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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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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Um, thank you...

Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks, for this is the 
will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 (KJ21)

Sometimes you receive a gift and you’re required to say “thank you.” Sometimes that gift is completely awful. My friend Holley says “Always remember to love the Giver more than the gift.” Reading that immediately took me back to the last couple years of my life. Anybody with sense would certainly NOT call the trials we’ve lived through a gift by any stretch of the imagination…but God.
God used the toughest times in my life to strip away all my defenses, my crumbling façade, every illusion I fabricated to suggest that I was in control in order to draw me nigh to Him. The gift of trials stunk, but it was gifts of Grace, the Peace found only within the deepest madness, that made me remember how much I loved the Giver.

My friends and I speak often about Grace, and reflecting on a long ago conversation, it occurred to me…we should be living every single day lavishing every bit of the Grace we have with everyone we meet. That’s the gift. We should give away our best attitudes, our best tone, the best of our heart as though we could only receive more by handing out alI we have. We’ve all be taught “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).  Let’s start living like it.
I believe that Grace is precisely the kind of gift that makes you appreciate the Giver. One day while walking the dog I was reminded in one of my favorite random-shuffle-on-the-iPod kind of ways of the goodness of Love (God) and my gratitude for Grace. Jill Scott was singing in my ear, “I Can’t Even Begin to Explain (how good it is)” and while she was singing about romantic love and hurt and forgiveness, I also heard Grace.

So, if there is to be a lesson, here it is...I am no theologian, but something I read by @stickyjesus got it right for me. “God’s Word instructs us how to love each other well. A compassionate, forgiving, and  contrite heart can be a mighty kingdom expanding force.” That’s a gift that NEVER stops giving. And the One Who Gives Grace? I will always love Him.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Dog Series, Polar Vortex

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.
Psalms 118:1(KJV)

This prayer is dedicated in part to the Polar Vortex, which has given us some of the most intense winter weather I can ever remember. It may be because I am older now, and snow and cold are more about heating the house, having suitable snow tires and driving safely rather than finding the steepest hill to sled down, making the most audacious snowman or filling an as yet undiscovered virgin plain with a heavenly host of snow angels. In any case, I am grateful that God speaks to me in many ways, often through the deep brown eyes of my beloved fur companion even on a treacherous and icy morning stroll.

Read the story at Circles of Faith by clicking here Prayer for an icy morning dog walk-

Friday, January 24, 2014

Party like it’s my birthday (because it is)

Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalms 90:12 (NIV)

Everything I need I have. Everything else is a bonus.
Let's party like it's my birthday, because it is.
Today I turn 50. It is a milestone. It is a miracle. When you consider that every day is a miracle,  having experienced 50 years’ worth of them is remarkable. I am abundantly blessed. I realized today that My Beloved held my hand as I entered my 30s, my 40s, and now my 50s. He reminded me that he also helped me celebrate my 16th and my 21st. In many ways he is my life; in all the best ways.

We participated in creating two remarkable people, our daughter and son. I have an amazing assortment of friends, most notably my Gayle and my BFF. I have a tribe of writing sisters that have opened my world and broken my heart in all the best and most lasting ways and I wouldn’t trade a thing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Say “YES” anyway…

What can we say about all this? If God is on our side, can anyone be against us?  God did not keep back his own Son, but he gave him for us. If God did this, wont he freely give us everything else?  If God says his chosen ones are acceptable to him, can anyone bring charges against them?  Or can anyone condemn them? No indeed! Christ died and was raised to life, and now he is at Gods right side, speaking to him for us. Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, suffering, and hard times, or hunger and nakedness, or danger and death?... I am sure that nothing can separate us from Gods lovenot life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future,
Romans 8:31-36, 38

I am a fraud. There, it’s out, and even some of my dreaming sisters will be hearing this confession from me, now, for the very first time. I have not always had the courage of my convictions. I have deep and abiding faith in God, that is true. HOWEVER, until recently, I simply wasn’t the miracle believing type, for me.

