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Dots and Dashes by: Robin Gonzales

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Hello friends. Mine is a voice you don’t hear too often unless you join us weekly for Refining’s bible studies online.

I have recently retired from the job I had for what I like to call the second act of life. The first act was my childhood, young adult life, and motherhood. As I begin the third act, I have had a chance to sit back, relax, think, and adjust to the new normal. It is a bit strange, but also very exciting as God moves me in a new direction.

I have realized all of the things prior to now have been my training ground for things to come. . .

Have you ever identified with a Bible character? Refining recently finished the book of Amos. He was an ordinary person who loved God and wanted to share what he had learned. I really identified with him. He was an ordinary guy (farmer of fig trees and goat herder). God called him to go and speak to his people.

Amos was much like people we know: our pastor and his wife, a great prayer warrior, the spiritually gifted song leader or friend. Some of them even fortunate enough to receive specialized training; yet all of them, including you and me, are in the school of the Holy Ghost. A specialized training for God.

As we each receive our training under the Holy Spirit’s authority, He has been given several tasks to ensure our instruction. His job is to purify, consecrate, and set us apart to bring honor to Christ and empower us to witness to others.

You may be asking-so exactly how does He go about this? The Holy Spirit works within you and changes you by the dots and dashes of ordinary life-every situation, circumstance, and relationship.

__ __ * ___ ___ ___ __ ** ** *** * ___ ** ___ ___ ___ ***_ *

The small dots are everyday life. How you react to people and circumstances: putting the grocery cart back where it belongs, stopping when the light turns yellow instead of running it, not interrupting people when they are talking. And maybe changing the things you like to listen to, read, watch, who you hang out with, or the places you want to go.

The larger dashes are challenges in life. Maybe not enough money to pay the rent this month so you have to lean into faith that God will direct and make a way. Or it could be life has gotten really busy, you are feeling stretched, and you are having to lean into God’s peace to help you sort out, prioritize and eliminate what is not essential. Maybe you are wanting a spouse, family, new car, house, or job and God is making you sit in the waiting room because He has not released you to move forward.

Those dashes even include times when we have flat line seasons filled with suffering. You know, those times when it is hard to see more than a few inches in front of you and usually filled with loss and hardship. Death of a loved one, divorce, loss of job, or serious illness. These are the times when we seem to recognize God really showing up and even seeing ourselves grow in faith by leaps and bounds.

Yes, the dots and dashes of life. The training ground for the Holy Spirit. It is these areas in life where we learn to listen, be still, discover perseverance, and grow in relationship with the LORD. But, why does it seem as though the most growth occurs during times of struggle and hardship?

God would love for us to lean into him and grow without the hurt and pain. So, what keeps us from doing so? Maybe the problem is we become “too busy” living life when things are good. We don’t look for God or spend time in His Word. We forget to pray or thank him for all of the blessings we are enjoying. We become complacent and prideful thinking we have everything under control.  

But when God pulls away just a little, and allows us go our own way, we fall very short and things go wrong. It is then we begin to look around and realize we have forgotten our first love, the one who cares for us, and our need for him in all things. THEN…we look up and call out!

And being the good Father that he is, God steps in…

now we are back on the pathway of learning and growing in faith.

As we continue to walk with the LORD and follow God’s leading, our relationship begins to mature. We learn to be good students of a master teacher, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works within us (and does it quite well I might add) and over time we become people the Holy Spirit can use to draw others to Christ.

When we become aligned with God’s will, we become plugged into the Holy Spirit’s mighty power to turn our dots and dashes into a glorious testimony for God’s kingdom.

Yes, we are all enrolled in the Spirit’s training when we accept Jesus Christ as our savior. There is no doubt, the Holy Spirit is working! When we tap into His power there are NO LIMITS to where God can take us and who we can reach for His kingdom. Every dot and dash along with all the gifts and abilities we have been gifted and the Holy Spirit within us, we can truly do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us (Phil 4:13).

So, during this Pentecost season, let us remember God sent His Spirit to empower us to do even greater things than He himself did while he was in human form on the earth (John 14:12).

Just imagine the possibilities because of our dots and dashes!

__ __ * ___ ___ ___ __ ** ** *** * ___ ** ___ ___ ___ ***_ *

Engaging with Scripture through handwriting

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But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18 NIV)

I recently read a quote by Shannon Leibold which stated, “Handwriting Scripture…a meaningful way for us to dive deeper into God’s Word. As we imprint God’s truth on the page, the Holy Spirit imprints His truth on our hearts, which leads us to respond in prayer and worship.”

