How’s Your Spiritual Life Going?

 

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Argh!

Once again, I was ripping out all the stitches on my sweater project. My work was all wrong according to the gauge, and when that happens— well let’s just say—things don’t turn out like they are supposed to. In my case, if I kept going, I would end up with something that wouldn’t fit. My only solution was to admit my mistake and start again, this time using the right gauge.

Gauge: something that could be used to measure or judge something else

Have you ever been working hard at life and found that you used the wrong gauge to measure how you were doing? I know I have. I have been caught up in tasks and feeling overwhelmed with everything I have to do.

We live in an accomplishment driven world. When asked about who we are, we often answer with what we do—a parent, a teacher, an entrepreneur, an artist, etc. When asked about how we’ve been, the word ‘busy’ is on our lips. Sound familiar?

So, how is your spiritual life going?

You know, the one you share with God. Do you answer with who you are in ministry or what you are doing to serve? There again, we like titles and accomplishments. They’re tangible. When was the last time you answered that question with, “I have been spending a good deal of time sitting at the feet of Jesus?” Perhaps never.

Perhaps a new gauge is in order.

There is a story in the Bible about a gal named Martha. Maybe you have heard of her. Check out her story here. She was a close friend of Jesus, providing hospitality to Him and His entourage when they came to town. Martha was good at what she did, and she filled a role that was needed. You might even say it was her calling.

There did come a day when she was a bit overwhelmed with the preparations for an event that was happening. I can identify. Just before everything comes together, there seems to be a moment when it feels like it’s just too much. Do you know what I’m talking about? Martha’s solution was to demand that Jesus do something.

Here’s Jesus’s answer, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.” Luke 10:41 NI

I’m sure Martha is thinking, “Yes, and what is needed is for someone to help me!” But that is not what Jesus was referring to. That one thing she needed was to spend time with the Guest of Honor. She, like many of us who have gotten busy doing many good things, had forgotten Who the party was for. Have you been there?

How IS your spiritual life going?

As you think about your answer, consider what you are using to measure it with. The best gauge to set your life to has nothing to do with accomplishments, status, or giftedness. That’s the world’s appraisal of success, and boy, do they ever keep us distracted. Jesus says time spent with Him is BETTER than anything.

With that in mind, perhaps it’s time to start fresh, using a new gauge to measure what’s important. The thing is, when we get that in order, we feel less overwhelmed because we have invested in something better—time spent with Jesus. With our spiritual lives intact, life seems to fit better. It’s worth the time to make it right.

If you’re wondering where to start, reading the Bible stories of Jesus found in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is a good place. Then, if you want to go deeper, my last post No Connection contains a method of Bible study that I have found very effective. It is my prayer that you make space to meet with Jesus regularly. There’s nothing better than sitting at His feet.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing comes through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17

 

 

 

No Connection

https://pattyschell.com/2018/03/08/no-connection/
Sorry, the Bible App is unable to communicate with the server and you have no offline versions. Please check your data connection and try again.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. No offline versions? I had not thought about downloading a Bible because I was nearly always connected to the internet and never far from my Smartphone. But I now was in the middle of the Caribbean on a ship with no internet. And, I left my paper version behind due to space and weight.

I must admit I felt a little panicked.

Most of you are thinking, “Relax, it’s only a week. You’ll live.”

And I did. There have been many times in the past that I have gone days without looking into God’s word, but just the idea that I couldn’t access the Scriptures when I wanted, was pretty upsetting.

All the while I was at sea, I could still scroll through information that had previously been downloaded to my phone. Things like past posts on Facebook, pictures I had taken, and old emails were kept right in its system and I could access them without an internet connection. But alas, I had not stored away a copy of the Bible on my phone, and now it was out of reach.

But wait!

I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:11 NIV

Truth be told, I have stockpiled a fair amount of God’s words in my heart over the past few years. In the process, I have formed a connection with God and His Holy Spirit that didn’t exist before. I now hear Him more clearly. Often, He speaks His words to me just when I need encouragement as in “I am with you always.” At times, I hear Him express words of action, reminding me to “love my neighbor” or “never grow tired of doing good”. And more than I like to admit, He calls me back to His path saying, “Do not be wise in your own eyes.”