Admitting my fraud is not entirely new. As recently as December, I wrote these words…
Looking back, I thought I had it right. It was a faith of sorts, just one without much testing. You know, it’s another one of those things we tell one another, “no testimony without a test.” I don’t think I didn’t have faith, but lately good friends who are praying and counseling me through this take me back to Word, reminding me that “the refiner's fire is hot, I know, but the end result is beautiful. Hang in there.” I am thankful that my Christian friends are not the drive-by variety.

Read the rest at www.GodSizedDreams.com and link up your own story about saying "YES" anyway.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

It's time for Sabbath Rest.

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 
Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

I shall find my quiet place, 
and remain there until 
He determines that I should move.
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Thank You, Lord, for the good sense to slow down before I fall down. It is time for Sabbath rest. I will not resist. I will not get angry.  I chose to hide myself safely within The Rock.   

I seek a quiet active peace, and I intend to recharge my batteries until they and I are feeling brand new.  Lord, you have called me to rest, and I am on my way.

It is time for Sabbath Rest. I shall rest. I shall find my quiet place, and remain there until He determines that I should move. And when I move, it will be slowly, deliberately, fully enrobed in His Will. I’m going into hiding, and just the thought of it brings me joy. Who might imagine that retreat would be worthy of celebration? 

Lord, you have called me to rest, and merely the thought of it refreshes my soul. It is time for Sabbath rest. Lord, you have called me to rest, and I am on my way.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What comes of a Worry Fast?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid
John 14:27 (NIV)

A flood of tears landed me on this shore. I am grateful that the hurt, the fear and the disruption sharpened my faith, deepened my devotion, driving me to my knees. I didn’t like it, but I am beginning to understand. The lessons are not over, but I am learning obedience instead of resistance.

I worry. I sweat details, ponder possibilities,  create contingency plans, and wonder “what if” far more than is necessary. It’s a bad habit and according to author Mike Ruffin,

There is a direct relationship between worry and quality of our own faith. 

Knowing better does not necessarily mean doing better, but I’m on the path to doing better. To declare that I would be free of worry in an instant would be both impractical and unrealistic, so, I undertook, just for one day, a Worry Fast. What’s that?? Here’s how I explained it…
When I felt worry and anxiety overwhelming me, I called it by its name and started praising God. I distracted my worried mind. I then promised to worry later, if necessary.

Here is my testimony. In every case, by the time it was time to worry, GOD HAD ALREADY MADE THE WAY. I cannot in an instant eliminate my inclination to worry, but I can add in praise. The peace that filled me cannot be explained. There is nothing useful about worry.  I am not dismissing the value of preparation, consideration, being prepared. HOWEVER, Sarah Young writing in Jesus Calling reminds us of the blessing of companionship with the Lord, which I found when I laid my anxiety down…
Leave outcomes up to Me. Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out. Think of your life as an adventure with Me as your Guide and Companion. Live in the now, concentrating on staying in step with Me.

What comes of a worry fast? I was still and in worship while God moved. Instead of trying to make it work, I allowed God to be God, as I waited, expectantly, concentrating only on staying in step.  I took His Peace, instead of my own fear, and found joy. I want more of that. There is a beauty born of obedience that I did not know; I want more.

Sharing this story of encouragement at Holley's today. Join us?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

You are Loved…

See what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called  the children of God. For this reason the world knows us not, because it knew him not. 
1 John 3:1 (DARBY)

Life will get rough. Things will not go as anticipated; as planned, as you feel you deserved. Know this…at the best times in your life; at every other moment in your life, You Are Loved.

It is easy to believe that no one has ever struggled this hard. It is easy to believe that all around you people are succeeding, achieving dreams, moving forward while you are mired in fear, failure, depression. It is easy to find reasons not to try again, but for every so-called good reason, know this, You Are Loved. Do Anyway.

