Find Your Zeal

I’ve been silent again. Too silent. Lost in a dark and lonely solitude of my own making. A silence that is not easily explained, or even identified for that matter. A silence that tonight was reawakened by one simple word. A word that in today’s world of instant this and immediate that, just isn’t spoken. A single word that could have only been placed on my heart and in my mind by the Spirit that lies deep within myself; the Spirit He placed with in me, within us all that believe.

ZEAL

What is zeal? Webster defines it as great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. Its synonyms include: passion, fire, devotion, enthusiasm, eagerness, keenness, and intensity. With antonyms that include apathy and indifference. In my silence, I had lost; correction, have lost my zeal.

So as I set in the quaint setting of an old barn tonight, sharing in fellowship, with a sisterhood of women who like myself, love the Lord; I was reminded, as perhaps some of them were, that my life was missing a vital piece of God’s armor; the Cloak of Zeal.

Many of us are familiar with the Armor of God. Ephesians 6 reminds us that this armor includes: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with readiness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (the word of God). Tonight it was also revealed to us that there is one more vital piece of armor that no soldier should take the battlefield without, the mysterious cloak of zeal.

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     To learn of this lesser know part of His armor, we must venture back to the Old Testament, to the book of Isaiah. Chapter 59, verse 17 states: He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. (NIV) The New Living Translations reads: and wrapped himself in a cloak of divine passion.

Zeal. Passion.

     He wants us to wrap ourselves in this attribute, to be entirely protected by His armor, allowing the final piece, the cloak of zeal to cover all the other pieces, further protecting us from the enemy. We must remember to put on each piece of this armor, each morning as we prepare to face the day. Allowing us to be properly equipped to take on anything the enemy may bring our way.

The speaker asked us, what are you passionate about? I instantly thought about my desire to write, to share my thoughts and revelations. To share what He has done and continues to do in my life. My passion to share how with His love and direction, you can overcome anything. That with Christ in your life, you can accomplish anything that is a part of His will for you. I know that with His guidance, I have so much to say, so much to share… that my voice, directed by Him, just might have the ability to change a life.

I have previously shared brief glimpses into some of the darkness that was my former life, my life before I learned to trust Jesus Christ as my Savior; trusting Him to get me through the hardships that had been all to often placed before me. I have battled depression for decades and sometimes, even with the truth and understanding, and the hope He brings; the darkness can creep in and with it the silence that eventually engulfs me. It sneaks in slowly, quietly… sometimes I notice it, but it is just so comfortable, so familiar, that I don’t stop and think about it being harmful for me. Forgetting how much it will hinder the progress I have made in my growing relationship with the Son of the living God.

So here I am, smack dab in the middle of another bought of silence, brought on by the stress of life, the fear of the unknown, and simply listening to the enemy repeat the familiar old lies of why I will never be more than I am, why I will never succeed in my life. I know better, Christ has brought so much more to my life than I could have ever imagined. Yet, with life gets tough, when there are too many unknowns; it is all too easy to believe those old recordings, to look in the mirror and see who I used to be, instead who He has helped me to become. It’s difficult to have passion, to live with zeal, when your life seems to be nothing more than a black and white movie that lacks even the possibility of a remotely happy ending.

As I listened tonight, to our speaker, a woman whom I love and am blessed to call my friend, I was/am reminded that I am responsible for my own zeal. I am in control of what I am (or am not) passionate about in my life. If I want to be able to share what He has done in my life, I need to be spending time with Him,so that He can continue working in my life. I am disheartened to admit that my time with the Lord has been minimal. My time in His word, even less. I pray, occasionally, and the only time I open my bible is on Sunday morning as I sit with the rest of the congregation while our pastor leads us through His Word. Tonight I was gently reminded that this is not enough. Not even close. He needs and wants more from us, He deserves more from us. As our faith grows, we learn to call him friend, companion, even father. These names signify a relationship and we should be nurturing this relationship, allowing it to become stronger every day.

I can often find myself complaining about being tired or not having enough time to get certain things (like the dishes) done. Yet, I can stay up late, watching one more episode of my favorite show on Netflix, or playing a game on the computer. Or take my weekend off and spend it nearly motionless on my couch, instead of catching up on one of the many things that could be done. Most every morning I hit the snooze multiple times instead of simply getting out of the bed and hitting my knees and spending five or ten quiet minutes starting my day in prayer. Its a conscience choice, one that I have been making poorly for a few months now.

So, my zeal has been renewed. I once again have a fervent urging to find time, no, to make time to spend in prayer and more importantly in His word. Utilizing even the smallest of moments to help strengthen my faith, but better yet my relationship with Him, the One who never stops wooing me. And He doesn’t, He is always pursuing us, all of us, even when we stop pursuing Him.

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So I leave you with a few questions, including the question that was asked of me tonight… what are you passionate about? Are you lacking zeal? Do you take the time to arm yourself every day with the Armor of God? In closing I also encourage you to find that passion and give it to God… allow Him to direct you and how you can best serve Him with your passion. Go to Him in prayer, and in those quiet moments, be reminded of all He has, can and will do for you… if you only let Him.

