Jan 9, 2017

Blessed Assurance...

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Dear SHINE friends,

I haven't wanted to post anything unless I had good news to share about Robert. Every time my phone rings, chimes, or buzzes, my heart stops.

Nothing.

I have not heard anything about where Robert may be. I did get some very kind emails about people willing to help, but as of today, no one has seen him.

Of course, my heart is deeply saddened by the fact that the weather in Memphis is absolutely freezing. My weather app now has a "Memphis" setting added and I have to make myself not check the weather every 8 minutes.

It's so blistering cold.

In Georgia, here where I live, the temperature got really cold over the weekend. I decided to bundle up and go for a walk. Hat on my head, scarf on my neck, and two layers of jackets, I was still very cold.

My hands were almost numb. Gloves. I had forgotten gloves.

Robert had not been wearing gloves either.

I looked down at my hands as I was walking, not wanting them to feel the warmth of my pockets.

I wanted to feel the cold icy temperature run through my veins. I wanted to never forget what it was like to feel.

My hands needed the reminder of pain.

Pretty soon, my hands did become numb.

I asked the Lord right then and there, "Father, please let me to never be numb again. Never let me forget the poor. The suffering. The lonely. The destitute. The homeless...."

Tears stung my face as they ran down my frozen cheeks.

I prayed for Robert desperately. Like a mad woman on that walk. Not caring who heard, who saw.

I needed God to tell me that Robert was okay. That our chance meeting was not chance. That Robert was safe. And warm. And loved.

And that he remembered...he had a family now. Looking for him.

As I was spilling my heart out on that sidewalk, a big fat red bird landed on the tree right next to me. The branch bounced up and down from the size of that bird landing not so daintily on that slim branch.

I gasped.

The red bird sat there. Calm. Serene. Peaceful.

The bird was facing me, chest poked out. Looking right through me, it seemed.

I stood there for about a minute gazing at this bird.

Peace suddenly washed over me.

A warm flood of assurance ran through my ice cold body.

I knew.....

Jesus was letting me know that Robert was okay.

What better Hands could Robert be in?

Robert would be okay. Whether I ever saw him again or not.

Blessed assurance.

Those words were on repeat on my lips as I walked back home from my freezing walk and red bird encounter.

December 29th, 2016, our friend Robert committed his life to Jesus Christ.

It was real.

Surreal, really.

Before we left the shelter that night, one more thing was needed. We had prayed for him to receive Christ. But, we had to be sure that Robert was really in our family.

I grabbed Robert by his frail arm and said, "Before we go, there is one more thing. If you believe in your heart that Jesus is the son of God and died for your sins, would you confess with your mouth? Right here. In front of the cloud of witnesses surrounding you."

I could hardly finish my sentence when Robert chimed in excitedly....

"Yes!"

And he did confess. Every last word.

....if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

The same rush of peace I felt when I heart those words come from Robert's mouth, was the same peace that rushed through me looking at that red bird.

Blessed Assurance.

Sitting in church this past Sunday felt different. Something just seemed sweeter.

Maybe it was because my heart had been so moved by Robert...and the depth of Jesus' love for him.

To know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus never, ever stops looking for us. Jesus was pursuing Robert....and would continue to all of his days.

I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. Psalm 139:7-8

I needed to know that, to remember that. To sear the memory to my heart like a hot branding iron.

The band at church began singing, "Blessed Assurance".

I broke down. You know the kind of breaking down when your hubby nudges you worriedly [and probably a little embarrassed] and says, "Uh, are you ok?"

Blessed assurance. Yes. That's what it is.

Surely, it was not by chance that song was playing. Surely, God was reminding me of His love for Robert. Of His love for me. Of His love for you.

At 3:00 pm that same Sunday, I attended our local YogaFaith class. As we were warming up, stretching, and doing our deep breathing...

I hear the familiar tune, again.

"Blessed Assurance."

It was streaming through the phone of my YogaFaith teacher [and friend], Melissa.

Oh, y'all.

Jesus is everywhere,

He is with the poor.

The destitute.

The sick.

The healthy.

The rich.

The well-off.

The broken.

The lonely.

The forgotten.

Jesus is no respecter of persons.

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism"
Acts 10:34

He loves us all.

He pursues us all.

Robert has a new story. Robert has a new song.

And so do we.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. 

 
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.


Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blessed,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.




looking for more red birds,

jill










Jan 3, 2017

Dear Robert.....

