If I had only one chance – week 3

Go back to last weeks post by clicking here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So, just in case, this is my one chance to cross paths with you, I want you to know:

You are loved.

You are not lost.

You can go home.

Your story matters.

you can go home

You can go home to God, the Father.

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
    call on Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for He will freely pardon.  Isaiah 55:6-7 niv

My thoughts first turn to the story of the prodigal son.  The younger of two sons, he decided he wanted to strike out on his own, perhaps try life ‘his way’ for a while.  Maybe he thought he knew more than his father.  Or perhaps he was just tired of the boring old rules.  Then again, maybe the young son was woven together with the thread of an adventurous untamed spirit.  For whatever the reason or the cause he asked his father for his share of the inheritance and struck out on his pioneer journey rather well to do for a young buck, I suppose.

God knows.  And He let Him go His own way.

We know the son’s way did not turn out to be the best way.  All had been lost – squandered really – on wild living.  What was he thinking?  Or was he thinking at all?  Perhaps he was simply living moment to moment as we tend to do when we are young and unafraid.  Did he get trapped somewhere along the way in the lies of the world, his own self-destructive thinking and the jeers and taunts of the enemy of his soul?

God knows.  And He watched all along waiting for Him to come back.

He did go home, didn’t he?  And isn’t that about the most fantastic and beautiful point of this story?  The younger son coming to his senses in the pig pen of despair actually thought it was a good idea to go home!  What did this prodigal know to be true, which would make it at all reasonable to think he should turn back before final destruction became his story?

  • He wanted to live.
  • Home was good and secure.
  • He deserved consequences.
  • He wanted to receive discipline.
  • His father loved him.
  • His father was merciful.
  • It would be better to live at home as a servant than to perish in a far-off land.

Luke 15.18 You can go home

He wasn’t simply correct about what he thought to be true, but the Father’s love and mercy were exceedingly abundantly beyond the son’s expectations.  There was a genuine repentance offered, forgiveness extended and celebration erupted upon the son’s return home.

For a long time that parable seemed to be just a story.  It was such for me until I needed it to be real and true.  I hope I never forget the time a counselor asked my husband and I if we could actually let a son go and not try to rescue him in the middle.  Could we simply wait and pray for him to finally come home?  Did we trust God that much?  I can testify God’s Word is true and dependable.

You can go home to God.

And even as my heart smiles at the remembrance of this beautiful Jesus parable, my mind wanders to another scenario.  A woman, who had left her homeland as the wife of a man and mother of two sons.  Her name was Naomi.

She hadn’t squandered an inheritance in riotous living.  At least there’s no indication she was wrong to follow her husband away from Judah and into the pagan land of Moab.  Her husband had taken his family out of the famine in Judah seeking to provide a better life, at least this is what it seems to me.  Their actions are not for me to judge for had I been in Naomi’s shoes I most likely would have been the one asking to leave for greener grass.

God knows.  And He allowed His children to go anyway.

But when we open the book of Ruth, we quickly learn that Naomi was left with two foreign daughters-in-law only.  Rather than the pleasant name of Naomi, she adopted the bitter name of Mara because of the devastation to her family.  I wonder if she felt judged.  Did Naomi assume she was receiving the punishment from God of her family’s choice to flee God’s people and homeland?

God knows.  And He provided ahead of His daughter’s return home.

So, when Naomi heard the good news of  God’s restored blessing on her homeland of Judah, she packed her bags, grabbed her daughters hands and headed down the road for home.  What did Naomi believe to be true, which would cause her to turn back at the end of such loss?

  • The Lord God Almighty was good.
  • Home was safe.
  • Her people would receive her back as a widow.
  • God’s law would make provision for her as a barren widow.
  • It was better to go to God empty-handed and bitter than to let shame keep her in a far-off land.

Ruth 1.6

I recognize at least a bit of my own spiritual journey in this story of Naomi.  Not that I’ve physically walked in Naomi’s shoes.  However, in a spiritual sense, I might be able to relate to Naomi’s journey back home to her God and the people of her God.  I certainly know the sickening anguish of recognizing my inability to save myself or my family from a famine season.

There’s a very real truth to Naomi’s story.  She and I both learned we must acknowledge the goodness of God and turn back to Him, both physically and spiritually.  A faith relationship, which will endure trials, requires full surrender to His sovereign place as Provider and Defender.  God is truly our only Security.  He is our King and He is worthy of our obedience and praise!

You can go home to God.

