The Sacred Slow – a book review :)

the sacred slow.pngIt’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a book, so when “Sacred Slow” showed up at my house (even though I hadn’t requested it or offered to review it) I thought… God must have a purpose in me reading/reviewing this.A book about creating margin and being still before God was exactly what my soul needed after a crazy busy three years being back in teaching with a full load – – and accidentally getting my Masters – – and just about the busiest time as a parent with three active teenagers.   Yes, let’s slow down.  Let’s be still.

So, I started this in early June.  There’s 52 days of devotions and response activities to complete, and it is even advised to take a few days to reflect on one chapter so it can take even up to 52 weeks to complete (hey – that’s a full year) if you really want to chew on the concepts, reflect on what God is showing you and truly find the sacred in the slow.

On p. 3 Alicia Britt Chole writes, “Relationship with God is best fed by a steady practice of attentivenessto God.”    The book is divided into twelve movements and the first movement is a reminder that God is with us and to take the time to focus on Him.  Listening and attentiveness leads us to REST in Jesus. In this crazy world of over-scheduled chaos, this book provides practical and biblical ways to build in and intentionally have days/seasons/hours of a sacred slow.

For me, on a personal level, the irony of the timing of doing this devotional of slowing my booty down is not lost on me when a life circumstance slowwwwwed me down…. After a car accident this summer, God was faithful and gracious to show me in my slowed-downedness (is that a word?) that He is with me and that my rest and healing would come from being with Him.  Life crises tend to open the door to intimacy with the Savior and I don’t believe it was a mistake that I was already in the process of this sacred slow journey when this happened.  The Lord is so good.

All of that being said, I would recommend this book/journey/intentionality to anyone that is seeking a reprieve from the chaos, peace in the rat-race and practical application of stillness with the Father.  The first few months of “back to school” are always a busy season for me, so I’d love to hear – what are some ways that you create margin and intentionality in your time with Jesus in chaotic and time-pressed seasons?

 

I did receive this book for free in exchange for an honest review, positive or negative, as a contributing member of the Booklook Bloggers.

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His GRACE is Sufficient

I’ve always wanted a tattoo, but was not going to get one until I knew exactly what I wanted…

Throughout my walk as a Christian, in any sort of valley or hard time, God’s Spirit is always faithful to whisper to mine that His Grace us sufficient.

It’s hard.  My grace is sufficient.

I can’t.  My grace is sufficient.

It’s impossible.  My grace is sufficient.

There’s no way out. My grace is sufficient.

It’s unfair. My grace is sufficient.

It hurts. My grace is sufficient.

I’m alone.  My grace is sufficient.

It became quite clear that if I ever got a tattoo, it was going to include at least the word GRACE, if not this verse in some way, shape or form.

With the word or verse about grace, I wanted the tat to be pretty and feminine.  I thought it would be nice to accent with a flower, and since Gerbera Daisies are one of my favorite flowers I created some designs with a daisy. I tried yellow and pink with different placements.  I liked what I was coming up with, but I never felt like this is it.  And I wasn’t going to get the tat until I was sure.

Throughout a particularly loooong and brutal season, God’s promise that His grace is sufficient continued to be a lifeline of hopein dark days and difficult moments.  In that valley I heard the song “Amaryllis” on Christy Nockel’s Christmas album.  The words are so precious and spoke so deep to my heart that that year for Christmas I printed off the lyrics and bought several friends and family members an Amaryllis plant for Christmas.

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Photo by Nastasia on Pexels.com

“Here I am waiting
In a winter of my own
If it’s gonna be this cold here
Why couldn’t it just snow?
At least I could say through the pain
That it’s somehow beautiful…
And everybody knows that the time to bloom is spring,
But You’re asking me to break through the hardness of this freeze
And You say that You’re with me
And I can make it through anything….

Like an Amaryllis, blooming at Christmas,
When everything is cold and dark
Your love breaks through and I shine
With the brilliance of summer,
Right in the middle of winter!
Somehow surprising the night
Like a Christmas Amaryllis…”

In the coldest and darkest days, God was growing me, creating something beautiful, making all things new. He is doing the same for you. He works ALL things for good for those of us that love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).  God is a constant, even in the dark and His work breaks through the toughest, hardest, frozen soil.

Jesus did and does that for us. When it seems like there’s no hope, no way out, when it’s unfair, it hurts and you’re alone.  When you can not. The Light of Life comes.

Talk about a winter
The world had never known,
Talk about a silence
That hardened up the soil;
No more life left in Eden,
But You knew the time would come…
‘Cause You were growing up a family
That You would call Your own,
And through a fragile people
The Light of Life would come,
And when it seemed like we’d never see Spring,
Heaven gave a King!

