Distracted.

Distracted BLOGWe began the new year with 21 days of prayer and fasting with our church family. Daily I sat at the feet of Jesus with an open heart & open Bible longing for Him to speak. During those few weeks something changed in me. I could feel it, like a fire was lit from deep within. There is something about fasting that provides tremendous clarity and purpose. Years from now we’ll remember with awe and wonder how God transformed our lives during the prayer and fasting of 2020.

One of the areas God continually addressed throughout the fast was how distracted I have been. Distracted by the “good” but not the “best.” Distracted by the constant noise of a busy life. Distracted by my to-do list that I had consistently put as a priority over Jesus.

In the quiet of the fast, God spoke.

With great intention I began my days with 2 hours of silence, stillness, prayer, bible study, journaling, and reading. I kept my cell phone on the other side of the house determined to not let anything distract this sacred space. The adjustment to being without my phone was both brutal and revealing, wow I had given it so much power over me.

Halfway through the fast we traveled to Ohio for a family visit and attended Oasis Church in Norwalk. Pastor Vince Cooper spoke a timely word titled “It is Possible to have Clarity” about Mary & Martha in Luke chapter 10. Let’s take a look at the story…

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 ESV

I can relate to Martha, can’t you? She was focused on caring for her VIP guests, stressing over hospitality, while missing the opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet. She was allowing her to-do list to rob her of the privilege of intimacy with the Master.

Here are some insights that Pastor Vince shared that were so powerful!

“Details are important, but they are not the most important.”

“Distraction disables relationship.”

“Martha not only missed what Jesus was saying, she was also trying to get others distracted.”

“Don’t be distracted & don’t be distracting.”

“You will always have distraction. You have to choose; will you be divided by the distractions or will you put them away?”

“What are you going to do when Jesus says, nope?”

Pastor Vince Quote BLOGY’all I’m all about the details, if you need details, I’m your girl! But my, oh my! I am learning that details are not more important than Jesus. If you’re a recovering Martha like me, let’s say that out loud together: details are NOT more important than Jesus.

I am learning that living a distracted life will disable my relationship with Him. I am learning to not live in such frantic constant movement that I am unable to hear His still small voice. I am convicted by the countless times I have been not only distracted but distracting to others. Oh Lord let this be a lesson that transforms my life forever.

One thing is necessary friends, one thing. Let’s sit at the feet of Jesus and not allow distraction to rob us from His very best.

Questions for reflection, prayer, & journaling
– When was the last time you sat quiet & alone at the feet of Jesus?
– What one distraction is God calling you to surrender today?
– How have you been both distracted & distracting?

Friends if my brief notes from this message ministered to you, I highly recommend checking out the replay from Oasis Church Facebook live at this LINK. Thank you to Pastor Vince Cooper for permission to share my take-aways from his message.

Fear Not

Fear Not blog (1)Last year I shared our journey through a particularly difficult season + a tool the Lord gave us to navigate that season. It was one of the most popular posts I’ve ever shared, if you missed it, check it out here. Throughout the journey and still today, fear often shows its ugly head in our lives. Don’t you wish these lessons were one and done? Anyone else find themselves circling the same mountains over & over again?

Apparently, I’m not alone as evidence by many popular worship songs, Spotify playlists, and books dedicated to the theme of overcoming fear. My favorite is the song “Fear Is A Liar” by Zach Williams. These lyrics absolutely nail the subtle, sneaky depth where fear takes hold, then battles those lies with bold truth. Fear IS a liar! Check out the chorus below…

“Fear, he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar”

I recently walked through the 10/10/10 Exercise and journaled my 10 gratitudes, fears, and truths. It was interesting that my fears were a spectrum of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It was so life giving & revealing to take pen to paper and write out my fears. I actually had to laugh out loud. Wow! The enemy had me walking in fear and believing all kinds of lies. If you’re feeling that way, you’re not alone!

The phrase “fear not” appears in the Bible 158 times (ESV, Bible Gateway). It is most often used by God (or angels) to console those being addressed and encourage them to trust in God’s plan no matter their current circumstances. Many times, this phrase is accompanied by humans falling on their faces in holy reverence before God or angels, which seems perfectly appropriate. Fear has often had me on my face before God.

