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Women in His Presence

by Erica Salazar

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jesus

Sea Glass Lessons

This morning, I stumbled across a sea glass honey hole.  I didn’t set out to hunt for this special treasure, but amongst the debris washed up on the Corpus Christi Bay, laid a piece of sea glass. 

Sea glass has a unique frosted look from being tumbled in the ocean.  It has lost its clarity and it’s brokenness has been rolled over by the water, beat against the sand, until it has lost its edge and eventually settled upon a distant shore.  

I couldn’t help, but think about this beauty amongst the debris that kept appearing and relating to the brokenness in life.  

So, as I wandered the shore on a sunny chilly day in Corpus, the Lord spoke several gentle lessons that I would like to share with you.  

  1. The broken pieces are the most beautiful. In life, at first it doesn’t seem like it.  But, after the tossing, turning, and beating of the circumstances, you reappear as unique desired beauty.  
  2. They are beautiful, because they have been tumbled.  The pieces of glass that still have their translucency, I would pick up but then discard. They weren’t pretty yet. I kept some of the iffy ones, but kept the frosted ones without hesitation. 
  3. You have to look for the beauty. Although it was a honey hole, I still had to look for it.  I didn’t find the amount I found, because of chance like the first one. In life, we have to intently look for beauty in the brokenness.
  4. Finding a piece, brought pure joy and excitement.  It kept me motivated and persistent.  When you realize the beauty of the brokenness, you are encouraged to know that any future brokenness will be just as beautiful. 
  5. One interesting thing was, the best pieces tended to be in close proximity of each other.  This reminded me that brokenness brought together is better than brokenness alone. 
  6. Last, the broken glass only went so far.  I noticed that the debris was washed up in levels.   Very little settled close to the water’s edge.  The farthest line of settlement had wood and plastic.  In the middle is where the sea glass and shells  laid. Too heavy to be washed too far, but light enough to be washed up and away from the water.  God patiently waits for us to come out of the deep.  He is waiting, ready to pick up and gather us all into his hands. 
  7. There is only so much focus and time you can give to the broken pieces.  At some point, you have to take their beauty, pick your head up, and move forward in Christ.

1 Colossians 1:20

Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe – people and things, animals and atoms – get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the Cross.

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To God Be the Glory,

Erica

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Ready for War

He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow, and concealed me in his quiver.

Isaiah 49:2

As the year comes to an end, 2017 has been a year of new firsts, a season of waiting, and a total dependence on the Lord.

As the past lingers with unexpected reminders, so does God’s Truth. It hits hard and is a constant reminder of how things work when someone steps out of God’s will and when you remain under his covering.

It’s been a year of experiencing the truth of living in the light and witnessing when someone chooses to live in the dark.

It’s been a year of focus when God is first, and yet a year of distraction when a career grabs a hold of my heart.

It’s been a year that magnifies the areas of my flesh that need to be scrubbed away. At the same time, I’ve seen how he has also slowly transformed me and my heart.

Overall, it’s been a lesson that’s preparing me to pick up the Sword of the Spirit in 2018 and really fight for the kingdom of God.

I’ve been too passive.
I’ve been too complacent.
I’ve been too worried what people will think.

All the while, people are lost.

I haven’t spread the gospel the way I’ve been called to. I’ve kept too much in, because I’m so focused on something that is God’s business. It involves me, but the saving, healing, and mending is not mine.

He has simply called me to obey Him and wait.

I however, have been too busy wasting time trying to understand it. I’ve wasted time letting my flesh fight being obedient.

But not anymore. I choose YOU-God.

As 2018 approaches, let me encourage you to choose Him too.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize that choosing Jesus meant dying to self and living by the Spirit and not the flesh.

It is a constant wrestling, but the Spirit is winning more and more. I’ve been stretched beyond what I thought possible. But it is undeniably comforting, peaceful, and exciting.

When I gave my life to Christ, if I would have known before hand the fire and refining I would go through, I would have been too afraid to proceed. But coming out of it polished and sharpened, I can’t imagine living my life without going through it.

