Surrounded by: Jessica

Surrounded by: Jessica

It’s seemingly all around us, right? From the moment our alarm sounds each morning until the moment our head hits the pillow after another long day, it’s there. It’s on our car radios, it’s in our work spaces, homes, and our “suppose to be fun and enjoyable” social media.

What is it?

I’m talking about pain, division, sorrow, disappointment, political strife, loss, bad news, fear, and a never ending list of personal and public problems, with no indication of an answer. [But let me insert a mini sermon in here, Jesus – He is THE answer, still, today, right now! He has not changed. God’s power is no less than it was when He created the world with a spoken word, or raised Jesus from the dead. He is still our God. He still is redeeming and resurrecting. Nothing happens out of His control – He is worthy of our trust and obedience. Let’s look up! AMEN!]

We’re surrounded – surrounded with all this pressure, heaviness, and lack of control. It’s exhausting. It’s overwhelming. It’s affecting how we live. Fear and decision fatigue weigh heavy each night as we close our eyes to sleep, and we wake the next morning even less rested than the night before. A constant barrage of bad news takes away our capacity for resiliency and we find ourselves less patient, loving, and kind when we’re at home with roommates, family, or even ourselves. Darkness has wound its sinister tendrils around our hope and joy seeking only to destroy.

Sister, let me remind you that hope and joy are our birthright as daughters of the King; the very things that Jesus came to bring as He tells us in John 10:10, when He said..He has come to give life, and life abundantly. And those heavy things we feel surrounded with, Jesus also said that those are the things the enemy came to bring – he comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. If the weight of all this stealing, and killing, and destroying – whether inside or outside your home is becoming just too much, let me remind you of a story in 2 Kings 6:8-23.

Let me briefly paint the picture. Israel was at war, again. The prophet Elisha was given insider information from God about how to protect the Israelite army and the king of Aram (the opposing side) was NOT happy about it. So the King of Aram came for Elisha. 2 Kings 6:14 says, “He (King of Aram) sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city.” Elisha’s helper got up early the following morning, looked out the window and was shocked to see an overwhelming force of chariots, horses, and warriors surrounding them. Can you imagine the absolute fear and helplessness? He ran back to tell Elisha and in a panic asked, What will we do now? (2 Kings 6:15). They were surrounded – completely and utterly.

Elisha answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:16-17). What the servant saw at first glance was only destruction and defeat. But when the servant’s eyes were opened, God revealed He was there all along and that He had come to fight on behalf of His anointed one. When you read the rest of the story, you’ll find that God did a miracle that day with His angel armies as He came to the defense of Elisha and his servant.

This story serves as a reminder of two poignant truths for us as daughters of the King. First, there are always battles being fought and won in the unseen on our behalf. Oh that God would open our eyes. Oh that our faith would rise. What difference could it make if we had a greater awareness of His presence and might? What could change if we truly believed that our pain and suffering does not escape God’s notice and that there is never a moment He is not standing at our defense?

And second, while the pain and suffering we experience on this side of heaven are very real (and even predicted in John 16:33), did you know God also describes a number of promises that surround as we face each trying hardship?

A quick word search of “surround” in the Bible unearthed promises that have become prayers over my physical, emotional, and spiritual body in this season. So when the fear is too much, when the sadness is too deep, when the anxiety or depression are too heavy, and when the joy is gone – these promises are for you.

 

We are surrounded with:

*Favor like a Shield (Psalm 5:12)

*Songs of Deliverance (Psalm 32:7)

*The Angel of the Lord (Psalm 34:7)

*Salvation like City Walls (Isaiah 60:8)

*Lovingkindness (Psalm 32:10)

*A Great Cloud of Witnesses (Hebrews 12:1)

*The Lord, Himself (Psalm 125:2)

 

Sisters, while the darkness will inevitably come, and at times, you may feel utterly surrounded – so take heart as you remember that God is always at work and that our darkness is surrounded by HIM!

In the Waiting by: Robin Dodge

In the Waiting by: Robin Dodge

In The Waiting…

Sometimes the answer to a prayer is wait.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly like that answer.  Because really, who actually likes to wait?  And sometimes, the waiting is for an extended period of time.

