Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Intentional Joy-31 Day Writing Challenge

It's almost that time again.

31 Days

Every year, every October, hundreds-maybe thousands-of writers get together and write every day on one topic for 31 days, a project started by blogger Myquillin Smith (The Nester). It's an online writing challenge--you don't have to be a blogger, but most are.

Last year, I tackled the topic of Overcoming Negativity. It has since morphed into a book--a book that I started writing, picked apart and decided to completely rewrite.

This year, I've decided to find joy every day. (I hope I can find joy in that re-write!)


We need more joy in this world. We need more joy in our days. We need more joy in our lives.

Joy is intentional. It's a choice. Sometimes it falls in your lap, and sometimes you need to search for it. 

But it's always there. It might be in a birdsong. It might be in a smile. Or it might be disguised--something hidden that must be sought out in the midst of chaos or distress or pain. 

It's all in our outlook. Sometimes it has to be intentional because we don't feel very joyful. But joy is not so much a feeling as it is a choice.

Margaret Feinberg talks of making a decision to fight her diagnosis and treatment of cancer with joy in her book, Fight Back With Joy. It's a delightful memoir, and she is a woman to be admired. It's not everyone who can do that---yet, it is. It is there for the taking-a gift from God--for me and for you.

Will you take this journey with me?

Yes, I will be blogging every day, and I know some of my readers are happy about that (they've told me they miss me!). But some of you may not want a post every day clogging up your inbox.

I promise two things:

1. I will keep the posts short-because moments of joy are often simple and must be experienced rather than explained. My intention is to simply share the joy I find each day, not to expound on it (and maybe it will teach me to cut down on my blahblah on a daily basis).

2. If you read about my joy, you will find your own joy. Joy is contagious. You won't want to read about the things I've found to be joyful about without wanting your own.

So...look for my first post on Thursday, October 1st, although I've already had moments of joy: joy at seeing my name on a published article (A Testament to the Glory of  Early Morning Runs), the joy of paying for the person behind me at Dunkin' Donuts (a munchkin for each of her two munchkins-I couldn't even talk her into a cup of coffee!), the clear blue sky of the first day of autumn, and perfect bloodwork (my hard work has paid off)!!!


I can't wait to experience all the joy God has in store for us next month!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

PS: If you'd like to take part in this writing challenge, visit the 31 Days website to sign up. 

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Losers Like Us GIVEAWAY and Interview With the Author

I recently read a book called, Losers Like Us: Redefining Discipleship After Epic Failure by Daniel Hochhalter. It was one of those books that came up because I read another, similar book. The title intrigued me. The book transformed me. 


The "losers" he is talking about are the disciples. Jesus called each one of those men knowing full well that they were a mess. He called them anyway.And He calls us despite our messes.

Each chapter I read, I said, "Oh yeah, that's me." I said that with every chapter. How could it be that I was so much like every loser? Because each chapter focuses on one particular aspect of each disciple, and I have more than one not so desirable trait in my personality. So do you.

I'd love to go into more detail with my review, but you can read the reviews and the synopsis on amazon.com. Suffice it to say that I LOVED this book.

I'd like to instead share an interview with the author, Daniel Hochhalter...AND...invite you to enter a giveaway for Losers Like Us. (pun intended?)

Instead of one book, Daniel has graciously and generously offered THREE books as a giveaway! Simply follow the instructions for the Rafflecopter giveaway below. And please be sure to visit Daniel's website if you have time. You'll learn even more about him there. He is a brilliant writer and a brilliant man. Losers Like Us: Redefining Discipleship After Epic Failure is available for purchase through amazon.com and Barnes and Noble (or wherever you make online book purchases) or through his website.

 What a title! How did you come up with this idea, and why “losers?”

The title itself was my wife’s idea. But the whole concept that we and the disciples are “losers” is mine. I use the word “losers” for the sheer ugliness of it, because grace shines more brightly in the ugliness.

I am always amazed that the Bible never hides the sins of its characters. But we do; in Bible study and Sunday school materials, we portray them as spiritual giants with glowing halos, always gazing toward heaven. Growing up with this misunderstanding gave me an “if-only” complex: if only I could overcome this sin, or develop that skill, then maybe God could use me like he used them.

Then, in 2008, my PhD and my dream job went bust. My life, my future, even my framework of God imploded; I was utterly adrift – desperately searching for some ray of hope, anything to get through the day, but none came.

