About Barbara

I'm just a simple sojourner listening for the whispers of a God who encompasses my life with His glory as I stumble upon these moments of holy. Covered by grace and called His beloved, I am forever grateful.

Not Knowing but Trusting God Knows

“By faith, Abraham . . . went out, not knowing where he was going.”
(from Hebrews 11:8)

This was the verse God gave to both my husband and myself, separately, when facing the same issue as a couple many years ago. Even in the “not knowing” of the journey before us, God determined to make Himself known to us by nudging our hearts with the same calling to “go out” — though we had no clue where the “going out” might lead.

Akin to Abraham, we packed our spiritual bags and set out against the odds, away from the known and familiar ways of doing church life and life in general. Never realizing how transient we would become or how often we would need to adjust our course in order to keep up with our Shepherd, we stumbled our way after Him — looking for signs of His presence, listening for His voice, and yes, sometimes wandering, but never really wondering if we had heard correctly. (That double whammy of Scripture reference mostly solidified our faith in taking this journey together.)

Though other voices tempted us to turn back or to settle down, God’s never did.

Like Abraham, we went out “not knowing,” yet trusting God would “show us where we were to go.”

And who we were to love along the way.

There’s a huge difference between not knowing and trusting God knows.

In the trusting is where peace and hope grow, even when circumstances are less than settled and calm. Where answers may not come immediately, but movement can still happen as we have faith for that one step to begin the journey.

Although that initial calling out came many years ago, I am thankful God continues to take me beyond myself still — gently leading me one footfall at a time instead of thrusting me forward into a great expanse of wilderness on my own. It is in taking those small steps of faith that I am able to see the beauty tucked into the journey, noticing the hidden blessings along the way as Jesus draws near and points them out to me.

Do I still become weary? Oh, yes.

Does my mind ever doubt the way He has chosen, the path He has picked for  me? Of course.

But more than that, I trust Him.

Despite my sometimes irrational responses or bouts with fear or frustrations at seemingly going it alone . . .

I. Trust. Him.

And so I move forward. Again.

Because staying in one place is no longer an option for me. The known and familiar are no longer enough when God calls you out.

The risk of movement is worth it. The risk of making mistakes. The risk of being rejected by the “norm” or misunderstood by the status quo of the church (emphasis on little “c”).

Even if I have to ask Father to “help my unbelief” before taking another step while He leads me precariously along cliff’s edge because He knows full well there is a vast meadow of refreshing just around the bend . .

Even when I’m tempted to turn to the well-worn path the masses rush to follow . . .

Even when there is nothing familiar about the surroundings . . .

He is still known.

My faithful Companion is continually moving according to His plans, though they seldom appear as I assumed they might.

He is ever present though I sometimes feel alone.

He is in control, working out the plan of salvation in me.

His plan. Not anyone else’s. Least of all my own.

Determined to fulfill His purposes despite my inferiority complex of somehow never being enough. Or too much. Or, or, or,  . . .

It is here in the calling that the decision is made firm.
Where the promise is secured and the covenant is bound.
Here in the path of obedience.
Where nothing else is known save the Savior.
Where there is no confidence in any other.

Where stepping out is no longer an option, but the only option.

Here in the trusting, He will show you the completion of the journey.

One step at a time.

The only thing left to you is to pick up that foot and let Him set it where He may.

What about you? Are you struggling to follow the unknown destiny stretching before you? Are you hesitant to believe God will be there if you begin moving forward? What is causing your stagnation? It can seem scary to venture forth without a clear route mapped out ahead of time, but that’s usually not the way Father works. Instead, He invites us to step out in faith, trusting He will be there at the next step, and the next, and the next . . .
Don’t allow past failures to keep you from moving out when God is calling you to come and follow Him. A lot can happen in the course of a few footfalls. Trust Him, then take a step to join Him. Even if you don’t know the way, it’s a sure bet that He does.

©MereWhispers.wordpress.com

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To Bend Toward Spirit Breath

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Life seldom remains easy forever.

