arise

Passion Week: A Resurrection Sunday Reflection

Scripture for Today

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:5-9 (NIV)

Things to Think About

Psalm 22 foreshadows Jesus’ death. The suffering savior quotes David in some of his last words:  

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  

The psalmist goes on to ask, “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?”   

As our Saturday gives way to Sunday the cries become a rhythm to our days. Yet, in the early morning of dawn, when the world seems to be it’s quietest and the sun begins to ask the night sky to back away, we read the rest of the Psalm:

“All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!”

I wonder whether Jesus’ words on the cross were meant to lead us to this passage written so many years before. 

I wonder if he knew we may feel an extent of his suffering, too – forsaken, neglected, isolated, alone.

Then the dawn awakens and our Lord points to the rest of the Psalm. Like a guide on a trail, he shows the way up the hill and leads us to these words. Reminding us, He has done it.  

He has done it.

He has risen from the dead and taken his place in the heavens.

He has conquered death and birthed everlasting life.

He has traded sorrow for joy, bondage for freedom, doubt for truth, fear for peace. 

With all the chaos in our hearts and uncertainties in our lives, we can rest. Not because it’s easy, but because the grave is empty and the body not there.

Just as he said.

Could we, this Easter, when our worlds feel unsettled, rejoice with the same passion and amazement as those who first learned of Jesus’ resurrection?

I wonder.

 

About the Co-authors


Marnee Alfson
is an EMDR trained trauma specialist in private practice in Vancouver, WA.  Marnee received her training under the direction of leading author and developer of Story Informed Trauma Therapy (SITT), Byron Kehler, MS. She has worked with survivors of various traumas such as sexual and/or domestic assault, displacement, first responders, attachment in relationships, body image, life transitions and mood management.

She believes we gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience we choose to walk through.  Trauma recovery therapy is an important part of hope in helping other survivors live their lives free of the pain they have experienced.

 

Lisa Da Silva is a wife, mom of two teenagers, and advocate for women to love God with their heart, soul and mind as they engage in responsible study of His Word.  She writes, speaks, and teaches the Bible to anyone who will read or listen.

Lisa is a teacher by trade and passion, voice for the marginalized, recovering striver, and lover of simplicity, authenticity, and all things pretty. She enjoys thrift store shopping and often has to convince people she’s an introvert.  Just a loud one.

Loving Jesus and making Him known really is her everything.

 

 

 

 

 

Passion Week: A Good Friday Reflection

Scripture for Today

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”  Matthew 27:45-54 (ESV).

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:1-8 (ESV)

 

Things to Think About

Good Friday has long been my very favorite day of the year. That might sound strange, but I thrive at night amid the dark, quiet church services where light and shadow dance together on the sanctuary walls surrounding each waxy candle. The whole theme of the day is so reflective and real, and my melancholy heart is drawn to the familiar beauty of a wounded healer. A suffering savior.

This year, though, I find myself resisting the story altogether. It isn’t that I disbelieve or don’t find it meaningful, but it’s just so…heavy. Good Friday in the midst of a pandemic isn’t exactly a walk through the park (are those even allowed anymore?). I’m tired from reading daily stories about death and suffering. My heart feels spent from keeping up with the news cycle and worrying about the people I love: Wondering if we’ll all have food, if my friends can pay their rent, if the nurses will have masks. I sob imagining the lonely memorials as people bury their loved ones at a time when no one is allowed to come together; not allowed to hug or hold hands. There is so much pain all around us, and yet we are isolated. Tired. Reading the detailed account of one more death today feels like it just might break me. 

Maybe you feel the same. I don’t know where your heart is today, but I can bet it is heavy. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of our prayers sound a bit like Jesus’ prayer on the cross:

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” 

Oof. Take a deep breath as you read those words. Can you believe they were said by JESUS, the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the celebrated Christmas Babe… The Savior of the world? 

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

This haunting prayer was a quote from and a reference to Psalm 22, a Psalm of David, which Jesus and his onlookers would have known by heart. It is an aching hymn about physical and emotional, existential suffering, crying out to God in unflinching desperation. This is a song my own heart knows all too well, and I am shaken by the knowledge that Jesus understands. 

Reflecting on the details of the gory lynching of the 33 year old God-man, Jesus, might be too much for us today as we stumble our way through both the shared and solitary traumas of life during a pandemic. But maybe we can find comfort and rest for our worn-through souls by knowing that whatever the details of our own reality right now: God understands. 

