Five Minute Friday: Become

A fluttering throng of brown flitted so quickly my eyes couldn’t focus on any one of them. As I stepped closer to the river’s edge, toward a space of overturned dirt, my breath caught. Hundreds of wings erupted into flight.

I’d never observed so many butterflies in one setting, and I’d never seen this type of butterfly. They didn’t seem to seek out flowers. Maybe bugs. My mind spun with questions. Where did they come from? What kind of caterpillar had they been? How long would they live?

Later at lunch, we turned the corner from an outdoor garden to see a large bush full of flowers–its leaves seeming to come to life. But, no, butterflies. Bigger ones. Black and iridescent blue. And these liked the blooms.

I marveled at their masses. Just. So. Many. I filmed them. Took pictures. And simply took in the sight of them.

The mystery of metamorphosis moved in a rhythmic dance before me. How beautiful they’d become. And by no effort on their part. As caterpillars they feasted on what God had provided. Then obediently allowed themselves to be cocooned, seemingly dead–but merely asleep–a season of preparation that would burst forth in glorious new life.

Oh, that I would surrender to such rhythms, trusting my Creator to feed me and lead me. Believing that every step and stage and season held promise of the new person I’d become.

Dwell: By Still Waters

“He leads me beside quiet waters.” 
Psalm 23:2b

Sitting on the riverbank, I perched at the water’s edge on a tree root protruding from the ground like a small bench. It had taken half an hour, easily, for me to finally sit still once I’d reached the river. Fluttering butterflies had beckoned my attention. Turtles and minnows had drawn my eyes–and my camera–to them. 

But, even as I sat, I had the hardest time quieting my thoughts, which darted from one topic to another, much like the dragonflies around me. 

Up at the house, before I made the trek downhill to the river, I’d opened my laptop to ‘complete’ my post–this post–on the verse about being led to quiet waters. To my disappointment, I hadn’t written a word the week before. So, I began making the mental adjustment to start from scratch–when it hit me. I’m sitting in a very quiet place beside a very still river. What more inspiration could a writer want?

And that’s when I marched myself right on down to the quiet waters known as the Frio River. 

Only I couldn’t get my mind to stop thinking. Frustrated with myself, I finally took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I listened. The faint rumble of distant rapids up river. A Carolina Chickadee chirping playfully nearby. Acorns dropping with gravity’s pull–thud, smack, crash. Singing cicadas up in the top of a 1000 year old cedar tree.

I smelled and relished the freshness of the air. No dust. No pollution. I felt the sun’s warm rays on my arms and the cool breeze coming off the water, blowing my hair gently across my face. 

Then I opened my eyes to see water so still that if I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t think the current flowed. My eyes caught signt of a leaf floating across the water, caught in the breeze, making me think of my boys when they used to race leaves down creeks and streams.

The water was so clear that I could see the shadow of a fish. Only to my shock did I realize that was no shadow but an actual fish. A BIG fish. My vision zoomed out to see several fish. Of every size–from the tiniest minnows to the grandaddy catfish. And I smiled, thinking my brother would be disappointed not to be here to drop a line in.

My thoughts no longer swirling–sufficiently stilled–I called on God to lead me. And waited. 

Everything about me felt at rest. My lungs pain free. My breathing steady. My feet content to sit. My hands empty of phone and other futile tools. My whole body at peace. 

That’s when I realized what it means to be led by God to quiet waters. Yes, to quench our thirst. But also to be so at rest that all fear and urgency and to-do lists have been replaced by the peace of God’s presence.

This is where God wants to lead us.

This is dwelling with God–intentionally getting our bodies and minds still long enough to seek Him. And wait. And receive. And just be.

JD Walt challenges me all the time with his out-of-the-box thinking because he is one who dwells with God most intentionally–in His Word, in His presence. And when we dwell with God like that, we can’t help but be changed. Transformed.

But, too often in our western way of doing things, we come at our faith more transactionally–God, I’ll do this so You’ll do that. God, You do this, and I’ll do that. And, absolutely, the cross calls us forward to trade in our sin for His grace, to give up a life without Him for an eternity at His side. We call out to Him believing Him for all He has done for us, and we become His. Transaction complete.

That, however, is only part of the faith life, or what JD calls the first half of the gospel. The first half of the gospel is transactional; the second half is transformational. In other words, to believe IN Jesus is only the first half of the game. Jesus also wants us to suit-up and jump in for the second half. He wants us to step into a life where we are shaped and transformed by Him–what theologians call sanctification. It’s a daily dying to self and living for Christ. THIS is living the abundant life Jesus died for us to have (John 10:10).

Verse two of Psalm 23–the making us lie down in green pastures and being led to still waters–is not saying, “God will help me find green pastures and He will help me locate still waters or He will help me do a better job with my soul care. Help me. Help me. Help me.“** That’s transactional faith.

That’s not to say we don’t ask Him for help. It is just not all there is to God. 

In fact, what God would love to hear from us more than “Help me” is “Have me.”** JD calls this transcendent faith. Jennie Allen has dubbed this way of  living as an anything attitude–where our minds, hearts, and hands are open in such a way that we can honestly and wholly say, “God, I’ll do anything.” It’s a rising above fear and rationalization. It’s a transcendence of what the world (our famillies, our friends, even our own minds) would say is normal or good or right.

Like Abraham saying yes to a big move without knowing where God was leading.
Like Noah saying yes to build an ark for a flood when he’d never seen rain before.
Like David stepping up to kill a giant that no other soldier in Saul’s army would.
Like Jesus stepping forward to be arrested even when He knew what awaited Him.

So, as I sit here watching a quiet river subtly float by, I take in the beauty. I breathe in the gift of being in such a peaceful place. I receive God’s reminder of what it feels like to be in His presence. Then, I release everything that hinders me from giving God my everything. I name the fears. I name the doubts. I let them go, to float away like a leaf on a river. 

And I say, God, have me.

Father God, You, who spoke all of creation into being, continue to speak. Sometimes your voice comes in the earthquakes of life or in the burning flames of disaster. But most often, your voice comes like the gentle breeze across a quiet river. I realize now that if I’m not sitting still and quieting my mind and body, I’ll miss what You are saying. Lord Jesus, You, who willingly stepped into the chaos and pain of crucifixion on my behalf, continue to step into my life. Sometimes I need your help, and I boldly call on You in those moments. Sometimes I simply need YOU. Lord, I call out to You, HAVE ME. I know that You are mine. Today, I make sure You know that I am yours. Holy Spirit, You, who hovered over the waters that knew no boundaries, continue to hover over my life. Yes, You are IN ME. But, somehow, You are also WITH ME. As You hover with me, I pray that You will enable me to see each way I hesitate and resist giving Jesus my all so that I can surrender them to Him. I pray that You will empower me to speak “have me” every single day–and really mean it. I desire to be a follower who consistently and increasingly finds her soul restored not so much by the green pastures and the still waters but by the presence of God himself. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
(Inspired by Psalm 23:1-2, Genesis 1:1-3, 1 Kings 19:11-14, JD Walt)

  • Rhythms: A rhythm I have been hearing about a lot lately and have acutely felt the need for is Sabbath rest–taking set aside time on a regular basis to rest. And for each of us that may look differently. For me quiet walks, journaling while listening to worship music, or talking with a good friend at a coffee shop fill my soul. I am, however, learning the technique of just being. Especially with God.
    • A consistent rhythm for this series is to memorize Psalm 23. This week we add, “He leads me by quiet waters” to what we’ve already put to memory–so now we have verses one and two locked in our brains. What translation are you memorizing?
  • Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
    • I quoted JD Walt from his Seedbed Daily Text, February 25, 2020. He did a brief series on the Twenty-Third Psalm that I love referring back to.
    • I cannot overstate how pivotal Jennie Allen’s book, Anything, has been for me. In telling her story, she has challenged and equipped mine. I knew as I read her book that I was not at a place in my faith journey to be able to pray “anything, God” as she had. About ten years later, I can say I do make that my prayer now!
    • Our current playlist is packed full of songs that help us settle into a quiet, restful space–led to quiet waters and the peace of His presence.
  • We’re a flock. We’re a fellowship of believers. We’re a community. Know that you are not alone. You’ll walk these paths with Christ at your side and your sisters hemmed around you.
    • As you feel led, share in the comment section. Let us know how God is leading you. And how we can be praying for you. Ask questions. And share your thoughts.
    • I hope you’ll invite someone to join our flock. All sheep need the Good Shepherd.
  • All the photos this week are by me (or of me).

Dwell: In Green Pastures

“He makes me lie down in green pastures”
Psalm 23:2a, NIV

Can you think back to a moment in your childhood when your parent’s presence calmed you? Like after a bad dream, and you sneak to their bedroom. Just lying on the floor next to my parents’ bed made me feel better because they were close by.

Michael Jr, a Christian comedian, created the coolest Father’s Day video a few years ago. His newborn daughter, literally minutes after delivery, is screaming and flailing on her ‘bed.’ Michael, her daddy, leans near her and speaks soothing words. And she stills. No more cries. 

A few minutes later, as the nurse is working on her, the baby screams again. And, daddy gets close and speaks. She quiets. Then as he says, “I love you,” she opens her eyes. It’s beautiful. And it illustrates just how much presence matters.

For newborn babies. For sheep. For each of us.

Sheep Need Presence

An interesting fact about sheep that I learned while reading Phillip Keller’s book, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, is that four things have to happen before sheep will lie down. All four. Freedom from fear, tension, aggravations, and hunger. 

  • If a sheep is afraid for her life, she runs. She “bolts in blind fear” (p.42). 
  • If a sheep struggles with tensions between others in her own flock–which happens if the head ewe is a bully–she remains standing, always ready to defend herself. 
  • If a sheep is aggravated by pests–like flies and ticks–she incessantly moves to be rid of them.
  • If a sheep is hungry, never able to get filled, she constantly grazes.