Boy, have I found this to be true! Handwriting portions of God’s Word into a composition book began a journey of absorbing Scripture, unlike anything I had ever experienced. As I continued to embark on the adventure, Scripture began penetrating my life beyond my wildest imagination. Yes, merely inscribing verses word for word.

Although Scripture writing was only a portion of my note booking when I began my visual legacy, words cannot express the restoration in my soul from the modest habit of writing out Scripture. I am sure those who knew what I was doing thought I was nuts! Why would anyone fill pages of a composition book with verses already printed? At the time, I could not explain my why but I knew it was what the LORD was instructing.   

After several months, I noticed a change within me. It was as though a transformation was taking place as each page became adorned with God’s Word in my handwriting. The routine practice of Scripture writing was refining my heart. What I loved most was the way the Holy Spirit began revealing a deeper understanding of God.

Why was this working? How could such an uncomplicated convention pour out remarkable gains? What was it about this section of my notebook that made me crave further knowledge of God? 

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)

Get ready-give me the grace to be honest-it wasn’t until a stopped the practice that the answers came. Hindsight on steroids might I add. When another life tsunami hit, the benefits of Scripture writing became very evident. Let me share four gains I found with you.

1. Visual intentionality. Have you ever had good intentions but? – well you understand. When engaged in church, bible study, small group, or personal Scripture reading, I always “intend” to revisit a verse capturing my attention. You know the Scripture where you felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit. However, my follow-through usually fell limp as a noodle.

“Copy-writing” gave me the outlet to carry out those intended plans and illustrate my purposeful actions. It was a way to get beyond the distractions of life and press inward to God. I had a plan of action I could maintain after being in the Word. Simply copying an “attention verse” opened the door to engaging with the Bible on a new level. It brought the gift of meditation.

2. Focused concentration. Diversions-interruptions-distractions: call them what you wish. I refer to them as squirrels. Truth is when it comes to absorbing Scripture, they are mental strategies directly from the enemy. My wandering mind always wants to know God more as it drifts to the next distraction. Would you agree?

Penning Scripture centers my attention. I can slay those pesky disruptions when concentrating word from word. My focused attentiveness gives way to the time needed to ponder the message of Scripture. It is exactly what I need to reflect on God’s Word and find Him on a more profound level. Handwriting verses gave me a red light from the world and a green light to a deeper relationship with the father.

3. Improved knowledge. Read it, write it, read it again. There is something to this I promise! We all have methods of comprehension and preservation. God created us all with unique methods yet what better way for everyone than copying text.

Why? First, writing verses brings to life details and words we might otherwise miss. It decelerates the speed at which we read and allows us to absorb the meaning. Next, it opens the door to remembering because the text is being digested at a rate which can sanction retention. The mind begins to place itself in the words. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is able to reveal a greater awareness of who God is and an understanding of the Bible.

4. Applied faith. For a good part of my spiritual journey, I struggled with the application aspect. You know the area where the rubber meets the road in your faith and it is up to you to apply Scripture to life circumstances. Basically, it is placing yourself in the text, clinging to the promises, obeying the commands, and growing in faith by relying solely on the attributes of God.

Writing out Scripture allowed me the time to mentally place myself into God’s Word. It imparted time to sit still and allow the Holy Spirit to convey a direct message for me. I began seeing myself in the words of the Lord and realizing how I could carry out this beautiful life manual offered. The wisdom from the father was shaping me and molding my prayers. I began releasing the reigns of my dash on earth and started infusing His truth into my life.

 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. (Proverbs 8:17 NIV)

Yes, this all came from simply slowing down and concentrating on the text word by word. The reward of handwriting Scripture gave way to a deeper understanding and personalized faith I needed and desired. I began to know God on a more intimate level and our relationship remarkably heightened.  

I went beyond typography and discovered a way to grow in my spiritual journey. Each handwritten verse became a present received from the ultimate giver of life. As I scribe His Words, a sense of gratitude always shows up and I cannot help but thank Him for Scripture.  

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34 NIV)

So, I now have a composition book solely devoted to handwriting Scripture. It has proven be a means to focus in on those highlighted verses and allow the Holy Spirit to articulate precise instructions from God. Letter by letter the formation of the Lord’s Words onto the lines have not only saturated the blank pages but have inundated my heart, mind, and soul in such a way I cannot help but share with YOU!

