This has been a wonderful week for us of breathing in the moments God gives. After the Restore Retreat and the whirlwind of activities, loss and responsibilities that came with early fall for us it has been so wonderful to spend some time with our family. We haven't all been together since our life dramatically changed in ministry and Ken and I were needing some hugs from our girls Mary Elizabeth and Maggie and her husband Spencer. There's nothing like laughter and Mimi and Papaw time with little Evelyn to brighten your spirits. When your children live so far away it is a rare and precious thing to be all together. Our youngest Mary Elizabeth flew into Atlanta from Oklahoma City and we drove in to spend some sweet time connecting and loving on one another. Our weekend began just hanging out on the back deck. You'll have to indulge me a little as my mind and heart are full and I wanted to share some sweet pictures and a few of the lessons I'm learning in this season.
The day after we arrived we headed up to the mountains in search of fall color and a pumpkin patch. Of course, what should have been an 1 1/2 hour trip took 3 hours and things got a little tense for the baby in the car seat, but we finally arrived. We seem to always have adventures and often get a little bit lost whenever we travel! The choir even wrote a song about it one year! This trip was no exception. The peak fall color hadn't really arrived yet, but oh my, there were pumpkins! Giant pumpkins and hayrides and lots of people. It seems like everyone else in Georgia and the surrounding area had the same idea, but we just breathed in the moments and savored it all.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
As we strolled the baby, I thought about the season of change in our personal lives and how like the vibrant leaves of fall, beauty can come from it. We will have to pause and breathe in what He offers us in each season if we are to really live the life the Father has planned.
After the leaves put on their glorious show,
they fall to the ground,
the trees become bare,
and they enter a season of winter and rest.
Truly we have beheld His beauty and glory. Perhaps a season of rest is what He has for us now.
Maybe you need a winter season of rest in your life.
This week I have thought often about a book written by Ken Gire given to me by a dear friend The Lord used it in my life to teach me about looking for Him in the everyday moments, in the art I create, in the beauty around me, in the relationships He calls me to. He is speaking everywhere. Often, I'm not listening, not looking, not responding with my life and my soul to the Divine encounters the Father has designed to uniquely meet the need He sees in my life. I have quoted this little jewel of a book often and given it to many. It seems I must always return to the lessons learned about slowing down, taking in the moments, living a reflective life and looking for windows through which Jesus longs to touch my soul.
“We reach for God in many ways. Through our sculptures and our Scriptures.
Through our pictures and our prayers. Through our writing and our worship.
And through them he reaches for us.
“His search begin with something said. Ours begins with something heard.
His begins with something shown. Ours, with something seen.
Our search for God and his search for us meet at windows
in our everyday experience.
These are windows of the soul.
“But we must learn to look with more than just our eyes and listen with more than just our ears, for the sounds are sometimes faint and the sights sometimes far away. We must be aware, at all times and in all places, because windows are everywhere, and at any time we may find one. Or one may find us.
Though we will hardly know it...unless we are searching for him who for so long has been searching for us.”
Ken Gire, Windows of the Soul
Looking for His windows.
Grateful and breathing in the moments,
As I prayed and tried to think of something meaningful and uplifting for this blog post today, only one thing kept coming to my heart and I wasn’t sure how to go about writing it. Glad I had a notebook in my front seat and a pen so that I could jot down my thoughts at every traffic light and during the stand still traffic jam on one of the busiest streets in Baton Rouge, Essen Lane! My thoughts were confirmed as I got a phone call from Kathy exclaiming that the lids on the tubs she bought for our Restore Retreat paraphernalia didn’t fit and she was going back to the store! What was well organized, placed with the tubs on the shelf, and looked like the right size actually was not! The process of seeking an individual fit had been skimmed over. It was a simple and probably usual mistake made by many. I’ve also done it myself in haste. This incident has provided an appropriate introduction to this week’s devotional blog.
