Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 11)

*This post is part of a 14-day series. Click here to start from day one, or join in whenever you’d like.

Continued from yesterday’s post

The Bible is both a book about hundreds of generations of people and a love letter from the Father to you and me. How amazing it is that Jesus made a way for us to be part of the Story of the ages!

Scripture is wisdom, direction, and hope for our lives. It holds the answers we need, and its promises belong to those who place their faith in Jesus.

Day 11 (Bible Reading Exercise #2): Today, remind yourself how very applicable the Bible is to you personally. Try inserting your name into one or more promises found in the Word of God.

For example:

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for [Holly], who can ever be against [her]? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for [Holly], won’t he also give [her] everything else? Who dares accuse [Holly], whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given [Holly] right standing with himself. Who then will condemn [her]? No one—for Christ Jesus died for [Holly] and was raised to life for [her], and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for [her]. Can anything ever separate [Holly] from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves [her] if [she has] trouble or calamity, or [is] persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is [Holly’s] through Christ, who loved [her]. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate [Holly] from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither [her] fears for today nor [her] worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate [Holly] from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate [Holly] from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus [her] Lord.”Romans 8:31‭-‬39 (NLT)

Father, Your Word is so precious to me! Thank You for the beautiful way that it works in my life. May my heart be changed by a fresh realization of Your love for me, spoken through the Bible. Open my ears to hear as You speak through Scripture directly to me. Help me to do more than listen. I want to obey and apply Your Word to my daily life, putting my full faith and trust in what You have said. In Jesus’ name Amen.

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Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 10)

*This post is part of a 14-day series. Click here to start from day one, or join in whenever you’d like.

Today is AJ’s 2nd birthday, and let me tell you, he loved him some chocolate cake! He reminds me of the kid from the movie “Matilda,” lol! The funny thing is, AJ is just as happy eating mango kale baby food as he is cake. He likes what’s good for Him and what is sweet.

I want to be like AJ, at least when it comes to spiritual food. Jesus made it clear that life is more than what we experience with five senses and that our spirits need nourishment even more than our bodies do:

But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”–Matthew 4:4 (ESV)

We need God’s Word like we need bread or water or air.

Almost any way we read the Bible is good, but if we’re not careful, it can become more an obligation than a delight. And a delight it should be! We can say with the Psalmist:

“I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.”–Psalms 119:16 (ESV)

It may be black letters on a white page, but Scripture is full of color. Though most of its characters died thousands of years ago, the Word of God is full of life. The 66 books of the Bible include history, poetry, prophecy, parables, and more–almost any genre we could desire.

Even if it were just a book, the Bible is unique in having been penned by about 40 different people over thousands of years. But it’s not just a book. Those 40 people wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is the living Word of God. His Spirit is still speaking through Scripture to us today.

We are wise to realize that the Bible is both kale and chocolate cake. It is necessary nourishment, full of the spiritual vitamins and minerals that we need to sustain us. That’s why it is best to form a daily discipline of Bible reading. (I personally think that consistency matters more than the amount we read.)

God’s Word is also a pleasure to be enjoyed, and we should approach it that way. Like a husband surprising His wife with an unexpected date or a teacher putting a creative twist on her lesson plans. It’s OK to shake up the routine a little!

For the next few posts, I want to focus on studying God’s Word–specifically through exercises that can help us step out of routine and engage with the Bible in a fresh way. I’m not talking about changing Scripture itself–it needs no change–but giving our attitude and expectations a needed jostle. Wherever we are in our journey with Scripture, we can always go deeper. I trust that that when you and I carve out extra time to read the Bible, we will get to know its Author even better.

Day 10 (Bible Reading Exercise #1): While it’s great to read chapters at a time, if this becomes a rut instead of a healthy habit, it might be time to slow down. Sometimes less is more. Try focusing on a single verse and pausing to chew on each individual word.