In 2022, the Refining ministry will be hosting Bible studies, workshops, and retreats to walk alongside you as we embark on handwriting Scripture together. There are many creative ways we have to aid you in capturing a visual legacy and infusing God’s Word into your life. It is astonishing how this simple task can intensify your relationship with the LORD. We cannot wait to share this with you.

We are super excited for the days ahead and the time together with each of you. See you soon!!!!

More information will follow in the New Year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Painting by Jesus Lugo
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

Merry Christmas friends! What a glorious time to reflect on the beautiful gift of eternal life given to us through the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

I encourage you to schedule intentional reflection time within the next few days and simply thank the LORD for His glorious love. As I began my scheduling, one question kept coming to mind, “Where would I be without this gift?” That statement really humbled my heart and encouraged me to carve out a special time with our Heavenly father over the next week. I hope it inspires you as well.

Refining Leader: Robin and her husband, Edward

Count down to 2022 is upon us! What is your vision for your spiritual journey in the year ahead? Now is the perfect time to ponder the new year growth steps for you. It is so important to be purposeful and deliberate when wanting to mature in Christ. What are your aspirations? What are God’s goals for you? What are some actions and commitments that it will require in 2022?

Refining Leader: Mandi and her spouse, Lee

As you begin thinking about the next steps in your spiritual growth, we want to help you discover practical and authentic ways to deepen your relationship with God. Here are a few of our commitments to you in 2022:

  1. We will continue offering discussion study sessions over books of the Bible because we are committed to deepening the knowledge of the LORD with you.
  2. You direct our serving ministry! Thank you for your encouragement to invest in a social media format to better serve you. Your following on Facebook and this blog is appreciated.
  3. We realize everyone may not be in a season to attend our online Bible studies, and that’s ok! Therefore, we plan to offer other avenues. Just like you, we are pondering, praying, and planning for 2022.
  4. SO, let me be the first to let you in on part of our plans…(drum roll please)…Refining is thrilled to introduce a “Notable Faith” focus AND our BIG kick-off will begin with a Note Booking RETREAT!

We are inviting you to participate April 21-23 for a getaway in Glen Rose, TX. This intentional time will be extremely laid-back. I promise this is less compact than any other retreat we have held. The setting alone will be a chance to get away, enjoy nature, and carry out some growth intentionality.

If you love Bible journaling, scrapbooking, visual art, or simply want to leave an illustrated legacy of a life in relationship with GOD this is the retreat for you. Listen, you don’t have to be crafty at all! We will share very practical steps, tips, and tricks to creating an illustration of “Notable Faith” from your Scripture intake.

Be on the lookout for more information soon!!!

Refining Founder: Genna (that’s me!), husband Shawn, and son Ryan
My other twin son, Kyle, his wife Shayla, and our adorable grandchildren: Jude & Sydney

Until then-MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Much love,

The Refining Ministry

November Online Study-Malachi

Come join a three week study over Malachi! Let us show you how to enhance your Bible intake.

Only one hour once a week for three weeks! Send us an email and let us know you are interested: refiningjourney@gmail.com.

You will be glad you did.

Offensives Can Blur Our View-Part 3 (Guest Writer: Sheyanne Brown)

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“Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” Matthew 18:15

            “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

How can we prevent the hurt we experience from turning into the sin of offense?

When you’re hurting, you need to talk about it with the person who hurt you. Most importantly, the intent of the conversation must be reconciliation. As we see in Matthew 5, God cares more about the state of our hearts than the sacrifices we bring to the altar. He cares less about my faithful church attendance and more about what’s in my heart while I’m in the pew.

It’s not enough to do all the “Christian” things. If it were, the Pharisees and Sadducees would have been pleasing to Jesus because they literally did everything “right.” Jesus chunked a grenade in the middle of their theology when He started calling attention to the condition of their hearts.

Instead of withdrawing when we are hurt, we must go to the person who hurt us and do everything we can to reconcile. It takes a lot of humility to admit you’re hurting. Pride will keep you from “going to your brother,” and that same pride will keep you in sin and outside the presence of God.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6.

But… what happens if you go to your brother, and he refuses to reconcile with you? What if your brother does not see how he has hurt you, and instead inflicts more pain with his prideful resistance of your humble attempt to reconcile? What if you leave the attempt at reconciliation more wounded than when you came in? (Been there, done that, got the t-shirt).

            You forgive. (notice the period)

Forgiveness is a God-created concept, which means you do not have the power to do it on your own without God’s empowering grace. So, rest in knowing He doesn’t expect you to do this by yourself.