I’ll tell on myself here.  Quite a few years ago, I felt like God said yes to a prayer.  And in my humanness (and maybe immaturity), I just knew it was happening “right now.”  Well, it didn’t and I began complaining to God about making me wait so long.  Most of my prayer time definitely included letting God know exactly how I felt about the delay.  Then I got mad and quit talking to God on a consistent basis.  I mean, really, how dare He make me wait this long!  – Let me insert an eye roll right here – How dare I, right?  Who did I think I was?

Three years ago, during one of the 21 Days of Prayer Focus Services, I felt God say “wait.”  Yes, wait … to the same prayer!  I thought to myself, “Wait! Again? Are you serious?”  Immediately I heard God say, “What have you been doing in the waiting?”

Whoa!!! Talk about a wake up call!  What had I been doing in the waiting?  I’ll tell you; I was complaining and sulking.  That’s what I’d been doing!

Yes, God asked me to wait. Why? I don’t know. But all I could give Him was an attitude.

“What have you been doing in the waiting?” This phrase has been floating around my head and heart over the past three years.

Now, I can’t say I’ve quit all the complaining,  **smile**  I’m still a work in progress.  But my attitude during my prayer time has definitely changed. My waiting has not ended. But I know I need to be doing something IN my waiting time.  I need to worship, work, read, pray (with the right attitude), and whatever else God asks of me, while I wait.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  Jeremiah 29:11a

This is one of my favorite verses in Scripture.  I go back to it again and again.  I don’t have to have life all planned out.  I just need to trust God because He has a plan for my life.

Has God told you to “wait”?

I don’t know what it is you are waiting for, but it just might be that God has something for you to learn during this waiting period. God has a plan for you. And waiting just may be part of that plan. Trust in His plan for your life.  But also, trust His process.

·      Learn to worship God even when you don’t understand His timing.

·      Pray (don’t complain).

·      Serve Him however and wherever He leads.

 

Maybe maturity needs to take place; maybe you need to experience certain circumstances to be better equipped.  Maybe there is a lesson (or two or three) you need to learn. Is there a book you need to read? A class you need to take? Someone you need to talk to? Or, it could be a job you need to start, or maybe one you need to quit.  You just might need to give up something good, so you can receive God’s best.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.  Jeremiah 33:3

Call out to God and ask Him to show you what it is you need to be doing, or what it is you need to learn during your season of waiting. 

Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.  James 4:8

God will not leave you during this waiting season. 

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.  Psalm 27:13-14

God knows what He is doing and He knows exactly what we need when we need it. Trust Him to bring the answer in His time.

Let’s learn to wait well.

What are you doing in the waiting?

Love Your Neighbor by: Buffi Crump

Love Your Neighbor by: Buffi Crump

Love your neighbor as you LOVE YOURSELF!

Have you ever had a time where God spoke something so clearly, it almost seemed audible? But then you didn’t quite get it the first time and so that same message kept appearing over and over?

Yeah, me too….It has taken me the better part of an entire year to fully grasp on to a truth God had been shouting at me. You see at the end of 2019 my wonderful hubby sent me to the island for a couple nights on my own personal prayer retreat. I was able to reflect on the past year, pause and prepare for the year ahead. (Little did we all know what 2020 was going to look like).

As I looked forward to this new year, contemplating what this year could be, the verse from Galatians 5:14 came to mind. “The whole law is made complete in this one command: “Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself.” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:14‬ ‭ERV‬‬ As I read this verse over and over, it was as if God was putting a magnifying glass over the words – as you LOVE YOURSELF!

I realized after having reflected back on the last year and knowing how depleted I was… it was a reflection that I had not loved myself very well. As a wife and mom it’s so easy to put myself on the back burner, to put everyone else’s needs before my own and never really take time to care for myself. Over the years I’ve heard my friend and pastor’s wife Teri, say that I can’t give what I don’t have. I have to make sure I keep my cup full otherwise, if I keep pouring out eventually there will be nothing more to give. I can’t give from an empty cup. I thought I was being loving by putting everyone else’s needs before my own. But in reality, I wasn’t giving them the best because I wasn’t taking care of myself in the process. I realized that I began to dislike me…I was running on fumes and needed something in the tank. So if I’m truly to love my neighbor, be that my spouse, kids, extended family, co-workers, or friends, the best gift I can give them is the best version of me. To be the best version of me and to love me, is to take care of me.

