The Strong Women Beside Me

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Today we lay to rest a mighty woman of God. Terri Rivas, on the left in this picture, came to our TLC4Women bible study years ago. A quiet woman with a bible and pen in her hand, she had been invited by a pillar in our group her best friend Bernie, on the right above. Both women had been friends with each other for over 50 years. They each attended different churches but they each loved to study the word. Bernie is a solid, grounded, woman of the word and so I knew her friend would be as well. What does it say that two women are friends for 50 years? In a time when we are offended so easily and friendships tend to come and go, this was something to be admired.

It didn’t take long for me to find out that Terri was not quiet at all. She had a quick wit and would make all of us laugh with that smirk-y smile she would get right before she made a comment.  She celebrated all of our successes and she told about her escapades with Bernie. Bernie and Terri wouldn’t sit together in study because Terri would say she was afraid Bernie would get her into trouble.

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I discovered that I could go to Terri for anything and she would pray. She wasn’t about gossip and she wasn’t about drama but she could pray. I saw why she and Bernie were such great friends. Two women who stood strong on the word of God and were mentors to each of us in the group. When Terri decided to move her membership to our church, she came with a notepad, scriptures, and a word from the Lord, BUT she wanted to talk to us first to make sure that we knew she would not to be any trouble. She taught me about honor and hearing from the Lord.  She wasn’t going to walk on what she thought was the right thing to do she weighed it out, got counsel, and waited on God.

When she decided to retire from the hospital we talked about it and it turned out she didn’t have to retire she could work from home. She was thrilled to do that but again, wanted us to pray to make sure it was the right thing to do.

When Terri developed Parkinson’s she came to me with a quake in her voice and announced the news. I could tell it had shaken her and I had never seen her scared before, she had faith for so many others, in that moment I needed her to have that same faith for herself. I reminded her that the Great Physician had the final say and we prayed together. I honestly didn’t think I would lose her. I thought she would battle on. She had been through a lot in her life and I thought this would be another victory story. When she determined that she could no longer trust her driving at night she told me bible study would be out. I told her to let Bernie bring her. She instantly replied, “Have you ever been in a car with Bernie? Pastor Susan I want to live.” I answered, “Well, at least you’d go together right?” She laughed and said, “Bernie would probably survive.” But laughter or not, scared or not, there would Terri be, walking in the door of bible study with Bernie.

Terri, I love you, I will miss you. The impact you have made on my life cannot be measured. I was graced by your friendship. I was graced by your love of my children and my grandson. And even though I mourn the loss of you here on earth, you won the victory. I know that you made it home safely. That all of the promises of God are true and that we will one day be together again. I’m sure you are talking to loved ones and strangers and everyone you meet. You’re making people laugh, and you’re awaiting the time when we’re all joined together again.

Proverbs 31:29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

terririvas

 

Twisted Theology

@MrChurchGuy writes: When people say that “God showed up” for their worship service, do they count Him in the attendance numbers?

If so, does He count as 3 or just as 1? 😊

God Showed Up

 

The statement that “God showed up” or “God is here” always puzzles me. Jesus shows up whenever two or three are gathered. Why are we, Christ followers, surprised when the Bible turns out to be true?

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ESV

If you are new to this Christian faith please forgive us. Sometimes we have these Christian-ese statements that we can’t back up with scripture which I’m sure may confuse you.

You see, when we are surprised that God showed up we forget that God is omnipresent. He is everywhere all of the time. We also make the false assumption that Jesus only shows up when we perform for him. If in fact, the church is the bride of Christ then that would make him a pretty bad fiancé, and since we know that he isn’t, then the statement doesn’t hold true. You can find comfort in God. At the whisper of His name He comes.

When we are further surprised that he showed up at church, well, please look around. I’m sure there were more than a few of you there and I’m taking a big leap here but I’m guessing at least two people in that group and hopefully three showed up with a heart that was ready to worship their Savior.

 

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So the conclusion I make to these statements is that these are heart issues of the person professing to see or feel Christ’s presence in a service. The fact is we all have issues of one sort or another and sometimes those issues get in the way of our relationship with God and could sometimes cause us to not have the feeling of being in his presence. It doesn’t make it so, but perception is what we have to go on as humans.

