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Consistently Consistent

By KRISTAN DOOLEY

,Weather in Ohio is weird. One minute it’s the beginning of summer, the windows are open and you know heat is just around the corner, and then the next it’s fifty-five degrees and your digging your sweats back out of your closet. Last week it was in the sixties; yesterday it was eighty-nine. The temperature is all over the place, and my body doesn’t adjust as quickly as it used to.  Never knowing what to expect makes it extremely hard to be prepared.

The same is true for our internal temperature. To be one thing one moment and another thing the next is no way to live. It’s taken me a few years to figure out the internal temperature I like best. The posture I can set my heart where it doesn’t overreact to the circumstances around me wasn’t easily found. I fought to figure out what grace, hope, peace, love, and acceptance felt like on the inside. I paid close attention to the internal temperature I see throughout the New Testament in Jesus. To do all of this I had to slow my pace down and pay careful attention.

What kind of things rattled my insides? What was going on around me when I felt my internal temperature rise? When did I feel out of control? When did I feel at my best and adequately responding as Jesus would?

These are all questions I asked myself as I reestablished a consistently consistent temperature. My heart was not created to fluctuate like the weather in Ohio. When the people around me struggled to know the me they would get, they would also struggle to connect, trust and live in unity. That wasn’t what I wanted for my family, friends, or even my community. I wanted to be who I was and respond with a steady consistency, and during my search, I learned the only way to do that was to spend time with the one who set my thermostat. The more time I spend in the quiet with the Father, the more I reflect Him in the open.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  The chaos around you doesn’t have to dictate the temperature within you, either. You can be consistent in your response to others regardless of your circumstances from others. Scripture says, “Jesus was full of grace and truth.” Regardless of where He was or what He was doing, His response was consistent. That’s because His internal temperature was also consistent. We respond from what’s happening within. The more our within links to the Father, the more our internal temperature gauges and reflects the Father.

What does your internal temperature look like? Where do you see too much fluctuation? Is there a desire for more consistency? What is your time like with Him? Do you have space or can you create space where you could sit with Him longer? Long enough to regulate your temperature?  Consider making space for that within your day-to-day routine.

PRAYER  Thank you, Jesus, for walking as an example of grace and truth for me. I so needed to see what consistency looked like. You rescued me from chaos and you set my feet upon a steady ground. I am so thankful that you regulate my temperature. Help me today to stay connected intimately to you and to walk according to you. I need you. Amen.

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Endurance for the Journey

 

By JENNY SEYLAR

I never fully realized how lucky I was until an African family showed up on the doorstep of the church with luggage in hand, and seeking asylum in the United States. The arduous three month journey from the African continent, through South and Central America, and then into the US through Texas, took determination, faith, and endurance. In a matter of days, I learned that my part in their journey was also one that would take endurance as I became one of their spokespersons and advocates. The gifts that we, as Americans, take for granted, do not come easily to people seeking asylum: housing, food, employment, communication, and more. These are readily available to those of us who already reside here, but acquiring them as a refugee, well, that’s another story, because it takes 1-2 years to be granted asylum in this country.

On the day the family arrived, I had proclaimed this statement to myself and to my friends on Facebook: “I am broken and mending; despairing and hopeful; fearful and courageous; stepping out of complicity and into liberation; I move forward with a new sense of purpose to do life and ministry amid the hurting on the margins. God, please guide me, and send to me companions for this journey.” In the course of one afternoon, the arrival of this family had collided with my call. Through prayer and dozens of phone calls, I found people that kept providing the necessary help to get the family the immediate things they needed. God had provided companions for the journey. It felt as if God were saying, “Finally you are listening to where I am calling you to serve.”

