When Life Throws Curve Balls

A WILD Devotional

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5.  

Last year, I resigned from my Director position at a very prestigious resort. On that day, I had an overwhelming sense of peace and calm. Never in my life had I taken such a risk with the unknown. However, I knew everything was in God’s hands. I knew I couldn’t reason with myself. I had to put my worries on God’s altar. I had poured my heart and soul into my career, given them all of me. I put in very long days, even weekends and holidays. I never complained because I knew that came along with working in the hospitality industry and I truly enjoyed what I did. Needless to say, my husband was at home caring for the children and ensuring things on the home front were handled. While he never said it, he was never sure when I would walk through the door. Some nights it would be timely,  but as the job responsibilities increased, my days grew longer. Eventually, I would even miss tucking my kids into bed at night.

Now that I have been unemployed since May, I have realized that God really does have a plan. If this would have happened even two years ago, I don’t think I would have been able to trust in God; I didn’t have the relationship with Him yet. Not only that, but I would not have been able to see the beauty in cherishing every moment with my children. I was always so career focused and my patience would have been short. While being a mommy is not an easy task, I have been able to embrace this time.  It’s the simple things: doing school drop off and pick up, being able to attend school events, attending daytime mommy groups and getting all the love from my little ones. These are the things that I hold dear to my heart right now. I would have never expected to still be out of work at this point, but I have kept believing in Him. I know “my God will supply every need of [mine] according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19. I continue to pray for grace and patience to see through what God has planned for our family.

If you are wrestling with a big decision this year, one that you know is right but comes with a lot of risk, let me encourage you that you can trust God to provide for every need.

Join me in this prayer: God, you see my life from the beginning to the end. You know what’s best for me better than I know for myself. Thank you, Jesus, for the work you did on the cross, so I can truly rest and value the things that matter most. Help me to make the big decisions that you want me to make. Help me to see and believe for all that you want me to have. You see it all and know it all. Thank you. I trust you. 

Erin Watson

Erin Watson is mother to two great kids and wife to Leonidas. Erin loves to use her gift of hospitality by helping
out with women’s events and groups. She’s also actively involved in a City Group for moms with small kids. You can connect with her at the Ventura campus of The City Church and by following her @teamwatson33 on Instagram.

Being Brave

Being Brave is Scary

Have you ever heard the song “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel? You may recognize it from its anthem bridge- “You make me brave, you call me out beyond the shores into the waves.” Never have these lyrics become as real to me as when I was asked to lead others in singing them for our recent women’s event, Beautiful Stories.

When I was first asked to lead this song, I felt my heart drop to my stomach. I’ve never been in an elevator that shuts down and plummets ten stories, but I imagine it’s a similar feeling. “No way, God. My voice can’t hit those notes!” I found myself on my bedroom floor, explaining the situation to God, when suddenly, He brought to memory a request I’d made only a week beforehand for Him to stretch me in my worship.

I think that so often in my life, I wish the stretch could be comfortable. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply grow in our relationship with God from the safety of the shores? Venturing into the waves seem so uncharted and so unsure. And yet, I’ve found that it’s in these times that God grows our faith the most, because we can no longer rely on our own abilities. Suddenly, we just have to trust that God’s got us.

In Deuteronomy 31:7-8, Moses encourages a rising leader, Joshua, who also had to face daunting circumstances as he took on the responsibility of leading the nation of Israel: “Be strong and courageous…The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (NIV).

Let these words wash over you today. Declare them. Pray them over yourself daily. Join me in making this your battle cry every time fear tries to hold you back from stepping out in faith, knowing that whatever your story might be, God is forever faithful!

As for my story, I sang the song. I’m pretty sure that my voice cracked towards the end, but I sang the song. And you know what? God showed up. The Holy Spirit moved that night, and my faith was stretched.

So, here’s what I’ve determined- being brave can be scary, but the God who calls me out on the waters if faithful to help me walk on them.

xoxo Victoria

IMG_4649Victoria Baca grew up in northern California and is overjoyed to now call Ventura home! She graduated from California Coast Bible College in 2017 and is spending a third year as the college’s Resident and Housing Director. Victoria is passionate about worship, youth ministry, and missions. Find her small group for college girls here, and join to do life together!

