Finding Jesus in a Parking Lot

May 6, 2015

Burdened.

Too much.

Overwhelmed.

How could I be feeling like this? I had just attended a three day women’s event at my church where I listened to the “best of the best” bring incredible insights from the Word of God, and gifted musicians who brought us into the presence of the Lord where we experienced “on earth as it is in heaven.”

But what did I have to show for it besides a bruised heart to go with my slumped shoulders?

Stress had manifested itself physically, and was matching externally what was hemorrhaging internally. I had reached my limit, but didn’t know that’s what the numbness and tingling was from. The electrical pain I was feeling started deep in my soul, and radiated out into my very finger tips.

I was shutting down.

abide2I had missed two weeks of observing the Sabbath. Twenty four hours a week consecrated to God. Holy. I had been absent from abiding with my Father. John 15:5 in the Amplified Bible says, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.

I had done just that. I had cut off from vital union with the Vine. Jesus. And I had become a “shriveled up grape” crippled under the pressure of my own weight along with seemingly “noble things for the kingdom” (unending prayer requests from friends, service projects for hurting warriors, and even this three day women’s event).

When I got home and tried to take a nap, adrenaline continued to course through my veins. I couldn’t settle my spirit. I knew I needed Sabbath rest, and I needed to do something that would feed my soul. I decided to get crafty and make a prayer notebook, and get organized! Yes, that’s something that makes me happy. Hobby Lobby and The Container Store each have pieces of my heart. And those pieces can be found in the aisles with Mod Podge, designer scrapbook paper, and well…anything with glitter.

So, I hopped into my car, and prayed the whole two minute trip to Hobby Lobby. I turned off my car, and proceeded to pray out loud, telling God how overwhelmed I was, etc. Then my prayers took a different turn. I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal to me areas in which I needed to repent.parkinglot

That led to me having church in my Mazda! That led to an encounter with the Lord that I had missed during an incredible conference. That led to me being reaffirmed in knowing that NOTHING can fill me like Almighty God, and NO ONE else can touch my heart like He does.

One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 9:6 and if often quoted at Christmas time. It says, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Yes, the government shall be upon HIS shoulders. That’s why His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30). He is the only One with shoulders big enough to carry the world (and so much more). When we start thinking WE can do the same, we’ve stepped over the line into pride. A righteous burden can become an unrighteous burden if we’re not careful.

I may have gone to church for three days in a row, but it took me parking my car and sitting still to find Jesus.

 bestill

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That time God rested….

April 28, 2015

I am so THRILLED to introduce my friend, Mark Matthys to everyone. Mark is a good friend, talented writer, and has a heart for worship like no one I’ve ever known. He, too, understands God’s heart for Sabbath rest, and I’m honored that he wrote this devotion for us about that very subject. Enjoy!

“And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God created and made.” Genesis 2:2-3

Have you ever wondered why God, a perfect and spiritual being, Who is everywhere at all times and never sleeps, needed rest? Somehow I don’t believe that He finished six solid days of creating, wiped His brow, and thought, “Wow, I’ve been busy. I sure could use a nap.” No, I’m more of the belief that He rested as an example to us. He has given us examples of how to love, how to forgive, even how to pray. So it stands to reason that He also rested as a model for us to follow. Work for six days, rest on the seventh day. Rest is not a suggestion or a recommendation that God spoke to man. Rest is a commandment. In fact, it is so important, that it is the fourth of the ten commandments. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Ex 20:8)

For us mortal humans, rest is a necessity. It is required for the human body to perform as designed. When we do not allow ourselves adequate rest, our immune system weakens and we open the door to illness and disease. This illness and disease is not just confined to our physical bodies. When we break God’s commands, we open ourselves to physical, emotional, and spiritual weakness. I have recently learned this first hand. My life has been full of busyness in the last couple of months – large projects at work, personal growth and training, and participation in numerous church activities. All of these have held great importance to me for various reasons, and I over-extended myself. As a result, my time of resting in the Word diminished, and I became spiritually frail; my time of physically resting diminished, and I found myself sitting in my doctor’s waiting room; and my emotional health also took a nose dive.

