Nourishing Your Spirit During the Holidays: Part 3

Nourishing Your Spirit During the Holidays: Part 3

We are created for connection with God. In fact, a meaningful relationship with Him is the only way to nourish the deepest parts of ourselves—our spirit. We recognize there’s a void within us—an empty hole that we can’t seem to fill with labor nor things nor distractions.

 

The God of the universe provided a way to solve this problem. We’re to abide, or remain, in Him. What does that mean? I’m so glad you asked!

 

In Part 1 of this blog series, we covered God dwelling among mankind through the Tabernacle in the wilderness. In Part 2, we examined the miracle of Christmas: God coming to earth as a man to walk among His children as Immanuel.

 

In case you missed it, you can read Part 1 here and review Part 2 here.

 

Perhaps the most beautiful illustration of abiding involves a vineyard. Jesus invites us to abide in Him the way a branch abides in a vine. Consider segments of John 15 from the Amplified version, below:

 

Nourish Your Spirit by Connection to the Vine

Perhaps the most beautiful illustration of abiding involves a vineyard. Jesus invites us to abide in Him the way a branch abides in a vine. Consider segments of John 15 from the Amplified version, below:

  1. 1-2 I am the true Vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit, He repeatedly prunes, so that it will bear more fruit—even richer and finer fruit.

 

  1. 4-5 Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit by itself without remaining in the vine, neither can you bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith, unless you remain in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for otherwise apart from Me (that is, cut off from vital union with Me), you can do nothing.

 

  1. 7-9 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you (that is, if we are vitally united and My message lives in your heart), ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified and honored by this, when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My true disciples. I have loved you just as the Father has loved Me; remain in my love and do not doubt My love for you.

 

  1. 11 I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.

 

 

It’s a lovely conceptual picture that translates into real life. Here’s an example that I hope will resonate:

 

Intentional Friendship

 

I have a dear friend that I rarely get to see. She lives in Alberta, Canada and I live in Colorado. She is a school teacher and when she comes for a visit she stays a long while. Sometimes 3 or 4 weeks. My family and I cherish every minute of it.

 

When she arrives, the house is neat and orderly. I’ve even moved the furniture to vacuum underneath. And when she leaves, we’re tripping over clutter and shoes and books and many of the things we’ve shared together and have not taken the time to put away. Because we’d rather enjoy each other’s company than tidy up.

 

This is abiding. It’s remaining.

 

It’s having my friend by my side for nearly everything. We do some sight-seeing, yes, but our favorite moments are sharing coffee or a meal. It’s the moments that we laugh and cry together and share our hearts and open every door of transparency to a trusted companion, even in the middle of the night. Those are the ones we cherish the most.

 

That’s what it means to abide in Christ. To be so connected that we carry Him with us everywhere.

 

But just like a relationship with a dear friend, abiding doesn’t happen by accident. It takes work. Intentionality. Investment.  I’ve known my friend since high school and she moved home to Calgary just after graduation. We stayed in touch through handwritten letters, pricey phone conversations and international travel. Later we connected by email and Facebook and text messages. We invested in our friendship and we made a determined effort to hold it close.

 

Nourishing Your Spirit Through Abiding

 

Abiding in Christ also requires devotion and consistency.

 

Abiding is NOT the practice of connecting with God for a time only to disconnect when stress and busyness invade my calendar. The Biblical picture of abiding portrays a branch that’s fused together with a vine. Its relationship is ongoing. Uninterrupted. Whole.

 

The sad truth is that my own habit of abiding can tend to waver. I’ve learned that when my routines are in place and I have a measure of control over my schedule, I am intentional about holding fast to Him. However, when my routine breaks for any reason, so, often, does my abiding connection with Christ.

 

I have to work hard to stay connected to Him, especially when life gets difficult.

 

We can’t abide in Jesus by accident. It’s like an uphill climb. We can’t coast. If we coast while going uphill, we begin to fall back.

 

I hope you’ll join me again for Part 4 of this blog series where we’ll discover some of the benefits to nourishing your spirit through abiding, and learn how, practically speaking, to abide in Christ.

 

Nourishing Your Spirit Part 3

 

Nourishing Your Spirit During the Holidays: Part 2

Nourishing Your Spirit During the Holidays: Part 2

We long for connection. The problem is, we’re so busy handling life, we rarely have time or energy to connect deeply with friends. And the daily chaos makes us neglect to nourish our spirits. We set aside our need to connect with God—the One with whom we’re designed to abide.