No Fear

A WILD Devotional

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:18 (ESV)

At age 19, God ignited my heart with life-changing faith. So, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work! With a genuine passion to know Jesus better, I attended church nearly every time the doors opened. I listened to Christian radio and read volumes of Bible commentaries. And life seemed to go down a pretty comfortable path for a while. So, what was my conclusion? Do right and God will do right by you.

It was many years later that God taught me my most important faith lesson.  It was well after I had married, had two teenage children, and was trying my best to use my life to honor God.  It was at a time when my comfortable path took a sharp turn! I found myself on an uphill climb, then careening towards a jagged cliff! I cried out to God, wondering what I’d done, and what I hadn’t done to bring about the “death” of everything I cherished. It was the lowest point of my life, when my marriage was failing and I would soon be divorced.

In the middle of this crisis, I went to a women’s retreat. The speaker was so raw and real. She shared that we often believe lies about God that affect how we think and feel. Later she asked each woman to spend some alone time with God. I found a soft pad of grass to lie down in … and there I opened my Bible to First John 4:18.  It was like a window had opened and a fresh breeze rushed in. God’s Spirit whispered to mine. He told me through His Word that I wasn’t being punished. Jesus had already taken the punishment for all my sins. And nothing I do or don’t do can ever lessen God’s incomparable love for me or take away His unlimited grace!

God was not loving and cherishing me because of my good deeds, or taking his love away when I did wrong. And the same is true for you.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you that you always love, always protect!  You never leave us. You never forsake us. You make a way through the wilderness and a road through the desert. Your love redeems heartache and sin, disasters and even death through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!

Yvonne Noblitt Bio Photo

Yvonne Noblitt has attended City Church Agoura for the past two years, and serves on the greeting team. As a professional writer, she has enjoyed a career in radio and magazines, Christian education and ministry. She has a passion for sharing God’s love and grace with people of all ages. Currently, she is the Director of Creative Services for Roger Kemp and Company, a media agency that creates, produces and distributes Christian radio programs. Yvonne is married to Randy Noblitt, and together they have a blended family of five adult children, two daughters-in-law, and one grandchild. In their spare time, they love to travel, bicycle and hike, while exploring the beauty of God’s great outdoors!

 

Letting Go

A WILD Devotional

I remember when I was 18, it was 1984.  I wanted so badly to experience life and all God had for me and couldn’t even fathom it, though I tried.  I remember imagining myself in each decade to come, how old would I be? Who would I marry? How many kids might I have?  My desire was to always be pleasing in God’s sight and a valuable member of God’s family, always contributing to society.  Somewhere in my early childhood there was a tormenting voice that constantly told me I never would.  It was the liar’s voice, Satan’s.  I wasn’t aware there was a liar whose main role was to kill, steal, and destroy; I had no clue that I could or should give him a verbal tongue lashing with the truths found in the Bible.  Often I would cry out to God declaring what I wanted for my life, almost in a desperate plea, like a peasant begging a king for mercy.  And so, my focus became my own performance and that began to define my worth.

I am now 51, amazed at the journey, wiser, stronger, braver and secure in my hope because of my walk with the Spirit of God who is my comforter, shepherd, counselor, teacher, confidant, refuge and friend.  My ears are better receivers of his voice and I want to hear it more than ever before. At times I still wrestle with old lies.

For the last few days I have wrestled with anxiety over this blog. It would be public.  What should I say? Would my story impact the lives of others? What if my grammar is incorrect?  In sharing with a friend today, she “took me to church” as she reminded me that performance is not worship.  God is so good to use other believers as His gentle reminder to refocus.  Lord, forgive me for getting it twisted!  My highest calling is not in what I do. It’s about who I am becoming. His first commandment (Exodus 20)  is that I should have no other gods but him.  He loves me unselfishly, unconditionally and all he asks of me is to love him and believe Him.  If I’m in Him, nothing else can shake me. If He is my main obsession, everything else will fall into place.

Join me in this prayer:

Jesus, today I’m letting go of performance. Just as 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says, “I give all of my worries and cares to You, because You care about me.”

