Awe and Wonder

When our puppy was younger, I seized opportunities to star gaze, at times, when I’d let him out in the middle of the night. I frequently would get caught, looking up in the clear, night sky for specific constellations, when our puppy would surprise me by choosing a new place to sniff and yank me and my neck on to the next spot. I couldn’t help it! The sky was captivating! I felt the same when our kids would do night sky observations in school! The beauty of the stars, amidst a clear, dark backdrop, stirred such soul-filling emotions toward my Creator!

I heard a song last week that, musically, lyrically, brought me to that place, again…a place of awe and wonder. I couldn’t help but include it in my Soul Food page (if you look on the Soul Food page and don’t find it, please know that that page is updated periodically, so it may have changed since the date of this post). In continuing to listen to this song, I’ve been stirred by the Spirit to share it with you all, in case you have yet to hear it. I hope the lyrics and melody spark a beautiful conversation between you and your Creator!

Maker Of The Moon [Official Lyric Video]

What’s it Look Like to Abide?

Sometimes, lessons are tough.  While I knew the LORD wanted me to write about abiding in Him this week, it didn’t hit me until now that He was showing me an example of what it looked like through a situation that developed in our home over the course of a couple days this week.  A lack of communication and different points of view amongst members of our family had led to hurt feelings, alienation, frustration, and anger. I remember sitting on my bed, saying to the LORD, “I don’t know what to do.”

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

John 15:4-5 NASB 1977

The Greek word for “abide” is “menó.” It has a number of different meanings, but in this particular verse, it means two things.

The first meaning of menó is to be kept, to remain. I just wrote about this in the Bible study the LORD and I are writing (another confirmation that He’s been preparing me for this and giving me clear eyes to see). I SOOOO want to delve deeper on this here!! It stirs my soul, but I’ll just leave that where it is and, hopefully, you’ll look forward to digging in further when the study comes out (I post updates on how the study is coming along in the footer of each page on this site, so feel free to check in now and then to see how it’s coming along and, hopefully, to pray with me.). Today, we’ll focus on remaining or being kept. It’s talking about where you are. In fact, menó is used in John 19:31, when the Jews didn’t want the bodies of Jesus and the two criminals He was crucified next to remaining on the crosses during the Sabbath; they asked Pilate to have their legs broken to speed up their death, so their bodies could be taken off/away. Another phrase we could use here is to stay.

I love the first part of the definition–“to be kept.” There are two parts to the “keeping” to consider. First, God is keeping, preserving, and protecting us.

“The LORD is your protector, there at your right side to shade you from the sun.”

Psalm 121:5 CEV
Photo by Alex Gorham by Unsplash

The word for “protector,” in this verse, is also defined as “keep, preserve.”

11Holy Father, I am no longer in the world. I am coming to You, but My followers are still in the world. So keep them safe by the power of the name You have given Me. Then, they will be one with each other, just as You and I are one. 12While I was with them, I was protecting them by Your name that You have given Me. I guarded them and not one of them is lost, except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture may be fulfilled. Now I am coming to You, and I speak these things in the world, so that they may have My joy completed in them. I have given them Your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. I am not praying that You take them out of the world, but that You protect them from the evil one.”

John 17:11 CEV, 17:12-15 HCSB

This truth continues here, as Christ made the Father’s character visible to His followers and asked Him to keep and protect them, to guard them from being lost or succumbing, with the focus on preserving His followers. “His followers” includes those of us who’ve accepted Christ as the sacrifice for our sins and have chosen to follow Him!

While the first part of “keeping” is what God does, the second part is on uswe’re to stay put. We need to remain under the Father’s active guard, accepting His guidance and commands; this is, actually, the second meaning of menó–not to leave, to continue to be present. If we step out from under the shadow (shade) of a tree, we’re exposed to the heat and harm of the sun. It’s the same with God. If we remain next to Him, we’ll experience His protection; He’ll cause us to persevere and stand firm, when things come our way, but if we decide we want to walk away from Him to explore something that opposes Him, we’ll be exposed to the enemy (“the evil one”).

“Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel…”

Psalm 73:23-24a NKJV

“Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.”

2 John 1:9 NLT

I’ve always heard of “abiding” as “to live/dwell.” It’s deeper…closer…than that. When we live with our families, we do life together, but we may also step out to go to the store or work. When we live in a menó relationship with God, we remain present, close beside Him, and He remains our Keeper, our Protector.

I remained beside Him, as I poured out my heart on my bed, and it wasn’t long before a peace calmed my soul. He guided me in the words to say and how to interact, mediate, and encourage. I observed with each family member that the enemy was targeting us, once again; I wasn’t going to let him win…and neither was my Keeper! Throughout the evening, I watched the enemy leave, as I chose not to; and our faithful Protector was active and victorious!

“So place yourselves under God’s authority. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you.”

James 4:7 GWT
Photo by Gilly Stewart on Unsplash

God wanting me to dig into “abide” with eyes wide open was affirmed this past week, when a dear friend ordered the sign you saw in this post’s initial image from my daughter’s new little business venture, DFH (Designs for HIM). She’s making Home Goods To Encourage and Inspire, growing her product line, and customizing when asked. “Abide” was a word that was resonating with my friend, and she wanted something simple as a reminder. I think I need one for our home, too.

Encourage or Harden?

Today is full of many opportunities that we choose to invest in or slam the door on. If you’re a parent, you know you have different opportunities to make time for your kids, but even during that time, you have the choice of how or if you truly invest in your child. Same goes for your spouse, if you have one. What kind of choices are you making with your time? If you’re single, those choices are still there, especially with your close friends!

“You must encourage one another each day. And you must keep on while there is still a time that can be called ‘today.’ If you don’t, then sin may fool some of you and make you stubborn.”

Hebrews 3:13 CEV

The compound Greek word translated “encourage,” here, means “to call from being close beside.” It makes sense that we’re going to have a hard time doing this, if we keep people at a distance. “Call,” in this instance, relates to speaking to another to warn or encourage them. There’s another word, kata, that shows up in the Greek, but its meaning isn’t as pronounced in the English translations of this verse. It can mean “during,” but it can also mean “by” with reference to someone testifying by something. In this context, one would be a testifier of Truth, sent by God through the Holy Spirit, urging someone or requesting, with serious, intense conviction, that they do something or stop doing something. We are to call on others to also testify, by the Spirit, of Christ…to declare His truths or give evidence of Him and/or His living in them; their testimony would include doing this something you are urging them to do, as the Spirit has prompted/directed, or not doing something that would hinder a positive representation of Christ. The meaning of this word, kata, is “bring down exactly, complete.” In this verse, we would be testifying to the Spirit’s teaching or prompting and the truths of Christ, bringing them down to the earth by fleshing it out.

Photo by Nathan Bingle on Unsplash

It’s pretty hard to do any of this with any hope of making a positive impact, if we aren’t walking with someone in life: a) We won’t know what they’re dealing with, because we haven’t spent time connecting with them and b) We won’t have the relationship with them through which they may be willing to hear what the LORD is wanting to say through us. This can be challenging in a world marred by Covid, in which we may have turned more inwardly, but this verse commands us to do this every day…sun up to sun down. Whenever we can call it “today,” we’re responsible for this. This speaks to me.

Have you been making time for people?
Is there someone the Holy Spirit has been impressing on your heart to encourage or warn?
Have you done it?

Maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal if we miss an opportunity or two…but it does when we see that the person may be deceived by their sin, if we don’t, which leads to their becoming stubborn. I’ve known the definition of sin as “missing the mark,” but another definition of this Greek word is new to me. Sin’s a compound word and means “not” + “a part, share of.” What is doing the deceiving in this verse is not a part of God, not a share of Who He is. If someone is participating in or believing something that’s not even a part of God, they may become stubborn, being super determined not to change their view or attitude toward the sin. They rely on their own power, rather than God’s, or doing what they want. That’s scary and very concerning, when I think of this. I don’t want my not doing something the Spirit of God calls me to do to allow even an opportunity for someone to become hardened in their sin! I think we may act more on what the Spirit is prompting us to do and not be concerned with a “lack of time, inability, the fact that it’s uncomfortable, or that we may lose a friend if we say something,” if we know something bigger is at stake. The verse before calls it “an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12b CSB).” I don’t want to be responsible for that or have that myself! Do you?

