Thursday, May 28, 2009

300 Posts and Goodbye

by Missy Grant

300 posts today! That is a lot of words - a lot of encouragement - a lot of joy - a lot of tears - a lot of Him. This 300th post comes with sadness as well. After much thought and prayer we are suspending the Sojourner Blog. We have had a really wonderful year with this project. I’m not sure the gals knew exactly what they were getting into when they signed on. I do know that I personally have been blessed by their words, their encouragement, their conviction, their humor, their hearts so much like His. I know many of you have been blessed as well as you have expressed to me many times how these women have encouraged you.

I want you to know they are not going away altogether. If you look down the list on the right hand side of the blog, you will see that several of them have personal blogs. Make sure to stop by and read them. You will continue to be blessed.

For those on the Central Coast, there is a new Community Wide Women’s ministry kicking off. It is called Drawing Near Ministries and is committed to providing opportunities for ladies to come together under God’s word through teaching, worship and evangelizing the lost. They are hosting a summer series starting on Monday June 22 and will be utilizing Beth Moore’s study Stepping Up – A Journey through the Psalms of Ascent.

A few of the gals from Sojourner’s will also be blogging regularly at the Drawing Near Blog. You can find it by clicking here

As a group we want to thank you for your daily commitment to reading Sojourner’s Journal and encouraging us with your kind words. We pray you have been blessed as readers as we have been as contributors.

“Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wonderful works, I will meditate…my mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.” Psalm 145:3-5,21


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Prepared By Grace

by Sue Donaldson

I’ve been lifted by grace this past week. I guess I always am, but some weeks I call out for it more, need it more, and rest in it more. (And, my friends hear about it more!) My year’s verse—John 15:5 – is all about abiding. And, through prayers of friends, I’ve been riding the grace-wave, learning to abide even while anxious and a bit trembly at times.

On Sunday last, Dad, at 92, broke the inevitable hip. He got the titanium ball replacement the very next evening, and is walking slow paces down hospital halls a bit more every day. I went down to LA to stay with mom a few days. I wondered more than once, “Will daddy die this week? He’s certainly old enough. And, how will mom endure his death?”

My college friend, Lizzie, had asked me a few months back: “Are you prepared for your folks’ deaths?” “No,” I replied, “I don’t think I am – even tho they are long past due at their age!”

How does one “prepare?” I don’t know. Maybe you do. I knew I was lifted by grace this week because the trip went well, I was able to encourage and serve mom gracefully, and the kids and Mark survived my being gone. Dad, the incredible optimist, is anxious to get home. His main concern was mom – he kept calling his friends: “Don’t forget Betty.” Sweet.

My main preparation for any day – since we don’t know what any day will hold – is learning to abide in Jesus. Psalm 73:23 states: “I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” Sounds like abiding to me. And, it sounds mutual: I’m with Him, and He holds onto me – tight. I’m grateful and still growing. Should be a great year.

Father God,

Thank You for friends who lift me to You when I’m weak and trembly. Your counsel is what I need. Thank You for strengthening weak hearts and hips. Help me to abide day in and day out – preparing me as You see fit.


Monday, May 25, 2009

by Peggy Brown

Dear Blog Readers,

I have decided that since we have a very hectic and “unplannable” summer coming up I am going to take the summer off from writing for Sojourner's Journal.

I have been enjoying putting my thoughts on “paper” for you each week but for it to be useful, like most things, it takes time. It takes time to sit down and collect sometimes-errant thoughts and get them captured in a coherant manner and it takes time to get said thoughts down in writing.

Let’s make a plan, you and I. I will pray for you over the summer and I will come back to blogging in September. In return will you pray for me as we travel, visit kids (and grandbaby), possibly relocate my mother-in-law here from Sacramento (anyone have an inexpensive apartment to rent in SLO?) just to name a few.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to encourage me with feedback, both written and verbal.

What you might not realize is that the goal we have as writers is to encourage and bless you with the thoughts that God puts in our minds and hearts. Feedback lets us know that we are meeting that goal.

