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August 2021

Small Whisper

Small Whisper11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

~1 Kings 19:11-13

I am not, myself, naturally filled with physical toughness or mental courage. You know that saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going?” Well, my version of that saying is “When the going gets tough, the tough get a pint of Rocky Road and curl up in a ball.” I admire those, like my hubby, who are compelled to run toward danger and face it head-on. Through him, I have learned that I can only wallow in my self-pity for a day or two, and then it’s time to get back to it and move forward.

In fact, if I have any courage or perseverance, it’s all Jesus. My old self was a quitter. I have a looong list of classes, projects, careers and honors that did NOT get completed because it got too challenging or scary. In fact, I often joke that Christianity is the only thing I ever tried that I never quit. Since Jesus, there has been much less quitting and giving up, but it’s been a process.

What is it that keeps you going? When I’m at the end of my rope and everything in me wants to just quit or run away, it is usually a little voice in my head that keeps me going. It’s never my own voice. It’s usually God’s Word, or my hubby, or one of my church friends’ voices, mostly encouraging me, occasionally warning me, and sometimes scolding me. I’m grateful for those voices because they are the voices of Truth. And it is usually the voices of lies and deception that are begging me to throw in the towel.

Looking at the verse above, we see that God was not in the big, loud, attention-grabbing events of wind, earthquake or fire. He spoke in a still, small voice. I remembered this part of the story, but I had forgotten what brought Elijah to the mountain in the first place. Perhaps you have too:

3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” ~1 Kings 19:3-4

This is very interesting. God sent His man on a mission. It was a challenge, and then it became overwhelming, and the great prophet ran away, quit and prayed to die. This I can relate to. Not being a mighty prophet of God hunted down by a wicked king, but certainly the calling it quits part. And searching back in my own life story I realized that when I was at a very low point, when the problems that I had created all loomed like giants, when I was thoroughly exhausted and ready to quit, in desperation, I cried out to the God I had denied for so many years. And I heard that still, small voice.

It is easy to focus on the big, loud, scary events in life. The wind, the fire, the earthquakes – they threaten to destroy us, they demand immediate attention, they raise blood pressure and adrenaline levels. Panic fills up our hearts and minds leaving no room for anything else. But God…. God is the still, small voice. Similarly, Jesus showed us that He can calm the storm with just a word. And God asks, “What are you doing here?” and “Do you still have such little faith?”

He gave us a job to do, but it got overwhelming, and we forgot that “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31. We let the fears of this world drown out the voice of our Creator and Savior and all His many promises to us.

We need to keep adjusting the dial on our spiritual radios to tune out the big, loud stations and tune in to the frequency of God’s still, small whisper. We need to tuck all those wonderful words of life into our hearts and heads on a continuous loop so that when big, focus-stealing things come (like COVID, like political intrigue, like violent crime, like racial tensions, like natural disasters, like heath crises, like breakdowns and break-ups, like the stress of uncertainty) we won’t be tempted to listen to the lies that shout at us to give up and quit. Instead, the voice in our head will be the voice of God, the voice of Truth, reminding us that “with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Blessings,

Jen Jahromi


Arise and Shine!

Arise Shine bestSatisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. --Psalm 90:14

I’m learning to love mornings. I‘ve always been a ‘night owl’ preferring the solitude of the night when all is quiet. However, working and as a parent, for most of my life staying up late and sleeping in was not an option. I woke wrestling with the morning, exemplifying that t-shirt “…but first, coffee.”

On rare occasions when I was ‘forced’ to wake early, usually on vacations, I did enjoy the splendors of the morning: the sunrises over the water, wild horses out on the beach, dew on the grass and the intoxicating smells of the forest, seeing a nearly empty Main Street, USA. I always thought there was plenty of potential there…for someone else. **yawn**

But lately, my timeclock seems to have permanently reset itself and I’m beginning to appreciate mornings and their solitude. And here in the country, there is plenty to appreciate. The coolness, the dampness which holds all the smells of flowers and plants, the birds gathering at the feeder, chipmunks scurrying here and there, squirrels crashing through the trees, bunnies, hummingbirds and deer coming out for breakfast.

