As my husband has made the transition from life as a teacher to life as a minister these past several years, I have been going through a transition as well. I can look back over the years and identify seasons of my life where I have known very clearly what God was asking of me (the year he asked me to learn submission was a doozy). In this current season, the lesson is about NOT HOLDING BACK. One by one, God has been peeling back layers of my own selfishness and showing me how I have been choosing to withhold good things from those around me. It isn't pretty. Some of the things are small, but could have great impact - a smile, a hug, a word of encouragement; other things are more involved - my time, my energy, my vulnerability, my love.
As we made the drive recently from PA to OH, Timmy and Jason were in the moving truck and I was in our car by myself with time to think. I realized that God was indeed asking me to consider what life, what ministry, would be like if I stopped holding back and gave all, trusting Him to replenish me and use my efforts as He sees fit - refusing to make judgement calls about whether something or someone was "worth" my offering or whether or not "my offering" was worthy of the someone or something. Immediately, the lyrics to this song (by Ray Boltz) came into my head for the first time in many years:
He heard the preacher say
A single dime can feed
A hungry boy or girl
With nothing to eat
So he pulled a dollar
From the pocket of his jeans
And he asked his mama
How many will this feed?
She just smiled
And when she told him ten
He reached back again
What if I give all I have?
What will that gift do?
My child, a gift like that
Could change the world
It could feed a multitude
He didn't close his eyes
Or turn away
I can see him standing tall
He saw the need
And I can hear him say
What if I give all
The song goes on to recount the stories of both the young boy in the Bible who gave his lunch (fish and bread) to Jesus who used it to feed THOUSANDS, and to Jesus himself who gave everything He had to save the world from sin.
What if I gave all? What if I stopped acting like I belong to myself and started acting like my God was big enough to meet my physical, spiritual and emotional needs in such an overwhelming way that I was freed up to give liberally of myself, KNOWING I wouldn't be left depleted for long? What would that gift do? It is time to find out. This move to Ohio may not have turned out the way I expected it to, but it doesn't give me an excuse to withdraw and hold tightly to what is "mine." If anything it compels me to submit to the only One who is never taken by surprise, the only One who holds the future. The God of the Universe whose resources are without end and whose love is unfailing.
2 Corinthians 9:10-11 NASB - "Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God."
Romans 12:1 NASB - "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship."
"Some of us have turned over more new leaves than Central Park! David called on God instead, to create something entirely new within him." - Fresh Faith, by Jim Cymbala
The beginning of a new school year feels a lot like January 1st to me. The calendar year may not roll over and the ball in Times Square may not drop, but there is definitely a sense of freshness and new possibilities. I remember, as a college student, setting goals for the school year that mainly involved dropping the bad habits I'd picked up in the previous semester... I committed to more studying, more time in the Bible, more phone calls home, less skipping classes, less Ben & Jerry's, and less procrastination. Somehow, just like New Year's resolutions, those commitments didn't last long.
I love this quote from Jim Cymbala in his book, Fresh Faith. It is a great reminder that God is willing and able to recreate us, not just repackage us. So, my prayer for all of us, especially those returning to school in the days ahead is the same as David's "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10 NIV.
Here's to a great school year marked by the kind of changes that only God can create!
Our church has a group that meets regularly called Women's Missionary Fellowship. This week, I was privileged to attend and hear from Rachel Chambers who is preparing to return with her husband to Zambia and the work and people she loves and is called to.
Rachel shared from her heart, comparing our training in righteousness as Christians to an Olympic athlete's training to win the gold medal. Here are the four qualities she described as being needed by both in order to train well:
1. Discipline (2 Timothy 2:3-5, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
2. Courage (Matthew 25:14-28)
3. An Unwillingness to Quit (Hebrews 12:1-3)
4. Clarity (Philippians 3:13-14)
Our prize is not a gold medal, nor is our training about beating the competition like the Olympian's is, (Rachel was quick to point this out) but the qualities needed are very similar:
Discipline to reject that which weighs us down, misdirects us, derails us, and in any way keeps us from doing what it takes to continue becoming all that God has intended us to be.
Courage to take risks as needed, in faith.
Unwillingness to quit when things are hard, uncomfortable, painful, or difficult to understand, maintaining long-haul commitment through it all, problem-solving and trusting instead of throwing in the towel.
Clarity of purpose. A clear view of the reason we are training in the first place. The glory that is to come - HIS.
True victory, as a Christian, is about standing before Christ one day, hearing "Well done," and receiving a reward (Crowns/Jewels) that we can turn around and lay at his feet, getting the greatest joy from finally having something of worth to give back to Him to honor Him for all that He is, and all that He has done.
Thank you, Rachel!
*If you want to read more about Rachel's story and be inspired by all God has taught this dear sister, you can get her book, The Summons To Become through Amazon at this link.
I just finished the first week of a training program that is supposed to get me off the couch and running a 5K (3.1 miles) in nine short weeks. The first week involves a 25 minute workout that alternates 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking, three times per week. As the program progresses, walking time will decrease and jogging time will increase. Yikes!
In the spirit of not taking myself or this very minor accomplishment too seriously, here are the top five things I learned prior to 7am today during my 25 minutes of jog/walking:
1. Ants, apparently, get up earlier than I do and are tougher than I am. As I was stretching at the track before my workout, I noticed little bits of "stuff" moving slowly on the ground beneath my feet. I realized they were hundreds of tiny ants carrying food-stuffs many times their body weight to an unknown location. They reminded me that I have a hard enough time carrying my own body weight. Show offs.
2. An idea of blogging about a Taylor Swift song and relating it to a deep spiritual truth, is probably the runner's high talking. Mid-way through my jog/walk, I actually had this "brilliant" idea to somehow relate Taylor's single "Our Song" to my relationship with God. Those endorphins can create CRAZY TALK in your brain, I tell ya. Beware!
