Oh, Bella! (Lessons on Love for the Misbehaving)

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13-14 NIV)

Oh, I know. She looks adorable, doesn’t she? My little 12-pound puppy is a new hybrid called the Teddy Bear breed. Cute and cuddly, she’s affectionate and loyal and altogether dear. A true companion dog, she can almost always be found wherever I am, and I love her dearly.

She is also trouble. She barks! She barks when the UPS truck arrives, which is actually quite handy when I’m typing away in my office with the air conditioning running. However, she might just as well be raising the alarm that the neighborhood cat has wandered into our yard, or the next-door neighbor is mowing the lawn, or any person or animal is walking down our street. We’ve tried squirting water, shaking coins in a tin canister, scolding, you name it. So far, it curbs her enthusiasm for informing us of the status of the road outside our window for … about a nanosecond. This is not one of the ways she endears herself to us.

She also greets visitors with an energy that is a bit off-putting. She does that barking thing, and, unless restrained, jumps up to greet them in a paroxysm of enthusiasm and wiggles. She’s like that over-friendly person who always stands a bit too close to you and talks too loud. Not a way to make friends, dear Bella.

Despite her flaws, I love her exuberantly. She is my own dear puppy and companion, and we are close. I don’t excuse her bad behavior, but I do have hope that one day we’ll conquer some of it and help her learn a bit of self-control—and I do remember that she’s still young.

Aren’t you glad God has compassion on us and our repeated bad behaviors? He doesn’t excuse them. In fact, he paid the penalty for them—with His life. But, oh, He does have compassion for us. I love the description of God’s mercy in the verse above: He remembers that we are dust. He knows we are little. He knows we are weak. He teaches and guides and exhibits way more patience with us than I do with my little Bella. We are loved. Truly, totally, undeservedly loved. And as often as we misbehave and return to God with our apologies, that often He forgives. Over and over and over again. Just like me with my little Bella … only way better. No wonder our psalmist declares in the opening verses of this psalm:

Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

(Psalm 103:1-5 NIV)

Dear Father, thank You for loving us, even as we continue to sin and run in all the wrong directions. Your forgiveness, Your patience, Your love, Your compassion, and Your redemption are gifts beyond compare. Thank You for redeeming our lives from the pit and satisfying our desires with Your unchanging, irrevocable love. We are so very, very blessed to be Yours. 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.

 

 

 

 

Pin it 
Share this on Pinterest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anger Makes Me Angry

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20 NIV)

Oooooh, I get so angry at myself when I get angry. I know anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires, so when I feel a wave of anger rush over me—I also get angry about getting angry. Anger and I have a longstanding difficult relationship. In the old days, people called it a “besetting sin.” The word “beset” implies persistent. I honestly don’t struggle with a desire to steal. Most days, I don’t have trouble with envy, but since toddlerhood, I’ve had to fight against anger, and the behavior that comes when I give way to it.

Thankfully, I am learning. Slowly. Here are ways God has taught me over the last six decades. If you, too, struggle in this area, I’m praying that one of these life lessons will be helpful to you.

  • Human anger, as James calls it, is innately selfish anger. It flares because I don’t get my way or I feel inconvenienced or slowed in my busy little life. Simply remembering that most anger stems from my own selfishness helps me curb it.
  • Sometimes I think I have a “right” to be angry, I feel it’s somehow justified. Even then, James asks me to note that I should be quick to listen and slow to speak. If I respond instantly when I feel that anger flash inside, I will have given way to emotion instead of listening first, then choosing my words with care. That old adage of counting to ten is a good one, but a better choice is to listen and pray before I speak.
  • When someone else’s anger directed at me is the cause of my anger flare, I reflect on a scripture that I memorized back when I had teenagers: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV). I acknowledge the truth of that proverb first, as I silently note that someone else’s harsh words have stirred anger in me. Then, I ask myself, do I want to stir up more anger with my response, or do I want to help a fellow struggler in the anger realm with a gentle word?
  • Sometimes the best course of action is to simply acknowledge my anger and take myself away to deal with it before my words hurt a loved one. God’s Word says, “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah” (Psalm 4:4 ESV). I need to ponder in my own heart what the root cause of my anger is and bring it before the Lord, asking for His help and direction.
  • Stuffing my anger is never the answer. First of all, it hurts too much to hold it inside. Next, it robs me of joy and hurts those I love with my coldness of heart. Paul advises “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV). I love this verse. All I have to do is ask myself, do I really want to give an opportunity to the devil?! Of course I don’t. I want no business with him. Anger left to simmer turns into bitterness and stoniness. I must bring my anger to the Lord and resolve it, not letting the sun go down until I’ve at least brought it to the One who can help me sort through the whole emotional deal.

