Whose Clay Is It?

So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. —Jeremiah 18:3-4 NIV

This morning, I opened my Bible to Jeremiah 18. It’s been quite some time since I’ve studied this book. The two verses above were underlined, so they caught my eye right away. Then my mind traveled back to a day nearly twenty years ago …

It’s a Sunday morning and I’m sitting in church beside my husband—and I’m filled with irritation at him. I shift uncomfortably in my seat, wishing he were different. Martyrdom begins to settle on my shoulders, and I welcome the mantle: I need to be a good wife and put up with his annoying ways. With this newfound sense of self-righteousness, I turn my attention to the sermon. I take out my notebook and pen to focus on the words about to be spoken. I note, with a sidelong glance, what I know to be true. My husband has no notebook. I doubt he’s even trying to focus on the words. Bitter thoughts race through my head.

The pastor has turned to Jeremiah 18. His sermon is on God as the Potter, and he challenges us. Are we willing to be molded by God’s hands? I picture myself supple and yielded, and I like what that looks like in my mind. I feel my husband shift beside me. “He’s not paying any attention, Lord!” I pray angrily. Then I demand, “Help him to see that he needs to be yielded to You!” My attention is clearly divided between sermon and my own angry heart.

And then, I hear His voice. Clear and true, cutting through the nasty gunk of my thoughts. “Keep your hands out of My clay.” That’s all. Yet … after the words are heard in my head, they are repeated. God has literally spoken to me in the middle of the sermon—and He is definitely not talking to me about my husband’s irritating ways. No, He’s addressing me. Whoa. God doesn’t normally speak to me in such a clear and unmistakable fashion. I’m frozen and a bit shaken. The pastor continues to speak, but I have no idea what he’s saying. I’m as oblivious to his message as I had suspected my husband of being.

A picture forms in my mind’s eye: God carefully molding my husband, shaping the clay into a beautiful instrument for His glory. And there I am, elbowing my way into the scene, pushing God aside (of all the audacious, ridiculous things to do), and trying to mold the clay that is my husband myself. It’s a disaster. Tears form. Head bows. Who do I think I am? How dead is my heart that all I can think of during a sermon is how my husband should change? Do I not know the sermon applies to me? Shouldn’t I have come with a “teach me” heart?

Right there in my seat, I repent. A seismic shift has just rocked my heart. No one sitting near me has any idea. And then the verse strikes me again. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. I am that marred pot. Me. I am the one who needs changing. And the great Potter is able to do so! This time, with a genuine heart, I pray, “Shape me, dear Lord, as seems best to You and forgive me for interfering with You as you shape my husband.”

Father God, we praise You today for being the Master Potter. You know us intimately and fully. You have a plan to shape each one of us, as You know best. We yield, Lord. We yield our own lives to You—and also the lives of our loved ones. Change us, mold us, shape us for Thy good and holy purposes. In Jesus’ Name and for His glory, 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)

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Word Problems - Three Reasons to Talk Less

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.

—Proverbs 10:19 NASB

I definitely have word problems. You see, I’m full of them, words that is, ready to chatter and share those words plentifully with anyone in hearing distance. Always have been. As if speaking lots of words during the day wasn’t enough, I also talk in my sleep. Have since childhood. When I went to Pioneer Girl camp as a child, I was horrified to learn that the other girls in my cabin secretly stayed awake to be entertained by my nightly sleep talk. Evidently, despite my best efforts, I still have words left over at the end of the day. Yikes. What’s a person to do when words overflow in them? Let’s start with what they should not do.

Proverbs 10:19 warns us that “when there are many words, transgression is unavoidable” (NASB). That’s a sobering thought. When someone goes on and on and on … sin occurs. Here are some guidelines that might have been learned by *ahem* personal experience.

Do not be a conversation thief. When someone speaks on and on, they wrong others by not listening. They’ve stolen all the airtime. We do not need to fill up every quiet space with our own noise. Sometimes quieter folks take longer to formulate a thought. When we give them no space to share, we injure them. We also lose out on valuable opportunities to hear their thoughts and perspectives.

