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March 2014

Providence: Trusting God More

Dear friends, a fellow SUMite, Gillian Russell Meisner, has an amazing story to share with us about her experiences at the Intentional Life conference we held in Texas in April of 2013. It's a great story, told in three parts. So enjoy part one this week! Thank you, Gill, for sharing your heart with us! Providence by Gillian Russell Meisner  

Gill AirportLast winter there was an announcement on the SUM blog, a special conference, for the Sumites ( and others too). I saw the post and immediately my heart soared at the possibility, but I knew I had 3 small boys at home, and it was such a long way to travel from Canada for a one day conference, so I smiled at the thought, decided it wasn't the time, and let it go.

But then about a month later something happened as I read one of the SUM posts and all of a sudden, I really, really wanted to go. The same thing has happened a few times before, I will have, in peace, made a decision to decline an opportunity, and God will swoop in and change my heart. That's how I know it's Him. It still seemed pretty crazy, to want to fly all the way from Canada down to Texas for a one day conference, but in particular I recalled something I had been reading, about living for God alone:

“The saints simply asked themselves, “What is God’s will for this moment” If they concluded that something would help them draw nearer to God and the best version of themselves God desired them to be, then they embraced it. If they decided that it wouldn't, then they turned their backs on it regardless of how alluring the opportunity was."

And when I thought about it in that light it didn't sound so crazy anymore. I knew it would force me to rely on God in a big way (travelling alone, navigating airports and another country), it would teach me more about the world and people far away that I could share God’s heart for them, it would be the fulfillment of a dream and it would help me grow in my marriage as well. So I made the decision in my heart, and my husband said it would be ok for me to go, though it wasn't in the budget.

Leading up to my trip God was already wowing me with His provision as He took care of every detail of getting me to the Southern US, while still honoring my husband’s wishes. God provided flights, and abundant funding, more than I could have dreamed. Then in the span of about 15 minutes He provided me with a place to stay so I didn't have to worry about hotels, food or cabs while I was down there either, except once from the airport.

For those 2 months leading up to my trip to Texas I had been struggling with colds and feelings of discouragement but by the time I got to Toronto I felt it was all worth it, already. I discovered that every person I met on my journey, every encounter, were all divinely ordained and planned out in advance by God, just for me. All the way He provided me with people to talk to and opportunities to reach out w His Love and Truth to others. :).

During this trip God taught me so much about myself and my relationship with Him and about His provision and care. Over and over and OVER that week, God proved His incredible faithfulness to me. The whole time I watched my Daddy take care of His little girl like I had never seen before:

Travelling down I had to walk a lot with the baby and several heavy bags and every time I needed help, God sent somebody to help me carry my stuff; a stranger on the train who hadn't spoken a word to me just gave me a sandwich one morning. Everywhere I went God made sure I had everything I needed and more: He provided food and drinks, directions, extra donations, rides, and even coffee!

The way He put it on people’s hearts to reach out to me, it just showed me in a very powerful way how much this world is still under God’s control, much more than we realize. Everything God did for me He wants to do for you too, and for all of His children, if we will only put all our trust in Him. ("Tune in" next week for part two, Freedom: God Always Knows Best)

The Spiritual Disconnect

One night I watched this clip during an episode of The Big Bang theory with my husband, who I call my lovable, techy geek. If you’re familiar with this show, my guy is a combination of Sheldon and Leonard and Silicon Valley is his stomping ground—a world defined by scientific fact and computers. It’s who he is. As this scene ended, I burst out in laughter and said, “Wow, you can be scientifically mismatched too!”

My husband and I are a spiritually mismatched couple. I believe there is a mighty God—Abba, King Jesus, Holy Spirit—a Creator and Controller of the Universe. My husband does not. Thus we have a spiritual disconnect.

And watching this scene was like seeing a portrayal of a mismatched couple. Near the end of this clip, the character Leslie asks Leonard, “How will we raise the children?” 

