Hidden in the Shelter of God’s Tabernacle

Jazzy in a blanket - Jan 28, 2013“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5, NIV)

 

 

 

As Jazzy’s master, I’ve been attentive and faithful in meeting her needs ever since she was a pup.

 

She’s not a whiner. She doesn’t bark when I’m taking too long to acknowledge her. She just sits in front of me, staring at me, waiting for me to figure out what she wants, even though I’ve proven to only give her what she needs.

 

Sometimes, she’ll use her front paw to get my attention, especially when there’s a possibility of cuddle time or when there’s a blanket involved.

 

As my sweet pup tucks her nose under the covers, I think of how the Lord has always come through for me, how He’s wrapped me in His love and grace during the coldest, darkest times of my life, how He’s given me peace when there was nothing but chaos all around me.

 

The Bible tells us exactly how to achieve that glorious peace that makes us feel safe in the days of trouble.

 

Psalm 27:4 (NIV) says: “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”

 

When we armor up daily, and practice wielding God’s sword of truth we’ll be ready for those times when we’re caught up in the heat of battle.

 

We can’t wait until we’re in crisis to seek the Lord. We need to spend all the days of our lives in His presence, saturating our hearts with His Word, practicing obedience as He molds our faith.

 

Lord, please give us willing hearts and courageous faith as You empower us to change our behavior or our situation. When we’re afraid of what might happen as a result of our radical commitment to You, help us trust that obedience to Your Holy Word leads to security in Your presence, which is all we need to feel safe in any day of trouble. In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

What will you commit to, today, that will help you practice God’s presence daily, so that you will be armored up and ready for battle in this world at war with God?

 

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The Hand That Made the Heavens

Cancun Aug 2012 276“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

(Psalm 19, NIV)

 

 

 

 

Yes! God, who paints each sky beautifully different every morning, created each one of us.

 

He desires to polish us, often through refining fires, until we radiate Christ-like character.

 

This doesn’t mean He wants to change us into someone we are not, or were never meant to be. God wants to mold us into the amazing women of God that He made us to be.

 

Cancun Aug 2012 185He wants to use every aspect of our personality and every moment of our life experiences, even those we may not be so proud of, to sculpt us into a unique reflection of His power and amazing grace.

 

 

 

Nothing is wasted in the hands of the One who made the glorious heavens!

 

You are valuable, a precious jewel in the treasure chest of the King of kings. He doesn’t want to hide you, or let you collect dust. He wants to show off His priceless diamond. You!

 

Mountain Landscape by XE Dixon 2010He does that by using you to minister to the body of Christ. In His power, you can use the skills and talents and testimony that He’s blessed You with for His glory.

 

 

 

 

Only you can share what God has given you to offer His people. And what you have to offer does make a difference.

 

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”

(1 Corinthians 15:58, NLT)

 

Is there a ministry the Lord has placed on your heart that you have been hesitant to begin? How can God use your unique design and special talents or skills to build up others?

—–

 

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How a Pound Pup Taught Me the Secret of True Rest

Dog Blog - Niner by Mallory - Jan 2013If there’s one pup who knows the true meaning of rest, it’s my Grand-Dog, Niner.

When my son, AJ, saw this trembling, curly haired pooch peering through the kennel fence at the pound, he couldn’t resist those sad eyes. The clerk explained that he had medical issues that would need to be addressed, most likely due from his being abused and abandoned.

 

 

 

Without hesitation, AJ adopted the dog, gave him a new name and introduced him to his new life.

 

It seemed as if Niner knew he’d found his real home the day my son saved him from the pound.

 

His quickness to expose his tummy for a rub, a sign of trust, demonstrates the healing power of being loved unconditionally.

 

His puppy joy is as contagious as his relaxed demeanor. I admire how he adapts to new environments with ease, as long as he knows his masters are nearby.

 

Wherever Niner happens to be in the moment is a perfect resting place, even if there’s chaos all around him.

