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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Anna’s Hope - The Women of Christmas Series

There was also a prophet, Anna … She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them … she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. —Luke 2:36-38 NIV

Anna was a woman who never lost hope. Imagine life as a widow after only seven years of marriage. Hard at any time, but in an era when a woman couldn’t just go out and get a job, losing a husband meant poverty and hardship. Only seven years with her husband; only seven years enjoying the status that came with marriage. When Anna was a brand-new bride, I doubt she had any idea she would be a widow for over half a century.

Anna likely had no children. Instead of spending her days with children and grandchildren, she lived in the temple, night and day. Was it hard for her when families arrived to offer sacrifices? Did it hurt to see mothers cradling young babies? How easy it would have been for her to grow bitter and question why others gained what she had lost.

Yet, Anna chose to live her life in praise and in constant contact with the living God. Wow. All her life, she looked forward to the redemption of Jerusalem and never gave up hope. Anna didn’t look back on all she did not have. She didn’t sit in a puddle of self-pity and misery groaning about her lot in life. Instead, she worshiped. She fasted and prayed. She served her living, loving God. And she looked forward to the Redeemer who would come.

At the end of her life, God gave her the incredible, amazing, personal joy of seeing His Son, in the flesh, newly born … ready to usher in salvation. How beautiful is that!

On those days when I’m not particularly fond of my circumstances, it helps me to remember Anna. What will I do with my own life disappointments? How will I react when things don’t go the way I wish? If I want to please my Heavenly Father and walk in His joy, I will never give up hope. I will choose worship, fasting, praying, and giving thanks. May God bless you, dear one, with the joy that comes from looking forward with hope to the time when our Savior returns. Just like Anna did.

Heavenly Father, how I would love to meet Anna in Heaven one day. I’d love to hear her story and catch a glimpse of what it was like to hold Your Son, God-made-flesh, in the temple where she had lived for so many years. Thank You, Lord, for the beautiful happy ending You have prepared for me and for all who love You. My hope is safely secured in You. In the Name of Jesus, the Redeemer, 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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Don’t Be a Turkey This Thanksgiving

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
—Proverbs 9:10 NIV

Turkey (slang): one who is inept; a failure; a dud

Dear friends,

Let’s take some notes from Proverbs today so we don’t wind up being the “turkey” at Thanksgiving this year. God’s Word is full of advice on how to behave. So … as a holiday approaches and you are asked to be in close proximity with people you love and sometimes people who are a tad bit hard to love … take note. And have a great Thanksgiving!

Don’t …

 

Take offense easily. “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11 NIV). Some people have extra sensitive spirits. Perhaps they were teased as children or feel foolish in a crowd. For whatever reason, these dear ones can often misinterpret words, ending up feeling slighted and offended. Perhaps that’s you and me at times? I love this verse. It reminds me that it’s to my glory—my shining—to overlook a comment that I perceive as an offense. Wisdom yields patience. We need to be patient with others and believe the best of them. Words often pop out of a mouth sounding harsher than the speaker meant. Let’s overlook these words and live “unoffended,” having patience with others and knowing we are loved by the Holy One, and, therefore, we are … just fine.

Urge people to eat what they shouldn’t. “If you find honey, eat just enough—too much of it, and you will vomit” (Proverbs 25:16 NIV). It’s actually unkind to push food on someone. As a person with a special need in my diet, I can attest to the awkwardness that results when someone wants me to try something I really shouldn’t. Offer food and smile, whether the food is accepted or rejected. Let’s all be mindful of others’ food needs and restrictions.

Run from difficult people. “It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy” (Proverbs 14:21 NIV). Difficult people have a story. Each one of them. Yes, sometimes they are the product of their own foolish decisions. At the same time, they also come with genuine hurts and wounds from a past that we can’t begin to understand. There are all different kinds of needy folk: those who live in financial poverty and those who live in emotional or relational poverty. Listen to that difficult person. Love them as Christ loved you. Make them welcome at the table and help them belong. Always be kind. It’s often the difficult ones who need kindness most of all.

