Surrendered Heart: Living Captivated

https://www.facebook.com/captivatingheartretreat/app_165292890192474Surrendered Heart is the next step in the Captivating Heart Retreat Series. Stripped down, focused and intimate, this retreat is a weekend away with other women seeking deep healing and deep communion with God. Taught by Marilyn Hodgin, Judy Turner of Christview Ministries and Strings Attached’s own Cari Kaufman, we are incredibly excited about what God is inviting us to. Surrendered Heart takes place at St Scholastica Retreat Center in Ft Smith, Arkansas, May 13-15, 2016. For more information go to www.captivatingheart.com.  This event is designed for those ladies who have attended Captivating Heart or a similar Captivating based retreat or who have been through the Captivating:Heart to Heart DVD series.

Sound of Silence: Under the Broom Tree

This is a reflection from my recent visit to Little Portion Retreat Center on More Mountain in Eureka Springs for a directed silent retreat hosted by Christview Ministries and Dovehouse Ministries.  This was my second retreat with this group, and very different from last year.  I am still, a month later, processing all that I learned about myself and about God.  The writing has been slower developing this time and so I hope that you have grace for the slow way that I will share these reflections. If you would like to read more about my trips to More Mountain, just search for Sound of Silence in the search box.

broom tree

“It sounds like God is preparing you for something really big,” the Pastor said.

I nodded and shivered.  That declaration felt both thrilling and ominous.  “Really big” so often means “Really different” to me…and you know what? Change is hard.

My palms began to sweat and I felt the flush of heat rise that is the harbinger of spirit truth.  It resonated in me, this wise man’s statement, and I wondered where I would next hear the voice of God.

I had been telling the pastor of my experience last month on More Mountain.  Speaking of how I had gone seeking to bask in the glory of God- to be undone by His presence.  Speaking of how I did not know what to expect on that return trip to the mountain, but had traveled there with such high expectations. Speaking of how difficult it was to get over the disappointment that God just wanted me to rest.  Of how my spirit wrestled and peace eluded me.

I told him about arriving, late and frustrated, and of feeling like a woman in a desert crawling toward water.  I told him of collapsing after dinner and sleeping for 13 hours straight with the thought that I would rest and begin my journey with God the next morning.  I told him of the first scripture passage we were given and how I cried myself to sleep when I read it because I knew that this experience would not bear up under the heavy weight of the expectations I carried.

“..the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” – Jeremiah 31:3

A song of love from our God, right?…But all I could see was:

“the Lord appeared to me from far away.”

I’m staying far away this weekend, God whispered.  Rest here.  

I didn’t want rest. I wanted God. Up close and personal and right there- in. my. face-not far away.

So I slept that night and awoke the next morning, still exhausted, for breakfast.  I ate quickly and headed out to hike the beautiful trails around us, looking for my ‘Absalom.’  I barely made it back to the room before I was too exhausted to walk further.  I lay down to nap until my allotted time with my spiritual director, Judy.

She could see I was exhausted.  She could sense God’s plan for me already, even though I was still fighting it.  Together we prayed for a word from the Lord.  I, expecting the requisite three scripture references for our practice of Lectio Divina throughout the day, savored the idea of the spiritual work that was to come.  Judy, my wise Yoda-esque mentor, listened intently for guidance from the Lord.

She asked me what I had heard from the Lord.  I thought I might fib and say, “nothing,” but I knew she knew better.

I sighed.  “Rest.”

“I keep seeing this picture of you crawling to water. God wants you to float in the water.”

“I know.”

“Is there a scripture that comes to mind?”

“Yes, 1 Kings 19”

Judy smiled quietly. “Do you know the story? Of Elijah and the broom tree?”

We opened the Bible and began to read what God was up to:

4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree.And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.- 1 Kings 19:4-8

Judy looked at me with tender eyes….I knew that look…the “this might hurt a little” look.

“I don’t have any scripture references for you this weekend.  No lectio divina, no work.  Just rest. God wants you to rest deeply.”

My eyes filled up and I dropped my head and looked away to hide the trembling chin of deep disappointment from this woman who had become my guide.

“Do you know that after his rest under the broom tree, Elijah went to Mt Horeb where he heard from God in the still small voice?  Did you know that God told him there were others to work alongside him? There is a great journey God is preparing you for, but you don’t have the strength yet. Trust that God does not need your active participation to be at work in your life. Now go, and rest.” Judy dismissed me with a sweet prayer for peace and an even sweeter hug…one that said, ‘I know this is hard, but you and God can do it.”

I knew the truth of her words.  I felt the same flush of spirit truth that I would feel just three weeks later while I related the story the pastor.  But still, I was sad. Sad that I would miss out on the beautiful weekend and the hiking trails and the caterpillars and the long, long talks with God.  My heart understood, but spirit still struggled against the truth of it.  My body, however, overtook all that and screamed out its exhaustion at me.

