For the Veteran on Veteran’s Day

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 NIV

War changes you. Whether you’re the soldier who swallows down fear and plunges ahead in defense of your country or the wife left behind smiling through tears and trying to find courage deep within your quivering self … war changes you.

War changes you. Whether you’re an ordinary citizen suddenly caught in the midst of a firefight or a child injured by a bomb or a family that has had to leave everything behind and run. Literally run. To save your very lives … war changes you.

There’s nothing pretty or sweet or easy about war. It’s violent by nature. It’s bravery and courage and valor and cowardice and bullying and cruelty. It brings out the best in some of us and the worst in others. It’s big. It’s mammoth. It consumes. And it changes you.

I’m the wife of a Persian Gulf War veteran. If there could ever be a “simple” war, this would be it. Short in duration (42 days) and relatively low in casualties (383 reported by military.com). However, it wasn’t simple for the families of those 383 soldiers who died. It was still seismic in the way it affected those involved. It was still war. I remember the fear, the sense of loss, the helplessness watching my husband walk away on December 15, 1990, wondering if I’d ever see him alive again. No, that wasn’t simple. And every soldier there, including my husband, had moments that called for courage and bravery and strength beyond what he thought he could give. And yet each soldier pushed and gave and held it together. That wasn’t simple either. War changes you.

I’m grateful that we have a Veteran’s Day. Those who choose to serve their country and fight to free others are a strong and vulnerable tribe. Strong, because they lay aside their own sense of self-preservation to preserve the freedoms of others. Vulnerable, because that act of bravery costs. Costs through lingering memories, persisting illnesses, and often broken relationships that cannot be mended.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NIV). Our soldiers do this. They’re willing to lay down their lives to protect their fellow soldiers. They’re willing to lay down their lives so that people they don’t even know in far-away lands can live in freedom.

Is every war just? No. Is there injustice even in wars with clearly drawn battle lines and even when oppressed people are set free? Oh, yes. We are a messy lot, we humans. Even at our best, we often hurt when we aim to help. But those who go to fight with the pure motive of helping the weaker and defending them? They deserve a day that is just about them.

We see you, veteran. We recognize that you carry scars seen and unseen. We acknowledge that you walk paths fraught with danger that we will never fully understand. We thank you for laying aside your own freedoms and well-being for the sake of others.

Thank you for your service.

Dear God above, today especially, please be near those who have fought in war and those who have suffered in war. Heal wounds. Whisper hope. Draw all nearer to Yourself and to Your Son, Jesus, who laid down His life for us all. In His 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
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Speeding Ticket Lessons

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. —1 John 1:9 RSV

I have this dangerous little habit of being oblivious to the outside world when I’m in a supremely good mood. Take, for example, that long-ago day as a college student when I took some brand new students for a drive to see the sights in the local area. There I was, driving on the highway, happy as a bird, talking a mile a minute, and pointing out sights to my new friends. Then, all of a sudden, someone from the backseat said, “Sharon? Um, look to your left.”

Odd thing to do, I thought. But look I did. And there, glaring at me, was a police officer in a police car with lights flashing. He mouthed the words to me, “Pull over.” I did. Evidently, I was going the speed limit and all, but he felt I was not paying sufficient attention to the road. He literally told me I was talking too much. Yep. I was pulled over for talking too much. No ticket, just a warning. Considering I didn’t even notice him with lights flashing in the very next lane while I chattered away, a warning was a pretty light punishment.

Did I learn my lesson? Well … not completely. A few years back, I was, again, in a supremely good mood. Driving home from somewhere, singing praise songs along with my radio, feeling the joy of the day. Evidently, I was not looking at the speedometer. As I crossed the pretty bridge near our home, I saw a policeman standing partially in the road waving me over to a parking lot on the far side of the bridge. Several other disgruntled drivers were already parked there and being awarded tickets. Evidently, the police had decided to teach us all a lesson about the speed limit on that bridge.

Before I pulled over I did glance at my speed. Hoooo boy. I was going 50 in a 35 mph zone. Okay then. Since I did not feel that telling the officer I was singing happy songs and thus did not notice my speed would actually win me any points, I opted for the plain truth. I unrolled my window as he approached my vehicle. I looked up at him and said, “I so deserve this ticket.” His eyebrows raised. He glanced at a very crabby-faced man in a truck from whom he had just come. He looked at me. “Go on home,” he said, waving me off. “Just be more careful about your speed.”

Well then. Off I went while the truck-driving guy looked even grumpier as he watched me sail away. Did I deserve that grace? No. It was pure and undeserved favor. I was grateful. There is a lesson there, though—beyond the obvious one that I need to Pay Attention when I drive. And that is this: when you do something wrong, just admit it. Say it. Confess it. Whether it’s owning up to a policeman for speeding or coming clean with a friend you’ve wronged by betraying a confidence … if you’re guilty, admit it.

