Making the Most of Every Opportunity

Little Book of Miracles Series

It’s easy to lose the awe that comes when we experience direct answers to specific prayers. We think we’ll remember, but the mundane and the busy redirect our brains, and those amazing moments can be lost. Some years ago, I began recording each of those treasured times, those times when I just knew it was God’s yes in a very specific way. I call it my Little Book of Miracles—and I’m now on book four. In the month of March, I’m excited to share a few of these precious stories with you. Some are profound. Some are almost silly. Today's story is bittersweet and hard to comprehend. Yet each story reminds me of the ways God has shown His love and concern for others as well as for me … miraculously. I hope you enjoy celebrating these moments with me, and I urge you to start your own Little Book of Miracles.

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. —Colossians 4:3-5

It was the summer of 1972, and my family was spending a week in a little cabin by a lake in northern New Hampshire. I was fourteen years old and my sister Bethany was twelve. We had been coming to this particular spot for several years, and Bethany was a fast friend with the owner’s daughter (I’ll call her Belinda). Shortly after our arrival, Bethany felt convicted that this was the summer Belinda must ask Jesus into her heart.

Bethany was passionate about it … but she wanted me to do the talking! She had a sense that I was the one to share. I had no idea how to start a conversation with Belinda, especially since she was really my sister’s friend. So, Bethany and I prayed together and asked God to give me an opportunity to talk with Belinda about Christ.

One morning, halfway through our week, I got up early and sat on the dock with my Bible. Belinda saw me there, joined me, and asked what I was doing. I shared with her my love for Jesus, and she accepted Him as her Lord and Savior. Right there on that dock! Quietly and simply, Belinda became a child of God. He had prepared my heart to speak His truth and Belinda’s heart to receive it—and my sister’s heart to pray. Bethany was ecstatic. We all were! After we returned home Bethany and Belinda stayed in touch all year writing letters.

Summer of 1973 arrived, and, before we were to return to our little cabin, a phone call came from Belinda’s parents. Our friend had dived into the ice-cold lake on a very hot day. And died. Evidently, she had a weak heart that no one knew about and the shock was too much. Oh, how we grieved! And … oh, how we marveled!

God loved Belinda so much that He gave Bethany a burning passion to tell her about salvation in Jesus Christ. He allowed me to be the vehicle to tell her of His love. Through His prompting, He made sure Belinda would be with Him forever. My sister and I have never forgotten Belinda or the awe we felt as we realized the way God had used us to ensure this child of twelve would spend eternity with Him. That’s how much He loves His children.

I believe that God used prayer as the key to open the door of opportunity. He burdened Bethany to pray, and He prepared Belinda to receive eternal life. Paul speaks of this truth in our verse for today, “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:3-5, emphasis mine).

Father, thank You for Your deep love for those who do not know You. Help me to make the most of every opportunity You give me, clearly proclaiming the gospel. Use me, Lord, to bring others to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

From Sharons book, Sweet Selah Moments: Encouragement for Everyday Living 

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service

Mission 
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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That Time God Said YES

Little Book of Miracles Series

It’s easy to lose the awe that comes when we experience direct answers to specific prayers. We think we’ll remember, but the mundane and the busy redirect our brains, and those amazing moments can be lost. Some years ago, I began recording each of those treasured times, those times when I just knew it was God’s yes in a very specific way. I call it my Little Book of Miracles—and I’m now on book four. In the month of March, I’m excited to share a few of these precious stories with you. Some are profound. Some are almost silly. Yet all of them remind me of the ways God has met my needs and often my wants … miraculously. I hope you enjoy celebrating these moments with me, and I urge you to start your own Little Book of Miracles.

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” —Jeremiah 32:27 ESV

It was my daughter’s birthday. Her husband was overseas for the year and unable to celebrate with her. I decided to help my grandchildren, ages seven, five, and three, buy little presents for their mama—teaching them the joy of giving and, at the same time, blessing their mom during a hard year in her life. Off we trotted to the van, where three little bodies were strapped in safe and sound, full of chatter and excitement about the Big Adventure of shopping at the mall with me, their Nina.