Do not use those words for tirades or lectures. Too many words often mean that people tune us out. Who wants to hear a ten-minute lecture on why they are wrong? Even if they are children and we are the parent. I spoke too long and too often to my children during their growing up years. I wish I had said what was most important and then been still, giving them time to digest my words. I suspect that much of the time my talking went in one ear and out the other. In the case of correction, less is more. (And that is definitely true in marriage as well.)

Do not speak carelessly. When we simply allow every crazy thought in our head to escape through our lips, we risk hurting people. Ephesians 4:29 cautions us: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (NIV). That’s the essential test and the filter through which we allow words to enter the atmosphere. Are my words helpful? Will they build others up according to their needs? Will they benefit those who are listening? Those are words worth sharing.

Oh, how hard it is to tame the tongue! Oh, but, when I choose to listen, when I speak words that are helpful and kind, when I know the time to bite my tongue and forbid it to speak … then I am using words correctly. And what to do with all those extra words? Blog, of course, and muse on them in your own mind!

Heavenly Father, please help my words to be thoughtful and kind. Remind me when I have said enough, and teach me to show restraint. I want my words to build others up and benefit them, Lord. And I want to hear others’ thoughts and musings as well. Help me to continue to grow in this area. 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
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Numbering Days

So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom
.
—Psalm 90:12 NKJV

It has been a dreary and rain-soaked morning, but as four grandchildren tumble out of the van and into my parents’ yard, the sun breaks through. Today is Radish Planting Day with Great-grandpa and the excitement is contagious. Each one has his or her own little garden spade and is more than ready to dig in dirt and plant seeds. “Let’s do it now, can we?” I silently feel grateful that we pushed through the busy morning and did not cancel just because it might rain this afternoon.

Three little heads in a row attached to kneeling little bodies listen closely as my daddy explains how to dig a mini-trench where they will lay the seeds. Meanwhile, my mom laughs at my dog’s antics while she valiantly holds the leash, and my daughter and I take turns chasing the one-year-old who happily toddles about the yard admiring a random leaf or stick. His tiny grin as he enjoys the new freedom of walking in grass keeps a smile on my face.

This. This being with my parents and my daughter and my grandchildren. It’s unexpected. Sweet time that may never come again. Time I savor as I watch. Tears form. Heart smiles in gladness. We are all the richer for the time we spend together. I silently capture the scene like a picture in my brain and tuck it away, hoping God will let me take out this memory one day when I'm my parent’s age, unfold it, and watch it all over again.

Life goes by quickly. (Ask anyone who wakes up one day to find themselves 60 years old. “How did that happen?” they ask in bewilderment. “Wasn’t I just 25 yesterday?”) Too often, we allow the pace of life to push and bully us into lesser things, always assuming there will be time left for the people we love and the memories we want to make.

Moses reminds us in Psalm 90 to “number our days.” I find that a bit of an odd phrase, since none of us knows how many numbers of days we will be given, do we? And yet that phrase has stuck with me these past few weeks. It’s exactly because we do not know our number of days that we must treasure each one of them and live them well. That leaves no time for holding grudges. We may not have another chance to say, “I love you.” A day will come, all too soon, when the ability to build a memory will be past. We cannot allow years of busyness to stop us from honoring parents, loving friends, meeting with God, sharing the gospel … doing the things that really matter in light of eternity. If they don’t know Jesus, tell them. Pray for them. Don’t waste a moment. We don’t know how many days we have. If they do know Jesus, fellowship with them, pray with them, encourage them in their faith, and savor each precious time together.

If you are blessed with someone in your life you love … whether it’s parent, friend, child, or mentor … make a memory. Shove aside all the busy and carve out a space for planting radishes on a rainy day turned sunny. You won’t regret it. And if you are sitting here reading this and you are regretting missed opportunities, stop it. You can’t change the past. You can change current behaviors. Do what you can, dear one. Savor the little moments with loved ones, so that one day you will have sweet memories to unpack and enjoy.

Dear Father, teach us to number our days aright and therefore gain a heart of wisdom. We have an abundance of choices in the way we spend our time. Oh, help us choose wisely! 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)

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The Great Spaghetti Sauce Fail

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” —Jeremiah 6:16 NIV

I could not make up my mind. Our daughter and children are living with us this year, and I wanted our Easter holiday to be a special one. With their father away overseas, it seemed extra important to make the holidays memorable and as happy as could be under the circumstances. So … after some pondering and consulting with my husband and my daughter, I came up with the unique idea of having spaghetti for Easter. The kids love spaghetti. My husband loves spaghetti. If I make the sauce from scratch, I can even enjoy the meal. (My Meniere’s disease requires very low salt, so no store-bought sauces for us.)