Jesus showed us on the cross that he is not afraid of our violent terrors or hidden cries, because he cried them, too. He is not afraid of the darkness because he took darkness into himself, bearing the crushing weight of all the sin of all mankind. God is not afraid of our questions, confusion, or doubt. He is not disgusted by our shame, and he isn’t surprised or taken aback by the constant, gnawing frailty of our humanness.

In fact. He welcomes it all. He welcomes us.

The cross of Christ is an altar, a monument, a welcome sign. It is a testament of love and a dark symbol of a bright reality: Jesus came to be with us, no matter the cost us, and he understands the way we feel. 

Take another deep breath, my friends: 

Jesus understands, and God is near.

 

About the Author: Alyssa Zimmerman, like you, is incredibly loved by God. She anxiously offers up her cynicism, fear, and mustard-seed-faith in return. Constantly amazed by grace and relieved by redemption, Alyssa pursues truth, love, justice and Jesus in the midst of disabling chronic pain which has shaped the vast majority of her life and foiled her dreams for college, career, and a family. Instead, Alyssa became a high school dropout, living in poverty and pain, forced to spend most days in bed with an icepack. Nevertheless, she is committed to the great and messy work of therapy and mental health, wishing deep-down healing and wholeness for all.

At home among the trees, the mountains, and the drizzling rain, Alyssa is a PNW native. She is passionate about living vulnerably, wrestling with the hard questions of faith, and pushing beyond the confines of our modern western evangelical culture in the hope of better understanding the fullness of God’s love and more indiscriminately extending it to all. She is a great lover of wit and silence, watcher of documentaries, drinker of tea, and excessive taker of mediocre phone pics.

Passion Week: A Holy Thursday Reflection

Scripture for Today

“The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” Exodus 12:13

“Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”  Mathew 26:27-29

Things to Think About

As we reflect on Jesus’ last meal and betrayal this Holy Thursday, and anticipate his sacrifice and resurrection, may we also take into consideration the great significance of this day in the lives of God’s chosen people. As written in the book of Exodus, God delivered the Isrealites from captivity hundreds of years prior to Jesus’ coming. Not only was Jesus anticipating his own death on this night, he was also celebrating his father’s sovereignty and provision. 

We as Christians refer to Jesus’ last meal as The Last Supper, but for hundreds of years the Jewish people revered it and celebrated it as Passover. They practice Seder, a meal where each dish symbolically reflects the food the Isrealites ate while fleeing Egypt. The holiday takes place every year and is one of the single most important days of the Jewish calendar. It is referenced throughout the Bible and is notably referred to when young Jesus travels to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover with his family, gets lost, and is found in the temple talking theology with some religious leaders. But that’s a different story (albeit a great one).

The point is this: Passover was extremely important to the Jewish people, including Jesus and his disciples (who were also Jewish). 

Why is this significant? 

I think there are many reasons, but here are a few to think about:

    • The holiday symbolizes deliverance and celebrates God’s provision and sovereignty. It’s no coincidence that Jesus decides to publicly announce that he will sacrifice himself for the forgiveness of sins on Passover. God’s timing is always perfect. 
    • Jesus talking about the wine and bread on this night were normal and expected – They were significant parts of the traditional Passover meal. Where it starts to get weird is when Jesus goes off script and refers to them as the blood and body. The disciples were taken aback by Jesus’ additions to the traditional Passover language, but we often refer to them when taking communion or celebrating the Eucharist.
    • I used to wonder why the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus was about to die after he asked them to all get together for dinner to chat about God’s covenant, bread, and wine. It seemed obvious to me that this was his “farewell” meal. I now understand that this wasn’t a random get-together in an upper room to pour some wine and eat some bread. It was completely expected – Like a family gathering on Thanksgiving or Christmas.
    • God’s covenant and Old Testament scripture references were fresh in the minds of Jesus’ listening disciples. They knew what Jesus was talking about when he references God’s covenant to His people; on this night more than ever.
    • Jesus knew he was going to die the next day. He knew he would be betrayed by someone he loved that night. But he celebrated Passover and remembered God’s provision anyway. He praised God alongside his friends despite an internal knowledge of the future. He taught despite fear. He served despite suffering.

Today, let us do the same. Let us praise God for his deliverance and sovereignty despite our own fear, suffering, or struggles facing the world today. Let us remember God’s faithfulness on this Holy Thursday, just as Jesus did. Let us wonder about His perfect timing and trust that it will continue.

About the Author: Maya DaSilva is a high school junior who just got her driver’s license but rarely remembers where the keys are.

She enjoys wondering about how faith and culture intersect, and believes thinking leads to change – Even when we don’t have all the answers. 