That last bit reminds me I need the Word to live well in this world. Even now, I am reminded that Jesus who was fully God, yet also fully man used God’s Word to rise up over the temptation Satan threw at Him. See the story for yourself here in Luke 4. And in John 8:28, Jesus tells us that He does nothing on His “own initiative.” He lived in submission to God’s Word, and in doing so, He showed us how to live a holy life in a worldly place.

What is the process of hiding God’s Word in your heart so that you can follow in Jesus’ footsteps?

I suppose there are many ways to engage God’s Word, but one that I have found helpful is to look into small sections of it at a time. I use a method called SOAK: Scripture, Observation, Application, and Kneel.

I copy a small portion of Scripture into my journal. When I take time to write it out in my own hand, it causes me to slow down. It’s like a bike ride versus a car trip. I notice things going five miles per hour that I would never have seen going seventy. It may be a word or phrase that draws my attention and calls me to pause and think.

That’s where Observation comes in. This is where I will stop and take a longer look at the scenery. I may look up the word in the dictionary or lexicon. Perhaps I will cross-reference to see where the same idea shows up elsewhere in the Bible or seek out commentaries to see what others thought about the verses. I may even have seen something similar in my own experience that brings the thoughts to a personal level.

Which brings me to a ‘selfie’ moment. All good adventures call for some pictures. This is where I put myself in the lesson. How do I Apply what I have seen in my life? Is God teaching me something? Is He showing me a different perspective? Is there action I need to pursue now or information I need to store away for later?

Once I determine how the words of the Bible apply to me, an action may be required.

Kneel may not fit my bike ride scenario perfectly, but it may be the most important destination when it comes to looking into God’s Word. This is where I respond to what I have learned. Do I submit to God and His ways? This is a key step in hiding God’s word inside. I must respond to its teaching and make it part of who I am. My actions are what connect God’s word with my heart.

I’m not sure that I can even imagine a life without a connection to God. If you feel like you are disconnected, I urge you to take time to look into the words of the Bible. These days, you have access wherever you are on the device that is probably in your hand right now. Just one tip—Be sure to download a copy.

I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes.
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
Psalm 119:59 & 143:10 NIV

What’s your favorite passage from the Bible at the moment?

Adventuring On

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January brought some exciting adventures to the Schell household.

We have journeyed to places we have never been, doing things we have never done. It has been a wonderful experience.

Our year started off with the purchase of a second home in Oklahoma. It was one of those things we knew was right even when we couldn’t imagine how everything would fit together. But there is no adventure in standing still, so we jumped it, and the result was perfect. It’s just down the road from our girls. We have land to grow things on, woods to explore, and a roomy house we hope to welcome lots of friends and family into. To top it all off, our new town, Guthrie, was named the cutest small town in the state.

So what does any sane individual do . . .

when in the middle of negotiating prices, ordering inspections, and signing papers to purchase a home do? They set sail for Central America where they will be totally out of reach, of course. And that’s just what we did. When we planned to travel in January, we had no idea we would be purchasing a house, but the thing of it is—all went on as planned without us. We relaxed and enjoyed our time exploring places when had never been. We met new people and learned of their stories, enjoyed some good food, and saw many interesting things, some of which I’m sure will find their way into future posts on this blog.

Life has a way of surprising us sometimes.

We found that to be very true over this last month. When we headed for Oklahoma to spend Christmas with the girls, we had no idea we would be buying a house, too. And even the plans we had made for our travel were greatly enhanced by the unknown. It was the people and places outside our expected itinerary that made the trip memorable.

We, humans, tend to map out our lives in our perfectly devised plans and expectations, but God often has a very different course that will really wow us. It makes me think of the Yiddish proverb “Man plans and God laughs.” I think He chuckles at us simply because He knows what’s coming and He can’t wait to see our reaction. I imagine our look of awe and wonder please Him much like the pleasure we receive when our children discover something new.