Parallel to the ministry I do with the African family and with many others is my own journey. Day-to-day life continues to be an endurance race. Grief creeps in when I least expect it. Loneliness occasionally blankets my leisure time. The challenges of being in a single person household seek to halt me in my path. Still, I refuse to let the weight of life thwart my journey towards wholeness. I know that there will be ups and downs, that the path will sometimes be blocked, and so I cling to the promises of Christ: “So then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne. Think about the one who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you won’t be discouraged and you won’t give up.” (Hebrews 12: 1-3, CEB)

In my darkest moments, Christ shows up and seems to say: “Look to me. I know what hardship is. I have endured greater things than this. I died for you, even though I could have taken another path. You can do this, dear daughter. I have given you what you need to endure if you will just trust me every day. I have provided faithful ones to encourage you along the way, and to pick you up when you fall. Trust me in this.” And so I trust, and in doing so, I have learned that life is more like a marathon than a sprint. Yet in my life, the distance is yet unknown. There is no measurement or countdown to which I have been made aware. I could die tomorrow or live another fifty years; it’s not for me to know or to spend energy worrying about. And so I look to Christ as I have most of my life. I look to Christ as I did some 21 months ago when my husband died unexpectedly. I look to Christ and run the race of life, knowing full well that the path is still hidden, yet trusting Him anyway. At times Christ sends companions for the journey, and other times it’s just me. Either way, I will endure.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  Dear one, what things in life are you enduring right now? Who has Christ sent to journey with you? Do you recognize the gifts that they offer for the season in which you are together? Who are you running alongside to guide them on their journey, and what gifts do you have to offer? We were not created to do life alone. There is a place in each of us that desires God AND desires human interaction. Life takes endurance so invite Christ along. Invite others along, too, because we are blessed when we do so.

PRAYER  God of Life and Hope, thank You for Your presence in my life. I am grateful for the people who have journeyed with me my whole life, and for those who have come alongside just for a season. They have blessed me. Help me to be a blessing to others, willing to run this endurance race of life with them. Awaken in me the call that You have for my life, and guide me as I live out that call. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

ABOUT JENNY SEYLAR
Jenny Seylar is a woman with a deep faith in Jesus Christ who serves in ministry at a United Methodist Church in Iowa. As a pastor and youth director, she is passionate about walking with youth, young adults, and adults of all ages as they journey in their faith. She believes in creating authentic relationships in order to walk alongside folks wherever they are in their faith journey.

In 2017, Jenny’s husband of 28 years unexpectedly died while on a training bicycle ride. In the aftermath, Jenny and her 3 grown kids, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, have sought ways to find joy in the everyday miracles that make up this life. You can read more about Jenny Seylar and her ministry at www.lovelylane.org or her blog “Journey From Despair to Hope” at https://journeyandstrength.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/through-the-lens-of-grief/

Your Input Needed

I know you’re busy, but this won’t take long!  As we’ve expanded this blog, I would love to hear your thoughts.  Specifically,

  1.  Do you like the new daily format?
  2. Are you happy with the content?
  3. Is there anything else you’d like to see us do?

That’s it! Just reply in the comments below (examples: yes, yes, more on courage -OR- y, y, more on courage, etc.)  Or, feel free to email me directly at info@thedentedfender.com.

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!  Hope you’re enjoying your summer 🙂

Blessings from The DF Team.

Who is Jesus? By Megan Sites

By MEGAN SITES

Who is Jesus?

“On hearing [Jesus’] words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.  Others said, “He is the Messiah.”  Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?”  Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”  “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.  “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him?  No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”  Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”  They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”  –John 7:40-52

So who is Jesus?  This question is just as alive today as it was thousands of years ago.  There was a lot of talk in these verses about who Jesus was. Some said he was a prophet, others said He was the Messiah and some said there is no way He is the Messiah.  Verse 43 says, “Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.” There were many voices saying many different things about Jesus. This struck me because I think in our own lives today we hear many voices saying maybe different things about Jesus and its causing a divisions in our hearts.

Not only do we live in a world that still has a lot to say about who Jesus is or was or might have been but we can often battle within ourselves with issues of disbelief also.  We hear other conversations about who Jesus is and no matter how secure we may feel in our faith some stories rock us more than others, and we begin to wonder if maybe they are right.  Maybe He isn’t good, maybe He doesn’t care about me, maybe He isn’t God, maybe He was just a prophet and we “maybe” ourselves to death.

