What do You See?

Hello! My name is Casey and it’s such an honor to contribute to Beautiful Stories! Some of you may already know me, but for those I’ve yet to meet, here is a little bit about my story. I’m a City Church rookie and avid fan. From my first week in college in 1995, to my time as an intern, throughout my years serving as the Intern Director – the family of faith at The City Church (both in Seattle- now Churchome- and Ventura) has deeply shaped who I am today. The gamut of life journeys with this beautiful community of believers taught me to engage in genuine worship, dive into the Word, value prayer, cherish international service trips, build lasting relationships with people, and above all – to know and love God more.

In 2014, I was sent out from The City Church to relocate to Jerusalem, Israel, in order to engage in local mentoring and discipleship efforts in the Middle East. This has been the most challenging, adventurous, faith-provoking, courage-inducing, awe-inspiring thing I’ve done in my life thus far. The prayers and support from many dear friends at The City Church have helped me stay the course and bear much fruit for the Kingdom of God. I’m so honored to have a strong home church to stand with me as I serve in this delicate region of the world – and I always encourage people to come visit me in Jerusalem!

A couple of weeks ago was Tu-B’shevat (ט״ו בשבט) in Israel, a cultural holiday celebrating “New Year for the trees.” This holiday is often celebrated by partaking of a new type of fruit, or one of the fruits mentioned in the Torah in regards to the bounty of the Land (grapes, olives, figs, dates and pomegranates).

The almond tree is the first of the fruits to “awaken” to the spring. As I prayer-walked this beautifully complex city this Shabbat, I was amazed to see the many delicate blossoms of the almond trees, even as the crisp winter air lingers. I couldn’t help but consider this passage from Jeremiah 1:11-12:

“And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.’

The play on words is lost in the English translation. The word for almond (sheked, שקד) in Hebrew is nearly identical to the word used for watching (shaked, שקד). Each spring, even as the nation of Israel languished in captivity under an oppressive superpower, Jeremiah witnessed the miracle of the almond blossoms bursting forth from the barrenness of winter. That image undoubtedly brought to mind the Lord’s promise that He faithfully watches over His Word to perform it; He would redeem His people and honor His covenant. Just as Aaron’s rod, cut off from the life-giving nourishment of the tree, miraculously budded and bore fruit as a testament to the sovereign power of God, the Lord assured Jeremiah that He is faithfully watching over His promises for His people, even when the branches seem barren and dry.

God’s covenant promises still remain for Israel and the Jewish people today, even when the branches seem to be cut off and barren. He will yet restore the miracle of life and bring forth fruit. There are signs of life here in Jerusalem. Because of His enduring faithfulness to Israel, we can trust His covenant promises to us as those who are grafted in by faith in Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection. This is the entire premise of the structure of the book of Romans (esp. 9-11).

What do you see? What are the covenant promises of faithfulness God has spoken over you, your family, your community, and your walk of faith with Him? If your vision is blurry, take some time today and ask Him to revisit those promises. He is gracious. He wants us to see well. The almond blossoms continue to testify that He faithfully brings forth spring out of winter and He remains true to His Word. Be encouraged today, for He is passionately watching over His Word to perform it – in Israel, in the nations of the world, and in your life.

 

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Jesus, The Perfect Dance Partner

A WILD Devotional

Since I was in my mother’s womb, I have loved to dance. I have loved the ability to express myself through movement, show my heart through each step and impact an audience through my creativity. But, the one thing that has been my greatest passion in dance, is using my love of dance to draw closer to my Savior. Jesus has and always will be my greatest inspiration, greatest source of strength and the greatest comfort in my life. Every time I dance I purpose to invite the Holy Spirit to lead me to the secret place in my mind, body and spirit where I can solely focus on glorifying my Jesus.

But recently, I had a completely new revelation that has transformed my relationship with Jesus and given me a profound understanding of who my Savior is to me; and hopefully will give you a new perspective on who He wants to be in your life. My revelation was simply this, following Jesus is a lot like dancing with the perfect partner. When Jesus said, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), He was asking US to dance. He was asking us to go on a journey with him filled with highs, lows, trials and victories. Jesus is ready to lift us up, guide our steps and support our every move. The trick is, we have to actually let Him lead us!  When I let Jesus lead me, I find the flow of forward movement through life graceful and grace-filled. But, when I try to take the lead, everything becomes jerky, difficult and confusing. Because of this, I am grateful for the gentle cues my Perfect Dance Partner, Jesus, gives me; a light press in one direction, a swift yet smooth spin in another or simplify a still small whisper in my ear correcting my steps. Jesus is patient, supportive and constantly encouraging me to move out of my comfort zone. He is trust worthy, he never-drops me, and he lifts me higher than I could ever reach on my own.

