Losing Sight of God

By BARBARA LOWNSBURY

When my kids were little and they weren’t making the best choices, they wouldn’t look me in the eye right away.  I would take hold of that pudgy little hand, give a gentle squeeze, and ask my child to look at me.  Those little eyes would dart to any direction but the right one.  Sometimes I would even gently take their chin in my hand and quietly but firmly say their name, but still those eyes would struggle to land on my face.

I’ve realized I can do the same thing with God.  I’m holding His hand and we’re walking along together, Father and Daughter.  But there are times I sense Him asking me to stop and look up at Him, to “look him in the eye” and engage with Him.  And for whatever reason, I don’t.  I’m too busy or too distracted.  Or, I don’t really want to deal with the mess I find myself in and just like a child, I don’t look.  I know if I do, I have to face up to the consequences or the lessons He is trying to teach me.  I circle all around God, praying for others, doing all sorts of godly activities.  But I resist stopping and really engaging with Him.

I can be a lot like Martha, busy with the preparations for her guests that were coming to hear Jesus teach.  Jesus was right there in her midst, but she was distracted.  Those distractions were actually good things, but her focus wasn’t on looking at her Father and learning.  Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet, listening and learning, even if it meant some of the other tasks didn’t get done, and Jesus commended her for it in Luke 10:38-42.

In those moments of distraction or guilt, I have to remember the heart of the one calling me to look.  Jesus’ face is one full of compassionate love.  His is a face that looks upon me with acceptance, patience and kindness.  His heart is always out for my good.  Even when I’m worrying about my choices, He’s already found solutions and ways for me to grow through them.  So, in those moments of wanting to let my heart, mind and soul dart in million different directions, I force myself to take a deep breath.  Stop.  And make the choice to look at the author and perfecter of my faith:  Jesus. (Hebrews 12:2)

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  When are you tempted to not slow down enough to deeply engage with God?  How do you get your eyes refocused on what most matters?

For me, I’ve learned that when I do slow down and engage, especially when I feel resistant, I always feel SO much better afterwards.  The enemy knows if I look I’ll be relieved and refreshed, so he does all he can to keep me looking elsewhere!  Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:18-19 really help me with this:

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

It’s hard for me to grow in wisdom and revelation, or receive enlightenment and hope when I’m not looking to Christ to grow me!  Next time, when you and I get caught up in busyness or guilt and notice we’re circling all around Jesus without really looking at Him, let’s make a simple decision:  look.

PRAYER  Papa, thank You for Your patience with me when my eyes dart around looking at everything but You.  Remind me to slow down, to remember what’s important, and to put You first.  Help me to remember You always greet me from a position of kindness and love, even if I need correcting.  Your love and grace are so lavish, so rich and so deep—help me to comprehend that more and more, and to keep reaching for You.  I love You, Papa.  Amen.

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

No Exceptions to Forgiveness

By SARAH DAVIS 

The one thing I’ve learned about forgiveness is this: the notion that all are deserving will challenge the convictions that you claim to hold. If I believe that God’s pardoning grace is for all, does that truly mean “all,” or just the ones I’ve determined to be worthy enough of fitting into that category? We as human beings are so limited in our perspective and understanding of life, human behavior, and such a vast and complex God. If we are not careful, we can fall into the trap of presumptuous black and white thinking. Not just because of factors like our upbringing or environmental influences, but in the aspect that our minds are simply incapable of fully grasping the knowledge of God. “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV).

I am not suggesting that God exists somewhere in the gray, but rather that He rules over it. He isn’t gray in His thinking, like maybe He isn’t sure or has to phone a friend or get back to us at a later time. His mind is made up: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8 (NIV).  Before I even realized that I was the offender. Before I became aware of my brokenness and the hurt I was inflicting on myself and others through my own choices. Not by any conscious effort that I put forth on my part. No pre-existing conditions or criteria to meet, or hoops to jump through. When I am having a hard time forgiving someone, I remind myself that I, too, received grace and mercy that I did not deserve. And I’m still receiving it, and until I’m made perfect in Him, I will need it.