 

To take care of yourself, you must know:

  • What fills you up?
  • What drains you?

 

Once you figure these two things out, tell someone. A spouse, a close friend, or a parent. Someone who can ask you “Are you loving YOURSELF and taking care of YOU?”

This doesn’t mean that you neglect all your responsibilities, it just means that as you make time for others in your life, you also make time for yourself. Schedule it on the calendar and then like anything else that’s on the calendar, you follow through.

To neglect taking care of yourself is to disobey one of the greatest commandments. To truly love your neighbor is to LOVE YOURSELF – taking care of YOU. But may I encourage you, start from the inside and in the process may you begin to truly like who God has created you to be. In return, you will be able to truly love your neighbor as well.

Spiritually Hangry by: Leslie Keener

Spiritually Hangry by: Leslie Keener

• Have you ever been so hungry that you could feel it in every part of your body and even your mind?

• Have you ever snapped at a family member or the waitress at a restaurant?

We’ve all been guilty of responding from a place of physical “hanger.”

And once we’ve had our fill and are satisfied, we quietly remind ourselves to never get to that point again. We understand that our biological processes depend on regular nutrition and for the most part (apart from intentional fasting for spiritual purposes) our bodies and attitudes are affected by the lack of sustenance!

I realized something a few years back: my soul and spirit both are affected similarly, by a lack of nutrition. Today, I propose that we oftentimes are spiritually “hangry” as a result of simply snacking on (or maybe even fasting from) God’s Word, even if it’s unintentional.

So I want to talk about the spiritual discipline of diving into God’s Word. Now let’s get things straight: there is absolutely nothing wrong with reading “the verse of the day” or gliding through a particular week having only heard from a teaching pastor at church on Sunday. We ALL have certain times in our lives where this is all that’s going to happen. This blog is certainly not meant to discourage anyone. But it is meant to challenge our current level of satiety or satisfaction in our spirits. I know sometimes when I’m trying to get my ‘daily bread,’ if I’m not careful, I get distracted. This is why I can’t depend solely on my phone to be the source of my bible study. There are too many other colorful alerts and enticing options to get in the way. I challenge you to find a tangible bible in a version you enjoy and throw your phone to the side if you DARE! Now I want to show you in scripture how Jesus Himself can be found ANY day, whether we “feel” Him that day or not.

In Revelation chapter 19, John saw a vision of the return of Christ, and verse 13 records … “His Name is the Word of God.”

John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

John 1:14 says: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” So Jesus is the Word of God.

I’ll make one more connection to seal the deal here: John 6:35 puts it like this: Jesus replied to them, “I am the Bread of Life. The one who comes to Me will never be hungry, and the one who believes in Me [as Savior] will never be thirsty [for that one will be sustained spiritually]. 

Often times we wonder how to find God or hear from Him here on earth. Some people have heard an audible voice and others sense Him in nature or music or other circumstances. But sometimes it seems as if He is silent. This world is affected by sin and death, whether we like it or not. Although we are not of this world, we are IN IT- but there is a place where He is NEVER silent. He has spoken and written His will into the Word of God. This book is a gourmet meal for your soul unlike any other!

Are you merely grazing on it or are you feasting like it’s Thanksgiving Day? You won’t gain any physical pounds from this “Bread”, but you will gain weight in your soul: like weighted gold! Try to find a version of the Bible you can digest smoothly and enjoy it often: like the feast He meant for it to be. He has prepared a table for us and sometimes we are just straight-up walking past it.

Women of PVC, let’s not pass up his feast for us! Commit to the discipline of digesting His Word every day and let’s get all the way full!

Be a student of your people by: Lorena Saenz

Be a student of your people by: Lorena Saenz

‘Tis the season.

