I was getting ready for church last Sunday and felt God's presence rather strong. I began praying and just allowing His Spirit to lead me from one prayer to the next. I prayed for the service, our pastor, worship, God's presence, my family and friends, and a few very specific prayers of confirmation for myself. It was God letting me know He needed someone to usher in His Spirit, so He could love on others and let them know He was in fact listening to their prayers. I was honored (and I'm sure there were others praying in similar fashion).
As soon as I went to sit down, I knew God was going to be there. One of the dear friends I had prayed for was sitting a lone, and the minute I sat beside her, I knew God was showing up for her. Once worship service began, I knew He was showing up for the congregation. Once we were invited to step up to the alter, I knew He was loving on a lot of people who needed to be in His presence (including myself). I also knew He was confirming a couple things in my heart. As the service went on, I knew He was answering my prayer to move forward, regardless of the "failings" in the past couple of weeks (my perspective, not His).
This series on Margin, and the third sermon, is really just what I needed. I had been shrinking back from being more public about devotions and the journey I have been on. Yes, it came at a time when I knew I was not allowing enough margin in my life to be who I needed to be to my husband and children, but I also turned it into an opportunity to run away from some things I knew God was asking me to do. I know, no one else ever does that! Ha!
I started convincing myself no one needed to hear from me. With the plethora of information out there online, in books, and so on, my two cents certainly didn't matter. With all the great leaders for women like Beth Moore, Lysa Terkeurst and Courtney Joseph - what could I possibly add? I was seeing it all wrong. I was thinking on a larger scale, when God needed me to see it on a smaller, more intimate scale.
This journey I have been on has led me to some really amazing women! Women I might not have met or grown so close to, had it not been for some of the challenges we have experienced together. These women are ALL in my area and we have the pleasure of seeing one another in person on a regular basis. Some of us share the same church home, but not all of us. What we do share is our love for Christ, our husbands, our children and our community. The devotions, the food, and the healthy living are all bonus subjects we get to discuss with one another. God helped me to see, I do have something to offer and that is encouragement, online throughout the day and in person when our paths cross for a moment or two.
Today, I hope you are encouraged! I hope you are part of a group of people whom you feel deeply connected with, receive encouragement from, are able to discuss things with, and are able to just turn to for prayer and edification when you need it. If you aren't, I pray you discover them. I pray you see where God may be opening the door for you to be able to enjoy the company of others who make you stronger. And please know, I am more than happy to connect with you if you are looking for encouragement.
I wanted to take a moment to expand on this morning’s devotion a bit. It was SO GOOD. I honestly have never read Psalm 119 in its entirety, which made it even more enlightening for me. When I came away from my time in God’s Word this morning, I was energized. Which was really good, because I had been feeling sort of icky lately. I mean REALLY ICKY. Fatigued, apathetic, achy and discouraged, all things I felt were the cause of a bug or something.
As I made my bed and prepared breakfast for my kiddos before work, the thought continued in my mind, “Do I pant after God’s Word?” David said he panted after God’s Word, verse 131. The weeks during the challenge I was excited to get up and get into God’s Word. I was ready to see what Jesus had to say to my heart. But recently, I had been dragging myself out of bed in the morning. Many areas of my life had been “thrown off”: no longer Whole30 (huge for me), exercise has been non-existent, sleep has been ok, not taking supplements, all this combined seemed to be creating stress in my mind and body again. To compound the situation, I chose to read a book explaining a religion many detest right now, as a result I felt a huge weight and heaviness I couldn’t really explain.
Last night in prayer with my youngest daughter, there was an refreshing anointing in my words I haven’t felt in a while. This morning I was wide awake at 4am, and into God’s Word by 5 (I tossed and turned but could not go back to sleep). I am so glad God led me to Psalm 119. So glad. It caused me to ask questions… Do I allow the Word of God to encourage, revive and place in me hope? Or am I just reading to read, because it is the right thing to do? Do I pant after God’s Word? Better yet, does my life compel my family to crave God’s Word, or is it causing them to crave something else? Ooohhhh……this is a big one.
The whole idea behind Shepherdess Rise Up is to inspire those of us responsible for the well-being of others, to become better care givers of their souls. To genuinely look after them in ways that draw them to the Lord, rather than away. If I read and read, but use what I have read to “hit someone over the head” with what I have learned, they likely won’t be drawn to God’s Word. If I sense God has shared something meant to address something for me personally, but judge others because they’re not doing the same, I’m guessing I won’t draw others to the Lord. However, if I read a revealed truth or will of God, I allow it to search my heart, ask God to make it real in my life by causing me to live it out, others may witness the authenticity of my demeanor and WANT to know more. If I accept correction as meant only for me and go about my day loving others where they are and trusting God will move in His timing and ways, I may better represent God’s love to them, during their process of revelation.