I had set a $10 limit for each of them, so they would have to choose carefully what special present they wanted their beloved mama to have. We hadn’t even made it out of the driveway before it became apparent they had no idea how much $10 would buy. The excitement was building as they discussed what they would purchase. “Diamonds!” shouted one. “I want to buy her many jewels, Nina. And gold,” said another. “Oh dear,” thought I, trying to prepare them by suggesting we shop at a little costume jewelry store and chip in all the money together to get one pretty necklace with “jewels.” They were not having it. “Oh, no, Nina. We want to buy her earrings and necklaces. Each of us our own.” I tried to explain that $10 could not possibly buy both earrings and a necklace, but they were so excited that my gentle attempts at reining them in fell on deaf ears.

This was quite the situation for a Nina who has a very hard time saying no to her grandchildren. (See Nina Lost Her “No” Button for further information on this sad fact.) I broke through the chatter and did the only thing I could do when facing the impossible, I said, “Let’s pray for God’s help, okay?” They seriously bowed their little heads as I pleaded with God for some help here please. Suddenly this adventure didn’t seem quite as grand as I had imagined. I pictured very disappointed little ones trudging home with something much less than they had envisioned. I loved their desire to give their mother something big, but I really couldn’t spend more than the allotted amount. So I prayed. With a very little bit of faith. In a mess of desperation.

When we arrived at the mall, we headed toward the costume jewelry store. On our way, we passed a much finer store—actually their mom’s favorite store. I saw a “sale” sign in the display window and suggested we go in and look. Sure enough, the beautiful necklaces with gold and “jewels” were $24.95 on sale. Great! But certainly not cheap enough for each grandchild to buy their very own to give their mom … let alone earrings as well. I started to explain this to them, but the lady behind the counter overheard our conversation and came over to help. She smiled and said, “Follow me.” She led us to another section of the store, where their extreme sale was going on. Buy earrings for $9.95 and choose a necklace for free! I kid you not.

Each child, happily unaware of this little miracle, chose with glee the necklace and earrings he or she thought were the prettiest for their mom. The kind clerk wrapped them all individually with each child’s name affixed to their package, so their mom could see what each had chosen especially for her.

I walked out of that store just stunned. I have to confess I hadn’t really expected that God would actually do what I had asked. I was more hoping He’d help me stem their disappointment. As we celebrated with pretzels, the oldest grandson led us in a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s help. I felt like doing a victory dance. It was so much fun to see how God had orchestrated our morning and taught the children (and Nina!) a valuable lesson in giving and in asking.

Oh, you should have seen the joy as each child presented their “gold and jewels” to their mother on her birthday. She loved seeing their happiness and their desire to give—perhaps even more than the “jewels.” But she liked those, too. After all, we had shopped at her favorite place. It was a sweet birthday celebration despite the absence of the father and husband they all loved and missed.

I tucked away the memory. A sweet time when a crazy little desperate prayer was answered with a resounding yes by a God who says, “Is anything too hard for Me?” Sometimes, we just need to ask. Like a child. Trusting that God will answer us as He knows best. I’m so glad I did that day. We would have missed out on a “little miracle” that turned into a big reminder that our God cares about us—in the little and the big things of life.

Father, I’m still smiling over Your amazing provision. Such a crazy little wish not to disappoint my grandchildren, answered beyond my imagination. Thank You. Help us come to You whenever we have a trouble, big or small. Nothing is too hard for You, Lord, and You welcome Your children to come and ask. Help us to trust Your answers, knowing You are good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service

Mission 
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Heaven Bound

Little Book of Miracles Series

It’s easy to lose the awe that comes when we experience direct answers to specific prayers. We think we’ll remember, but the mundane and the busy redirect our brains, and those amazing moments can be lost. Some years ago, I began recording each of those treasured times, those times when I just knew it was God’s yes in a very specific way. I call it my Little Book of Miracles—and I’m now on book four. In the month of March, I’m excited to share a few of these precious stories with you. Some are profound. Some are almost silly. Yet all of them remind me of the ways God has met my needs and often my wants … miraculously. I hope you enjoy celebrating these moments with me, and I urge you to start your own Little Book of Miracles.