Kindle gossip. “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28 NIV). To kindle is to light a fire, to activate, or inflame. When we engage in gossip, speaking unkindly about someone who is usually not present, we stir up conflict and separate even close friends. Oh, let’s be careful with our tongues! I always play a mental game when someone starts talking about a person not present. I immediately picture them watching us as we talk. I imagine that they hear every word I say. That totally changes what I say! Try it. It really helps.

Envy others. “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30 NIV). Envy is horrid. When you look at what you don’t have, you are robbed of the joy in what you do have. Envy gives you an unkind heart toward others. As the proverb says, it “rots your bones.” Literally makes your insides hurt. Yikes! Let’s be content with what we have. Seriously. Are we wearing clothing? Do we sleep on a mattress at night? Then, we are blessed. When we focus on all we have, our hearts are at peace and our bodies flow with life.

Yak. “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19 NASB). To yak is to talk at length, especially idle or trivial chatter. Oh, how easy it is for me to get going with a good story and keep going. And then going some more. Although it’s fun to “entertain” in this way, it’s also unkind. In a good conversation both parties share and talk. I want to do a better job of listening and drawing out the quieter person so I can hear their thoughts and their stories.

Dear Lord, here I am. Imperfect. Prone to selfishness and loving my own comfort. Help me, please, this Thanksgiving to heed Your Word and to be kind, putting others’ needs ahead of my own. Help me to be an encourager, a listener, a peace-bringer in all the events I attend. Lord, help me to shine Your love in all I do! 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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Weird Things I’m Thankful for

In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. Acts 14:16-17 (NIV)

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a tiny poem in a children’s book that I’ve never forgotten. As a little child, I read: “The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.” Now as an adult, I realize a flaw or two in that poem. For starters, I suspect kings are not nearly as happy as we think they ought to be. Always battling that pesky feeling that someone is after their crowns and then that whole business of running a country probably doesn’t very often lend itself to noticing a world “full of a number of things.” However, I remember thinking how right Stevenson was. Just look at the world and all that is in it! How much there is to be thankful for—including these weird but happy things that spring to mind:

My mattress: I was reading a book the other night that described someone sleeping on a hard floor wrapped in a sweater totally insufficient to give warmth. Suddenly, I was grateful for my mattress. Granted, it’s nearly ten years old and will eventually need replacing, but it’s not the floor. It’s soft and holds me up, and there are sheets and blankets on top of it. I’m as cozy as can be.

Taking my dog out late at night: I have to admit that when I first received my surprise puppy late one November in cold New Hampshire, taking her out and training her was perhaps not a thankful thing, especially since she needed to go out All. The. Time. But guess what happens outside at 10:30 pm? The moon and the stars happen. I noticed them again. I’m ashamed to say how long it had been since I’d looked up, up, and up some more at the vast sky with thousands of tiny lights and the soft glow of the moon. Wow. Not to mention that I was wrapped in a warm coat—another thing I’m very grateful for in New Hampshire winters. Late night walks with my dog yield views of God’s handiwork I would have missed. These days, I often look at the night sky, and it’s breathtaking.

Imagination: I know. Weird. But when four little kids and their mama live in the house with you while their daddy is serving overseas, and they love playing “make pretend,” it really helps to have an imagination. So far, I’ve been shipwrecked, adopted two baby dragons, been attacked by jackals, and hatched eggs that turned out to be baby Tyrannosaurus rex. Now, I ask you, could I have handled this grandchild gig without an imagination? Despite the stretch it is to this Nina’s brain, laughing and pretending with these little ones has made me (much) younger all over again.

Breathing: Pretty basic, huh? But, have you ever heard a loved one struggling to breathe? Heart rending. I’m so very thankful that my body is able to breathe without even thinking about it. I’m grateful for legs and arms that work and hands that grasp and one ear that hears. Yes, I only have one good ear, but I’m thankful that the working ear has more than compensated so I hardly notice the hearing loss.

