Recalling the Past to Fortify Our Future

"Journaling is strengthening...We can observe our own spiritual growth through our journals."

During my years of journaling, I have gone through lavish writing to the Lord to times that are sprinkled with days to months of inactivity! It's hard to admit or even understand my times of drought.  Nothing in particular can be its cause--just busyness, laziness.  Then I feel the Lord is disappointed with me and I let it go on even longer letting my thoughts get control.  But I am reminded of Scripture where Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5

Taking every thought captive...even in journaling I can practice this lesson.  It's not that I am being disobedient at all, but I am not getting the fullness of what God wants to give me through my time with him in writing.

Recently, I learned a great lesson from my beautiful friend and WOW sister, Gini Thompson.  I was explaining my recent lack of writing and how it not only disappointed me but I felt it disappointed the Lord.  Gini explained that if she has times like that she has learned to look back and read through her journaling and she sees all God has done for her.  If I've asked him to take something away from me, I don't even recall it until I go back and read that I asked for it. Rereading my journal is amazing and astonishing. My mind does forget all the many things he does for me and all that he has provided for me.  God clearly just says "start again!" 

In my confessing and praise and praying out to him in journaling...I've learned that he wants something more for me, not from me. As I reread my journals, I feel the Holy Spirit strengthen me and encourage me to continue.  He delights my heart!

We can review all we've asked him for and see his divine providence at work.  It reminds us to put our focus on Him rather than things that distract us or pull us away.  I have read all the many times he has given me grace and mercy over and over...and it builds me up and I know that Jesus is mine forever! Journaling helps me to take my daily thoughts captive and make Christ the theme.  My spiritual growth shows through journaling, and it indeed strengthens my faith and love for Jesus!

So, if you happen to fall into a lapse in journaling--pull up some old pages and read them--let the Holy Spirit strengthen you and start again!

-- Lorraine Pruitt © June 2019

An Occasion to Remember

Photo credit: Unsplash - Kevin Lanceplaine

Photo credit: Unsplash - Kevin Lanceplaine

“When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’  For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4:21b-24

As stones were to the Israelites, the flag and other national symbols can serve as reminders to us of our Father’s provision and protection. And just as the Lord instructed the Israelites to teach their children and pass down the truth of God’s actions and word, we need to remember, as well.  For, as God provided pathways for the Israelites, He continues to provide for us as Americans, as well as people all over the world. On this Independence Day 2019, let’s follow the Israelites’ charge. Let’s pass along the story of God’s guidance and provision to Americans – nationwide and in our individual homes.

Glory, glory, hallelujah! His truth is marching on!

WOW-Women for Oppressed Women © July 2019

Submitting to a Soul Search

Is it weird to be known better by someone else than you know yourself?

Photo by  Jeremy Bishop  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Part of the journal prompt for June reminds us that “we can unpack difficult scripture passages by recording and observing in our journals.”  My initial perception of “difficult scriptures” would be those that seem hard to understand or “above my head.”  I’m happy to think about how I can break down parts of a scripture by writing it down, doing some research, asking the Holy Spirit for insight and then journaling through all of that in my effort to understand it.

However, when I look at Psalm 139, I do not personally see anything that is “hard to understand” no matter how I slice it.  The difficulty of this chapter for me at times is that I DO understand what it means, but I DON’T always like it.  WOW’s June journal prompt reminds me that God knows me better than I know myself.  This realization can prompt me to sit before Him asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any grievous ways so that I can confess them in writing and allow God to forgive me and lead me in the way everlasting.  This is all good…except when I don’t want to think about how I’m grieving the Holy Spirit and I panic a little knowing that I can’t get away from Him. 

This reminds me of a trip my husband and I took to Hawaii for our 30th Anniversary several years ago.  I have a sweet friend who’s lived there for most of her life who allowed us to stay on her beachfront property on the North Shore of Oahu for a week… literally a few feet from the ocean.  Sounds amazing, right?  It really was; however, for the first two nights, I struggled to sleep.  The incessant sound of the waves was overwhelming, and they NEVER stopped.  No ear plugs or stack of pillows over my head let me escape the reality of the waves, and it was a little rough for a few days.  By the third night, my brain decided it was OK to sleep by the ocean, and by the end of the week, I LOVED it.

