Pondering before Expressing: “Cross-Trained” before Cultured Trained

Jesus' death requires a personal response and there has to be depth beyond social media.

If you visit social media any time soon, you will be met with scenes of the cross, memes of Jesus’ death on that cross, Scripture verses, church sermons and more … I’m thankful for these times I can log on to social media to be met with posts filled up with Truth, aren’t you?

“He died.” This reality of Jesus’ death as a human being keeps playing in my mind. It is a thought I can not seem to pause so instead I continue to ponder. My pondering leads me down a road of personal experiences with death and how instinctive it is to grieve when death becomes the face of someone we love.

Though everyone grieves differently there seems to be some components of it we all share; the taunting and gut wrenching agony of losing the one we loved, the haunting darkness that encompasses that season of life, the knowing the trajectory of our life will never be what it once was. We grieve in this way because we loved them deeply. This type of grief naturally causes the grieving one to ponder up, in their hearts, the significance of that relationship.

Jesus was a human being, a person. We often talk on his love for us and our love for him. Have we pondered up, in our hearts, his death? “Jesus died on the cross to take away the sins of this world” is a truth painted all throughout the Gospels, but do we feel something about it? His death requires a personal response and there has to be depth beyond social media.

Our intimacy with our Savior has to be more than a Facebook status producing a number of “likes”. This man is the Savior and a relationship with him has to pierce our souls to produce everlasting fruit (John 15). It is like being handed a glass of water when you are parched. Instead of taking the water and gulping it down to quench your thirst, you instead walk around showing everyone you have a glass of water. All the while people are looking at you curious and confused, wondering why on earth you aren’t drinking it then!

Our souls are parched and the quenching happens when this grand narrative of Scripture makes a personal collide with our souls. How is this collide going to start kicking up some dust if we are not taking back our right to ponder things up in our hearts before we express them over social media? Furthermore, how do we even know what to express before we have pondered?

Christians dont worship the Bible by any means, but we believe there is tremendous power in it. We believe it is the revelation of God. We read the Bible because we need an encounter with God; we need to hear His words. These days we are always reading words-scrolling Twitter, reading emails, text messages, and the pretty Instagram quotes. We want quick inspiration. Reading Scripture, however, is slower, quieter work. It takes time, patience, and attention, but if were looking to nourish our souls, nothing can compete with it. (Melissa Moore, Entrusted Bible Study by Beth Moore)

If you don’t mind, I’d like to leave you with a charge. Pondering up Scripture is your right, privilege and responsibility as a Christian. You are entrusted with this right to ponder up Jesus’ death on the cross and I can’t help but ask, have you?

I’m going to borrow a term Beth Moore likes to use here  and that’s being “cross-trained”. As Christians, we have to be cross-trained every time we are culture trained. Culture is training us up to share our thoughts long before we have pondered them up, so what does “cross-training” look like for you this Easter season?

Ponder: to weigh in the mind :  appraise. pondered their chances of success, to think about :  reflect on pondered the events of the day, to think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeply

 

pondering with you,

Maria Bowersock

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The Undoing and Regluing

Today I undo the lie that approval is evidence of my equipping and reglue the truths of Scripture to my mind.

“It’s worth stating that Christians don’t worship the Bible by any means, but we believe there is tremendous power in it. We believe it is the revelation of God. We read the Bible because we need an encounter with God; we need to hear His words. These days we are always reading words-scrolling Twitter, reading emails, text messages, and the pretty Instagram quotes. We want quick inspiration. Reading Scripture, however, is slower, quieter work. It takes time, patience, and attention, but if we’re looking to nourish our souls, nothing can compete with it.” (Melissa Moore, Entrusted Bible Study by Beth Moore)

I love to write. I always have words swirling around in my head. In fact, I have a “notes” section on my iPhone dedicated to writing ideas along with a writing notebook I keep with me at all times. The words swirl and my bones burn until I release them. I love how God has granted me a love for words but even more so…His Words.

Last month, I wrote a piece for Lift Up Your Day titled; A Mother’s Dose of Humility. You see, somewhere along the line of enjoying a gift the Lord has given me, I hoarded it up for myself instead of pouring it out, out of a love for God. My desire to honor God with the gifts (He’s given) began to disappear and was becoming replaced with things like being the best writer, having a large following, writing the most moving piece, getting more likes and comments and shares. I became self-focused when the whole reason I started all of this was out of a love for Him, but I lost it – a pure focus, that is.

