It’s a Surprise!

hiccupThat is what my husband always says to me about hiccups, they always surprise you. It is also true in relationships, the hiccups and bumps surprise you.  Since it is a surprise when conflict occurs, you aren’t prepared ahead of time for what is coming your way and your response will be, how can I say this…unfiltered? What is in you will come out quicker than you realize. Then the bigger surprise may be that you can no longer hide the real you. The quick to judge, get angry and respond part of you is out in full glory before you know it. You know what I am talking about, the unrestrained response that causes you to cringe in hindsight. It was all a surprise.

There is a place of maturity that we all need to get to. You may or may not have arrived at this place, the truth is not only do you need to be there, but you need to help others arrive as well. The place where the fruit of our life is no longer in question every time the bumps of life come along, instead a grace filled moment of forgiveness fills the space.  Have you ever been more appreciative then when someone shows you unconditional grace in a moment that got the best of you? When someone says to you, “I know this isn’t how you wanted to react, let’s move on and believe for the good in each other.” We learned yesterday of one definition of grace; when God freely extends himself to us.

That is the example we are to operate in towards others, even in the midst of the hiccup, extend yourself toward someone else who may not be on their best behavior. Philippians 4:5 “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” I want to grow more in the surprise moments, how about you?

1 Peter 4:12 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

Look at this part of the scripture, ‘as though something strange were happening to you’, surprises are not unique to just you. When you begin to think that you are the only one dealing with bumps in life, your perspective becomes skewed and you miss the normalcy of it. Fight the urge to live with a victim mentality. When you deal with people, there will be bumps, don’t be surprised by it.

We are getting close to the weekend, thankful for a great week in the Word with you! This topic of forgiveness hits close to home for all of us. It is a tool that we need to have ready and in hand throughout our days.

I will close today with this thought: While we were on sabbatical Steve and I practiced this saying, “If it’s not a big deal, don’t make it a big deal.” Agreeing to use this as our code of conduct every day, saved us from getting knocked off center by the surprises along the way.  Enjoy your day, look for opportunities to sow seeds of kindness and grace in the middle of the hiccups that catch you by surprise!

Today’s worksheet: handout 9_26_2013

Love being in the Word with you!

Cheryl J

Posted in Forgiveness, Online Bible Study | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Speak grace to the mountain of forgiveness.

stone of graceWe are dwelling on the topic of forgiveness this week and I am reminded about a post I wrote several years while we were in the building process of our new campus. The compression was overwhelming to say the least, but during that season we did a bible study called “The Covenant” by James Garlow. One of the items in studying the New Covenant is the exchange of symbolic items; one in particular is the exchange of belts representing strengths or assets. Our weakness for God’s strength, our poverty for His glorious riches, who wouldn’t make that exchange? The key is all about being willing to walk in His strength and not your own. This is one of those discipline issues. Choosing to give yourself over to the one who holds all power, and relinquishing feeble control over areas of your life. This would be, and still is my lifetime battle.

The season of leading our church in a building program was relentless in shaping and refining my ability to walk in trust and faith, to really exchange my weakness and poverty for His strength and provision. It was amazing to watch the shaping taking place in so many hearts and lives of our church family. The growth of faith and standing firm for what God placed in their hearts was awesome.

One of the items from the bible study years ago that I continue to call on, was a deeper understanding of grace and it’s role in “strength”. In the study it gives a fuller definition, as “Grace, biblically understood, is God’s willingness to unleash His power on my behalf though I don’t deserve it.” (p.37) The biblical example comes from Zechariah 4:6,7 ““Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’”

The author summarizes it this way, “God is telling Zerubbabel to “speak grace” to a mountain. What does that mean? It means He’s going to partner with you. “Together we’ll bring this mountain down and make it a plain,” God says. (p.38) I love that, speaking grace to my battles, fears, weaknesses and areas of unforgiveness: grace.

Today I am reminded once again that God is willing to unleash His power on my behalf (by grace) to bring the mountains in my life down, as I exchange my weakness for His strength. You may be asking, what does all this have to do with forgiveness? Have you ever tried to walk out forgiveness without grace? If you are going to see forgiveness through, then you need God to unleash His power on your behalf (by grace) and bring the mountains of offense, hurt and pain down. You need to speak grace to the mountain where forgiveness is needed.