I labored over that spaghetti sauce. Our daughter pitched in and taught me some new techniques in searing the sausage and meatballs and mixing that flavor into the sauce with loads of garlic, onion, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and basil. I was excited. Being low salt usually means bland food. Not on Easter, I thought triumphantly. We will create the World’s Best Sauce full of flavor and zing! I bought zoodles for my daughter and me so that we could fully enjoy the sauce without worrying about pasta ending up permanently on our hips. That lovely sauce simmered for hours on the back burner of the stove and the aroma was heady. I was happy.

Bedtime came and I realized the spaghetti sauce needed to cool a bit before going into the refrigerator. So, I popped the sauce, still in the pan, into the sink, ran some cool water for the pan to sit in for a wee bit. And then … I forgot it and went to bed.

Yup. I awoke the next morning and realized our beautiful sauce had sat right there in the sink … all night … potentially breeding nasty bacteria at the perfect temperature for rapid growth. Panic and horror set in. I googled mad and crazy questions about whether it was really that bad to leave a sauce filled with sausage and meatballs out all night at room temperature. A few sites assured me it would probably be fine. Other sites warned me of imminent death if we tried to consume said sauce. I knew I’d need to throw it away and the thought made me sick. The waste! Oh, the sad waste. And then the frustration at myself for my carelessness.

All the while, it was Easter morning. And I was consumed with panic and petulance. I sat down with my Bible to have a quiet time with the Lord—and He questioned me: “Are you going to let this ruin Easter? Is Easter really about creating a good spaghetti sauce? Would things go better for your dear family if you sulk and pout and grieve? Would the sauce magically be okay if you sit in disgust at your carelessness?” Of course not. And yet, at this crossroad, it was so hard to choose the “good path.” “God,” I asked, “Help me focus on You and on the joy of the day.” I thanked Him that we are in a place where ruining a couple of meal’s worth of food will not send us into bankruptcy. And, with His help … I let it go.

Easter morning was filled with joy as children ate hot cross buns and enjoyed Easter baskets. Church was rich with worship and celebration as we all rejoiced in the Incredible Gift of eternal life with God. And the scrambled egg and bacon lunch with raspberries, cantaloupe, and grapes hastily purchased after church? Well. It was delicious.

I love Jeremiah 6:16. Read it again with me: “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it’” (NIV). Jeremiah, of course, was talking about much larger things than spaghetti sauce. God’s beloveds in Israel were forsaking Him for idols and sinful pursuits. Jeremiah pleaded with them to go back to the ancient paths, the good ways. But they would not. Still, as I think about it, maybe it is the “spaghetti sauce decisions” that start us down the wrong roads. Whenever we choose to walk away from doing good, from keeping our hearts focused on Jesus, we are in danger. One step down the wrong road swiftly leads to another. Oh, how I need the lesson of the crossroads. I need to stand and look when I am upset and feeling temperamental. And then I need to hear His voice saying, “This is the way. Walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21b NIV).

Heavenly Father, help us to choose the good paths in matters small and large. Set our feet on the path that leads to life and life abundant. We want to walk that path. Help us in Jesus’ Name and for His glory. 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
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When You Can’t Forgive Yourself

“The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” —Mark 12:31 NLT

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. —Ephesians 4:32 NLT

Ever become so frustrated with yourself over a repeating sin or a devastating sin you never ever thought you’d commit—and you just can’t get over it? Ever just sat in it, loathing yourself and miserable, yet unable to move on? Easy to get mired, isn’t it? The accuser, the enemy of your soul, would love to keep you right there. Not asking forgiveness of God, believing you don’t deserve a fresh start, and Just. Plain. Stuck. I’ve been there and it’s a horrible place to be. A wasted place to be—and not where God wants you or me. Ever. You see, we not only need to forgive others, we also need to believe God that we are forgiven and stop beating ourselves up, as if we had not forgiven ourselves. The word in Greek “forgive” is the word Aphiemi, that literally means to “send away” … to let something or someone go. When God asks us to forgive others, He is telling us to send away that bitterness, that desire to punish them. He tells us to leave it to Him. Similarly, when we say, “I can’t forgive myself,” we are refusing to let go of the desire to self-punish, refusing to let go of our anger and disgust with ourselves. This is not where God wants His forgiven children to be! He loves us, and He wants us whole.