Isaiah 30:21 says it this way:

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Living in this new revelation has truly helped me to draw closer to Jesus and finally trust him fully with every aspect of my life.

So my question is this… Are you ready to let Jesus take your hand and lead you through life? Are you ready to let Jesus be YOUR PERFECT DANCE PARTNER?

 

Tatiana (2)Tatiana Fernald is a professional dancer and is actively involved in the City Church Agoura campus. She has a passion for using movement and dance as a form of worship and connection with God and loves helping others to do the same. Tatiana is currently pursuing her God-given dream of opening a performing arts center for children and teens with special needs and physical exceptionalities.

I Am Enough

A WILD Devotional

“Who does God say you are?” Pastor says from across the room, in my W.I.L.D. (Women of Influence in Leadership Development) class. “What plan does God have for your life?”

I’ve been given 5 minutes to answer two questions that have had me perplexed for my entire life. So, I do what any good student would do, I “Google” it. Surprisingly, as I am typing, “Who does God say I am” automatically comes up in the search engine. Apparently, I am not the only one looking for that answer. I mean, I am a daughter, I am a wife, I am a mother…but does that really define WHO I am or does it describe the different roles that I play?

Scrolling through the results I see wondrous answers like “I am loved”, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, “I am a branch of the true vine”, “I am a whole new person, with a whole new life”:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLV)

THERE IT IS! Through Him, I have become a whole new person, with a whole new life. For the first time in many years, I have embarked on this journey of discovering who I am, and what God’s plan is for my life.

Through this wonderful “W.I.L.D.” (pun intended) experience I have found a way to identify my gifts, discover what my passions are, and grow more comfortable sharing these things with others. I have been able to grasp and believerealize that I am who I was created to be and that I am enough. I look forward to every week with these amazing women that are driven to grow in their faith as much as I am.  I find that every time these women share, I am empowered, inspired, and motivated to seek more of Him.

Please join me in this prayer: “Lord, thank You for Your love. Thank You for reminding me that I am who You say that I am. Thank You for calming the waters in my life to open this door for me to experience Your goodness. I pray that other women feel encouraged to take this journey into discovering their gifts and passions through You.”

Luhrs_Family_13Atalie Luhrs is wife to Bryan and proud mother of six amazing children (Quentin, Zoe, Zali, Zannah, Quincy and Quaid). They are actively involved in the Agoura campus in Generation Church, women’s ministry and administration. Atalie is passionate about caring for people, administration and organizing events. Keep an eye out for Atalie’s City Group coming soon!

Coming Home

It might seem crazy to some to willingly pack up a 1 year-old in my 1st trimester of pregnancy and spend 2 hours in the car trekking across town just to spend a couple hours with a few, seemingly random, ladies, but that’s exactly what I found myself looking forward to every single week. Let me back up a bit. I had recently fallen head over heels in love with this amazing God-man named Jesus. I was a member of a wonderful church and I was devouring every teaching. I had at least 10 different versions of the bible and I was desperate to know every single thing about, and to spend every single moment soaking in, all that I could find out about this Jesus of mine. I was completely enthralled, and being an introvert by nature, I spent a season so fully satisfied with the Bible, books, songs, and quiet times (as much as I could fit with a 1 year-old anyways). I was so full of this new love that I couldn’t imagine needing anything else but Him.

But, SHIFT happens.

That amazing church I was going to at the time had well over 15,000 people attending on a weekly basis. It was genuinely difficult to connect with people on Sunday mornings, and for a long time I was ok with that, until I felt myself longing to know more about these people I would be doing life with…forever. That is what led me to stepping out of my comfort zone (#introvertsunite) and getting in the car. I found myself happily packing up diapers, toys, snacks, and all the things we would need to make this 2-hour roundtrip journey to find out what small group was all about.

That’s where I met Nicole.

