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Chaos, Social Justice, and Facing Fear in order to Seek God's Face

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.  Isaiah 26:3 A warning in advance-in...

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

learning to exist openly in community…


Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand hima threefold cord is not quickly broken. 
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (ESV)


How do you learn to play nicely in the sandbox if you’ve never really been the “play group” girl? I struggle with community. I know how to play nicely. But,  like so many women, I struggle with feeling welcomed, and I confess that more of that exists in my own mind than in the world. No one wants to be rejected; and it is my nature to be disinclined to risk rejection than to seek out new experiences. I have seldom been rejected. Fear, the voice of the enemy, steals my nerve and threatens my blessings.

Fortunately,  am blessed with old and new friends who excel at community. My Gayle and my BFF nurture my growth because they allow me to wade slowly into the rich communities in which they thrive. In several conversations recently, I acknowledged the critical nature of existing in community…we were not built to do things on our own. God is speaking again and I guess it’s time for me to move. 

It’s been about 10 weeks since I waded into the deep end. For someone who doesn’t engage openly and easily within my own church family, I have certainly gotten cozy with the 99. They are my tribe.  I’ve developed some genuine online friendships, and even met an (in)RL friend who happens to live in town (we’ll be hanging out for a while, I suspect…).
I struggle with community, and I’m not certain why. I was extremely shy as a child; uncomfortable with new people and new situations. My parents taught me to compensate; to act brave and soldier on. As an adult, only my closest friends know I still struggle with shyness; my natural inclination to get things done generally outweighs my discomfort with new things. I am adventurous, and often the lure of a new undertaking is enough to draw me in. I’m a goner for excitement. Until just now, I didn’t understand my shyness. I have named my fear and now God is challenging me to get over it. He is calling upon me to enlarge my territory, and I have to leave my comfort zone to do it. One more thing…I cannot do it alone.

Remember the Prayer of Jabez? I studiously avoided it, mostly because I consider myself “too cool” to be doing what everyone else is doing. I probably miss a lot that way, but late to the party is better than never showing up… While everyone got stuck on praying “enlarge my territory,” I stopped shopping in prayer long ago. I’ve just returned to 1 Chronicles 4, and now I get it. Asking God for more is simply another name for dreaming a God-Sized Dream. Holley explained it in December ’12, but I wasn’t entirely ready to receive it yet…
It’s about discovering and pursuing the desires God has placed within you that perfectly fit your heart.
We all have those desires. Some are simple and others complicated. Some are about home and others about faraway places. Some happen quickly and others unfold over a lifetime.
But what they all have in common is this: Ignoring them means ignoring a core part of your purpose. ~Holley Gerth, How will 2013 be different for you?

Now I think I just might be ready to receive what she saw and what I must pursue, and not ALONE. In community. Going bigger for God…

So, in a whisper I am praying, “…Oh, that You would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let Your hand be with me, and keep me from harm...”

May God, in His Infinite Wisdom, grant this request.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I am not Esther…


For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your fathers family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?
Esther 4:14 (NIV)

Because I am not Esther,
i
t would be easy for me to miss
myself in her story.  We are there. 
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I am not an orphaned virgin raised in a harem. I will be never be presented as a bride before the king. That doesn’t mean that I don’t know Esther’s story, and it doesn’t mean that there isn’t resonance to be found there for us all.

I am not Esther, but the last few years of my life convince me, as nothing else could, that I was born to, I was brought to this moment for such a time as this.  To write my stories. To write my own way out of the desert, leaving a trail for those still lost, afraid, desperate for a way out. Every experience prepares each of us to be the people we must be in this things that we must do. I have lived every moment of my life in order to be here, now.

Because I am not Esther, it would be easy for me to miss myself in her story.  We are there. Esther’s journey is described as “God’s Perfect Work through Imperfect People.” That might sound like a big job for a large and powerful contingent, but each of us is called to be available to a Perfect God, precisely as we are right now. I am not Esther, but I was called for such a time as this (and so were you).