When I am in that stuck place and can’t forgive myself …

… it becomes an insidious matter of pride. I am actually thinking too highly of myself. God can’t forgive me! How could I possibly have done that? How can I keep repeating the same sin? I ought to be better than that. Oh, forgive me, Lord, for thinking more highly of myself than I ought. Of course I will fail and fail again. Without You I can’t succeed. I need You. And with You, I can’t fail. Help me to humbly see this hard thing as it is and bring it to the foot of Your cross, where You already took it upon Yourself.

… I am actually rejecting God’s gift of forgiveness and insulting Him. Imagine if you worked long hours for a year in order to purchase a car for a single mom who needed a reliable vehicle. You finally have a great little car for her and you present it to her with the greatest of joy and satisfaction. And instead of accepting the gift you’ve been eager to give her for months, she rejects it, saying it’s too much and she doesn’t deserve it. You protest, saying it’s already bought. You loved doing this for her and you’ve been so eager for her to receive it … can you imagine the shock and hurt if she never took your gift? Truly, God did far more for us. And for the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross. What pain I cause Him who took the penalty for my sin when I reject His gift of forgiveness, price paid, fully cleansed. Lord Jesus, forgive me when I treat with disdain the great sacrifice You made for me, bearing the penalty for my sin and offering me freedom and a new beginning. Oh, how foolish I am to think I need to go on punishing myself, when You have already paid the punishment in full! Help me receive what You so joyfully wish to give.

… I can no longer serve in God’s kingdom, fulfilling His great purpose for my life. The longer I sit in a pitiful state of self-reproach and disgust, the longer I am not about my Father’s business. My own refusal to ask forgiveness and believe that I am cleansed and forgiven becomes a trap from the enemy to keep me from vital service for the King. How foolish I am to waste this short life on earth with past regret, refusing to be cleansed and made ready for the work He has for me! Lord, I don’t want to waste one day, one hour, in this life You have given me. I want to serve You! Help me to swiftly turn and be forgiven, no matter what the sin and no matter how many times I am back again repenting for the same sin. You forgive seventy times seven, as often as I come! Forgive me for wasted hours and days of regret and remorse, wallowing in a self-centered pity party, when all I have to do is humble myself and ask for Your good help once again. Lord Jesus, I come. I ask for cleansing—and I believe I am clean. Whole. Freed to serve and love again. I receive Your gift of a new start, paid in full on the cross. And I bow in adoration and gratitude before Your throne.

Thank You for the cross, Lord. In Your 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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Serve Like Jesus

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. —John 13:3-5 NIV

I don’t know about you, but there are some jobs I just do not want to do. Usually, they involve unpleasant smells. I can remember helping small children with the flu and working hard not to show how horrid I found the task of cleanup. Since then, I’ve had many opportunities to practice the skill of being pleasant while doing an unpleasant task. I suspect you have, too. The yucky jobs are not easy. But they need to be done.

Jesus, our example, knew how to serve. Before the resurrection, before the crucifixion, before the agony in the garden, on the very night Jesus was betrayed, He served. And it was an unpleasant, smelly service at that. The job no one wanted that night. Just as we expect everyone to wash their hands, please, before they come to the table to eat, back in Jesus’ day, people were expected to have their feet cleaned, too. They reclined on cushions on the floor, which put smelly feet much closer to others’ nostrils than we find them today. In addition, the feet were often exposed to whatever-was-on-the-roads. And that wasn’t always pretty. Or scented pleasantly. Usually, a servant did the foot washing before dinner. Or each man cleaned his own feet. But no one had washed feet that night. So … unbelievably, Jesus chose to do it.

What can we learn from Jesus’ washing of dirty feet?