Photo by Danielle Dolson on Unsplash

This section of verses (Hebrews 3:7-15) starts and ends with the Holy Spirit’s call to us. Last post, we talked about being tethered to (or walking with) God’s Spirit. Just like He is wanting us to do to others, He is wanting to walk in relationship with us, so we can hear Him call to us more clearly and be more open to the instruction, encouragement, and warnings He wants to share with us. Verses 7 and 15 say, “Today” (which is every day, right?), if you hear [(identify or recognize the noticeable words of)] His voice, you won’t harden your heart [(the extent of your voluntary, moral desires or choices) by resisting what God says is right].”

Are you walking with the Spirit today, listening to His voice?
Are you doing what He’s commanded you to do?

Tethered to the Holy Spirit

Early last school year, we saw a man and woman, running side by side together, attached with a tether. I hadn’t seen anything like it! The only thing I’d seen that was somewhat close was those little backpacks littles wear that tether them to their care givers when they’re in a crowded, public place, so the care givers don’t lose them. Apparently, some runners choose this when one of the runners is blind or partially blind; one of the runners serves as a guide to the other. Some tethers have a loop on each end of a piece of fabric or band; each runner either hangs onto their end’s loop or lets it hang around their wrists. The couple we saw had a rope tied around each runner’s waist; this type of tether is, apparently, used when the runner in need of a guide has better vision…or just a lot of practice.

“But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts].”

Galatians 5:16 AB

The Greek word for “walk” in this verse concerns all moral aspects of our lives. It refers to how we conduct ourselves, according to what standard; what the standard is dictates how we live. According to this verse, the directed standard we should have is God’s, which is made known to us through the instruction and guidance of His Spirit. When we walk with Him, this verse says we won’t carry out the desire of our sinful nature (or “flesh”). However, if we rely on ourselves or the world as our standard, we’ll live life, making our own decisions, based on what gratifies us. The Greek word for “flesh” (or “sinful nature”), in this verse, talks about our temperament (how our nature affects our behavior in a permanent kind of way) and includes how we perceive things, when our senses are stimulated, as well as how we justify or explain things; the focus here is “we” and makes a point that it’s done without the Spirit of God’s influence and is opposed to Him.

When one of your senses was peeked, recently, was your reaction carried out with or without the influence of the Spirit of God?

Months ago, before training and getting our “walking collar,” our puppy was a train wreck to walk! He was growing in size, and his then 60 lbs. would abruptly “yank my arm out of socket” any time he saw something that excited him or “needed” further investigation. I stopped trying to walk him for a time and found other ways to exercise him, because I, physically, had such a difficult time with this.

After training and introducing him to his new “walking collar,” he looked at me and our walks in a whole new way! His leash is kept short; he stays right by my side; he stops and sits when I stop; he starts walking when I start to walk; he looks around, but doesn’t stare (most of the time); he doesn’t bark at other dogs, barking at him, or chase squirrels or birds…It’s so refreshing!!! He’s happy; I’m happy! We both enjoy our walks, now, immensely!

