Mountains and Valleys

BREATHE – Day 17, March 5, 2021 – 40 Day Lenten Journey

As a ministry leader that worked with families I had the privilege of working camp ministry. I remember after a couple retreats back to back in May and June, thinking to myself, “I could do this all year long.” Camp ministry allows people to step out of the daily humdrum routine of life and get out of their routines and comfort zones. Camp ministry provides a space for people to “be still”, engage in community, soak in God’s word, and experience worship beyond a song set or message. It is truly a “mountain” top experience! A Holy Spirit fueled environment where walls are broken down, fears are released, joy is unleashed and a glimpse of life with Jesus is experienced! In fact many tears would be shed the last day of camp because so many wanted to stay on the “mountain” in the presence of such a supernatural presence.

It’s no different than Peter’s experience at the transfiguration. For a moment, Jesus pulls back the veil, giving his closest colleagues a glimpse into His Divinity. It is so overwhelming and powerful that Peter wants to stay there, on the mountain, build a shelter and remain in the presence of the glory of God.

The truth is those “mountain” top moments allow us to travel back down the mountain so we can walk the flatlands with hope, journey in the valleys finding joy, and travel in this thing called life with a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Where are you on your journey? As we travel through this 40 day season of Lent we are on a journey of returning to God, drawing closer to His Divinity, climbing to the “mountain” top to experience the fullness of Christ in our life – so that we are strengthened and sustained for the road ahead!

Today read and meditate on Mark 9:2-8

The Transfiguration
“2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.” Mark 9:2-8

Sprinkle Kindness

BREATHE – Day 16, March 4, 2021 – 40 Day Lenten Journey

Before I go to sleep each night I pray, “Lord what is the Word, the thought, the essence of YOU that you want communicated today?” Typically in the morning the Lord has placed something on my heart that moves my fingers across the keyboard with conviction and confirms, yes, this is the truth for the day. By 8:00 a.m. I had studied the scripture for Sunday, walked my puppy, drank my coffee, did a load of laundry, unloaded the dishwasher, and still nothing, no Word, no thought, nothing. And then I got a text, a text with an encouraging and precious note that spoke straight to my heart and ignited joy in my spirit. In that moment the Lord gave me the word for the day – KINDNESS! A fruit of HIS mighty and HOLY SPIRIT and one that takes little effort, yet yields incredible fruit! The world needs sprinkles of kindness in and through each and every day, like glitter from heaven that sparkles where it lands and brings JOY to a weary soul! So today, sprinkle a little bit of KINDNESS on your Lenten Journey and watch how you might just be the conduit to breathe life into someone’s comings and goings for the day! #breathe #kindness #fruitofthespirit #40days #lentenjourney #sparkle

James Bryan Smith writes of John Wesley in The Good and Beautiful God: “And what is the religion Wesley prescribes? Not a religion of laws or ceremonies or mystical knowledge, but of love and kindness. Our world is badly in need of people who love, and it is hungering for people who demonstrate genuine kindness. We are so deprived of it that we are astonished when we encounter it. And what is the point of this religion? To get us to heaven? No, to get heaven into us. To help us discover a relationship with God wherein we enjoy God and are easy in ourselves. If we can discover such a life, Wesley believed, we can even face our death with calm assurance and the certainty of a joyful eternity.”― James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character Christ.

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

Discipline

BREATHE – Day 15, March 3, 2021 – 40 Day Lenten Journey

Discipline is necessary and foundational for transformation. In our physical life it takes discipline in our exercise and nutrition. When we exercise we learn to breathe deeply, to oxygenate the muscles at work and in the process condition our bodies to breathe deeper more effective breaths, daily.

When we make disciplined choices with our food and nutrition we begin to experience vitality and increased energy because our body is fueled with good nutrients (“God-made” nourishment).

