Monday, April 29, 2013

THE SERMON that turned my emotions around...


As promised, here are Pastor Lee Epstein's notes and the link to be able to listen to the sermon that impacted me so strongly on Sunday. http://newheightschurch.com/listen
At some point, it will not be the top sermon, so be sure to search for:

Colossians 3:1-17 Put on the new self

Sunday, April 28, 2013
Lee Epstein


     Introduction: Welcome back to our series in the book of Colossians – This week as we come to Colossians 3, we move from doctrine to conduct. Now this is typical of the apostle Paul that after giving us so much doctrine he moves us to the practical.

     Just a quick word of warning: The danger is to go into one of two ditches: One ditch is “I don’t need doctrine – it’s boring - just tell me what to do, make it practical.” Here’s the problem with that – No doctrine and just practical can lead to being heretical. Then there’s the other ditch: “I just want doctrine and no practice – just feed me with deep theology.”  Here’s the problem with that – All doctrine and no practice usually leads to a dead faith. Paul is always trying to keep the tension between the two…

     So this morning we’re going to make the transition from doctrine to duty and we’ll do it first by looking at our position in Jesus and then secondly by our practice… 

Our Position vv.1-4 – In this verses we establish the foundation that allows us to put our faith vv.5-17 into practice!
Our Practice vv.5-17

     It’s interesting to note that the pagan religions of Paul’s day taught little or nothing about personal morality: A worshipper could bow before an idol, put his offering on the altar, and go back to the same old life of sin. What a person believed had no direct relationship with how he behaved. Christianity should be much different.  

     Please open your Bibles to Colossians 3:1-4

      Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

     As Jim taught last week, since we died with Christ, we don’t have to follow the rules of a hollow and deceptive philosophy. Colossians 3:1 establishes the truth that since we’ve been raised with Christ, we have a new status and therefore a new way of life. We now have a power source for living. Believers have died with Christ, been buried with Him, have been raised with Him, and as Ephesians 2:6 states, we have been seated with Him in the heavenly places. This is our position, but we must appropriate these truths on a daily basis in order to break free from the past.

     That’s why Paul writes, “…set your hearts on things above.”  He knows our hearts are prone to wander – our hearts are prone to run after the things on this earth – we tend to pursue those things we can taste, touch and feel. The verb “set” is in the present imperative, which means a continuous ongoing effort is required – that is, we are to persistently seek and keep on seeking!  It’s not just a one-time decision, but is to be a daily activity. And this heavenly seeking is done through tenacious prayer - Jesus put it this way in…Matthew 7:7-8 
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
     The first command is to “set our hearts on things above.” The second is to “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.” This literally translates, “Keep on thinking, as a matter of habit, on things above, not on things on the earth.” But how do we do this? We start with Philippians 4:8 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

     Okay Lee that sounds good but a little too ethereal, a little too “out there”. How do we make it more practical? Go back to verses 3-4 and we’re going to break those down and see that we’re given five reasons/five ways to look up. If we’re going to set our hearts and minds on things above and not on this earth the first thing we have to do is acknowledge that…

1.    We’ve died – look at verse 3

     This looks back to the cross, where metaphorically speaking, we died in Christ. As a result, we no longer have to live like we used to. Galatians 2:20 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

     Second reason to look up is…

2.    Our life is (now) hidden with Christ:

     The image here is treasure that is stored away in a secure place. Like a seed buried in the earth, our real lives are hidden from the world, only to be revealed when Christ returns. Third reason to look up is now…

3.    Christ is our (complete and total) life:

. In John 14:6, Jesus said this about himself: “I am the way, the truth, and the (definite article “the” one and only) life…” By realizing that Christ is our life, we now think differently - we have a new attitude about anything that happens to us. If He is truly our life, we have nothing to fear. Fourth reason to look up is because…

4.     (Jesus is coming back!): Christ will come again:

     Since Jesus is coming again, it only makes sense that we should be looking up on a continuous basis.

5.    We will appear with Him in Glory:

     The verb, “appear” means “to make visible what is invisible.” Get this – this is really cool: When Christ returns, the real position of the believer, which has been hidden to the world, will be made known. When Jesus is revealed in His glory, we’ll be totally transformed. Look at 1 John 3:2 

2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

    Now Paul is going to take us from our position to our practice – we come down off the mountain and we start to get practical, we start to deal with our stuff and he does this by giving us two lists of things that we need to work on in our lives. The first five on the list refer to sexual sins and the second five to sins of speech. Okay, let’s deal with sexual sins first – Please notice that we’re not just to put them aside. We’re not to wound them or even ask them to leave. We’re not to experiment or play around with them, rationalize them or even explain them away. Instead, we’re to kill them. Colossians 3:5-7 

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

     Some of you are not going to like hearing about these sins. Maybe you came to church today to be encouraged with a positive message. You came for a warm hug this morning. And I get that - nobody likes a warm hug more than I do but here’s another way to look at it. God loves us too much to allow us to mess up our lives with sexual sins.
     All right let’s jump into our list - What must we put to death? First thing we put to death is…
Immorality: The Greek word here is the word porneia. It is the word from which we get our word for pornography. The word refers to any sexual relationship outside the context of marriage. I realize that this is a sensitive issue but God is pretty clear on this…1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 

     3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

Impurity
Lust
Evil Desires
Greed

     But Paul isn’t finished with his list, he continues by listing five attitudes and sins of speech we must get rid of. Colossians 3:8-11 

8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Look at verse 8 again

 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things…

     “…rid yourselves” literally means to “put off” or “disrobe”. In other words the old, filthy clothes must be taken off before we can put on new clothes. Ill: Video – clothes they took off. Already we’ve take off things like…

     So, besides putting to death sexual sins, what must we get rid of?

What we must get rid of:
Anger
Rage
Malice
Slander
Filthy Language
     Let me remind us that Paul doesn’t give us these two lists because he wants us to be social do-gooders but he gives us these lists that we might live in freedom without guilt so that we might do the things that matter. He gives us these lists that we might live out our calling as image bearers of the most high God! Look at verse 12…
Colossians 3:12 

     12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

     So the old filthy clothes have been taken off so what do we put on? Five articles of spiritual clothing to put on as God’s chosen, set-apart, peculiar people…

Five articles of clothing to put on:

Compassion

Kindness: The Greek word for kindness is also used to describe a lovely quality of wine that has grown mellow with age. In other words, it has lost its harshness. That's what kindness is, treating another without harshness. Kindness is treating another person with respect and honor. It is attributing value and dignity to another.