Your emotions will never desire to forgive, but that’s ok, because forgiveness doesn’t begin in your emotions anyway. Forgiveness begins with obedience. Forgiveness is required of every believer, because as we have received unmerited forgiveness from God, so we must give the same undeserved forgiveness to others.

Forgiveness does not mean that what they did wasn’t wrong. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you swing wide the doors of your heart and life to them again. Forgiveness simply means that you release someone of the debt they owe you, and you bless them even when they don’t deserve it.

            “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” Luke 6:27-28

The key to forgiveness is blessing your enemy. If you find yourself on the same hamster wheel of trying to forgive but not feeling like you’re getting anywhere, begin to bless your enemy. Pray God would bless their hearts, their minds, and their bodies. Pray God would heal them and give them favor with Him and man. Pray over them what you would want someone to pray over you.

As you begin to obey the Word, you’ll find your heart will begin to release the hurt… the wounds will begin to heal… and your heart will be kept pure.

This “honeymoon” period at my new church may end and one day I might find myself knee deep in the messiness of life with people and new opportunities for hurt and offense. I’ll find out the Ark of the Covenant is not in the basement after all, and the reality that I am part of a family of imperfect believers will set in.

However, I have come to the place in my life where the most valuable thing I possess is access to the presence of God. I don’t want to go one moment without feeling Him near me and hearing Him speak.

There’s no wound or offense worth keeping compared to fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

I pray you will allow Him to begin softening your heart to His voice, and allow Him to heal the wounds you’ve been protecting. I pray in this place of healing, you’ll experience Him like you never have before.

Offensives Can Blur Our View-Part 1 (Guest Writer-Sheyanne Brown)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

Our family recently relocated from a four year stay in the cornfields of Kansas back to our home territory of Amarillo, Texas. Moving, for me, proved to be extremely difficult. I left my beautiful dream home, dear friends who had become family, an exhausting but fulfilling job in foster care, and not to mention our home church where we had been lay pastors for three years.

Becoming pastors was never something that my husband or I had imagined for our lives. But, when the call came, we knew it was from the Lord. We jumped in with both feet and hit the ground running. To say we loved being in ministry is an understatement. We had never known such fulfillment, such purpose, such joy. And on the flip side of that coin, we had never known such pain, such sorrow, such burden.

The day we walked away, we knew we had run across the finish line absolutely sweating, having given everything to obey the short-term call God had commissioned us with. But when we crossed the finish line, it was with a limp. There were wounds inflicted (by the same call that had brought us joy) which caused us to wince every time we walked through the church doors. Wounds that were merely the result of life lived with people. We were tired, and we were hurting.

The Church at large is just… messy. Ministry is messy. Life lived from the heart is messy.

We loaded up the moving trucks and came home to Texas. We were looking forward to sitting on the back row of a church service, where no one knew us or needed anything from us, where we could just take a minute to breathe and recalculate, to receive instead of give, follow instead of lead.

We soon found ourselves weeping on the rows of Freedom Fellowship. The glory of the Lord washed over us every week. Surrounded by believers from every age group, all collectively worshipping the Lord in unison, we began to revive. We began to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit again. We woke up on Sundays and were excited to go to church. We signed up for small groups, our kids begged to go to kid’s church, and my daughter began telling me about visions she was having during worship. How much better could it get?

After such a difficult previous season, it was easy to find myself thinking that Freedom Fellowship had the secret sauce. They must have found the lost Ark of the Covenant and stashed it in the basement because the glory was thickkkk. The pastors must be the most holy people in ministry, the congregation must be extremely mature and Spirit-filled for the environment to be this wholesome.

I was reveling in the thought that we had found the hidden gem of revival when the Holy Spirit spoke to me very clearly one early morning as I was just beginning to wake up. You know the place… that early morning moment when your head is groggy and silent but your spirit is stirred and speaking. With my head out of the way, my heart began to listen to the voice of my Father.

            “I want My glory to rest in every church, on every row, in every heart. I offer Myself to every person who comes to Me. It is My joy to come into the room. As a matter of fact, whether you feel Me or not, I’m there because I promised that where two or more are gathered in My name, there I am in their midst. The reason why you’re experiencing My presence and My voice more at this new home that at the last is not because your new church is special. Your experience with me is different because you’re not offended at anyone here.”

