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SMC Women's Ministry

Be inspired. Be honest. Be You.

Posts tagged Holy Spirit

Writing this post has been hard. I have prayed about what to write, and I’ve tried to hear an answer. But I keep coming back to just one word: doors. What am I going to do with that? So, bear with me, and maybe we’ll find something together. Apparently, something about doors.

You know that saying that God doesn’t close a door without opening a window? I’m going to go ahead and disagree with that. I am in a season right now where I’ve seen a big door close. I love this door and I don’t want it to close. But there it is: a big beautiful door, slammed in my face. And it hurts a lot.

Even harder? I fully believe that God closed it. Despite my tears and protests, He, the one who knows what is best for me better than I do, has closed me in. But here’s where my disagreement with this trite sentiment comes in. I don’t think there’s a window right now. Not that there will never be, but right now there isn’t. After much praying, I have come to believe that God has closed this door because He needs me to be still. If a window opens, I’ll go flying right out. I need to sit in this moment and learn to depend more on Him. Y’all this is not an easy lesson. I am not a sitting still kind of girl. But I wonder how many sweet nudges toward stillness I missed before God finally had to do something drastic. It is also, unfortunately, not a quick lesson. I have no idea how long I’ll be in this closed space, but I know I have to be open to learning from it.

I was reading in a devotional book the other day, and when I opened to the day’s passage, it was about Noah. And because I’m human, my first thought was, “What in the world am I going to get from Noah that applies to me today?” So God hit me in the head with it.

Two by two they came into the boat, representing every living thing that breathes. A male and female of each kind entered, just as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord closed the door behind them. (Genesis 7:15-16)

Noah didn’t close the door.

God did.

I wonder how that felt for him. He was in there for the long haul with no other door opening for a long time. I have to think he was scared. I would be a walking, talking panic attack in a boat full of birds. And the claustrophobia? No ma’am. But Noah was faithful and, of course, was rewarded. The devotional part of the day’s reading ended like this: “Help me to rest safely behind the door you close after me.” Are you kidding? Now I know how Noah applies to me today.

I kept reading into the next day’s devotional because at this point, I was enthralled. What else was God going to say to me while I was sitting in car line? The next one was about fame. Clearly this is not for me. “I struggle to base my identity on you, not on what I accomplish…all my tower building ends in confusion.” Well here I am being confronted by God in an elementary school parking lot. The door that was closed? I was basing my identity on it. And Lord knows it ended in confusion. I wrote in the margins that when it became less about Him, things fell apart and so did I. I listen to K-Love while I’m doing this, and the song that was on was Just Be Held.

Y’all I am not smart enough to make this up; this is absolutely what happened. When I wrote the words about things falling apart, these lyrics came on immediately: “Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place.” And then I was the lady crying in the minivan.

So, yes ladies, I do believe that sometimes God closes a door without opening a window. What He is continuing to open in all this is my eyes, ears, and heart. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s downright painful. But it is, like all His ways, good.

Julie Gurley

Taking My Shoes Off

This was not my best December.

There was not enough quiet, not enough grandchildren, not enough coffee with Bob in the early morning, not enough words with McKenzie, or conversation across a table with friends.

And my blog assignment – “Small Acts of Kindness” – seemed to be a long stretch to capture any acts of kindness during this season.

Melanie Shankle writes, “God uses the smallest acts of faithfulness to love and influence the people around us.

Maybe you have had the small acts of kindness visited on you and you were not even aware, maybe you thought you deserved it, maybe you thought the person was just being nice.

Maybe you were the people Elizabeth Barret Browning wrote about in her poem,

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes, The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

To see small acts of kindness you have to be more aware of others than yourself, to take off your shoes because you are standing on holy ground.

Our God uses the smallest acts of faithfulness to show His love to us; open your eyes.

So I opened the eyes of my memories of this season.

I witnessed an uncommonly loving small act of kindness at Christmas dinner with Bob’s family.

His sister and brother-in-law have no children and therefore have very little experience with interacting with little ones.

Our brother-in-law, Pepper, was sitting a little apart from the rest of the family after dinner. He and Lora, Bob’s sister, had just given Mary Marshall her “bestest” gift of Christmas, one that she had been eagerly waiting for all day. Santa had not brought it to her house. It was not wrapped under my tree, but Aunt Lora came through.

It was a white fur cape that matched the white fur cape of her doll that Santa had brought her. Moshie put the cape on and wore it all afternoon.

I looked around and there was my granddaughter who has her uncle Robby’s big heart, leaning into Pepper showing him her doll with her sparkly blue dress with the white cape and even a tiara to match the cape and tiara that Mary Marshall wore.

She was deep into conversation with this CPA controlling partner in one of the largest firms in the state, telling about her doll and the clothes and the closet with the hangers and the sleeping bag.

She told Pepper to hold her doll, which he did a little awkwardly, while she adjusted the doll’s tiara.