Leisure. If you’re reading this, you have at least some. Leisure: free time; spare time; time off. I realize with great sadness that too many folks on this planet have little or no free time. Every moment is spent seeking or earning food, shelter, water. Life is reduced to survival. What an incredible gift to have leisure time. Time to admire God’s beautiful world, “so full of a number of things.”

As Thanksgiving approaches, may God help you notice, too, the weird and random things that are really great and good gifts from Him. Every bite we take, every sip we drink, every air molecule we breathe ... is because of our giving and gracious God who “has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons.”

Dear Lord, open our eyes to see Your bounty. You have given abundantly to all of us. The air we breathe, the stars we see, are gifts to every person on earth. And You provide so much more besides. Help us to be a grateful people, noticing Your generosity at every turn. Thank You for a day here in the USA to focus on just that: Your good and generous gifts. In the Name of Jesus, Greatest of Gifts, 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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At the Table - Why Eating Together Matters

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts. Acts 2:46 (ESV)

His gnarled, arthritic hands struggle to hold the fork. It irritates him that the simple act of lifting fork to mouth, a task he has done well, without thought, for over nine decades is now a difficult one. In the time it takes us to eat an entire plateful, he has only managed four small bites. If we leave the table at this point, he gives up and eats no more. So, we stay. We slow down our own eating. We talk between bites about this and that, about life in all its beauty and idiosyncrasies. And, over the course of an hour, he finishes. Cleans his plate. We find we’ve not only fed our bodies but our hearts as well at this slowed-down family meal.

He has now passed on to Heaven and is enjoying a new body without arthritic hindrances. In his place are new folk living with us for a season and sharing our table. Children still learning to grasp their forks, bibbed and sometimes clumsy. They, too, eat slowly. They chatter as we eat, full of information about dragons and ninjas, butterflies and snakes. With wonder in their eyes, they speak as their food grows cold. They, too, need our help to finish the job and clean their plates. As we slow down, talk and laugh with them, together we feed our bodies and our hearts at the table.

Our God, I believe, smiles on the family dinner table, where conversation flows and patience and grace are exercised. The sanctifying of His people doesn’t always come from sermons and well-worded books. It can be found in the patient listening to another. In the stopping to cut someone’s meat. In the waiting and the sharing and the slowing.

Another wonderful value of family time around the table is that in some small way our meals together look forward to one of our great joys to come—the great Wedding Supper of the Lamb. The feasting and company at that table will be rich beyond compare. Even as Jesus was breaking bread to symbolize His soon-to-be broken body, He, too, was looking ahead to that great day: “And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes’” (Luke 22:14-18 ESV).

I lift my glass of water, today, to the beauty and grace of the dinner table: a place to love one another, experience the joy of togetherness, and look forward to the great supper to come with the Lamb of God!

Father God, today I thank You for the blessing of food enough to satisfy. I thank You for the lessons learned from eating together. I thank You for the eager yearning Your Words have stirred in my heart for the day when I sit at the table with the Lamb Himself! In His Name, Amen.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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Benched

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 (NIV)

With sweat streaming down her face, she squatted once again to dig the volleyball and pass it high enough for the setter to position it for spiking over the net. It was the second game in the tournament series, and her heart was hammering as she focused on the ball and on her teammates, working in rhythm with them. The goal of the championship spurred her on, pushing her body beyond its capabilities, stretching and straining as she prepared for every shot.

The whistle blew and her coach called time-out. As they huddled, he told her to take the bench and rest. Her body obeyed, but her heart protested. Every fiber of her being wanted to keep going, keep scoring, keep pushing. Her coach could see what she could not. If she didn’t stop, she was headed toward injury and a much longer season of bench sitting. It was time. She needed to stop awhile.

Have you been there? So busy you didn’t even have a chance to eat? Moving from one activity to the next, juggling multiple demands without pause, pushing, pushing, pushing? I’ve been there a time or three myself. And just like our volleyball player, when I’m in the middle of a big push to get things done, I don’t take kindly to benching. I want to stretch and strain and get it all done. It feels wrong to stop.

