Who is YOUR Stable Anchor?

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There were so many things I was struggling with that I fell into bed exhausted. One of my daughters had broken her foot. One of my other daughters was sick with the stomach flu. I myself had strep throat, an ear infection, and a conflict with a friend. It was a bad day. The chaos made me grateful for my bed. Yet I found myself wide awake.

“See that one right there? That bright one? I made that one for you,” I heard God whisper so loudly into my spirit. It was a little after 3AM and I was sitting on the couch, sleepless. I was staring into the night sky, marveling at God’s handiwork. The darkness of the late hour allowed me to observe stars that normally weren’t visible in my neck of the woods. The one that God showed me, twinkling brighter than the others caught my eye again. As the blurriness of my tired eyes cleared, I realized that this star was the middle star of Orion’s belt. Wondering to myself, I picked up my Bible. I didn’t remember anything about Orion from scripture, but I thought I better check anyway. Much to my surprise, there were some words from Job about this constellation that God showed me that night.

 
“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?
Job 38:31-33

In this scripture, Job is questioning God. Job had also had a bad day. His attitude, although much more justified in his current afflictions than I was, certainly seemed to shadow what was in my own heart.

Responding, God asks Job if he can loosen Orion’s belt. As I thought about that question, I looked at the belt and the stars that it was made of. A couple things that I learned:

The star that was shining so brightly for me in the dark night was the middle star of Orion’s belt, named Anilam. Anilam is a blue-white supergiant, 1000 light-years from earth. This middle star was different than it’s cousins, Mintaka on the left, and Altnitak on the right. The middle star is what is referred to as the anchor star. It’s the stable anchor in the constellation that we refer to as Orion’s belt. As I realized this, it made sense to me that God would ask Job this question, in response to Job’s questioning heart.

In those moments of chaos, that you don’t understand, that you are grappling with, the Father responds with, I am your stable anchor”.

In the second part of the verse that describes Orion, God refers to loosening the bands of Orion’s belt. This didn’t make much sense to me until I learned a little more about each of the individual stars. And actually, they are not three stars, but two stars and a star cluster. The three stars are not bound together gravitationally. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. The stars are all headed in opposite directions. There will be a day that Orion’s belt is no longer bound to his body. Just like God told Job.

As I prayed about this amazing connection between Orion and Job, the Father pressed me to consider what it meant for me. Those moments of chaos were temporary. Not only did God have the power to loosen the belt of Orion, but He also had the power to hold it all together. As I struggled all day to keep myself together, I realized that I had forgotten to even pray through the chaos that was burdening me. I am so thankful for the love of a Father that pursues us, despite our rebellion. When you find yourself in those moments of chaos that life throws at you, don’t forget to go to your stable anchor.

You are so loved.

Rachael

Dwell Secure

 

 

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  “but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”  Proverbs 1:33, ESV

 

Have you ever had a moment in your life where you were paralyzed by fear? I have.  I was sitting in front of the post office, trying to will myself to move.  In my lap were 50 letters, stamped and ready to go, yet I couldn’t quite make myself place them in the mailbox.  My daughter, not accustomed to seeing me respond this way, quickly piped up.  “Mom, just place the letters in the mailbox.  You won’t get trampled by an elephant!”  Her voice shook me back to reality and I quickly prayed a desperate prayer.  “Help, Lord.”  As I placed the letters where they needed to be, I felt my hands shaking.  These were no ordinary letters.  No, these were support letters, describing a calling I felt to travel to Africa for an upcoming missions trip.  Essentially, sending out those support letters represented my obedience to committing to traveling on a trip I never imagined myself making.  I reasoned, in that parking lot, that if I sent out the letters, I would receive some donations.  And if I received donations, I would have to go.  And if I went, I was going to either be eaten by a lion, trampled by an elephant, or captured by natives.

