Hands on the Hips, Heart in His Word

Being a parent isn’t easy, nor is living with any other human being. Other people, and especially children, will try our patience every day. Patience is a daily struggle for me. How many times a day do I find socks on the floor, or toys where they don’t belong? How many times do I have to ask for something simple to be done, like throwing trash in the trash can?

I can’t count how many times I’ve stood in my kitchen, hands on my hips, looking just like my mother, mustering up all the volume I could in my voice, and then the still, small voice reminds me:

A hot tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.  Proverbs 15:18

Sometimes I yell anyway, and when I do it doesn’t turn out so well. You see, nothing I say is as powerful as the example I set.  When I show patience with my son, my husband, even with my dogs, someone is always watching, and that someone is usually my son. My hope for him is that he will grow up to be a man who loves the Lord and lives through Christ. I can hope all I want, and I know God will get him there, but the best way to get him there is to show him.

When my hands go to my hips, perhaps it is best to remember this:

The end of something is better than its beginning. Patience is better than pride.  Ecclesiastes 7:8 NIV

Ouch.  You mean it’s pride that makes me want to lash out? Surely that wasn’t meant for me. But yes, my pride gets in the way more than just about anything. What I have learned is that patience will always win, as long as I listen to God’s voice. It will win when I choose to slowly remove my hands from my hips and the volume from my voice. It will win when I return to the center of my heart where He sits, waiting to guide my words and actions – as long as I allow him to.

About the Writer:
Wendy is a wife and mother who works full time in Risk Management.  Here at First Dallas she serves in Sunday school, helps coordinate Angel tree, and teaches at Discipleship University.  Her greatest joy comes from discovering how following Jesus can greatly impact her daily life and the lives of those she cares about in innumerable, practical ways.

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Bad News Bears

I have a confession to make … I hate watching the news. I purposefully do not watch it unless the weather man is telling me how sunny and amazing it’s going to feel outside that day. I call this a confession because as Christians this is not how we are to live.

We are not to be like the ostrich who sticks her head in the sand ignoring what’s going on around us. But y’all there is so much bad news! All the time! From bombings, child abductions, murders, and devastating hurricanes, there is so much in the world to make us anxious and worried. And what about our private lives? Worries can pile up and send us into a spiral of despair. There are even some chapters in the Bible that can create worry and distress. Just take a look at Isaiah 24; it’s called the “mini apocalypse” and for good reason.  The horrors listed in this chapter that will happen (not IF, but WILL) are enough to make your knees knock. So how do we go on about our days? How do we cope?

As Christians, we have something the rest of the world does not: JESUS! What He did on the cross is the reason we have peace despite the chaos swirling around us. From the moment we trust in Him we acknowledge that He is bigger than the bombs, child abductors, murderers, and even the hurricanes surrounding us. He is bigger than our personal chaos; whether it’s caused by someone else or due to our own continual mistakes. Jesus makes this promise.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

In addition to the promise of an eternity filled with joy and bliss, Jesus has also seen fit to give us blessings on top of that. Think about it, as a Christian this is the only Hell we’ll ever face! In Priscilla Shirer’s study “The Armor of God” she teaches about a tool used to combat anxiety. She suggests that anytime the anxiety of this world starts to pile up, stop and thank God for ALL of the things in your life you’re grateful for, no matter how big or small. By doing this, you will get your priorities in line and remind yourself of how much bigger God is than anything you will face in this life.

If you’re reading this and find that you’re not sure if you have ever experienced the peace that comes from having a relationship with Jesus Christ, I urge you not to delay. He is the only way to everlasting peace. 

One of my favorite hymns is “I’ve Got Peace Like a River”:

“I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river! I’ve got peace like a river in my soul!”

Hum that little ditty while focusing on what Jesus has done for you and see if your day doesn’t go a little more smoothly.

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to a 2 year old and has one on the way. She occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

 

Beneath the Sheets

He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. . . Psalm 23:2-3

Each night, I lie in bed wishing for more energy to continue working, but I will myself to put my phone down and close my eyes, ” Ah, rest!”  I let out a heavy sigh and listen to the sound of the sheets rustling beneath my head. I drift into prayer, “Dear Lord, please give me more energy.”

But then a realization hits me, and I continue, “Lord, you DESIGNED us to need rest. You knew the demands of life would compete with You, and so you designed us to NEED these moments of quiet retreat.