Doing menial tasks doesn’t demean me. John starts this story by pointing out that Jesus knew fully who He was. Jesus actually held all power in His hands. God in flesh. Why was that pointed out? So that we know Jesus didn’t serve out of some sense of worthlessness, but out of His strength and goodwill. No one is “too good” to do the simple, menial, smelly tasks that sometimes need to be done. No one.

Serving others is unlikely to be convenient. Jesus had a few things on His mind that night. He knew that Judas, one of His own, was going to betray Him, despite all the kindness Jesus had shown him. Despite Jesus’ deep love for him. Despite all the teaching Jesus had poured into Judas. Furthermore, Jesus was mere hours away from His arrest and the horrifying death that would follow. And He knew this. Nevertheless, He saw the need and met it. We can’t wait for great timing and a good mood before we serve. We need to meet the need in front of us whether we feel like it or not.

Voluntary service is a sign of love. Why do parents drag their weary selves out of bed at 2 a.m. to help a vomiting child? Love. Why does an elderly husband carefully help his wife sit up in bed despite the strain on his own weak back? Love. Why did Jesus humble Himself and wash His disciples’ feet? Love. Now, we can serve with other motives, of course. And none of our motives are perfectly pure. However, one of the most beautiful ways to show God’s love to others is to serve them in some unpleasant task. And, as Christ-followers we are to be known by our love. Just like our Lord Jesus was known by His.

Oh, let’s remember that the King of kings, knowing full that He was the King of kings—and knowing what lay ahead of Him—washed dirty feet. And let that stir our hearts to be like Him. Lord, teach us to serve!

Lord, help me to follow in Your wonderful footsteps and serve others. Thank You for modeling the kind of love that does the dirty tasks no one else wants. Your example is humbling to us. We would rather someone else washed the feet. Oh, make us more like You! In Your Name, Lord Jesus, 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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Spring Always Follows Winter

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
                                               —Psalm 13:1-2 NIV

“I’ve never really been happy,” she said. I looked at my friend in shock. She’s normally a very happy person full of love and light. Then, after some thought I realized where this was coming from and replied, “That’s your depression talking, dear one. You have been happy and you will be again.”

It’s astonishing and sad the way depression robs you of today’s joys … and robs you of yesterday’s joys. The past is somehow colored by the dismal gray of your present state of mind. Depression also steals your hope of future joy. It’s insidious like that. When we’re stuck in that dark place, it surely seems like it will never end. Even the psalmist cries out, “Will you forget me forever?”

The calendar says spring has officially arrived, but here in New Hampshire it’s still cold and raw and desolate. I’ve been walking a lot this week, still in my winter coat and earmuffs. The trees look dead … lifeless ... still ... cold. I see a barrenness about them that would be sad … if I didn’t know with certainty that they are only dormant. Life still moves in those trees waiting for the warmth of spring to awaken the roots to drink deeply and quicken the sap to flow. The trees will bring forth fresh, bright, vibrant leaves and grow toward heaven once again. They always do. Of that I am certain.

Spring follows winter as surely as day follows night. God has established those patterns. “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” Genesis 8:22 (NIV). Every human on this planet can attest to that truth. It’s set. Based on the earth’s rotation and distance from the sun, nothing can change that. We can count on spring after winter.

In the same way, we need to remember during times of “emotional winter” that spring always comes. We may be barren at the moment, feeling lifeless and desolate, but this will not last. Oh, how I wish we could assure despairing people of this when they contemplate suicide, thinking their present agony is their future lot. It’s not!

God gave us seasons for many reasons, but one of them is to show us that winter does not last. We may be dormant and leafless for a long season. And, at times, perhaps we need to be. Trees that are meant to be dormant do not fare well if forced into a climate without cold conditions. Maybe at times we just need to stand still and “be.” Maybe it’s okay to not always be the full-leaved, rapidly-growing, gorgeous tree of spring. Maybe standing steady, roots sunk deep into God’s promises right in the midst of harsh times will produce the sweetest fruit in the end. If you happen to be in a time of winter, dear one, remember that. Your time of waiting and enduring and trusting God even when you see no sign of spring will not be in vain. And one day, perhaps when you least expect it, spring will bud in your soul again. Spring always follows winter. You can count on it.

