Monthly Archives: March 2018

Be Still – Guest Post by Lara Patangan

Happy Holy Week, dear friends. I just got home from our church’s morning service, and I can’t think of a better time to read this important message by my friend Lara Patangan. I hope you take time this week to be still and remember the love, grace, and miraculous gift that Resurrection Sunday is for each of us. 

Be Still.

I heard this often as a child.  I remember one time my mom promising me a new doll if I would just sit still for ten minutes.  When you are a kid, ten minutes is an impossibility, a lifetime, a duration that exists in fairytales along with happily ever after.”

Stillness remains a challenge for me.  By far, the hardest part of writing is getting myself to sit down.  I reheat my coffee, let the dog out, tell the cat she is pretty, stuff my face with white cheddar popcorn, nibble chocolate, check email, Facebook, scoop kitty litter, and reheat curdled coffee again.  Then, I sit, twitch, and fidget for a bit before I succumb to the stillness that begets words. It’s like an exorcism.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

I am part of a group of women at my church who will be hosting a retreat this month, and we chose this as our theme.  It’s not a message we hear often, and it is certainly counter to what society encourages. Stillness is a renegade concept, a weapon that destroys the inauthentic notions of life.  I associate it more with someone like Yoda in a galaxy far, far away than I do anyone on our planet.

Our world teaches us our value is tied to busyness.  Do more, go faster, be efficient, be more, make more, and have more.  But for heaven’s sake, don’t be still.  Don’t stop and smell the roses.  Get them in the ground and check it off your list. Or better yet, pay someone to do it.  Your time is too valuable.  You need to be producing.

The message is clear, if you are still, the world will pass you by.  You will be considered slovenly.   You will miss out.  You will fail to measure up. You might as well be a concrete statue for pigeons to stoop (and poop) on.

When we believe these messages, eventually our motion spins out of control.  We lose touch with who we are called to be, the things we enjoy, and who matters most. We get lost and dizzy from all our spinning.  And tired.  So many of us are tired.

Last year for Lent, I challenged myself to spend ten minutes a day in stillness with God.  I was terrified.  I take my faith seriously enough that I didn’t want to commit to such an endeavor and not honor it.  Usually, the things we need most are the hardest to do, the least appealing, and met by the most resistance.  But I decided to be brave and embrace the stillness that always eluded me.

And you know what?  I didn’t turn green like Yoda or get soiled by pigeons.  I didn’t even feel like demons were being dispelled from my body like I do when I sit to write.  I didn’t miss a single day of my commitment.

Contrary to what we may think about motion, the real action begins with stillness.  I was more calm, aware of myself, closer to God, and felt a genuine sense of peace.  I was so much more intentional.

I continued my habit for awhile after Lent and then slowly traded the stillness for the unregulated motion that’s so much easier to fall into.  Like a child, I resist.  But I know that stillness waits for me, wants for me, and will embrace me anytime I am willing to surrender to its calm.

And the reward for stillness is far greater than a new toy.  It is a chance to sit with the knowing that is God.

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Lara Patangan
MercyMatters.net

Lara Patangan is a freelance writer and mother of two boys in Jacksonville, Florida.  She is a cat-lover and a catastrophic cook.  She blogs at Mercy me! I’ve Got Work To Do…  where she writes about her spiritual travels.  She is currently working on publishing her first book about her experiences doing works of mercy.  Please visit mercymatters.net to join this community that believes in the power of mercy to change the world.

Choosing Time

Time. What an elusive concept. If you follow me on social media, you know we’ve been on a family road trip for the last few days. (I know we shouldn’t be posting about being away from home, but we have an Eagle Scout for a house sitter and watchful neighbors, but in case you’re the one burglar who reads Christian blogs, we’ll be home by the time you read this, and remember I am from South Georgia.) My daughter suggested that we be one of those spontaneous families that stops randomly to see sights along the way. This is the child who hasn’t met a rule she doesn’t love, but I digress. Besides we do make spontaneous stops. Unfortunately, it’s only to visit lovely gas station restrooms because one of my sweethearts didn’t feel like he/she needed to go ten minutes before when we stopped. My brother says that when you’re traveling, every stop takes at least fifteen minutes, no matter what you do, and he’s right. (Don’t tell him I said that.) Those stops, that time adds up, and soon your five-hour trip takes six. (Bet y’all think I’m never going to make a point, but here it comes.)