 

It doesn’t have to be that way. God makes a way to break through the din. He takes the action necessary to make abiding possible.

 

In Part 1 of this series, we caught a glimpse of the effort that our Holy God makes to stay in fellowship with us. After the original sin of Adam and Eve, God provided a blood sacrifice by covering Adam and Eve with animal skins. Much later, He ordained the construction of the Tabernacle so that He could dwell among the Israelites.

 

In case you missed it, click here to read Part 1 and discover the need to nourish your spirit.

 

By instructing the Israelites to build the Tabernacle in the wilderness, God made a way to reconnect with the people He loves. He established a system of sacrifices that would compensate for all the ways they missed the mark.  It was because of His love for people that He provided a way to connect and dwell together. We are created for connection with God, which stems from His love for us. For you. For me.

 

 

Celebrating Immanuel

 

Even in the days of Moses, the Lord knew that the system of animal sacrifices was not the complete answer. When the time had come, and because of God’s unwavering love for us, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to come into the world as a man and be the One to provide the blood offering that would cover the sins of all people (see John 3:16). We know that sin comes with a cost—death and eternal separation from God. But God sent Jesus who sacrificed His own life to close the separation (see Rom. 3:23).

 

This is what Christmas is about: Jesus coming to be with us and dwell among mankind. In Bible times, there was a prophet named Isaiah. He foretold the birth of Christ this way:  “The Virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel, which is translated God is with us” Matthew 1:23 (HCSB).

 

God sent His son, Jesus, to be God with us. To connect with us; to walk among us; to abide with us. And He named Him Immanuel which means God with us. This is why we have such great reason to celebrate the Christmas holiday.

 

God didn’t require that we clean ourselves up or stop sinning before He sent His son. No. The Bible teaches us that while we were drowning in sin, Jesus came to make a way to connect with our Holy God.

 

Nourishing Your Spirit by Filling the Void Within

 

Such a connection fills an empty void within us. It’s emptiness we feel—That hole inside of us that we just keep stuffing more into…

More . . .

clothes

shoes

apps for our phones

Netflix binging (or Disney+)

food

activities for our kids

coffee

degrees

nail art

vacations

work

income

donations

perfection

service

recognition

creativity

knowledge

courage

fun

control

unity

STOP!

 

None of those things are bad. Not one. But they’re not what fill us. That’s why we can never seem to get enough. We’re not truly hungry for these things; we’re hungry for Jesus. Only He fills the hole that God created inside of us. And only He can satisfy.

 

And our loving, heavenly Father sent Him to earth to dwell among us.

 

At the appointed time, Jesus gave His life on a cross. He laid down His life and shed His blood, and that would fully cover us when we were immersed in the death of sin. Jesus was buried in a tomb but rose again after three days. Death could not hold Him. He lives forever and invites us to join Him for all eternity, fully reconciled to our Holy God.

 

Jesus “Tabernacled”

 

In Bible times, there was a follower of Jesus named John who wrote to tell the world about the Savior. He called Him the Word of Life. John said that the Word became flesh and “Tabernacled” among us.

 

Do you remember that word? The Tabernacle was the structure the Israelites built in the wilderness so God could dwell among them.

 

Since John was Jewish, the best description came from His Jewish heritage. He used a Jewish noun to describe an ongoing action. Tabernacle means to dwell, reside. To take up residence. To occupy. To stay. To Abide.  Are you starting to get the picture?

 

In Part 3, we’ll take a practical look at abiding through the two illustrations, one that’s conceptual and one that’s practical and something we see every day.

 

I’ll meet you right back here when you read Part 3!

nourish Your Spirit

Nourishing Your Spirit During the Holidays: Part 1

Nourishing Your Spirit During the Holidays: Part 1

Our is a hungry society.  During a time of year when treats are rarely out of reach, it seems odd to say. But we’re not hungry for food or nourishment for our bodies. We’re hungry for connection and a way of nourishing our spirit.

 

We’ve all seen the unexpected effects of social media. We’re “friends” with hundreds and hundreds of people online, yet we’ve never felt so alone. If we do meet face-to-face for coffee or small groups, we fly in at the last minute, barely making it on time. Then we watch the clock the entire time we’re there. We rarely settle in to be present. Instead, our minds remain distracted by the tasks that await when we leave.