The apostle John assures us that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). And yet, all too often, we hide behind weak excuses instead of just admitting—we did it. The sooner we accept that we are, indeed, sinners and capable of doing and saying and thinking all kinds of wrong things—that we are actually born with a propensity toward sin—the sooner we can get over our pride and confess our wrongdoing. Only when we admit our failings and call them what they are—sin—can we come into the loving forgiveness of the Father. He stands ever ready to extend grace and wash us clean.

Oh, friend. Is something weighing on your mind? Do you need to admit it? Confess it. Say you’re sorry. It won’t kill you. God saw the whole deal, anyway. That’s why He died for you. He knew you would need much forgiving. He paid the price for your sin on that cross. Avail yourself of His mercy. It’s waiting for you. Just tell the truth, receive the grace, and “drive away” … cleansed and blessed and free.

Heavenly Father, please forgive me when I hide from You after sinning. Help me to admit it, bring it into the Light, and be forgiven. Wash me clean, dear Lord, that I might be a vessel fit for Your use in Your Kingdom work. I need You. I need the blessed forgiveness You offer … often. Thank You for Your grace and for new beginnings—every time I confess and come to You. In Jesus’ Name, my Savior, 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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Short Stops - The Value of Sweet Selah Moments with God

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin; yet I say unto you, Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Luke 12:27 ASV

It’s Monday and I’m looking at a rather large mountain of work. After just returning from a week away, the laundry itself is a literal mountain. Suitcases need unpacking and groceries need buying. Workmen were in the house in our absence, so there’s tidying to do and some rearranging. A blog to write, emails to answer, contracts to sign, mail and phone messages to return, and bills to pay. Then, come the unexpected requests: Could I lead a prayer group this week on Wednesday morning? Just 20 minutes or so. Would Ray and I be willing to take part in a panel of grandparents on Grandparents Day at his school this Friday? Just 40 minutes or so. Oh, and company is arriving Thursday afternoon. Two workshop presenters who will be participating with me in a weekend conference starting Friday. I write out my formidable “to do” list, unpack the suitcases, and start the laundry. As I begin to wade through emails, I notice it’s already 11:00 a.m. and only a small dent has been made in my very long list. I’ve been up since 5:30 a.m.—and I’m feeling a little worn.

As I glance out the window, I notice that the sun is shining bright and strong in a cloudless blue sky.

I stop.

Mug in hand, I wrap myself in Dad Gamble’s old wool sweater and head for the deck. Bella, my faithful pup, trails behind me and jumps on my lap as soon as I’m settled, making me even cozier on this crisp autumn day. I nestle in, enjoying my short stop. These little sweet selah moments with God are my joy, and I choose to indulge in them daily. Busy or not. Ahhh.

Oh, the glory of the changing leaves! I look up. Way, way up and admire. Jesus’ admonition in Luke 12 flits into my thoughts, “consider the lilies,”—but in my mind changes into “consider the trees.” And I do. I marvel at the way the soft wind rustles branches and leaves in a shimmery whisper. I watch a leaf fall, twirling and dancing in the wind as it finds its patch of grass below. Then another falls and another joins in the dance. I marvel that every single tree is different. Some of the trees in our back yard are still green. One has already loosed every leaf and stands in gaunt stillness surrounded by tall pines, still green against the rich blue sky. Others are orange or yellow or red. Each unique. I know without looking that each of those leaves tumbling lazily down from great heights are also one of a kind.

Oh, Creator God, Your love of detail is immense! Every leaf, every branch … differently, wonderfully made. And the picture of the whole of it? Glorious! Nothing man-made can touch the splendor of the tiny wood behind my house. And You make every human with detail and uniqueness as well. There’s actually no one out there exactly like … me. I’m Your one and only me. How treasured that makes me feel. That You cared to make me unique from all others. How rested I feel, wrapped in this old sweater, unique little pup on my lap, savoring sunshine.

Not every day can be a vacation day. Work needs to be done, and I’m now back at it, folding laundry and writing out my grocery list. But I’m recharged by a time of quiet. I’m reminded of the One who holds my life in His competent hands. My stress level is waaaay down. Just because I stopped when there was “no time” to stop. Just because I considered and admired and basked for a wee bit.

Oh, friend. If you don’t have a long time to pause … to “selah” … take a moment and pause briefly. Seek out little times to meet with God. You see, a sweet selah moment is simply a pause spent with God. A little break from the mundane to reflect on His Word and His love right in the messy middle of busy and stressed. Consider the lilies … and stop for a moment, will you? It will make all the difference.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your call on each of us to notice the world You have made … to stop and worship and acknowledge You … to study Your Word so we know You more and love You more. Help us to savor our times completely devoted to being with You. Thank You for Your peace that passes all understanding, for guarding our hearts and our minds as we live out the days You have planned for us here on earth. We love You, 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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Blessing the Enemy

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” —Matthew 5:43-44 NKJV

To Bless: “to say a prayer asking God to help and protect someone or something.” (Macmillan Dictionary)

I was angry. I’d been shot down for the hundredth time at the meeting I was leading. One lady clearly did not like me and was bound and determined to disagree with every single little thing I said. Our committee was getting absolutely nowhere and time was running out. Decisions had to be made, and I felt as if I was repeatedly being sabotaged.

