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    Quiet Corner for Spiritual Formation

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    WedWednesdayFebFebruary8th2017 Listen
    byTresia D. Eaves, MHR, PMP Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Listen

    By Tresia D. Eaves, MHR, PMP

    Since 2017 was born, I’ve been quiet. Not while I was at Times Square as we watched the ball drop and celebrating with 2 million other Americans, but this revelation started New Year’s Day. As I endeavored to find my focus for this year, the only word I kept hearing was “listen” and so I am trying to do just that. I’ve participated less in social media, watched less TV, and tried to do less of everything to make room for listening. I have tried to assume a quiet voice (which for those who knows me, understand this is no small feat) at work, in class, and with my family. I have tried to have less anxiety and fewer expectations for myself, my family, and others and I’m doing more listening. As I pray about what God wants for me in this new year, I feel compelled to listen more, to listen with more concentration than ever before, listen for what I’ve missed, and to listen to others more. As I get older, I feel that life is becoming less about “me” and “mine” and more about “Him” and “His” and this switch is happening over many years, as our children grow and leave home but I find I understand the changes more when I listen.

    I just started my second semester of my doctorate and I am being asked pretty regularly now what my dissertation will be about. Listening to experts, professors, and my fellow classmates is the key to me being able to figure out how I want to finish this important project. My career is in a good place where I really enjoy what I’m doing, I respect and connect with my bosses, coworkers, and clients and I know how to be successful in this role. My family is in a good place. Where I feel a bit lapsed is in my spiritual life so my conscious intention is to listen more and actively search for Him to help me continue to grow. My prayers have not slowed but are more intent toward growing closer to God.

    A few weeks ago some things happened around me where I felt very much on the outside looking in…instead of reacting the way I always have when things like this happen, by running to loved ones or close friends for reassurances, I just stayed quiet and listened. No strong emotions rose up to defend myself or try to assuage my insecurities…I was quiet and thought, “It’s not about me” and moved on. There are often those reminders through media that everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. When I listen, I can hear that now rather than before, it was more about convincing someone to love me, accept me or stay close to me. When God fills you up and you walk hand-in-hand with Jesus, you don’t need all that outside acceptance so much. It has taken me so long to learn this critical lesson.

    This past week, I was asked to step-in for a sick teacher in a 5th grade Sunday School class and the discussion was about the Last Supper and about how Jesus behaved and what He said in those last hours of His earthly life. I listened to these children and their thoughts about what was said by Jesus and the disciples and after many minutes, I was moved to ask a question that I continue to struggle with: Why did Jesus have to be the sacrifice to bridge us to God and secure our forgiveness? And then I listened. The other teachers immediately said, “Wow, that’s a good question…I have no idea!” The kids however said the wisest words…through each of their mouths came the following: “Jesus had to be the sacrifice because he was as pure as the baby lamb they had to offer before…he was the perfect way for God to know us and to build the forever bridge over our sins to Him.” I was meant to be in that class…it was sacred ground and I was meant to listen.

    To make us more effective in our earthly lives, you should know that mindfulness has been proven to reduce stress and extend the physical quality of your life. [UCLA Newsroom, 2009] Mindfulness can include spending a few minutes a day in concentrated prayer, meditation, or solitude thinking about a particular word, smell or vision. There is a group of FUMC Grapevine women who are in the midst of the “plank challenge” during this early part of 2017. This challenge involves us attempting to hold a plank for an increasing period of time and pray while we do it…I don’t consider this my mindfulness time each day as I have to work hard after about 60 seconds to hold my core in place for the plank! Not to mention, I also find my life much more peaceful when I don’t do so much multi-tasking. You can ask any of our kids where their Attention Deficit Disorders originate and they are absolutely sure they come from our genes but as we get older, I see us evolving: overcoming our easily distracted, busy selves and becoming more of what we are becoming, more of who He wants us to be. This verse speaks to me on this topic and I hope it speaks to you:
    Mark 4:24: And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure that you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.”
    WedWednesdayJanJanuary25th2017 How Do You Know?
    byLorie Payne Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    Reprinted with permission from the Thinking Out Loud blog.

    How do you know when God is leading you towards something or away from something?  How do you know it's not just your thoughts?  How do you know it's not just someone else's thoughts?  How do you know?  There have been many times when God has led me to or away from something or someone, and I knew it without a doubt.  I just did.  But then there have been times....especially over the last couple of years....where I felt led, but I was not sure if it's God.  