I’m so glad He didn’t let me wander too far or too long this time. Don’t get me wrong, the only reason I “got a grip” so quickly is because I’m finally doing something that has become a habit, (something I never used to do habitually) spend time in His Word. In doing so, I became captivated by Him, by His words, His life, His purpose. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He was used, abused, misunderstood, hurt, and wounded but he was also praised, magnified, glorified, justified and it’s in these times of His life that I was captivated by Him, His response to it all the glory.

In fact, let’s explore Scripture together for a moment. Go, get your Bible and open to the book of John. Now, locate and read the miracle Jesus performed where he fed the five thousand in John 6. After you have read verses 1-15, go back and read verse 15. What did Jesus do after the people were ready to make Him their king?

This Scripture was the undoing of me. Jesus was being exalted, praised, and even about to be (as scripture says) forced to be their king and yet he went “away into the hills by himself”. Not only did he go away, Scripture says He slipped away meaning he didn’t linger around to try and be talked out of only to hear how much he was wanted and desired. No, Jesus left, unbeknownst to others, to be alone.

Here is my undoing: I write, I love to write, God has gifted me to speak, write, and teach about Him and I linger in the praise of it all. You see, what if you wanted to make me “king”? Would I slip away and go be with my Father? This is where the ungluing and regluing happens: when the very words of Scripture come off the page and transform lives, specifically mine today.

Today I undo the lie that approval is evidence of my equipping and reglue the truths of Scripture to my mind and create something that sounds like: working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23-24), pouring out my gifts, not shying away from them … that’s not humility but a lack of thankfulness for what He can and is doing in me, and in all things may everything be a result of our love for my Savior and His words.

Let’s end the same way we started, with Melissa Moore. “We’re part of the Bible’s grand narrative…When we engage this book we begin to lift up our eyes and gaze at something cosmic God is doing that surpasses our own generation. His work of redemption and renewal spans centuries and civilizations. When we read this text, we are called to play our part in the drama of redemption.” (Melissa Moore, Entrusted Bible Study by Beth Moore)

Starting today and lasting for always, may we grasp and use the gift we were entrusted with (Scripture) by the ever present, ever glorified God.

Maria Bowersock

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A Mother’s Dose of Humility

I am nothing without Jesus, yet can have some audacity because of him. Anything good that comes from me is because of the miraculous work he has done (and continues to do) through me.

Today my mind is a mess of anxiety, worry, a long to-do list, and all the other aspects that fill the heart and mind of a mother. Today I sit here staring at a blank computer screen thinking, “what am I supposed to write?”, “what do I have to share that is of value?”. I just want to curl up, put my pregnant body to bed, and hand my other three kids the iPad in hopes it will keep them busy and distracted while mom “checks out” of motherhood for a while because, after all, I think I have to write this amazingly impactful blog post for you (get over myself, right? I’ll get to that so hang with me). It is in this mess, God gently whispers, In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30:15).

Yes, I remember but oh how easily I forget … forget his promises, his truth, my heritage as his daughter but right now I remember so I sit and stare at this blank screen, and I pray. I forget to go to the Father and ask him for help, for wisdom, for strength but right now I remember so I do. In my asking, He reminds me he gently leads his sheep (Isaiah 40). I am his sheep, He is my Good Shepherd (John 10). A sheep needs her shepherd to survive, to follow, to lead her.

It’s in this reminding that humility washes over me and I am exposed to sin that cleverly disguised itself: pride. Pride that my words are worth reading, my words have to feed your soul, my words have to mean something to you and be deeply impactful. This pride wasn’t screamingly obvious but more like a subtle noose around my neck (almost confused for a piece of jewelry instead of what it was … a noose of pride).

In repentanceis your salvation

At the cross, it’s all level playing ground, isn’t it? We can think we are greater than but the truth is, we all need Jesus’ as our Good Shepherd but pride loves to whisper sweet lullabies of lies to trick us into believing otherwise. There is nothing the enemy wouldn’t want more than for us to forget that any good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17). The enemy wants us to forget, to think we are more than because this a place where pride can fester and grow and breed more sin and separation from our Savior. God wants us to remember him, his goodness, love, and the freedom we’ve found in him because this our testimony.