When the enemy taunts you with all the reasons why you shouldn’t offer forgiveness, bring the message of grace into the conversation. Whose grace? God’s grace! It isn’t something you have to make up, it is something you have the promise of in the exchange of covenant. Through covenant you are empowered to do all that God calls you to do!

Empowered to Forgive, Grace as an exchange!

Today’s worksheet: handout 9_25_2013

In the Word with You,

Cheryl J

Posted in Forgiveness, Online Bible Study | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Forgive, do you know what it means?

Screen shot 2013-09-23 at 10.47.17 PMColossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

I thought I knew the meaning of forgive until I took a closer look at it. I was sure it would say this; use the words “I forgive you”, be sincere, don’t carry an offense and then move on. You are not obligated to pick up the relationship immediately because new boundaries need to settle in for everyone’s health. Don’t carry anything negative forward, and never speak ill of the person who you had an offense with. There you have it, clean, tidy easy to wrap your head around.

But then….I took another look and what I found turned me upside down in my thinking! I looked up forgive in the dictionary of etymology and this is what I found:

Forgive: Old English forgiefan “give, grant, allow; forgive,” also “to give up”
The modern sense of “to give up desire or power to punish” is from use of the compound as a Germanic loan-translation of Latin perdonare , see pardon; Pardon: “passing over an offense without punishment”

Wow, I have been hit right between the eyes with this definition. To be truthful I have operated with a definition of ‘forgive’ that looks more like this; let it go, show grace, turn the other cheek, yeah we are ok. But this definition of ‘giving up the desire to punish’….that takes my breath. Even more it says ‘giving up the power to punish.’ It isn’t forgiveness if I still have the desire or power to punish you, what does that mean?  It means if I have still have you on a time out, then I am punishing you.  If I still desire to avoid you at all cost, then I am punishing both of us. If I have the power to influence others to not show you favor, I am in the wrong.  Anyone else feeling as if they are getting hit hard over the head and heart on this one?

Before you jump too far on this, let me say that I know not all relationships are to be restored, but to the best of our ability they are to be reconciled. Either directly with that person, but if not possible then through the path of reconciliation we have through Christ. Why is this reconciliation so important? If we don’t allow it to be reconciled in our spirit it will become a bitter seed with roots that will take hold of the very things we value the most. It won’t be evident right away, but over time it will creep up in our thoughts, conversations and behavior. Yes, it is for our benefit that we really understand what it means to forgive and how to really walk in it.

It is hard not to be totally humbled when you read from today’s scripture as it closes with this, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Really levels the ground doesn’t it? How did the Lord forgive me? Completely, without hesitancy, without me needing to defend myself or having to explain my position, He forgives it all. I am asking today for God to give each of us new seeds of forgiveness to plant into the lives around us; without explanation, no holding someone out at an arms length, just forgive because He forgives you, and He forgives me.

Today’s worksheet, If you haven’t done the downloads yet with this study, please do it today, you don’t want to miss it: handout 9_24_2013

In the Word with You,

Cheryl J

Posted in Forgiveness, Online Bible Study | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Who is Keeping Score?

scoreboardAre you a scorekeeper? The reason we keep score when we play games is the desire to know who is ahead, who the winner is at the end of the game. I can remember when our kids were small and they played T-ball. The first parent meeting would unveil the concept of “not keeping score’. It was such a joke because at every game parents were keeping score even though they weren’t supposed to. After every game, in the car on the way home the inevitable conversation would take place with your child about whether they really won or lost the game. Have you ever been a part of one of those games? No losers, everyone is a winner, everyone gets to play. The problem is that in our heart of hearts we know it isn’t true; there is a score, there is a winner, there is a loser, which is why we call it a game.

Somehow we have carried that same mindset into our spiritual walk as well. I love what Ecclesiastes 3:15 says: “Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.”

Forgiveness turns the scorecard over to someone who knows what the real score is: God-everything, Me-nothing. All our failures, faults and losses are taken over by our redeemer. He does a spiritual reset and changes it all. At the end of the day God has the final word, and His word for those who believe and receive is a simple yes. The score is settled at zero, our debt has been paid.

Palm 139:23,24

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting.” We are reminded here of four things by the voice of King David:

  1. Know my heart and test me.
  2. Know my anxious thoughts.
  3. See if there is any offensive way in me.
  4. Lead me in the way of everlasting.