So, I ditched the Gerbera and redesigned my sketches with an Amaryllis flower. It’s a perfect representation of the work that Christ does in the winter of our lives. He is with us. He is creating something new.  And even through the tough, hard soil, something beautiful can come from it.  The work He does in us is an Amaryllis flower, with the “brilliance of summer”in the midst of the winters.

Finally, while I was studying in Spain last summer, my roommate had a few tattoos and I shared with her the plan for my tattoo.  She was hype for me to get the tattoo while in Spain and I was down for that – – so I made one final edit… Su gracia es suficienteand switched it to Spanish.  Spain, the Spanish language, how God has allowed me to use Spanish in my life… that was the nicely tied bow on top of the gift, so to speak. 🙂

I didn’t end up getting the tat in Spain but earlier this year in 2018 I did.   The Holy Spirit is my first reminder of His precious, sufficient grace in my life, but this tat is a close second.  Laying on a gurney after the car accident, alone for the moment in my room in the ER, in pain, scared, thankful, nervous, overwhelmed – I glanced at my right arm and there it was.  His GRACE is sufficient.  Su GRACIA es suficiente.  In my spirit I knew that this was going to be another winter season, there was going to be some hard, frozen ground to plow through – and it has, and I have – – but I have confidence in His work through this trial that He’s at work in and through me, making all things new.

“There are the rare and beautiful treasures
That grow when it’s coldest
When nobody’s watching…
Sending a message to a sleeping world
That You are here with us now
And You are making all things new again…”

His GRACE truly is sufficient.

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Cleanin’ Up The Teeth (Before Going To The Dentist…)

I hate going to the dentist. To clarify, I don’t hate my dentist – he’s a great person :). But, going to the dentist is NOT my favorite thing; getting the plaque scraped viciously off of my enamel, the saliva pooling up in the back of my throat trying to choke the life out of me and the hygienist trying to have a conversation with you to which you can only reply mmmhmm or uh-uh while all this is going on – HA!

When I have a dentist appointment coming up, I usually start flossing.   This past time between appointments I actually did floss sometimes between then and now, but the few weeks prior to my appointment I stepped up my flossing game (not the dance, y’all ;)).  I guess I wanted my teeth to be kind of clean, with a little less plaque and be ready to meet the dentist and hygienist.

Isn’t that how it goes? We want to clean up a little, before going to the one who is going to clean and take care of us.

We can view God the same way.

Sometimes we think we have to clean ourselves up before coming to God.  We think we’re too dirty, we’ve made too many mistakes, or we have too many issues.  So, we quit the bad habits (drinking/drugs/sex/drugs/rock-n-roll…. lying/cheating/gossiping/bad language… you get the point) and maybe even start some good ones (serve the community, go to church, or give money towards a worthy cause).

But, here’s the thing – we do NOT need to clean ourselves up before coming to Jesus. And nothing we DO can earn His love.

Jesus says in his red letters, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick DO need one” (Mark 2:17).  In other words, those who have perfect teeth (no plaque, no bleeding gums, no cavities) do not need to go to the dentist.   There is NO ONE with perfect teeth – thus the need to go to the dentist.  Likewise, there is NO one who is good enough to come to Jesus.  Paul says in Romans 3 that we are “all under sin, as it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one” (vs. 10).  Later in that chapter he says we all have dirty teeth – – not really – – he says, “For ALL (emphasis mine) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (vs. 23). We all have DIRTY TEETH.  We are all in need of the GREAT PHYSICIAN (or dentist ;)).  The second part of that verse (Mark 2:17) Jesus is saying, “I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

You don’t need to clean up before coming to Jesus.  In fact, you CAN’T clean yourself up. And that’s ok.  Jesus accepts you and me how we are – dirty, plaque-laden, gingivitis, halitosis and all.  John 6:37 says that whoever “comes to Me (Jesus) I will never cast out.”  In fact, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” HE does the cleansing.  In fact, when the Lord cleans us up, we can “be clean… whiter than snow” (Psa. 51:7).

Psalm 46:10 says to “stop your striving and know that I am God.” Stop striving to clean yourself up and let Him do it.  Come to Jesus as you are, confess your sin and surrender to Him.  Accept what HE has already done for you. He will clean you (forgive you, sustain you, strengthen you, give you hope).

I Don’t Like to be WEAK…

I don’t like to be weak.  I’m sure most of us can say the same thing.  I don’t like to be weak physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally.  I don’t like the weight of weakness, the dependency of weakness, or the helplessness of weakness.  Can you relate?