She thinks quiet voices are still meant to be heard. 

Guarding My Heart: A Sixteen Year Old’s Thoughts on Creating and Surrendering to Gatekeepers

A couple years ago I was a part of a very toxic friend group. They were very two-faced and deceptive. I started to realize this half way through my eighth-grade year and after seeing the signs it all went downhill. I didn’t want to do all the things they started doing, so they started saying nasty things about me. Instead of letting it get to my head, I decided to start reading a devotional. It helped me work through all the painful behaviors that were going on and walk away from this group.

Now one thing that I do every morning to guard my heart is read from a daily devotional. The one I really love is “Devotions for the Soul Surfer,” by Bethany Hamilton. It is super relatable and I just love the way she has written it. Like most devotionals, it includes scripture alongside stories of her past experiences. Many are stories from when she was a teenager that encourage and inspire me to stay on my path with God. Reading through a daily devotional really helps me get into a good mood for the day and refreshes my mind. I definitely see a difference in myself after I read Scripture – I just feel like a happier, better version of myself.

This time also gives me a positive perspective of the world around me. So many things we encounter are out of our control. I stay close to God through reading my Bible along with the devotional. Doing these things reminds me of His promise to give me hope and a future and keeps me grounded. It equips me to be quick to forgive and see the best in others. It is currently teaching me how to define healthy boundaries with individuals I am around regularly and to choose my friends carefully – Reminding me to spend time with those who are like-minded, positive and who desire to walk with God, that care about me and my future, as much as I care about theirs.

I also think it’s important to receive what God promises us now. I not only believe in His plan for my future, but spending time with Him daily reminds me that He cares about my present life as well. He wants me to have a good life, good friends, good experiences, as well as peace – Free from anxiousness, stress and unnecessary troubles. The Bible says there will always be trials and tribulation, but those of us who have Jesus should find peace in Him.

Last month, my mom shared her thoughts about guarding her children’s hearts on this website (link here). As a teenager, it’s not always easy to accept what she thinks is best for me. Some of the toughest times are when I would like to go somewhere and she and my dad wont’ let me. They do explain why, whether it is unsafe, unhealthy or they do not know whom I will be with, but it is still hard to accept. Having parents who have rules and boundaries is going to impact me for the better when I am an adult. They have put guidelines around me since I was young that have helped me develop trust in myself and in God. By obeying them, they see that I am able to make good decisions and am trustworthy. When I mess up, they are there to help me reflect on it and learn from my mistakes. They teach me to discern what is right in more mature situations to come.  

Even though some of their rules are frustrating right now, I’m going to be thankful for them keeping me from things and teaching me to recognize things that could take me down the wrong path and affect my future.

Resources I Recommend 
  • Who Do You Think You Are: A 21 Day Journal for Teens by Ardren’s mom, Jen Windus – Available to purchase by emailing Jen. Inquire here.
  • The Bible App

Scriptures That I Lean On

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

“God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?” James 4:12

 

About The Author, Arden Windus:

I’m 16. I play soccer & love to ski, even though I hate the cold. I believe that life is short, so you do the things that you really love and be kind. My favorite colors are lavender and sage green. My absolute favorite place in the world is Hawaii!!

 

 

You Really Can Start Reading Your Bible: Tips and Testimony from a Middle Schooler

Saved from Near

As a just-turned 14 year old, I have been going to church my whole life.  However, I didn’t experience a relationship with God until I was in middle school, even though I was baptized at age 6. It was at my first church camp in 6th grade that I discovered that true joy comes from God and nothing else in the world. That’s when I truly started my faith walk and committed to following Him.

Testing of Faith

But having faith wasn’t always easy. I have had hard times and I know there will be hard times ahead. Through my difficult experiences, God showed me ways to encourage myself and others. I found a family in my church youth group, and was able to go early every week to help wherever I was needed. Serving others, seeing them smile and appreciate what I do, made me so happy. No matter what stress was in my mind at the time, I just felt loved. I also found so many friends at church who encourage me in everything. They have held my hand while I cry happy tears and sad tears. As I walked my walk of faith, the raw and vulnerable way, God gifted me with wise people, good family members who care for me, and challenging questions that have caused me to grow. He showed me how I needed to pray more and worry less, and prayer became my communication with God. Even with all of this, I just felt ready for more. I’d been feeling a little distant from my faith during online school, so on whim decided to start reading my Bible.

Knowing His Word

I had always viewed reading my Bible as insignificant or too hard to me. But as I committed to reading, it started to become a daily habit and I felt God spurring me on. I never really realized how much I would love it, and how much joy and peace it would bring to my life.