 

It can be hard to make new friends when we move at such a rapid pace. And it can feel even more difficult to keep friends when we let our busyness control our lives. Our feet hit a treadmill the moment we get out of bed and don’t stop till well after nightfall. Who has time for connection?

 

And then we add holiday festivities to the craziness.

 

The Cost of Holiday Craziness

 

Like most of us, I adore Christmas and the holiday season, even with its chaos. From Thanksgiving through New Year, so much points to Jesus and we have heartwarming reasons to celebrate. Our Lord came as Immanuel, entering the world to give His life so we can spend eternity with Him. The festivities draw loved ones to gather. We take in traditions and delicacies that come only once a year. The sights, smells, and generosity of the season often move me to tears.

 

But the stress!  The stress that stems from the busyness and overwhelming commitments gets the best of me. You know the drill… There are gifts to buy, treats to make, relatives to gather from the airport or a family to shuffle off to faraway destinations. While I adore my distant relatives, we don’t always see eye-to-eye and I find myself suppressing my ‘religious’ side so I don’t offend. I long for people to see the beauty and peace of Christ in me. Instead, in the busyness, they see a stressed-out and impatient hot mess.

 

It’s crazy to me how we can immerse ourselves with so much to do, so many people to see, and still carry a level of loneliness that makes us feel as if we live in Antarctica.

 

 Nourishing Your Spirit Through Connection

 

We feel lonely because we were created for connection. It was God’s idea from the beginning. That’s why we crave it so desperately. It’s why we feel so empty without it.

 

You and I were designed to connect within our communities, yes.  But we were created to connect first with God.

 

Since the beginning of mankind, God connected with His children. Following His creation of the world and mankind, God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

 

Now God is Holy. That means He’s perfect, without fault or blemish. It means He’s set apart—completely set apart from evil. When original sin happened, God could no longer fellowship with Adam and Eve. Because of His holiness, and because of their sin, He could no longer “hang out” with them.

 

What is Sin, Anyway?

 

You might find yourself asking, what is sin anyway? Simply stated, sin means missing the mark. In the Garden, Adam and Eve ate some fruit. It’s not like they ate processed carbs or sugar. They ate fruit, which is supposed to be good for us. The act seems so insignificant, but it was fruit God had specifically instructed them not to eat. They missed the mark and caused a devastating chasm of separation between them and God.

 

The Bible teaches us that sin brings death, but that there is life in blood. As strange as it sounds to us now, only by a covering of blood can God continue to fellowship with sinful people. There in the Garden of Eden, God provided the first blood offering to make amends for the sins of Adam and Eve. He made garments of animal skin to clothe them. God did that. He did all the work necessary to reconcile.

 

But because of Adam’s sin, all people are born with a sinful nature. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Separation from God continues to this day.

 

Why a Tabernacle?

 

In the book of Exodus, God took reconciliation another step. He commanded Moses to lead the Israelites to build what was called a Tabernacle. It was a huge, elaborate and ornate tent — essentially a building in early Bible times. God said to Moses “They are to make a sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them” (Ex 25:8).

 

Catch that — God was separated from mankind because of their sin, but still loved them so much He desired to abide with them.  That depth of love carries into our own lives today. Our sin separates us from God, but He provides a way to reconcile. He provides a way to connect and allow us to abide with Him both now and throughout eternity.

 

In the next post in the series, see the extent of God’s effort to reconcile with His beloved children—that’s you and me!

 

We long to nourish our spirit through connection. We’re hungry, but we don’t have to stay that way. The God of the universe desires to dwell in our hearts. When He does, we are never alone. When we connect with God in the way that He designed from the beginning, we nourish our spirit and can embrace a level of joy that is unshakeable in any circumstance.

 

I can’t wait to share more with you! Read the next post in the series here.

 

Nourish Your Spirit

Wisdom From the Vineyard

Wisdom From the Vineyard

My father-in-law is a viticulturist.

 

In other words, he grows grapes. The vineyard he planted is among fertile fields of northern California, surrounded by miles of thriving nut orchards. My husband and I love to visit, taking time to quiet our hearts and nourish our souls in the scenic farmland. Sometimes, while walking through the property we jokingly caution, “don’t drop a bean, or a beanstalk will sprout and climb to the clouds!”