Our spiritual life requires discipline too. Often times we begin exercising the spiritual disciplines (fasting, prayer, study, etc.) and we wonder when transformation will happen. Maybe it’s as simple as leaving margin or space in our day for the unplanned and unwritten to move. Schedules, calendars, appointments, to-do lists, etc. are all “human-made” activities. What if we allowed space in our day to simply breathe and practiced the daily discipline of being still?

Would we then begin to condition our spirit to marvel in the stillness, wait expectantly in the space, and wonder in the waiting? In that simple discipline of providing margin and space we provide breath for transformation to begin a work in our in spirit and relationship with our Lord.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

Henri Nouwen describes the discipline of margin this way:
“Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.”

May this Lenten season begin the discipline of clearing our calendar and providing space for “God-made” moments to breathe life into our spirit daily. As we condition our heart, mind, soul and strength to wait and wonder in those margin moments we will marvel at the transformation that begins to take place. So as we begin a new month, make way for “God-made” moments to enter into your life – transforming you from the fears of this world to the faith in a Savior that desires you to have life, “God-made” life and life abundant!

Turn It Down

BREATHE – Day 14, March 2, 2021 – 40 Day Lenten Journey.

“Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:7-10

This has been a year where we have been glued to the media. The headlines have been screaming at us to turn up the volume, take in the reports, and allow the depravity of a broken world to overwhelm us and hold us hostage. For many we have mentally and emotionally had our fill of this season. And then along comes the season of Lent. If we take this 40 day journey seriously we begin the transformation of taking back our identity in Christ. In Christ we are in the care of the Good Shepherd. Jesus gives this teaching parable as a visual image of the unseen spiritual battle that rages on the earth.

The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy – what has the thief taken from you this past year?

Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” David understood his Lord as His shepherd and pens the meaning in the 23 Psalm. Today study Psalm 23 and allow the definition of the Good Shepherd to draw you closer to the heart of life, and life to the full!

Who Am I?

BREATHE – Day 13, March 1, 2021 – 40 Day LentenJourney

In chapter 8 of the Gospel of Mark Jesus poses the question to his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” The crowds were discussing among the masses what they believed about Jesus. Many had witnessed miracles and healings, so conversations were swirling about who this man was. However, Jesus was more concerned with how his closest companions, his disciples, would respond to this question, so Jesus asked:

“Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

“They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

“Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.” Mark 8:27-30

Peter quickly responds, “You are the Messiah.”

How would you respond, today, if Jesus asked you that question, “Who do you say I am?” Read and meditate on the following scriptures as you contemplate who Jesus is in your life. This is the most important question you can answer during your Lenten journey, as it is the foundation for transformation and freedom!

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:10-12

“Who do you say I am?” – JESUS

From Dead To Alive

BREATHE – Day 10, February 26, 2021 – 40 Day Lenten Journey

The Valley of Dry Bones
Ezekiel 37:4-10:

“4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.”

The Valley of Dry Bones is a powerful visual image of what living a life apart from our God and Creator looks like. God brings the prophet Ezekiel to this valley where nothing but dry and decayed bones are scattered. The bones are so dry that the connective tissue has disintegrated separating the bones from their skeletal foundation. Ezekiel is aware of the disgrace of the lives that once inhabited these bones, as a proper burial was neglected. The Lord is revealing to Ezekiel how the land of Israel and His people will be restored! The life-giving, resurrecting, restorative BREATH of GOD, would enable the dry bones to rise up off the valley floor, reconnect, and live once again as a testimony to an all-powerful God.

God was not creating something new, he was reviving what was once alive and now laid dead on the valley floor. Think about that for just a minute. It is easy to begin something new; however, it takes an all-powerful God to revive, restore, renew, and resurrect something from death to life.

Today read Ezekiel 37:1-14.

What needs restoration and revival in your life?
What needs redeemed and renewed, so it can be reconciled and resurrected?