Humility: The third article of clothing is humility. Humility is the opposite of pride.

     A young lady at New Heights went to Jim one Sunday and said, "Jim, I have this reoccurring sin that I struggle with and I want your help.” Jim said, “What is it maybe I can help?” She said, “I come to church on Sundays and I can't help thinking that I'm literally the prettiest girl at New Heights. I know I shouldn’t think that, but I can't help it. I want you to help me with it."
     Jim thought about it for a second and in his usual Jim way said, "I wouldn’t worry about it. In your case it's not a sin. It's just a horrible mistake."
     Humility is anchored in an accurate understanding of our own significance.
Gentleness
     This encompasses consideration of others, submission to God and His Word - Biblical gentleness says, “I’ll give up my rights for the sake of another.”
Patience

     The actual word is long-suffering – It’s one who puts up with people who irritate. We may have the right to retaliate but instead we choose patience.

     So what happens when we put on the clothing of Jesus? Our lives look different – what do they look like…v.13

Colossians 3:13

13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

     When we put on the clothing of Jesus we put up with each other – all our stupid petty stuff that we do and not only that but we forgive each other just like Jesus forgave us.
     But you say, “Lee what happens when we don’t forgive?”
     I believe that one of the greatest barriers to effective prayer and spiritual power is an unforgiving heart. Look at what the famous evangelist D.L. Moody once said when it comes to forgiveness or the lack thereof…

“I believe unforgiveness is keeping more people from having power with God than any other thing -- they are not willing to cultivate the spirit of forgiveness. If we allow the root of bitterness to spring up in our hearts against someone, our prayer will not be answered. It may not be an easy thing to live in sweet fellowship with all those with whom we come in contact; but that is what the grace of God is given to us for.” (D.L. Moody)
. Are you having trouble praying with power? Are you having trouble serving Jesus?  Could it be that there is someone you need to forgive? Write down that name or names and start to do business with God right now – and then maybe this afternoon you can give them a call or visit them and try to make things right.
     Look at the verse again: When we forgive we reflect the Father's love. The standard is this: forgive as He has forgiven you. Forgiveness gives us the opportunity to extend to others what God has extended to us.
     So what happens when we put on the clothing of Jesus?  Not only do we forgive but we love… Colossians 3:14

14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

     Love is the glue that holds everything together. Look at some of these NT passages about love – I took them all from the Message.

(The Message)

1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Romans 13:8-10

Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.

Galatians 5:14

For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself.
     Please hear this: The greatest need in the church today is not some great demonstration of power. It is not even a more solid theology or great preaching. What is needed most today is people in God’s church to love without conditions and qualifiers. This is the only way to energize the body of Christ. This is the only way for the church to become a family – this is the only for the church to impact the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Colossians 3:15-17

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Conclusion:

I want to finish this morning by having Josh Graber share his thoughts on these three verses – Josh leads our worship meetings every Tuesday and I couldn’t think of a person whose more passionate and insightful about the Word of God than Josh – especially when it comes to these verses.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

How a discouraged (in)courager gets encouraged....

I admit, I was pretty ________________ (exhausted, confused, petty, upset, discouraged, lonely, frustrated, tired... you choose to fill in the blank with what you walked away with in my last post!). It was a hard night, realizing that here I am AGAIN... wearing these same shoes and walking this same path as 4 years ago (while my 18 year trek in the wilderness/desert).

I didn't want to go to church this morning. DH got up early to help set up (his love language is Acts Of Service, so this makes total sense to me) and I laid in bed and rested even more. I half expected him to come home from there and say "Let's stay home today..." but he didn't. He bound in the door and exclaimed "Are we going to first or second service?" - not even leaving me an out to stay home. Blech.


I knew that our favorite pastor was teaching (I'm sorry, forgive me if it's wrong to prefer one pastor over another...but although BOTH are solid teachers, I prefer one style over the other - they both teach from the heart and are completely firm in their Bible teaching) but it didn't sway me. I really was having fun in my little pity party (although it WAS a little lonely!!). I know we're still in Colossians (both at church and in our Community Group) and that we'd have good stuff to talk about in our group tonight - but I STILL wanted to stay home. (NOTE: when I don't want to go to church, it's spiritual warfare setting up to do battle.)


So I was the good wife and jumped in the shower, and ran out the door with DH as we made it in time for church. HE even stopped and got a cup of coffee, so I think we were early (although the first song was playing....you know, the one that says "get out of the lobby and into seats so we can get this going"!). I still wasn't convinced I needed to be there...but I admit - worship was amazing. Gosh, I love worship. Is it a Love Language?? Well, perhaps it wouldn't be worthwhile anywhere besides our relationship with God, but it sure shuts down a spiritual battle's front line in a hurry.


A few announcements, and a few more amazing songs reminding us of God's love for us (really, we sang David Crowder Band's "He Loves Us" changing it to "He Loves Me" on the ending choruses...driving the point home).


Pastor dives in to the Word - Colossians 3, referring to The Message translation to put it plain and simple. It's a favorite to start off with, but it was presented with a keen voice and I had ears to hear. Good stuff. Convicting. Convincing. Cherished. THAT good. I didn't take notes, but I'm sure if you cross referenced the key points in a concordance, added a little humility, a little "dad-ness" voice and some great enthusiasm, you'd get it. I'll post his notes later in the week. Yes. THAT. GOOD.


So, after he was done drilling us...err...I mean, encouraging us in the Word...he let our worship leader have a few minutes, and he shared something that cut to my core.


Read verse 17: "Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master..."  and the way he described it, I'd never heard it before - it's as if, when we become Christians, it's like we get married. And if something happened to our spouse (God forbid), we would have "power of attorney" over their lives. God gives US power of attorney - and EVERYTHING we do, is as if HE is doing it. Gosh. 

