Meditation

October Newsletter

Hello Encouragers,

It’s October, a time to plant bulbs of encouragement in your heart and those around you that will bloom at their intended time. It’s so glorious when the Spirit brings forth to our mind an encouragement from the past such as when a friend’s comforting words rises from the background of your mind at just the right time. Always ask, and expect, Holy Spirit to encourage you.

This month’s newsletter, an 8 minute read, is packed with good things for you:

  • A Hymn of Promise - guest post by Tara Shantz, a dear friend and fellow oncology RN
  • Opening the Door to the Heart is Tough – Musings by Terri
  • October Book Review - Transforming Your Thought Life: Christian meditation in focus, by Sarah Geringer

Introduction to Tara’s Guest Post

Planting bulbs to rise in the spring is an autumn task, and there’s an expectation of a big reveal. The hymn titled, In the Bulb There is a Flower (Hymn of Promise), by Natalie Sleeth, speaks of seasons and revelations. The devotion, A Hymn of Promise, comes from the heart of my dear friend, Tara Shantz, and her thoughts were prompted by the message within the hymn. Tara’s graciously allowing me to share it with you in this post.

Following_jesus.heartsencouraged.comThe Hymn of Promise, by Tara Shantz

The Hymn of Promise is uplifting to me. Its optimistic lyrics written by Natalie Sleeth in 1985 remind me there is light in the moments of trial, tribulation, and even despair. The lyrics remind me of the human lifespan and that our beloved Jesus rejoices and endures alongside us.

As a nurse primarily focused in oncology care, I learned to stop asking the question “why?” a long time ago. My first couple of years spent at the bedside with acute leukemia patients were very hard. Not only was I learning how to be a nurse to critically ill patients, I was also learning how to cope with compassion, fatigue, and grief that affected me both professionally and personally. Six months after starting my job, I was called to support my brother in California for six weeks. Complications of open-heart surgery led him to have a heart transplant. Thankfully, he thrives today. This time period of my life is when I realized “why?” is not my business, believing is. The last line of the hymn speaks well to this, “unrevealed until it’s season, something God alone can see”.

Although the grief encountered in my nursing career has not lessened, the threshold of my resilience has improved. I remain prayerful that the Holy Spirit works through my knowledge and skills to meet my patient’s needs where they are with the resources that I have at any given time. I remain humbled by the talented healthcare professionals who I get to call peers and colleagues – the patients who demonstrate unbelievable courage – grateful for perspective and so much more.

The Hymn of Promise is special to me. It provides a comforting reminder that there is light in moments of trial, tribulation, and even despair.

Pray with me: What you can see, God, is so unknown to us—and we are humbled by your vision for us and for your world. We have hope knowing we, and all things, are in your hands. Help us embrace the mystery that is you, and that is us. Amen.

Below is a video of the Hymn of Promise 

Musings by Terri - Opening the Door to the Heart is Tough

I’ve been posting to this blog for a little over three years. Some of you have been with me since the first post and your encouragement and comments have sustained me. Lately, the Holy Spirit is pressing me to share from the deep, inner recesses of my heart, saying, Share the valleys, the pits, the pain, and the lessons, Terri. I respond, Oh my, there’s been plenty of that, for sure, but your request, Holy Spirit, is a scary thing.

For years, I fiercely guarded my heart to protect against hurt and rejection, and no one could protect my heart like me. As a Christian, I followed God, loved him, but did not give him access to my heart. I misunderstood God’s brand of love as opposed to human love. I didn’t think I could trust Him with the most delicate and fragile part of me. With much brokenness, scars and shame, along with deep hurt, I believed my heart was no place God needed to be nor wanted to be. Tears fill my eyes, even now, as I recognize how much I needed his presence in those days. What healing could I have received and so much sooner?

Then came the day when I had no choice. As a last resort, I fearfully abandoned my guard post and invited God to not only enter, but take up residence. On my shins with head bowed, and going against every reservation pulsing through my mind, I gave God access. I chose to trust Him with my heart. And, I’ve never had to be on guard since.

Daily, God directs me how to tend the soil in the garden of my heart and we work it together. But now, the Spirit is asking for others to be invited in. This means sharing my story, God’s story written on my heart. There’s risk in doing this—being misunderstood, rejection, or silence. In a blog format, one never knows how the message is received so putting your heart out into the world takes guts. On the other hand, every time we tell of God’s loving, incomprehensible, incomparable presence, wisdom, direction, and acts, we give others hope and support their faith endurance and perseverance.