Those fears, as absurd as they are, were not the ones keeping me up at night.  What kept me up at night was the fear that I would get all the way there……… and fail.  This fear of failure is really what had paralyzed me.  What could I possibly say to children on the other side of the world?  How could I communicate with them, when I didn’t even speak their language?  I looked different, I acted differently, and at that stage in my life, I had no experience working with children living in poverty.  Surely, there was someone better qualified to go on this trip.  Yet, God had put in my spirit the knowledge that He wanted me to go.  I was used to God telling me to do things.  Most of the time, they weren’t things that scared me.  They might make me a little nervous or uncomfortable, but up until this point, God had never told me to do something that terrified me.  But this time, God kept pushing my heart in such a way that I could think of little else.

As I faced that mailbox, my fear didn’t leave.  But, there is a very important piece that started me on a journey to becoming confident as I faced my fear.  I was obedient.  Despite my fear, I did what God was telling me to do.  Since that time in my life, I have learned what it means to be obedient to God, in all things.  Regardless of what things look like in the physical, I have learned that God sees in the spiritual.

As we put this in the context of ministry, I think it is so important to consider a few things.  We all can have moments in our lives where we are paralyzed with fear.  Maybe it’s a new outreach event or ministry that we sense is needed.  Maybe it’s disagreeing with someone in our church.  Maybe it’s firing a volunteer.  Or maybe, its something as simple as trying a new curriculum or object lesson.  As I talk to Children’s Pastors across the country, fear of failure seems to loom in the back of too many minds.  I often get asked how to deal with this fear, and I believe the answer is found in the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs is a book about wisdom. Initially, you may not think there is a natural connection between fear and wisdom.  But stay with me for a minute.  Wisdom is not the same as knowledge.  Yes, as we acquire knowledge, we do tend to become wiser.  But Biblical wisdom is actually about obedience.  As we learn who God is, through our obedience, through our relationship, through His faithfulness, we start to gain confidence in Him.  As we pursue Him, something radical starts to happen within our hearts.  Fear of the Lord starts to replace the fear of the world.  In the first chapter of Proverbs, we are introduced to what almost seems like the motto for the book:  “The fear of the Lord.”  The Hebrew word here for fear can be translated also to mean great wonder or awe.  Have you ever stood in awe of anything?  For me, on that very missions trip,  I stood in awe as I looked out over the Great Rift Valley.  It was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid my eyes on, and I couldn’t tear myself away from it.  I found myself leaning in, over the peeling white railing, drawn into this miraculous and breathtaking view.  That awe is similar to what I think of when I hear the words “fear of the Lord.”  Not so much the shrinking back in fear, but more of the leaning in feeling of awe.  When you know the Lord, really KNOW him, He draws you in.  You can’t look away, you can only stare and lean in because you want to experience more of Him.  When you find that place in your relationship with God, the place that comes from knowing and loving Him, the obedience part becomes second nature.  You almost don’t even think about it, you just arrive in this place where you wholeheartedly trust Him because you are confident in Him.  I have learned over time that there is no safer place to be than right where God wants you.  I suspect it may be the same for you once you lean in, in awe of the one who made you.

What is “the fear of failure?”  What does that question mean to you?  Realize, that your response will determine your reach.  What I mean by that is simple.  If you allow fear to keep you from doing what God is calling you to do, then your reach will stay within the sphere of influence you currently have.  However if your response is one of obedience, using wisdom, confidence in the one that calls, despite your fear, then I believe that God will use you in ways you can’t even imagine.

Fear.  Nervousness.  Anxiety.  We can get ourselves so worked up.  God’s word speaks directly to this fear.  In Proverbs 1:33, it says

but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster. ESV

The word dwell, in the original text, is yiskon, meaning “settle down.”  The original word for secure is betach, meaning confidence.  The literal translation of dwell secure is that we will settle down in confidence.  How do we settle down in confidence?  Look at the beginning of that verse.

Whoever listens to me

 

There is a connection between what we do and how we feel.  If we are obedient to whatever it is that God is calling us to do, we will settle down into the confidence that can only come from our relationship with him.

                                          Your response determines your reach. 