Why does anger make me so angry? Because it wounds and injures and leaves horrible scars when we use it as a weapon in the heat of the moment. May God help each of us to recognize the flare-up before it causes harm.

Dear Father, help me to turn from selfish, human anger and toward You, who love so well and so unconditionally. Thank You for Your Word, full of wisdom on this subject. Make me an eager student of Your guidance, as I continue my journey away from anger and toward a life lived in love. Oh, how I want to be remembered as someone who loved well. Help me, please! 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.

 

 

 

 

Pin it 
Share this on Pinterest.

Consider the Lilies

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Luke 12:27 ESV

It’s the simple things. The common daylily that opens its lovely petals at dawn and by dusk is already fading … each magnificent flower lasting only a day, then quickly replaced by another. A shimmering rainbow hanging out of a dreary sky. Monarch butterflies dancing among the flowers. The laugh of a baby, innocent and happy.

Isn’t it lovely that our Lord taught us to stop and consider the small things? In this huge, busy, troubled world, Jesus bids us pause and really look at tiny things—and learn from them. Consider the intricacy of a flower, formed as a seed, nourished by sun and rain and soil, delicate in its beauty, unique, and distinctive … here for such a short little time. Would any of us bother to create something that elaborate knowing how quickly it would fade? God bothered. He bothered to do this amazing thing, to create beauty that strikes joy in our hearts and lifts our cares for just a moment or two. His assurance to us is that if He cares that much for the details of a flower, He certainly cares for us.But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:28 ESV).

What happens when we consider the rainbow? We remember: No matter how dark, there will be an end to that darkness. Scholars believe that Noah worked for decades building the ark. Then, he gathered the animals, shut himself inside with them and his family and endured 40 days of continuous rain followed by a 150-day flood and then a long wait until dry land reappeared. Basically, that was a very long period of darkness and uncertainty. Terrifying, really. I mean, all of mankind was being destroyed. Noah and his family would be trapped in that boat, so it sure better float. Yet … in the end, Noah and his family were able to create a new life in a lush and fertile world. The rainbow was a reminder to him—and to us—that God will never again use a flood to destroy all life. And to this day, after the storm comes a rainbow. A rainbow that tells me to hang on. Fills me with awe when I witness all that multicolored beauty stretching wide across the sky. Definitely worth the considering.

How about those Monarch butterflies dancing among the flowers? Think of all the many lessons they teach us. Those butterflies didn’t start out flying—they slogged along as caterpillars. Before the flying and beauty came a season of darkness and waiting. When I see a Monarch, I remember that with God the Creator, transformation is possible.

I’m enjoying a sweet baby these days, one of four grandchildren staying at our house for a time with their mama while their daddy is traveling. The innocence of this baby’s laughter tugs at my heart. Just smiling at that little guy turns into a wide grin on my face and a chuckle. He reminds me that I am God’s child. I don’t need to have all the answers. When I look toward God, He sees me with joy and laughter because He loves me even more than I love that sweet little baby boy.

Lord God, thank You for the life lessons in the simple, everyday things. Give me eyes to see and a heart to stop and consider all You have made and all that Your creation teaches me about You. Thank You for the reassurance that You, who care for the daylily and the grasses that last only a short while, certainly care for me! Lord, You’ve made a beautiful world. You speak through all You have made. Thank You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Pin it 
Share this on Pinterest.