And just as they say that it’s important to start the day with a nutritious meal, it is perhaps even more important to start the day with nourishing thoughts and meditations. Francesca Battistelli and Sara Groves both have excellent songs about the importance of carving out time first thing in our busy mornings to praise the Lord and tuck His word into our hearts. I think it’s imperative to do so, especially on super-busy mornings or important mornings. God’s word really is like our armor (Ephesians 6:10-18). I used to watch my hubby put on his police uniform in the mornings. With each additional piece of clothing and equipment his attitude would transform from laid back KJ into Sergeant Jahromi. The confident air of authority was palpable. God’s Word can be like that for us if we let it. If we truly ‘own’ God’s promises of victory and protection and goodness and salvation, how could we walk in anything other than confident authority? After all, we’re daughters and sons of the King!

Mornings are also a clean slate full of possibilities. Rip off that page on the calendar and begin again. Yesterday is history, but the Present is a gift! Today is the first day of the rest of your life. One of the best parts of Christianity is the forgiveness and the ability to start over and transform yourself. The world wants to define you by your past, but God’s mercies are new every morning.

Morning is a good time to peruse your schedule and determine if it reflects your goals. Is there enough time for God, for you, for your family? Is there stuff that needs to be reduced, discarded? I read a quote the other day that really spoke to me: ‘Not everything we do is meant to be done.’ Could that meeting have been an email? Are you taking on too much? Is that project really worth doing at all? Did you say ‘yes’ because it will fulfill you, or just to please someone? Can some of the load be shared? Could that activity be a bonding experience with the family? Are you frittering away precious moments consuming junk on Netflix or YouTube?

I’m developing a habit of using my uninterrupted hour to learn a little French, read a little Bible and exercise my brain with some games. I’m learning the power of ‘a little at a time.’ It really mounts up over time. My brain is still not happy about reading and learning before the coffee has fully kicked in, and my body aches a bit, but I’m enjoying the discipline in my mornings. It is good to wake up and smell the coffee, take time to smell the roses and strengthen the spirit with the word of God.

(And it keeps my cliché game strong.)

Blessings,

Jen


Unique Sheep

Unique SheepHere I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. -- Revelation 3:20

It’s been 25 years since I begged Jesus to come into my heart and straighten out the mess of my life. He absolutely did that, and I am eternally grateful. Of course, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing since then. Lately I’ve been feeling like the wind has gone out of my sails. But as I was working at my art desk this week, listening to a random playlist of soft hits of the 60's and 70’s, the music of my childhood, I started really noticing the lyrics of my favorite songs. I have to say it was one of those nudges that Robyn described, when you know the Holy Spirit is asking you to take notice. And I know it was, because all these songs played in succession in way that really put an exclamation point on the message.

I don’t know how familiar you are with these songs, so I’ll try to describe them, but I recommend giving them a listen because they’re just great classic songs. And they really are favorites that I know by heart. First up was Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence with its overtly religious language and references. Then came my all-time favorite sing-along, with the Mamas and Papas stopping in a church to pray while they were California Dreamin. Up next was Rocky Mountain High where John Denver was “climbing cathedral mountains” and “talking to God and listening for the casual reply.” Then came the Byrds’ Turn, Turn, Turn straight out of Ecclesiastes, and Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens which has been a hymn since before he made it a hit – it’s in our hymnal. Now that I had stopped drawing and was fulling engaged in listening and singing along, Anne Murray’s You Needed Me came on. As my brain accessed the lyrics that I hadn’t sung in decades, I realized that this song is just a straight-up love song to Jesus. Her heartbreakingly beautiful voice brought forth the Holy Spirit’s message to me: “You were far from me, you hadn’t even heard of me, but I was there, in your life, planting these seeds of faith in your heart, even when you were just a child. You thought it was a coincidence that all these songs that referenced God, Christianity and faith just happened to hold special appeal to you? Nope, it was me knocking at the door to your heart. I’ve been with you all along, and I still am, right now.”