    Years ago, one of my lifelong friends told me that she knows it's God when it's something uncomfortable.  I would have to agree with that as well.  But what if you feel pretty certain that it's God leading, because it's something uncomfortable, situations have arisen that clearly show you that it's Him, and you also have a huge sense of peace about it; BUT....the other people involved do not feel led?  Then what?  This is the situation I have found myself in over the last few years.  

    I used to pray that God would intervene on my behalf.  In other words, I would ask Him to show them my ways.  It was such a huge struggle in my head and heart when He wasn't doing that, and they weren't coming around to my way of thinking.  In the last few months, I have started praying differently.  And although I still feel the nudge and the struggle, I also feel peace when the answer is still WAIT!  

    How did my prayers change?  Instead of praying for God to change other people's minds and hearts, I asked Him to change mine.  I also asked Him to make sure that I am still acutely aware of this calling that I have felt, and that I do not dismiss it; but instead understand that it is a time of waiting.  I've asked God to allow all involved to feel this nudge if it was His will.  

    Honestly at first, there was no change at all.  But slowly I can see it, and slowly we are making our way towards it.  It's still a time of waiting, but the signs that this calling is from God is becoming more and more evident to all of us involved.  I know that He doesn't want me to embark on this journey alone, so I will continue to pray that we all feel it and are obedient...especially when it's hard and uncomfortable and while we wait. Thanks Be To God!
    WedWednesdayJanJanuary11th2017 Simplicity
    byFred Rigdon Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    "God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated." (Ecclesiastes 7:29 GNT)

    Austen Farrer, an English theologian and philosopher, once said, “Do you want to bear fruit for God? Simplify your life, do fewer things and do them well.” He was talking about our tendency to let distractions get in the way of our relationship with God. Too often, we complicate our lives by acquiring more than we need to, whether material goods, activities, or relationships. When we spend our lives doing things that keep us busy but don’t really matter we sacrifice the things that do. This causes us to put too much of our efforts in the wrong place.

    Simplifying our lives can lead us to better serve God. A lifestyle of simplicity means acquiring only that which is necessary to meet our needs and focusing our attention on God rather than on our desire for luxury and status. The less we acquire the simpler our lives will be. More possessions mean more time and effort and worry to take care of them. 

    God wants to be at the center of our lives. Worrying about our acquisitions is a sign that something has taken over our lives that is not God. 

    As Ray Simpson said in A Pilgrim’s Way: “When we find our well-being in God we no longer need to find our identity in acquiring and hoarding things.  Uncluttered in our spirits, we remove clutter from our rooms.”

    WedWednesdayDecDecember28th2016 What 2016 Taught Me
    byAddi Payne Tagged No tags 2 comments Add comment
    Reprinted with permission from Addi Payne's blog at addipayne.blogspot.com.

    Here is a taste of what I learned this year. I hope you enjoy!

    Time heals wounds; 2015 came with a lot of hurt and heartache, but 2016 has been a time of healing. This year has given me time to reflect and learn more about who I am and who I want to become. I am grateful for the time I've had to grow and become a better person.

    Be nice to yourself- talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone you love, for self doubt will be your creative downfall. 

    It's okay to say "no". It's okay to set boundaries. If you are uncomfortable or flat-out don't want to do something, you don't have to. It's not against the law to do something for yourself and no one is going to hate you for saying "no".
    Pay more attention to your thoughts. What you're thinking is what you're attracting. Everything begins and ends in your mind and what you give power to has power over you. 

    Focusing on the negative destroys the positive. No one likes a "Debbie Downer", and if you're that person, try and transform your thoughts into something positive. It may be easier said than done, but it can happen. I oftentimes found myself focusing too much on the negative things in life, so I made a list of 100 things that make me happy, and I became more aware of my surroundings and opened my eyes to see how blessed I am to have this life.

    Breathe in the future, breathe out the past, and don't be afraid of change. Some things will never be how they used to be, and that's okay. The only thing you can do is move on, and live in the present. You don't have time to waste worrying about the past or even the future; trust that God has a plan and that everything will be okay. After all, sometimes you will lose something good and gain something even better. "To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist. That is all." -Oscar Wilde

    There's always something coming; good or bad. It's going to force you to grow, and in the midst of your struggles, you will find a reason to keep going. It take a lot of courage to push through hard times, but never give up, good things are coming your way.