When we push ourselves and do not take time to rest, we are, in essence, making our work and accomplishments our gods….thus also breaking the first commandment – to have no other gods before the Lord our God (Ex 20:3). The devil wants us to think that we have to be continually at work to be worthy. But we already hold worth in the eyes of our Creator. So we need to honor our Creator by being obedient to His commands. In doing so, we will be physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy in order for Him to work through us to reach the truly lost and sick of our community and the world.

Rest in God. Rest with God. Rest for God.

Heavenly Father, You have set before us a perfect model of how to live our lives. May we strive to be obedient to Your Word, and weekly take the time to rest, just as You have commanded. In our time of rest, let us press into You and hear the words of life and love that You are longing to whisper in our ears. In Jesus’ name, amen!

No More Holding Back

April 28, 2015

When I saw this picture, I gasped.

hold you back

I resonated with these words so much. And then I remembered I wasn’t given a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and a sound mind. It can be hard to NOT compare ourselves with other peoples giftings…then when something big is asked of us, we can tend to shrink back thinking, “but I could NEVER do that! That’s “too big” for me…I’m not like her…I’m not like him…I don’t have enough experience…if I do this I will fail, etc, etc”

But you & I AREN’T like “her”, and we aren’t like “him”….and that’s exactly why we’re needed. We all bring different strengths/gifts to the table. A rainbow is beautiful because of all the DIFFERENT colors, right?? A monochromatic rainbow would be boring (& also NOT a rainbow)

Shine brightly where you are. Be faithful in the little things, and don’t fear the big things. If you’ve been called to something, you have been equipped & will have everything you need each step of the way.

Two years…

April 6, 2015

Nearly two years ago, my world was rocked. Shaken. Turned upside down.

I got a call on April 12, 2013 that forever changed my life. My brother called to tell me my mom had died in a house fire. I had to get him to repeat it two or three times because I couldn’t comprehend what was being said.

Mom died???

Traumatic is the only word that fits here.

The whiplash effect of that reality led to delayed grieving. At first, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t “move past it” more quickly. Three months after my mom moved to heaven, I couldn’t understand why it still hurt so badly, why I still couldn’t sleep at night, and why I’d still burst into tears at random moments.

I had never lost anyone that close to me.

Two years later, I’ve learned more than I’ve cared to about grief. However, one of the greatest redeeming aspects has been how the Lord has used me to love on and encourage others who are grieving.

There’s comfort in knowing someone else has “been there”….and in many cases I’ve been the one to listen because, well….I’ve “been there”.

This past week-end, I went to my home town of Tyler, Texas. I hadn’t been back since my mom passed away. I had this urge deep down in my soul to go.

I had a vision in my mind of reading Psalm 23 in the grass where her body was last placed by fire fighters. Since she was cremated, I don’t have a grave site to visit, and for some reason this just made sense to me. On Wednesday before Easter, the Lord also gave me the idea to take communion in there, too.

I was on a mission…and I was going to complete it.

So, I headed out to Tyler on Saturday morning, and met my brother at mom’s town home. I didn’t know what to expect, but upon seeing it I was flooded with peace. It actually made things better to see life all around…to see azaleas in bloom, grass growing in the yard, and trees well past budding their leaves.

momstownhomeYes, the blue sky and all the green “life” around it brought a source of joy and strength. There were some structural changes with the remodel of the town home. It was the only one on the street that didn’t have a covered porch. You could tell on the exterior brick wall that one used to be there. A faint line told a story, but most people wouldn’t notice.

sittingingrassIt was good to see that all the glass blown out by the windows had been either cleaned up or buried in the soil. There were no more clumps of ashes…only newly planted monkey grass and blooming flowers declaring LIFE over the lot. Yes, this was a much more pleasant scene than the last time I was there.

I quickly found “the spot” in the grass that I had been drawn to in my mind. I had this desire, this need really, to sit where my mom’s body had been placed. I guess at one point in my life, we had been joined together with blood and tissue, so the fact I was craving that kind of “nearness” shouldn’t be too surprising.

