The Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered if God still speaks to us today? Or have you wondered if what you’re hearing is really God speaking to you, or just your own thoughts? If you’ve wrestled with these questions, you’re not alone. Hearing God, although our divine birthright as believers, can be one of the most elusive parts of our walk of faith but it’s not supposed to be. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and we can always trust that what He says is true. This month, we’re going to talk about hearing God and the primary way we do that: through relationship with Him. 

The Garden of Eden. What comes to mind when you hear those words? Something about it seems so far away, so mystical…so other worldly. Yet it was a very real place. The garden was a paradise where God would come down and walk and talk with Adam and Eve—the pinnacle of His creation—in the cool of the day. It’s where He would commune with His children; it was a place where Heaven and earth overlapped. There was no separation, no sin. This was God’s original intent for the state of the world.

Well, we all know what happened. Eve just messed it all up and now it’s ruined for us forever, right? Well, not exactly. You see, God had a plan. He had a plan not just to give us a road back to Heaven when we die, but a plan to bring Heaven to earth. In Jesus, once more Heaven and earth were joined together: fully God and fully man. He lived a perfect life. He died as a sacrifice for all of humanity, and He sent His Holy Spirit to once more create a space for Heaven to overlap earth—through US.

So how do we experience that? Is that just a gift reserved for pastors and really “spiritual” people? I would say not at all. God has made His presence available and accessible to all, and one of the best ways to find it is through worship. Have you ever noticed how the atmosphere of your home, or car, or workplace just changes by simply playing worship music? There’s a reason for that. Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits the praises of His people. INHABIT=to live or occupy a place. To bring Heaven down to earth. You see, God’s not waiting for us to all fly away to be with Him. He wants to walk with us in the cool of the day, just like He did with Adam and Eve. He wants to commune with His children. He wants to speak to you as well as hear your prayers.

That all sounds so glorious, doesn’t it? But the truth of the matter is that like anything that’s good for you, it may be simple, but it’s not always easy. It’s not easy to make the time. It’s not easy to unplug. It’s not easy put down a phone, or turn off Netflix, or whatever it is that we run to in order to pass the time. And just in case you think worship leaders automatically just wake up in the third Heaven, it’s not like that. We all have to be intentional to get into God’s presence. That seems a little ironic since He lives inside of us, doesn’t it? Worship doesn’t just bring God’s presence; it also reminds us that He’s been there all along. It stills our hearts and brings us to that peaceful place in the garden that He’s put inside our hearts; a place where we can walk with Him and talk with Him, free from the distractions and worries of the world.

I remember a time when I first started playing on the worship team. I was coaching at the time and had just had a super busy and exhausting weekend. I realized that Sunday that I was scheduled to play for a worship night that evening, and I had such a poor attitude. I was tired. I didn’t want to go. I was in such a bad mood. That all changed right before we started when I felt God whisper to me, “May I have this dance?” He continued to ask that same question before every song, and for the first time in a long while, worship became personal to me again. That’s who we serve—a personal God. He couldn’t care less if we raise our hands and jump around if it’s all about externals. He wants something deeper, something more intimate and personal. He still longs to come and spend time with just you, to walk and talk with you in the garden. Perhaps He’s calling you to make room for Him. Perhaps He’s holding out His hand. Perhaps He’s asking the question that stills my heart 20 years later…

May I have this dance?

May I take your hand in Mine?

May I hold you close right here with Me,

As the music keeps time?

May I take the lead?

May I show you how this dance goes?

Don’t you know I’ve been watching, waiting, asking Will you follow?

May I have this dance?

I want to encourage you to take a few minutes sometime today and click on this link. Spend some time in the garden. And P.S.…it’s a great song for a waltz. 

We would like to thank Becca Wilhite for this blog post!