For example, my kids’ memory verse this week is:

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”–Psalms 46:10 (ESV)

The little ones are only memorizing the first part of the verse. On my own, I paused with each word, asking the Holy Spirit what He wanted to show me today:

BE— be, just be … not do, just be

STILL,— still and quiet on the inside, no matter what’s happening on the outside; still enough to resist impulsive decisions based on fear, quiet enough to hear His voice … even the comma is asking for a pause, a breath

AND— and is a small but important word, because being still is not the end; it leads to something …

KNOW— knowing is what being still leads to; after I have been still, I will know for certain, know without question

THAT— that is like an arrow pointing to what I will know after I have been still

I AM— these two Words together hold power; when Jesus uttered them in the Garden of Gethsemene, the people fell to the ground, stripped of their own power to stand; my power (control) must give way to His power

GOD.— God, a title meant only for Him. He is God, and I am not. He is God, and fear is not. Sickness is not. The economy is not. He alone is God.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

God, Your Word is a treasure all of the time. It is life to me–when I realize that and when I don’t. Please forgive me for the times I have approached Bible reading with anything less than all of my attention, all of my energy, all of my anticipation. Thank you for nourishing me with Your Word even when I have come to it half-hearted or distracted. I do want my time with You to be fresh and new. Will You lead the way? Help me to follow with all of my heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

***If you would like to join me in drawing near to Jesus through a 14-day Unquarantine, scroll down to enter your email address under “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL.”***

Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 9)

It’s been nearly 10 days since President Trump released guidelines asking Americans to “avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.”

For me, one of the hardest things about staying home is not knowing how long all of this will last. I’m a planner, and my type-A brain can’t help but fixate on the timeline. I’m like a kid in the backseat on a long road trip whining, “How much longer?”

The children of Israel must’ve had the same question while wandering through the wilderness for 40 years, waiting for their Promised Land. The journey from Egypt to Canaan by foot, could’ve taken as little as 11 days. So, why the 40 year journey? The answer comes in two parts:

1) Initially, God took them the long way around on purpose. The shortest distance between two points is a line, yet when God led Israel out of Egypt, He led them away from Canaan and toward the Red Sea.

“When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea …” –Exodus 13:17‭-‬18 (NLT)

Because of the detour, Israel got to see miracles they might’ve missed out on otherwise. They passed through the middle of the Red Sea–walls of water on each side–and saw God deliver them from Pharaoh’s army. They knelt with cupped hands at the Oasis of Marah to quench their parched lips, knowing it was only possible because God had turned the bitter waters sweet. They filled their hungry bellies with bread rained down from heaven and encountered the presence and power of the living God at Mount Sinai.

By taking an indirect route, God revealed Himself and His care for Israel in a way that should’ve caused them to trust Him without reserve. He knew that they would need to trust Him deeply in order to face the enemies ahead and take possession of the Promised Land.

2) While the first (and shorter) delay was the result of God’s wisdom and grace, the second (much longer) one was the consequence of fear and doubt. God prepared Israel for the battles ahead, and then He instructed them to begin the process of taking the territory of the Promised Land.

“The Lord now said to Moses, ‘Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes.’

(Moses sends out 12 spies to explore Canaan. They all come back with reports of an amazing land “flowing with milk and honey,” but ten of the spies start to scare people with reports of giants and fortified cities.)

… Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. ‘Let’s go at once to take the land,’ he said. ‘We can certainly conquer it!’ But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. ‘We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!’ … ‘We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!’”
Numbers 13:2‭, ‬30‭-‬31‭, ‬33 (NLT)

On the first leg of the journey, God had gone to great lengths to prove both his power and provision to Israel. They were primed and positioned to claim what God had promised. But Twelve spies were sent to scout the land, and all but two came back with reports full of fear and doubt. These two–Joshua and Caleb–were the only people from the first generation that left Egypt who actually got to experience the Promised Land.

I don’t believe that God sent COVID-19, but I do believe He is working in the middle of this situation to prove His power, provision and care for you and me.

In this season, I want to embrace whole-heartedly any detours that are God’s doing so that when it’s time to receive His promises for my life, I will respond with faith and not fear.