Finally, my thoughts turn to Peter, Jesus’ disciple.  Peter was the one Jesus called The Rock, which meant Jesus saw the true identity for which God created Peter.  Jesus saw Peter’s potential and God’s purpose for Peter’s life.

When I think of Peter, I think of a roller coaster.  He was up at the pinnacle one moment and swerving down into a spiral the next.  And yet, Peter was full of adventure and ready to throw caution to the wind for the sake of following Jesus.  After all, Peter was the one who stepped out of the boat to meet Jesus on top of the waves.  He was the one who rightly answered Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”  (Mark 8:29)

Jesus knew.  And He encouraged Peter to be bold.

However, it was Peter’s zealous devotion and hot-tempered responses which tripped him up time and time again.  When I think of Peter as a follower of Jesus, I truly believe his heart was in the right place.  I believe he was fiercely loyal to Jesus.  And I think he just couldn’t fathom God’s outlandish plan to allow His own Son to be crucified, to die and to be buried in a tomb.

Jesus knew.  And He corrected Peter out of love.

Out of Peter’s lion-hearted love and devotion he swore to Jesus in front of all their friends he would never rebel, deny or turn against Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  Peter had no doubt of his absolute allegiance to Jesus.

Jesus knew.  And He let Peter fulfill prophetic words of denial.

So, when Peter was at his absolute lowest point feeling like a total failure, who was it called him home?  Who had already set up camp on the beach and had a charcoal fire burning?  And who called out from the shore with a fishing tip?

It was Jesus resurrected who sought out his friends and Peter, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”  As soon as John announced, “It is the Lord!”, Peter got dressed, jumped into the water and swam to the shore.  What did Peter know about Jesus, which would cause him to throw himself in the water the way he did?  What did Peter believe to be true and anxiously desire to go immediately to Jesus?

  • Jesus was good.
  • Peter was deserving of consequences.
  • Peter could trust Jesus’ correction.
  • Jesus was forgiving.
  • Jesus was Who He said He was all along.
  • Peter could trust Jesus more than he could trust himself.

John 21.9 You can go home

Even though I imagine Peter once again acted impulsively by dressing and then swimming to Jesus on the shore, I also believe his response illustrated Peter’s sincere love for Jesus.  I believe Peter’s desire for another chance with Jesus was only exceeded by Jesus’ desire to restore Peter to his true God-given identity as The Rock.

And so maybe you’ve heard (or maybe not) Jesus met Peter face to face with a re-enactment of Peter’s greatest failure.  Except that with Jesus present in Peter’s most painful memory, Peter was able to state victoriously his full allegiance, love and devotion to Jesus, his Friend and his Savior.  It was Jesus’ idea to restore Peter.  Jesus set up the scenario.  Jesus entered into the place of Peter’s greatest shame and failure.  Jesus walked Peter through to the full defeat over his shame and set Peter free to fully serve the One to whom he pledged all his loyalty and devotion.

 

You can go home to God.

He sees you.

He knows you.

He’s waiting to restore you.

What are you waiting for?

Ponders:

Please, don’t take my word for it.  Read what God has to say about going home and His response to your ponderings about returning home to Him.

Luke 15:11-32

Ruth 1-4 (it’s a short book)

John 21 

  • What other scripture passages give you comfort regarding your relationship with God?
  • Will you ask Him to accept you back home?  Can you believe He’s standing at the door with the light on waiting to wrap you in love?
  • And if it’s someone else you love who is far from the Father, will you pray with me for this very much loved prodigal to turn toward home?
  • Which scripture passage do you pray or will you choose to pray on behalf of this dearly loved one?

Eyes on Jesus… you’re shining!

~Lisa

 

He didn’t settle

Have you ever felt you were stuck squarely between a rock and a hard place?  It doesn’t feel like a comfortable place to dwell, does it?  And so naturally we would mostly agree this is not a great place to settle.

And yet when there seems no way forward and too much strain to go back and undo, don’t we sometimes feel we want to just settle for the “rock and the hard place” living quarters?Hebrews 12.2

I’m thinking of the two times I was experiencing the onset of labor contractions as a natural part of giving birth to both of our sons.  There was the point of extreme tension.  I had confidence the end result would be joyous and yet I also recognized the painful valley I would need to traverse to get there.  For a time (a very short time) I contemplated whether I could just settle in the in between.  Fortunately, the pain and intense natural urge to push through took over.  The end result times 2 was JOY.