    Acceptance of yourself is far more important than acceptance from others. Don't ever change to impress someone. Change because it makes you a better person and leads you to a better future.

    If an opportunity doesn't exist, create it. I have seen this a lot in my parents. They inspire me everyday to be a better person, and watching them chase their dreams is a big part of that. They create opportunities not only for themselves, but for others to learn and grow in amazing ways. 

    What you see in other people is a reflection of yourself. You can choose to be kind or you can choose to be hateful; there's no in-between.

    The most beautiful things in life are moments and feelings. You might not always remember the whole experience, but you will remember how you felt in that very moment- and that's all that matters. 

    Your feelings are always valid and you can take as much time as you need to heal. Don't let anyone make you feel wrong for being disappointed, upset, joyous, anything... you have the right to feel so you need to feel. Feelings are important. 

    You can't find happiness in other people. In high school especially, I always found myself depending on other people to make me happy. When someone let me down or didn't live up to my expectations, it seemed like the end of the world. It took me a while to realize that the only person who can truly make me happy is myself and that I can't get that from someone else. 

    Family is everything. There was a period in my life where I always chose my friends over my family. I would blow off plans I had with my sisters when a better offer from a friend came along. Something very important I've learned is that my sisters won't be the same age forever, and neither will I. One of the main reasons I chose to stay close to home for college was because I didn't want to miss watching my siblings grow up. Getting time to watch them grow into such beautiful young people has been such a blessing, and they have given me some of the most precious memories that I will treasure always. 

    If you're not happy now, just know that it's never too late to start over. 

    2016 has had it's ups and downs, but it's definitely been a year of growth and positivity. 2015 was a very rough year for me, and this year has been so much better. I had opportunities to travel to new places, experience new things, and to enjoy the small moments. Sometimes going to your favorite coffee shop with a good friend can be just as fun as traveling the world- it's all how you choose to look at it. 

    Be thankful for today because in one moment, your entire life could change.
    WedWednesdayDecDecember21st2016 Jesus Is The Reason...
    byLorie Payne Tagged No tags 2 comments Add comment
    Reprinted from the Thinking Out Loud Blog with permission.

    Jesus Is The Reason For The Season...All Four Of Them!!

    I am not a big fan of the Christmas season. If you have read my blog for a while or know me personally, you probably already know this. I love Jesus, and I love birthdays; so Jesus' birthday is simply the brightest day of the year for me. However for years, I've struggled with the true reason for Christmas being lost somewhere in all the hustle and bustle. I am self admittedly overwhelmed by busyness. There are so many wonderfully good things to do this time of year, and it can be so hard to say no....especially when you live smack dab in the middle of "The Christmas Capital of Texas". But over the years, saying no has been the best thing we've done, in many aspects of life, but especially during Advent. If I'm completely honest, I must admit that I've never been that into Christmas...even as a child. I was terrified of Santa, and the thought of him coming into the house was more terrifying than exciting. I never jumped up on Christmas morning to rush in and see what Santa left under the tree. I always waited cautiously for my parents to come lead me into the living room, because I didn't want to accidentally run into SC. The overall expectations during the holiday season were always stressful for me, and the focus was always on doing and going. In my childhood home, we really didn't talk about Jesus being the reason for the season. My parents were CEO church goers aka Christmas and Easter only, but we rarely did we ever go on Christmas. I guess that makes them EO church goers. In total contrast to my lack luster feelings surrounding Christmas, my mama loved Christmas. She loved everything about it: the gift giving, the decorating, the tree was probably her favorite (it always had to be flocked); and of course Santa. We went to visit Santa every year as long as I can remember, although I really didn't have any desire to do so. I actually stopped believing in Santa in about 2nd grade, and I was honestly relieved. When I was a teen, my dad, who was not as into Christmas as my mama, but was sort of a long for the ride; told me a story about a childhood memory of his at Christmas. He was the second youngest of 8 in a very poor family, and his mama had died when he was 23; and I was one. I never knew her. One Christmas when he was a little boy and anxiously awaiting the arrival of Santa, his parents gathered their children on Christmas morning to tell them that Santa wasn't able to come; because he just couldn't see their little tiny house. It was just too dark, and he just flew right over it. My dad was very matter of fact when he told me that story, but I could see the impact that particular Christmas had had on him. He never told me any other stories about Christmas from his childhood. Although the disappointment of not having a gift from Santa may have passed, I think it was eventually replaced with the realization that his parents just didn't have the money to buy their children anything for Christmas. That story has always resonated deeply within my heart and soul, and I'll never forget the look in his eyes when he told it. Years later when I was a new young mother with a few small children, I vividly remember a conversation I had with my mama. We were discussing the holidays and the things we were committed to, things she and my dad were committed to, and things we were planning to do together. I had been very intentional on trying to keep things minimal as I was already self admittedly overwhelmed by busyness and now had added children to the mix. Honestly my kids didn't need another thing to do or play with either. As I was listing the few things we were planning to enjoy as a family, one of them was church on Christmas Eve. I remember her saying, "You spend too much time at church. When are we going to open gifts? Have you taken the kids to see Santa?" After a few attempts in years prior, which resulted in terrified children in tears, I really didn't have a visit to Santa in my plans. I had sort of figured if we were out and about and saw Santa somewhere, maybe we would attempt to sit in his lap again. If it worked out great, if it didn't; oh well. But when she asked me about Santa, I remember thinking...hmmmm...I guess I should ask them if they want to go see Santa instead of assuming they don't. I simply replied with, "No we haven't made it to see Santa. I'm not sure if we will try it this year or not". As we hung up the phone, her words lingered in my mind for days. Did we spend too much time at church? Is there such a thing as too much time at church? I was working in the nursery then and also at the preschool, so we did spend a lot of time at church. For the next week or so, I watched my children every time we went to church to see if they seemed like they had "too much church". Lo and behold, they didn't. They actually seemed very happy at church. I asked them if they wanted to go see Santa, lo and behold they didn't....not even a little bit.