 I will embrace this time. I will cherish the stillness when I hear your voice so clearly. My ears ring with Your promises and Your commands. May they not be empty words that I repeat with a cavalier attitude, but may they come alive.  I can see the truth of Your Word played out so clearly in my life.  I recognize with a grateful heart the purpose for which they were written. I delight in You.”

 A grin slides across my face, unable to contain the peace and harmony that I feel in His presence.

 “Here you are beside me, fully present, loving and kind. Never failing, ever-faithful. You know every tear shed through these trying days. My name is written on the palm of your hand. (Isaiah 49:16) Lord, you are mighty.

Your Word tell us that you have measured the waters in the hollow of Your hand and marked the span of the heavens, that you have weighed the mountains and calculated the dust on the earth. (Isaiah 40:12) You are mighty beyond comprehension, and I pray that your majesty would not be lost in my limited understanding.

 I will keep my mind steadfast and trust only in you, for You alone are my peace and you have overcome the world. (Isaiah 26:3 and John 16:33)

 Thank you Lord for the silence. For the peace. And for being my hiding place. Amen.”

About the Writer:
Audra has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important transitions on her blog called The Homegrown Project.

Peace

Have you ever given a “peace offering”?  What did you expect to happen in response?  What actually happened? Let’s look at a modern day take on a peace offering. The Cambridge dictionary defines it as “something said or to be given  .  .  .  . to show that they want to be friendly, especially to someone with whom they have argued.” Now we should ponder how God defined a peace offering.  A peace offering was for one of 3 reasons:

  • to give thanks to the Lord for whatever reason;
  • to fulfill a vow;
  • to acknowledge God spontaneously.

These are quite different aren’t they? So if a sin offering is made because you have already sinned, wouldn’t a peace offering be made because you already have peace?  How is that achieved?

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:7

When you are grateful, when you express gratitude, you are taking focus from “I” and placing it on whoever has done something favorable for you or someone you love. You are extolling the person’s character or sacrifice. When the Israelites made it across the dry ground of the Red Sea, they danced and sang praises to the Lord, and all was well in the camp…until they started complaining. So one facet of peace is the state of having and also expressing gratitude.

Another dimension of peace is doing what you say you’re going to do—fulfilling your vow. When Hannah brought young Samuel to the temple, she made a peace offering to the Lord. She did not grudgingly hand over her toddler; she expressed full gratitude to God for giving him to her in the first place. Man, do I hope to be Hannah-tough one day! That was one stout sister! She bore what her society saw as the shame of barrenness, fervently and unashamedly begged  God to give her what she wanted and promised to give him right back to the Lord .  .  . And then she did it! I bet she slept soundly every night thereafter.

When I do something positive, I’m not really surprised if the beneficiary shows some appreciation. But the best “love-ins” are the ones that catch me off guard. When my manager tells me that I’ve done a really good job for “just doing it and doing it everyday” or when my granddaughter runs up and hugs me super-tight “just cuz”, then I know I am valued. Now, you can’t take God by surprise, but you can please Him with your spontaneity.  Part of this aspect is a generous spirit. As our God is generous with us, how can we not be generous back?

If peace is something you are without, take a good look at these types of peace offerings. Is there an area in which you’ve been lacking? I know I used to have a terrible problem with insomnia. Medication didn’t help, and home remedies didn’t help. Nothing helped until I got my priorities straight, realized how blessed I was (and still am) and started acknowledging the Lord.  It seems such a simple thing, but that’s how God works: complex things are made simple in Him. Peace

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will made your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:6

About the Writer:
Cindy loves being an RN, wife, mom, and CiCi (that’s a grandmother but I’m way too young and hot for normal terminology) to one sweet little 5 year old girl. She loves the Lord with all her heart and wants to serve Him with gladness til her dying breath. Cindy plans on starting seminary very soon. She can hardly wait for Wednesday and Sunday to roll around so she can sing with the choir and experience just a sliver of the joy we’ll have when we all get to Heaven!

The Best and Worst of Friends

I know Depression.  How well do you know him?  Maybe you have met him once or twice in your life, or maybe he is your worst “best friend.”  I admit, I have hung out way too much with him over the years.  We met when I was about 11 or 12 and have bumped into each other more than I would like.  I try to avoid him most of the time because he definitely is not one of those friends who lifts me up; but sometimes I call him up hoping that he will understand my woes. Why I don’t just ask God to come dine with me and tune His listening ear to me is beyond me.  Just knowing that God hears me lightens the load a little, but it is not usually enough to send me back on my humming way.  Believe me, I have been extremely perturbed on more than one occasion that doing all the “right things” did not provide me lasting relief.  Surely I am not the only one who has been happy while at church and despondent once back home!

