Dwell Secure

dwellsecurely

Proverbs 1:33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.

Have you ever had a moment where you were paralyzed by fear? I have. I was sitting in front of the post office, trying to will myself to move. In my lap were 50 letters, stamped and ready to go, yet I couldn’t quite make myself place them in the mailbox. My daughter, not used to seeing me respond this way, quickly piped up. “Mom, just place the letters in the mailbox. You won’t get trampled by an elephant.” Her voice shook me back to reality and I quickly prayed a desperate prayer. “Help, Lord.” As I placed the letters where they needed to be, I felt my hands shaking. These were no ordinary letters. No, these were support letters, describing a calling I felt to travel to Africa for an upcoming missions trip. Essentially, sending out those support letters represented my obedience to committing to traveling on this trip. I reasoned, in that parking lot, that if I sent out the letters, I would receive some donations. And if I received donations, I would have to go. And if I went, I was going to either be eaten by a lion, trampled by an elephant, or captured by natives. The fears, although not rational, were enough to keep me up at night. Yet, God had put in my spirit that He wanted me to go. I was used to God telling me to do things. Most of the time, they weren’t things that scared me. They might make me a little nervous our uncomfortable, but up until this point, God had never told me to do something that terrified me. But this time, God kept pushing my heart in such a way that I could think of little else.
As I faced that mailbox, my fear didn’t leave. But, there is a very important piece that started me on a journey to becoming wise. I was obedient, despite my fear. Since that time in my life, I have learned what it means to be obedient to God. Regardless of what things look like in the physical, I have learned that God sees in the spiritual.
As we set out to study Proverbs, I think it is so important to consider a few things. Proverbs is a book about wisdom. Wisdom is not the same as knowledge. Yes, as we acquire knowledge, we do tend to become more wise. But Biblical wisdom is actually about obedience. As we learn who God is, through our obedience, through our relationship, through His faithfulness, we start to gain a confidence in Him. As we pursue Him, something radical starts to happen within our hearts. Fear of the Lord replaces fear of the world. In our first chapter of Proverbs we are introduced to what almost seems like the motto for the book. “The fear of the Lord.” The Hebrew word for fear can be translated also to mean great wonder or awe. Have you ever stood in awe of anything? For me, on that very missions trip, I stood in awe as I looked out over the Great Rift Valley. It was the most beautiful thing I had every laid my eyes on, and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it. I found myself leaning in, over the peeling white railing, drawn in to this miraculous and breath taking view. That awe is similar to what I think of when I hear the words “fear of the Lord.” Not so much the shrinking back in fear, but more of the leaning in feeling of awe. When you know the Lord, really KNOW him, He draws you in. You can’t look away, you can only stare and lean in because you want to experience more of Him. When you find that place in your relationship with God, the place that comes from knowing and loving Him, the obedience part becomes second nature. You almost don’t even think about it, you just arrive in this place where you wholeheartedly trust Him because you are confident in Him. I have learned over time that there is no safer place to be than right where God wants you. I suspect it may be the same for you once you lean in, in awe of the one who made you. As we start this journey of discovering Proverbs together, my prayer is that you develop the kind of relationship with God that allows you, to dwell secure.

Proverbs 1:33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.

 

Things to Consider:

What times in your life have you been paralyzed with fear?

If you haven’t been paralyzed, have there been things in your life that you have not done because you were afraid?

How would your life be different if you started listening to God, no matter what?

What is an area of your life that you are not currently being obedient in? How can you start, today, moving towards obedience in that area?

Take some time to pray through these areas of obedience and fear. Ask God to help you to “dwell secure.”

Proverbs

 

It’s time again for a lent challenge. Every year we focus in on one book to read as we prepare our hearts in the weeks leading up to Easter. This year, the Lord has been directing me to continually seek wisdom. I have been studying King Hezekiah lately. If you don’t remember who he is, check out his story in 2 Kings 18–20, Isaiah 36–39, and 2 Chronicles 29–32. When King Hezi, as I affectionately call him, was seeking God’s wisdom, he copied the proverbs of Solomon. So, even though it is different than what we normally do, this is what I sense the Lord is calling us to do this year.  We are going to write out each of the Proverbs.

