Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Sunday Set-Up for March 29, 2015


Two men stand poised, a black-and-white striped referee between them, their eyes fixed on the round orange ball between them. As the referee prepares to lift the ball in the air between them, every eye looks intently on what's about to happen: Game Time!

It's an exciting time of year. March Madness presents a veritable feast in the world of college basketball. The opening games of the NCAA tournament appear one right after the next, and every team shows up hungry to win.

That's Palm Sunday. Jesus showed up in Jerusalem, and it was Game On. The moment had arrived.

We will celebrate and consider this Sunday how Jesus entered this massively important week, with every part of him fixed on what he needed to do, while the noisy, busy crowds looked on.

Come ready to celebrate, and ready to see Jesus.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Sabbath Silence

Years ago, a pastor friend invited me to attend a silent retreat. I responded with laughter, “Love you. Mean it, but are you kidding? I don’t have time for that and I am just not the silent type!  I’m more the get it done kinda of person. I thought you knew that about me.” That wasn’t the answer she was looking for; she saw a deeper need than I recognized in myself.  She looked at me, smiled, paused a little while and responded: “Ok, dear friend,” she said. “I’m going to make a few calls and I’ll see you at the retreat.” She wasn’t kidding. Judy called my husband and my boss. She made sure I had child care for Luke; she even paid for me to attend the retreat!

God met me the day of that silent retreat in a way I’d never met him before. Though the distractions were many, as I settled into the space, I began to notice Jesus surround me. I found myself simply being in the set apart time and space with him. No agenda. No to do lists or other people asking me to do anything other than just be. Simply God and me in his creation, his word, his loving presence. In the silence the Lord opened soul space in me that I hadn’t known before as I heard him call me his daughter who he loves.

From that time until now, God has used the soul practice of silence in my life to draw me closer to him and cause me to be aware of His presence and voice in my life and the life of others I love.

Now as a mom of teen and tween boys, if it’s not the constant beat of a basketball, the blare of the tv, or the general forte pound of teen voices, when my guys are around, there is a lot of noise. If I’m honest, though, even when they’re not around, I can have a tough time avoiding all the distractions around me.  I still like to ‘get it done’. Yet, I’ve learned over the years of practicing silence that doing the hard work of carving out time to be alone and undistracted in silent time with Jesus, makes me more aware of God’s presence even in the midst of the noise and distractions of my life.

For me, the best time to practice silence with God is in the morning when the house is quiet and I am getting dishes put away from the dishwasher and our boys lunches ready. These are such mundane tasks that I can concentrate on simply being with God as I do them. I also enjoy driving my car without any other noise around me. Yet, intentionally scheduling a day of solitude and silence to simply be with God is what I think has undergirded the other silent spaces in my life. As I make myself available to God in silence he meets me, he loves me, and I adore him in quiet reverence of knowing and being known. 

—Mary Vandel Young

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sabbath Rest

I struggle with the concept of keeping Sabbath-rest. I have often tried to justify myself by arguing that I am merely fighting against hard-wired legalistic tendencies. However, I believe that my reluctance tends to flow more from my own selfishness rather than from a bucking of legalistic rules. I want to control my own schedule. I want to get through my check list of to-dos. I want to catch up on exercise. I realize that when I choose not to keep the Sabbath, my focus in on “I” rather than “I am”.

However, I am reminded of the image in Genesis of God at the first recorded Sabbath. He is finished with His initial creation. He does not need rest, but He choses to rest to preside over His lovely work. He sits in dominion over what He has done. Moreover, He clearly states that this is a pattern that He has established for His people. He commands us to stop, to redirect our focus unto Him and away from work and self. While I am convicted by my frequent breaking of the Sabbath commandment, I am also renewed and excited by the compelling principles that inspire it. I pray, by Gods grace, that my life will be increasingly characterized by Sabbath-rest rather than Sabbath-activity.

Andy Alspaugh

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Matter of God’s Perfect Timing

by Barbara Wilson

On October 6, 2014, my Mother, Elsie Stussie, died at the age of 88.  A long, good life you might say, and it truly was.  Mother lived at Springmoor Retirement Center for almost six years,  and moved to the Health Center (Nursing area) two years ago because of dementia and balance problems.  Nine days later, she broke her hip!