Today, I sit here no longer staring at a blank computer screen. I have been humbled and use my fingers to punch out the very last words of this piece. Let there be NO confusion that I am nothing without Jesus, yet can have some audacity because of him. Anything good that comes from me is because of the miraculous work he has done (and continues to do) through me. Gods word is what gives life, not my words, experiences, stories, or teachings and that is where true life starts and ends not my writings.

Maria Bowersock

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Tis the Season to Be…

In Jesus, joy is ours for the taking and so I ask, are we taking hold of his joy? Would you be willing to make a change and shift your focus to something different, the joy of the Lord?

“How are you?” may be one of the most loaded questions that often receives the most surfaced response.

Can we bypass the surface response and get straight to the heart of the matter? It is a season of joy, hope, cheer (or so they say) and so I’m asking you how you are. Why? Because sometimes we aren’t doing well, and I’m not talking about the self-pity, bad day kind of mood but the “life is just really hard” reality of your life today. In order to heal, we have to walk this out honestly with ourselves and God.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

My oldest recently went through a traumatic time in her life. As her parents, we are teaching her it is important to talk about the trauma so her heart can heal. What we are learning from her is that kids and adults really aren’t much different: we think it’s better for us to avoid pain by not talking about it, it’s easier to ignore painful realities (that we can’t erase) and hope that it will all just go away.

The problem is, the pain doesn’t go away unless we address it. We often remind our daughter that, even though it doesn’t feel good, talking about this pain will help fill your heart heal and fill will joy again. You see, we want her to speak out the sadness so we can help teach her to cover it with truth.

When we avoid and ignore, our hurting heart causes us to believe lies that often gets fed when we keep our pain inside. Lies that say, “God didn’t really protect you”, “if God loved you then…”, “you are worthless and that just proves it”, “if God was really good then why”. Satan is the father of lies and he loves lying to you by causing you to question the goodness of your Savior (John 8:44).

So, my friend, how are you this season?

If you aren’t doing well, I want to share some hope with you, the truth that you can cloth your mind with when you start to doubt the goodness of God: the joy of the Lord.

While it’s easy to think of joy in fickle terms like happiness, it’s so much more than that. Joy, for Christians, runs deeper than happiness and something we can have regardless of our circumstances. In order to take the full gift of joy, we have to train our minds to think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable (Philippians 4:8). In Jesus, joy is ours for the taking and so I ask, are we taking hold of his joy? Would you be willing to make a change and shift your focus to something different, the joy of the Lord? Grab some coffee, sit with me here, and let’s discover what this kind of joy really is all about. When you are done here, grab God’s word, open it and find more of this joy. Ask him to show you what this joy is all about.

 Nehemiah 8:10 Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Psalm 4: 7 Fill my heart with joy

Psalm 119:111 Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.

Isaiah 35:10 and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

John 15:10-11 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Fathers commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything

1 Peter 1:8-9 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

3 John 1:4  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Maria Bowersock

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Thankfulness When Your Life is Thankless

In this season of thanksgiving, how do you remain thankful when your circumstances feel thankless?

In the early hours of June 24, 2011, my life changed forever. I was experiencing such a season of excitement that the shock of June 24 nearly left me feeling like I’d been hit by a freight train. The worst part was I had to live through this, when all I wanted to do is succumb to this feeling of dying.

In an instant, the course of your life can change and although God works all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28), it does not eliminate or minimize the brutality of painful circumstances. Yet, we find that life, inconsiderate as it feels, moves on regardless of us pained. We are reminded of this as the seasons change, friends and family make new memories and find happiness again, the holidays come and go.

So in this season of thanksgiving, how do you remain thankful when your circumstances feel thankless? If I can offer you anything of value, it is reminding and pointing you to God’s True Word. Can I do that with you today?

 

First, let’s look at what scripture has to say about thankfulness:

1 Thess 5:16-19 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is Gods will for you in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 95: 1-5 Come, let us sing for joy to the LordLet us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods

Colossians 2: 6-7  Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

1 Timothy 4: 4-5  Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

 

Second, let’s look at what scripture has to say about the brokenhearted:

Psalm 34:18  The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalms 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

2 Corinthians 12:9 My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Lamentations 3:32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.

