Welcome Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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Seriously. Be Nice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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Zeal. With Knowledge.

For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. —Romans 10:2 NIV

It was an early November snow. The plow had come by, and we needed to shovel what was left behind at the end of the drive. So with shovels in hand out we ventured. With me were my three oldest grandchildren and my little companion dog Bella. Since she doesn’t run away—she wants (always) to be with her people—I let Bella run freely about while we shoveled. It was fun.

But then … I heard it. The plow was returning for another sweep of the road. Yikes! I had a seven-, a five-, and two-year-old who needed to be moved quickly from the street’s edge and up to the yard. I managed to get the three children to safety and called for Bella. That’s when it happened.

My twelve-pound dog decided that the plow represented a threat to her beloved children and me. So, she attacked it. Yup. She raced alongside it so dangerously close to the huge wheels looming above her that I despaired. I shouted and screamed to no avail. She raced beside the big plow until it was off our street and halfway down the next, and then she trotted home triumphantly having clearly scared off the big beast.

Oh, Bella. You had the zeal to protect us, but you lacked the knowledge you needed to be safe. Yikes. What a mixture of relief and frustration I felt when you turned back and trotted home!

You know, we often have zeal for God without knowledge, too. And that can be a dangerous thing. For example, we sometimes get all lathered up about a small issue and are so zealous about it that we end up alienating just about everyone who doesn’t precisely agree with us. In that zeal we can lose sight of the knowledge that God’s greatest commands deal with loving Him and loving others (Matthew 22:37-40).

I remember trying to convince someone of the value of all human life from conception. Now, that is not a minor issue in my book. However, I got so loud and raged so violently in my zeal, that the poor person on the other end of the conversation could not hear my thoughts. All she could do was shield herself from me. I did not listen. I did not learn from her and try to hear her heart. I did not love her well. I was in my early twenties at the time, and I caused a lot of damage because I had the zeal, but not the knowledge of God and how He would have me treat others.

God calls us to live a life of love (Ephesians 5:2). He tells us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12). When sharing our faith, the Bible says to do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Jesus wants people to know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35). Wow. We need to know these commands of God whenever we feel zealous about an issue. Let’s strive to partner our zeal with knowledge of who God is and how He wants us to treat others.

Lord, teach me how to be zealous for You and for truth with the knowledge that You also call me to be kind, loving, and gentle with others. You are Love. You so loved the world You died and by that death saved it. Help me, Lord, not to disobey Your greatest commands, to love You and to love others, even as I gently share Your truths. 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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The Best New Year’s Resolution

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. —2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV

Oh, those pesky, challenging New Year’s resolutions—made with such determination and enthusiasm. The days are finally growing lighter again (we all want to be lighter again after holiday eating), and a new year seems a good time for a fresh start. So, we set our goals and do our dogged best to keep ’em. Sometimes we do. Sort of. Most of the time, though, we fall far short. This would be because we are human. Fallible. Prone to stick with old habits even when we don’t want to. So, do we give up? No. But let’s start with the one resolution that equips us to do all the others: God’s Word. What? How is that a resolution, you ask?

I would like to share with you a habit I began years ago that has helped me as I set new goals and dream new dreams at the beginning of each year. With love and thanks to my dear mentor, Fern Nichols, who first introduced me to this idea, I begin praying in December, asking God to reveal a Bible verse or verses that I should choose as theme verses for the year. In His great faithfulness, God always shows me a verse or a passage of scripture that is to be my focus. I type these theme verses up, print them out, pop them on the top of my prayer list, and tuck them in my Bible. Then, every single day, as I begin my prayer time, I read this portion of Scripture. I pray these verses. I ask God to live His words through me and in me.

This past year, God whispered to my heart the phrase, “Thy will be done.” Hoo boy. That’s a tough one. To choose, consistently, His will over my own! I realized that this phrase is part of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. So, I typed out the whole prayer and prayed it each day. When I came to “Thy will be done,” I emphasized it as I prayed. Yes, Lord. Thy will is best. As is always the case, I grew a bit more in my walk with Him, because I learned through His Word to surrender a bit more. I prayed for myself and I prayed for my loved ones: that God would be “hallowed” and honored by all of us … that we would desire His will on earth as it is in heaven … that He would provide daily bread … forgiveness … protection from evil. Because of the repetition and the turning of these words into a prayer for others and for myself, I grew to love that portion of scripture more than ever, and it has, like all the verses from the years before, become a part of me.