So, until September, I will leave you with this:

Eph 3:14-21 (the Message) My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit - not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength - that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know - far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

Dear Father, thank you for the opportunity to give words to your work in my life. I ask that as I step away for this time that eah reader will be blessed with the encouragement of the other writers. I ask that you would bless our summers with rest, recuperation and renewal. Help us to have eyes to see the “extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love”. Amen

Friday, May 22, 2009

Listening for His Voice

by Cindy Frauenheim

“…so David inquired of the LORD, and he answered, "Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army." 2 Samuel 5:23-24

When I read this passage recently, I was just blown away by how specific the answer was to David’s question! I immediately thought how lucky David was to be able to have clear and specific answers when he had big decisions to make. Wouldn’t that be nice? But as I gave it more thought, I realized that I often don’t acknowledge just how fortunate I am to have the very Spirit of God residing in me. After Jesus was resurrected and ascended to be with God, God gave us the person of the Holy Spirit. This is an amazing privilege, and access to the very mind of Christ. We also have the completed scriptures. David did not have this. And God even helps me to understand the Word through his spirit:

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. John 16:13a

When I have a decision to make, this is what I usually do:

  • I inquire of God through prayer, then
  • I often tend to seek out the advice of others I trust
  • I go to my Bible to find out how to act in accordance with his will
  • I look at circumstances (probably way too much), and use reason and common sense

These are all good, and I believe it’s wise to use all of them together. But I admit that I need more practice in really listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit as I do all these things. It’s almost as if I don’t really believe that God will speak to me this way. It’s not as tangible. I am hesitant because I don’t trust myself or my feelings. But in numerous scriptures he has promised to guide us with his spirit. I need to take him at his word and expect him to speak to me this way. Of course I also need to check what I think I hear from God against his Word and in light of godly counsel. But sometimes I will pray for direction and then try to figure out what to do on my own. I’m sure many of you have much better practice with this, and have learned to discern how God speaks to you. I am convicted that I need to mature in this way. I am resolved to be a better listener, and with God’s help, to come to recognize and trust his voice completely. I love how the Message puts it, from one of my favorite passages of scripture:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track. Don't assume that you know it all. Proverbs 3:5-7 (The Message)

Lord, thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit. Forgive me for not believing that you can clearly communicate to me through your spirit. Please teach me how to discern your voice. Help me to be quiet and still enough to allow you room to speak. Please give me wisdom to rightly hear you, and the patience to wait for you. Keep me diligently in your Word, and give me willingness to seek and learn from godly counsel. Thank you that you don’t leave me to flounder on my own, but you care intimately about every decision I make and desire to lead me into your perfect will.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Vinedresser

by Missy Grant

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:1-2

“Taking courage one hot summer day, the young branch looked up at the old branch and said in its squeaky voice, ‘It must be great to have people travel from miles around just to taste the sweetness of your fruit.’ The old branch nodded. Feeling encouraged, the young branch continued, ‘I have been talking with the other branches in the garden, and they say yours is the sweetest fruit.’ The old branch smiled. ‘When I grow up, I want to be just like you! How can I have sweet fruit like yours? I’ll do anything you say.’ As the old branch looked down on the young branch, he remembered the day when, as a young branch himself, he asked an old branch the same question. In his baritone voice, he gave the young branch the same answer he had received years earlier: ‘Be willing’.”

When advice is given to you to ‘Be willing’, what is your response? Is it a bowed heart or a canned response? Do you respond out of your poverty of spirit or your abundance of affluence? Do you examine your intentions or are you intent on examining the requestor? Do you seek His glory or glorify your complaints? Do you gratefully receive or receive without gratitude?

What does willingness look like, anyway? Have you ever given thought to that? What compass or barometer or yard stick or measuring tape are you using to determine your level of willingness? The definition of ‘willing’ is...prompt to act or respond.

All of us respond – you do realize that, yes? No matter what action or circumstance just played out, whether you take action or not, speak or not, we all respond at some level internally or externally. What drives your response? Is it a willing spirit? Is it directed by the Lord? The above scripture speaks to where our response should come from, what happens with responses not of Him, and what takes place when a willing heart allows for the pain of pruning to produce fruit of His desire – to His glory.

