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Advent Week 4: Psalm 23

It’s hard to believe Christmas is THIS week.

That this month, this year, this advent season is coming to an end.  I always get sentimental about the end of… well, everything.  Seriously, I turn into a sap when I finish a JOURNAL. Who does that?! Apparently, me.  So get ready for a bunch of sappy, reflective, sentimental posts;) But in all seriousness, I wanted this week (the last week before Christmas) to be special.  To be a week filled with spirituality overdrive.

I had A LOT of grandiose plans… and then God gently reminded me to not overcomplicate things (something I’m pretty good at doing).  And immediately after this gentle reminder, I felt led to a verse I’m sure many have heard or read (myself included).  But this time when I read this verse I saw the perfect number of promises for the perfect number of days this week.  It was meant to be… & then I did my thing and overcomplicated life/blogging/work and didn’t finish this post UNTIL Wednesday.  Oops (& sorry).

But, hey at least I posted this right?;) Here’s the verse God brought me to…

Psalm 23 (NLT)

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.

    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.

Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever.

Each day this week my challenge has been to read this Psalm and focus on 1 VERSE at a time.  Yep, you read that right…just 1 verse.  So often I feel like we get hung up on trying to read huge chunks of scripture & in doing so we forget to soak in words and phrases and sentences that can shape our daily lives.  Maybe that makes me less spiritual or elementary but it works for me.  When I find myself being able to meditate and focus on just 1 VERSE each day, it somehow becomes a part of me and shapes the way I think and live… day by day.

& So, I encourage you to do the same.

Small pieces of scripture.  Read them slowly. Think about them often. Dwell on the different words or phrases God leads you to.  Let God’s words soak into your soul and be the living and active, life-giving source Scripture has the power to be.

So today, just read ONE VERSE; verse 1:

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.

How simple and yet convicting.  The Lord is my shepherd… I have ALL I need.  & What an appropriate time to be reminded of this.  This week we all will be bombarded by images, toys, stuff we “NEED.”  Things that others need.  That the church needs.  All the stuff you don’t have and need to hurry up and buy.

This week you will be reminded of everything you DON’T have.

& It goes beyond just gifts and “stuff.”  We are reminded that we DON’T have certain people in our lives anymore.  That we DON’T have the family we wish we had.  That we DON’T have the money, schedule, vacation, relationship, health, body, energy… fill in the blank, that we desperately desired/wanted/needed this Christmas season.

But what if we shifted our thinking to what we DO have?

That we DO have God, the good shepherd with us… & THAT is all we need.

Such a simple truth and yet it is extremely difficult to live.  How often do we abide in knowing and living in the grace and goodness of our shepherd king?  Our one true provider, protector, care-giver?  Our leader, shield, and strength.  Our source of life and hope and joy and peace?

And so, this week I shift my gaze and focus my heart on what I DO have- the Lord, my shepherd.

See, it’s only in resting in Him, His strength, His goodness, His presence, that I am truly (& deeply) satisfied and content.

All that in just ONE VERSE. 

That’s why I LOVE and hunger for the scriptures… they are full of life giving truths that keep our eyes fixed & our hearts focused on what matter most, our shepherd king.

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Shine.

Very rarely do I feel comfortable sharing my personal thoughts or opinions in general much less in social media, and much- much less on politics. But I’m learning to get out of my comfort zone & feel a need to speak up. So here we go…

This election year has been a unique one.

One filled with scandals and hatred and violence and dissension and division more than I’ve witnessed thus far.  I’ve seen such hatred among God’s people and the world in which we live.  It has been sad, discouraging, and difficult for me.  I avoid confrontation… and arguments and division (which is why I typically don’t discuss politics… or really anything that tends to upset people).

However, God placed me in this unique roll to be a 30-something FEMALE pastor.  Disagreeing would be inevitable.  And so, over the years, I’ve learned how to “discuss” different views and am still learning how to heed my boss’ advice and “agree to disagree, agreeably.”  Hardest thing to do.  But NEEDED as the people of God

I struggle when people, but especially Christians, are argumentative and divisive and negative and mean-spirited toward one another and those around them.

I hate it when the people of God forget what matters most and instead focus on the “stuff” that divides rather than what unites.

& I especially hate it when we as believers, look and act and speak the same as the world in which we live.  When we mix up the listening and speaking piece in James advice in 1:19 (in fact the entire first chapter of James is pretty relevant/challenging)…

“EVERYONE should be quick to LISTEN, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

I’ve been seeing too much of this lately (& have been wrestling with it myself).

Speaking and not listening. Anger. Fear. Confusion. Negativity. & Anger some more.

& TOMORROW is a big day.

A big day for America and a big day for God’s people.

The thing I love about God’s word and truth is that as you hide it away in your heart and mind… it pops out at just the right time.  God pretty quickly convicted me when I found myself getting negative and overwhelmed by this upcoming week.  About what the outcome will be.  How people will react.  And how I am going to respond in that.  It was during this time that God very conveniently lead me to this (pretty perfect) verse.

>>> Philippians 2:14-16 <<<

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. 

 

This is what God convicted me on.  Yes, it was the obvious “do everything without complaining and grumbling” (I need that).  It reminds me to watch my words and negative mindset.  That’s definitely a struggle of mine.

But what really got me was the less obvious… the challenge to S H I N E among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the world of life.”

How perfect of a challenge this week.  To SHINE. To be different than the world around us… as we hold on to the Word of LIFE (God’s word).  And what does God’s word tell us?

It tells us… To be different.  To be light. To be hope. To be encouragement when the world only sees despair and negativity and sorrow.

It tells of the sacrifice that Christ paid and yet in it and through it, he remained focused and set on holding to God’s plan and word so that WE may have life.

Our life as believers hinges on the pain and suffering of Christ.  NOT on who will or won’t be elected.  NOT on who will (or won’t) “run” our country.

Can this person make significant changes that might change our life, finances, and well-being.  100 percent.  But our hope does not lie in A person but THE PERSON. THE Christ who sacrificed it all. For us all… So we all could SHINE.

So, I can’t think of a better time to SHINE than now.  When tomorrow someone will be elected President and someone will not.  Some people will be upset and angry and lash out and some will gloat and cheer.

It might be a difficult day for you or an exciting one, I don’t know.  But what I do know is that no matter what I desire to SHINE. To NOT be filled with negativity but to find the good in whatever happens.

There is GOOD in the first woman being elected as president.

& There is GOOD in making some changes to our system.

There is GOOD either way.  I chose to see that, remember that, focus on that.

Welp, that’s way more than I am comfortable sharing but I couldn’t help but feel the need to encourage us, remind us, and challenge us to remember that what’s most important…

To S H I N E

among them like stars in the sky.