In 2019, my verses are to be Hebrews 12:1-2. I’m eager to pray them, think on them, ask God to help me live out what I read. God’s Word is true. By choosing the best resolution of all, to hide His Word in my heart, I receive the blessing of 2 Timothy 3:17: I am thoroughly equipped for every good work. Starting with God’s Word equips me for all other good works. I highly recommend it to you. Happy New Year!

Dear Father, thank You for the Bible, rich in “teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” How I praise You that Your Word is “God-breathed”—Your instruction on how we are to live delivered directly to Your people. Teach us, Lord. Teach us how to make the best use of our time in 2019. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, for Thy will is always best. We love You, Lord! 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!
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Memories of a Wartime Christmas - by Sharon’s British Mum

Note from Sharon: My lovely mother wrote this beautiful memory for her church's newsletter this Christmas. When I saw it, especially the last lines, my eyes filled with glad tears, and I knew I needed to share it with all of you.

Merry Christmas, dear ones!

... Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. —Isaiah 9:6c NIV

My memories go back to around 1940, when I was six years old. The first sign of Christmas coming was my mother saving enough coupons in her ration book to buy ingredients for the traditional English fruit cake, rich with various fruits and a thick fancy frosting.

Then we would prepare for the annual journey to visit my Grandmother. With no car, this meant going by bus to the train station, a train ride of several hours, then another bus to get to our destination. My father would follow a few days later when he got out of work on Christmas Eve.

Picture my mother traveling this journey with my brother and me, all our luggage for a week, all the presents we were bringing, gas masks slung over our shoulders (required by law), and she also trying to balance that all-important cake and keep it right side up!

We children thought it was all very exciting, but, looking back, I don’t remember how we managed all that stuff from bus to train to bus! Always hoping there would be no air raids along the way!

Finally, the last bus stopped, right opposite the house. We got out with all our stuff and hurried in the darkness to the front door. I can still picture my Grandmother standing at the door, framed by the light from the house, with her wonderful smile of welcome. It is a special memory for me.

On Christmas Eve, my father arrived, and we all walked a mile to the Church for midnight Communion. I remember walking back in the dark, crisp and cold, filled with excitement for what was to happen the next day.

And, of course, it was wonderful. The tree, the presents, the big dinner, and finally an English tradition: the Christmas pudding came in with brandy poured over it and set on fire, so it was flaming as it arrived on the table. This was an exciting highlight for us children!

I don’t think we had air raids on Christmas Day, but I remember one, I think the next day, and we all dashed down to the basement. But we were so used to air raids, it was just “another one,” and I don’t think we lost any of the spirit of Christmas, just chatted until the siren sounded the all-clear. Nothing could stop our joy at being together as a family.

But my best memory will always be seeing my grandmother in the lighted doorway, her happiness and her welcome and our incredible excitement after the long journey.

Our lives are like a journey, traveling on our way, with good times and dark times, but traveling on toward our destination. And some day, we will see our Savior standing in the light of Heaven waiting to welcome us home to live with Him in His eternal light forever. “Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world’” (John 8:12b NIV).

Dear Father, how we thank You, that because of the birth we are about to celebrate, we have an everlasting home with You. Thank You for peace in our land right now. Thank You for all the gifts You have given us, often taken for granted. Help us this Christmas to treasure the wonderful gift of Your Son and the welcome that awaits us in Heaven some day. Come, Lord Jesus, come! 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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Hanging On - Like My Christmas Elf

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. —Isaiah 41:13 NIV **

Hidden away at the very back of our Christmas tree hangs an elf, his little hand clinging to a tree branch. He’s a scruffy fellow made of pipe cleaners and felt, and he’s not in tip-top condition, poor guy, grimy with age and discolored by countless hands touching him over the years. You see, I made him myself … in kindergarten.

I know. I know. Why on earth is this guy still hanging around? My mother admired my little work of art way back when and faithfully displayed him every year. In fact, our family Christmas tree was filled with kids’ Sunday school projects and school artwork my mother treasured. When I married, I brought my pipe cleaner man along with me, since he had grown into a bit of a tradition. I couldn’t quite imagine a tree without his one-armed-hang on a branch somewhere, and he has graced each Christmas tree in our home since.

I will say that he has become a family joke of sorts. My children and husband roll their eyes at his unsightliness. “Hide him in the back!” they demand. I protest, declaring he should be front and center and merriment ensues. That elf has brought a lot of crazy laughter to our tree decorating. See? He belongs on the tree just for amusement’s sake.

At times in my life I feel a lot like that little elf. I’m not in tip-top condition, a bit wobbly—but I know my job, and I will do it with all my remaining strength. I’ll cling faithfully, not to a tree branch, but to my Heavenly Father’s hand.