Dear Robert,

You have not left my thoughts since the night we met at the Wendy's drive thru in Memphis, TN.

If it were not for my nephew being hungry at 10:30 pm, we would never have crossed paths.

I guess it really is true when God tells us that "Our times are in His Hands", huh?

When we first saw you, we were a little frightened. I think we may have even locked the van doors. I am so sorry about that. We have so much to learn, don't we?

Before writing this letter to you, I prayed and asked God to lead me to some scripture. The scripture He led me to will make you giggle. It's found in Luke 18:18-25.

Jesus meets a rich young ruler. The ruler asks God, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" The ruler goes on to tell Jesus that he has led a good life-heeding the commandments found in the Old Testament law.

Jesus answers, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will  have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

The ruler became sad. This was not an easy command. He had so much. Why was it necessary to give it all away?

Jesus looked at him and said, "Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

Robert, when we saw you approaching our car, how could we know that you had nothing to your name. Only the clothes on your thin and weary back.

It was so cold outside. So blistering cold.

My Dad offered to buy you some food. You smiled so graciously and said, "thank you, sir."

As God would have it, we had to sit and wait 6 minutes for your food to be prepared in that drive thru. You stood at a distance not wanting to bother us.

We felt awkward. We were okay buying your food, but not speaking to you. I am ashamed.

My mother saw how cold you were. Trembling in your thin coat.

She quickly grabbed her jacket and offered it to you.

Selfishly, I was grateful that the new jacket I had received for Christmas would be too small for you. I was a little relieved.  "Jill, you still lack one thing...."  Conviction filled my heart and I was ashamed and surprised by my selfishness.

As Mom handed you the jacket, we began talking to you. Like humans do. Human to human. Not middle class to poor.

When we strip off our clothes, get pulled from our heated vehicles and cozy surroundings...aren't we just the same as you? Humans have the same insides. A heart. Lungs. Eyes. Ears. Skin. A spirit.

We are no different. You are me, and I am you.

A conversation took place. You and the 9 of us. Asking you questions. Wondering how you got to where you were...at Wendy's begging for money and food at 10:47 pm.

We asked you if you knew Jesus.

You said that you wanted to know this Jesus that we spoke of.

You asked us to pray over you.

One by one.

After each person finished praying, you asked the next person to pray. And again. And again.

How many times have I been so desperate for prayer that I would ask so vulnerably for a person to pray? Like my life depended on each prayer. Not enough times.

Robert, I am learning from you. Still.

When you asked us to drive you to the bridge to stay the night, we hesitated. I looked at my Dad to see what his answer would be. Would we let this stranger get in our car with our kids and our lives?

My Dad did not miss a beat. He told you to take his seat up front and we would gladly drive you.

Fear not, Jill. I am with you. Do not be dismayed.

You then asked us if we would mind driving you to a local shelter.

We were glad to.

It was a long drive. Longer than we anticipated.

But, the drive helped us to get to know you.

Your parents died when you were 6. Your grandmother died soon after and you were put in a children's home. You said it was hard to talk about. You were sitting on the front porch with your grandmother 3 days before she died. Three men in white coats came and took you away.

I cannot quit thinking about your life there....in that children's home. Why didn't someone adopt you or foster you? How you must have prayed every single blessed day for a family to take you in. Your life could have been so.....different.

At 18, you were kicked out of the home. You have been homeless ever since. You told us you would be 51 in February. That is a lot of life on the streets.

Robert, I am so sorry. I am sorry that your life has been so sad. So lonely. So painful.

You have never had a family, you told us.

We told you that you were now our family. You belonged with us.

Perhaps I have never seen anyone smile so big in my entire life.

You looked at us and asked us if we were really your family now....

My eyes could not help but to spill over with tears...

You exposed my heart.

Your life, your story, your words.....shed light on my heart and the work it needs.

Robert, perhaps I need Jesus more than you ever did.

You may be lacking in money, food, and clothing...

But, so often I am lacking in so much more.

I take family for granted.

I take things for granted.

I am selfish, oh so selfish at times.

When we got to the shelter, the people were so gracious and let you stay the night despite it being past the hour of letting guests in. They were so kind. So helpful.

You asked us to pray with you again. In the small, dirty little lobby of that shelter...

We prayed.

One by one. Because that's the way you wanted it. All 9 of us.

You asked me to write all of our names down on a piece of paper so that you could remember your family.