I didn’t know what to expect when I rang her doorbell for the 1st time. I mean, this was a total stranger that I had found in the small groups section of the church website. The door opened and her vibrant energy preceded her. Nicole greeted me with a genuine smile and open arms; you would have thought we were long lost friends by the way she welcomed me in. There were a couple of other women at her home that day. All were equipped with stocked diaper bags for their little ones- we were all around the same age and in the same season of life. The next few months would bring us into close relationship as seeds were planted in our hearts, tears were shed, triumphs were celebrated, and obstacles were overcome- together! Nicole made her home a safe space for us. She invited us to dream. She sparked vision in our lives. She cultivated community. She was the most honest and authentic person I had ever met. This was small group, a place to feel welcome, to connect, and to grow. This was community.

I was intrigued and inspired.

I would soon go on to lead a small group. Nicole and the other women I met with became my support team.  We encouraged each other as most of us went on to cultivate and create these safe spaces of community for other women. These women became more than people I passed by on Sunday mornings. They became my friends.

They became my sisters.

Fast forward a couple of years (and a couple more children) later, and I found myself living in the suburbs of Los Angeles. It was a whirlwind cross country move that completely turned my world upside down in some ways, and right side up in others. I spent the first 2 years in L.A. desperately struggling to manage three children age three and under, trying to be a somewhat decent wife to my husband, battling and losing the fight with post-partum depression. My passion for my greatest love had only intensified in the storms of this season of my life. Jesus was my greatest strength and my ultimate comforter through all of the craziness, but I was not thriving. I was barely surviving. My wonderful husband was, and still is, amazingly understanding and compassionate. He gently nudged me to get out of my solitary space, my comfort zone, and meet new people. I found myself bottoming out after my 5th move in less than 5 years. I don’t know how I didn’t see it sooner, but I suddenly knew one thing for sure.

It was time to find community.

After much google searching and YouTube videos on churches in the area I found Pastor Jude Fouquier and The City Church. Up and dressed in our Sunday best we made a short drive to the Agoura campus to check it all out. Through the double doors someone nice pointed me to the children’s check in area. I swear the lady at the check-in table had a smile that lit up the whole lobby.  She was this beautiful blend of warmth and bubbles. There it was again, a genuine smile and open arms. She introduced me to her equally radiant red-headed friend and they promptly invited me to the moms’ city group that very week.

I went.

I’ll spare you all the details, but there were laughs, lots of tears (from me) and this overwhelming sense of love and belonging. I didn’t know these ladies at all, but in just a couple of weeks their prayers, encouragement, and support would completely alleviate the depression I had been fighting. I felt like the clouds parted, and once again I was surrounded with love from these wonderful ladies who were as in love with Jesus as I was. I had no idea that the bonds that I would form over the next year of meeting for city group would be some of the most encouraging, purpose driven, thought provoking, and inspiring connections I could have ever imagined.

Jesus knew.

I would have been completely content to just have Jesus. To be filled to the point of overflow with his love that he was so generously lavishing upon me. I had no idea that loving him meant there was more. Loving him granted me access to his amazing family. Loving him rsvp’d me to an eternal seat at the royal table. Loving Jesus gave me VIP access to those he loves with the same passionate intensity with which he loves me.

In the depths of his love for me I found family.

My heart has expanded in ways I never knew were possible. Innately, loving my husband and children is easy; they are mine and I am naturally invested in them. But, this new found ability to love and be love, to welcome, encourage, champion, and support people because of our common bond in love with Jesus is mind blowing. My small group leader in Atlanta would suddenly pass away not long after our move to Los Angeles, but she opened my heart to community, and I could never thank her enough. The lovely ladies from The city church moms’ group have become my forever friends, my sisters. My heart burst with passion for my Jesus, and because of Him I am excited to welcome any and all.

To pull out a seat at the table.

Where we are all connected.

Where we all belong.

 

Won’t you join us?

 

img_0064_0Linda Edwards is wife to Bernard and mother two three amazing children. She is passionate about seeing women discover their destiny in Jesus and connect in community. You can see her smiling face at the Agoura Campus of The City Church serving on the worship team, in City Kids and at her City Group.

When Life Throws Curve Balls

A WILD Devotional

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5.  