I’ve learned the hard way that I can either listen to my Coach and take a rest at least one day in seven—or I can be benched by sickness or weariness or depression. Just like an athlete needs time-out, so do we. Our bodies were not meant to run on adrenaline all the time. Our minds were not created to be constantly sorting through a myriad of details and needs and plans and deadlines and tasks.

God created us to work hard. Yes. He also created us with a need for rest. We need sleep every day, and if we don’t get enough, we cause serious damage to our bodies over time. Our minds need quiet spaces, times we aren’t thinking of a zillion projects on our to-do lists. Sometimes we need to run from multitasking and single task for a bit. Just sitting and reading. Or, just sitting.

When do you stop? Do you run until exhaustion forces you? How much better to build in times each day and each week and each year that are set apart for stillness, rest, and recovery. I challenge you to take a look at your calendar and start scheduling “rest times.” Say “no” when an activity collides into a day set apart to be still. If necessity demands you to work through a scheduled rest time, make sure you immediately reschedule. You need to rest. God tells you to rest. Rest is a gift. Take a seat on that bench. Be still and remember the One who is in charge of the universe—and relax in knowing it isn’t you. Like our athlete, if you take time out, you’ll return to the game with renewed energy and vigor. Want some ideas about what to do on a resting day? Click the Sweet Selah Days tab on our website. Want to win? Be willing to be benched.

Lord, please forgive me when I refuse Your call to give me rest! Help me to trust You enough to stop. To be still and know You better, my God and Savior. 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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Nina Lost Her “No” Button

Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. (Proverbs 17:6 NIV)

I used to know how to say “no” quite well. When our children were young, I felt the full weight of responsibility on my shoulders to help shape and mold them into productive, sweet, kind, loving, gracious Christian women. Parenting instructions at the time informed me that enabling them to attain all these marvelous attributes meant saying “no.” A lot. Being firm. Making sure they obeyed. Came when called. No getting away with bad behavior. Providing consequences. I could “no” with the best of them. Second slice of dessert? No. Jump on the bed and hurt yourself or the bed? No. Get out of bed for an extra hug? No. A third glass of water after lights out, please? No, again.

Now I’m a Nina. Four of my grandchildren are currently living with us. Of course, they are adorable, just like the two who don’t live with me. And somehow, I seem to have lost the ability to say “no.” Jump on the bed? Um. Well, be careful dears. Extra water? Of course, honey. Read another book … oh look you brought me seven books. Well, yes! I’ll read all seven. I’m a complete pushover for these darlings. What in the world has happened?

A number of things have transpired in the decades between then and now. First of all, I regret that I was harsher than I needed to be with my own dear girls. Sure, firmness was needed at times, but sometimes my firmness was to be in control and not because it was best for them. I’d like to not repeat that, thank you. Second, I realize that my time with my grandchildren is short. I have the privilege of living with four of them for a year, but normally they all live far away and visits are not frequent. I want to be remembered by them as one who showed kindness and grace—not temper and fussiness. Third, I’m (thankfully) no longer the one in charge. The primary duty of discipline and training is their parents’ responsibility, not mine. My job is to learn the standards the parents have set and enforce them as best I can. Both my girls are kinder than I was, and I love the way they love their children. I want to be like them in extending grace and patience.

Oh, how I agree with our verse above. My children’s children are a “crown” and a joy to this Nina! How I want the second part of that verse to be true as well, that my children would be proud of me and the way I grandparent. I want to honor their parenting decisions and be a blessing to them as best I can. And that means … I do need to find that “no” button. Really. [Sigh.] At times it’s still needed, and what a struggle it can be to say that little, two-letter word.

Lord, help us, no matter what stage of life we are in, to treat the children in our lives with love and tenderness, wisdom and understanding. May the children we love grow into adults who love You. In Jesus’ Name—the One who loved children so well! 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.