I have said it before and I will now say again—

God has the best adventures.

Everyday contains something He wants us to see and experience. There is something truly amazing about walking with God. He has a way of giving us the best views that have the potential to bring the most impact to our lives. Whether or not it has any effect will depend on our willingness to trust and follow Him. What can we lose? Nothing, and what will we gain? Just an amazing journey through life with the Creator of the Universe.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
“1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT

Keep watching for the adventures as they come. You never know what you might experience. Follow me. I’m happy to share mine.

Cheerful Satisfaction

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I meet with a group of wonderful women to study the Bible. We are currently looking into the book of James and his advice on how to live a successful life following Jesus.

James wastes no time getting right to the point—

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” James 1:2NIV

I have to admit, this verse makes me cringe a little every time I read it. Perhaps it does the same to you. It’s a good thing it is followed by verse 2 and 3 which tell us—

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (NLT)

Here is a short devotion I wrote a while back on finding joy in our trials. I hope you enjoy it.


 Cheerful Satisfaction

Groans could be heard throughout the airplane as it bounced and dipped. Turbulence. It was going to be a long flight. Each jerk of the aircraft caused a new round of complaining from its passengers with one exception. From seat 27D could be heard squeals of delight. A small, blue-eyed, blond-headed mite of a girl cheered with joyous abandon. To her, this flight was more than she could hope for. Her ‘sit in your seat and just be quiet’ ride had turned into an exhilarating experience. I couldn’t help but smile at her happiness. In the midst of a less than satisfactory situation, this little one had found great pleasure.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

 Galatians 5:22-23


Joy

Greek: chara khar-ah

Meaning: Cheerfulness, Calm delight


Joy’s very definition can make us smile. The idea of being full of cheer lightens our mood. But there is one more definition we should consider.  Delight means an extreme level of satisfaction, and satisfaction means a source or means of enjoyment: Contentment

Ahhh. . .Who knew that joy bubbles up right from satisfaction and is quickly followed by contentment. Out of the list of attributes of the Spirit found in Galatians 5, joy is the one that shouts out “This is pretty great!” If this were fruit we were eating, joy would be the part that would make us want to take another bite, savoring every bit of its lip-smacking goodness.

Joy is the optimist, bringing with it the knowing that hope is still alive. Joy is the spark of a smile mingled with tears as we remember God is near and He has a plan. Joy is the light that brings new perspective.

So when you feel joy slipping away, just think of little Miss 27D and her infectious giggles. No matter what you are facing, God is in it with you and that is cause for celebration.

“A cheerful heart brings good healing. . .”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭17:22‬ ‭NET


I hope joy finds you today wherever you are today.
Do share.
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So Long 2017, You Have Blessed Me

Blessed: an inner quality unaffected by outward circumstances


With the new year underway,

just like everyone else, I am compelled to think about things need to change. Dissatisfaction is usually the driving force when it comes to resolutions. Life didn’t measure up somehow. The ‘if onlys’ try to take center stage, but truth be known, the ‘what is’ in life that should be my focus. What did happen this year has brought growth and change that has not disappointed.

So, instead of listing changes to be made, I am going to recount the blessings of the past year and give credit to God for each of them.

Here are some of the highlights of this year’s happenings—

• I worked with some other authors to complete a beautiful devotional journal based on Second Timothy called Legacy. The process was eye opening to say the least. Preparing everything to finally submit it for publishing was a challenge. So much goes into delivering a product you hope will catch someone’s attention. So far, the right person has not seen it, but it did win an award at last year’s Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Only time will tell if a publishing house will pick it up, but we’re hopeful.

• I continued to write a food column for Broken but Priceless Magazine. I love food, so this is right up my ally. It has been fun to come up with a theme for each issue, research recipes, prepare the food, and take photos. This has actually built up my own food blog, The Party’s in the Kitchen, and has brought another opportunity writing food articles for Southern California Christian Voice and its affiliates.