There’s a multitude of “rock and a hard place” scenarios my mind could ponder.  Sometimes the outcome doesn’t seem quite as assuredly joyous as the birth of a baby.  The rocky place of unemployment and serious health concerns in which we currently find ourselves offers decidedly daunting outcomes.  None of the options are appealing right now, and there’s a temptation to throw hands in the air and just settle.

Yet, Jesus is our example of the best way to respond when feeling stuck between two unpleasant options and an outcome requiring total faith and trust.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  Luke 22:42 niv

Jesus was in between the rock of impending brutality and the hard place of obedience to His Father.  The victorious fulfillment of God’s rescue plan for all of humanity would be the outcome on the other side.  However, the temptation to settle was there or else Jesus wouldn’t have asked for the option to avoid the bitter cup of suffering at the hands of His own creation.do not settle

Hallelujah!  Jesus didn’t settle.

He cried out to the Father, “… not My will, but Yours be done.”

And so, for all of us who find ourselves feeling stuck between two no good options, may we follow the author and pioneer of our faith trusting the outcome into His faithful hands.  I am choosing now to trust Him.  Will you too?

…Because His heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be His, He endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!  Hebrews 12:2 tpt

Ponder:

Does it help you to persevere through the hard, rocky place knowing Jesus didn’t settle for less than total obedience to the Father’s plan?

Do you think it was hard for Jesus as fully man/fully God to trust the Father’s plan?

No matter the fiery trials of this life I must choose to believe in God’s goodness and give thanks to Him for the way He’s going to bring me through – even before I am able to experience the outcome.  Lord, I need You to fill me with the faith and the perseverance to obey You.  Teach me to fix my eyes on You, Jesus, and follow Your lead all the way home.  Jesus, don’t let me ever settle for less, for Your glory and to make Your name great. Amen.

Eyes on Jesus…you’re shining!

~Lisa

FMF-Square-Images-settleToday I am joining Kate and her wonderful community of faith writers for some Five Minute Friday writing fun.  The word prompt for this week is {tired}  If you’re in the least bit intrigued, come join us for the Five Minute Friday link up

All you have to do is ponder the word prompt, set your timer for 5:00, and start typing. When time’s up, publish and link up.  Oh so simple!

Have you ever felt restricted?

Have you ever felt restricted by your circumstances?  I know you have, and me too.  So, here’s some good news from God to us.

For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15, ESV)

I’ve been pondering the idea of feeling restricted – stuck even – in circumstances which seem to be diametrically opposed to the accomplishment of God’s mission for us on earth.  Certainly, Mary could have felt this way at times.  I sometimes look at what’s happening in my life and wonder how the losses could lead to victory.Baby Word became flesh

And then I realize my focus is wrong.  Through scripture reading and prayer this week, Holy Spirit pierced my anxious and sometimes hopeless feelings with the light of God’s truth.  Jesus is our example, not Mary, for the way God fulfills His absolutely incredible plan of perfection through our restrictions and limitations of the flesh.

Suddenly it occurred to me – our uncontainable God, the Word Who spoke all the vastness of the universe into existence, purposefully restricted Himself inside Mary’s womb.  Today, I am freshly amazed that God’s plan was for Jesus to experience the fullness of our limitations in broken flesh. Yet, Jesus perfectly and fully accomplished the mission for which God sent His Son.  The really good news is that Jesus is able to help us through the stuck places and the temptation to doubt God’s good plan. (Hebrews 2:17-18, NLT)

Therefore, it was necessary for Him to be made in every respect like us, His brothers and sisters, so that He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God.  Then He could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.  Since He Himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.  Hebrews 2:17-18, NLTRestricted

So, when the lies of the enemy whisper constant accusations against God’s faithfulness, run to Jesus.  When your own self-talk screams hopelessness and failure, run to Jesus.  Tell Him everything.  He understands.  He will help you.  And His mission for you will be accomplished just as He promised – even when it looks different than you imagined.

“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” (Luke 1:45, NIV)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have the honor and privilege of writing weekly devotionals for Daughter of Delight on Instagram.  This post with some slight variation was first posted as an original devotional for Daughter of Delight on Instagram – 12/23/2017.

I invite you to please take a moment to visit @daughterofdelight on Instagram.  I feel certain you’ll be encouraged and refreshed!

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

 

Book Review: Walking on Water by Jennifer A. Miskov, Ph.D.