I felt like I went from being 37 years old to 37 WEEKS in utero in that moment. I just wanted my mom.

After settling down, I was able to read Psalm 23 with my brother, and then we got ready to take communion. I had brought a loaf of bread, a small bottle of grape juice, and in true East Texas fashion, red solo cup shot glasses from which to drink the juice! It’s all I could find at the store, and didn’t want to buy a huge sleeve of little paper Dixie cups!

Just as we were getting ready to take communion, the front door opened. A man and his dog came outside, and the look on the man’s face and tone in his voice confirmed what I knew in my heart: We should have asked for permission first.

I had decided as we were walking up to the town home, that it would be awkward to ask permission beforehand. I told my brother that “we could just do our thing and leave.”  Well, apparently we took a little too long, and “awkward” may have been our better option. Oops.

The man showed us NO MERCY even after my brother explained why we were there. He asked how long we’d be there, then proceeded to walk his dog down the street. About three minutes later, he walked out the front door again and asked why we were still there. I explained we were just about to take communion so we could leave, but he started yelling about how he had told us to get our stuff together and get off his lawn (*let’s just say I left out a few colorful words here*). My brother and I said in unison, “You never said that.” He told us he thought we “should have gotten his nice hint…” Oops again.

His wife came outside and asked if we were drinking on their yard. I had my Welches grape juice bottle and held it up as I explained we were just drinking JUICE and taking communion. Although, I’m sure the little red solo cup shot glasses were a little suspicious. Should’ve gone with the Dixie cups. My bad…yet again!

communion

The guy started yelling again and my brother stood up at that point and yelled, “Do you not have ANY compassion for another human being?!?!” I stood there with my mouth open for a couple of minutes, and then offered my apologies for not getting permission first. I explained, through tears, that it was going to be awkward either way and they agreed.

And then there was a total shift. I think heaven came down and intervened because they both started apologizing to us profusely. Turns out they had just woken up and there had been a shooting behind their house last week. So, I’m sure it was alarming for them to walk out and find strangers having a Kumbaya moment on the front yard (although, my brother and I had to be a little less alarming than some gun wielding crazy person. I’m just thinkin’)! They offered us water, and told us we could come back every year and sit on the yard and remember our mom! Ha! It actually added some comic relief.

The couple told us to take our time, and they wouldn’t bother us again. So, we finished having our “moment”.

feetingrass

Before heading off to lunch, I stood there in the grass one last time, and took a picture of my feet in the place that last held my mom’s body on earth. And just like I can rejoice because “He is RISEN,” I can rejoice in knowing that my mom is in a place of eternal joy with the very One who defeated sin and death. This picture reminds me that sin has lost it’s power, and death has lost it’s sting!

It makes me smile, and long for my home in Heaven.

Hallelujah! What hope we have in Jesus!

 

A Kindred Spirit

February 4, 2015

A 70-something yr old lady changed my life last week.

Some people in my row at church were playing “musical chairs” of sorts & trying to get situated, and that left the seat next to me open. That’s when “Beth” (*name changed*) sat next to me. My soul just seemed to recognize hers. I knew it would be a matter of time before she started talking to me…I just sensed it. Sure enough, we exchanged some pleasantries & then she began telling me her story. What a precious heart…she gives & serves & prays & loves….a true Mary in our day & time…she would pour her fragrant offering on the feet of a King or on “the least of these”. That’s just who she is.

No one said “praise God” louder than she did. No one cried out to God from a more deeply passionate place in her soul than she did. No one sang more off key or worshiped more authentically than she did.

As we took our seats to listen to Crystal Lewis & the choir, her sobs during the songs literally rocked me in my chair. They came in waves. Prayers in liquid form. There were so many times I thought about getting her a tissue from my purse, or putting my hand on hers or on her knee, etc, but the purity of her worship stopped me. Honestly, the Spirit kept me from interfering in what He was doing….from their sweet communion.

