What I Gather About 2013

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This year on January 1st I sat down with my husband and spent several hours discussing the ups and downs of 2013 and setting goals for 2014.  After a long break from blogging, I thought this would be a good time to share some things that worked for me in 2013.  Soon I will also share some goals I have for the coming year.

Health:

1.  The Paleo diet.  Nothing in my 32 years of existence has brought about more positive changes in my body than our radical change in eating habits.  I’m reluctant to call it a “diet” because we have become so accustomed to eating this way that it feels very natural.  I have more energy, have lost nearly 30 pounds, sleep better, feel alert and don’t have any digestive issues.  Several weeks of eating cruddy, sugar-laden food at Christmastime left me feeling bloated, tired, foggy and depressed.  This Paleo lifestyle is here to stay.

2.  The Whole 30.  Thirty days of saying no all sugar and processed food did wonders for my sugar addiction.  I was amazed at how little I craved foods I have always craved after even a week of adhering to the Whole 30 plan.  I highly recommend The Whole 30 for anyone who needs to reset their nutritional habits or kick their sugar addiction.

3.  Food.  Who am I kidding?  Food always works for me!  There were some clear winners, though, in 2013…. foods that I rediscovered or helped me meet my goals or made the Paleo lifestyle a breeze.  My favorites?  Brussels sprouts, eggs, dates, Lara bars, bacon, prosciutto, greens (especially kale, spinach, and beet greens), chicken sausages, pistachios, sweet peppers and organic ground beef.  Yum.

Books:

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1.  Bread and Wine  by Shauna Niequist.  I can’t recommend this book enough.  It inspired me to open my home and my heart to friends, neighbors and even strangers.

2.  Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.  I am a huge Kingsolver fan and this book didn’t disappoint.

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3.  Prototype by Jonathan Martin.  I closed this book feeling more beloved by God.  My eyes were opened to the way God sees and loves me.

4.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  This was such a fun book, full of whimsy and mystery.  I couldn’t put it down.  Thankfully I read it on vacation and was able to read all hours of the day and night to finish it!

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5. Saturday by Ian McEwan.  This book was beautiful and descriptive and made me want to become a novelist.

Personally:

1.  Transparency.  It has been a challenge blogging about some of my biggest struggles and insecurities, but I have found it to be extremely therapeutic.  I find myself working through my feelings as I write them out for the world to see.  Thank you to all of you Rachael Gathers readers, for your e-mails, comments, phone calls and shares.  You let me know that I am not alone and I draw so much courage and encouragement from your stories.

2.  Letting go.  This has been a  year that forced me to recognize that not everyone is going to like me, approve of me, or support me.  I will admit this has been a hard lesson to learn, but it is an essential lesson for us all.  I have found great peace and comfort in the love and acceptance I find in Jesus Christ and am trying not to care so much what everyone else thinks.  

Spiritually:

1.  Reading through the Bible in a year.  I didn’t quite finish on time, but I am almost done!  While this doesn’t take the place of Bible study, it was really good for me to be disciplined about reading the Bible nearly every day.  The app I used on my iPhone was extremely helpful in this regard.

2.  Creating a list of priorities.  This may have brought about the biggest change for me this year.  I didn’t see a drastic change in my behavior immediately, but rather a change in my thinking.  I began to think about what is important in my life based on time spent in prayer and study.  This has allowed me to evaluate many aspects of my life and begin to say no more often.

On the Blog:

Being flexible.  I am a very goal-oriented person, so I have felt a huge amount of frustration at not being able to plan posts better.  With my family, job, planting a church, and various other commitments, I have had to come to terms with blogging when I am able.  I try not to pay attention to stats and just enjoy posting when I can.  Mostly I enjoy the comments and feedback from all of you!

With that said, here are my ten most popular posts from 2013:

1.  Gathering Ideas for a Shabby Chic Bedroom

2.  A Gathering of Recipes for Crowds

3.  Gathering for a Shabby Chic Baby Shower

4.  A Gathering of Goodwill Finds:  Kitchen and Dining Edition

5.  I Gather a Letter of Love (Happy Birthday, Jimmie!)

6.  A Gathering of Goodwill Finds:  Dress Edition

7.  A Gathering of Bible Study Methods

8. Gathering Delight

9.  What I Gather About Chelsea

10.  What I Gather About Women of Valor

Many of these were popular thanks to Pinterest.  Thanks to those of you who pin my blog posts!

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There is a look back at some of the things that worked best for me in 2013.  I can’t wait to share with you some of my goals for 2014!

What about you?  What did you learn in 2013?  Was there anything that really worked well for you?  I would love to hear about it!

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Emmanuel, God With Us

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I have been listening to a song on repeat over the last couple of weeks. It is called I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad.  It is beautiful and profound and you can watch the video here.  Here are the lyrics I can’t seem to get out of my head:

“From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

From the fear of serving others
From the fear of death or trial
From the fear of humility
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God”

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Jesus has been dealing with my heart for several years about Christmas and the way we celebrate.  When I came across this blog post by Jen Hatmaker a couple of years ago, I both rejoiced and wept, thrilled that someone put into words what I felt in the depths of my spirit.

I am weary of the culture of more.  I am weary of the culture of excess.  I am weary of materialism and greed and un-gratefulness.  I am weary of mile long Christmas lists and unappreciative children.  My heart grieves at the excess all around me compared to the desperate needs of my own brothers and sisters who know me by name in Cuba.  I am saddened by the overabundance of holiday parties and food when the orphan I sponsored in Uganda died, most likely of hunger.  My heart is heavy and yet I know there is a better way.

My heart is whispering this prayer to my Savior…… I shall not want.

When I find myself scouring Pinterest for ideas to make my house more beautiful and my tree even more festive,

I shall not want.

When I try to give my children a memorable Christmas by purchasing toys instead of celebrating the blessed birth,

I shall not want.

When I pack my schedule full of activities and parties, trying to capture our society’s definition of a successful holiday,

I shall not want.

You see, in the 23rd Psalm, the first verse goes hand in hand.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

When I allow him to be my shepherd and guide, what could my heart possibly desire?  Emmanuel has come.  God is with us and we already have all that we need.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.  For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

This is what it is all about.  I will rejoice and be glad that the new morning has dawned.  In my moments of sorrow, Emmanuel, God with us.  In my moments of loneliness, Emmanuel, God with us.  In my moments of greed, Emmanuel, God with us.  God is here and he alone is what I need.

As the song so beautifully says, “When I taste your goodness, I shall not want.”

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What I DO want this holiday season?

I want a home full of daily scripture readings leading up to the celebration of the blessed birth.

I want moments of meditation with the family, sensing the sacredness of the celebration.

I want to bless others the way I have been blessed in abundance.

I want to give and serve and love.

I want to cry and feel peace flood my soul when we sing about the Silent Night.

I want to gather together and sing out the praises of Jesus, God himself wrapped in flesh.

I want to sit and partake of the bread and the wine in remembrance of Emmanuel, God With Us.

And so I pray.

When I taste your goodness, I shall not want all of the things.  I shall want you and you alone.

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What are you doing this year to keep the celebration sacred?  I would love your feedback!

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Missed any posts?  Here are the most recent:

What I Gather About Whole 30

Dear Dad, Letter 4 (on cancer and trust)

What I Gather About Priorities

You can also follow Rachael Gathers via e-mail HERE!

Dear Dad, Letter 4 (on cancer and trust)

(I debated whether or not to share this publicly.  Obviously I landed on doing it.  I want to be an open book and always hope that my transparency will encourage someone else.)

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Dear Dad,

Yesterday was one of those days when I would have given just about anything to have you with me again.

I have heard some words over the past few days that are still a bit surreal.

Suspicious.

Skin cancer.

Biopsy.

I’m pretty sure I inherited my rational brain from you.  Most days logic rules in my life.  Even so, here is how my brain was working during a lapse of sanity:

skin cancer = cancer = 9 year (often horrifying) battle with cancer = death at a sadly young age

Add to that Google searches which tell me those who develop non-melanoma skin cancers have a 50% greater risk of developing other non-skin related cancers.  In addition, if the person diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer is young (say, 32), the risk of developing other types of cancers jumps even higher.

Thank you, Google.

I recognize that all of this worry was premature considering I won’t know the results of the biopsy until Wednesday and it could be nothing.  And yet, I worried.

I don’t fear death.  You taught me there is nothing to fear.  I do worry about the implications of cancer to a 32-year-old mother of two who also happens to be immersed in a church plant and missions work in Cuba. So day one I was perfectly fine and on day two, I flipped.  On day two, I needed my dad.

I needed you to talk to me rationally and be my pastor.  I needed you to lay your hands on me and pray for a miracle.

Thankfully you taught me some valuable lessons while you were still here, and I have even learned some on my own since you left.  I knew I couldn’t live in a state of panic for five days, and reached out to God for help.  Help came in an unexpected way.

See, I have this friend.  You would love her.  She is spiritual and wise and selfless and caring.  She persisted in making sure I was okay, and eventually I let her know I wasn’t.  She told me I had permission to worry.  I told her she was setting the bar too low for me.  She responded that there is no bar for me until Wednesday and that I could react however I wanted until then.