The title intrigued me first – Walking on Water – in reference to Peter’s bold request to walk out on the stormy sea to meet Jesus in the darkness. The subtitle also caught my attention – experiencing a life of miracles, courageous faith, and union with God – because this is where I’m walking in my real life. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t need a miracle or courageous faith or union with God. Certainly, I need all of the above.

Jennifer A. Miskov did not disappoint as she boldly and honestly shares her journey with Jesus into deeper water and stormy seas resulting in a more intimate trusting and productive walk of faith.Matthew 14.28

In addition to the power of scripture combined with Jennifer’s real-life testimony, she offers activation exercises at the end of each chapter. These life applications of scripture caused me to pause and ask Holy Spirit for deeper application of God’s word in my life. 

I don’t want to give too much away, so I will simply highlight a couple of my big takeaways from Walking on Water.

The Art of Letting Go (pp. 51-61) – “Just because others are not stepping out of a boat you feel  you are supposed to step out of does not mean that you cannot or should not.”  Obviously, Peter was the only disciple to climb overboard to walk out toward Jesus, but I’m not sure I’ve ever thought through the practical truth of the scenario.

All the disciples were in the boat.  They were all afraid.  Peter was the only one who asked to walk out to Jesus and meet Him in the water.  What Peter didn’t do is even more compelling – He didn’t turn around to recruit anyone else to go with him.  He wasn’t clinging to anyone else or even the boat for security.  Peter just went.

I tend to look around to see who will go with me.  This is a tendency if which I want to be free.  I believe Jesus calls me out alone and expects me to obey whether anyone else comes along or not.

Resilience (pp. 118-129) – “If you can learn to navigate through disappointment, get back up, learn from the experience and move forward, you will grow in faith and be better prepared to step into the impossible in the future.”  In this chapter, Jennifer introduced the idea of ‘falling forward’.  We will all fall down on our journey of following Jesus as His disciples.  The critical point is that we fall toward Jesus as Peter did in the water.  Yes, Peter looked down to the waves and doubted, but when Peter fell, he fell moving toward Jesus – not running away.

I recognize my tendency to run and hide when life, ministry, and in general, simply following Jesus gets really challenging.  I have a fear of failure and so I tend to want to play it safe rather than risk falling at all.  This picture of Peter falling toward Jesus out in the open water is one I will carry with me as I seek to venture into unchartered faith territory.  Yes, Peter fell, but he fell doing the miraculous and Jesus was there to catch him.  I think I want to try too.

silence martha martha

There’s so much more wonderful, life-giving and challenging teaching packed into Walking on Water.  Jennifer’s style is conversational and so it’s easy to read one chapter after another.  However, the activation exercises at the end of each chapter are so thought-provoking and transformational I found myself spending a day or two on each chapter.  In my experience, it was helpful to marinate in the activations over a day or two in order to fully experience truth.

My journey through Jennifer’s book has been interactive, encouraging and life-changing. I can’t wait to pass this book to a friend and have already recommended it to several others. Most likely, Walking on Water will be a Christmas present or birthday gift for family and friends in the near future.

I pray you will jump out of your boat and enjoy Walking on Water.  Thank you, Jennifer A. Miskov, Ph.D. for blessing my life and enriching my journey with Jesus.

Eyes on Jesus… you’re Shining!

~Lisa

FMF: Silence is golden

Silence-FMF-Square-Images-16

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday writing opportunity!  I’m thrilled with Kate’s word selection this week because I’ve actually been pondering much on {silence} this whole week.  So much have I been challenged by this idea of seeking silence that I committed to obtain 15 minutes of this precious commodity each day for 21 days.

I seem to not be able to do these things alone so I put the challenge out there on my Facebook page – Eyes on Jesus and Shine and I was amazed how many other people wanted to join me in seeking silence before Jesus.  #notalk #noscreens #nodistractions #november

Here’s the scripture verse – familiar to me, probably to you – which Holy Spirit began to open up from a new perspective.  Perhaps the familiarity was my problem.  “Yes, I know that story.  Of course, I’m Mary.  I love to sit quietly at Jesus’ feet – in His word…”

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:38-41

However, the longer I sat quietly at His feet pondering the truth of God’s word, memories began to play through my mind like an old reel to reel.  I could see myself in the back seat of a car – sitting between Great-grandma Becky and my brother.  My grandfather was driving and Grandma Naomi was sitting in the front passenger seat.

I don’t know where we were going or where we had been, but at some point, Grandpa Floyd grew weary of the backseat chatter.  He declared the start of “the quiet game”.  Oh man, not the quiet game!  The stakes for losing the quiet game?