13A8B514-7562-4D8C-A9F4-79DD61A4BED8Sara is mom of three amazing, adult children, and one son-in-love,  Brooke, age 27 (and Zack), Moriah, 25 and Landon, 22.  Sara has been married to John for 31 adventurous and miraculous years.  It is their desire to use their history, milestones and miracles to encourage young adults and married couples in their journey with each other and Jesus. Sara grew up in a relatively conservative background as a pastor’s daughter.  In the last six years Jesus and the Spirit of God have blown her away with new revelations and surprises.  Look for Sara (and John) at the Agoura/Oak Park campus where you’ll usually find them greeting at the door.

Twenty Eight

Has God ever winked at you? Could there be a unique way He is revealing Himself in your life? I was born October 28th, 1980, and it wasn’t until many years later that I recognized how God was speaking to me personally through the number 28. About a decade ago, I began to notice that I would often check the time exactly on the 28th minute of the hour. This caught my attention and amused me greatly. Could God be winking at me? Could He be affirming me and reminding me of His constant presence in my life? Eventually I shared my experience with my husband, who attributed these occurrences to a subconscious phenomenon. That was code for, “I think you’re a little crazy.”

Over the years, my encounter with the number 28 has expanded far beyond the clock. In fact, my husband now acknowledges and celebrates these unique encounters with me. A cashier says, “Your food will be ready shortly. Your number is 28.” An unfamiliar girl approaches me and asks, “Can you help me find my last scavenger hunt clue? It’s number 28.” I repeatedly open my email box to find 8,228 unread messages (don’t laugh!). I am writing this post on the 28th day of the month. In 2008, I turned 28 on the 28th. While traveling dark, unfamiliar Michigan highways, I looked to find my next exit was 28. How much further to go? 28 miles. What street to turn on? 28th St.

On and on it goes. It’s as if my attention is constantly and continually being wooed to the number 28. Some may call it coincidence, but I believe it is Jesus. He is wooing me, seeking me, and finding me in the everyday moments of my life. He is bringing comfort and clarity to the dark, challenging places and reminding me of my significance in the seemingly insignificant and mundane. He knows me intimately, loves me deeply, and is teaching me to practice His presence always.

In the Bible we read, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!” (Psalm 139: 17-18 NLT).

Dear Reader, I pray you know the deep love of Jesus and the unique way He’s pursuing you. Your experience may not be exactly like mine but I guarantee Jesus wants you to know how much He loves you. How might God be winking at you?

Amy MukesAmy Mukes is the wife of Eric Mukes and together they have four amazing children whom she teaches at home.  She is passionate about education and literacy and also desires to equip parents with practical tools to raise their children with the gracious love of Jesus. Amy is currently developing a City Group that will be filled with experiential, interactive learning where parenting skills and family life will increase and flourish under the Gospel of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. To find out more about City Groups, click here.

 

 

 

Open Doors

A WILD Devotional by Katherine Hageman

For the first time in fifteen years as a Christian, God miraculously opened the door for me to share some Bible studies with my Mom, twin sisters, and Grams.  My mom had been molested by an evangelist as a young girl, and was turned off to “church.” My sisters were living with their boyfriends, and although Grams took us to church every Christmas Eve, we never talked about the Lord.

When I first gave my heart to Jesus, I went from the “norm” of attending New Age meetings with Mom, to becoming a wild fanatic in their minds!  It took many slow and steady years of prayer and love for my family to trust that “what Katherine had” was a good thing.  They opened their hearts; and God, who plays the best chess game in the Universe, moved mountains so that we could study His Word, together!  

It was during Bible study that we first learned of our “family scripture.” Grams’ confirmation as a young girl in church was– “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord who has mercy on you.’ — Isaiah: 54:10 (NKJV).  My husband, Dean, gave the eulogy at my mom and dad’s funerals, and read that very scripture, declaring it over our family forever.

I was torn when the time came, many years ago, for us to leave this area and move to Vacaville.  I didn’t want to leave my extended family without us the only “church” they cared to have.  But Dean and I knew God’s plans were for us to raise our four sons there, and we thrived there for thirteen years.

A couple years before we moved back, I began to feel a deep drawing to my family.  The move happened suddenly..  The Lord opened all the doors in His perfect timing, again.  Our sons all grown, we now had six young nieces and nephews, and a granddaughter, to love on in Christ!  Our hopes were fulfilled when we arrived home to discover that my whole family, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, desired to come worship God with us in church!  Three years later, and they are all still growing in Christ!  Praise God!