So, when I complain about being lonely - it's as if HE is complaining (and I don't think He would). I think He would take more time with His Father, and utilize it as a blessing (instead of the curse I treat it as). I have community with God. He is flawless. I need to give Him not only the priority of my day (spending time with Him is essential) but MORE of my day. Even as I pray about "letting go of the good to grab hold of the better" - I need Him in that. I need MORE of Him - HE is the better. 


Sure, I'm still praying for a kindred spirit friend in my age and stage to dance in prayer with - someone who can relate to what God is doing in these empty nest years and is content in marriage and serving in any way God calls - but in the mean time I have to change my attitude, pull up my big girl panties, and move forward. One.Step.At.A.Time.  This is true.


@MarinaWrites: Jesus doesn't love the perfect, the popular, the lovely any more than He loves the broken, the lonely, the simple...me. #inRL #HeLovesUs


So, I'm sorry if I was too "TMI" yesterday, too gripy or too whiny. I'm sorry that I represented God's attitude in anything less than gracious. I have SO much to be grateful for, and I desire to do His will with all of my life. 


I'm asking forgiveness, and grateful that I heard His Word in a new way to apply to my life today...and I'm incredibly encouraged! His Word has a way of doing that - doesn't it?? 


PS- Thank you to everyone that's contacted me about the (in)RL session on Mentoring that played as a part of the (in)courage Conference this weekend. It was a blessing to get to share the stage (or, er, the camera?) with my dear friend Sarah H, and I promise, we are NOT that serious all the time!! We laugh, giggle and have a GREAT time - especially when our families are together. It was a blessing to get to share our heart on mentoring, and it's a HUGE blessing to get to be a part of the (in)courage (and DaySpring) family.  Your words of encouragement have been a big part of healing today too...and I wish we all lived closer together to be able to do Real Life a little easier...but praise God for technology in the mean time...till we're with Him!!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Jumping Tandem 3, (in)RL, Mentoring, and the truth about it all...

OK. I'm jumping right in. I'm lonely. It's true. I'm not afraid of being alone, I've grown quite comfortable with it (I've spent a lot of time there in my life). I prefer community, but somehow, community isn't comfortable with me? Maybe? I don't know. There was a time, just a year ago, when community was rich with girl friends, and prayer partners to be on my knees with and wait on God, and it all seems just like a dream...a beautiful dream. And yet here, in this new place, nothing is clicking. It's back to the life of my 18 years in the desert (that I've blogged about before), and it's NOT a small town, and there are folks from other places all around, and tons of opportunities to serve - but there has yet to be kindred spirit relationships in my life. Sigh. I just wanted to get that out there and out of the way, so you know my life isn't perfect or anything. I struggle. A lot. And especially about this area of my life. I'm teary and gripy all at the same time....it's my internal 2 year old pitching a fit. OK. Done. (well...maybe...)

Our (in)RL group - Fayetteville, AR - at the GO Center

That being said, I had a LOVELY time with all our (in)RL group this morning!! A few came that weren't on my list, a few didn't show that said they would, and all in all it was perfectly what God wanted for us. My biggest fear was that everyone that mentioned coming would show up and I wouldn't have enough SWAG for everyone - but it worked out ok. Everyone got a bag of goodies. Everyone got things to take home. :) I saw phone numbers being swapped, and lots of little discussion groups starting up, and that was very cool, to sit back and take it all in. God was working. yay!

Now the dishes are done, the layer of powdered sugar removed from my kitchen (I did a cupcake bar, with 3 kinds of frosting) and left overs put up (thanks to DH for all his hard work!!). It feels a bit like the day after Christmas. A little empty. That let down and heavy sigh that there's nothing like this on the calendar for next week....or next month. Actually, I don't have anything completely social on my calendar at all. That's the reality of it. That's the underlying cause of that heavy sigh.

sigh.

I've seen some great feedback on the Mentoring session from (in)RL today. I'm so grateful that SarahH and I got to do it together. I miss her sweet smile being here...miss ME being in KY...truth be told. I miss a lot about that place, the prayer partner I could dance in prayer with, sisters in Christ that bonded to my heart and challenged me to grow in the Word, and the laughter that ensued from double date nights. God hasn't replaced those folks, and I don't know if we're missing them along the road, or if it's just the busy-ness of life. I miss them. A lot.

So, having a lot of time on my hands - that I try to fill with doing "stuff" - since sitting alone while your husband is out of town is just TOO depressing if you calendar is empty too - so this "stuff" I'm doing all sort of relates to women, missions, and care of those global workers. There's a common theme. Even in the Social Media stuff I'm doing with DaySpring right now, I see God's hand at work at encouraging folks that write in from around the globe and comment about how Roy's blog, Meet Me In The Meadow, has touched them. I see God at work in me, through me, but I still pray for a face to face, God-in-skin girlfriend relationships.  I know, be patient.

Last weekend, as Lisa-Jo was taking center stage at the Jumping Tandem Retreat, God was weaving His God-sized dream through me. The seed was planted last winter with the idea of  "w*Him" and what that might look like as a movement of care. Then planting the seeds of a little handbook, and now the culmination of that trip down the road (details to be announced when it's His time to do that. For now, I'm to be obedient to the call of putting that little book together. Something I've never done before. Finish a little book. yay. (I've always loved to write, but never wanted a book...ok - not REALLY a book...more like a HANDBOOK..but this is still new to me.)

So God used Lisa-Jo to take these bits and pieces of a dream, and weave it into a real plan, something I could really do. Complete a few tasks, dream a little dream, let God breathe life into them, and see what He wants to do with it. It might end with that - just a little book and a blog that looks a little different in focus. It might be a whole new ministry with a larger group - or multiple groups - meeting together to be encouraging others abroad. I don't know. HE does.

And along with these dreams, I've got an underlying prayer to "let go of the good, to grab hold of the better" and I have no idea what that looks like. Honestly. I want a rich marriage - first and far most - and want good relationships where I'm building into our kids marriages and families. I want to have a great relationship, and active prayer life, as I lift up my kids and grandkids to God, and see Him at work in their ministries, their lives. I'm not willing to give up on those things.

