Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Words of Wisdom for the Weekend & 13 Things I Learned in February 2014





"The primary reason the majority of kids from Christian homes stray from faith is that they never really heard it or had it to begin with. They were taught that God wants them to be good, that poor Jesus is sad when they disobey, and that asking Jesus into their heart is the breadth and depth of the gospel message. Scratch the surface of the faith of the young people around you and you'll find a disturbing deficiency of understanding of even the most basic tenets of Christianity." 
"Grace, or the free favour that has been lavished on us through Christ ought to make our parenting radically different from what unbelievers do. That's because the good news of God's grace is meant to permeate and transform every relationship we have, including our relationship with our children. All the typical ways we construct to get things done and get others to do our bidding are simply obliterated by a gospel message that tells us that we are all (parents and children) both radically sinful and radially loved. At the deepest level of what we do as parents, we should hear the heartbeat of a loving, giving, Father who freely adopts rebels and transforms them into loving sons and daughters. If this is not the message that your children hear from you, if the message you send them on a daily basis is about being good so you won't be disappointed, then the gospel needs to transform your parenting, too."
In no particular order, I've listed thirteen things I have learned in February. It's the shortest month of the year, but it's been a long winter, so I'm grateful we're moving on into March. Clearly, I've had a lot to learn. One of these months I'm going to pay attention to all the silly, non-sensical and completely impractical things that I learn to make this post a little more light hearted. Maybe. We'll see as I tell my children. No promises.

If you make it to the bottom, well done!

1. I learned that I needed a social media break and to get away from the pull and noise of it all for a time. I completely shut off my cell phone for a week, closed my laptop to all social media and limited emails to only checking them once in the morning, once in the evening and only replying to the ones that were absolutely necessary. I will probably start doing this on a more regular basis. It challenged me in ways I did not expect. {Breaking news: The world kept orbiting without me checking in on it all!}

2. I was surprised how difficult it actually was to get back into blogging after being quiet. I did miss it and knew I would get back to it, but I really had to wrestle out the words when I did return. I felt like I lost my voice. I have also learned that there are others that are struggling with the same things, so this is not a battle we face alone, even if we feel lonely at times.

3. You need good friends in your life when going through soul-wrestling days. But, you also need to be vulnerable and lay your soul and heart bare. It's hard, and humbling, but worth it.

4. I've humbly learned that no matter how much I love my children, I can only love them with my imperfect mother heart. I need to ask the Lord to give me His love for them because I am not capable in loving them the way that He does and I should.

5. My husband demonstrated that he will do whatever he can to help me wrestle through difficult things. How he loves with a Christ-like love. I am an incredibly blessed woman.

6. A new friend and I had a moment of brilliance one night back in November to begin a monthly book club. So far we have met twice with a handful of ladies. The first month we read A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live and the second month we read The Prodigal God. It is a laid back approach in which we read the selected book for the month and meet together one evening in the month and discuss the parts that had a profound impact on us. I have learned that it just the kind of outing that is great for an introvert who loves to read and loves people, but hates small talk. 

7. I was reminded how fragile life is when my dad called me and told me the roof of his steel shed could have crushed him.

8. My baby turned four this month. Watching our babies grow up is so heart-wrenching. She keeps up to her older siblings like a trooper. She melts my heart when she sings "You are my sunshine" and "Matchmaker" and when she sits in my rocking chair 'reading' her books. And when she flies off the GT and does a face plant, scrapes her face and busts her lip a little, my hearts just about stops and the adrenaline kicks in and I clean her up as best as I can, but then she promptly marches back up the hill, chanting, "I'm tough". Oh, my heart, be still.

9. I've really learned that I need to look deep into my children's eyes, hold them, love them, laugh with them, treasure these days, choose to serve them even when living a self-centred life would seem more self-gratifying. Growing as a Mama is not an easy thing, but I'm not doing it alone: "He gently leads those who are with young." Grow in the grace of the Gospel and keep the Gospel at the centre of our mothering. Our perspective will completely change.

10. The Olympics took place this month, in case you missed it. I am not a T.V. person, nor is my husband. However, our children watched their fair share, I believe. I learned why I can only watch so much. I shared this on my Facebook status after the gold medal women's hockey game between the US and Canada: 
"I just figured out why I only watch hockey during the Olympics and in the third quarter of the gold game. I'd have absolutely no voice left."
So, yeah, that shows my ignorance on so many levels, I know. Quarter? In a hockey game? Don't worry, I figured it out four hours later. Seriously! But, I cheered so loudly my voice hurt the rest of the day. (I'm deeply empathetic to my friends and readers in the US and I realize this may be a difficult topic to touch, so I won't go on.) Other than to say, my kids were pretty excited to watch the hockey game with friends, see the team they were cheering for win,  and their mom jumping around and cheering like craaaazzzzy.