There is no lying down in peace for a sheep if she’s afraid, tense, irritated, or hungry–and freedom from all of these depends on the presence of the shepherd. Only the shepherd can make it possible for sheep to lie down, to rest, to be content.

  • When her shepherd draws near, fear evaporates.
  • When her shepherd appears, the sheep’s attention goes to him. In fact, all the sheep forget their rivalries and in-fighting (p.47).
  • When her shepherd comes close to do the diligent care of preventing and ridding her of pests, the sheep calms.
  • When her shepherd calls to her, leading her to a lush, green pasture, she follows and eats her fill. Then she’ll lie down and rest as she ruminates.

The shepherd’s presence makes all the difference in a flock’s behavior. Left on their own, they exist anxious, defensive, miserable, and unsatisfied. But with a good shepherd’s presence, all four deterrents to rest can be eliminated.

Then, and only then, sheep lie down. 

Green Pastures

With a little context, we can better understand the significance of green pastures. Where David kept flocks, near Bethlehem, green pastures were nearly non-existent. To this day, the terrain of this area is dry, brown, and sun-scorched. In other words, “green pastures did not just happen by chance. Green pastures were the product of tremendous labor, time and skill” (p.53). 

Labor–like planting seeds and irrigating water. 
Time–it takes a while for seeds to germinate and plants to grow. 
Skill–there’s much to know about growing edible green plants for sheep in a desert.

This is a flock of goats just east of Jerusalem. Not much green here.
This shot is closer in, so you can see the scraggly vegetation available to herds in the desert of Israel.

So, when a flock of sheep–who can never lie down and rest until they’re full–is led to a green pasture, they’ve been taken to a place of extravagant provision. The shepherd has sacrificed much to make it happen. But, we remember there’s no deeper satisfaction for a good shepherd than seeing his sheep content (p.35).

With all this in mind, we can imagine David looking back on his abiding life and to speak over us just how much like a good shepherd God has been. David is proclaiming that God prepared places of peaceful provision for him throughout his life. 

Which is why when David describes God as “making him lie down in green pastures,” he is not implying a use of force. Rather, God’s presence and provision made David so content and safe that he was able to lie down–like a sheep in a green pasture–without fear or tension, aggravation or hunger. 

People Need Presence

Like sheep, we need presence–of other people, but even more so we need the presence of our Good Shepherd.

When fear–in all its forms, like worry, anxious thoughts, or dread–pulls me into its grips, my only escape is recognizing Jesus is near. I’m learning to replace the spinning, ‘what if’ thoughts with truth. Jesus is here. Jesus is my shepherd. Jesus has not given me a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). I name the fear, and I remember Jesus is near. Many times and in many different ways I keep at this pattern until I rest, at peace.

When insecurity and pride cause me to act out divisively and unjustly, I’m like a bully sheep who wants her way, who wants to be right, who wants the accolades. But, when I put my eyes on Jesus, all the jealousies and divisions fall away. His presence unifies and clarifies. His presence somehow makes all the silly, worldly priorities dissipate. His presence helps us focus on what matters most: Him, love, unity in His name and for His kingdom. To be close to Jesus, “conscious of His abiding Presence, made real in my mind, emotions, and will–by the indwelling gracious Spirit–is to be set free from fear of my fellow man and whatever he might think of me” (p.50). To walk in intimate companionship with Christ is to be glad to lie down and let the world go by (p.49).

When life ‘bugs’ us, all the irritations can nag at us till we’re grumpy, unpleasant to be around, and even self-destructive. We can never settle into a comfortable position or place because everything gets on our nerves. We fidget and fight back. We languish in misery and lash out. But when the Holy Spirit reminds us of Christ’s presence, He brings quietness, serenity, and strength (p.52). Like a calming, soothing oil, the Spirit pours Himself over us. As we quiet, we can align our hearts and minds with Jesus and find a peace that surpasses all understanding and circumstance (Philippians 4). 

When we insist on eating from the barren soil of the world’s fallow fields, we starve. We move from place to place, anxiously striving to find something to satisfy our hunger. All the while Jesus beckons us to His fertile field. “Come eat,” He calls to us. “Come to me and never hunger” (John 6:35). And as we make our way to his green pasture, we wonder how He alone could possibly make us content, but we’re desperate. So we eat. And for the first time, we find satisfaction. Fulfillment. Contentment. And we lie down, ruminating over all He is and does.. 

Friends, to fully dwell in Christ–to find the peace and true rest we crave–we need to enter our Good Shepherd’s green pasture. He’s gone before us and sacrificed much so that we can eat to our content. So that we can feel safe in His presence because we trust He’s there to protect and provide.

I don’t know about you, but this is the life I long for. I’m so tired of worry. I’m so tired of being tired. I’m ready to be fearless and full in spirit, free of aggravations and tensions. I desire to be so content that I’m made ready to lie down. And rest with my Shepherd.

Father God, Your generosity and care astound me. Like David, I look back over my life and am in awe of all the times You’ve been there for me. All the ways You’ve provided for me and protected me. Forgive me for forgetting just how close You are. Lord Jesus, thank You for the great sacrifice You made so that I would have all I need to grow and thrive in this world. And, because of the mystery that is Ascension and Pentecost, I know You are always with me. I long to remain with You always. I am so humbled to know that You’ve gone before me and prepared green pastures for me–so that I can eat and be satisfied in Your presence. Holy Spirit, thank You for pouring yourself out on me, a balm on my irritated, restless soul. I soak in Your presence and peace. I welcome all your work in me. I listen for your nudges as You speak to my spirit all that the Father has given You to say over me. And I ask for your help to keep my eyes on my Good Shepherd. I know that it’s only in His presence that I’ll find true contentment and rest. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(inspired by The Believer’s Warfare Prayer, Psalm 23, Jeremiah 8:22 & 33:6, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Matthew 28:20, John 14:17, John 6:55-59, John 16:13, Psalm 4:8)

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  • Rhythms: The more I enter into these rhythms of time with the Lord–entering His presence through prayer and His Word–my body stills and my spirit calms. I feel myself letting go of to do lists and the incessant need to learn or accomplish. I feel myself enjoying these moments of simply ‘being.’ And after researching and writing about ‘lying down in green pastures,’ I realize where my Shepherd has been leading me. So, I hope that you are discovering your own rhythms–not legalistic lists that must be checked off, but the ebbs and flows of time with God, getting to know Him better and allowing yourself to remain with Him.
    • One rhythm this series is to memorize Psalm 23. This week we add, “He makes me lie down in green pastures” to what we’ve already put to memory (verse one). If it helps to put these verses to a tune, do so! If it helps to write it out and see it everyday, do that! Knowing this incredible Psalm by heart will be a rhythm for our souls for the rest of our lives.
  • Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
    • I know you want to see it. 🙂 Michael Jr’s baby video
    • It was tempting this week to tell you to just go read chapter three of Phillip Keller’s A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.* He shares some amazing stories to go along with the four deterrents to a sheep’s contentedness.
    • Though I didn’t quote it directly, Aimee Walker’s devotion, “He Makes Me Lie Down,” inspired me. It’s from Day 3 of her Psalm 23 Mini Study at The Devoted Collective.
    • Matthew’s The Believer’s Warfare Prayer continues to be a steady part of my daily/weekly rhythm as well as an influence for my thoughts about God and His will–and my own emotions, body, spirit, and will.
    • Our current playlist is a great resource for settling into worshipful rhythms. I added a song this week because I kept hearing its lyric about REST in my mind. MercyMe’s “Word of God Speak” embodies the idea of resting in God’s presence beautifully:

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You’re in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness

  • We’re a flock. We’re a fellowship of believers. We’re a community. Know that you are not alone. You’ll walk these paths with Christ at your side and your sisters hemmed around you.
    • As you feel led, share in the comment section. Let us know how God is leading you. And how we can be praying for you. Ask questions. And share your thoughts.
    • I hope you’ll invite someone to join our flock. All sheep need the Good Shepherd.

Featured Photo by Jessica Anderson on Unsplash
*an affiliate link with which I might earn a bit

Dwell: Without Lack

A great majority of Christians on the planet today have grown up hearing verse one of Psalm 23 this way:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
(Psalm 23:1, KJV)

Pausing to reread those nine words, try to take in what is meant by, “I shall not want.” If you read it as I do, it sounds as if we’re being told what to do: don’t want. It reads like a prescription for believer-behavior because the Old English word, shall, brings with it a sense of obligation, conveying a high moral should-ness.

But that’s not David’s intent. A quick overview of his life helps us understand:

As a young shepherd, David faces and fights-off ferocious animals.
As an awkward teen, David has to kill a giant. Or be killed.
As the hero of his people, David slays tens of thousands–in battle after battle (1 Samuel 18:7).
As the anointed king, David runs for his life from mad King Saul. For years.
As the proud king of Israel, David dances but his wife despises him (2 Samuel 6:16).
As the restless king, David sleeps with another man’s wife. Then kills her husband.
As the repentant king, David grieves the loss of his child.
As the aging king, David watches as his children spiral out of control.

And yet. David looks over his life and announces, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

This list of life’s hardships and losses seems harsh. In fact, the world would tell David to give up on God because He’s failed him. The world would look at this list and say God can’t be good because David’s life has been way too hard.

But, David says otherwise. To make sense of his assertion, let’s begin our search of Scripture with a working-out of word choice.

Comprehending Want and Lack

In this Psalm, which is a descriptive poem, David sets out to express the result of a life in the care of the Good Shepherd. So, with these two opening statements that make up verse one, he establishes the Who (God) then emphasizes the Who. To clarify, “I shall not want” serves as a magnifier to express a reality: with God as his shepherd, David wants for nothing.

It also helps to know that the Hebrew word for ‘want’ means ‘to lack,’ which is why a translation like the NIV helps us hear David’s intent a little more clearly (despite the comma splice):

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”
(Psalm 23:1, NIV)

JD Walt helps differentiate: “To say, ‘I have a good shepherd; therefore, I lack nothing,’ is quite a different thing than to say, ‘I have a good shepherd; therefore, I should not want anything’” (The Seedbed Daily Text, Feb 25, 2020). The difference is more like cause-and-effect rather than behavior modification.