Then, one sweet day, God opened my heart to the best news I have received since that of the Gospel, and His same resurrection power at work in my life.  Are you ready for it? God showed me that He is my bridegroom! Now, I have a fantastic husband already, but sometimes I still feel very alone.  In my humanness, my husband could be doing all the right things or even slaving over the stove entertaining our little girl and cleaning simultaneously while I lie sprawled out being unproductive to anyone, and I might still feel uncared for or unacceptable.  In Isaiah 54:4-6, God calls Himself our bridegroom. Here is the passage from “The Message” translation:

Don’t be afraid—you’re not going to be embarrassed.
    Don’t hold back—you’re not going to come up short.
You’ll forget all about the humiliations of your youth,
    and the indignities of being a widow will fade from memory.
For your Maker is your bridegroom,
    his name, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
Your Redeemer is The Holy One of Israel,
    known as God of the whole earth.
You were like an abandoned wife, devastated with grief,
    and God welcomed you back,
Like a woman married young
    and then left,” says your God.

St. Augustine of Hippo wrote in his Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” On days when I feel anything but joyful, and unloveable, one of the most powerful truths that frees me to walk in the Holy Spirit’s fruit of joy is this: my Maker, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, is for me; and He will stand strong for me when I seek refuge from the pressure of this world. I know joy and can live in joy because my God has my back. He is the best, best friend, EVER.

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant.

I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart!

Have you ever read Isaiah chapter 35 in the Bible? I was recently reading through it and came across an incredible message in this chapter about rejuvenation, restoration, and reclamation. It speaks of the day when the Lord Jesus Christ will restore our land, perform mighty physical healings, and turn wasteland into lush farm land.  No more pain, problems, or even paper cuts.

When I think about His coming, I get the same feeling of anticipation as when I’m waiting on my favorite holiday.  I know there will be laughter and lots of good times to be had.  The only problem is, when the holiday finally comes I find that it never quite reaches my expectations.  But Jesus promises that with His holiday, we can’t even get close to imagining how perfect it will be. This means the feeling of disappointment will not only be far from us, but we’ll be in awe of how incredible it actually is. For the first time, I truly imagined what that day would look like and the best word I could use to describe my feelings of that day was . . . joy.

My joy came from the anticipation that God will wipe away every tear, forever!  And the thought that Jesus Christ gave this joy to me as a free gift got me very excited.  So excited that I even used a total of six exclamation points coupled with a few “Hallelujahs” and “Praise Hims” to try and capture my sentiments in my prayer journal! Think about it: we have done absolutely nothing to deserve any measure of happiness on our own. But through our gracious Lord Jesus Christ he created the way for us not only to be content for a little while, but to be jubilant for eternity. And He did this because He is a loving and merciful Father, who longs to spend time with us.  He chose us. Meditating on this truth is what gives me pure joy.

                  …They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.  Isaiah 35:10

Are you confident that you too will be able to experience this joy? There are only two options of where you’ll spend eternity. If you read chapter 24 of the same book of Isaiah you’ll find that the second option is not only worse, it’s downright scary. If you are unsure of your salvation from the second (horrifying) destination, please don’t delay a moment longer and assure your eternity through Christ Jesus our Lord.

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to a 2 year old and has one on the way. She occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

 

Joy in Jesus!

My sweet friends, today I want to talk with you about true joy . . . not “happiness”,  not “contentment,”  not some strange giddy “feeling” . . . but real, living, deep, and soul–penetrating JOY.

Today, many of us around the world are experiencing greater prosperity than has been witnessed in recent history.  Yet with all this, there seems to be little expression and little experience of true joy.  Why is it that we can’t find any real satisfaction?  How can it be that so many of us “still haven’t found what we’re looking for?”  I believe that the answer is shockingly simple and also quite difficult for most of us to accept.

