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Unplug and Plug In

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Did you hear Pastor Jon’s first sermon in the Rockin’ Relationships series, “Putting Priorities First”? If not, you can listen to it here. At the end, he challenged us to unplug with him for 30 days. It’s all about priorities, hence the title. What are we filling our time with first? It’s a great sermon with a challenge that we should probably all do at one time or another. I sort of did this a few months ago and I want to tell you how it has changed my life!

I did not have any spiritual or holy reasons for removing myself from Facebook three months ago.  It was done in frustration. And I’m a bit of a rebel, so I stuck to my guns. I did create a “fake” profile on Facebook just for connecting with the Vineyard women and for the buy/sell groups (although I would be lying if I said I didn’t browse around sometimes). Once I did this, I still found myself instinctively picking up my phone to “do” something. So I tried to put the phone down and read a book or the Bible instead. It wasn’t easy for me, but the more I did resist the temptation to pick up my phone, the more I connected with God in a way that I haven’t for a long time.

Removing myself from the sometimes good, sometimes negative thoughts and opinions of my Facebook feed and replacing it with books full of Godly wisdom, the Bible, and prayer has been eye opening and life changing. I have sooo much work to do, so much dying to self, and so much letting God do His work, but I am for once in a long time giving God the place in my life to do that. My priorities now versus four months ago are worlds apart. And it has not been forced. God has given me the grace and desire for it, and I believe it is because 1) I was willing to sacrifice something and resist temptation, and 2) God in His grace has opened my eyes to see what is good and right and holy. This second reason is something I’m so thankful for. Sometimes we have to persevere and wait patiently and expectantly for God to do that.

In these months, I have rediscovered my love for God’s Word. It is so, so good! It calms my thoughts and redirects me to His truth and grace. Psalm 19 sums it up so perfectly. My Bible app is set to the International Children’s Bible version because, well, I have a few kids. The simplicity of this version can make God’s Word so clear to me.

“The Lord’s teachings are perfect.
They give new strength.
The Lord’s rules can be trusted.
They make plain people wise.
The Lord’s orders are right.
They make people happy.
The Lord’s commands are pure.
They light up the way.
It is good to respect the Lord.
That respect will last forever.
The Lord’s judgements are true.
They are completely right.
They are worth more than gold,
Even the purest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
Even the finest honey.
They tell your servant what to do.
Keeping them brings great reward.”
     – Psalm 19:7-11, ICB

Did you catch all that?? God’s Word gives strength, wisdom, happiness, direction, truth, and blessings! I think sometimes we forget that. We get consumed with our own thoughts and feelings and fail to look to the one place that can speak to our life the most. His Word is sweeter than honey! I used to eat sugar under the kitchen table as a kid…and get in trouble for it.  But I have never liked honey…it’s too sweet! God’s Word is sweeter than the sweetest honey! Don’t take my word for it, take His word for it and open your Bible and see for yourself.

I say all this to say, as I unplugged, God plugged me in to Him! And it’s beautiful and amazing and challenging, and I’m so, so very grateful for His grace to meet me where I am and lovingly draw me to Him. I encourage you to unplug something in your life and plug in to the Word. It might not be something electronic that you need to unplug from. Maybe it’s busyness or excessive time spent on hobbies, activities, or even sleep. Ask God to show you if it’s not clear to you what is keeping you from connecting with Him, if anything at all.

If you are like me and need to rediscover the sweetness of God’s Word, I suggest you start in the gospels or Psalms. I started with the book of John when our church did the 40-day All In series and it was a great book for rediscovering the goodness of His Word!

Also, if you need help unplugging from your phone, like I did, this article, “Distracted in 2016? Reboot Your Phone with Mindfulness,” helped me set up my iPhone apps and notifications to be less of a problem in my life.  It has really helped! Check it out if you feel like you are attached to your phone too much! (Although I’m not sure this will help if you don’t have an iPhone.) We don’t realize how much our devices beckon our attention!

I’ll leave you with this prayer that I have been praying before I read my Bible. I pray the same for you. I love you all!

“Open my eyes to see the wonderful things in your teachings.” – Psalm 119:18, ICB

About the Author:

Emerson Marino is a part-time editor, full-time mom to five kids, and wife to Kevin. She’s passionate about faith and family and loves a good conversation as much as she loves some quality alone time. She and her family have been attending the Vineyard since 2013.

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My Favorite Holiday

Ever since God wooed me to follow Jesus, Easter has become more and more important to me. Reflecting on what Jesus did on that day fills me with unmatched love and gratitude. It is important to my husband and I that our kids know what we are celebrating, too. One of the ways we try to keep the focus on Jesus on Sunday is to give them baskets and have our egg hunt on Saturday. And there is always a Bible or Easter book in their baskets. Fun and Jesus…what more can we ask for?!