During this dark time, I found my old notes on “Great Losers of the Bible” – a series I had created and taught as a youth pastor, years earlier. I realized that back then I had studied the disciples as a detached observer; I saw them as losers. But, after my life fell apart, the whole concept became personal – I saw myself as a loser. So I got the idea to hold up each disciple’s faults and sins to my own, like a mirror, to see what might emerge. This exercise morphed into “Losers Like Us.”

Some people say that we believers are in Christ, so we are not losers. But we really are, in the sense that we continually miss the mark. Jesus is the only winner. There can be only one winner. Amazingly, he invites us into the winner’s circle to celebrate and identify with him.

I love that---"There can only be one winner."

The book focuses on the fact that each one of the disciples of Jesus were, in fact, losers. Is there one particular one that you identified with more than others? If so, why?

It has to be Peter – the disciple who kept blowing it. For most of my life, I felt that I was in a “sin, repent, repeat” cycle that I couldn’t quite escape. Each time I repented (again) of one of my many sins, I was terrified God might walk away and say, “That’s it! I’ve had enough.” Then I saw how Peter went through this cycle over and over. With all his heart he wanted to follow Jesus – but even after he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he still kept missing the mark. I can really relate to that. Yet look at how God used him.


Throughout your book, I marveled at the depth of your writing, your intuitiveness, and your ability to make these disciples more real to me. You infused humor into what could be an otherwise dry subject. But I also marveled at the depth of your academic and biblical knowledge. I kept shaking my head in disbelief that you were denied your PhD. How did you process that, especially having to relive it as you wrote through the feelings?

Thank you for your kind words! After being broadsided by rejection, deep self-loathing can set in, and all I could see was a stupid man who spent over a hundred thousand dollars on an education he would never use. That is a dark place to live.

So yes, I did relive a lot of emotion while writing the book – especially because I had to retell the story of my PhD failure, and I had just barely started to grieve; the pain and humiliation were mind-numbing. Putting that story in the chapter about James, the egotist, seemed to give me a new perspective on pride vs. humiliation vs. true humility. After drafting that chapter, I was drained. I didn’t write for a week.

Did you start writing this while you were sorting through all the feelings of inadequacy, or did it come after you worked through it all? Was it therapeutic to write through the emotions? Did it help you to overcome discouragement and disappointment?

I wrote it in the middle of the darkness, so to speak. My life was a train wreck; I had no backup plans, no prospects. Most books about the disciples seem to be written by already-successful Bible teachers – usually with PhDs! – but mine was written through great pain and failure.

So yes, the writing was therapeutic and healing, but it drained me. At the end, my wife and I edited out a lot of the bitterness and self-pity, because we knew it wouldn’t help anyone.

So much of who we are is tied up (and sometimes knotted beyond unknotting) in what we do, what we achieve or fail to achieve. How would you suggest separating our “who” from our “do?”

Moving from “do” to “who” involves a paradigmatic shift in the way we think about our relationship with Christ. Often, this shift happens only through a deep valley of crisis or failure.

John of the Cross describes the “dark night of the soul” as an experience sent by God, to break us of human striving. The “dark night” is a time when God seems to have disappeared. We work so hard to feel his presence, but we just can’t. So we work harder and harder, but we feel him less and less. Finally, all of our efforts implode, and only God remains. Sometimes that’s what it takes to force us to think differently.

Psalm 46:10 tells us to “be still and know that I am God.” We can meditate on God’s awesomeness – knowing that it’s relationship with him, not human effort, which gives our life meaning and value.

What’s the greatest thing about being a loser?

The greatest thing is having the freedom of grace – the freedom to be myself, no matter what others think. I know my life is a mess, filled with sin and baggage. But I don’t have to pretend it’s not. I don’t have to impress anyone. I can just give God my best, and rely on the cross. That’s exactly why grace is so wonderful and mysterious.

What would you tell someone who is struggling with feelings of inadequacy, insignificance or unworthiness--basically, someone who feels like a loser and can’t be used by God?

I’d say, “You’re in great company.” Look at all of the people in the Bible. Abraham was a compulsive liar. Moses and David were murderers. The disciples were selfish, uneducated bickerers and deserters. Yet Jesus prayed all night before selecting them, and that’s who he got. So apparently those doofuses were exactly who God had in mind to spread his kingdom around the world. Why would he work any differently today?