Hearing God Through Prayer

Hearing God Through Prayer

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered if God still speaks to us today? Or have you wondered if what you’re hearing is really God speaking to you, or just your own thoughts? If you’ve wrestled with these questions, you’re not alone. Hearing God, although our divine birthright as believers, can be one of the most elusive parts of our walk of faith but it’s not supposed to be. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and we can always trust that what He says is true. This month, we’re going to talk about hearing God and the primary way we do that: through relationship with Him. 

Have you ever scheduled time with a friend, maybe over a good cup of coffee, just to talk? You’re able to catch up on everything that is happening in each other’s lives, or just share what is on each of your hearts. You may completely lose track of time during your sweet visit and become disappointed when the time finally comes when you have to go. 

Jesus longs to have an even closer, joy-filled relationship with each of us. I know we may not have hours every day to sit in singular, focused fellowship with Jesus, but the good news is that He is always with you, in your coming and going, in your commute, in your workplace, in your family time, in your home, and even on your vacation. Jesus Himself said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” He sealed you with His Holy Spirit when you put your trust in Him!

He not only wants you to share your heart with Him but He also wants to share His heart with you! This is what prayer is all about. Please don’t try to complicate it. You may be wanting or needing to hear from Jesus, but you don’t think He is speaking to you, or you may not think you can hear Him. The best place that I know to start is in the greatest love letter ever written: the Bible. His heart is shared with you there. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through His Word. He longs to speak to you, and He is faithful. 

When we declare His Word over ourselves and pray it back to Him, it is so very powerful. I find myself most often praying God’s Word, but some of these times are extremely precious and memorable to me. One of those times happened in the darkest season of my life. I was staring at the walls of a pit of postpartum depression after losing our third son late in my second trimester. Grieving the loss of a baby was unbearable. A dear friend sent me a card with Philippians 4:7 written in it: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I read every word deliberately and slowly. At that moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. He said, “I am guarding your heart and mind in Christ.” I cried out and admitted to God that I needed Him to guard my heart and mind because I wasn’t able to do it. Immediately His peace washed over me and gave me rest. I don’t want you to misunderstand or think that I got to skip past grief, because I assure you, I didn’t. But I knew Jesus was walking me through it, and His peace was guarding my heart and mind. As I prayed these words over and over, I proclaimed to the darkness that it wasn’t going to damage my heart or mind, because the peace of God was guarding it.

The times when He brings His Word to mind in prayer is not always so heavy or pressing. I love praying His Word over myself, my husband, my children, relatives, friends, neighbors, schools, and our church. Jesus said that we could ask anything in His name and it would be done. “In His name” means by His authority. We have to spend time with Him in His Word to hear and know what He authorizes. When you hear from Him and He has shared His heart with you, by all means, ask for it in prayer.

Commonly, my day starts with a Bible verse of the day. I will read from that part of the Bible until God speaks to my heart about something I am reading. It doesn’t usually take long for me. I also like to ask Him questions and ponder parts of Scripture that I don’t fully understand. Today’s verse of the day was James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” This is easy to pray about. My prayer sounded something like this, “Lord, you know my heart and you know my ways. Please bring to my attention any way I am hearing your Word, but I am not doing it. I don’t want to deceive myself.” As I said before, the Lord is faithful. In my normal daily happenings, He will kindly bring something to my attention regarding this prayer as He speaks back to heart.

If you are in a place of needing to hear about something specific from Him, make sure you are quieting your heart so you can hear and ask someone you can trust to pray for you as well.

Remember, hearing the Lord in prayer is all about our relationship with Him. He is not hiding His heart from you. I hope you will take the time to hear what He is saying specifically to you as you pray and seek His face.

We would like to thank Racheal Kasner for writing this post!

My Invitation

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered if God still speaks to us today? Or have you wondered if what you’re hearing is really God speaking to you, or just your own thoughts? If you’ve wrestled with these questions, you’re not alone. Hearing God, although our divine birthright as believers, can be one of the most elusive parts of our walk of faith but it’s not supposed to be. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and we can always trust that what He says is true. This month, we’re going to talk about hearing God and the primary way we do that: through relationship with Him. 

