Give Him the Night


Laura Bennet

I don’t know about you, but over the past year or so, my sleeping patterns have been a little off.

Sometimes, it’s due to pain that wakes me and makes it hard to get comfortable. But before I became ill, I had many nights of unexplained wakefulness. The world was changing, on edge, hanging by a thread of hope and there was much to think about and pray for.

Because I’ve had continuing sleep challenges, a couple things I read recently in Hosting the Presence by Bill Johnson really stood out to me. He wrote about how he turns his heart to God before he goes to bed and waits until God’s peace rests on him so he can sleep well. If he wakes in the night, he once again turns his heart toward God to receive peace.

I pray when I go to bed. I often pray if I wake up in the night, but this concept of resting with the peace of God on us seems pretty cool to me. Not only that, but he also wrote that when we give God our night, it begins our day. If you think about it, the A.M. hours are the start to the new day, even if most of us are sleeping during them. But what if we start our next day by giving God our night before we go to bed and if we awaken in those wee hours?

When peace is given, it must be received in order to be of benefit.”

Bill Johnson Hosting the Presence

Peace is one of the characteristics of the Holy Spirit. But so often we struggle to have peace, to figure out how to get peace, or make peace happen. We can’t conjure up peace. God gladly gives us peace. Jesus said “My peace I give you.” (John 14:27)

But if we aren’t positioning ourselves to receive it, will it benefit us?

Giving him the night is a way of preparing ourselves to receive his peace both while we sleep and for the next day.

That’s some good news.

And not only can we experience God’s peace when we turn our hearts towards him and rest in his presence, but we also cause problems for the enemy who is trying to steal, kill, and destroy us. When he sends trouble our way, we are safe in the presence and peace of God. We threaten the enemy’s attempt to toss us around when we are in peace.

Abiding in peace makes us a threat to any storm.”

Bill Johnson Hosting the Presence

So, tonight, when I go to bed, I’m going to turn my heart toward God and rest in his presence until I feel his peace come over me. When I wake up in the night, I’ll do the same thing again.

I’m looking forward to starting the day tomorrow, and continuing the week in the presence of God with the Holy Spirit’s peace surrounding me.

I pray you will rest there too. The peace that God gives me, I release to you. Goodnight.

Walking in Freedom


Today in the USA we are celebrating our Independence Day.

Centuries ago, courageous men and woman were led by the Holy Spirit to risk everything and bring their families to a new land so they could worship God freely without the government dictating how, when, or where that could happen. Eventually, their descendants found the need to fight to uphold that freedom.

Much has changed over the past few hundred years and even more so in this past couple of years during which we’ve seen our religious freedom, constitutional rights, and liberties of “all men created equal” being challenged, disregarded, and even subdued.

All of that is important, and we need to stand courageously like our forefathers to maintain the freedom they first sought.

But there is another freedom that is even more important.

It is our freedom that Jesus Christ bought with his blood.

Here’s what the Bible says about our freedom:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and don’t let yourselves be burdened again with a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

“I will walk about in freedom for I have sought out your precepts.” Psalm 119:45

“The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for captives…” Isaiah 61:1

“Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

God is all about our freedom.

Freedom from sin and from the enemy, Satan, who torments us with lies and accusations, wanting only to kill, steal and destroy those whom God loves. God longs for us to walk in freedom every day. Freedom that leads to peace where there is no condemnation or shame in Christ Jesus.

So whether or not our country remains free, our most important freedom comes from Jesus. That freedom is for everyone everywhere, not only for those of us in the USA celebrating Independence Day. True independence begins with total dependence on God.

Today, are you walking in His freedom?

Lost in His Love


While this unexplained illness or condition has taken over my body for the past five months, I’ve experienced a myriad of emotions. In the beginning, the majority of my time I lived in a sense of peace. The condition was inconvenient, a little scary and sometimes painful. With no explanations, negative blood tests, and absolute trust in my Savior who heals, I settled into the journey, believing that any morning I would wake up and be fine again.

Clearly, that hasn’t been the case.

My complete trust in Jesus and his healing hasn’t wavered. I’m not scared. I wait each day for his healing to manifest. He’s promised me, my husband, my family, and friends that I will see his healing come. The only unknown is when.

In the meantime, I’ve become nearly immobile. The pain is often so excruciating that it wrenches cries out of me—sometimes when I least expect it. My body is swollen all over making it difficult to move or sleep. I confess that most days I dread getting into bed as well as hating to get out of it.

I eat clean and healthy. I take supplements, herbs, oils, teas and have fasted a number of foods at different times to check for any allergies. A couple of homeopathic medicines give a little relief from pain that typical medications don’t touch.

It seems God has made it clear that this “thing” will not be healed by anything or anyone except him.