I live with passion for the nations, for unreached people groups, and work loosely with a great sending agency, Team Expansion - that facilitates the sending of people to reach the nations for Jesus - to church plant - to disciple nationals so that they are equipped to build the church in their neighborhood - whatever that neighborhood looks like. I LOVE praying with people who are seeking God to move them into serving in missions, whether they go with Team Expansion or not. I love equipping with prayer, those that are called to GO. I don't think that's what's supposed to be removed from my life - but I could be wrong.

I'm involved with mentoring a lot of girls right now - maybe a dozen of them - most of them excited for missions, and seeking supporting words to propel them to a field. I believe in mentoring, and it's built some wonderful, beautiful relationships for me in the past - but these girls, this time - they are mostly college age, and their lives are full of activities and friendships. I am more of a "consultant" than a mentor - we are friends in that they gladly pray with and for me too, but our lives don't intersect at all (besides going to the same church). We are in completely different ages and stages - and I love it - but it's sort of "out of sight, out of mind" (for them)....and especially now with finals looming and mission trips around the corner, it's a little quiet around here. And that's ok. So that's going to slow down (and eventually disappear) whether I plan to or not. It has already. So that's one "good thing" slipping from my hands, to make room for the "better thing" to hold on to.

I started working at DaySpring almost 2 months ago, pt/temp in Social Media - and it's such a good fit! I love the people there, although there's no real friendships growing there (yet). I LOVE their missional hearts, and they've been amazing supporters for my Missionary Care ministry for several years now, so getting to work there for this season feels right - a sort of "pay it forward" thing (although I'm getting paid to work there, through a temp agency, I know that it's helping them out while a key member of their team is on maternity leave.).  The work isn't really HARD, but it's got elements of prayer, ministry, marketing, photography, writing in bits and pieces, and juggling - to be sure. I see that this can be beneficial for all of us, for God's greater glory. So that's not something to let go of for now. It's a GOOD THING to hold on to...but not too tight...it feels balanced and like it's a *dream come true* to a dream I never knew I had! (Thank You God!)

Well, I could go on and on I think, but I'm putting myself to sleep - I'm so weary right now....or am I just COMFORTABLE? Maybe that's it, even more. I desire these deep, kindred spirit friendships, but am I missing them right before my eyes? Am I really looking for who HE places in my path, or just assuming that "this person" or "that one" will (or will not) walk near me in life? Am I TOO relational? Can you BE TOO relational?? Wasn't Jesus really relational??  Oh goodness, I don't know what I'm saying, but these things I know are true:

  • There is a God. He has a Son, Jesus. He was born of a virgin, Mary. Was persecuted, died on a cross, buried in a tomb, and rose again; then was ascended to heaven where He lives at His Father's right hand. He exists as Father, Son and Spirit.
  • He loves me (and you, and every sinner out there, no matter what sin it is that has gripped hold of their heart), and He is delighted to forgive me when I confess and repent of my sins.
  • He will walk with me, no matter where He leads, or where I drag Him. 
  • I want Him to be glorified in my life.
  • I desire to walk in obedience to His will, and His Word. 
  • I'm willing to be changed by how He shapes me, or whatever means He uses to transform me.
  • We will live together someday...oh happy day!
PS - PLEASE read my next post on God's redemption of this day and my gripy, emotional feelings...LOVE how He takes the worst of us, sifts us, infuses HIM into us, and makes us HIS....

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jumping Tandem - Preparing to Jump

What do bloggers do during a break at a conference?? Get online!
Saturday started off with joy - filled memories from Friday night, and a bunch of very new BFF's around me. Enthusiasm was high, and everyone was excited.

They could have passed out pom-poms for us to use....we were each cheering each other on! 

I took away some GREAT points from Shelly Miller's talk in the morning devotion time:

  • What if self-doubt isn't supposed to be negative, but preparation for the "next BIG thing"?
  • The key is how we choose to respond - will we let fear keep us from moving forward? 
  • When Moses asked the questions (What? Who me?) God answered all of them with a question - Who made your mouth? etc (Exodus 3)
  • Comparing/comparison is lying to each of us. It's only the 1/2 of the story we see.
  • Sometimes we learn through the school of adversity.
  • God speaks. PERIOD. That's ALL we need.
  • Encourage one another.
  • Psalm 102 

I felt excited and exasperated all at once! Things were coming into place and I wasn't sure where these ideas were coming from - well, I KNOW where they were coming from - but it isn't often I find myself in that sweet spot of dreaming God-sized dreams!!

Fellow (in)courager Diane Bailey - meeting face to face is so sweet!! 
Here are some other notes I took from the day:

  • Giving birth is like birthing a dream. Birthing. Loving. Fearing. Perfect love casts out fear. 
  • Be the fearless girl. I can fly!
  • Don't let FEAR BECOME AN IDOL - don't give IT time that belongs to God!
  • We don't have to earn His love. We don't have to earn His love. We don't have to earn His love, just accept it. 
  • We tend to treat God's love like love from our parents (it's natural, it's what we know). If I'm good, He will love me...but I forget, HE doesn't see as WE see.
  • Even Jesus couldn't rely on people...so why am I hurt/disappointed/sad when they let me down?
  • We are pregnant with possibility.
  • We are broken ambassadors of Jesus.
  • "Your guilt and inadequacy is not the most true things about you." - John Ortberg
  • Romans 12 - take life and give it to Him as an offering. Don't be comfortable. Be empty, and let HIM fill us!
  • The way we know Jesus is the most important thing! Do we know Him as well as our iphones, computer screens, or TV's?? 
  • Find the treasure in the field, and BUY IT. Grow, own, possess - Jesus. All of Him.
  • Keep in BALANCE: HAVE TO/SHOULD/WANT TO - they each have a place.
Jennifer Dukes Lee spoke that evening, and did an amazing job. Her passion for Jesus, her family, and the places He takes them was wonderful. She stood on her tippy-toes all night as she spoke. Really. Not because she couldn't reach the mic, but because she was THAT excited to share a vision for changing the world. (I want to be THAT excited!!)

Her show-stopping moment was sharing a quote from her daughter, Lydia Lee, 

 "I don't want to live an average life."

