A Garment of Praise

I waited to write this post for many reasons. The first being, we had a LOT going on in the life of our church between the beginning of February and through the end of March. My hope was to update you on our Men’s and Women’s retreats as well as Spring Break trips. I am still excited to share a little from those retreats, but as for Spring Break, it will look a little different than anticipated. As for the other reason I have now waited to post: much like the State of Ohio and the United States, things have not stayed the same day to day since a week ago from today. I was hoping things would slow down and I could inform you about all of the changes we have now made because the world has been called to slow down. But that’s just it, we don’t quite know what tomorrow will look like. But before I get into all of that, I want to share with you about my time at Women’s Weekend!

The guys reported a great time from Man Maker’s in Bowling Green, OH, and we headed out for Toledo a week later. Unfortunately, with my other job, I don’t get off on Fridays until about 5 so I did miss the first session. However, the first night was still really impactful. I spent part of the evening searching for a piano to practice on with the 3 other women who would be helping me lead worship the next day. Once we found the piano, the four of us spent an hour running through the songs, but also just unplugging and singing to Jesus. With three of us getting there late, we were all kinda overwhelmed, but the Lord used our impromptu practice time to focus us back on Him. It was so sweet to sit at the feet of Jesus and sing with three of my closest friends.

The next day, we had a main session, two breakout sessions, small group time, and a final closing session. While I loved the main sessions, the biggest impact for me was in our small group time. I sat down with 8 girls from my lifegroup and unpacked the weekend with them. The Lord really stripped down all of our walls and created the most beautiful time of vulnerability. The girls in my group opened up about some deep wounds, hurts, struggles, and frustrations. He really used this time to create a space for so much freedom! We got to encourage and pray for each other and celebrate the gift of salvation and eternal life in Christ! What a joy it is to be His daughter and these ladies are the most incredible reminder of that.

Spring Break

This would have been the section where I posted sunny pictures of the white sandy shores of Panama City Beach, where I would have written about our 2am gospel conversations outside of Hammerhead Fred’s, where I would have once again raved about the pancakes I consumed made by the Georgia Disaster Relief Team. Obviously, the Lord had much different plans for this month than any of us anticipated.

Our world turned upside down one week ago from today, when Governor DeWine declared Ohio to be in a state of emergency. Not long after the announcement, the University of Cincinnati followed suit with other campuses across Ohio and cancelled face to face instruction through April 13th. Once this announcement was out, decisions regarding University funded spring breaks were underway. We waited patiently for 24 hours while the final word on these trips was being formulated and sent out. By Wednesday evening, only a day later, we got the word. We were no longer going to be heading out on our various trips.

In a frantic couple of days, we had to contact a multitude of people to let them know our plans. Not only were our trips cancelled, but our plans for Sunday mornings had also been drastically changed, and have continued to change since our first major announcement. I have attached both of these letters here:

Spring Break Update:

Campus and Weekly Gatherings Update:

https://h2ocincinnati.com/gatherings/corona-virus-updates

“I will give you rest.”

In all of this, I have realized that much of what has been going on has been an answer to a prayer of mine. For months, for many people in my life, I have been pleading to the Lord for a time of rest. As I have been listening to the Lord on how to pray for those around me, and myself, I keep hearing Him say “rest”.

In the society that we live in and in the college culture our church serves, we are constantly on the go, trying to figure out the next big thing, how we can be adapting to the ever-changing culture. Recently, I have felt exhausted, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. My quiet time has been so sweet and my discipline has become more consistent than it ever has been. So why all the exhaustion? I asked the Lord, and no matter what the questions have been, the answer has always been “rest”. And, as I have prayed for those in my life, the Lord has led me to the same place he has been leading me individually: “rest”.

Rest is so hard in a culture that says you should be doing otherwise. With our electronic devices, the social pressure, the work mentality, and so much more, our lives are constantly being pulled away from rest. We are always thinking ahead, “What will I eat for dinner this evening?” “When will I work on the assignment due next week?” “Do I have the bills set up to come out on time this month?” “What are my weekend plans?” and so much more!!

I find myself always thinking about the next step, where I am going, how I will be spending the next 24 hours, and it’s honestly exhausting. With everything shutting down for a little, the Lord has given me space to think about all the ways I have neglected Him through those things and honestly how I have neglected to take care of myself. Ministry is not always easy, in fact most days it is not, that does not mean it is not rewarding and enjoyable, but even marathon runners, once they cross the finish line, feel the sense of accomplishment, joy, and exhaustion, simultaneously. I think though, that we sometimes neglect the exhaustion as a form of selflessness in order to carry out the next big thing.

My life has been extremely rewarding, enjoyable, and beautiful. The Lord has been doing so much in my own life, but also in the lives of those I get to walk alongside and it has been truly overwhelming! I have seen so many answered prayers, joys, praises, you name it! But I think we forget that even when things are seemingly good, that we are still human and exhaustion can still come from exceedingly good things. Why? Because we try to do things on our own strength. It was not until all of these distractions were taken away that I have realized just how exhausted I am.

But the Lord is so sweet to me. What a time of rest this has been! As the world sits in fear, I have chose to obey the orders put in place from our government, while taking this time to “cast all my anxieties on Him” (1 Peter 5:7). I cannot help but think of 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” What a time we have to practice this!

So instead of checking your phone every 10 minutes or less for the latest update on the COVID-19 outbreak, grab your Bible! Get into The Word! The Lord has blessed so many of us with a time to just slow down, refocus, and PRAY! How often do we get rest FORCED upon us? Instead of worrying about tomorrow, know that it will take care of itself!

Jesus said to his disciples: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11: 28-29) Jesus himself said “learn from me, and you will find REST for your souls.” So let us take this time to learn from Him, hear from Him, sit with Him, commune with Him, and praise Him for He is WORTHY and deserving of it ALL!

So why ” A Garment of Praise?” I have been meditating on Isaiah 61 for a couple weeks now, and how perfect the Lord’s timing was! I am posting the entire thing for you to read. Take a few minutes, read it a a few times through (it isn’t long) and pray for this in your own life! Take the oil of joy, put on the garment of praise!

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
    foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
    you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
    and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.

“For I, the Lord, love justice;
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
    and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
    that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”

10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations.

I am praying for your rest, sweet friends. I know that this can all seem overwhelming, but God is not surprised by any of this. The picture featured at the top is from the Smokey Mountains and a very peaceful moment I had back in mid-December. Remember those moments today! Also, enjoy this song that I cannot stop singing right now:

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