Posts tagged fellowship
Be Still

Psalm 46:10 “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”

It’s been a few years since I have sat beside the absolute stillness of a lake in the wee hours of the morning just as the sun is rising.  When I say stillness, I almost need to add extra adjectives so one grasps how absolutely still the water appeared.  Looking out upon the water, it was if the Lord placed a beautiful mirror upon the surface reflecting back His glory.  This breathtaking view immediately brought me naturally into His presence, as it so clearly was such a display of the grandeur of His creation.  His words kept repeating in my heart…”Be still and know that I am God.”

Be still and dwell upon who God truly is, remember all that He has done and let your heart overflow with thanksgiving towards God who created all this beauty!

As I sat on a bench and enjoyed sipping on my coffee, it was difficult to not just break out in song to our majestic King.  In the silence of my heart I was singing but I was careful not to interrupt the holiness of the silent stillness.  (And I don’t actually sing and didn’t want to cause anyone experiencing this moment to be distracted.)

I didn’t want these moments to end but I knew the stillness would at one point become broken.  I grabbed my iPhone in an attempt to capture the beauty through a lens but of course any digital version pails in comparison to experiencing it with physically with all of your senses.  A photo lacks the true depth of the lake, the changing colors as the sun begins to glisten across the water, the feel of the gentle breeze and the smell of the water.  I want to capture this magnificence into a bottle and continue to live in this moment but I know that I cannot.

I take out my Bible and begin to read and spend some time allowing the Lord to speak to me through His word.  Over time some fish begin to come to the surface and cause a bubble to form, which sends a ripple effect of circles radiating across the water breaking the glasslike water…still beautiful but the perfect stillness was broken.  A few ducks then glide across the surface gracefully creating V’s which follow behind them.  Before I knew it, the breeze picked up and water begins to move with a continuous motion and I know at this point, the stillness of the early morning has left and the day has begun.  Even the boats are beginning to head out onto the water so the natural ebb and flow of the waves will continue until late into the evening.

I want to go back to the stillness but you just can’t calm the water once the movement has begun.

After thinking back on this, the Lord gently reminded me that this is how my heart is often like this.  The Lord wants to meet with me before all the activity of the day begins to disturb the stillness of my heart.  As I wake up each morning, I want my first moments to be taking in His beauty found in His Word without allowing the distractions of the world to lead me astray.

This morning I woke up early before the sun had a chance to rise and I quietly headed downstairs to my favorite table where my Bible, journal and pen awaited me.  I grabbed my coffee and sat down to allow God’s word to fill my heart.  What a glorious time it was to begin the day with the quiet and steadfastness of His Word to fill my mind and heart.

I might not be able to recreate the perfect stillness of a glasslike lake each morning but I can choose to allow God to be the first to enter the recesses of my heart each day.  Too often, I grab my phone first thing in the morning as I sip on my coffee but I am learning how even those few moments of glancing at texts, Instagram and email will cause my heart and mind to wander into “my plans” for the day and it is honestly almost impossible for me to once again to return to the stillness of allowing only God to fill my first moments and lead me into His perfect plans for me.  

Guest Contributor:

Mary Fahenstock headshot.JPG

Mary Fahnestock and her college sweetheart, Matt, have been married 27 years, have lived in WI, VA, TX, and they currently live in Ann Arbor, MI.  She is learning to embrace the “empty nest” years along with the travel which goes along with having her three grown children on both the east and west coasts. Mary enjoys spending time with her family, wherever and whenever they can gather, as well as reading, studying the Word, and spending time soaking in the beauty of God’s creation.

The Task of Neighboring
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I’m a task driven person. I like ‘to do’ lists. I like checking things of my ‘to do’ lists. I sometimes add things to the lists so I can have the pleasure of literally checking them off. Because tasks are usually straightforward, I find them to be generally easy. You have a task, you work hard, you finish the task and then you get to check it off. The task is done and then you move on to the next one. 

People, however, are much different from tasks. People are complex. They can sometimes be complicated, needy and intricate. They require attention, relationship, and time. So how does a task person like myself prioritize the people around me? I kind of hate to admit it, but sometimes I think of people as tasks. I put them on a list, make a goal of relationship and am slowly checking them off as they turn from people into friends, and alter from tasks into life. This has been something I’ve been pursuing particularly with those who live nearby, my neighbors. 

I live in a very kid concentrated neighborhood where my kid's classmates are my neighbors. As a result of my oldest daughter entering the corner elementary school three years ago, I’ve been launched out into the neighborhood more and more. Walking her to school, greeting parents at pick-up, attending book fairs, volunteering at the school and of course SO MANY birthday parties!! These events can sometimes feel a bit obligatory. Rather than avoid or dread them, I’ve been trying to embrace this stage and use these occasions as opportunities to work on my people list.

Because I prefer lists to paragraphs, here is a little list of ideas I’ve found in my task of loving my neighbor.