On that trip that I mentioned, God did some incredible things.  I walked with families living in a garbage dump, teaching them about the hope we have in Jesus.  I prayed with a deaf and mute man and watched, almost dumbfounded as God healed him right in front of my eyes.  I helped lead the son of a local witch doctor to faith in Christ.  I saw a young boy, who had been injured severely by an ax to the head, left in a remote area to die, respond as I prayed for him.  Within two days his body was restored.  We were able to purchase freedom for so many innocent children and mothers from prison, sent for fines of a few dollars.  I had the amazing privilege of leading several thousand children to Christ.  We were able to rescue women off the street, from the human trafficking circles that are too common in impoverished nations.  Miracle after miracle, I witnessed the desperate need for the gospel in the area of the world that God sent me to.  If I had not gone, if I had allowed my fear of failure to keep me where I was, God could not have used me to do what he did on that trip.   Could God have done it without me?  Of course, he could. More than that, He couldn’t have done in me what needed to be done.

Before I left, I specifically went to several people and asked them to pray for God to show me how my ministry in Africa could impact my ministry in the States.  However, when I was deep in the trenches with hurting people, I was not thinking of home.  We were in a section of the country that had children who spoke several different tribal languages, most of which I did not understand.  There was a little girl, named Sonya, who started following me early in the day.  She was a believer, and she spoke all the languages the children were speaking.  Naturally, she became my interpreter for the day.  As we were nearing the heat of the afternoon, I hiked back to our bus to reapply sunscreen and get some water.  We had been told earlier in the day not to allow the children to see us drinking water, or to give any out.  However, when I got back off the bus, I realized Sonya had been standing close enough to see through the dark tinted windows.  “Mam.  Might I trouble you for a bit of your wata?”  My heart sank.  I was exhausted and thirsty, and I knew she had to be as well.  I took her to the rear of the bus, and let her finish the rest of my half-empty bottle of water.  I hid her behind me so no one would see.  As she savored every last drop, I could see a physical change in her demeanor.  “It has been four days since I have had any wata.”  Again, my heart sank.  As I looked around at, quite literally, the hundreds of children we were surrounded with, I realized that they also had not had any water.  They were living in an area that was in a deep draught.  As this realization sunk into my mind, the Holy Spirit whispered something into my heart that I will never forget.

 

            And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my            disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” 

            Matthew 10:42 NIV

 

As the tears welled up in my eyes, for the first time in my life I truly understood what those words meant.  Then the answer to my prayer back in America came.

 

This.  This is what I want you to do in the states.  Love them.  Meet their needs.  Teach them about me, the living water. 

 

That moment impacted my ministry here in the US in a foundational way.  It became the bedrock on which I built our ministry to the lost and broken children, outside the four walls of our church.  In the moments that I feel this pressure to succeed, and the fear of failure starts to creep in, I think about what would have happened if I had let that fear keep me from going on that missions trip.  That trip birthed in me something that God continues to use to meet the needs of kids not only in my community but in countless communities across the nation.

In the past seven years, I have seen countless times where God has used me, despite my fear, because of my obedience.  As we struggle against our own insecurities, I would challenge you to replace your fears with confidence.

 

It is my prayer is that you develop the kind of relationship with God that allows you to dwell secure. 

 

 

 

Things to Consider:

 

  1. What times in your life have you been paralyzed with fear?  If you haven’t been paralyzed, have there been things in your life that you have not done because you were afraid?  How would your life, your ministry, be different if you started listening to God, no matter what?
  2. What is an area of your life that you are not currently being obedient in? How can you start, today, moving towards obedience in that area?
  3. Take some time to pray through these areas of obedience and fear. Ask God to help you to “dwell secure.”

 

Week 2 Check-In!

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Hey y’all! How’s it going? Can you believe we are already at the end of week 2? I am really enjoying learning about the Kings and the rich history of Israel. A couple of things I wanted to mention as we wind up this week.

I have heard from some of you that you are actually staying on track with this study and that you have built it into the regular routine of your day. This is actually one of the best ways to create a good Bible Study habit…. by intentionally creating a margin within our busy lives to allow our hearts to hear from the Lord. Keep up the great work! By the end of the study, you will have a great habit formed and it will make things so much easier!