I wanted to pray with Beth afterward, but when we closed our eyes for our final prayer I knew in my heart that when I opened my eyes, she’d be gone. And I was right. I never felt her leave, but sure enough she had slipped out. A smile turned the corners of my lips upward, & my heartstrings stirred up hymns of praise.

I’ve never been so moved in a worship service by someone else’s worship. Her worship DEEPENED my own! A corporate anointing, and a holy mentoring took place that day. I’ve thought about her & prayed for her every day this past week. I’ll probably never see her again, but a lady I crossed paths with for less than 2 hrs changed me forever.

With a grateful heart….. Amen.

Word of the Year for 2015

January 1, 2015

Every December, I pray for God to give me a new word for the up coming year.

For 2013, my word was BELIEVE. I had no idea how I would be tested in the area of belief! But I guess you can’t really master a word if there aren’t any trials. Mark 9:14-29 was my “go to” passage as I constantly asked the Lord to “help me overcome my unbelief.

As I sought the Lord for a new word for 2014, I received the word in October of 2013. It came early compared to the previous year. It’s like the Lord was giving my heart some time to prepare….because it was a “big” word. The word was TRUST for this past year. I even felt a little fearful last pray2December because I knew how I had been tested as I focused on BELIEVE! I couldn’t imagine what I’d have to go through in the area of TRUST.  And I was right.  Boy, some of those storms and trials were doozies!!  But guess what?!?  I trust God like I never have before in my life! Hallelujah!

And now for 2015…. Well, I had made up my mind that my word would be honor. Only I had not prayed about it like I had the last couple of years. I remember it like it was yesterday. One December morning, I walked into my bathroom and was thinking about my new word. And then it hit me. I had never asked God about the word HE had for me! It still chokes me up to think about how I had left Him completely out of it. So, I said, “God, I am so sorry! I never even asked You if You had a word for me. I just kinda picked one that ‘sounded good’. Do You have a word for me?”

There was no lingering moment of silence, but rather a thunderous bolt with the word in big, black, block letters…

BEHOLD

I gasped out loud, and stopped in my tracks. And my first response?? I turned my palms up and shrugged my shoulders, furrowed my brows and said, “What kind of word is that???” Immediately, I had an overwhelming pit in my stomach. The one where you know that you just grieved the Holy Spirit. The Almighty God, Creator of the universe, just spoke to me and in a moment of pride, I deemed it not good enough.  I can’t tell you how many times I have cried over my initial response. I don’t stand under condemnation because I know I’m forgiven, but my heart has been so tender toward the Lord over the last few weeks because of that teachable moment.

It’s funny. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the word BEHOLD on cups, shirts, wooden plaques, framed art, in Scripture, on Instagram….you name it. It’s been in my face! Affirmation after affirmation.

The Lord is so good, and I’m thankful His mercies are new each and every day!

A passage of Scripture that goes with my new word is from Isaiah 43:18-19. I’m claiming the promise that He’s doing something new! I love His promises!

“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. BEHOLD, I will do something new, now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.

behold2

Isn’t that just so good?? It’s because it is so GOD!  It’s HIS word!! I’m so glad I asked Him…and to think I almost didn’t.

Here is a passage that I’m making personal to me and declaring over myself in 2015. It’s from Revelation 3:8.

BEHOLD I have set before you an open door [Leigh-Taylor], which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

Happy New Year, friends! May we take plenty of moments to BEHOLD Him in 2015!

Amen.

That time I heard God laugh….

December 14, 2014

After receiving my new name from God, I got up and walked over to the window cloaked in a dark pull down shade and peeled it back. After my eyes adjusted to the in pouring of the glorious sunshine, my sight rested on a fountain spewing forth water that looked like diamonds in the sunlight. The “diamond droplets” scattered upon coming in contact with the surface of the water.

Just beyond the view of the pond, traffic seemed to mind its own business, moving easily along Texas State Highway 114. As quickly as my eyes left the fountain, they shifted back to the water…I was mesmorized.

And then I heard it.

The voice of the Lord.

“Isn’t that beautiful?”  I responded, “Yes, Lord. It IS beautiful!”  He said, “And that’s just a little pond in Southlake, TX.  You should see what the sparkling of the sun looks like on the oceans!”