 

Until the next moment,

 

 

 


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Planted to Prosper

Sunday We started a new Women’s Sunday School class this weekend where we will be studying some of the Psalms. First up: Psalm 1, with the study question for discussion: “Do you feel a gap (or chasm!) between “real life” (work, school, family) and your prayer life? Explain. Ask God to help you begin to make prayer a part of your life.”

Wow! Where do I start my list… Just last year I was a part of a wonderful Bible Study with some of these very same women. I worked hard at committing to having a stronger more fervent prayer life. For a good period of time, I did. But, then summer arrived with all its activities and busyness and I fell short. Really short. I was too busy…

Correction, I allowed myself to say I was too busy.

I’m ashamed to say, that beyond reading my daily devotional, I just didn’t make, or allow the time to spend even a quiet moment with the One who gives me breath.

So I am excited for this SS class, and the opportunity to study once again with these women. I really enjoyed this opening paragraph from our new book:

“Psalm 1 is the biblical preparation for a life of prayer. Step by step it detaches us from activities and words that distract us from God so that we can be attentive before him. Most of us can’t step immediately from the noisy, high-stimulus world into the quiet concentration of prayer. We need a way of transition. Psalm 1 provides a kind of entryway into the place of prayer.” (Introducing the Psalms)

I don’t know about you, but life continues to be crazy; it is obviously just the nature of the beast. Because, even with only one child to be directly responsible to, it seems that I have less time with that one child, than I did when I had all four kiddos still under one roof. As a mom, especially as a Christian mom, I want to make sure that I am modeling for my children what I expect of them as people (who I want them to be) as they step out into this crazy and unpredictable world.

Verse 3 really spoke to a lot of us, myself included:Psalm_1_3m

How firmly am I planted? Which in turn leads to additional questions like: How well am I feeding myself so that I can grow and yield good fruits? Am I strong enough to prosper in the depths of a storm or adversity?

Many of you who know me, or have followed this and my previous blog, know that life has not been an easy path for me. I have been tossed around in the wind, to say the least. Yet, because I learned to trust in the living God, I have been able to survive it all. Even with the few visible scars, I continue to move forward. I have learned how to prosper. Then, over the course of the last four years, our family had some moments where the trials were a little bigger that any of us could have ever planned.

June 2012, just one month before her wedding, my eldest daughter was fighting for her life and we were uncertain if she would even walk down the isle. Through much prayer and God’s gracious and healing hand… she did.

May 2015, just days after completing her first year of college, my middle daughter was in a near fatal car accident and survived. Once again, prayer and God’s grace brought us through this terrible storm.

Through each event, I watched our family grow in our trust in the Lord, creating an even more firmly planted foundation. I watched as both my daughters turned to God, in prayer; doing so with me, as well as individually; trusting Him, as they walked through each of these unthinkable storms. These incidents were overwhelming examples (to me) of not only the mighty power of prayer, but that God indeed hears our cries, and that He cares for us in each and every moment of our lives.

Which takes me back to verse 3.grow-bible_-tree_

When we stay firmly planted in the truth of His Word, when we spend purposeful quiet time with Him, we will then have all that is necessary to grow and prosper. He wants us to do just that. He wants us to do so much more. As we learn to trust that He is always with us, and when we spend those even brief, daily moments with Him; it strengthens us unlike anything we can imagine. We may be thrown into the biggest storm, with monumental winds tossing us to and fro… Yet, because we have a firm foundation in the living God, we are able to weather the storm.

Two of my three older kiddos were home for a short visit this weekend and I am still so amazed at the remarkable adults they (as well as their older sister) are becoming. They continue to care about others and make deliberate and sound decisions in most everything they do. All my children learned growing up in our single parent home, that it takes hard work to get where you are going. They also learned that it takes trusting in and loving a God who, “through all things is possible”. They never had it easy, they earned most everything they received. They watched and saw my trust in God; and over time, each one of my children has developed their own trust, their own relationship with the God who gives us breath.

That is my fruit… watching each of my children as they firmly grow in the Lord.

What a joy it has been watching my two older daughters find such wonderful, loving, and Godly men to share their lives with. I also hope and pray… that my son too will find a women who loves the Lord like he does. And a few years down the road, I wish the same for my youngest daughter.

My fruit is also found in my writing and being able to share it with others. When we spoke Sunday morning, we talked about what we enjoyed most about watching movies, or reading a book or poem. Why do we enjoy these sorts of activities? Because the majority of us want to step outside our own world and experience something different. We want to feel happiness when we are sad, to momentarily forget that we are angry or upset. We also want to, perhaps, learn from someone who has experienced something we can not imagine. Or to see that we are not alone, to see that someone else has experienced something similar and they too came through that same storm.

Which is why I write–I write to share my experiences, even the hard ones; the ones that may have left less visible scars. Because not only is it therapeutic to me… but maybe, just maybe it will help someone survive their own storm. Perhaps when I write, I can share the hope He gives me, even in my everyday life. I know that God guides my words and I pray that he will continue to do so as I reach out to share with family and friends, one moment at a time. I pray that I will continue doing so, while firmly planted in His truth and love.