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. —Acts 7:55 ESV

She was a great piano student. She’d always wanted to play, but money was scarce in her childhood, and a piano was out of the question. So she learned another instrument instead. I think it might have been the clarinet. But when you want to play the piano … another instrument just won’t do. That was why, in her fifties, she was taking piano lessons from me. She practiced faithfully. She sat herself down at that piano and went to work each week. She pushed herself to do well. And somewhere between the scales and the sharps and the flats, we became friends.

The day she told me she had cancer again was a hard one. She made it easier by joking about it. “I had cancer when my children were small,” she said. “And I asked God to let me live long enough to see them as adults. Now, why didn’t I ask Him for longer than that?” I loved the way this dear friend could turn something so scary into something humorous.

She fought it. She was a nurse and knew how to take care of herself. She’d always walked and exercised and that didn’t stop. She changed her diet. She did all the treatments. She continued to be her plucky self, practicing piano through chemo and radiation and hardly ever missing a lesson through it all. Some things changed, though. The amount of time we spent talking increased. It can be hard to talk about approaching death with your own family. They love you too much and just the mention of it causes them grief. Being sensitive to that, she talked to me instead.

During one of those talks, she told me the thing she dreaded most was being stuck in a bed. This active woman couldn’t imagine being unable to take her daily walks, even though walking had become excruciatingly painful at times. She wanted reassurance that God really exists, and Heaven was all really, really true. So, sitting on that piano bench one day, I held her hands in mine and prayed. We asked for two things. First, we asked God that she would be able to keep walking until the day He took her home … whenever that day came. Then, we asked Him to let her see Jesus before she died, just like Stephen in the New Testament. “In Jesus’ Name,” we prayed. “Amen.”

Stephen, the church’s first martyr, was stoned to death for preaching what his fellow Jews called blasphemy. God, in His grace and mercy, opened up Heaven for Stephen so that, as those stones fell and broke his body, his eyes beheld his living Savior. He died joyfully as we read in Acts:

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. … And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

—Acts 7:54-60 ESV

My friend also died. Ray and I arrived at the wake early before any other guests. In that quiet time, her husband and her son joyfully shared the story of her final moments. She had taken a walk the day before she died. God answered that prayer for her. Just before her death, the sun streamed in her window, and she sat straight up and lifted her hands toward Heaven with a smile on her face. Yes, she did! Oh, can you imagine my tears of gratitude mingling with those of her dear husband and son. God heard the prayer of a simple piano teacher and her student, sitting on a bench together—and He said yes. He numbers our days, and He chose to take her home, but with such kindness and with a joyous, lasting memory to her beloveds as well.

Father, it’s never easy to let a loved one go, but, oh, how I thank You for easing the way for my friend. Lord, thank You for the confirmation of Your love in her home going. Someday, Lord, I, too, would love to see Jesus right before I die. I’m so very thankful I am heaven bound. Because of Jesus, my King, I pray, Amen.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service

Mission 
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Love Rescues

Valentines from God Series - February 2019

Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean! —Micah 7:19 NLT

Ray and I were out for a bike ride on an early summer evening when we decided to try an intriguing little path. It seemed to be a shortcut over to the next road we wished to take. But … as we neared the path, a gigantic cloud of horseflies was swarming the entrance, and they definitely noticed us. Ow! Yikes! We turned. We pedaled furiously. Eventually, the pesky flies gave up and all was well again. Whew!

Sin can be like those horseflies. Persistent, buzzing around us. Landing on us and biting and biting again. Makes my skin crawl just thinking about it. You know what God does? He tramples sin under His feet. Bam. Dead. And then, for good measure, He throws it into the depths of the ocean. Gone. Done. Freed. Rescued.

Oh, how thankful I am for God’s strong compassion for us and His ability and willingness to forgive our sin—and rid us of the guilt and shame that want to keep sticking to us. When we confess our sins and ask for His forgiveness and cleansing, God really forgives and really cleanses. He makes us whole again and removes the cloud. Gone. Done. Freed. Rescued.

Do you know what we do sometimes? As Corrie Ten Boom puts it, we go fishing. Yup. We wade into that ocean and go looking for that sin, either to indulge in it again or to beat ourselves up with the memory of the awful things we’ve done. When we go “fishing” for forgiven sin … we sin again. Romans 8:1 assures us that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (NKJV). Once we are forgiven … we are forgiven. Gone. Done. Freed. Rescued.

