Sunday, October 14, 2018

A Time to Heal


A Time to Heal


I am slowly making my way through Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 this month. I'm using the contrasts found in those verses as a way to reflect on the season of life I am in at the moment. In a weekly newsletter I receive from Shelly Miller about Sabbath, she is slowly working through the 23rd Psalm. This morning I opened her email and read these words: 

"He restores my soul." Psalm 23:3

Did those words stop you in your tracks and make you catch your breath, as they did for me? God restores my soul. He restores me. Those are comforting, encouraging, hope-filled words.

I was planning on just skipping over the next line in Ecclesiastes 3:3 - "A time to kill and a time to heal." In my initial reading of it there just seemed to be so much that is similar to what I wrote about verse 2 "a time to be born and a time to die", that I simply thought it would be redundant. That is, until I read the words above from Psalm 23:3. How can I skip over a verse about healing and restoration, topics that are dear to my heart?

Last weekend my church held our annual leader's retreat. We began our day with a passage of Scripture to reflect on with the practice of lectio divina (a way to reflect and meditate slowly on Scripture). The passage used was Luke 9:23-25, a very familiar passage about denying self and following Jesus. But the leader of this session used an unfamiliar version, The New English Bible.
"And to all he said, 'If anyone wishes to be a follower of mine, he must leave self behind; day after day he must take up his cross and come with me. Whoever cares for his own safety is lost; but if a man will let himself be lost for my sake, that man is safe. What will a man gain by winning the whole world, at the cost of his true self." NEB
It can be a good practice to read passages of Scripture, especially familiar ones, in different versions. Many times we hear or see something in a different light. In Jesus' day, to take up a cross was equivalent to a death march. The cross in those days was a manner of execution. In this passage the thing being executed is self. As I reflected on this passage at the retreat I thought about another passage where Jesus says we "cannot serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24). There Jesus was contrasting the love of money and the love of God, but I think it can also be applied to anything that takes our focus and devotion off of God. So, here in this passage, it seems to be a question of mastery - who has control of your life, you or God? 

The next thing I notice is that Jesus says, "if a man will let himself be lost for my sake...". The words "let himself be" indicate two things to me. First, Jesus will not force us to give Him control of our lives. He prefers a voluntary sacrifice; an intentional devotion. Then I notice that these words also convey rest and trust - let yourself be - let go of control, loosen your grasp, release. Then lean on Jesus, depend on His control of your life. What do you gain by loosening your grasp on controlling your own self and turning control over to Jesus? Your true self. It is a burdensome weight carrying the yoke of our false self - the one trying to please the whole world, trying to gain more and more, trying to be more and more - more powerful, more successful, more beautiful, more accomplished, more _______ - you fill in the blank. Jesus gave us a glimpse of what life is like when we give Him control.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
When we release the burden of carrying around our false self and give up control of our life to Jesus, our load is light and we find rest. So, while we do need to die to self, as I wrote about a few days ago, we can take the steps necessary to do so knowing that God promises rest and restoration. Healing of our self comes as we place our-self before God and let our-self be lost in Him. He will heal and restore your soul.

Ask God to examine your heart and life and reflect on these questions:
  • Ask God to reveal areas of your life where you may be clinging to control. Pray for His enabling power to help you let go and release control to Him.
  • What needs to be put to death? What habits or attitudes?
  • Where do you need healing and restoration?
  • Where do you need to experience rest?
  • What practices help you rest?
  • Maybe you need to remind yourself today of places you have already released control and remember God's faithfulness in carrying you. What are those places? Celebrate them today.

Join Our Inspirational Facebook Group
Bernice Hopper, Valerie Sjodin and I are using one journal to record events, experiences and relationships and  to explore our word’s meaning in visual and fun ways. We are each blogging about our experiences and our art. If you would like to connect with others about creatively organizing your word, your ideas, thoughts, prayers, events, or your projects all in one journal, you are invited to join our Facebook group: Everyday Journals – Living Your Word of the Year.


Hashtags on Instagram: #everydayjournals2018, #livingyourword2018

Check out the other blogs:


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Time to Plant


A Time to Plant

"A time to plant and a time to uproot" Ecclesiastes 3:2
When I think about planting, immediately Jesus' Parable of the Sower comes to mind. In order for planting to be successful and abundant, good soil is required - whether that planting is in the soil of the earth or in our hearts and minds, as this parable points to. The NIV Study Bible notes says this regarding an abundant crop that comes from good soil:
"The quantity of increase depends on the quality of soil."
Luke's Gospel has an account of the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:4-15. I won't quote the full passage, but will simply focus on how Jesus explains the parable. The seed scattered on the ground represents "the word of God" (vs 11). He goes on, "
"Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." Luke 8:12-15
We have a responsibility to examine the soil of our heart and minds in order to give the seed - the Word of God - a healthy place to grow and produce fruit. So again, let's use this contrast of planting and uprooting, found in Ecclesiastes 3:2, metaphorically for reflection.