I’m going to take the risk, but I’m feeling insecure and uncertain.  This means it’s time for me to softly sing my go-to hymn, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”. Sing with me,

I have decided to follow Jesus;

I have decided to follow Jesus;

I have decided to follow, Jesus;

No turning back, no turning back.

I sing to renew my promise to God and my conviction. Faith beckons us risk sharing our heart and trusting God to use it as he chooses. 

Now on to the Book Review!

BOOK REVIEW
Transforming Your Thought Life: Christian mediation in focus, by Sarah Geringer

Sarah and I met at a Proverbs 31, She Speaks, writing and speaking conference. We became prayer partners before the conference and as her friend, I’ve been supporting her journey to publishing her first book via mainstream publishing. She has at least three self-published books. Transforming Your Thought Life identifies thought pathways embedded in just about every woman’s mind. For instance, self-critical thoughts, discontent thoughts, regretful thoughts, unforgiving thoughts, and so on. These pathways can be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Sarah provides Biblical content and her own stories of thought-life healing. Moreover, it’s a great book to use as a reference for thought-life tune-ups.

Here’s a quote from the chapter titled, Defeated Thoughts,

"Look for God’s goodness every day, and your confidence in him will grow. As you watch the Lord destroying your defeated thoughts and uplifting others, thank and praise him for his goodness (Psalm 27:13). He always makes good on his promises, and tracking the victories will strengthen your faith."

Sarah’s book is being released this month and I’ve received an advance copy. It’s definitely a must-read. Check out Good Reads and Amazon for other readers’ comments.

 

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You've reached the end, and I hope you've enjoyed the content and the links. As a parting thought, know to the core of your being God has you in the palm of his hand. No other place is as secure, supportive, and powerful. He's got you! Peace to you, Terri

 


3 Options to Refresh Your Private Time with Jesus

Hello and Welcome!

I’m so excited you’ve popped in to discover three ways to refresh your private time with Jesus. Any time we engage in a daily practice there’s the potential for it to become routine, familiar, and even boring. Private time, meditation, or prayer with Jesus is not immune. To ensure you don’t fall into a rut, refresh your practice of meeting with Jesus with three options.

Refresh Option 1

Lyrics from a song easily transforms into a prayer or focal point for meditation. Several years ago, I bought The Celebration Hymnal: Songs and hymns for worship for just that purpose. Sometimes, a verse or even an entire song declares  exactly the feelings I have for God. For instance, the fifth verse of the hymn, Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated, contains a heartfelt, image-evoking prayer. Copyright law prohibits me from quoting the verse word for word so I've paraphrased it below.

Your love for the Lord, stored in your heart, is a treasure so precious it cannot be valued. You pour out this love upon His feet as an act of undying surrender. You offer your love, your life, dedicated to Jesus only, forever and ever and ever.

What a beautiful prayer and image describing one's love for Jesus. I can see myself at Jesus’ feet, pouring out my love as an offering. See John 12:3 for a similar image.

Alternatively, lyrics can turn into a meditative focus. We can create questions to go even deeper in the message.

Let’s try it with the same paraphrased verse from Take My Life.

Your love for the Lord, stored in your heart, is a treasure so precious it cannot be valued. You pour out this love upon His feet as an act of undying surrender. You offer your love, your life, dedicated to Jesus only, forever and ever and ever.

I find two questions arise in my mind: 

Am I offering every part of my life to Him?

Do I have any idols trying to compete for His attention and my devotion?

Here’s another example from one of my favorite musicians, David Crowder. His song, Come and Listen, is a call to quietness and reflection. It says pay attention because Jesus has done stuff for us, he's doing stuff for us, and he's going to keep on doing stuff for us.

Again, we can tease out a couple meditative questions.

Am I sharing what Jesus has done for me and is doing for me?

Second, do I live in such a way that someone might ask about Jesus?

Consider introducing lyrics into your time with God to keep it fresh.

Refresh Option 2

I enjoy reading the New International Version because I know it well. Familiarity enables me to find verses quickly. On the other hand, familiarity can decrease the power and meaningfulness of those verses. To guard against this, exploring a different Bible version can make it fresh and new again.