Many of us know intellectually it is a good idea to read the Bible and to study God’s Word. Yet, we sometimes choose to allow other things to take its place. Or we choose a devotion written by others to fill in this spot of our lives. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but be encouraged to get into the Word yourself, and see what God has for you. There may be a gift of deliverance that will help your relationship with your husband. There may be knowledge received that will encourage you with your children. There may be a liberating gift to repent and more freely walk with Christ. There may be a gift of conviction empowering you to honor purity and sanctity.
Just a few things to ponder as we move through the rest of our week, and pray about. I hope you're intrigued and dig deep :)
understand about Christianity. What you think you know about the point of being a Christ follower at all. And what you think you should believe about the Holy Spirit’s role and very real presence in your life. Yesterday’s devotion jarred a memory in my mind. It took me back to a place and time where I listened to the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life. I sat by the bedside of someone who was dying. I prayed with them, witnessed them raise their hands as they called out to Jesus, and later that evening, held their feet as they drew their last breath.
So what? So you knew someone was dying and you went to pray with them, like a good Christian should do. That can hardly be deemed as your obedience to the “Holy Spirit”. At most it is a good person, trying to be good to a person who is going to die. It was so much more.
You see, this person I sat beside, praying with, witnessing them raise their hands to the Lord, crying out the name of Jesus, held a very key part of my life in their hands. They literally held the life of my father in their hands. This person, someone I loved, someone I had had many challenges with, someone I had learned to forgive – had literally taken my father’s life when I was just shy of one year old.
I hadn’t learned that until I was about five years old. The information would forever be a dark shadow over my life and cause more issues than I could have possibly known or understood. These shadows, only a select few would know I entertained. I recently saw a post stating, “Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you have made. If you want a different result, make a different choice.” I disagree. I did not choose to have my father taken away. I did not choose the step father that would do his best to take his place. I did not choose how people around me would respond once they found out whose daughter I was. I did not choose the depression that settled in my heart at such a young age, and would truly take a miracle to loose its grip on my life. My experience of life was a reflection of the choices of others.
However, it is true the depression and my experiences did cause me to make poor choices as an adolescent, teenager and young adult. Choices I later had to take responsibility for. The loss of my father and the story behind his death, was buried in my heart. It caused me to fight the stigma, seek a better life, rise above my circumstances. And I did. With a lot of “grit and spit” I guess you could say, and the help of God in my sophomoric relationship with Him, I was able to not allow the choices of others, and soon my own, to imprison me in a life I was statistically condemned to live.
Fast forward about eight or nine years to a time when God had helped me to get through periods in my life where the shepherds placed there did not do the best job in the world to help bring healing, strength, rest, nourishment and light into my life. In fact, many had failed miserably (I'm sure they were doing the best they knew to do), but God in His relentless pursuit of me had brought folks into my life who shared truth and love with me. He came and found me Himself, I could say! Praise God He did, because He began to paint a picture of what living in Him, and He in me, looked like. I began praying and seeking His will. He would share visions and compel me to do a thing, only to turn around and have it happen. My faith was growing as He was solidifying His very nature and existence in my heart and mind – casting out previous doubts, questions, and fears (yes I had plenty even as a proclaimed Christian).
One particular evening, He compelled me to pray. Pray for the person who had taken my father’s life. The one who had seemingly set into motion a series of events it felt like a life time could not erase. But Jesus could. As I prayed for this person, now facing a terminal illness, a vision began to take shape I simply could not believe. A scenario was knit together, literally causing me to shake my head, laugh out lout and say, “God, only YOU could do this. Only You.”
In my mind, there was way too much pride, resentment, anger, frustration, doubt and disbelief on both our parts for ANY measure of what He shared with me, to ever come to fruition. After this time in the prayer closet, I could not shake the Holy Spirit’s directive to reach out. To visit. To talk. To ask questions. To reconcile a relationship that had been estranged for many years, due to different circumstances. I would go. I would pray the whole way there. I would tremble. I would hate every minute of the drive. But I would rely on His Spirit in our conversation. I would rely on His grace in our encounters. I would depend on Him.
The last morning this person awoke, I was set to go to church. However, I had a strong sense I needed to go to their side instead. I sensed I NEEDED to go and pray. I had to forget about the tasks at church I was to see about. I had to trust someone else to fill in my role for my church ministry. I had to obey God’s Holy Spirit. And I did. I walked to their bedside, talked a bit, and asked if we could pray. A quick affirmative, and prayers were underway. As the vision God had shared so many months before took place with a certainty, I could only sense peace and gratitude. As I left, I knew the Lord had just brought this person I cared for, back to Himself. Later that evening, I knew He was holding their hand, as I was holding their feet.
Only God would know the irony of the events that would play out. Only He would know my temporal suffering would be traded in for an eternity of sorrows. Only God knew the events He would utilize to reach me. Only He could know I, as the once lost sheep who desperately needed a Shepherd, would then be called to help Him bring home another.
I will forever cherish the the decision to follow. I will forever be passionately devoted. Not because the Lord demands I do, but because He sought me out through unimaginable circumstances (though not as bad as some, but worse than others) and caused me to rest. Loved me. And soon loved others through me.
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