For some of you, I have heard that this week was a struggle. You got a day or two or six behind. It’s ok. Keep going. For me, if that happens, then I just double up my days until I am caught back up. It’s not the best idea to try to cram it all into one day. These studies are really designed for you to work through, little by little, and really digest what you are reading and learning. Allow yourself some grace, and keep going. I know that for me, I really struggle with the “all or nothing” mentality. If I get too far behind then I tend to want to give up. Don’t let that happen! The enemy wants nothing more than to steal this from you. See that tactic for what it is, and allow it to give you some new resolve to push through and stay on track. I am praying for you. You got this, sis!

Here is this week’s session video: Week 2 Session Video

These videos are placed at the end of the week so that you can study on your own and allow God to speak to you through His word. What are you learning? Anything you want to share?  Join the discussion on our Facebook page here: She Hears Facebook Page

I know for me, one of the most helpful things is to write down all of the things God is showing me in a separate journal. I also keep track of prayer requests and the different ways I see God moving. It helps me to process all the things I am learning. The reality is you can use a plain notebook or your computer to keep track of this. But for me, I love using these really beautiful Christian journals.  They are simple, beautiful, and affordable:  Bible Study Journal

How can I pray for you this week?

Rach

No Rival, No Equal

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My husband tells a joke to almost all of his patients. They usually ask him if he is married.  After replying that we happily celebrated our tenth anniversary this past year, he tells them that I am Italian and Irish so divorce is not on the table. Murder, however, might be an option.

Although he is joking, he does speak to an important part of my identity. Raised by first generation immigrants, my grandparents, I often refer to my Italian heritage, many times speaking some Italian words as I parent my children. Italians seem to have a sense of pride, much more so than my Irish side of the family. Even though I have blonde hair, burn easily, and had a maiden name that reflected the sheep herding side of my family, it was the Italian side that I identified with the most.

When the ancestry.com package arrived, I was anxious to read about the parts of Europe my family was from. We knew the village from Italy that papa was from, but the Irish side was a little more unclear. As I started to read over my genetic results, I realized quickly that I was unprepared for what I was reading. The surprise wasn’t from the Irish side. Instead it was from the Italian side. Rather, the lack of Italian side. There as only 1% Italian blood running through my veins. I had no idea how this could be possible, as I had a pot of pasta sauce simmering on the stove. What I realized through the results of my DNA testing was that my Italian side of the family were actually wanderers. They were Croatian, Russian, and Greek. Yet several generations lived in the southern part of Italy before coming to America. Very little Italian blood coursed through my veins. As silly as it may sound, this concept rocked my identity. I had grown up visiting the Italian bakery every day for fresh Italian bread. There was an Italian deli that was the only place in town to get the special Italian sausage that we ate every Sunday. We started making pizzelles at the beginning of December in order to pass out to waiting friends and family at Christmas time. Yet, here it was in black and white. The majority of my heritage was not actually Italian.

Any other week, I probably would have responded differently. But this week was one filled with discouragement and I sank into feeling defeated. As I turned off the pasta sauce that was simmering on the stove, I went to the bathroom to cry. I had so much of my identity wrapped up in being Italian, that I didn’t know what it meant to NOT be Italian. Maybe this is not something you can easily relate to, but I bet there have been times in your life that you felt insignificant. Times where your worth was wrapped up in something external. For me, I find myself in this place often. There are times that I feel like I don’t measure up, and the enemy uses those moments to whisper, “just give up.”
This was the place I was in when I began to worship. I was afraid to even say out loud what I was feeling, instead I started to just offer my hurting heart to the one who made it. As I started to sing along to a familiar song, there was a phrase that caught my heart.

You have no rival, no equal.

As I felt the Holy Spirit press these words into my heart, I repeated them back.
Yes, Lord. You have no rival, No equal.

As I did, I was met with the familiar voice of the Father.

You misunderstand, beloved. YOU have no rival, no equal.

