I Gave up Gossip for Lent

by Dena Dyer @DenaJDyer

“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”                                                                                                              Joel 2:12 NIV

A few years ago, I gave up gossip for Lent. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but I was raised as a die-hard, ultra-conservative Southern Baptist, and fasting was never, ever talked about in our church.

Trying something new in the spiritual realm was a bit scary. However, since learning about the tradition of fasting during the weeks leading up to Easter in order to concentrate more fully on spiritual things, I’d been intrigued. So, after God began nudging me toward a Lenten fast, I prayed, “Okay, Lord, I’ll do it. What do you want me to give up? Fries? Soft drinks?” I thought I could lose a few pounds and get more spiritual. Definitely a win-win situation, from my vantage point.

Then the Holy Spirit said, “Give up gossip.”

Well . . . that should be easy, I thought. I never talk about other people. And I don’t like it when other people do. Sure, that’ll be a cinch!

Just call me “Self-righteous Sally.”

I didn’t realize how addicted I was, until I had to give it up. Day one of my fast, I noticed uncomfortably that I really missed gossip: with girlfriends (although we usually called them “prayer requests”), from entertainment magazines (they’re not called “guilty pleasures” for nothing), and from gossip-type television shows.

I had always justified my need for the latest celebrity news by telling myself that I was simply keeping tabs on the arts, my chosen field. The problem was that gossip didn’t just inform my viewing. I also regularly read Internet articles about celebrities, which fueled my desire to watch shows and read magazines about them. Those habits made me less content with my body and material possessions, as well as the level of obscurity I “enjoyed” in my career.

God chose that time to show me clearly how I had let sins like gossip sneak into my life. After all, I had told myself, gossip was not lust or murder or adultery. It was a tiny slip-up, and everyone should be allowed one or two a day, right?

Clearly, God has a lot of patience with me. Once I got past rationalizations, excuses, and justification, I confessed and asked the Lord to forgive me. He also used the season of Lent to heal a relationship which had been strained by gossip.

Jesus once declared that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man. Similarly, I’ve found that spiritual disciplines don’t only draw me closer to God; they also create more space in my cluttered heart and mind for life-giving, life-giving pursuits.

This year with COVID-19, all of us have had to sacrifice more than we bargained for during the Lenten season. However, these weeks of forced isolation are a good time to allow God to show us where we’ve worshiped false idols and given ourselves over to worldly desires.

Without our usual distraction of busyness and activities, we can choose to pray and fast, weeping over our collective sins and mourning our complacency–as in Joel 2:12. Perhaps God will use the pandemic to bring scores of people back to Him or into a saving relationship with Jesus for the first time.

But whether or not we see widespread revival, we can each individually search our hearts, confess our failings, and invest more of our time in pursuing the things of God. If we do, our season of “fasting” will reap eternal rewards.

This article first appeared on The Theology of Work website. Used by permission.

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I Gave up Gossip for Lent – insight from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

dena headshotAbout the author: Dena Dyer is an award-winning author, speaker, and non-profit leader. She loves encouraging hurting, harried women with humor and hope. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook, or at her website.

Dena’s book, Grace for the Race,  uses real-life stories, Scripture, and gentle humor to soothe the souls of frazzled females. By being honest and vulnerable about the ways God has shown Himself to her as she’s struggled with motherhood, Dena hopes to help moms realize that they’re not alone, and they’re not crazy!

Join the conversation: How are you using this time of isolation for your spiritual growth?

True Communion

by Dena Dyer @denajdyer

Ten years ago, I took Communion with my almost-six-year-old son. It was his first experience with the bread and the cup after surrendering his young heart to Jesus. And it’s something I’ll never forget.

Jackson fidgeted as we waited to receive the elements. He cuddled up next to me and looked up at me with big, blue eyes. “Is it our turn yet?” he whispered.

“Almost,” I replied. When our turn came, Jackson and I followed our friends up the aisle. As we reached the pastor, Jackson looked at me to see what to do. I smiled at him and took the bread, then dipped it in the cup. Of course, Jackson did exactly what I did—a humbling reminder of the weight of my responsibility as a mom to two sons. As we made our way back to our pew, he took my hand and squeezed it. Happy tears filled my eyes.