I decided once to deliver flowers to the doorstep of someone I needed to ask for forgiveness. It was no heroic measure on my part and was long overdue. As I sat in the silence of that car ride, I looked out the window and clung tightly to the vase in my lap, feeling the weight of the brokenness that we all have, the offender and the offended one. I felt the burden of all that God sees and knows, and how much He loves us in spite of it all.

When Jesus was executed in John 19:30 and said, “It is finished,” it was like God’s declaration of a peace treaty offered to humanity that we couldn’t live without. Even though He was not the offender, there was no other option for him. There was no plan B. No contemplating or counting all the reasons He shouldn’t because we chose what would separate us from Him who is the embodiment of benevolence and kindness and all things good. He didn’t want a world in the here and now or a future one to come if it meant you and I would be estranged from him in it. His is a love that runs towards us. It shows up on your doorstep with a bouquet of flowers and an offer of forgiveness and a promise to fight for you over and over again–even when you are the one who should be delivering the flowers to Him.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT Maybe there is someone you are holding bitterness and resentment towards today. Perhaps forgiveness is balled up tightly in your fist, and you don’t know how to let go of it, or if you even should. Maybe the person you need to forgive the most is the one looking back in the mirror. I know how that feels. I’ve been there. May the God of compassion and limitless understanding meet you in that space today. May He bring healing to your wounded heart and the courage to release yourself and the person you can’t forgive.

PRAYER Father, thank you for loving me enough to send your Son to make right all the wrongs that separated us. Thank you for the grace that I can’t earn and didn’t deserve, but you give so freely anyway.  Always you are good!  May I remember how much You’ve forgiven me so I can have the grace to give and receive grace, too.  Amen. 

To learn more about SARAH DAVIS, visit her at:

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Where Are You, God?

I had an upcoming work opportunity recently that didn’t turn out as planned.  I mean, I had asked everyone I knew to pray for blessing and opportunity.  For months.  I walked in full of faith and eager expectation for God to show up and bless mightily.  I waited … and waited.  And waited some more.  Nothing.  Nada.  Not only did He not come through, it was one of the worst turn-outs for a work event I had experienced.  I mean crickets.  Chirping.  LOUDLY.  Ugh!

How do you handle the moments where you feel God has let you down?  For me, that process has evolved.  I used to feel defeated and deflated.  I used to wonder why A LOT.  Why had God bailed on me?  Did I do something wrong?  Had I lacked faith?  I worked hard, so was God just mad at me or punishing me or something?  Was there some hidden sin I wasn’t aware of that was blocking me?    Why was He treating me this way?  Me, me, me!  I was very focused on ME, like all blessing was completely contingent on my behavior, or like my formula of pray/work/pray harder should be a slam-dunk for success!  Tears, anger, fear and lack of self-worth would dominate my thinking.  It pretty much sucked.

Somehow, it’s different now.  Yes, I still have to wrestle through some emotions with God.  Yes, I can still have moments where my lack of worth and fear can muddle my thinking.  But it just doesn’t bother me as much.  I have seen so many blessings come from God; so many instances where His timing wasn’t my timing, yet ended up with an outcome better than I could’ve imagined.  I guess I’ve learned to relax into my faith and let God do His thing in His timing, knowing His ways always work in the end.  Even when I don’t understand.  Even when I’m faithless.

God is always faithful.  That’s His promise to me AND to you (2 Timothy 2:13).  Just knowing that comforts me.  Looking back at the blessings, reminding myself of what is “true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise,” (Philippians 4:8) pulls me through to a better, different space.

So if, like me, there are times you feel like God has left you in the dust, remember His faithfulness.  Remember His deep and abiding love for you that never changes.  Remember that faith is trusting that God has your back even when you don’t feel it, and that His plans are always for your good (Romans 8:28).  The sun may not rise or set in your or my timing, but if we remember to look, the gorgeous colors are still there lighting up the sky.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:  Have you had a time where you thought all hope was gone, only to have God bless you?  Or had cool blessings in your life that you knew you didn’t deserve?  That’s God doing His thing in your life.  I’ve learned to write those things down so I can pull them out in the moments when my faith is wavering.  Today, consider writing down the blessings in your life.  That way, you can pull them out when you need reminding of what is true, noble and beautiful in your life.  I’d love to hear what you come up with so please post below!