As I began intently listening, I laid my heart bare before the One who made me, who knows me, and who loves me. He began putting salve on my fresh wounds, while at the same time pointing out the scar tissue that had developed over the older ones. The results of this conversation with the Holy Spirit had radically changed the way I view church, and I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again.

To be continued…

INSIGHT INTO THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR: Sheyanne Brown is a work-at-home mom of three tiny people, wife to a very attractive cowboy, and a small business owner of Sparrow Budgets. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Oral Roberts University, shamelessly eats peanut butter by the spoonful, absolutely loves to mow the yard, and is passionate about marriage, family life, healthy relationships, and Jesus.

Overwhelmed? Conquer it with God and His Word

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Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB)

Have you ever felt overwhelmed? I have had the pleasure of being there! I have lost count of the number of episodes. However, I can attest to the fact those zany feelings are genuine and definitely stop me in my tracks. It has taken me years to finally address it, call it out, and deal with it.

Two years ago, God was restoring me from an intense pit which lasted half a decade. As He began reconditioning my heart and repairing my life, the Lord had me face one of the largest elephants in the room. (Yes, there were more than one!) This creature had overpowered me several times and left me devastated in handling my very own existence. I even identified myself as one who was best at doing nothing when not knowing what to do. It was time to deal with the paralyzing effects of being overwhelmed.  

My dark valley was a discipline gorge delivering many unforgettable lessons. However, the most impactful discovery was the importance of staying in His Word and paying close attention to His directives. My desperation allowed me to cling to The Spirit of truth, God’s Holy Word, and find hope in His promises.

As I began digging deeper into Scripture, the Holy Spirit began prompting me to apply it to my circumstances. God was basically saying, “It is time to put skin on Scripture my daughter”. The Lord started with my feelings of being overwhelmed and spotlighted the root of the issue. ME! My out-of-control desperation episodes where nothing more than lacking the ability to let go and allow God to drive.

The fight is still real and can be powerful at times. However, I have learned to face the devasting lie from the enemy by humbly surrendering to the directives and promises of God’s sweet words- Scripture. I am getting better at calling out those overwhelming thoughts and placing them under God’s authority than I use to be. And somehow along the way, I found freedom by living life as a passenger and giving up control of the keys.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

Allow me to share three ways I learned to combat the struggle:

1. Surrendered to God: I had to accept the fact life is not about me. As I discovered my purpose through God, it became clear-I had been living according to my plans. I had created blueprints I could not humanly achieve because the truth is: I am a powerless being. God is in control and I am not.

So, as I began humbly surrendering my life to the Lord, those overwhelming moments arose less and less. It became easier to handle the pressures of daily living. Why? Because I was no longer the manager of my life, God was. It still amazes me how giving up the steering wheel allowed my life to be in better working order.     

2. Connected with God: Hindsight is definitely 20/20. My overwhelming episodes could have been lessened had I been in full relationship with the Almighty Lord. God showed me His desire-for me to participate in an environment focused upon Him 24/7.

After admitting to my lack of engagement with God and Scripture, I began making Him top priority. I ran to Him about everything in life-good or bad. He became a power source of strength above anything I had experienced. His connection seemed to block out the enemy’s ability to overwhelm my mind. God gave me peace, security, and satisfaction. I began following His discernment and letting Him lead.    

3. Submitted to the Lord’s text: Putting skin on Scripture started with drenching my life with God’s Holy Word. For years, I had viewed the Bible as talk uttered by God without acknowledging the supernatural force, potency, and capability it possessed. My viewpoint had to change.

God extended His invitation to infuse my life and He welcomed me to a completely different way of thinking and living through His Word. His empowerment lured me to seek Him on a more intimate level and to bring my life under His absolute authority. I began inserting my name in His Word and fighting off those fickle feelings through declaring Scripture.

Now when overwhelming emotions creep up, I go straight to those commanding verses and claim them. I submit to the power of the Father and ask for His help in fighting off the persuading lies. Slowly, I have learned to let Scripture conquer the battle of my mind. I have found the Lord’s text to be a true defensive sword worthy to be called highly effective.

So, now when I begin to experience the feelings of being overwhelmed, I am no longer paralyzed and do nothing. God has given me an action plan and a helpmate: His Holy Word. I am now able to keep moving forward thanks to God’s provision.    

My “Go To” Scriptures when feeling overwhelmed:

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:30 (NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

I, even I, am he who comforts you. Isaiah 51:12a (NIV)

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. Psalm 119:114 (NIV)

How do you overcome paralyzing emotions? Share your suggestions and thoughts below. We would love to hear from you!

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