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Women in His Presence

by Erica Salazar

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women’s ministry

Mountain and Joy of Motherhood

This was actually my notes to a message that I gave at a Mother’s Day brunch in 2016.  For some odd reason, it was showing up in my email to edit.  Two years later, a lot has changed but not the truths that God revealed to me in preparing for that event.  It was a great reminder to me about moms and spiritual moms within the church and how important their walk with the Lord is to their children.

Intro

When I got the call from Gracie about speaking this weekend I was really excited. I had prayed to God that Saturday before, that he would need to make it clear about being called to speak. The call that Monday was an answered prayer.

However, as she was giving me details I was faced with a big uncertainty.

I had said yes to the date, but then she mentioned that it was Mother’s Day weekend. Inside my brain I had a quick panic and then I remembered that she knew that I wasn’t a mom. RELIEF.

II. Dog Mom

Savannah
The closest I’ve come to being a mom is having my three labs, well now two. I remember the day my Savannah swam across a water hole for the first time. I would take her to the local golf course as a puppy and let her learn how to swim. She always stayed close to the edge, but one time she ventured out toward the middle. By the time I realized what was happening I was struck with fear. What if she can’t make it across she is just a puppy? What if she gets scared and is in the middle of the water trying to figure out what to do? Do I or don’t I swim to her rescue. As a “mom” I only had one choice. I had to stop being afraid. It was obvious that she wasn’t. So I ran to the other side and started encouraging her to keep swimming. I was so proud of her.
Watson
My other dog mom situation was when I took all three labs to the pool at the local Navy base. It was the last day of summer and they opened it up for dogs to swim. Getting out of the car with two full grown labs and my newest addition, my baby Watson, was what I would call a safety hazard. I was holding onto three leashes and each dog had a mind of their own. I was getting pulled, wrapped, and almost tripped as we, or I struggled up to the entrance. Once inside the fence, I could let the two oldest swim and run freely while I got in the pool with my baby Watson. This was going to be Watson’s first swim. He was not a natural like his mom, but he sure did draw a lot of attention from everyone else. He looked like a clydesdale swimming with his body straight up and his paws hitting the water as if he was galloping. There was nothing graceful about it. However, everyone thought he was so cute and adorable and I was totally loving it. Again, a proud mom moment.
Sam
The last “dog mom” memory I want to share is when my husband and I took all three labs to Bark in the Park Hooks game. By this time all three were full grown. When we arrived, we let each of them go out and to the restroom. I told each of them to make sure you go “out” before we get inside. Some listened…some didn’t. Just like my pool situation, my husband and I struggled with the three dogs on the leashes. Their excitement and leadership skills had us stumbling and tripping all the way to the outfield berm area. Once there, we had to have a strong hold on the leashes and constantly tell them to sit down. Since the getting to the outfield berm area was a struggle, my husband and I decided to take turns getting our food so one could stay with the dogs. I remember how stressful it was because most of the time we were trying to get the dogs to behave and sit down and eating was almost impossible. When it was my husband’s turn. He was too stressed to eat. I tried getting a family picture, but that was nearly impossible to get all three of them to face me at the same time. We decided to leave early since it wasn’t the fun we had envisioned. As we were walking out our oldest dog Sam decided to do #2 on the walkway behind the outfield. Of course, the other two were going in different directions. We felt helpless.

They just wouldn’t listen.

So, as moms I’m sure you can relate, that with the joys there are also the struggles despite your guidance.

III. God as Our Guide

Just like moms, God experiences the same things with us…..joys and moments where he shakes his head because we are not listening.
The reason I’m not a mom is because when I was in college I faced the mountain of motherhood.
Looking at my situation and looking up that steep mountain wall I was afraid and I panicked. I panicked because I had this dream and a vision of what my future what look like and it was blocked by this circumstance.

Genesis 3:1-6 States
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say You must not eat from any tree in the garden.”

The woman said to 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.”

“You will certainly not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be open and you will be like God knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom she took some of it and it shows I gave it to her husband who was with her and he ate it.

IV. Transition-Mountain of Motherhood

In this passage God clearly gave GUIDANCE, but Eve let her guidance be directed by the enemy. Notice, the serpent made God’s guidance seem illogical and his logical. So taking all the factors, she allowed herself to be misguided.

I did the same thing. My Guidance before the situation was God. But when confronted with the circumstance I let the world’s logic be my guide because I thought it would ruin the dreams I had of having a husband, family, good job, and nice house. Sure I wanted to be a mom, but I didn’t plan on it happening then. So this mountain, was blocking my dream, and I was too afraid to climb the mountain with God and see what he had in store for me on the other side. So, I walked in a different direction to avoid the trial.

Why did I do this?