 

Misc Dec 2012 086This kind of resting doesn’t always mean he’s taking a siesta, though. Niner will plop himself anywhere and watch what’s going on around him. Sometimes, the slight movement of his curly eyebrows is the only clue that he’s awake.

 

 

 

God has used Niner to remind me that, when I remain in the presence of my loving Master, neither my past nor my current surroundings determine my ability to experience the freedom of true rest.

 

Scripture declares:

 

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” (Psalm 91:1-2, NIV)

 

Words like shelter and refuge usually indicate a need for protection. Fortresses are designed to guard their inhabitants during war. Yet, the writer of Psalm 91 paints an image of peace as he confidently asserts that rest is inevitable for he who makes his home under the protective covering “of the Most High.”

 

The NASB uses the word “abide,” instead of rest. It’s the same concept used in John 15:4 where Jesus invited his disciples to remain in Him, to abide in Him, to live in close fellowship with Him.

 

Niner Waiting Jan 2013Abiding in Christ means to love Him enough to follow His leading, no matter how impossible the situation may seem. To trust Him enough to walk boldly, through the refining fires of life, in obedience and faith. To believe God is faithful and just, even when the waiting feels endless or the pain seems unbearable.

 

 

 

 

During the last year and a half the Lord has been carrying our family through another season of loss. I clung to God’s promises through those trials.

 

But, when the pain became physical, I felt hopelessness and despair sneaking into my heart.

 

I lost some freedom and mobility in my upper body when I underwent numerous medical procedures and endured months of adjusting to medication. I succumbed to discouragement when the doctors revealed the original injury I suffered had caused more severe damage to other parts of my back, neck and shoulders.

 

After one of my appointments, I snapped at my husband in anger. We rode the rest of the way home in silence as I soaked in my doctor’s words: “The procedure on your back failed.”

 

The doctor had suggested immediate surgery on my left shoulder before we tried an ablation of the nerve that was causing the pain in my back. He said I would also need surgery on my right shoulder before the end of 2013. If my back didn’t respond well to the ablation, we would have to consider surgery to remove a portion of my rib.

 

Meanwhile, I would have to rely on medicine to carry me through the recovery process, as well as to help me manage the pain from herniated disks on my neck and my original back injury.

 

Niner Close Up and Personal Jan 2013I was definitely not resting in my circumstances as fear pricked my side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the financial stresses that piled on as my husband went into his sixth month of unemployment, through family conflicts with our prodigal son, through growing pains with our teenage son, through my husband’s emergency appendectomy, and through my physical ailments, I realized just how hard it was to obey God when all I wanted to do was lash out and escape the pain.

 

When we got home from the doctor’s office, I went to my room and fell face down on the floor. I offered my sobs as a prayer of surrender. “Take over, Lord. I can’t handle one more thing.”

 

As I cried in the presence of the Great Physician, I discovered a deeper meaning of Luke 1:37:

 

“For nothing is impossible with God.”

 

To find the peace I needed, I would have to stay with God. I would have to obey the Lord and trust Him in the midst of my hard times. I would have to love Him in word and deed!

 

Niner with a Boo Boo on his head Jan 2013But how could I do any of those things when I could barely get up off the floor?

 

 

 

 

 

 

In John 14:21, Jesus said: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21a, NIV) He goes on to say: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV)

 

Jesus never intended His disciples to go through life in their own strength. God wants us to depend on His power, to choose His way. So, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within each believer, empowering us to love Him, to obey Him in all circumstances.

 

Why?

 

Misc Dec 2012 054Because only in obedience will we be in the presence of our Master. Only in obedience will we find true rest and experience biblical peace.

 

Hallelujah!

 

 

After listening to the Lord’s affirming whispers through my heart cries, I apologized to my husband and asked him to pray with me.

 

I reflected on the numerous examples in the Bible that show God providing protection and peace to those who love Him, to those who walk in His ways.

 

When we submit to God and choose to obey His whole Word, not just the feel-good verses, His promises and unconditional love become our reality.

 

Dog Blog - Niner and Tummy on his bed by Mallory - Jan 2013Like Niner, we can find true rest in the presence of our Master, regardless of what’s going on around us.