 

When we return home, we find an opposite-world. We consider our Colorado property a small slice of paradise but compared to the lush greenery of our “California home” our residence resembles more of a desert. Ours was among the first divided parcels and new home construction in a once-rural area more than 50 years ago. I reason that a farmer sold the least fertile ground first. That’s where we live.

 

Wisdom from the Vineyard

 

When it comes to developing a green thumb, I study and try to learn as much as I can from my in-laws. My mother-in-law sends me seeds harvested from her own gardens. Some years when I plant them, they surprise me with stems and leaves and flowers. Other years late freezes add to my gardening struggles, or pesky weeds take over.

 

My father-in-law freely shares the wisdom and knowledge he’s acquired as he’s learned the craft of vine dressing: careful cultivating, nourishing the vines, and most importantly, thoughtful and meticulous pruning.

 

Nourishing our Spirits

 

The lessons we’ve learned from our time in the vineyard go far beyond agricultural and point us to the spiritual, too. Biblical references to pruning and tending vines reach deeply into our lives. They encourage us to nourish and care for our spirits by staying closely connected to our Source of sustenance, Jesus. That’s the place where we find unshakeable joy.

 

I’ve written a blog post for the Joyful Life Magazine to share more about what I’ve learned that the wisdom I’ve gleaned from the vineyard. I invite you to read the entire post here at JoyfulLifeMagazine.com.

 

Read the full post here.

 

May you find strength and joy in the Lord today.

 

Blessings,

 

 

 

 

 

Wisdom from the Vineyard

How Dating Can Transform Your Marriage

How Dating Can Transform Your Marriage

If you’re married, you’re going to make relational mistakes. You’ll say the wrong thing. Maybe you’ll sigh at the wrong time, or hold your eyebrows in the wrong expression, or worse. However it comes about, there is 100% certainty that you’ll disappoint your spouse. Since no marriage nor individual is perfect, disappointment is inevitable.

 

The good news is, we can quickly overcome these times of disappointment if a marriage receives proper care and focus.  Then, we can more quickly set aside suspicious or selfish thoughts with the assurance that there’s no ill-intent involved.  On the other hand, when TLC of marriage is neglected, challenging times can seem nearly impossible to conquer.

 

I’ve seen too many of what appear as unbreakable relationships (marriages, friendships, and family relationships) crumble from lack of attention. The hard reality is, we can’t strengthen a relationship while simultaneously neglecting it. No relationship is protected from breaking down without intentional effort to build it up.

 

When Schedules Don’t Mesh

 

One of the most memorable seasons of neglect in our marriage came as we lived through shift work. As a patrol deputy, Mike rotated onto an annual 4-month period of swing shift (5 pm – 3 am) and our schedules were completely opposite from one another.  That’s tough on a young family, yet typical in law enforcement lives.

 

When I’d get up for work, he was just reaching his deep sleep zone, so it was me, alone, getting myself and the kids ready to face the day.

 

I’d arrive home from work after he was gone for the night. It was me, alone, picking up kids from their caregivers, preparing dinner (often resorting to drive through), helping with homework, and getting ready for bed.

 

Much of the time I felt like a single mom. It wasn’t fun, but we knew it was temporary so we determined to muddle through. We had amazing kids, great careers, and above-average income. We had good friends who shared at least one evening a week with us. Truly, we believed we’d “arrived.”

 

We didn’t know we needed to take time,

just the two of us,

to cultivate our marriage.

And so we didn’t.

 

The more time we spent disconnected from each other, the more selfish my thought life became. Selfish thoughts bred more selfish thoughts that worked in opposition to a healthy married life.

 

And then, some of those relational mistakes hit us. Some big ones. While we used to easily talking things out, the neglect of our relationship had weakened our trust. We weren’t communicating effectively and had each become too self-centered. We needed to discover how dating could transform our marriage.

 

It took us several years to get back on track.  We had to make some significant change, letting go of things we valued in order to protect what we valued most. Eventually, with the Lord’s help we brought friendship, trust and balance back to our marriage. If I can name one thing—in addition to prayer—that had a monumental impact, it was prioritizing our date nights.

It can sound so “high-school” to say we’re dating our spouse. But consider the history of your own relationship. When did you get to know your spouse? Did you have one 10-minute conversation over coffee and realize this was true love? Was a quick hello and kiss on the cheek enough to develop a longing for life-long commitment? We get to know each other by spending time together. By talking, laughing, planning and even dreaming together.