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand” (Isaiah 42:6a NIV).

At a time of deep distress in my life, God, as He so often does, directed me to this verse. In context, these words are spoken to the Messiah Jesus, but at that moment in my life, the Lord whispered to my heart, Cling to Me, and I will take hold of your hand.

Faithfully cling to the Father’s hand, dear one. There is no better place to be … especially when you feel a bit undone like my little Christmas elf.

Heavenly Father, how I thank You for the picture You give in Scripture of Your big hand reaching down and gripping mine. Help me, Lord, to cling. I don’t want to wander off and leave Your side. Keep me close and comfort me when I’m feeling undone. Thank You that Your love for me never depends on my appearance or abilities. You loved me before I even knew You. Take hold of my hand, dear Lord, and never let me stray. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

** This little story is one of 100 devotionals found in Sharon's new book, Sweet Selah Moments: Encouragement for Everyday Living. Keep reading to see the“Going Deeper” questions for this devotional. This book can help you meet with God—briefly or in depth—depending on your day. You can find it on our SHOP site if you’d like to learn more!

GOING DEEPER—for those days when you have more time to ponder

Read Revelation 3.

1. This chapter contains letters to churches that were pretty bedraggled. How does God encourage them to keep going?

2. What are the dangers these churches are warned about? Which one do you personally relate to most?

3. Are you feeling wobbly? Pray, and ask God for His big hand to hold yours. Do you know someone else who is feeling wobbly? Pray for them as well.

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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Mary’s Peace - The Women of Christmas Series

“I am the Lord’s servant … may your word to me be fulfilled.”Luke 1:38a NIV

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. —Luke 2:19 NIV

It’s quite the amazing story. The life of a young girl, probably a teen, is upended when an angel appears and tells her she has been chosen to carry God in her womb. The One and Only God at one specific and only time in history plans to take on flesh and dwell on earth, beginning in this young girl’s womb. All her plans for a simple life vanish with the flash of the angel’s wings. And yet, her response is one of grace and peace: “I am the Lord’s servant … may your word to me be fulfilled.”

And just like that, Mary moved from obscurity to renown. How did she manage “peace” when her whole world was completely transformed in an instant, when the miraculous invaded the mundane? How did she cope with something so foreign, so unexpected … so unique? I want to learn from her response. Let’s look together, because Mary was a woman who knew how to be at peace even in turmoil. I could use a little of that, couldn’t you?

Mary knew who she was. “I am the Lord’s servant.” Mary was the Lord’s. She knew she belonged to Him completely. As His servant, He was her rightful Master. She came “under” Him—and she was content with that. Oh, we are so much more likely to be at peace when we stop trying to manage the universe ourselves and acknowledge the One who is lovingly, wisely, omnipotently in charge!

Mary wanted God to fulfill His purpose in her life. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” The older I get, the less I “advise” God on how my life ought to go. Great peace comes in trusting that His will is best and resting in that. Mary let go of her plans and received God’s plan for her life. She didn’t argue or turn from it. She walked in it and lived it out in sweet acceptance. I want to be like that.

Mary treasured the important. “Mary treasured up all these things.” What memories did Mary cherish? I wonder. Was it that star that seemed fixed over their little dwelling place? Was it the shining faces of the shepherds arriving to worship, fresh from hearing heavenly music? Was it Jesus Himself held in her arms, actually there though she had “been with no man”? She noticed and remembered the details of that night and considered them treasures. Later she recounted them to Luke who recorded them for us. Let’s not forget the miracles in our own lives. The times God has met us in a deep need or surprised us with an answer when we needed one. At times the veil that separates us from fully seeing the spiritual realm is parted a bit … those times are precious gold.

Mary pondered. “Mary pondered them in her heart.” Mary contemplated all she had seen and experienced. She thought about it. Puzzled over it. These events mattered enough that she lingered over them in her mind. You know what? Pondering requires quiet. We can’t do that if we are rushing about and busy all the time. It’s when we choose “selah” times that we regain peace that can be so easily lost in the hustle and bustle of life. Pondering is not wasted time. If we are thinking on worthwhile truths, pondering solidifies that truth in our lives. Spiritual pondering brings peace in its wake. As we study God’s truths, let’s leave time for pondering.

Oh Father, how beautiful Mary’s words are! Thank You for her example of trust and quiet and peaceful acceptance of Your will for her life. Help me to treasure what is important and to yield to You in all things. 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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Elizabeth’s Joy - The Women of Christmas Series

He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth. —Luke 1:14 NIV

Imagine what must it have been like to live in an age when childlessness meant you were judged by many as a sinful woman. A time when having a fulfilling career in something other than motherhood was not an option. A time when every woman was a stay-at-home mother, and everywhere you went were babies, toddlers, and expectant mothers swarming about? It must have been brutally hard for the childless woman.