A month ago, I was in the habit of taking my pup to Findlay’s reservoir to walk.  It’s a four mile walk around the most scenic spot of Hancock County.  I walk an 18-20 minute mile around so it takes me about an hour and twenty minutes to an hour and a half (depending on swim stops for the pup :)).  It’s good exercise and a fun, relaxing activity to do with my pup. And, the biggest challenge is when you get halfway around and have to use the bathroom (TMI – I digress – HA!).

Three weeks ago today, my daughter and I were in a car accident.  I don’t want to over-sensationalize the accident – it was a bad crash, but we walked away with non-life-threatening injuries.  Although it wasn’t life-threatening (thank You, Jesus) it was, in a way, life-altering. I’m dealing with a bum foot and sore leg and my daughter is dealing with a shoulder injury to top the list.  Again, I don’t want to over-sensationalize the injuries and make them more than they are – it could’ve been a LOT worse – but they are injuries.  And they have altered some day-to-day functions.

Overall, Em and I have remained positive, trusting in God, our health professionals and “the process” for our healing.  But yesterday, when going to do some low-impact movement exercise in the pool my foot was giving me more trouble than usual, I felt weak.  I thought to myself, “I don’t like to be weak,” and had a “this sucks” moment rehearsing the fact in my mind that in three weeks I need to be able to be on my feet all day, with non-stop activity and responsibilities with the focus on OTHERS and not myself (#backtoschool).

But, God is faithful.

One of the signs at the pool said something along the lines of FAITH is greater than our fear.

Another said, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you” quoting Isaiah 43:2.

Ok, my Faithful Comforter. Thank You.

Today, in my devotions I read 2 Corinthians 12.  If you know me, you know my tattoo is based on this chapter, but I’m going to blog my tat😉 later this week – stay tuned. Today, my heart was comforted and encouraged by this passage on weakness.   Jesus reminded me that in our weakness, He is strong. Paul didn’t like being weak either, using the phrase “torment” to describe his “thorn.” Jesus, in His love and sovereignty and purpose and plan reminded Paul that “HIS power is perfected in weakness” (vs. 9).

The dependency of our weakness drives us to depend on Him. The weight of our weakness is lifted in Him. The helplessness of our weakness is comforted by Him.

THAT is the POWER of CHRIST in our weaknesses – because in CHRIST, we can become strong.

It’s Whatever, Man

December 31, 2015.  The years just move along a little faster with each passing one. Gracious!  It’s always a day of at least some reflection.

I never declared “One Word” for 2015.  In fact, if I would have it probably would’ve been “It’s Whatever Man”.  Ok – that’s not a word, it’s a phrase so it wouldn’t even be a “One Word”, it would be a “One Phrase” (because just “Whatever” doesn’t quite encompass it all). Ha!

I mean – look at this blog.  This is only the 4th post in 2015!  It’s whatever, man.

At the end of 2014 we made a difficult decision to stay in the States as God began to show us it wasn’t His timing for another overseas ministry appointment. It’s whatever, man.

We began 2015 still picking up the financial pieces of the previous years where Kevin and I took turns being unemployed or going without a paycheck.  Starting over in your early 40s is not exactly delightful and we’re not where we want to be… but it’s whatever, man. 

On one hand it’s whatever, man, can be a cynical place, a white flag or a time to just go through the motions.  And there has definitely been some of that in 2015.  But it can also be a quiet surrender; trusting a Sovereign God in His timing, in doors that He opens and shuts and a season of patience and waiting and healing and refueling.

As I glance back over 2015 with some of the hindsight the Lord gives us, I can see some of the whatevers as blessings.  I only wrote three other blogs posts because I was so busy GOING BACK TO SCHOOL to renew my license for my NEW TEACHING JOB!  God has opened doors for each of us Grubbies for new opportunities and different communities to be a part of – strategic placements for His glory, we pray.  We still have a long way to go but Kevin and I are both EMPLOYED, have steady incomes and are on a financial plan.

In Job 2:10, Job asks, “Should we only accept good from God and not adversity?”  Great question. Sometimes the challenges that come along life’s path are just whatever to us, but maybe, just maybe, they are a part of His greater plan, a part of His refining work IN us and stuff He will use for His glory.

It’s all about PERSPECTIVE.

Perspective can mean the difference in wallowing in self-pity and trusting in a Sovereign God.  Perspective can mean the difference in fear (of the future, of the unknown, of failure, of lack, of __________) and walking by faith.  Perspective can mean the difference in despair and hope.