I totally understand how reading your Bible can feel like another item on your to-do list, but it’s not supposed to be a chore. Digging into the Word is a gift from God, and that time is meant to be cherished. Getting into a daily habit requires patience – It’s like getting strong in sports or learning a new skill. If you want to get good at it, you need to be willing to commit to actively making the effort to form a new habit.

Remember, through your journey, that reading your Bible doesn’t have to look one specific way. Everyone has different preferences and ways on how they get into the Bible. How you read, take notes, and learn will be different for everyone. That’s totally ok! It’s intimate and unique because it’s how God wants you to comprehend His love.

Here are some strategies and ideas I used to start reading and understanding the Word on my own.

Ways to Engage with the Word of God
How to Get Into Your Bible Idea #1

This is the strategy I use:

  • Open your Bible to the table of contents.

  • Then go through each book, writing down books that you want to read, names you recognize, or a title that sparks your interest. Don’t worry about getting all the books you want written down, just start with the first ones that catch your eye.

  • Choose one book that you wrote down and read the first chapter, or even a few sentences, just read at your own pace.

  • Highlight questions, add notes to the margins, or underline things or people that are familiar. But just read, annotate, and ask questions. Find a style of note-taking that works for you. Don’t be afraid to use a journal if that works better for notes, instead of writing in your actual Bible.

The way I do my study is to highlight wisdom or things that make sense, write questions and notes in the margins, and always read a chapter a day. The reason this works so well for me is because I get to choose what to read, what I note, and what to ask. Being a person who likes being able to choose how I spend time with God makes my time much more fruitful.

How to Get Into Your Bible Idea #2

Accountability is a huge part of reading your Bible. Here are some ways that help keep your attention in the word:

  • If you are in online school, and start later in the day, make the first piece of work you do reading your Bible.

  • Text a trustworthy friend, small group leader, or adult. Ask them to check in with you daily, asking if you have read your Bible.

  • Set a few alarms on your device. Try to keep yourself responsible to stay on schedule and read around the alarm time.

  • If you plan your days in any way, add Bible reading to your day. Pick a time to give your undivided attention to the Bible. I read my Bible either in the morning before the day gets busy or in the afternoon when I find some alone time.

Don’t beat yourself up if you have a hard time getting into a rhythm of actively and daily opening your Bible. Let yourself into it slowly and let God do the teaching.

How to Get Into Your Bible Idea #3

It’s ok not to know what to do, sometimes you have to let go of your need to have the answer and let God decide what you are going to read. This is hard, no doubt about it, but we all have to start somewhere.

  • Take time to pray. Ask God for help to give you a fruitful time. Wherever God wants you to be in the Bible, He will make it clear.

  • Open your Bible and begin reading the page wherever the first word pops out. Keep in mind that all Scripture is God breathed. Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Reflect on that verse.

If you happen upon a passage that doesn’t make much sense, pray. Ask to see if that is where you need to be, sometimes you need to read tricky things, but just ask for the guidance of God.

Finally, if you aren’t finding anything that interests you, open to Genesis 1:1 to learn about creation. If you love a good story open to Ruth 1:1. If you are looking for poetry and wisdom open to Proverbs 8:6-23. And if you are looking for answers about Jesus, look to Matthew 19:13-15.

The Benefit of Children’s Bibles

Have you ever read something in the Bible and thought, “Well, that was so confusing. I don’t think I’ll ever make sense of this book.” I know I definitely have. But I’ve found a hidden gem that has helped me understand the Bible incredibly, and it’s… a kids Bible. I have an Adventure Bible and HCSB Illustrated Study Bible for kids. They are so explanatory and have many underrated sources.

In my Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) there are colored maps, timelines, and pages that explain what a quiet time is and how different Bible verses can help with your different feelings. There are also charts that show how verses relate to different topics. This Bible helps me find things quickly and helps me learn how to really get the most from the Word.

My Adventure Bible has some helpful pages that help understanding the words on the page you’re reading. It has summaries of peoples’ lives, excerpts about what life was like in Bible times, tips for living out the Word, and highlighted sections with verses to treasure. I love this Bible because it explains and highlights the words right in front of you.

Both of these Bibles are simplified. If parts of my NIV don’t make sense, I gladly turn to my children’s Bible or my colored maps and timelines. They help me understand what I’m reading and learn what God needs me to know in that scripture.

My point is that kid’s Bibles have benefits for adults too! And any age for that matter! Don’t be afraid to look into a children’s Bible to seek an answer, simpler text, or new fact.