Ask God to examine your heart and life and reflect on these questions.
  • Where might there be weeds that are preventing the good soil in your life? Habits that distract you and keep you from spending time in God's Word and in Prayer.
  • What spiritual practices may help you choke those weeds? 
  • What might God want to plant in you right now, in this season? 
  • What might He want to uproot? 
  • What might need pruning? 
In her book, Abundant Simplicity, Jan Johnson speaks of the spiritual disciplines of engagement and of abstinence. 
"Disciplines of engagement help us take in the life of God. Disciplines of abstinence help us let go of life draining behaviors. We need to exhale what is unnecessary as well as inhale nourishment from God." ~ Jan Johnson
Disciplines of engagement are things such as study, prayer, serving others, worship, community, etc. Disciplines of abstinence can include thins such as fasting, solitude, silence, serving in secret, frugality, simplicity of speech and time, etc.

Jan Johnson points out that we are more prone to practice disciplines of engagement. We fill up. But, she says, "They may know, practice and teach spiritual disciplines, but they still find themselves being impatient, egotistical or pushy. This is because they have not blended engagement disciplines with abstinence disciplines, which prune away self-indulgence and willfulness...If we don;t practice abstinence disciplines regularly, we find ourselves stuck. We become reliant on our own devices..." ~Jan Johnson

Practicing disciplines of abstinence may help us get in touch with those things that may be keeping us from a deeper walk with God. God may use these times spent in spiritual practices to help prune us for greater growth. This is definitely what happens in seasons such as Lent, when we choose to abstain from a particular food or practice and instead choose to focus on God. What might God be calling you to in this particular season?



Join Our Inspirational Facebook Group
Bernice Hopper, Valerie Sjodin and I are using one journal to record events, experiences and relationships and  to explore our word’s meaning in visual and fun ways. We are each blogging about our experiences and our art. If you would like to connect with others about creatively organizing your word, your ideas, thoughts, prayers, events, or your projects all in one journal, you are invited to join our Facebook group: Everyday Journals – Living Your Word of the Year.


Hashtags on Instagram: #everydayjournals2018, #livingyourword2018

Check out the other blogs:







Friday, October 5, 2018

A Season For Everything


Welcome October! This is one of my favorite months. The change of season is so visible and vivid during the month of October, with cooler weather and colorful leaves. There is a rhythm in nature's seasons that is predictable and constant year after year. Seasons in our lives are not always as visible or predictable as the seasons in nature are. But we do experience seasons in life.
                           

My daughter recently mentioned that this year is her 20th high school reunion. That took my breath away! I remember the season I was in when she graduated. I was so surprised at how hard it hit me. Her four years of high school had gone by so fast, and then it was done. My little girl had become a strong, independent young woman and all of a sudden my role in life changed. I struggled with that for quite a while, even with little things like not following the school year calendar after 12 years of living by it. Gradually I adjusted, but it was a season of change.
"For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace.
What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end." 
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 New Living Translation (NLT)
In this passage in the book of Ecclesiastes we are reminded that all seasons - those in nature and those in life -are determined by God. Seasons in our life are not without purpose, for it is often through the change of seasons in our life that growth and maturity and transformation take place.


I am currently reading a book by Jan Johnson called Abundant Simplicity. A book about being intentional in ordering our life in order to live in a deeper, more abundant relationship with God. As we think about transformation and how the seasons of our life can shape us for growth let me share a few quotes from the book that may help us in our perspective about seasons and change.
"As we are able to converse with God at a deeper level of maturity, we have the capacity to hear more complex things….God tends to be gentle, telling us only what we can stand to hear in that moment of our growth…." ~ Jan Johnson, Abundant Simplicity, p30-31
"Transformative growth works in a spiral...As we're ready, God allows basic issues to resurface, but each time he lets us see ourselves more clearly so that better and deeper pruning work can be done. If we're wise, we'll take notes about what we're learning so we can look back and remember what we've learned when we work through it with God the next time." ~ Jan Johnson, Abundant Simplicity, p32-33.
Thinking of transformation in a linear manner often leaves me somewhat discouraged when I face an issue that I thought I had dealt with in the past. So I find encouragement in Jan's view that transformation and spiritual growth is more of a spiral, that when these issues arise again, It is not failure, it is simply time to work on them at a deeper level. I also find great comfort in this. We serve a God who cares deeply for us, so deeply as to not allow us to be too overwhelmed in the trials and life experiences we face, until He sees in us growth that enables us to handle more. God's loving pruning enables us to grow and mature in Christ's likeness. Our trust in His faithfulness and love enable us to endure, knowing that He loves us and has our best interests at heart.