PRAYER:  Lord, how faithful you are!  I know Your thoughts are not my thoughts, and Your ways are not my ways.  Help me to trust You when I can’t see the path ahead, or when my circumstances aren’t what I would choose.  I know You love me, and Your blessings aren’t something I can earn.  Thank You that You allow the sun to shine on us all, and that you always work for my good.  When my focus is on me instead of on You, gently and lovingly remind me to fix my gaze upon You again, the author and perfecter of my faith.  Amen.

Wrestling with Time

By BARBARA LOWNSBURY

Hello!  Gosh, I’ve missed you.  Sometimes I don’t always realize what I most value until it’s gone.  I’ve missed writing.  I’ve missed our back and forth, and hearing from you!  I have much to share.

First of all, I’ve gotten engaged <insert HUGELY grinning emoticon here>!  On my vision board I crafted in January, I felt the Lord prompting me to focus on developing a personal covenant relationship this year.  I fought Him at the time because it felt selfish somehow to focus so heavily on my heart’s desire, but I dutifully made my vision board.  I thought I might maybe meet “my guy” this year, but was blown away when I not only met him, but developed a rich, God-centered relationship that I am SO excited to enter into!!  Who knew?  God did!

Honestly, I’ve felt overwhelmed A LOT this year, as in far more than what is normal.  It’s not that I was trying to carry the weight the Lord was meant to carry for me; it had more to do with too many responsibilities and not enough time to carry out any one thing well.  While the recovering perfectionist in me cringed, the woman of faith learned to lean into God to realize that even when nothing is completely done well or right, God still loves me and carries the outcome in His arms.  We had our first pilot class using our new video series, our second women’s retreat with almost 3 times the attendance of the previous year, and our first ever fund-raising event for The DF.  Despite the waves of emotion and the occasional dropped balls, God still brought on abundance, as is His way.

Still, after a lot of prayer, advice and thought, I will be doing life a bit differently moving forward.  As the Bible says, “Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind” (Proverbs 21:5).  I’m tired of hurrying and scurrying, and I’m convinced busyness is the scurge of our modern age.  It doesn’t make anyone more important; it just robs us of our precious moments, few as they are.  Finding what matters most and investing my time in what brings joy is an investment worth making!

To that end, I’ll be writing more.  You’ll hear from me every week again.  Yay!  You’ll also be blessed by another DF writer each week.  We have such talented writers who do such a great job!  I know we’ll all grow a lot as we listen and learn from each other’s journey’s.  We’re looking to post on Tuesdays and Saturdays – sort of like week and weekend additions for you to ponder over.  Our focus will stay on bringing you weekly doses of encouragement for your journey because who doesn’t need that?!  Hope you’ll continue to pass us on to your friends 🙂

So, true to Dented Fender form, I’ll still leave you with a closing application and prayer below.  But I can’t leave without a big THANK YOU for your patience with me as I’m learning what to juggle and how to juggle it well.  I appreciate you!  And as always, feel free to reach out to me with any prayer requests.  It is my privilege to pray for you!

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  Psalm 39:4 says, “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeing my life is.”  Is there anything in your life you’ve been holding onto that God is calling you to let go of?  What is keeping you from releasing it into His arms?  Start praying for God to help you prioritize your life so that you can experience greater joy in the moments you’ve been given.

PRAYER  Lord, remind me that my days are like a mist, here one day and gone the next.  Teach me to number my days and use my time on this Earth wisely.  May I make you my #1 priority today.  May my choices honor Your presence in my life.  Thank You for loving me so well and teaching me to become more and more like you.  I’m so grateful for Your loving presence in my life and for knowing I am never truly alone.  I love You, Papa!  Amen.