Jesus is in the unlikeliest places. Places you and I would never think he would be, and yet, there he is, whether we feel him or not.

So, grab a friend this week and pray together, if you’re blessed, grab a few friends and pray. I guarantee you he will be there for SURE. If you find yourself alone say a simple prayer and He will be there. If you find yourself not able to utter a sound, too broken to grasp for words, or too blessed to formulate the words to explain the gratitude you feel, or you just plain don’t know what to pray for, even that works, because the Holy Spirit comes and helps us.

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. ESV

God really does show up! Because the truth of the matter is God isn’t out there somewhere. If you’ve answered the call he is living inside of you and wherever you are there he is.

 

 

Keep Fighting

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In the midst of a carjacking in 2001 I cried out to Jesus. I heard Him powerfully speak, “Keep fighting, he is just as scared as you are.”

This morning as I awoke from a dream, I saw myself standing with a sword lifted in front of me. I knew deep down that I would never have to use it in the natural realm but that I had been properly trained to. The sword felt comfortable in my hand and the grip was made to fit me. This sword had been given to me as a gift and I had studied its use and practiced to be able to use it with skill. In that moment as I stood my ground it was enough to know that I knew how to use it and that I could, and would, push through fear to victory.

If, in fact, everything happens for a reason, then the carjacking taught me a lesson. I may fight like a girl, but with God I am mighty and equipped to defeat anything that is coming my way that is not of God. So are you.

What have you been through in your life that has taught you to know who you are?

Now ask yourself, are you properly trained? Do you know how wield a sword? A weapon in unskilled hands will be turned against you.

Boundaries

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I admit it. I was a little crispy fried a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t had a full day off in a few weeks. A few hours here and there but there were a couple of short term projects that needed to be completed and this wasn’t the normal schedule.

Finally, Wednesday came, our day off and and I took full advantage of it. I woke up early, and stretched out and decided I had nowhere to go, so I read, watched some TV and stayed in my pajamas. Until about 10:30 then Doug and I got ready to go out to eat.

He surprised me by heading out of town to go have some fun. Both of our phones kept ringing. Work, counseling, work, advice, work. At one frustrated point, I said,

“Wait! Everyone knows it’s our day off. Why do they call us anyway with non-emergencies?”

The answer was simple, we didn’t have boundaries.

The calls weren’t emergencies. They were simple things. I wasn’t mad at the people, I was annoyed with myself knowing that I hadn’t set boundaries to protect time off.

Sometimes, things are your own fault. So when you are feeling frustrated, ask yourself, “What am I doing to cause this?”

No, you didn’t set up the phone calls but you did respond even if it was just to open and read the text message or the email or listen to the voicemail.

What boundaries do you have to put into place so that you can get quiet and have some down time?

Remember, Sabbath is not a suggestion. It’s a commandment.

 

 

 

Leading

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God can use a car to teach a lesson.

Last year, I bought a new car. I hadn’t bought a new car since 1999 so I want to keep it looking nice. Now, mind you, I had no business buying a new car. Dave Ramsey says if you don’t have a million dollars in the bank you can’t afford a new car and folks, I don’t have a million dollars. 2017 sent me off course in many ways and I am now reaping the consequences of getting back on track. So I’ll share my lessons over the next few weeks with you. Hopefully, they can help you.

I now find the farthest parking space in any parking lot because I don’t want the car to get dinged up. No matter where I park though, someone is typically parked next to me when I come back out to get into my vehicle. There can be many parking spots but someone has to park right next to me.

They can’t even skip a space.

It is so frustrating. Coming back to my vehicle the other day I see one other car in the entire row I parked in and of course, right next to me. I opened the trunk and put my bags in and got into the driver’s seat. The Holy Spirit prompted me,

“Why are you angry?”

“Because no matter where I park, someone comes and parks next to me.”

“People follow leaders.”

Not exactly the answer I wanted to hear. I am not leading at the mall. I am shopping. It’s down time.

However,

I need to think more deeply on this because there is a bigger picture that the Lord is trying to get me to see here. Oh yeah guys, he is into teachable moments and this was one.

It means I am being watched. No, not in a stalking way, but:

  • Where am I going?
  • What am I reading?
  • What am I saying?
  • What am I watching?
  • Who am I listening to?
  • Am I leading to Christ?
  • If not, then who I am leading to?