Oh, Lord, You give abundant object lessons in nature. Thank You for this one. You do not leave us barren and lost. You, the Author of Life, can bring spring once again into the most broken of hearts. Father, if someone reading this is in the middle of a long, bleak winter, would You bring thaw to their soul? Would You show them the first buds of spring? Comfort them, Lord, and give them hope to hold on for springtime. I ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. —Psalm 126:6 NIV

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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Running Away on Purpose

“The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”Mark 12:29-30 NIV

I wake up with the usual battle raging in my head every time it’s my day to “run away.” My practical side points out all the important things waiting to be done and whispers that a responsible person gets her work done before she takes a day off. My heart side reminds me that the most important thing of all is actually a Person—and I’ve committed to meet with Him today. The phone rings, and yet another responsibility threatens to pull me back into the ebb and flow of daily living. The pile of bills stabs at my mind. The ever-overflowing hamper shakes its head at me, “Doesn’t your family deserve clean clothes?”

For almost a decade now, I’ve been spending one day alone with God each month, and I’m still bombarded … every single month on that appointed day … with mental pictures of all the responsibilities I’m walking away from. Crazy. It’s always hard to leave. Always “too much to do.” I can’t afford a precious running-away day. The temptation to finish work first is strong. It takes courage to pick up my Sweet Selah Day bag and walk myself out of the house and into the car—but I do it.

The worship CD I chose the night before is waiting for me as I start the car and head out. As the music begins, my heart starts to sing. “You did it,” it laughs! “You chose time with God over all that stuff at home. Wahooo!” The fact that chores await me seems less urgent once I’m on my way. I stop and pick up my favorite chai drink from Aroma Joe’s and speak out loud to my King, “Forgive me, Lord. It’s still hard to leave … and yet … I want to be with You, and I know this is Your will for me. Bless this day, Father, with Your Presence and Your words. I give it to You, and I give myself to You. Use me as You choose, teach me as You please, and help me to set aside all else for the pure joy of being ‘just us’ today!”

And then I sing out loud in the car. And I do mean loud. Sometimes I literally weep for the joy of being free from the normal routines and on an adventure with the Lover of my Soul—the Shepherd who wants His lamb close to His heart. With each mile and each song, the tensions from the week seep away. The belief that this time is more important than all else reasserts itself. I’m running away for a day with the One who loves me most and life is very, very good.

The drive to the ocean is about 45 minutes, just about the length of an average worship CD. I love music. So often it’s reduced to pretty background noise, but when I’m on a Sweet Selah Day, every word is heard, every harmony enjoyed. The drive is part of the time spent with the Lord. It’s musical prayer. It’s heart readjustment. It’s surrender and reminder and victory depending on the song. The worship sets the tone for the day and it’s Just. So. Nice. To sing and focus on God.

What I do when I arrive at the ocean varies. I might sit in my favorite little café and order a pot of tea and toast with homemade marmalade. If I choose to linger in a café that day, my Bible comes out and I study. Or, perhaps I read another chapter in A. W. Tozer’s, The Knowledge of the Holy, my current Sweet Selah Day book. I underline. I journal. I sit. I wait for God to still my soul.

When the weather allows, I walk a path beside the ocean, admiring waves crashing on rocks and seagulls arched in the sky way overhead. In early summer, beach roses scent the path, and autumn leaves color it beautifully in fall. There are benches along the way. I sit. I admire. I listen. God stills my soul and we are together, He and I, in the midst of His creation. It’s a day with a simple agenda: Be with God. Love and be loved. The renewal and the resetting of priorities that transpire each time I “stop,” recalibrate my heart. I love these special days.

WHY IT’S HARD TO RUN AWAY AND WHY YOU SHOULD

Our world tells us that being busy is synonymous with being important and needed. Stopping can feel lazy and negligent, especially when the accuser, Satan, whispers those words to us.

Truth: The enemy of your soul would love to keep you so busy doing “good things” that you never do the best thing: spend actual time with your King. Peter warns us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV). We have an active enemy, and the last thing he wants us to do is the most important thing.