Immediately my eyes burned with the tears that overflowed. In a moment, the Lord had spoken to the hurting parts of my heart. He brought to mind several places in the Word that explain what He meant. I sense that He wants you to know this too.
You are made in God’s image.

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

As I looked at my daughter, she was sitting on her bed, reading a book and twirling her hair. It’s something I do often. In fact, all my daughters do. My daughters look like me. Do your children look like you? Or do you know people who have children that look like them? Children look like their parents because they have their parents blood running through their veins. The Lord reminded me that as His daughter, I was made in His image.

No rival.

2 The Lord God tolerates no rivals; Nahum 1:2a

I know this. I know that God has no rivals. But I had never considered the fact that because He had no rivals, it also meant I had no rivals. Neither do you.

No equal.

I often teach on a verse from Ephesians 2:10.

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

You are His workmanship, there is no one equal to you. He created you uniquely and on purpose.

As I pondered how these words spoke to my aching heart, I realized that these words are not just for me. They are also for you.

You are not what you THINK you are….. defeated….. discouraged.

You are made in God’s image because HE is the one who gave you life. That’s your genetic makeup.

If He has no rival or no equal, then YOU have no rival, no equal.

In a world where we compare and we feel like we don’t measure up, walk in confidence that, you were CREATED, by the very nature of who your creator is, as precious in His sight.

You have No Rival, and No Equal.

Be Blessed.

Rachael

 

I originally wrote this post for Warner Press but decided to share it here with you.  If you would like to read it on the WP blog, you can find that here: WP Blog

On Fridays, I cry.

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On Fridays, I cry.

Saturday through Thursday, I pretend nothing is wrong. I put a smile on my face, I go about my day, I keep it together.

But on Fridays, after my husband goes to work and the kids are at school, I’m all alone. I start out thinking that this Friday might be different, that I won’t need to cry. But then I realize that there is this place in my heart that has been swelling all week. There’s a bit of a guard there, so if anything pricks it, the guard doesn’t let it in. That surfaces sometimes as disinterest or busyness. Or withdrawal. Don’t let that fool you, that’s to cover up what’s really going on. Inside, my mind is overwhelmed with just sadness. But if it’s not Friday, I don’t pause long enough to think about it.

But on Fridays, I think about it. I think about how much I miss her. I smell her sweatshirt that I have hidden in my closet in my bedroom. I look at her picture, and I hold it tight. I think about all the lost moments and the unsaid words. And I cry.

It’s been a little over three months since I lost my Nana. For all intents and purposes, my mother. She raised me when my own mother wouldn’t. She took me and loved me and called me her own. And now she’s gone.

So on Fridays, I cry.

So many people expect you to quickly pick up the broken pieces of your heart after you lose someone. There seems to be an acceptable time of grieving, to be sad, and then it’s time to move on. Except that’s not how grief works. It’s like being at the ocean, only you have no idea when the next wave is coming. At first, they are quick and crashing and close together. Until they aren’t. Then, when you think the water is calm, and you can breathe a little, you get slammed with a wave so huge you get knocked down. And it takes you a couple minutes to catch your breath.

So on Fridays, I cry.

I wish there was a timeline. Some way to mark my calendar and plan ahead so I knew to be alone, or carry tissues, or to at least prepare myself. But instead there are faint warnings that come in the form of my daughter giving me a look that reminds me so much of her. Or a box that had been unopened but holds something of hers. Or a piece of clothing that I forgot she gave me. Or a book, unread, that was a birthday gift from her. Some days, those things don’t bother me. In fact, they remind me of her and they make me happy to have those memories to hold close to my heart. In those moments I love to share stories or recipes or habits that I picked up over the years. But then there are the other days. The days that, out of nowhere, there is a feeling of being pressed down so hard and so quick that you feel the wind being sucked right out of you.

So on Fridays, I cry.

I don’t think it will be like this forever. I think eventually, Fridays will be happy again. Eventually I will be able to think about her and smile instead of cry. Just not today. Today is Friday. And today, I’m going to cry.