Father God, We come to you following a year of a pandemic and all the uncertainties and unknowns that have depleted our weary and thirsty souls. The places we have once found joy, including our churches, have been vacated awaiting a vaccine and protection from this virus and illness. We cry out to you today to breathe your restorative and resurrecting breath into our dry and weary bones bringing us up out of our valley and into your glorious light and life. We are aware that revival of your people and your church, begin with us. Father God have your will and way, breathe us back to life so that we may live as walking testimonies of flesh and bone alive and fueled by the power and presence of your mighty and Holy Spirit! Revive our hearts, restore what has been depleted, and resurrect what has died in our spirit. In the name of your Holy and precious Son Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Turn Off The World

BREATHE – Day 9, February 25, 2021 – 40 Day Lenten Journey

1 Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Psalm 150:1-6

I remember when I was fairly new in my walk with Jesus I joined a few ladies for a neighborhood Bible study during the week. I began to understand that in order for me to walk out this faith it would take more than a worship service on Sundays. In fact, in order for transformation to happen it would need to become a practice, a daily focus to draw closer to Jesus in a relationship, a lifestyle. So I purchased a couple CD’s for the car and began listening to worship music during the many hours of commuting and driving carpool with my kids. Over the course of a few weeks the songs began to take a deep root in my spirit. I actually began to enjoy the many hours traveling in the car and so did my children. Selah’s Greatest Hymns and Third Day were the two that we would listen to over and over again. One day something happened, the music became so much more than a CD track. The lyrics broke open my calloused heart and I could feel the presence of the Lord breathing life into every word. I couldn’t help but to respond with praise and worship back. It was as if a locked door in my life had been kicked open and I could experience what it meant to worship, praise, and give God back the breath in my lungs as a sweet offering of love and gratitude. That exchange started a “drawing near”, a “closer walk with thee”, an understanding that if I truly wanted a transformed lifestyle it would be experienced in this daily exchange of praise and worship; even in the dry desert places. Learning to experience worship in the everyday of life transformed my heart and intentionally made space for Jesus to be active and alive in my daily coming and going.

What if we truly began to live a lifestyle of worship? What if we began to experience worship outside of a congregational response in corporate worship and began to move and breathe in worship as a form of everyday life? Psalm 150 reminds us that “everything that has breath, praise the Lord”. In Celebration of Discipline Robert Foster states this:

“The Bible describes worship in physical terms. The root meaning for the Hebrew word we translate worship is “to prostrate.” The word bless literally means “to kneel.” Thanksgiving refers to “an extension of the hand.” Throughout Scripture we find a variety of physical postures in connection with worship: lying prostrate, standing, kneeling, lifting the hands, clapping the hands, lifting the head, bowing the head, dancing, and wearing sackcloth and ashes. The point is that we are to offer God our bodies as well as all the rest of our being. Worship is appropriately physical.” – Richard J. Foster.

This week allow space for worship to become a daily practice. Turn off the world, turn up your favorite praise songs, and allow your heart, mind, body and spirit to move freely in worship. Remember there is an audience of ONE, the very ONE that wants you to experience an abundant life, transformed from the inside out! May praise and worship in the daily living open a door of transformation for you this Lenten journey!

Thirsty

BREATHE – Day 8, February 24, 2021 – 40 Day Lenten Journey

About 15 years ago I remember standing in a resource room at a large church cleaning up following a week of Vacation Bible School. I leaned down to pick up a large tub of supplies and on my way back up everything went black. I slid down on the floor to lessen the blow if I fell completely over. My heart was beating erratically and I knew something was not right. After a month of wearing a heart monitor and numerous tests I was pleased to learn that my heart was in great health. But why the incident and would it happen again? Then my doctor asked me, “I know this seems like a strange question, but how much water do you drink in a day?” To my reply, “There is water in coffee and Coca-Cola right?” At that point in my life that is the only thing I poured in my cup. She explained to me that water is vital, essential and necessary for life and every organ in the body is dependent on it’s nourishment to thrive, especially the heart!

