Archive for March, 2012

Oasis Part 3: God as our Refuge

As we finish this short series on oasis, I wanted to allow our caring God to speak to us here through His own word about the refuge that can always be found in Him. Below are a number of passages side by side without verse numbers and usual line breaks. Read all of these verses together slowly and allow the magnitude of the refuge that He offers sink into your hearts and souls.

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. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

But let all who take refuge in you [God] rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield. Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,  for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;  for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me! But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.

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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

(Passages in order: Psalm 28:7, 46:1, 5:11-12, 61:1-3, 63:1 & 5-8,71:1-2, 73:28, 84:5-7, Matthew 11:28-30)

We can do so many good things to seek oasis in our lives, but we will seek in vain without first and foremost running to Him, the one who himself is called our refuge. Let us not minimize the importance of His perfect and magnificent refuge as we seek oasis!

I wanted to end this post with a few practical ideas for carving out time for oasis. It would be wonderful to hear your ideas in the comments as well:

1. Acknowledge your need and plan your schedule accordingly. If we are feeling physically unwell, we often don’t think twice about declining commitments and opportunities that we don’t feel up to.  If you are feeling spiritually drained, take that seriously and perhaps say no to some things in order to make extra time for rest in the presence of God.

2. Take an internet vacation. Put an away message on your email, vow not to sign-in to Facebook, don’t worry about following your favorite blogs or updating your own blog for awhile… With the world becoming more and more internet focused, I know that most of us spend a decent enough amount of time online over the course of a week, and largely on things that probably aren’t critical. If you are feeling  a great need for oasis in Christ, perhaps give up you internet time for a bit (or decrease it) and give that extra time to prayer, worship, and time in the word.

3. Get up a little earlier than usual for extra time with God each morning, acknowledging your need for the Lord’s strength, comfort, guidance…. Depending on when you usually spend your focused time with God, maybe you don’t want to get up earlier, but might want to schedule in extra time before bed, or in the middle of the day, etc.

4. Put reminders to pray up around your house. Seeking to pray continually is a great way to seek oasis even when calm solitude may not be possible.

5. Pray through the Psalms. The psalms are prayers themselves and are such an incredible prayer guide for us as they span the vast experience of human life.  By praying through the entire book, you will be led from time to time to pray about needs that you may not have even yet acknowledged exist. On this topic, if you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible to help guide you in praying through the Psalms.

What does it mean to you to seek refuge in God?

(Post by: Ashley)

Glitch

Well, it looks I made a mistake with my scheduling system. This week’s Tuesday Topic and the following post went up at almost the same time. Don’t miss Amie’s great question this week which is below the 2nd Oasis post! Thanks!

 

Oasis Part 2: Home as an Oasis

As we continue on the topic of oasis, I wanted to jump to the next to the concept of our homes as an oasis.  This is an idea that I honestly had never thought much about until a few years ago while reading some wise women bloggers talk about the same topic. I wish I could say that since then I’ve mastered the idea of “home as an oasis,” but honestly I’m still very much learning and growing in this area. I thought I’d share some of the things that inspire me as I learn, in hopes that they may inspire you.

Basically the idea of home as an oasis is based on the fact that though we often have little control over the atmosphere or situations that we encounter outside of our homes, inside as homemakers, we have the chance to create an atmosphere and space that can provide refuge for our families from the surrounding storms. Often the world around can be difficult and perhaps even hostile, and that feeling take its toll. Whether it be struggles with language, foreign worldviews, a society littered with pornography, an unfriendly culture,  or anything else, we often need a place to find rest and restoration in order to regain strength to be able to face those storms day after day.

By suggesting that we seek to make our homes an oasis, I am not at all saying that we should strive for the perfect Better Homes and Gardens style home. Much more importantly than physical appearance we should strive to keep the Prince of Peace as the central focus of our homes.  This should be the starting point and primary focus for us when we are thinking of how we can make our homes more of an oasis. Are we focused on Christ and are we leading the rest of our family to focus on Him?

Next we should focus attention on seeking peace in relationship with our husband and children. How are we doing at loving and serving our husband? Do our words and modes of communication promote peace? How are we doing at lovingly training our children with consistency so that we can have peace in our relationships with them?

Next we can give time and energy to maintaining the appearance inside of our home that our family finds refreshing. I doubt anyone is going to come to me for advice on interior decor, but one thing that I have found that greatly adds to my sense of peace at home is reducing clutter. Each person will have their own thing that really gives them a sense of visual peace, but for me, reducing clutter reduces stress.

Another great thing to keep in mind about creating oasis in our homes is not only how it can bless our families, but how it can contribute to our ministries as well. Whether just your husband, or you and your husband are regularly participating in ministry outside of your home, if your home is a restful and restorative oasis, your family will be able to step out the door and into your ministry feeling strengthened and refreshed. There will be more energy for loving, and serving, and giving, thus spending time making your home an oasis is actually contributing to the furthering of the Great Commission!

Here are some post that may help as you consider your home as a peaceful oasis:

Making Your Home a Haven- This was a month-long challenge, but even though it is passed, the ideas are things that you could do at any time.

What does a peaceful home feel like? Are you peaceful? Does your home promote peace?

Establish Routines for a Simple Home

‘Shepherding a Child’s Heart’ Online Conference-  messages given by Ted Tripp for helping to create peace in our relationships with our children through formative instruction, vision, and discipline. Start with this message.

6 Tips for Getting Organized- Many of you probably know Tsh’s blog “Simple Mom.” She has tons of great tips for getting organized. She also wrote a great book called Organized Simplicity available on Amazon (Kindle edition available)

When you think of your home as an oasis, what does this look like to you?