Maybe, to us, it doesn’t seem like we’re yanking or pulling too hard away from God; we’re in “the vacinity” of His Spirit. There’s a heart check in the verses that follow the one above (vs. 19-26) that helps us see if our perceptions match reality. If any of the following (among others in these verses) are in our lives, it should be evident to us that we are pulling away from (opposing) God, choosing our own direction:

  • Letting sin mix in with the purity God desires (i.e., letting our nature dictate how we perceive things, rather than God; justifying our sinful thoughts and actions).
  • Having an enemy that we hate; we are unfriendly to them, oppose them, and aren’t interested in having a friendly relationship with them. In fact, we openly wish that they would suffer.
  • Being ready to have a heated disagreement with people, even those we typically get along with.
  • Allowing our thoughts or emotions to get piping hot and boiling over, fueled by our wanting something or wishing something would happen.
  • Allowing our “temperatures” to rise; our breathing becomes stronger or more pronounced, and we act out of this anger.
  • Acting out of an interest in gaining something for ourselves, whether it causes a disagreement with others or not.
  • Taking a stand against something that wrongly divides us from others into cliques, due to unnecessary conflict.
  • Holding to a strong personal choice (opinion) that causes disagreements with others.
  • Being glad when something bad happens to someone, or they encounter pain or difficulties.
  • Believing something that isn’t true and boasting about it, hoping it will increase our value in others’ eyes.
  • Calling attention to ourselves, irritating others.
  • Having a stinging or sour response to someone’s success.

I’m praying for you. May we all see clearly the areas in our lives the Spirit is wanting to guide us in and give us further training. May we be willing to obey and reap all the benefits of a tranquil walk with Him!

Photo by Patrick Schätz on Unsplash

Loving the Unloved

She was unloved, yet she longed for the attention, the affection, the favor of one.

Has your focus ever been on securing the attention, affection, or favor of one particular person (i.e., a spouse, a future spouse, a boss, a friend)?
Wherever the LORD is taking your thoughts right now, sit quietly there. Is He beckoning for your attention? If so, do you hear the desire in His voice…the desire He has for you; the desire to show you His love and for you to receive it; the desire for you, His child, to love Him above all else?

I’ve embarked on a new, little routine. One of my favorite authors, Kelly Minter, started a podcast. Each episode is a good half hour long and digs deep into different portions of Scripture. I love this kind of thing, but 30 minutes of quiet can be tough to achieve amidst already needing quiet time to write different posts as well as the Bible study the LORD and I are working on and carving out time for my family. However, an idea popped into my head; I started using the time when I put make-up on, do my hair, etc., to listen to an episode of her podcast. These times aren’t super often these days; my “dolled up” days are declining, but God still uses when I have them to speak while I’m getting ready, as He faithfully has.

I recently listened to Episode 4: When People Aren’t Enough. This podcast took a deep look at the familiar story in Genesis of Rachel and Leah. It uncovered their desires and where their focus was. After listening to this episode, I dug further into portions of this text. Here are some additional things the LORD revealed, that I found interesting.

  • Leah’s name comes from a Hebrew word, laah (law-aw’), that means “be weary or impatient, to tire; to be (or make) disgusted; grieve, make weary selves.” Yikes!

“Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was unable to have children.”

Genesis 29:31 NASB
  • In Genesis 29:31, the word “unloved,” adopted by many translations, actually, means “to hate” in Hebrew. You can see why she would grieve, right?!? Jacob didn’t just “not like” Leah; he hated her!! He found her repulsive, according to the meaning of the word. In fact, the word lends itself to an enemy kind of feel or an opponent of Rachel, in Jacob’s mind. Leah wanted desperately to be loved by Jacob, so we can imagine that she tired herself out, thinking about how he hated her, how having his child would make him love her…
  • God saw this! One of His names is El Roi, which means the God Who Sees Me (Genesis 16:13)! God is true to His character, so I can assure you; whatever you’re going through, God sees you! He sees your pain and your suffering.
  • Not only did God see Leah, but He heard her cries (Genesis 29:33), whether they were heart cries or verbal. This is why she named her second son Simeon, which comes from a Hebrew word, meaning “to hear.” He was paying attention to Leah. He hadn’t forgotten her! I don’t know what you or someone you know is going through right now, but know this: God is paying attention to you and hears you, whether it looks, to you, like He’s acting on your behalf or not!
  • Leah wasn’t just loved less than Rachel (Genesis 29:30); in the Hebrew text, we see she was compared to her. Jacob was doing it, and Leah and Rachel both were taking part in it. The comparison game is a trap I’ve fought for a long time. It’s easy to fall prey to it, if I’m not intentional on maintaining where my focus should be.
  • Leah’s third son was named Levi, meaning “to join.” Isn’t it neat to think of the meaning of this name/tribe from which men were chosen to serve the LORD as priests, to intervene between individuals of the nation of Israel and God in order to reconcile their relationship?