Interpreting That Lack

So, now that we understand what David is saying, we can work toward knowing what he means. Shepherd, pastor, and scientist, Phillip Keller, helps us make further sense of the relationship between the Shepherd and this lack of need. He observes, “It is the boss–the manager–the Master in people’s lives who makes the difference in their destiny” (Keller, 33). 

As a scientist, Phillip has observed wealthy men who dazzle with their outward show of success yet remain “poor in spirit, shriveled in soul, and unhappy in life” (p.33). However, he’s witnessed people in great physical poverty radiate “a deep, quiet, settled peace that is beautiful to behold” (p.34). As he’s analyzed this incongruity, he concludes the two groups serve two different masters: money and God. Perhaps too often we try to convince ourselves we can manage both. But, Jesus warns, we can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We either serve money or God–but never both.

Phillip attests that those who wholeheartedly follow the Good Shepherd are content. They’ve put every piece of their lives under the faithful care of the Master who loves them. God is enough, and their lives reflect that truth. 

As a shepherd and pastor, Phillip has watched his flocks with curiosity, noting how some have deep wells of dissatisfaction–always wanting what they don’t have. Sheep who look for holes in the fence in order to get to other pastures. People who covet what others own. Neither are ever satisfied (p.34).

So, when David says he lacks nothing, he’s expressing a contentedness of spirit that goes beyond the physical. Even in all those hard circumstances, David’s Master has been there for him. The Good Shepherd has always provided. And David’s spirit rests contentedly.

Photo by Sabina Sturzu on Unsplash

Applying the Truth

When we come up against our own discontent, the lies of the enemy, or the pull of the world, truth will be our anchor. Jesus says He is the truth (John 14:6). Paul instructs us to buckle on the truth (Ephesians 6:14). Peter warns us we require constant reminding of the truth (2 Peter 1:12). And truth is always at the ready in God’s Word (John 17:17). 

While the world balks at believers who stubbornly stand on faith in the face of adversity, trying to convince us that God is fickle, the truth is God remains firm and steady. While some will tempt us with the grass on their side of the fence–to follow their master–the truth is, we can remain firm and steady in Christ.

When we pick up truth, we remember that Jesus told us we will have trouble in this world (John 16:33). In other words, life is hard, but our Shepherd always leads and never leaves–He has overcome the world! 

Truth can be bolstered each time we reflect on God’s past provisions–to carry, nurture, feed, and lead us. As we look back, we remember the truth: God is faithful. As such, we can put trust in our Shepherd, who will be there for us, now and in the future. 

As I am learning how my role looks in this season as a parent of adult children who have not yet fully launched into the world, I have come face-to-face with truth: I have not fully released my sons to God–even though He has promised He has them in His hands. I feel the reality of my lack of trust in God when overwhelm rises because I’ve taken on responsibilities that are my sons’. Or, when dread creeps in as I anticipate confrontations. Or, when anxiety rises because I worry about their futures. Overwhelm, dread, anxiety. These are not the feelings a mom wants to have when she thinks about her kids. And that’s my clue I’m not dwelling in the shelter of the Most High. Instead, I’ve stepped away from truth and picked up old habits. 

It helps so much to think back over my sons’ lives and recall all the times God showed up and provided. When I focus on the many moments of God’s faithfulness, my own faith in Him reignites.

It also helps when I spend more time in His presence–because it’s with Him that I find covering and peace and hope. So, when I woke up with anxious thoughts this morning, rather than feeding them with conversation rehearsals or controlling plans, I grabbed my Bible. I went out on my porch and sat in with Him. I filled my mind with His Truth. I focused on Jesus, choosing to trust that 1) He really does have my sons in His hands, and 2) He will give me all I need to say and do–in His time.

A miracle happens each time I do these things. My spirit rests; the anxiety dissipates; my heart finds peace and joy. 

And, “there’s not a deeper satisfaction for the Shepherd than seeing His sheep contented” (p.35). 

Photo by Sam Carter on Unsplash

Dying to Self

Much comes against our desire to live content lives with our Shepherd. Temptations teasing us to ‘want more’ flash across screens and flaunt in the stores. Our own tendencies to compare ourselves with others leave us with that feeling of lack. Lies within the Church that say material prosperity is a sign of God’s favor beckon us to their fallow fields. 

But, in writing this Psalm, David has left us a treasured truth. With God as our Shepherd, we truly lack nothing. Because in Him, we have everything. 

And there’s the ‘dwelling’ truth for us today. To dwell fully in God is to know Him as the Good Shepherd–the One who provides for every need and carries us through every valley. 

To dwell fully in God is a ‘dying to self’ decision (Galatians 2:20). It’s to choose our Master. As Kendra Adachi, the Lazy Genius, would say: decide once. Decide once that God is your Master. Decide once to believe His promises and trust His good nature. Decide once to follow the Shepherd–and keep following!

Then look for Him in every moment. Choose to dwell in His pastures. Choose to go where He leads. And discover a deep contentment in your spirit. Encounter the peace and joy you’ve been seeking. Become a sheep who knows she lacks nothing–because she has the Shepherd.

Father God, You are good. You promise to always be with me, to guide me with your counsel and lead me to a glorious destiny. Lord Jesus, I belong to You. You’re my Good Shepherd. And I know that by belonging to your flock, I will discover depths of love and goodness, of hope and joy, of peace and faithfulness that I cannot find anywhere else. So, as I stand at the edge of your green pasture, I look not at the world beyond but at You. And I see everything I could ever want. Holy Spirit, I know my weaknesses–I easily compare myself to others and covet what they have. I fall into the trap of discontent and get restless for more. Remind me, I pray, each day to whom I belong and that He’ll always provide and protect and prepare all that I need. It is with great belief that I choose to follow You, Good Shepherd. Help my unbelief. In your name I pray, amen.
(influenced by Psalm 23, Psalm 73:23-24, John 10:11, Galatians 5:22, Philippians 4:19, 2 Thessalonians 3:3, Mark 9:24)

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  • Rhythms: As sheep in our Good Shepherd’s flock, we’ll be most content when we live in His rhythms–like prayer-speaking, Scripture-soaking, and praise-worshiping.
    • Specific to this series is the rhythm of memorizing Psalm 23. Now that we know David’s intent behind verse one, let’s put it to memory, then it becomes our reminder that our Shepherd calls us to a content life. “The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing.”
    • Then we have the rhythm of looking back, of remembering God’s faithfulness of the past. David employed this rhythm on the regular (see these Psalms as examples: Psalm 63 and 77). And, when we list those times He came through for us, our faith builds. Our trust grows because we know He’s always faithful. Always.
  • Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
    • Audrey Assad’s song, “I Shall Not Want,” beautifully captures many of the desires and fears that can creep in and crush us. Discontent has many sources, but our Deliverer has power over them all. You’ll find her song on our Dwell: Psalm 23 playlist.
    • Phillip Keller’s chapter, “I Shall Not Want,” in his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 has informed much of my understanding of verse one. He brings much wisdom as a scientist and experience as both pastor and (literal) shepherd. I’m so grateful.
    • Bible study teacher, Jen Wilkin, uses a three step method when diving into Scripture: Comprehension, Interpretation, and Application. It was fun applying her strategy to today’s verse. You can read more in her book, Women of the Word.* Or, she has a video series: Step One, Step Two, and Step Three.
    • In a moment of sheer fun, I mentioned Kendra Adachi. But including it was also my way of putting that principle into action in my own life. Kendra’s life strategy brilliantly offers thirteen principles that can be applied to any situation. One of those principles is “decide once.” I’m discovering to ‘decide once’ means you have to stick to that decision, like choosing to trust God with my sons. She has a book, The Lazy Genius Way,* and a podcast, The Lazy Genius Collective. Here’s an episode that talks about all her principles. And with Emily P Freeman, she discusses the “Decide Once” principle, specifically.
      • In ‘decide once’ fashion, decide once to follow Jesus as your Good Shepherd, following Him in full trust. Write your decision down and date it. Then when you’re tempted to to doubt or worry or go your own way, go back to your decision and keep choosing it!
  • Today’s post lent itself more personally than corporately. But, friends, we need each other. There are days we need someone to encourage us or to speak truth over us–or just have fun with. We are community. So, let us know how we can hold you up today.
    • As you feel led, share in the comment section. Let us know how God is leading you. And how we can be praying for you. Ask questions. And share your thoughts.
    • I hope you’ll invite someone to join our flock. All sheep need the Good Shepherd.

Featured Photo by Elias Maurer on UnsplashUnsplash
*affiliate links with which I might earn a bit

Dwell: With the Shepherd

“The Lord is my shepherd.”
Psalm 23:1a

For twenty years we lived on nearly an acre of red dirt land in Oklahoma. No fences. No outdoor animals. Just three boys who came and went through our back door. No one in our neighborhood had horses, cows, or sheep. So I have no working knowledge of what it takes, day-in and day-out to care for livestock. As I’ve met people in the broader urban and suburban communities most of us inhabit, very few have an inkling of what it takes to run a ranch, to lead a flock. It’s just not part of our experiences.

So it’s no wonder that we read right over all the mentions of sheep and shepherds in Scripture. Maybe we grasp that the majority of the people in our collective history, dubbed the Old Testament, were shepherds. Maybe we mentally nod to what was important then–to what became a helpful metaphor as God led His people into a monotheistic relationship. But we don’t really ‘get it.’

As we seek to live the abiding life–to dwell fully with our God–it helps to know a little something about sheep and shepherds because all the biblical references to them build a picture that is not only relevant to us but adds a depth of care and compassion, of intentionality and intimacy that no other analogy can offer. God is our Shepherd. We are His sheep.