In his commentary on 1 John 3:1, biblical scholar Matthew Henry writes about the Christian struggle, saying,

Little does the world know of the happiness of the real followers of Christ. Little does the world think that these poor, humble, despised ones, are favourites of God, and will dwell in heaven. Let the followers of Christ be content with hard fare here, since they are in a land of strangers, where their Lord was so badly treated before them. 

Why should we be content? Because we are so greatly loved. Look at the community that surrounds you, even that you were brought to this place at this time to read these words of encouragement. You Are Loved. God Loved you so dearly that he claimed you by name as His Own. I know it’s hard; I know because I have lived through hard, am living through hard, and even so, I can say in the words of Job, “though he slay me, yet will I hope in him…” Job 13:15 (NIV)

Know that You Are Loved. Even on my worst days, when I struggle with both "how to" and "why should I", I can list a praise. 
I woke up this morning.
I was in my right mind.
I got dressed, and had clothes to wear.
I put on shoes.
I walked my dog, worshiping in the open air,
appreciating birdsong,
my silly doggy’s delight at simple things; 
dew on the grass, new smells, new sights.

More than any of these things, I remember that I am abundantly loved, so much so that My Father gave His First and Only Begotten Son that you and I might be saved. Hold up your head. Keep Going. Be Encouraged. Never forget how precious you are to He Who Created You. You Are THAT Loved.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Notes From the Studio :: A dancers' lesson on life (soul-stirring inspiration from Lisha Epperson)