This is how I can be with the knowledge that I get from Psalm 139. The passage explains that there’s never been a moment since before I was conceived (Nope… I don’t remember that) that God was not fully aware of everything about me.  It goes on to tell me that there is NOWHERE I can go to avoid His Spirit.  I’m an open book to Him!  A further look at the Holy Spirit helps me to understand that He illuminates God’s Word, truth and glory. 

Whenever I sin or even try to close my eyes to this light (like I did when trying to shut out the sound of the waves), it grieves the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30, Acts 7:51).  The Holy Spirit serves and speaks what He hears from the Father (John 16).  He’s my direct connection to God that is always there.  I have to be honest and say that at first glance, this is just a little irritating to me, because I want certain things to just be my business.  But, as I learn more of God’s Love and unbelievable Eternal plan that includes me… even though He does know EVERYTHING about me... I actually end up LOVING this whole concept (just like I eventually loved the “incessant” sound of the waves).

When I surrender to the knowledge that He knows me better than I know myself and is ALWAYS there, and then I think about the POWER that I have because of that, I can honestly agree with the Psalmist. He actually seems giddy in 139:6 when he says, “… it’s too wonderful --  I can’t take it in.” (The Message).  Only then can I really go into the confession part of Psalm 139 in verses 23-24 with a better attitude instead of with a chip on my shoulder. 

“Search me O God and know my heart.  Try me and know my thoughts and see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”   Psalm 139: 23-24 

I really do want to be led into the way everlasting with my grievous ways cleared up – don’t you?  So bravely journal about this scripture and see what the Spirit shows you!

 

--  Shelly Mountjoy © May 2019

Heart and Home

Photo by  Arthur Poulin  on  Unsplash

Photo by Arthur Poulin on Unsplash

I recently traveled through Greece following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul. His missionary journeys changed the world as he proclaimed God’s grace through the gospel to the Gentiles. Walking among the ruins of ancient history gave me a small glimpse into these difficult journeys of hardship, suffering, and sacrifice. Scripture came alive at archaeological sites where Paul once ministered.


It was in Philippi near a river that the story of Lydia stirred up my faith in new and tangible ways. Lydia was a businesswoman, a dealer in purple cloth, and most likely wealthy. She was a worshipper of God and a woman of prayer. As she listened to Paul, “the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying” (Acts 16:14) . This was indeed a divine appointment! The Holy Spirit of God intervened to reroute Paul and ensure that Lydia would be in just the right place to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Lydia received this life-giving message making her the first convert to Christianity in Europe. Soon after being baptized she said to Paul and Silas, “come and stay at my home” and the church was birthed.


The book, Gospel Patrons, by John Rinehart characterizes Lydia as a patron of the gospel. The author states, “When God raises up people to proclaim the gospel he also raises up patrons to support them. They have different gifts and different roles, but are partners in the same mission.” Lydia was a woman of influence who used her wealth and talents to advance the message of Jesus and consequently is remembered for her contribution to Paul’s ministry. Standing by that quiet river in Philippi I was reminded that God is looking for women of influence in this day and generation. How can I use my resources -home, money, and talents to draw people to the Savior?

Kathie Brown © April 2019

Animal Crackers and Fruit Punch

My first recollections of Vacation Bible School are not the songs or the stories but the food---animal crackers and fruit punch.  Now before you think I was only there for the food, let me explain.  I have learned from many years of teaching children the Bible that what they remember most is what they experienced.  When I went to VBS I remember coming together with a group of children and experiencing fellowship.  Fellowship with others who learn and believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world!  And we ate animal crackers and drank fruit punch, too. 