When I walked away from the life I once knew (or, when it walked away from me) and I began to write, among the first words I wrote were these…
When life gets particularly rough there is comfort in that in an imperfect world, a perfect God loves us, and abides with us, through all things.
I hadn’t any idea that I was already on my way to participating in His Perfect Work in my own imprecise, imperfect and thoroughly broken way. I hadn’t any idea that I’d been born to stumble; born to surrender, born to be broken only that I might be made useful in His Hands. Kind of like Esther.

I find her fascinating, and so inspiring, for so many reasons.  The book of Esther is quietly but powerfully about God. According to biblical scholars, it is the only book in which God does not appear by name. There are no prayers; no miracles. That is the life I desire to live. Quietly powerful, clearly filled, but in a steady whisper.

She is unremarkable. She is beautiful, yes, skilled in the ways of the court, but powerfully, entirely available to be used when the need arises. Charles Swindoll’s commentary offers the following insight…
Life can be hard. Difficult times happen, and pain cannot be avoided. When life doesn’t make sense, do you turn to God or away from Him? … Trust and obey, as Esther did. And watch God silently weave all events for His glory . . . and for our good.
The last four and a half years, the last 6 months would have not been what they were had I not been entirely available. Available to be broken. Available to be stilled. Available to be set aside, impotent, stripped of so much of what I believed to be my power that I might be clear that everything happening was ONLY God. Kind of like Esther.
                So that I would be ready to mother fiercely.

                So that when my mother had a stroke, I could get on a plane the very next day. Go, and                 stay, doing what she needed until she didn’t need me to do things for her anymore.

                So that I would be available to advocate for my protector, my beloved, when for once, he         needed ME to be strong.

                So that I could finally understand what this place, what this time in my life represented…my  Wilderness.  A place of learning, but never a destination.

                So that like Esther, I would be ready for my moment, for such a time as this.
On Tuesdays, I pray and and play with friends here...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Surrendering to Sabbath, slowly (a series about growth)


Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.
Hebrews 6:7 (NIV)

I am drinking in the rain. It’s been nearly two months since I began Surrendering to Sabbath, and it has borne fruit. I do not soon envision myself as the woman lighting candles at sundown, but I am changed.

This afternoon, I felt myself slowing down, quieting my thoughts resting, planning today what might be done to ensure that tomorrow’s focus is primarily upon tranquil worship and family time, though there are meetings, study groups, and lessons to attend. I am changed forever by the realization that Sabbath is

Saturday, February 23, 2013

In the little things…


He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
Deuteronomy 32:4 (NIV)

My husband and I were scrambling to make a morning train. He’s gotten a bit spoiled with me not working; he could drive himself to the station, but I think he enjoys our spending time together (I know I do). We missed catching it at the station in town, but we live in a bedroom community of the City-there are many ways to get in. We raced past the second station to the third, and he dashed up the stairs to the platform, just ahead of the train. I asked him if he wanted me to stand by, instantly panicking because I had to get back to get the children to school on time. Instead of defaulting to panic, I offered a prayer of Thanksgiving for all the blessings in the day to come (this is new for me, but I like it…I really like it…). I thanked God for being in control, for my surrender, and yielded every plan or opportunity I might come across in the day to Him, in advance. And then I said thank you. I slowly watched the train pull away from the station, calculating the time it would take me to get back to the house, hoping the children were ready to go when I pulled up. As I began typing a text to my beloved subtly inquiring whether he’d made the train, my cell phone rang. He was calling me, from the train, to say “thanks.” 
God shows up in the
little things to remind us
that to Him, all our things
are little things.
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My prayer was being answered as I offered it, and that is the moment I understood. God shows up in the little things to remind us that to Him, all our things are little things.  I needed reminding, because lately I’ve been feeling a little isolated. It’s not unusual…I am still learning to exist openly in community. I’m not the only one.