I believe he has a purpose in all of this. He’s working in me and my husband. I pray that I will be glorifying to my Lord God. When pain is at it’s worst, I pray for others who suffer far worse than I do for years or at the hands of those torturing them because of their love for Jesus.

Some days, I confess, I feel discouraged.

But the one thing that has sustained me and continues to be the only place of complete relief is being in the presence of Jesus.

I can imagine how people flocked to him when he walked the earth. Many came to him for healing. They obviously wanted freedom from their torturous life. But what some of them realized and experienced was the incredible joy and peace that came from being in his presence.

Even the bleeding woman just wanted to get close enough to touch his robe.

Being in the presence of God.

Getting lost completely in his love. That is where I find peace. Where the discouragement of my condition dissolves and time stops (time is irrelevant to God). Peace, that kind that we don’t understand, washes over me, rests on me, and thoroughly surrounds me.

That is also where healing starts.

Healing for our hearts, our bodies, our relationships, and our life starts in the presence of our loving God. Totally submerged in his love, we also find identity, purpose, direction, and release.

I don’t know how long I will be in this place.

I might wake up tomorrow and be able to move and live again without pain and fatigue. I also might find that the perfect timing of God hasn’t come yet. Maybe it won’t for weeks, months, or years. Healing may not come until I’m in heaven at my Savior’s side.

But I do know that each day, I’m finding peace, strength, growth of faith, and joy in the presence of Jesus here and now.

 There’s an album by Brandon Lake (Bethel Music) called House of Miracles that I’ve been playing on repeat. The live release session of the entire album can be played here on Youtube. Every song is inspired and an incredible leading into the presence of God. One of my favorites, Lost in Your Love, has these lyrics that stand out to me:

“Your power is found in the roughest waters, where I have no choice but to trust you, Father, where my every fear has to surrender….”

This season of illness is rough waters. There are no answers—doctors are stumped, typical diagnoses don’t fit, neither diet nor medication is resolving it. I have no choice but to trust my heavenly Father and surrender any fear or discouragement to him.

It is only when I’m lost in his love, sitting in his presence singing, listening, reading his word, that I’m in another place beyond today’s challenges.

No matter what we experience, whether physical, emotional, circumstantial, or relational, the presence of Jesus with his love washing over us is where we are transcended into another realm. It is where healing starts and will be completed. It’s where peace reigns. Peace we can’t explain. Peace that is beyond happiness due to circumstantial changes. Where fear must leave – in his perfect love that casts it away.

If we want to get well, he is there. Jesus is our healer. Jesus is our peace. He is our hope and joy.

Even in the midst of the roughest waters.

Looking Toward Possibility


“For nothing is impossible with God.”   Luke 1:37

     At our previous church in California, we hosted a week-long day camp for Vacation Bible School each summer. Every day, we would lead kids in chanting that VBS was F-U-N, and at the end, VBS was D-U-N. But one of the songs we sang that year, Nothing is Impossible, continued to play in my mind. God proved those words to me over and over during that year’s VBS, and I want to live according to that truth every day.

     As the VBS traffic directors for the first time, my husband, Brendan, and I really didn’t know what we were doing. We certainly had tremendous help from the previous director; we had the notebook containing all the guidelines for what to do and expect; and we had abundant encouragement and support from our VBS director. Still, as VBS drew closer, a bit of anxiety began to stack up against the peace I felt during the previous couple of preparation months.

     Within thirty minutes of arriving on Monday morning, I had a meltdown. My walkie-talkie wouldn’t work; I was on the wrong channel; people had questions for me, but I had no answers – AND cars we were supposed to be directing continued to steadily stream in while I struggled with my equipment and fought back frustration tears.

     Our director and her team were wonderfully helpful. They provided me with working equipment, showed me how to use it and prayed for me. Then she said something like, “Laura, VBS is going to happen. Cars will park and kids will arrive no matter what we do or don’t do. God is in control, and He will make it happen.” It clicked. Something I had known in my head shot straight to my heart, and I was able to grasp and actually believe it. What a relief!

     Then I recalled how at prep day, one of the guys had talked about the “nothing” he felt he had to offer. Like the widow with two small coins (Luke 21:2), or the boy with a meager lunch of bread and fish (John 6:9). I could relate. I felt like I had nothing to offer. No real grasp of the job I would be doing and not enough people to help us do it, but I could offer the “nothing” I had and let God make the impossible happen.

     And He did. Each day that week, God brought unexpected people to help us, and he gave us the ability to do our job. He even gave us some new ideas that were helpful. The week turned out to be—believe it, or not—easy, or at least relaxed, even in spite of some unforeseen traffic situations.

