to give my testimony.  My message to the congregation was that no one is promised tomorrow.  I pleaded to everyone there that if they didn’t have their life and heart right with God, if they didn’t know where they were going after they took their last breath, to please make that decision today.

Don’t wait!

Because as I had recently found out, you don’t have that mental capacity in the midst of those kinds of formidable circumstances to say, “God, please forgive me and save my soul.”  You may not have that much time.   It’s a scary thought that we don’t like to think about.  It’s easy in our everyday lives to take it for granted that we will just have tomorrow or next year to plan for or look forward to.

I know most days I’m of that mindset without even realizing it.  But we aren’t promised the next moment.  This decision will be the most important one of our entire lives.  We have to live every day with that certainty in mind.  Now I know from experience, our very lives depend on it.

After that horrible time, I dug into God’s word and the verse that spoke to me sums up all I’ve been through in my faith journey through this experience.  It has become the verse with which I most identify within the Bible.

“I am under vows to you, O God; I will present my thank offerings to you.  For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”  Psalm 56: 12-13  NIV

Every time I see those train tracks, I feel blessed to see another day.  Why God spared me, I do not know completely, but perhaps it was to give me a chance to share this story.  Even though I felt no one would care to hear, and I am choosing to give witness to what a great God we serve.  Perhaps it’s to confirm to someone of their need to accept Christ nowSS Jenna psalm 56.12

As I am writing this, I have come to believe after all this time that I have more purpose now than I ever realized…and more responsibility.  Sharing the love and life of Christ to others, to reach out when I see a need, to care more about others than myself, and to prove that there is hope for every circumstance, though things may feel completely hopeless.  For with God, all things are possible.

Because of that, I can face tomorrow…and all the shadows this life dares to bring.  I rejoice because my story turned from “In the Shadows” to “He Rescued Me!” To God be the Glory!  I live with a grateful heart because I lived to share another day.  So, thank you for letting me share a portion of my life with you.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11  NIV   

Praise the Lord!  God is good!

Onward and Upward!

 Jēnna Shook

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SS Jenna Shook 041418Jēnna Shook lives in Mississippi and works as an events coordinator at a local university where she has served for over twenty-five years.  In her job, she has been blessed to counsel many young people through her own life experiences and her passion is to encourage those she comes in contact with.  She is married and has a grown son and daughter.  She is a member of Pinelake Baptist Church, where she is part of a small group and serves on the baptism committee.  Other than family and friends, her three loves are music/singing, writing, and reading.  She is a movie buff and an avid animal lover.  Two of her most favorite things that make her feel closest to God are sunrises and sunsets.

Through a sunrise, once in a while, God reminds her of the Trinity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  While driving to work, occasionally, she can see the sun behind her in both side mirrors and in the rearview mirror of her car, all three “suns” at the same time.  She describes it as the most unique and glorious feeling.  She considers it God’s little gift to her in those moments as if being wrapped and lavished in God’s love.  Sunshine will always be special to her because of that amazing sight and those close encounters with her Lord and Savior.

For any comments or to connect with her, she can be reached at jnshook82@gmail.com

 

Saturday Share with Brad Milford – A Rested Soul

Some of you have followed along with my nephew, Brad, and his blog – Dear Elias – written to his toddler son, Eli.  Brad’s growing faith through painful young life circumstances is just too precious and inspirational not to share.Brad and Elias

Brad, I love you, and I am cheering you from the great cloud of witnesses.  We see you, and we are cheering.  Jesus has you by the hand, son, and He won’t ever let you go.  I pray you won’t make Him chase you in the far off land…  You’ve experienced, as I have, what it feels like to have Him break a leg and carry you back on His shoulders – lovingly healing you back to obedience.

Be blessed, Brad, to follow Jesus and lead your family.  Be blessed, precious reader, to know God’s arm is not too short, and His faithfulness and grace have no end…

Welcome, Bradley, to Saturday Share ~

Dear Elias,

It’s Thanksgiving night, 2017. You and your mother are both right beside me in bed sound asleep, I should be asleep right now considering it’s 3am. I guess you could say I’m a bit stunned. my mind has been doing circles for the past few hours so I finally decided to get what words I could out of my head.

Just a few months ago I was laying here, in this exact spot. I had felt shipwrecked, lost, and even forgot about. This room is stained in some way with a constant reminder of loneliness. while in the same exact place, a few short months later, I feel at home. I feel at peace, the kind that makes those bad memory’s feel not so bad after all. I prayed for this. Long hard hours, sometimes I would stay up till the sunlight broke through the window or my eyes finally refused to stay open. I prayed for my family, and now I’m laying next to you and mommy.eliandmomma

I’m not sure how God will reveal his existence to you, bug. I’m not sure how many times he will call you by name before you even start to believe that he is. But if I do know anything right now, it’s that he’s good. He really is good.

Now bug, don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way certain that God is good just because he answers prayers in our selfish favors. Often times he doesn’t do it in a way we want, but sometimes, special moments in life capture this deep feeling of awe, deep deep down in your heart. It’s a let out a long slow breath kinda deep. It’s the best, and it will reassure you of his goodness, I promise you that.