The practice of these four processes eliminates your spiritual scorecard. It keeps our spirit in check with God’s spirit by constantly pruning us, removing things that hold us back and hinder the work of God in our lives.

Often times we use the scripture, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Can I challenge you with this thought today; If God is for you, then why are you against you? God will give you the supernatural seed of forgiveness that you need to apply to yourself. It is a daily practice to let go of our past, trust God with our redemption and walk out the forgiveness that has been appropriated for us by Christ. Forgive, forgiven, forgiveness; it all begins with Him and ends with Him and the scorecard, well He owns that too.

Be sure to download today’s worksheet: handout 9_23_2013

Posted in Forgiveness, Online Bible Study | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Stay in the Game!

cj golfHello Friday, how great it is that we have been in the word together this week! We have been focusing on keeping our spirit in tune with God’s spirit through some intentional choices and actions that we can incorporate throughout our day.

Since it is Friday, which is our day off, Steve and I talked about how we wanted to spend our day together. Many options where discussed, but with the weather about to change the option of golf won out. True confession: I am a terrible golfer, a hacker, my drives are only about 100 yards but they are straight. For every one of Steve’s drives it takes me two or three shots to equal the same distance, but I have a fun time being outdoors spending time with my husband doing something he enjoys. Steve has learned the secret to keeping me in the game even though I am not great at it; he constantly affirms me and tells me how much he loves having me there with him. Almost after every drive he will tell me how good I look out there hitting the ball, he never makes me score double the par, and if I am tired we switch over to a game of best ball and I play off his longer drives. It really is quite a brilliant method. He gets to golf, it qualifies as time spent together, and he is investing in our relationship by affirming me the whole time. It struck me today how God has done so much beyond what I would ever need to encourage me to stay engaged in my life lived before Him. “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” 2 Corinthians 9:8.  Although, it didn’t necessarily improve my golf game:)

Scripture tells us:

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Ephesians 1:7

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

God’s provision for our salvation, daily needs and even our affirmation, all taken care of by the one who knows exactly what we need.  To top it off, He thinks you look good while you are doing it!  “We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18. You look good as you reflect God’s glory!

Friends let’s wrap up this week of study with grateful hearts towards God, how he draws us, affirms us and showers us with His amazing grace! Praying for you as you prepare your hearts for our study next week, see you on Monday!
Today’s worksheet: handout 9_20_2013

In the Word with You,

Cheryl J

Posted in Online Bible Study, Presence | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

I am still with you

sleepPsalm 139:17, 18 “How precious to me are your thoughts, God!  How vast is the sum of them!  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand — when I awake, I am still with you.”

Have you ever gone to bed with a certain emotion swirling around in your spirit and when you wake up it is still fresh in your heart? This could be a good emotion or a bad one, but I find whatever my last thought is when I lay my head down at night is almost always going to be my first thought when I wake up in the morning. If I go to bed with anxiety, feeling perplexed about something or someone, it doesn’t escape me through the night. I find it first thing when I open my eyes. At the same time, when I fall asleep giving thanks I wake up with a heart of thanksgiving. Every morning I find whatever I leave behind every evening.  As the Psalmist said above, “When I awake, I am still with you”.  The notes in my study bible say this about this verse in scripture:
“The sleep of exhaustion overcomes every attempt to count Gods thoughts/works, and waking only floods my soul once more with the sense of the presence of God.”

How awesome would it be to wake up every day and have your soul flood with the sense of the presence of God? Is this something I can just decide to make happen, like maybe 7 steps to soul flooding? No, it is more than that, it is a retraining of my soul to seek the presence of God in such a way that is becomes my natural spiritual habitat, the place I daily live in.

One of the areas of my life that I am growing in right now is the awesome “Give Back” program that God has invited us to be a part of. Literally, throughout my day I am active in giving back to God the things I am not intended to carry. As I begin to feel overwhelmed by certain situations, or feel a burden regarding someone, I will verbally offer it up to God, “Lord, this situation that I am seeing right now, I give it back to you and offer it to you as an act of obedience and faith.” I also practice what is known as a breath prayer, a short sentence that I say in moments where I feel overwhelmed. The one that I have developed a habit of saying is this, “Lord Jesus help us.” Truthfully I say that one at least 20 times a day, you can ask my family and they can tell you that often times it is said at the kitchen sink as that tends to be a main thinking place for me:)

The great thing about being a part of the give back program with God is that it does two things for me; first it reminds me that I am not the keeper of lost things. Secondly, that I am putting things back in their proper place, God’s hands. Friends, this is a liberating practice…..but every now and then….I find something in my hand and heart that I know I had given back to God previously. If you find yourself in the same place, here is the answer. Give it back again and don’t berate yourself for finding it in your hand. Let it be a reminder to come back to the one who holds all things and trust Him with it all over again, and again, and again.