Yet the words Jesus spoke ring as true as ever.  Before the questions, before the confusion of the crowd, Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  When I get lost in the maybe’s and the what ifs, I go back to the stream of faith to find my answers.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  So who do you say the Jesus is? Is He good?  Is He kind? Is He disappointed in you? Is He redeemer?  Is He king? Is He distant? Is He close? Is your friend? Is He your protector, your provider?  Is He angry? Does He delight in you? What does Scripture say about who Jesus is? Over the next few days I want to challenge you to silence all the voices and what they say about Jesus. The Apostle Paul said, “No one can have faith without hearing the message of Christ” (Romans 10:17, CEV). I am going to be spending some time this week asking these questions and diving into what the scriptures say about who Jesus is.

When you and I struggle, flounder, or get lost in a sea of doubt, the best way to move forward is to dive into the scriptures and find truth for ourselves about who Jesus really is. The book of John is a great place to start. Would you join me?

PRAYER  Jesus, who are You?  When all the voices are swirling around me saying conflicting things about You, who are You?  This week would you speak to my heart? Will you show me just who You are?  Strengthen my faith and fill my eyes with Your vision for my life. I love you and I invite you to move in me and in my heart this week. Strengthen my faith in You from the inside out. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Megan can be found on Instagram @mrssites

Worth the Wait

By KRISTAN DOOLEY

The best I can compare this season of waiting I’m in is to the birth of my girls. For months I walked with them inside me, growing and showing. I felt them, talked to them, sung over them, prayed for them. I told Ella stories about what we would do. I read to Addy all the time. Before they were ever born they preached sermons with me, they laughed with me, and they felt the tears I cried.  The anticipation of their physical arrival was overwhelming. I was excited and terrified all at the same time. With no idea what to expect, I waited.

The time was agonizing (and not only because I was extremely uncomfortable and the only shoes I could get over my swollen feet were house shoes).  I knew a great gift was coming and yet I couldn’t control how or when it came.

Acts 1:4-5 says, “And while staying with them He ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father which He said, ‘You heard from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Jesus told them to wait. He had just been crucified, buried and risen from the grave. Death had been defeated,  they were taking their victory lap and yet He told them to wait.  It must have been hard. Surely they were confused. I promise they needed self-discipline.

How do you wait when you know what you are waiting for will change everything?

Still, when Jesus says “wait,” you wait! There are things I’m waiting for right now. Promises He’s buried deep inside my heart. Secrets He has whispered to me in my favorite places with Him. I find faith in the disciple’s willingness to trust His orders. When we wait with expectation and discipline we, position ourselves for a miracle.  I’ve learned sometimes He says wait and because He said it, I wait–without knowing, without understanding and without manipulating the plan to fit differently.

Acts. 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”

They were waiting to receive power. The power enabling them to witness to all the earth. “The original, etymological meaning of “you will” is “to grasp” or “to seize.” The disciples would receive this gift Jesus talked about. It was a promise. When and how were the questions still on the table. It’s like having a baby inside of you and not fully understanding when and how the child will come, but knowing when she comes she will change life as you know it.

It’s celebrating what is and also what is to come.

While the disciples waited, they gathered together in prayer and worship. While they waited, they celebrated.  And in that they found peace.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  How’s your waiting going?  Have you found yourself able to worship while you wait? The Father has such good things in store for those who love Him. Some of those things happen instantly, but most of the time they come at us little by little. When you worship while you wait you carry the promise well.

I’m thankful we (unlike the disciples) no longer have to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit to fall on us. It has been done. Because of what was accomplished at the cross, we have the fullness Christ has to offer.  “I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you. 19 In a little while, the world will not see me any longer, but you will see me; because I live, you will live too. 20 You will know at that time that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you.” John 14:18-20

In fact, I would even go as far as to say our waiting is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. Be filled with the Spirit. Yield your life to the Spirit. Surrender to the Spirit, then wait and see all God has in store for you.  Do you need patience in your waiting? Ask Holy Spirit to help you right now.

PRAYER Jesus, I need Your helper, the Holy Spirit. I am unable to wait well on my own. It’s simply too much. Holy Spirit, come upon me and empower me to do what I can’t. Strengthen me in my waiting. Increase my trust, grow my faith and steady my heart. I need you and I love you.  Amen.