Kate’s Suggested Resources

 

About the Author, Kate Kesler:

I’m Kate, a creator at heart. I have a passion for baking, music, and Jesus.

 

Podcast 033: “Surrender, Trust, and Rest: Unexpected Lessons From an Unexpected Senior Year” with Molly Tuffnell

We’re approaching the one year anniversary of all things Covid-19, and we think that’s worth talking about. Coronavirus has left many experiencing genuine loss and heartache – Feelings that resonate deeply with young people like 18-year-old Molly Tuffnell. 

In this episode of Arise Online, Molly joins host Lisa DaSilva to talk about how she worked through the disappointment of what was supposed to be one of the most exciting years of her life. We hope you’ll take time to quiet your heart, listen to their conversation, and share this episode with other young men and women who might benefit from hearing Molly’s perspective.

Noteworthy Quotes

From Molly’s journal a month before the pandemic isolation:

“If I were to fully trust You… to realize that my sole purpose in life is to bring You glory… I wonder if I would be content no matter the circumstance in which you place me. Shouldn’t I be? If my sole purpose is to glorify You, and if I believe You are sovereign, I would simply have to rest, knowing that You are good and all of Your plans are good, even when I don’t think they are.”

“We follow a covenant keeping God who will not break His promises. The promise that One day He will come back for us. The promise that one day every tear will be wiped away. The promise that one day, all will be right and all will be well. We don’t have assurance that our plans will work out, but we do have assurance of who our God is, a covenant-making, promise-keeping God who sees His children and will be back for them soon. And I believe that knowing this makes all of the uncertainty and disappointment perfectly worth it.”

“We serve a Lord who aches with us in disappointment. He knew disappointment in ways far greater than we do. He sees us and He sympathizes with us. In the disappointment, we can be reminded that we follow a God who is faithful.”

Scripture to Help Surrender, Trust & Rest 

Psalm 13:5  –“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”

Psalm 28:7 –“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”

Psalm 37:5 –“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.”

Psalm 46:10 –“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 55:22 –“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

Psalm 112:7 –“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.”

Psalm 143:8 –“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 –Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Proverbs 30:5 –“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

Isaiah 26:3 –“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Matthew 11:28-29 –“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

John 14:27 –“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Romans 15:13 –“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Hebrews 4:16 –“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Hebrews 13:6-8-“So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’ Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

 

About our Guest: Molly Tuffnell is a student in her freshman year at Biola University and is majoring in Biblical & Theological Studies. Some of her favourite things are waking up early to watch the sunrise, drinking a good cup of coffee over a deep convo with a friend, and having kitchen-clean-up-dance-parties with her sisters.

She also has a deep passion for studying the Word and engaging with others in learning more about the Lord! Over the past year she has come to more deeply know the goodness and faithfulness of her Father and has a desire for those around her to know the same through dependency on His Word.

Guarding Their Hearts – One Mama’s Reflection on Being the Gatekeeper

My grandmother welcomed Jesus into her heart as she began to slip away from this world. She had been a hard-working nurse and mother of four. Widowed at a young age, she did not know what she did not know raising her young children. She did not know to guard their hearts from that which would seek to destroy them. She did not have a life filled with experiencing a relationship with Jesus, but I do believe she saw God’s goodness from time to time – Through her children when they were young, through the grandchildren that adored her and through her daughter who met Jesus in her 20’s and began to change before her own mothers eyes. 

That daughter was my mother – A woman who transformed the direction of our families’ spiritual legacy. 

She did this by making the boldest of changes when she said yes to Jesus among friends, siblings, and neighbors who could not see what she could see in Him. My mother went against the status quo and gave her life to the Lord so she and her children could live a different kind of life. So we could find a life of joy, peace, faith, and hope – Rooted in an understanding of true love. She undertook the challenge of what it meant to guard her own heart and ours. I continue the process of building this kind of legacy by creating a home centered around Christ – That my children may know how valuable their hearts are and learn to guard them on their own. So they can jump off my shoulders to reach even greater heights.  

The Castle & Its Sentry

I once heard a beautiful metaphor about guarding your child’s heart: “Build your castle strong and it will not crumble under attack.” In other words, guard your heart and you will not be destroyed by the things that would rob you of the life God has planned for you. It radically solidified my beliefs that this was my job with my children – To help build protection against influences that seek to destroy the goodness and purity of our children’s hearts. 