My boys are growing up so fast. They started 1st grade this year, and I can’t stop thinking about when I held them for the first time. They both nestled into my arms and were so still and calm. I remember kissing their tiny heads and wanting to never forget that moment. And now, six years later, the only time they stop long enough for me to kiss their heads is when they’re sleeping. They are always on the move, fighting Jedi battles with light sabers in hand, showing me how they can run as fast as a cheetah, or practicing their ninja moves; it’s tough to get them to slow down. I often find myself asking them to take a second, come sit in my lap, and talk to me. I just want to hold them for a bit, but most of the time, it’s like holding a cat that doesn’t want to be held. They wiggle out of my lap and off they go on their next adventure. 

Sometimes I wonder if God ever feels that way about us. Does He wish that we would slow down and climb up in His lap for a bit? Does He want to talk to us and spend time with us? I believe He does. In fact, I know He does. 

In Exodus 25, we find God giving Moses instructions for building the tabernacle that will house His presence. He gave very detailed directions on how to build it and what materials should be used. And in verse 22, we see a glimpse of God’s heart for why He wanted the tabernacle built in the first place. 

I will meet with you there above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the testimony; I will speak with you from there about all that I command you regarding the Israelites.”

Did you catch that?! If you read it too quickly, it would be easy to miss. But when we slow down and really think about what He is saying here, we can see that He’s extending an invitation to a relationship. He didn’t just want a place where he could speak to them; He wanted a place where He could speak with them and meet with them.

When it comes to hearing God, sometimes I think we only expect to hear God speak to us rather than expecting Him to speak with us. If He only spoke to us it would be one-sided, but if He speaks with us, He invites us into a conversation. He longs to hear from us as much as we long to hear from Him. 

We can be sure that God desires relationship because when he created us in His image, He wired us to desire relationship just like He does. Think about it this way: He’s the one that decided to exist in three persons instead of one! He has Jesus seated right next to Him and He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us and to help us. We’re all in this together! The very nature of who He is shows us His heart for relationship.

You were created for relationship by the One who longs for relationship with you. And when He created you, He gave you the ability to hear His voice just as surely as He gave you a voice to respond to His. Hearing our God is the most wonderful gift, and it’s something that each of us can do. And when we respond to His voice, we enter into the most amazing conversation we could ever have. We just have to create space in our life to build that connection with Him. It’s that simple. 

Will you slow down today, climb up in His lap, and begin a divine conversation with our God who wants to meet with you and speak with you? If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t hear Him, first, ask yourself if you’ve made space for him in your life. If not, you can start that conversation today. 

We would like to thank Amber Curry for writing this post!

Hostess with the Mostest

Editor’s Note: It’s almost FALL, y’all!!!! We will be focusing on hospitality for the next few weeks. Hospitality is so much more than what you produce. It’s the warm, welcoming atmosphere, it’s the peace you welcome others into, it’s the attention to the person in front of you, the listening that shows true hospitality. I know you’ll be refreshed and enlightened by the posts we have this month. Happy reading!!

I learned when I was a young child the duties of a hostess as I watched my Mom and Dad in their church work. They were very involved with the youth ministry, so they were always ready for expected and unexpected youth coming to our house and making themselves at home. My mom was an amazing cook, and she had the sweetest soul of anyone you would ever meet. She always had something special ready for snacks. My dad was deemed the best all around door-greeter and was loved by all. They were prime examples of “Love God, Love People.”

An important part of being a great hostess is setting an atmosphere of fun and relaxation.  My guests need to feel safe, comfortable, and know that they are welcome, to the point where no one feels like leaving. One way to do this is to make your guests feel important. Give them your undivided attention. When they leave your house, it’s not the food or the spotless floors they’ll remember; it’s your caring heart and your invested conversation that will make a bigger impact. You can make your guests feel loved as soon as they step into your home by treating them as VIPs. Each and every person who enters your home is very important to the Kingdom because they are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). You can extend this even further by offering your guests a word of encouragement as they leave your home.