I confided in a close friend, spewing forth without reserve every bit of the frustration I felt at this unjust and unwarranted treatment. I waited for her to respond. I expected her to sympathize and become indignant right alongside me. But … no. She tilted her head to one side and asked softly, “Have you been praying blessings on her?”

Wait. What?

Well, no I had not. I knew my gentle friend was referring to the passage above in Matthew 5. Jesus turned the usual response to an enemy on its head, didn’t He? “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you.” I was stymied. I hadn’t actually thought of this woman as an enemy. But, in a sense, she was, wasn’t she? She was not for me. She was against me. That’s an enemy. Even if she wasn’t shooting poisoned arrows over the balustrade, she was still attacking me. And that meant those words applied. Yikes.

Just how do you go about blessing an enemy? And what if the enemy is worse than a woman disrupting a meeting? Like an unfaithful husband? Or a friend who told your darkest secret to a roomful of women? Or a politician you know to be evil? Or someone who has abused you? I mean. Blessing? What does that even look like? Just maybe it looks like this:

Father, please bless _____. Bless this enemy of mine with an understanding of Your unfailing love and unimaginable forgiveness. Help him/her to confess any sin to You and to feel in his/her deepest core the stunned realization that Your son Jesus took the punishment for that sin on Himself. Oh, Lord, may he/she be overcome with amazement at Your mercy! Heal all that is broken in _____. Instead of sorrow and anger, let there be joy that spills out on others. Help _____ want to forgive as he/she has been forgiven. Deeply, utterly, fully. Give _____ a full understanding of who You are and Your good purposes for his/her life. Don’t let _____ wallow in unbelief and remorse. Move _____ forward into Your light and change the whole trajectory of his/her life. May _____ be filled with the fruit of Your Spirit, living life passionately for You and no one else. May _____ be a testimony to Your grace and to Your immeasurably great power. In Jesus’ Name and by His strength and love alone, I pray this for my enemy, Amen.

Ray and I have had several occasions to pray blessing on someone who has wounded us. The result has always been peace that passes understanding in our own hearts, wicking away the glob of bitterness stuck there. And, often, we have seen a warming in relationships because our prayers were for our enemies and that spilled over into the way we treated them.

Jesus says quite bluntly and clearly, “If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15 NLT). I see no wiggle room. Believe me, the first time I actually did this enemy blessing thing, it was excruciatingly hard. I did not want blessing for this person. I wanted them to feel my pain. I wanted them to hurt like they hurt me. That’s the sad truth of it. But after I had prayed and prayed some more, my heart softened toward them. And, like so many other times, I saw how God’s commands are for me and not against me, bringing blessing on my own sorry self.

Does praying a blessing on our enemies mean they won’t be held responsible for their actions? No. God saw. God sees. God is merciful and also just. But if your enemies truly see the magnitude of what they have done and fall on their knees in horror and repentance, what a work God can do in their broken lives for His glory! In this world, there may still be hard consequences for their sin as well. Our blessing works two ways. We invite God to help our enemies become all He can make them, new creations eager to serve Him and love others fully and freely. And, invites God to free us from sin by turning our bitterness and anger into caring and sympathy. Now that’s a blessing, indeed.

Lord Jesus, Your words are hard. But they are true and right and good. Help us to see as You see. Show us how to minister for good through prayer even in the hardest of circumstances. Lord, protect the innocent from our enemies, from the pain they may inflict. Change our enemies from the inside out. Enable us to hear Your still, small voice as we pray. In Your Name and for Your 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
If you’ve been blessed, keep the blessing going!
Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Marriage Musings

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. –1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT

On October 14, 1974, exactly 45 years ago today … Ray Gamble kissed me for the first time. We had been friends for a couple of years and enjoyed being together. He had come to know Christ as Lord and Savior a few months before that special day, and I’d been thrilled that my friend who used to poke fun at my Christian faith now believed as I did. On that lovely October day, he and I had been roller-skating, one of our favorite activities at that time. As he parked his car in front of my house and we said goodbye, something magical happened. All of a sudden, just like in the movies, we looked at each other differently. We both realized something wonderful was happening here.