When you experience these moments, be grateful, soak it in. let God restore and redirect your heart. The best is yet to come.

I love you so much Elias, always have and I always will.

Love,

Dad

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Some sage advice from King David on how to best live out our days on this earth:

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
    but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
    though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land
    and enjoy peace and prosperity.  Psalm 37:3-11

What happened 30 years ago today?

November 1987:  Orlando Florida.

A young couple, having dated for about a year, planned to be engaged at some point during the month of November.  She wanted to be surprised.  He didn’t.  He wanted certainty, “Don’t ask the question unless you already know the answer”, he would later teach his sons.100_5325

She desired six months to plan a wedding.  He calculated six months to the desired May wedding date and declared, “One day in November you’ll be surprised with a ring.”  Each morning she arose with anticipation.  “Would today be the day?”  She was keenly aware of details around her… at every turn, she looked for an indication of the impending surprise.

As the days of the month passed the tension grew.  Each day someone asked.  Friends looked at her hand for evidence the day had arrived.  She didn’t know it at the time, but the waiting was much like the anticipation of the baby’s due date.  Waiting…  not her favorite… oh but the anticipation!  The expectation of a JOYFUL surprise?  Yes, she delighted in this kind of waiting.

So, as the weekend approached in the middle of the month, there was a usual Friday night date night planned.  Co-workers wondered and giggled with delight.  This had to be IT!  He was taking her to the Bubble Room in Orlando.  This was THE place where engagements happened in 1987.  The ring would be in the Bubble Room cake brought out at the end of the meal.  And he would be on his knee while she tried to figure out how to wear a diamond covered in cake and icing???dip

They did go to the Bubble Room that Friday night.  She wasn’t able to fully enjoy her meal because of the butterflies in her stomach and then there was no cake and no ring and no knee in the middle of the restaurant.  This wasn’t it.  Had he played a cruel joke on his beloved?  Surely not…

He being the mischievous type would not follow the pattern of many others before him.  The Bubble Room was too obvious.  He, not being one for a mess, would not allow the diamond he purchased to be stuck in the middle of food.  And what if they lost the ring?  No, this was not his style, but teasing was very much his style.

So, how could he make it up to her?  He offered to drive them to New Smyrna Beach for a moonlit stroll on the beach.  Walking in the sand, with waves playing on their feet and a warm November breeze flying across their faces while they walk-talked, yes that’s the way to put a comforting end to a stressful and disappointing evening.

And then, under the full moon on New Smyrna Beach, he stopped and took her hand.  In the privacy of the two and before God Himself, he placed the ring on her finger.  He asked for a lifetime already sure of her answer!  And she did not disappoint.beach heart

YES!  She said, “Yes!”  Thirty years later, we are realizing we had no idea the impact of our yes.  We had no way of comprehending the path ahead.  We just knew we would travel together.  And here we are remembering…30 years ago…  November 1987.

Eyes on Jesus… you’re Shining, Suntanned Feet Man!

~Lisa

 

Saturday Share: God of Miracles with Rodrigo Cruz

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9

Timing – my timing is almost never God’s timing.  Guaranteed though, God’s timing is always better than my timing!

A month or so ago I asked Rodrigo if he would like to contribute to Saturday Share through a personal testimony of what truths God is currently teaching him.  Immediately he said, “Yes” because he can’t help himself from testifying to God’s goodness.Isaiah 55.8.png

Lately, though, the stuff of life has been pressing hard on Rodrigo and his family.  Time and energy constraints have kept us from connecting.  You see, the Cruz family has quite a few irons in the fire at home, in their church, on the sports fields, and in the community – just to scratch the surface.

Never mind though.  God has known all along this is the right time for just the message He gave Rodrigo to share here.  I’m so appreciative my neighbor and pastor friend deliberately carved out a few moments to share this message with me/us.  It’s timely… for me, and I’m going to believe for you too.

So, without further delay, grab your mug, find a comfy chair and prepare to be both challenged and encouraged.  Out of the mouths of babes…

God of Miracles with Rodrigo Cruz…

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Miracles… anyone?

A couple of weeks ago I was driving my oldest son (RJ) to his football practice when out of the blue he asked me a very interesting question: “Daddy, have you ever wondered if you are working for the wrong God?”

I was surprised by his question, so I asked him to explain himself. He responded: “Have you ever wondered if our bible is wrong, God doesn’t exist, and maybe other religions are right? See, if you are working for the wrong God?”

As parents, there are some questions that we get from our kids that we simply want to ignore or that we sincerely don’t want to answer. For example, I have been asked “Daddy, would you rather eat a giant booger or be stung by 1000 bees?” Or “Daddy, why does mommy always takes so long to get ready?” There are questions that we just don’t want to answer.

But the question of this day was different, it needed an answer. Not because my son was questioning his faith, but actually because he was questioning mine. So, this question made me take a deep breath and a deep look into my faith.

You may be wondering why should I even have to look at my faith since as a pastor the answer should be automatically yes. But it is precisely because I am a pastor, that I am exposed on a daily basis to so much brokenness in the community that I need to examine my faith and make sure I have enough to share with others.