Oh, friend. Let’s believe it and live it. Let’s bring our sins to Him and ask Him to trample on them and drown them in the depths of the sea. And then let’s turn away in relief and walk away from our sin and toward the One who can help us stay pure. In fact, just like Ray and I on our bikes, let’s “pedal furiously” toward our Rescuer, who alone makes us clean and innocent all over again. Daily. Hourly. Any time.

Father, thank You for the strong imagery here of Your power over sin and guilt and shame. How I praise You that You turn with compassion to Your wayward children and save us. Help us to believe the truth that our sins are forgiven. You tell us they are gone—and they are. Help us to live in the freedom that brings. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service

Mission 
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Call Him Abba

Valentines from God Series – February 2019

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” —Romans 8:15 NIV 1984

I sat me down and had a good, long cry. I had informed my husband as he left for work that day my plan was to cry my eyes out. He didn’t comprehend this in the slightest and looked quite relieved that I didn’t seem to think him necessary to the process. After he left, I pulled our overstuffed chair up to the fire, put on sweet worship music, grabbed a box of Kleenex, and simply sobbed. It was just what I needed.

It was a time when trouble seemed all around me in the lives of dear ones—cancer, wayward children, broken marriages—and, oh, how I hurt when those close to me are hurting. The sadness builds up in me until I know it needs to come out in tears. So I sit and I cry … to the One who listens and understands best. My Abba.

What a wonder that the God who created the world with His voice, the God who is Holy and who lives in unapproachable light, is also called Abba. The term Abba is one of endearment for a daddy, like saying “Papa.” Closeness, intimacy, and deepest love are the meanings wrapped up in the name Abba.

Paul assures me in the verse above, that I did not receive a spirit that makes me a slave again to fear. I don’t have to let fear overwhelm me. Instead, the Holy Spirit dwells in me, and, when I am grieved or wounded or just plain sad, I’m free to run to the One who calms my fears and steadies me.

Some earthly fathers are available and affectionate, but being human, sinful, and limited in time and energy, no father is always available like our Abba. To Him, we can come at any time, sure of a warm welcome, a heart of love, and a compassion that is greater than any we have ever known.

My time with the Lord that morning left me feeling relieved … refreshed … ironically, even cheered. Crying out my hurts and disappointments to God brings perspective and comfort.

Are you feeling burdened today by the cares of this world? The trials you are facing? The pain of those dear to you? Remember you have a God who calls to you, “Come to Me.” You have a God who loves you and longs for an intimate relationship with you. You have an Abba.

Dear Father, thank You for the great privilege of allowing us to call You Abba. Thank You for Your gift of closeness to us in our times of greatest need—and in our times of joy. Oh, Abba, keep this child of Yours close to You always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

From Sharons book, Sweet Selah Moments: Encouragement for Everyday Living 

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service

Mission 
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Surely. No Doubt About It.

Valentines from God Series - February 2019

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. —Psalm 23:6 NLT

He was a man of contrasts. He loved God deeply. He valued honor in battle and twice spared the life of his enemy the king. He was fearless when facing a giant. Yet, he loved too many women. He was apathetic the year he decided not to lead his army into battle. He lusted. Committed adultery and arranged for a murder in order to cover his sin. Victorious in battles, he was defeated at home. He neglected to discipline his many, many children. He was passive when one of his sons raped one of his daughters, and he had to flee for his life when another son tried to usurp the throne. He was David, the shepherd boy who became king. If he were alive today he would be constantly followed by paparazzi. His life was filled with fodder for gossip and drama at every stage. David was so good and so bad. He was a lot like all of us.

Psalm 23, King David’s most famous psalm, was likely written toward the end of his life. Bible expositor, Alexander MacLaren, writes:

We do not know at what period of David’s life [Psalm 23] was written, but it sounds as if it were the work of his later years. There is a fulness of experience about it, and a tone of subdued, quiet confidence which speaks of a heart mellowed by years, and of a faith made sober by many a trial. A young man would not write so calmly, and a life which was just opening would not afford material for such a record of God’s guardianship in all changing circumstances.

—Alexander MacLaren’s Expositions of Holy Scripture, Psalm 23:1-6, The Shepherd King of Israel

If this is the case, we have a man seasoned by joy and sorrow, trials of his own making, heartache and glory, failure and rescue still declaring firmly that “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” (vs. 6). David was confident that God’s goodness and unfailing love were His. Always. Not just here on earth, but also in Heaven. Basically Forever. How wonderful is that?