You see, sweet friends, true joy is found only in and through a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives.  YES, I said it!  If you want to know true joy, you must know and submit yourself to Christ as LORD:  LORD (Heb. YAHWEH/Gk. – ego eimi – the GREAT I AM) as in GOD Himself; Lord (Gk. Kyrios – Master) and Master of your life and of your every moment!  YES friends, Jesus is Savior, Friend, Prince of Peace, Wonderful, Counselor, Healer, Helper, and so much more.  But friends, the Incarnate Christ was first, and most importantly revealed to us by the angel Gabriel as JESUS, Savior (Matthew 1:21), Emanuel, GOD with us (Matthew 1:23), Eternal King (Luke 1:32-33), Son of God (Luke 1:32, 33, & 35), and Lord and Master (Luke 1:17).

In Luke 2:11, an angel of the Lord, possibly again the angel Gabriel, announced to the shepherds “there is born to you this day, in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Gk. Kyrios – Master).  Many years later, after Christ had ascended to the Father, Peter preached the first Christian sermon in history and proclaimed to the people, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord (Gk. Kyrios – Master) and Christ” (Acts 2:36).  Finally, Paul the apostle, and the first Christian Missionary, explained the truth of the Gospel in this way: “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord (Gk. Kyrios – Master), and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).  All of this says that Christ is Lord!

My friends, if Christ is Lord and Master, if He is GOD, and GOD with us, if He is the GREAT I AM (John 8:58), how and why do we expect Him to be less to us, and in us, than He is?  We so long to receive His blessing, His peace, His gracious presence, and YES, His JOY; and yet we remain so empty and listless (disinterested, devoid of energy and spirit), because we refuse to get still and KNOW Him as our GOD (Psalm 46:10).  Because we do not wish to have Him meddle in our daily lives, we resist reading His Word daily and spending quality time with Him each day in prayer; and the pain and loneliness we feel grows stronger day by day.

What we fail to recognize is that the One Who created us, made us for fellowship with Him.  As Blaise Pascal (the famous French mathematician and philosopher) explained, “there is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

Today I have a dare for you!  I dare you to get still enough, for long enough, to hear His still small voice through daily time in His Word and in prayer.  And, I further dare you, to welcome His Word to you as it is, the sweet revelation of His perfect plan for your life, and to welcome Him, as Who He is, the God of the Universe, the Lord and Great Lover of your soul, and the true JOY GIVER!

In His presence there is fullness of JOY; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

May the Lord BLESS you and KEEP you!  May He make His face to shine upon you and give you His peace, and His JOY, until we meet again! (Numbers 6:24-25)  In JESUS’ precious, and HOLY NAME!  AMEN and AMEN!

About the Writer:
Tiffany is a cross-cultural missionary, Bible teacher, speaker, writer, and worship leader.  More than anything, she desires to be one ‘who like a tree planted by the rivers of water, brings forth its fruit in due season, whose leaves do not wither, and have whatever she does prosper’(Psalm 1:3). She is committed to abiding continually in Christ, the vine, so that she may bear much fruit in, and for Him (John 15:5).

Serving my way to Joy

Joy is not my natural state.  If I’m honest, I admit that worry comes much more naturally, especially since I became a mother.  I used to think joy was something that would come to me if only . . . if only someone would do what I want of them, if only I were promoted, or if only I had more of what I wanted.  But when I got to the other side of the “if only”, I may have been satisfied, but the feeling wasn’t one of joy.  I have always experienced joy as a gift.  It’s nothing I’ve been able to work for, but God has given me clues along the way as to how I might experience more of it.

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.  Philemon 1:7 (NIV)

I’ve learned it’s not possible for me to experience true joy when I’m focused on me.  Joy is experienced only when I step outside myself and focus on the joy of others.

 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

Finding joy takes discipline.  That might seem counterintuitive, and it certainly was for me.  But Jesus knew what joy was waiting for him, and that helped him endure the Cross.

We don’t have a cross to bear, but we do have plenty of opportunity to step outside ourselves and find joy.  The easiest way for me has been to serve others.  Any time I serve, even in the smallest way, I always benefit more than those I serve.  The joy I receive seeing others be blessed far outweighs the joy of receiving anything other than God’s grace.

I also find that keeping track of those moments and my blessings helps me when I’m not feeling the joy as much.  In those moments of joy, if I take a time to capture the feeling in writing, then I can go back to it on darker days  The way I’ve done this is to keep a gratitude page in my journal.

Counting my blessings and serving others are the two consistent ways I know will bring me joy.  What can you do today to experience joy in your heart?