And that’s when he kissed me. I got out of the car in a happy daze and walked straight into a bush in my yard. Ha! This November 15 will be our 40th wedding anniversary. So, in honor of that Columbus Day kiss 45 years ago and all the lovely and not-so-lovely days that followed … here’s some marriage advice from someone who still loves the guy who kissed her all those years ago when he was 17 and she was 16.

It’s simple, really. Those passages in the Bible that tell you how to treat others? They all apply to your relationship with your spouse! As I thought about what matters most in our marriage, I came up with four key ingredients based on 1 Corinthians 13. The first letter in each one, when put together, just happens to spell the word pals. Isn’t that our goal? To be pals? Not just enduring but enjoying a lifelong friendship and love.

P is for Politeness. 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that love is patient and kind. Not rude, nor demanding our own way. We should not be irritable, keeping a legalistic record of wrongs and letting the memory of them fester and stink. Nope. Won’t make a good marriage. Instead, we are to treat our spouse with great courtesy and kindness. When he wants to tell the same joke or discuss his favorite topic again, we practice patience and we listen. That’s what love does. What a shame that we are so often kinder and more patient with strangers than we are with the one we promised to love all the days of our lives. Let’s be courteous in our speech and actions in our homes. (Trust me, I’ve tried it both ways. Anger and irritation never make things better. Funny how that works. Anger stirs up anger. Kindness is more likely to produce kindness in return from our spouse.)

A is for Acceptance. First, what acceptance is not. It’s not “rejoicing over injustice.” We never have to accept poor behavior from our spouses and try to pretend it’s okay. It’s not okay to shout at each other. It’s not okay to purposely mock or lie or deceive or wound. We should never accept abusive behavior as “normal” or “okay.” It’s not. And, if that kind of behavior is the norm in your home, please go talk to someone about it. So, what do I mean by acceptance then? I mean accepting who your spouse is at his core. If he’s an introvert, you can’t make him an extrovert. (Been there, tried that!) If he has a special hobby that isn’t your “flavor,” that’s okay. You don’t need to be carbon copies of one another. Accept who he is and love the personality he was given. He was, after all, formed by God Himself, wasn’t he?

L is for Loyalty. Don’t forget the vows you took when you married. “Love never gives up.” Even when life is hard and your spouse isn’t meeting your needs, don’t give up. Seek counseling, pray, learn to find your wholeness from the God who always loves you and not from your spouse who is, just like you, a sinner after all. Realize that life is not always fun. There are seasons when the weariness and the pressures threaten to rob all the joys. That’s not the time to give up. That’s the time to press in and stay loyal. Loyalty also means speaking well of the one you married. We sure don’t want some of our angry moments shared with the world, do we? Let’s be careful that we don’t talk about his. Choosing a trusted, wise confidante when things are bad is fine. Choosing to tell the world every yucky thing your spouse ever did is not fine. Ray and I have had some tough years mixed in with a lot of good ones. I am very glad we stayed loyal. Part of the strength of an enduring marriage is the memory of getting through the tough times. The perseverance through the horrible becomes part of the blessing on the other side.

S is for Spirit led. I’ve saved the best for last. No human being will ever meet all your needs. Ever. They just can’t. The deepest and purest love is straight from God to us. Period. When we give God first place in our lives, looking to Him for ultimate satisfaction and joy, then we can love our spouses without demanding more from them than they can give. The closer I walk with God, absorbing His fierce and constant love for me, the more I can love and appreciate my Ray. When Ray and I are surrendered, following the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives, life is really, really good. Both of us start the day with Bible and prayer. That reminds us at the very beginning of the day that we are God’s and He has a plan for our day. The humbling of a quiet time, seeking One who is higher and greater than us, helps us to do the politeness, acceptance, and loyalty things. Oh, how we need His Spirit to live like we should! How we need His guidance to keep us living as pals.

Father God, thank You for Your love for us—perfect and unblemished by sin and selfishness. Help us to walk so closely to You that we hear Your voice for our marriages. Please, Lord, guide those who need counsel to godly people who can help. Guide all of us toward Your truths in Your Word and toward the love You want us to have for each other. In Jesus’ Name and only by Your grace, Lord … Amen.

Note from Sharon: I’m not a marriage counselor. I’m just Sharon who married Ray sharing what I’ve learned. Hard stories of marriages that have failed after much effort and perseverance abound. This little blog is not meant as a criticism toward those who have anguished and lost. God knows every hurt and every trial. He heals when we’ve been wounded. He forgives when we’ve sinned. I pray that this blog is an encouragement to many, and that those who have endured the agony of divorce will know they are always, always loved by the God who made them and who stands ready to help and to heal.