Let’s compare the verses from Luke 10:41-42 using the New Living Translation (NLT) and the New International Version (NIV) as an example.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NIV)

In the NIV version above, I always hone in on the phrase…only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better. The word chosen catches my eye. When I first discovered this verse, the idea of choosing Jesus above and beyond all other options had a high impact factor for me. Over time, the impact has faded.

Now, let’s read the same verse from the New Living Translation.

“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NLT)

In this version, I immediately zoom in on the same phrase, …there’s only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it…. This time the words concerned and discovered jump off the page. The key word in the NIV version is choice, but the NLT version awakens me to the concept of discovery. Am I looking for or discovering Jesus in the midst of the moment?

Perhaps you'll experience new meaning or a new way of thinking about your relationship with Jesus by introducing a different version of the Bible into your private time.

Refresh Option 3

I've read daily devotionals so packed with nuggets I can't absorb it all in one sitting. Spotlighting a word or phrase allows me to linger with a small portion of the content. 

Let’s try it with a meditation I wrote. 

God sees you. He knows you. Every square inch, inside and out.  You're wholly loved by God. It's unconditional. Unchanging. Faithful. Let yourself believe it. Have no doubts about it.

We could pause at any one of the sentences, but my spotlight is landing on, Have no doubts about it. I can turn this phrase into a question.

Do I ever doubt God's love for me?

When you find your eyes or mind attracted to a word or phrase, it could be the Holy Spirit inviting you to linger with and savor the message. In turn, you can ask the Holy Spirit to reveal deeper insights and wisdom.

PrayerI hope these three options will rejuvenate and refresh your private time with Jesus. Below is a printable I've created for you to share or to keep handy when the time comes to bring newness to your current practice of meeting and conversing with Jesus. Download 3 Options to Refresh Your Time with Jesus

God loves us. He loves you. Thanks for reading! Terri

References:

Crowder, David. Come and Listen. A Collision. CD. Sparrow Records. 2005

Havergal, Frances Ridley; Malan, Henry A. Cesar. Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated. The Celebration Hymnal: Songs and hymns for worship. Arrangement. Copyright 1997 by Integrity’s Hosanna! Music and Word Music

Images by Pixaby

 


Sacred Space Within You and Around You

Hello and Welcome!

In my last post on Meditative Gardens I shared the idea of sacred space as a physical space and as an internal state. Today's post shares in depth why sacred space is an important aspect as you spend time with God. Your comments and thoughts are always welcome! 

Sacred space is the term I use to define the three-dimensional realm where God meets with you and me. Sacred is defined as something that is consecrated, holy and the term space refers to that within me and around me. Sacred space can be established as a physical setting, as a state of mind, and within our heart. It’s probably not hard to image establishing a physical setting as a sacred space but what about the creation of sacred space within one’s heart and mind? Think about sacred space within yourself as an act of worship where you center your heart and mind on God for receptivity to His presence and message. You set all other things aside in heart and mind through separation from distraction, centering your focus on the Lord, and humbling yourself as you ask the Lord to meet you. Let’s look at two Biblical examples related to the concept of sacred space—Moses and Jesus.

Desert In the book of Exodus, you will find references to two tents of meeting. The Tent of Meeting, also known as the Tabernacle, was in the middle of camp and contained, among other items, the Ark of the Covenant. The Tabernacle was where God met with His people and within it the priest performed their assigned holy tasks. The second tent of meeting is described in Exodus 33:7-11. Here we find that Moses set up a tent some distance away outside the Israelite camp. Moses would enter this tent to inquire of the Lord and this was the physical space where he met with God separating himself from the buzz and busyness of the camp. While in the tent, Moses would probably assume a posture of humbleness, bowing low or kneeling with his face to the ground to reframe his view of himself. Though he was the leader of the Israelites, he was a servant before God.

The second example of a physical setting established as sacred space is found in Luke 22:39-46. Jesus takes his disciples to the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives, specifically to the garden of Gethsemane. In verse 39 of the NIV, it states that Jesus went, as usual, to the Mount of Olives. The phrase as usual caused me to wonder what drew Jesus to that space. Was it a place of solitude? Did it remind him of the garden, a sacred space, his Father established in Eden? Because of my own love of nature, I can easily grasp how the garden of Gethsemane may have represented a sacred space for Jesus to meet with the Father. In the same way, Moses separated himself from the camp, Jesus removed himself from the disciples so he could establish a sacred space and come before his Father. Both set their focus on God and humbled themselves before Him.  Tulip pathWhile the physical aspect of sacred space is important it can be irrelevant if there has not been adequate preparation of our heart and mind. Why is this preparation significant? It’s because my heart, your heart has replaced the former temple. In 1 Corinthians 3:17, the apostle Paul reminds us that we are the temple of God. As a believer saved by Jesus Christ, your body is now a temple for the Holy Spirit. You have become the Tabernacle—the dwelling place of God. The former Tabernacle of the Old Testament has been replaced and now God meets within your heart and soul. Take a moment and let that truth sink in. Have you ever thought of your heart as a tent of meeting or as the garden—the sacred space within?