The loser had to sit in the front seat between the two grandparents!

I being the firstborn, rule follower was trying very hard to be silent.  I wanted to win the game.  I refused to look at my brother who continuously tried to poke and make faces so I would laugh or tell him to stop.  That’s what little brother’s do.silence martha martha

I stared straight ahead.  Eyes locked on the windshield.  And then my sweet precious Great-grandma Becky, in an effort to keep my mouth busy without talking, held out a pack of Wrigley’s spearmint gum.  I was so grateful.  Yes, chew gum – don’t talk!  And then, after taking the stick of gum said, “Thank you!”

I lost…  I cried…  I had to move to the front seat and sit in between my grandparents.

This is all I remember, but somehow Holy Spirit is exposing a lie that when I have difficulty sitting totally still and want to speak out in my quiet time with Jesus, I’m doing it wrong.  Grateful for truth today…  Thankful Jesus delights in me just the way He made me.  Grateful He is healing deep places of my wounded heart to prepare me more and more for the mission He has for me to fulfill on my journey toward HOME.

 

Ponders:

  • Would you like to join me in this challenge to choose silence with Jesus each day?
    • #notalk  #noscreens  #nodistractions  #november
    • It’s not a formula.  It’s not a punishment to sit with Jesus.  There are no losers when we choose to sit quietly with Him.
  • What are your thoughts about sitting silent?  Is it a place where Holy Spirit has permission to expose some lies you’ve been believing without realizing it?
  • Will you journal your experience and talk with Jesus about all He wants to teach you in the silence?
    • What golden nuggets is the Lord giving to you in the silent place?

Eyes on Jesus… you’re Shining!

~Lisa

 

Day 30: I yield & You {refine}

Refine: to bring to a fine or a pure state; free from impurities (dictionary.com)

In all this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy  1 Peter 1:6-8 NIVrefine

On this 30th of 31 days of gleaning with Ruth – questioning my way through my own personal famine season, I ponder the word {refine} with a hopeful heart and a refreshed spirit.  Yes, without a doubt, I am – we, my husband and I are – in a season of refinement and it’s a painful process, yet clearly, throughout God’s word, He assures us it is for our good and His glory!

To Peter, Holy Spirit inspired an illustration of refinement by fire, which we can read also in Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the Psalms just for starters.  I’m also reminded of the words in Hebrews 12:29, which harken back to Deuteronomy – for our God is a consuming fire.

Those are the illustrations to which I’ve grown accustomed.  They speak mightily to me because of growing up near the Everglades in Florida.  I’m well aware of the devastation a fire will cause over acres upon acres of land, and yet there’s something miraculous that happens as a result of all the extraneous foilage being burned away.  The seeds hidden down under the ground’s surface are broken open by the heat of the fire and soon green shoots of new life spring up out of the ashes.  New life – cleansed and purified.

Through my gleaning up and down and around again through the scriptures in Ruth I’ve been challenged with a different illustration of refinement.  God, by way of His Holy Spirit living in us and teaching us, has the best ideas for expanding our understanding in the various seasons of our lives.  His goodness is evident in that He really wants us to understand we are never alone.  Never will He leave us…never will He forsake us.

refine wheat - square

So, gleanings of refinement from the book of Ruth:

Famine – we begin with a time of trial.  The people of Israel were living out cycles of disobedience, consequences, crying out to God, turning back to Him in repentance and peace.

Similarly, the agriculture, all of God’s creation, experienced cycles of drought, famine, rain, refreshed soil, seed, and harvest.  It’s a natural process because we live in a broken, sin-soaked world.

And so, even though at times we are tempted to believe God is doing something terrible to us and the enemy takes his best shot in our weakness to try to convince us God is not good, we need to go back to what we know is true.

We have to remember the truth of Who God is, and who we are redeemed in Him.  We need to remember the seed of His word sewn deep in the soil of our hearts.  We choose to resist the devil and draw near to God.  We yield our dry hearts to receive His Living water and in time the harvest will come again.

God refines us through the cycles of famine and harvest.

Harvest – this is the time of refreshing, returning for Naomi and adoption for Ruth.  This is the time of plenty.  Food is gathered and shared with the poor, the widows and foreigners inhabiting the land.