Spiritual Strength Training

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. (Hebrews 12:11-12 NIV)

Ray and I are not year-round bicyclists. Here in New England, the season is short and the time off long. After a winter of no biking, even if we have kept up with other exercise, we don’t just hop on our bicycles and go thirty miles. Not even close. Typically, our first ride gets off to a slow start as we gather up our scattered gear, remember to pack the Band-Aids and cell phone, inflate the tires … you get the idea. When we’re finally on our bicycles, the first ride is a bit tough. Since we live in a valley, right off we have the job of riding up out of it. We do have a choice of hills, but a hill we must take, and my thigh muscles are never happy with me. My “sit upon” isn’t either. Bicycle strength training begins with small steps. It takes time to adjust again.

Ray is very methodical about the whole deal. We start with a five-mile ride and add two miles incrementally making sure we steer clear of the biggest hills the first few rides. By midsummer, though, we are back to our typical 16-18-mile rides, sailing through beautiful New Hampshire on back roads filled with farms, trees, fields, and ponds. I love our rides! Every previously sore muscle is forgotten in the joy of being out in the sunshine with my Ray marveling at God’s beautiful world.

Being disciplined as a Christian takes work. Little by little, we must stretch ourselves and seek God—early and late and in the middle of our days. Perhaps we start with a two-minute prayer time in the mornings. Maybe we read a verse a day on a perpetual calendar. Maybe we find an accountability partner to help us break a bad habit. It’s slow, this process of growing up in Christ. Countless hills and bumps in the road face us as He sanctifies us, makes us holy. Oh, but as we continue on day by day—on the days we feel like it and on the days we don’t—our spiritual “legs” grow stronger. Our ability to pray deepens. Our desire to study God’s Word increases. The effort is less and the rewards greater. We forget the earlier pain of training ourselves to sit with God when we realize the great joys that await us when we spend time with Him.

If taking time out to meet with God each day is new to you, dear one, start small. Then, keep at it on the easy days and on the hard days. The writer of Hebrews assures us that the training will be worth it all as we strengthen our “feeble arms and weak knees.” The more we listen to the Lord through His Word and prayer, the more we do what He says, the stronger in Christ we become. The harvest of righteousness and peace is a blessing that far outweighs every bump in the road along the path to a steady walk with God. Keeping our eyes “fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,” becomes a joyful lifestyle.

Heavenly Father, help us remember the reward of a greater closeness to You as we practice the disciplines of the Christian life. Teach us and grow us in our faith. Keep our eyes fixed on You, who love us so dearly. Oh, Lord, strengthen us that we might know You better and serve You more willingly in the days ahead. We want to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. It’s in His Name we 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.

 

 

 

 

Pin it 
Share this on Pinterest.

Our Last Challenge ... June 28

Well dear ones.

We are DONE! I hope you enjoyed pondering the little word "selah" with me this June. I learned SO much! Feel free to comment below or email me, to let me know what you learned: sharon@sweetselah.org.  May God bless you with many wonderful "selah" moments with Him this summer! Love, Sharon

Challenge for June 27

What are your top five reasons for meeting with God? Email me at sharon@sweetselah.org and share them. I'd love to hear them. I will comment later in the comments below and share mine with you. Enjoy your day, and may your time with God be sweet.

Challenge for June 26

I've loved repeating my memory verse, Psalm 84:5, over and over these past few days. How about you? Now I need to go give my card to my husband so he can listen to me recite. 

Challenge for June 25

Yes, today we are sharing what we are learning in whatever study God has led us to, next. I picked back up in Exodus and am catching up with my Scripture Union readings. Here is what I read today: Exodus 13:22 "Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people." I loved that God was leading them. By day and by night. Always. That pillar, that represented His leading, was always there. My prayer: "Thank You that You never leave us or forsake us ... even now."

Discovering Selah

How I learned to weave times of rest into the busy fabric of my life

Dear Reader,

This post was originally written two years ago, when I was just beginning to think about starting Sweet Selah Ministries. I am sharing it again right before our ministry takes an annual “Selah month” and rests in July. No new Musings will be posted until August 2018, but I hope you will browse and enjoy some of the archived blogs. I’ve found that taking a chunk of time off each year is a great way to stay fresh and creative in this ministry. A time to “step away” from social media and just be “Sharon” at home with my hubby and my little dog. My team appreciates the time as well, knowing each year that July is a break month. I’m thrilled to share with you how I first came to value rest, when I discovered “Selah.”