     In the years since then, I’ve attempted to live in that place of believing that NOTHING is impossible for God to make happen – in myself, in my marriage, in my family and in every aspect of life’s daily challenges. I think we can all agree that this year of 2020 has needed the hope that God will make good things happen, and nothing is impossible for Him!

No matter what the remainder of this year brings or looks like, we can be confident that God always has possibilities ahead for us. He promises that when we put our hope in him, we will not be disappointed even if circumstances bring pain, or people let us down. With God all things are possible.

Full or Empty Cup?


close up of coffee cup on table
Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

An empty cup can be filled, but a full cup can’t hold what God wants to pour into us.

What are we full of?

Fear, hurt, bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, anxiety, dread, depression, anger?

OR

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faith, hope?

Do we fill our cup each day with “what if’s” that breed fear?

OR

Are we filled with excitement, dreams, possibilities and “God will”?

Jesus said that for all of us who are heavily burdened to come to him and trade whatever is weighing us down for his life of love, joy, peace, and hope. Laying everything down at his feet, we can let him handle our concerns and let him lead us by still waters.

Sometimes we find it hard to empty ourselves.

Pride, fear, shame, and disappointment can cause us to not trust God. We feel the need to control. But every step of faith that gives God more control yields relief and a lesser weight on us. Then we are free to let God determine our journey.

And his ways are far better than what we think we need or want.

He blows my mind with the healing, blessings, fulfilling ways my life expands and gets to touch others. His word says he gives us the desires of our hearts. I testify to the truth of that!

So today, are you empty or full? What is your cup full of?

Peace Be With You


20170816_200512

This week I was reading in John 21, and God spoke to me about peace. He asked me to share what he said, but first let me set the scene.

The followers of Jesus are cowering together in a room together with the doors locked.

Why?

Because their leader, who they thought was going to bring about political freedom, has been murdered. Tortured, mocked, and nailed on a tree to die for “no reason” according to the man who released him to be crucified. And even though some of them have seen him alive after he’s risen from the dead, they are hiding because people are hunting them to kill anyone who has followed Jesus.

Chaos, riots, turmoil in the streets. Fear permeating through the locked doors. Sound familiar?

And then Jesus shows up in the midst of their fear and says “Peace be with you.”

Today I heard him speak through his word and the whispers in my spirit. This is what he said:

No matter what is happening in the world right now, when I am with you, you will have peace. Do not get caught up in the drama of the times. Sit with me. Abide with me, and I will bring peace. I will cover you with peace. Not the peace the world claims void of racism and pandemics and turmoil and killing and riots, but peace outside of that, beyond it, in spite of it. Peace is not the absence of turmoil, it is my presence that is perfectly right and transcends what you can see. If you seek me, you will find me. If you trust me, you will rest in me. If you align yourself with me, it doesn’t matter what is happening in the world, you will be in peace, surrounded with peace, covered with peace. I AM WITH YOU. Peace be with you. Let me breathe on you. Live in forgiveness. Stop doubting. Stop looking for something in the world to bring you peace, just believe the I AM, and I AM with you. Peace be with you.”

May you find peace in Jesus today.

Isolation or Hibernation?


Isolate – to set or place apart; detach or separate so as to be alone.

Me at my desk

We may have to be isolated, but we don’t have to think of it as isolation. With technology, we can still connect with friends and family. We aren’t alone. When we go take walks or a drive in our 1991 Mazda Miata convertible, we see other people out and about. Even if we remain six feet apart, we are not detached DSC_0091completely from civilization.

What if we chose to think of our time as hibernation instead?

Hibernate – to withdraw or be in seclusion; retire.

animal animal world close up cute
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

During hibernation, animals spend a season in resting, preparing, and slowing down. Their heart rate lowers, they eat less, and they are less active. Their bodies are preparing for the coming season of activity.

How does that relate to us?

What if we’re intentional about using this time to rest, slow down, focus on what matters most and prepare ourselves for a new season of activity?

Suddenly, we’ve been granted the blessing of more time with our family. Outside activities have come to a standstill. We have time to rest and reset our priorities.

DSC_0016

cropped-20170720_195840.jpgAnd I believe we’ve been called by God to turn our eyes to him. Seek his face. He longs for a personal, spend-time-with-me relationship with us. Jesus gave his life so we could have life. Forever with him. Whether that eternity comes now or ten years from now, the time in between is still full of hope, life, joy, peace and loving kindness with him. All characteristics we need at a time like this.

So maybe we simply need to embrace a different definition of this season. Spring always comes after winter. New strategies will arise through the creativity God placed in us. Life will continue, even in sorrow and loss. Let’s turn our hearts to the one who loves us best and most and find comfort, hope and peace in his arms.

Love Dispels Fear


DSC_0009

“Perfect love casts out all fear.”

I know the Bible tells me this, but there are times when I’m still afraid.