Our spiritual life is the same! We trudge through our daily routine depleted and thirsty for the life-giving water of a Savior that is vital, essential and necessary for life. We wonder why we are weary, exhausted, overwhelmed, anxious, and dehydrated by life. The heartbeat of our spiritual life must be nourished by the source of living water, Jesus! As we journey through our wilderness seasons we are reminded that we are not alone. The source of life, the wellspring, comes through taking time to quench our thirst through drawing from the water of life in a Savior named Jesus!

Letting Go

BREATHE – Day 7, February 23, 2021 – 40 Day Lenten Journey

Today spend some time in the study of 1 Kings 18 and 19.

Elijah witnesses the work of his Lord over the prophets of Baal and sees firsthand the power of the God he serves. However, when he hears the threats of Jezebel he flees into the desert wilderness, afraid. When we are afraid we are unable to think clearly and rationally. Fear draws us away from the very one that gives us breath and life. Remember Adam and Eve after their disobedience, they hid, afraid. God asks the question, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Fear isolates and separates and is a playground for the enemy to wreak havoc in our lives.

If God could rain down on the prophets of Baal then He could certainly protect Elijah from the relentless threats of Jezebel. However, in Elijah’s fear and exhaustion he fled. I love how the Lord sends angels to tend to Elijah in his weakness and fear; however, the heart of our Lord comes in His question to Elijah, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

I wonder what that question means to us today as we walk out our Lenten journey? Each of us come into this wilderness season carrying heavy bags and wearing dirty rags as a residual of the year or years we’ve walked through. We walk into this season wanting to release the burdens and bags that are exhausting to pick up and carry each and every day. We walk into this season wanting to shed the dirty rags that we know we have outgrown; however, they are what we know and therefore comfortable to wear. But in this 40 Day Journey as we fast, pray, serve, repent, and seek our Lord, we are reminded of this very powerful question, “What are you doing here?”

May that question the Lord God asked Elijah be the question from your Lord to you today. May “What are you doing here?” begin a dialogue between you and your Lord that moves you out of hiding into HIs glorious light. May the still small voice, the very whisper of the breath of God, breathe into your weary and fearful spirit today! #breathe #lentenjourney #stillsmallvoice #whyareyouhere

“And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:9-1

The Wilderness

BREATHE – Day 6, February 22, 2021 – 40 Day Lenten Journey

“They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord
Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt,
Who led us through the wilderness,
Through a land of deserts and of pits,
Through a land of drought and of deep darkness,
Through a land that no one crossed
And where no man dwelt?’ Jeremiah 2:8

We are no different today than the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness as a process toward the promised land. In fact they often desired to go back to Egypt and remain enslaved and oppressed because there was comfort in the “known.” They knew what their day would look like. They knew they would have food to eat, although minimum, they knew it would come. They would rather trust in the oppressed minimum than surrender to what was unseen and would require a wilderness season in order to experience new life.

I think it’s safe to say we have all walked a “wilderness” season. In fact the pandemic has forced many of us into a dry barren place where we have felt isolated, alone and starving for community.

It’s in those wilderness places that the Lord God can do an incredible work in our life. All we have to do is surrender! Be willing to let go of the “known”, the mundane comfort of oppressed and stagnant living. Trusting we walk our “wilderness” journey with a loving and living God that breathes nourishment into our weary soul and makes a way in our dry desert seasons. Just as the Israelites were being prepared for the land set apart for them; abundant in fruit and overflowing with milk and honey, we too are being prepared. Prepared to live a life of resurrection. A life free from what enslaves and oppresses us. A life where the shackles of regret and the chains of sin and death are cut loose. A life overflowing with the riches of shalom (peace), the abundance of hope, continuous joy and Eternal love. It’s time to wave the white flag and surrender the comfort of the “known” and allow the Lord to work in the ruins of our heart to bring us healing and restoration.

The wilderness journey of lent begins this week. Jesus models the response in Matthew 4; fast, pray, and feast on the very Word of God. May you release the comforts of this world for the abundance of living a life out of the overflow.

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