One specific way you can set the stage of comfort, relaxation, and importance in your home is through the sense of smell. Smell is connected to memory, so yummy smells in your home can help trigger fun and happy memories for your guests or just help put them at ease. If you enjoy candles or essential oils, you might have some going near the front door, on your patio, in your sunroom, or in the living room. If you prefer the smell of baked goods, fresh baked bread, brownies, or cookies are all inviting smells and come with the added bonus of having a treat to serve your guests. 

God gives us the gift of hospitality so that we can glorify Him as we care for others. The blessing of the walls in our home provides safety and security for our families and can provide an atmosphere of care for the guests who enter as well. Romans 12:13 teaches us to share with those in need and to practice hospitality. When we open our home to others, we honor God and honor those who walk through our door. I Peter 4:9-10 says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.Practicing hospitality makes us instruments of God’s grace and allows us to extend His grace to those with whom we come in contact. 

The Word tells us, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6). Scripture goes on to say, “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11). As you seek out opportunities to show hospitality by inviting guests into your home, remember that you are also practicing generosity. Ask God to cultivate this fruit in your life and watch His blessings flow! 

We would like to thank Diana Brumley for writing this post!

Focus on Blessing, not Impressing

Editor’s Note: It’s almost FALL, y’all!!!! We will be focusing on hospitality for the next few weeks. Hospitality is so much more than what you produce. It’s the warm, welcoming atmosphere, it’s the peace you welcome others into, it’s the attention to the person in front of you, the listening that shows true hospitality. I know you’ll be refreshed and enlightened by the posts we have this month. Happy reading!!

I used to stress any time I knew we would have guests over. Don’t get me wrong, I love people and I am always excited to hang out with both new and old friends. But I would seriously stay up all hours of the night overthinking everything I needed to do to make their visit absolutely perfect. After all, I went to “sister Suzy’s” house last month and she served a gourmet meal and her home was immaculate! And did you see her dining table? Beautiful! You know, like the ones you see in magazines, dressed with center pieces and fine china.

The irony in this is I have worked in the hospitality industry for 20 years. I KNOW hospitality! I work with my staff daily to teach them that although a clean room is very important, what makes a stay memorable is the way the guest feels welcomed and at home. It’s not about perfection; it’s about connection.

So why do I stress so much about inviting someone to my home?

It took me digging into what hospitality really means before it finally clicked and I could apply it to my home life. Because in reality, I am a wife and working mother of 6 kids. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve set a pretty table and used that china I’ve had stored away for years. And you know what, I’ve learned that is perfectly ok. Let me tell you why.

While I was studying, I came across the Greek word for hospitality: philoxenia. It literally means LOVE OF STRANGERS. It does not mean I must cook a mean filet mignon, or have the shiniest silver. It means I should show compassion, take genuine interest and serve others. Now if you are one of those lovely ladies that can do it all, may God bless you sister. God created us each to be unique in our gifts. I, for one, did not receive that gift. And for those of you that are in my boat, don’t worry. God never said that practicing hospitality would look the same for everyone. He wants you to share your heart.

1 Peter 4:8-9: And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.

My takeaway from that is we are called to let our hospitality be an overflow of God’s hospitality to us. And by the way, the memories and the friendships you make along the way will outweigh the troubles of the mess left behind. I promise. 

In biblical times, it was not uncommon to invite a stranger in. There were no stigmas on needing to have a perfect home in order to offer drink or food to a traveler. Jesus himself showed us how to actively love people and create relationships over a meal time and time again. And even though it is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, I don’t think He would have walked away just because you served your meal on paper plates.