Okay, so maybe that is not a divine revelation to any of you. Unfortunately, we all have firsthand experience of that reality and, most likely, more times than we would prefer.

The question is, what do we do when things get tough? How do we respond in the hards of life? What character traits go on full display when our insides feel so out of sorts?

Do we grumble and pout, resisting grace and growth, or do we bend toward Spirit breath seeking our revival?

When pain hits us full force or circumstances take a tragic turn for the worse, we sometimes think we have no choice but to be buffeted aimlessly in its throes. But we do have a choice. We do. We can either give in to the tossing, or we can choose to plant our feet firmly upon Hope, anchoring ourselves to the truth of Who God is. Who He has promised He will be to us, no matter the surrounding storms.

He will be our peace if we choose to yield to His presence in the hurt.

Contrary to what we may first think, peace is an active word not just a placid calm. It is strength to quell the fiercest of storms, grace to still the most rapid of fearful heartbeats. Peace is a powerful gift given in the midst of the tumult, settling upheaval with the weight of its steadying assurance that God is near.

In a bit of an oxymoron, peace is also a warring word. It rushes into the thick of the battle, rescuing weary warriors and bringing life to initiate and sustain soul breath. Like an all-encompassing verb, peace comes through action to bring about a particular state of being with its presence. A state of being settled deep into something much greater than our understanding can wrap about with finite mind.

Though peace comes to take up residence within us, that doesn’t necessarily mean our circumstances will miraculously change, bringing sweet and immediate relief. It simply means we will be held. Kept by sacred hand in the shelter of the Most High’s shadow.

When life becomes overwhelming, we can seek refuge in the presence of our Savior. Instead of being submerged by our circumstances, we can submerge ourselves in His grace and peace, even here in the hurt and heartbreak.

Because He is with us.

Never to leave us on our own.

Never to forget us, nor forsake us — not to others, not to ourselves.

God’s love never gives up.

It never yields in the face of too much pain.

It is constant.

Faithful always.

It’s human to struggle. To wonder and to wrestle with the many questions hurtling themselves toward us at breakneck speed. It’s natural to mourn over the ruins left behind. But it is spiritual eyes that look past this present moment and into the future with hope, longing to see beauty from the ash heap. Trusting it will come in Father’s time and in His ways which show themselves so very differently than we would often choose.

If today finds you staring daunting challenges in the face, I encourage you to look beyond your struggles. To reach beyond yourself and your own fleeting strength as you bend toward Spirit breath and trust for its revival to come.

God is with you, dear one.

Count on it.

And thank Him for it.

water-824418_960_720Thoughts to Ponder:
Where do you look when regrets loom large and redemption and rescue seem so very far away? Do you look to your own strengths and try to muscle through the devastation, or do you lift your eyes to seek help from the only One who sees all things?
Do you wait for Him to notice your struggles, too blinded by the pain to realize that He already has, and that He is doing something beautiful in this very moment?
Do you listen for His whisper through the wreckage, or do you stop your ears to the call of mercy tugging your soul to believe?
Truly, the choice is yours.

May you choose wisely and respond to the ferocity of peace poured out for you.
May you bend toward Spirit breath and inhale the hope that anchors the weakest of hearts.

Especially when that heart is your own.

© 2018 MereWhispers.wordpress.com

Determined to Do

Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas.

Thus read the words of Acts 11:29-30, emphasis mine.

Good intentions are nice, but their real value rests in their implementation.

How often do you have a nice thought that begins with the words, I should . . . ?

How often do those same words fall by the wayside as we get caught up in any number of day to day happenings of life, and all the good intentions we thought of carrying out fail to be completed?

It’s easy to unintentionally allow our intentions to get swept away in the urgency of the moment or caught up in the mundane tasks set before us.