Fear is what ruins our dreams.

Well, Lydia - I don't want to either. (sigh)

Her words from John 10 were spot on, and I think I was so spell bound by her passion that I couldn't even take notes. It was THAT good. 

What we DID write, was our fears. On a rock. To be placed in a basket. Prayed over. And tossed into a lake (well, she doesn't live by an ocean). I'm grateful that we did that exercise, as it really made me look at the bigger picture, and realize I have nothing to lose. Nothing. So I'm going for it - ALL of it!! 

Do you see...
...what fear you have...
...that is stopping YOUR dream?

I can't wait for her book to come out ... I think it's due to be released in 2014!! :) 

I'm exhausted from going through, over, and re-living the moments of Saturday.... I'll have to keep you in suspense as to what Lisa-Jo Baker taught us on Sunday...and the other tasty morsels that were shared in Sunday morning's session.

For now, this is all. Read the scriptures. See how they fit into your plans for your dreams...or rather God's dreams...???

There was a LOT of good conversation going on at Jumping Tandem! 







A Soft Landing After Jumping Tandem

NO... I didn't get up in a plane and parachute...but sometimes I feel as if THAT would be easier than dealing with the cares of the world and the "dreams" God plants in my heart. And I'm afraid of heights!! HA!
Cari and Marina (me!)

As it turned out, my fairly new friend Cari (from Strings Attached Ministries) had a last minute cancellation to the Jumping Tandem Retreat in NE last weekend. It all came together in less than a weeks' time, but off we went...all the way up 71 to KC, a brief stop a little west of there for a lunch visit with her friend...then the remaining hours up to Omaha and a tiny jog west...and *voila* we were there! In the middle of nowhere!!

The drive was great! I loved that we got to talk so much in the car - a perfect way to spend all that time! Cari and I have had some fun time talking anyways...I think our mutual friend Holley KNEW we'd get along from the start! (Thanks Holley Gerth.)

We got some SERIOUS SWAG with LOTS of goodies from DaySpring, an amazing necklace from Krafty Kash, a goodie from Vi Bella later in the weekend, Squee, and more...(can you say YOU ARE LOVED? They showed it!!)

Jumping Tandem's founder Deidra Riggs welcomed us with a challenge from 2 Chronicles 20 - the whole "we do not know what to do but we turn to You...do not be discouraged or afraid...battle belongs to the Lord...take position and wait...go to battle...the Lord will be with you..." thing. OOOH BOY... I figured then I'd better hang on to my hat...it was going to be a challenging retreat in every sense of the word.

See...I don't make goals. Don't plan plans. Don't make dreams. I have no idea why. Even when I did Holley's book "You're Already Amazing" I skipped the chapter on setting goals...well, I read it, but I didn't DO it. Crazy huh?

My random stack of notes that are stuck in my journal.
Holley was actually the first night's key-note speaker! (SHE DID GREAT!) And goodness gracious, she challenged us....AND MADE US WRITE DOWN our God-sized dream. Really. On a card. Then she made us SHARE that dream. YIPES. (Can we say "out of my comfort zone" now?!) It stretched me hard, but I knew that God had impressed a few things on my heart (not really MY goals...but God directed actions in my life??) and had recently connected some dots on how that was going to all come together and become something beautiful to honor Him, so I wrote all that down...really...on the card. I mean, it's not MY goal...more a ...hmm.. what would I call it??? I don't know - but I obediently wrote it down and shared it with the girl in back of me. I did my "due diligence" with the assignment.

And notes...goodness...I took tons of notes on Holley's talk (and each speaker that followed!). I thought outside the box, and even drew the circles correctly on the "Strengths/Skills/Benefits" exercise. Sure enough, that idea God planted really IS a God-sized "dream", and it resides right there in the middle between "excited", "fearful", and "amazed".  :)  (Thanks Holley for the challenge!!)

She also laid out the "rules" for the weekend (actually, good reminders for life in general):

  • Words are powerful and can wound. Word = Sword (as in the Sword of the Spirit).
  • Partner with God day and night (like the Israelites did). We don't need to do it alone, so don't do it alone!
  • Be safe. Protect and help defend dreams. 
  • NO CRITICIZING! NO COMPLAINING! (awwww maaaannnn) ;)
  • No using swords on our own hearts. It hurts our Heavenly Father (who created us, and loves us) when we pierce our own hearts with hurtful words. 
Marina, Lisa-Jo and Holley (yes, I'm much older, AND shorter!) 


After the challenge, and lots of connecting with women that I've only met online in our (in)couragers community, we broke out the costume apparel and stepped into the photo booth a few times! How FUN is that?!! I also was able to connect with a few of my fellow DaySpring co-workers - it still stuns me to say - getting to be a part of such a great company (and in the company of some great people!).

And after THAT, Cari and I drove back to the hotel and slept. Exhausted. What a long, glorious, day.

I'll share more later in the week...maybe even tomorrow! I've got so much to say and learned so much, TOO much for one post!!

Marina, Lisa-Jo, Holley and Cari in the pic-strip on the left, and Marina and fellow (in)courager friend Diane on the right! 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Global Prayercast Post...Praying for the Unreached

Last night I was blessed to get to be a part of the first ever Global Prayercast through Unleashed 4 The Unreached, a group that helps facilitate prayer for "unreached" people groups (UPG) as identified through the Joshua Project. 

An UPG is a people group with less than 2% of the people having any knowledge of who Jesus is. They may follow other ethnic religions, traditional rituals, or not have given any thought to "if there is a God" and who He is. You can find out more on UPG's at Joshua Projects web site.

Several years ago, an idea was born to take all of Joshua Projects' research and put it into a visual display, and the Wall of Unreached People was born. It has been on display around the world ever since! You can see snapshots of the Wall and it's effectiveness, and see how you can get it to YOUR church, by looking at the U4theU website. 

I've been blessed to get to volunteer at the Wall several times now. I LOVE how people respond to seeing ALL THOSE NAMES listed alphabetically - countries, people groups, then populations...how the visual impacts them. I love seeing how they determine who to pray for, and their history with that group. I LOVE sharing how they can become a catalyst to reach those people...to see the hope that they can play a very REAL part in bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them....that perhaps they themselves will be the one that shares the story of Jesus with people there...wherever "there" might be.