I did not even make it to my room for a nap. Instead, I lay down on the porch in a chaise lounge.  The sun was shining, but the breeze was chilly and I thought that the chill in the air would jar me awake.  As I snuggled down into the comfortable lounge, I sucked my arms up into my fleece jacket and closed my eyes.

Two hours later, I awoke.  Someone had laid a heavy fleece blanket over me and started a fire in the fire pit next to me.  The love and gentleness in that gesture flooded me with peace and I felt a piece of the resistance within me break away.  I was safe…and cherished…and watched over in this place.

I gathered my Bible and my journal and headed back towards my room– for more rest.

“The early Christians referred to death as falling asleep. It was the point of complete surrender into the loving arms of a loving God. In this experience of his weakness Elijah encounters the Lord in a different way. I propose that this encounter reveals the heart of Christian prayer, a call to surrendered love. There, under the broom tree, he is fed a hearth cake and water, a Eucharistic symbol. “He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food; he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.” (1 Kings 19:8) There he is prepared to hear the voice of God as He passed by, not in a mighty wind, an earthquake, or a fire — but in a gentle whisper — the kind that can only be heard by one who has a surrendered ear to hear. Humble — not haughty.” – Keith Fournier, Learning to Live Under the Broom Tree

Faith Like a Mustard Seed…for when you know who you are

faith mustard seed hand

“ The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”  And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” – Luke 17:5-6

I’ve got to be honest, I have always looked at this passage and thought, “if you have faith (as small as) a mustard seed-” thinking of it as Christ’s admonishment on the size of our faith, as if our faith is not even the size of a tiny grain of mustard.

Today, an entirely different meaning jumped out at me- Faith LIKE a mustard seed.  The mustard seed has faith that it will grow into a mustard plant. It knew what it was…that it was a seed of mustard, not an apple, not a grain of wheat, but of mustard.

My friend said the other day, “the full revelation of the oak tree is within the acorn.”  The acorn doesn’t go around believing that isn’t an oak tree…or that it’s a broken oak tree….or that if it wil just find a way to get far enough in the meadow it can grow into a full grown oak tree….no, the full revelation of the oak tree is held within the acorn.

We are acorns.

We are mustard seeds.

We are fully adopted sons and daughters of the King of kings and heirs to the Kingdom of God.

The full revelation of who and what we are was sealed in our hearts the day we chose to seat Christ on the throne there.

But we live unsure of that reality…

We live worried that we will not be enough…

We live performing for the favors of our Father who cries out,

“Just know who you are!”

I think that was what Christ was saying

the size of our faith is not the issue…it’s the understanding of our identity.

We live not in a state of little faith, but in one of unbelief….about who and what we are.

We must learn to be an acorn that knows it’s an oak tree.

We must learn to be a mustard seed that knows it’s a mustard plant.

We must learn to be a child of God that knows that we have already inherited the Kingdom of God.

“All of creation awaits the revelation of the sons and daughters of God.”- Stan Tyra

Guest Post- Paying it Forward Mammow Style

This guest post was written by a dear friend and ministry partner of mine, Brenda McClure.  She’s agreed to come alongside me this year and regularly write guest posts for us! Isn’t that awesome?  Did you know you could guest post, too? If you have an idea or would like to submit a post, send it to stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.  

Pictures from Aunt Susie 2538

Rarely does a day go by that I don’t think about Mammow.  This time of the year she is even more a part of my thoughts and day dreams.  Our birthdays are 4 days apart.  I spent a lot of time with her every summer when I was young.

She taught me many things, but the most important lesson she ever gave me was on Love.  It wasn’t one moment or one event or one day or even one week….it was a continual lesson that spanned all of our time together.  She showed me love of God, love of art, love of life, love of people, but most importantly, she showed me love of self.

“Brenda, if you will lie, you will steal.  If you will steal, you will kill.  If you lie and no one finds out, you still know.  If you steal and no one finds out, you still know.  If you kill and no one finds out, you still know.”

She would often point out someone picking up a piece of trash and throwing it away and then say,

“Brenda, they did it because it was the right thing to do.  They won’t get an award for it, but they may have saved someone from tripping on it and falling…..”

…her story would go on to be funny and ridiculous, but it had a great point.  Picking up that piece of trash could have stopped a city wide electric failure because someone didn’t hit an electric pole while on the way to the hospital to see a loved one after falling at the grocery store on a plastic cup.  Trust me when I tell you that the story would go on for up to 30 minutes.  It would have all the emotions from tears to hold-your-tummy-because-you-are-laughing-so- hard.  Can you see how great she was?!  She covered love your environment, love your surroundings, and love others in a simple story.