As we continue to focus on being WITH God and being attentive to His presence, let’s also practice giving it all back to Him. Praying you sleep well and when you wake your soul floods with God’s presence!

Todays worksheet: handout 9_19_2013

In the Word with You,

Cheryl J

Posted in Online Bible Study, Presence | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Being Present is a C.O.R.E. Issue

lake_washington_dock_croped A few years ago, while participating in a spiritual formations retreat, I became aware of how my posture towards God impacts how I perceive His presence. We had been given an assignment and were invited to seek a quiet place outdoors to consider, pray and wait for God to speak to us regarding a certain topic. I found my place at the end of this dock, on an overcast day that looked much like this picture. At the end of this dock was an Adirondack style rocking chair that I was perched in.  As I tried to engage my mind and not wander off on my mental to do list, I began to slowly rock in this chair. The rails of the rocking chair would catch at the angles against the slats of the dock causing a jerk in the rocking motion. I became aware of this jarring motion so I  adjusted my speed, changed my push off methods, moved myself in different positions to balance in my chair…it became a bit of a game to me to see how I could affect the rocking motion and see if I could make it rock smooth. Eventually I slowed the rocker to the point that if I held my feet up, crossed at the ankle I could get it to stand still on the edge of the slat and suspend itself mid-rock, just hanging there waiting to move one direction or the other. What I discovered next was that when I would ever so slightly tip my head to see how far my feet were off the ground it would break the delicate balance I had created and the chair would rock forward, ending the suspended posture. Before you think I am off my rocker, literally, here is what God spoke into my heart at this very unintended moment; I was looking at the wrong things. When I looked at my feet, I lost the delicate balance I was striving for, but when I kept my head up I could just sit there in that balanced place for as long as I wanted. It was all about my posture, keeping my eyes on the right things!

I was reminded that day that God wants me to be postured in a way that my eyes are on Him, not on the things that I am doing to keep my balance, truly He holds the key to my balance. If I keep my eyes on the One who saves me, then He really will save me from falling.

“The  Lord  makes firm the steps  of the one who delights in him;  though he may stumble, he will not fall,  for the  Lord  upholds him with his hand.” Psalm 37:24, NIV

God began to speak to me about my spiritual posture, I was slumping, easily discouraged, at times I could become stalled out in my walk because of the pressure points. One area of my posture that needed attention was my core, as I was sitting in the rocking chair that day God spoke to me about C.O.R.E. issues that needed my attention:

Consistently: I need to be consistent in being with Him. Psalm 119:16
Obeying: Obeying God is a non-negotiable, it is no longer a debate. Exodus 12:24
Restores: I have learned in a new way how only He can restore my soul. Psalm 23:3
Expectancy: Each time I walk in obedience it increases my faith for what is next. Psalm 5:3

My posture brings balance by bring C.O.R.E. strength to my spiritual walk. There is something powerful about the cyclical process of these C.O.R.E. truths, each step brings strength to the next step. Today in your worksheet you are going to have the opportunity to work on your core. What are the areas that God is speaking to you about that affect your posture before Him?

Today’s worksheet:  handout 9_18_2013

Love being at the well with you!

Posted in Forgiveness, Online Bible Study | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Bless the one you are WITH

Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 4.44.16 PMLet’s go another step in discussing the presence of God. Yesterday one of the scriptures that we looked at showed us how in the Old Testament God’s presence was the “Bread of presence”. Thinking about how God brings blessing of provision in our lives, when we are in His presence.

This was really brought home to me the other day when I was out shopping with my daughter. She was admiring something, but decided that she should put it back and not make the purchase because her budget was tight that month, good choice on her part. As I watched her put it back I thought, I would be happy to bless her with that, she gives so much in our relationship, what a great way to tell her how much I appreciate her and cheer her on. Then it hit me, my boys weren’t with me, and because of that I didn’t have the same opportunity to bless them (after reading this I am predicting they start inviting me on shopping adventures:) The truth is that it is easier to bless the one you are with, wait for it….the one who is with you get’s the blessing, even better, when we are together I look for ways to bless you.