I knew of God, but my relationship was minimal. So, when crisis struck, I didn’t know what the Bible said. I didn’t have those experience of turning to the WORD and letting God direct me. I hadn’t heard His truths for all circumstances.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Today, I face another personal mountain. Learning from the past, I don’t want to take things into my own hands. I have spent probably seven years kneeling at the bottom of the mountain praying for God to move it. It has been frustrating, because it hasn’t moved. It tremors sometimes and I think it is going to crumble down, but it hasn’t yet.

I’m sure all of you are facing mountains right now. You could be dealing with the stress of being a single parent. You may be struggling to watch your children go through mountains. Maybe your child is your mountain. You tried your best to raise them, but they are being very defiant. Maybe your adult child is your mountain. For some maybe your mountain is how to move forward in life with the loss of a child.

No matter what your mountain is as a mom. God is calling you to really trust him and CLIMB

You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north. Deuteronomy 2:3

V. What to Expect-

At the Bottom of the Mountain
When we are at the bottom of the mountain we can be gripped by fear. We stare at that mountain wall and wonder which way is the best way to tackle it. We stand paralyzed in worry and anxiousness. At some point we start climbing, but it is rough. We stumble up and we are constantly strategizing how to navigate our way. We become so mentally and physically exhausted that we end up right back at the bottom. The burden is too big for us to carry, and we end up crying in despair broken. After multiple attempts and multiple fails, you will realize that you are trying to do it alone. You may be praying about it and trying to do all the right things, but your heart is not truly trusting in the Lord. You are still wanting to know that if you climb this mountain, you will get your desired outcome. This does not work. At some point, you have to CHOOSE to CLIMB and let God be your Guide. This means you trust him every step of the way, pray that this be used for his purpose, and go up no matter what the outcome will be. In a sense you climb blind allowing the Holy Spirit to lead.

When you make this decision, you will feel peace.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

 

Middle of the Mountain
The middle of the mountain is where you start to really lean into God. Your focus is on him, knowing whatever step you take, he takes it with you. It’s a time of some trials, but more progress. Your confidence builds because of who you are with. It is faith in action every step of the way. Not everyday is easy and at times you will have setbacks. But overall you grow closer to the Lord.

Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Micah 4:2

Approaching the Peak
This becomes a very dangerous time. You have journeyed for quite some time now. You are more exhausted than before. The enemy tries to send forth unpredictable elements to get you focused off God and onto the hardships.

It seems unbearable at times the closer you get. It becomes tempting to quit because of the difficulties. You have to stop more often to pray, refocus on the Lord, and dig deep. You need that oxygen to stay alive and to continue going. You look back at how far you have come and remember the beauty in the pain that you are experiencing. You are reminded that Jesus has been there too. You push on and persevere in Him as he continues to guide you up.

God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Psalm 46:5

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:45

The Peak and the Descend
When we get to the top, we will see his will. We will have a new perspective and a testimony of how the Lord guided us through it.
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

The descend will be like this:

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

 

Why is This Illustration Important to Being a Mom and a Woman?

Your Children will Look to you as Their Guide
It is really important that you know what it takes spiritually to make it up a mountain, so you can be there for your children as they face their ascend. The less involved you are in reading the Bible, praying, and fellowship, the more likely your advice to them will be based more on the world’s guidance instead of God’s guidance. It’s important for that internal compass to be calibrated to God, that way when your children lean on you, your guidance will be in line with the Holy Spirit.

This is easier said than done for all of us. It is a daily challenge when we let life pull us in all directions.

When you have chosen to climb a mountain with God, you are a great testimony to your kids. You can relate to their struggle and yet testify about God’s goodness no matter what you face.
Everyone Needs a Mom
No matter how old you are, you need a mom. Some of you your mother’s have passed away. For some women, their mother had struggles of her own and couldn’t show love or make the best decisions as it pertained to her children. Some moms live far away and can’t be there on hand in a crisis. For the women of the church, each of you are a mom. Someone that another woman may need to call on when faced with a mountain. Someone who can help her lean on Christ and encourage her as she begins to climb.

You see all of us climb mountains. Some are bigger than others, but every time we get over one, there is someone else about to start. The mountain wall looks a lot less intimidating when you have support at the bottom cheering you on, reminding you to pray, is praying for you, sending you scriptures, and reminding you of God’s truth.

Closing

The definition of joy is
1: a feeling of pleasure or happiness that comes from success, good fortune, or a sense of well-being
2: something that gives pleasure or happiness <It’s a joy to have you visit.>

Whether you are a mom of natural children, playing that role within your church, encouraging a child’s or woman’s relationship with Jesus Christ, you will have joy.

No matter what you are going through, there is always joy in nurturing others. There is always joy in showing God’s love and there is always joy when others see God’s guidance in you.