Sheep and Shepherds

Sheep don’t take care of themselves. In fact, “they require, more than any other class of livestock, endless attention and meticulous care” (Keller, 22). Sheep, despite their fear and timidity, wander through life stubborn and, well, not-so-smart. They get lost and easily separated from the flock, becoming easy targets for predators. They can’t fight or flee when in danger, so they ‘flock,’ circling together instinctively like wagon trains of old. They eat the wrong foods and fall into crevices. They get swept away in floods and follow the crowd–sometimes right over cliffs. They’re also susceptible to parasites and diseases. They’re grazers so they need a full-time supply of grass to munch. In other words, sheep won’t make it without a shepherd.

From Abel to Abraham, Moses to David, God’s people herded sheep for a living. And they embodied the heart of good shepherds–those who desired to watch over sheep in sacrificial ways so that flocks flourished. 

Not all shepherds are good, however. Some neglect, leaving flocks on their own to forage for food and fight off wolves, to die of festering wounds or fatal foliage. But the shepherds of Scriptural lore loved their sheep. And for men like Abraham, Moses, and David, the shepherding lessons of constant watchfulness prepared them for leadership among God’s people. 

So, if the major Old Testament leaders shepherded God’s people–literally with skills they learned from herding sheep–then the people themselves were like sheep. Lost in a world full of threats to their way of life, God’s chosen people needed protection, provision, and direction. Prone to wander from the ways of God, they needed boundaries to keep them safe and in good standing with their Creator. Easily defiled by the toxins of worldly ways, these sheep needed constant care.

Photo by Judith Prins on Unsplash

David–Shepherd and King

Before he slayed Goliath, David killed lions and bears (1 Samuel 17:34-37). Before he became king, David shepherded his father’s flocks: 

[God] chose David his servant
    and took him from the sheep pens;
from tending the sheep he brought him
    to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,
    of Israel his inheritance.
 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
    with skillful hands he led them.

Psalm 78:70-72

God sees a man’s heart (1 Samuel 16:7). And in David, he saw a shepherd ‘with integrity of heart’–a good shepherd who would care for His flock.

It’s believed this shepherd king penned Psalm 23 in his later years both as a reflection on why he consistently chose to walk closely with God and as a declaration of who God had been to him through all of life’s ups and downs (Walker, Week One). The great king of Israel returned to his childhood memories as a shepherd to describe his life with God.

He begins by acknowledging, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 1a). 

In other words, David the shepherd recognizes his truer calling is to be a faithful sheep. After a full life of successes and great joys, David knows these came to him only because he’d followed the Shepherd. He also knows that he made it through the depths of failures and grief because he’d remained with his Shepherd.

David’s life reflects to us a life of trust. Like a sheep, David trusted his Shepherd. More than not, he laid down his tendencies to listen to other voices or his own misguided pride in full faith that his Shepherd would lead him well. At the end of his life, he feels these truths deeply.

And, he bequeaths the words each of us, who wander lost in the world, need most:

The Lord is my shepherd.

God as Shepherd

But not all Israel’s kings were good shepherds. Most kings after David led God’s flock astray–toward the depravity of pagan worship and child sacrifice. These kings neglected the sheep who needed tending, taxing them into poverty and making alliances with oppressive nations. 

It’s into this context that God raises up the prophet Ezekiel to speak: 

“Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool, and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd.”  

Ezekiel 34:2-5, NIV

God laments how his flock has been led. The language of shepherding pulls us into a deeper understanding of just how grievous the failures of the kings of Israel have been. To see these kings as shepherds helps us grasp the completeness of their disregard and destruction of God’s people. We can picture the scattered sheep–scared, lost, and bloodied from battle–starving for what only a good shepherd can provide.

So. God steps in–to shepherd His flock Himself (Ezekiel 34:11-15). And that’s how the Old Testament ends: with the promise that a Good Shepherd is coming.

Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash

Jesus–the Good Shepherd

Hundreds of years later, the leaders of Israel are once again mistreating the sheep they’re charged to keep. Yet, God doesn’t neglect to keep His promise. The Word-Made-Flesh comes and walks the dusty roads of Israel, and “when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Embracing His role in God’s plan to save His people, Jesus confronts the Jewish leaders and declares:

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

John 10:14-15

The promise has been kept. God has come to earth to become the Good Shepherd His people need. And, with this Shepherd, the flock expands–more sheep are to be brought into the fold (John 10:16). 

We, the Sheep

Friends, we are sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd. Collectively, we get to follow the One who will only ever love and care for us. He’ll lead us to good places and through the hard ones. He’s not neglectful or cruel. He’s good. And, like David, we can trust Him enough to follow Him all the days of our lives.

We’re sheep. We wander. We follow crowds. We get sick and hurt and lost. We need a Shepherd.

I’ve felt this need for a Shepherd acutely over the past week. Over and over I’ve jumped into places where I didn’t belong–’helping’ a son who needed to help himself, ‘speaking truth in love’ to someone I wasn’t called to do anything more than just love, ‘planning’ for all the possibilities instead of following the One who already knows. I recognize I’ve been on my own path, out from under the watchful hand of the Shepherd because anxiety tenses my shoulders and keeps me awake at night. My thoughts and emotions spiral. I’m not dwelling in Christ. 

Our summer series about abiding wholly–with all our minds, hearts, and spirits–has equipped me to recognize these non-abiding tendencies of mine. I am more aware of frenzied feelings and frantic thoughts. I am more attuned to my propensity for planning as a means of self-preservation. I’ve not yet given over my full trust to my Good Shepherd.

But I want to. 

So, I’ve been leaning into those rhythms of prayer and presence more intentionally and consistently the last few days. I’ve sat in silence, focusing on Jesus, so my mind can get still. I’ve prayed aloud the Believer’s Warfare Prayer and put on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6). I’ve dug into the Word to remind myself who the Good Shepherd is and what He’s capable of. 

I don’t know what you face today, this week, this season. But I do know you’re not alone in it. I also know it’s a very good week to say to yourself again and again, “The Lord is my shepherd.” And, as you do, visualize how a good shepherd looks and acts, then receive all the care and guidance and goodness He offers–and trustingly follow. Like a sheep. 

Father God, You are my shepherd! I stand in awe of everything that means. I admit I need to more fully embrace all its nuances. You provide all I need. You protect me from those who want to harm me. You lay your healing hand on me. You fight off my enemies. You lead me into green pastures where I can eat and rest. You offer me living water so I’ll never thirst again. You help me through dark valleys and across flooding streams. You take me to the highest heights and along paths that are good and right. Lord Jesus, You are my Good Shepherd! Never again do I have to wander alone–for You are always with me, never to leave or forsake me. And I never have to doubt your goodness because, as You promised, You did lay down your life for me. You. Died. For. Me. There’s nothing more to ask of a person than to give up His life for someone else. And You did that. For me. Willingly. And for my good. So, Holy Spirit, help me to live like a devoted sheep. Help me to follow after my Good Shepherd with love and trust. Help me to dwell in God. In Jesus’ name, amen. 
(inspired by Psalm 23, Isaiah 41:10, John 10:11-15)

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  • Rhythms: I was in such a good rhythm with the Lord a few weeks ago, then the disruptions and distractions happened. My own small choices, like not getting up earlier, and bigger stresses, like a son’s decisions, added up. Totally out of sync with God, I felt the panic rising and the lament of what was. But, instead of stuffing feelings or giving in to fear, I told a friend. Then my husband. The tears flowed, and I began stepping back into practices to restore peace and purpose and arming myself against the attack I felt. At first, I wanted to berate myself for failing, but as I sat with Jesus in the quiet, He began speaking the truth I needed to hear. I am His, and He is mine. Always. Forever.
    • Having been in Psalm 23 recently, the words were fresh and quickly became my sword of the Spirit as I fought off lies spinning in my mind this week. Sometimes I couldn’t get past the first few words, “The Lord is my shepherd.” But, it was enough. I hope you are picking up this rhythm of memorizing Psalm 23. Let it begin with this first line, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
  • Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
    • Music full of God’s truths pours over me like an oil of anointing–especially on those days when I feel so out of sorts. So, I love having our playlists handy. I’m not yet very familiar with our Dwell: Psalm 23 playlist, but its newer melodies, paired with the familiar lyrics of Psalm 23, have moved me into a posture of worship and release often this week. I hope they bless you, as well.
    • I only briefly mentioned Phillip Keller’s A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 in this post, but I reread his first chapter on sheep and shepherds–and loved it all over again. It certainly is the inspiration for this post.
    • I referenced Aimee Walker’s The Good Shepherd: A Devoted Collective Mini Study, as well. But I don’t have a way to link to it. 😦 I will say, though, that Devoted Collective is an amazing place to connect with other women who desire to go deeper in God’s Word and ways. Twice a year we do a deep dive into a book of the Bible, and the rest of the year we soak in smaller studies–like the one on Psalm 23. I’m blessed to be a contributor at Devoted, but bigger blessings have come in being part of the community.
  • If you’re like me, it’s a little hard to settle into the role of SHEEP. We kinda want to be the shepherd–even if it’s without a flock to lead, we desire to lead ourselves. But, maybe it helps a little knowing that sheep live in flocks. That means, together, we are sheep in community. We’re not alone. We walk these paths together.
    • As you feel led, share in the comment section. Let us know how God is leading you. And how we can be praying for you. Ask questions. And share your thoughts.
    • I hope you’ll invite someone to join our flock. All sheep need the Good Shepherd.

Featured Photo by Jessica Anderson on Unsplash

Dwell: Psalm 23

When God handed me ‘dwell’ as my word for 2022, I anticipated learning what it means to dwell in God. I looked forward to digging into Scriptures, like Psalm 91, for great enlightenment and for inner transformation. And, I’ve not been disappointed.

In the early days of January, I spent hours scouring the Bible to discover all the ways the Hebrew and Greek languages utilize the word, ‘dwell.’ Sometimes it’s used to mean ‘inhabit,’ like a house or a nation. Or a tabernacle. Other times it alludes to a long stay–to ‘remain.’ As in remaining with someone who grieves or in a town for more than a visit. Or in God’s purposes.