Before becoming a mom I had spent over 25 years caring for other people’s children, learning about children, and studying human development. The heart is the center of the castle, the eyes and ears are the gates. Do you remember the little song from Sunday School? “Be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little ears what you hear.” While children are at home, parents are the keepers of the gate or sentry.  Webster defines a sentry as “any of the men of a military guard posted to guard against danger.” A sentry has three responsibilities. First, they are to watch for the enemy or sheep in wolf’s clothing. Second, when the castle is under attack, the sentry must close the gates. Thirdly and possibly most importantly, the sentry notifies the King’s commander when an intruder has entered.  

Possible Intruders

When I was a girl I had a cousin who loved scary movies and I loved my cousin. So guess what I would watch when we were together? Yep. You guessed it. We were between 8-10 years old when we would go to our Grandmother’s house and spend the day running errands with her and playing outside. Our grandmother’s home was the home she had raised her children in. It was built in the 40’s with two stories and several bedrooms. Each bedroom had a small closet and was filled with all sorts of items from years of life including a bed left behind from each of the four children who were raised there. Three of whom were daughters who sewed. There were dress forms and sewing machines, boxes of fabric and other items that sparked the curiosity of young children. At times, several of her 13 grandchildren were in the house playing hide and seek together.  We loved her, so we loved her home. Unfortunately her house was broken into several times over the years. She was a nurse who lived on her own and worked nights. She had to put a special door on and she had loud feisty poodles on guard. This made for quite the setting for late night movies and wild imaginations.  So when she would go to bed we would stay awake and fill our minds and ultimately our hearts with what came across the television. Those characters made it into my heart and tried to haunt me for years. Leaving fear of places, situations and interactions. My parents had no idea we were watching these movies, no blame is to be placed, nor did they know the fear that had entered me. The experience had left its mark on my heart and the enemy had invaded my “castle.”

Other invaders through movies are pornography, sexual activity in youth, drugs, violence, and death. The lack of the value of life seeps in so quickly when your mind is numbed over time to the darkness of media through your eyes and ears. It makes me think of a movie where a man is sent by the enemy masquerading as friend. His chief purpose is to whisper evil into the ear of the king. As time passes and the words seep into his heart, the king begins to age and rot as he sits on the throne. Day by day the filth that is being spoken into him manifests on the outside as a once vibrant King begins to shrink on his throne. His beautiful blond hair turns stringy grayish white (not the beautiful salon style we see on models today) and his body grows weak.  The viewer can watch the damage done when an outsider who seeks to destroy goes after the heart to tear down the man. It is a guard who recognizes the strategy and does not give up attempting to rid the evil one from the kingdom.

As the mother of two teenagers I am glad I learned this while they were young. I am glad that God showed me the connection between what goes in and what comes out

Raising children to be solid and strong and in love with God is hard in this world of temptation and media all around them, but what I think would be even harder is to let them choose at a young age to listen or watch whatever they desire and then try and work in reverse to “clean it out” as it comes out of them with age. I am the guard of my child’s castle, and the sentry of our home.

Assuming Position

Dear mom, we are human. We are not perfect. We are tired. We are weary. We are distracted. 

We are also not alone on the journey of Motherhood. 

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Moses is our same God. He can give us the wisdom, energy and discipline to guard our children’s hearts. I challenge and encourage you to sit with Him today. Ask Him for courage if you need to better guard or change some things in your home, energy and wisdom to be more intentional with schedules or influences, and the desire to look at what is going into your children now that could come back and haunt them or derail them later. Put on your armor, take your position and stand guard. 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Romans 8:28

 

 

Recommended Resources  
  • Love Is: A 21 Day Interactive Journal for Mama’s – Available to purchase by emailing Jen Windus. Inquire here.

 

Scripture to Encourage
  • Proverbs 4:23-27 
  • Psalm 84:11
  • Luke 6:45
  • Colossians 3:15
  • Philippians 4:7
  • 1Peter 5:8

 

About Jen Windus

Hi I’m Jen. I’m a friend of Jesus. Daughter of the Most High. Wife to my boyfriend and Mama to two miracles. I am a teacher by trade & at heart. I love the mountains, all creation and seeing light bulbs go off in people’s minds and faces as they learn and experience God’s love for them.

 

Encountering God Through Lectio Divina – FREE Printable PDF

A Quick Note

2020 has left many of us isolated and in need of encouragement. Our desire is to draw strength, peace, and guidance from the Bible as we begin 2021 together. We know many who are struggling to find rhythms and time alone and with God right now. We understand, can relate, and want to help.  

Therapist Marnee Alfson regularly uses the practice of Lectio Divina to meditate on Scripture. She’s used her wisdom and expertise to create this four-session guide to lead participants through John 4:4-26 in a way that allows us space to encounter our amazing God.