I want to leave you with this last scripture.
Proverbs 3:13-18
Blessed are those who find wisdom,those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways,and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.

To God be the Glory

Erica

 

 

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Heart for Competition: Week 4

Worship:

Memory Verse

1 Samuel 16:7

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Competitiveness Definition
1.
possession of a strong desire to be more successful than others.
“a lot of people get wrapped up in competitiveness and jealousy”
2.
the quality of being as good as or better than others of a comparable nature.
“the competitiveness of the agricultural sector”

Day 1: Winning Over Others

Read Luke 10:38-41 three times
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A38-41&version=NIV

First of all, I feel everyone of us has been Martha at some point or in some situation. I can see myself working hard and becoming bitter inside as I observe a slacker on the sidelines reaping the rewards while I’m “having” to slave away.

I think you know what I mean. It’s those moments when that internal dialogue has two voices encouraging you to get angry which ironically causes you to scrub harder without realizing it.

And yet, we don’t stop working. Instead we side lip a sarcastic remark intent on continuing to prove that we are better and proceed to slave a way.

Ugh. When the flesh rises up, it isn’t pretty.

1. What was Martha’s role in this scenario and how did it differ from Mary’s?

2. Do you ever find yourself weighing the work God has called you to do with the work God has called someone else to do?

3. How is Martha being competitive?

4. What is she competing for?

5. When we are competing for someone’s attention or heart, what do we have to do mentally to the other person to “stay in the game?”

6. What do you have to do mentally to yourself if you sense you are going to lose and therefore withdraw yourself from the “game?”
Day 2: The Model of Paul

As a person made of the flesh, embarrassingly I admit that I suffer from competitiveness. It’s a small sliver in my heart, but it exists. I hate it. It bothers me. It is stupid and I’m praying, begging, pleading even for God to remove it. It rises up, even when I don’t want it to. “Go away! I tell it. I don’t want you in my heart.”

Thankfully, it doesn’t consume or control me. Therefore, I can encourage, promote, and share with those that unknowingly trigger this rise in my heart. But the fact that it exists bothers me.

My pep talks to myself run like this.

“Erica, God is calling you just like he is calling others to advance the kingdom.”
“Erica, God doesn’t love you or them anymore or less.”
“Erica, your calling is real. Don’t second guess it because you can’t see all of it.”
“Don’t be afraid. You are still special and unique…..and so are they.”
“Erica, remember the time God did …….”

Read 1 Timothy 1:1-11 once and verses 6-11 twice.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Timothy+1%3A1-11

1. How did Paul encourage Timothy instead of compete with Timothy?

2. In your ministry, church, or work place, who can be your Timothy?

3. Reflect on your past and identify the specific people who have made you feel threatened and moved you into compete mode? Analyze what they have in common and try to identify what are you specifically measuring yourself against them with.

Day 3: What if?

Read Luke 9: 43-50 Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+9%3A43-50&version=NKJV

1. How would you describe the importance of Jesus’ message?

2. What were the concerns of the disciples and how does that connect with our own competitiveness?

3. Does it surprise you that this group of men struggled with this sin?

4. If competitiveness was allowed to control the dynamic of the disciples, how would that have impacted the kingdom?

5. How can competitiveness impact the collective mission of Christians?

Day 4: Heart for Purification

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13 twice
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Samuel%2016

1. Did Samuel hesitate to go when sent?
2. What concern kept him from going immediately and how did God respond?
3. How does that make you feel when you compare it to your worries/fears and prayer requests to God?
4. Why was David chosen?
5. Do you find it odd that his family did not recognize the value of his heart?
6. How does this bring you comfort when you feel overlooked, or your calling is unrecognizable to others?
7. Although David was called, why do you think he was not made king at that moment?
8. While you are in the midst of your calling, what do you feel God is providing you training for and what areas of your heart need further purification?

Prayer

Dear God,
Thank you for loving us in our sinfulness. Thank you for willingly working with our heart and waiting for us to be ready to be moldable. You are the only surgeon who can do such a work.

 

 

 

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

Women in His Presence

This weekend I was blessed to participate in an event hosted by Living Proof Ministries. The intent was for women who feel called to communicate the gospel through writing, teaching, and speaking to be poured into and mentored for a day by Beth Moore. The event also had in its presence Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, and Jennie Allen who were part of a Q&A panel at the end of the evening.

The close proximity to these women in such an intimate setting was an experience I’m sure will never happen to me again. Each of these ladies at some point in my journey has mentored me from afar whether on stage, TV screen, Bible study, and/or book.

It is easy and available for men within a church setting to be mentored and encouraged in their calling for Christ. But, as a woman, it seems to be a struggle. I have had no shortage of “spiritual” mothers within the church and they have been integral in my life. Finding a woman who can guide me on how to be a better student/communicator of the Word is a rare find and a deep desire. This seems to be a common struggle for women who are hungry to be students of the Word and communicate it. Interestingly though, mentors were the common denominator in Beth Moore’s life and the other panel guest.