Maybe fear comes from a job loss, a diagnosis of illness or an approaching storm. We can feel afraid when the power goes out, a car swerves into our lane or our child isn’t home on time.

And while some fear is a God given way of keeping us safe, living in a state of fear is not what God intended.

He wants for us to be so intimately acquainted with him that we trust he’s got our back no matter what.

Knowing God loves us causes us to feel safe. In his love, we become who he created us to be. He loves us no matter what we’ve done or neglected to do. His acceptance of us, as his wonderfully made sons and daughters, drives away fear.

Remembering what he says in his word and holding fast to those promises of faithful love will banish fear in those situations which threaten us.

I must keep choosing to stand on his word because it is true. All else is a lie.

And in that place, in his presence, fear evaporates. Peace comes. I can rest.

Contentment or Settling?


I’ve always struggled with settling.

107

But I believe God is teaching me that being content doesn’t mean settling.

God is the God of more.

He takes us from glory to glory and tells us Jesus came to give us an abundant life.He says he wants to prosper us and provide for us according to all the riches in Christ Jesus.

 
 
Not just in our finances, although his word makes it clear that he desires that for us, but in every area of life he wants us to be rich.
 
In relationship, creativity, passion, love, kindness, goodness, peace and joy – all of the fullness of who he is, he wants to bestow on us.
 
And yet, we settle.
 
We think that good enough is good. That mediocre will suffice. There couldn’t possibly more, could there? Isn’t that what it means to be content?
 
I don’t think so.
 
In the Bible, Paul tells us he learned to be content in all circumstances. He wrote that from a prison cell after being beaten. But he had also been rich in his day as well. He said he knew both and could settle into each one with contentment knowing that in each situation, God had more.
 
As I consider the meaning of contentment, I think of God creating the world and saying “it is good” at the end of each day even when he wasn’t finished yet. He was still building something, but was able to lay it down each day with a sense of rest and peace knowing more was to come.
 
Can I do that? I believe that describes contentment.
 
Lord help me to live in a place of contentment today. And each day.

Doing vs Being


DSC_0141It’s easier to do something than it is to be honest.

Think on that for a second.

God puts it this way:

“For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there. Very well then…God will speak to this people, to whom he has said, ‘This is the resting place; let the weary rest,’ and ‘This is the place of repose,’ but they would not listen. So then, the word of the Lord to them will become Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there – so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured.” Isaiah 28:10- 13

Sometimes we just want to have something to do. To have a rule to follow. A formula for getting us were we want to go. A quick fix.

That’s what religion is, isn’t it?

Give us a list of rules. Let’s get caught up in the rituals. Then we don’t really have to face the truth about ourselves or the fact that God is speaking to us. Calling us into a relationship with him.

Because relationships require honesty. Vulnerability. Uncovering ourselves and baring our hearts with their scared, broken places and fears. With our weaknesses and selfish motives and pride. With our two-year-old “I want this” attitudes.

It’s easier to simply eek out an hour every other Sunday. Or throw a five dollar bill in the offering bucket. Displaying a Bible on the coffee table or bookshelf proves we’re religious, right? We certainly will celebrate Christmas and Easter–the important holidays about Jesus.

The crazy thing is, maintaining religion is exhausting. But God calls us to rest.

God never planned for us to get caught up in a religious facade. Proving ourselves better than our neighbor because of the fish sticker on our car or the way we vote. He didn’t give us a list of rules and rituals to keep in order to earn a place in heaven someday.

Maybe. If we’re “good” enough.

God loves and longs for us. The children he created. And he simple asks us to be with him in his presence, resting there, listening to him, enjoying him and who he made us to be. He asks us to be.

And he wants us free.

When we get stuck in doing and living by rules or formulas, we “fall backward” in life. We become captured and ensnared. Doing the same thing, in the same ways. The way we think is best. But it doesn’t ever pan out.

Ever feel like that? Like life just isn’t working?

I’ve been there before. Striving to figure out what to do next but never really getting ahead or feeling free. Exhausted, striving, empty.

“…for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place.”  (vs 15)

Sometimes we think we’re doing all the right things, but we’ve believed a lie. We’ve embraced a falsehood because it’s easier than being honest. It’s easier than letting go of our own understanding or pride. But the very place we’re hiding has become an exhausting trap.

God’s answer is simple.

He tells us to come to him in our weariness. He wants to exchange our way of thinking for his. His was is easy, light and comes with humility. He tells us to stop leaning on our way of thinking, but instead, acknowledge him–that he is God and knows best.

That is where we find a place of repose.

Peace. Rest. Freedom. Surrendering ourselves to Jesus. To simple be with him and be ourselves. Flaws, scars, weakness and broken places. He loves us no matter what and doesn’t require do and do, do and do.

Just an acceptance what he’s already done for us.