A Safe Place to Land

By MARY GEISEN

Three years ago, I finished a conversation with my son and daughter-in-law with these words, “Come home!” Struggling with a decision that took them miles away from home and then learning that the opportunity looked nothing like they imagined left me with only one answer–they needed a safe place to land.

They have shared with me more recently that allowing them to “come home” meant more than anything. You see, they had given up their home and put all their belongings into storage to enter this mission assignment. My son and daughter-in-law possessed “things” but were lacking a safe place to land. I said the first thing that came to mind and it made all the difference.

One of the things I treasure is knowing I have a safe place of my own. Whether it is a physical home or the people in my life I call family, I am covered in security and always have a soft place to land. Reality for some does not look like this. Safe is a word and a desire but isn’t always the truth for our life. My kids have experienced this firsthand in several different ways. Leaving to become missionaries is one example, but having their lives violated by a robbery and watching my other son by an unforeseen divorce shook their view of safety.

I don’t know what “a safe place to land” looks like for you. Do you have friends and family who surround you when life is overwhelming? Or when physical challenges become too much are you able to rely on medical help to lead you back to wholeness? Has your physical, emotional, or mental being ever been violated? None of these are okay and everyone needs their own safe place to restore, heal, and rest.

My life has not been without hard challenges and difficult solutions but through them all I continue to find redemption and security through the love of my Father. He declares that He is my safe place.

He alone is my safe place; His wrap-around presence always protects me. For He is my champion defender; there’s no risk of failure with God. So why would I let worry paralyze me, even when troubles multiply around me? (Psalm 62:2 TPT)

Knowing God’s wrap-around presence protects me allows me to rest in the comfort of His arms. I pray you find Him as your safe place to land, too.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT Today as you reflect on who or what is your safe place, pray the words of Psalm 23 as your promise from God to be your safe place. Here’s the beginning to get you started. Click HERE to read the whole psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
  He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,  he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake (Psalm 23:1-3 NIV)

May you feel comfort and peace as you discover your own safe place to land.

PRAYER  Father God – Today I am reminded that you will always be my safe place to land. When life becomes overwhelming, You gently whisper “come home” because it’s the only answer that makes sense. Your willingness to guide me and comfort me leads me closer to You. Your arms are the safest place of all. I praise and thank You, God. Amen.

 

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Using Online Bible Studies

By BARBARA LOWNSBURY

I love online Bible studies, including the ones here!  They’re short, convenient, and an easy way to connect and study with others.  BUT.  Yes, there’s a “but,” and I’m guessing I’m not alone in the experience I’m about to share.  If I’m not making personal time to meaningfully connect with God, that next Bible study I’ve clicked on can easily slip from a time of connection to a God-orientated task that carries me through the moment and not through my day.  It devolves into another to-do item or check on a check list.  Here’s what I’m learning to do:

  1. Pick 1 thing – what is the one most salient scripture or point that I connected with that I can think about through my day?  When I get a break or a quick moment to catch my breath, put aside the social media or that phone call for a moment and reflect back on the learning.
  2. Make space to talk about what I’m learning –  the way we learn best is by teaching someone else what we’ve learned.  I make a point to share the lesson so I retain it.
  3. Pray – Pulling God in more fully by praying before I start and abet I’ve read has been hugely helpful.  This invites in the Holy Spirit to lead and teach me in my reading.  The latter makes time for conversations with the One who I should be processing with most.
  4. When time permits, do extra – Write out the scriptures.  Read them in a few different Bible versions.  Take physical notes about what I’m connecting with.  Find a practical way each day to apply what I’m learning.  It doesn’t have to be big or fancy.  But do something.

Tools, including this devotional, are great, but only if I’m personalizing them with my Father so they become tangible and real in my life.  How about you?

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  In our DF devotionals, this section is always the application piece of what is being shared, and (hopefully) will help you and me to personalize and learn from what we’ve read together.  You will notice that they all require some, well … application on your part.  In other words you’ve gotta make a small space of time to allow God to drive the lesson home.

How do you do with personalizing what you’re learning?  For making space to reflect, respond and apply?  Consider giving yourself just 5 minutes more to allow God to really move.  Have a great idea you use to personalize your online studies?  I’d love to hear it so please post below!