My heart broke wide open right then. Pieces of it left right there on that shelter floor.

My hands shaking, I carefully wrote down our names...all 9 of them.

I am not sure you can read, because you had me read the names out loud to you and point out who we all were. You said the names slow.....like you were savoring each name and searing it to your memory.

That piece of paper was like the finest piece of gold to you. A treasure in your very hands. You had a family. It was written there on that small lined piece of paper.

You accepted Christ right there in that lobby on December 29th, close to midnight.

The angels are still rejoicing over you, Robert.

You have a big family now. Huge. Bigger than you can even imagine.

We called and checked on you the next day. 'Cause that's what families do.

 They had not seen you.

I called and checked again today....you have not returned.

My heart sank. All of our hearts sank.

Where are you , Robert?

We told you to stay there. Mind the rules, and you would be allowed stay as long as you wanted.

The streets must have been calling.

Oh, those streets.

I know what it's like to have something have a choke hold of you....

A hold so strong it just about strangles the living daylights out of you.

Staying where it's safe is not always easy, is it Robert?

I get it, Robert.

Perhaps, all of us do.

The pull of the cruel sin-stained world is strong.

Without family and friends, it is almost impossible to stay away from its lure.

When you decide to come home, Robert...

Just like the father of the prodigal son...

We will run out to meet you. Arms flailing, mouths screaming in joy.

You are wanted, Robert.

You are loved, Robert.

You are family, Robert.


your forever sister in Christ,

jill


**Robert Holden was last seen at Union Mission Shelter on 383 Poplar Ave in Memphis, TN. If you see him, know him, or have any way of contacting him, please get in touch with me. His [new]family is concerned.













Jan 2, 2017

Take up your cross...

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I have this problem.

I tend to take things personally. I tend to only see my view. My hurt. My wound.

Jesus is tackling this problem head on with me.

I am reading a book right now by Ann Voskamp called the Broken Way.

She mentions drawing a small cross on her wrist to remind her of Jesus.

This resonated with me.

Over Christmas, I drew a cross on my wrist every single day.

I needed it to remind me to clothe myself in Christ. In humility. In forgiveness. In grace.

The holidays can put us in stressful situations. Difficult people. Stressful moments.

I knew this going in.

So, I needed a reminder to not be so sensitive. To not take things to heart that were never meant to take to heart.

Over Christmas break, I asked my daughter to draw the small cross on my wrist.

She went and grabbed a HUGE black box marker. [insert eye roll right here]

She drew the biggest cross you have ever seen. It looked like a tattoo. A gaudy one at that. Nothing discreet about this cross.

I giggled because it was very symbolic to where my heart really needed to be. A small cross just would not do. I needed a big fat in-my-face reminder of Jesus and His humility.

Every time I wanted to roll my eyes, or whisper something under my breath, or think not-so-good thoughts, I looked at that cross on my wrist.

It was a reminder of what Jesus did for me. He was beaten, and bloodied, and spat upon, and laughed at and mocked....

He knew pain.

He knew rejection.

He knew hurt.


He knew forgiveness.

He knew grace.

He knew love.

Why is it so hard to put on humility in the face of hurt?

The cross reminds me that it is possible.

In fact it is what will burn the flesh right off. When I show love and humility when I would rather harbor bitterness, or pride...

I am showing Jesus that I belong to Him. My heart is His and not this worlds.

I will not fall into Satan's trap...

I will swim in the blood of His Grace. Redemption. Forgiveness. Love.

Breaking the chains that bind my heart to the world...and setting it free to love without conditions or rules.

I want to love like Jesus. Even those that I do not feel loved by. Or even liked by.

The cross on my wrist screams: LOVE THEM ANYWAY. FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.

Tears filled my eyes when the gaudy cross finally faded from my wrist. Just shadows of black were left in the deep lines of my wrist.

Why does this have to be so hard? Why is loving so hard? Why is humbling myself so difficult?

Why do I have to draw a 6 inch cross on my wrist to remember to love??

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24

Jesus knew it would be hard.

We have to be intentional about this.

It will not just happen.

Our flesh will not let it.

But, if our spirits are willing, He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ever imagine with this pain.

Today, I choose to love. To forgive. To clothe myself in humility.

Tomorrow, I choose it again .

And again the next day.

What will you choose?

looking for my marker,


jill












Jan 1, 2017

Three things you need to know....

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"My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity." Proverbs 3:1

There are three things I need you to know on this day. The first day of 2017.