Oh God, I believe that You are at work in the middle of this crazy situation. I believe that Your power and Your love are on display, even now. Open my eyes to see what You are doing. Teach me to trust You. May the roots of my faith grow deep into the foundation of Your faithfulness. I don’t want to wander needlessly because of fear and doubt. Help me be like Joshua and Caleb, who received Your promises, because they trusted You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Day 9: Commit to faith over fear today. Decide to trust God, regardless of what you see or how much time passes. Ask God to open your eyes to anything He may be trying to show you in this season.

***If you would like to join me in drawing near to Jesus through a 14-day Unquarantine, scroll down to enter your email address under “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL.”***

Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 8)

#18 Free Bubble Bonanza tickets
#19 No school on Monday
#20 Get to speak at church on Sunday
#22 A friend paid for my cute shirt
#23 Sappy Christmas movies

I fell off the grateful wagon sometime after #23.

A few months ago, a speaker at a local women’s retreat inspired me to make an ongoing list of reasons why I am grateful. It was a great idea! Gratefulness has a way of quieting a restless spirit, of teaching us to be content no matter the circumstances.

I remember starting out with the best of intentions. I’m not even sure when or why I stopped adding to my list. It just got pushed to the back burner of a busy life, I suppose.

I wouldn’t categorize my life over the past several months as ungrateful (at least I hope not), but edgy and unsettled probably aren’t too far from the truth. I certainly haven’t been going out of my way to find things to be thankful for.

Now, my life–like that of most Americans–is totally different than it was a couple of weeks ago. Sudden shifts in the status quo have a way of shifting perspectives too. It’s funny how things change.

If I were to pick up where I left off, my list might look like this:

(Mental note to reconsider #19. Ha!)

#24 Fresh air and good weather
#25 Walmart restocked AJ’s formula
#26 Facebook is hilarious right now
#27 Jesus isn’t scared of COVID-19
#28 My kids’ teachers care enough to plan well for online learning

“I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”–Psalm 9:1 (ESV)

God, I have so many reasons to be grateful. In my busyness and distraction, I forgot, and I’m sorry. Thank You for the forgiveness that I find in You. I come to You now, thankful for the many ways You have blessed my life. I see the fingerprints of Your grace and mercy all around. You have been so patient with me and are always faithful to provide what I need in every area of life, even surprising me with unexpected gifts, just to say, “I love you.” You are so very good to me. I pray that my heart and life will be reshaped by gratitude. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Day 8: Today, find a creative way to document your gratitude. Write a letter or make a photo collage. Record a video or paint “grateful” rocks to scatter in your flower beds.

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Unquarantined:  Draw Near (Day 7)

Parents all over the world have been homeschooling their kids–some for years, some more recently due to COVID-19. Today was my first day, and it didn’t go at all how I planned.

It’s going to take some work and flexibility to figure out how best to homeschool my own kids while teaching 80 something 4th and 5th graders online. (I should pause and say that I’m so thankful to have a job I love and that it’s one I can continue to do while keeping my kids at home. I know not everyone has that luxury right now.)

Having said that … there are days that just make you feel like you come up short. Today was one of those for me. I needed more hours or more patience–probably the latter, honestly.

But there’s something that has always amazed me about God, and it gives me great hope in this time:

Whatever good thing is lacking in me is abundant in Him.

I was short on patience today, but my God is a deep well of patience. He’s offering me a big bucket, ready to draw up load after load.

Maybe I’m the only one feeling frustrated after a long day, hoping tomorrow I’ll find a way to get it together. Just in case you need to hear it, though:

Our God never runs out of patience, wisdom, or unconditional love. He’s got enough strength and peace to supply the whole world, and then some. There will never be a need to settle for lesser quality self-control. We won’t have to manufacture our own joy, simply because the storehouse “ran out.” His supply chain will never break down, and His deliveries will never be late.

Do you need hope? How about the grace to be gentle and kind toward your family? Jesus on the inside of you IS hope. He IS gentleness and kindness and every good thing you need.

So tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. Wake up with an empty bucket–ready to draw water from the well of all that God is. He will live His goodness and mercy out through you and me. We just need to lay down our own attempts, which fall short anyway, and depend on Him instead.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”–Galatians 5:22‭-‬23 (NLT)

God, there’s no way that I can do everything that I need to do right now without Your help. I need wisdom to discern what’s important in this season and what is not. Holy Spirit, I need Your fruits of patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control to flow out of me–especially in this time of uncertainty. Please help me to lay down my own efforts and allow everything You are to overwhelm my weakness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Day 7: Choose a characteristic of God that is needed in your life today. (You could look at the words in the image attached to this post or do a Google search on the “attributes of God.”) Once you’ve chosen a characteristic, find one or two Bible verses that relate to your choice. (Another Google search or the reference section in the back of your Bible might be helpful.) Now, pray, “Lord You are abounding in _________. Please fill my bucket full of Your _________ today.”

***If you would like to join me in drawing near to Jesus through a 14-day Unquarantine, scroll down to enter your email address under “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL.”***

Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 6)

This post will be short.

I’ve heard and read much about the current situation being a golden opportunity to step back from the chaos, still the busyness, and turn our attention back to God and family. I totally agree.

It’s amazing how hard it can be to actually do that. I’ve been in my house with my family, writing daily blog posts about drawing near to God, and still, I’m finding it so difficult to pull my mind away from the influx of information coming my way. Even when I purposely turn off the TV and put down my phone, my mind keeps spinning.

So, today my prayer is for the grace to be still.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”–Psalms 46:10 (NKJV)

God, I sense You drawing me to a quiet place, away from the noise, where I can hear Your voice unhindered. Please give me the courage, the discipline and the grace to follow You there. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Day 6: To the best of your ability, put away and turn off all distractions and sit in silence for 30 minutes. Have a cup of coffee or a Dr. Pepper, and ask God to quiet your soul. Expect Him to speak to Your heart.

***If you would like to join me in drawing near to Jesus through a 14-day Unquarantine, scroll down to enter your email address under “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL.”***

Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 5)

  • Do something kind and unexpected.
  • Ask, “What three things do I do that annoy you?” Then, work on the answers.
  • Buy a meaningful gift.
  • Call for no reason other than to check in.
  • Write a sweet note.
  • Choose to say nothing negative for 24 hours.

Robert and I have only just started reading, “The Love Dare”–a book inspired by the movie “Fireproof.” Every chapter ends with a dare meant to grow our marriage. (That second one was tough. Ha!)

Some of the dares have really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I think relationships–growing ones at least–tend to do that from time to time. One of my favorite things about my husband is that he inspires me to want to grow in every area of my life.

God is that way too. To walk in relationship with Him is inevitably going to mean a gentle nudge toward something bigger than yourself and beyond your own abilities. He is a faith-filled God, and He calls us to do things that we could never accomplish on our own.

On one hand, that is super exciting! Getting to partner with the King of Heaven in ways that further His Kingdom? Incredible.

On the other hand, words like insecure, unsure, and “Whoa Nellie!” come to mind. Still, God is … well, God, and sitting on the sidelines has never been part of having a relationship with Him.

We’re talking about the One who used Moses to split the Red Sea, Peter and John to minister healing to a lame man, and Paul to write two thirds of the New Testament. It is hard to imagine Him saying, “Yeah, just sit this one out if you’re not up to it.”

We are believers in Jesus. Believers believe! Not in ourselves but in our God who is so very capable of taking the smallness of what we have to offer Him and making it count big for all of eternity.

“Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord and not for men …”–Colossians 3:23 (BSB)

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”–Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)

God, I’m so thankful that life with You is adventurous and that You are always leading me to the next step of faith. Help me to respond quickly and wholeheartedly to Your call, knowing that You will be there holding my hand every moment. I trust that You can accomplish infinitely more than I could ever think to ask. In Jesus name, Amen.

Day 5: Ask God how you can partner with Him in this season of your life to make an impact on the world He loves. Is He leading you to do something that intimidates you? Awesome! That’s what faith is for! God is only asking for simple, humble obedience. The results are up to Him.

It’s sometimes hard for me to put myself out there–especially in new ways. My step of faith for today was to make this video. Thankfully, my husband and mom joined me so I didn’t have to do it alone! I was also inspired by several friends who’ve stepped out of their comfort zones–using social media to connect during a time when so many people are stuck in their homes.