PRAYER  Lord, I don’t ever want my time with You to slip into just another ritual or routine.  You are the most important relationship I have.  Just as I make space for the most important people I have in my life, help me to protect my time with You.  Help me to remember I spend time with you not out of fear or guilt, but out of a deep, abiding love for all that You are.  Thank You for loving me so richly, Papa, and for teaching me to do so in return.  I love You and my time, my mind, my heart and my strength are all Yours.  Amen.  

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BARB LOWNSBURY is the Executive Director for The Dented Fender.  Follow Barb and The Dented Fender community on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

Shedding Your Skin

By SARAH DAVIS

photo credit: Steven Sites

I learned more about reptiles than I ever wanted to when my middle son decided to purchase a Bearded Dragon with the money he earned one summer. I found myself immersed in routines of turning on a heated lamp for daily basking and making weekly trips to aisle three of the local pet store to purchase crickets. The things you do for love, I thought to myself. And yes, I eventually warmed up, too, and found myself standing at the aquarium in my son’s room having a monologue with that little lizard. He would turn his head at the sound of my voice, his beady eyes holding intelligence and curiosity.

For the first few months after we brought him home, he would shed his skin on almost a weekly basis. The shedding, I later learned, was necessary for his rapid growth.  And a recent conversation I overheard my husband discussing with a good friend has me thinking about all of this. “I’ve never felt more comfortable in my own skin,” he said confidently, with a light-heartedness I hadn’t heard from him before.

Sometimes shedding is necessary to grow into that place of being comfortable with who we are, of actually liking who we are as a person. I thought about all the times I’ve compared myself to someone else and came up short of enough in my measurement. The comparison of appearance, style, intelligence, creative ability, parenting–I could go on. Comparison is a quicksand that will swallow you whole and needs to shed off for us to grow.

I thought about the times I’ve silenced my own opinion out of fear of how it might be perceived. About the times I should have spoken up but didn’t, allowing someone else to make me feel inferior or believing that my own voice didn’t matter. I needed to shed giving other people that much power over my mind and my life.

I once heard a writing instructor say that, “Once you’ve made peace with your story, it no longer matters what others think.” When I think of “your story,” I think of it in a broader sense. I tend to get focused on specific moments in my life when sharing my stories, moments that are important but are only parts of the whole. Events on a timeline. They are small concerning God’s perspective of time and eternity. I think of “your story” as being all of who I am as a person with all of my character traits and quirks and uniqueness that makes me the only me on the planet.

The question is how do I get there? How do I get to that place of being comfortable in my own skin?  And how do you?

I have worked in long term care for the last three years. There has been a wealth of wisdom gained from the elderly patients I’ve had the honor of knowing. One common observation is that they have finally reached the point in their lives of being true to who they really are. Without pretense. Without inhibition.

“You wear black too much,” Hilda told me once. And what could I even say? It makes me look thinner, I thought to myself. So I smiled sheepishly and told her she was right and attempted to add more color to my wardrobe. Sometimes their unfiltered and frank words will scrape you a bit, as the truth sometimes does. But most of the time, it is beautiful and something I long to reach sooner rather than later in my life.

Here’s what I am learning about the process of becoming comfortable in my own skin (a long, messy, still-in-the-works process):

The more secure I become in who God sees me as, and the more I learn to rest in His approval of me, the easier it becomes not to compare myself. To not give other people’s opinion more attention than it deserves. To not over analyze and reread a text that I sent or overthink the way I responded to someone I interacted with that day.

I know it seems like an elementary truth, but perhaps to grow and become more comfortable in our own skin, it’s the most important one that we have to revisit from time to time. A skewed perception of God’s unchanging love for you will have you running from yourself your whole life and conforming to who others think you should be.

Being firmly rooted in the security of knowing that I am loved is the safest thing I have ever known.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  I have found that emotional and spiritual growth is an ongoing process in which I have had to shed many layers of faulty thinking and misperceptions that are contrary to the truth of God’s word. In 1 Peter 2:9, it says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (NIV).  What are some layers that God may be calling you to shed?  Consider asking Him to direct more firmly toward a fresher, more comfortable skin that reflects more thoroughly who God crafted you to be.