Isn’t that how the minutes of our day go? One second, I’m sending an email, and I look up an hour later and can’t remember why I got online. People tell me all the time how disciplined I must be with my time to write. I’m so glad you can’t see the way I waste time daily, and then I’ll rationalize it. It’s amazing what can suddenly become research for my next novel when I’m feeling guilty. But this isn’t just about writers and it isn’t just about getting distracted. It’s about using the time we are given and making choices about how we can best use that time. And thank the Lord, it is about margin.

We can’t do everything, and although we can fill every minute, rarely does that result in positive results. Recently, a friend commented to me that she thinks I do a good job of setting boundaries with my time. At the moment, we were having a lovely chat over a cup of coffee. Later that same day, a childhood friend needed to talk and pray, and once again, I was blessed with time to share with her. If I’d packed my day with activities, I wouldn’t have had these moments. A few years ago, I read The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst, and it transformed how I prioritize my time. We all have many opportunities to serve and often must choose between two good choices—two ways to serve. If you’re like me, you start trying to figure out how you can do both, not which is the Best Yes. But that is where we make the mistake.

We need to choose one or neither. Yes, neither. Sometimes we need rest, and it is impossible to give away all our time and believe that we will have the energy to serve effectively. It is at this point that we need to ask God where He wants us.

Lately, I’ve felt overwhelmed with writing projects. I’ve even told God that I need to set aside some time to discuss and plan what He wants me to do and when. Notice I haven’t actually taken the time to pray about it, which is probably why I’m sitting in a hotel room at 8:00 at night trying to complete this post before I go to bed. We all have the tendency to fall back into this trap and get sucked under by the deluge of activities surging at us.

In the car today, I looked to scripture for a little help. I found this verse in Hosea 10:12, “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.”

Isn’t that so true? It is always the time to seek the Lord, and in doing His work, He will bless us with love and righteousness. My family just spent an afternoon in Amish Country, and it provides me with a visual of this sowing and reaping. They were plowing fields, planting seeds, and they will reap the harvest. They are not distracted by the world.

I’m not suggesting I’m giving up my technology, but we can limit our worldly distractions. We can seek God’s will when we choose how we spend our time. We can pray for time to rest and play and spend time loving our friends and family. And we don’t have to make excuses or rationalize because we’ve chosen wisely.

What is one thing that eats up your time? As we draw closer to the cross, what is a way that you can spend more time with God? How will you implement this in your life? Share your thoughts below in the comments section. I’d love to see how you make the most of your time.

St. Patrick’s Courage from God

This Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day, when we celebrate his life and legacy. However, this celebration didn’t begin until 1631, almost 1200 years after his death. Since I love Ireland, I thought I’d do a little research on its patron saint. Maybe you already knew this, my kids did, but Saint Patrick wasn’t a canonized saint, and he wasn’t Irish. I know, shocking, however, I don’t want to focus on what he was not, but what he was—an obedient follower of God, who brought Christianity to Ireland. For the history purist, there was another missionary before Patrick, but he wasn’t very successful, or we might celebrate St. Palladius’ Day. 

Here is some of his story that I gleaned from several websites. Patrick was born around  387. As a teenager, Patrick was kidnapped from Scotland/England and taken to Ireland where he was a slave for several years. During this time he developed a strong faith, clinging to God in the midst of pagan Ireland. Before his captivity, his faith was lackluster at best. After experiencing a vision that led to his rescuers, he escaped his captor, a chieftain, who would eventually become one of his converts. After spending years in a monastery and learning about God, Patrick became a priest and then a bishop. Soon after, he followed God’s call to Ireland. His strategy was to convert the clan chiefs, so they would lead their people to God. However, this was dangerous business and his life was constantly in danger. Eventually, Patrick converted a powerful chief, akin to the king, and baptized him. Patrick spent about forty years ministering to the Irish people and planting churches across the Island. He died on March 17, 461 and is buried in Northern Ireland.