It was in that moment that I realized just how wrong she was.  (Don’t feel bad, spiritual, wise, selfless, caring friend.  We are all wrong sometimes.)  I had a moment of clarity and responded with this:

“I have a bar.  I need to be trusting in God.  I don’t get a free pass because something scary is on the horizon.  What kind of follower would that make me?  I know God allows lament and questioning… for a period.  But I also know he demands trust.”

What kind of trust do I possess when I trust God only during times of health, wealth, prosperity, joy and plenty?  Isn’t it in times of sickness, struggle, poverty, famine, lament and sorrow when my trust is truly tested?

I felt better after that conversation.  I felt even better after my church gathered around me and prayed to God on my behalf for health, healing and a good report.

What really made all the difference was my conversation with Jesus last night.

I don’t have you, Dad.  But we both know I have something even better.  I have the Holy Spirit on the inside that is my Comforter.  I serve a gentle Savior who speaks peace to storms and who bore stripes for my healing.  I don’t have you, but you introduced me to Him.  For nine long years, you modeled unshakable trust in Him and I choose to follow in your footsteps.

My prayer and hope is that this is nothing and that it leads to nothing.  I know that I don’t get a free pass on suffering while on this earth and that my days are numbered only what God permits.  I also choose to have faith and trust that my future is not determined by genetics (as your son Michael so graciously pointed out yesterday) but that a righteous woman’s steps are ordered by the Lord.

I woke up this morning with a peace that passes all understanding.  I will walk in that peace and trust until Wednesday and beyond, wherever this road may take me.

Thank you for teaching me by example.

Your girl,

Rachael

Want to read more letters to my dad?  

Dear Dad, Letter 3

Dear Dad, Letter 2

Dear Dad, Letter 1

 

What I Gather About Priorities

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I was having one of those months.  Even though my calendar told me there was enough time to fulfill my commitments, my body and spirit were telling me otherwise.

All good things.

When I can help, I want to help.  It’s hard for me to come up with excuses to get out of doing things that matter.  It is in my nature to jump in and give my all, especially when it is for a good cause.

And yet…

My spirit wasn’t at rest.  I was feeling unsettled, foggy, tense.  My muscles were aching, my temper was short and I felt resentment creeping up in me.

My heart was crying out to God for an answer, for help, for a life boat.

(Enter the still, small voice of a gentle Savior)

So I sat down and made a priority list.  I have never done this in my life.  I have had a vague internal list of priorities in my head, but never anything concrete… never anything I could point to and say “No.  I can’t do that.  See?  It’s not on my list.”

I kept my list to ten items.  Of course, these ten items have sub-categories, so really my list is a lot longer than ten, but setting the limit at ten things made me feel sane again.  What made my list?  Here they are:

1. My relationship with God

2. My Marriage

3. My Family

4. Serving Others

5. Gathering

6. Missions

7. Myself

8. My Blog

9. Young Lives

10. Work

Let me make it really clear… ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME.  The things that aren’t so important to me didn’t make the list (unless they are a sub-category).  This list is a work in progress, and I am asking God for help in any edits I make.  During this process I have learned a few things.

1.  My current lifestyle doesn’t match up to my priorities list.  My relationship with God may be number one on my list, but there are days when God gets only the leftovers of my time and energy, if He gets anything at all.  I may say that my family is more important than my church, but when I go days without spending quality time with my kids because of church commitments, something is wrong.  This current list may not reflect where I am currently am, but it gives me a guideline to follow for where I want to end up.

2.  Numbering my priorities gives me power.  Mostly, it gives me power to say no.  If something isn’t on my list, unless it is really important, I’m not investing my time into it.  Of course, my priority list must be in alignment with scripture and how I feel God leading me.  If I make my blog number one on my list and say no to other things, I need God to hit me over the head with something.  My priorities must align with His.

3.  A priority list helps me get organized.  Even though I was busy all the time before I made my list, I didn’t really understand just how much I was committed to.  Putting it on paper was my wake-up call to get my life organized.  I made some changes on my calendar, made a decision to eliminate some distractions, and got busy.

I’m really thankful God led me to take a step back and examine my life.  I never want to get so busy that I can’t rest in His presence.  I never want to be doing so many  good things that I forget why I’m doing them.  I never want to have a mile long to-do list and in turn see the most important things suffer.  My prayer is for God to help me keep my priorities in check and always be in alignment with His purpose for me.

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What about you?  Do you have a priority list?  Do you have a hard time saying no?  Do you see that your priorities are not in alignment with the Word of God?  What steps have you or can you take to get your priorities in check?  I would love your feedback!

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Missed any posts?  Here are the most recent:

A Gathering of Vacation Reads

We Are Gathering

Dear Dad, Letter 3

 

We Are Gathering

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We open our homes and we open our hearts.

Come in to my messy house and into my messy life.  You are welcome.

We serve lots of food on big platters or right out of the slow cookers.  We fill our plates and nourish one another with more than just food.  We find a seat wherever one is available or make our own place right on the floor.

I know about your job, you know about mine.  We often know the needs to pray for without being asked or told.  We make our struggles and our humanity known.  You bear my burdens, I bear yours.

We gather before dawn, music soft and lights low.  We pray in the quietness of early morning, watching the sun rise together, before the world is awake.  Scripture pierces the darkness between us, breaking down barriers, both challenging us and equipping us for the day ahead.

We ask each other’s children the questions that matter to them.  We listen intently to the answers and watch their faces light up.  We listen as they struggle through the scripture reading, watch them receive the offerings with joy and overlook the noise they sometimes make.  We love them all.  It takes a village, after all, and everything is worth it when we see them raise their hands to the One we all love or sing out a song of praise.

We discipline them, teach them kingdom principles, mediate arguments.  We pour the Word of God into their little hearts and minds.  We teach them songs to help them remember the important things.  We ask them a million questions and reward them in a million ways when we see that what matters is sinking in.  We love them all.

We open our Bibles and expose our ideas about what we read.  We look at one another while we speak, ready to grow from the insight offered.  You challenge me, I challenge you.  We call each other out for making excuses or diluting what that Word actually says.  His words matter most and we don’t let each other forget it.

We cook meals for one other in times of joy and grief.  We plant trees of remembrance together.  We cry when one hurts, delight when one has joy.  We celebrate victories and raises and babies.  We hold those babies as if they are our own, speaking silent prayers of blessing over them.

We meet the needs when we see one struggling.  We write a check or buy the groceries or babysit the kids.  We cook the dinner or make the encouraging phone call or send the scripture via text.  We show up on the doorstep, ready to intercede on behalf of one another.

We pass the wine and the bread and do it all in remembrance of the One who paid it all for us.  We close our eyes in repentance.  We see the tears fall sometimes and we don’t judge.  We understand the love of a Savior and are moved equally in varying ways.  We are thankful, all of us together.

We raise our hands and sing out the praises of the One who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.  We clap and move and the kids join in and we are a new body of believers, worshiping their Maker as one.  We  tell each other of the goodness of the Lord with gladness.

We listen intently to our elders and honor them always.

We pass out food to the hungry.  We dig our hands into the earth, planting seeds in the ground and planting the seed in our community.  We embrace teenage moms as if they were our little sisters, and fight over who gets to hold their babies.  We give until it hurts to take care of the orphans, the homeless, the church planters and the ones reaching out to make disciples.

We have our struggles and our selfish moments and our glaring shortcomings.  We have a long way to go. We are not perfect and we proclaim that loudly and without hesitation.  But we are part of His body, and we understand how significant that is.  We understand the honor of serving alongside one another and through it all, we love.  We love past the failures and through the trials.  We love old and young, meek and bold, quiet and loud.  We love the only way we know how, allowing the God of love to flow through us, transforming us all the while.

We are gathering and we are Gathering.

sig Missed any posts? Here are the most recent:
Dear Dad, Letter 3

A Gathering of Gallery Walls

What I Gather about Disciplined Children

A Gathering of Prayer Methods

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Last week I posted about Using the Lord’s Prayer as a Pattern in our prayer time.  This is the model I use most often in my personal prayer time, but I have been studying various other types of prayer in the past few weeks.  I turned to the Bible first and foremost.

Today I want to briefly share five other methods of prayer that I like to use.  I hesitate to say “method” in the same sentence as the word “prayer” because I don’t think it’s necessary to have a formula to talk to God.  At the same time, I like to search scripture to see how others have connected to God in their prayers throughout church history.

I recognize that this isn’t a complete list.  This is just a launching point for me and hopefully will motivate someone to think of prayer in a different way.

1.  Intercession

I Timothy 2:1:  First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people.”

Intercession is defined as the action of intervening on behalf of another.

When we intercede, we stand in the gap for someone who isn’t able to pray for themselves or when God simply calls us to pray for someone with a pressing need.  Jesus was the ultimate intercessor when he stood in our place on the cross.

Isaiah 53:12:  ….because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

In my experience with intercession, I will feel a sudden, urgent burden to pray for a certain person or situation.  Sometimes it happens during my normal prayer time, but it has also happened in the middle of the night or as I go about my day.  I simply can’t shake the feeling and stop what I’m doing to pray until I feel a release from God.  Sometimes I don’t even know what to say in this time of prayer, which is in line with Paul’s words in Romans 8:26:

For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

I have learned from experience that when I feel God is calling me to intercede for someone, it is important to stop and respond to the call.  You never know what difference your prayers may make.