With 2016 just hours away, that’s my word for this year:

PERSPECTIVE

Will I fix my eyes on my circumstances or will I keep my “eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our (my) faith?” Heb. 12:2

Will I freak out at the not so wonderful things that will happen this year or will I “hold on to the confession of our (my) hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  Heb. 10:23

Will my life answer the question that the enemy posed to God regarding Job (Job 1:9) – “Does Kendra fear God for nothing?”  Which is basically asking will Kendra be devoted to God only throughout good things in life? Or will she, will I, be devoted and bless God through EVERYTHING that comes across my path in 2016?

It’s all about perspective.

Vitamins… For Your Soul :)

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Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 10.14.14 AMVitamins. I’ve been a regular vitamin taker since 2011. I take a good quality, effective vitamin pack that includes a multi-vitamin with maximum mineral absorption (so much better than over-the-counter brands – and no this isn’t a commercial 😉 ), antioxidant support to fight off free-radicals, probiotic with 10 billion colonies of flora to fight off the bad bacteria and enhance overall digestive health and Omega 3 fish oils to support cardiovascular health and decrease inflammation. The great thing about these vitamins, is when I’m consistent with taking them daily, I. Do. Not. Get. Sick. I really don’t. I have energy. I feel GOOD! However when I don’t take them, I can feel myself start to get run down (life is busy!), start the beginnings of a cold or sore throat, and feel really tired (and with tired comes cranky, moody, irritable – you get the point). When that happens I get back on track and take my vitamins. I try to encourage my family to take them… but they don’t… and they get sick. I try to get my friends to take them but they insist on the over-the-counter stuff or other natural remedies… and still get sick.

This is the same thing that happens in my spiritual life, my relationship with God. To be healthy spiritually there’s things we can do – draw near to Him and He draws near to you (us) James 4:8. Just like my vitamins, it’s the basics… spend time in the Word (sword of the Spirit Eph. 6:17), pray and talk with (and listen to) my Savior (fervent prayer of a righteous person has great power James 5:16), fellowship with other believers (not staying away from worship meetings... Heb. 10:25) and pray for faith (take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one Eph. 6:16). And just like when I don’t take my physical vitamins, when I don’t take my spiritual vitamins I get grouchy, edgy and irritable. I may have a lack of faith or be anxious. Again, I try to encourage family and friends (and you reading this) to take their spiritual vitamins as well – so they won’t get sick. Taking these spiritual vitamins make us better equipped to fight off the bad bacteria, attack the free radicals that invade our lives, reduce the inflammations that rise up and encourage overall spiritual health.

Are you off track like I’ve been before in both my physical and spiritual vitamin routine? Are you worn down, on the verge or within the throws of sickness and germs? Start today. Take those vitamins. Not only will you be healthier spiritually, but the goal is to know Him (God)… (Phil 3:10) and glorify Him. These vitamins get you on that right track to know Him, for your spiritual health, for your relationship with God and equip you to walk in the purposes He has for your life.

Tear That Baby Down!

God is gracious to reveal idols to us. What is any idol?  “A picture or object that is worshipped as a god,” anything that takes priority before God.  It can be anything from food to work, your kids, entertainment, your hobbies (music, sports, hunting, fitness…), your new puppy (wait what?), politics, even serving, status or recognition.  Maybe for you it’s money, success, things?  Or contrarily it could be our struggles?  Maybe it’s social media, electronics, gadgets, gizmos and more? Could it even be your friends?

For me, God shows me when something is creeping into idolatry when:

  • It gets me all worked up
  • It is my main topic of conversation
  • It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up or keeps me up at night
  • It lures me from my quiet time with the Lord
  • I get all obsessed with it
When God shows us idols in our lives, our response should be:
Thankfulness – that He cares enough to show us when/if we have something that comes before Him because He desires an intimate, personal relationship with us – let that sink in… the Creator of the Universe wants a personal relationship with us! Wow.
Repentance – an urgency to tear down any idols and turn to God.  Confess what has been taking His place and ask for forgiveness and for Him to work in your life and heart to tear that baby down.
Renewal – that He will again be your first love. Spend time in worship and adoration of our loving Father and His Precious Son. Hold that idol in the light of a Holy God and focus on what really matters in this life. Place your attention and your energy into your relationship with the Lord, replacing the energy and attention that was put on the idol.
Nothing on that list above is bad in and of itself, but only one thing can have first place. What (or who) do you want to have first place in your life?
Nothing satisfies like a personal relationship with God.
For further study:
1 John 5:20-21
2 Kings 17:15
Isaiah 45:5
Matt. 6:33
Deut. 12:32-13:18

Photocred: klove