Here are a couple things I loved, that Kelly brought out in her podcast about Leah, in particular.

  • Leah wanted Jacob’s love, yet God was loving her. God had a plan for her, though she didn’t see it.
  • Leah’s fourth son was named Judah, which means “praise.” Her reaction to this son was, “Now, I will praise the LORD” (Genesis 29:35). We all should praise the LORD for how He worked through Leah and the gift of this son, Judah; it was through this lineage (His earthly father, Joseph’s line) that Jesus came!

Take some time to marinate in any of these truths that the LORD is making stand out to you, even if it’s just engaging with His Word on your heart throughout the day. If you have extra quiet time and want to take in this episode of Kelly’s podcast, click on the link below. Come back, afterward, and let me know what you think!

https://kellyminter.com/podcast-episode-4/

If you have a Leah in your life, would you encourage them by sharing this post with them?

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Focus and Run the Race Well

Have you ever been somewhere, when you feel like you’re being watched? You look around, only to find out that, indeed, you are?!?

“As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us.”

Hebrews 12:1 GNT

“[looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, Who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], Who, for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him, endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].”

Hebrews 12:2 AB

I know we dug in a bit to these verses a few months ago, but the LORD made it clear that He wanted me to revisit them in this post…with additional treasures to uncover.

You may have heard this verse in a translation that says, “a CLOUD of witnesses.” This word, translated “cloud” and “crowd,” DOES mean “crowd,” or a multitude that’s closely compacted. Think of a race, where all the runners are tightly packed together. If the person in front of you trips, slips, falls, stops, or is going slow, your race is going to be hindered. Similarly, in this race we call “life,” there are those around us who are witnesses to how we run. In fact, the word for “witnesses” actually refers to someone who knows by seeing and/or hearing.

Think of who is around you at varying times during your week, seeing the way you act and what you do, hearing what you say, how you say it, and what you talk about. What are they witnessing?
Is how you act and speak hindering others’ race?

This verse goes on to say that we should place away from us EVERYTHING that is weighing us down. The meaning of the Greek word, here, means that it’s a mass that is heavy and bends you over.

Years ago, I traveled to visit a friend of mine and stay with her and her family. During my time there, we journeyed to many places I’d never been. One day, the two of us and her kiddos went hiking along beautiful, wooded trails with several breathtaking views of water falls. One of her daughters was young, so my friend carried her on her back, during the entire hike, in a backpack-type carrier. Her daughter started out fairly light, but as the trek went longer and longer, I could tell her daughter was feeling heavier and heavier on her back. She still trudged along with perseverance, but her energy was visibly draining; her climbing began to gradually slow. Any of you who have had a little one on your back for any length of time on a trek can relate; I’m sure! It’s tough to run…or even traverse long roads…with a heavy load, weighing you down.

Many times in our lives, we weigh ourselves down with what we deem as important in addition to sin. We may not really pay attention to them at first or think they’re that big of a deal, yet one thing leads to another. Before long, we feel the tremendous weight of our choices (I’m NOT including kids in those choices, if my previous story sounds like that!!). Sometimes, we want to rid ourselves of the weight, but we feel pressure from somewhere to keep carrying it…or it just seems to hang onto us so tightly!

Is what’s important to you important to God?
Are there any sins hanging onto you, like heavy weights around your ankles, leaving you exhausted and struggling to keep moving forward?

This is where determination and pursuit come in! We need to focus our eyes on Jesus and finish strong, as He did. There is joy in finishing well, in pursuing well, in being so determined to finish well that the choice between putting sin and the weight of what we think is important in its place (on the side of the road…away from us) is a no-brainer.