 I don't let just anyone pour out their words here; Lisha isn't just anyone. We met as (in)couragers and while we're only 12 miles apart as the crows fly, in real life, or as we say in(RL), we've never met...all in God's perfect time. In the meantime we share words and souls online and over the phone. She's extraordinary, and I'm blessed that she penned words just for us here. Drink deep, and learn a dancer's lesson on life.  
photosJudy Tyrus for Dance Theatre of Harlem
Dancers work incredibly hard.  Training is demanding and you don't/won't get better unless you put the work in. It's hard...repetitive and sometimes seemingly unproductive. It's mental and emotional. Pushing yourself to the limit, at some point, you'll run into your personal glass ceiling in the form of physical limitations. Physical limitations, as every dancer knows, are real.
The battle to overcome nature teaches dancers the beauty of persistence. Nature has the last word in the world of dance and dancers learn quickly to stay two steps ahead. Dancers learn resourcefulness. We learn quickly to compensate, find another way around or disguise flaws. We interject - with answers and solutions at the ready. When nature presents a challenge we give it our best shot. These lessons translate well in real life and make dancers excellent problem solvers....creative and critical thinkers.
Dancers shouldn't be the only ones who benefit from lessons learned in the ballet studio.
Years ago I was a student at a conservatory in New York. Positioned to my left, as we faced the barre in a beginner pointe class, was the perfect ballerina. She had a lovely ballet body... long strong spine and legs, a pretty little head perched atop a graceful neck - and those feet....this girl had the feet. Her name was Heidi. Having never worn pointe shoes, we were all on the same level. Intermediate students leaping forward to the pinnacle of ballet training for girls...pointe work.
As I sat on the floor preparing for class I remember seeing her foot slip into the shoe.  Like some sort of glass slipper from a modern day Cinderella story, the shoe appeared to mold itself to her foot.  I have a clear image of her standing effortlessly on pointe as most of the other girls...including me, lined up on the road to resourcefulness. We began the process of discovering how to dance in pointe shoes when she was born knowing. We only hoped to figure this thing out. 
In that moment I thought "Life isn't fair." But experience taught me we each come to the table with gifts. Our job is to discover and utilize those gifts to the best of our ability. Use the gifts to shape the lives we dream of. Still, you may have to work. 
photo~Judy Tyrus for Dance Theatre of Harlem
Praise God I had a sensitive and resourceful teacher. She pulled me aside and shared her secret tips and tricks. Pointe work was a struggle but I mastered it.
Years later, I reflect on my ballet training and see how my path to parenthood was a lot like pointe work. It didn't come easy. I put the shoes on, having trained properly and having done everything I could to prepare for the task, but physical limitations would hamper my efforts.
Determination is beautiful and there's no substitute for active faith but this time around my doing did nothing. Grace was my resource. That's the thing about God... His supply is limitless and whatever you need, for any situation...He's got it. This time around it was about the work of rest. My would-be children were waiting on the other side. I had to find another way around the mountain of motherhood. God showed me quiet reliance on him would keep my tank filled. Provide a pool of reserves from which I could spiritually pull to stay afloat when it got hard.
The persistent pursuit of his presence opened my eyes when I needed to see and whispered direction when I didn't know where to go. He would show me the other way. Connection with the resources of The Source helped me stay the course long enough to experience my destiny.
Stay in the game because there is always another way around.
I didn't get the feet. When I asked God for help, He pointed to drive and vision. He graced with both. He pushed me forward to see the faith I'd been given and convinced me of the significance and possibility of God-sized dreams.
Confronted with a road block, I never shied from the work - in whatever form it presented itself. My gifts were perseverance and flexibility.
And you have them too. 
Be persistent. Stay flexible when things don't look exactly the way you want them to. Don't give up. Be open...pliable. Work hard and pray harder. I claimed my place at the barre and wiggled into a spot on stage because I didn't quit.  In the end, resourcefulness is the real life application of all I learned in the studio combined with the contemplative peace found only in grace. 
Relentless pursuit and prayer brought opportunities. Who doesn't love a hard worker and I was rewarded. I performed onstage with a world famous ballet company and toured with smaller regional ones in the US. I became a mother...many times over and in every way possible.
Life is about challenges. The difficulties we face today seed future stories of victory. God uses it all...the painful and faith shattering....the challenging experiences birth in us qualities it takes to win. Press into the work, knowing a blessing lies ahead.
Friend, He works everything together for good. Really. Every. Thing. 
What's your pointework? Can you look back and see how he used a difficult situation to shape and prepare you for future battles? What are your gifts?
Lisha Epperson writes the stories of her life on the couch , in the car or at the kitchen table. Scratching out bits and pieces of joy and lessons learned while homeschooling 4 children she affectionately calls the Lovelies.....usually with a cold cup of coffee nearby.  It isn’t easy to carve out a modern Christian lifestyle in NYC but that’s what she’s doing.   Lisha is passionate about marriage, motherhood, nutrition and her Christian faith. She makes room for her journey through infertility and adoption and shares a warrior song about this experience as an encouragement to women at www.seespeakhearmama.com. In other travels Lisha was a ballet dancer and clothing designer. She is currently in the process of launching Epperson Design Studio featuring stationery, crafts and clothing created by her children. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Worry Fast…

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid
John 14:27 (NIV)

My messages from God come unlimited by source, time, or predictability.  I am aware lately that God is teaching me PATIENCE beyond my imagining, the freedom of DEPENDENCE, to BE STILL and to TRUST. (dedicated to my BFF~Happy Birthday! Love you, man)
In anticipation of a strategic planning session, I encouraged the members of one of my prayer circles to fast and pray as they felt led. Fasting takes many forms, and some with which I have recently become acquainted intrigue me because their effects have longer term consequences for me at least, than others. As a writer, I collect random bits of information, phrases, words from sister-friends who encourage and inspire me and then wonder bless God, at the marvelous ways they come together. I call it the beauty of the aerial view. Walking in subzero weather this morning (because I REALLY love my dog), several of my bits aligned in a way that I want to share for your encouragement, praying that you’ll join me. I’m undertaking a Worry Fast. 
I am reading the bible in its entirety this year, and was listening to Job as I walked. If ever there is a lesson in Grace under pressure, it is the story of God’s servant Job. Even in the face of his misery, he asks, “…Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Job 2:10 (NIV) Worry serves no purpose. Read again. WORRY SERVES NO PURPOSE. I cannot change my inclination to worry in a day, but I can take steps. I’m undertaking a Worry Fast.
Like any other person,  I’ve managing (or failing to manage) a number of challenges at any given time that, if I let them, would easily overwhelm me. (I know, you are too, or, if not now, you find yourself between feeling overwhelmed by it all or grateful to God that you made it through. It means you’re human.) Worry can feel like the Irresistible Force Paradox...you know, "what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?" Faith means you push through, but only as far as the Throne of Grace. If I wasn’t able to remember that on my own, I had this…
My sisterfriend and writer Dolly Lee posted this from an old journal, just in time to feed my soul…
from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, (11/19), but it seemed right for today:
"Leave outcomes up to Me. Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out. Think of your life as an adventure with Me as your Guide and Companion. Live in the now, concentrating on staying in step with Me."
I’m undertaking a worry fast. When I felt worry and anxiety overwhelming me, I called it by its name and started praising God. I distracted my worried mind. I then promised it the ability to worry later, if necessary. I moved on. I’m feeling better.