I hope you have these small moments of personal messages from Jesus. He always knows what to say. I was not a popular kid in school. I was an only child and I spent way too much time in my head pondering, imagining and daydreaming. I was marching to the beat of a very different drum. I often felt unnoticed, overlooked and left out. So, for Jesus to send a musical message that He was there waiting for me, even in those early days was really soothing to my soul. And it was powerful to realize He’s still with me now. I need to lean on Him now.

To be fully known is a wonderful thing. To be accepted unconditionally is so freeing. So much of my life I seemed to be going in a different direction than my peers. I was on my own path, but I wasn’t happy about it. I just wanted to ‘fit in.’ Looking back, my biggest mistakes happened when I tried to ‘fit in.’ Jesus knows we are all ‘unique sheep.’ He created us with unique talents, unique skills, unique interests, unique temperaments. As sheep, our instinct is to huddle together and move as a herd. This keeps us safe from predators who want to pick off anyone who stands out from the crowd. But with Jesus as our Good Shepherd, we are free to go off and be unique, to show our true colors and talents without fear of prowling lions. As long as we are listening to His voice when he calls us away from the edge, or admonishes us not to stray, we can rest safely and trust that He will care for us.

Jesus knows who you are. He created you that way. He’s been behind you from the beginning, watching you make choices, struggle, fail and succeed. He’s been your biggest cheerleader and tenderest comforter. How far back on the sidelines of your life He stands is all up to you. He wants to be right in the race with you, carrying you when you stumble, pushing you to keep going when your strength seems gone, inspiring you to do the thing you think you can’t do. He knows you - all of you - and He loves you anyway. And He’s waiting for those moments when you are still and listening to tell you just how much! That’s music to my ears!

Blessings,

Jen


Unspeakable Joy

Unspeakable JoyIn all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

--1 Peter 1:6-9

When I consider what brings me joy, I tend to think of things with ‘potential’ - a newborn baby, a new marriage, a new job, a new illustration, going on vacation. Part of the joy is in the journey, or maybe even before that in the waiting and expecting and planning and preparing. When those things actually begin, the joy may fade as the ‘potential’ turns into reality with every choice that is made and the positive or not so positive result of that choice. There is great joy in reaching a goal or accomplishing a task: graduation, the summit of a mountain hike, completing a craft or work project, reaching the final page of the novel. There again, time moves on, and it can feel a little deflating to start filling out job applications, heading back down the mountain, or putting the book back on the shelf.

But one joy that will never end is joy in the Lord. From the moment we accept Jesus as Lord of our lives, we are given the Holy Spirit as a constant companion, comforter and guide. This is, in essence, our ‘down payment’ deposit guarantee that one fine day our temporary term here on Earth will end and we will head home to the ‘mansion’ prepared by Jesus so that where He is we may also be. (Ephesians 1:13-14, John 14:3) Our salvation is both a goal realized: freedom from the burden and guilt of sin, and a future potential: eternal life in Heaven with Jesus. In a more profound sense, it is realizing the wholeness of our soul. As we fill the God-shaped hole in our soul with the actual Lord God, we become complete. In the words of ‘Jerry Maguire,’ Jesus completes us.

Like a baby, or a marriage or a mountain hike, our Christian walk will not be without its struggles and challenges. But there should be joy in the journey. Babies grow into adults and move on, jobs change, vacations are over too soon and hikes up finish in hikes back down, but the joy of our salvation continues. As we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13), we also have the joy of blessed assurance. We have a home in the Promised Land. Our ultimate goal WILL be accomplished, we WILL receive the prize. We know what the Master has done. The Gospel has come! The victory has been won! We have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved! Hallelujah!

That should put some inexpressible, glorious joy, joy, joy into your heart!

Blessings of Joy,

Jen Jahromi