The more I explored these nuances, the more I felt a desire rising up within me. I wanted to actually inhabit God’s presence. I wanted to remain with Him in the holiest and most intentional ways. But how?

So, this summer I set out to search what it means to have this abiding life–to love God with all my heart and mind, body and spirit. Abiding in Christ is as holistic as it is holy. It’s surrendering my will for His. It’s trusting Him–even when I’m tempted to doubt or tripped up by distraction. It’s engaging in practices and prayers as rhythms in my life so that I can ebb and flow as the Spirit leads and life dictates, remaining steady in those rhythms, not dipping in and out when it’s convenient or easy.

The abiding life is the dying-to-self kind of faith (Galatians 2:20). It’s the giving over myself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). To dwell with God is to enter His presence in prayer and to remain there, in my heart and mind, for all the day. To dwell in Christ is to live from a trust that He is in me (1 Corinthians 3:16). And I in Him.

I no longer feel anxious to learn more about dwelling with God. Instead, I long to do it.

But, I know life. Its busyness and hurry. Its distractions and disappointments. Its pain and temptations. I know myself. My failure of focus and fears. My apathy and love of human accolades. My selfish tendencies and self-reliance. My. Lack. Of. Trust. In. God.

Photo by joseph d’mello on Unsplash

Here I am. Laying myself at the feet of my Shepherd, fully honest with myself and Him. Knowing I’m far from where I want to be as His daughter and disciple. Yet willing to grow and believe and be led. As a sheep.

And, so, I fix my gaze on Psalm 23. A chapter my mother memorized in the King James decades ago. A chapter I used to only hear recited at funerals. A chapter that has come to mean peace and faith and hope to me. A chapter that now beckons me to fully enter. And dwell.

I extend an invitation to you. Let us dwell in the Psalm of the Good Shepherd this fall. Allowing it to dwell in us and do its work in us. So that we, the flock who follow the voice of our Shepherd, can immerse ourselves in the abiding life.

We’ll lean into the practices that call us deeper still. 
We’ll posture ourselves in the presence of God. And be still.
We’ll bow our heads or look toward heaven and pray.
We’ll surrender body, mind, heart, and spirit to the One who leads.
We’ll band with fellow flockers to find grace and love and strength.
We’ll relinquish pride and fear for humility and faith.
We’ll trade regret and shame for hope and joy.
We’ll fall into rhythm with the Shepherd before us. And trust.

Come, let us dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Lord Jesus, thank You for your invitation to follow You. We know that You are good. We know that You have in mind only good for us. We know that we can trust You and follow wherever You lead. Our Good Shepherd, we pick ourselves up off the muddy ground we’ve been lying in and move toward your voice. We’re ready to accept this new life You offer–a life of transcendent peace and complete joy. We surrender our will for yours because we know (oh, we know) that You really do know the best paths, the greenest pastures, and the stillest waters. We know that even when life gets hard and the valleys have to be traversed, YOU WILL BE WITH US. So we choose to believe You, Jesus. We choose to leave behind our old thoughts and feelings and habits for this new life with You and in You. Jesus, be our Shepherd. We are your sheep. In your name we pray, amen.
(Inspired by 1 Chronicles 16:34, Romans 8:28, 2 Corinthians 5:17, John 10:11-18, Philippians 4:7, John 15:11, Psalm 23)

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  • Welcome to this new series called DWELL. Thank you for coming alongside me as we seek to dwell in God and His Word–as we journey together through Psalm 23. I know God goes with us and leads us into deeper abiding in Him.
    • We’ll dwell in this most-known Psalm for about twelve weeks, which should take us right up to Advent. (I know. Don’t think about how close Christmas is. Let’s remain in the moment.)
  • Rhythms: In much the way a song’s tempo is steady, we want to remain firm in spiritual practices that keep us in step with our Shepherd. Yet, just as various songs have varying rhythms–allegro, adagio, syncopation–we’ll rest in the rhythms of the Spirit. We’ll remain steady. We’ll rest in rhythms.
    • One rhythm we’ll enter into this season is to memorize Psalm 23. Don’t panic! This is a rhythm. Not an exam. Maybe you put to memory one verse, or three, or all six. You’ll be surprised how many verses and phrases you already know. When I learned that Beth Moore memorized the entirety of Galatians, I believed I could memorize Psalm 23. So, let’s give it a go! And when we do, it’ll forever be at the ready.
  • Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
    • One resource I offer with every series is a playlist. It’s been a joy collecting and curating songs that find their roots in Psalm 23. Music helps us enter into God’s presence, learn His Word, and experience His joy. So, I offer you Dwell: Psalm 23.
    • If you’d like to have a book to bolster your study of this Psalm, I’ll tap into Phillip Keller’s A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 periodically. And, it’s free on Kindle right now!
    • There’s also an incredible 40-day devotion called While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks.* I’ve read it twice and have passed copies along as gifts. And, you’ll hear me reference it in this series, I’m sure.
  • We’re a flock. We’re a fellowship of believers. We’re a community. Know that you are not alone. You’ll walk these paths with Christ at your side and your sisters hemmed around you.
    • As you feel led, share in the comment section. Let us know how God is leading you. And how we can be praying for you. Ask questions. And share your thoughts.
    • I hope you’ll invite someone to join our flock. All sheep need the Good Shepherd.

Featured Photo by Jessica Anderson on Unsplash
*an affiliate link with which I might earn a bit

Abide: Wholly in the Holy

Our summer sure sped swiftly! While we’ve met here week after week, I’ve been growing in understanding of what Jesus means by, “remain in me as I also remain in you” (John 15:4). Remaining, that practice of dwelling or abiding, is more than prayer. It’s more than worship. Or Bible reading. Or making good choices. Abiding is all of that–and more. 

The abiding life flows from a river within us that is fed by multiple streams: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social. To neglect one stream, one area of life, is to deprive the river within us health and life and goodness. 

  • If we only ever workout our bodies but never our minds or spirits, our rivers become shallow and unswimmable. 
  • If we only ever study to attain knowledge, our rivers dig deep ruts that bog us down. 
  • If we only ever listen to our feelings, our rivers reroute into circles that turn into spirals. 
  • If we only ever sit in silence and solitude, never to engage with people, our rivers dam up, becoming much like the Dead Sea.

But, if you’re still here, still seeking to grow in your abiding life, then I know you’re like me. You want to be whole in Christ–to bring all of yourself to Him. So that you can remain in Him–to rest, to surrender, to serve, to confess, to listen, to be.

We’ve been learning that to be whole in Christ means exercising every part of ourselves, not allowing one area to dominate or distract. And, as I write this, I’m tempted to say we need ‘balance,’ but perhaps ‘balance’ insinuates equality–the idea that everyday, in every season we’re to give equal effort and attention to our bodies, minds, emotions, spirits, and people. However, I’m discovering that’s just not the case–because different seasons require varying attention. For instance:

  • In a season of illness or recovery, it’s important to give our bodies more attention.
  • At a time of family crisis, we must give our loved ones more of ourselves.
  • When our thought-lives tank and we can no longer cope, it’s imperative to get help and give energy to what needs healing.

Balance may not be what we strive for, but rhythms are. 

Rhythms

Like the tempo of music, rhythms of life accelerate and slow down, syncopate and synchronize–depending on the season. 

Photo by RAMSHA ASAD on Unsplash

As a young mom, my daily rhythms focused much on keeping my little ones fed, loved, and safe while my time with God came in spurts as I washed dishes or rocked a baby. And, now, as an empty-nester, my rhythms have reversed. I get to sit with the Lord for quite a while in the mornings because the demands of my time have changed.

But even in that child-rearing season, there came a day after my youngest was born that I sensed God calling me into a deeper time with Him. Half scoffing, I told Him that I would need His help to do so because my baby awoke the minute he heard me up. I said it with little faith but with much earnestness. And, God did it. He made a way, so I got up earlier and began anew in Bible study–which not only gave me time with Him and in His Word but with other women.

I know my story is not yours. But I do know life has seasons, and in each one, God meets us where we are. When He challenges us to deepen an area of our lives, He will make a way for it to happen. And when He does, all we have to do is trust. And obey.

So, as we draw this Abide series to a close, I wonder what rhythms you’ve begun employing this season. Contemplative practices? Worship? Interior examination? Claiming truth? Fighting words? Gratitude? Surrender? Stillness?

If you haven’t entered into any rhythms yet, a great place to begin filling your streams is to ask God to show you where to start. And, as you step into a new rhythm, allow it to flow into your soul like a holy melody–rather than trying to force it into a box you can check. Allow God’s grace to be your guide.

Rhythms of our soul ebb and flow–as God calls, seasons change, and needs arise. Our own flexibility and perseverance help us to move as the Spirit leads. Our willingness to lay down our plans and expectations allows us to sweep and swell with the Spirit. Our desire to remain devoted to our wholeness and holiness carries us into new depths as our rivers rise.

And, we’ll realize we’re abiding.

Armed and Ready

It goes without saying, however, that our enemy doesn’t want any of this rhythmic reliance on the Spirit to happen, so he empties his bag of tricks to keep our focus off Christ and our hopes dashed. 

He loves the Deadly D’s: Distraction. Discouragement. Doubt. Disappointment. Division. Defeat. Destruction. Death. And the Insidious I’s: Isolation. Intimidation. Influence. But, awareness is empowerment. Knowing his tactics arms us with understanding that his ways do not have to rule our hearts and minds and spirits. We also stand assured and confident because we’ve been equipped to stand firm against his every attack (Ephesians 6:10-11). We pick up or put on:

The Sword of the Spirit–the Word of God, which goes out from us, like a sword, to dispel the enemy’s lies (week 2)

The Belt of Truth–an anchor for all the other pieces of armor that holds it together, sets us free, and keeps us centered on Christ’s truth (week 4)

The Helmet of Salvation–Jesus’ sanctification that rescues once and for all AND restores us to Him everyday (week 6)

The Breastplate of Righteousness–a repeated choice to take off the ‘old self’ and put on the ‘new self,’ as well as Christ’s holiness, each day (week 8)

The Shoes of Peace–an inner tranquility and calmness of the soul, which–all at the same time–grounds us and propels us forward (week 10)

The Shield of Faith–a faith-soaked shield that douses the enemy’s attempts to distract us; a faith blockade that trusts we aren’t alone because God is with us (week 12)

Fully armed, our whole beings are protected. Anchored in truth and shielded by faith, we can step into the fray full of peace because we know Whose we are and that He stands with us. 