Can we echo this belief? Do we believe that no matter how hard our trials, no matter how dark our days, God’s goodness and unfailing love are right there in the midst? What a difference it makes when we trust in that. You see, trials will come. Dark days will happen even to those with the sunniest of temperaments. We have a choice in those hard places. Do we despair? Or do we trust that God is, indeed, still with us and still good? When we know He walks with us through the dark places, they become less dark. Hope accompanies us. We are not alone. God’s Word is sure. Let’s grab hold of this truth and believe it as we journey through life.

Lord, thank You for being the faithful, good Shepherd of our souls. Help us to know You so well that we trust, like David, that surely Your goodness and Your unfailing love are always with us. No matter what. Oh, Father God, thank You for loving us! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service

Mission 
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Forever Loved

Valentines from God Series – February 2019

And [on that day] I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. —Hosea 2:19 ESV

He was a holy man. Known as a prophet who spoke for God in Israel. She was a very-not-holy woman. A prostitute. Repeatedly unfaithful even when married. What an unlikely pair. And yet, that is what God chose to do. He asked Hosea to marry Gomer. And, when Gomer was unfaithful and left him, God asked Hosea to go and “buy her back.” I wonder why she had to be bought back? Did she, or some evil man, sell her into slavery? Oh, how much I’d like to know about this broken woman loved by a prophet of God!

What a wild and unique story. A parable acted out to show a truth that endures. No matter how awful we are, no matter how broken and incapable of keeping promises, God’s desire is for us. His love is real. Because it’s real, God feels real pain when we are unfaithful, just as any spouse would feel searing hurt at unfaithfulness.

The God of all, who is complete in Himself, chooses to love in a way that will hurt Him. And despite our unfaithfulness, that love still holds. The book of Hosea is an emotional roller coaster ride as we read of God’s agony at the disregard His people have for Him after all the love He lavished upon them. It’s harsh at points. He is angry and leaves His people to their own folly. It’s incredibly “grace full” as well. His plan to rescue a disobedient and wayward people shows an uncommon, unheard of kind of love.

Oh, dear friend! Have you been unfaithful to the God who loves you? Do you choose to go your own way more often than not and ignore the One who made you and sings over you? Me too. I found myself, just this morning, looking at my phone and Facebook before meeting with the God I love and serve. Yes, this is a relatively small thing, but for me it was disobedience. Why? Why look at the lesser thing, when I could be meeting with the Best One? I did put that phone down and get on with my quiet time, but still I was struck, once again, by His grace in my life. By the fact that He welcomes me when I turn my disobedient self toward Him, and He holds me close.

Our verse today is rich with promise and love and assurance: And [on that day] I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. If we are His, despite our repeated unfaithfulness, He will be faithful. He will, someday, bring us to Himself forever. (That’s a very long time!) We will be betrothed in righteousness and justice, because the penalty for our unfaithfulness has been paid in full by the blood of His Son Jesus. We will be betrothed to One whose love is steadfast, and who is able to help us be steadfast, too. And we will be betrothed in mercy. Oh, how merciful He is to us!

I wonder how Gomer responded when Hosea, her faithful husband, went and found her in the worst of situations and bought her and brought her home, established as wife and mother in honor again. What led her to prostitution in the first place? What lies did she believe in her head that led her to repeatedly allow men to misuse her? And … did she, at last, settle down with Hosea, feeling loved and beloved despite her past? I think she did. And so can we. Our faithful God loves us that much. Now that’s a valentine to treasure!

Father God, how humbled I am by Your rich, faithful, hurting love for Your people. Forgive me, Lord, for the many times I dismiss it and treat that great Love with contempt in my disregard for You. I love that You love me! Help me to be steadfast in my love for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service

Mission 
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Unfathomable Love

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. —Romans 5:6-8 NLT

“What makes him special?” asks the radio personality. “I love him so much. He gives me roses,” she shares. “And he’s so thoughtful. He’s always asking me how I feel. He makes me feel like a princess.” “Why do you love her?” he asks another caller. “I love her because she makes me feel so good,” he says. “When I’m with her, I feel important and special.”

