Deane's Blog

Faith

Spiritual Mamas

FaithDeane Watters6 Comments
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I can see my mom sitting there by herself, eyes closed, a little smile on her face.

She's singing or praying, I'm not sure which. but she is worshiping either way. 

Always by herself but never alone because the unseen Spirit glows from her gentle face.

Sitting in the pew at the front of the church or on her little chair in her dining room, her radiance was the same. That vulnerable heart of hers kept her close to God. She knew of her need for Him.

I need Thee, Oh, I need Thee; 

Every hour I need thee! 

Oh, bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.

That one quality, her need for her Savior, has greatly influenced my own life of faith. She deeply loved God and the way she lived her life showed the working out of being loved by Him. Her near-tears prayers impacted me and needing God seemed natural and right, not embarrassing or weak. He saved her from a life of bitterness and anger and she knew that. She humbly accepted the gift and did her best to show kindness and understanding to others.

Do you have a memory of a woman who influenced you just by being herself? Was it your own mother,  a neighbor, or the choir director? Was yours a Sunday school teacher, an aunt or perhaps the little elderly woman who owned the Christian bookstore down the street?

Maybe she didn't know you were watching but something about her interested you and you remember. You watched and learned and formed decisions about who you are and who God is.

I had one whose job it was to love on me...my very own mama. Mothering was her gift, one she received and cherished. I'm thankful that my sister, brothers and I were able to be loved by one who genuinely loved God. 

There are others in my life now who continue to encourage me as I long for a strong faith like theirs, or such a giving love.

  • There's the quiet one who keeps showing up, soaking in the truth.  Her faithfulness attracts me and I want to know more of her story.
  • And there's the one who feels her feelings so strongly that a huge loss about killed her but she hung on, trusting her Savior in deep and abiding ways. When all is crazy,  a hopeful joy ripples through her many words, big smile, open arms and true kindness.
  • Oh, and the faithful one who gently asks if she can pray for me. "It's what I do," she says.
  • Joy follows my dear friend around like a puppy and her enthusiasm smiles on us all. I wish for such brightness of spirit and the faithful way she lives out her ministry toward the sick and dying in her church.
  • One I know and love is desperately hanging on to her faith. Disappointments keep her numb and fear overpowers her. I pray for relief. I watch her on the lonely path of waiting for God and the fight for trust while feeling deeply burdened.
  • There is a young mama who speaks gently to her babies and holds dirty little hands while praying powerful prayers. Her love compels me toward selflessness.
  • And there's the mama whose adult child stands by her side these many years. I long for and admire her generosity and unselfish living, in the midst of hard things.
  • There is a gentle soul, wounded from the beginning, trying hard to believe the truth of her lovableness. I know God's favor surrounds her as with a shield. (Psalm 5:12)  Persevering, one day she will know it too.

There are many faithful women, I call them spiritual mamas, doing the right thing for the right reasons. I see them and admire their determination to follow Christ and to let him love them and love through them. I am touched as others go ahead of me to live their lives from a central truth: God loves me deeply, so I can deeply love. Proverbs 31:30 tells me that a woman who fears the LORD is to be admired and praised. I watch and ponder how they are faithful to the calling they have received. My faith is affected as I see others faithfully living theirs out. 

 

If you find yourself remembering someone who has influenced you in your faith, perhaps this would be the week, in light of Mother's Day, to send that someone a note, letting her know that how she lived her life mattered to you. Pick out one quality and just tell her. It will mean the world to her, believe me. We are a people unused to the deep telling of that which has formed these hearts of ours. Today would be a great day to turn that silence into a joyful statement of affirmation for a life that showed you a path on which to place your feet of faith.

 

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he looked at me

Faith, LentDeane Watters5 Comments
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There was a crowd forming beside the road. A wild procession was slowly making its way to Jerusalem. Smiles radiated from every face because they thought this man was the next king! People shouted "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!" They were laughing and jumping and bowing, making merry in the most exuberant way. They even had branches to put under the feet of the donkey to signify respect for the one who rode on it. Jesus sat and solemnly made His way through the crowded road and allowed their praises to surround Him. He knew who He was. He knew where He was going. He knew what was next.

Hurrying, I stepped to the side of the road. I didn't want to miss this opportunity. It was a hot and dusty day.  People, in their excitement, had pushed and shoved to find a clear view of Him and I, too, longed to get a good look at Him.

But I got much more. 

I got a look from him.

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There are many ways to read a Bible passage. We can underline and circle and draw arrows to words that show more clearly what was intended by the writer. We can read what scholars have written about the passage to get more information. We can use cross-references to learn more. We can read books and listen to sermons. And after we study well, we can meditatively and prayerfully step into the story and see what else God might have for us.

That's what I did. It was Palm Sunday. Our pastor read the words we have heard every year reminding us of the happenings of that day and what the coming week held for Jesus. I have heard that story so many times. How could I find a way to see it with a fresh perspective?