Thank you, Daniel! You can read more of Daniel's story of paralyzing failure and brokenness redeemed at
 danielhochhalter.com 

Please make sure you enter the giveaway through Rafflecopter (see below). 

Remember...there will be THREE WINNERS!!!

(Contest ends on Sunday, September 27th) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway  

I'll announce the winners in next Tuesday's blog post, at which time I will also announce my topic for the upcoming 31 Days of Writing challenge.

Blessing Along the Path,
Mare

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Clean It All

"I sure hope they appreciate this," I muttered, as I picked up the 347th load of pine needles, three years worth of packed dead leaves, rocks, errant trash from the workers, loads of viney poison and other assorted debris.

"And I'm sure I'm gonna get a nice rash from this Virginia Creeper." Virginia Creeper is similar to Poison Ivy, but has 5 leaves. I'm highly allergic to both.

We have new neighbors. In fact, we have a new house next door, which houses the new neighbors. This is what the property looked like before said house and neighbors:



It was what insurance companies call an "attractive nuisance." It's a nuisance for the neighbors, but attractive for troublemakers.

Then, one day, it looked like this:



Now it looks like this:



Because of the excessive growth on the neighboring property due to neglect, we left a good 10-15 feet on the other side of our fence when we installed it, simply because we had no choice. The lot was overgrown, and we assumed no one would ever live there. Now the growth was gone, and there was a cumulative mess on the other side. And it was our responsibility, not theirs, to clean it.

So, here I was, raking and lifting load after load into the yard cart, and carting it into the "woods" (a line of trees) at the back of the property.

And grumbling. It was hot. I was sweating. Why wasn't Hubbles doing this instead of me (Because he was cutting the lawn)? 

I pictured one or all of their three strapping young sons coming out with a rake, or rakes (as if they have their own and keep them stored in their breakfast nook), running over to me with a cold glass of lemonade, and saying, "Here, Mrs. Flaherty, you look like you could use this. And why don't you let me finish this for you?"

Ha! Riiiiiight. Didn't happen. Okay, one of those sons is only three years old. Not so strapping.

"They're probably looking out their window and thinking, 'I wish she wouldn't put all that mess there. It's so unattractive for us in the brand new house and yard to look at.'"

Grumble. Murmur. Complain. All of which gave me more fuel to continue on. The annoyance I felt fueled me for at least another half hour.

Then I got to the property line. I know this because there is one of these at the back and one at the front of the property, and I drew an invisible line between the two with my eye as I raked.

There was still more debris, mostly rocks, pine needles, and oodles of poison vines on THEIR side, and at this point, my attitude was, "That's their problem. Not mine."

Well, as God would have it, it became mine. I heard this still, small voice in my spirit--not at all the condescending tone that I was using, so I knew it didn't come from me:

"Keep going."

"WHAAAT?"

"Keep going. Clean it all."

"Oh, come on, God, really? It's hot, and I've been out here for hours. I'm exhausted."

"No one said you had to do it all today. But clean it all."


"But they don't even appreciate it!"

"How do you know? They never even asked you to do it. You're the one who decided that it should be done. And just because they haven't done what you think they should do doesn't mean they don't appreciate it. If it were you on the other side of this fence, wouldn't you appreciate it if your neighbor did that for you?"

Love your neighbor as yourself. Ugh! Sometimes it's really not so fun.

So I cleaned it all. 



All except around the tree that is clearly theirs (on the far left). This is what that tree looks like now: 



Their landscaper doesn't seem to want to touch it. I have a feeling MY Landscaper is going to tell me otherwise.

Love your neighbor as yourself. Love their yard as much as you love your own.

When asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus replied, 

"Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only God. And you must love Him with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

The second is: 'You must love others as much as yourself.' No other commandments are greater than these."

We've heard it as "love your neighbor as yourself."

Love your neighbor's yard as much as your own. 

If you love the Lord with everything you have and are, you'll clean it all.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

Song/video of the day: Lincoln Brewster: Love the Lord Your God



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Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Next-Seat-Neighbor's Commentary on "A Walk in the Woods"

Hubbles and I went to see A Walk in the Woods (click to watch trailer) last night. We both have a fondness for the Appalachian Trail since we walked the NJ section of it this summer. There is just something about that 2"x 6" white blaze that stirs a longing deep inside me every time I see it. It's unexplainable. It has to be experienced.