2018 will be a year of conquering and gaining ground.  It will be a year of harvest and hard work for the kingdom.

Set your eyes and heart on the Lord this year.   Let he truly be the king that reigns in your heart.

To God be the Glory

 

Uprooted

I had a really difficult time about thirteen years ago moving from Houston to a small south Texas town. Even though I had gone to college there, it was still a drastic change from the big city of Houston.

My second year living there was the first time I had heard the saying, “Bloom where you are planted.” From that moment on, I began to embrace the differences and adapt to my new home. It was slow progress, but eventually I loved it. Everywhere I went, I ran into somebody I knew. Wal-Mart was my go to place when I was bored. A drive down the backroads was always relaxing and the outdoors was always near. Friends were like family and across town (15 minutes) seemed far. Traffic was never an issue and summer always brought the best snow-cones and fire flies. No matter the season, the stars were always in view and home was where my heart was.

Uprooted.

Everything I grew to love began to slip through my fingers. It started small, but eventually led to me moving back home to Houston to be near family, find work, and start over with a divorce in the works.

Uprooted.

It hurt. Every root that grew down was tangled around a dream, a spouse, normal routines and friends. And then, it all got pulled out. Trying to cling to every grain of old soil, I fpund that the process rips. Roots don’t let go easy and they take a piece of that earth with them no matter what.

When I saw this tree in the middle of the road I found it to be very interesting. It’s so grown and not like a seed that’s expected to bloom where it’s been planted. No, this seed bloomed already. In fact, it even reproduced. It’s gone through years of growing, storms, branch breaking, and leaves falling and growing.

I wondered, how does it live and not die of shock in the replanting? How do the roots get ahold of something that they never held before? This is new soil. A new territory.

For me, it took support. Luckily I had family to lean on. But, the biggest support was God. Only through the Word of God, could I receive healing. Only through the Word of God, could I receive understanding. Only through the Word of God, could I receive the most delicate pruning. And only through the Word of God, could I have received comfort through this shocking process.

I’m not going to lie. Some of my roots feel a little lost as if nothing quite feels right. Part of my heart isn’t home. Some of my roots are growing deep excited about the new growth to come. But my core root knows to hold tight to only one thing. The root of Jesus Christ. It will always comfort, always provide, and always bring life to my soul.

“For there is hope for a tree, When it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And its shoots will not fail. “Though its roots grow old in the ground And its stump dies in the dry soil, At the scent of water it will flourish And put forth sprigs like a plant.

Job 14:7-9

To God be the Glory

 

Surviving on Higher Ground

Today I went with my youngest sister for our daily walk in the rain. It’s a time we count our blessings that this little area has been spared so far. However, we take pictures of the increasing water behind the house as we toss a toy with the dogs. They have been the few to not mind the rain since it has given them plenty of off leash time and easy access swimming.

On our way back today, my sister noticed a bunch of empty snail shells in the crevices between the sidewalk and the landscaping off to the side.

We began to gather the empty shells and it reminded me of what is happening now during Harvey. So many empty homes whose inhabitants have had to flee. There the shells lay on the ground submerged under a thin layer of water surrounded by debris.

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We tried to rescue a few that were still alive but underwater. Like the rescue helicopters, our hands reached down to pluck the ones that had life. We then began to stick them to the trees to try and give them a chance to survive. My sister then realized, that other snails had made their way up those trees on their own clinging to higher ground.

I love when God reveals himself in nature.

What I was getting from this little observation is, how do we survive the storm? It doesn’t have to be an actual weather storm, but any major disruption in life that is unexpected and can be catastrophic. It upsets and challenges our soul and spirit. Emotionally we can be swept away or in a rage. Or we can rise above to higher ground and be an overcomer.

Again, the question is HOW?

Jesus Christ!

By constantly being in His Presence through the reading of the word and prayer, the Holy Spirit equips us to supernaturally survive when by the world’s view we should be drowning.

It gives you the ability to love unconditionally who you are rejected by.