For a few brief years, I experienced the ache of longing for children. Even in our culture, it was hard. I remember the baby shower I had to leave because I could not stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks. How was that fair to the mother-to-be if I stayed and cried? Oh, how my heart aches for dear Elizabeth, eventual mother of John the Baptist, the forerunner to the Messiah.

Luke states very clearly in his story of Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah, that she was “ … upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly” (Luke 1:6 NIV 1984). In other words, this was not Elizabeth’s fault. At all. (Of course it wasn’t, but in Luke’s time that needed to be said.) All her life—and she and Zechariah were “well along in years” (vs. 7)—this dear woman dutifully served God. And somehow managed to carry on despite her hurts and wounds and her barren womb.

In light of this, imagine her shock and joy to find out she was pregnant, just as an angel had predicted. What?! Luke tells us she stayed in seclusion for five months of her pregnancy. I wonder why? Was it simply because she wanted to treasure every single amazing moment of an experience she never ever thought would happen? Every baby is special. However, a baby born after long years of yearning is a birth and a pregnancy filled with awe and wonder and every little detail makes a memory. Oh, Elizabeth! I’m so happy your story had such a surprise ending!

Check this verse out: “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth” (vs. 14). Not only did Elizabeth enjoy the privilege of being a mom, she was told in advance he’d be a good kid. He’d bring her joy! Now that’s a deal most of us would dearly love, since just having a child doesn’t necessarily guarantee that life will flow in uninterrupted bliss. Right? But John was a joy and a delight. He kicked it off (pun intended) in the womb, when he “leaped for joy” at Elizabeth’s first sight of Mary, also a stunned mother at another end of the age spectrum, who was carrying Jesus, Savior of the world (vs. 44).

I have no idea how long Elizabeth and Zechariah lived after the birth of their dear son. Were they still alive when he began his ministry and wandered off to the desert to begin heralding the coming Savior? Surely they were not alive when an evil king beheaded their dear son. I do hope they had the full joy of raising their son to adulthood and seeing him launched in ministry, serving God with every fiber of his being. And then I hope God graciously took them home to Him before the hard part of John’s death.

In either case, there was joy. Oh, let’s not ever give up in despair as long as we are alive. Let’s take a lesson from Elizabeth. Let’s lead good lives, serving the God who loves us and whose plans are beyond our understanding. And let’s remember that life doesn’t stop when we are older. Nope. God may just surprise us with something big and joyful in our nineties. Now that’s a fun-filled joy-thought to hold onto today!

Heavenly Father, be near to those who long for children. Comfort and sustain them and bless them as they wait. Help them to fully live out Your good plans for their lives. And thank You, Lord, for Elizabeth’s “joy story.” How I thank You that life with You is a blessed adventure, no matter our age. I bow my head in worship. 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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Ruth’s Love - The Women of Christmas Series

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” —Ruth 1:16-17 ESV

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a girl named Ruth married a guy from another country. Their countries were not on the best of terms, but she chose to marry him anyway. Perhaps she heard some feedback about that from her family. The Bible doesn’t say either way, but marry him she did. It seems that she lived with or near her husband’s family and had more contact with her new family than with her own.

Ruth probably hoped for children. But had none. And then, her husband died. In fact, not only he but also his brother and his father died as well. This left Ruth without any male in her husband’s family to care for her at a time when women had no way to provide for themselves. Only her mother-in-law, Naomi, was left, and she was in the throes of depression. In fact, Naomi even refused to be called by her name. “No,” she said. “Call me Mara.” Mara means “bitter.” Her mother-in-law prepared to go back to her own country alone and broken. She told Ruth and her other daughter-in-law to return to their mothers’ homes and try to find new husbands. Naomi was done.