So much of what the world and the church are coming to today seems almost like a One Size Fits All generation. I think about education for our children and what the government is pushing, removing creativity and individualism. I think about the brands I see at the grocery store and the limited and lack of varied supply as in the past, forcing me to buy certain foods. I go to the mall and each department store carries pretty much the same junk! I can’t wear all of the stretchy fabrics! What ever happened to the classics…the staples? Years ago, there was a trend of one size fits all clothing. It was simply false advertising because it was either too big, too little, and never just right! I had a hard time then and I certainly am having a hard time now. One size does not fit all… in most cases!
Hang with me!
Even within the walls of our churches, the push is the same! Nationwide too, as I have visited and read of many! Same type music, typical instruments…same manner of atmosphere…same dancing around issues…same trends…all with a vision and approach of it should work for everyone! If it has any semblance of an individualized look or feel (apart from the one size), it has to be tossed out! The powers that be want to keep in step with the model of other churches or what the world has to offer. What’s up with that?!
Several instances this week led me to really think about the importance of individualism and the power of individuals when they come together for a common goal. As I attended the opening night of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, the new Executive Director spoke about the great machine of each individual instrument and player, notes and rhythms, without such, there would not be the magnificent music of the symphony.
Sitting around the lunch table after the Restore retreat, it was sweet hearing the ladies recognize their own gifts and abilities and thinking through how they could each, willingly, play a significant part should Kathy and I ever open a retreat center! This idea of assembling individuals with varying gifts, for a common goal, is one that Jesus put into action thousands of years ago.
While on the retreat, I was in the shower thinking about different Bible characters and which one I was probably most like. Yep, I don’t let a minute go by that my brain isn’t in some kinda deep thought! I guess I actually had been thinking in this vein, about the disciples, since I began my preparation for teaching John 14. Kathy even brought it up during her teaching…glad we didn’t double dip because I almost brought out some of the same points she had in her teaching! All of the disciples that Jesus chose were placed together for a common goal. Each one was different with specialized gifts, talents and abilities, though some shared a common trade. Personalities varied from great zeal and passion to quiet and unassuming. The goal of this motley crew: to follow Jesus, to learn from Him, to bring others to Jesus, to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, to share in His love and fellowship, minister to others, and to be called His friends.
God designs and chooses our uniqueness to work together with likeminded believers to achieve common goals much like the disciples! We know this, but do we really see the big picture of this in action? Yes, it’s the whole Body of Christ message! In this widely diverse world full of out-of-the-box thinkers, artists, dancers, writers, radicals, along with those seeking classic and established ways of serving Christ, we should not cast aside or demean those appearing as a tiny toenail or the great torso! Each part is important! Nor should we all be constrained to play the same function, say, the eye for instance if we are really a big toe. For in doing so, the only good we might do is to see the inside of a sock, as my husband’s old pastor used to say!
Ministries and Christians alike can often allow the neatly stacked and organized “lids of purpose” to appear attractive and reaching out to all, but looks can be deceptive! In this day of extreme change, one needs to remember that diversity in method, personality and giftedness is in order to meet the many needs of others. Change is inevitable. One size does not fit all except with the love of Christ! As the disciples sat there at the last supper table listening to Jesus tell them of the many changes that would take place, I’m sure their hearts were overwhelmed and they were beginning to feel like orphans, abandoned. This idea was not so. So much uncertainty for them! But with great love, Jesus addressed this issue with them and He continues to address with us today in His Word.
"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Helper, that he may abide with you forever;"
"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name,
He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you."
John 14: 16,18, 26
I charge you my friends to look toward the Holy Spirit in your time of suffering, through your season of change, and during periods that seem to strip you of your calling or purpose, or at times that you feel poured into a universal mold or have the sense that you are an outcast. It is the Holy Spirit that will help you, comfort you, teach you, and bring to your mind all that has been spoken into your life by Him and all of the many ways He has taught you to depend on His goodness and faithfulness!
As believers, we distinguish the singleness of God (in three persons), but also recognize that He has met us individually and has chosen to supply us with diversifying gifts. This passage from Ephesians 4: 4-13 (Amplified Bible) explains.
4 [There is] one body and one Spirit—just as there is also one hope [that belongs] to the calling you received--
5 [There is] one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of [us] all, Who is above all [Sovereign over all], pervading all and [living] in [us] all. 7 Yet grace (God’s unmerited favor) was given to each of us individually [not indiscriminately, but in different ways] in proportion to the measure of Christ’s [rich and bounteous] gift.