Super City Hero logo B 20190501.png

This summer at The Chapel we are introducing a Community Vacation Bible School that will create a fellowship experience for children from the four local schools that The Chapel adopted —Leggett, McEbright, Glover and Mason.  Superhero City:  Unleash your Amazing! will help children learn that the world decides what their identity should be, but God has a plan to rescue us and give us an eternal identity through His Son Jesus.

Many of the children who will be attending have not grown up in church and/or do not know that Jesus loves them.  When they come to The Chapel on June 10-13th they will experience God’s love for them and will be surrounded by people who believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins.  For many, this will be the first time hearing this proclamation and I encourage you to pray for these young ones that they may respond to the gospel.  There will be activities and games, music and fun skits and of course there will be snacks.  All of these things create an experience that they will never forget. 

Photo by  Yannis A  on  Unsplash

Photo by Yannis A on Unsplash

Romans 10:17 teaches that “faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ,” and The Chapel is excited to proclaim this message of hope to these children.  Will you pray that Holy Spirit will fill the church body as they use their gifts and talents for God’s kingdom?  Pray too that the Holy Spirit will speak to these children and that they will respond to the Good News of Jesus Christ and share this same message with their families and neighborhood.  

God can use animal crackers and fruit punch to change a child because He did that with me.  As I got older I participated in communion for the first time and remembered that time at VBS when we ate this snack.  Those cookies and punch were my first introduction to the body and blood of Christ and what HE did for me on the cross.  That is the kind of experience we want to see happen for these children, too.

 

Lisa Marshall © April 2019

 

 

Halleluiah! What a Savior!

Photo by  Steve Halama  on  Unsplash

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

I recently read The Hiding Place, an amazing retelling by Corrie Ten Boom of her heroic actions in hiding and rescuing many Jews in Holland during World War II, and her brutal time spent in a Nazi concentration camp because of it.  I marveled at the faith of Corrie and her sister Betsie, as they withstood the most horrific conditions with little more than one flimsy outfit and some smuggled pages of the New Testament.  Their faith in Jesus was unshakable.

Yet even in her amazing faith and courage, Corrie was still human.  At one point in the story, when they were suffering perhaps the most in the dead of winter, Corrie tells of her discovery that if she maneuvered her way toward the middle of the roll-call formation where they sometimes stood for hours before the guards, she would have a little more protection from the brutal wind.  Corrie admits this was self-centered, as it meant that someone else had to stand on the edge and be subjected to greater cold than she.  Another time, Corrie recounts that new prisoners arrived without a blanket and her sister insisted that they give up theirs to share.  Yet, Corrie was only willing to “lend” her blanket, insisting on holding onto it in her heart.

Even Corrie Ten Boom, like you and me, wrestled with the selfishness of her own human heart.  We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)  Every one of us.  We need a rescuer.  A redeemer.  A Savior.

Who can rescue us from the depth of our sin and the selfishness of our own hearts?  This Easter we celebrate the fact that only ONE can and has:  Jesus.  The Word says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5: 8)  Jesus willingly laid his life down for all of us.  The greatest act of selflessness, for you and for me.  Jesus said:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)     

And as if complete forgiveness of our sins wasn’t enough, he offers us even more:  His JOY.  Jesus promises that for every believer who abides in his love and obeys his commands, His joy will be in us and our joy may be complete. (John 15:9-11) 

In the context of the horrific conditions Corrie Ten Boom endured, just hoping to survive each day, her confessions of selfishness admittedly seem small.  However, her hidden selfishness was affecting her joy.  Finally, Corrie had this epiphany:       

The truth blazed like sunlight in the shadows of Barracks 28.  The real sin I had been committing was not that of inching toward the center of a platoon because I was cold.  The real sin lay in thinking that any power to help and transform came from me.  Of course it was not my wholeness, but Christ’s that made the difference. (The Hiding Place, 35th Anniv. Ed., p. 225, emphasis added)

Once Corrie Ten Boom reminded herself that she had no power to help herself or transform her circumstances—that the power of Christ was all sufficient in her weakness—all of her joy returned. This Easter, let’s lay down our selfishness and tendency to depend on ourselves.  Let’s freely embrace the complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ who willingly laid down his life for us so that we may have eternal life.  Let’s walk in the complete joy and victory he freely gave for us!