This very same question also enters the spiritually mismatched marriage too, either with mutual agreement or animosity. What will the children be taught about God when two parents have such vast and differing beliefs of the very definition of life? I believe this is at the heart of our instruction in the Bible not to be unequally yoked. There is no way to find a meeting in the middle of two beliefs that contradict each other at such a foundational level other than to agree to disagree. God can’t exist half way.

The reality is, both parents have “equal right” to share their beliefs with their children. I kow that may be difficult to hear but do hear me out. The key is doing it respectfully of each other—and more importantly, to trust God. Not an easy challenge but one that is crucial not only to our children but also to the unbelieving spouse, who I prefer to call a prebeliever. In a mismatched marriage, our actions speak so much louder than our words, and even in such a situation as this, God can use the circumstances to woo our prebeliever closer to Him.

Like Leonard’s suggestion, my husband and I agreed I could take them to church as long as they would be allowed to freely make their own choice when they were old enough. I agreed and kept my word, as did my husband. I trusted my God to be faithful and He was. Both my girls accepted Jesus at a young age and have embraced their own faith walk as adults.

No matter how we wind up mismatched, Abba’s heart is for all to know Him (2 Peter 3:9), especially our children. To read and walk through the Old Testament is to see a God who is constantly seeking to make a covenant with His people that will last into the generations to come. And the New Testament continues that story of pursuit with His Son Jesus bringing from life to death and back to life again the full picture and depth of the Father’s love for His people that cannot be broken (Romans 8:38-39).

And He is passionately faithful to a mother’s prayers (James 5:16). What the characters Leslie and Leonard don’t have or understand is that the Creator of the universe (whether stringy or not!) is the God of the impossible.

As moms who know, love and seek Jesus, nothing is impossible (Phil. 4:13). Trust Him for He is faithful! Dineen

An Interview with Judy Gordon Morrow, author of The Listening Heart

My friends, it is my great honor and pleasure to introduce you to Judy Gordon Morrow, the author of The Listening Heart. Judy's book is kind of like Jesus Calling, but in my opinion, even more intimate. I've been reading the entries each day and have found so much encouragement and inspiration in each one. Judy's story is amazing and to know what she walked through just brings even more of Abba's love to each page. I highly recommend this book, and one blessed commenter will receive a copy donated generously by Judy herself. Without further ado, here's Judy.

The Listening HeartJudy, you share in the beginning of your book that your dialogues with God were “born out of overwhelming desperation.” Can you share a little about your story?

Let’s see if I can manage to give you the condensed version! For years I lived an active and full life, married and raising three boys, working in a school library, involved in my church—you get the picture. Then in the year 2000 my life was turned upside down. My marriage of almost 29 years ended, my grown sons faced troubling challenges, and I moved out of state to take a new job. I was living far away from family and friends, feeling clueless in my new workplace, and having to “do it all” as a single woman.

Living alone for the first time ever and feeling overwhelmed by my new reality, I was desperate for God and His help. Surprisingly, I discovered that being desperate for God is the very best place to be. The Lord met with me in my brokenness and shared his heart with me like never before. I soon wearied of scurrying for scraps of paper and decided to place a spiral notebook before me when I knelt on my bedroom carpet. I wanted to be prepared to write His precious words, since I was—and still am!—so prone to forget. During breakfast I would reread earlier journal entries to hear again His words of hope and encouragement during those dark days.

When you started writing all this down, did you ever imagine it would become a book? And can you share a little of how that happened?

When I wrote the first notebook entry in January of 2001, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that God would transform those pen scrawls into a book. Only God!

It still feels surreal that a book came out of 12 years of 34 notebooks penned while on my knees. As the notebooks started piling up, God would occasionally lead me to share excerpts with friends needing encouragement. I would hear back from them, “It feels like God is speaking to me,” and, “Could I please have a copy of that?” Those were God’s first seedlings for the book.

Then God led me to share an entry publicly for the first time when I taught a workshop at a writers’ conference in 2002. Unknown to me, a professor of theology was in the audience that day, and afterward he encouraged me to consider publication, stating, “The Church needs this kind of writing today.” I was touched by his words—and by his endorsement years later—but I still had no clear direction on how to compile the book.