This is my encouragement for you today. Fast from your worry…just from a little while. I promise you that if you confess it, acknowledge it, channel a little Job and read a little Sarah Young, you will feel better. Be encouraged. And one more thing...the so-called Irresistible Force Paradox?  NOTHING IS TOO HARD FOR GOD. (Jeremiah 32:27)

Friday, January 3, 2014

In right order

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 (ESV)

I had a revelation of sorts this morning, initiated by wise words from a friend, spurred on by a quote on Facebook, and then confirmed by shoveling in the aftermath of 2014’s first winter storm.
Thankfully, it is never too late to ask God for help. ~Dolly Lee, Soulstops.com

Later, she writes,
Let the Light of My Presence soak into you, as you focus your thoughts on Me. Thus I equip you to face whatever the day brings….It is true. Whenever I first spend time with God, He somehow multiplies my productivity and my sense of peace and purpose.

 Faithfulness and obedience ain’t easy.
The blessings and the peace
that come of them
are not to be missed.
I read her words last night and they stayed with me. Upon awakening, when I read Madiba’s words on Facebook, things started coming together.

One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen. ~Nelson Mandela 

Ouch. That’s been my problem. In an effort to stay positive, preaching abundance in the face of want, in my continuing attempt to consistently show a brave face, I have so lowered my expectations as to ensure that disappointment doesn’t hurt so much. I’ve been conformed. Thank God it is never too late to ask God for help.

I’ve been struggling to accept a blessing and God’s Grace because I’m busy talking myself out of praise and gratitude just in case something falls through. That’s crazy, right? I had a very simple lesson in the power of not conforming to logic, to so-called reason, to the world BECAUSE it is never too late to ask God for help.

I got up this morning to tackle mountains of snow covering our walkways, driveway, and the car left behind. My Beloved left me sleeping and went to work, because despite all that has happened, he provides. That is who he is and what he does. Once I dragged myself out of bed, I was determined to do all the things at home that would bring a bigger smile to his weary and cold face upon his return.

How come the snow blower wouldn’t start? All our best efforts were for naught. It was then that I remembered, it is never too late to ask God for help. Once last time I tried, but with a different mindset…One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen, and that is all it took. God stepped in, and it wasn’t about getting the snow blower started. That was simply to get my attention.

It is time to stop conforming. According to a study guide published by Walk with the Word Church, when we suffer setbacks, though we have blessings ahead of us, God “is not simply erasing everything and pretending nothing happened. Becoming what God intends involves a personal commitment of faithfulness and obedience to His Word and ways on our part.” As I’ve learned over the past couple years, faithfulness and obedience ain’t easy. However, the blessings and the peace that come of it are not to be missed.

I will thrive in my Crucible as I get my life in right order, letting the Light of His Presence soak in…equipping me to face whatever comes.

Thank you Lord, for Dolly’s words, Madiba’s wisdom, and a snow blower, stubborn like me. 

OneWord 2015

OneWord 2015

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