His response made me smile, and my sassy self responded, “Ok, that is SO not fair! You are GOD and can see the surface of all the oceans! I’m kinda limited here!”

That’s when the most beautiful sound filled the ears of my heart.  He laughed. God LAUGHED!  The heavens echoed with its sound, I’m sure of it. My face lit up as I realized that I made the God of the universe laugh.

I will never forget that moment with the Lord as long as I live. I’ve always known that God laughs. We are made in His image and laughter is a special gift to all mankind. Scripture says that “out of the mouths of infants, He has ordained praise.” I can’t help but think that one of the earliest beginnings and utterances of praise from newborns is in the form of laughter.

One of my first thoughts when I heard God laugh was, ‘I wonder if my mom knew that I was the one that made Him laugh that time.” And then as quickly as that thought came to my mind, it left. I realized it must be such a common sound in heaven….God laughing. It could have been any ONE of His many children. And I can only imagine that His children residing in His house wear big smiles, and even join in, when they hear heaven resound with their Father’s laughter.

I can’t wait for the day when I get to hear that glorious sound again. And whether it’s this side of heaven or the other, all I know is that “Better is one day in His courts than a thousand elsewhere…” And wherever He is, there is sure to be joy and LAUGHTER!  I just know it…

One day spent in your house, this beautiful place of worship,
    beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.
I’d rather scrub floors in the house of my God
    than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin.
All sunshine and sovereign is God,
    generous in gifts and glory.
He doesn’t scrimp with his traveling companions.
    It’s smooth sailing all the way with God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

Psalm 84:10 The Message

What’s in a Name?

December 7, 2014

Oh, Juliet….she said it so well, didn’t she?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

It’s funny…as much as I love meeting new people, one of the things I dread is explaining my name. My introduction feels like about as long as the previews at the movie theater!

“Hi, my name is Leigh-Taylor. That’s my whole first name.”  And then the person says, “Oh, nice to meet you Leigh.” Then I say, “No, Leigh-Taylor is my whole first name…”  *insert crickets and puzzled looks here* And then an awkward, “Oh, Ok…” from whomever is hearing my complicated name for the first time.

One of the first questions I get asked is, “How did your parents come up with your name?”  So I go into the whole explanation. It goes a little like this….

Taylor is my mom’s maiden name, and that’s what my parents were going to name me. BUT when I came into this world, my dad decided he didn’t like “just Taylor”, but he also liked Leigh (perhaps it seemed a little more feminine back in the 1970’s…Taylor wasn’t popular for a little girl like it is today).

My mom told me that when one of my aunts came to visit me in the hospital, at that point in time I guess you could say they weren’t the best of friends. My aunt asked my mom what my name was, and my mom told her: Leigh Taylor.

My aunt responded with, “I’m not gonna call her LEIGH-TAYLOR!”

At the time, my mom had not combined it making it “my whole first name”, but out of anger she took the pen in her hand and made a hyphen on the birth certificate paperwork that was laying in her lap at the time!  Years later, after I had heard this story many times, I said to my mom, “So, I was named out of spite??”  And I’ll never forget my mom saying nonchalantly, “Yeah…I guess so.”

There are no words for the sadness that I felt. The sting of the arrow called “spite” pierced through my heart sealing a curse over my life. I lived under that curse for over 20 yrs.

Back in June of this year, I started journaling through the Gospel of John. In John 1:42, Jesus changes Simon’s name to Cephas (which translates to Peter…meaning “rock”).  I sensed early on that the Lord wanted to change my name and that going through the book of John would be one of the greatest parts of my journey.

Fast forward to November. I had signed up for Kairos at my church. Kairos is a 2 day Freedom Ministries event through Gateway Church (for more info go to http://gatewaypeople.com/ministries/freedom-kairos/kairos).

People had told me to expect incredible things….and to expect to cry my weight in tears and to bring my own box of Kleenex for the two days. Um, that’s not intimidating or anything!