Lent officially begins on Valentine’s Day this year.

Don’t you LOVE it?

We will begin on Valentines, and work through one Proverb a day throughout the week. Saturday will be a catch up day, and Sunday will be a day of rest. If you have never written the Word before, this is a great time to start. What you will see is that things start to jump off the page in a fresh way. I also will be doing the color method of Bible study on each passage, but feel free to study in whatever way you are comfortable. The goal is to get the Word before you, off the page and into your heart. I will be doing some blog and social media posts so we can discuss together what God is doing. Feel free to share this challenge with your friends. Don’t stress too much about the hows and whats…… Grab an old notebook, or a fancy new one, whatever makes you happy. And prepare to #getwise

 

Blessings Friends,

Pastor Rachael

 

 

Push vs. Pull : Working with Kids from Hard Places

stormtrooper-1351022_1920

When doing any kind of Outreach Ministry to children, one thing that you typically experience is interactions with children that are “unchurched.” It’s the very reason we DO outreach. However, working with kids that come from traumatic backgrounds, as many of the children have had, can prove to be a challenge. There are some children who are in such a desperate need of love and attention that they soak up every single thing you have to offer. Then there are other children, who are the complete opposite. They will be belligerent, defiant, disrespectful, rude, etc. Your first instinct may be to expel them from the program as a form of “discipline.” This is where I am going to spend my time today, examining a little closer, this behavior of a child that makes your program hard to administer.

There are two schools of thought in this area. The first one we will examine is the typical punitive response. Usually, this is something like time out, exclusion, etc. For people that have little experience with “hard” children, this is typically the response we see. Now these people may genuinely love kids, have a lot of experience with kids, and not have any bad intentions. For children that have grown up in a loving, stable home, this type of discipline can be used as one of the tools in the “discipline” tool box. However, for kids that have not necessarily grown up in the most stable of homes, this type of discipline can prove to be detrimental.

To a child who has experienced rejection, it speaks rejection. To a child who has experienced abandonment, it speaks of abandon. To a child who has experienced chaos, it speaks confusion.

If a child has come to church, or to your Outreach site, then usually that is a result of being compelled to come to a ministry or event that has the goal of reaching out in love. But if that child is then rejected from that very thing held the promise of love, what is that child going to think? Pushing a child away communicates that their behavior determines your emotion towards them.

Children that come from hard places are often dealing with a heart that has been damaged somehow. They have learned that it is easier to start off with aggression and sometimes even ridiculous behaviors to push you away. Especially if you have somehow communicated love or acceptance to them. It scares them, they almost don’t know what to do with it. In their mind, it is easier to push you away then for them to risk letting you in and being hurt by you later. We see this in kids that have experienced loss. Kids in foster care, kids that have lost a parent, or kids that have learned to live without the presensce of a stable parent, will often act out this way.

However, if a child is acting this way in the middle of your service or event, it obviously can derail the event. Are you supposed to ignore the behavior and hope it goes away?

I would like to suggest an alternative. This is the second school of thought that I personally use when dealing with kids from hard places. Instead of pushing a hard kid away, I draw them closer. Instead of a “time out” use a “time in.” For that disruptive child, I will often take them aside, sit with them, spend time with them, and then visit or connect with them throughout the week. This one on one time does not necessarily have to be long. However, intentionally seeking out a relationship with a child does two things:
1. It teaches them that you sincerely care about them. This is something that many street kids don’t understand: the legitimate concern of an adult that wants nothing from them other than to help them and love them. Current research shows that 1 out of every 5 children are sexually abused. 1 out of 5! That means that if you have 20 kids sitting in front of you, 4 of them are sexually abused. And as is often the case with Outreach sites, many of these kids are sibling sets which means that it is probably higher than that. This has an impact on how kids understand and receive information. They have been taught that adults are not safe. They have learned to put up walls. Walls mean defiance.
2. It creates the foundation for relationship. Relationships are how you minister to the heart of a child. Rules without relationships often lead to rebellion. Relationships with kids, quickly, become the motivating factor for them to behave. Respect is earned only after trust is earned. Trust takes time.