***If you would like to join me in drawing near to Jesus through a 14-day Unquarantine, scroll down to enter your email address under “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL.”***

Unquarantined: Draw Near (Day 4)

*This post is part of a 14-day series. Click here to start from day
one, or join in whenever you’d like.

“Should I hold this roll of toilet paper?”

Yes! You definitely should!”

The above is some stranger-than-normal dialogue that I had with one of my teacher friends at school today while a group of us (quite hilariously) tried to make a TikTok video for the enjoyment of our students, who are now learning from home.

During a more regular school day, I probably have a dozen quick conversations with my friend (she’s in the classroom next door). Sometimes it’s a clarifying question about what we’re supposed to be doing. Other times, it is to ask for advice or bounce ideas around. Often, we’re pausing to laugh at something funny a kid said or did. In any case, it’s just nice to be able converse with someone who is “walking the same hallways,” so to speak.

When I left school on this no-so-typical day, I stopped pick up AJ from another sweet friend who takes care of him during the week. I lingered in her living room, knowing that our face-to-face talks will probably be few and far between for awhile. Conversation over coffee is going to be hard to come by for the time being, I’m afraid. (Robert doesn’t drink coffee, and I’m not about to give it to any of my kids right now!)

When I started this 14-day blog series, it was out of a desire to deepen my relationship with God and also to do more than just survive COVID-19 inside the four walls of my house. I did not go into it knowing what the topic for each day would be, so I’ve just been taking things one day at a time. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I guess I assumed that I’d be writing about prayer eventually–after all, what better way is there to get to know someone than to talk with Him? That’s what prayer is. Talking with God.

To be honest, I’m not that great at conversational prayer. I feel way more comfortable praising and thanking God or praying His Word. Both of these are important aspects of prayer, but neither is quite as intimate as talking with God like you’d talk to a friend. You know, that relaxed chatter that effortlessly flows when you’re with someone you’ve known for what seems like forever.

I’m not sure why I struggle with this; it’s something God is walking me through. I’m starting to see that as much as I am a follower and a worshiper and a believer, God also wants to call me friend. The Bible gives us several examples of friendship between God and the people He’s created:

  • ” … the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”–Exodus 33:11 (NLT)
  • ” … ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’ He was even called the friend of God.”–James 2:23 (NLT)
  • “I [Jesus] no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”–John 15:15 (NLT)

I think that when I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing” it is speaking about the kind of prayer that engages our heart throughout the day–like close friends who constantly find a way to connect. Even when they can’t talk, they’re making mental notes like “I’ll tell her that later” or “she’ll think that’s funny!

Communication isn’t always verbal, it isn’t even always language-based, but it is always cognizant of the presence of another. Energetic or still, audible or silent, speaking or listening–whatever its form, a good conversation places value on relationship. It says, “I want to know you and be known by you. I want to share all the parts of my life with you.”

How different would my life (and yours) be if the next time we got good news, we shared it with God first? Sure, He already knows, but good news is best celebrated with the ones we love most. Doesn’t our God fit into that category? Shouldn’t He be at the top of our contact list? How about those nagging thoughts that have previously seemed too inconsequential to bother God with? Does He care? Yes! King David wrote:

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”–Psalm 56:8 (ESV)

If only my heart could be convinced that God truly cares about the biggest and smallest things in my life, the sorrowful and the funny, the spiritual and the mundane. If I could just remember how well He knows me–better than my oldest friend.

God, You are holy and You are my King. My mind can’t comprehend how You can be those things and also desire friendship with me. Still, Your Word says it is so, and I believe what You have said. I want us to have an un-guarded, walls down, tell You any and everything kind of relationship. I want You to be my first call when I have something to say and the One whose input I value the most. Will You show me the way?

Day 4: Today, make an effort to dialogue with God throughout the day about all things, big and small. Trust that He cares about the details of your life. As you reach for the phone to call, text, or e-mail, consider talking to God about it first.

If you would like to join me in drawing near to Jesus through a 14-day Unquarantine, scroll down to enter your email address under “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL.”***