So my suggestion to you is to keep it simple. Invite your neighbors over for s’mores over the firepit. Ask the new couple at church to join you for pizza and a game night. Take cookies to the new family that recently moved into the neighborhood. And by the way, I am almost positive they are not going to turn them away even if you bought them at the grocery store instead of baking them from scratch. You could even send an encouraging note to your friend that has moved away. Or invite a new mom over for a play date. You know we all could use adult conversation from time to time. And if nothing else, BE FRIENDLY. Sometimes a simple hello can go a long way. Remember, the purpose of hospitality is to fellowship, mentor, strengthen bonds and get to know one another. Don’t focus so much of what would impress your guests, but more on what would bless them.

Mathew 25: 37-40“Then those that are right with God will say, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You? When did we see You thirsty and give You a drink? When did we see You a stranger and give You a room? When did we see You had no clothes and we gave You clothes? And when did we see You sick or in prison and we came to You?’ Then the King will say, ‘For sure, I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of My brothers, you have done it to Me.’

Today I am planning an evening with friends. I am choosing to intentionally focus on serving my guests, and I’m not stressing over what would impress them. I realize now that even though we drink from plastic cups at my house, my guests still feel loved and cherished. And regardless of the food on the table, it is a chance for simple moments to spark beautiful memories. And you know what? I sleep much better at night too, having peace in knowing I don’t have to stress about perfection. All I have to do is love people like Jesus loves me. 

We would like to thank Misty Rowell for writing this post!

How to Practice Everyday Hospitality

Editor’s Note: It’s almost FALL, y’all!!!! We will be focusing on hospitality for the next few weeks. Hospitality is so much more than what you produce. It’s the warm, welcoming atmosphere, it’s the peace you welcome others into, it’s the attention to the person in front of you, the listening that shows true hospitality. I know you’ll be refreshed and enlightened by the posts we have this month. Happy reading!!

When I think of the word hospitality, I think of inviting someone into my home, providing food and drink, initiating good conversation, and in essence, offering a pleasant time spent together.

I have to be honest: in the past that word HOSPITALITY would bring anxiety, fear and insecurity. Sometimes, it still can. For me, it brings up thoughts of scheduling, tidying up, spending, and worst of all, getting everybody on board to help for having someone in our home. But as I’ve learned more about who God is and what He is about, I’ve learned if it’s not good then it’s not God!

If I allow those feelings of lack (fear, anxiety, insecurity) to dictate my actions, then I’m not allowing God to use me or be seen by others through me. His Word says to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you” (Romans 15:7). We are called to do as our Father does. 

Romans 12:13 says to “find ways to show hospitality. ” This requires being proactive in seeking out opportunities to be hospitable. It means being a good steward of the home God has given me so I can show love to more of His children. My home is HIS home. It really is that simple. 

Even more simple than that is knowing what true hospitality is—“to present a friendly and generous reception.” We usually think of hospitality as using our physical home, but I think it’s more about our spiritual home. So rather than making hospitality about meeting at a time and a place, we can demonstrate hospitality through our everyday interactions: a warm smile, a touching note, a prayer or wise word, or a needed phone call. Actions of love show someone that you value them and that you’re willing to do a little extra for them. In the end, isn’t that what hospitality is truly all about?

God’s greatest commands in Matthew 22:37  were to love Him and love your neighbor.

Everything about God is about the heart—it all begins with our heart. Our goal is to love who God loves and there is NOT ONE person that God doesn’t love. So practically speaking, how can we mold our heart to love who God loves?  His word says in Ephesians 2:10 that we were “created to do good works [show hospitality] which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God did the hard work, and He will not stop, so we just have to LET Him use us. That’s it! We were MADE for this – TO LOVE OTHERS AND SHOW IT!  