PRAYER  Father, thank You for choosing me. Thank You for renewing my heart and mind to the truth of what You say about me. Help me to go forward boldly in who You  have called me to be, knowing that I am chosen and loved. I pray that my thoughts, decisions and interactions with others will flow from a place of being rooted in Your truth.  May I more fully embrace who you created me to be.  Amen.

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Fighting the Lies with Truth

By BARBARA LOWNSBURY

I woke up weary.  Ever have those days?  The alarm rings and your energy to move forward into the day seems to have evaporated into the wind.  For no apparent reason, I felt cranky and tired.  The comfort of my cozy bed and the softness of my pillows beckoned, but I resolutely climbed out from under the sheets and prepared to face my day.

Did I spend time with God?  You bet.  But it didn’t feel like it.  I read the scriptures, I wrote my response and I prayed, but God’s comforting presence didn’t seem to pierce through my morning moodiness.  I just felt off.

Grabbing another hot cup of caffeinated courage, I hopped into my car and headed to the gym, hoping a good workout would shake the cobwebs loose from my heart and mind.  Jumping around, lifting and stretching, all to loud, upbeat jams, did nothing to lift my mood.  I felt flat from the inside out.

Finally, I prayed to God again and said, “Lord, something’s not right.  I have no idea what it is, but I can tell something is off within my spirit.  Please bring to the surface whatever this root of unhappiness is.  I need your help!”

Just a few minutes later, I got a call from my dearest friend (I call my closest relationships my “Wise Advisors”).  As we started talking, she started drawing me out, and before long I was in tears.  Ahh, I thought.  There’s the pesky root that’s dragging me down today.  Fear!

See, as a believer God has healed A LOT in my life.  The soil of my heart has been cleaned and prepared for growth.  But even the most lush of gardens get weeds in them, and weeds have to be pulled out by the root, brought to the surface and placed into the light to die off so the good plants can live and flourish.  This morning, I found a big ‘ole ugly weed.  I am in a season of deep joy and for some reason, I had this fear of the other proverbial shoe dropping and kicking the joy out of my life.  I was afraid to feel this happy, this peaceful, so the broken pieces inside tried to grab me and take me down a notch by reminding me of all the ugly I have experienced in my past.  It reminds me of the scripture in Matthew 13:19-23 (TPT):

 “The seed that fell on the beaten path represents the heart of the one who hears the message of the kingdom realm but doesn’t understand it. The Adversary then comes and snatches away what was sown into his heart.  The seed sown on gravel represents the person who gladly hears the kingdom message, but his experience remains shallow. Shortly after he hears it, troubles and persecutions come because of the kingdom message he received. Then he quickly falls away, for the truth didn’t sink deeply into his heart.  The seed sown among weeds represents the person who receives the message, but all of life’s busy distractions, his divided heart, and his ambition for wealth result in suffocating the kingdom message and prevent him from bearing spiritual fruit.  As for the seed that fell upon good, rich soil, it represents the hearts of people who hear and fully embrace the message of heaven’s kingdom realm. Their lives bear good fruit—some yield a harvest of thirty, sixty, even one hundred times as much as was sown.”

I have all sorts of weeds that try to take root in my heart.  Weeds of selfishness and fear, weeds of doubt and confusion.  I can let distractions, past failures, money, pride and all sorts of things keep me from embracing joy and peace in Jesus Christ.  I am so grateful God gives me solutions!  Prayers, confession, bible study, praise–all of these things are tools the Lord has placed in my arsenal to fight back so I can continue to grow and reap the harvest He prepared for me before time began.  And guess what – He has those same tools available for you, too!

So the next time you feel “off” or under attack, consider reaching into your spiritual arsenal and let God Himself begin rooting out the weeds in your heart.  I know after I dealt with the root God exposed to me and brought it into the light, I felt so much better.  My peace and joy were restored.  I bet yours will be, too.  Just remember that some weeds are stubborn, and take time, care and patience to pull out. But God is the master gardener.  He always knows just how to help once we seek Him.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  My friend shared a scripture with me this morning that I’d like to share with you.  Psalms 1:1-3 says, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lordand who meditates on his law day and night.  That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”  

I don’t care who you are–we all struggle from time to time.  Learning to dip into the water of the word and use our spiritual weapons allows you to prosper versus wither away.  Today, I wrote out the lies the enemy was telling me, and then I replaced them with truth.  So instead of owning the thought, “I always get the raw end of the stick,” I replaced it with God’s truth for me: “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you” (Jeremiah 29:11).  I inked a line through the lie and focused on what was true.  It really helped!  Consider trying this yourself so you can allow the truth to set you free (John 8:32).