So, at the church down the road about 20 miles, where they had decided already to set up everything tech to participate in the Global Prayercast, I got to bring my own list of countries that our church has sent people to. I didn't want to jeopardize their safety - but felt led to pray for the people that lived there, the nationals. So, as "pray-er #21, this is what I prayed:

Lord Jesus, we continue in prayer, asking for You to open doors for Your Gospel to be shared in Albania, Bethlehem and Brazil.
That You would raise up numerous new believers in Cambodia, China and Ethiopia.
That Your message will be honored in Guatemala, Haiti, Hong Kong, and ALL of India.
That opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be removed in Jordan, Mali, South Africa and Thailand.
Lord, let people believe, and enter into relationships with You and Your church in Russia, South Africa and UAE. 
And for all Your workers around the globe, may they be supported well - with our prayers, our finances, our time - as we care for them the way You do. May You raise up new workers to bring the Gospel to new places, and may they all - may WE all - stand firm in Your will, be kept safe from Spiritual attacks, fear, and discouragement... In Jesus' Name...Amen...

Today I found myself praying these things over and over. The words are etched in my heart. I might pray differently - moving different requests to different countries - but the basics are there...spiritual warfare, advancing of the gospel, hearts to be prepared, and workers to go with gladness.

Won't you engage in praying for the global workers YOU know? Find ONE people group that is currently unreached and pray for their hearts to be prepared? Learn about them and become a catalyst to bring the Gospel there??

I pray you will.

These are Good Things To Pray For, on behalf of people you know working in different Mission Fields...

Monday, April 15, 2013

(in)RL is Almost Here!!



(in)RL is right around the corner, and I'm having flashbacks to last years' fun! It was the first one I was involved with, coordinating it in an area we had only lived in for a year. I had a modpodge of people attend: my adult daughter, another friend, and a complete stranger (who became a new friend!). The study guide inspired great conversation, and the teaching had us all growing closer to God and each other. I was glad we had tissues, as I think we all shed a tear or two! We all brought snacks, and had enough food to feed an army! We left with phone numbers and emails in hand, and got together in bits and pieces through the coming months, until we moved and left the area...but we are still staying in touch! 

My *new* friend also became a co-incourager with me as we started an (in)courager Community Group online last fall for parents loving on prodigal kids. We met up on Facebook, blogged, and spoke openly and honestly about what it was like to have our kids wander from God's best. When we stepped away at the end of the session, the community had grown, and 2 of our members stepped up to lead! My co-leader friend had heard clearly from God that she was to take her focus to a face to face ministry within her church (which is starting this spring!!), and I was blessed to move into another Community Group for women in different aspects of Missions. It's been SUCH a GREAT journey, all launched by that little (in)RL group last spring!! 

This year, I'm in a completely new place! Different city, different church, not a child nearby :(  Still, I just HAD to sign up and host an (in)RL event! (If I didn't host one, I'd have to go to one - and THAT seemed scarier! Lol!) As it is, there are around TEN women attending our (in)RL event, and I barely know just a few of the people signed up to come....so it will still be an adventure, and exciting to get to go deeper with these women. I don't doubt that we will laugh, cry, and have a fun time with each other, and be best of friends when it's all said and done. I'll bring cupcakes, and other yummy things to snack on through the day. I KNOW it will be the highlight of my spring!! 

I'm still longing for "grown up" girlfriends - but He's been teaching me about all of that lately. God's blessed me with a crazy number of young ladies to mentor and pray with (and for!), and I trust that (in)RL will be another piece of that puzzle. If I get another dozen girlfriends young enough to be my daughter .... well, then I suppose that's what God has for me to be blessed with!! :)

I'm not going to close my heart (or my front door) to girlfriends of ANY age! :) I've always felt like my family was never quite "complete" - so perhaps He is "filling my quiver" with daughters of the heart.

(The wonderful thing about that is that we don't pay for college or weddings.... ;) )

Have YOU signed up for an (in)RL near you? If you are in the Fayetteville, AR area - join in with us at the GO Center (Global Outfitters) on College. If you live in Henderson, KY or Evansville, IN area, join in with my friends at Jennifer's house! Either way, you can the location closest to you here . If you still aren't sure if it's for you, then check out more information here. And if you just KNOW that you want to get registered, then RSVP here for FREE!!

You'll not regret the wonderful teaching you'll hear, and I promise you'll be inspired and encouraged in your daily walk with God, and your relationships with other women, no matter what your age or stage of life is! I hope you'll join in on our (in)courage Community too!!

Hoping to see you "there"!

All grace and peace...
Marina

Friday, April 12, 2013

Five Minute Friday: HERE

It's Five Minute Friday over with Lisa-Jo Baker again. The topic is a sore one: HERE 

Writing five minutes flat. Not making corrections, although there will be some...I'm sure. Just writing my heart out on the topic I didn't choose...(can you tell it's begrudgingly??) :)



START

I'm writing on HERE. Where I am. NOW.
I've been less than thrilled about it. Living in a home that I love being in...it wasn't my choice, but I prayed it would become home, and it has. God's blessed it - opened the doors, cleaned out the garden, and is growing good things in it that reflect more of Him in me...so that's good.

Yet still, in the quiet of my day to day madness, this doesn't feel like I'm belonging HERE at all. I want to be in a place that friends stop by when they are in the neighborhood. A place where phone calls or text messages let me know that they're thinking of me and how can they pray. To know that I run into familiar faces in familiar places - like the neighborhood yard sale. To bump into people I love (that love me equally) in the market. 

But HERE it's different. Our small group is good - but it's not kindred spirits, and I don't know that it will all grow to be that way.

Church is great. But as big as it is, and as small as our small groups are. And as immersed in doing what God's led me here to do, it still doesn't feel like "home". 

My heart is divided. Honestly. I still long to be back in KY - back where the grass didn't look brown, and the neighbors waved hello as I walked down the road, and the river rose and fell with the rains. There were the sun set up on the ridge over the golf course at the end of my street... (END)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Women's Retreat: Topic REST: Outcome BLESSED

WOW. I'm floored (and exhausted) when I think of the past few days.