Photo by Jaime Spaniol on Unsplash

I once knew someone who had a recurring dream of being pummeled on a battlefield as she crouched helplessly in the nude. She would awaken every morning upset, exhausted, and confused. But as she sought the Lord, He revealed to her the truth of Ephesians 6, telling her that to enter into the world without the covering of His armor is to stand naked before her enemy. She shared this picture God had painted for her so we would know we are not defenseless against the enemy. Rather, we can stand firm against him–fully armed. Prepared with truth and peace, we are ready to deflect his lies, douse his distractions, and block his attempts to isolate and intimidate us. And, when we come alongside our sisters in Christ–filled with the Spirit–our strength in numbers makes us impenetrable. 

Rhythms. Armor. 

Friends, God has been pouring out truths all summer, and we can respond with our whole being–body, mind, heart, spirit, and soul–with other believers who also desire to abide in Christ.

So, as we look ahead toward a horizon of unknowns, let us take care to bring these lessons into our futures–with Christ and with one another. Let us determine to fill every stream by engaging in healthy practices and rhythms. Let us continue in the arming of ourselves with everything God offers us so that we can enter the battlefield confident and fully covered.

Then. Then, we can share all we learn and know and experience with others so that they, too, can abide in Christ.

Lord Jesus, You are our salvation, our saving grace. Your death defeated the enemy–once and for all. Yours is the victory! So, we boldly and confidently step into the present, knowing that no matter what we face or feel or think, we can trust You and have all we need to do more than survive. We can thrive! We lay down our fear that drives us toward control and, instead, give You control from a place of faith. We resist every lie and temptation, knowing that You always give us a way out. We choose to put our eyes on You, Jesus, rather than on all the distractions that entangle and sins that hinder. We choose to surround ourselves with people who desire this way of living an abiding life in You. We choose to live in truth and from our secured place as your daughters. And, we choose to find healthy rhythms that fill our streams and deepen our rivers–so that they’ll flow freely, quenching our every thirst and offering living water to anyone who desires to drink of You, Jesus. With all that we are–with every breath and thought and feeling, with our spirits uniting with Yours and our sisters’–we seek to live in the overflow of all that You are: peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(inspired by Psalm 27:1, John 1:17, Colossians 1:13, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Hebrews 12:1-1, John 17:21, Galatians 3:26, John 7: 37-39, Galatians 5:22)

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  • I’m so grateful for this community and the ways you let me know how God’s truths and presence are making a difference in your life.
  • Our Abide playlist continues to be a regular rhythm in my life. The lyrics speak truth over me. The melodies pull me into the spiritual rhythms that help me release my grip. And, the changes in beat that speed up and slow down remind me of my own need for various rhythms in my abiding life. How about you?
  • I hope the resources in the series have met needs, inspired hearts, and challenged old habits to be made new–in Christ. I’d love to hear if you end up reading a book or podcast that speaks some truth into your life!
  • I’d also love to know which practices and prayers you’ve incorporated into your daily rhythms. How have they supported, challenged, or encouraged you in your abiding life?
  • Never fear–our focus on what it means to DWELL is not coming to an end. So far this year we’ve looked at how Dwell can mean to Inhabit, Remain, and Abide. Now, our next series will be purely focused on what it means to Dwell with our Good Shepherd. It feels like a restful way to enter a new season and bring our year’s focus to a close. So. Invite someone to join us–starting next Sunday! See you then. XOXO

Featured Photo by Robert Lukeman on Unsplash
*affiliate links, with which I could earn a little something

Abide: Taking Up Faith

Fight, flight, or freeze. 

Threats, stress, and pain come at us, and we either fight back. Flee the scene. Or freeze in place. Me, I’m the one who consistently left when things got rough. Too much tension and arguing? I’d hop in my car and hurry to my friend’s house. Too much accusation and pressure? I’d march from the room and out the door. That’s my natural bent.

But–what marriage, motherhood, and ministry have been teaching me over the last two decades is that facing the hard things works better every time than fleeing them.

And one of the coolest outcomes of learning to stand firm in the midst of life’s hard things is getting to see God’s faithfulness at work. When I set aside what I feel or perceive or think I know, I can choose to believe that what Jesus says is true. I can choose to trust a faithful God who never fails and never flees. 

In other words, we have a fourth option when the storms of life hit. Faith.

Inner Workings of Faith

While we wear truth, righteousness, and salvation everyday–as we would a uniform to work–when it comes to faith, we must choose to pick it up every time it’s needed. A response is required in the moment. 

While I am not a natural ‘fighter,’ I do find myself quite drawn to movies that portray warriors who have honed their craft so well that their motions are instinctual. Whether it’s Captain America flinging his shield or Aragorn wielding his longsword, these archetypal heroes demonstrate the power of practice, the art of action. When the odds are not in their favor, they pick up their weapons and keep moving forward. 

As believers, we’re meant to do the same. Jesus makes it clear that our decision to follow Him comes with difficulty. Conflict. Tension. Even persecution–all for His sake. So, we need to be ready.

Everything God has been showing us in this series comes together: our bodies will have a response to the hard things, as will our minds, emotions, and spirits. And, we have the ability to choose whether or not to listen to our thoughts and feelings when they say run or hide.

We can choose faith.

But, unlike those legends of lore who win every war in their own strength, we step forward in faith because of the One we trust. To put faith in our training, our strengths, or our knowledge is to set ourselves up for failure. To put faith in our trustworthy God is obedience. And victory.

“If you are struggling to move forward in obedience to God, you do not need bigger faith. You just need to realize how big your God is. The more faithful and strong you believe Him to be, the more willing you will be to depend on Him. Your level of faith will always be tied to your perception of God.”

Priscilla Shirer, p.140

Faith, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, is “proof of that which is not seen” (11:1). Faith is putting what we know to be true about God into action. We pick up faith, like a shield, and enter the fray in full obedience to God–”without needing to see the evidence that it will all work out in the end” (Priscilla, p.127). Because we trust God with the outcomes.

Lord Jesus, I confess that my idea of faith is rooted in my ability to perceive or perform–which isn’t faith at all. Help me, instead, to know You so well that my trust in You grows exponentially and my faith follows suit. Because I’m learning, Father God, that You are bigger than anything I face, that You are faithful in every situation–You never leave; You never fail. You always help; You always strengthen. May my faith in You propel me forward in life so that even when what I see or feel tells me I can’t, I actually believe I can–because of You. Lord, I choose faith over fear. I choose You over me. I choose to live for You and with You–in faith. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(inspired by Isaiah 41:10, Hebrews 11:1, 1 Corinthians 1:9, Psalm 56:3-4)

borrowed from LivingTruth.com

Picking Up the Shield of Faith

When we choose to respond in faith, a shield goes up. But, that doesn’t keep the enemy from doing everything he can to distract us from our faith-action.

Paul goes into more detail about this one piece of armor than the others, exhorting us to “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). By describing the benefits of using the shield of faith, Paul tells us what the results will be. Those fiery darts of distraction will be snuffed out.

It helps to understand Paul’s metaphor by visualizing a Roman soldier’s shield. Called a sculum, this door-shaped plank of wood was covered in layers of canvas and leather. A top layer of iron wrapped the edges and anchored the center. At two-feet wide and four-feet high, a soldier’s shield covered his entire body whenever he crouched behind it (Priscilla, p.125). 

In battle, enemies would shoot flaming arrows at the Romans–not so much as a way to kill them but as a means of distraction. If their wooden shield caught fire, the soldier’s attention went to the flames instead of the battlefield. To defend against this strategy, the Romans dunked their absorbent shields in water so that when the flames sunk into the wood, the fire fizzled out (Priscilla, p.130). 

What flaming darts has the enemy been slinging your way lately? What blazes has the enemy set within your heart to keep you insecure, afraid, or questioning your ability? What fires have you been putting out, only to miss the action God has called you to? 

It’s time to pick up your faith-soaked shield and let it douse the enemy’s attempts to distract you. 

Lord Jesus, You are the victorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You win every battle because You are the Son of God–the Christ and Messiah. In You there is no flaw, no lie, no ability to betray or abandon. And with You I am victorious. I choose to follow You no matter what I see or feel because I know that You are trustworthy and faithful. Yet, I recognize that the enemy wants me to give in to insecurity, doubt, and fear instead of believing and walking in God’s truth. So, today, I pick up faith, allowing your shield of protection to put out all the enemy’s fiery plans for me. I know that by doing what you call me to do–no matter how incapable I feel–I am walking in faith. I feel a holy confidence growing as I move forward in obedience. Armed with faith, I refuse to believe my feelings. I refuse to be discouraged. I choose, instead, to trust in You, Jesus. Amen. 
(inspired by Revelation 19:16, 1 Corinthians 15:57, 1 John 2:21, Psalm 9:10, Philippians 4:19, John 14:1, 2 Corinthians 5:7, Victor Matthew’s ‘Warfare Prayer,’ and Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God page 133.)

The Practice of Gathering with People

In last week’s post, we looked at ways isolation and division can keep us from the abiding life we long for. Let’s take that a step further today. Let’s consider faith’s role in community as a way to come against the enemy’s lies, attacks, and attempts to prevent us from entering God’s presence and the purposes has for us.

And, the Roman soldiers paint the perfect picture for us. 

from Free Bible Images

Known as the Tortoise, or Turtle, Formation, a group of soldiers would come together with all their shields to form an impenetrable defense. 

This coming together became an effective strategy in defeating armies that shot arrows from high castle walls or from across a field. What was good for one soldier became even better when used in tandem. 