2.  Meditation

I think many Christians overlook this very Biblical form of prayer as not to associate ourselves with many other religions that focus on meditation.  In my opinion, we do ourselves a disservice by ignoring the practice of meditation.  Meditation is mentioned throughout scripture and is especially prevalent in the book of Psalms.  David was called a man after Gods’ own heart and spent much time meditating on the greatness of God.  Perhaps we will understand the heart of God more clearly if we too spend time pondering his greatness and beauty.

In my personal experience, meditation is also important because it forces me to close my mouth and listen.  What kind of relationship do we have with God if we are the ones doing all of the talking?  Psalms 46:10 says… be still and know that I am God.  I think there is a level of knowing God that comes only in stillness.

I always have a journal handy during my quiet times of prayer in case I feel God speaking something to my heart.  I love to read back through my journal and see how God spoke something through scripture or through the Holy Spirit when I needed it most.

3.  Common Prayers

Common prayers are very new to me.  As a Pentecostal, common prayers weren’t part of my particular church culture.  My step-father told me, however, that in his Apostolic Bible college, they often prayed common prayers.  They are basically prayers that can be read together by a group of people.

I find common prayers particularly beautiful and meaningful, knowing that millions of Christians have prayed the same words, based primarily in scripture, for hundreds of years.  There are many resources out there for common prayers.  I have taken several of them and altered them slightly for my own personal use.  If you would like a copy of the morning, midday, evening and night-time prayers I use, please e-mail me at rachael@wearegathering.org or comment below.  I will be happy to send you a copy.

4.  Lament

Jim Wilson from the Soul Shaping Bible study defines lament as “inviting God into your sorrow and experiencing His presence in the depths of your pain.”

I don’t think God expects us to come into his presence in prayer and ignore or try to hide our pain.  God wants transparency and can be with us in even the darkest times.  I encourage you to further study the spiritual discipline of lament.  It has transformed my prayer life.  Studying lament has shown me what my heart already knew…. that the times I have felt closest to God were the times I was suffering the most.

If you want to see examples of lament in the Bible, check out Jesus’ prayer in the garden before his crucifixion, the book of Lamentations, Job or Psalms.

5. Praying Scripture

Hebrews 4:12 tells us The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Some of the most powerful experiences I have in prayer are when I take scripture and use it to pray for myself, others, or specific situations.  We can claim promises from scripture, speak blessings, exercise our authority over the enemy, and encourage ourselves when we pray scripture.

Many times when I am praying, I feel led to read a certain passage of scripture.  I will then pray about the application of that scripture to my own life, my family, my church or the church body as a whole.  There are so many online resources for praying scripture.  I will recommend a few:

http://www.kenboa.org/text_resources/free_articles/5399  This is a huge collection of scriptures to pray, divided by category.

http://www.circleofmoms.com/christian-mommies/scriptures-to-pray-over-your-children-259246  From Mom Circle, this is a fantastic list of scriptures to pray over your children.

http://www.memverse.com/ This is a free online tool to help memorize the scriptures of your choice.  What better way to pray scripture than to memorize them!

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I know this was a long post, but I had a lot of information to share!  Do you utilize any of these prayer methods in your prayer time?  What other types of prayer do you use?  I would love your feedback!

(Follow Rachael Gathers HERE!)

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Using The Lord’s Prayer as a Pattern

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When I reflect on my life and progression as a follower of Jesus, few things show such marked growth as my prayer life.  I don’t say that to impress you, let me assure you.  My prayer life has highs and lows, lulls and progressions, and even shallowness and depth.

My parents taught me to pray by example.  They were a praying set.  One of my fondest memories of my dad is hearing him in the prayer room before church, praying in Spanish.  Now I often do the same.  My early prayers were typically selfish and short, but I imagine God was pleased that I was talking to him at all.  As I grew up, I prayed for longer periods of time, with a bit more consistency and more on the behalf of others.

In my teenage years, I heard a message on using The Lord’s Prayer as a pattern in our prayer lives.  My prayers have never been the same.

Just think about it, the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  Jesus himself responds and says, “pray like this.”  Whatever follows the “like this” is pretty important in my book.  Jesus wasn’t asking us to recite word for word the prayer time after time.   He was giving us an important glimpse into the spiritual realm and how we should be spending our time in communication with God.

Here is my very brief take on using the Lord’s prayer as a pattern. (You can see Matthew 6 and Luke 11 to read the prayer in context.)  There is a lot of information on this topic in books and online if you’d like to know more.  I also have a printable guide to stick into your Bible.  If you’re interested, e-mail me at rachael@wearegathering.org

Our Father in heaven

We recognize we are talking to our heavenly father who loves us and wants what is best for us.

We acknowledge this and thank him.

Hallowed be your name

A time for worship and praise.

His name deserves to be glorified.

We enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

We align ourselves with the plan and purpose of God.

Not my will but yours be done.

Pray for God’s kingdom to come to our lives, our church, & our world.

We desire to glorify God by making disciples of all nations.

Give us this day our daily bread

A time to bring our requests before God.

Recognize he knows what we need before we even ask.

Our requests should align with the plan of God.

And forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors

Acknowledge any bitterness or anger we are harboring.

Forgive the person and pray for them.

Only then do we repent and ask for forgiveness.

We turn away from our sin toward God.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

Pray for the enemy to have no place in our lives.

Pray for God to empower us to walk in righteousness and holiness.

(Doxology) For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.

We can end our prayer with worship and praise.

We ask all in the name of Jesus.

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There are a few components of the Lord’s prayer that are important to notice.  First, notice the pronouns.  Jesus used “our” and “us” instead of “my” and “me.”  We should not be selfish in our prayers!  Including others in every component of our prayer time allows others to benefit from our prayers.  I often pray on behalf of my family, my community, my church and the global church.

As I have matured a bit in my prayer life, I have recognized that most of this pattern in the Lord’s prayer is devoted to getting my heart right.  I used to spend so much time praying for my list of wants and needs.  Now, I spend the majority of my time in repentance, acknowledging that God is Lord of my life, and aligning my life with HIS purpose and will.  When I take the time to get my heart aligned with the plan of God, my requests naturally are in alignment with his will.  When I am in a flow of the Spirit during my prayer time, I don’t necessarily have to spend an hour giving God my list of requests.  I simply speak them in faith, believing that God knows what I need before I even ask.

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There are certainly other forms of prayer, some of which I will cover in a post next week.  However, the Lord’s Prayer is what I come back to time after time in my prayer life.  I pepper in meditation, journaling, intercession, common prayers, and praying Scripture, but the majority of my prayer time follows this simple yet profound pattern.  Who, after all, is more qualified to teach us to pray than Jesus himself?

What about you?  Do you use the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern during your prayer time?  What other forms of prayer do you practice?  I would love your feedback!

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I Gather a Prayer for Ruby

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This baby.  Even minutes after delivery, she was perfect and beautiful, round and healthy (as you can see).  God only knows how many prayers were prayed for her during the last nine months…. and now she is here, making everyone giddy with joy and excitement.

A few months ago, when I began to pray for direction for my prayer for Ruby, I felt directed to the life and ministry of Samuel.  As I began to study and write the prayer, I felt the Holy Spirit moving right here at my computer.  I love the Massingale family dearly and believe in their ministry and role in the Kingdom of God.  I already know that Ruby is going to be a tremendous blessing to their family, an asset to their ministry team, and a force in the Kingdom of God.

This is my prayer for little Ruby.  I love you already.

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Dear Ruby,

May the prayers prayed for you be answered (I Samuel 1:20)

May you dwell in the presence of the Lord forever (I Samuel 1:22)

May you be on lend to the Lord as long as you live (I Samuel 1:28)

May you minister before the Lord from a young age  (I Samuel 2:18)

May you grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man (I Samuel 2:26)

May the Lord call to you until you answer (I Samuel 3)

May you dwell in the right place, waiting on the Lord to speak (I Samuel 3:9)

May you hear when the Lord speaks (I Samuel 3:10)

May none of your words fall to the ground (I Samuel 3:19)

May you be established as a prophetess of the Lord (I Samuel 3:20)

May the Lord reveal himself to you by his word (I Samuel 3:21)

May your life and words lead people to return to the Lord will all their hearts, put away foreign gods, direct their hearts to the Lord, and serve him only. (I Samuel 7:3)

May you never cease to cry out to God for others (I Samuel 7:8)

May the Lord answer when you cry out (I Samuel 7:9)

May you set up memorials when the Lord helps you (I Samuel 7:12)

May you always build an altar to the Lord (I Samuel 7:17)

May you see clearly with spiritual eyes (I Samuel 9:19)

May the hearts of people be changed after an encounter with you (I Samuel 10:9)

May you never defraud, oppress or take anything from those you are sent to serve (I Samuel 12:5)

May your words and your life say to people, “Do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself.  Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and right way.  Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart.  For consider what great things he has done for you.” (I Samuel 12:20-24)

May you not judge on appearance, but see the heart as God sees the heart (I Samuel 16:7)

May you, through faith, conquer kingdoms, enforce justice, obtain promises, stop the mouths of lions, quench the power of fire, escape the edge of the sword, be made strong in weakness, be mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight. (Hebrews 11:33-34)

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

What I Gather About Worship

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(Image Source)

Some of my earliest memories involve my child-like attempts at worship.  I have to believe the times I stood in front of our small church as a little girl and sang my heart out for Jesus must have been pleasing to God.  I imagine God feeling the way I feel when Isabel looks lovingly at me and tells me she loves me.