8 Therefore it is said, When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive [He led a train of vanquished foes] and He bestowed gifts on men. 9 [But He ascended?] Now what can this, He ascended, mean but that He had previously descended from [the heights of] heaven into [the depths], the lower parts of the earth?
10 He Who descended is the [very] same as He Who also has ascended high above all the heavens, that He [His presence] might fill all things (the whole universe, from the lowest to the highest).
11 And His gifts were [varied; He Himself appointed and gave men to us] some to be apostles (special messengers), some prophets (inspired preachers and expounders), some evangelists (preachers of the Gospel, traveling missionaries), some pastors (shepherds of His flock) and teachers.
12 His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints (His consecrated people), [that they should do] the work of ministering toward building up Christ’s body (the church), 13 [That it might develop] until we all attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the [full and accurate] knowledge of the Son of God, that [we might arrive] at really mature manhood (the completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard height of Christ’s own perfection), the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ and the completeness found in Him.
God’s love and grace is definitely one size fits all but the gifts he distributes is not; however, the result of using those gifts do fit for all who are in Christ when used as the Father intended. And what exactly are the gifts for, you may ask? The purpose of the individualized gifts among believers is to build up one another (the church, believers!) and develop into maturity the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ! It is also the Spirit that brings about unity and that is a supernatural phenomenon! We cannot do that ourselves! Our task is to grow together and work together for one common goal, which ultimately is to glorify the Father in all things!
So as we seek to discover and use our individualized gifts, for one common goal, let us be mindful of this one thing:
It is the Spirit who will guide and direct you into all truth.
"But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth;
for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak;
and He will disclose to you what is to come.
He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you."
John 16: 13,14
So when you are discouraged,
feel the swift winds of change,
feel squeezed into a One Size Fits All approach,
or even sense yourself as an orphan or miss-fit,
Do you realize that ole slew foot, Satan, wants to rob you of your joy?!
Press on and remember that you are victorious, His peace He leaves with you and gives you, and that nothing can separate you from the love of God! These are some of the things that God gives to His children that are One Size Fits All!
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 15: 57, 58
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14: 27
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 38,39
Metaphorically, your “lid of purpose” is perfectly fit onto the tub (you) that the Father has chosen to fill with gifts, talents, and abilities to edify one another and bring glory to His name. He does not design you to sit on a shelf in storage, but to be carried around, opened, shared and emptied, filled again, and moved to another location where His glorious treasures within you are seen, experienced, and minister to others who need a fresh touch, vision, or conformation of what the Holy Spirit has already disclosed.
~ Just Thinking ~
Food for thought: What is the definition of a lid? It is a covering, a removable or hinged cover for a container/vessel. A lid helps to protect the contents of something valuable and only works best when it is designed to fit its vessel. It can be used as a support for another vessel, as in stacking or working together toward a unified goal as in saving space, consolidating, or building up! A lid acts as a seal or a guard from outside elements that may prove harmful to the contents. How would you describe your “lid of purpose?” Is it a proper fit or are you forcing what you perceive as a “lid of purpose” onto a tub for which it is not designed? It is the Holy Spirit Himself that seals us and uses us for His intended purpose and everything fits accordingly!
Grateful for the Spirit of Truth,
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"...apart from Me, you can do nothing." John 15:5b
What a blessing this weekend was for Kathy and Sherry! As God prepared their hearts and taught them many important truths about abiding in Christ over the last couple of months, He proved Himself faithful yet again as He showed up mightily at "The Gift of Abiding in Christ" Restore Retreat this weekend! The women experienced an authentic Passover Feast as we looked deeply into John 13 and the teachings of Jesus to His disciples in the upper room. The Lord revealed His heart for us as we studied and meditated on John 14 and 15.
Our lives were forever changed as we stepped into the pages of Scripture and encountered the Living Word!