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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Autumn Strong

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. —2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV

Someone made me cry last weekend. I didn’t even know her name. She was the sister of a neighbor of mine. We were at our annual neighborhood block party, standing in the late afternoon sun, when she smiled at me and said, “Oh, I just have to say this. You are so beautiful standing there in the sunlight!” I blinked in disbelief. I’m not beautiful anymore, not that I ever was. But at 61 years of age, well aware of the age spots and wrinkles appearing in frightening profusion, not to mention my plantar fasciitis, the growing arthritis in my left thumb, and the near deafness in one ear, her sweet comment rocked me. And I blinked back tears. You see, I don’t “feel” pretty. And most of the time I’m fine with that. I want to be “inside pretty” even if the outsides are increasingly less attractive. But at that moment, I felt actually … a little bit … beautiful. All because of a random and very kind comment from a stranger.

I’m no longer in the spring or summer of my life. I’ve definitely hit “autumn,” and I want to make it count. I love how the trees in autumn don’t just quit. Instead, they let loose colors that are vibrant and bright and bold in their last days before winter strips them bare. There’s no quitting for those trees until every leaf has blazed its color across the clear blue autumn sky, lighting up the world with a rush of color even as the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder. Living in New Hampshire, autumn is glorious, rich, and glowing. I’d like that to be true of my “autumn” in life as well.

As a matter of fact, my desire is to be true to the very end, like Paul was, no matter when that end occurs. When Paul penned the words, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race,” he was most likely around 60 years old and very near to martyrdom. He didn’t experience much “winter” in his life, but died in “autumn.” But Oh How He Lived! As I examine these joy-filled words from a man close to death, this is what I learn and want to apply:

  • Live fully and vigorously. Paul called it a fight and a race. You need strength for both. You need to train and be disciplined in order to get the most out of your body. Lord, help me to care for this body You fashioned for me. Help me to exercise, eat well, and train myself to run the race marked out for me … by You.
  • Keep the faith. The word “keep” means “to retain in one’s possession or power” according to Merriam Webster. I’ve seen too many dear ones walk away from their faith. It grieves me to the core. Paul kept the faith, even through suffering and eventually a martyr’s death. He retained it. He did not let it go. Now, thankfully, God also will not let me go! But still, I want to keep my faith, holding on to the Lord Jesus in whom my faith is placed. Even when or if I enter winter and can do very little, Lord, help me cling to You!
  • Expect a reward for a life well lived. It’s okay to be glad about that. The Bible tells us, over and over, to look forward to rewards in Heaven. So … I will. That crown of righteousness? I’ll know full well how I received it—by the precious blood of my Savior. And I can’t wait for the joy when I can lay it at His feet, paying tribute to the One who kept me and helped me serve in kingdom work! Father, I don’t really understand the crown that is coming, and I surely know I don’t deserve it. But thank You for reward and blessing ahead. Thank You for the joy that is set before those who choose to follow You and run that race and fight that fight.
  • Long for His appearance. I love the yearning anticipation that builds as I grow older and my leaves start turning colors! You see, I’m not going to die. I’m going to see the One who set the stars in place and who formed me in my mother’s womb. I join a host of others who long for His appearance, and I desire to finish strong in my remaining years. Like the leaves that turn their brightest before they drop and fall, I want to be a vibrant and bold splash of color in the autumn of my life, beautiful inside, and always pointing to the One who made me so.

Lord Jesus, our hearts yearn for You. Help us to press on, finishing the race with the strength that You give us, swerving neither to the left nor to the right, but keeping the faith. Only with Your help. Only by Your grace. 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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Angry Birds

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. —Psalm 118:24 ESV

It was the first Monday of our internet-free vacation. My husband, Ray, and I had been given the use of a friend’s lake house! The first morning with happy anticipation, I brought my tea and my Bible out to her open-air patio and sat in a comfortable, hanging swing happily gazing at the lake across the way. Finally! School was out for my teacher-husband, and we were away, just the two of us, without computers. As I sat peacefully savoring the quiet, I noticed two little sparrows flying back and forth beyond the patio. “So cute!” I thought. “This is the day the LORD has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it,” I whispered to the wind as I admired the birds so close to me and apparently unafraid.

However … as the minutes went on, it became pretty clear to me that these two sparrows were not in a rejoicing mood. They stared at me. They shifted their weight and didn’t move from their positions. They glared. Really. Who knew a sparrow could glare? One of them flew into the patio under the trellis roof and then quickly flew out again. I was starting to feel … less tranquil. Finally, I looked up and, sure enough, in the rafters of the trellis was a nest. Ahhh. These were not cute, happy sparrows. These were angry birds! I was preventing them from caring for their eggs. Reluctantly, I gave up my beautiful swing and went inside to find another place to have my quiet time. Sure enough, about ten minutes later, mama bird was back on her nest with papa bird close by.

Two angry birds had quite effectively vanquished me from the best “seat in the house.” This was not the way I had planned my morning. So much for my relaxing time in the swing by the lake. Just like that, I was not finding it easy to “rejoice and be glad.” Little things can irritate us unreasonably, can’t they? Not to mention the big things that trouble us … like world events, family and friends suffering from various physical and emotional pain and hurts. We can find a million reasons, large and small, to justify in our minds a day without rejoicing.