As with most spiritual disciplines, growth was necessary in my view and practice of worship.  For a very long time I had a very narrow view of what it meant to worship God.  That mindset involved showing up on Sunday and singing several songs with hands raised or while clapping.

Of course, I know that corporate worship is important and vital in our Christian walk.  We see examples throughout the Bible of God’s people coming together, unified for the purpose of exalting the one true God.  As a singer and worship leader myself, there is nothing quite like gathering with a group of people with one unified purpose in mind:  to bring glory to God.  We celebrate victories in song, proclaim joyfully the great God we serve, and rededicate ourselves as the unified body of Christ to his purpose.

Yet over the last five or six years, I have prayed, studied and sought after a greater understanding of worship.  There have been some key moments that have led me to the understanding I currently have.  I will share three with you today.

1.  My Life is a Vapor

Psalms 141 is a beautiful psalm of David.  In verse 2, we see the concept of our prayers going up before the Lord as incense and our lifted hands as a sacrifice before the Lord.  When I think about my life, I imagine a continual vapor rising up before the Lord.  Whether or not that vapor is pleasing to him depends on whether I am seeking to worship and honor God in my words and actions.  When I pray without ceasing, a pleasing vapor rises to the Lord.  When I take time out of my day to lift my hands in surrender, a pleasing aroma ascends to God.  When I demonstrate the love God has shown to me to others and carry out my purpose in the Kingdom, the vapor rises and is worship to the Lord.

2.  Freely, Wholeheartedly and Without Hesitation

I will never forget the Sunday these words came to me.  I was in the midst of a powerful time of worship and these three words came to my mind.  I have been forever changed.  To me, these three words represent the what, how and when of worship.  The “what” is freely.  Worship is giving everything.  I withhold nothing from an all-powerful God.  I am not guarded before a risen King.

Wholeheartedly is the “how” of worship.  The manner in which I worship much reflect the greatness of the God I worship.  Whatever I do, whether in my everyday life or in a church worship service, must be done with all of my heart.  I cannot be lukewarm in worship of a Savior who reigns as Lord of all.

Without hesitation is the “when” of worship.  I worship every time I am aware of the greatness of God, without pause.  If I see a glorious sunset, I don’t hesitate to thank and praise the God who created it.  When singing a song addressing the glory of God, I don’t hesitate to raise my hands in surrender to the God of which I sing.  When I see an opportunity to glorify God through my actions, I can’t hesitate to act in the moment.  When I have an opportunity to serve, I must decrease that he may increase…. without hesitation.

When my worship only takes place in a two-hour window on Sunday, it is shallow.  Some of my most profound times of worship have been in my kitchen or alone in my bedroom or beholding the grandeur of God’s creation.  A lifestyle of worship is a daily recognition and celebration of the greatness of God.  If we all lived this way every day, just imagine the depth and celebration that would take place when we do gather to worship together!

3.  Let Worship Be the Fuel for Mission’s Flame

These are the words of a profound Matt Redman song.

“Let worship be the fuel for mission’s flame.  

We’re going with a passion for your name.

We’re going for we care about your praise.

Send us out.

Let worship be the heart of mission’s aim.

To see the nations recognize your fame.

‘Til every tribe and tongue voices your praise.

Send us out.”

I first listened to the lyrics of this song while living in Cuba.  As you can imagine, it had tremendous significance to me at that point in my life.  The lyrics say it all.

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I am sad to admit that while I continually feel the call to be a true worshiper, I often ignore the call.  One of my favorite passages about worship talks about worshiping God in spirit and in truth, then goes on to say:

“the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23)

I imagine God looking down on his creation, seeking those whose life is a sweet-smelling vapor of worship… those who are worshiping freely, wholeheartedly and without hesitation…. those who carry out the Great Commission because they want to see every tribe and tongue proclaiming his glory…..

And I don’t want his gaze to pass me by and look to another.  When he is seeking worshipers, I want to be found proclaiming the glory and greatness of the God who called me out of darkness and into his marvelous light.  I want my actions to be worship to the Most High.  I want to be found rejoicing at the beauty and excellence of his creation.  I want to be found with words of thanksgiving and adoration on my lips.

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Have you worshiped God in some way today?  Have you marveled at his creation or had a grateful heart for the change he has made in your life?  Have you lifted your hands to him in surrender?  Will you sing out songs of praise to him?  When he is seeking for worshipers, will you be found among them?  My prayer today is one of repentance for the times I have failed and a re-dedication to be found among those worshiping in spirit and in truth.

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What I Gather About Movement

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The sun shines down on this open prairie.  The tall grass sways gently in the warm summer wind.

Our movements are slow.  Slower than my fast-paced mind wants to handle and slower than my hurried feet are used to walking.

He stands in front.  I am keenly aware of his presence, rightfully at the head.  We travel behind, dutifully, a line of obedient followers…. followers in every sense of the word.

He walks deliberately.  The placement of each footstep is carefully orchestrated.

I feel the pressure of the choice we must make with each passing moment.  Will we stay in step with him?

Or…

Will we cave into our innate desire to push ahead?

The thought crosses my mind that we all could make a faster path.  We could pass in front, going ahead of him.  We could make a new path to the right or the left.  None of us want to go back, but some moments even going backwards entices me more than the painstaking pace we walk now.

The words pass through my mind…. the kind of words I have learned not to ignore….. the words that speak life and light and direction…..

Alert to his movements.

We must be alert to his movements.  We must carefully and deliberately place our feet only in the steps he has already made ahead of us.

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To be alert to his movements, my senses must be heightened.  I must keep my eyes on him.  There are so many distractions in every direction.  My gaze must be fixed on him.

I must listen.  Perhaps he will give directions for navigating this terrain.  Perhaps I will miss his still, small voice if my ears are tuned to the noise and chaos surrounding me.

I must be patient.  He knows the pace I can handle, the pace that will cause me  to arrive at my destination at the proper time.  I must not go ahead, to the right or left, or especially backwards.  Perhaps a time will come to run.  Right now, I walk.

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Lord, let me be alert to your movements.  Where you lead, I will follow.  Let my pace be in perfect time with your footsteps ahead.  May my eyes be fixed on you and my ears tuned to your voice.  When you stop, I will stop.  When you give the directions to run, I will sprint with all that is within me.  When you warn of a stumbling block in my path, I will avoid it.  I have nothing to fear.  With the help of your Spirit inside of me, I will follow your directions and follow your lead.  No other path interests me.  No other leader will earn my trusting gaze.  No pace is too slow or too fast if you are before me.

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Don’t let me go a single step without your presence.  I am alert to your movements.

For love, I follow.

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. (Psalms 5:8)

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When was the last time you felt specific direction from God in regard to your movements?  Have you ever felt God asking you to speed up or slow down?  To look to Him for direction on your journey?

Love to all and have a blessed weekend!

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What I Gather About Accusations

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What I Gather About Accusations

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Last week I was reading the story in John 8 about the woman caught in the act of adultery.  Most of you know the story…. a woman is caught in the act of adultery and brought to Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees.  They are ready to stone her, as the law dictated, but first want to use this as an opportunity to trap Jesus.

It is a moving account of the wisdom, love and compassion of our Savior.  He delivers an incredibly powerful line…

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  

One by one, the accusers walk away, no doubt in a state of self-reflection.

The woman is saved.  Jesus to the rescue.  When I read this story, I am always reminded the price I deserved to pay for my sin.  I am reminded of a Savior who stepped in as the unblemished sacrifice, taking on my sin and the sin of the world.  Jesus to the rescue….

Yet as I was reading this story last week, I began to think of the accusers in the story.  These Pharisees and scribes in the story always get a bad rep, and rightfully so.  They were judgmental and had every intention of stoning the woman, while also wanting to trap Jesus.

And yet….

The simple act of bringing the accused to Jesus saved this woman’s life.

Were their motives wrong?  Yes.  Was their attitude bad?  Yes.  Were they judgmental?  Absolutely.  Did they have compassion?  No.

And yet….

The simple act of bringing the accused to Jesus saved this woman’s life.

She was guilty, no doubt.  The Bible clearly states she was caught in the act of adultery.  Her guilt was not up for debate.  As only Jesus can do, he showed them that just as she was caught in the act of adultery, they were also caught in the act of judgement.  Their guilt was apparently not up for debate, either.  We hear no arguments from the Pharisees and scribes when Jesus delivers his line to the crowd.

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Both parties guilty.  One party walks away with her life.

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The accusers in this Biblical account didn’t want this woman’s life to be spared.  They wanted her to pay and were ready to execute both judgement and punishment.  And yet….

The simple act of bringing the accused to Jesus saved this woman’s life.

What would happen if we brought our accusations to Jesus?  First.  Before pronouncing guilt, before executing judgement or punishment, what if we brought the accusations before a compassionate Savior?

If these accusers had taken Jesus out of this equation, the woman surely would have been stoned to death.

I fear that when we take Jesus out of the equation in dealing with offenses, we risk harming the accused…. killing someone’s reputation, harming their ministry, wounding their Spirit, denying them of the unmerited favor a Savior has to offer.

Perhaps their guilt is undeniable.  Perhaps they were caught in the act of sin, slander, gossip, backbiting, adultery, lust, lying, cheating.  Perhaps they truly caused harm to you or someone you love.