I closed my eyes and asked the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to me as I stepped into that story. I found myself in the crowd. I felt their excitement. I smelled their sweat. I saw the procession far down the road. Soon he was right in front of me, passing slowly, on his way to his death.

What happened next is something I'll never forget. As he passed by, as I looked at him, as I searched his face, he turned and looked straight at me. His brown eyes bore into my soul as I realized that he knew who I was. He knew my name and my love for him. He knew my heart with its hidden pockets of darkness. He knew. He knew it all. And even with all this knowing, He loved me deeply. I knew it. I felt it.

His gaze said it all. It was a breathtaking moment and I blushed with joy while savoring His love for me in a fresh way while standing on the side of that dusty road. 

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Opening my eyes, I realized that this is who Jesus is. His kingdom is not about being an earthly king. It is about His wide, long, high and deep love for us. It's about His knowledge of our hearts and His doing what only He could do to save us. 

Have you ever tried to step into a Bible story? I encourage you to take such a journey, especially in the coming week. How would the story of Jesus praying in the garden become more real if you were one of the disciples nodding off to sleep while Jesus asked you to stay awake and pray? What might you hear in a new way as you sit with Jesus in the Upper Room and He tells you of His coming death? How might you feel as you watch as He is beaten and stripped, mocked and murdered? Sitting at the foot of the cross helplessly watching Him suffer, what would you see? What might you hear? How would you feel? 

 I would offer these options for stepping into a story: 

  • Become one of the characters in the story
    • Become Peter and feel how he felt after betraying Jesus.
    • Become the guard who beat Jesus; wonder at the anger.
    • Become Jesus' mother and weep.
    • Become John, the one Jesus especially loved. Lean your head against His chest in the upper room and listen to what He has to say.
  • Be yourself.
    • Interact as you: a part of the crowd, one of the children, one of the disciples, 
    • Let Jesus wash your feet.
    • Warm yourself at the fire as Peter denies Christ.
  • Be an observer. 
    • Watch as Jesus washed the disciples feet.
    • Watch as the guards came to take Jesus away from the garden on that dark night.
    • Stand at the foot of the cross and watch Jesus die.
    • Go with Mary to find the tomb empty. Run with her to tell the disciples the GREAT news that He had risen from the dead!
  • Once you know who you are in the story let it play out as the scripture tells it. What might you see, smell, feel or taste? What might Christ want you to see anew in that particular story?

As a result, this might be the most heartfelt Holy Week you have ever experienced. Slow down. Open the scripture and see what is there as you step in to find Jesus's actions and words spoken as though you were standing right there.

I didn't travel to Israel. I didn't make up something strange. I stepped into one of the stories in Jesus' life and I let it speak to me. I didn't make up something contrary to scripture. I just let the Holy Spirit guide my thoughts. And it was gloriously profound. 

Which story would you like to step into?

 

Have You Been Offended Lately?

FaithDeane Watters1 Comment

If you come to this little blog site to find a "warm and safe place in which to rest your soul" I welcome you today. It is always good to find a place that is comfortable and kind, a place where you feel known and cared about. This is the place!

But today I want us to consider something that isn't particularly warm or safe.

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Feeling offended seems to be a common ailment in our society, our homes, our churches and unfortunately, in our own hearts. 

Recently someone close to me said, "I was so offended when ..." I've heard it at church. I've read it in the newspaper. I see it in the news. 

It usually starts with , "Can you believe he or she said that?" It goes on to explain why the feeling is justified.

How many times have I, myself, said those words, so quick to take offense? More than I want to count. And yet, I know better. I know I walk on dangerous ground when I hear, receive, and harbor resentment. 

                                                                  Proverbs 19:11  

A person's wisdom yields patience, it is to one's glory to overlook an offense.

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I want to be known as a wise person...no, I want to be a wise person and this verse tells me that patience is one of the crops yielded from a heart of wisdom.

In Matthew 24:10-12 Jesus says, as he is warning about signs of the end days, "Then shall many be offended and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another, and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."

When I read the words "betray", "hate", "abounding iniquity" and "love waxing cold" I want nothing to do with them. They sound like deadly venom to a soul, to a family, and to a body of believers.

So what are we to do?

Francis Frangipane has written extensively about this problem.  When offended,  he first tries to listen and consider what he's being told. What might be true about what is being said?

He writes, "Humility listens even to a harshly spoken word and without reacting, rescues the truth within the criticism. The result is that we discover an area we had not seen and instead of being offended, we become more Christlike."

We can get offended by more than just direct criticism. We can be offended by what someone tells us that someone else said. We can be offended by what someone says, even if it is not directed right at us. Sometimes we are offended by what people don't say! But our reaction can be the same.