An Important Update

It has been my pleasure to write this blog and share stories of faith and transformation.  I’ve tried to share as honestly and humbly as I know how about the power of God to heal and to help everyday folks like you and me; to remember that we don’t have to be rock stars, we just need to listen and trust God because He is!  After much prayer and thought, I am taking a brief hiatus from writing and posting.  Honestly, I am long overdue for some much needed R&R so that God can recharge my batteries.  And I’m falling in love.  I think these things are worth taking a short break for.

I plan to come back the beginning of September with fresh content, a fresh look, and a slightly different format to our writing team.  We will have a few less postings (2-3 per week) with a different rotation of our writers, and we will also be creating a space for guest bloggers—maybe you!  What won’t change?  The depth and realness of content you have come to expect.

Mostly I want to thank you for your loyalty and ongoing support, and for your comments and honest feedback.  We have grown from that initial group of just 20 or so folks to a group of over 500 subscribers and nearly 3000 readers a month—and growing!  My prayer is that when we launch the new format, you will love our new look and continue to share about us with your friends.

And as a reminder, if you’re looking for some inspiration in the meanwhile, you can always access our archives for some really rich content. You are sure to find some real spiritual gems there!  Sending blessings and God’s love your way as I continue to lift up the DF community in prayer.

From one Dented Fender to another,

Barb Lownsbury

 

When Rest Becomes the Enemy

 

By MARY GEISEN

Is rest just another four-letter word? Do I allow myself to rest or treat it as something I should avoid at all cost? When I slow down, am I fully present in the moment?

Growing up, I remember the lazy days of summer. Each day there was a smattering of play and pool time, and mixed in were long periods of cloud gazing, reading, or just hanging out with the neighborhood kids. There were no schedules and the best part of the day was when dusk descended and all the kids emerged from their houses to play Kick the Can or Ghost in the Graveyard.

Rest was my friend, and I relished the chance to move from one activity to another with no agenda. I am not sure what age this all changed but rest no longer came easily and it reared its head as more of an enemy than a friend. The summer days of childhood are now long gone and instead, I let my to-do list take over my days. Somewhere along the path, I lost my way and in the process, I forgot how to slow down and rest.

Now, as I make my way through the middle part of my life, I find I am seeking rest on a more regular basis. It all has to do with presence and the chance to not miss a moment of life that happens when I am with those I love the most. I describe it as being where your feet are.  But the more I look for that elusive rest, the more I crave it, just as the more I seek God and relationship with Him, the more my appetite increases to taste and see the goodness of the Lord (Psalm 34:8 NLT)

God promises us rest in Him (Psalm 62:5) When we are weary and burdened, God is still there to give us rest (Matthew 11:28) There is nothing God won’t do when we feel overwhelmed and overcome by daily life. He desires to carry our burdens for us (Psalm 68:19)

Rest is not the enemy. Rest is the restorer of our souls and God is the Great Provider. Let’s give ourselves permission today to slow down, lose the to-do list and rest our weary bodies.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  If rest is the restorer of your soul and God promises rest, then what would it look like to turn to God for a deeper and richer restoration of your soul? When the loss of presence with those you love takes over quality time, how will you recognize the loss? If your to-do list becomes more important than being with the people you love, what will you do to reverse the effect?

Let’s work together on giving ourselves grace for those days that are just going to be busy. After extending grace, take time to reflect on one thing you can change that will provide you the space to do something that fills your soul–quiet time, reading, walking, or taking a nap. I give you permission to try it just as I give myself the blessing to do the same.

As you are making the space for rest, try releasing all distractions from sight or in your mind the next time you gather with friends and/or family. The gift of presence is soul-filling and heart-expanding.

You are worth the time and effort it takes to lose the to-do list and let God lead your days.

PRAYER  Father God – Thank you for the promise of new life in you. May I recognize my need for rest and choose the space to work it in each day. As I wake up each morning, point me away from busyness and draw me closer to you. Show me how to be fully present each day as I release all distractions to you. Thank you for knowing me better than I know myself. You are a good, good Father! Amen.

 

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