Between anesthesia and the dementia blowing up, Mother never recovered from the hip surgery.  She was totally dependent on the staff for all her needs.  She was transferred to a wheel chair each morning and taken to a special dining room to be fed.

On alert days she was very sweet to her helpers and smiled and thanked them.  Also, on alert days, it was obvious she knew who I was by a couple of expressions she had always used with me—even if she couldn’t call my name.  On those days, I would read a devotion to her and maybe say “Aren’t we glad we know Jesus?" or “Aren’t we glad we will be in heaven with Him for eternity?”  She would answer “Yes, we are” or just lift her eyebrows in agreement.

Many times I would leave in tears saying “Lord, why would you allow Mother to keep living in this state of confusion and total dependence on others?"   As weeks and months went by, I began to ask the Lord, “Lord, is there something someone in our family needs to learn or repent from as we wait with Mother?"  Nothing came from this question I asked on a number of occasions.

Then last Spring through my own Bible Study and prayer, God began to show me in many ways that I wasn’t trusting Him.  I received healing prayer through the Healing Prayer Ministry at Apostles and realized I was not trusting Him with His timing of Mother’s life.  The Lord was revealing to me that “YES” in fact it was ME who needed to learn much about trusting Him concerning His timing with Mother.  Almost immediately, the Lord began to bring me to a different place of prayer - it’s hard to explain, but I was just going deeper with Him!  Proverbs 3:5-6 reads “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

Six weeks before Mother died, she could no longer be transferred from the bed.  It became apparent that the end would be soon.  The Lord completely relaxed my visit times with her which became more often.  It was unusual for me to be relaxed at visits because I had busy work to do—take clean laundry, get dirty laundry, water plants, talk to nurse, etc.  There was none of that to do at this point.  So I just sat with her, held her hand, talked with her and yes, prayed with her.  The praying was no longer reading a devotion to her but miraculously, the Lord would put particular Bible verses or passages on my heart to read to her.  She had a wall of family pictures opposite her bed and one day I named all the family from the pictures and mentioned something she would have remembered about them.  One day, the Lord nudged me to pray a prayer of release to her and I told her “When you see Jesus hold out His hand for you, please run to Him because you will be able to run then.”

That six weeks was the sweetest time I had ever spent with my Mother.  And yes, God answered my questions of why and how long with His “perfect” timing by preparing my heart relationship with Him and my prayers to go deeper with Him.  Jeremiah 29:11-13 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Praise God I am still learning that He has not finished His plans for me and I pray He keeps teaching me until the day He takes me to be in His Presence.  Hallelujah!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Reflections on Listening

This season of Lent, we are exploring spiritual disciplines together as a body. The following is a reflection on the discipline of Listening from Mary Zimmerman.

In my early years of walking with Christ, I learned about prayer… about asking in faith, having quiet times, praying the scriptures, many wonderful methods and helpful instructions for which I’m grateful. But strangely, missing entirely was the listening side of prayer. It was a one-way discourse, not a dialog. And I believe this left a growing disconnect between my head (jammed with Bible knowledge and doctrine), and my heart. Something was missing. I didn’t need more knowledge about God. I needed God. Eventually circumstances of life brought me to a wilderness, away from the noise and hurry of our culture. As the fog cleared, I spent more unhurried time with Jesus, exploring ancient Christian disciplines and rhythms. He began to open my eyes and my ears…. to speak into my soul. But I am naturally suspicious, especially towards myself. Could I really hear God aright? What about my own inner critic, or the wants and wishes? How to distinguish? What if I was deluded by the enemy? Then there were the distractions that rose up whenever I tried to settle into quietness. And finally, I was aware of the necessity of obedience in all this; what would I do with an “Eli message” such as Samuel received? As I began to learn and to grow in spiritual receptivity, the peace of God slowly enveloped me, bringing light to bear upon my questions and fears. I saw that the Triune God is here, with us and in us, and is ever-communicating. I began to trust that our Creator has graciously given us the capacity to discern his voice. Best of all, he desires this as a vital part of our relationship. “The heavens declare the glory of God…day after day they pour forth speech”

If you would like to learn more about this discipline, click here for the community group guide we are using to explore this together.