3. The only place it is acceptable for me to wear spandex shorts is at the track at 6:00am when no one else is around. I think I burned more calories constantly adjusting those crazy shorts to keep them from sliding down or riding up than I did while actually jogging/walking. Thank God for long, baggy t-shirts.
4. Getting spiritual while exercising is for the advanced, not the amateur. Toward the end of my workout, as I finally realized this was going to end (eventually) and wasn't, in fact, going to kill me, I had the bright idea to pray for my friends and family during each of the 90 seconds of walking (praying for myself was all I could manage during the 60 seconds of jogging... more specifically, praying that I'd suck it up and not be a wuss and quit). Sounds reasonable enough, right, except that when I would pray while I walked I would lose track of time and the 90 seconds of blessed walking would go by too fast or I'd feel gipped somehow or I'd go longer than 90 seconds and mess up the rules of the workout plan (I'm nothing if not a rule follower). Bah! #AmateurProblems
5. Having something poking you in your shoe while jogging can make you look insane. If you were hiding behind a tree or sitting in a car somewhere, or were flying overhead in an airplane, or had concealed yourself in some other way this morning, and you had the misfortune of watching my workout while I thought I was all alone - I apologize and I feel I must explain. I HAD SOMETHING IN MY SHOE! All those crazy moves, random kicks and shakes, and the stomping, and toe tapping all while trying to continue moving in a forward direction without falling down, must have made me look a bit off my rocker. Perhaps I am...
Starting on Friday, I will be jogging for 90 seconds and walking for 2 minutes for a total of 25 minutes a day, three times per week. Heaven help me! I'll keep ya posted on the hilarity that ensues and the poignant lessons learned. I know you're on the edge of your seat.
PS - I love the little girl in the picture above. I don't know her, but I love her. I found her on Pinterest. I am not making fun of her, I am making fun of myself... she is, quite obviously, trying to dodge the bubbles that are about to land on her head and that is serious business indeed.
This week I watched a sermon online entitled, The Hard Work of Rest, about the importance of God-given (and commanded) rest. (Thank you, Pastor Craig!)
The sermon covered many portions of scripture on the topic in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. What stood out to me most came from Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (You'll recognize this as coming from the 10 Commandments):
"Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your man servant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day." NIV
According to this scripture, we see that the original Sabbath day of rest was instituted to remind the Israelites that they had once had earthly masters who required them to work seven days a week as slaves, but that God, their true Master, had rescued them and that the "work" of resting every seventh day was to be a symbol of how they are set apart and have no other Master but God Himself. Nothing else and no one else was to rule their days but Him. No task was more important, no one's wishes more critical to attend to than the Lord of the Sabbath's.
How are we doing with this concept today? Do the activities of our lives show that we have one and only one Master? Or are our schedules driven relentlessly by the demands of the moment? Do our calendars rule over us, or do we order our days as those who have been bought with a price?
I am challenged to rest with purpose... not just to fall into a heap of exhaustion every Sunday after church or to rest needlessly and lazily when my hands have barely labored. Whether I eat or drink, or rest or work, may it all be done to His glory - that the world may see that He is the one sustaining me and that His provision is perfect.
How do you go about resting, as a way of remembering and honoring the God who is in control?
This morning I woke up with the topic of true love on my mind. Seriously... I woke up thinking about it.
The world has wonky ways of thinking about true love, and most of them center on how love makes us feel. Terms like "soul mate" are tossed around by people who spend little-to-no time nurturing their own souls, and yet somehow expect to know when they've found someone whose soul meshes with theirs (neglected and unknown as it may be). Many times it seems that what people are searching and longing for is not so much love as it is the byproduct of love. We want the benefits, the perks: We don't want to be alone. We want someone to witness our lives and accomplishments. We want to know the experience of a family of our own. We want to be known and accepted. We want physical intimacy. We want to explore a side of life that we can only explore with someone who loves us.
It seems to me, as I process all of this, that none of that is love at all. None of it. The things we seek and long for are not the core of what love is. Sadly, we can fabricate the byproduct of love without much effort, we can even build a relationship around the byproduct of love without real love having any part of it (for awhile anyway).
Love = Whole-Hearted Commitment
The Bible tells us that God LOVES the world; He loves His children. Christianity involves accepting that love and seeking to build a relationship where we learn to love God by reflecting the ways that He has first loved us. When God first loved us, we didn't even know Him, let alone love Him back. He loved us sacrificially (to say the least).
Sadly, I have found myself settling for the benefits and perks of a love relationship with God without actually pursuing love itself. I get heady over the byproducts of being His child, and skim over the depths of the committed relationship itself. This is an easy thing to do. This is why whenever someone is struggling or dissatisfied in their "relationship with God" one of the first questions we should ask is, "How much time are you spending in prayer?" With the close second being, "When was the last time you read your Bible with intentionality?" Followed by the third, "Are you consistently involved in a local church?" Then rounding things out with the fourth, "Are you reaching out to others to meet their needs and invite them into a relationship with your Father?" Those four acts - prayer, reading scripture, engaging with other believers, and reaching out to others - show commitment. They are the building blocks of a love relationship with God. What makes those four acts meaningful is the attitude of our hearts when we engage in them.
True love is knowing what translates as commitment to the person you are trying to love and doing those things, over and over again, over a long period of time (with the right attitude to boot). Over the years and through the ups and downs, this leads to a sweet spot that is far better than anything you could conjure up on your own. This is true with a spouse and it is true with our relationship with the God of the Universe.
Check these out for more to chew on:
I John 4:16 - 5:2
I Corinthians 13:4-7
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!