Halleluiah!  What a Savior!

-- Ashley Manfull © April 2019

 

 

Capture Our Feelings and Replace with God's Truth...

Psalm 32:5
”Then I confessed my sins to you, I did not conceal my wrong doings. I decided to confess them to you, and you forgave all my sins.”
Photo by Aaron Burden on  Unsplash.com

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.com

Confessing my sins in prayer to the Lord has never been difficult for me.  But trusting the Lord in his word about my sin has been another issue.  Psalm 32:5 says the Lord "forgave all my sins" as my heart cried out in confession.  Then it is done. Finished. They do not need to be confessed again.  But here, Lord, my weakness is revealed, as I journal my feelings.

When I first made Jesus my Lord, I had a habit of dredging up old sins and stewing on them.  I confessed the same past sins over and over.  It was hard to let them go. However, as I continued to read God's word, I heard him over and over impress upon me that I was wrong to hold onto them.

There are many scripture verses to tell me how the Lord deals with my sin. 

  • "As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12) 

  • “Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!” (Psalm 25:7)

  • “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12) 

  • “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25-26)

  • “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

In my humanness, it was difficult to understand how God could remember my sins no more – indeed, blot them out! I felt incapable of doing this. But this thought process revealed more about my faith and ability to forgive sin than my Lord’s.  Did I harbor bitterness or hold a grudge in my forgiveness to others? What does this say about me? Did I really trust the Lord in his word? 

In His infinite capacity for grace and mercy, his word tells me the truth of all I need to know -- my confessed sins are not remembered by my Lord!  I needed to trust his word completely.  It has been a journey in my growing relationship with the Lord to trust and love his word.  To internalize his word is far different from acknowledging it. It has been a process for me. But the Lord is long suffering and I have grown to depend on his word in all aspects of my life.

When I confess my sins, I know there are consequences, but I feel his grace and mercy,  compassion, steadfast love, complete forgiveness.  A burden lifted! I can model his forgiveness of me as I deal with others. No bitterness, no grudges.  And yet, still every once in a while, something from my past rears its head. At those moments, I stand ready to submit my heart and mind to recall those verses of love and forgiveness.  He is always faithful to forgive.

-- Lorraine Pruitt © March 2019



 

 

WE ARE CELEBRATING OUR ANNIVERSARY WITH SOME UPDATES!

In February 2019, WOW – Women for Oppressed Women celebrated our eighth anniversary by updating our website! We invite you to check out the new look and streamlined pages!

We also recently had the opportunity to reflect back on our founding with an article on The Worthy Walk, Pastor Tim Armstrong’s website for his radio program. This particular article was used in association with Pastor Armstrong’s sermon series, The Power of One. So, some of it reflects the personal experiences of one WOW sister. As you read it, we hope you not only will share in our joy and praise God with us for the many ways He has blessed this small band of sisters, but that you also will see how He grants all of us invitations and gifts to join Him in His work! You can read about that here.

There is Power in the Names of Jesus

Lord, where are you?

Have you ever asked that question? I sure have. In fact, I cried out those words just yesterday. A relationship trial reared its head in the ugliest of manners – again – and I was left with an aching heart, bruised feelings and a deep sense of isolation… Lord, where ARE you?

Moments like that make me so very grateful for some advice given to me long ago. A dear Christian mentor handed me an ordinary, spiral bound notebook and a pen and said,

“Linda, I want you to read the Bible, and I want you to record in this notebook everything you learn about God – Who He is and what He does.”

Photo by  Ana Tavares  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash

My friend was encouraging me to become intimately acquainted with my Creator. She knew that life would deal me blows like yesterday’s and that I would need a lifeline. Indeed, a line to Life Himself. It’s a truth the psalmist of chapter 148 also understood. Throughout the 14 verses of his song, he admonishes everything and everyone to praise the Name of God. From the highest of heavens to the smallest of children, he implores us to praise the Lord!