I didn't want to go, because Mark had been gone so much the past....ummmmm....6 months....and he was going to be home this weekend. I wanted to stay home with him. So tempting.

The rest of the drama all started on Friday, when I woke up with a twisted lower back. You know, when you *pinch* something in the very bottom of your spine and you can't stand up straight? Can't get the pain out of your leg? Can't walk without being hunched over in pain?

yeah. that kind.

I iced. And heated. And spent a good deal of time on the floor, slowly....slowly drawing my knees to my chest....stretching that lower back...remembering that series of stretches my old chiropractor gave me to do years ago...the last time this happened....and I admit, they worked (with ongoing ice/heat and ibuprofen or aspirin).

Even though I wanted to stay home with Mark, with HIS prompting, I went.

I packed up, and decided to tough it out with my original plans, and while heading to the New Heights Women's Retreat I got a call from my oldest DD husband. WHO NEVER CALLS ME. So I KNOW it's something important. :(

Seems their dd #3 was in a fit of seizures (2nd time in 5 months) and they were waiting for the paramedics to arrive...

My job: PRAY!

But suddenly, AGAIN, I'm second guessing going to the retreat. How does that work?? I have a back out of whack, and they live 18 hours away by car...and it's at least as many hours to connect through flights to get there, and somehow I'm thinking I need to go back home to wait by the phone for an update instead of going to the retreat.

My super-grandma cape was tangled up around my glasses and distorting my vision. 

I arrived at the retreat site - lovely - out at New Life Ranch - and explain to the Women's Minister why I'm all puffy eyed and running late. She prays for me, waltzes me through registration, and sends a crew of women to pray for me, for my granddaughter (who is being life-flighted to the city hospital), and for my daughter and SIL who are desperately looking for someone to assist them with their 4 other kids so they can both be with the one in the hospital. (My heart is still breaking for them as I write those words.)

I'm distracted. I can't focus. I'm irritable because of my back pain, and my heart is divided - despite the amount of prayer I've gone through to be there. I keep thinking I need to leave. Be home with my hubby. Be in range of a cell tower (I SOMETIMES had one bar, enough to text, but not hold a call) and certainly not enough to stay on top of the changing situation. I'm SO confused!!

Despite all my uncertainty, I go ahead and move my stuff into my bunk house (12 women. bunk beds. need I say more?) and feel thankful I got a bottom bunk. WHEW. That was one of my "conditions of staying".... oh wait .... a "fleece before the Lord"..... (IF I get a bottom bunk, I'll stay....). Not only did I get a bottom bunk, but one that was larger than twin...maybe it was a full?? So I was staying for a little bit at least.

I was consumed with distraction over learning anything about the little one. My back hurt in the seats. But dinner was yummy (camp food has improved since I was a Cafeteria Lady at Maranatha Bible Camp in Everton!) and although I'm sure women were put off by my smeared mascara and puffy eyes, a few came up and prayed with/for me...

OH, that was my reason for going: To meet more (grown) women at church, and engage with them. I didn't see that happening at that moment, and I honestly thought about going home after the evening session. BUT then I learned that little one was being released from the hospital, and there wasn't really any reason for me to jump on the next plane after all.

(God managed without my intervention?? really?? - harumph! guess I'll stay through now... despite the full cabin...the box fan brought along for "white noise" by someone near me...the nest of spider webs I had to remove from the corner of my bunk...I was really too tired to repack and go back home...)

I awoke refreshed in the morning and ready to face the day!!

Lie. 

I didn't sleep a wink, tossed and turned all night, and my back hurt worse than when I got there. The shower was horrible, so I ended up bending over from outside the shower to wash my hair in there, sore back and all, and just pulled up my big girl panties and faced the beautiful day. I'd see it through.

Whining was optional.


The worship was intimate, although it did take me a bit to get into it...not sure what that was about...and the teaching was wonderful! The topic of REST was perfect, and although I thought that she'd be repeating information from a mutual friend's book, she was blessed with new words for my struggling heart to hear...and built on the shoulders of the previous lessons I'd learned. 

Quiet time wasn't too quiet - there were several other retreats going on at the ranch - but the sunshine that hit my face as I drew near to God on the dock, watching the canoes bob with the wind...it was perfect. I began to be restored. Renewed. Refreshed. 



And it got better with the day. It was lovely.

The weather was perfect...the nicest day of the year so far. I had decided to take time away with my camera and try to take some area shots to use for work, but there were a lot of people around so it wasn't as easy as I thought. Still, I managed to walk a lot, stay outside, feel the sun on my face and worship Him through enjoying His creation. Water. Blue sky. Fields of green. Horses. All of them captured in digital format on my camera. A GOOD DAY INDEED.


My note taking during classes was good for me. I didn't have to, but wanted to. I learn so much better, and love having stuff to rehash those thoughts with later down the road. I'll try to post some of them here - later - but am still processing them. Still learning. 

So far, in a nutshell, I'd say this: Rest is ordained by God - He created it (remember, that Sabbath Day, it was rest for Him after all that creating!). Reading the Bible is GREAT, and praying is necessary, but just as important is spending time with Him in stillness. Just in awe of who He is. Reveling in His creation. Allowing Him to speak to me. And when He calls me to REST with Him, and I don't, it's sinful disobedience, because REST is FRUITFUL. It's BLESSED. It's HOLY. 


My favorite scripture walk away...hmmmm....lots of good verses, but what hit me was Chapters 3 and 4 in Hebrews - which I drank in as I joined Him in REST on the dock... so good.

SO, thank you to the staff that put the retreat together, and to Sue Addington for her preparation for teaching us what God needed ME to hear (and others I'm sure). Thanks Mark for encouraging me to go, even if I didn't come home with a single new phone number in my contacts, I've got quite a few new faces to engage with at church (Lord, grow some kindred spirit friendships there!) and Praise You God for relieving me of the super grandma responsibilities and taking care of little one for me. 

Whew! I'm going to have to get better at that - seeing that they are preparing to head to another country in the next little bit - and me flying there won't be a possibility - and I don't think they're willing to leave all the grands here with me....