The very first session on the first day Pastor Josh Morris got up and started telling us how God has another name for us. That we may have believed lies about our names, etc, and God wants to give us a new name. So, the 1,100 people in attendance started pressing into God for the new name He had promised for us.

I got anxious right off the bat. I couldn’t hear anything. It seemed the harder I asked and the more I wanted clarity about my new name, the more “noisy” my thoughts became and the faster my heart started beating.

I had a team of seven prayer partners who had said they’d pray for me during my time at Kairos. So I texted a few of them and told them I so desperately wanted a new name but I couldn’t hear what God was saying.

The long and short of it is the session ended without me hearing anything about my name. I was disappointed, and kind of felt like I had failed at my first Kairos assignment! I’m the first born and naturally performance driven, but I would come to find out even more later on about my drive to perform. It was tied up in that curse I believed.

After lunch, we started back up in the sanctuary, but my feet led me upstairs. It’s funny because I walked with such purpose like I knew exactly where I was going but I had absolutely no thoughts whatsoever about where I was going! When I reached the top of the stairs, I saw a sign that said “Kairos Soaking Room open during lunch”. I tried the first door and it was locked, but the second door opened without any trouble.

No one was in there. It was a dimly lit room with chairs positioned in a circle with a box of tissues beside each one. There was soft soaking music playing, and there was a bowl of communion elements on a table in the middle of the room. Black shades were drawn down to the floor making the room peaceful and calm.

I sat in a chair for a minute to “still” myself. It didn’t take long to end up on my knees with tears pouring down my face as I begged God to speak to me about my name. I had looked up synonyms and antonyms for the word “spite”, and the Lord brought to mind the word “unwanted”.  He said, “This is what you have believed….you have believed the curse that said you were unwanted but I call you WANTED!” I immediately knew this was true. I very much had felt “forgotten” and that stemmed from a deep feeling of believing that if I could be named out of spite, that I must have been unwanted..

Then came another word from the Lord. He said, “Because you have believed you were unwanted, you have also believed you couldn’t overcome certain things in your life. So I am calling you WANTED OVERCOMER.”

Boundless tears rolled down my face over the next few minutes, but a peace and joy overwhelmed my heart.

WANTED OVERCOMER.

I laughed at one point and told God, “Ok, fine…I’ll take both names BUT I don’t want another hyphen!”  I sensed God say, ‘That’s fine, but remember there is NO POWER in the hyphen in your name. That was a curse, but it’s now broken.”

How generous. How merciful. How….God!!

I had just walked through breaking the curse, but still some fear resided in my heart and He exposed that, too! He finished it once and for all on the Cross…and then to walk me through it with gentle leading as the powers of hell laced in fear lost its grip on me that day. Hallelujah!

I told the Lord I didn’t want to go back down stairs and take communion, but I wanted to stay with Him and take communion instead.  He whispered, “It’s ok. You don’t have to leave. You can take communion with Me.”

So I grabbed a cup with my wafer of bread, and I let the Holy Spirit guide me. And that’s when God did something so amazing to seal my name!

He said, “Leigh-Taylor, this is my body….broken for you because you were and are WANTED.” I ate the wafer.

Then He said, “Leigh-Taylor, you OVERCOME by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony.” So, I drank the juice.

Communion is all about Jesus and remembering what HE did for us. It was in that time of remembrance that the Lord sealed my name and reminded me that it was done all those years ago. The curse never had any real power over me. I just believed a lie.

But that day as I walked out of the Soaking Room, shackles and chains STAYED on that floor. I took nothing with me except all the amazing promises God has spoken over my life.

Oh, how I’m thankful that I had 45 minutes alone with God in that room. The whole time I was in there, not a single person walked in. How special….sacred….holy.

I am a WANTED OVERCOMER. What has He called you??

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Refined

December 1, 2014

I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently. He asked me what was next…aka: “the big plan for my life”.

He said, “You work as a nurse, but you have an extensive background in ministry and a huge heart for the Kingdom. So what are your next steps?”

Sigh. Tears.

Is it really even up to me??

Out of any real answers, I said, “I don’t know. I. just. don’t. know.”