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I catch myself gazing at my circumstance. I’m thankful the LORD, through His Spirit, loves me enough to redirect me. It’s like He gently takes my face and turns it toward Himself…and I see His eyes…and I’m captivated! I don’t want to miss another thing He has to show me!

Where is your gaze?

I pray your eyes lock with His, and He gives you new strength. I pray He energizes you to continue moving toward the ultimate goal–to bring Him glory! Run well, Liv sibs! Run well!

Ride out the Rain Delay

I can hear thunder, as I begin to type this. It started about 10 minutes ago, but the rain is just now coming down. My kids are walking to a local park to watch a friend’s baseball game, and we’ve been playing phone tag, wondering if the game will get rained out. It makes me think of when my son played Little League. One game, in particular, it started raining SO hard (you know, the kind of rain that soaks you from head to toe after being out in it for one second!?!)! I remember that game; we and other families all ran for the covered areas as quickly as possible, as the rain beat down. From under the protection of the roof, we watched the rain bounce off the concrete as high as our shins. We were soaked, but we laughed. In that moment, there was togetherness that broke through the storm. Before long, the sun, too, broke through the clouds, the rain stopped, and we were able to walk out to our car.

Are you going through a storm in your life, where one minute, the sky seemed bright blue and sunny; then, an ominous cloud appeared, followed by an all-out downpour?!? Maybe you’re not in one right now; however, you know someone who is. Maybe you can think of a storm you’ve endured in the past.

What has felt like a storm?
Photo by Amadej Tauses on Unsplash

“God will bless you, if you don’t give up, when your faith is being tested. He will reward you with a glorious life, just as He rewards everyone who loves Him.”

James 1:12 CEV

The Greek word translated here as “don’t give up” is “hupomenó.” This compound word means “remain under.” I love this picture, as God reminded me of that Little League game and riding out the storm. Many families grabbed their stuff and bolted for their cars in the torrential downpour, getting drenched, as they chose to run in the elements; yet, we “remained under” the protection of the ramada (or pavilion). We certainly got wet on our way there, but the level of soaking was MUCH less than those who ran to their vehicles in the pouring down rain! James calls us to “remain under” each test…to patiently suffer through the thing that is incredibly difficult or painful…to wait it out.

“My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy, when you fall into all sorts of trials,”

James 1:2 NETB

According to James, our first thought…the thought that leads all other thoughts and actions, when we “fall into” tests or temptations (when we feel like they completely surround us), is that it’s an opportunity for joy! This joy is demonstrated when it recognizes God’s favor. You may be thinking that “favor” seems super far from your mind, when you think about the storm you or someone you know is in. It may not seem fair or that God is looking favorably on you. Yet, we need to read on…

“because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

James 1:3 NETB

“But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

James 1:4 HCSB

God, in His grace, wants to give you what you need to be mature and complete, lacking nothing, so He gives you a test to produce endurance. This word for “endurance” is the exact same word, “hupomenó,” that we saw earlier in James 1:12. If you patiently wait out the storm, you remain under His protection during the test. Once the storm is over, you will see His promised blessings. These blessings may look different than what one may expect, but they are opportunities to give God glory through your life, as you share what He has done, how you saw Him in the storm, etc.

Photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash

As my brother, Jason, said yesterday during our conversation (he didn’t know God already had me writing about this, which is yet another way I saw God knitting this post together), “Growth happens when we’re uncomfortable.” God wants you, His child, to grow and mature. Remember, He allows these tests for your good, because He love you SO, SO much, and, ultimately, for His Kingdom’s good! There’s a lot of joy to be found there!

In the midst of the storm (test), is joy leading your other thoughts?
Are you taking the opportunity to give God glory by sharing how you saw Him during a storm in your life?

Please feel free to share with the Liv community! He WILL bless others through your life, as you give HIM glory!

Photo by Inge Maria on Unsplash