    I have thought back on my childhood a lot in recent years, and oddly I did love many things about Christmas. As a child, my favorite part of Christmas was the time we spent at my grandparents' farm in west Texas. We didn't go every year, but we did go often. I was an only child and both of my parents' families lived in the same small town in west Texas. My mamaw was the one who taught me about Jesus and about why we celebrate Christmas. Maybe it was her simple and gentle demeanor, or maybe it was her lovingly confident way she always spoke; but I loved listening to her talk about her faith. It was something that I longed for as a little girl....that joy, that confidence, that kind of relationship. My mamaw and papaw had a tiny table top Christmas tree every year. It was silver with a few decorations on it, and it was one of my favorite things in the whole world. It was simple and gentle like she was. Doing Christmas up big is amazing, and I have done it up big many times. I admire those who decorate to the max. I think it's beautiful, and my eyes thank you for it. But for me at this stage in life, it's something I said no to a long time ago. Someday we may deck the halls to the max once again, but for now; this is how we roll. I donated most of my decorations a few years ago, and I let my children utilize what we have left if they choose to. We have a simply decorated tree, our stockings; and we hang up our Christmas cards. Anything extra is up to them. As for my mama, she was raised a Christian; and she believed in the birth of Jesus. Due to some other circumstances in her life, she didn't regularly attend church for most of her adult life; but she was always a believer. My mama was a wonderfully generous soul. She loved giving and serving and did so with such joy, and she loved her family. Deep down inside she knew faith and works go hand in hand. As my family grew, and my children grew; she saw how important our church family was to us and them. As a result, she grew deeply in her faith and restored her relationship with Jesus. Later in life, she always looked forward to attending Christmas Eve church service with us when her health allowed. 

    My grandmother's faith was instrumental in influencing my own faith. Her utmost love for Jesus and the joy that lived inside her because of Him was definitely one of the reasons I wanted my children to love going to church. I know many Christians who don't attend church, who are strong in their relationship with the Lord; and I know that attending church doesn't define someone as a person of faith. For me, it was the best place to start to learn and grow in my own relationship. Isn't it wonderful how God works...my mother's mother was my biggest spiritual influence as a child, which in turn guided me to want my children to grow spiritually, and all circled around when my children's spiritual growth had such an impact on my own mother. God is always working. He is always bringing something good out of every circumstance. We still spend a lot of time at church during Advent, and there are so many things I love about Advent. We also spend a lot of time at church throughout the rest of the year, because really, when you think about it....Jesus is the reason for the season....all 4 of them!
     
    Quiet Corner for Spiritual Formationby If you’re looking for ways to build your personal spiritual muscles, Spiritual Formation is meant for you. Periodic class offerings and blog posts help individuals with their personal “soul tending” and provide guidance in areas like prayer, meditation, fasting, solitude, study and other spiritual disciplines. A new entry will be posted on Wednesday of each week.
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