Preparing your heart as an internal sacred space requires intentionality and dedication.  Separation, focus, and humbleness are among the key elements. As you come before God, dedicate and consecrate your heart and mind to Him alone, and choose to be fully present without pretense. Next, you should come in authenticity. Come just as you are before God with sin and weaknesses. You are offering yourself to God with an open, surrendered heart along with a thoughtful, curious, and reverent state of mind. You come without an agenda, making your heart and mind, ears and eyes sensitive to perceiving God’s voice. As you develop your practice of entering sacred space, you will find a rhythm and a desire to return to your “tent of meeting”. God delights in you and wants you to experience His presence.

I encourage you to give the following questions serious thought. What if you could live so that you enter each day expecting surprises, refusing to follow the easiest route, letting go of control, and laughing at the future? What if you choose to be receptive to God’s prompts and direction without having all the details or any details? The questions are important. God ordained all the days of your life. He knows every day you will live (Psalm 139:16). Who better to guide you, direct you, give strength in your weakness, and sustain your hope? How will you receive all this and more? It is within sacred space. Personally, I love to think of my heart as a garden. Genesis says God met with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and I call that the very first sacred space! As God met with them so He meets with me in the garden of my heart. God and I together have worked the garden of my heart, removing the thorns, tangles, and dead things. God has and continues to bring healing and His love grows the fruit of the Spirit within me.


Icon Hearts Encouraged

Designating Fixed Sacred Space

Selecting a fixed physical location for sacred space depends on what you want to do in that space. Here are some things to think about as you plan.

  • Is the space just for you or may others in your life use it too?
  • Do you want the space to be readily visible as a reminder or do you want it to be private?
  • Will you bring the items you need to the sacred space each time you go there, or do you want the space set up so you pop in and everything you need is already present?
  • If the space is for prayer and meditation and your house is never quiet, then you may want to consider creating a quiet zone or quiet time. If that’s impossible, then what about a space in your garden, sitting in your car, or a walk-in closet. What about noise-cancelling headphones? Sound crazy? Not when you consider the benefits you will experience by setting yourself apart to be in the presence of God. Don’t stop at the first or second roadblock. This is important.
  • If the space is for worship, do you need space to move around? Do you care if anyone hears you worship?
  • Some Don’ts:  don’t let your sacred space be a distraction; don’t clutter, simplify; don’t forget your focus: God.

Examples of Simple Sacred Spaces Inside and Outside

  Sacred Space 2Meditative garden 6 edit Bench
Creating Flexible Sacred Space

Anywhere, anytime is the key to flexible sacred space.

Maybe there isn’t any one place or any specific time that you can designate as sacred space. The maybes are endless. No problem. Select a container, fill it with the items you need for prayer, worship, or communion with God. Grab and go.

Sacred space can be created within you in spite of not having a dedicated physical space for meeting with God. You are sacred to God and He dwells within you. The act of stopping activity, separating yourself from distraction, and deliberately, authentically presenting yourself to God creates a sacred space. Following are a couple ideas of when or where sacred space can happen. For instance, at work I have to park in a multi-story parking garage. I take a few moments before exiting my car to be with God in that quiet space. Another example is the elevator at work. I have capitalized on alone time in the elevator as a moment to come before God with thanksgiving, gratitude, or requests for help during my day. You might be amazed at those unique moments where you find yourself alone in the busiest of environments. Speak to God aloud or in your mind and intentionally dedicate the moment being fully present to engage with the Lord. Hopefully these example shows you how you can get creative with sacred space! 

Let me know how you create sacred space within and around you! I'm certain you have wonderful ideas and you may inspire another reader. If you're not already a subscriber just click on the "Subscribe" button  in the right sidebar and Feedblitz will send you an confirmation. Make sure you confirm your subscription and then you'll automatically receive the posts. 

Blessings to you!  Terri