These three things have changed the entire course of my life, and continue to mold my heart.

My prayer is that these three things will be a part of my every day life and that they will also be a part of yours.

The first thing is God's Word.

"His word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path." Psalm 119:105

When I wake up each morning, I crave His Word like I crave my cream-heavy coffee. It hasn't always been this way. In fact, only for the past 5 years have I been waking up reading God's word. If you know my age, you know that is a lot of time that I was not reading it.

However, it doesn't matter when we start reading His Word, it matters that we start.

My mornings used to be filled with anxiety and heaviness on my chest. Fear would almost always consume my mind from the moment I opened my eyes. I thought it was just how I was wired. I thought anxiousness was just who I was.

Until I discovered the blanket of peace that covered my anxious heart through the reading of God's Word. I had no idea peace could exist in a heart riddled with fear.

January 1, 2012 my world changed forever. I began reading one chapter a day in God's Word. My heart will never be the same.

He speaks over and over and over again. His voice stills me. Like a mother quiets her babies cries, His Word quiets my soul.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8

The second thing is prayer.

Prayer came about a year after I started reading God's Word. Yes, I prayed before that. However, my prayers were very few, and very self-motivated. When I wanted something, I prayed. When I was desperate I prayed.

Now, prayer is a way of life. Prayer is what fills my mind when my thoughts want to go back to fear, worry, and anxiousness. Prayer is now more about listening than speaking to my Father in Heaven.

My prayer journals are filled with praises, requests, longings....

It helps for me to flip back pages...days, months, years...and see the faithfulness of my Father. There are times when doubt suffocates me and can almost swallow me whole. I then pick up my prayer journal and instantly I am reminded of God's hand in the course of my life.

God is constantly telling us to "remember". He told the Israelites over and over, "Do not forget what I have done...remember."

Prayer helps us to remember. It surrenders our will, our hearts, our desires to His. It quiets a heart wreaking in pain, grief, anger, jealousy, loneliness....

Prayer brings us to His feet and gathers us close. Prayer makes it able for His hands to cup our face and wipe our weary tears.

Prayer brings His will into fruition in our lives.

"Thy will be done, on Earth as in Heaven" Matthew 6:10

"pray without ceasing" 1 Thessalonians 5:17

"Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees." Corrie ten Boom

 "No learning can make up for the failure to pray. No earnestness, no diligence, no study, no gifts will supply its lack." E.M. Bounds

"Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work." Oswald Chambers.

The third is surrounding ourselves with wise people.

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 3:20

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 1 Corinthians 15:33

Perhaps this thing can be the hardest for us. We like to be liked. We like to surround ourselves with people to feel loved, wanted, invited. We like to fit in.

However, the people we choose to spend a lot of our time with will shape us. For the better or for the worse.

This has been a hard lesson for me.

I can pinpoint times in my life where the company I kept made an impact. Either for good, or for bad.

We must be very aware of the friends that we allow in our close circle. They will leave a mark on our character. We will also mark theirs.

Loneliness can be a part of this process.

I think about Jesus. He had 12 close friends. Just 12.

And one of those betrayed Him.

Jesus knew the importance of surrounding Himself with the people that would spur Him on....or hold Him back.

He felt lonely at times. Oh so lonely.

Remember the night in the garden before He was crucified?

His friends fell asleep. They were too tired to pray.

Jesus was alone. In the garden. Praying. By Himself.

There will be times when we feel alone. But, don't let that discourage you. It is part of the walk.

He will bring wise people in your life. Pray for them to come. Look for them.

And most of all, be a wise friend.

Pray for your friends. Encourage them. Speak life over them.

"The person you will be in five years is based on the books you read and the people you surround yourself with today."

These three things can change the course of our lives right now. Starting today.

A new year is on the horizon. Full of possibility.

Will we choose to stay the same in our faith? Or will we choose to surrender our hearts to God's plan for us. The plan that He chose for us before we were even conceived. When He knitted us together in our mother's wombs.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17

Will you read His Word with us? We have a cool plan. It's a 2 year plan. Easy and doable.

Click here for more details.


reading, praying, surrounding,


jill


Dec 12, 2016

Less of me, more of Jesus.....

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"My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long" Psalm 71:8

I find this time of year brings more stress than rest for me.

Each year I declare to God and anyone who will listen "This year is going to be different! I am not getting caught up in the Christmas frenzy."