 

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1-2, NIV)

 

 

 

What’s getting in the way of you resting in God’s perfect peace today?

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Photos by Mallory Amanda Winkfield

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Eve’s Dilemma

March 2011 Misc and anniv flwrs 032It all started in a garden flourishing with the fragrance of peace found only in the presence of God. The stench of lies wafted across the dew speckled blades of green grass.

 

 

 

 

Ever so slyly, the enemy enticed Eve to focus on what she couldn’t have rather than rejoice in all that God had given her.

 

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1b)

 

Eve gave a valiant, but weak, attempt to correct the serpent:  “. . . We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” (Genesis 3:2-3)

 

But after two bold lies from the serpent, Scripture tells us: “The woman was convinced.”

 

I can’t even begin to judge our naïve sister, Eve. How many times have I focused on what I felt God was withholding from me rather than what He was abundantly offering me? How often have I stumbled because I didn’t remember the verse that could guide me onto God’s path during my weakest moments of temptation?

 

If only I would’ve taken the time to memorize, or even read Scripture. If only I had prepared for this test.

 

Our precious sister, Eve, was not prepared. She fell into the trap that the enemy sets for all God’s people. She added her spin to what God said. Instead of repeating God’s words from Genesis 1:16, Eve declared that He said touching the fruit would cause them to die.

 

The enemy saw the crack in Eve’s armor.

 

If the woman didn’t know what God said, the devil could certainly twist His words and use them out of context.

 

In reading Scripture, it appears that Eve was speaking from what she heard from Adam. She was dependent on her husband’s interpretation of God’s holy words.

 

She wasn’t prepared to wield the sword of truth because her blade wasn’t sharpened.

 

Maybe their fall was understandable. They didn’t have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. They didn’t have the Scriptures to study and reflect on. And here we are letting our Bibles collect dust.

 

Eve had no choice but to rely on what she was comfortable with, what she could see.

 

Misc June and July 2012 117“She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her.” (Genesis 3:6, NLT)

 

She saw. She admired. She wanted. So, she took.

 

 

She gave in to her fleshly desires and then shared her mess with her husband.

 

Scripture makes no mention of Eve telling Adam from which tree she picked that tantalizing treat. But it does make mention of an interesting fact that’s easy to miss.

 

“She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:6b, emphasis mine)

 

According to the word of God, Adam was with Eve when she was being tempted by the serpent. Yet, we don’t read one word of exhortation from Adam. Not once does he tell her to stay away from the whispering snake.

 

Could it be that Adam wasn’t really paying attention to his wife? Was he slacking as the spiritual leader of God’s first family?

 

Or was he just as curious as Eve, just as discontent, just as focused on what he felt God was withholding from him, rather than all that God was providing?

 

And why didn’t Eve consult with Adam? Why didn’t she ask her husband to get rid of that rascally reptile?

 

As I read this story for the umpteenth time, I was grateful that I decided to read a new translation this year. My fresh perspective wasn’t only due to reading the NASB versus the NIV or NLT, though. Over the last couple of years, God’s been softening my heart and stretching me in the area for marriage.

 

This year, I was open to receive the message he was using to convict my heart.

 

18th Anniversary March 2012 009By the grace of God alone, Alan and I will be celebrating 19 years of marriage in March 2013. Every year, my husband buys me one dozen flowers for each year we’ve been married and one dozen for the year to come. These flowers remind me to reflect on the beauty of our testimony.

 

 

Our past is a medley of God’s faithfulness in action. We are living proof of His redeeming love and multiple miracles of mercy.

 

As I prayed through this week’s scheduled readings, I saw how vital it is for me to take responsibility for my part when it comes to the sinful attitudes that can poison my marriage.

 

If I want to nurture the most important earthly relationship that God has blessed me with, I need to realize that both my husband and I have distinct roles and responsibilities.

 

There are four things we can learn from this portion of the story of Adam and Eve that will help us grow deeper in our relationships with God, with others and, if we’re married, with our spouse.