And part of the harvesting process is threshing.

to thresh – to separate the grain or seeds from (a cereal plant or the like) as in wheat – to separate the edible part (the grain) from the stalk – as with wheat or barley (dictionary.com)

I’m going to need to chew on these truths awhile longer because I’m fascinated with these few details Holy Spirit is unveiling for me in the idea of threshing coming with the harvest.31 days gleaning bushel of wheat

Who was responsible for the threshing of the wheat and barley harvest?

The Kinsman Redeemer – Boaz

Why was threshing necessary?

To refine the wheat/barley for making bread with which to feed the people.

In this we are able to see Jesus – our Kinsman-Redeemer – who allowed Himself to be threshed, broken open in our place.  He didn’t need the refining and yet He took it in our place.  Jesus told us – and tells us still through His living and active word – He is the Bread of Life.

Every table is an altar – please enjoy this worship of Jesus, the Bread of Life broken for us that we might be revived and live free – yielded to His refinement.  Receive the Glory Lord.

 

Ponders:

One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for.  Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.  Ruth 3:1-2 

Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”  Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”  Ruth 3:16-18

  • Will you ask Holy Spirit what He wants you to know about your current season of refinement?  Possibly past seasons of refinement are still a mystery and painful.  What healing do You want to bring to us, Jesus?
  • Will you?  And will I yield to our good God and Kinsman Redeemer so He might refine us for our good and His glory?

Eyes on Jesus…you’re Shining!

~Lisa

Day 29: {Follow} Jesus and bring some friends with you

It’s late on Day 29 with two days remaining to complete the 31-day writing challenge.  It feels a bit like I’ve hit a wall and yet I know the finish line is in sight.  I have no intention of quitting, however, I will admit I might be walking somewhat bent over with my hand on my side rather than jogging right about now.

As I ponder today’s word prompt {follow} and the two remaining word prompts – {refine} and {rest} – I’m reminded these are the three major truths I’ve gleaned from Holy Spirit through the book of Ruth.  What an amazing journey it’s been!  Lord, I am counting on You to help me finish strong…

followFollow – Jesus called His disciples with an invitation, “Come, follow Me.”  And they did literally drop what they were doing and they did literally follow after Jesus.  They left work, family, homes and everything secure and familiar for the great unknown adventure of accepting Jesus’ invitation.

After Jesus’ resurrection, He met with His disciples and commissioned them to go.  Jesus sent them out with all they had learned in their three-year training at His side with the mandate to bring others along by continually sharing the invitation to follow Jesus.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

For a number of years, I’ve described my journey through life with eyes on Jesus by way of an illustration:

I’ve got one arm extended out in front of me holding onto the belt loop of a dear sister in Christ who has traveled the road just ahead of me, and I’ve got the other arm extended back to grasp the hand of a dear sister coming along behind.

We’re all following Jesus, wanting to know Him more intimately, and keeping our ears tuned to the sound of His Shepherd-voice giving direction to our path.  While at the same time, we’re grabbing the hands of our sisters to come along with us.  We want to introduce others to Him – to live free and experience abundant life – and join us on the adventure journey.  Who wants to travel alone anyway!

I’m not sure I know of a more beautiful portrait of relational discipleship than the one God painted for us in the book of Ruth.  No matter the reason, Naomi found herself living in Moab with a people, not her own, who worshipped idols rather than Yahweh, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

Rather than isolating herself or bending her beliefs in order to fit in, Naomi lived her faith in front of her daughters in law.  I think they understood Naomi’s heart was still attached to Yahweh and her people back in Bethlehem of Judah.  For as soon as Naomi heard the good news of God’s favor to break the famine and restore the harvest, she packed her bags and headed toward home leading her daughters in law along the way.

girl in wheat 31 days

The women came to an inevitable fork in the road.  Naomi would follow her heart back home.  However, Naomi was returning wounded, possibly wearing a cloak of shame and fearing she might be rejected by her people… and possibly God.  So, she offered the young women the opportunity to leave her and go back to their families.  It was completely their choice.

And this is where the radiant beauty of relational discipleship shines most bright.  The younger one who had been following along hand extended forward to Naomi’s hand reaching back, became the one to take the lead for awhile.  When Naomi chose to change her name to bitter because of her pain, loss, and disappointment, Ruth stepped forward to remind Naomi of Yahweh – Almighty God to whom Naomi had been introducing Ruth.

Each of us faces these inevitable forks in the road – the moments of choice.  Truly, the point is not for anyone to follow me while I follow Jesus.  Rather it is my responsibility to point to Jesus and insist we each keep our eyes focused on Him.