Even so, our accusations should never be taken before the court of public opinion if they haven’t first been brought to Jesus.

I am so quick to bring my accusations before my peers.

Did you hear what SHE did?

Did you know he said that?

Guess what they did to me now?

Can you believe they are actually DOING that?

We all know what happens when we bring our accusations before Jesus.  Perhaps that knowledge is what keeps us from doing it.  We want a GUILTY VERDICT AND SENTENCING.  And when we choose to bring our accusations before Jesus (bad motives or not), we tend to hear the gentle words of a loving Savior.

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.”

Jesus causes us to look inward, recognizing it is hypocrisy to judge someone else when our own hearts are darkened with sin.

Maybe, just maybe….

The simple act of bringing the accused to Jesus in prayer will save a person’s reputation, our relationship with them, their ministry, their self-esteem, and their access to unmerited favor.

Perhaps we will be changed for the better as well, with our own self-reflection bringing an opportunity to show grace and walk in a perpetual state of forgiveness and love.

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Do you tend to take your accusations to Jesus first in prayer?  Do you have the tendency, as I do, to complain about offenses to a spouse or friend first?

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***Note:  I recognize that sometimes offenses must be dealt with.  Jesus gives us guidelines in Matthew 18:15-17.  I am not denying that at times, offences and sin must be addressed.  I am only advocating bringing the offenses to Jesus in prayer first and foremost.

 

I Gather a Prayer for Zion

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Our friends and neighbors, Norma and Fidelis, just had a beautiful baby boy.  His name is Zion.  My new practice is to write a prayer for any baby born to a friend of mine.  I base the prayer off of a name or something felt in prayer.  In this instance, my prayer is based off of Zion’s name.  And I have to tell you, I felt the power of God so strongly as I researched scripture for this prayer.  I can’t wait to see what ministry this precious baby boy turns out to have in the kingdom of God.  So, Zion Jude, this is the prayer I gathered for you.

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May you be a holy foundation from which others may rise up (Psalms 2:6)

May the Lord forever sit enthroned upon your heart (Psalms 9:11)

May you always rejoice in the salvation of the Lord and recount all of his praises (Psalms 9:14)

May the salvation of many be birthed out of your ministry (Psalms 14:7)

May your life and ministry always be a support to other believers (Psalms 20:2)

May the great king dwell in your heart and bring joy to all the earth (Psalms 48:2)

May you always be glad (Psalms 48:11)

May God always shine forth out of you, the perfection of beauty (Psalms 50:2)

May the vows you make to God always be performed (Psalms 65:1)

May God’s residence be established in you (Psalms 76:2)

May God always choose you and love you (Psalms 78:68)

May you hear the judgments of God and be glad (Psalms 97:8)

May you forever declare the name of the Lord and his praise (Psalms 102:21)

May you trust in the Lord and not be moved (Psalms 125:1)

May you be glad in your maker and rejoice in your king (Psalms 149:2)

May the word of the Lord and the law be proclaimed from your mouth (Isaiah 2:3)

May you shout and sing for joy, recognizing the Holy One of Israel is in your midst (Isaiah 12:6)

May the fear of the Lord be your treasure (Isaiah 33:6)

May the voice of the Lord roar from you, that the heavens and the earth quake (Joel 3:16)

And finally, Zion…..

GO ON UP TO A HIGH MOUNTAIN, O ZION, HERALD OF GOOD NEWS; LIFT IT UP, FEAR NOT; SAY TO THE CITIES OF JUDAH, “BEHOLD YOUR GOD! BEHOLD THE LORD COMES WITH MIGHT, AND HIS ARM RULES FOR HIM; BEHOLD, HIS REWARD IS WITH HIM, AND HIS RECOMPENSE BEFORE HIM. HE WILL TEND HIS FLOCK LIKE A SHEPHERD; HE WILL GATHER THE LAMBS IN HIS ARMS; HE WILL CARRY THEM IN HIS BOSOM, AND GENTLY LEAD THOSE THAT ARE WITH YOUNG.” (Isaiah 40:9-11)

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

A Gathering of Links IX

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Happy Monday to you all!  It is a beautiful, warm, sunny day in central Indiana and I couldn’t be happier about it!  We have a lot going on in our world.  Friday we had a Mad Men themed going away party for my niece, which was a blast.  We had a huge turnout for the community garden workday last week.  Ava is taking ISTEP this week and Isabel is at a campground with my mom.  I am trying to soak in all the time I can with my niece before she (*tear) moves out.

I have lots of great links to share with you today, but first I want to share some exciting news….

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Agnes has a sponsor! A huge THANK YOU to the special family who will be making an impact on this precious girl’s life. I can’t thank you enough. I had hoped to have more sponsors by now, but I believe the seed has been planted and we will see more of these kids sponsored very soon! (If you are interested and missed our big promotion, please see this SPONSOR AN ORPHAN link)

Also, I want to express my sincere gratitude for the way all of you received my most popular post of the week, A (Re)Gathering of Faith.  It was my most popular post in the history of Rachael Gathers, thanks to all of your shares.  I was so moved by the comments and messages I received from so many of you responding to my story.  Sometimes I hesitate before I hit “publish” on personal stories, but the feedback from you reminded me that we all struggle and we can draw strength from the testimonies of one another.

So, let’s get to it!  Grab a cup of coffee or tea, sit back and check out some of the best links from the WWW this week!

Spiritual Inspiration:

From Winn Collier, Revolutionary Shepherd.

At Mary DeMuth, Candace’s Crazy Beautiful Story of Healing.

From A Deeper Church, Not Just Bread, Not Just Wine.

From Narrow Paths to Higher Places, On Loving Well: A Stone’s Throw Pt. 1.

At A Holy Experience, 6 Books When You’re Looking for Change.

From Sarah Bessey, In Which We Need to Ask Questions that Have No Answers.

Food Love:

At A Cozy Kitchen, The Best Tabbouleh Salad.

For Laughs:

At It Just Gets Stranger, Dear Vague Facebook Status Poster.

And my very favorite post of the week, beautiful and challenging and straight from the Bible:

From Brian D. McLaren, a compilation of “one another’s” in the New Testament.

What have you been into this week?  I would love your comments about your favorite blogs, books, TV shows, movies or activities these days.  Have a blessed week!

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Gathering Strength from Psalm 42

IMG_2846 As a deer pants for flowing streams,

so pants my soul for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God,

for the living God.

When shall I come and appear before God?

My tears have been my food day and night,

while they say to me all the day long,

“Where is your God?”

These things I remember,

as I pour out my soul:

how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise,

a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down,

O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God;

for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;

therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep

at the roar of your waterfalls;

all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.

By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,

and at night his song is with me,

a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock:

“Why have you forgotten me?

Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

As with a deadly wound in my bones,

my adversaries taunt me,

while they say to me all the day long,

“Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down,

O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God;

for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God.

Psalms 42

Yesterday before I heard the news from Boston, I was sitting on my front porch reading the Bible.  I came to Psalms 42 and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the words and the presence of God.  I couldn’t take my eyes off this psalm.  It brought comfort and strength.

Later, after hearing about the tragedy in Boston, I re-read it and it brought strength again.  Sometimes I have nothing to say, because the Word of God says it all.  I hope someone finds peace and strength in this passage.  Join me in praying for those impacted by the tragedy in Boston yesterday.

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Gathering In Close

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When I was 19 and in college, I started working at a preschool at a church in Indianapolis.  I have worked there off and on ever since.  My boss and co-workers are great.  They have been flexible with the birth of both of my girls and our travel to Cuba, hiring me whenever I need a job and they have an opening, and letting my sub when they don’t have an opening and I need some extra money.  They have graciously let me take both of my girls to their preschool program for free while I work.  It’s a job made in heaven for this mom.

Currently I work two days a week.  I leave with Isabel about 7:15, before Ava wakes up for school.  Jimmie gets Ava on the bus, then I am home by the time she gets off the bus at 3:45.  It has been a pretty good system for us.

Recently, though, Ava has been complaining about me going to work.  Many nights throughout the past eight months we have dealt with supposed stomach-aches, tears, and guilt-trips.  Our typical conversation has gone something like this:

Ava:  Are you working tomorrow?

Me:  Yes, Ava, I work every Monday and Thursday.  You know that.

Ava:  I don’t WANT you to go to work tomorrow!

Me:  Ava, you know Daddy will be here with you in the morning.  I already laid out your clothes.  He will get you on the bus.  It will all be fine.

Ava:  But I don’t WANT Daddy to get me on the bus.  I want YOU to get me on the bus.

So the conversation goes.  This has been a little unusual for Ava, considering she has always been a Daddy’s girl and most days would choose her dad in a flash!  I have tried to comfort her, reminding her that many kids don’t have the luxury of having parents home to get them on OR off the bus.  I have talked to her about what a blessing my job is to our family and how good it is for Isabel to go to school, just like she was able to go to that preschool.  I have prayed with her, hugged her extra tight.  I have tried waking her up before I leave for work, just to say goodbye.  I have tried sending her morning texts before I clock in at work.  I have even talked to her on the phone before she gets on the bus.  None of it worked.  The complaining had been getting worse and worse.