These are great questions to ask yourself. Sometimes we pick up bad habits along the way or we have an area in our life that we’ve neglected to work on. Thank God that He isn’t looking for sinless perfection but neither is he ignoring unrepentant sin or as we like to call them, bad habits because it sounds nicer and more excusable.

Where are you? This question gets asked in many forms but do you take the time to examine yourself and make sure you are still in alignment with where God has called and placed you?

When You Say Nothing At All

 

Opinionnoun – a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

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In the world of ministry, as in the political arena I suppose, your own voice becomes not your own but rather you must decide and calculate, what the cost or gain will be to actually have an opinion on something. There is a unmerciful machine that rages forward and unforgiving attitudes still prevail. Just ask Rob Bell or Jen Hatmaker two Christians who dared have opinions in our world. Books, endorsements, and speaking engagements were pulled immediately. The idea of keeping a public page on Facebook and a private page of Facebook or just getting off of social media completely is in full force. Ask people privately what they think and get a view of people who are deciding that in order to speak to everyone you can offend no one.

So I stopped writing about controversies because I didn’t want controversy in my life. I    wanted to speak to everyone about anything. I wanted to hear opinions and views that weren’t my own because that is where I either solidify my view or see a perspective I    had not seen before and thereby change my mind.

Only that goes completely against who I am. I sat as a small child at the dinner table and discussed politics and world  views with my parents. In fourth grade I wrote to President Gerald Ford and I received an answer. I don’t have an opinion because I’m a Christian, or a pastor, or a woman. I have an opinion because I have a brain who is forever learning and wants to be challenged.

“But you’re going to have to minister to people who don’t share your view and they won’t be able to receive from you because of it.”

WHY? Because we can no longer tolerate an opinion that isn’t ours. We’ve become so engrained to think that if they do not think or do things as we do then they are against us. They aren’t of our tribe so therefore they are out.

Luke 9: 49John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” ESV

Mark 9:38“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” 39“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40for whoever is not against us is for us. NIV

Only here’s the thing: When we say nothing we say much. While quiet observation serves while opinions are formed there are also two camps forming, those who think you are with them and those who think you are against them. Ultimately this is really not about you. It’s internal strife turned outward. It’s intolerance. Sadly, it’s prevailing in America.

What would you say if opinions truly mattered and we were really a free people?

 

Thanksgiving Before Christmas

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Jeremiah 8:7 Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the LORD.

This time of year gets so busy that sometimes I forget that Jesus came to set us free from frantic endeavors. I  get caught up in the rush of this season. This year, I don’t want to scramble through this time feeling pressured.  I don’t want to be so busy that I  can’t  or don’t take time to bless people with the love that Jesus came to leave with us.

I found myself making a Christmas list and it was October. This season does go by fast but so does every season. I put the list away and determined to wait until after Thanksgiving to continue this list.

You see, I love Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is special. Thanksgiving is special food, special preparation, special tradition, it’s looking back on the year and being grateful for everything, the good, the bad, and the indifferent.

Christmas is a different kind of special. I love shopping for special gifts, wrapping them up and then giving them. I like to pick thoughtful gifts and I am made in the image of my Father in heaven so I know this isn’t a fluke thing, I was made to be a gift giver and so are you.

That’s what Jesus is to me. He’s the special gift that God sent especially for me and for you. He wrapped Himself plainly so we would have to look for the value of Him and the heart of the One who gave the gift. God had to wait for the perfect time to give it. Not too early and not too late but just in time. I wonder as I write this if God felt the anticipation of waiting for the season to arrive as we do? Timing is everything.

I’m not going to rush this season. I am going to take my time. I am going to bless like Jesus and not get so busy that I forget we have a Thanksgiving before we have a Christmas.  I am going to enjoy the special services. I am going to meditate on the gift. The truth is that I have trouble with receiving gifts.  I don’t want people to make a fuss about me but you know what? That’s often pride. So I’m going to learn to receive and I’m going to wait to give in the proper season. I am going to appreciate our life and take one season at a time.

So do you find yourself so busy with the hectic Christmas season that it becomes a to-do list and not a get-to celebrate season? Does it get stressful as you budget to give? Can you take time to stop this year and enjoy the moments and bless as Jesus blesses by being present as a present?