Then, by December 1st, I feel like I have been run over by an 18 wheeler with a Christmas wreath dangling from the front.

Whew.

Inevitably, God hits my heart with a thud to shake me loose from the Christmas crazy merry-go-round.

This year, He used the words of a dear friend.

She told me that the little girl she mentors dreads this time of year. The little girl told my friend that each year the kids come back from Christmas break showing off their new clothes, shoes, and toys.

Meanwhile, she comes back to school with the same old clothes and shoes.

Heaviness struck my heart.

How often we get caught up with our lists, our errands, our parties, our outfits...

While a weary world suffers.

Our busyness distracts us. We get lost in the flurry of "stuff", while so many around us are suffering.

Please don't get me wrong. I love Christmas parties, and shopping, and all the extra that comes with the Christmas season. However, it is easy to get lost in that. Blind to the suffering. The lonely. The hungry. The poor.

There is something we can do.

We can lift up praises to the Lord. [Psalm 7:17] We can let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our heart be pleasing to the Lord. [Psalm 19:14]

Why would we lift up praises?

Because it puts our hearts in tune with God's. It sets our hearts in proper order and enables our eyes to be opened to what He sees.

He sees all.

When we praise Him and worship Him, it rids our hearts of greed and selfishness. It cleanses out our spirit and washes it clean with His Glory.

Wanting to do the "right thing" doesn't give our soul a cleanse, it just strokes our egos. Only God can truly clean up our hearts and align them with His.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

When He purifies our hearts, we become blind to "self". We release any idol that has been placed before Him and we are set free to move about with His eyes and with His heart.

Suddenly, we aren't so bothered by the person that cut in front of us in line. Or the person at the register who is slower than molasses. Or the party we didn't get invited to. Or the family member we will see at Christmas that always rubs us like sandpaper.

Our flesh gets starved and our spirits get fed when we praise God.

Are you in need of some cleansing too? Let's jump right on into scripture, shall we?

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. Titus 3:1-2

 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:18-19

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful to him, and bless his name. Psalm 100:4

Therefore I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises to your name. 2 Samuel 22:50

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. Hebrews 13:15

And, like a good Father, He will lead you. Be prepared to follow.

He will open your eyes to the needs around you, and He will equip you to help in a very unique way.


paying attention,


jill


Dec 5, 2016

Be still, Jill...

As I sit here staring at this blank computer screen, I haphazardly look over to my left. Our Christmas tree is standing there. Still. Warm. Inviting.

It's hard to look away. My eyes just want to engage in the beauty of this tree. No ornaments are even hung yet. But, it doesn't matter. She is glowing with colorful lights. Inviting anyone to come and sit next to her warmth. [yes, I do believe our tree is a "she".]

There is nothing really special about this tree. Average height, average breadth. Yet, it is hard to look away. She's just quite a breathtaking sight.

This verse quickly comes to mind, "Be still and know that I am God."  Psalm 46:10

Yes, still.

There's that word again.

Still .

Rhymes with Jill. You would think I would remember. It also rhymes with my last name, Hill. A double reminder. Still. Jill. Hill. 

[God really does have a sense of humor]

Yet, so often, stillness escapes me.

When worries pile on, my mind is not still.

When sickness is looming over a loved one, my heart refuses to be still.

When finances get crunchy, and anxiety rises, I forget about being still.

When my to-do list seems to never get done, frantic overcomes any sense of stillness.

When my children get on my ever last nerve for the 108th time in one day, my actions are anything but still.

Why is it so hard to be still?

Stillness takes surrender.

A heart surrendered to its proper authority.

Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer John 1:13-15

In this season of hustle and bustle, I want to be still. Really, I do.

I want to soak in the joy of Christmas.

I want to linger longer.

I want to live in this moment with my family and my children.

I want to be like our Christmas tree. Warm. Inviting. Still.

Yet, so often get I can caught up in the wrong things. Worry. Fear. Anxiety. Busy.

I need a reset. How about you?

Instead of doing the usual crazy we are so used to, let's be still.

I hear you laughing.

It's Christmas, how are we to be still??

Stillness begins in the heart.

When our hearts are still and at peace, our bodies will soon follow.

A heart at peace gives life to the body. Proverbs 14:30

When I had my first baby, I would go and sit at Lem's grandmother's house for hours with my newborn swaddle.

Something about her house made everything better. It was still.

Lem's grandmother was never rushed. I never felt like I was a burden to her. I always felt welcome.