Hmmmm … although these are very normal responses, I’m struck by the fact that human love is often based on how someone makes us feel. When we’re asked why we love that someone, our common response is about how nice they are to us, not what is intrinsically valuable about them. Being naturally self-centered, we gravitate toward those who especially like and adore us. That’s natural.

You know what is unnatural and actually unfathomable? God’s love. That’s what. God does not love us because we are attentive to His needs and we make Him feel special. It’s not what we give Him that fills Him with a love that is wide and long and high and deep and surpasses understanding (from Ephesians 3:18-19). Nope. While we were utterly helpless and lost, while we gave Him exactly no time or thought, He loved us. In fact, He chose to take on Himself the punishment we deserve for our own evil ways. He loved us that much. Let that sink in. We had done absolutely nothing to “make” Him love us by human standards. We were indifferent at best, openly hostile at worst. And yet, He loved us even then. Actually, before we were even born, He loved us.

That kind of love is incomprehensible. God Almighty, who is complete without me, fully satisfied and whole, chose to create me and love me, even though he knew full well how rotten I would be. Before I accepted Jesus as my Savior, while I was still far from Him, He loved me even then. I don’t have to earn that love. (I couldn’t if I tried.) I don’t have to panic that I’ll lose His love. His love is everlasting. I can feel gawky and awkward and pathetic and inadequate as a Christian all I want. I can be disgusted with the way I often sin the same sin, failing repeatedly to live up to His good standards. But, if I have asked Him to be my Savior and received His amazing gift of forgiveness and cleansing, He calls me His own.* Period. I might be unfaithful to Him, but He remains faithful: If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is” (2 Timothy 2:13 NLT).

Oh, can you wrap your mind around this kind of crazy love? Your heart will be humbled and happy when you grasp that you are just plain loved without having to earn it or strive to keep it.

God’s unfathomable love will be our focus here at Sweet Selah Ministries for the month of February. Each day, click sweetselah.org/quote-of-the-day or visit our social media sites to read a verse from Scripture about God’s deep love for you. I’m calling these Bible verses “Valentines from God,” and I’ll also share a short thought about each one. The goal? That you may truly grasp, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, that you are eternally loved. Let’s unwrap a valentine every day, shall we? The sheer number of verses telling us of God’s love is an indication that this is a message He wants us to fully know.

Father God, help us to believe what You say about Your love for us. Help us to understand a little more how very wide and high and long and deep that love is! And enable us to love You more and more. With grateful and eager hearts, in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

* If you’d like to learn more about how to trust God as your Savior, click on this gentle message from Sharon, or write her at sharon@sweetselah.org.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service

Mission 
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Welcome Home

But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” —Matthew 8:20 NLT

They are arriving. Slowly and steadily our house fills, and noise and laughter increase. It’s Friday night and time for our home group to meet together, study the Word, pray, and share. My heart swells along with the noise level. I love each couple, each single, and each little child who enters our home. The coffee smells rich and inviting, the table is full of fruit and cheese, crackers and nuts. The lights are on, and all are welcomed.

Home. Ours is a simple one really. A raised ranch. Architecturally boring in an unpretentious neighborhood. But I love our home. It has that built in bookcase that first attracted my husband, and the elaborate brick fireplace and hearth that definitely attracted me. Best of all, despite its tiny kitchen, it boasts a versatile living room and dining room, big enough to create a circle of assorted couches, chairs, and benches easily seating 20 people. One of my greatest joys is welcoming people into this space. I like being home.

It’s hard to fathom, but Jesus, when He walked this earth as a preacher, had no home. No place to welcome visitors. He couldn’t invite anyone over for coffee and study. He was dependent on the hospitality of others for any dinner parties, and He often slept outdoors with the stars and trees and rocks for decoration. In truth, He was dependent on others for everything. Once He left Nazareth, He had no paying job. He lived by donations and gifts and God’s unfailing provision.

It’s stunning, really, the choices He made and the hard things He went through. How very, very good that God would choose to live that way. He can identify with countless hardships through personal experience as a human being. He was betrayed by a friend, probably fatherless at a young age, definitely poor, and often misunderstood even by his own family. But to also be homeless? To have no place to call His own? Somehow that seems really hard. I mean, even birds have their nests, right? It’s a natural thing here on earth to have a place to call your own. Jesus didn’t.