The interesting thing about the question raised by my son is that it came in the week that in the church I was starting a new sermon series called “Miracles”. The question came at a time when I needed to have a clear answer to the question “Is God real?” You see, I was about to encourage people that regardless how big of a mess they may be living in, regardless how broken the world may be, and regardless how dark the evil that they may be fighting feels, there is a real God, that it’s actually a good/loving God and He is still doing miracles in this world.John 21.13.png

Let me suggest that in this particular moment of your life you may be wondering the same questions: Is God real? If so, is God good? If so, can God do a miracle in my life?

I believe the answers to all those questions are YES, YES and YES. But I also believe that you may need more than a YES. So, let me give you more. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ it’s the greatest example of God’s existence, God’s goodness and God’s love for all creation. In other words: Without the resurrection, everything else is pointless; with the resurrection, everything else is possible.

Now, let me assure you that I am not just being preachy to you, I am telling you what I really believe. You see, that night that RJ questioned my faith, I got a phone call from my dad (who is only 65) and he told me that he has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

As you can imagine, there are so many things that we do not know what’s next for him, and all these unknowns are very scary and overwhelming. Yet, there is one thing that we do know, and that is that God is real, God is good, and God is still doing miracles on earth.

So, if you need a miracle (just like me), pray for one, God is listening.

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Rodrigo CruzRev. Dr. Rodrigo Cruz is lead pastor of The Nett Church @ Berkmar and welcomes you to visit their website – http://www.thenettchurch.com/ – for further information regarding the vision and mission God has given for casting The Nett.  Rev. Cruz is married to Kelly and is daddy to four precious children, who keep the couple continuously on their toes.

You can also connect with The Nett Church on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thenettchurch/

 

Day 1: How will I {WORSHIP} in the famine season?

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. Ruth 1:1

I was there when each of our two sons prayed to Jesus and asked Him to live in their hearts. I was also there when each of our two sons was baptized. And I was there when each of our sons, not wanting to hurt my feelings, asked me to stop talking to them about Jesus.

{worship}

For me, wife of one husband and mother of two sons, these are opposite sides of the same coin. The best of motherhood on one side and the worst of motherhood on the other, at least for a mother who committed herself to raising sons in a Christian home.

As each of our two sons prepared to leave home for college I gave each one my ‘flying the nest’ speech. It went something like this:

I’ve taught you all I know to teach you. I’ve told you all I know to tell you. And I’ve shown you all I know to show you. You’ve been raised in the truth of the Word of God – certainly not perfect, but I’ve given you my best. And so now, I send you out to find your own personal faith – to make it your own and to know that you know what you believe.

Honestly, both of our sons love me and respect me. They did then and they do now. I know for a fact neither one wanted to hurt me. I also know for a fact they left on their own journey each one two years apart hoping to leave the church/faith stuff at home like all the stuff they left in their closets.

As our oldest left home, I asked the Lord for a Scripture to use in prayer for this son. The Lord answered with abundant mercy to my weary mind, heart, and soul. He gave me a dream and truth from His word.

In my dream, I could see this son moving through an open door, which I was unable to walk through. I was terrified at first, but the Lord allowed me to stand at the door and look. To my pure delight, I could see our son walking with Jesus at his side, arm around our son’s shoulder, conversing and laughing along a pathway.

I awoke full of hope with this Scripture on my lips…

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

And I have been proclaiming this hopeful truth for our son regularly since 2009. Though he left our home in a spiritual famine, Jesus has been teaching me to worship Him through the truth of His word in prayer and continually holding up the dream He gave me for an anchor of hope.

give thanks to You God

As our second son left our home for college, I asked again for a Scripture through which to knot and anchor my prayers for him. This is the one who, after hearing my ‘flying the nest’ speech, left me with these words, “Mom, you have faith for me.” (In other words, you do it for me)

This last leaving was more painful. I felt the spiritual famine. My heart pleaded for a dream. No dream. And the Scripture the Lord gave me was this…

I give thanks to You God for You are good and Your steadfast love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34

My thoughts ran to Naomi (Ruth 1) and they still do at times. I wondered…often…many times with tears, “Lord, what does this mean?”

Give thanks even if my son is living in a spiritual famine? Declare you are good even if he doesn’t remember the truth sewn into the fabric of his being? Proclaim and stand on the truth that your steadfast love endures forever even if he never receives your love for him?

I’ve been praying, I give thanks to You God for You are good and Your steadfast love for our son endures forever, as an act of worship since 2011.

And yes… it is true… and I do… Give thanks to You God. You are good. Your steadfast love endures forever…. even in the midst of spiritual famine.

Ponder:

  • Are you in a spiritual famine season?
  • What emotions are bubbling up as you read about worship through a season of spiritual famine? Will you record these emotions in a journal?
  • Will you take your thoughts, your questions, your emotions into the Throne Room of God, sit at Jesus’ feet and ask Counselor Holy Spirit to help you filter it all through the truth of God’s Word?
  • Will you allow God to teach you to praise and worship Him through the famine season? We give thanks to You God for You are good and Your steadfast love endures forever. Amen.