 

The scriptures are full of more verses pointing to God’s goodness and faithfulness to those who belong to him, even in the hurting.

Brokenhearted friend, you do not have to explain to me the pain and reality of your painful circumstances. We may have journeyed down different painful roads but we share in the sisterhood and brotherhood of the fight to stay faithful to God in it. Your reality may be filled with pain this Thanksgiving, but I would not be loving you well if I didn’t tell the whole truth that we can be thankful to the One who saved our souls.

This holiday season, look at your choice to be thankful as your offering back to God. Offerings to God are hard and painful because they cost us something, but they also give us something that is unlike any other type of thanks … a deeper relationship with Him that produces trust, true love, authenticity, integrity, and so much more.

Friend, I’m over here cheering you to hang on! In Ephesians 6 it says “after you’ve done all you can to stand … stand firm than”. I can not stand for you but I can help you lift your hands (like Aaron and Hur did for Moses in Exodus 17) and encourage you to keep going.

Let your offering of thanks this year sound like the scriptures above and wait expectantly for your God to be your comforter, protector, and giver of joy.

I am praying for you this season.

Maria Bowersock

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Is Jesus Enough…for me?

Is God Enough?

My parents died in a plane crash 5 years ago. Every year, on the anniversary of their death, it’s hard, really hard. I always take time out of my day to stop, reflect and remember. I want to remember. I want to remember the good but I also want to remember the pain of that phone call, the nightmare of their death and the days and months following. Why? Because it’s the depth of my pain [over their loss] that reminds me just how crazy over them, how deep my love for them truly was. I want to remember. I want to feel pain.

Jesus. Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus saved me from hell. I can be with Jesus in eternity forever and ever because of today. Jesus.

As a Christian, I ramble these truths off like I’m reading a magazine article with the latest celebrity gossip and it wasn’t until this year that I was really broken over this reality. It wasn’t until this year I realized something is not right here.

My parents die and my grief naturally draws and takes me to a place of wanting to miss them, even wanting to feel the pain of their absence. Jesus dies to save my life, is the reason I have the ability to extend any love and, instead of grief, I feel…well, not much. His death has always made me want to remember and reflect but in a distant, trivial kind of way. His death has never, until this year, made me want to grieve [my sin and his death] to the core. It’s not right. It just can’t be right because if it is, I’ve made idols out of my parents. I have to love him more. I have to…

Heavenly Father,

Help us learn to love you more. Help us learn what it means to even love you. We know you are good. We know you love us. Your word is so clear about who you are, but life can get so messy and trip us up and confuse us. You are not a God of confusion and so we move in accordance to your word. 

1 Corinthians 14:33 (ESV) “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace”

Luke 10:27 (ESV) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Exodus 20:3 (ESV) “You shall have no other gods before me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV) “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Maria Bowersock

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Recounting His Graces

Recounting His Graces: http://liftupyourday.com/2016/08/02/recounting-his-graces/

I struggle with spiritual memory loss.

When anxiety and fear strikes, I clench my hands and hold on tight as I let fear and anxiety take me on the ride of my life, a ride that nearly kills me (2 Timothy 1:7). In these times, I find myself asking questions I already know the answer to but because fear is the driver, I suffer from spiritual memory loss and begin to question:

 Is God good?

But what if…?

I fear what He will allow next.

Can I really rest in Him?

If I’m being honest, these are questions I wrestle with often. I know what the right answer is because I know what God’s word says. The problem isn’t in the believing but in the trusting and then being obedient in the trusting. God is good. I believe it, I’ve seen it but do I still believe God is good if … Someone once asked a simple yet impactful question, “doesn’t a believer have to believe?” Uh, yes. That’s a no-brainer answer but then I ask myself do I really believe God is good in the ugly, painful, gut-wrenching…

diagnosis

death of a child

death of a parent(s)

loss of a job

loss of ability

loss of success

car accident that takes the life of a spouse

child drowning in a pool while playing at his grandparents

30 something mom diagnosed with breast cancer

mother having to deliver a stillborn baby

If God is good all of the time, doesn’t he have to be good even during these times (Romans 8:28)?