When we begin to pray on that one thought – to show others God’s love, no matter who – then our thoughts become actions, and that’s when hospitality comes in. Inviting someone into your prayers invites them into your space, and that becomes an act of love. Hospitality becomes a far deeper and more personal act than simply inviting someone into your physical home; it becomes an intimate conversation with God about another of God’s beloved. Hospitality becomes an emotion of LOVE. We were made for this, now we just have to allow ourselves to DO it.’

We would like to thank Sandra Villa for writing this blog post.

Fasting to Feast

Editor’s Note: This summer we will post a new blog every other Thursday. In August, we will start a new series. I am praying that you would be refreshed and enjoy your SUMMER!

Fasting. What images or feelings does that word conjure up in you? I don’t know why I didn’t practice fasting as I grew up. It’s just not something we did as a family. I’m not sure I ever heard it talked about much. We read our Bibles often, but maybe we just glossed over those portions of scripture that mentioned that particular spiritual discipline. I certainly believed there was no way I could ever do that.

For some reason in the past two to three years, I have been exposed to people who fast from food on a regular basis, and they seemed pretty normal. I am not sure what really captured my fascination with it other than I felt a conviction in my spirit that my physical and spiritual appetites were out of control. John Piper wrote in his book A Hunger for God, “If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”

I knew God was calling me to action.

Let me say that there are all kinds of fasts you can do. I choose to fast from food after supper to the next day’s supper one day a week. I don’t believe that the spiritual discipline of fasting meant that God was extra proud of my sacrifice or spirituality. Fasting isn’t meant to be a tool whereby we manipulate God and others into doing what we want or projecting a holier-than-thou image. In fact, it exposed all kinds of stuff in me. I’m not proud of this, but there was a spoiled child inside me who demanded to have what she wanted when she wanted it. I learned to take those strong emotions and issues to Christ as often as I had to in order to bring myself into submission to Him and His word.

It became a powerful practice to help me in my relationships with Christ because I was more aware of His nearness in my daily life. In John 6:22-35 Jesus and a group of seeking people have an interesting interaction. Go read it. There’s a lot going on in that text, but one of the things that speaks to me is how much Jesus wants us to know Him. 

Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (John 6:26-27 NKJV).

Do you find yourself jumping from hobby to hobby, job to job, diet to diet, or friend to friend just hoping that maybe this next one will be “it” for you? Do you ever look back over the seasons of your life and notice that your soul is unsettled or unsatisfied?

Friend, there is another Bread. Are you willing to fast from food for a short period of time so you can feast on the Bread of Heaven?

God knew our souls were made to crave connection and fulfillment with Him. He designed us that way. But we medicate that hunger with what seems like everything but time with Him. Fasting is one of the quickest ways I know to create capacity for our relationship with Christ. Wendy Speake, author of The 40-Day Sugar Fast puts it this way: “When God sets us free from the strongholds in our lives, we’re free to experience His strong hold.”

And that’s what I’ve been craving this season. So much has changed in my life over the past few years that I am desperate to experience the friendship of Christ like never before. I want to hear His voice because the world is screaming loudly these days with a new crisis every week, it seems. Fasting helps clear out all the spiritual clutter. I believe God has very important things to impart to us in this season of our lives. Let’s embrace a fasting lifestyle so we can listen, hear, and respond quickly to His voice.

We’d like to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this blog post!

Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Worship

Editor’s Note: This summer we will post a new blog every other Thursday. In August, we will start a new series. I am praying that you would be refreshed and enjoy your SUMMER!

Today I woke up with a song on my heart called the Goodness of God. One of my favorite verses in this song is when it says, “with every breath that I am able I will sing of the goodness of God.”  So many of us wake up with a song on our hearts or we are singing His praises during the day.

We were created to worship God, and as parents, we are also responsible for helping cultivate a heart of worship in our children.

John 4:23 says, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.” I want to be that kind of worshipper to my King, and I want that same experience for my children.  