First, pray. Then ask, "What can I learn from this?" We can use this as an opportunity to grow in love like Christ who, as He died, prayed, "Father forgive them."

The Bible tells us in Matthew 18:15 that we can go to the person and talk with them. Take a friend and gently explain how you feel. Sometimes the person will explain or apologize. Other times they will refuse to acknowledge that they have hurt you. Either way, you have done what is right.

What we are NOT to do, is to tell everyone we talk to how this person has hurt and offended us. We would do well to NOT rehearse what was said and why we have every right to be insulted.

We should also pray, asking God for the willingness to do the work that releases the person from the chains we have put them in...the binding requirement to pay for what they have done/said/thought.. 

I had two aunts who supposedly never talked for years after one said something hurtful about the other's husband. Think of it. Sisters who had a lifetime of no communication even though they lived close. They let unkind words move them into a stubborn stance that led to a lifetime of fences and walls. That's the danger, I think. One might have been right and the other wrong, but someone should have either apologized or forgiven before the years stretched into decades.

But I don't have to look back those many years to find examples of offense. I just need to look into the mirror and realize that it is hard to give things up that hurt me. It is easier to lay down in the softness of feeling like I am right, justified in my lack of forgiveness. But that softness soon turns to spikes as we realize the true consequences for staying "offended."

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  • loss of relationship with that person
  • lack of honesty with God 
  • negative outlook
  • lack of thankfulness
  • a continuing of my brokenness
  • a broken unity
  • letting sin get a foothold
  • losing our capacity to love
  • unforgiveness given free reign

I encourage us all to examine our hearts and ask God to help us choose to stop taking offense. If there is a specific situation, He will help us resolve it quickly and quietly, so we can bring honor to him and be able to move on in freedom.

 

 

 

 

What's Your Word for 2018?

Word of the Year, FaithDeane Watters7 Comments

 

I woke up late one morning and instead of going right to prayer with my Bible open, I went straight to my morning walk and then on with my day. I found throughout the morning there was something that kept pulling at me, a thought or an image, but I didn't actually pay much attention to it. Soon I remembered I hadn't gotten up early enough for my usual quiet time and maybe I could stop and do it now.  But when the thought would come, I would by-pass it with what ever I was doing at the time and before I knew it, the day was over and it was time to go to bed.

In the book, Invitation to a Journey, M. Robert Mulholland Jr. writes about God's desire that we be conformed to the image of Christ. This is not an easy task as that conforming must take place in the places that are very un-Christ-like! Our call is to come out of brokenness into wholeness. This means we must die in those broken places in order for God to transform us into the image of his Son.

Who wants to go through the process of dying to the things that already hurt?

Mulholland goes on to explain using a picture of God standing at the closed doors of our hearts where we have shut him out. The love and grace of God will knock and knock and knock, wanting us to open the door, to face the truth of our brokenness, but he will "not force open the door."

God watches to see the door move from within.

As George MacDonald writes: 

 

 

This image reminded me how sometimes I feel a nudging toward something... like, being alone with God. Or perhaps giving someone a call, choosing to not be offended, stopping to pray, not letting that unnecessary or unkind word come out of my mouth, letting fear harass me, my desire to nestle in with a bad attitude or the need to forgive someone (the list could go on...) but I resist. I'm busy and I have things to do so I push away the gentle soft suggestion and continue on my way...and say the thing or hold on to that which should be let go.  It is subtle. It is not pushy or loud. It feels like my own thought that I can quickly un-invite.

But the picture of God at the door of my brokenness has opened in me a stronger desire to be open to opening the door when I sense the Spirit's asking. It seems to be something I resist. I naturally want my way in those hardened areas.

In Proverbs 8:34 Wisdom calls out: Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

If I want to grow wise, more mature in my faith, more like Christ, it is time to identify those moments and nod a yes to what I'm being asked to do.

In Revelation 3:20 the Spirit earnestly announced that the church in Laodicea was lukewarm in their faith. They were so tasteless He desired to spit them out! He wanted to discipline them and find them earnest and willing to repent!  He went on to say, "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door. I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." 

He's knocking at the door of their brokenness, their sin, their places so unlike Christ. And somehow I see him asking me to open some doors that have comfortably remained closed these many years. Deeper places of the heart where he asks me to not be afraid or unwilling to trust him.

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So my word for this year is OPEN THE DOOR. I know it isn't a word, it is a phrase, but it is my choice for a reminder to be open to a deeper "yes" and to stop the resistance in areas where I am unsure, unclear, lacking in confidence or unwilling to welcome Christ.

It's a big task, a lifelong one. But for today I have this image: my hand is on the door. Will I pay attention and be willing to respond so God can do His deeper work in me? That is my desire.

 

 

 

 

Do you have a word? I'd love to know it and why you have chosen it. Please leave it in the comments.  Maybe I'll make you a cute word-picture like mine!