 

1. We are each responsible for nurturing our own personal relationship with Christ.

 

Although we may like to push as if we are the holy spirit in the lives of others, we tend to skimp on the discipline it requires to invest in our own spiritual growth.

 

At times, we settle for what we’ve heard rather than seeking God for ourselves. We think we can grow when we snack on God’s Word instead of feasting on His nourishing truth daily.

 

Genesis 2:16-17 shows when Adam received a powerful word from God. Though we know the LORD offered an intimate connection with Eve, creating her and bringing her to Adam (Genesis 2:22), there is no record of their communication regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

 

It seems Eve was unprepared to deal with the enemy’s attack because she wasn’t suited up for the battle. She might have known what God said, but she didn’t seem to truly take Him at His word.

 

2. An intimate and transparent community, dependent on God and diligent about the study of His Word, is vital to spiritual growth.

 

The Bible teaches that people need other people in order to live godly lives.

 

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)

 

The sharpening stone we should be using is the Word of God.

 

The Lord doesn’t need us to ad lib. or paraphrase His truth, either. We can see how well that worked for Eve.

 

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV)

 

When we need exhortation, the Holy Spirit infuses life transforming power into each word as God speaks into our situation. He often uses His people to get His message across to us. He uses people to help us mature in our faith.

 

Yet, it is within the most intimate relationship of marriage that we, too often, miss our growing opportunities.

 

We build walls that prevent us from hearing God as He refines us through our relationship with our spouse.

 

3. While accountability is necessary and helpful, we are ultimately responsible for own actions.

 

Scripture reminds us how easy it is for the self-righteous to stumble into sin.

 

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13, NIV)

 

For the enemy there is no greater prize than Christians believing they are not fully redeemed from their past or completely empowered by the Holy Spirit to live in righteousness in the present.

 

We may get tripped up as we journey toward spiritual maturity. But intercessory prayers, as well as encouragement and support through loving accountability, are like physical therapy. The growing pains will hurt, but the healing is real.

 

 

March 2011 Misc and anniv flwrs 026God designed us to flourish, like a glorious flower garden, as we serve one another within a healthy and holy community of His people. But the devil wants us to fear vulnerability and hide from transparency, which nurtures our intimacy with God and others.

 

 

 

We were designed for community. We need community.

 

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NIV)

 

 

4. Though we must suffer consequences for our sins, God never stops loving us or providing for us.

 

“The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21)

 

Even after they tried to hide from God. Even after they tried to cast blame instead of taking responsibility for their own actions. Even after they failed to seek Him and depend on Him. God provided. God loved. God protected.

 

Though we may want to believe Adam and Eve deserved another chance, God did what was best. He knew then that we would follow our wandering hearts and succumb to our fleshly desires. He knew then that we would struggle in developing and maintaining healthy and holy relationships.

 

He knew then that we would need a perfect Savior.

 

Website - Jesus Shrubs - July 2010 Adobe editedWhen God banished Adam and Eve from the garden, He set into motion His wonderful plan of redeeming love.

 

 

 

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17, NIV)

 

You are loved beyond measure, beautiful woman of God!

 

And we are not meant to charge through life alone.

 

March 2011 Misc and anniv flwrs 043I pray we will embrace God’s pruning process and enjoy the beautiful blooms of spiritual growth in 2013.

 

 

 

 

I want to encourage and prayerfully support you as we endeavor to grow deeper in our personal relationships with Christ and with others, and as we mature into the godly wives God created us to be.

 

I’ve committed to participating in the one year Bible online reading schedule. I’m reading through the NASB and NIV Bible this year. I’ve committed to becoming more involved in my church’s women’s ministry, specifically in the area of prayer and sharing the word of God. And I’ve committed to loving my husband, in word and in deed, in order to avoid Eve’s dilemma.

 

What will you commit to doing to nurture your personal relationship with Christ in 2013?

 

How can you better express love, grace, and gratitude toward your husband in 2013?