I’m thankful that did not happen with the disciples who determined to send relief to their countrymen suffering at the hands of a famine, or a whole lot of people would have suffered even more.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who lamented that each year she determines to live with intention, but somehow unintentionally loses it with the passing of days. As I read the message hidden in Acts 11, I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason we seem to fall prey to the same malady as my friend is that perhaps we are thinking too large. Wanting to do something grand, we dream beyond our own abilities and long to make dynamic impact upon the masses instead of intentionally loving the one person before us in the moment.

THIS moment.

I admit to sometimes often yearning to do something other than what is placed right before me. Sometimes my daily maneuvers can seem like duties rather than passionate answers to someone’s prayer. The responsibilities facing me can be so tedious. So monotonous. So unimportant. So small.

But WHAT IF that conversation you took time to have with the elderly gentleman in the fast food restaurant was just the thing God was wanting you to do today?

WHAT IF your daughter really was needing that black shirt you just ran through the laundry?

WHAT IF the missionary to whom you sent what seemed to be a pittance of what you would desire to share was just the exact amount needed to provide for a particular care? (Sometimes a gift of $4.40 can seem even more miraculous than the larger increment of $100 if the exact amount needed was $4.40. True story.)

Don’t allow your intentionality to be distracted by the tyranny of the urgent or the tendency to compare your gift or ministry with that of another. Listen to the voice of God directing you to serve, and to give, and to speak as He has granted you the ability.

Take a lesson from the disciples in Acts and DO what He is calling you to do – send relief and encouragement and care into the lives of the people around you.

Do it as you are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Do it without overthinking it.

Do it with a determination to use what God has given you to be a blessing to others.

No matter how small the blessing may seem.

Follow through on those promptings God places on your heart, and don’t let them get lost in the land of good intentions.

©2018MereWhispers.wordpress.com 

When Working Doesn’t Work

“If a religious system dominates or powers over you and tries to manage your behaviors or beliefs, it’s a human-made system.”
from Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison

The above statement caught my eye as I read, and I couldn’t help but give at least a slight nod of agreement. Indeed, it seems our human tendency is one of keeping up appearances while keeping others in their place. I can’t help but think this notion impacted Paul’s penning of Galatians’ reminder that the heart of Christianity is not a list of rule-keeping, but rather faith, expressing itself in love. (See Galatians 5:5)

The Message’s introduction to Galatians shares: When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others.

It’s hard to break tradition. It’s hard to step outside a pattern of doing things the way we have always done them. Galatians is a warning to those who had chosen a new course of following Jesus in place of the rules that had long governed their entire religious system. It holds a message of caution to avoid imposing personal beliefs upon others, leading them back into bondage to a method instead of toward God’s gift of grace. It’s also a reminder to resist allowing our own freedoms to be turned back to captivity.

Paul addresses the Galatians with the questions: How did your new life in Christ begin? Was it by working to please God or was it by responding to His message of love to you? Clearly, the way of Jesus was an invitation to accept His love and sacrifice poured out on behalf of all mankind at Calvary’s knoll. So how is it that you continue to play the fool with this load of “works-oriented” faith? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human exertions?

In essence, Paul is issuing the reminder that we can never complete by our own best efforts what was begun in us by grace alone.

It is only by trusting in Jesus’ righteousness that we are made right with God. To think or act otherwise flies in the face of Christ’s suffering on the Cross.

Knowing all that, I still fall into the trap of scrambling to please God with my own version of “goodness.” The thought of grace really does seem too good to be true, so I attempt to support my salvation with a host of erroneous addendums. Sadly, by thinking to somehow add to my own saving, I am actually taking away from grace’s full effect over my life as I mask the complete work of Christ with false representations of human efforts.

Another portion of The Message’s introduction reads:  Through Jesus, Paul learned that God was not an impersonal force to be used to make people behave in certain prescribed ways, but a personal Savior who set us free to live a free life. God did not coerce us from without, but set us free from within. (emphasis mine)

It is not a burdensome system of rules to which we have been invited to partake, but more akin to a lavish banquet provided by the King of the Universe. Yet we approach it like a neighborhood potluck. Scrambling to throw together a casserole to add to the mix, we scrounge through our meager supplies, desperate to come up with our own version of heavenly hash to offer.