Why? Because the psalmist and my friend understood that “His majesty is above earth and heaven.” (Psalm 148:13b) In other words, He is in charge.

God is Creator of All and King over all. When we lift up His Names, as described throughout His word, we learn the character of our Almighty God. As we understand His character, we realize important truths about Him. For instance, just this morning I was reminded that:

·       He is sovereign – Psalm 115:3 reminds us that “He does all that He pleases,” but we also learn

·       He works all things for the good – Romans 8:28 shows us that He doesn’t do what He pleases to suit a whim. No, in His love and grace, He works in the lives of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He is not unaware of our trials, but rather,

·       He is sympathetic – Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us that he “has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Therefore, we can “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” And we can trust that – even when we feel alone –

·       He is our Shepherd – Wherever we are on life’s pathways, Revelation 7:17 reminds us that Christ “will be (our) shepherd, and he will guide (us) to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from (our) eyes.”

Friend, at the very moment I was feeling isolated and afraid, God reminded me of these strong promises. I had His word to fall back on because years ago a sweet friend encouraged me to truly know my God. And this month, WOW is joining in that encouragement with our journal prompt. Throughout 2019, WOW and our friends are praying through our pens by journaling prayers from the Psalms. In March, we are journaling our praise to God as described in Psalm 148:13:

“Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted; His majesty is above earth and heaven.”

Healer, Provider, Deliverer, Savior. The Lord our God has given Himself many names. Won’t you join us this month in focusing on those names? Then, praise Him for Who He is and for what He does. Over time, none of us will need to ask, “Lord, where are You?” He will show us through His word.

-- Linda R. Maynard © February 2019

 

 

 

Giving Way to God's Greatness

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    and his greatness is unsearchable.” – Psalm 145:3
 

Photo by  Brigitte Tohm  on  Unsplash

February in Ohio is traditionally a little bit of a challenge for me.  I am one of those people who depends a little too much on the sun and daylight for a “pick-me-up” in life.  In fact, I’ve noticed that the longer the winter drags on, the more I have the annoying habit of waking up during the night to worry over situations and people that I care about.

When I start traveling down the muddy road of “my concerns” about loved ones and circumstances of life that are out of my control – especially during the night -- I have to literally recite verses to myself to drive out of the ruts that I feel myself creating.  One such verse is “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3).  I remind myself that He cares for me and His ability to handle all things “me” is beyond my understanding.  Another verse that tracks well with this idea is Isaiah 55:9. 

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” 

I have recently journaled about my need to defer to God’s viewpoint because there are no boundaries to His greatness.  This has to be a choice on my part because in my sinful heart, I rail against any doors that keep me from understanding how or why things don’t go the way I want them to go.  I’m apparently into railing against many things that are good for me!  Just today when my husband was genuinely, lovingly, repeatedly asking me to take the better slice of food because he really wanted me to have it… I pretended I didn’t hear him and took what I “thought” I should take.  Though it wasn’t a big deal he exasperatingly said, “I think you enjoy ignoring me when I’m trying to give you a better choice!”  I looked at him and laughed because he was right. In a much more serious and similar way, my natural tendency is to ignore God, pretending that His greatness has boundaries and I can certainly work out a better scenario if I just spend more time worrying about it during the night.  

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the science of what the sun does for mental health, and this month I will turn my face as often as possible to the sun God created for us. But, I also plan to make a conscious choice to turn my face and praise to God and His Son even more during the month when our society focuses on Love.  I invite you to join me in choosing to trust in the Love of our Heavenly Father who not only gave His Son for our redemption, but who also has unsearchable greatness that we cannot begin to understand.  If we renew ourselves daily with this perspective of our loving Father’s greatness – in the same way we put on fresh clothes each day -- we will change the way we see the seemingly unending winter in Ohio and the way we see everything in our lives! 

-- Shelly Mountjoy, © January 2019