Doesn’t a believer have to believe? I see God’s goodness and grace all over the place but can I see it in these moments? I don’t know I want to. I don’t want to see His goodness in the gut-wrenching seasons of life. How do I find grace in darkness, in pain? How do I see God’s goodness when nothing seems good?

I don’t know so I recount His past goodness. I’m reluctant; I feel pain and don’t want to see His goodness in my pain, in other’s pain. There it is, my pride.

Why do I do this? Am I too proud to remember His goodness? Am I too scared counting His goodness would minimize my pain, others pain? Does it even matter why? Shouldn’t my position just be to just trust and obey (Isaiah 50:10)?

I love what Ann Voskamp says in her book, One Thousand Gifts, “Trauma’s storm can mask the Christ and feelings can lie. I draw all the hurting voices close and I touch their scars with a whisper: sometimes we don’t fully see that in Christ, because of Christ, through Christ, He does give us all things good – until we have the perspective of years.”

I must recount His graces to peel away the many layers of unbelief, to recover from spiritual memory loss.

Recounting His graces is accepting His good gifts and thanking Him for them (Psalm 107:1). So I sit, I stare at the paper with pen in hand to start recounting some of His graces in my life. I’m reluctant because my pride runs deep, my friends. I don’t want to write. I suppose this is where faith and trust come in and trump my feelings.

Here I go…

In my unbelief, I begin writing and recounting. My heart begins to soften and tears begin to puddle at my eyes and  begin to stream down my face because I do see His grace, His goodness. I’m undone from my fear and my pride. There is nothing and no one that can soften a hard heart like God can (1 Samuel 10:9). This is new to me, this recounting His goodness in the face of my fears and anxieties. I still proceed with caution even though I know I can throw all caution to the wind with the Lord. You see, I’m still just learning that He is good and He is trustworthy and I can rest in Him. I learn by recounting His graces.

“Every time fear freezes and worry writhes, every time I surrender to stress, aren’t I advertising the unreliability of God? That I really don’t believe? But if I’m grateful to the Bridge Builder for the crossing of a million strong bridges, thankful for a million faithful moments, my life speaks my beliefs and I trust Him again.”  –Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Maria Bowersock

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Deflated Joy

Life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns. Through it all, I find myself seeking, sometimes desperately, to find and fill up on joy. I’m not talking about joy in the trivial sense like feeling happy or excited. I’m talking about joy that runs straight to the core, runs through my veins and bleeds out of me. Joy that can’t be robbed or taken because it’s just who I am. Joy that Psalm 27 describes:

For in the day of trouble

    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;

he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent

    and set me high upon a rock.

 

Then my head will be exalted

    above the enemies who surround me;

at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;

    I will sing and make music to the Lord.”

Psalm 27: 5-6 (NIV)

I am in desperate need for this joy, but sometimes life is devastating and my joy feels deflated. The reality that life isn’t just hard but can be excruciating painful, makes me feel like joy isn’t even possible to have or experience. The truth is, if we are Christians, our joy never is robbed or taken from us. In fact, it’s not only ours but our right to have and we see scripture point to that over and over again. Often times, if you are like me, we mistake joy for happiness and try to fill up on the trivial things of life. The truth is, God never promised an easy, carefree life. In fact, he assures us of the opposite (John 16:33) but he says we can take heart and that is defined as “to seize with authority or legal right!”

Ladies, we have authority and the right to have joy, to take heart even in trials. Today, let’s fill up on the truth of The Word, Jesus, so we can take back our joy because it is your right and you have authority, because of Jesus, to do just that! In doing so,  we will get to live life with some joyful audacity!

 

Your Prescription: Scripture

Dose: 10-30 x/day

Hebrews 12:2 “…for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Psalm 27:5-6 “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tend and set me high upon a rock … at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.”

Psalm 4:6-8 “Many, the Lord, are asking ‘Who will bring us prosperity? Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy … in peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Psalm 21:5-7 “…you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty. Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the Lord; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.”

Isaiah 61:1-3 “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Psalm 30:4-5 “Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Do you have another verse that means a lot to you? Be sure to stop over and let me know! I just may need to hear it too.

In this together,

Maria Hatch

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