Just print the attached guide, find the quietest place you can, light a candle, get cozy under a blanket, and prepare your heart and mind to savor Scripture and let it speak to you.

For more details on Lectio Divina or to to print the, Encountering God Through Lectio Divina resource  for yourself or your small group, click on any of the pictures in this post, or link directly to it here.

If you’ve already participated in our online Lectio Divina study of John 4, or want to delve further into the practice of scripture meditation, simply substitute John 4 for another passage. We suggest the following to get started or continue your practice:

  • Genesis 45
  • Psalm 8
  • Psalm 19
  • Daniel 3
  • Mark 5:25-34
  • Luke 5:1-11

 

 

Things to Have on Hand as You Engage in Scripture Meditation

 

About our Lectio Divina Author:


Marnee Alfson
is an EMDR trained trauma specialist in private practice in Vancouver, WA.  Marnee received her training under the direction of leading author and developer of Story Informed Trauma Therapy (SITT), Byron Kehler, MS. She has worked with survivors of various traumas such as sexual and/or domestic assault, displacement, first responders, attachment in relationships, body image, life transitions and mood management.

She believes we gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience we choose to walk through.  Trauma recovery therapy is an important part of hope in helping other survivors live their lives free of the pain they have experienced.

 

 

Podcast 032 – “He Will” Advent Study – Week One with Eryn Kesler & Mary Straker

Join co-authors Eryn Kesler and Mary Straker for a conversation about the first week of our He Will advent study. You’ll hear the inside scoop about why these women are passionate about the Word of God, gain some insight into the book of Luke, and even get their own answers for a few of this week’s tough questions.

It’s not too late to start! Order your own copy of He Will by clicking here.

About our guests and co-authors:

Eryn Kesler has been married to Matt for 20 years – the best thing that’s ever happened to her. She’s mom to 5 amazing kids, a recovering over-scheduler, and a wedding & portrait photographer in Brush Prairie, Washington.

Mary Straker is wife to her loving husband, Derek, and a stay-at-home mama to three sweet and busy little girls. She has been changed by the study of Scripture, and longs for other women to abide with God through the treasure of His Word. Mary lives in Ridgefield, Washington. 

 

Things I’ve Gained Through Quarantine

Here we are. Again.

Eight months into this pandemic, and we are back on temporary lockdown. Can’t go here, can’t do this, you can do this but with these restrictions, etc, etc, etc. In some ways, 2020 has felt like one big “NO.” It is insane to me how the span of eight months can feel like an eternity. But if we are thinking in terms of actual eternity, eight months is merely the blink of an eye, an almost invisible blip on the radar. 

It goes without saying that, for almost everyone, this has been a year of loss. Some have experienced significant loss: the death of a loved one(s), job loss, financial hardship, marital strife or even divorce, or the loss of absolutely every earthly possession they own in the wildfires that ravaged our region. Many others have taken on incredible amounts of stress as they work the front lines of this pandemic (shout out to ALL healthcare workers, law enforcement, firefighters…you’re the real heroes), or try to navigate the challenges of working from home while also trying to homeschool their children (for anyone in this position, you da real MVPs). And almost everyone has taken on the burden of navigating the loss of relationships, connection with others, and the feeling of isolation that comes with having our everyday lives come to a screeching halt.

It can be easy to toss around Scripture during times of stress, loss, and grief. The Scripture below is no exception, but it truly is one of my favorites in the Bible:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am humble and gentle in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)

Stop for just a second. Read that again. What blows my mind is that Jesus desires to trade our heavy burdens for his light one. That He wants to exchange our trash for his treasure…if we would just come to Him. He promises rest. I don’t know about you, but I could sure use a healthy dose of that after this year.

Because of all this, it’s a little comical that I felt like the Lord was prompting me to write this post about things I’ve gained in quarantine. It is so easy for us all to revert to all the things we’ve lost this year…but what about the things we’ve gained? When I look back on 2020, am I going to remember all the hardships and inconveniences? Probably, yes. But even more so, I want it to be burned into my memory the things the Lord has revealed to me this year, both about Himself and about myself. I want to focus on the steps forward that I’ve made and view this year as pivotal in my walk with the Lord, not as a year to be forgotten or written off.