Fast forward to this past Monday.  She begged me to wake her up before I left for work.  When I did, she opened her eyes, looked at me, and started sobbing.  I eased her back to sleep.  That night at the dinner table, we had a discussion.  It went something like this:

Me:  Ava, we really need to talk about how you react to me going to work.  I feel like you are trying to make me feel really guilty and I don’t understand why.

Ava:  (tearing up)  I just want you home in the morning.

Me:  Ava, Daddy is always here with you.  We never leave you alone.  I just don’t understand.

Jimmie:  (thank God for Jimmie)  Ava, does it bother you that Mommy isn’t close to your school during the day?

Ava cried, nodding her head.  Thanks to Jimmie’s probing question, the reality of what she was feeling hit me hard.  I work 35 minutes away.  Jimmie works 45 minutes away.  Ava has been worried all this time that if something happened at school, Mom and Dad wouldn’t be close.

We went on to have a conversation about what would happen in an emergency.  We eased her fears by letting her know we both always have our cellphones and that our neighbor and friend Tasha is almost always home during the day.  She relaxed and didn’t say anything about me going to work on Thursday.

As I have thought this week about Ava’s internal struggle, I have had great empathy for her feelings.  I have recognized a similar longing inside of me.  It has been a prayer, a stirring in my soul for as long as I can remember.  I have cried it out.  I have worried about it, whispered it as a prayer in the middle of the night.  It has been the plea of my heart and will continue to be as long as I live.  It is the cry of a vulnerable child to a loving parent.

God, just let me know that you are close.

Lord, no matter what path you have placed me upon, let me feel your presence near. 

Be close enough that I may hear your still, small voice.

Be present in my life, that I may see your beauty in the many moments of my day.

When I cry, send comfort.

When I am broken, mend the pieces of my life.

When I find myself in the mire, lift me out with your ever-present hand.

When I call upon your name, come to my rescue as only you can.

Jesus, just let me know that you are near.

“It is the LORD who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”  (Deuteronomy 31:8)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalms 46:1)

Have any of you had any similar experiences with your children?  Can you relate to my prayers?  Do you feel God near?  Do you worry when you don’t feel him close or can you rest in knowing he is there whether you feel him or not?  I would love your feedback!

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A Gathering of Bible Study Methods

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I was a young teenager the night my parents came into the guest room.  Our company was staying in my room, so I was moved to the guest room for a few days.  I don’t know why they came in or why I pretended to be asleep, but I heard them proudly comment about the open Bible on the nightstand next to my bed.

I grew up believing it was important to read the Bible every day, and so being the good little pastor’s daughter I was, that’s what I tried to do.  Many nights I would read one scripture, filling my quota for the day.  Other times I would read a chapter or two.  While I realize that kind of Bible reading was simply a chore to be accomplished, I am so thankful for parents and a church who instilled in me the desire to read God’s word.  I am thankful for that, because down the road reading the Bible turned from being  a drudgery into being a delight.

Today, my Bible study is somewhat sporatic.  I read nearly every day, but how deep I get into study depends on many factors, including my mood, the time I have, how hungry I feel for God’s Word, and how interesting the material I am studying is to me at the moment.  I was blessed to be exposed to several great study methods at my last church, and have picked up a few study methods on my own.  I want to share those with you.

1.  Journaling  – For this method, I would highly recommend Jen Hatmaker’s book, A Modern Girls’ Guide to Bible Study.  She gives lots of great tips and gets the reader motivated and equipped to dive in, all while being hilarious and relating to her readers.  I love journaling in general, so this method works well for me.  Armed with a great study Bible, and anything from commentaries to dictionaries to history books… this method allows me to study at my own pace, researching and journaling the historical context and cross references.  It also allows me to journal how a specific verse or passage makes me feel and how I can apply it to my life.  I have formally been through the book of James and Ephesians using this method, and have informally journaled through other passages and scriptures.  If you love to journal, give this method a try.

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2.  Read Through the Bible in a Year -  I have started and failed this method many times!  This is not my preferred method of study, because typically you are reading quickly through a large quantity of scriptures each day.  I like to reflect when I read, and I often find myself hurrying through the day’s reading just to get it done.  However, I have committed to reading through my Bible this year using the Bible in One Year app for my iPhone, and so far… I love it.  The app makes it so easy, giving me a selection from the Old Testament, the New Testament and either Psalms or Proverbs each day.  Yes, I need to supplement my daily readings with in-depth study, but I am excited to see my daily progress, reading the Bible as one whole story.  I know I can make it!!

3.  Small Group Bible Study - Our home small group has been working our way through the Chronological Guide to the Bible for over a year now!  Each week we read and discuss whatever happens next chronologically.  It has taken a lot of time, but I love that everyone in our groups is reading through the same part of the Bible at the same time.  I gain so much knowledge from the insights of others.  There is also a Chronological Study Bible that goes along with the book.  I don’t have the study Bible, but some people do, and seem to like it.  We are only in Ezekiel, so this has been a huge undertaking.  It will be exciting at the end to say we have basically discussed the entire Bible!

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4. The Message – Last fall, I realized that I had to be more intentional about teaching and training my children about the Bible.  I had too often skirted my responsibility in that area and hoped the church would take up the slack.  I hadn’t quite decided the approach to take, so one night, I picked up The Message Bible and began reading Matthew 1:1 with my 8-year-old.  What happened surprised even me-of-little-faith.  She was intrigued.  I was intrigued.  The language is simple and easy for her to understand.  The Message reads as a story and Ava ate it up!  When we have our Bible time, I stop to ask questions.  I let her ask as many questions as she has.  We talk about Biblical history and the meanings behind the words of Jesus.  She is like a sponge, soaking up all the goodness and power of the life of Jesus.  I am learning as well, and feel I am doing my job, pouring my Biblical knowledge into my child.  Now… if only we could be a little more consistent (such is the story of my life!).  If you have school-age children, I encourage you to quiet down, sit down with your kids, and simply read The Message with them.   I think you will be amazed how the life and words of Jesus come to life.

5. Inductive Bible Study – Dear readers, I have saved my favorite for last.  I was introduced to Kay Arthur and her inductive method of Bible study at my last church and I am so grateful!  I skipped the how-to book that teaches the method and jumped right in to a study of Ezra, learning as I went along.  This is the kind of study for me, my friends!  I am talking about colored pencils, color-coding repetitive words, color-coded keys of keywords… I am talking about 30 minutes (at least), six days a week, diving into the Word of God, making lists and charts and let me just say, IT IS SO MUCH FUN!  Of course, not everyone likes it.  The homework-style, follow-these-instructions-exactly appeals to my personality and my need for order.  Plus, at the end, I felt such a sense of accomplishment, feeling like an expert in whatever book I was studying. I am amazed at what Kay Arthur’s guides bring out in scripture that I may never have seen without her help.  She has guides for nearly every book of the Bible.  I would start with Matthew.  I am in the middle of it now, and it has been amazing.

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These are some study methods that have worked well for me, but of course there are so many other options!  I do have one word of advice, a lesson that I learned the hard way.  Don’t let your study be a chore.  Give yourself a break if you go through a season when you don’t crack your Bible.  Let go of the guilt and turn to God.  Find delight in Him.  I go through seasons of Bible study, but when I hunger and thirst for God, when I long for His presence in my life, the Bible study naturally follows.  So no guilt.  Just turn to Jesus and see what happens!

What about you?  What methods of Bible study are your favorites?  Have you tried any of the methods I have mentioned?  I would love to hear your experiences!  Do any of these methods sound like something you may try?

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A Good Friday Gathering

One of my favorite moments in the life of Jesus is the Last Supper.  I am amazed reading about the conversations, the washing of the disciples’ feet, the broken bread and wine poured out.  This year was the first week in my life that I ever reflected each day of Holy Week on the last week of Jesus’ life. It was profound and moving and I am so thankful for the friends, bloggers and scripture that led me to such reflection.

In our Noblesville Gathering, we have so many leaders who weekly open their homes, prepare and study to facilitate small groups or teach, cook for the masses and give sacrificially.  I wanted to do something special for those leaders this Easter season, and the idea for a Good Friday communion dinner was born.

I enlisted the help of my mom with the food and got busy with the preparations.  I found various white dishes at Goodwill, ironed tablecloths, bought and arranged simple flowers, made simple place cards, arranged a variety of white candles and made a few sides and a salad.  It was an act of love for many of those who serve alongside my family week in and week out.

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I watched as Jimmie prepared the unleavened bread.  I felt like I was witnessing a holy moment, the loving preparation of the bread to be broken in honor of Jesus and his broken body.

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We ate our salads and Jimmie began to talk about the significance of the bread and the wine.  He described how we “do this in remembrance of Him” in a way that is more than just mimicking the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper.  We pour ourselves out for others the way the blood of Jesus was poured out for all humanity.  Our bodies are broken and sacrificed for others the way that the body of Jesus was broken and bruised.  This is honoring the meaning behind the Last Supper beyond eating bread and drinking wine.  This is what we do in remembrance of Jesus.

We passed the wine and grape juice.  We passed the unleavened bread, breaking a piece off and passing it along.  We prayed.  We cried.  We drank the wine and ate the bread, both remembering Calvary and committing to serve the lost, broken, lonely and hurting.