And really there’s just not many events in life more disappointing and sad than to watch someone turn back to their former life of idols.  At the same time, there’s almost nothing better than to be reminded of truth and directed toward Jesus by a precious one you’ve previously discipled.  What a JOY feast!

At this, they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” 

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.  So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem.  Ruth 1:14-16, 18-19 niv

I’m refreshed in this dry famine season as I realize God in the book of Ruth purposely foreshadowed Jesus’ call to His disciples to follow Him and to bring others along.  I’m encouraged once again to keep walking with one hand holding onto the belt loop of a sister ahead of me.  I’m emboldened to reach a hand back to one or ones coming along behind. go make disciples.png

And I look forward with great anticipation to the moments when the discipled becomes the discipler – iron sharpens iron – each one encouraged, strengthened and pointed toward Jesus.  We all have our eyes on Jesus.  We’ve accepted His invitation and heed His command, “Come, follow Me.  Therefore go and make disciples…”

Ponders:

  • Do you see a picture of discipleship in the book of Ruth?  What specifically about the relationship between Ruth and Naomi is highlighted for your understanding in a fresh way today?
  • Do you have those ahead of you on the faith journey who will reach a hand back to help you along?  I wonder if you might want to write their names in your journal and write a special prayer of thanksgiving to the Father for bringing those precious people along your path.
  • Are you reaching back with a hand held out to at least one other who is coming along behind you on the faith journey?  Will you also write their name in your journal and stop now to pray God’s blessing and favor on him or her today?
  • If you’ve received Jesus’ invitation to follow Him, have you also made a conscious effort to bring others along with you?
    • If not, would you make this a matter of conversation with God?
    • Will you ask Him to change your heart or open doors of opportunity to bring others along in discipleship?

Eyes on Jesus… you’re Shining!

~Lisa

Day 24: Do you ever wish you could {revise} a chapter from your life?

“Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:18-19 esv

{Revise} – make corrections, change, or edit.  A do-over.

Who, if offered, wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to revise a particular moment in their life story?  Don’t we all have regrets?  Isn’t it so much easier to look back with hindsight and edit our choices?  At some point in the game, don’t we all wish to call for a time-out to review the previous play hoping for an opportunity to replay the down?revise Ruth 4

I have plenty of scenarios to which my mind races when the “what if” monster comes to play with my emotions.  If God were to give me the opportunity to go back and make edits in my life script, I feel sure I would be tempted to say yes.  However, when regret threatens to hold me hostage over a past course of action, I remember a conversation I had with my paternal grandfather.

I was a youngster of 9 years or so and the conversation revolved around my parents’ choice to elope.  It was the summer of 1961, they were young – 17 & 19 – in love and wanted to marry.  Permission from my mom’s parents was granted, but not so for my dad’s parents – and so they made a life choice.  It was a choice over which my grandfather was expressing his desire for them to wait – “Just two years”, he said.

My response to my grandfather was this, “But grandpa if they had waited two more years, you wouldn’t have us as your grandchildren.”  His instant response was that we would simply be two years younger with a pat on my head.  The conversation ending response came from my mouth, though I’ve often wondered if it was Holy Spirit teaching us both a lesson,  “Grandpa, I don’t think it works like that.”

Today pondering “the rest of the story” of Ruth, Boaz and Naomi I wonder if anywhere in the ten plus years through the famine and back home to the return of the harvest season if Naomi wished she had made different choices.  Did she hold regrets over leaving Bethlehem – she and her men?  Was there a time along the way she wished her sons had not married Moabite women?  I just wonder… did she ever wish for a do-over.  “What if” God had placed an editor’s pen in her hand.

So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife.  And he went into her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.  Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!  He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”  Ruth 4:13-15revise

Simple, right?  If Naomi were given the opportunity to go back and {revise} her story, this would not be the well-known redemptive love story in which so many of us delight, and from which much truth is gleaned.

God gave us the opportunity to live in perfection without regret in His beautiful garden called Eden.  Because of a choice made by God’s created man and woman, we all now live with the temptation to regret, a desire to {revise} our own stories – to make our stories the one we wished we had.

Thankfully, our redemption doesn’t come through our own re-writes for who among us is able to know the mind of God or to see how the messy of our story magnifies His greatness and majesty.  Grateful Lord, I am this morning, grateful, You know when and where and how we will walk out of the famine season and into the return of the harvest You have already planted for us.