Do you long for your family to experience Jesus in the same life-changing way that you have? Maybe you’re reading this and you know someone in your family is praying for Jesus to become real to you. When Jesus went to the cross, He was separated, “forsaken” for the first and only time by His Father so that we could be accepted into His family as children of God. That’s how we know that Jesus loves each one of us more than we ever can love each other!  Pray and watch the Lord move those mountains.

 

Kathy's picKathy Hageman, by God’s grace, is a mom of four amazing sons, two daughter in loves, and grandma to two precious granddaughters. She and Dean have been married for 33 wonderful years   She’s passionate about teaching and helping women to realize their full potential in Christ.  She has been involved in women’s ministries for many years and leads the “Breakfast & Bibles” City Group with Pastor Becky.

Hope

“Hope” settled on my heart as my “word of the year”… and I wasn’t excited.  Really, God? Hope? Why not CERTAINTY or STEADFASTNESS? Hope is… weak sauce…

It was early 2016 in Los Angeles and we were “getting on our feet” with shaky legs, having battled a bad financial situation.  George was finally at a stable job and we were grateful.  But this new job’s commute was killing our family time with Daddy. The boys started taking turns pretending to be him at the dinner table. Slowly, George became more discouraged. We were both in bed every night exhausted, dying to regain intimacy and, conversely, alone time.  And then Hope.  Hope said, “Relax.  There is no more you can do than what you are already doing.  Keep driving the kids, keep cleaning, keep meeting with your small groups—keep praying, keep dreaming, keep learning—and hope.  Hope that the future is bright– that the little things you’re doing today, will make a huge difference tomorrow.”  Hope is the confidence that better is coming.  

But the Lord says, “I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

So George and I prayed — desperately.   We prayed for the next step; we prayed for wisdom.  And bit by bit the inexplicable peace came.  Peace that trusted—God’s got this.

Eventually, George got a new job.  It paid more and it was two blocks away!  The time we saved  was tremendous!  He was home to eat dinner with us, he could work out, and afterschool activities were easier to plan.  I told him, “We can never go back to you having a long commute again.”  And then, as if to test me, George was offered a job with Ventura County.  The commute would be long if we stayed where we were and moving would save us that precious ‘Daddy time.’  For us, the answer was almost instantaneous.  We would move to Ventura. We said goodbye to our friends, our schools, our comfort zones. We knew from past experience we couldn’t trade time with Daddy.

Though both fear and excitement gripped me, Hope whispered, “God’s got this too.”  I do my part and the part I cannot do, He covers. Jesus went to the cross to take my fear and uncertainty. He became my everlasting Hope, giving me confidence for the future.

Prayer:

Father, help me lay my burdens before you.  Remind me how big you are and how you have already given us victory.  Help me to hope because I know “Hope” is not a wimpy word.   

image1

Christine Meier is mother to three amazing boys and wife to George. She is a Child Development Specialist and has her Master’s in Human Development with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education. She teaches the two year olds (who adore her) at the City Kids Preschool in Ventura. Christine is passionate about marriage and family ministries, particularly around the issues that pertain to women and children. She and George co-lead a fantastic City Group for families on the first and third Fridays of the month. For more information, or to join her group, click here. 

.

Intimate Friendship

“15 I have never called you ‘servants’, because a master doesn’t confide in his servants, and servants don’t always understand what the master is doing. But I call you my most intimate friends, for I reveal to you everything that I’ve heard from my Father. ~ John 15:15 (TPT)

Years ago, I started to see bracelets and heard people giving advice by asking, “What would Jesus do?” I started to think that if I served more and ‘did good things,’ I would get God’s approval. While it sounded like a good idea, it was something that I could never do. I spent many years being a diligent servant, yet love for myself and others was still missing.

One evening when I was having an internal meltdown, I came across a video on grace. My spirit awoke and in that moment, I understood how I could receive and then give others the only thing that matters to the Father – love.  

I began spending personal time with God daily as a “want to,” not a “have to.” Friendship and intimacy with God as a Father gives you access to all that is happening in His kingdom right now. The byproduct is bringing the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. In heaven there is peace, health, prosperity, joy, and more. An encounter with the tangible love of God has the power to transform your life with lasting fulfillment NOW!