Until recently, I didn’t realize how often she did NOT mention the negative side of the story.  She never said, “I can’t believe someone threw that on the ground.” Or  “I’m sure the selfish person who dropped that didn’t give a thought to the person who would HAVE to pick that up.”  We all have the choice at how we see a story….how we recite the story…how we teach our youth…..

I think these stories are part of why my study on love has been so special to me.  They helped me grab our second commandment and not want to let go.  “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31b)  This is what she was teaching me so many years ago.  They go hand in hand together.

I love the phrase “Pay it Forward.”  In order to pay something forward, we must have received something first….and we did!  It started back on a formless and empty world that was covered in darkness and deep waters. (Genesis 1:2 NLT)  Over a few days, God gave that world light and life.  I believe it was all created through His love, and because of that, we can say He gave it light, life, and Love.  So this is what we first received…light, life, and love.  Then we can skip a few years and again see where God gave us the same three things again.

I am the Light. (John 8:12)   I am the Life. (John 11:25)   God is love. (I John 4:16)  Jesus was the gift that just kept on giving.  Jesus “paid it forward” and is continuing to “pay it forward” to us today.

Today my prayer is short…..God help us all to embrace your love for us and give it to others so they will know YOU!   We ask through Jesus.

Blessings,

Brenda McClure is a massage therapist and owner of Couples Touch of Love, a ministry seeking to heal marriages through the teaching of biblical touch.  Brenda has a heart for seeing relationships healed and brought back to the fullness that God designed them to be.

Guest Post- Doing Time With Love

This guest post was written by a dear friend and ministry partner of mine, Brenda McClure.  She’s agreed to come alongside me this year and regularly write guest posts for us! Isn’t that awesome?  Did you know you could guest post, too? If you have an idea or would like to submit a post, send it to stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.  

The gift of time has been on my heart lately.We give time, waste time, use time, and sometimes we even “do time.”

 

prison

Typically “doing time” is associated with jail time. How do we look at our time as a Christian? Do we give time, waste time, use time, or do time as a Christian? In Mark 12:30 the Bible says “and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” This time of love is often given without much thought.

As a matter of fact, I have occasionally found myself loving God in a “doing time” sort of way. I am a Christian, so I can’t do…. Well, a Christian wouldn’t do….It is funny, but often I have heard people describing their Christianity in terms of what they can’t or don’t do. I am a Christian so I don’t cuss, drink, smoke, dance….It is a “can’t do” service to God.

I wonder if that is the kind of service God wants from us?

Are we sitting in a pew every Sunday feeling like we are in jail? We haven’t made
enough or done enough that week to get into Heaven. We don’t feel like we can get to Heaven on what we have done so we try to do more, but always fail to do enough. I hate to tell you this, but you are right, you can’t get to Heaven by what you do or don’t do. You can’t get to Heaven on your abilities.

You can only get there through the grace and mercy of Christ’s life that was sacrificed on the Cross just for you.

His blood releases you from all of the “can’t do’s.”

Come to Jesus with all your sin and He will set you free. Often we think we have to wait until we have lost the addictions, lost the sin, lost whatever is holding us back. I am overjoyed to tell you that everyone sitting in the pews Sunday is sitting there with something they are trying to get rid of.

But I don’t think it has to be that way. I wonder if worship to God would be more pleasing if we were coming just to love Him. A friend reminded me of Romans 4 today. Verses 4-5, “when people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.” And Romans 3:27 “can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law.”

It is based on faith. We don’t have to put ourselves in the place of “doing time.” Jesus already did that. And then He paid the ultimate price for our “crimes.”

For those of us who have been sitting there for a while, sometimes we forget what it
is like and we want to judge those who haven’t figured out what we have. We can’t honestly look at others without looking at ourselves. That can become our jail. Thinking someone else is getting away with or able to do something that we don’t feel we can, so we compare our Christianity to theirs. This is very dangerous. We are in the jail of our choosing, but we don’t have to be there. Our sin just looks different than what it looked like when we first found Christ.

We have matured…or have we? Comparing isn’t a mature way to live. I Corinthians 8:1b “but while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Love doesn’t compare, it shows compassion.” Love is the “get out of jail” key. Mark 12:31,  “the second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Is it possible that loving our neighbor is what will free us from the prison we have been living in? Could the way we give and use our time loving others help us get out from behind the bars that cage us in?

Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to use my time for good. Help me to release the time I spend that is destructive. I want to use my time to fulfill your needs here. Help me to look at others with love. Help me to release any jealousy that I might harbor about how someone else spends their time. I want to help others to be released from bondage that they may feel. I ask this in Jesus’ Holy name.

Blessings,

Brenda McClure is a massage therapist and owner of Couples Touch of Love, a ministry seeking to heal marriages through the teaching of biblical touch.  Brenda has a heart for seeing relationships healed and brought back to the fullness that God designed them to be.