It gives you the ability to forgive those who don’t even ask for forgiveness.

It gives you the ability to go outside yourself to be helping hands.

It also gives you the knowledge that you are not a victim of your circumstances. Instead you are a victor in Christ.

Matthew 7:24-27New International Version (NIV)
The Wise and Foolish Builders

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

To God be the Glory

Heart Transplant Bible Study: Week 2

Worship:
Lauren Daigle: Trust in You

Memory Verse:

Psalm 34:18
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Day 1: What does it look like to be broken in spirit and yet receive God’s peace by going to him in prayer, conversation, and reading the Word.

Part 1

Part 2

Day 2: Cry Out and Pray

Read Psalm 141 three times.
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+141-145&version=NIV

1. How would you describe David’s emotion in verses 1-2?

2. Describe your body position in times of unbelievable heartbreak, heartache, or hurt.

3. What kind of energy would be needed to lift up your head, chest, arms?

4. When we are experiencing brokenness, pain, and despair, what are we tempted to want to do to others or ourselves if it was self-inflicted pain?

5. Is David leaning on his own strength with this temptation?

Day 3 and 4: Read the Bible

Read Psalm 30 three times
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+30&version=NIV

1. In this chapter, there are three words that describe the situation: depths, realm of the dead, pit.

What times/situations have you been able to relate to this level of hurt, depression, and/or oppression?

2. In this chapter, there are several things that David said God did for him when he cried out: lifted me, healed me, brought me up, spared me, favored me, merciful to me (asked for this).

During our pits of despair, do you really believe that that God’s rescuing is available to you too? Explain why or why not or even if you feel it depends on the situation.

3. The Holy Spirit contradicts what is possible in the natural. It works at a supernatural level which seems impossible. Although a circumstance may not change, the ability to emotionally not be drug down into a pit forever is available to all.

This passage has the following natural reactions superseded by the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit.

Weeping to rejoicing
Wailing to dancing
Sack cloth to cloth of joy
Silent to singing

What attitudes or emotions are you dealing with that need a supernatural intervention, so you don’t remain under a cloud of despair, frustration, and/or worry?

Day 5: Reach out
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Timothy+4%3A9-12&version=NIV

1. In this passage Paul is talking to Timothy.

Categorize the people Paul named into the following category: (some may be used twice)
1. Deserted Paul
2. With Paul
3. On mission for Paul
4. Will be with Paul
5. Will drop everything to be there for Paul

In your own life, reflect on who has deserted you and pray to God to help you forgive that hurt and heal from that hurt.

2. Reflect on who can you reach out to for help when you need prayer or encouragement.

3. Reflect on who would drop everything to go and physically be with you?

The #2 and #3 category are very important. If you are struggling to identify people, let me encourage you to go beyond attending a church service and get involved in your church ministries and small groups.

If you are not currently attending church, then let me encourage you to take that step to grow a spiritual extended family who will be with you through thick and thin.

Prayer:
Lord I thank you for your companionship and comfort. It may not always be the way I think it will be or in my timing, but the Word says you make all things beautiful in your timing.

Let God be the Glory

Heart Transplant Bible Study: Week 1

A Heart for Jesus

Worship: King of My Heart

Memory Verse:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Day 1: Introduction
Heart a transplant Eligibility:
According to the Mayo Clinic website, people with serious heart conditions leading to heart failure may be most appropriately treated with a heart transplant if other treatment options have been considered or tried. Heart failure may be caused by many medical conditions….

Reading this I immediately identified with why I needed Jesus in my life. Jesus has always been there by my side. But where I had him was not in my heart. He was in my mind. I believed in Jesus. I believed, that going to heaven meant I needed to be an overall good person. Of course, the deeper my sin, the lower the bar of “good” fell. I believed in going to church and when I didn’t I felt that I should.

This seems pretty normal and from the outside even put together. But the truth is, I was broken. Like the serious heart condition above, I was going about life applying treatments trying to fix this brokenness that I was blind to. I tried to heal it with relationships, accomplishments, and competitiveness. But those treatments were not meant to heal my heart.