 

Gain #1: Perspective
  • Social media has taken the world by storm, even prior to COVID-19 and even more so after. While it can be used as an incredibly powerful tool to keep us connected to our family, friends and communities, ask yourself: is it draining you? Are you constantly comparing your life to others or dealing with discontentment based on the squares of other people’s so-called “life”? Are you going down rabbit trails and finding yourself wracked with anxiety? Fasting doesn’t necessarily mean abstaining from food and drink. Maybe it’s time to disconnect from the virtual world that we are immersed in and get back to basics. My phone has become an “escape” (dare I say…idol?) during this pandemic and I have been convicted on more than one occasion to set it aside and engage in what is right in front of me rather than what’s on a screen.
  • I have felt numerous times over the course of the past eight months that this pandemic is absolutely a tool that God is using to encourage His people to press “pause;” to slow down, to rest, and to lean into Him. Not just lean in, but rely on Him. A MAJOR reset. I have longed so many times in my adult life for things to slow down; to be able to off-load things from my plate, to spend more time at home with my family, to just breathe. Yeah, it’s not always easy working from home full-time with a toddler. I am wracked with mom guilt a lot because she has above-average screen time as I try to juggle several things at once (like everyone else). No, I don’t get a lot of alone time. BUT, I’m home with her. I’m here. And even if I don’t feel present all the time, I get to be the one to be here for everything. And this is time I will never get back.
Gain #2: Self-Awareness
  • The ironic thing is, now that life is moving at a much slower pace, I find myself trying to constantly replace (or fill) the slowness. I feel restless, sometimes borderline impulsive. Like I need to disrupt my newfound peace and quiet to feel “productive”. Why? Why can’t I just soak in the peace that I have been craving for so long (and that God has graciously gifted me with)? 
  • As an introvert and a homebody, my tendency is to isolate myself and to go inward, particularly when I’m struggling with my mental health. To stay in my bubble, safe and unbothered. That’s dangerous, because being in your own head all the time is unhealthy. The Lord recently made it very clear that I need to be more intentional with my intentionality: seek people out, seek out opportunities to connect and stay connected, and be present.
  • Reading my Bible is similar to exercising; I never regret doing it, and I always feel amazing afterward. Why, then, are these things SO difficult for me to stick with? Particularly with this extra time on my hands? Let’s be honest, I am not that busy. This just tells me that I have some serious re-prioritizing to do.
  • In the same breath, I’ve realized that I’m done riding the shame spiral. Done putting unrealistic expectations on myself, done feeling like a failure when I don’t meet these unrealistic expectations, done putting myself in a box. A dear friend (you know who you are) recently pointed out to me that I like to proclaim things about myself and write them off as “truth”. That I resign myself to “facts” about what I can or can’t do, or that I am/am not passionate about something because deep down, I’m afraid to be a child at something and to risk failure. Annnnd…mic drop.
Gain #3: Appreciation
  • I have been clinically diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This means that my brain literally never stops thinking, analyzing, worrying, etc. My therapist asked me once to think about when (if ever) I last experienced boredom. As the mother of a toddler, a serial overachieving perfectionist, and someone who used to base their productivity on how many boxes they could check off on their completely unrealistic to-do list, this was a completely foreign concept to me. For the first time in years, there are days during this pandemic where I have actually experienced boredom! It actually makes me feel triumphant when I start to feel bored, because this means that I am taking control of my mental illness rather than it taking control of me.
  • In contrast to my first bullet point, I am actually incredibly grateful for technology and the benefits it has given me during this time. I have transitioned to working from home full-time with virtually zero interruption and have been incredibly fortunate to remain employed; I am able to communicate and stay connected to those dearest to me; and I have even completed an inductive Zoom Bible study!
  • Finally, I am eternally grateful for the gift of time. Time with my daughter, time with my husband, time with Jesus. Time to breathe, time to explore hobbies I forgot I loved and passions I forgot I had. Time to focus on actual self-care (not just pampering and fluff): taking care of my mental, physical and spiritual health.

 

I guess what it boils down to is this: we have a choice. Every day, the stress of this year (or life in general) threatens to swallow us whole. And let’s be honest: some days we give in. We let doubt, fear, anxiety, worry, apathy, shame, guilt, and pride creep in and settle in the places where Jesus has been working so hard this year to clean house. It’s there that the enemy wants to keep us, focusing on all the things that have gone wrong this year and the uncertainty of what is to come.

But guess what? Jesus always has the final say. And He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it. Stay the course, friend. 

Much love,

Ali

 

About Ali Gadbaugh: Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Ali is a homebody who counts coffee, her husband and daughter, and Jesus as a few of her favorite things. She likes to add a little sarcasm and humor to life, and is passionate about growing and deepening her relationship with her Savior.

 

Copyright © 2021 · Theme by 17th Avenue

Copyright © 2021 · Amelia on Genesis Framework · WordPress · Log in