In contrast, I remembered how Communion (or “The Lord’s Supper”) used to feel in the church I grew up in. We only took part in the tradition every few months. It seemed as flat and tasteless as the pasty-white wafers we chased with mini plastic shot glasses of grape juice.

However, about thirteen years ago, smack-dab in the middle of a crisis of faith, I went on a “Walk to Emmaus” retreat. When we took the elements, it was reverent. We didn’t rush through it, and it wasn’t an afterthought or something we did by rote. Rather, it was both an invitation and a response; one I finally understood. Obeying the Word, we came together to remember Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. And as we invited Him to join us, He invited us to share in His suffering…and His joy.

I had suffered a lot over several years prior to that retreat, and I was holding the losses I’d felt against the only One who could heal me. My faith was shaky, my marriage lonely, and my churchgoing spotty. But during the weekend, God reminded me that Jesus hadn’t suffered so I could be miserable. He had suffered so I could know the joy of overcoming. Each time I took the bread and the cup, the realization that Jesus died for even me overwhelmed me. I felt pure and clean, as if all the tears I cried over the weekend had washed not just my face, but also my insides.

I guess I’m a slow learner; after all, it took me about three decades of churchgoing to really understand Communion! Still, I’m glad I grew up the way I did. I don’t take it for granted now. It’s sacred to me—and that might not be the case if I had grown up differently.

As my sons have grown up, they’ve known their own share of suffering. But I’ve watched them also know the joy of the resurrected Christ, the hope of eternity with Him, and the truth of His mercy.

I pray they continue to serve Jesus, and I am grateful that we are not only family, but also brothers and sisters in Christ. As I Corinthians 10:16 states (in the NIV), the cup we drink is a cup of thanksgiving. There are many things I am thankful for—most of all, Jesus’ sacrificial death and His resurrection.

Before we entered the church that memorable morning a decade ago, I had reminded Jackson that we should pause for a moment before Communion to thank God for sending Jesus to die on the cross for us. “But Mom, we should do that every day,” Jackson said.

Communion, indeed.

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?”                                                                                                                                       1 Corinthians 10:16 NIV

This article first appeared on The Theology of Work website. Used by permission.

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True Communion – insight and encouragement from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

dena headshotAbout the author: Dena Dyer is an award-winning author, speaker, and non-profit leader. She loves encouraging hurting, harried women with humor and hope. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook, or at her website.

Dena’s book, Grace for the Race,  uses real-life stories, Scripture, and gentle humor to soothe the souls of frazzled females. By being honest and vulnerable about the ways God has shown Himself to her as she’s struggled with motherhood, Dena hopes to help moms realize that they’re not alone, and they’re not crazy!

Join the conversation: What does communion mean to you?

That Stinking Sin

by Dena Dyer @denajdyer

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.                                  Romans 3:23-24 NIV

“What is that horrible smell?” my husband asked me after climbing into the front seat of my car.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’ve looked under the seats but there’s nothing there. Maybe something spilled?”

A day later, the smell was even worse. Desperate to find the cause, we got our brightest flashlight and looked under the hood (thinking maybe a mouse had crawled up in the engine and died). We even searched the side pockets on the car’s doors to see if some bit of food had gotten trapped.

Finally, I looked in a box of clothes I had been planning to take to Goodwill, which had been behind my back seats for a couple of weeks. And I found a small grocery sack with—wait for it—a two-week old tube of ground turkey. It had expanded and looked ready to explode. Holding my nose, I put the gaseous tube, along with the donation box in a big garbage bag and deposited into our outdoor trash can.

The next morning, as I drove to work, God nudged me. That’s like sin, He pointed out. Even small sins can become a big problem over time. At first, our sin may seem like no big deal. But over time, it poisons more of the areas and relationships in our lives, until nothing remains unaffected.