God knew this self-treatment was ineffective.

He knows this about all of us. This is why he offers us a “Heart Transplant.” It is an opportunity to let Him perform a mighty spiritual surgery on us that brings us salvation. Will you agree to the operation? It requires your consent.

Day 2: Read Acts 9:1-9 three times https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+9

In verses 9:1-9 there are three types of blindness occurring. First, Paul is blind to the fact that he is persecuting the one true God. I love the line, “breathing out murderous threats.” It really showed his zeal and passion to exterminate who he saw as the enemy. It is pure, fervent, and an unwavering passion that would later be used to save instead of kill.

The second blindness occurred after his conversion. His physical blindness required him to depend on others to get to Damascus. How humbling this must have been for him.

Third, he was blind to his future. Suddenly what he thought his tomorrow would be like was no longer going to be the case.

Reflection:

1. Do you relate to Saul’s blindness in any way?
2. Did Saul choose the day of conversion?
3. When Jesus told Saul to get up and continue to Damascus in verse 6, did he force Saul to go?
4. What words would you use to describe Saul’s decision to follow the Lord’s instructions?

When you agree to let God perform a heart transplant, He has called you to let you know something is wrong. He tells you He has the remedy that will fix it. You have to agree that you need Him in your heart. Then you have to just close your eyes and lay on the operation table and trust God with it.

Day 3: Read Acts 9:10-19 three times

The University of San Francisco Medical Center describes the initial heart transplant recovery below:

“After your surgery, you will wake up in a special sterile room to ensure that you aren’t exposed to infection. Staff and visitors must take measures to make sure that they do not bring in bacteria and infections by scrubbing their hands and wearing protective masks and gowns.
Once you are able to breathe on your own, the ventilator will be removed. However, you will continue to be hooked up to various monitors and catheters for awhile.”

Reflection:
Just like a medical heart transplant, there are “staff” and “visitors” that God brings into your life to assist you. These people will understand the protection you need. They will not be people who will entice you to go back to your old ways. These people don’t want you sick or infected anymore.

1. Who were the “staff” and “visitors” that the Lord brought into Saul’s life to help start and walk along side him in his new journey?
2. Who are people in your life that have a heart for Jesus that can walk along side you?
3. Who can you walk along side?
4. Is there anything that you are doing that could “infect” you or others?

Day 4: A Heart for Jesus

Read Acts 9:20-22 three times

In this passage we witness two things occurring as a result of Saul’s, “Jesus hating heart,” being transplanted with a heart for Jesus. First, people were shocked because it was not in line with his past. Second, we witness that with his new heart, he was becoming more powerful because he not only believed, but trusted the one true Messiah.

Below is the rest of the initial heart transplant recovery according to The University of San Francisco Medical Center.

“When you are stronger, you may be moved to a more general hospital room.
You will have to take precautions to prevent your exposure to infection for the rest of your life. Much of the rest of your hospital recovery will include education and training about taking care of yourself. This includes learning about the anti-rejection medications you will need to take, how to follow a heart-healthy low-fat diet and other changes.”

Reflection:

1. It is normal for people to be shocked at the “new” you. The “You” on the road to spiritual recovery. However, sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Sometimes, we won’t forgive ourselves or forget the sin even after we have confessed it and acknowledged that Jesus died for our sins. Do you feel you or anyone else is focusing on your “old” self? Explain.
2. Where can you be trained and educated on living a life that reflects you have a heart for Jesus?
3. Why would this be important as you enter a more “general” room?
4. Does a spiritual heart transplant mean that you can continue your previous lifestyle or is it a complete lifestyle change?

Prayer:
Lord, I want to thank you for calling me. I want to thank you for coming into my heart. I became alive in Christ the night I asked you into my heart. The days before were purpose less. My heart had no reason to beat. But, you gave me a new heart. A kicking beating heart that stirs up and desires your will all the days of my remaining life.

To God be the Glory
,

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