Something that the Lord has been working on with my family and me over the past few weeks is setting a good foundation. I like to think of it has having good “roots.” I have this picture on my phone of a huge tree that my dad recently had to dig up. I showed this picture to my kids and we talked about all the roots that were on that tree and how that relates to our life. When we have God’s Word in us, then we will have roots that look just like that tree. We can stand tall and firm in Jesus because we are rooted in Him and our foundation is strong. Matthew 7:24 says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” 

One of my jobs as a mom is to help lay that kind of foundation in my children. To become the true worshipper that John 4:23 talks about, we must position ourselves in a way that we can enter into His presence.

In our house, our children know that we listen to Christian music. It plays in our cars, in the background while doing chores around the house, and it plays when my children go to sleep. We talk about why we listen to this type of music. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” If we are sowing good seeds into our hearts and minds, then we have prepared ourselves to receive the Spirit in order to become the true worshipper.  

As we worship in our home, I talk to my kids about why we close our eyes and lift our hands. I tell them that when I close my eyes, I like to picture Jesus sitting before me as I worship Him and thank Him for all He has done in our lives. I also show them that by lifting my hands, I am giving everything I have to Jesus because He has given me everything! I am surrendering to Him. 

One thing that I love about playing Christian music in our home and cars is that when my children worship at church, they already know most of the songs. We have cultivated our hearts and made them ready to receive the Spirit and all that God has to offer us. I believe this allows them to be able to close their eyes, lift their hands, and come into God’s presence because the songs are already written on their hearts.  

We were made to worship our God.

When we as parents prepare our children and their hearts to become a true worshipper, we are setting them up to receive the destiny God has for them.  

Start off by laying the foundation of why we worship. Show them that the songs we sing are scriptures in the Bible. My daughter loved being able to see this! Once you have laid the foundation, train them on how to worship and what it looks like in your home. Deuteronomy 11:18-19 says, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

As we train our children to become true worshippers, we are allowing the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and direct the path of our children. Every time they worship, the Holy Spirit is putting His thumbprint on their hearts and they learn to hear His voice and obey His commands. What an awesome thing to learn as a child!

We would like to thank Kaylene Vanbebber for writing this post!

Rescued

Editor’s Note: This summer we will post a new blog every other Thursday. In August, we will start a new series. I am praying that you would be refreshed and enjoy your SUMMER!

In working with kids and teens who have been through trauma, I have learned a term that some call “felt safety” or “psychological safety.” The idea behind this is that kids and teens (and adults, for that matter) have to feel safe in order to react in healthy ways. The people around the child may know that she is safe: The doors are locked, she has caring adults around her, she has enough food to eat. But if the child or teen does not feel like she is safe, she will continue to react out of survival mode. This could look like destructive behavior, disrespect, or keeping secrets.  

In order for all of us (kids and adults alike) to function from a healthy mindset, we have to feel safe. For many of us, this means choosing to operate from a mindset of fear to an attitude of trust.

A few months ago I attended a conference, and one of the speakers challenged the audience to change the way they talk to God. He said, “So often we try to be professional in our relationship with God, and we forget to be personal.” He guided all of us right then to practice talking with God as a loved son or daughter. While the music played, we all started praying out loud. 

As I prayed, God gave me a picture of Him holding me and rocking me in a rocking chair. As I leaned up against Him, God spoke to my heart, “You can come get a hug from Me any time you want.” That spoke deeply to me. And I realized that this is one of the ways God gives us “felt safety.” No matter who we are, all of us have areas where we feel insecure or unsafe. God wants to speak directly to those places. He wants to bring healing to our hearts. He wants to rescue us from our own feelings of shame and isolation and bondage.

Recently, I came across one of the prayers that the Jewish people pray at the end of their Sabbath celebrations each week. After a little research, I found out these prayers come from Isaiah and the Psalms: 

“‘Behold, God is my salvation;

I will trust, and will not be afraid; 

for the Lord God is my strength and my song, 

and He has become my salvation.’