"No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it." 1 Corinthians 10:13 NRSV

This month in our faithart group, Everyday Journals, we are taking a look at the season of life we are in - A SEASON FOR _________. For the month of October I have decided to use the contrasts found in Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 metaphorically, as self-examination questions, a way of contemplation and opening myself to God for His loving examination. Join me if you like! There will be information at the end of this post on how to join our group.

My first fall leaf for this season.

The first contrast is seen in verse 2: "A time to be born and a time to die".
Throughout the Bible birth and death are used metaphorically for the spiritual life. Scripture calls us to be "born again" (John 3:16), referring to the need to be born anew spiritually as we commit to following Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord. There are also numerous references in the Bible to death as a voluntary act of giving up our former ways of living (see Ephesians 4:22 and Romans 6:11 for examples) and embracing the new life God calls us to live. With those metaphors in mind, I am using the following questions to dig deeper:
  • What does God want to birth in me? 
  • What needs to be renewed? To be born again or afresh? 
  • What in my life, my heart, my mind needs renewal?
  • What must I die to for this change to occur? A habit or practice or attitude to give up, eliminate, or change.
  • What needs to be removed to make room for it?
  • What practices (spiritual or otherwise) might I engage in or abstain from that may help me connect deeper with God's call to be renewed?

Join Our Inspirational Facebook Group
Bernice Hopper, Valerie Sjodin and I are using one journal to record events, experiences and relationships and  to explore our word’s meaning in visual and fun ways. We are each blogging about our experiences and our art. If you would like to connect with others about creatively organizing your word, your ideas, thoughts, prayers, events, or your projects all in one journal, you are invited to join our Facebook group: Everyday Journals – Living Your Word of the Year.


Hashtags on Instagram: #everydayjournals2018, #livingyourword2018

Check out the other blogs:
Valerie: https://valeriesjodin.com/blog/

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Time to Pause

Our theme this month in the Everyday Journals group is A Time For... Valerie Sjodin asked us to think about what it is time for in our current season of life. For me, this month it is a time to pause, even as the school year begins and my schedule picks up the pace. My hubby and I generally take a vacation in September or early October and rent a cottage east of us on Lake Erie. We love these fall vacations. The summer season is done and school is back in session so the lake area is quiet and uncrowded. We can relax and enjoy peaceful surroundings.


We started our week visiting our area's newest Metropark. Howard Marsh just opened in May and we have not had a chance to visit it yet. Since it is on the way to the cottage we decided to head over early and spend some time there. We were not disappointed! Toledo has incredible Metroparks. The new one was formerly a large working farm that the park system in conjunction with ODNR has returned to wetlands - 1000 acres! We saw many types of birds and other wildlife and enjoyed walking the trails and boardwalks.








This morning I went for a sunrise walk, which is a habit of mine when on vacation. I love how calm the beach and lake are in early morning, and the light is incredible as the sun climbs. Early morning walks in the city just don't have the same feeling of peace.


The clouds last night looked like they had been painted.

I photograph this old dock every time. I just love it!




I also enjoy creative time while on vacation. Creating with limited supplies tends to stretch me creatively. I have found that I have been in a bit of a creative rut since I did the Colossians Words challenge, which isn't unusual for me when I lead a challenge. It requires a lot of attention and energy writing the devotional Bible studies, making the art, posting daily, and managing the Facebook group. So I usually will find myself struggling with what to create for a few weeks following a challenge. To help stir those creative juices I started looking for something with some prompts for journaling. In that search I stumbled on The Reset Girl and her Faithful Life Club which offers a monthly Scripture journaling challenge. The theme for September is A Fresh Start and the weekly Scripture passages tie into that theme. I came upon the group mid-month but started with week one anyway. I've done one page so far. I also picked up the journal I made for Roben-Marie Smith's Salvaged Journal class this Spring and brought it along to make some nature themed pages. 

Week One Faithful Life Challenge

Everyday Journals Group

Nature Journal
I hope you are enjoying your last week of summer and are finding time to be creative. :)


Join Our Inspirational Facebook Group
Bernice Hopper, Valerie Sjodin and I are using one journal to record events, experiences and relationships and  to explore our word’s meaning in visual and fun ways. We are each blogging about our experiences and our art. If you would like to connect with others about creatively organizing your word, your ideas, thoughts, prayers, events, or your projects all in one journal, you are invited to join our Facebook group: Everyday Journals – Living Your Word of the Year.


Hashtags on Instagram: #everydayjournals2018, #livingyourword2018

Check out the other blogs:



Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Colossians Words Signature Journal Flip-through


My completed journal made from my Signature Journal class for the Colossians Words Challenge.




I had a few empty pages left after the twenty words from the challenge were used, so I used a few passages that stood out and a few words that were not in the challenge to fill them up.

World

Gospel

Old self/new self

Theme verse tip-in page




Heaven