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My grandmother was to my left, my mom to her left.  My daughter was to my right, sitting between mom and dad.  Four generations together, three of them women who have loved Jesus, served others and dedicated themselves to the cause of Christ… one who is learning to do the same.  As I cried and prayed, drank and ate, she did the same.  My arm held her close.  She heard my prayers, felt my tears on her hair.  It was beautiful and powerful and holy.  It was what remembering is all about and I will not forget.

As we finished, my mom and I brought out the meal.  We passed plates, served each other heaping spoonfuls of beef and noodles, mashed potatoes, corn and rolls.  We laughed and talked, a community breaking bread for a common purpose.

After we cleared plates, while we were still sitting at the table, my dear friend Heidi began to pass around small pieces of black fabric.  She reminded us of the scripture of the veil of the temple being rent, top to bottom when Christ died.  She told us many believe that veil was three inches thick and possibly 30×60 feet.  She talked about the priests of the Old Testament being the only ones to have access to the presence of God.  She reminded us that while we often may feel far from God, the veil has been rent and we have access to him.  She reminded us that even when God is quiet, he is with us.  She asked that we pray and that when we felt led, we tear our fabric, representing our barrier from God being destroyed.  She asked that we keep those two pieces in our Bibles as a reminder of our access to God.

The room grew loud with the prayers.  I sobbed, wanting to break down into a puddle on the floor, while also wanting to shout victoriously.  Such is the message of the cross.  I had chills and felt the power of God when I began to hear the sound… the loud sound of that fabric being torn at our table.

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I am so thankful for all of those who came and participated in an evening that was such a blessing to my family.  I am thankful for friends, not only the ones who were at that dinner, but all of them, who live their lives with me…. who love me unconditionally… who stretch me and support me…. who are figuring it out with me…. who love Jesus passionately with me…. who give sacrificially with me…. who aren’t afraid to remember….. and most importantly, who aren’t afraid to take up their cross and do this in remembrance of me.

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What I Gather About… The Walk to Golgotha

The road is dusty.  My gaze is fixed on him.  His eyes pierce through the layers and see my soul.  We walk.  The pace is slow.  The crowds line the road.  I know his load is heavy, but I focus on his eyes.

“Why are you showing me this, Jesus?  You know I appreciate the load you carried for me.  Do I need to appreciate it more?  Is that what this journey is about?”

I see the sweat on his brow, the anguish of the cross he does not deserve to carry.  His gaze never leaves me. We walk.

“Jesus, you know I will walk with you.  I know the price to follow is high.  I have counted that cost and here I am.  So why are you showing me this?”

And then I hear it. In all my time as a follower, I had never thought of the sounds he endured on that walk.  At first the sounds were in the background.  As my ears were opened, the voices were magnified.

Slander.  Accusations.  Hate.  Lies.  Rage.  Mocking.

Looking into the face of love, the origin of love, I am overwhelmed by the sounds.  He doesn’t deserve it.  “He is innocent!” I want to scream.  I want to silence the shouts, the screams, the laughter.  His piercing eyes tell me he feels the pain inflicted by those cries.  Yes, he is God, but he is also man and his heart breaks.

“Jesus, why am I hearing this?  What are you trying to tell me?”

When you walk with me…. when you take up your cross and follow me… you will hear what we are hearing now.  It is part of the cost of walking this road to Golgotha. 

The truth of his words penetrate into the deepest, darkest places of my heart.  Those places that are too tender to touch and so are buried in a dark corner.  Those wounds inflicted by sharp words that cut me to the core, making me question my worth and my purpose.  Those lies that I struggle not to believe about myself.  Those wounds that caught me so off guard, coming at times from my people.

But these people I hear now, on this road, these people taking aim and firing words of accusation at love himself… they are his people.  They are his family, his town.  They are the ones he talked with in the synagogue.  The ones who heard him explain the kingdom on that mountain.  They go back generations, with heritage, history, in covenant together.  The very same ones…. these are the ones I hear, even now.

We walk.  My tears blur the view of my savior’s face, but I know his gaze hasn’t left me.  I thought I had counted the cost.  Now I count again.  Is it worth it?  Accusations and lies hurt.  But if I don’t ever hear them…. am I following?  Am I on that path with my savior, walking to the crucifixion of my own flesh?

And in that moment I know, as I knew before.  No cost is too high.  If walking with him means enduring the vile sounds of the crowds, I must endure.  I must endure, for there is no walk I would rather be on than this one.  There is no company I would rather keep than my present company.  There are no eyes I would rather focus on during this journey.  There is no gaze I would rather have on me.  And so, with a heavy cross on my back, I follow him.  I follow to my death and therefore to my life.

*Disclaimer:  the previous is a conversation based on something that I saw and felt in prayer one day when I was really struggling.  I have added details for the sake of telling a story, which I hope will strengthen and encourage someone.  I am in no way saying that God and I had this word-for-word conversation.  I would also like to emphasize that I believe in spiritual authority and accountability.  The “voices” in this story are not the voices of spiritual leadership in my life.

What I Gather About Comparison

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I have heard this quote numerous times throughout my life and hadn’t really considered it until fairly recently.  During a trip to Cuba, my husband preached a message about comparing ourselves with one another based on 2 Corinthians 10.  It was such an eye-opening sermon.  I realize now that this is an area of weakness for me.

I am competitive, goal-oriented and persistent.  I tell myself that I have a realistic perception of my strengths and weaknesses (doesn’t everybody?).  Basically, I want to be the best, and I know when I’m not.  I find myself comparing Rachael to the kind of people who I am sure you would find amusing.  Let me just give you some examples.

Funny Rachael

I am not funny and I know this.  Yet, somehow I have this idea in the back of my head that buried somewhere deep down is a comedian, that I SHOULD be funny.I have a handful of friends who should be comedians by profession.  On that rare occasion when I make any of those friends laugh, I am caught so off guard that I literally have to take a moment, rewind, and figure out WHAT IN THE WORLD JUST HAPPENED?  I am no comedian, but there are times I want to be like those people who are.

Singer Rachael

I’ve been singing since I was old enough to carry a microphone and carry a tune.  School concerts, college choirs, solos at church, camps, conferences, in my car, in my kitchen.  You name it.  I love it and I realize I have a decent voice.  But let me assure you, I am my own worst critic.  Instead of comparing myself to the worship leader down the road, I compare myself to Mariah Carey.  Or Kari Jobe.  Or any other professional out there who is better than me.

Mom Rachael

I frequently compare myself to those moms who get up at 5 a.m. just to prepare a hearty breakfast for their kids and have a 30 minute devotion before school.  I compare myself to crafty mom, home-school mom, patient mom, mom of 5, athletic mom, chef mom, spiritual giant mom, birthday party mom… you name the type, at times I think I should be all of those moms wrapped into one package.

Writer Rachael

I have always enjoyed writing.  I excelled in writing sociological papers in college, probably because my writing is so straight-forward and lacks flourish.  Yet when I sit down with a Barbara Kingsolver book, I want to weep at my moron-self, incapable of painting a vivid picture with the most beautiful strand of words.  When I read the poetic Sarah Bessey, I want to give up on blogging all together.  When I read David Platt, I grieve that I can’t express my passion the way he does.  Give up, I say.

Spiritual Rachael

My Dad wrote me a letter before he died.  In it, he named a few women who are spiritual giants of the faith.  He told me to be one of those women.  I know his intentions were good, and I must say that his life and ministry lit a fire in me that has never died.  Yet often I compare myself to these women… the women who travel the country speaking at conferences.  I compare myself to the missionary you hear about who prayed and saw someone raised from the dead.  I compare myself to the women who get up to pray and study every morning without fail.

Physical Rachael

I would love to report to you, dear reader, that I am above this type of comparison.  While I have improved greatly, I still find myself looking in the mirror some days, unhappy with everything I see.  Frizzy hair, freckles, 25 extra pounds, flat nose, crooked teeth, boring clothes.  I see those women who weigh nothing running down the street in their workout clothes and kick myself for not having more discipline.  I get on the scale, hoping to have lost just one more pound so I can look just a little more like the images that bombard my mind of the “perfect woman.”

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Even now, writing all of this so honestly, so openly, saddens me greatly.  I think Teddy Roosevelt was onto something.  What possible chance do I have at joy when I compare myself to someone who IS NOT ME?  After all, I can never be anyone other than the person God made me.  Sure, I can grow, set goals and reach them, push myself, have more discipline… but at the end of the day I am Rachael.  I’m pretty sure Rachael needs to shut up and stop listening to what Rachael says about Rachael.  Rachael needs to start listening to what God says about her.  What might that be?  I love what David had to say about God’s view of him:

You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God. (From Psalms 139)

I am his creation.  He delights in me.  He saw enough value in me to pay the ultimate price…. just so I could know him.  He calls me friend.  He wants to walk with me, faults and all, in the cool of the day.  He knows my name.  He has the hairs on my head numbered.  He loves me just as I am.

And who are these people I’m comparing myself to, anyway?  Do I truly know any of them?  I guarantee that if I got to know them, I would realize that each and every one of them has struggles and shortcomings just like I do.  Do we realize that when we compare ourselves to someone, we are comparing ourselves to an idolized persona?  We are comparing ourselves to the voice, not the human.  We are comparing ourselves to the body, not that heart.  We are comparing ourselves to the works, not the soul.  We compare ourselves to some kind of facade.  We are trying to become more like someone rather than becoming more of ourselves in Christ Jesus.  He is the one we look to for the answers to who we are and who we are to become.  I want to be wrapped up, tied up and tangled up in Jesus, joyfully drawing strength and self-worth from the fact that I am loved by the King.