We had listened to the audio book last year--the one read by Bill Bryson, the author. I highly recommend it, even if you don't enjoy audio books. 

The movie, while entertaining, was quite different from the book.

First, Bryson and his trail companion, Steve Katz were NOT old men when the hiked the AT. They were in their mid-forties. Second, let's just say that the screen writers used creative license. I guess a simple account of this odd duo's hike would be boring without it. 


But I'm ahead of myself. This is not so much a review of the movie, as it is a story of my neighbor. My next-seat-neighbor, an older man himself. No spiritual lesson today--just a funny story.

He and his wife were about the age of Robert Redford and Nick Nolte--I'd say somewhere in their 70s. I really didn't pay them much mind until the movie started.

You know how right before the movie, there are all these reminders to turn off your cell phone and to please not talk during the movie? Well, I guess Neighbor Man didn't hear that part. Then again, neither did I. I tend to comment all the time during a movie, but at least I do it quietly. He didn't.


As soon as the bit about the production companies came on, he asked his wife if that was the name of the movie. 


"What's the name of the movie we're seeing?"

She looked at her phone and said, "A Walk in the Woods."

As the two men set out at Springer Mountain, GA, the beauty of the trail beckoned to me, and must have done the same to Neighbor Man.

"We could do that," he told his wife.


I wonder how many people will fly to Georgia this April, thinking that they can walk over 2000 miles because they saw a movie.

Photo credit
As the movie progressed, he got more into it. I heard him mention a few more times how they could or should do this. I noticed his wife was quiet. I'm thinking she was either hard of hearing--which is why he spoke so loudly--or she had no desire to spend more than six hours in the woods, much less six months.

He was quiet for awhile, or else I just didn't hear him, and then a sign appeared on the screen:

Welcome to Shenandoah National Park.


Without thinking, I said (quietly, but aloud) "Oh, Virginia."


Five seconds later, Next-seat-neighbor man turned to his wife and said, "They must be in Virginia. I believe that's where that is."

At this point, my friend was becoming more entertaining than the movie. I chuckled every time he made a comment. 

Bryson (Redford) and Katz (Nolte) had decided to get off the trail to sleep in a real bed and take a shower, so they stopped at a motel. The men fell onto their beds, as if they hadn't seen one in months. Perhaps they hadn't.

"We could do this. We could sleep in motels along the way."

Did he think that there would just be a motel at the end of his hike each day?

Then,

"That's a nice bedspread."

Ew! It was actually a very ugly bedspread--the standard orange, green and yellow ones that occupy motels all over America.


At one point in the movie, the hikers fell down a part of the trail and got stuck on a ledge. 

Too bad Next-seat-neighbor man wasn't there with them at the time. I'm sure his suggestions of how they could get back up would have greatly encouraged them.

And when night fell and they said, "We're screwed," the words of the sage, Next-seat-neighbor man, "Never give up," certainly would have offered them hope.

At this point in the movie, the two were in their sleeping bags on the ledge and began ruminating on life, especially their own lives. My neighbor was perched on the edge of his seat, like The Thinker.

He went from most likely being dragged out of his recliner to see a movie he didn't want to see to being a part of the team--a thru-hiker wannabe.

"You see," he told his wife, who by now was probably regretting her movie choice, "it's all about purpose."

I swear I saw her roll her eyes. I would have rolled my own, but I was too busy cracking up.

Bryson and Katz had traveled half the trail, and they now talked of quitting and going home. I won't tell you if they do. I don't want to spoil the movie for you. But guess who chimed in?

"Yeah, but you made a commitment!" Next-seat-neighbor man told the screen. 

Oh, easy for you to say, Armchair Hiker who stops at motels to sleep every night and most likely thinks that the food is catered on the trail.

When Bryson finally got home, he was looking through his mail and came across a bunch of postcards sent from various places on the trail from Katz. The camera zoomed in on each message.

My neighbor suddenly had an itchy eye--just on the corner. Oh, the other eye seemed to itch too--in the same spot. Was he crying? 

I don't know why I found this man so entertaining. I usually find people like him--and me--annoying. Perhaps the AT really is calling his name. Perhaps I will see him on the trail next spring, somewhere in Virginia, since we both seem to know where Shenandoah National Park is.

Blessings Along the Path--or Trail,
Mare

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Spiritual Kale

Taste and see that the Lord is good. 
Psalm 34:8

Remember when kale was for decorative purposes only? 