Last year, I resigned from my Director position at a very prestigious resort. On that day, I had an overwhelming sense of peace and calm. Never in my life had I taken such a risk with the unknown. However, I knew everything was in God’s hands. I knew I couldn’t reason with myself. I had to put my worries on God’s altar. I had poured my heart and soul into my career, given them all of me. I put in very long days, even weekends and holidays. I never complained because I knew that came along with working in the hospitality industry and I truly enjoyed what I did. Needless to say, my husband was at home caring for the children and ensuring things on the home front were handled. While he never said it, he was never sure when I would walk through the door. Some nights it would be timely,  but as the job responsibilities increased, my days grew longer. Eventually, I would even miss tucking my kids into bed at night.

Now that I have been unemployed since May, I have realized that God really does have a plan. If this would have happened even two years ago, I don’t think I would have been able to trust in God; I didn’t have the relationship with Him yet. Not only that, but I would not have been able to see the beauty in cherishing every moment with my children. I was always so career focused and my patience would have been short. While being a mommy is not an easy task, I have been able to embrace this time.  It’s the simple things: doing school drop off and pick up, being able to attend school events, attending daytime mommy groups and getting all the love from my little ones. These are the things that I hold dear to my heart right now. I would have never expected to still be out of work at this point, but I have kept believing in Him. I know “my God will supply every need of [mine] according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19. I continue to pray for grace and patience to see through what God has planned for our family.

If you are wrestling with a big decision this year, one that you know is right but comes with a lot of risk, let me encourage you that you can trust God to provide for every need.

Join me in this prayer: God, you see my life from the beginning to the end. You know what’s best for me better than I know for myself. Thank you, Jesus, for the work you did on the cross, so I can truly rest and value the things that matter most. Help me to make the big decisions that you want me to make. Help me to see and believe for all that you want me to have. You see it all and know it all. Thank you. I trust you. 

Erin Watson

Erin Watson is mother to two great kids and wife to Leonidas. Erin loves to use her gift of hospitality by helping
out with women’s events and groups. She’s also actively involved in a City Group for moms with small kids. You can connect with her at the Ventura campus of The City Church and by following her @teamwatson33 on Instagram.

Yes & Amen

Hello there, my name is Anastasia Fomenko and I’m a wife and a mama. You may recognize me from the worship team at the Ventura campus. I love leading worship. The presence of Jesus has transformed my life, so there’s nothing more rewarding than leading people to meet with God where they can find true fulfillment for their life.

I also come alive when I’m helping people discover their value and purpose in life, which is why I’m passionate about small groups. All of life is built on relationships. We were designed to live in community, to know one another deeper than a quick “hello” on a Sunday morning or a nice comment on social media. My husband, Vik, and I have so much fun leading our young adults’ group. Sometimes I feel like hosting is my love language. It’s such a joy having people in our home, which we’ve rented in Ventura for the past few years. The dishes and mess afterward somehow feel comforting, knowing I could bless someone with a coffee or a meal and honestly, who doesn’t enjoy a good conversation?

A few months ago, we felt like God started speaking to us about purchasing our own home. We had no idea what that entailed, but asked God to lead us. We felt like some practical steps needed to be taken to open that door. As we began talking to realtors and lenders, reality quickly sunk in. It would take a BIG miracle for us to own anything in this season of our lives. The list of obstacles was long. Secretly, I was ready to give up but the truth is, I’m thankful to have married such a persistent man who dares to believe and doesn’t give up so easily.

One afternoon, I was driving home from picking up my daughter at school and a worship song, that we both love, came on. She started belting out the chorus as London loves to do, “Faithful You are, faithful, forever You will be. All your promises are yes and amen!” Suddenly, she said, “Mama, I can’t wait for you to get pregnant and have a baby in our new house.” Well, what you may not know is that we’ve been trying to get pregnant for a few years now. Suddenly I was in a pool of tears. The Holy Spirit was so gently reminding me through her words that every promise He has spoken over my family and me is, “yes and amen.” How could I ever forget His faithfulness? One of those promises was sitting in my back seat. When the doctor told us it would be difficult to conceive the first time, London came to us as a perfect little miracle. All of a sudden, no mountain seemed too great, no price seemed to high. Every impossibility became possible with the One who has me in the palm of His hand. “Rest in my promises,” I heard Him say in my heart. It reminds me of the verse in Psalm 116:7 (NLT), “Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me.”