About the Writer:
Wendy is a wife and mother who works full time in Risk Management.  Here at First Dallas she serves in Sunday school, helps coordinate Angel tree, and teaches at Discipleship University.  Her greatest joy comes from discovering how following Jesus can greatly impact her daily life and the lives of those she cares about in innumerable, practical ways.

 

Reality Check: It’s Not all about Me

As a new mother struggling to balance the demands that our world shouts so loudly, I often watch the composure of my grandmothers and think about the social changes that have taken place in just two generations. I watch them sit with a cup of coffee in hand and an easy rock in their chair. No TV in the background. No conversation necessary. They find comfort and satisfaction in the quietness.

With great admiration, I have periodically asked questions of my grandmothers about their early years of marriage and motherhood. My selfish desire is to glean nuggets of wisdom that I can apply in my own life, with hopes of achieving the sense of peace that I see in them.

So, in one of these conversations, I casually asked my 86 year old grandmother what comes to mind when she thinks of the word ‘Joy’. ‘Contentment,  satisfaction , and lasting’ was her response. Intrigued and hungry for a deeper answer, I went to the only source of truth on this matter, the Bible.

Passage after passage, I discovered the real truth at the core of this word: Joy is about GOD, not ME.

I had made joy something to be practiced and strived for, obtained, when all it really required was a closeness with the Holy Spirit that could be found through scripture. The faithful promises and unfailing truths of God’s word can shine new light on life’s circumstances.

I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart. Psalm 119:111  

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:12

Joy is a celebration of His sovereignty and His promises.  It is an eternal view that supersedes the world that surrounds you. Your demonstration (or lack of demonstration) of joy indicates what is important to you.  Are you distraught by temporary pains of this world, or are you looking expectantly towards the day of Christ’s return?

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

With this new understanding, I found great peace and a deep internal joy even on the hard days. The only maintenance that is required is simply to remain in closeness with the Lord and His word – to live and walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

About the Writer:
Audra has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important transitions on her blog called The Homegrown Project.

Love

Can anything erase your love for your husband?  What about your parents?  Children?  Your immediate response is likely “NO!” But that’s not the case for many women, including women in the church. A mistress or an addiction can seem to separate your husband from your love. Betrayal, neglect, abuse, terrible choices, and mental illness can often seem to separate parents and children from one another’s love.  In many of these situations, physical separation may be the best choice for all, but does that include a separation from love?  No.  Are you asking “what makes me think I know so much when I haven’t lived your pain?” Romans 8 and I have lived through a few of the above. Maybe not your specific pain that is as individual as you are, but I have had many dark nights of the soul. Romans 8:34 tells us that Jesus is interceding for us, and verses 35 and 38-39 declare that there is no person or circumstance that can separate us from the love of Christ.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Romans 8:35

 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

“No person” means that not even you can separate yourself from His love. He is our example that we are to transfer into our own lives. Has anyone in your life ever nailed you to a cross and left you to die alone and humiliated?  Probably not, so that means that no one has betrayed you or treated you as badly as we all have treated Jesus. My “little white lie” just to keep myself out of trouble nailed him to the cross. So did my gluttony, lust, selfishness, and unkindness. Even my failure to look at a stranger and recognize them as loved by the Lord while I turned my nose up in disdain drove those thorns into His lovely brow. Not to even mention the rest of my sins! With that in mind, is it OK with God that I reject those who have rejected me? We know the answer, like it or not – No! I think the whole key is there in verse 34: Jesus intercedes for us; His prayers keep us close to His heart and because His heart is close, He continues to intercede. What a wonderful loop! Who has hurt you deeper than you ever imagined possible? Pray for him or her! Wayward children? Pray for them. Abusive parents? Pray for them; you keep praying over those hurts because you are still struggling with them.  Look, beloved sister, it all boils down to Jesus, you and your choice:

Do you choose to love? Do you choose obedience to the Lord and His directive in John 15:12 to love one another as I have loved you? It’s hard to make that choice, sister, but when you do, oh the joy and freedom you gain! When Jesus made the choice, He experienced death, but He gained the throne at the right hand of God! I choose to love.

About the Writer:
Cindy loves being an RN, wife, mom, and CiCi (that’s a grandmother, but I’m way too young  for normal terminology) to one sweet little 5 year old girl. She loves the Lord with all her heart and wants to serve Him with gladness till her dying breath. Cindy plans on starting seminary very soon. She can hardly wait for Wednesday and Sunday to roll around so she can sing with the choir and experience just a sliver of the joy we’ll have when we all get to Heaven!