PRAYER  Lord, You are so faithful to me.  You may not always answer in my timing, but You always answer me.  Thank you!  Your extravagant love and the words of truth You speak over me are so powerful.  You chase away the demons and the lies with Your glorious truth.  Your goodness and faithfulness overwhelm me sometimes in the best of ways.  I love You, Papa.  Thank You for choosing me before time began, and thank You for caring enough to root out the weeds in the soil of my heart.  Amen.

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BARB LOWNSBURY is the Executive Director for The Dented Fender.  Follow Barb and The Dented Fender community on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Trusting and Knowing is Found in Going

By KRISTAN DOOLEY

We walked all over Chicago that day, eight miles to be exact.  Ella, my oldest daughter, didn’t once worry about our route. Our trip to Chicago and tickets to see Hamilton were her 14th birthday present (which was completely amazing by the way!).  Before we got there, she told me where she wanted to go, what stores she hoped to shop and the food she intended to eat (macaroons, noodles, chocolate, coffee). With the desires of her heart in my head, I studied the city map and led her in the direction of her favorite places. We only had to reroute once!

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your way straight.” 

Here’s my thinking…I’m an imperfect parent at best and also not great with maps or directions, and still my girl and I had the best time traveling together on the streets in Chicago. We talked and we laughed and we ate and we celebrated. It was good and oh so rich. Thinking about it now reminds me that it never was really much about where we were going or when we were going to get there. We didn’t preemptively set time allotments. We simply showed up and embraced the journey. When we did miss one of the stores she wanted to see we shrugged our shoulders, turned around and trecked it back three-quarters of a mile. No sense in traveling all the way to Chicago and not doing it all. 

There are some days I get too caught up in the details. I worry about our scheduling, juggling two active teenagers, a young church plant, a job, and a family. I worry about my girls and their future, and if they doing the things now that they should be doing so they will be prepared for college. Should they give up dance or try out for another soccer team?  What are the right choices? What choices are risky?

Over the past four years, I’ve learned to pause, take a deep breath and embrace the journey called life. I’ve come to know and experience the goodness of our Father. He is perfect in every way and He is dedicated to showing us the way. Ella didn’t run ahead of me that day in Chicago- she couldn’t because she didn’t have the map. She didn’t lag behind me, ultimately robbing us of time together. She walked with me side-by-side.  As we traveled, we figured it out. And in the end, our day wasn’t about what we bought or where we went as much as it was how we journeyed. It was about being together.

The Father has already figured it out and could do my life in an instant, yet He says, Come walk beside me and I will show you how it’s done. He could easily lay out the plans and give me the map (because man can I talk and sometimes whine a lot!) But that’s not what He does. He doesn’t work like this because life is about traveling together. It’s about planning and laughing and talking and walking. It’s back-tracking and redirecting and learning and growing. His invitation to walk beside us and His posture of being willing to guide us are more in our favor than we will ever know.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  What about you? Do you have a tendency to run ahead, anxious for the plans of the future to fall in place?  Or are you more apt to lag behind, nervously not wanting to be a part of anything that might not work out in the long run? The Father is reaching out to you. He longs to journey with you, to guide you and grow you. The roads of life are where the best conversations unfold and the deepest relationships develop. Will you take His hand, slow your pace and walk side-by-side? Will you trust Him with what you cannot see?  What does it look like for you to practically do that today?

PRAYER  Father, thank You that You don’t stay far off and distant, that You are here, fully present and fully available for me. I don’t want to run ahead nor do I want to lag behind. Help me do what it takes to walk in step with Your Spirit. Fill me now with the power of Your presence and pull me in more deeply to Your promised love. I love You and I need You. Amen.

 

 

KRISTAN DOOLEY