I have seen too much of God’s goodness to doubt Him this time around. I believed God. I wiped my tears and ran inside to remind Vik what he already believed (ha!). In a matter of weeks, a condo became available that had dropped out of escrow (of course, because it was waiting on us). The price was almost too good to be true and the financing came together miraculously. With the year coming to an end, and the holiday craziness, it didn’t seem like there was much hope left. But isn’t it just like God to give us this Christmas miracle? We closed early in December and Vik went to work renovating and constructing. Our amazing home is coming together just in time for the New Year.

Can my story serve in this new year to remind you that your Heavenly Father is big and faithful? He does what we can’t do by ourselves. If He’s given you a promise, don’t let circumstances or impossibility take that away. I’m thrilled to believe and see more of those promises unfold in my family. His Word is truth and that’s the only truth we need to believe. I pray you experience your own BIG miracle this year! 💛

IMG_0100Anastasia Fomenko is mother to London, wife to Vik and a licensed pastor at The City Church. Together, Vik & Anastasia minister to our California Coast Bible College students and the young adults in their City Group. She offers voice lessons and inspires us weekly with her passionate worship on the Ventura campus worship team. She’s just ventured into songwriting and is set to release her first worship single early this year! You can follow her (and London) on Instagram and sign up for a City Group here.

Mary

Hey Beautiful,

It’s been the weirdest couple of weeks in our little town of Ventura. I have friends who are living in a hotel with their three children (two are preschoolers), friends who’ve lost everything, friends whose kids are unexpectedly out of school for a whole month (and can’t play outside because of the smoke). The smoke is thick and no one can tell us what’s going to happen next.

And it’s Christmas. Merry Christmas! Time to shop, to bake, to decorate, to send the cards, to go to the programs, to watch the films and have the parties. I keep going through the normal motions but nothing really feels that normal.

So I started to read about Mary. That’s what we do at Christmas. We talk about Mary, the virgin, teenage, refugee who was chosen by God to deliver the hope and savior of the world. Oh night divine!

Mary lived in a chaotic world where she did not belong, where racial and ethnic strife ran deep and had deadly consequences. When the angel came to her she pondered his words and hid them in her heart. She believed.

I wonder if she was in awe of Him. She lived such a life of devotion. She seemed to be there at every turn, steadfast, unwavering. She didn’t always seem to know exactly what was going on, which is comforting, meaning she was like us. Some things must have been so confusing. What would it be like to watch your child die of asphyxiation on a cross? But it didn’t seem to shake her. She was there at the cross and at Pentecost, in the upper room, praying and believing and waiting to be filled with the Holy Spirit so they could go out and turn the world upside down.

She lived her best life, that’s for sure (great thoughts on that here) It sort of redefines what makes a life really great. What life is this that is available when we say, “yes” to God?! So much promise, probably some pain, but absolute purpose beyond the here and now. We really have no idea, this side of eternity, what our lives can be and do.

When tragedy strikes, it reminds us how precious and fragile life can be. We remember that there’s more than this and we actually don’t have as much control over all of it as we think we do. But He actually does.

The Almighty stepped into the finite, flesh and blood of fragile humanity so that He could really know us, so He could look over and say, “Hey! I get it. We’re in this together.” It’s okay to be shocked, to be overwhelmed, to mourn and weep when tragedy strikes. The Bible says He’s with us, feeling it all and actually praying for us, on our behalf. But we can also live with this hope, that the darkest of ages are done, for the savior of heaven has come.

In light of this, I pray that you and I will always encounter Christmas with the joy and wonder that Simeon experienced, when Mary brought her child to be dedicated at the temple. (Luke 2:28-31 TPT):

Simeon cradled the baby in his arms and praised God and prophesied, saying: “Lord and Master, I am your loving servant, and now I can die content, for your promise to me has been fulfilled. With my own eyes I have seen your Word, the Savior you sent into the world.”

Merry Christmas!

XO,

Bethany

 

 

No Fear

A WILD Devotional

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:18 (ESV)

At age 19, God ignited my heart with life-changing faith. So, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work! With a genuine passion to know Jesus better, I attended church nearly every time the doors opened. I listened to Christian radio and read volumes of Bible commentaries. And life seemed to go down a pretty comfortable path for a while. So, what was my conclusion? Do right and God will do right by you.