As Moses prepares to leave the children of Israel, he is reminding them of the goodness, the faithfulness, the immutable perfection of God. From Matthew Henry’s concise commentary of the Bible,
"He is a Rock." This is the first time God is called so in Scripture. The expression denotes that the Divine power, faithfulness, and love, as revealed in Christ and the gospel, form a foundation which cannot be changed or moved, on which we may build our hopes of happiness. And under his protection we may find refuge from all our enemies, and in all our troubles; as the rocks in those countries sheltered from the burning rays of the sun, and from tempests, or were fortresses from the enemy. "His work is perfect:" that of redemption and salvation, in which there is a display of all the Divine perfection, complete in all its parts. All God's dealings with his creatures are regulated by wisdom which cannot err, and perfect justice. He is indeed just and right; he takes care that none shall lose by him.

He is The Rock. He is my Rock. His Work is Perfect, and though I am small and all of my biggest things are small in His Sight, yet He Cares for me. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Good Wife…


She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:12 (ESV)


I was talking to my BFF today about being an excellent wife (I aspire…). We laughed. Part of my theory is that good wives do the right things, says the right things, is loving, supportive, submissive, creative, all things becoming. So do Excellent Wives. The difference? Well, in my (likely addled) mind, the good wife, for all her accomplishments, has not yet evolved past her need to declare her achievements to her girlfriends. The Excellent Wife does all things in elegant silence. The Good Wife still needs a cheering section along with a place to vent. Anyway…

My beloved has struggling with a critical decision for the several months. He is not struggling with whether to proceed; that he well knows. His struggle is with making peace with the doing of what he must. I have practiced being a good wife. I consistently try to encourage him to move forward, acknowledging his fears, seeking ways to be helpful, but never nagging. My beloved does not respond to nagging. Nearly 20 years of marriage and a lifetime of observing the marriages of my parents and grandparents taught me that there is a way to support someone in arriving at a particular decision, without giving the appearance of doing so…

today I am a Good Wife,
and I will celebrate today’s victory
by sitting quietly beside my beloved
while he channel surfs (argh).
I won’t complain…
I won’t complain…
I won’t complain
So, in an earnest attempt to be a good wife, I vented and sought prayers from my BFF and my Gayle in getting my beloved from where he is to where he desires to be. The process has been slow, but part of the blessing has been in the constant encouragement of my dear sisters, who cheer me on when I’d rather roll my eyes, who send me firmly and lovingly back to my knees and off the cliffs I’m threatening to jump OR toss someone off.  They are the real reasons I have any shot at being Good.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I made a promise today (and a repost, cause writing can be like leftovers, good a second time)


Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 3:16 (ESV)

the warrior who does not care 

for herself is too weak for battle. 

(I had a conversation with my BFF today; Gayle, if you’re reading this, this is for you too.) I came across a book that just made it onto my “to read” list, Prayers for a Woman's Soul by Julie Gillies. In making the case for women praying for themselves, Julies wrote of the instructions provided by flight attendants “place the mask on yourself first, and then help those around you.” Is that the way you live your life? Wouldn't you like it to be? Here's something to consider-the warrior who does not care for herself is too weak for battle. 

So, while you're musing that, enjoy this repost, Running on Fumes.

“An empty pitcher cannot pour.”  This is the advice a dear friend gave me many years ago, when I felt stressed out and overwrought by the challenges of chasing my desire; to stay happily and successfully married, expert (a la Claire Huxtable) at mothering, building a career of which I could be proud, along with the notion of personal time and personal space, all under the dry-cleaned and flowing cape of Super Woman. Ha! “An empty pitcher cannot pour.”  It is also the advice I gave my sister (the best friend who is truly my sibling in every way but genetics) this morning as I sat at my keyboard wondering what to type.  This is usually how my blogs get written.