I remember when bitterness over a friend who betrayed me turned sour, affecting my ability to trust in others and risk friendships. It stank up my words and thoughts, until my husband noticed and called me out. I had felt justified in my emotions and reaction, and so I had allowed myself to become blind to its insidious, creeping nature.

But here’s the good news: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9 NIV).

I did confess my bitterness and anger to the Lord. I rejoiced that Jesus paid for that sin, and that it would not stand between the Lord and I. But the Lord did more than forgive. Over time and with His help, I forgave the person who had hurt me, releasing her to God, and I felt the freedom to pray for her and (gasp!) even wish her well.

In the illustration above, the Holy Spirit is like the flashlight, helping us search out sin and convicting us of its presence so we can confess. God has already removed our sin by the blood of Jesus. We are clean and wear His righteousness. In His grace, he has set us free.

Today, ask God what sins–big or small–are “hiding” in your own life. Then confess the wrongdoing and thank God for His forgiveness and mercy.

This blog is excerpted from Dena’s book, Grace for the Race: Meditations for Busy Moms, which is available as an e-book from online retailers. 

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Only Cats Have Nine Lives – encouragement & insight from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Clic, to Tweet)

dena headshotAbout the author: Dena Dyer is an award-winning author, speaker, and non-profit leader. She loves encouraging hurting, harried women with humor and hope. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook, or at her website.

Dena’s book, Grace for the Race,  uses real-life stories, Scripture, and gentle humor to soothe the souls of frazzled females. By being honest and vulnerable about the ways God has shown Himself to her as she’s struggled with motherhood, Dena hopes to help moms realize that they’re not alone, and they’re not crazy!

Join the conversation: Have you nursed bitterness in your heart? How did God set you free?

Only Cats Have Nine Lives

by Dena Dyer  @denajdyer

After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. Matthew 14:23 NASB

We are not superheroes, so why do we act like we are? Solitude replenishes and refreshes us. It’s a necessary, and often overlooked, facet of a grace-full life. My friends and I laugh about it, but it’s sad: none of us make time to be alone anymore. We’re too busy driving our kids to soccer practice, working outside the home, and helping with church activities. There’s simply no time for recreation or rest. And what’s even sadder—we often feel like we’re irreplaceable and indestructible.

I’ve decided I don’t want to postpone balance or rest any longer. I know what it does to my body and soul when I do.

I’ve begun to realize that only cats have nine lives. We have but one. And it is a super-myth that you can be a superwoman. In fact, you can do some of it, and have some of it done, but if you try to do it all, you’ll be done in.

And since you are only one person, take care of yourself! Maybe that will mean scheduling a sitter so you can have some time alone. Perhaps you can trade child care with a friend for a couple of hours a week—delicious hours in which you do something for yourself, and not for your kids or hubby. Or maybe you’ll decide to take up a new hobby and have your husband take over tending the home fires one night a week. Only you can decide what kind of solitude you need to replenish your mind and soul.

Jesus is our model in this (as in all things). He often went off by Himself to pray and be alone with God the Father. If the perfect Savior of the world needed time with His Heavenly Father, how much more do we need it?!

I like what Pearl S. Buck once said: “I love people. I love my family, my children. . .but inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up.”

So my challenge to you is to say no to some less-important things once in a while, so that you can say yes to yourself. Periodically, let God fill your empty reservoir in the solace of solitude.

I think you’ll be super-glad you did.

This blog is excerpted from Dena’s book, Grace for the Race: Meditations for Busy Moms, which is available as an e-book from online retailers. 

TWEETABLE
Only Cats Have Nine Lives – encouragement & insight from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Clic to Tweet)

dena headshotAbout the author: Dena Dyer is an award-winning author, speaker, and non-profit leader. She loves encouraging hurting, harried women with humor and hope. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook, or at her website.

Dena’s book, Wounded Women of the Bible, proves that God’s ntention to heal is His delight. Offering more than pat affirmations or vicarious shoulders to cry on, you will find the emotions and injuries that women of all ages have in common.

Join the conversation: How do you manage to sneak in time alone?