She was still.

I think the elderly get it.

They see the other side of this life in a whole new way.

Time is a precious thing to the elderly. They know how short life really is.

What if we slowed time down a bit this season.

What if we created a space for us to be still and be with Jesus. Not because we want to "squeeze" our quiet time in, but because we want to be still with Jesus.

Jesus stills our hearts. He pours peace into our worn-down souls.

Do you know what would happen to my beautiful tree if I didn't water her daily? She would die.

Her green branches would turn brown, and slowly she would wilt.

The same happens to our souls when we don't take the time to be nourished with God's word.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. Psalm 42:1

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35

Let's be still.

And, just like our Christmas trees, let's invite a weary world to soak up some peace, warmth, and stillness.


being still,

jill hill ;)










Dec 4, 2016

Do you remember?

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Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. Psalm 116:7

I remember it like it was yesterday. A precious lady sat in my living room and whispered these words to me: "You are experiencing the mountain top with God right now. Enjoy it, soak it up as much as you can. There will be a day when you will be in the valley. When you are, look back on this time and remember how faithful God is."

She spoke those words to me four 1/2 years ago. Little did I know the wisdom she was sharing with my younger heart.

Friends, if you are a Christian, you have probably had some amazing mountain top experiences with God at some point or another. There is nothing like it. Everything seems like it's rimmed with gold and silver. Life seems incredibly full of wonder and joy.

Then, some time passes. Life happens. People hurt us. People leave us. The weight comes back. Our bodies age. Children leave. Finances change. Old strongholds come back with a vengeance.

Oh, hello there valley.

Let me tell you a secret treasure that I discovered in the valley....

God is still as close as ever.
 
He never left.
 
Nothing about Him has changed. NOTHING.

We tend to think we are alone. Or He has forgotten us.

Oh, but just the contrary. He is ever so close.

Without the valley, we would not be able to cling tightly to the hem of His cloak. The valley makes us desperate for Him. As our souls were created to long for Him, they long. We pant for a taste of the Living Water of His Word. Living day by breathless day dependent on a glimpse of His goodness.

The mountain top is good but we don't cling to Him like we do in the valley. We soar on the mountain top. But, in the valley we hold on tight to His word and His truth and we never let it leave our sight.

These times grow us by leaps and bounds. They equip our hearts for a desire for Him, and not what He can give us. They chisel out anything that gets in the way of a heart devoted to Him and Him alone.

We can choose to rest as the chiseling takes place, or we can fight it and pull away from Him in the valley.

This reminds me of when my daughter had a loose tooth. That bloody tooth was dangling from her little slobbery mouth. I told her that one little pull and the tooth would be out and her new beautiful permanent tooth would come in. She resisted stubbornly, and would run when we tried to pull her tooth. Little did she know that the one second of pain would lead to being free from that silly looking tooth.

We do the same at times. We pull away from Him when things are not going well. We resist the pain and try to escape to the nearest exit. We question His faithfulness. And even doubt His love for us.

If we could only remember His faithfulness in these times.

The Israelites in the Old Testament constantly forgot God's faithfulness. They complained. They turned their back on God. They constantly questioned His existence.

If they would only have remembered what God had already done for them. How He had rescued them from slavery and oppression. How He had parted the waters for them to go through to escape the enemy.

So many miracles. Yet, no recollection.

God was constantly telling them to remember.

Then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Deuteronomy 6:12

And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. Deuteronomy 8:2

We are so prone to forget, sweet friends. So prone to dwell on our circumstances instead of His faithfulness.

Perhaps our valleys would be much sweeter if we remembered.

Maybe this is why Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:8 "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."

How quickly we forget God, yet He never ever forgets us.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me." Isaiah 49:15-16

Maybe your valley has been a long and excruciating one. Maybe it's just too much to try to remember God's faithfulness after being so long in the valley.

Oh, friend. I urge you to remember. Recall. Look back on His faithfulness.

That same faithful God is still being faithful. He has not stopped being faithful.

I do believe He takes us through the valley to draw us closer. It is something we cannot wrap our brains around until we get to our home in Heaven. But, we can rest in that valley and recall His great and many miracles. The times when we were soaring on the mountain with Him.

These recollections refuel us and direct our hearts back on the path of believing and trusting in His plan.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

There is a promised land coming. He gives us His Word.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16


remembering,


jill






Nov 29, 2016

The B word....