My sister lamented how worn out she felt, divining the needs of two children (I don’t care if they’re related, you’re doomed if you think that mothering means that one size fits all…), a husband, managing a household, and recounted the story of her 5 year old commenting on her tiredness and crankiness (before you chastise, gentle reader, that 5 year old is my beloved godson…). It sounded like a page from my life.  We are currently afflicted with the same ailment.  I am cranky.  I am always tired.  I am running on fumes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Surrendering to Sabbath, slowly (a series about growth)


This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.
Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)

I need another day of rest. I can finally say it out loud, working on a surprise for our firstborn’s sweet 16 nearly took me out. For weeks we’ve been sweating the details keeping the surprise, working on making it perfect, and praise God, it was. So, instead of surrendering to Sabbath on Sunday, I kept going….

After everything, I still felt we needed to include my husband’s parents in the celebration, so I invited them for a family dinner. In planning the surprise, I’d gotten our daughter to plan her special meal, roast leg of lamb, garlic mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus and sautéed green beans. We had sparkling cider, raspberry lemonade, and cream puffs with ice cream, sliced strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

Our firstborn, in the first hour of the first day,
16 years ago. You are truly our joy.
We thank God for the gift you are to our lives.
Happy Birthday, princess! We love you!
It wasn’t a herculean undertaking, but in the wake of pulling off a party that honestly looked event-planner worthy, a smart person would have taken it easy. I kept going…

I awoke, prepped, and went to church. Everyone else was exhausted and my beloved was feeling a little bit under, but I felt that pull (I’m so glad I went, I am renewed, and have lots to write about).

A day later, it is time for repentance, rest, and quiet. Sunday's family celebration was the last big thing I’d committed to do, and while I am grateful for the peace and favor that covered me this weekend, I am obedient to the needs of my body and my soul. So, it’s happening. I am getting my mind right in stages.  It’s a holiday weekend, and the children are out of school for the next few days. So, Monday I practice a Sabbath mindset. I have learned the blessings of greater peace and calm that come of Sabbath practice. It is a start. I is a baby step.  I will be transformed, and God will be glorified through His working in me. Even when it takes more than just a day a week.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

And then it all came together…(the birthing of my God-sized dream)


For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills
Deuteronomy 8:7 (NKJV)

This week’s GSDT assignment challenges us to identify “what we’re going to stop delaying and start doing.” While I didn’t remember the task, the answer came to me, complete, in one moment.

After the weekend that was (more on that later), somebody smart might’ve rested. I awakened later than usual but early for most and prepared for worship. I was called; there was a message I needed to hear (there was also a dinner party to prep for, but again, more about that later). The pastor preached “God is bringing you into a good land.” That was encouraging, but my rhema word was this…“before you enter into a good land, you must remember the lessons of the desert.” And that is when it all came together. I have been in the desert. And in order to never forget the lessons of the desert, I must write my lessons. I must write the ways God has sustained me when I never could have made it on my own because somebody else is wandering through the desert. It's time to stop delaying and write my way out of the desert. That's the book I am called to write.

Moses instructed the children of Israel as they were about to stop delaying (a 40 day journey across the desert took 40 years) by reminding them to look back. Matthew Henry’s commentary explains it in this manner…
To engage them to this obedience. Moses directs them to look back. It is good to remember all the ways, both of God's providence and grace, by which he has led us through this wilderness, that we may cheerfully serve him and trust in him. They must remember the straits they were sometimes brought into, for mortifying their pride, and manifesting their perverseness; to prove them, that they and others might know all that was in their heart, and that all might see that God chose them, not for anything in them which might recommend them to his favor. 

Before you enter into a good land,
you must remember the lessons of the desert.
Never forget all that
brought us to where we are
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Looking back in order to remember” is a concept familiar to me-not that I knew how or when I would need it most. I was raised on Sankofa, the Akan principle translated to mean “go back and get it.” Particularly resonate with African Americans, the lesson of sankofa is that we must never forget all that brought us to where we are now; that no matter how far we travel (literally, spiritually, or materially), it is not wrong to go back for that which might have been forgotten. “Before you enter into a good land, you must remember the lessons of the desert.”