11. I love when God chooses to use individuals in His work and they obediently follow and love Christ and keep the relationship the main thing He can accomplish such amazing things—things bigger than the individual so you seek Christ at work. How one family would love Christ and His body so much they will give away the earnings of a best seller (One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are) to build a school for children in need. I have learned so much from Ann

12. I've learned that it is good to be broken. It forces us to fall down and rely on the strength of the Lord and then He will use us in our brokenness to help others in their brokenness. We are all a mess in need of a Messiah. 

13. "I take my text, and make a bee-line to the cross" wrote Spurgeon of how he would deliver his sermons. I've learned that I need to do this in all areas of my life.


A Soft Gentle Voice

***
{Words for Wisdom for the Weekend: These are words that I have been challenged or encouraged by that I have read throughout my week that I kept pondering; words that I couldn't get off my mind and heart throughout my week. 

For other Words of Wisdom for the Weekend posts see here.}

Five Minute Friday: Choose




The art teacher started the lesson with lines and circles. Two parallel lines and two circles with one smaller circle tucked inside the larger one. Step by step, she had her students each draw their own clock.

She taught them about perspective.

As the little Picassos finished up the lines and numbers on their clocks they could pick their favourite time of the day and draw hands on the face.

She made the point that twice a day their clocks would be absolutely right.

Twice.

There are 1,440 minutes in a day and for two of them their clock would be telling the right time.

Goes to show you, we really don't have much control over our own days.

Everything we create has come from something. Everything we do depends on the breath given to us. Every bit of love we give comes from a Love that abides in us.

We think we can plan and control our lives to the nth degree, but just look around at your circumstances and you'll see much of it is out of reach of your control.

We even dare to believe that we can choose God.

His Word says the exact opposite. We cannot choose God. He chose us even before time began, from before the foundation of the world, before life was breathed into man.

He chose us to bear fruit. To spend our lives growing love.

Not to fill up all our time trying to be right or do right but to be in a relationship with the Creator of every thing and who exists outside of time.

So give yourself a break. Stop trying to fix yourself. Turn your eyes off your own self and look to the One who is greater than time.  He makes all things right and beautiful in His time.

The Good News is He wants you so much He stepped into time so we could be with Him for all eternity.

He wants you to abide in Him and grow in His love. Spreading His love like a never-ending circle and like lines that go on forever.

Absolutely right with Him all the time.

Never forgetting how He chose you in the first place.

***
Linking with Five Minute Friday at Lisa-Jo's place. This week the prompt is: Choose

Officially, the rules are:

Five Minute Friday1. Write for 5 minutes
2. Link up at Lisa-Jo's  and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community...


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Titus 2 Tips {on Thursdays} 'A Day with Dad' {Guest Post}



There are times we are able to share with others about disciplines in our lives that we have been practicing for years; ones that have truly become habits. Other times we can simply proclaim things we are learning about. This falls into the category of the latter.

A few Saturdays ago some men gathered at our church to complete a much needed project—one that literally pertains to the warmth and comfort of our church family. A couple of these faithful fathers took their sons along as an opportunity to invest in their lives. I also had some tasks that needed attention and followed along.

The events of the day were winding down when I walked through the foyer. It occurred to me that perhaps one of the 11 year old boys would have preferred spending the day involved in another activity. The question popped out of my mouth, “So how was it? Did you enjoy the work or was it a bit of a drag?”

It’s his reply that has been plaguing my mind for several days now. “Any day with Dad is a good day. Whether we play video games or work hard, a day with Dad is a day with Dad.” I praised him for his terrific attitude and his example as these words had proceeded from his mouth in the hearing of some younger boys.

This became an opportunity for spiritual application as those young lads and I then discussed how sometimes life is very easy and enjoyable while at others we go through some really hard things. Our Heavenly Father is with us during both…..and “a day with ‘Dad’ is a day with ‘Dad’”.