And sometimes, I guess that’s all we DO know, right?!

I told him that I really believe the answer lies within this season of holy rest, and that’s why I feel like understanding the Sabbath is crucial to moving forward in my life. But beyond that, I have no “plans”.

Sensing my frustration and discouragement, He told me about what happens to gold when it’s being refined. It’s a story that has changed my perspective, and serves as a visual reminder that I carry in my heart as I process through this life season (one I’ve been reluctant to embrace).

REFINING….here we go.

Gold is melted in a crucible. When it gets to a certain temperature, the impurities start to separate out from the pure mineral components. A goldsmith actually calls the process agitation because at this point, the gold actually tries to “jump” out of the crucible requiring him to keep his eyes fixed on the precious metal, never diverting his attention.

The goldsmith knows the moment of perfect refining….it’s key critical…and it’s one for which he’s been uniquely trained. Yes, the moment when he can see his reflection in the liquid gold is when ALL impurities have been extracted and the gold has been perfectly refined.

Does any of that sound familiar??? It sure resonated with me!

I am IN the crucible right now. The heat has been turned up and I’m agitated. I wanna jump out of my refining bowl.

It hurts. Stretching, pushing, pulling is happening in my bowl. And I’m tired.

But how great is it to know that while I can’t escape it, my Master’s eyes are fixed on me…UNWAVERING!

You and I have to look for joy in the midst of pain or uncertainty or we’ll take a miserable swim in the sea of loneliness. There are plenty of hungry sharks that live in that sea and oh, how they’d love to get a hold of your joy and shred it to pieces. Don’t let them, friend!

“… for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

I’ve found that thanking God for my need is one way to cultivate a heart of gratitude, and draw strength from joy. From that place, I’m humbled as I remember that it really IS God who is the giver of ALL things and I am dependent upon Him.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Shackles of pride and chains of idol worship break off as my words of gratitude turn the key releasing me from a false prison that self reliance built.

While I don’t know what God’s plans are regarding vocational ministry and what that will look like in my life I’ve been brought to the crucible for the purpose of being REFINED.

And I take joy in knowing His eye is on me through the process. What a promise!

Shabbat Part Two…

November 22, 2014

So, without any further adieu, here’s my Shabbat story:

The most important thing I learned is that I need to prepare all week for this one day. I need to be intentional about getting things throughout the week that I’ll need on Friday (or whatever day I observe the Sabbath). It feels like the complete opposite of rest to run around in the grocery store on the “decided day of holy rest” gathering supplies. It totally defeats the purpose.

It was frustrating that no one in Whole Foods seemed to know what Shabbat candles were, but bless them for trying to find them anyway! And when I tried Market Street, no one could help me locate them either. Everyone had Hanukkah candles out but those little white Jewish Shabbat candles were just elusive…nowhere to be found! I settled on plain white taper candles and figured God knew my heart & that I was a newbie at this whole Shabbat thing. As a last-ditch effort, I even went next door to the LifeWay store thinking they may have a Messianic section, but all I could find were candlelight service candles.

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The look I was goin’ for…

So, I left LifeWay and drove over to Starbucks to drown my sorrows in a grande half caff, 2 pump, non fat, no whip, chestnut praline latte. I thought, “This will help settle me down!” Warm, over priced java goodness! When I got to the drive thru line, there was already another car behind me. When I tried to roll down my window, it got jammed 2 inches down from the top! There was no turning back. I tried to roll it up then back down again, but it kept getting stuck. So, I placed my order by cracking my door open and yelling my order over the door. On the way to the drive thru window, I told God He needed to fix my window NOW & when I pushed the button hard, it went down!

Oh, His mercy… I felt like Moses striking the rock out of anger to get water from it. Insert conviction here. For a moment, I almost wished it had stayed jammed.