Let me reiterate Paul’s sentiment to this mindset: There is absolutely NOTHING we can bring to the table on our own.

Everything is already there, from the most succulent of entrees to the last piece of silverware. All has been provided by the nail-pierced hands of a flawless Savior. It is beyond time to cease striving, attempting to perform our way into God’s good graces. We can never sustain a relationship with Him on our own merit; it is only through faith in Jesus that we stand secure and holy.

At the root of the gospel is not a list of standards to uphold, but rather, it is a love affair with Jesus.

It is this love that should govern our lives and our faith. We don’t need human-made rules to keep us looking perfect. In actuality, rule keeping merely perpetuates itself into more rule keeping. Where will the vicious cycle ever end? What we really need is His love — received deep into our souls and applied to every facet of living.

It is the love of Jesus that both sets us free and holds us steady.

For eternity.

And for our good.

And for His glory.

Let’s toss in the towel of “works-oriented” faith so we can freely grasp the unmerited grace and favor of Jesus as the sheer gift that it is. Then let’s run like wild toward the goal set before us – arms outstretched to fling ourselves into His own. Knowing we will be caught and held and loved there forever.

The deal has been closed.

Your salvation is secure.

And your future is alive with purpose.

Let’s live like we believe it is so.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery.” — Galatians 5:1

© 2018MereWhispers.wordpress.com

We Are But Dust

“Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” – Psalm 103:13-14, NASB,  emphasis mine

As the famous Chris Tomlin song goes, “He’s a good, good Father.” But Mr. Tomlin is not the originator of that thought; a few thousand years before him, the psalmist who penned #103 knew the compassion of a loving heavenly Father intimately.

God is, indeed, a good Father.

One who is always aware, never forgetting just who I am. He is mindful I am nothing more than a fragile, earthen vessel.

My frame is weak and fallible.
Prone to fail, yet struggle on.
Trusting His mercy will save me yet again.

While my frame is frail and subject to cracking at the first sign of stress placed upon it, My Father is the foundation on which I stand. It is His underlying strength that maintains and supports me.

But sometimes I forget.

I forget WHO it is who stabilizes me against the chaos of this world. So I clamor and tug, attempting to hold myself (and everything and everyone else and all of their problems and responsibilities, etc., etc., etc.) together, straining to keep all things from unraveling in a messy heap about my feet.

Can I get an, “Amen, sister!” Anyone?

Why do I worry, and stress, and allow all sorts of disquiet to disrupt my soul?

Because I forget.

Because, unlike Father, I am not so mindful to remember that I am but dust.

On my own, I would surely fade away into nothingness. Even my next breath is beyond my control to accomplish without the Creator’s empowering it. But thankfully He does just that. And not merely giving attention to my physical being. No, He is far more interested in the health of my soul than this human body that is wasting away more and more each day.

It is here that He supports me when I am fatigued and soul-weary.

Right in the middle of my messy, mundane, tilt-a-whirl life spinning wildly out of control.

Like a perfect Daddy with ever watchful eyes, God rises to show me compassion. Refusing to leave me, despite my insistence to have it my own way, He steps in to save me.

Over.

And over.

And over again.

Left to my own devices, I would surely self-destruct on the daily. But God stands near, reaches out, and grasps me in my floundering. He recognizes my useless flailing to save myself and swoops in with gracious arms, wrapping His strength about me. Settling my soul. Whispering, “Peace, be still,” over my anxious thoughts. Calming the chaos churning in my heart.

Rescuing me

. . . from the schemes of the enemy.

. . . from the temptation to go it alone.

. . . from my forgetfulness in remembering that I am but dust.

Though Father knows full well.

He knows what I am able to bear, and what not.

He knows how fragile I am, how incapable of withstanding things on my own.

So He remains.

Hovering like a merciful Dad.
Standing watch over me 24/7.
Never slumbering.
Never letting down His guard over me.
Never taken by surprise.
Ready to step in before I break.
Reminding me of His extraordinary strength.
Smack dab in the frailty of my far-too-numerous-to-number weaknesses.