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LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. Psalm 16:5

There is a dirty little word that I have tried so very hard to take out of my vocabulary. It used to live in my mouth and be repeated at least a few times a day.

The word starts with a B.

Okay, I won't say it, but I will write it...

Busy.

Eek. It's even ugly on a computer screen.

This word makes me cringe because it makes me think of a total lack of peace. A familiar place I used to live.

I once heard a saying that resonated within my heart...

"If the devil can't make you bad, he will make you busy."

Gulp.

When we are busy, we cease being able to stop and notice the present circumstance we are in .

When we are busy, we are short with people. All people. The ones under our roof, and the ones out in the world just aching for a little word of encouragement.

Busyness fills our minds and leaves no room for God to implant ideas, thoughts, gestures, and words to reach out to someone in an unplanned way.

We used to talk to people, not text.

We used to hang out with people at our kitchen tables, not group face time them or message them via google chat.

We used to have a handful of people that we did life with, now we do life with the whole entire world on the internet.

All of these things make for very busy, very scattered, very spread super thin lives.

Busyness is nothing new. Remember the story of Mary and Martha?

Martha was in the kitchen busily preparing, planning, and freaking out a bit about all that had to be done.

Mary, her sister, sat at the feet of Jesus. Mary knew the importance of being present. She knew that it was okay to be still and sit with the people around her.

Mary understood the importance of the opportunity to be with Jesus. She soaked Him up, she hung on every word...she wasn't about to miss a moment with Him.

We have the same opportunity every single moment of our lives. We can be with Jesus and sit at His feet at any time. Yet, we somehow have too much going on. Life beckons, and we must answer.

Or, do we?

I heard a well-known preacher say recently that people ask him constantly how he has so much peace and lack of urgency in his life, despite the many demands laid upon him daily. He replied, "you are just as busy as me. I just to say no a lot more often."

This preacher knows how to prioritize and escape a busy, yet fruitless life. He sits at the feet of Jesus, and takes his orders from Him. He listens to the voice of God over the voice of the world.

God has a portion for us. A specific assignment each and every day.

We can choose to accept this portion, or we can make our own schedule.

I want to be on God's schedule, not my own. Don't you?

There will always be "something" for us to volunteer for. Something for us to "do". A party for us to attend.

Can I tell you something that has helped me tremendously over the past few years?

I ask myself these questions before adding something else to my plate:

How will this affect my husband, his needs, and his schedule?

How will this affect my children, their needs, and their schedule?

What other assignment that the Lord has given me at this time will I have to sacrifice in order to add this to my plate?

Does this align with what God has called me to do in this season of my life?

Am I going to say yes because I want to please people and not let them down?

Do I want to do this because it is self-promoting?

Am I saying yes because my pride will not let me say no?

This has definitely helped me to pause and think hard about the decision that I need to make. It allows me time to pray and to talk with my husband before jumping in head first...like I have done so many times before.

Listen, I understand that some things are not that big of a deal and that you may not have to ask yourself these questions every single time...

But, I have learned that these little decisions add up and cause a lot of stressors in my day if I am not careful. They may not seem like a big deal, but at the end of the day they can wear a girl down!

We must be cautious with over-commitment. Or as some call it, FOMO. Fear-of-missing-out.

Did you just raise your hand? Been there, friend.

I can guarantee you that it is not the end of the world if we have to miss a function. People will not talk about you {well, your real friends won't}, and life will go on.

There will always be another party. There will always be another opportunity to volunteer. There will always be another women's retreat. You can count on that.

It does not make us cool to be busy. It just makes us tired. And worn out. And unable to function well with our people.

Take a deep breath.

Blow it out slow.

One more time.

Now, go to the Lord and talk to Him about your schedule. Ask Him to lead you today. Ask Him to help you focus on people and not a to-do list.

Simple prayers from scripture you can pray are:

 My times are in Your hands- Psalm 31:15

Teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom-Psalm 90:12

Teach me your way, oh Lord; lead me on a straight path- Psalm 27:11

When we spend more time with Jesus, we actually are able to function better. We exude more peace and are able to refresh others so much more.

The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25

The world will pull at you and scream at you to jump in because you are missing out.

Turn your face to the opposite side and see Jesus peacefully desiring a moment with you.

He gives peace. The world brings chaos.

Fill up with His peace, and go spread it over the chaos.

Shine your light and let others know it's okay to give up busy. They just may need an example lived out in front of them. Let that be you.

Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2


out with the b,

jill