When I reached the drive thru window, the barista asked how my day had been. I lied and said, “Ok”. But how can it be ok to wake up with a sore, scratchy throat, plugged right nostril, and all energy sapped out of you both physically and mentally?? I mean, this was supposed to be this great holy day of rest that I had desperately needed and committed to. But between the fact we really think being a drained, hot mess is ok (which is exactly WHY we need a Sabbath) and the fact we are just plain conditioned to respond with “ok”, I felt like I had no other option but to offer my pretty little lie in exchange for that grande cup of liquid sanity.

Well, on my way home, the “sanity” leaked in my cup holder. THIS was quickly becoming “not ok” and I was internally becoming “not sane”. Tears stung my eyes and anger gripped my heart. I shouted in my car, “This is supposed to be RESTFUL!” If I didn’t drive with my hands at “10 and 2”, I may have even shaken my fist in the air at God. Thankfully, I’m a safe driver & my hands stayed firmly planted on the wheel!

By the time I pulled into my garage, anxiety seemed to be getting the best of me. I seemed to settle for unrest, thinking it would be impossible to recover anyway. I started unloading the groceries and checked my phone. It was 3:45 pm and according to my Shabbat app (yes, I downloaded an app), I would need to light the candles at 5:04 pm. I glanced at my table and it looked like a war zone. The place I would need to usher in the presence of God, and the peace of Christ, looked more like the Valley of Dry Bones. It was filled with carnage from the previous week. Ugh.

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BEFORE

At that point, I got to work. After all, it wasn’t the Sabbath yet, and I could still work and clean, right?! I cleared things off my table and started replacing stacks of books and papers with placemats, dishes, and my grandmother’s crystal. Make up bags, nail polish bottles and my Bible got replaced with honey, paper towel covered challah, and cheap, “non-Jewish”, white taper candles.

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AFTER

Time was drawing nearer to the lighting of the Shabbat candles. Because of that, I decided to simplify things. My grandiose dinner plans got thrown out, and were replaced with some chips, guac, and canned soup. In faith, I set places for my future husband and my future children. I turned on music by Marty Goetz (Pastor Mary Jo’s suggestion), and then my Shabbat app advised me it was time to light the candles.

And that’s when it happened. A holy heart change. An intentional engaging with God that all the sudden didn’t care about not having a pretty bread covering, official Shabbat candles, or an Instagram-worthy-dinner plated before my app alarmed. Yes, the shift happened when I tossed out my plans, and invited the Spirit of the Living God to fall fresh on me and take over.

And that’s exactly what took place.

The Lord breathed on me, blessed me, and communed with me. He honored me: honored my faith, honored my future husband and children, honored me with His presence.

Marty Goetz played on softly in the background while I fumbled through Hebrew blessings and spoke them over my husband and children to be.

Even though I was a “party of one”, I didn’t want it to end. The sense of His presence, the beautiful light from the candles, and my table full of love in faith.

I was more full of peace and rest four hours after entering into Shabbat than I had experienced in having two days off back to back earlier this week. A holy rest is different from simply having a couple of days off. It’s a filling of the Holy Spirit, and a communing with Him that begins to repair your body, soul, mind, and spirit from the felt effects of the world.

I knew after my first Shabbat with Jason and Alicia Ward, a few months ago, that I craved more of it. My mistake is that I thought I craved the carved out “chronos” time, the observance of the ritual, the tear-inducing blessings, etc.

But what I really craved was more of the Holy One, blessed be He.

Because God is faithful, and He has ordained this “goodly gift in His storehouse”, I know He will continue to bless my efforts as I learn more about the Sabbath.

Looking back, today was full of teachable moments. I’m glad it was all piecemealed together and filled with hiccups. God did a stripping down of religiosity and control. The Holy Spirit brought revelation, and shed light on areas where my fingers are gripped too tightly. It was reiterated in my heart to “hold all things loosely”.

Tonight, I’m left with hope of what REST will cause my life to look like in all areas. I think one reason observing Shabbat feels so good is that when we observe it, we’re walking in obedience with His commandment. Disobedience is what causes UNREST, anxiety, and many other unwanted changes in the body, soul, mind, and spirit.

Sabbath rest is a journey, and over time it will develop into a rhythm. So let’s learn the “unforced rhythms of grace” together.

Shabbat Shalom!

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message