And, that, my friends, is the practice of faith in community. While praying alone in our closets is good and right, our coming together with other believers in prayer is even more powerful. While studying the Word on our own is needed, getting with others to hear their insights and wisdom builds our faith even more. While getting alone with God in silence is a must for our weary spirits, practicing spiritual disciplines in community shapes, softens, and shields us in ways doing it alone cannot.

So, hear me. We need alone time with God. We need to think for ourselves. Pray by ourselves. And give the gift of quiet time to ourselves. But. Not at the neglect of entering into all these practices with other believers. It’s not an either-or. It’s a both-and. 

I absolutely love writing. It’s an alone kind of work. It’s time with Jesus, my Bible, and my laptop. But God regularly reminds me that to hermit myself in my home, never to connect with other people, is to miss the point of why He calls me to write and to set myself up for attack. Throughout my years of ministry–both on a church staff and in this writing season–He has led me toward groups and individuals who come alongside me for my journey. Their prayers of provision and protection have covered me like a turtle’s shell. And, without them, I have no doubt the enemy’s arrows would strike me down. 

I encourage you to seek others. Pray–together. Search God’s Word–together. Stand in defense against the enemy–together. Encourage one another–together. Speak truth in love–together.

Because, we’re better together.

Lord Jesus, thank You for the Day of Pentecost and the way You turned a crowd into a Church, transforming a loosely connected group of people into a tightly knit community. I confess my own tendencies to want to go it alone, to control my performance and outcome. So, I pray, Holy Spirit, for your divine inspiration and courage to seek out holy community. Lead me to a person, a group, or a church that will come alongside me on this faith journey. May I listen to your leading. May I trust others when it’s wise to do so. May I fully participate, not only offering my prayers and encouragement but receiving them, as well. I celebrate the victories to come as I lift my shield alongside my brothers and sisters in faith. May it be so, Jesus. Praying in your name, Amen.
(parts taken from JD Walt, in The Daily Text, 6/10/22)

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  • Week Twelve Practice = Community! As Jennie Allen says, find your people. Come together, like a group of soldiers, in order to train and enter the battlefields of life fully armed and full of faith–together.
  • Week Twelve Prayer = Use the prayers within this post which are my own–though they are greatly influenced by Scripture and a few great people of faith, as noted. Or, create your own prayers using Scripture to help you keep picking up faith.
  • Community is the name of the game. Don’t do this faith journey alone. And, if this space is your community right now, I’m honored. Let’s lean-in to God together–and lift our shields of faith. Comment below or join in the conversation on Instagram.
  • I’d love to hear how our Abide playlist has become a tool in your arsenal as a believer who faces fiery darts everyday.
  • Resources for this week–just a list you can come back to as needed. No expectation for this series:
    • Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study, The Armor of God.* (Again) Her research just keeps on giving. 😉
    • Dr. Victor Matthews’ “Warfare Prayer.” (Again) I’ve prayed it most days since finding it. It’s power never ceases to awaken and empower me. Come on, make it part of your practice.
    • JD Walt’s The Daily Text. (Again, and always).

Featured Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
*affiliate links, from which I could earn a little something

Abide: In the Social

This is the time of year my spirit starts anticipating the gathering of believers known as the New Room Conference. Every year for three days in September church leaders from around the world gather in one space to worship, pray, and take-in the love of Christ. It’s a place of humility and surrender as we invite the Holy Spirit to do His work in us and through us.

Like so many, New Room didn’t meet in 2020. So when my husband and I walked into the sanctuary last year–just in time to hear the first notes of the first worship song–I burst into tears. At first I was puzzled by them. But as I sat in my overwhelm, asking the Spirit to show me why I responded with such gush and sob, it dawned on me. After two years away, I’d come home.

Nowhere else, ever, have I been in the company of such genuine Christ-loving, God-fearing, Holy Spirit-seeking believers. At New Room people worship with abandon, opening their hearts to all God has for them. Leaders prostrate themselves before the Lord–quite literally–seeking forgiveness. Future leaders line up for prayers of anointing and blessing. Men and women spanning age and status obediently carry themselves across thresholds of renewal and promise. Prayers are spoken with truth-soaked hope for healing, wholeness, and favor. Prophetic words are offered with humble confidence, spreading encouragement and igniting hearts with sparks–and flames–of faith.

This year will be my fourth New Room. My expectancy of what the Holy Spirit will do is hitting the ‘giddy’ level. And, my anticipation of being back with this community of believers is barely containable. To say I look forward to being with them is not only an understatement but a shallow misrepresentation of the true fellowship that we experience each year.

As we enter into this final segment of our summer series on abiding, I invite you into a space of community–because as we seek to abide in Christ, we’ll discover a deep-seated need to connect with other believers. This is the social aspect of our abiding life. 

New Room 2021, when I finally quit crying enough to take a pic 😉

Koinonia

The heart of Jesus’ message throughout the gospels is that we are not meant to do this faith-life alone. That’s why He gathers disciples and puts Himself in the midst of them. It’s why He sends the Holy Spirit to be in us and among us. So many times, in the Gospel of John in particular, Jesus emphasizes His oneness with the Father–how He is never alone (John 8:16), how He never intends us to do this faith life alone (John 17:20-23). For just as the Father lives out His existence in community with the Son and the Spirit, we too are hard-wired for what the New Testament writers call koinonia–a rich fellowship that looks like partnership and joint participation.

Not going it alone.

Friends, we must guard against the pervasive idea that our ‘personal’ relationship with Jesus is ‘private.’ This friendship, the connection we each have with Jesus is meant to be personal in the sense that we can know Him for ourselves. His death and resurrection have made a way for each one of us to say ‘yes’ to Him and become one with Him (John 17:11). This is personal.

But our relationship with Christ is one we share with other believers. Paul calls the Church the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12:5)–for a reason. The eye doesn’t roll off by itself, in a private corner of the world, and function on its own. The leg doesn’t hop around as though it can be complete by itself. And neither can we. To try to do faith by ourselves is a privatized idea that isolates us. Alone we fail to grow, looking only and ever inwardly to ourselves for what we need and falling short (Proverbs 3:5). Flying solo opens us to all the attacks that come when we do faith by ourselves. Like a lion on the hunt, the enemy looks for the single believer, who has pulled away from the pack, and goes in for the kill.

Instead, we need to be okay with needing each other.

The early church models this koinonia as they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). They devoted themselves–together. John captures the heart of such fellowship:

“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.… If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

1 John 1:3, 6-7

So far beyond a ‘fellowship dinner,’ the kind of koinonia that Paul and John ascribe to is more like the first installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring–where people from every race come together for the common good. They pledge allegiance to one another. They depend on each other through battles and rely on each other’s strengths. They encourage and protect one another. At no point does the main character have to go it alone–even when he tries. And, because this motley crew sticks together, they make it. They achieve the purpose they’d been given.

And so can we. Together.

Breakers of the Social 

But, to grow and protect our koinonia, we must know how ‘community’ is attacked. At the heart of all the enemy does–throwing out distractions, poking at disappointments, and stirring the discouragements–it’s all to the effect of dividing the people of God from each other. Because he knows that a divided house cannot stand (Matthew, 12:25). 

Goodness. Hear that again. The enemy wants to divide the people of God from each other. Does this raise any red flags for you as it does me? How many churches are fractured? How many denominations are currently in the midst of huge conflict and schism? 

Distractions, like the messiness of disagreements, divide us. We polarize and label. We argue and point fingers. We shame and blame. We fight with people, forgetting our battle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). Divisions distract us from our mission. 

And how about division in families? Or between friends? 

Division happens corporately on many levels. And, of course, the enemy’s hope is that eventually we’ll be so discouraged with the whole ‘church thing’ or ‘family thing’ or ‘friendship thing’ that we’ll quit them all. And go it alone.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

These two key strategies of the enemy–isolation and division–summarize his focus on keeping us alone so that we will stop gathering together as some have done (Hebrews 10:25). 

And, somewhere along the way, all of the anger and resentment builds walls. Not only between us and people. But between us and God.

Builders of the Social

So now that we know how our social isolation and divisions can keep us away from the God we desire to draw closer to, we are empowered to do something about it. And for social abiding it’s all about building community. 

Jennie Allen says we need to Find Our People
Dietrich Bonhoeffer tells us we should do Life Together.
Scot McKnight encourages A Fellowship of Differents.
James Bryan Smith calls such a fellowship The Good and Beautiful Community.
Erin S. Lane reminds us there are Lessons in Belonging.
Lisa Jo Baker extends the forever invitation: We Saved You a Seat.

And, Jesus says we can be unified (1 Corinthians 1:10). Together we are stronger. Together our purpose becomes clearer. Together the way to achieve that purpose is possible. 

So, how do we come together despite the rampant isolation and division? A little at a time.

Maybe it looks like finding a church that exudes this kind of Holy Spirit koinonia. As I’ve discovered for myself, that’s a difficult task–but not impossible. I think of all the leaders who gather every year at New Room–they represent churches. Churches that, while not perfect, do earnestly seek the unity of the Body of Christ. These churches exist!

Maybe it looks like asking one person to meet with you weekly to soak in Scripture and pray.
Maybe it looks like inviting neighbors into your home for a weekly Bible study.
Maybe it looks like joining what John Wesley would’ve called a ‘band,’ a group of three or four who meet to confess sin, encourage hope, and apply biblical truths to life.

For all of us, it looks like “being brought together into the company of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Because this most essential and core experience of the Christian faith “is the very essence of awakening, and that is what we are–a fellowship of awakening–koinonia” (JD Walt, Daily Text 6/6/22). 

What if. Oh, what if we had the bubbling anticipation of gathering with other believers everyday? What if each time stepped into a room full of worshiping brothers and sisters in Christ, we knew we’d come home? What if we, the Church, began to live united instead of divided? I tell you what–we’d be a force like no other in the world. Together, we could bring hope and joy and peace into a world that desperately needs them. 