Now I can write the book. It was never supposed to be a collection of blog posts; that wasn’t the soul deep lesson I grew through in order to learn and share. The lesson is (thank you, Rev. D for giving me the context for my wilderness wandering)...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Surrendering to Sabbath, slowly (a series about growth)


This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.
Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)

I need another day of rest. I can finally say it out loud, working on a surprise for our firstborn’s sweet 16 nearly took me out. For weeks we’ve been sweating the details keeping the surprise, working on making it perfect, and praise God, it was. So, instead of surrendering to Sabbath yesterday, I kept going...

You’ll get the rest of the story tomorrow. Today, I’m featured at Circles of Faith. Please go read and comment (please), and more importantly, join and subscribe to the site. It’s a ministry intended for Christian women as a place of support, encouragement, and love. I met the founder online and now we’re in(RL) friends and coffee buddies. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Not giving up, giving in…


           Wheat and barley are pounded,
    but not beaten to pulp
;
they are run over with a wagon,
    but not ground to dust.
This wonderful knowledge comes
from the Lord All-Powerful,
    who has such great wisdom.
Isaiah 28:28-29 (CEV)

Lent is about giving up, right? It is a test of wills, sacrifice, about what you can do for God, and not the other way around, right? No, that’s not it. I read something that explained,
Lent isn’t simply about us “giving up” something.  The real grace is when we recognize that Lent is a season in which God wants to give us something.  God wants to help us transform our lives and make us more free as people -- not just freer with God, but in the way we live our lives and love our families.

 I’m giving up on the fix in favor of
bowing down in worship,
stilling my body and my soul
to be renewed, restored, refreshed, in His time.

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It didn’t all hang together as a set piece until this morning, as I was walking the dog. I was listening to Martha Munizzi sing “Renew me,” without ever realizing this is another one of those soundtracks for me OneWord. When she pleads “Don't cast me away from Your Presence, renew a right spirit within me. For I am broken before You, I bow down before You in worship.” Lent is not about giving up, it is about giving over; giving yourself over to the transformative power of the Father. We’ve had it all turned around.

Lent is the perfect time to endure a season of growth, but remember, growing isn’t always easy, and it usually isn’t without pain. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

I’m taking my 40 days. I’m already broken. I may need more, but this year, I’m not giving up; I’m giving in. I will be still, Lord, so you can move, and I can stay out of the way. Because once you’re broken, you can’t be your own fix. If I could be my own fix, I, like Martha, wouldn’t be begging NOT to be cast out. I don’t know enough to give something up, saving the useless habit of trying to fix myself. That’s what I’m giving up for Lent. I’m giving up on the fix in favor of bowing down in worship, stilling my body and my soul to be renewed, restored, refreshed, in His time. Whether it take 40 days or not.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

“Mommy is writing…”


For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10 (ESV)


I am not where I am by choice.  (that does not mean I do not love where I am. I LOVE where God carried me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.) When my job was eliminated and I needed a way to stay sane, I wrote. Friends encouraged me to write for years. One day my soul opened up and a blog fell out. More than two years later, writing is refuge, therapy, communion.  Writing deepened my faith.  Had I not needed to fill days once full, I would never have given myself permission to write. On some level, writing filled a need; writing became my job.

Being a full time SAHM is not easy. There are always things to do and it is easy to become overwhelmed, particularly when you are NOT a domestic diva. So carving out time, quiet uninterrupted time to write felt awkward at first. Like without a career I didn’t deserve time for me. I believe if my writing were just an filler, I could walk away more easily. You see, for all my strength, I’m not all that good about giving myself permission. There is probably a long-form explanation, but the reality is that I am supposed to have more important things to do than sit around writing, right? Except that writing isn’t just a filler. I believe writing is my call. 