Ponders:

  • I wonder – do you also have a story you are tempted to wish you could revise?
    • Would you talk out the scenario with Jesus today?  Will you honestly pour out your desire to revise your story?
    • And will you listen for His response?  Take note of Holy Spirit’s ideas about your story, how He sees you in the middle of your story and let Him teach you His way of redemption.
  • I am reminded this morning of Jesus’ words in Mark 2:22:  “…And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”
    • This word reminds me God’s redemptive work in me is to fashion me as a new creation ready for Holy Spirit to take up residence in me.  God is not so much about revising us as He is about creating new.
    • Is there a need in your life to surrender your old wineskin and allow God to create you new?  Would you like to cry out with King David, and me too, the life-giving words of Psalm 51?
      • “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…  Restore to me the JOY of Your salvation…”

Eyes on Jesus… you’re Shining!

~Lisa

 

Day 14: If at first I don’t succeed, will I {try, try} again?

One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for.  Ruth 3:1 niv

{try} to make an attempt at, to put to test or trial, to subject to something (such as undue strain or excessive hardship or provocation) that tests the powers of endurance – courtesy of Webster’s online dictionary.pablo (70)

Reading again through the book of Ruth, asking Holy Spirit to highlight for me what He wants me to know about this word {try}, I see it from a perspective I’ve not recognized before now.

Naomi’s family tried to remove themselves from hardship during a time of famine.

Naomi tried to convince her daughters-in-law to return to their families and culture – their gods.

Once Ruth refused to leave Naomi, they returned together to Bethlehem in Judah to try to find a new life for themselves.

Ruth took over and asked to try to glean in the fields during the harvest season.

Ruth tried to fit in with her new home, new people, new culture.  She tried to follow the ways of God’s people.  She tried to honor her dead husband’s mother.

Ruth tried her best to provide for her mother-in-law, Naomi.

And then, suddenly it’s Naomi’s turn to try again.  In my old NIV Study Bible (1985), Ruth 3:1 reads this way:

One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for?

It’s hard to try again sometimes.  You know… when you tried already and you thought you were doing the best thing you could do for yourself and for those you love.  When you tried and nothing worked out like it was supposed to… when you look around and seems lost.  Failure in the trying looms large over us when we tried…really tried, and gave our best.

It’s hard to keep trying after failure because… well, my next trying might also end in failure.  And, who wants to feel like a failure?  Who wants to fail?  I know you can’t see me, but I am raising both hands and jumping up and down – me, me, ME!  I don’t want to be a failure!

However, what I am gleaning this morning from Ruth and Naomi, is a transformational truth for this place in my own life.  When Naomi felt like a failure, and probably – maybe – didn’t have the energy to {try} anymore, Ruth stepped in with a fresh willingness to {try}.  (5 minutes)pablo (81).png

And after the harvest season was over, when Ruth had worked hard and provided for Naomi, we see a beautiful renewal of energy from Naomi.  It’s as if Ruth’s perseverance through the trial, emboldened by God’s overshadowing favor on Ruth, breathed new life into Naomi.  For the first time in a long time, it appears Naomi found HOPE.

I need this life-giving lesson for my own famine season as I {try} my best to do what I can do day in and day out.  I need to recognize that my {trying}, my persevering under trying circumstances, might just be breathing life into the one beside me who is having difficulty finding hope for our future.

O Lord, may it be so… cover us Father with Your wing, embolden me to {try} again each day, and breathe life into the man I love and bring to life HOPE for our future.  In Your holy and mighty name, Jesus.  For Your glory, Lord, I submit myself to these trying times.

Ponders:

You might be familiar with this old proverb attributed to William Edward Hickson (1803-1870).

’Tis a lesson you should heed:
Try, try, try again.
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try, try again.

  • It seems this proverb has been deeply ingrained in our American culture of just working harder, smarter.  However, as we ponder the word of God, is this a proverb Scripture supports?
  • As you pray and ask Holy Spirit for revelation of truth, what Scriptures come to mind?  Will you write them in your journal?  Will you choose one in particular to pray through in a famine season when it seems to hard to keep trying?

The few Scriptures Holy Spirit brought to my mind (I hope you’ll add others) are these:

James 1:2-3   Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Romans 12:2  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

1 Peter 1:6-7  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

John 17:15-19  (Jesus’ prayer for us)  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

I pray you are encouraged to try, try again – under the protective wing of Father God, with His Spirit living in you, and the word of God, Jesus Himself, firmly grasping your will day by day.

Eyes on Jesus…you’re Shining!

~Lisa