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.

woman-armor

     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.

romans12_11

 

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.

tree-river-300x199

Until the next moment,

 

Trading Chaos for Hope

As I have mentioned previously, my older kids didn’t come home this summer, making it very quiet. Too quiet for this mom who has always been used to the bustle and noise that four kids are capable of making. Yet, in a fairly short time; four became three, three became two, and now there is but one little (or perhaps, not so little) bird left in my nest. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy for them and all that they are doing. They are stepping out into the world, trusting God and following the path He has laid before them.

I just miss the chaos.

I learned a long time ago that I am one of those people who tends to be more productive when things are a little on the crazy side. I prefer a busy day at work, over one that is quiet with less tasks to do. I like to be moving and doing, making some noise… I tend to not do quiet very well at all.

When all four kids were younger, we were extremely busy–we were always on the go. In the early years it was soccer games in the spring/fall, softball and baseball in the summer. As my older children entered middle school, we added band and chorus, as well as more sporting events. Then we became more involved in our church, with Awana and other forms of fellowship. It was there within the walls of our church that something unexpected happened, my extended family began to grow. The relationships that I formed there, that my children did as well, gave us the family we so desperately needed.

But the walls stood high.

As a single parent, perhaps more so because of the broken person I was… I struggled for years to let people in. Somehow, in this new environment I was finally able to let down my walls and started letting people in. I was shown unconditional love over and over again. My children saw firsthand what compassion looks like and how to be more like Jesus themselves. I have always said that it takes a village to raise a child (especially for the single parent), I am so very blessed that the majority of my village was within the walls of our little church. With my children, I learned what “normal” looked like, how families interacted minus the hurt and dysfunction. It was the beginning of our healing process as a family, of my healing process as a parent and a child of God.

Thank God for Hope.

Hope

So I am back to dealing with the moments when I feel sad and alone, and the darkness closes in. I wish I could say that one day it will just “poof” vanish and I will always feel happy and content. I don’t think that is possible for any of us as mere humans who walk this earth, less possible for those of us who have experienced more darkness than we sometimes care to admit. Yet, in the darkness, He is there. As I woke this morning, I set down at the table with my coffee and opened my Jesus Calling devotional.

     HOPE is a golden cord connecting you to heaven… I never leave your side, and I never let go of your hand… without the cord of hope, your head may slump and your feet may shuffle as you journey uphill with Me. Hope lifts your perspective… You are reminded that the road we’re traveling together is ultimately a highway to heaven… the roughness or smoothness of the road ahead becomes much less significant. I am training you to hold in your heart a dual focus: My continual Presence and the hope of heaven.

These were exactly the words I needed to read, that He needed for me to read. It seems so ironic that it always works that way. I may miss a day, or study something differently; but no matter what I read or where I read it from; He has me reading comforting and encouraging words from some sort of a devotional; ultimately directing me to His word through scripture.

Romans 12:12  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

1 Thessalonians 5:8  But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.

Hebrews 6:18-19a  God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace

Then His words direct me further, to song. Thus allowing me to sing and praise Him for all he has done in my life. He is always with me, has always been… even in the darkest moments, the saddest moments, the moments when I feel the most alone.

When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.

footprints

He carries us… He never leaves our side. We are never alone.

So even as my children fly away, out into a world that I have hopefully properly prepared them for. I am not alone, my God is with me, He loves me and He gives me just what I need… when I need it the most.

Until the next moment,