Below is just a sampling of the preparation for the retreat, the Passover meal, Kathy teaching, new friendships, and the creative Soulcare Card Party! Our next Restore Retreat is April 17, 2015! Save the date and join us for another session of "The Gift of Abiding in Christ" at Tall Timbers Baptist Conference Center near Alexandria, Louisiana. If you are thinking about a retreat for your Women's ministry, Community Group or just to get some women together, pray about contacting us! Other dates and locations may be available for your own Restore Retreat!
We asked the women to write some thoughts of what the "Gift of Abiding in Christ" retreat meant to them. Here are some quotes from these precious women who invested a weekend of their busy lives to pull away and spend time soaking in God's presence, His Word , worship, prayer and sweet fellowship together as we explored some of Jesus' last words to the disciples in John 13-15.
Father, help me to remember that I can do nothing without you. I want to remain in you. Yet I am prone to wander and try to produce fruit on my own. I need you to help me. I know the discipline of spending time with you will produce the fruit I really want. Peace, joy, love - fruit with and from your heart which will emit a sweet fragrance to those I serve. Thank you for your indwelling Spirit.
The Restore retreat was an amazing few days to slow down and refocus on what is really important - our relationship with Jesus and ABIDING in him. My generation is desperately missing these truths and promises. What a change we could make if we clung to Christ and committed to a life abiding in him! It only takes a small sacrifice of time to catch a glimpse of eternal purposes of our life.
WOW! The Lord was here present with us at the Restore Retreat. When I saw the event posted on facebook I immediately felt like I was to attend. The Lord was so faithful. It was such a sweet time to be with my first choir that poured their life into me. It brought back such beautiful memories. I will never be the same! Thank you Kathy and Sherry for putting this retereat together. I hope to be at the next one this spring. I felt the Lord’s presence in such a very strong way. He revived my heart. I pray for this ministry, that it will be used to water the barren land with God’s abiding presence. Thank you Lord for the “Revival Rain’ that was poured into my heart and so many others that attended.
God bless you both.
Thank you, Lord for inviting me to Restore Retreat twice. It’s clearly Holy Spirit orchestrated. Thank you for annointing Kathy and Sherry with such wonderful gifts and hearts to share. It was the most beautiful music I have ever heard. Being invited to a real Passover was absolutely wonderful and yes, I could imagine what the disciples may have thought, even what they may have said. The teachings were fantastic - a very welcomed depth. It’s your abiding love that I see in Kathy and Sherry - and us here. Thank you for pairing these two servant’s so beautifully.
I cherish you and your friendship Jesus, Love you both, Kathy and Sherry,
12 Gifts of
Abiding in Christ
During the Tapestry of Praise Concert, Sherry accompanies Kathy for her to sing her life's theme song. Listen to the lyrics of this song! It just might become your theme song, too!
We were blessed and amazed at the extravagant love and grace that the Father poured over us this weekend! Thank you for all who were praying for us and the women who came! Truly the divine life of abiding is ours in Christ. May we bear fruit for His kingdom in the days ahead for He has called us to live a life set apart and totally united in Jesus as branches connected to the Vine. It is His work within us that will enable us to lay down our lives. May we answer His high calling and find our rest and hope in Him as He brings forth the fruit of His love within our innermost being.
Grateful for His Abiding Love,
Kathy and Sherry
Please pray about joining us for our next retreat April 17 - 19, 2015 or contact us to schedule a date for your group!
IF JUST ONE MORE THING HAPPENS.....
Before I say anything else, I want to praise the Name of the Lord, for He is greatly to be praised! He is mighty, loving, true, and faithful, and I might also like to add trustworthy. It is by His hand that we are fed, encouraged, corrected, and caressed. Nothing that happens surprises Him! He is the air I breathe, the song I sing, the light unto my path, the door through which I walk, and the King before whom I bow. Because of His goodness, He teaches me and opens my eyes to the truths of His character and how to ascertain the believer’s walk. He puts nothing on me that I cannot bear because He provides a way of escape. That escape is to trust Him to handle whatever He decides to put me through, so that I will rely solely on Him and discover more about His love toward me and more about His character. He is always there for me and provides for just what I need even when I’m ready to throw my hands up or toss in the towel! Great is His faithfulness unto me.