When I was younger, kale was only found in deli cases as that curly green border between cold cuts and salads, or in a restaurant, on your plate as a garnish. No one actually ATE kale. I'm pretty sure it was grown simply for garnishing and decorating.

Then it became a "superfood." (Was the word, "superfood," even a word before kale become one?) Suddenly, everyone wanted kale. People raved on their Facebook posts about how they made homemade kale chips. I tried to understand, but I felt like a six year old kid missing the punchline of an adult-themed joke. Yummy and kale just didn't seem to go together for me. Chips and kale most certainly didn't.

Until I decided to start eating healthy. 

I buy kale now. 

That's right. I said I buy kale. I didn't say I eat it. 



I try to hide it among the romaine lettuce in my salad, but I still know it's there. I add it to soups that already have plenty of other ingredients in it. I put it in my nutritional shake so that I don't have to physically eat it. It may be good for you, but I still don't like it. It's bitter.

The thing is, I know it's really good for me, so I eat it. And I'm actually beginning to like it.

My bible is a lot like kale. 

I'm sharing the rest of my story today over at Counting My Blessings. I hope you'll join me over there, and say hello to our hostess, Deb Wolf. It's only a click away.

Blessing Along the Path,
Mare

Deb and I will be joining some of these link-up parties this week

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

5 Ways to Turn Your "I Can't" Into "I Can"

What did you do this Labor Day?

I spent my morning with Billy Joel. 

He told me tales of the Piano Man, The Entertainer, The Stranger, and my favorite--Brendar and Eddie. 

I found this app called Couch-to-5K, or C25K. It claims to get you off the couch and running a 5K in eight weeks. I'm on the third workout, and strangely, I don't hate it. I actually almost enjoy running. Maybe it's because I'm still easing into this running thing. I only have to run for 60 seconds, then I get to walk for 90. I do this for 8 intervals. So far, I'm digging it, especially when I get to cool down to New York State of Mind. And you need to understand something: I hated running and overall exercise.

When the overweight and undisciplined me feels like giving up or giving in, when I say, "I can't," the skinny and healthy me that is longing to be center stage says, "Yes, you can."



When overweight and undisciplined me says, "But it's soooo haaaard," Skinny and healthy me says, "No it's not really. What's hard is the choice. Stop whining and keep going." I like Skinny and healthy me, but she really is a pain.

The hardest part of tackling weight loss, exercise, overcoming addiction, or any other change that is challenging for us is not so much the act, but the action.

It comes down to our will.

We tend to look at our challenge as this huge task. We look at the big picture. We look at the end result, the end goal, and it's too big. Looking at it that way is overwhelming so we quit before we even begin. "I can't."

Instead, we might do well to listen to the folks from Alcoholic Anonymous who overcome their addiction, "one day at a time." Sometimes, it is one step at a time. One cookie at a time.

It is a matter, not of difficulty, but of will.

For years, I've said that losing weight was so hard because I never had a good enough reason for getting it off. I used menopause as an excuse. "Oh, it's just so hard to get weight off once you hit menopause." True. But that only justified my excuse.

When I had to begin taking yet another medication because the numbers weren't coming down, I knew I had to make serious changes by eliminating sugar and getting the weight off. That was enough motivation for me. And oddly, once I made the healthier choice, I find now that it isn't as hard as I thought. 



It's skipping that extra half hour of sleep in the morning and choosing to get up in the dark and put my sneakers on, or skipping that ice cream cone and drinking water instead that's hard. It's the choice that's hard. It's denying the flesh that's hard. 

Some days, saying "no" to my wants is the most difficult task on my to-do list. 

What are you struggling with today? What is your motivation to change? Is it hard to actually put a plan into practice, or is it the choice to say no to your will that's so hard? 

Try these five practical tips :

Make a plan and find your motivation.
My plan was to step up my exercise and eat less. That's the only way my weight will come off. My motivation? Getting off medication. The only way to do it is to exercise more and eat less. I long to be thin and med-free again. I don't just wish for it. I want it bad enough to do something about it.

Learn to say no. 
Treat your will like a 2-year old child. Deny your flesh. Stop saying "it's" too hard. Define your "it" that is too hard, and break it down into smaller, more manageable actions that you CAN overcome. Make the choice to be stronger than your "it." If you can't, ask God to be stronger for you (I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." Phil 4:13). Think before you act. Decide if you really want to do that. How will it affect you? How will you feel afterwards? Will the guilt over having given in lead to doing that thing again? Break the cycle. Stop whining and do something about it. Make a healthy choice.

