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    Quiet Corner for Spiritual Formation

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    WedWednesdayMarMarch22nd2017 Creative Lenten Practice
    byAddi Payne Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    Growing up, I always thought that Lent was about "giving up" something whether it be candy or soda, etc., but as I grew up I discovered what "taking something on" meant. This Lenten season, I decided to be more intentional in my scriptures. Everyday I've been choosing a new scripture to focus on and pray over. I really love this journaling Bible, because I can incorporate something I'm very passionate about (art) into my faith. I have definitely had a rough past couple of years, but through all of this; I've learned that God's love will not fail. He will be with me through all of my fears and failures. His love extends to the heavens and His faithfulness reaches the skies. I am amazed every day by His grace, and I cannot wait to see how this season will change my perspective and grow my faith even more. 
    WedWednesdayMarMarch8th2017 Gideon’s Transformation
    byFred Rigdon Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    Gideon’s Transformation

    One of the purposes of our spiritual formation practices is to help God transform us so that we can serve His purpose when He calls us. Sometimes His call will make us uncomfortable and even fearful. We may try to resist His call because we worry that we do not have the ability or the courage to do what He is asking us to do. We think that surely He can find someone better qualified than us for the job. This is when we need to remember that He will not ask us to do anything that we cannot and that we must rely on our faith that He will supply us with whatever we lack ourselves. 

    A good example to learn from is Gideon, a timid wheat farmer who doubted God’s call to lead an Israelite army and drive out enemy invaders. God transformed him from a cowardly man of weak faith to a courageous warrior who trusted the Lord to deliver the Israelites a great victory. Gideon was transformed to serve God’s purpose. 

    Some years after God has led the Israelites from Egypt and they have settled in Canaan, a powerful tribe called the Midianites invade their territory. Whenever the Israelites plant their crops the Midianites ravage the land, leaving nothing for the Israelites. After years of impoverishment and living in fear in caves in the mountains, the Israelites call out to God to rescue them.

    In response, God calls Gideon to drive out the Midianites. He sends a messenger to Gideon, who is threshing wheat in a winepress to hide it from the Midianites. Normally the threshing, which consists of throwing the wheat up in the air so that the breeze will blow away the chaff, was done outside, but Gideon is so fearful of the Midianites that he is doing the threshing indoors in the winepress. The messenger appears to Gideon and tells him, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior! (Judges 6:12). You have strength so go and rescue Israel from the power of Midian. Am I not personally sending you?” (v. 14). 

    However, at this point Gideon’s fear is stronger than his faith, and he understandably doubts his calling. After hiding in fear of the Midianites how can God now be calling him a “mighty warrior”? He is just a wheat farmer, not a soldier. He pleads that his clan is weak and that he is the youngest in his household. He asks for a sign that it is really God that is speaking to him. Gideon then prepares an offering of meat and bread and places it on a rock. The Lord’s messenger touches the meat and the bread with the tip of his staff and fire comes up from the rock and devours the offering, and the messenger vanishes before Gideon’s eyes. Gideon is convinced that God is speaking to him but he is still fearful of confronting the Midianites.

    Even after assembling a large number of soldiers from his own and surrounding tribes to attack the Midianites, Gideon still cannot believe that God really intends to rescue Israel through him. Although God’s spirit had come upon him to assure his victory, Gideon’s faith is still lacking and he asks to see another sign: “I’m now putting a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece but all the ground is dry, then I’ll know that you are going to rescue Israel through me, as you have declared.” (Judges 6:37). The next morning Gideon wrings enough dew out of the fleece to fill a bowl with water.

     Instead of gaining confidence that God will provide His power to deliver a great victory over the invaders, Gideon asks for another sign: “Don’t be angry with me, but let me speak just one more time. Please let me make just one more test with the fleece; now let only the fleece be dry and let dew be on all the ground.” (Judges 6:39). The next morning, Gideon finds a dry fleece on wet ground.

     Gideon’s force consists of thirty-two thousand soldiers, considerably smaller than the Midianite army camped in a valley just to the north. But the Lord tells Gideon that his force is too big: “If I were to hand Midian over to them, the Israelites might claim credit for themselves rather than for Me, thinking, ‘We saved ourselves.’ So now, announce in the people’s hearing, ‘Anyone who is afraid or unsteady may return home from Gideon’s mountain.’ ” (Judges 7:2-3). Even more fearful of the enemy than Gideon is, twenty-two thousand people leave.