It is neither lazy nor negligent to spend time with God. Of course, we show God we love Him every day in the way we obey His Word, in the way we love others, in our whispered prayers throughout the day. Ponder with me, though. How do you show others you really, deeply love them? You listen to them. You spend time with them. You admire what they’ve done. You get to know them. A day alone with a beloved friend or spouse is a joy. It’s a declaration of their importance. Jesus said loving God is the most important command. Far from being negligent or lazy, spending quality time with God is obedience to the first and greatest commandment! It’s showing your love for your Beloved in a concrete, beautiful sacrifice of time. “Stopping” is a good thing.

We often don’t feel “worth” it. Spend time and money and go out to a café on my own and just read and walk for a day? I don’t deserve a day like that.

Truth: God loves you. Hear these words from His Word and let them sink deep into your soul. If you belong to Christ, this prayer from the apostle Paul is for you—you’re not an exception here. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV). His love for you is wider, longer, higher, and deeper than you can ever know. It surpasses knowledge. He. Loves. You. Delight in that and honor the Lover of your Soul with a day set apart just for Him.

The thought of time alone with God can feel pretty frightening, especially without a specific agenda. What on earth would I do? What if it’s boring? What if there are no inspiring words from God … only silence and a frequent looking at the watch to see if the day is done?

Truth: When I first started this practice of a Sweet Selah Day, I was bored. I did look at my watch. Stopping for a long period of time was so foreign to me I didn’t know how. It took time and practice for this day to become a familiar joy. Now, I love my day away and find it too short. But that took time. Even now, I don’t always walk away with profound truths, new and brilliant insights, or spiritual revelations. Sometimes I just read my Bible, journal my thoughts, whisper “I love You,” and am content with that. I simply offer Him my day to use as He sees fit. I fill it with quiet and listening and availability. What God does with my offering is up to Him. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Just do that. Run away. Run to Him and see, over time, how He chooses to meet you there. You will be changed. Of that I’m sure.

Thank You, Father, that You want to spend time with Your children. Help us to know You better and better. Help us to love You who love us so well … more and more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Note: Want some ideas for your Sweet Selah Day? Click here and learn more.

This article was first published in the Spring 2018 edition of Just Between Us Magazine
with the title “Soul Getaway.” (Lightly edited for this Musing.) 

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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The Sweet Selah Easter Dare 2019 #sweetselahEasterdare

Click here for a printable copy of this Dare.

The Dare: Dare to stop the busy. Walk away from the chores, the activities, the constant demands on your time … and meet with God. Just you and Him. Choose a 3-to-6-hour block of time in the month of April and set it aside. Follow our guide—or simply read the Word or good Christian books, and study, write, ponder, and pray on your own. Celebrate Easter by spending time with your Savior.

The Share: Spread the word about this dare by posting a photo of yourself on your #sweetselahday with the hashtag #sweetselahEasterdare. Encourage others to do the same. We’ll draw one name from those who post a picture with the hashtag and send you a free copy of our prayer journal or our Sweet Selah Moments book. Your choice!

Prepare: Here’s how to get the most out of your 3-6 hours with God.

  • Get the date on your calendar and make arrangements for pets/children so you are free to go!
  • Choose a place where you can be alone: A table at a coffee shop using earbuds … a park … a library … a friend’s home while she’s away … or even your own home—if you can ignore your laundry and focus solely on the Lord.
  • Pack a bag. Make sure to have your Bible, a journal, a couple of pens, reading glasses, walking shoes if you choose to walk a bit, some books that point to Christ, maybe even a Bible verse coloring book with markers. Whatever helps you focus on praying and meditating and being with the God who made you.
  • Download our guide for the day.
  • If you would like our playlist of sweet Easter worship songs, make sure your phone or listening device is charged and ready to download from Spotify. Or, just download the names of the songs and artists and create your own playlist.
  • Pray. Ask God to guard and protect your scheduled time. Ask Him to give you ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart that is open to receive His love and His words to you.

Ready, set … go! Can’t wait to see your pictures and hear your stories.

Sweet Selah Easter Dare 2019 Bible Study

Click here for a printable copy of this study.

Dear one,

We are grateful that you “took the dare” and are spending time this Easter season with Jesus. Below is the study for you to follow. You will need a Bible and a journal and a pen. Please use this study as the Holy Spirit leads. Remember your end goal is simply to be with God. So, if this study helps in that endeavor, use it with joy! However, if the Holy Spirit leads you to read elsewhere in God’s Word,  follow His leading. May God meet you in a special way today as you offer your time, yourself, to Him. 