Focus on right now and not the end result.
I can't eliminate sugar-it's too hard. But right now, I can go without that cookie. I can't walk five miles, but right now, I can walk one mile. I can't run a 5K, but right now, I can run for 60 seconds. I can't quit smoking, but I right now, I can give up this cigarette. Give yourself credit for what you can do right now, instead of focusing on what you can't do.

Set goals
I always hate when I read that, but it's true--goals are a motivator. But short-term goals, such as simply getting up and doing my next workout segment are equally important as long-term goals, like running a 5K. I can't run that 5K if I don't train for it, so I need the short-term goals, the daily goals as a motivator. I don't like to set weight loss goals yet; I'd rather not focus on my weight, but on my health. When you reach some of your goals, why not reward yourself? Buy some new music or a book.

Have accountability 
I joined a wellness club, where I have a personalized eating and exercise plan and must weigh in every two weeks. I also signed up for my first 5K run/walk--a non-competitive fund-raiser for a local animal shelter where canine companions are invited to join you. Whether it's a program or a person, be accountable to someone. When you try to do it alone, it's too easy not to change.

Click here for your free printable to personalize with these tips, and to keep with you to remind you that YOU CAN!

Oh, and you may want to bring Billy Joel, or someone equally as entertaining along. They can be great motivators.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare


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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Twice Baked Scripture-Staying Out of Egypt

Yesterday we took a brief trip to Egypt with the rebellious Israelites and learned that we often flee to Egypt ourselves. Seeking safety and protection from the oppression we were delivered out of is tricky business, and not too smart! We do it anyway, don't we?

But God 

offers a way out in this verse from Isaiah 30:15:


And that's just what those rebellious Israelites did, right?

WRONG!

If we read further in Isaiah 30, we learn that they would have none of it. They STILL wanted to do things in their own strength. They wanted nothing to do with repentance, rest, quietness or trust. How was that going to win a battle??? I don't know about you, but I can relate to that. Haven't I said the same thing when turmoil is swirling around me?

Yet...

The Lord longs to be gracious to you; 
He rises to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice. 
Blessed are all who wait for him! (Is 30:18)

He rises from His heavenly throne to come to our aid. The verses following in Isaiah 30 say that as soon as He hears our cries for help, He will answer us (v19). We will hear His voice directing our steps, and we will throw away our idols (v22), finally rejecting the help that comes from Egypt--that false security.



God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love (Psalm 145:8), and He is faithful to His promises (v13). When it seems as though there is a delay to his graciousness, it is only because he is giving us time to repent. He's gracious in even that.

His promises are many (and these are just in two chapters!): 

  • Salvation comes from repentance and rest (Is 30:15). 
  • Strength is found in quietness and confidence/trust (Is 30:15).
  • The fruit of righteousness will be peace (Is 32:17).
  • The effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever (Is 32:17).
  • We will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes and in undisturbed places of rest (Is 32:18).

Peace comes from acknowledging the Lord (Hos 2:19-20)

Not in Egypt.
Not in false security.
Not in the land of hardship and distress.

But in acknowledgment of the Lord.

And it starts with repentance.

Will you join me? Let's turn out backs on the Egypt that we too often seek refuge from so that we can live fully in the promises of God (check out my latest video, Livin' in the Promises).



If your heart is convicted; if you have been saying, "Stop confronting me," or if you "would have none of it," then join me in this prayer of repentance:

Father God, I come humbly to You today with a heavy heart. I've been shuttling down to Egypt in an effort to placate myself, in an effort to find security and peace. Yet, this very same Egypt is the one you delivered me from. (Take a moment and ask God to reveal your "Egypt" if you don't know it. Once you have it, name it). I realize that this will never bring me freedom and will never satisfy me. It gives me false security.

My security can only be found in You, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Jesus. You brought me up out of Egypt and I have turned my back on you forsaking you each time I attempt to find peace and fulfillment there. 

I repent of my rebellion, my unwillingness to listen to your direction and my obstinate nature. You know my weaknesses, Lord, and you know that I cannot do it alone. I need your help. Your word says that as soon as you hear my cries for help, you answer. So, even if I don't hear your voice or feel your presence, I know you've heard me and I know that you've risen to show me compassion, justice and mercy. Your grace will heal all my wounds.