YES, I'm joking!!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Soil Testing...of My Heart

In January of this year, I accomplished a PART of a goal - taking the Master Gardener class. Now I'm still in training, having to learn in the field by completing (and maintaining) my volunteer hours this year, as well as continuing education and volunteering each year after this... it's just the start of a lifelong process.

The one phrase I heard OVER AND OVER was "do a soil test". No matter what you wanted to plant, you needed to KNOW what the health was of your planting material. The soil testing, depending on where you live, will be free or really cheap, but the information invaluable. Then you can add nutrients or matter to make your soil perfect for planting what you want to grow!

So, having heard this, I've been working hard in the landscaping of our garden beds at the front of our home. I was going to do a soil test, REALLY I WAS, but my original plan was to pull the soil (and all the grass and weeds growing in it) out of the planter and put new, fresh, quality potting mix in. Fresh start. Good deal. No problems. Right??



Wrong. Between weather, a busy schedule, and an upcoming summer wedding (our son!) - we aren't going to put the money into doing it that way now. We're taking the more laborious task (but fiscally responsible task) of working with what we have. Making due. It's ok - but now we've got growing season upon us and no soil testing done...and I'm moving forward anyways. Breaking rules. That's not the way I roll...not the way I like to anyways.

Most of the soil was buried under landscaping barrier fabric, and a layer of red dyed wood chips. Unfortunately, they didn't put any landscaping barrier in the front part of the flower bed, so the creeping grass we have as a lawn (zoysia??) has been happily living there. THRIVING there in the flower bed. Thankfully, Mark didn't mind digging it out, and I expect it will still be a work in process.

The dirt is not the texture I want it to be...it's dirt...and I wanted potting mix with vermiculite and organic materials...but it's still dark and rich and full of worms...so we've jumped on it to get things in the ground...UNDER the ground...bulbs, tubers, and rhizomes to fill the shady spots with ferns, caladiums, and hostas. We added a fountain feature. I envision maidenhair ferns swaying to a cool breeze in the heat of summer...the slightly sweet fragrance of a hosta bloom and the tickling sound of our fountain....

BUT - I've completely ignored the first rule of good gardening. I didn't soil test. There, I said it. If all this planting goes to waste, there's nothing to do but blame me, and soil test next winter before starting the whole process again. BECAUSE YOUR SOIL CHANGES ALL THE TIME. As plants live and grow there, the nutrients change. You have to test and prepare your soil every year. Over and over.

So, fast forward to the past few days. We've celebrated Easter - Jesus' Resurrection and living seated at the right hand of the Father. Such Good News that I live to tell others. 

But I'm sad. Depressed. Blue. Daylight is growing longer and longer, and I'm struggling to get out of bed, and if I'm out of bed I'm struggling to stay awake. I'm seriously tired. Sit still and fall asleep tired. Exhausted. I feel like the "Depression Hurts" commercial. Even laying in bed my calves hurt. I haven't done anything to hurt my calves. Haven't taken a walk. Haven't got the treadmill fired up. I did work in the garden, but don't think I hurt my calves. I don't get it. Well, I do get it partially, but don't like it (so I'll choose to ignore it). I'm suffering from "the day after Christmas (only it's Easter) Syndrome," and saying goodbye to all my grands as we leave Kentucky I realize, I'm homesick for where we used to live. Homesick for a church full of engaging people. Homesick for my handful of really good, genuine, real-life girlfriends.

We have lived here (Arkansas) for 7 months now and I've barely made a friend...I have acquaintances...recognize people, but have yet to find a kindred spirit (or 2), a prayer partner, someone to relate to my husbands crazy work schedule and traveling, and be an empty nester; someone in my age/stage of life. No one. Zip. Zero. Nada. I fear another "30 years in the wilderness" experience that I lived while in SW MO, and wonder if I'm forgetting something that I learned there...something I'm supposed to be living now that I can't remember. Sigh.

So, laying under a thick layer of blankets this morning, snuggled in deep in a bounty of warm cottons, I'm reading my daily Bible reading on my phone, and open to Luke 8, reading most of the chapter, but paying special attention to the parable of the seed. I've put the text here:


One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture.Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets[a] of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:
‘When they look, they won’t really see.
    When they hear, they won’t understand.’[b]
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.
I realize that these scriptures are referring to God's Word. To the areas of my heart that have been walking with Him for years now (and there have been seasons of life with Him that needed soil testing too, keeping it nutrient rich and producing harvests). I understand that. I also know that sometimes His words hit me to apply to other areas of my life. And this is one of them. 
I didn't test (or prepare) my soil. I'm sitting here, wondering where the other women are at to build friendships with, and my soil is nutrient empty. I've got nothing to give right now - just burdens. I've got heaping arms of plates of issues to give someone else - but my heart isn't in a place to receive other people's problems. I'm not capable of patiently producing a huge harvest of anything!
I'm going to be intentional and "soil test" my heart over the next few days. Sit back and soak Him in. Do joy-building things to fill my life to establish rest....and, oddly enough (haha) there is a women's retreat from church this weekend that I'll be going on, and the topic is "Rest," so I hope to be even more encouraged through that (and yesterday, I was DREADING going...now I know why I'm supposed to be going!). 
I'm going back to my DAILY Joy Dare (Ann Voskamp's write 3 things that are gift from God) and stop playing catch up on it. Put it front and center. Force myself to see the GOOD THINGS that He is giving me daily, mixed up with the different, the unexpected, and the sadness. I've got to get myself out. OUT! Not just the meetings and workplace, but to the intentional take a walk around the block. I have to find a place of water to soothe myself, even if it's the bathtub. I have to take care of me. Add nutrients to my soulful soil. Make it a place to nurture a difficult season in life, nourish a marriage, continue to flourish in my walk with God - whether there are friends or not - and just cling to God. It might be hard, but if I keep my eyes focused on Him it will be so much more fruitful a season. That's what I want - that measured growth of the HUGE HARVEST - IN my life, and FROM my life. I want to grow. I'm reminded of a life verse from years ago...
I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
    and you will harvest a crop of love.
Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
    for now is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come
    and shower righteousness upon you.’ ~ Hosea 10:12