“Just then the gardener stopped by the old branch, and the young branch saw the old branch raise his leaves high in the air. He heard a snip, and the old branch lay on the ground except for the nub. Then the gardener turned to the young branch. His leaves were shaking, and tears rolled down his side, but with every ounce of strength he raised his leaves high in the air. He looked up into the gardener’s face and said, “Kind and gentle gardener, I’m willing.”

Heavenly Gardener full of grace, help us to have willing hearts – hearts accepting the pain of pruning for Your glory. May we seek your barometer – your word - with passion that permits the pain of pruning for fruit fit for a heavenly kingdom. Your Son modeled just that for us. In your Son’s blessed name, we praise you. Amen.

Story excerpts from Becoming God’s True Woman

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Unfolding of Your Words

by Sue Donaldson

Since I am the last person in SLO to have finally read Safely Home by Randy Alcorn, perhaps you need to be reminded of what the Chinese Christian, Li Quan thought while suffering alone in his prison cell:

“In this cell, stripped of comfort and ease, unable to do what he would like, he was free from distraction. He had only his mind, and what he had put into it. Quan thanked God every hour spent meditating on his Word, which constituted the reservoir from which he now drew daily.”

If I found myself in his place – having only my mind, and what I had put into it—would I find such an overflowing reservoir? I think not. As much as I love and depend on and read God’s river Word, my reservoir is not near full enough. Perhaps Americans are flabby Christians – not “needing” to exercise our minds so much in Scripture since it is so readily available to us. I can pick up a different version of my host of Bibles in every room of our home. But that doesn’t mean it readily flows through my heart at any given moment.

Summer can bring more flab than usual. Our usual study is “on break” for the summer. That’s not a bad thing, but it can mean we are not automatically studying as much. Does that mean less of the Word in our reservoir?

I hope not. You can always check with your local Christian bookstore for some short-term Bible study books that you can do with a friend or neighbor. (A friend helps keep us accountable, you know.)

One study I did years ago (which bears repeating) was to study Psalm 119 – it’s all about the Word. I listed all of the effects of Scripture, all my responsibilities, and all of God’s responsibilities. It made a neat study – all those columns. Time to pour it back into my reservoir, I think.

Here’s a taste: “Your statutes are wonderful; therefore, I obey them. The unfolding of Your Words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119: 129,130)

We need light, don’t you think? Let His Words unfold all the more as the summer approaches.


Thank You for your Word that never comes to an end. Help us soak it up this summer.

Love, Sue

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Majesty of God

by Peggy Brown

Well, a week in Yosemite can really focus your thoughts on the majesty of God! Close your eyes and picture the majestic granite rock walls towering high above you. Hear the sounds of the gentle breeze rustling the leaves on the trees, the river, swollen from melted snow, rushing through the valley, the squirrels scolding one another as they protect a bit of food and the birds chirping and squawking in the sky overhead. God seems so big and mighty in this place.

We were blessed with two new, amazing sights while we were there this year. One night we hiked up to the base of Yosemite falls where we saw a “moonbow”. The full moon shining on the mist, rising as the raging fall plunged into the pool below, created a bow (like a rainbow). It was ever so slightly rainbow colored, but mainly it was a silvery arch rising up over the pool. We were cold and wet from the mist, but we were awestruck!

The second sight was an actual rainbow. While we stood looking at Bridalveil Fall from across the valley, the sinking afternoon sun struck the mist at the bottom of the fall. There, where it looked like the trees were sitting at the bottom of the fall, color spread in the mist over the tops of the trees. Orange began to rise up the waterfall bringing behind it yellow, then green, followed by blue and finally purple. The colors kept rising fluidly up the fall as the mists were blown side to side by the wind, until finally it disappeared. It disolved, one color following the other until only purple remained momentarily and then faded away.

Every now and then it is good to take time to contemplate our God in ways that take our breath away. I could not see this wonder without thanking God for being bigger than I am, for knowing more than I do and for being in charge of my life, my family’s life, and even our world. The reminder that nothing comes to us without first coming through His loving, all-powerful hand is a comfort and a reassurance.

Isaiah 55:8-11 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Dear Father, You are a mighty God. You rule over all the earth in ways I cannot even imagine. Thank you. Increase my faith as I see You in new ways. Help me to trust You more with every detail of my life.