Not a happy story, is it? I think most of us would have understood if Ruth had also changed her name to “bitter.” Have you ever been there? Been in circumstances that absolutely stink? Had dreams snatched away, your life overturned? What do you do when the pieces of your life are torn apart and you have no idea how to make a new pattern out of them? For you and for me, Ruth has some sweet lessons to teach us today about loving, even when you have been emptied:

  • Don’t run away from God. Ruth must have learned about her husband’s God during her marriage. Perhaps he or Naomi had shared with her the wonderful truth that there is one God who created all things and who loves His people and wants all people to be His. It sure looked like that God had deserted her, but our Ruth chose Him still. “Your God will be my God,” she said. Even then. Even emptied. She chose to stay close to the true God.
  • Stay faithful to the people in your life. How easy it is to withdraw into a wounded, prickly ball of pain when our lives have been upended. Even our closest family and friends seem to say the wrong things. They tend to either be there too often or not often enough and just plain don’t understand. The temptation is to walk away. Ruth did not. She stayed loyal to Naomi, her beloved mother-in-law, even when she had a good excuse to walk away.
  • Keep doing the right things. Even when it’s hard and you feel like you’re dragging yourself through sludge, do what’s right. In Ruth’s case, it was caring for an older woman who had lost her entire nuclear family. She made sure Naomi made it safely back to her own country of Israel. Ruth then made sure Naomi had food and was provided for. It would have been easier, perhaps, to stay in her familiar land. But no, she cared for her husband’s mother tenaciously. Even when the mother was depressed and urged Ruth to go away, Ruth refused to leave.

You know what? Ruth loved well. “Love is patient, love is kind … It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs … Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NIV 1984). Ruth loved when it wasn’t easy. Ruth loved in the midst of hurt and ruin. Ruth loved with a fierce and stubborn loyalty.

You know what else? Ruth’s God, our great God, noticed her in an incredibly special way. First of all, He miraculously led her to a wonderful and loving new husband (check out the story in the Bible in the book of Ruth if it’s been a while since you’ve read this amazing tale), and then God placed our Ruth, a “foreigner,” in the lineage of Jesus. Yes. Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David, who was promised that from his line would come the Messiah, our Jesus. How cool is that?

Dear Lord, help me to love well, like Ruth. I thank You for her beautiful example of selfless loyalty to You and to her obligations. I thank You that she didn’t just say she loved … she showed it in the way she lived. Thank You, too, for a story with a happy ending. Sometimes, when I’m in the middle of a mess, it’s hard to see that a happy ending could ever be possible. Yet You work all things out for the good of those who love You … and I can trust in that. Like Ruth. Thank You for Your great love for me, dear Lord Jesus! In Your Name I pray, Amen.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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A Note from Sweet Selah Ministries - Giving Tuesday 2018

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? —Isaiah 43:19a NIV

Our God has done a “new thing” this year, and we are grateful.

Yesterday …

It seems like just yesterday we were starting this ministry, but it’s been almost a year. Because of many dear donors, we were able to afford the costs of becoming a nonprofit, setting up a website, forming a board, and beginning the work—calling women into a closer walk with the Lord Jesus, the One we serve.

Today …

God is using our wonderful, unified board to guide the ministry. Online Bible studies and weekly videos on Facebook encourage women to dive into God’s Word. Each week, up to 2,400 readers enjoy our Sweet Selah quotes and encouragements on Facebook. Through retreats and conferences we have presented our message to teens and to adult women and are thrilled that many have accepted the challenge and embraced the joy of a daily, disciplined time with the Lord. We also promote the value of “Sweet Selah Days”–extended time with the God who says the best thing we can do … is to love Him.

Tomorrow …

We plan to expand the online Bible studies to reach more and more women with the good news that they truly can meet with the Living God each day, seeking His will and His strength for every need. Another goal is to have several speakers available to expand our reach to women—and men—all over the USA. We pray that God will bring revival in daily time with Him. When times of persecution come upon Christians, we all need to know God very, very well in order to stand firm. Being a part of making that happen is the heart and soul of Sweet Selah Ministries. Will you consider joining us in this work?

Your Giving …

  • Allows Sharon to speak in small churches as well as large venues.
  • Helps us create materials that encourage Christians in their daily walk.
  • Enables us to continue offering our services of talks, blogs, inspiring
    quotes, and counsel, all pointing the way to a daily walk with God.
  • Pays for website expenses.

Will you be a part of Sweet Selah Ministries’ mission and vision? Here are ways to help:

Give monthly to this ministry. (Monthly donors enable us to have a steady income for expenses.)

Give a year-end gift to this ministry. (We will send a tax-deductible receipt with gratitude.)

Sign up for our monthly prayer letter and contribute the gift of prayer. Email Sharon@SweetSelah.org with your request. (Prayer is the fuel of this ministry. We are filled with thankfulness for His abundant answers to prayer throughout our first year.)

To donate, click on button below or send your check made out to Sweet Selah Ministries to 4 Riverdale Avenue, Dover, NH 03820.

Thank you for being a part of the Sweet Selah Ministries family. We love serving you!

Click here to donate.

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