 

Saying “I Do” shouldn’t mark the end

of a dating relationship,

but the promise to continue it.

 

No More Excuses

 

Sadly, dating our spouse is one of the first things that ends when the honeymoon is over. Pressures of life (careers, kids, finances, and many others) often distract us from prioritizing marriage. The reasons for NOT dating are many:

 

  • I see him /her all the time.  I need some “me” time.
  • We don’t have a good baby sitter.
  • We feel guilty for leaving the kids after working all day.
  • Who has time for a date?
  • Cash flow is too tight for entertainment.

 

 

These are valid concerns, but also easy to overcome. The value of dating is not entertainment, it’s the investment of time into our relationships. It’s growing closer in friendship, trust, and communication. It’s the process of showing that you value and esteem each other.

 

How Dating Can Transform Your Marriage

 

After years of a very rough road in our marriage, a breakthrough came when we learned to laugh together again. We considered ourselves friends anew and romance sparked from there.

 

Dating remains one of our go-to marriage solutions. When communication begins to misfire (and it still does), we carve out time to spend alone. Our schedules remain untraditional and hard to manage, so we get creative with our time.

 

We meet for breakfast or sit outside to share morning coffee. We squeeze in lunch together whenever possible.  A date can look like dinner out or a few hands of a card game at our kitchen table and can occur at any time of day or night. When Mike isn’t due home until very late in the evening, I take a short nap during the day so I’ll have the energy to spend time with him. Part of the fun of dating is finding inventive ways to sneak away together.

 

Dating is transformational. It reconnects us. Investing time in each other breaks down any walls of ill assumptions. It helps us re-center our focus on what matters most: God and our family.  If Mike and I weren’t willing to continually invest in strengthening trust and connection, we’d have given up long ago. Instead, a series of dates helped (and continues to help) change our thought patterns and transform our marriage. I believe that with the right mindset and a focus on honoring the Lord, dating is effective enough to bring positive strides in any marriage.

 

I encourage you to get creative and break down the barriers that have quenched your old dating habits. Schedule a date night and spend some time laughing and connecting with your spouse. You’ll find the investment will pay priceless dividends.

May you find God’s joy in your marriage,

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving Infidelity in Marriage

Surviving Infidelity in Marriage

Adultery is something that happens to other people. I never dreamed that it would find its way into our marriage story.

I certainly never imagined that it could be me who stumbled.

In spite of early convictions to never stray, I’d misjudged the strength of the enemy of our souls who constantly prowls. He moves with stealth precision, looking for someone to devour, for unsuspecting souls who think they’re immune to temptation.

I gave him an easy target.

He pounced.

I fell.

That was over a quarter century ago. By the grace of God, our marriage survived. In fact, it did more than survive, it has thrived and provided my husband, Mike and I with more than three decades of strength, joy, satisfaction, and partnership.

Surviving Infidelity in Marriage

In one of the most miserable seasons of my life, I’d lost all hope for our marriage and asked Mike to move out of our home. He obliged. The pain of separation was colossal, bringing a hollow emptiness where despair ricocheted rampantly.

God met us there, in those long weeks of anguish.

Alone in separate beds, without the other knowing, we each turned to prayer. I was untrained and uncomfortable in intercession. Mike was rusty at best. But in the dark of night, we cried out, asking God for His direction and help. We prayed for our marriage, for each other, and for healing within our own hearts.

When we mustered courage to look into each other’s eyes, we recognized that neither of us were ready to call it quits. Over the weeks and months that followed, the Lord helped us re-establish a friendship and even find laughter. We began attending church and responding to our Savior as He drew us closer to Himself.

Eventually, we started to feel safe in each other’s presence. Our cracked foundation of trust was gradually mended by rekindled companionship and devotion.

Confessing the Secret

But I still held a secret that threatened to destroy it again in an instant. The affair had been over for years by this time, but God was actively pressing in, bringing conviction and prompting me to confess.

Today Mike and I share our story in the #IStillDo marriage series, Contending for the Covenant. It’s a truly remarkable collection of hope and encouragement for marriage. I hope you’ll take the time to read about our journey and many others who have flourished through the fiery trials of marriage.

Click here to read our story.

May God’s Word strengthen you today,

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