• I had a great opportunity to write devotions for the 40 Days of Compassion sermon series at my home church. It was an honor to be asked to participate in leading our small group members in discovering what compassion put into action looks like.

• I was invited be a guest writer by Katy Kauffman on her Lighthouse Bible Study Blog a couple of times last year. It was an honor to write for her. She has been a great encouragement in my life, and I have gleaned much from her wise words.

• In addition to the opportunities on the Lighthouse Bible study site, I contributed to their online magazine, Refresh. Two of the articles received special recognition. One was chosen as the lead article and the other was the feature article. I have also written a couple of devotions for a Bible study on renovating your heart that will come out in the spring.

•Girl on Adventure has been busy as well, averaging about a post a week. It also won an award at the Blue Ridge Conference in 2017. The blog, along with leading a women’s Bible study, meeting regularly with a group of local writers, and helping churches build loft houses for families in Mexico (Hands of Mercy), has kept my hands and heart full. I have traveled, spent time with friends, made so great food, knitted a sweater, read some books, lost a little weight, and had lots of fun in the process.

The year of 2017 brought a great deal of activity and accomplishment.  And best of all, I have been blessed with great opportunity to shine a light on God, His words, and His ways. I have grown in so many ways through it. My life is full to overflowing, and I can’t wait to see what the days to come have in store.

There are some new things I would like to try this coming year.

We’ll see what happens, but 2017 was far from disappointing and it only encourages me to continue following the course that God has laid out for me. I hope when you look forward to the next year, you look back and see the great things God has already done. His blessings will be my motivator for the days to come. I’m looking forward to the ‘what will be’ in 2018.

Reflect upon your present blessings—of which every man has many—not on your misfortunes, of which all men have some.

Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol and Other Writings

SoLong2017

Silent Night?!

 

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Now that Christmas Eve is almost here,

I have been thinking about the first event that would mark the day Jesus was born. I have often wondered about the true environment of the Bethlehem that night. It must have been like one big family reunion with all the hometown boys returning to register their families with the government. As a mother whose children have moved out of state, I can almost feel the excitement as the relatives poured into town. We know from the scriptures the place was packed and space to stay was an issue. No room at the inn, remember? And apparently, no room anywhere else either.

This reminds me of family gatherings when my girls were small.

Beds were a premium and delegated according to age. The floor became a sleeping surface with kids and adults alike wrapped in blankets and lined up like log wood. Chatting, rather than sleep, would go on late into the night due to the excitement of everyone being together again. I imagine it was a similar scene in the homes around Bethlehem that night. Families crowded together, sharing food, laughing and reminiscing, just enjoying being reconnected. And, right in the midst of it all, the Savior of the world makes His entrance.

How fitting.

That was exactly why Jesus came in the first place. It was a reunion—a reconnecting. What delight must have been felt in heaven in anticipation of sons and daughters returning to the joy of the sweet fellowship with their Father again.
I am so glad that the first Christmas wasn’t so silent with the hubbub homecomings generally bring. It wasn’t silent then, nor has it been silent since. The birth of Jesus continues to get people’s attention, and I am glad of that. There is nothing better than being in the relationship with God that Jesus’s coming provided. And, I’m not about to keep quiet about that.

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men! For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Luke 2:14, John 3:16

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Cross

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As we pulled into a small village on the Baja peninsula in Mexico, there was a car coming in the opposite direction with a lop-sided cross mounted to its roof. I thought it a bit odd, but I have seen stranger things tied to cars south of the border. As we pulled past I could see that the cross was actually the wooden base nailed to the bottom of the Christmas tree.

I was struck with the juxtaposition of these two items—the tree and the cross. Both were symbols of peace and goodwill. One represented the season when God made His way to earth to dwell among men. The other, God making a way for man to reach heaven to dwell with Him.

I love when God uses seemly obscure moments of life to bring His story of hope to mind. It was but a brief sighting of something so ordinary, but the message behind it will last an eternity. I pray as we enter into the festivities of the Christmas season, we will keep the entire of the story in mind.

For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 NET