Prayer: Father, I thank you for sending your Son to reveal the truth of your love for me, and that you never leave me. You love me unconditionally, and meet all of my needs, as a perfect Father. I ask you to make yourself real to me, to know me as a friend, and show me more of what’s in your Kingdom. I expectantly wait to encounter your love again and again, discovering more of who you created me to be in the fullest sense. Amen

“16 We have come onto an intimate experience with God’s love, and we trust in the love he has for us. God is love! Those who are living in love are living in God, and God lives through them. 17 By living in God, love has been brought to its full expression in us …, because all that Jesus now is, so are we in this world. ~ 1 John 4:16-17 (TPT)

brandi shot.JPGBrandi Matherne is a devoted wife and mother who works alongside her husband in business and in ministry. She has a passion to share with others how the grace of God has changed her life, and how it continues to elevate her marriage, family, and business to new levels. Her testimonies of the various ways God shows His love today are helping others walk in renewed hope, joy, peace, and faith. She is compelled with compassion for other’s to be FREE indeed. Brandi and her husband are leaders in the City Church Marketplace Ministry, and lead a City Group: “Firehouse: Prayer and Power.” To join a City Group, sign up here. 

 

The Miracle of the Sink

WILD Devo By Sharon Rhodes

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

Reluctantly submitting to my husband, I found a cheaper sink; so cheap in fact that when we opened the box on installation day, we found that it was completely shattered. My contractor looked at me and said, “You need to get a sink… today.”

As I turned to walk out the door to go settle for another sink I didn’t want, I heard the Lord whisper, “Look at Craigslist.”  I turned around and obeyed.  To my astonishment, I found the exact, English sink that I had wanted and it was being sold for even less than the cheap sink. My sink fantasy was not sunk! God directed my path when I acknowledged Him!

He is a good heavenly Father who has the incredible capacity to know about and care about every detail in our lives. When we yield to His voice, His word, He will always fulfill His purpose in our lives.

Prayer: Dear Lord, please help me to acknowledge You and trust You with every detail of my life. Your ways are far greater than mine and I desire to follow your lead.

FullSizeRender

Sharon Rhodes is a mom of three incredible boys and the wife of Allen. She’s passionate about prayer and evangelism and helped to pioneer the Agoura Campus of The City Church. She leads the Agoura Campus prayer team and also leads a City Group. If you’re passionate about prayer and would like to join Sharon, sign up for her City Group at http://www.thecityagoura.org today!

You Were on Purpose, I Make no Mistakes

Inspired by Psalm 139:1-18

You were on purpose. I make no mistakes

A masterpiece, I took my time to create

Your name I knew before time began

Everything about you, intentional, and perfectly planned

I have seen you, walked with you, every step you haven taken

When you thought you were alone, greatly, you were mistaken

You are the apple of my eye, my most prized possession

My child. My daughter. My greatest obsession.

You were on purpose. I make no mistakes

I’m always with you, whether asleep or awake.

I formed you. I made you. In my image you stand

How precious are my thoughts for you, so sweet and so grand.

My workmanship is marvelous, how well I know it.

You are my prize, my treasure, my absolute favorite.

So wonderfully complex, yes believe, it is true

Deliberately unique, there is no one like you.

You were on purpose. I make no mistakes

You, my sweetheart, I will never forsake

I made you to laugh, to be YOU, can’t you see?

It was all my idea, so run and be free

In the storms of your life, you have always prevailed

For I was with you. I was there. I was your anchor and sail.

I heard when you called, so sad and dismayed

Remember I answered, “Daddy’s here. Don’t be afraid”.

You were on purpose. I make no mistakes.

I will never leave you. A promise I won’t break.

I was not counting the times you fell in shame

Have you forgotten? It was I who took your blame

I saw you being formed in your mothers womb

You were worth it all. For you I went to that tomb

Isn’t it obvious? Can’t you see this is true?

That you were on purpose. Not a mistake. So beautifully you.

Bethany Taylor

Bethany Taylor is mother to two amazing boys and wife to Simon. She is an actress and comedian. She and Simon are active leaders at The City Church Ventura campus. For more of her stories and plenty of laughs, you can check out her youtube channel, Honestly Bethany.

Top Photo by Meiying Ng on Unsplash