(Post by: Ashley)

Tuesday Topic: Engaging Your Kids In Ministry

From Amie headed to South Sudan: How do you engage your kids and help them feel involved in your ministry?

(P.S. Shilo has just passed her due date and is eagerly awaiting the arrival of their baby girl! Let’s all be praying for her little one to arrive safely and soon! We’re excited for you, Shilo!)

Oasis Part 1: Physical and Emotional Oases

In our line of work as moms, and also as missionaries, our normal mode of operation can be a seeming continual pouring-out. We give time, hugs, love, discipline, pep-talks, advice, help, cookies, energy…. our lives. And this is as it should be! We were made for this lifestyle of giving! But our finite selves cannot give endlessly without being poured into and finding restorative oasis from time to time.

We will save the best for last in this series when it comes to the ultimate source of life, strength, and oasis rest, so right now I will only comment briefly on our dire need to be filled daily by the power of the Holy Spirit and to constantly be finding life in the Living Word.  Without regular communion with God, the source of life, any apparent oasis is nothing more than a mirage. We simply cannot be quenched apart from Him.

But God did not only make us spiritual beings. He made us physical and emotional beings as well (among other facets). At least in my own experience, it seems easy at times to recognize spiritual needs, but to downplay emotional or physical needs since they seem less important on an eternal scale. But each aspect of who we are is so intertwined with our spiritual self! I think verses like Mark 12:30 among others attest to how these things are interwoven. It is amazing the toll that sleep deprivation can take on me not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually, not to mention other aspects of health such as diet and exercise.

Several months back I realized an emotional need for more fellowship with believers. I was in prayer and the word daily, listening frequently to great preaching, and feeling physically quite healthy, but relationally my life was lacking in meaningful connection with other believers. It had quite a profound affect on my overall state of being.

After recognizing this emotional need, my husband and I started putting a priority on meeting this need, knowing that not doing so would be potentially detrimental not only to me, but ultimately to the health of our whole family and even our family’s ministry. This meant restructuring some of our schedule to give me more time to connect with fellow believers. Coffee with friends, parties, and women’s events at church have needed to take priority over things that in the past would have seemed far more important. It has not only contributed to my emotional health, but my relationship with God and ability to love and serve others have also been greatly benefited.

Sometimes I think we can struggle to see taking care of ourselves and giving ourselves time to rest and be cared for as a legitimate priority. I definitely battled feelings of guilt as I left my hard working husband on kid-duty all day so I could go off and have a good time with friends. We can learn to operate in an outwardly selfless way most of the time, but what will be the effect on those whom we desire to serve if we end up coming to the end of our finite selves and begin to burn out?  Sometimes giving time, energy, money, whatever it may be, to caring for ourselves can help us regain strength to continue faithfully, joyfully, and sacrificially serving others. In my little example of making more time for friends, the result of doing this has meant that I have had greater strength to serve my husband and kids joyfully and to do more for them than when I was feeling emotionally depleted.

Would you take a little bit of time in the next day or week to pray and see if you may be in need of some physical or emotional oasis?  Are you feeling physically strained or unhealthy and are there ways that you might be able to reorganize priorities or change habits, even temporarily, in order to step toward greater health? How about emotionally? Do you need to seek solitude, or rest in order to regain emotional strength? Is there anything that you are struggling through for which you might need to seek encouragement our counsel? Are there other emotional struggles that you can identify in your life that perhaps you’ve been putting off dealing with?

Remember, seeking to attend to your own needs is not always a selfish thing! God is a loving father who deeply cares for the well-being of each one of us.  It is ok to receive grace and to accept opportunities to be refreshed.  I know that each one of us desires to bless and serve our families and those around us, but we cannot pour out what we ourselves do not have.

How are you doing at taking care of yourself physically and emotionally? Would you like to share one way that you’d like to seek oasis in order to step toward even greater well-being? If you don’t struggle to attend to such needs, would you perhaps share encouragement as to what has helped you remain attentive to these needs for the sake of yourself and others ?

(Post by: Ashley)

Tuesday Topic: Real-life oasis experiences

As I was planning this week’s series,  I wanted to see how Webster’s Dictionary defined the word “oasis.” Here is how it was defined:

1. a small fertile or green area in a desert region, usually having a spring or well.
2. something serving as a refuge, relief, or pleasant change from what is usual, annoying, difficult, etc.
For today’s Tuesday Topic, I would love for us to share some of our “oasis” experiences. Perhaps you have walked through a metaphorical dessert and God, in the midst, provided a green, cool, thirst-quenching oasis. Perhaps you have found yourself in a season of chaos but were given a strong and peaceful refuge from the surrounding storm.  These things might be tangible or spiritual in nature. I am sure each of our oasis experiences will differ greatly, so let’s encourage one another as we share about God’s amazingly personal provision and protection during such seasons.
If you would like to pose a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to formissionarymoms@gmail.com . Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, and specify also if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Oasis mini-series

Hello friends! I hope you’ve been doing well! I think I’m back to blogging more regularly now, but we’ll see!

I’m excited to start a quick little series over the next week or so on the theme of  “oasis.” It will span three topics, and hopefully each one might encourage us toward new ways that we can find, create, and experience refreshing oases in our daily lives. Plane tickets to Hawaii are neither required nor precluded!

So, just for fun as we get started, cast your vote below to share what comes to mind when you hear the word “oasis!” You’re welcome to come back and vote more than once if you can’t decide on one answer. (And I knew that all of you lovely women would choose “deep communion with God in His word” had I put it down, so I intentionally excluded the “right” answer!)


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