What’s a call? Well, according to several writers, it can include the experience of losing your footing and finding the ground…
I tell you for certain that a grain of wheat that falls on the ground will never be more than one grain unless it dies. But if it dies, it will produce lots of wheat.  If you love your life, you will lose it. If you give it up in this world, you will be given eternal life. If you serve me, you must go with me. My servants will be with me wherever I am. If you serve me, my Father will honor you. John 12:24-26 (NIV) 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Welcome Again!


May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us
yes, establish the work of our hands.
Psalms 90:17 (NIV)

We are so excited for session 2 of (in)couragers!


As moms Working At Home (WAH) and Outside The Home (WOTH) we pack lunch bags, back packs, suitcases, briefcases and everything else imaginable. On behalf of Jenny and I, welcome to the second session of “Don’t Forget to Pack Grace” a group for mothers who work. (in)courage prayerfully sought ways to help the women of their community connect more deeply with one another, challenged regular sisters like you and me to help get it done. Each of us has a part to play in the Kingdom; you never know who might be encouraged by your walk and your wisdom. Let your lights shine.
 
See Jenny and I as (in)couragers-in-chief! Think of us as secret weapons. As an HR executive, I tried to “lead by example, tackling projects with strategic insight while consistently delivering exceptional results” (language from an old resume), all while holding hands, praying, and working as directed by the Holy Spirit to create and sustain professional environments I’d couldn’t wait to walk into each day. I not do that for my church as a member of the Personnel Committee.  Jenny has encouraged and exhorted me in ways I'm sure we'll share with you. She is an awesome student of the Word, wife, supermom, great friend and legendary hostess, all while managing a busy career outside the home as Assistant Director of Alumni Relations for a major US university. We pledge our hearts, our experiences, and expertise to help you get it done, well. 

I always start my blogs with scripture. It reminds me why (and for whom) I write. Welcome to my Treat Me to a Feast: Notes from My Abundant Life-I’m very glad to have you. As a former human resources executive, I know what it’s like to be a working mom, because I lived it while spending a good deal of my career writing corporate policies for and researching best practices around work/life balance. It kind of became a thing with me. I knew the life I wanted, and sought ways to establish corporate cultures that would support it (oh, and other families too).



One day, I became a SAHM not entirely by choice. I felt like my life had been tossed on its head, and it hurt. Once I found my feet again, I did what I do best; I kept moving forward. You see, in both my professional and my personal life, I learned that you never know who’s watching. My prayer is always “Lord, if someone should see me, please let it be that I was caught in the act of doing Your Will.” So, as wife and mother, sister, friend, I charge ahead with goals in mind, not floating where the tide might carry me, but swimming, even against the tide, with purpose.


Remember Dory in Finding Nemo?  You never know from whence your blessings may come.  Dory had it right.  Don’t drift.  Don’t bury your imperfections.  God sees and loves them, and is working on you where you are right now.  Don’t conform to the pattern of this world…change the game. Change the world. Sometimes the biggest risk you can take is to be yourself. Not ambivalently, not arrogantly, but authentically. Genuinely, “Yes, this is whom God made, and He couldn’t be wrong, so I’ll just trust Him.” 

I’m looking forward to supporting you and all the members of this community in ways I cannot even imagine yet. We’ll be meeting on Facebook, checking in via Twitter, meeting where and when it makes sense for you. This is your community and we serve at your pleasure. I’ve said Grace. It’s time to feast!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Surrendering to Sabbath-choosing rest (a series about growth)


This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.
Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)

Last Sunday, I experienced a different kind of Sabbath. What I’ve learned about Sabbath practice is that it requires intentionality, and a purity of spirit in making the offering. Despite not being where some of my sisters are, I am making inroads to lead my family by example; convicting myself, creating an environment where we are released and free to embrace rest, experience the Spirit, and be renewed. 

paraphrasing a modern commentary of  Isaiah 30:15,
we should accept God’s advice and chill.
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