It was many years later that God taught me my most important faith lesson.  It was well after I had married, had two teenage children, and was trying my best to use my life to honor God.  It was at a time when my comfortable path took a sharp turn! I found myself on an uphill climb, then careening towards a jagged cliff! I cried out to God, wondering what I’d done, and what I hadn’t done to bring about the “death” of everything I cherished. It was the lowest point of my life, when my marriage was failing and I would soon be divorced.

In the middle of this crisis, I went to a women’s retreat. The speaker was so raw and real. She shared that we often believe lies about God that affect how we think and feel. Later she asked each woman to spend some alone time with God. I found a soft pad of grass to lie down in … and there I opened my Bible to First John 4:18.  It was like a window had opened and a fresh breeze rushed in. God’s Spirit whispered to mine. He told me through His Word that I wasn’t being punished. Jesus had already taken the punishment for all my sins. And nothing I do or don’t do can ever lessen God’s incomparable love for me or take away His unlimited grace!

God was not loving and cherishing me because of my good deeds, or taking his love away when I did wrong. And the same is true for you.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you that you always love, always protect!  You never leave us. You never forsake us. You make a way through the wilderness and a road through the desert. Your love redeems heartache and sin, disasters and even death through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!

Yvonne Noblitt Bio Photo

Yvonne Noblitt has attended City Church Agoura for the past two years, and serves on the greeting team. As a professional writer, she has enjoyed a career in radio and magazines, Christian education and ministry. She has a passion for sharing God’s love and grace with people of all ages. Currently, she is the Director of Creative Services for Roger Kemp and Company, a media agency that creates, produces and distributes Christian radio programs. Yvonne is married to Randy Noblitt, and together they have a blended family of five adult children, two daughters-in-law, and one grandchild. In their spare time, they love to travel, bicycle and hike, while exploring the beauty of God’s great outdoors!

 

Letting Go

A WILD Devotional

I remember when I was 18, it was 1984.  I wanted so badly to experience life and all God had for me and couldn’t even fathom it, though I tried.  I remember imagining myself in each decade to come, how old would I be? Who would I marry? How many kids might I have?  My desire was to always be pleasing in God’s sight and a valuable member of God’s family, always contributing to society.  Somewhere in my early childhood there was a tormenting voice that constantly told me I never would.  It was the liar’s voice, Satan’s.  I wasn’t aware there was a liar whose main role was to kill, steal, and destroy; I had no clue that I could or should give him a verbal tongue lashing with the truths found in the Bible.  Often I would cry out to God declaring what I wanted for my life, almost in a desperate plea, like a peasant begging a king for mercy.  And so, my focus became my own performance and that began to define my worth.

I am now 51, amazed at the journey, wiser, stronger, braver and secure in my hope because of my walk with the Spirit of God who is my comforter, shepherd, counselor, teacher, confidant, refuge and friend.  My ears are better receivers of his voice and I want to hear it more than ever before. At times I still wrestle with old lies.

For the last few days I have wrestled with anxiety over this blog. It would be public.  What should I say? Would my story impact the lives of others? What if my grammar is incorrect?  In sharing with a friend today, she “took me to church” as she reminded me that performance is not worship.  God is so good to use other believers as His gentle reminder to refocus.  Lord, forgive me for getting it twisted!  My highest calling is not in what I do. It’s about who I am becoming. His first commandment (Exodus 20)  is that I should have no other gods but him.  He loves me unselfishly, unconditionally and all he asks of me is to love him and believe Him.  If I’m in Him, nothing else can shake me. If He is my main obsession, everything else will fall into place.

Join me in this prayer:

Jesus, today I’m letting go of performance. Just as 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says, “I give all of my worries and cares to You, because You care about me.”

13A8B514-7562-4D8C-A9F4-79DD61A4BED8Sara is mom of three amazing, adult children, and one son-in-love,  Brooke, age 27 (and Zack), Moriah, 25 and Landon, 22.  Sara has been married to John for 31 adventurous and miraculous years.  It is their desire to use their history, milestones and miracles to encourage young adults and married couples in their journey with each other and Jesus. Sara grew up in a relatively conservative background as a pastor’s daughter.  In the last six years Jesus and the Spirit of God have blown her away with new revelations and surprises.  Look for Sara (and John) at the Agoura/Oak Park campus where you’ll usually find them greeting at the door.