The Name of Jesus

Know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.” Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. —Acts 4:10-12 NIV

Request: Heavenly Father, thank You for helping me find this block of time to spend with You. Please give me ears to hear You today. Open my eyes to the beauty of Your Word and Your Name. Expand my heart to love You more as I study and listen. This day is Yours, Lord. Not mine. I offer it to You as my “time sacrifice” this Easter, yielding to You my desires and wishes and simply wanting to seek You. Teach me, help me, hold me, please. In that Mighty Name, Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Savior, I pray. Amen.

Read: You have time today, dear one, to read slowly and process. So, slow down and savor the words in Acts. Read chapters 1-4 straight through. As you read, imagine what it would have been like to see Jesus alive again after he had been crucified and buried. Learn from His disciples. What did they share with others? What was the good news that burned within them?

Read and Record: Now, read the four chapters once again and record the following in your journal:

  1. Verses that stirred you in some way. Write them out.
  2. Every verse that refers to the “name of Jesus.” See if you can find them all (at least seven) and record them.

Respond: Take some time to process the verses you just wrote out. Write a prayer about them and share with God any hurts these verses brought to mind. Tell Him what confused you. Ask Him questions. Then, write out what you have learned about Jesus’ Name from these verses. Write out a prayer of gratitude for what He did for you on the cross. Linger with these thoughts and prayers for a while.

Further Study on the Names of God

  1. List some people whose names carry with them a good reputation.
  2. List some people whose names carry with them a bad reputation.
  3. Name some people who bring you joy and/or make you feel safe.

Do you see how even a person’s name can make us think of their personality and their temperament or even their accomplishments or failures? A name represents a soul, really. The heart of the person.

As you read through and ponder the verses below, make sure to: Request God’s help as you read them; read carefully and thoughtfully; linger if you are confused and read again; record the verses that resonate with you. Write them out. When you transcribe a verse, it sits in your brain more fully. Writing helps you remember and process; respond to God often, ask Him questions as you read or jot down what you are learning from His Word.

Wisdom from Proverbs on Names: Read Proverbs 18:10; Proverbs 22:1a

Why are names important? What do we learn about God’s Name from these verses?

When God Told Us His Name: Read Exodus 3:13-15

God not only announces His Name, He declares whose God He is. You can name Him, too! He’s the God of everything that exists, and He’s your God. He’s my God, Sharon’s God, [your name]’s God. Why do you think He chose to call Himself I AM?

God is Clear. Do Not Ever Misuse His Name: Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11; Psalm 113:3; Matthew 6:9

Why do you think people for centuries have used God’s name in vain? Why not swear using other names? Ponder the significance of that fact. If you struggle with speaking His Name without honor, ask forgiveness and know that you have it. You truly do.

Exalt His Name: Nehemiah 9:5-6; Psalm 34:3; Psalm 103:1; Zechariah 14:9; Malachi 1:11; Philippians 2:9-11

Stop here for a moment and whisper His Name with reverence? Exalt Him! Maybe it’s time to take a walk and pray and praise? Maybe you’ll want to listen to our playlist? Or … just keep going with the study. Listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance as you spend your time with God. This is simply a guide to help you focus.

Call on His Name: Joel 2:32; John 20:31; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:9; Romans 10:13

Can you think of a time when you called on His Name? (I often speak His Name out loud when I’m frightened. I whisper, “Jesus, Savior, rescue me from my fears. Jesus, Your very Name has power and You are my King and my Rescuer. Thank You.”)

In His Name: Isaiah 50:1o; Luke 24:47; John 16:24; Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:17

Because we are His, we have access to Him and His power. We can ask the Father anything “in His Name,” but only if our asking lines up in a way that represents Him. How do you understand this? What are your thoughts based on these verses?

List His Names: Isaiah 9:6; John 6:35; John 8:12; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 11:25-26; John 14:6; John 15:5; Revelation 19:16

These are only a few of the names of Jesus, the One we look to as Savior and Lord. What do you learn about Him from these names? Can you add names to this list? Praise Him. Thank Him for Who He is.

Close this study by reading Revelation 5 out loud. Then, add your own praise and prayer to Jesus, the one and only way to life!