Do you struggle with comparison?  Does comparison rob you of your joy?  In what areas of your life do you find yourself comparing?  Please speak up so I know I’m not alone!

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Snow Gathers

seasonsI wasn’t expecting the snow today.  I am beyond ready for warmth and sunshine and sandals and t-shirts.  Yet today’s snow was a reminder to me that there is a season for everything.  So I tried to enjoy the beauty of what will hopefully be the last snow of the season.  Would we appreciate spring and summer as much without a long, cold winter?  Anyone from the south want to answer that for me?

I hope your Thursday is fantastic!

What I Gather About Snares

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If it had not been the LORD who was on our side – let Israel now say -

If it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us,

Then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;

Then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;

Then over us would have gone the raging waters.

Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth!

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!

Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 124)

Flood, torrent, raging waters…. Mine was grief.  A flood of grief.  A torrent of grief.  Raging waters of grief.  Grief swallowed me alive at times.

My father, a shining beacon of strength and faith, was taken, ravaged by cancer, at my young age of 16.  The grief was natural.  I probably unknowingly went through the classic stages.  Somewhere along the new trajectory of my life, though, the grief became a snare.  What had been a natural response to the loss of a loved one became a snare that caged me in.  I was angry at God.  I blamed my poor choices on my monumental loss.  I set unrealistic expectations for myself, trying to honor the memory of my father.  I rarely expressed my grief out loud.  Panic attacks began, but few knew.  I became a pretender, capable of appearing fine to anyone and everyone.  Meanwhile my broken heart affected nearly every thought passing through my head.

The transition to healing is fuzzy in my mind.  My broken heart was eventually mended by my Healer.  Part of the healing process took place as a result of that line in bold in Psalm 124.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!

In my times of prayer, I had an image in my head of myself as a bird, flying out of a snare.  To my amazement, after leaving, I would turn around and fly right back into the trap.  That soft, still voice began to deal with me.  He wanted the snare to be BROKEN.  Only when that snare of debilitating grief was truly broken could I be truly free.

Grief certainly isn’t the only snare I have faced in my life.  Many of us find ourselves in snares, sometimes without even realizing it.  Maybe it is a snare of:

Grief

Fear

Anxiety

Depression

Bitterness

Anger

Maybe it something else entirely.  Many of these emotions are natural.  But when they become a flood, a torrent or raging waters that swallow us alive, we must reach out for help.  Often turning to a trusted friend is helpful.  Sometimes professional help is needed.  However, first and foremost, we must reach out to our Savior.

Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

I believe that so often He is there, waiting for us to cry out to him for help, wanting to step in on our behalf. His love for us is immense enough that He doesn’t want to see us waste away in a snare.  He wants us to soar.  Beyond that, He wants to BREAK THE SNARE!  Through the help of Jesus Christ we can be victorious and never return to our prison of shame, anger or worry.  Too often we have some type of spiritual breakthrough and experience a moment of freedom, only to fly right back into our snare.  Why?  We are assured in Galatians 5:1:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Have you ever found yourself in some type of spiritual snare?  Has anyone ever felt a momentary breakthrough or freedom, only to return to the same cage?  This is a great opportunity to share your story of freedom!  I sure would love to hear it!

Also, if you need prayer or support for an overwhelming situation in your life, please feel free to contact me.  God Bless and BE FREE!!

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I Gather a Prayer for Claire

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My dear friend Tasha recently gave birth to a perfect baby girl.  When I say perfect, I’m not exaggerating.  We joke that the Mexican blood in her gives her the most gorgeous complexion that my pasty babies never had a chance of achieving.  I was blessed to be at the hospital during the majority of Tasha’s labor and during the delivery.  She didn’t seem thrilled with my suggestion of being IN the delivery room (how dare she?), so I excitedly waited… and waited…. and waited in the waiting room.  I passed much of the time with Tasha’s Mexican grandmother, who also happens to be a spiritual inspiration.  We passed the time talking in both English and Spanish, discussing everything from her family to Cuba to God and the church.  Mostly, though, she prayed.  I could hear her nearly constant prayers for Tasha, her whispers of “Jesus” throughout the labor and delivery.  It was beautiful to witness.  I felt like I was on holy ground in that waiting room.

In the early morning hours, God led me to a scripture in Psalms.

The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. (Psalms 118:27)

That is how I felt during those early morning hours.  Even though I wasn’t in the room, I felt like God’s light was shining on us in that hospital.  I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the joyous miracle of life.  The occasion reminded me that joy truly does come in the morning, even after a long, dark night.  Claire was born.  She is perfect and I will always think of her as a light sent by God.

So, instead of showering her with blankets or clothes or bottles, I choose now to shower her with my love and with a prayer of blessing.  This prayer is for you, Claire.

Dear little Claire (or OB as I like to call you),

Your entrance into this world came like a blazing ray of light into what had been a dark time for some.  You truly are a gift of God.  You  bring light and life and joy to your family and everyone who surrounds you. This is my prayer for you.

May the light of God’s face shine upon you. (Psalms 4:6)

May the Lord alone light your lamp and light up any darkness that comes your way. (Psalms 18:28)

May the Lord be your light and salvation, coming to your rescue in every way. (Psalms 27:1)

May you ever walk before God in the light of life. (Psalms 56:13)

May his word be the lamp unto your feet and the light unto your path. (Psalms 119:105)

When you fall, may you quickly arise, having the Lord as your light. (Micah 7:8)

May you be a light to this world, a city set on a hill, hidden to none. (Matthew 5:14)

When others look at your light, may they always see the glory of your Father. (Matthew 5:16)

May you be wholly bright. (Luke 11:36)

May you help many others turn from darkness to light. (Acts 26:18)

May your light be a guide to the spiritually blind. (Romans 2:19)

May you never be unequally yoked with darkness. (2 Corinthians 6:14)

May you walk in the light, having fellowship with believers, bring cleansed from all sin. (I John 1:7)

May you always love your brothers and sisters in God’s kingdom. (I John 2:10)

And finally, dear Claire, …May you be blameless and innocent, a child of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as a light in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ we may be proud that we did not run in vain or labor in vain… (Philippians 2:15-16)

Lots of love,

Rachael

 

 

What I Gather About Understanding God

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Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words (Daniel 10:12)

Each week we open our home for a gathering of friends sharing food and participating in Bible study.  This past week as we discussed the book of Daniel, we began to contemplate what it was about Daniel that made him the one chosen by God for such an extraordinary purpose.  I was led to Daniel 10:12 and was elated to find an answer to our question, although inevitably one question leads to more questions when studying God’s word.  Could it be that Daniel’s desire to understand the things of God, combined with his posture of humility were the elements that attracted God to Daniel?  (see my friend Mindy’s beautiful post about humility here)

Since this discussion on Thursday, God has been reminding me of some lessons He spoke to my heart several years back.  While I in no way believe that we can ever understand the depth, magnitude and complexities of God, I do believe that He is searching for people who desire to understand Him more.  I believe He wants to reveal Himself to us in profound, life-altering ways.  He has mercifully done this for me time after time.

In my early twenties I was dealing with some residual grief due to the loss of my father at 16.  I remember one day praying, or rather casting blame on God for taking my dad away from me too soon.  From somewhere deep within, I heard words along these lines….

How will you know Me as comforter if you do not grieve?

Woah.  I put that on the back-burner, not sure I could handle the implication of that statement.  As I walked on this journey a little longer with God, I found Him asking me similar questions.

How will you know Me as Provider if you never have to trust?

How will you know Me as Peace-speaker if you never face turmoil?

Then came the big one.

Would you know Me as Father the way you do if your earthly father still lived?

As far back as I remember I have said the prayer….. “God, I want to know You.”  I have whispered it in the dead of the night.  I have cried it out through sobs of broken-ness. I have shouted it in desperation.  I have sung it out with all that is within me.  I have declared it with joyful expectation.

Could it be that all along God has heard my prayer and has responded by revealing Himself through trials?  Could it be that I must be willing to endure, endure, endure before I will ever truly begin to grasp the greatness of God?  To truly understand Him as healer, must I face sickness?  Sure, I may believe He can heal.  I may have faith and know that is an aspect of His character.  But isn’t it revealed to me in a deeper way when He heals me or someone close to me?  To understand Him as Savior, don’t I need salvation?  To understand Him as Light, I surely must face darkness.

Looking at my life in this light lessens the fear of the unknown.  It gives purpose to the pain.  For what better reward is there than knowing Him more?  Can any of us ever be a Daniel without seeking to understand?  Can I ever fulfill my purpose in His kingdom if I don’t have a posture of humility, ready and willing to endure what comes my way…. knowing it may lead me even a little closer to Jesus?  God, I want to know You.  I want to know You as healer, deliverer, provider, savior, strength, light, comforter, guide, peace-speaker, FATHER… even if that desire takes me on a road of tests and trials.  Perhaps that road will be the very path that leads me to becoming an instrument like Daniel, through which Your glory is revealed to the nations.  Even if it doesn’t, knowing You a little more is enough reason to walk that road.

What about you?  Has there been a time in your life God has revealed Himself in a powerful way as a result of difficulty?  Would you trade that experience?  In what other ways do you seek to understand God?  As always I would love to get a conversation started with you!