He. Is. Here.

Showing favor to me and to my children.

Extending boundless grace.

Ever aware of all things concerning me.

Remembering always, though I am oft tempted to believe He has forgotten.

Truly, what would become of me without His unfailing compassion coming to my aid, time and again?

How little I can do without Him.
How little I can bear.

For I am but dust.

But. . .
Father knows.
Father sees.
Father cares.

And in the middle of it all, Father reminds me He remembers.

And still delights to call me His own.

Mere dust though I may be.

Thoughts to Ponder: What about you? Do you ever need the reminder that your life and all its responsibilities are not dependent upon you alone? Do you struggle to maintain control over things that are far beyond your capabilities to fix, or do you look to God as the loving Father He desires to be and allow Him to carry your worries and strengthen you with a power that only comes from His Spirit? What are your biggest challenges in remembering that “you are but dust”? What steps can you take today to lean into God and trust Him to have compassion on you as you release your worries into His capable and loving hands?

© 2018 MereWhispers.wordpress.com

 

 

 

It’s All About Perspective

It’s disconcerting how one’s perspective can distort the truth of a matter and how quick we are to make premature judgments based on our own narrow view of a situation. This short video is a fun example:

I admit that I began watching this clip with some less-than-pleasant sentiments toward the young man depicted eating cookies with this elderly lady. But by the time this video played out, my impression of this fellow had done a complete about-face and the negative thoughts had turned to ones of admiration and praise.

It’s scary how easily I can believe the worst of someone based on my own narrow vision. Judging by the initial reaction of my friends and family members who watched this video with me, it appears I am not alone in jumping to rash conclusions. Wisdom would tell me my own viewpoint is limited truth, yet time and again, I make premature judgments about a person or situation based solely on my (often skewed) perspective.

While an easy definition for “perspective” would be to simply refer to it as a “point of view,” I was intrigued by a more technical definition of Merriam Webster’s: representation in a drawing or painting of parallel lines as converging in order to give the illusion of depth and distance.

Let’s face it, there is no perfect way to accurately portray a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional surface. As talented as some artists can be, their representation of a figure on a flat surface is still just an illusion drawn from the artist’s point of view.

Likewise, the stance from which we form our frame of reference is key in our portrayal of the reality before us. Be it people, circumstances, or even God.

That is why I am challenging myself (and you, if you’re up for it) to seek out perspective-magnifying opportunities. And I can think of no better place to start than from a position of honor and gratitude.

When I look at the surrounding world and all the cries of outrage over “freedom” and “rights’ and “not rights,” I can’t help but believe we are entirely too wrapped up in our own points of view, ones that definitely do NOT reflect an attitude of honor or thankfulness. Nor ones that are based on truth, but rather rest in the futility of misconstrued speculations.

When people ask my take on how things have gone so awry in this day and age, I generally refer to the following verses from Romans 1:

“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures . . .  And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper . . .” (Romans 1:21-23, 28 NASB, emphasis mine)

The apostle Paul goes on to list a host of sins that are rampant in our world today (as they were in Paul’s time, also) all because the masses failed to honor God and were ungrateful. Instead of viewing life from the reality of God’s truth, people began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. And because of this, their misconceptions soon overtook them.

To the point where chaos reigned in place of wisdom.

To the place where emotionally reacting with outrage to supposed offenses was the norm.

To the degree where innate characteristics of divine nature were swapped out for unnatural desires and all forms of godlessness overtook society.

Wickedness, greed, evil, hatred, murder, slander, gossip, homosexuality, insolence, malice, arrogance. . .  having no mercy, no understanding, untrustworthy covenant breakers . . . haters of God.

Perhaps not one of those above-mentioned things breaks my heart more than that last statement.

Haters of God.

Resenting the very One who breathed life into our beings.

Loathing His presence.

Despising His existence to the point that we have convinced ourselves He no longer exists.