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I really am at a loss for words for what Easter means to me, though. I’m sure a lot of us feel that way. I choke back tears during worship every Easter. I’m just in awe. And thankful. And blessed.

Since I can’t find the words, I wanted to share one of my favorite hymns, which I think puts into beautiful words the gift of Jesus so powerfully. The first time I heard In Christ Alone was on Easter years ago. The lyrics are so relevant to what we celebrate on this day.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

I hope you can take a few minutes to read and reflect on the rest of the lyrics below and watch the music video by one of my favorite artists, Lauren Daigle.

I hope you are filled with the love of Jesus on Sunday, that hearts are opened and healed, and that hope is restored. Most importantly, may you carry on this gift and hope of Jesus to the next day and the next, walking in the love of Christ.

IN CHRIST ALONE by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Emerson Marino is a part-time editor, full-time mom to five kids, and wife to Kevin. She’s passionate about faith and family and loves a good conversation as much as she loves some quality alone time. She and her family have been attending the Vineyard since 2013.

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All In

As a child, my dream was to be a classical pianist. I was serious, and when I got to high school I worked hard for my dream. I had the best piano teacher in Baton Rouge (thanks to my mom), sacrificed getting my first car to get a piano (thanks to my dad), practiced daily, entered contests, and performed every chance I got. Ultimately, I applied to music schools and received a scholarship to LSU. I was achieving my goals and moving toward my dream.

Fast forward to the present, and now my dream is to live in the fullness of God. Oh, the magnificence of His love! I want more! But am I doing what it takes to reach that goal? To have a life full of what God intended? Am I working for it like I did for piano?

Emerson, 17 years old

Emerson, 17 years old

We are in the middle of the 40-day All In series. Pastor Jon gave us instructions to pray and read the bible with a partner. I don’t know about others, but I let life get in the way of this challenge. And it showed. Not only was I not doing the challenge, but I wasn’t doing much of anything spiritually because I was so focused on getting my work done. My kids received a harsher tone, I needed more coffee, I fell back into old ways a little.

Once I realized the source of this little stumble, I had another one of those lightbulb moments. How can I be effective in the Kingdom of God (or even for my family) if I’m not spiritually healthy?

“Keep yourself in training for a godly life. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life both for the present and for the future. … We struggle and work hard, because we have placed our hope in the living God….” 1 Tim. 4:7b-8, 10a

God revealed a lot to me through this passage. For years, I didn’t put much importance on spiritual training. I took baby steps toward fullness in Christ, but I only had marked growth when I was putting in the work.

Keep yourself in training”
I was responsible for sitting at the piano each day and practicing. I warmed up with scales and arpeggios, played each piece over and over to different speeds on the metronome, and got better and better each day. How could I have been good enough for a scholarship without doing this? I am responsible for my spiritual training!

Spiritual exercise…promises life both for the present and for the future”
God wants us to have a full life in Him! As I train to become spiritually fit, I can trust this promise that it will bring value to my life now and in the future. More of that, please!

We struggle and work hard”
Putting in the hours on the piano as a teenager was not easy. I had to do the work. I had to make the time, follow my teacher’s guidance, sacrifice other things, and focus on the goal. Spiritual exercise takes work!

“We have placed our hope in the living God”
This! This is the goal, this is the reason, this is the why! Why the work and struggle is worth it. My hope is in God, the living God, that promises life!

Could I have enjoyed playing the piano without all the training and sacrifice? Sure. But I could not have reached my full potential and I would not have enjoyed the benefits of that. I would have never experienced the thrill of playing a beautiful piece for my own and others’ enjoyment. I can always enjoy the love of God, no matter what, but I want more than that. I want to experience the beauty of working toward a goal of fullness in Christ, for my life to have more value for myself and others.

Jesus modeled spiritual exercise for us. Spiritual disciplines include self-denial, fasting, reading the Bible, worship, prayer, fellowship, confession, and service, among others. I encourage you to choose one and start there. Remove something from your life that is not worth your time (I chose Facebook) and add in a spiritual discipline that you are not already practicing or that you want to do more of. And don’t forget to give yourself grace! Baby steps are okay and we don’t have to do anything to earn the gift of Christ!

If you’re interested in reading more about spiritual disciplines, check out these books:

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Emerson Marino is a part-time editor, full-time mom to five kids, and wife to Kevin. She’s passionate about faith and family and loves a good conversation as much as she loves some quality alone time. She and her family have been attending the Vineyard since 2013.

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