With joy you will draw water from 

the wells of salvation.” (Is. 12:2-3)

“I will lift up the cup of salvation 

and call on the name of the Lord.” (Ps. 116:13)

I decided to look up the Hebrew word for “salvation” since it was used over and over again in these verses. The original Hebrew word for “salvation” paints a picture of someone coming in from the outside and rescuing us from a place of bondage. It means we have been freed and given victory over our enemies. Because we’ve been rescued, we have a sense of calmness and peace, and we feel safe. When we feel safe, we can flourish and live in prosperity and abundance.

Stick with me here; it’s just getting good. The Hebrew word for “salvation” in these verses is yeshua. The name for Jesus. “And you shall call his name Yeshua—Jesus—because he will save (rescue) his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Let that soak in.

Jesus is our rescuer. Because of Jesus we have freedom. Because of Jesus we have victory. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid anymore. Because of Jesus we have peace, calmness, comfort, and “felt safety.” 

You are free from shame. You are free from the names the enemy wants you to call yourself. You are free from guilt. Because Jesus has rescued you. 

“As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I (God) seek out My sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered.” (Ezekiel 34:12 ESV)

You are safe. You have been rescued. Jesus sees you. Jesus wants you. He draws you near with cords of kindness. His goodness and loving kindness pursue you every day of your life. Rest in the truth of that today, my friend. 

We wold like to thank Heather Dillard for writing this post!

Lifting My Eyes To The Hills

My recent reflections have been over Pastor Brad’s past sermons on the attributes of God:  God is love, God is good, God is our provider, God is faithful, and God can be trusted. Our life group question following these sermons was, “So, if God is good, why did he allow [fill in the blank]?” This has caused me to think about “mountain top” vs. “valley” experiences. What a joy to be on a mountain high! On top of the mountain, the air is fresh and invigorating. Looking back down at that valley, you recall a difficult path, an environment full of stress, pain, and insecurity. But now, having arrived to the top, you rejoice in God, for He guided your steps. 

Andy Andrews, Christian author of The Noticer, writes, “Everybody wants to be on the mountaintop, but if you’ll remember, mountaintops are rocky and cold. There is no growth on the top of a mountain. Sure, the view is great, but what’s a view for? A view just gives us a glimpse of our next destination – our next target. But to hit that target, we must come off the mountain, go through the valley, and begin to climb the next slope. It is in the valley that we slog through the lush grass and rich soil, learning and becoming what enables us to summit life’s next peak.” 

Together we journey this valley of “coronavirus insecurity” and individually we have other valleys we travel (health, financial, family, etc.). We all desire to get to the mountaintop. No one is excluded in these unsettling walks. Even as I share this blog, the enemy searches my walls for vulnerable places where I am unarmed. It is crucial for me to carry the shield of faith, fortify my walls with the armor of God by wearing His breastplate and helmet, carry the sword of the spirit (the Word), and pray always (Ephesians 6). 

God’s love, goodness, provision, and faithfulness are seen when our eyes are fixed on Jesus. As the body of Christ, God will lead us in an excellent way to serve our Christian family and community (1 Cor. 12:27; 31).   Look around and see God at work in His people; you don’t have to look too far. It might be a life group member offering services to help, an encouraging text or call, a shoulder to lean on, or knowing with confidence you are being lifted in prayer to the Almighty.

In this valley faith grows and the fruit of the Spirit is manifested through God’s people.   

Stop, look, and listen. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The Spirit is at work; His fruit is bountiful (Galatians 5:22-23). I encourage you to share what God is doing during this walk of your life: what has He taught you, how is He directing your path, how is your faith growing, and how is He using you to further His Kingdom? Encourage and pray for one another as we walk through this valley, keeping our eyes on the hills from where our help comes. 

Psalm 121  

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help?  

My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.  

He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.  

Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.  

The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand.  

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.  

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.  

The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in   

From this time forth, and even forevermore.

We would like to thank Darla Newland for writing this blog!