"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man;
and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able,
but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also,
so that you will be able to endure it."
1 Corinthians 10:13
As you may know, Kathy and I are preparing for the Restore Retreat, which happens this weekend. Our theme for this retreat is entitled, “The Gift of Abiding in Christ.” Can I tell you that I have learned more about abiding over the last couple of months and even MORE this week?! I have found myself screaming out, “If just one more thing happens…!” Well, it did and it does! And each time, after I calm down, I realize that I am facing spiritual warfare! Kathy and I both are really in battle and need your prayers!
There have been an abundance of occurrences and I will not go into detail about them, but I will tell you that there have been great sicknesses, issues with jobs, technology malfunctions, high jacked time, fatigue, sleep deprivation, purchasing issues, and geeezzz…this is just a few things off of the top of my head! We both are experiencing the depth of what it means to truly abide in Christ. So much so, I told Kathy that our next retreat was going to be about laughter, joy, and fun…. It seems God always teaches and lets us experience us our theme before we teach it to others! Honestly speaking though, I really am thankful because it draws me closer to the breast of Jesus.
“Most Christians believe that praising God and being thankful is good; however, many think it is optional, something to do after they have served the Lord in other ways. Some Christians only praise God when their circumstances are good and they have a reason to thank Him. The truth is that praising God is not an option. Praise has a powerful effect on the believer, the devil, and on God. It is our highest calling.” ~A. Womack
How does praise affect the believer? When we praise God, we are acknowledging that it is not our own efforts that produce blessings and praising Him helps keeps us humble. By focusing on your problems instead of praising God, you become self-centered and prideful. Praise forces you to get your attention on God and off your problems.
Praising Jesus during difficult times is a sacrifice. But there is also power in praise!
"By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually,
that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name" (Heb. 13:15)
This week I was encouraged and gently admonished by a friend. Of course the Holy Spirit used her words to bring about conviction to my heart. I had been focusing on my “handicaps” instead of focusing on God. I had forgotten to praise and see the grace He was offering me! I was feeling quite overwhelmed, throwing my hands up, and shouting… “IF JUST ONE MORE THING…” I really did have moments of deep breathing, more prayer, asking for help, asking for prayer, and seeking consultation, but I had exceeded my peak of frustration. My friend gently reminded me of my blog from weeks ago…F.E.A.R. Forget Everything And Rest! I should ABIDE and rest in the Lord. She reminded me that God’s grace is sufficient and then she shared a very long list of what she is also facing and like me with feelings of poor competency, lack of time, and simply… my humanity…weaknesses! She reminded me of this scripture verse:
“My grace is all you need.
My power works best in weakness.”
“So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses,
so that the power of Christ can work through me.
That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses,
and in the insults, hardships, persecutions,
and troubles that I suffer for Christ.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corin. 12:9,10
My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
After reading that again…I was able to see the gift that He was offering me. Grace!
Praise is another gift…not only to the Father, but in the power of praise itself.
Praise, sends the devil running and we are freed! Remember Paul and Silas?! Also, read the story of the children of Judah in 2 Chronicles 20:22 to discover how the power of praise works and The Lord does the fighting for you.
I know it’s not always easy to praise in the midst of trials, broken heartedness, or frustrations, but I do know this…You feel a ton better because your focus is on the Lord and not on your circumstance! He provides a way of escape. Jesus prays for us and He provides His Holy Spirit to minister to us. There is a heavenly host battling for us during our weariness and our weakness.
Today, I’m hiding beneath the shelter of His wings. I am praising Him for His goodness and loving ways toward me. And when JUST ONE MORE THING comes my way, I will say of the Lord, His grace is sufficient and He is merciful. I will abide in His hands, close to His breast, and a stay just a whisper away!
Please lift up in prayer, Kathy and me as we continue to prepare for the weekend; and also the women who will be attending this retreat, for I am sure they are likewise in battle. God is planning great things in the lives of these women and us because the evidence of spiritual warfare is tremendous! To God be the Glory!
Abiding & giving praise,
Resources: My friend, R.Robvais and Andrew Womack
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