One reminder from this ‘sermon in the foyer’ is to take those simple opportunities as teaching moments to invest in the lives of those around us. It could be as formal as a lesson or as simple as a comment in the hall or conversation in the car with your children’s friends. As the body of Christ we are to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom...” Colossians 3:16

Those wise words from a younger brother cause me to ponder the Father’s presence and my response to it. He is ever-present in my life and I am challenged to live in light of this truth....regardless of the circumstances.

“Any day with Dad is a good day….a day with Dad is a day with Dad.”




Melanie Bellaire is learning to watch for those teachable moments and walk closer to her heavenly Father as she serves her family and homeschools her two children.









A Soft Gentle voiceI am honoured to host these guest posts in this series on women mentoring women

Some weeks you may find tips from the kitchen or healthy recipes, tools other women have used to grow spiritually, hints to help us build up and love our husbands, and lessons they have learned as they have walked along with their children to teach them to love God wholeheartedly, habits they have developed in keeping their home, ways they have worked on to keep their behaviour respectful, or rhythms that allow peace and rest in the home and hearts that dwell there within.

You will find all the posts in the series here.




"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour,
not slanderers or slaves to much wine.
They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands,
that the word of God may not be reviled."
{Titus 2:3-5}

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When You're Hard Pressed, but Not Crushed ~ Words of Life Wednesdays {and a link-up}

{Join us below for Words of Life Wednesdays and link-up your post.
We'd love to hear how God's Word has been nourishing you.}




The heavy weight of winter can nearly crush a body.

I know. I've felt it in my weary bones.

The way one little flake falls upon another and another and another until we're walking in snow up past our knees. Then an ice storm or two blows in and encrusts the snow piled high everywhere. It can trip you up and strike you down.

Darkness descends early keeping the days short and the nights long. And right now we are oriented away from the sun and the cold creeps in and makes you shudder.

Some days the sunshine pokes through the dark clouds and the warmth from the sun that kisses the skin promises of spring that is to come, but then the North Wind blows so strong it feels like shards cutting deep and you just want to scream back, 'Enough already'. And you feel like you're an unsuspecting traveller in Aesop's fable so you pull your cloak around you tighter and wait for the day that the sun will shine in all its glory and prove that it's stronger than the wind.

I've about had it with the weight of it all, the darkness, the cold, and the wild storms when my dad calls me on his cell.

It's Saturday and I'm home alone with the kids and we're still cleaning up from breakfast and it's almost lunch time. The kids want to go sledding and I. hate. sledding. Someone always gets hurt, but my husband thinks I should get out while the sun in shining and go for a hike while he's at work. I know it would be good for all of us so we make plans, pull out boots, and pack up GTs and then the phone rings.

Dad starts, 'Hey, it's your dad. How are you doing?' like any ordinary phone conversation. Eventually, he gets around to tell me how he's looking for a new vehicle. His isn't that old so I ask him what's wrong with it. He kind of chuckles and says it was crushed. At first, I think he's kidding around so I ask him what he's talking about. Crushed?



He rewinds a little and explains how the big green steel shed that's been standing strong for about forty years just couldn't take the weight of winter anymore and the roof came crashing down. We're not just talking a garden shed, but an industrial shed and workshop with a steel roof. The roof came crashing down and here's the sobering thing: the peak landed exactly where he had just been lying within the hour. Now, I'm clutching the phone to my ear and I don't know what to say.

He was changing out a flat tire and had to run into town to get another part. Shortly after he left, the walls buckled and the roof caved in and the peak would have crushed him had he still been under his silver CRV.

There's a whole lot of damage, but when he got back home and opened the door to the shed and looked up and saw sky where there used to be roof and the steel peak of roof right where he had been lying he said he just started to laugh. Yep, his vehicle was crushed, but he was still standing.

What else do you do when you realize the weight of winter could have crushed you but you still get to wake up to tomorrow?

Life is so fragile and dark days can get us down. But when you put life back into perspective and remember to look up, you'll see the light.


So a couple of days later, I shoot Dad a text. I tell him how I'm thinking that God has incredibly spared his life twice in the last six months and I wonder what He's trying to tell him. I think he might want to listen up. I pray that he will have ears to listen cause it looks like God's not giving up on pursuing him.

You can't keep living in the darkness and think you'll escape death.

It's the light that shines out of darkness. It's only light and new life that will bring hope and joy and peace.


I can't get the images out of my head and I won't give up either.

God's love chases us down so that we might be raised up with Christ.

