Oh, this picture. I found it at Pixaby, though I can't remember the search criteria I used. I've been hoping and praying over a re-start to Walking in the Word Wednesdays, however, where I am at in my current study (of Matthew) is an odd place to pick up. Instead, what kept weighing on my heart was September 2017 and all the spiritual tid-bits which fed my pause to sabbatical. I scrolled through saved pictures on my desktop file and the one above dropped into view. All I could think was her mountain-top perch under the heading I would create, "Unpacking: Scripture Reflections".
I identified with her, making that hard climb to the tippy-top, then resting and soaking in the view of all the mountain-top and valley-lows which God gave her the strength to traverse through. She is me, and I am her. I've been climbing for the past year and now, I truly feel as though I have reached a summit; a point to sit, pause, reflect, and soak in the view of all God has worked in. This picture and reflection opened my eyes to just how I ought to begin mid-week devotion lessons.
For a time, this may be a bit un-orthodox. I prefer a sturdy devotion with well-anchored Text and clear, concise lessons. But this, for the next little bit anyway, will be an unpacking version of the biggest bag of all: what God has shown me through His wonderful Word this past year and how He has grown me, in spite of myself! Shall we begin?
My thoughts rambled around. My hope was jumbled and I became my and my family's biggest critic as a result. Perhaps it was that blogging was my escape. My false god to hide behind a facade. In some ways blogging opened a venue to see the best but it also provided an alcove to hide from the worst. Yet, like a tiny pin-prick on the fingertip of life... when blogging was removed... blood poured out and pain poured over as I had to face certain truths and learn how to confront and manage them.
It took months to put life together. To see life separate from my adventures in writing. And the very first thing I learned was, while we ought not to stuff or glaze over the hardness, we also need to put on our best hope for resolutions. One of my first reflective entries in sabbatical mode has this scripture penned at the bottom of my journal page (including my own emphasis):
.... whatever is TRUE, whatever is HONORABLE, whatever is JUST,
whatever is PURE (wholesome), whatever is LOVELY, whatever is COMMENDABLE,
if there is ANY excellence, if there is ANYTHING WORTHY OF PRAISE,
think about THESE THINGS.
In the void of no writing, I let the little things bug me so much I would complain, I would talk about things with others which were best rolled around between me and God, but most of all, I wouldn't give others, even my family, the benefit of true and noble thoughts. It's hard to admit... but I had to learn how to become my family's biggest cheerleader, even if only in my thoughts... not at the expense of truth and reality, rather, in an evolving sense of considering their journeys with respect (most of them are adults) and hope-filled thoughts while also helping them grow past flaws and troubles constructively.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I had been trying so hard to ignore and write myself out of the hardships of life that I didn't know what to do once I was faced head-on with them. No alcove to escape to. Just me and raw, messy, life.
I couldn't run and write about menus or Bible study or the sweet fluffy stuff of our school week and ignore pain, hurt, and brokenness. Instead I cried, I complained, I moaned, I thought on strings of negativity. And finally, I sat down and Listened.
Truth be told, when I went on sabbatical, I was even finding it hard to really get into my Bible study and prayer. Yet, as I flip through the early pages of my time on 'rest', I see an out-pouring... out crying... to God, in search of His Face and waiting on His good Word. September 23, 2017 was a beautiful example of His patient reply:
Think about these things
... not to ignore it, rather, acknowledge it, give it space... but give it HOPE not condemnation, and the rest of this passage exemplifies that. Inside of truth, also think about...
PURE which connotes wholesome
.... and I think a turning point in the study of this passage was, "if there is any"... meaning, things may be tough, people may be trying but we need to LOOK for ANY, even a SPEC... any-little-piece of....
THINGS WORTHY OF PRAISE
In big letters underlined in red along the side of the next page I wrote:
BE THEIR BIGGEST CHEERLEADER!!
Cheerleaders are great. Do you ever notice how, no matter what is going on... even if their team ranks at the very bottom of all the charts... even if the game is botched from the beginning with fumble after fumble... even when it is freezing cold out.... they jump up, pom-poms waving, they put on their best smell and shout cheer after cheer until they are hoarse. They try to rally the crowd. They strive to encourage the team. And no matter what they think of the situation, their energy and positivity never waver as they look for ANY excellence or bit worthy of [cheer] and praise in the face of any truth.
Realistically, sometimes the cheerleader's encouragement and rallying cries boost esteem and games are won. But just as often, in spite of all the cheers, balls are fumbled and scoreboards read unfavorably at the end of the game. Yet, the process is made more bearable by their encouragement.
When I journaled words in reflection of Philippians 4:8, my marriage was strained and my kids were making choices I didn't see as their best potential. Yet, at that time, as I rolled 4:8 around, I saw where I didn't need to ignore OR complain... instead, I could choose to be a cheerleader. I could look at truth, both life's and God's, and I could recognize the honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy parts. I could celebrate my family's achievements, even small, and I could simply wait and trust the results of their own opportunities at trial, even if it meant error, because at the end of the 'game', we could all at least be encouraged that our thoughts were minded and cast in the best place and, if thoughts breed words and action, then outwardly I knew I could be putting my best-foot forward on their behalf.
A year ago this month, God set my feet onto a new trail up the mountain before me in this stage of life. It began with my thoughts and a realization that I needed to learn some good cheers for game days! I hoisted my pack up on my back and took to the trail with daily learning how to keep my mind in-tact.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good,
and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil,
for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
I pray, whatever game follies may be happening in your life right now, that you can find your inner cheerleader... whether you need to cheer yourself on or those around you... and Trust the Play into the mighty Play-maker's Hands. After all, these aren't the finals... we are merely in warm-up season!
If you are interested in the "Unpacking" series, where I reflect on the challenges and triumphs of the past year on Sabbatical, you can follow this link or simply type, "Unpacking" into the search box in the right column here on my site. The articles aren't in order but they are all there!
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