“Fear not” is used three times as Jesus instructs his Apostles about ministry in Matthew 10: 26-31. Check out these verses:

“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10: 26-31

Fear Not Quote blog revDr. Tony Evans makes these observations on this passage, “What motivation does Jesus offer to enable them to become fearless? First, there is nothing hidden that won’t be made known (10:26). No persecution of God’s people, then, will remain secret forever. God will turn the tables. Second, there’s no need to fear those who have temporary power in history; believers rightly fear the one who has limitless power in eternity (10:28). Third, God the Father has great love for his children. He’s sovereign over the events of your life. Nothing comes to you that hasn’t first passed through his fingers. His children are valuable to Him (10:29-31).” (The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, page 882-883, emphasis added)

Let’s say that again: NOTHING comes to you that hasn’t first passed through his fingers. You & I are valuable to Him.

I am encouraged through this text to fear not: in the complex and in the daily grind of life. God cares. He sees all, knows all, and is in control of all. He cares so much about the details that He has given a number to each of the hairs on my (& your) head. He is a good, good Father and He is trustworthy. As I combat fear with truth I hold on to these verses for life.

Questions for reflection, prayer, & journaling
– What are your 10 gratitudes, 10 fears, & 10 truths?
– How does Matthew 10 encourage your walk of faith?
– What truths sustain you in difficult seasons?

Keeping Our Eyes On Jesus

Keeping our eyes on Jesus blogI have been studying the life & leadership of Jesus since the new year with a renewed sense of awe and wonder. Matthew chapter 14 particularly hit me as throughout several experiences Jesus models both perfect humanity and all-powerful deity.

As the chapter begins, we learn about the brutal, vicious, and horrific murder of John the Baptist. Jesus finds out what happened and is notably affected by this devastating loss. John the Baptist was not only His cousin but shared a significant space in God’s story (HIStory) with Jesus. John was God’s chosen messenger, preparing the way for Jesus (Matthew 11:10). Jesus desired to get away and be alone, so he departed by boat.

As always, people were in need all around Him, following Him by foot from town to town. So, his alone time was put on pause while He selflessly and compassionately heals all the sick. After abundantly providing lunch for 5K men (plus women and children) and simultaneously teaching his disciples an incredible leadership lesson, He still needs that time away. No doubt the loss of John the Baptist was heavy on His heart and the long days of ministry were exhausting. So, He puts His disciples on a boat, dismisses the well-fed crowd, and spends the night alone in prayer. Even the perfect Son of God required regular connection to the Father and self care.

Meanwhile a storm is brewing…

As we pick up the story in Matthew 14: 24 I love the response of the disciples! Keep in mind they have been with Jesus for quite awhile and have seen incredible miracles, but their minds are utterly blown when they see Jesus walking on water!! Like whattttt!!! Of course, Peter wants in on the action and is the first to jump at the chance to walk on water.

“And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those in the boat worshiped him and said, “Truly you are the Son of God.”” Matthew 14: 29b-33 CSB

When Peter takes his eyes off Jesus and looks at the wind, fear settles in his heart. He took steps forward and was doing fine, but as soon as he takes his gaze off Jesus and sees the strength of the wind Peter starts to sink. Isn’t that just like you & I? When we take our eyes off Jesus, focusing on the storms, stress, & struggles in our lives, we begin to sink too.

Peter was a fisherman with lots of experience in powerful storms. His experience no doubt informed his fear. Many times, in his past he witnessed the powerful destructive capabilities of wind, rain, & storms. In that moment he relied on his experience rather than his faith in Jesus.

Faith water blogFaith will take us out of the familiar every time.

It doesn’t matter how powerful the storm, or what our past experiences, abilities, or limitations are trying to take us under. God controls the storm! God can do anything, far beyond what we can even ask or think or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Nothing is impossible to our God if we will keep our eyes on Him. (Luke 1:37)

I don’t know about you but verse 31 ministers so much grace to me. Even when Peter failed to keep his eyes on Jesus, Jesus still caught him. Thank you, Father, for being the type of loving, compassionate, and merciful Father than catches us when we fall.
Wherever you are today and whatever you are facing. Keep your eyes on Jesus! If you’ve fallen, reach for His hand and He will catch you. Nothing is impossible because He controls the storm.

Questions for reflection, prayer, & journaling
– Are the storms that you are facing more impossible than walking on water? (Hint: nope they’re not)
-What is Jesus calling you to in this season?
-How can you rely on His voice and step out in faith in this storm?