In spiritual terms what does this look like? Scripture tells us “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” 2 Chronicles 16:9. They flow much easier from the hand of God into our lives when we are in tune with Him and when our lives are disciplined in ways to BE present with Him.

When I choose to be with someone I am saying that they are valuable to me, that this relationship is a priority, that it has meaning. I speak of it, plan for it, make space for it. I want to encourage you today to lean into the presence of God, make time for it, draw near, even in the silence He speaks to you!

In Lamentations 3:21-24 it says, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord ’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

Friends, He is my portion, He is my help, He is my fortress and I am reminded of all this and even more when I take the time to wait with Him.

Let’s start your work today by posting a scripture that speaks the language of who God is to you! I will post one myself to get the conversation rolling! I am so thankful that because of the Lord’s great love I have not been consumed, how about you?

Be sure to download today’s worksheet on the link here:  handout 9_17_2013

Posted in Online Bible Study, Presence | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

His Presence calls me to be Present

Fermo, Italy

“At the Well”  Fermo, Italy

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. Indeed, our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel.”

Psalm 89:15-17

I am starting this study today with this picture taken during our sabbatical while in Italy. This picture at the well symbolizes something the Lord spoke to me during our season of rest, regarding my time in His presence. In the most simplistic of terms it is this, “How can you ever expect to draw from my well if you don’t come near enough to lower your bucket into the source that is reserved for you?” Oversimplified? Maybe, but more than that it is simply true. God’s never ending resource, His very presence so near to me all the time, yet I miss the depth of it when I run parallel instead of intersecting the very promise of His presence. His presence calls me to BE present.

There are four areas of His presence that call a response from me:

1. His Presence is a Promise:

  • “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

2. His Presence is Purifying:

  • “When I kept silent (about his sin) my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” — and you forgave the guilt of my sin” Psalms 32:3-5

3. His Presence Protects:

  • “You hem me in behind and before,  and you lay your hand upon me.” Psalm 139:5

4. His Presence fills us with Peace and Joy:

  • “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalms 16:11

As you work through the worksheet that is attached, you will find ways to explore these truths for yourself. My prayer is that you will encounter God at the well of His word, and that each of us will be women at the well drawn into His presence.

handout 9_16_2013

In the Word with You,

Cheryl J

Posted in Online Bible Study, Presence | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bible Study Introduction: Fall 2013

Here we are, fall of 2013 and it is that time we come back together and lean into Bible study. We made an intentional choice as the women of Eastridge, to do a four-week online community study based on the journey we are in as a church and to lean into the specific word God is speaking to us collectively. We have laid down our season of coming together onsite for the common good of all to participate in our Seismic Life Groups and my hope is that we will each steward this opportunity to be a part of a group for 6 weeks (shameless plug, go to this link to sign up for a group to be a part of.)

I have prayed a lot about what this journey together is supposed to look like and the best summary I can give you is this: During our sabbatical this summer we took time to marvel at the gifts of God in our lives. We savored the beauty of nature, absorbed the truths of history and stood in awe as we put our feet in the place of historical truths. We had fun seeing nature at it’s best, I held a koala, fed a kangaroo and elephant, snorkeled with sea turtles. It was amazing and a journey I will never forget, but the most significant thing I did on this time was to hold my life up to the light of Christ and allowed who I am to be totally eclipsed by all that He is. That is the journey that I have been on and as I commit to continue to walk in His presence in a deeper way I invite you to journey with me.

Each weekday for the next four weeks I will be posting a devotional that will have a downloadable attachment for your personal use of Bible study and the tools to go deeper on a certain subject. As we each take the time to take the journey in the word it would be great to hear your voice as God speaks to you. Please feel free to comment, to share your journey, to walk the road together. Your voice is important; the transparency we walk in allows the light of Christ to be more relevant and visible to others.

I am looking forward to our online discussion and encouraging of one another. Are you ready? I am, but I confess to you the thought of, “what was I thinking?” is bouncing through my head as I make this first post. Thankful for the women around me who help create a safe place of growth for all of us! Please send this link on and invite your circle of friends and family to join us, the more voices, the greater impact we have on each other! Click here for today’s Bible study or go the Online Bible study tab, either way we are ready to go.

Posted in Online Bible Study | Leave a comment