And then she said “Thank you Uncle Pepper. I love this cape and I love you” and she hugged him.

I don’t know if my brother-in-law understood he had received a small act of kindness, but his smile was worth it.

Sometimes a small act of kindness is hard stop in a pity party you threw for yourself as it was one Sunday morning for me. It had not been a good morning. It had not been a good week. It definitely had not been a good month.

To say I was out of sorts was putting it mildly; I was walking into SMC with a full out pouting, whining, attitude. “Me” was the only person on my mind and I was making a list of all the wrongs I had faced.

Walking into the service I was in no mind to “play nice” and smile, but one person, who I really don’t know well, put herself in front of me and blocked my entrance.

“I just had to say thank you for sharing and standing by Bob in his ministry at SMC. You have been such a blessing to this church and community.”

It was just what I needed, I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit, “it isn’t about you Susan”.

I burst into tears and of course the nice lady started crying and was worried she had said something wrong.

I just said that she wasn’t aware, but she had been used by the Spirit to bring me into line and I thanked her.

Her words were a small act of kindness; God uses the smallest acts of faithfulness to love and influence the people around us.

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I’ve found, it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay.”

Words spoken by the Wizard Grandalf in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

To see those small good deeds you have to open your eyes and become aware of the holy ground.


It's Hard To Be A Good Girl

Playing good girls in the 1930s was difficult, when the fad was to play bad girls. Actually I think playing bad girls is a bore; I have always had more luck with good girl roles because they require more from an actress. ~Olivia de Havilland

Actress Olivia de Havilland said that many years ago. She had several lead roles in movies during the “golden age of classical Hollywood”, Gone with the Wind, being one of them. So is that what you think too? In this world, where our lives are a story, would you rather play a role as a “bad girl” or a “good girl?”

When I was in middle school, I performed in a few different plays at our church and even went to some summer theater camps at the Raleigh Children’s Theater. I never had a lead or assisting role, but I enjoyed being "disguised as someone else”.

And as a teenager, that played over into my real life – not just on stage. I tried hard to APPEAR as a good girl, in order to hide some poor choices I made. There were a few times I probably fit in with the Urban definition of good girl: “a bad girl that hasn’t been caught,” or I felt like one of those “good girls gone bad” and I worked hard at never letTing anyone see that part of me. I wasn't living up to the expectations that I was supposed to live, being raised in a Christian family and church. I wanted to be good but when I tried to work on being “gooder” and failed, it felt like an endless, defeated cycle. But deep down I knew that even when we fool the world with our goodness, God sees and knows our hearts better than we know them ourselves.

But my life changed February 4, 1993 when I asked Jesus to live and breathe inside of me. That day I felt the weight of sin and regret replaced by the weight of God’s glory! That felt so good!

Somehow though, I still want to be a “good girl.” When I was younger I tried hard to APPEAR a good girl, and now as a Christ-follower I STRIVED to be a good girl. Goodness becomes an expectation: no drinking, go to church and bible studies every week, volunteer, and post “perfect family” photos or bible verses on social media. I'm trying hard to be good! But recently, I’m realizing that it’s not about ME striving to be better or “gooder”.

I’ve been reading, praying, and even getting some counsel from godly women I trust about the Fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I’ve found myself striving to be those attributes, including goodness. While I’ve been meditating on Galatians 5:22-23, I’ve heard God’s Spirit say to me, “It doesn’t say in the Bible, ‘The Fruits of Beth’; it says the Fruit of the SPIRIT – the One who produces. If I try to live up to my personal (and others) expectations of being “good”, couldn’t it be that I’m aiming to better myself versus following the Holy Spirit which will produce that fruit for me?"

I read in She Speaks Truth this:

“If we allow God’s Spirit to rule our lives, if we make up our minds to not focus the things of this world but to focus on the things of God, we will be transformed and will be able to know God’s will and choose to do what is right. 'Goodness' is a natural outcome of living your life in line with God’s will. Reading through God’s word will also teach you how to live rightly, and we always have Jesus’ example to look to for how we ought to live our lives and what 'goodness' looks like.”

Friends, whenever we think we can do goodness on our own, we are saying we can be the essence of God without the presence of God. But we can’t!

In Ephesians 5:8, Paul tells us, ‘at one time you were darkness.’ All of us have been. And we’re learning again and again and again: our self-made fruit does not rid us of our darkness – it doesn’t have that power. Only God can make us light."

I had allowed goodness to become an expectation – a good mom, a good wife, a good Christian. At least that’s how I’d lived instead of inviting God’s Spirit of goodness to shine through me. I can BARE the fruit of goodness – but I can’t produce it myself. It’s not about me. It’s about Christ – God’s Spirit living IN me. I want to hear, feel, and follow the Holy Spirit because HE will produce goodness (and the other fruits) in me...and you.

"May His goodness follow us as we draw near to Him, and may we dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Oh how abundant is your goodness!” Psalm 31:19