Help me to rest in You, God. Help me to seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:11). Help me to be quiet and trust You. Only then will I be confident of my faith and Your strength.

I desire to go down to Egypt no more. Instead, I desire to live in a peaceful dwelling place, in a secure home, and in an undisturbed place of rest.

Help me to stay out of Egypt!
In Jesus precious name

I'll be praying for you!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

Sharing this post with some of these lovely blogs

Sources:
Matthew Henry Commentary on Isaiah 30
BibleStudyTools.com

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Twice-Baked Scripture-Hot Potato

I love twice baked potatoes. They're richer than a plain baked potato. All of those ingredients together are something to be savored and eaten slowly.

So it is with this verse:


These words are like spiritual potatoes, sour cream, cheddar cheese and chives to my soul. First, there's the repentance and rest. Then the quietness and trust is mixed in and it is all stuffed back into the potato skin. Together, it is delicious; something to be savored and ingested slowly.


But there is a not-so-wonderful verse immediately following that we usually overlook--because we don't like verses that challenge our rebellion:

But you would have none of it.

Ouch.


God had delivered Israel out of the oppression of Egypt some 700 years before Woe-saiah's...I mean Isaiah's prophecy (Sorry, he says "Woe to you," so many times, I sometimes forget his name).


As a way of setting His people apart as a holy nation, God had forbidden the Israelites to form any alliances with a heathen nation.


Now, here they were on their way to Egypt to seek aid against Assyria rather than seeking help from Jehovah. 


Woe...I mean Isaiah let them know that God was NOT happy. This is what Isaiah says to them (paraphrased):


"Woe to you, obstinate children--you're carrying out plans that are not mine, forming alliances that I didn't approve, and walking further into sin. You go down to Egypt and look to Pharaoh for protection and Egypt's shade for refuge (v 1-2).


I'm warning you--if you go to Egypt, you'll regret it. These people that you're putting your hope in will let you down. Furthermore, they're a useless people and an unprofitable nation, and they'll bring you nothing but shame and disgrace. (v 3-5). You are rebellious, deceitful, and unwilling (v9)."


Their response?


"Isaiah--come on already! We don't want any more prophesies or visions of this kind. Don't you have anything nice to say? Tell us pleasant things."


"Stop confronting us!"




Wow, pretty nervy, right?


Well, don't we act the same way? Don't we essentially say the same thing? We want to hear only pleasant things, and we don't want to be confronted by God.


We are often obstinate, rebellious, and unwilling to listen to the Lord's instruction. 


He tells us not to go back to Egypt, which is a symbol of our former life, a life of oppression and sin. 


Yet...


We remain as obstinate as the Israelites. They falsely believed that Egypt was a place of refuge and Pharaoh was a god of protection. We are no different.


We revisit Egypt expecting to find refuge and protection, only to discover that the very thing we flee to is what we once fled from.


Every time we turn our backs on God and go our own way, willfully ignore His direction, or deceive ourselves into thinking that Egypt will offer us protection...woe to us.


We flee to Egypt seeking validation from an unhealthy alliance.


But God..


offers a promise-a way out.




Not in Egypt.

Not in Pharaoh.
Not in the useless people and the unprofitable nation.


But in turning our backs on the enemy and returning to the God who loves us--the only True Source of protection and refuge.
Repentance.

In retreating, and sitting still, waiting for instruction, instead of running off to form unhealthy and unapproved alliances.

Rest.

In receiving the peace that will flow through our minds and our souls. 

Quietness.

In relying on God.

Trust. Confidence.

Let these things settle in your spirit, renewing your soul.


What is your "Egypt?" Have you turned your back and said, "Stop confronting me!" when you've heard the Lord's instruction or rebuke?


We have been given a gift in repentance, rest, quietness and trust. We only need to accept it to take the necessary steps to restoring grace.


Take heart! He is a God of compassion, mercy and grace. Remember, He is always rooting for you!




Tomorrow, we'll explore this verse a little further. Until then...

have a listen to Dennis Jernigan's, If I Could Just Sit With You Awhile



Blessings Along the Path,
Mare


Sharing this post with some of these lovely blogs

Sources:
Matthew Henry Commentary on Isaiah 30
BibleStudyTools.com