North Winds beat us down, but the Son shines forth in all His glory and we do not despair. We take shelter. We rest in the light of His glory.

He extends grace and we don't lose heart, but give thanks.

We press on while the troubles press in.

For there is an eternal weight of glory that is beyond anything we could ever imagine.

"For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.
This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you." { 2 Corinthians 4:6-12}

A Soft Gentle Voice

{Also linking with Coffee For Your Heart}







Monday, February 24, 2014

Take a Break From Your Plans and Know His Presence



There's that saying that you can't see the forest for the trees. Well, I could barely see the trees.

So, I took a break. Kinda like when someone tells you to 'take a hike'.

It was a much needed break. I thought it would last a week. However, when the week had wrapped itself up, I found myself lost. I wasn't exactly sure how to find my voice back in this place.

I wanted to lose it altogether and, I think, maybe I did.

I got lost in a forest and couldn't find my own way out. I fainted and couldn't pick my own self up. I couldn't see clearly and I wanted the eyes of my heart to be enlightened that I could cling to living hope. To see the trees before me and know there is a greater plan. To remember hope remains even when I don't know the way winding through the woods.

I had to quiet everything down and focus on what was right in front of me. I had to stop to look deep into the ones that I could reach out and touch to know that I was really alive. I had to fall down to be able to walk on in faith.

What I thought would be a break, ended up breaking me.

I had to lose myself all over again to know that I really had been found.

I shut myself off from the noisy clamour all around me to pay attention to the soft gentle Voice of Truth and wait for Him to whisper.

What came loud and clear in the deafening silence was the truth that good things can take the place of God. Oh, the ugly reality that once that happens is they are no longer good things, but gods.

When you wake up to that you are forced to weigh in on some soul-searching questions.

Am I worshiping good things rather than God who has made all things?

Am I filling the longing for God's eternal presence with good and beautiful things that are meant to only point to God, not be gods?

Am I concerned more about my power, my plan, my purpose?

I thought I was discouraged from pouring out my life, but am I just desperate to be free from self-centred living?

I thought I would hush the distractions, but I was silenced and I saw idols.

I didn't just lose my voice, I lost my life all over again.

When I stopped to be quiet and I stilled to know God, my hands reached out to touch His mercy and my heart was assured of His presence.

Like the bleeding woman who touched the hem of His garment, she had to lay down low, reach out in simple faith and wait to filled to be able to stand up in His strength. His power went out into her. She was empowered to do the next thing.

One step at a time.

In my brokenness He gently embraced.

In my weakness He gave His power.

In my fainting He promised His presence.

In my lostness He found me and leads me home.

He never lets go and when I was trying walk by sight and lost my foothold, He was gently leading me on to higher places.

With Him.

Gathered in His arms, carried close to his heart.





"Take a break from all the plans that you have made.
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper.

Beg Him please to open up His mouth and speak.

And pray for real upon your knees until they blister . . . "


"Anything I put before my God is an idol.
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol. 
And anything I can't stop thinking of is an idol. 
And anything that I give all my love is an idol."
{lyrics from the song "Clear the Stage"}

A Soft Gentle Voice

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Words of Wisdom for the Weekend ~ Longing for Home

"And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said,  “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? 
This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven,
will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” 
{Acts 1:9-11}


"We are all exiles longing for home. We are always travelling, never arriving. The houses and families we actually inhibit are only inns along the way, but they aren't home. Home continues to evade us . . . "
The Bible says we have been wandering as spiritual exiles . . . we have been living in a world that no longer fits our deepest longings. Though we long for bodies that 'run and are not weary' we have become subject to disease, aging, and death. Though we need love that lasts, all our relationships are subject to the inevitable entropy of time, and they crumble in our hands. Even people who stay true to us die and leave us, or we die and leave them. Though we long to make a difference in the world through our work, we experience endless frustration. We never fully realize our hopes and dreams. We may work hard to re-create the home that we have lost, but, says the Bible, it only exists in the presence of the heavenly father from which we fled . . . "  
"[Jesus] came to bring the human race Home . . . He came and experienced the exile that we deserved. He was expelled from the presence of the Father, he was thrust into the darkness, the uttermost despair of spiritual alienation—in our place. He took upon the full curse of human rebellion, cosmic homelessness, so that we could be welcomed into our true home . . . "  
"Because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin with his death, he has achieved victory over the forces of death, decay and disorder that keep the world from being our true home. Someday he will return to make this victory complete." 