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God’s Grace in a Pot of Gumbo

Misc Pix January 2013 070

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Misc Pix January 2013 034One of my favorite New Year traditions is helping my husband prepare Gumbo. It’s tedious work. Dicing okra, slicing hotlinks, chopping scallops, and deveining shrimp.

 

 

 

 

As the crab boils, the unique stench of each ingredient wafts into every corner of our home. Onions sting my eyes. The oil in the roux sizzles in the skillet, inevitably popping onto exposed skin.

 

Misc Pix January 2013 062Once the prep work is completed, these ingredients, and a few secret additions, are combined into a big boiling pot. A few hours later, we’re enjoying a tantalizing concoction.

 

Gumbo.

 

 

This year, I’m recovering from surgery on my left shoulder. My hubby did all the prep work by himself. As he busied himself in the kitchen, I considered the amount of work put into this traditional dish. I wrinkled my nose at the not-so-pleasant-scents associated with the fishy ingredients.

 

The smell seemed worse as I sat on the sidelines.

 

Are the tedious prep work and the lingering stench of seafood worth the effort for a few days of taste bud indulgence?

 

How does this mixture of stinky ingredients meld into such a scrumptious dish?

 

It’s amazing where my mind wanders when I’m idle.

 

Guilt weighed down my heart on New Year’s Day. I was laid out on the recliner as my husband bore the whole load to preserve our yearly tradition.

 

Misc Pix January 2013 095Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful the Lord provided so we could keep this twenty year tradition alive. I enjoyed every spoonful and was blessed that we were able to share this tasty treat with a few friends and family.

 

 

 

Misc Pix January 2013 020I’m thankful my husband was willing to carry the full load of preparing the meal as I healed. And, as we ate the last bowl of leftovers, God’s grace was evident in this year’s pot of Gumbo, as well as the year we were leaving behind us.

 

 

 

In 2012, our eyes stung with tears from grief, heartache and loss.

 

We’ve suffered the stench of sinful attitudes being boiled out of our lives through conflict.

 

Our days were spiced with joy and peace that transcended our circumstances and our understanding.

 

We lost our home of seventeen years in 2012, but were blessed with a smooth short-sale process and a new house that felt like home from the very first day.

My husband lost his job due to a restructure in June 2012, but he is well on his way to completing his Phd in Organizational Leadership. God has been providing for us in ways we could never even begin to imagine!

 

Misc Pix January 2013 073We lost our oldest son, but God reconciled our relationship with him and his fiance when my husband went in for an emergency appendectomy. It was a blessing to have them enjoying Gumbo with us this year.

 

 

 

God carried us through the refining fire, melting our hardened hearts and helping us release resentments and unforgiveness for the sake of relationships.

 

We suffered physical pain and embraced God’s goodness, trusting Him in the healing journey.

 

Misc Pix January 2013 060Each moment of our lives, the good and the bad, have been tossed into a pot of God’s grace and mixed by His loving hand. He sprinkles in a dash of forgiveness, a pinch of humility, and the irreplaceable roux of His truth.

 

 

 

In Romans 8:28, the Apostle Paul wrote: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV)

 

It’s easy to forget that he is not talking about us as individuals, but as a whole body. He’s referring to every beloved child of God.

 

Our lives are masterpieces weaved into God’s perfect plan, which is all inclusive and not all about me!

 

Every choice we make, when placed in the Masters sovereign hands, melds into a journey we can savor. A journey never meant to be taken alone.

 

Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can taste the Lord’s peace as each one of us serves the Body of Christ through our unique giftedness.

 

We can practice the selflessness required in nurturing godly relationships as we get off the sidelines and do our part to build up the body of Christ.

 

One day at a time, as we simmer in the midst of God’s mercy and love, we will begin to look and sound more and more like our Savior.

 

We can praise God when the stench of our circumstances is sour and stinky.

And we can praise Him as He slices and dices our character, boiling out the sin that so easily entangles us, until we rise us and spread the sweet fragrance of His grace wherever He has us for today.

 

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In what situation can you offer grace for the sake of relationship and for the betterment of building up the body of Christ?

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