 

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.”
(Isaiah 30:15b)

Every time I read this verse, memories of my reluctant submission to the concept of “rest” come flooding back to me.

You would have none of it. That had been the convicting part ... that was me. Combine a naturally high energy level with a people-pleaser personality, and what you get is a woman who can’t say no and who doesn’t know when to stop. I gave a passing nod to scriptures that spoke of God’s rest, complained of exhaustion with more than a little bit of pride mixed in, and burned my candle at both ends—with a blowtorch.

At about age forty, it all caught up with me, and I ended up in the hospital suffering from extreme and ongoing insomnia. God had my attention. And that's when He began to teach me “Selah.”

Selah (See-la) is a Hebrew word found in ancient songs and poetry, generally thought to be “a musical interlude; to pause and think about [the words] just said or sung; or to pause and watch for a visual demonstration of what was said or sung.” (Bible.org)

I’ve come to believe that taking time to pause and reflect is essential to fruitful living. When I rest in a time of Selah … life becomes sweet. Since that time of hardship, now years ago, God has taught me rich lessons about the goodness of His rest.

  • His greatest commandment is that we love Him. Not that we do for Him. When I rest and am still, I have the time to whisper to Him, “I love You,” and our relationship grows strong and deep.
  • Stopping to rest is actually energizing. Truly, in quietness and trust is your strength. When I “shut down” and practice quietness, something happens to my body. It is replenished, and I gain new strength. Ready to go again, I accomplish more because I stopped.
  • Bookending my day with Selah time helps my whole day go more smoothly. I start the day by spending quiet time with Jesus, my tea, and my Bible, and end each day with a Christian fiction novel, a warm mug of milk, feet up, and happy.
  • When I stop for a weekly Sabbath rest, I demonstrate my trust in Him. Will everything really get done if I stop working around sundown Saturday until sundown Sunday? Amazingly … yes!
  • Once a month I take a Sweet Selah Day. I might walk by the ocean and admire His handiwork or invest in serious prayer for my family or sing to Him every word of every song on one of my favorite CDs. A day set aside for Him, and, oh, it fills me up and satisfies.

From exhaustion and people pleasing, God brought me to a place of realization that it was more of Him I needed. Through rest, repentance, quietness, and trust I have come to value—and actually love—His command to Selah.

You, dear reader, are invited to join me in this journey toward living well by serving with diligence—but also stopping for sweet Selah times along the way. All of us need to take time to “ponder the pattern our lives are weaving.” (John Baillie)

Heavenly Father, sometimes it is so hard to rest. I feel like I always have too much to do. And yet I know You call me to rest. Help me to seek quiet. Protect me from the enemy who would whisper that somehow being still and stopping is wasting time. Help me to see that in being still and knowing You, I find new strength. I want to live differently, Lord. I don’t want to be so busy that I miss You. Help me find the quiet spots, Lord, in the midst of busy days. 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.

 

 

 

 

Pin it 
Share this on Pinterest.

Challenge for June 24

A Sweet Selah Day is a day, or part of a day, set apart for you to be with God. My goal is to set aside one day a month for this blessing of time. I love my days with God! I normally spend 5-6 hours in quiet, reading the Word, reading good Christian books, singing along with CDs praise songs, and walking in nature (by the ocean whenever I can!)

They are days to decompress. Days set apart for listening and being still. I hope you'll try one. Start with 2-3 hours and expand from there. My next Sweet Selah Day is scheduled for July 3rd. How about you? Have you put a date on your calendar? Oh I hope you DO!! You won't regret it.

And ... if you would like a guide on what to do for your Sweet Selah Day, sign up for our email list by writing me at sharon@sweetselah.org. I'd love to send you a little guide I wrote, and I'd love to have you on our email list. We send out one prayer request email per month, and also send you the Musings each Monday via email as well. Let me know and I'll add you. It would be fun to have you "part of the family" of Sweet Selah Ministries.