  1. The purpose must be obedience. Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourself (Matthew 22:39; Galatians 5:14). We’re created and intended to love. If your motivation for loving your neighbor is obedience, there won’t be room for disappointment if your method of love isn’t reciprocated. Your neighbors may not love you back, at first or possibly ever and you have to be ok with that. Whether they wave back, say thank you or return the favor is irrelevant. The command still stands. Love your neighbor because He directs us to, not because you want to be a good person.
  2. Pray for your neighbors. Pray they’ll be healthy, happy and open. Pray that God softens their heart toward you and ultimately toward Him. Pray for God to soften your heart too. Pray for opportunities to help, serve and love them.
  3. Don’t miss an opportunity. Once your eyes and heart are open to trying to love your neighbor, you’ll be surprised at all the ways you can show love. Try to intentionally interact with them. Drop off Valentine treats, host an Easter egg hunt, grill all summer long, fire pit throughout autumn, trick or treat at their house, walk instead of drive when possible. It’s a little crazy to consider during an arctic blast but, get outside! If you’re waiting for them to come to you, you may be waiting forever. Go scrape their windshield, shovel their walkway, or bring up their trash can for them. There is no shortage of ways to show love. Google it. Seriously, “how to show love to your neighbor”, about 8,970,000 results.
  4. Don’t be too busy for them. Make time to love your neighbors. Leave margin in your schedule for the people who live closest to you. This can sometimes be the hardest part. Even harder than walking up to a strangers door to deliver goodies, is creating time in your ever busy life for someone you may barely know. For me, this isn’t about trying to be a people pleaser and always saying yes. It’s out of my obedience to His command that I make myself available to my neighbors as much as I can. There are things and events I say no to, sometimes even church events (Gasp!). This makes it possible for me to say “yes” to my neighbors. Most recently, neighbors have asked….“Can you walk my child home from school?” YES! “Do you have a yard tool I can borrow?” YES! “Do you know of any area preschools” YES! “Would you like to attend my event?” YES! There are many ways to show love. My best way in my current life stage as a stay at home mom of 3, is by saying yes and giving my neighbors a little bit of my time. If they're willing to ask, I’ll say yes as much as I can.

During the winter of 2009 while living in MD, my husband and I experienced a huge snow storm. The kind where it snowed heavy for two straight days, which resulted in us waiting nearly a week before seeing a plow truck. We had lived there maybe a year. He was in the Air Force, and I worked at our church. We loved our church. We had great friends there and it basically was our only social circle. We were so preoccupied with church services, planning meetings, special events, small group gatherings that we had no time for our neighbors. And this was pre-kid life! That snow storm forced us outside to shovel out our cars and our street, with our neighbors. Turns out, the people across the street were also a young married Air Force couple, that we had never met. They moved away just a few months later. Even though I may have felt like we didn’t really “need” more friends at the time, I sometimes wonder if they may have needed us. What a total missed opportunity!!

It’s a new year, which means 365 new days and 365 new chances to reach out to your neighbor. Whether you’re new to your street or have been there for some time, most people, even strangers, are at least somewhat open to their neighbor. Aren’t you? Wouldn’t you love for your neighbor to randomly knock on your door and offer kindness? If you’ve been hurt by a neighbor, pray for God to heal that wound and try again. If you’ve hurt a neighbor, ask for forgiveness and move forward. 

At this point, neighbor encounters have become unavoidable for me. My neighbors are everywhere I go, that’s due mostly to motherhood. As moms, like it or not, we are pushed out the doors of our comfort zones. Embrace the strangers around you. If you’re a mom and they’re a mom, you have an instant connection and immediate commonalities. Start there and see where it takes you. 

My neighbors are no longer tasks, they are my life. And I haven’t checked them off my list, because I’m not finished yet. I’m so humbled that God has placed me at my current address and chosen me to show love to my neighbors.

Coffee and Fellowship

As I sat to write this blog this morning, writer’s block over-whelmed me. I certainly have plenty of things I could write about. My life has been a flurry of activity with a multitude of trials and tribulations as of late.  Should I write about contentment, prodigal children, mental illness, spiritual warfare, marital communication? The potential topic list went on and on in my head.  So, in utter frustration, I prayed that God would give me a word, that He would show me what He wanted me to share, that He would use me as His conduit.  Then, in such an unexpected way, low and behold, He answered my prayer in a mighty way!  

I decided to take a break from the computer and get a bite to eat. After eating my frozen meal (quick and easy so I could get back to “writing“), I went outside to bring in my Amazon delivery and saw an unexpected bag from another store. What was in that bag brought me to tears, gave me the topic for this blog, and reminded me of what God wants us all to remember. In it was a new coffee maker, given in love from dear friends, secretly delivered by them to my front porch.  Why? Because my existing maker has decided to be temperamental, and won’t always work.  And, my friends know me…they know I don’t function well without my coffee… they know what is going on in my life and want to help in any way they can… they care… they love as Christ loves.

Dear ones, we were made to be in relationship, with Him and with others. I know that sounds simple and not very profound, but I can attest to you that it is of utmost importance. It is critical that you surround yourself with people that love you, that are walking in the ways of the Lord, that not only speak the truth, but live the truth. I am not at liberty to share about the events going on in my family’s life right now, but suffice to say that we are experiencing first hand what can happen when you do and when you don’t surround yourself with Christian friends and fellowship. Also, it is so important to be that Godly person for someone else, to share the love of Christ with others, to be a person who is a doer, not only a hearer, of the word. (James 1:22)

When you don’t surround yourself with loving, Godly friends, you leave yourself exposed and vulnerable to the enemy. The enemy is real and he delights in isolating you from your friends, family, and faith. He wants to have you to himself so that he can devour you. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us that “…Your adversary the devil prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour”. Even Jesus was alone and isolated when He endured the temptations of the devil, and after that time, He was attended to by angels (Matthew 4:1-11). Like Jesus, we need angels to minister to us in times of trial, and those angels, metaphorically speaking, are our friends and family.  We can not endure without them.

What my friends did for me was so much more than feeding my coffee habit, they fed my soul.  Although their great kindness and generosity made me feel so loved, by them and by Jesus, their prayers and support are even more priceless to me. If you don’t have a community of believers supporting you, may I encourage you to seek them... join a small group or a Bible study, get involved at church, invite others for fellowship, sign up for the P4M discipleship program, do something to get connected.  And if you do have a circle of believing friends, don’t forget to give, not just receive!