But just because we refuse to believe the truth does not invalidate the truth.

It just shows how warped our perspective has become.

How broken we really are.

When I look at the chaos flooding this world, honestly, I could lose hope.

I could easily despair at the signs of our society acting like a selfish, young man greedily gobbling up an elderly woman’s cookies.

OR I could change my stance . . .

And look at life through a lens of honor and gratitude, anchoring my thoughts and my faith and my heart on one thing:

HOPE.

Instead of being filled with angst, I want to reflect the truth of a timeless God who has promised to fill me with hope. A hope that does not end in disappointment, no matter how futile things may appear.

So today, I choose to seek out the One who sees all things from a perfect point of view.

Today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next . . . I want to approach His throne with honor and thanks, and as Lauren Daigle so confidently sings:
I will stand my ground where hope can be found.

May God’s children continue to find their hope in a Savior who will take all that is wrong with this world and make things right.

In His time.

And while we wait, let’s keep on loving with honor and thankfulness as we partner with Jesus to extend goodness . . . here in the land of the living.

© 2018 MereWhispers.wordpress.com

 

When Your Tribe Finds You

Find Your Tribe — These words were the invitation I accepted last year as I stumbled upon http://oneword365.com/find-your-tribe/ —  “a global tribe committed to journeying together and living intentionally.”

Since I had already been living the premise of this challenge to follow the course of one particular word each year long before the founding of this online group of life embracers, throwing my word into the mix of similar-minded folks seemed like a natural thing to do. It would be interesting to connect with others who were pursuing the same goal in life. So, I logged in and typed the word that had been resonating within my heart.

Gather.

Seems like a pretty inclusive word, doesn’t it? Or so I thought. But apparently, no one else in this online group of nearly two thousand had this same word branded upon their hearts. From January through December of 2017, I remained the lone member of my “tribe.”

Sometimes living out a purpose is a solitary commitment.

Sometimes we have to continue on even when our  “tribe” is a tribe of one and there is no support group of fellow sojourners.

Despite my failed efforts to connect to a tribe via online invitation, my 2017 was in no way without people. After all, with the word I was given, how could I possibly end up in solitude?

When I first allowed my mind to mull over the word “gather,” I had my own idea of how things might progress. I envisioned a group of ladies casually seated around my table for meals and conversation. Lunch dates to connect with friends, new and old alike. I was even willing to concede that this gathering might be more spiritual than physical as I “gathered” people in my prayers who were not close in proximity. And while each of those scenarios did happen, it was not the brunt of the path God had in mind.

Folks have, indeed, been gathered into my home and have filled the chairs around my table, but it has not been a group of ladies whose presence has been made known. Instead, my heart has been enlarged to embrace a band of brothers (yes, literal brothers). Three blonde-haired adventurers have joined the ranks of those nearest and dearest to me, young men who have befriended my own kids and have wormed their way into this mama’s heart in the process. For the majority of the past five months, they have lived in our home, sleeping in beds or sprawled across couches and floors. They have worked alongside us and eaten at our table and “crashed” our family vacation and sat around fires with us and sang and laughed and hugged and danced their way completely into our lives.

What a gathering it has been!

This past year has shown me that:

Sometimes God starts us on a journey.

Sometimes He calls us to “find our tribe.”

Sometimes that tribe may seem to be a tribe of one.

Sometimes God turns the tide and brings you a whole new tribe.

In surprising ways.

If you are feeling on the outskirts of community, I invite you to “find your tribe.”  You may discover those folks over at http://oneword365.com/find-your-tribe/  or you might walk the whole of 2018 with no online match of fellow travelers. But that doesn’t mean they are not out there.

It may just require you to first venture forth on your own.

It might mean walking a solitary path of obedience for a season.

And it may look very different than your initial expectations.

But in the end, you will find yourself surrounded by a band of brothers or sisters who will inspire and encourage you.

In ways beyond imagining.

Be willing to take the journey and find out.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” – Isaiah 55:8, NLT

© 2018 MereWhispers.wordpress.com