~Timothy Keller, ' The Prodigal God '

***
{Words for Wisdom for the Weekend: These are words that I have been challenged or encouraged by that I have read throughout my week that I kept pondering; words that I couldn't get off my mind and heart throughout my week. 

For other Words of Wisdom for the Weekend posts see here.}

Monday, February 3, 2014

When the Little Teapot Is All Poured Out and Needs to Be Refilled

"So we do not lose heart. 
Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an
eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. 
For the things that are seen are transient,
but the things that are unseen are eternal."
{2 Corinthians 16-18}



You see her sitting up there on the shelf. She's all out of steam. She's wasting away.

That shelf is perhaps just what she needed.

She had felt the heat so often, reached the boiling point, and she couldn't keep convincing herself she just had to keep going when really she needed to stop.

She had been poured out, burnt out, and almost rusted out.

That's when someone rescued her and put her up on a shelf.

It was time to take a break.

The noise in the world around her was too loud, too intruding, disrupting the peace, and making her fail to see she still had a purpose.

It's scary to be shelved. It's a vulnerable place to sit there and be still and quiet.

She wasn't sure she be able to fulfil her purpose up there.

She wanted to be useful.

She wanted to be beautiful.

She wanted to be fruitful.

She wanted to be graceful.

But she was empty.

It was time to put away distractions and pay attention to the dearest things in life.

It was time to be filled up before she could pour out any more.

It was time to come away from the noise and listen more closely to the Soft Gentle Voice of God.


A Soft Gentle Voice


Taking time out to be refreshed, renewed, restored.

Will return to pouring out my heart here when I've been refilled.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Words of Wisdom for the Weekend: "How Real World-Changers Are Wired" {and web-links}

‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:40


"Love each other in the same way I have loved you."
John 15:12

"People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. And I've noticed something about people who make a difference in the world. They hold on to unshakeable convictions that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren't determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they're satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities, and yes, the world. 
People who want to make a difference get frustrated along the way. But if they have a particularly stressful day, they don't quit. They keep going. Given their accomplishments, most are shockingly normal and the way they spend each day can be quite mundane. They don't teach grand lessons that suddenly enlighten entire communities; they teach small lesson that can bring incremental improvement to one man or woman, boy or girl. They don't do anything to call attention to themselves, they simply pay attention to the everyday needs of others, even if it's only one person. They bring change in ways most people will never read about or applaud. And because of the way these world-changers are wired, they wouldn't think of living their lives any other way."
~Beth Clark, 
(from the forward written in )
Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption

A Soft Gentle Voice


Compassion Bloggers: Uganda 2014

We have been reading the posts from the team of bloggers that travelled to Uganda this past week and been moved by what we have seen—from the extreme poverty to the hope these children have in Christ's name.

We have the privilege to help these children who are living in slums and to communicate God's love and hope to them right from our homes.

Our children love to receive letters from our Compassion children. I can't imagine what our Compassion children do when they receive our letters.

I was literally in tears when I read some posts and this one I laughed out loud.







Pray for the Easton family as they finally moved into a remote village in the Philippines. 
 
They have been preparing for this for years with training, learning a new language, leaving family, and bravely following God's call on their lives. We got to know the Eastons at a small Bible College and have followed their journey and were thrilled to hear that this week they finally moved into their new 'home'. 
"After years of anticipation, preparation and floods of prayers, the Easton family is finally moving to a remote village in the Philippines. It scarcely seems real. 
“Of course we have visited several times and did a 10-day stint last August,” writes Dennis Easton, “but this time we are moving in to stay." 
"There is much to look forward to as they dig in to the adventure God has placed them in." 



What is your Story? What is God's will for your life? Are you in God's story? 
You were born to be: 
UnThinkable You—Born to be Wild

{email subscribers can watch this video by Louie Giglio here}

"I have come that you might have life, to fullness of life . . . I'm going to lead you to life . . . I am going to be in the midst of the life with you."

"I want you to follow me. Peter says 'ok' and he leaves his families business and he goes and follows Jesus . . .  Have you ever thought about doing something crazy like that? . . . there is something about Him that grabbed my heart."

"What are you doing with your life?"



***
{Words for Wisdom for the Weekend: These are words that I have been challenged or encouraged by that I have read throughout my week that I kept pondering; words that I couldn't get off my mind and heart throughout my week. 

For other Words of Wisdom for the Weekend posts see here.}
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