Delight Yo’ Self

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

This verse has always intrigued and challenged me. I mean, right here before me, I literally have the key to getting my heart’s desires. But it has proven a difficult key to turn. The key is to “delight myself in the Lord.” Whaaaaat? Delight myself in the Lord? Really? I can delight in ice cream. I can delight in a day off with no responsibilities and money to blow. I can even delight in my job – when the students are on task and my lesson plans are on point – no problem. But delight in the Lord? How does one do that?

I thought I had it figured out (see previous post entitled “Jesus Time”).  Things were going well…until two months ago.  Two months ago I was employed. Two months ago I had more than enough money to pay my bills. Two months ago I was on schedule to complete my master’s degree. Two months ago… And now? Now, none of those things are a reality. In short, I have not really been in the mood to delight, which has left my relationship with Jesus brittle and dry.

As I came to Jesus tonight, this verse popped in my head, and (If I’m honest) I was discouraged.  “Lord, “ I asked, “ how am I supposed to delight in anything when everything is so…just…yuck?”

The Holy Spirit replied, “Well, first the verse doesn’t say delight in the good times or when you feel like it. It simply says delight.” Okaay…. Talk about a brain bomb. That got me thinking. As I continued to pray and meditate on the verse, the Holy Spirit went on to explain that delighting doesn’t just happen on sunny Saturday afternoons after all the bills have been paid, my work is done and I got to sleep in. I should be delighting at all times.

“But…how do I do that?” I asked. I honestly could not see how to delight in anything –even Jesus- when I felt so unsettled and discombobulated. Truly, all I wanted to do was lock myself in my room and binge-watch TV over a couple of gallons of Rocky Road until all of my worries magically disappeared.  Delighting was very much far away from what I felt like doing – and I told the Holy Spirit as much.

“Fair enough,” He said.  “It’s actually impossible to delight and worry at the same time so I can see how you feel that way.”

Another brain bomb dropped. Isn’t it great how the Holy Spirit just does that?

“You have to give up your worries before you can delight.” He went on to say. “Give them to Me. I’ll take them – then instead of spending your time worrying you can spend your time delighting.”

This obviously sounded like an unfair trade in my favor and if He wanted my cares, worries, fears, and anxieties He could have them. So I gave them up. I laid them at the feet of my Lord. I literally went through the list of worries that keep my mind spinning throughout the day and pictured myself laying each one at the throne of God. It took a minute but as I wrapped it up, racking my brain for anything I may have missed the Holy Spirit gave me this warning, “Now, leave them there. Do NOT pick them back up.” Boom – another bomb. It’s like the Holy Spirit knew my heart. Like He knew me and made me or something. I have a tendency to go back to my worries. Mull things over. Try to work things out. And He knew it.

“OK.” I said, and saw myself walking away empty-handed as my worries sat before the throne. In reality, I picked up my Bible and turned to Psalm 37:4. I had only memorized that one verse and wanted to see what the rest of the chapter read. I was delighted (pun intended) when I read just before verse 4. It read:

“Trust in Adonai and do good;

settle in the land, and feed on faithfulness.

Then you will delight yourself in Adonai,

and he will give you your heart’s desire.“ (Psalm 37:3-4 CJB)

After reading the verses, words echoed through my mind.

Trust – Settle –Feed – Then Delight.

Trust – Settle –Feed – Then Delight.

Trust – Settle – Feed – Then Delight

I am to trust in the Lord by placing all my worries before Him, trusting that He took the worst things in life; sickness, poverty, suffering and more, on the cross so that I could live free, able to enjoy the best of this life.

I am to settle in this time, in this moment. I am to be present, looking not to the past or the future for peace and hope but only to Jesus who is the beginning and the end and everything in between.

I am to feed on His faithfulness that has always secured the strong, loving relationship between us. I am to find my sustenance in Him.

Then…I will delight. Then…I CAN delight.  And my God is so good that when I delight He promises to give me something that only He can truly give…the desires of my heart!

So as I sit here, just minutes after this illumination from my Best Friend, the Holy Spirit, I am more than encouraged. I am expectant. I expect that, not only will the situations I face work out, but I expect that in the process I will be able to delight. Here. Now. Tomorrow morning when I wake up and my situation remains the same…I will be able to delight. I will be able to delight because by the help and power of the Holy Spirit I will trust. I will settle. I will feed and then…I will delight.