Many times, I was awed being in the presence of these women. Not because of idolization, but because in their calling they are constantly walking in the fire. The battle I have faced the week before a speaking event is brutal and in the moment I ask myself how these women do it. I know the answer is because of Jesus and I know these women know how to go to war and lean into God. And for those reasons, I just wanted to touch them.

I can imagine what that woman felt like who just wanted to touch the hem of Jesus’s garment. Again, not in idolization, but knowing they are like the apostles. They are closer to Jesus than I am. Jesus is available to me in that same way, but I know to do what they do they have invested more time and intimacy with Him.

They are Women in His Presence.

As amazing as that was, one of my favorite parts was meeting women who God perfectly orchestrated me to meet through a last minute email, elevator ride, or wandering the desert (AKA the Galleria), for fifteen minutes when it should have taken just two minutes to find our way out of there.

The conversations that revealed our similarities, differences, and fears we share when we step out, was most precious. These are Women in His Presence, like me, who are navigating through this calling and trying to figure out how can I communicate the gospel? How do we do that responsibly without having gone through seminary? How does that balance with life? How do we balance that with work? How do…..????

I’m a firm believer that women’s ministry events draw women in to be in His presence. But, the speaker or activity is really just the bait. I’ve experienced where he really goes to work is with the women we sit beside, across from, run into, and meet. Once again, He did not disappoint and proved He is ALWAYS in OUR PRESENCE.  Blessed am I with Sisters in Christ: Allison, Laura “Nicole”, and Brittney.

img_7868

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters Colossians 3:23

Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. Matthew 9:20

Answers to Unanswered Prayers

February 20, 2016 marked the first night I spent alone and the beginning of a separation which ultimately led me to file for divorce in early June.

I wrote in my journal, “Is this the end or the beginning for us?”

The few months prior had led me to take this excruciating step that was a result choosing safety over holding on to this broken dream. Finally, I realized that there are certain things in a marriage God does not expect you to endure and that I didn’t need to do it anymore.

The following months were filled with many tears, struggles of feeling an aloneness that was unbearable, emotionally draining, and physically and mentally exhausting.

Learning how to sleep alone with all the lights off was a fear I eventually conquered. Weaning myself from having all lights on, to just a lamp, to just the blinds open, and finally to complete peace in the darkness.

Many times I cried out to God, “Where are you in this? Why aren’t you moving this mountain? If I have had faith all of these years that you could fix this and use all these years of darkness for good, why aren’t you doing it? How could divorce be in your will?”

As the months passed, there wasn’t much proof that things were going to change and neither was the behavior that would determine whether or not returning to the marriage would even be an option. I was becoming afraid that I was going to be forced to file while truly believing it never had to be this way.

What did begin to change was another move by God to draw me nearer than ever before. Training me to trust His voice and the doors he was going to open that would eventually reemphasize a calling, deepen my friendships with my sisters in Christ, reunite me with my family, and move me to a place I could grow.

After the move, he was going to draw me even deeper to a point of complete joy and thankfulness for having this experience. 

In both apartments I have lived in this year, my bedroom has become a prayer chamber. Chart paper is my decor with various titles that document what God shows me in our private time.

One chart paper that stayed empty was the one titled, “What are you showing me through this?” It was empty, however because I thought I had nothing to learn as the “perfect” wife. Ha! God showed me.

When I finally opened my heart and mind this is what he showed me. The list is long. Double Ha!
1. I learned how to be a real prayer warrior and pray with authority mainly for my spouse.
2. I learned that I cannot put my value into my marital status or in how I am treated by my spouse. That becomes idolization.
3. How to have perseverance.
4. How to spell perseverance. ( I always spell it perSERVErance which I also think is a later message)
5. I needed to marry my spouse because everything I went through brought me to Christ and my salvation.
6. I’m the wife my husband needed. Even is this time, my spouse needed to know what AGAPE love looks and sounds like.
7. Resistance training-When the mountain isn’t moving, then God is trying to teach you something. (TD Jakes sermon)
8. Praying for your marriage to work, so you can have your “Dream Come True,” is selfish. I should have been praying for my spouse’s walk with God and his salvation.
9. I had become self righteous and adding guilt and shame instead of just letting God have complete reign. God needed to move me, so I could get my hands and eyes off of trying to fix a relationship that was never really about me and my spouse. It’s always been about his relationship with Jesus Christ.
10. Finally, to show His miracles.

Ezekiel 3:27 NIV

But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ Whoever will listen let them listen, and whoever will refuse let them refuse; for they are a rebellious people.

To God Be the Glory

 

 

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