The great thing about kids, even hurt and hard kids, is they don’t take a long time to come around. Once they realize you aren’t going anywhere, you are sincere, then you will see the real needs come out. The needs for love and acceptance and nurturing. When they realize they can get that from you, you will see an entirely different side of them. Things will not be perfect. This is a process. There will be days where you feel like you have made great strides, and other days where you will feel like your moving backwards. That’s ok. Press on. Your consistency, not just in showing up, but in loving and responding in love, will communicate to the child that their behavior DOES NOT determine your emotions towards them.

As ministers of the gospel of Jesus, it should be our highest priority, at all times, to communicate to children that they are loved beyond measure, regardless of what they do or who they are. On paper we may agree with that, but do our actions agree with that?

This morning I read these words from scripture that spoke to this very thing:

  1 Corinthians 4:20-21 For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by   God’s power. 21 Which do you choose? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?

There have been times in my life where I have been walking in rebellion. Maybe it looked different than yours. But how would you like to have been approached? Which one would have been more effective at getting to the root of the behavior or issue?

It is my sincere prayer that as you step out to minister to God’s kids, that you are empowered with the tools you need to be successful. Take some time this week to think about that “one kid” that we all have that could use some extra time and attention this week. Start by praying for that kid and look for an opportunity to have a “time in.” I will be praying for you as you do.

 

Be Blessed,

Rachael

I will NEVER not see you

gas station.jpg

This past week, I saw my dad at the gas station. I looked up and locked eyes with him, but he ignored me, pretended not to see me. As he pulled away, I felt a drop of pain added to the pile that I hid deep in my heart. Quickly pushing the thoughts of rejection away, I resigned to not think about it. But it spoke to that place in my heart that is raw from years of rejection by my father. As I went throughout the week, when that rawness would surface, I would quickly bury it under a pile of ice cream or social media.

Saturday morning came. It was my one day a week to sleep in. The kids had already been prepped….. there were breakfast bars on the counter and the tv remote was on the couch. No one was to wake mommy up before 7. Yet at 6AM, I woke up with a song on my heart. As I snuggled under my warm comforter, I heard the Lord whisper, “come away with me.” I thought about how tired I was and how comfortable I was. “Come away with me, ” I heard again. As I heard that beckoning, the still small voice was too loud to ignore.

Still sleepy, I meandered out to the couch and tiredly fell down onto it. As I sleepily laid there, half awake, I still had the same song on my heart. So, I pulled up the song on youtube and sang along. I found myself wondering if the song was based off of scripture.

The Lord prompted me to look up what that song was based on, and I found out it was Psalm 103. So I started to read Psalm 103. As I read, I suddenly was waken right up with a portion of that word. It was this verse that hit me:

Vs. 13 “The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” Psalms 103:13-14 NLT

Wow. It says the Lord is like a father. Immediately my mind went to the gas station. Then I heard the whisper,

                                                        ”I will NEVER not see you.”

Tears immediately came to my eyes. God woke me up early to tell me that He sees me. Even when my earthly father doesn’t.

As I kept reading through the Psalm, with blurry eyes and a softened heart, I came to this one:

“But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children” Psalms 103:17 NLT

                                                    “I love my grandchildren.”

God spoke directly that place I have as a mother…. a momma bears heart. The kind of love that God gives is one that knows you intimately, as He is the one who knows your innermost thoughts.

Even the ones you don’t want to speak out loud.

On Fridays, I cry.

On Fridays, I cry.

Saturday through Thursday, I pretend nothing is wrong. I put a smile on my face, I go about my day, I keep it together.