Guest Post- Touch of Love

This guest post was written by a dear friend and ministry partner of mine, Brenda McClure.  She’s agreed to come alongside me this year and regularly write guest posts for us! Isn’t that awesome?  Did you know you could guest post, too? If you have an idea or would like to submit a post, send it to stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.  

courtesy of BlackJack 0919

courtesy of BlackJack 0919

I still can’t get away from the verses in Mark.  To refresh us on the verses…

 “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. “- Mark 12:30 (NLT)

And again simply put, Love God with everything you have.   The second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”Mark 12:31 (NLT)

 No other commandment is greater than these.  And again, I think this one is hard to do when most of us don’t love ourselves.

When I was younger, I remember hearing the term “she is touched.”  It was not a positive statement.  It was insinuating that someone was a little crazy.  They would act just “a little off.”  The woman I remember being called “touched” was one of the kindest women I remember.  Her kindness was perceived as crazy.  I wonder if we can see ourselves as a “touched” Christian.  Do we do things just a little different than others?  Do we speak to others differently than “the world?”  Do we see that we have been touched?  Can anyone else see that we have been touched?

Mother Teresa said, “Spread love everywhere you go.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”  She had a way of seeing things so truthfully and simply.  If we lived by her statement, would others see us as “touched” and a little crazy?

As we look at ourselves in the mirror, do we see that we have truly been touched?  We have been given grace and mercy.  We are children of God.  Do we know that His touch is for us?

When non-Christians see someone offer grace, they often think the giver of grace is “touched” or even naive.  When they see a professed Christian offer judgment, they see them as hypocrites.  How do we “touch” others?   Do they see the negative world they have come to expect in us, or do they see the “touch of joy” that can only come from God no matter what our circumstances are?

Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to feel your touch each day.  Help me to realize I have already been touched by you and help me to yearn for that touch each day.  Please use me to touch others who do not know you.  Help them to see your grace, mercy, and joy through me.  In Jesus name I ask this.

 

Blessings,

Brenda McClure is a massage therapist and owner of Couples Touch of Love, a ministry seeking to heal marriages through the teaching of biblical touch.  Brenda has a heart for seeing relationships healed and brought back to the fullness that God designed them to be.

Visioncasting 2013: The Year of the Verse

12.26.12_Celebrate_Success_and_Plan_for_2013

I’m doing something a little different this year in setting my theme for the year.

Generally I choose a one word theme for the year.  This is a popular thing to do, particularly in the blogging community, to choose a word to meditate on that will define the course of your writing for the year.  One year, I chose ‘relationship.’ Another, ‘Sabbath.’ Last year was ‘solitude.’

This year in seeking God’s word for me this year, he brought to me a verse instead.

It really started while I was attending a class at Adullam School of Warriors on Wednesday night.  The instructor, Stan Tyra, wrecked me with a lesson on honor.  And then this morning, in my devotional time one of the verses God brought to me a verse that reinforced his message.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” – 1 Peter 3:8-12

The gist of it is this:  Honor.  That’s it. Period.  Whether you think a person deserves it, whether you think it is fair or not, especially when it requires a supernatural act of will to do so.  Honor because it is what you, as Christ’s beloved, undeserving, grace-lavished child, are called to.

The vision of how living this verse could change my family grabbed hold of me.  I posted it to the refrigerator. I’ve prayed it over me in one way or another every morning since.  So as I prayed for a word, God gave me this verse and so I started out this post thinking to say that I didn’t have a single word for the year, but instead a theme verse. Perhaps even a life verse.  And I do.

But I suppose I also have a word:

Honor.

What’s your word this year?

A little footnote:

I don’t usually read the Amplified version of the Bible (probably because all its paranthetical clauses drive me crazy and remind me too much of my own writing. 🙂 ) But I loved the way the Amp Bible breaks this verse down.  I thought maybe you would like it to:

Finally, all [of you] should be of one andthe same mind (united in spirit), sympathizing [with one another], loving [each other] as brethren [of one household], compassionate and courteous (tenderhearted and humble).

Never return evil for evil or insult for insult (scolding, tongue-lashing, berating), but on the contrary blessing [praying for their welfare, happiness, and protection, and truly pitying and loving them]. For know that to this you have been called, that you may yourselves inherit a blessing [from God—that you may obtain a blessing as heirs, bringing welfare and happiness and protection].

10 For let him who wants to enjoy life and see good days [good—whether apparent or not] keep his tongue free from evil and his lips from guile (treachery, deceit).

11 Let him turn away from wickedness andshun it, and let him do right. Let him search for peace (harmony; undisturbedness from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts) and seek it eagerly. [Do not merely desire peaceful relations with God, with your fellowmen, and with yourself, but pursue, go after them!]

12 For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), and His ears are attentive to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who practice evil [to oppose them, to frustrate, and defeat them]. – 1 Peter 3:8-12