Two parts of his story strike a chord with me. The first part that he didn’t embark on this part of his life until he was forty. It seems it’s never too late for God to change our lives and send us on a mission for him. The second part is the faith and courage it must have taken to approach these pagan chiefs. In his own words, he writes in the Confession, “I [was] a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I [was] looked down upon by many.” This reminds me how God chooses the least likely to his greatest works and the courage that only God can provide in the face of impossible odds.

Tradition holds that St. Patrick wrote the following prayer before meeting with the powerful Irish King. However, some question his authorship. Regardless, the Lorica of St. Patrick is a beautiful expression of our relationship with Jesus and a hymn of protection. A Lorica is the breastplate in a coat of armor, like the one Paul tells us to wear in Ephesians six.

As you celebrate, I pray you keep St. Patrick’s words in your heart and remember they apply to each of us as well. Jesus loves us all and is always with us. God protects us and gives us his mighty power when we do his work just like St. Patrick.

What do you need God’s strength for today? Is God calling you to try something new, serve in a new and even scary way? How will you answer? May this be our prayer every morning. (Many people only pray the bold section; however, I wanted to share it in its entirety.) I loved to hear your thoughts, share below in the comments.

The Lorica of St. Patrick
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind, the depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
That may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

 

Flash Fiction – Prom Date?

It’s getting close to that time of year for millions of high school students–Prom. What do you remember most about your Prom? What do you look forward to most? For Sarah, she just wants to go with her best friend, but will he ask her?

I hope you enjoy this story and share it with a friend.

Sarah applied a fresh coat of gloss to her lips and checked her teeth for stray strawberry seeds. Why did she put herself through this every morning? Forest never noticed. Almost four years of sitting in the desk next to him—Mitchell and Miller. On the first day of freshman year, he’d declared they would be best friends, and that’s exactly what they’d been—friends. Occasionally, he paid her a compliment, but usually, he discussed his fluctuating relationship status with Jenna. During the breakups, Sarah would have him all to herself, but Jenna always managed to lure him back.

Sarah opened her planner. Activities and deadlines filled the boxes of the calendar. She drew another jagged line around the starburst on the last Saturday of the month—Senior Prom. Last night, during one of their marathon texting sessions, Forest assured her that someone would ask her this week. Why couldn’t it be him?

The door crashed against the metal cupboard. “You’re not going to believe this!”

Sarah jumped in her seat. Several students snickered, accustomed to the routine.

“Dude, she’s not that hot. Cut her loose.” Sam rolled his eyes to his brother.

“Yeah. College girls.” The Nolan twins slapped hands.

“Classy, guys.” Forest strode across the classroom and dropped into his desk. “She expected me to miss the G-day Spring Football Game in Athens to go dress shopping with her.”

“Hmm.” Sarah doodled in the margin. Why was he surprised? Jenna spent more time learning to manipulate Forest than any other subject in high school, which explained her mediocre GPA. But she had an “A” in drama. Jenna could produce more tears than Niagra falls. For a smart guy, Forest didn’t seem to catch onto her games and couldn’t stand to see her upset. He was empathetic to a fault. One of the many reasons Sarah loved him.

“Aren’t you going to say anything?” He rested his elbow on her desk.

Sarah glanced up at him. Their faces inches apart. Her heart fluttered. Flecks of gold radiated in his hazel eyes. What if she told him the truth?

Her stomach knotted. “My mom said not to say anything if you couldn’t say something nice.” She’d had enough of Jenna.

Forest slumped back into his seat. “She’s already crying and told me ‘to go if football was more important than her.’ But she doesn’t mean it. She’ll hold a grudge. Why does she need me to look at dresses? I even offered to go another day. But she insisted this was the only time. I told her I’d made plans with you. She said you’d understand.”

Sarah pressed her pen into the paper. Heat flowed through her veins. Forest might be oblivious to Sarah, but not Jenna. She clenched her jaw.

“And I know you would—”

“That’s it!” Sarah slammed her hands on the desk, sending her pen flying across the room. Click here to read the rest of the story.

Sometimes you need a little inspiration from Taylor Swift. Here is a video of Libby in sixth grade singing the song that gave me the idea for this story.