Oh, but dear one, each day is a gift. This day—the day I am writing this, the day you are reading this—this day was made by the Lord. The mere fact that God has given us another day is a matter for rejoicing. Another day means He has more work for us to do. More lessons to be learned. More people who need to see His love through us. More opportunities for us to lean hard on Him and rediscover that His strength is enough. If the Lord has made it … we need to rejoice in it!

So, my goal for that week changed. I determined to look for reasons to rejoice. Watching the way those two tiny sparrows tenaciously kept “at” me until I left “their” territory was astounding. Peeking at that mama bird on the nest day after day during our stay at the lake house brought me such joy! I loved her faithfulness. What began as an annoyance ended up being one of my sweetest memories. Psalm 118 is a great thanksgiving psalm that speaks to this exact theme. In verse 5, the psalmist is in anguish and by verse 13 about to fall. He has been chastened almost to death in verse 18. And yet. He finds reason after reason to rejoice.

Oh, Father, like that mama bird, no matter how distressed we are by circumstances beyond our control help us to be faithful in our devotion to You. Help us to see You in the midst of hard things, big and small, and to value each precious day of life that You give us here on earth! Help us to receive from Your hand each new day as it dawns and show us the little things to marvel at as we walk with You on the path marked out for 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
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Click over to our Donation page … and thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Nourished

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. —1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV

The room is dark, lit only by the light down the hall. The rocker glides back and forth, back and forth as we nestle together. His little eyes are closed and his mouth is busy, drawing warm milk from his bottle. I hum softly, tears welling in my eyes as I gaze at this beautiful baby boy. Who knew that in my sixties I would again have the joy of watching a little one take nourishment? The sweetness of feeding time overwhelms me once more, and I rejoice in this gift of time, unexpectedly given.

Of all the activities I’m going to miss when our grandchildren and their parents leave, this quiet feeding time will be among the ones I miss the very most. What is it about giving nourishment to a little one that is so sweet? Is it the knowledge that they are helpless without us that gives extra poignancy? Is it the trust I see in his eyes as he nestles in my arms, sure of the goodness in that bottle? Is it the gratitude that wells up in me that at least this little one is able to live in safety in our home never doubting that he will be fed? Probably all of these and more. I loved nursing my own precious daughters, and I have loved bottle feeding my tiny grandson when his mama was out.

And then I turn to this scripture. What about me? Do I crave pure spiritual milk? When I sit with the Word of God across my lap in the early morning hours, cup of tea in hand, do I yearn to be satisfied from His good hand? The Bible is very clear here. This coming to be nourished. This act of trust, mouth open to receive, is what will help me grow up in my salvation. Now that I’ve tasted of His goodness (and, oh, I have!) do I still come for more? Like my grandson, who doesn’t think one feeding is enough, but wants his milk repeatedly throughout the day, I need to crave more. And more.

When I come eager, like a newborn babe, trusting that the Word will nourish and fill me, I am satisfied. Filled up full of His truths, His reminders of His love, His wisdom for the day. I start my day in a place of contentment. He and I have nestled in the dawn of the day. Perhaps He has even hummed over me, tears welling in His loving Abba-eyes as He gazes at His daughter taking nourishment. Do I bring my Father God pleasure when I receive the feeding offered freely from His Word and from His Spirit? Yes, I believe I do.

Lord, help me to always crave the pure spiritual milk that comes from You. Like a baby, help me yearn for it repeatedly throughout the day. May I never get over the sweetness of being nestled with You, hearing Your voice, sensing Your love and nearness. I need You every hour of every day. 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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Living With Integrity

Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD?
Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
Those who refuse to gossip
or harm their neighbors
or speak evil of their friends.

Those who despise flagrant sinners,
and honor the faithful followers of the LORD,
and keep their promises even when it hurts.
Those who lend money without charging interest,
and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.
Such people will stand firm forever. 
—Psalm 15 NLT

I don’t know about you, but one thing that troubles me is the way we can twist truth to suit our current circumstances. Consider the politician who denounces his opponent but then immediately sings his virtues once the opponent is elected. Like him, we’re also very capable of speaking to suit our audience and our best interests with very little regard to truth. Whatever happened to integrity? Google Dictionary defines integrity as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles … the state of being whole and undivided.”

I want to be “whole and undivided.” I want to be the same “me” wherever I am—but that can be harder than it sounds. Recently, I came across a psalm that nails it. Psalm 15 gives us a handle on this very important virtue and what it takes to live with integrity in an age of showmanship and deception.

Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right. Who can actually be with the Lord Almighty, David is asking. God is Holy and we are not. What does it take to be in His Holy, Perfect Presence? The answer, “those who lead blameless lives and do what is right.” That pretty much eliminates all of us. But, thanks be to God, we can be made blameless and right. Otherwise, no one would ever enter God’s Presence and this lesson in integrity would simply be an exercise in futility. You see, Jesus took our sins on Himself and declared us righteous and blameless when He paid the penalty for our sin. Knowing that we have been given a righteousness not our own, let’s learn from this psalm what it looks like to be “blameless.” How can we be known as a person who lives with integrity?

Speaking the truth from sincere hearts. First of all, it’s a heart thing. If we are to be “whole and undivided” then what we think and believe in our hearts will also be on our lips. Oh, Lord, help me to have a sincere heart that longs to follow You! May all my words be truthful.

Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends. I’m intrigued by the word “refuse.” Oh, how easy it is to be caught up in gossip. Charles Swindoll defines gossip as “spreading around things you’ve heard or seen that really aren’t anyone else’s business.” Ouch. Gossip may not be a falsehood, but just telling someone else’s truth—a truth they may not want the world to know. Oh, let’s refuse to cause harm to a neighbor or speak evil of a friend. I try to imagine that the person I’m talking about is actually listening to me speak about them. That’s a great way to carefully guard my words. People of integrity refuse to betray secrets or tell stories that place someone else in a bad light. Father, You know the times I have failed and failed again in this area of gossip and hurt. Help me, please, to think before I speak, to desire that those I know are never denigrated by any word that comes from my mouth.

Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord, and keep their promises even when it hurts. We cannot be applauding the bad guys. Even if they entertain us or promise us good stuff. If someone is actively living a life that is cruel, arrogant, or unfair, our response cannot be flattery, can it? Sometimes the most popular people are least worthy of the praise they receive. The quiet, faithful followers of the Lord Jesus, who receive no attention at all, are the ones we should honor. I don’t want to jump on the adulation bandwagon of a politician, a singer, an actor, or anyone else who is not walking in the humility God loves and desires. A person of integrity celebrates good behavior, not bad. And, check out the last part of the verse: “keep their promises even when it hurts.” A person of integrity keeps their promises. Their word means something. If they say it, they’ll do it, even if it has become inconvenient. Oh, Lord, help me to honor those who honor You! Keep me from foolish praise of those who need my prayers far more than my adulation. And, Father, even when it hurts, help me to keep my word. I want to live in such a way that people trust me—and when they see I follow You, lead them to trust You most of all.

Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Someone with integrity does not seek to make money off the suffering of another. If they lend to one in need, they do so to help, not to profit themselves. And they cannot be bribed. Money doesn’t tempt them to wrong. They live that whole and undivided life guided by beliefs and standards, not finances. No lies. No matter what the monetary gain. They live rightly. Father, keep me from ever making money an idol. How easy it is to slip into covetousness and a yearning to be even more comfortable than I already am. Lord, keep me focused on what matters in light of eternity—and that surely isn’t the amount of stuff I have or the amount of money I’ve hoarded. I don’t want money to have any hold on my life at all. Please reveal to me the places where it does.

Do you know what happens when you choose to live with integrity? You don’t live in dread of being “found out.” You don’t have a troubled conscience. Your insides match your outsides, and people can trust you. The peace gained from a life of integrity is of incalculable value. Guess what God says about people who live like that? Such people will stand firm forever.

Dear Lord, thank You that my salvation does not depend on my ability to live a blameless life. Oh, how I would fail that test! But thank You for these words that illuminate for me what is right and good in Your sight. Help me, Lord, to live with integrity. 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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Interruptions - Your Mission for the Day

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” –Luke 10:29 NIV

It was a typically busy day at my house. I had spent the morning playing with my grandchildren so my daughter could take her youngest to a doctor appointment. I’d made lunch for my schoolteacher husband who was home for the summer. I’d done the dishes. I was in my home office working on Sweet Selah Ministries tasks, quite happily focused on my writing. “Finally,” I thought. “Now I can get down to work.” My husband popped his head in the door. “Want to go for a walk?”

Hoo boy. Did I want to go for a walk? Well, yes and no. At that moment I wanted to finish my work. However, I knew that, long term, going for a walk with my honey would be the greater blessing for both of us. So, off we went.

Interruptions! Sometimes, it’s super hard to decide what to do. We all have them. How should we handle them? Let’s look at Jesus as our example and then at some examples that are typical for us.