At that same conference eight years later I submitted sample writings to a couple of editors, and both were interested. Yet the book remained in what I call “God’s Waiting Room.” Over a year later, while working in my office one day, God surprised me when He told me to compile the entries by months. That “aha” moment made so much sense to me, as I knew there were entries throughout the years that referred to Christmas and to spring days. It was then, in my heart of hearts, I believed it would somehow be published in God’s perfect way and timing. Yet I’m still amazed it happened! Every morning when I pick it up to read, I marvel once again and thank God for His “miracle,” and then I pray for every reader.

Does it ever feel strange to you that people you don't even know are reading these personal exchanges you had with God?

I’d have to say it feels both strange and wonderful, with wonderful winning out. I omitted, of course, any writings related specifically to personal concerns like my family and my work. But our Lord made it clear that so much of what He shared with me would also benefit others. There were times when I was typing up the entries for the manuscript when I would keenly sense the presence of Jesus. He would give me “glimpses” of readers being encouraged by the very words I was typing, and I would stop—in awe of Him yet again—and weep for joy. When we spend time with our Lord and get to know Him, our love for Him will only grow, as will our trust. We wouldn’t trust a stranger. Getting to know the One who loves us best satisfies our souls like nothing else. I love being with Jesus and just basking in His sweet presence, and I yearn for others to experience His precious presence and to know His lavish love for them. (Dineen here) Take a look at this entry from February 25th, one of my favorites:

Your amazing ways. That is what is needed in so many realms of my life. And that is what I am so capable of doing for you. What is amazing to you is the norm for Me. What I can do is an intrinsic part of who I am. So what My children perceive as amazing—and rightly so—is simply an outward display of who I am, the great I AM. Great in power, great in knowledge, great in love. Out of My greatness I give to My children, but My resources are never diminished or depleted. Too many of My children approach Me as if I am not enough. They apply their lack to Me, their limitless God, and then wonder how I can possibly work out what concerns them. They are operating out of the mindset of human constraints rather than setting their sights on their eternal God who can’t be contained. Oh, if My children could only capture who I am! The God of wonders, might and power! The God of closeness, caring and compassion. The God of hope, peace and joy. The God whose arms are always outstretched in welcome and whose heart yearns for the companionship of His children. No, do not be afraid of those nations, for the Lord your God is among you, and he is a great and awesome God. — 7:21, NLT

If you could share one thing with the person reading this right now, what would it be?

Take time to be with Jesus daily; it will change your life. For years I had focused more on being busy for Jesus than simply being with Jesus. When I finally started meeting with the Lord consistently in January of 1996 to pray and read His Word, I confess, it was more out of duty and guilt. By April God had transformed duty into joy. I encourage you to meet with the Lord out of your desire to know Him. If that desire is absent, pray for it—pray to hunger and thirst after God. Even if you can spare only minutes, give those first minutes of your day to Jesus and focus on Him.

Perhaps look at it this way. The better we know someone the more easily we recognize his or her voice. The same is true with God. And He has made it clear to me that our spending time with Him brings Him much joy. What an honor and privilege that we can bring our Lord joy in that way!

So while my times of recording His words to me began out of a season of deep desperation, now my times are motivated by the joy of being with the One who loves me most. He doesn't speak specific words to me every day, but reading His Word and being in His presence set the tone for my day. That time helps me to keep my eyes on Him and see things through His perspective. I long for everyone to experience the truth found in Psalm 16:11,  “In Your presence is fullness of joy.” There is nothing sweeter this side of heaven! Thank you, Judy! Your words and heart are an inspiration to us, and thank you for sharing them with us.  

Judy MorrowJudy Gordon Morrow is a lifelong lover of words and has published poetry, articles, song lyrics, and devotionals. Her first book dealt with pregnancy loss, followed by nine gift books. In her prior “word-lover jobs,” she served as a school librarian, newspaper copyeditor, and nonfiction editor at Multnomah Publishers. She speaks at events for women and writers, sharing her passion for the Word and words.