Friends, as we dwell among each other in such holy pleasure and purpose, we will also abide in Christ more wholly.

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  • I invite you into THIS community every week. The more we interact, the more we grow. 😉
  • Ginny Owens’ newest song, “Let Us Love,” is on our Abide playlist. It’s so new I can’t download the lyrics, but you’ll recognize themes from our series. And, it flows like a prayer.
  • Lots of resources for this week–a resource list you can come back to as needed. Not an expectation for this series. XOXO
  • Podcasts–full of ideas that often stretch our way of understanding Christian community:
    • Jennie Allen’s podcast season based on Find Your People (FYP)–there are over 30 episodes, so you can scroll through to find the ones (FYP) that interest you most
    • Jennie Allen’s podcast episode with John Mark Comer, called “The War For Your Faith,” hits on the social component.
    • Russell Moore’s podcast episode with Jonathan Haidt is well done and explores many more areas of social division and its impact on us.
    • The Art of Holiness podcast has a few episodes on community. This one with Sean Gladding adds even more layers to the community conversation.

Featured Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash
*affiliate links, with which I could earn a little something

Abide: Planting Our Feet

Hunkered down in our windowless hallway, we listened to the battery-powered radio. News updates crackled as the howling wind forced the rain through the seams of our front windows. Hurricane Alicia threw her bolts of lightning down on Houston, flooding streets and pounding fifty year old trees to near death. I hid in the hall afraid that at any moment a tornado might drop from the sky and wipe us off the earth.

The disciples, however, stood in a boat out IN THE STORM (Mark 4:35-41). No walls to hide behind, they felt nature’s full fury. The tempest tore at the boat; waves endeavored to toss them into the sea; the disciples feared for their lives. Once awakened, Jesus stood up. Spoke.

And the storm stopped. 

Just as in the beginning when God spoke and order overtook chaos, Jesus speaks and chaos is conquered. One word. 

Peace.

Two Kinds of Peace

In today’s tense climate, peace appears to have passed us by, but the truth that reigned for the disciples that day on the sea remains true. Where Christ abides, peace abounds.

So, logic would say, bring Christ into the chaos. But, how?

It helps to understand there are two types of peace. A peace with God. And a peace in God. 

First, to have peace with God happens when our faith makes us right in God’s sight (Romans 5:1). To be justified by Christ is to find peace with God. We no longer wrestle to believe, deny His existence, or resist His love.

“The supernatural power for standing firm under the mounting pressures of daily life is only possible through the deep-seated sense of peace and confidence found in a saving relationship with God.”

Priscilla Shirer, p.108

In other words, no matter what storms are brewing, when we are secure in our relationship with God, we have the peace of knowing nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

Second, to have the peace of God is to have His peace–that inner tranquility and calmness of the soul–in us. 

Peace starts with relationship; it culminates in eternity. But in between exists a whole lot of life. In all our earthly living, the Spirit empowers us to develop and display the character traits of Christ (Galatians 5:22), like peace. Jesus declares over His followers: 

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

John 14:27, NLT

Peace, my friends, is already in you. It’s a gift from Jesus to you. If you have yet to pick up that pretty package, it’s time to open it now. And everyday. Instead of leaving peace in the corner abandoned and unappreciated, we “choose to cultivate and activate it in our lives” (Priscilla, p.110). 

Uploaded by Keith Nixon

Stepping into the Shoes of Peace

The enemy doesn’t want us activating peace; he wants us falling to pieces. He knows the power of Christ’s peace, so he uses every opportunity to stir the chaos and upend our stability (p.95). But, we’re given shoes to keep us on our feet (Ephesians 6:15).

Roman soldiers laced up shoes that looked something like a sandal-boot to protect their feet. Similarly, we can cover ourselves with prayers of thanksgiving, surrender, and victory. Pouring over us like the blood of Christ, these prayers soak us in the grace of God–because we trust our peace with God. We’re protected by the shalom Hashem that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7, Orthodox Jewish Bible).

But these Roman soldier shoes didn’t just protect, they also anchored the men to the ground with hobnail spikes. Comparable to athletes’ cleats, these fighting shoes gave soldiers a firm grip in the dirt each time they planted their feet in battle. God’s peace grounds us. Each time we employ spiritual practices, we are digging our feet into the soil of Christ’s love and truth. We become immovable in His peace.

These spikes also make us ready. Paul incorporates a Greek word in this shoes-of-peace-verse that is not used anywhere else in Scripture–hetoimasia, which means firm-footing and preparedness (Ephesians 6:15). Peace with God makes us ready for all the chaos because we have intimacy with Him. Peace of God makes us ready because in us reigns all the assurance we need to trust Him. No matter what.

Lord Jesus, thank You for your peace. We admit that peace feels elusive most days, but today we choose to put on your peace like a pair of soldier shoes. As we slip our feet into the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, we feel your supernatural protection come over us. Our feelings stabilize and our thoughts center on You. We feel our sharp tongues soften and our emotional walls tumble. We notice how the spikes give us a firm grip in a world that is anything but firm. We sense how your peace helps us keep our footing when everything around us is swirling. And we feel our spiritual confidence growing–because we trust You. And love You. And hope in You. Thank You for giving us this remarkable gift of peace, Father. May it continue to guard our hearts and minds. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(inspired by Philippians 4:6-7 and Priscilla Shirer in The Armor of God, pp.98-99)

The Practice of Silence

The psalmist asks God to give him an “undivided heart” so that he might praise God with all his heart (Psalm 86:11-12). How do we, like the psalmist, have undivided hearts? One word, the same word that would describe the winds and the waves after Jesus speaks peace. 

Silence.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Jessica LaGrone explains that the spiritual practice of silence happens at three levels–outer silence, inner silence, and the silence of the will (p.99). 

Outer silence is the easiest–find a quiet place. As in no voices, no background TV, no music. Just silence. If you’re wiggling a bit, it’s probably because we’re generally not a culture of silence. Some even resist it. And, if you struggle with control, perfection, or the illusion of fixing all things, silence may be especially difficult. But we sit in silence in order to be with God.

Once we get quiet on the outside, we can settle our thoughts on the inside. Every time the inner voice gets going or the to-do list starts churning, stop–maybe even write things down–and begin again with grace for yourself. Be encouraged that in our first attempts, our moments of inner silence will be upwards of two minutes. But the more we practice silence, the better we’ll sit in it.

Silencing our wills is the point of it all: ”to be able to sit before God without asking, longing, or needing. Just to be with Him” (p.99). Silencing the will is to fully surrender to God’s will with an “undivided heart.” It doesn’t feel natural because we’re used to going before God will our lists of needs. But the practice of silence opens us up to the supernatural way.

Lord Jesus, You are the calmer of all storms. You are the stillness in the chaos. You are the silence I need. Help me to want to seek silence. Help me to want to sit in your presence without lists or agendas but with an undivided heart that seeks only to dwell with You. Meet me, Father, in the chaos of my mind and life, and help me find the peace of your presence. I look to You for all my needs. I lay down control. And plans. And perfection. I surrender my will for yours. In Jesus’ name, amen.  
(inspired by Psalm 86:11-12 and Jessica LaGrone’s Out of Chaos, pp.98-99)

Prayer of Victory

When we put on our shoes of the gospel of peace, we are made ready–not only to defend ourselves from the onslaught of the enemy but to push our way forward. Wearing the shoes of peace is “about going into the enemy’s territory from a strong position of victory and taking back ground he’s sought to steal from us” (Priscilla, p.114). Satan knows that where there is no peace, there is no victory (p.92).

Lord Jesus, the truth is sinking in–the war we’re in is not of the world; it’s spiritual. So, we are grateful for all the spiritual weapons You equip us with so that we can fight back and even take back lost ground. These mighty weapons of God have divine power to demolish strongholds. So, instead of standing in the storm, or in the middle of the battlefield barefooted and hopeless, we slip our feet into the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. We feel the protection of your peace immediately and dig our feet into the ground so that we can make our stand. Each time we surrender a thought, emotion, or our will to You, we gain another step of ground the enemy has taken. Today, I step into all the victory of the Crucifixion where death and sin are defeated. I step into all the victory of the Resurrection where I am given new life in Christ. I step into all the victory of the Ascension where Christ rose into glory to reign over all powers and principalities, giving me reign over them, too. I step into all the victory of Pentecost where I am Spirit–empowered and equipped so that I might go into the world to proclaim your peace. In Jesus’ name, amen. 
(inspired by 2 Cor 10:3-4, Isaiah 52:7, Ephesians 6:10-20, and Victor Matthews’ “Warfare Prayer”)

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  • Week Six Practice = Silence. Perhaps this is one of the hardest of all spiritual practices. It requires intentional set aside time where we get still AND quiet–outside and within. But our Helper will meet us in our desire to get alone with God so that we can be with Him. For the sole purpose of being with Him.
  • Week Six Prayer = Use the prayers from this post, which I’ve pulled from Priscilla’s The Armor of God study, Dr. Matthews’ “Warfare Prayer,” and Scripture. Speaking prayers that have been written by other believers adds to our arsenal of retaking ground the enemy has taken and claiming victory in Jesus’ name!!
  • Next week we’ll talk more about community, but for now know that standing with other believers under the banner of Lord Jesus is where strength and power can lead us into freedom–true freedom in Christ–from the enemy, and over our own brokenness. Comment below or join in the conversation on Instagram to encourage other women in the battle.
  • A friend sent me Jeremy Camp’s song, “When You Speak,” on the day I was editing this post. I’m in awe. God’s ability to speak into the chaos of life–and life has been a bit chaotic of late–with such precision moves me. Floors me. So, of course, I’ve added it to our Abide playlist:

    When You speak
    I’m found in the sound of peace, be still
    The wind and the waves bow to Your will
    You drown my fear with a love more real
    Than anything, anything I feel
    When You speak
    (“When You Speak” by Jeremy Camp)
  • Resources for this week–just a list you can come back to as needed. No expectation for this series:

Featured Photo by Shashank Sahay on Unsplash
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