But on Fridays, after my husband goes to work and the kids are at school, I’m all alone. I start out thinking that this Friday might be different, that I won’t need to cry. But then I realize that there is this place in my heart that has been swelling all week. There’s a bit of a guard there, so if anything pricks it, the guard doesn’t let it in. That surfaces sometimes as disinterest or busyness. Or withdrawal. Don’t let that fool you, that’s to cover up what’s really going on. Inside, my mind is overwhelmed with just sadness. But if it’s not Friday, I don’t pause long enough to think about it.

But on Fridays, I think about it. I think about how much I miss her. I smell her sweatshirt that I have hidden in my closet in my bedroom. I look at her picture, and I hold it tight. I think about all the lost moments and the unsaid words. And I cry.

It’s been a little over three months since I lost my Nana. For all intents and purposes, my mother. She raised me when my own mother wouldn’t. She took me and loved me and called me her own. And now she’s gone.

So on Fridays, I cry.

So many people expect you to quickly pick up the broken pieces of your heart after you lose someone. There seems to be an acceptable time of grieving, to be sad, and then it’s time to move on. Except that’s not how grief works. It’s like being at the ocean, only you have no idea when the next wave is coming. At first, they are quick and crashing and close together. Until they aren’t. Then, when you think the water is calm, and you can breathe a little, you get slammed with a wave so huge you get knocked down. And it takes you a couple minutes to catch your breath.

So on Fridays, I cry.

I wish there was a timeline. Some way to mark my calendar and plan ahead so I knew to be alone, or carry tissues, or to at least prepare myself. But instead there are faint warnings that come in the form of my daughter giving me a look that reminds me so much of her. Or a box that had been unopened but holds something of hers. Or a piece of clothing that I forgot she gave me. Or a book, unread, that was a birthday gift from her. Some days, those things don’t bother me. In fact, they remind me of her and they make me happy to have those memories to hold close to my heart. In those moments I love to share stories or recipes or habits that I picked up over the years. But then there are the other days. The days that, out of nowhere, there is a feeling of being pressed down so hard and so quick that you feel the wind being sucked right out of you.

So on Fridays, I cry.

I don’t think it will be like this forever. I think eventually, Fridays will be happy again. Eventually I will be able to think about her and smile instead of cry. Just not today. Today is Friday. And today, I’m going to cry.

Let me ask you a question…..

ppl.jpeg

Let me ask you a question….. Do you wholeheartedly believe that God likes you? (I don’t mean LOVES you….because theologically God can’t do otherwise… He IS love)….. And not when you clean yourself up, or go to church, or eliminate traces of ugliness, but right now. In this moment. Right Here. Today. With all your faults and weaknesses and shortcomings and failures. He LIKES you! A lot! Luke 1:78-79 says “because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Have you ever lived in a place of darkness? I have. This verse talks about how when we are dwelling, living in that dark place, God’s compassion comes into that darkness, like the dawn, to shine light into the dark places and guide us back onto the road. I am so incredibly thankful for that. The realization that God is Just, but still offers mercy, brings me to tears. It is BECAUSE He is Just, that we can see how rich His compassion is towards us. He sees our weakness. He knows that thing that we do that we hide from everyone else. He remembers that we are mere dust. Yet, like a father who tends to His children, He tenderly and compassionately draws us to Himself. How can you resist that kind of love?

What if……

10259183_10204034303919814_684931512117642904_o

 

What if…..

What if today is the day that God is planning on using you to do something incredible?
What if today is the day that your miracle is coming?
What if today is the day that all the things you have been working for are falling into place, and all you have to do is show up?
And what if today is the day you decide to give up? To speak death instead of life.

Doubt. Fear. Chaos. Ignorance.

The decision is yours. Walk in obedience, or chain yourself with your own words.

An expectant heart faces the day, despite what it looks like, and claims the victory that is already theirs.

A doubting heart looks at the day, and sees it with their own eyes instead of God’s.

Which one are you? The reality is, you have more control than you think you do. You could be the only thing standing in the way between God and your miracle. The missing links?

Faith. Expectation. Believing God when He makes a promise.

There is power in your words. Your attitude. Your thoughts.

Surrendering.

It could be the greatest act of war that wins the battle.