I can think of at least seven times when Jesus was interrupted:

  • On His way to heal Jairus’ daughter (who was dying, by the way) Jesus stopped to help a woman with a bleeding disorder and spoke kindly and unhurriedly to her after her healing (Mark 5).
  • After a particularly busy time, Jesus took His disciples away to be alone, only to be greeted by yet another mob at the “deserted” place in which they’d hoped to rest. He greeted that crowd with compassion (Mark 6).
  • When His disciples told mothers that Jesus was too busy to see their children, He rebuked the disciples and held the children, blessing them (Mark 10).
  • When people tried to shush Bartimaeus, the blind man, Jesus stopped them and stopped Himself, giving his time freely to heal Bartimaeus (Mark 10).
  • When asked, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus told a story of a man beaten and left for dead on a road. Although busy and important people passed on by, Jesus celebrated the foreigner who interrupted his day to care for a man he did not even know (Luke 10).
  • Zacchaeus was just trying to get a better look at Jesus when he climbed that tree, but as Jesus passed by, He noticed him and invited Himself to dinner at Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19).
  • Jesus was in excruciating pain, literally saving the entire world, when the thief on the cross spoke to Him. And Jesus spoke back, promising this dying man entrance into the kingdom of God (Luke 23).

Yikes. Each time someone unexpectedly crossed Jesus’ path, He stopped. Interruptions were treated as part of His mission for the day. Because they were. And if we give our days each morning into God’s good hands, surrendering our agendas and receiving His, we can trust that those who unexpectedly cross our path are there for a purpose.

This is hard for me. I like my plans. I have good plans. My plans are actually quite holy, I say to myself. I want to share with others how important it is to spend time with God. However, if that wonderful and only true God I serve chooses to allow an interruption? I’d better stop and deal with it, right? I’ve found that He really does protect me from interruptions when I need to focus. I’ve also found that when I’m faithful to welcome the person who’s interrupting me, a blessing follows—and miraculously I still have time to do the other things that need doing. Don’t ask me how because I couldn’t tell you. There just is.

You see, I need to grow in trust. I need to truly believe that God orders my day, and I need to welcome His plans as my true mission for the day. I have a long way to go in this process, and I freely confess to you that I can be mighty crabby about interruptions. But I’m learning to watch for what is actively brought into my path each day and embracing it as my mission from the hand of God.

Here are seven examples from my own life of typical interruptions that, when I’ve stopped to show compassion, have yielded good fruit.

  • When I’m on a quick stop at the grocery store and see someone I know who clearly wants to talk. I’ve learned a whole lot about my neighbors and friends by taking the time to listen and often praying for them based on a short, poignant grocery store conversation I never planned to have.
  • This past year, my grandchildren interrupted … a lot. Ha! But you know what? Each interruption built in them sweet memories of a Nina who was not too busy for them. Questions were answered. Hugs were given. Important little discussions about Jesus and love and family took place. All because I gave them my time. I look back on this year with them and have no regrets that I stopped to be with them.
  • That waitress who wanted to talk to me when I was on a Sweet Selah Day. There I was trying to journal and read the Bible and be alone and there she was a bit bored and clearly needing a listening ear. It was a precious, precious conversation, and I was able to share my faith with her. I do believe God had a purpose in that interruption. She was “in my path” at that moment.
  • Those many times when Dad Gamble lived with us and wanted to tell me a story he had already told me. Again. No regrets for stopping, listening, and letting go of my agenda for a few more minutes. I smile remembering those days and shake my head in wonder. What I found irritating and exhausting at the time is now a wonderful memory. I’m glad I listened.
  • Those days when a little white puppy comes to me with soulful eyes, toy in her mouth, and I realize that I have paid her no attention all day. God tells us to look after our animals (Proverbs 12:10). So, when I take a few minutes and throw her toy across the floor instead of pursuing what’s important to me, I do believe God smiles. And, after the initial irritation, so do I.
  • When a friend at church wants to share a burden with me, and I know it will mean that I won’t have a chance to touch base with someone else I’d been wanting to see, I need to give the one who has crossed my path my whole attention, listening, loving, and encouraging … letting go of my own agenda.
  • That walk with my husband? Oh, how valuable it was. Each time he and I walk together, we have precious moments alone to process our days and hear each other’s hearts. He’s my one and only life mate after all. The days go by so fast. I will never regret walking with him.

This is the way of love. Sacrifice. Seeing my time as His time. Truly believing that if I put the day in His hands, asking Him to protect me from interruptions that are not of His design, I can trust that each person who is on my path is a God-designed interruption for a better purpose than my own. Just like that wounded man was on the path of the Samaritan. The interruption is actually God’s mission at that moment in time.

Father in Heaven, thank You for the amazing example Jesus set for us on earth as He lived out Your will each day—and not His own. Lord, I yield this day to You. Protect me, please, from all interruptions except the ones You have chosen for me. Give me a heart that wants Your will above my own. Help me trust that You know the work You have given me, and You will give me adequate time to accomplish it. Oh, Lord, help me to see those who need a word from me that will point them to You this day. Give me Your kind of love, Lord. On my own, I cannot love like this. Thank You that You always, always stop and listen to me, Lord. You are never too busy. I love You! 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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