Jesus can identify with those who wander without a guaranteed place to even lay their heads. Today’s refugees fleeing their homelands, war widows and children, whose homes have been blown to ashes, and all those who are lost can take comfort in knowing that their God, when He put on flesh, chose to be identified with them. The “least of these.” Oh, what a marvelous God we serve!

In Scripture, though, Jesus often talks about home—His Father’s home. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14:1-3 NLT). You can hear the eagerness in His words as He shares with His disciples. No dwelling here on earth can compare to the home being prepared for us. Someday, we will leave our failing bodies here on earth and be clothed in heavenly ones. We’ll see what we can barely imagine. A place prepared with us in mind. And waiting for us will be the One who had no home here, but who joyously says to us as we arrive, “Welcome home.”

My Lord and Savior. How humbled I am when I realize You chose to be homeless and poor during Your time of ministry on earth. You chose to be dependent on the mercy of others, fully trusting Your Heavenly Father to provide. Thank You, Lord, for choosing the obscure way, the way of poverty, the small way. You know how the poorest of us lives. And thank You for the preparations going on right now for Your people to join You in the home prepared just for us! Thank You for joyfully wanting us to dwell with You forever. Lord, we look forward to the day when You call us … HOME. Amen.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service

Mission 
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Seriously. Be Nice.

“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” —Matthew 5:21-22 NLT

So, did you really read what Jesus just said in the scripture above? Whoa. He’s downright fierce with us about our treatment of our fellow human beings, isn’t he? Name-calling is a serious offense in His book. Super serious. Two mornings ago, I read this passage and can’t get it out of my mind. God cares about our speech and our attitudes toward others. Big time.

Notice the repeated word “someone” in the sentences above. Someone means … anyone. I don’t have permission to treat any person with disdain and disregard. You know what? That’s hard. That means when the customer service representative reads to me from a script and seems to care not at all about the words I’m actually saying, I still need to treat her with courtesy. And when a driver cuts me off in traffic, almost causing an accident? If I call him an idiot, I’m dead wrong.

Why is Jesus so passionate about this? Could it be that He truly does love all of us? Could it be that when He sees a damaged, hurting person being treated dismissively it also hurts Him? Perhaps the same disregard for human dignity and life that causes murder is equally wrong even when it doesn’t lead to murder. The devaluing of a human being is at the root of the sin of murder, and it evidently puts us in danger of “the fires of hell.” So. This is serious.

Imagine with me that the customer service representative who’s reading from a script and making me furious, is a woman from a third world country who finally has a job and no longer has to consider prostitution as her only option. Her English is barely “good enough,” and it’s her second day on the job. She literally doesn’t understand me, and here I am scorning her. See? Do I know her story? Do I even care enough to imagine it, or am I so wrapped up in my own self-centeredness that I dismiss her and her story in favor of my own perceived needs? Ouch. And the person cutting me off in traffic? Maybe he is being careless—or maybe he was just laid off from work and is driving in a total daze. Who knows? God knows. And He expects us to treat all His creation with respect. Always. I don’t see an exception clause here.

This fierce, hard-hitting passage of Scripture slams against our self-absorption, doesn’t it? Jesus speaks like this because we need it. Instead of running from these verses because they are difficult, what if we let them marinate in our minds? In her book God So Loved the World, Elizabeth Goudge says this about Jesus’ use of words: “[He] could use words as a surgeon uses a knife, painful, sharp words that cut away deception from men’s minds as a poisonous growth in a body is cut away.” What if we dare to ask … who am I treating poorly, Lord? Where have I allowed deception to keep me comfortable with my unkind words and unkind treatment of others—politicians, criminals, random strangers, even those in my own family? What if we asked for His help as we seek to change?

Lord, these words sting. I confess I need them in order to hear Your full outrage when I treat anyone made in Your image with contempt. Forgive me when desire for my own comfort and privilege results in disregard for others. All “someone’s” are important to You, Lord Jesus. I’m very thankful they are. Help me, please, to use language that is respectful, cultivate an attitude that offers grace, and lean hard on You to love as You so passionately love all of us. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service

Mission 
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

Donate
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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