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Until the next moment,

 

When the Silence is Deafening

Today has been the sort of day I have not had in a while. One where I feel lost and alone, overwhelmed. And to tell you the truth, I still can’t pinpoint what it really is. Those old recordings are once again playing in my head. Perpetually on “repeat”, only this time I can’t actually hear them. I know they’re playing however because of the sick and heavy feeling I had when I first woke up today. But instead there is just this sick silence; nearly as maddening as the recordings themselves. I got my daughter off to school, oblivious to my state of mind. As soon as she left I set at the table, took a quick peek at Facebook to see if I needed to add anyone to my prayer list and then settled into my time with the Lord. Or, I should say I tried…

I must have read my devotional at least three times, before its words even began to break through the barrier created by the silence in my head. One would think that if you mind is in such a quiet state, it would be free to absorb whatever information you try to put into it. Perhaps, if it’s truly empty and not just masquerading as such. Instead, in my case, “empty” is merely hiding behind a mask of silence. A silent facade, holding in dark moments from my past. My routine is that I read my devotional, look up the scripture with my You Version app and share on Twitter and Facebook. On Facebook, I select one of the scripture references and create an image with it. I then share an abridged version of the part of the devotional that spoke to me that morning. This morning it was Psalm 89:15-16, the devotional itself reminding us to stay close to His Presence. To relax in it, to allow our mind to be molded, our heart to be cleansed. To remember when we keep our focus on Him, every moment can be precious. I was not finding that peace this morning, my heart and mind were fighting with my dark and silent past.

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I then set here looking at the three sections of my Prayer Board, lost as to where to even start. Normally God just places on my heart a starting spot and I then just move around the board until everything is covered in prayer. I didn’t know where to start this morning, my mind could barely form whole thoughts. Broken fragments of nonsense were bubbling to the surface, finally forming tears. I immediately jumped back on Facebook and asked the women in my Bible Study to pray for me. Then I headed to the one place where I can talk to God when I feel this lost, where I can cry out, even sob to Him and pray that He could get me through this particular moment… my shower. And before you utter “TMI” understand that this has been my safe spot since I was a very young girl. When I was growing up and my father was abusing me, the bathroom was the only room in the house with a lock on it. I would come home after school and take my homework into our bathroom, lock the door and feel safe, at least for the moment.

As an adult, I still retreat to this small quiet room; to be alone, regain composure, to pray… Sometimes, it is in the shower, where the sound of the water can drown out my tears. Where the wall often holds me up as I sob uncontrollably. But just as the water washes away, falling down the drain. So do my tears, they are just gone. The ugliness, sadness, anger, fear, all of it; is gone too. I can step out, feeling a sense of calm, renewed, re-energized; suddenly able to take on the rest of my day. I promise you that the only reason I am able to do this is because He hears me as I cry out to Him in my desperation. He hears me as I cry out and ask Him “Why”? He listens as I repeat everything on my heart that He already knows. He listens and He gives me what I need to move forward. He provides me with my immediate needs and quietly whispers that He is taking care of things. As I was crying in the shower this morning, I realized that I am still worried about money and my finances. I do have a part-time job now, but how in the world am I going to take care of myself and my child on a part-time salary, not to mention catch up on months of unpaid bills, which include months of rent. He knows all that, He knew before I uttered one word, shed one tear.

I continue to read from Max Lucado’s “you’ll get through this”. The story of Joseph and all that he went through; sold into slavery (by his own brothers, mind you), thrown into prison, and all the ugliness and hurt that came along with it. He never gave up, because he knew God had something better planned for him, even as a young boy, he believe it. Today, after a good crying session, I once again believed it too. We are all His children, and He, only He is in control of our ultimate destiny.

You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. God will use this mess for good.

As I write this my heart is good again, the silence has left my thoughts free to move around in my head, as they see fit. I can concentrate once again. I was able to read from the two books I am currently reading; including being led to some very appropriate and encouraging scripture. Thoughtfully reminded by 2 Corinthians that once we become a part of Christ, we are His, not just for a little while, but always His.

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Our past doesn’t matter any longer, even though the enemy wants you to think differently. We pinned them (our past sins) to the base of the cross when we trusted our life to Christ. His death on the cross paid for all our sins, the ones we have already done and those still to cause us to fall short. In the book FerVent, author Priscilla Shirer encourages us to use the following strategy when being harassed by Satan. When in prayer we can:

Praise: Thank Him completely for forgiving you, cleansing you, changing you.  –   Repentance: See the foolishness of anything that perpetuates old sin patterns, and by His Spirit walk away.  –  Asking: Ask for freedom, for release, for the ability to detect lies and embrace truth.  –  Yes: Because you, by His resurrection power, can now walk a new way of life.

Today, I end with a prayer. Lord Jesus, forgive me for my fear and uncertainty. Forgive me for allowing the enemy to build walls that keep me from you. Thank you Lord for giving me the tools to tear them down before they are fully built. Thank you Lord for loving me, my past imperfections and all; for easing my pain, ultimately healing it with your blood. I am a new creation, beautiful and perfect in you. Amen

Until the next moment,