    But the remaining ten thousand are still too many to suit God’s purpose, so He helps Gideon weed out more by taking them to the water. Most of the men get down on their knees to drink but three hundred drink while remaining on their feet. The Lord tells Gideon that “I will use the three hundred men to rescue you and hand over the Midianites to you.” (Judges 7:7). 

     God sees that, despite the signs and assurances that he has given him, Gideon is still not able to set aside his fear. God tells him, “Get up and attack the camp, because I’ve handed it over to you. But if you’re afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah, and you’ll hear what they are saying. May you then get the courage to attack the camp.” (Judges 7:9-11). Gideon then goes with Purah to an outpost of the Midianite camp and hears two soldiers interpreting a dream that one of them has had as a sign that God will hand Midian and its entire camp to Gideon. Finally confident that God will ensure that he will win a great victory, Gideon worships and then returns to his three hundred men, ordering them to, “Get up! The Lord has handed over the Midianite camp to you.” (v. 15). Facing the powerful enemy army with only his three hundred warriors, Gideon and the Israelites are totally dependent on God’s grace. 

     That night the three hundred men, each equipped with a trumpet and an empty jar, with a torch inside each jar, surround the enemy camp. At Gideon’s signal, each man blows his trumpet and breaks his jar, holding the torch in his left hand and the trumpet in his right. When the three hundred trumpets sound the Lord turns the swords of the Midianite soldiers against each other, and the entire camp panics and takes off running. 

     Gideon is delivered the great victory that God has promised and the Israelites enjoy forty years of peace. 
    WedWednesdayFebFebruary22nd2017 His Light
    byAngie Vaughan Tagged No tags 3 comments Add comment

    His Light

    James 1: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

    John 1: 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

     

    Throughout the Bible, words depict a truth about life that we know all too well.  We, as Christians, will face trials.  We will spend time soaring on a mountain top, and we will find ourselves struggling in the valley.  These are the emotional seasons of life on this temporal earth. My family is slowly and cautiously emerging from a difficult season.  Over a five week period of time, Landon broke his collar bone, Taylor underwent two surgeries, we had 3 major water catastrophes at the lake (that didn’t involve the water in the lake!), and Landon had a severe viral infection with extremely high fever.  It was a season of life that left me breathless and exhausted.  However, it was a strengthening season and a time of great spiritual reflection as well.

    During these weeks, I learned some of the most valuable lessons that continuously reminded me of God’s presence, His light and His love.

    1. When you find yourself in the valley, it is ok to tell your close inner circle of friends and family “I’m not ok.”
    2. It is truly acceptable to have a messy house.  Your visitors do not care.
    3. Pausing, to catch one’s breath in the valley, heightens your awareness of God’s beautiful creation.  During this time, I learned that my bird feeder had become a beautiful sanctuary for a family of cardinals.  I wonder how many days I had missed the opportunity to simply watch them, failing to pause and breathe in God’s beauty.
    4. The greatest gift we can oftentimes give to others is the gift of our time:  time preparing a meal, time talking with a loved one and time listening to the heartache of his/her soul.
    5. Even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances, one can always find a reason to stop, look up and give thanks.  During this season, I bought a sign for my entryway that displayed words I knew I needed to read every morning: “There is always, always, always SOMETHING to be thankful for.”
    6. In the “valley seasons of our lives,” we learn who we can count on in our hours of greatest need.  I pray that when others find themselves in the midst of an “unplanned journey,” I will be one of the first people they reach out to for help and support.
    7. Caring people surround themselves with caring people.  The Vaughan family has been blessed beyond measure by people with hearts the size of Texas!
    8. To love and be loved is the greatest gift on earth.
    9. In the valley, God provides one with beautiful “pockets of peace.” A trustful heart provides one’s soul with the opportunity to experience His peace in truly miraculous ways.
    10. We cannot ever depend on our circumstances in life to bring us peace.  However, we can always depend on God’s hope, His promises and His love as our greatest sources of peace.

    This Christmas season, Landon slept on our couch in the formal living room as this was the only place his collarbone could be completely immobilized with a stack of pillows that almost reached heaven!  Just a few steps away from his new bed was our Christmas tree.  Each morning, before the sun came up, I would pause in that room and turn on the Christmas lights.  Day after day, this simple act grew in importance to me.  Each day, this small step of bringing light into a dark space reminded me His light always shines, and His presence always gives us hope.  May this beautiful reality bring comfort to our souls whether we are soaring on the mountain top or struggling in the valley.

    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!
    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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