I believe most of us are ready to get out the Christmas decorations. Am I right? We could all use that extra joy a little earlier this year. But looking ahead to this holiday season, we know it will not look like those before it.

Recently, I’ve been diving into the book of Philippians and have had these verses cling to me like a two year old who does not want to let go of his mom:

Philippians 2:3-5

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

I felt God showing me the value of loving others more than myself. Not the first time this happens but always a timely reminder. Loving others well means being a student of them, and this holiday season I’m taking that to heart. It’s not all about me, not about my wants, but about appreciating those nearest to me who had to put up with me during all the ups and downs this year.

Specifically the words in verse 5 “In your relationships”, brings pictures of my loved ones to mind; those that are my circle, my tribe. To phrase that appropriately for this year, the people I don’t have to wear a mask around because we are together.

I think it’s safe to say that those who are near to us are ‘our people.’ What does it look like for you to be a student of your people? -To learn what they like and what their love language might be.

What would it look like to:

  1. Buy someone you see every day their favorite candy bar.
  2. Bake someone their favorite cake for no reason.
  3. Plan a “girls afternoon” or “date night” in your home for someone.
  4. Maybe send some cookies or a card to someone who has a birthday this holiday season that you won’t see.

 

Doing the little things to love someone goes a long way. This year is going to look different, but I think the social distancing challenges don’t have to hold us back from loving one another intentionally. God has called us to love each other with the same love He has for us.

Have you ever noticed how intentional God is? Does He place a beautiful sunset in front of you? Does that song you really needed to hear come on the radio, at just the right time?

Friend, as Jesus calls us to love him and love others, (Matt 22:38-39) let us do it fiercely as we end this year! Take note of those closest to you: surprise them, encourage them, pray life-giving words over them, and above all, love them well.

The Power of Reflection by: Hannah Ray

The Power of Reflection by: Hannah Ray

Have you ever forgotten something? Maybe you forgot an event on the calendar, a present for a party, or even things as simple as your keys and phone. If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’ve had days where you feel like if something isn’t currently in sight, it’s completely out of mind.

Life gets busy. Many times we find ourselves trying our hardest to hold it all together. With our minds fully occupied on the next task, it can be easy to let things slip. Too many times I’ve walked into a room, fully intending on doing something, and forgotten why I was there. For the most part, the simple act of forgetting isn’t necessarily dangerous, but what if I told you that spiritual forgetfulness could be the most dangerous thing of all?

Growing up, I had the opportunity to attend a private Christian school for most of my education. We studied all of the normal subjects like Math and Science, but a big and intertwining subject was Bible class. Each month, we would focus on a different book of the Bible or a chapter. I always felt like I learned something new and for the most part, appreciated the closer look. However, never had a series of stories upset me so deeply than the adventures of the Israelites, (God’s chosen people), in the Old Testament. God showed up for them time after time. He did the miraculous: He healed, He parted waters, He provided food when they had none. He came through over and over again. Still, when the heat would get turned up and things around them would go haywire, it seemed that all God had done, big and small, had been forgotten in an instant. The Israelites would whine and complain, and sometimes even begin worshipping idols.

It frustrated me to no end. How could they do this? How could they turn away from God? The same God who loved them and cared for them and was always there. It didn’t make sense to me at all- that is, until I started to see a bit of them in myself. If you really think about it, perhaps you can say the same.

Much like the Israelites, we often find ourselves in situations where things aren’t going so great. In those moments it can be so easy to allow ourselves to have tunnel vision and focus only on the situation at hand. I find that in those seasons God whispers “I am with you. I have always been with you and will remain with you. Don’t forget the adventures we’ve been on together. Don’t forget my promises to you.”

God is and has always been faithful. Have you taken a moment recently to think about how good He has been? It’s been a really difficult year, filled with pain and loss on all fronts. But ladies, He is still good. In my life and yours, He has an immaculate track record of faithfulness. Let us not be a people who forget who He is and what He can do in the midst of trial. Instead, let us reflect on what He has already done for us and those around us with immense gratefulness.

We can look to the future with the confidence that only comes from knowing Him!

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
Philippians 1:6