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Susan Shipe has been a writer
since the age of eight when she and her neighborhood friend
wrote, edited, published, and distributed The Manor News.
Things have changed since publishing with the five and dime stamp lettering set!
Today, Susan enjoys blogging, writing short devotions and short stories
from her home in the Appalachian Mountain Range of the Blue Ridge Mountains
in northwestern North Carolina, which she shares with her husband
of thirty years, Lowell, and their beloved dog, Sam.
Susan is also an inspiring regular contributor (LifeWriter) here at LifeLetter Café
and is today’s featured contributor to “Find It Only Here On Friday”.
Her Café exclusive “Swing Sets, Ashes, and a Vow of Silence” can be found below,
BUT FIRST . . the Café thought you just might want to know
how an Encouragement Leader like Susan Shipe has been encouraged
in her own faith.
In her own words …
This past December I had a slight moment of anxiety as message after message of bad news hit my text box.
I’ve been on this Jesus Journey long enough to know how to fight these moments of fear and doubt –
so I took a deep breath and prayed…
“Lord, Your Word says ‘sufficient for the day is its own trouble,’
I know You already know about these things I’m learning today and You are not taken by surprise,
but I am, and need Your peace. Please show Yourself strong to me today. Amen.”
Holy Spirit immediately whispered to my heart, “Don’t postpone the joy!”
Today’s trouble is never more than the sufficiency of God’s grace –
He proves that over and over to me every single day!
Today’s Find It Only Here On Friday
“Swing Sets, Ashes, and a Vow of Silence”
by Susan Chamberlain Shipe
When I was growing up in New Jersey …
we lived two houses down from a large Catholic family – the O’Donnell’s. I’m not sure anyone says this anymore, but I’ll go out on a limb, “They were good Catholics.” What that means is, they didn’t eat meat on Friday; they observed silence on Good Friday; they gave things up for Lent; and, they went to Mass every single day. My sister and I didn’t have to do those things because we were Protestant – not just Protestant but we were in the Brethren Assembly – the exclusive branch.
If we ever get a chance to share a cuppa, I’ll explain what that means exactly. Suffice it to say, we were arrogant and dogmatic in our doctrines, even at seven and eleven years of age, and had no earthly idea what “grace” meant. Our best girlfriends Judy, Janet, and Jeannie would talk about what they were giving up for Lent, and they would come home on Ash Wednesday with streaks of black ash on their foreheads – secretly, I believe my sister and I were envious. Good Friday found us on the backyard swing set with our friends – we had to take a vow of silence with Mrs. O if we were going to be in her yard. So, from 12 noon until 3 p.m. we pumped air and rode swings without ever saying a word.
I hadn’t thought of Lenten practices for years, then in 2006 we went to an Ash Wednesday service at our new church and I was blown away. I walked out of our church with a construction paper cross with ashes rubbed on it and a garden marker with these words: Deny myself-Determination-Luke 9.23-Lent 2006. For the next 40 days I denied myself of something that I loved and today, can’t even remember what it was but the whole experience was extremely impactful for me.
Self-denial — think about that. In this day of “if it feels good, do it,” denying oneself is a foreign concept. Yet, even way back then Jesus told His disciples, If you want to come after Me, if you want to follow Me, and learn of Me, you will have to lay some things down – are you willing?
I ask the same question of myself and you …
Do you want more of Him? Do you desire to follow hard after Jesus Christ? If the answer to that question is yes then here’s the challenge.
Pick up your cross, lay that one thing down – the thing that besets you – and let’s closely follow Jesus for forty days.
What Needs To Go
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9.24-26
What was Jesus saying here? It is evident that Christ asked His followers to leave something behind or let that something be lost. His implication is if you lose it for Him, you will gain so much more through and from Him.
Back to denying self! Maybe there’s a certain habit in your life that needs to go. The experts say if you do or don’t do something consistently for 40 days it becomes habit. One year I gave up chocolate; one year candy of any kind – I am still thinking about this current season of self-denial. But, this year I am considering more on the lines of attitude and actions of character, such as the following:
Laying down religious rituals and rules and seeking, with my whole heart, a close relationship with Jesus Christ. I do not consider myself bound by religious rules but there are some remnants of my childhood church experience.
What about trading terror for trust? How many of us were taught if you do such and such, God will punish you in a terrible way? We’ve learned to be terrified of God. That, my friends, is the last thing God want us to be.
Here’s a fabulous exchange – from fear to faith. Instead of being afraid of the Lord, receive the measure of faith He gives and live in it (Romans 12:3).
Consider this, conviction rather than condemnation. Christ came to give us life in abundance (John 10:10b); Satan’s job is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10a). Satan enjoys condemning us with a harsh thought that results in great feelings of guilt. But, Holy Spirit comes along with conviction, convincing us that whatever the wrong was, the Lord Himself is ready to hear our confession and offer forgiveness, perfect forgiveness. We might remember the wrong but the God of the Universe will wipe it away forever once it is confessed and repented of.
And, finally, quit using formulas to get points with the Lord. If I do this, this and that, He will be happy with me. Wrong! Do you want to know what Almighty God really and truly wants from us? Relationship, not formulas.
Enjoy life in the abundance God has for you!
I invite you to take a 40 day Lenten Journey with me in my recently released book, 40 Days of Lent – The People, Places, and Events of the Passion.
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