Are You Available to Help?

2015 PurePurpose.org

2015 PurePurpose.org

Yesterday, I shared my experience of grocery shopping in an unfamiliar store. Besides prompting an online search to find out more about jack fruit, the store spurred something else–a reminder to be available.

I don’t think I ever walked more than two aisles without finding a store employee, always willing to help. The majority spoke to me, asking me if I needed any help finding something or simply greeting me and asking how my day was going. I didn’t feel as if the employees were reciting a rehearsed script, although I’m certain they had been given a bank of possible interactions in their Customer Relations 101 course. Since I was just exploring up and down the aisles, I repeatedly told employees I was just meandering and didn’t need help right then. However, when I came to the end of the aisles and still had a couple necessities unfound and unchecked on my list, I approached someone. I felt completely comfortable walking up to the nearest employee, even though he hadn’t personally spoken with me yet, because of the ease with which the others had interacted with me. They weren’t bothersome. They weren’t sugary-sweet. They simply spoke to me, made eye contact, and let me get on my way if that’s what I chose to do.

How available are you to help others, and how do you respond when they prefer to get on their way? As Christians, do we work together even though we’re living separate lives, planting and nurturing seeds that we might never see mature? Are we responsive to noticing and helping people we have never met or poured into? How well do we do our part without trying to control the situation? How well do we stand our ground because it’s where God has placed us, not because it’s where we are most comfortable or because it’s our right to stand where we want to stand and say what we want to say? Are we authentic, or do we sound like a recording from our Christianity 101 training, complete with lingo from past decades?

We have a part to play, but we’re not the only ones working for and serving God. Be available. Be willing.

But don’t be annoying, robotic, or controlling.

Enjoying the Unfamiliar

Sometimes I enjoy exploring the unfamiliar store. Typically, I’m a mission shopper, especially when it comes to groceries. I have a list, organized by categories of food and other items in the order they’re placed in the store. I cruise up and down the aisles like a boss, grabbing what is on my list and avoiding everything else. I’ve avoided a lot of unnecessary purchases and wasted time because of my process.

But I also miss out on discoveries. I miss out on what others experience when they walk into an unfamiliar place. Instead of helping others, I have to ask for help more often. I notice more details, more choices, more people.

I was recently in a different town and decided to pick up my groceries (to save the time of an additional, out of the way stop at my regular store on the way home). I wasn’t concerned about time. I simply chose to enjoy the experience, try to get as much as I could on my list but also look around and see what other goodies I could discover.

I learned I could buy a jack fruit for $40. I have no idea what I would do with it, but I’m sure it would feed a small army.

2015 PurePurpose.org

2015 PurePurpose.org

I found a GuS (Grown-Up Soda)–in my favorite flavor, pomegranate–and sipped it all the way home.

I appreciated some of the prices I normally pay (especially for pecans and walnuts) but was thankful for a wider selection of natural options.

I walked up and down every single aisle.

I’m not going to leave my routine shopping behind, but I need to leave my comfort zone more often.

We all have routines that help us manage the to-do lists of our lives. But sometimes we need to let go of the to-do list long enough to appreciate the experience. It might be inconvenient and uncomfortable, but if we only stay in our comfort zones, we’ll miss out on a lot.

Go to a different grocery store, coffee shop, church, or restaurant. Take a different route on your walk or run. Meet someone new. Engage in conversation that might make you squirm a bit but teaches you something in the process.

And if you find a need for a giant jack fruit, I know where to find one.

 

When the Freezer Thaws

©2015 PurePurpose.org

©2015 PurePurpose.org

The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. (Psalm 145:13)

I expect the freezer to keep my food frozen. I expect the clothes I put into the washing machine to come out clean. I expect my laptop to load my inbox messages. Despite the trust I’ve put in these things, I’ve been surprised when I find soggy, spoiled food in my freezer, soapy, drenched clothes in the washing machine, and an error message in my email inbox.

It’s not just machines and electronics that let me down; I’ve also been disappointed by people I’ve trusted. I’ve been untrustworthy at times, too. But God is completely trustworthy every single moment and every single situation.

When we’re in situations where we feel challenged, threatened, or unsafe, we might question God’s presence and His trustworthiness to care and provide for us. But God’s goal is not for you to remain safe from all danger and mishap. If you’re looking for a cave of faith in which to hide for the remainder of your life in preparation for joyful eternity in heaven, you’re not going to find it.

Some of us seek safety, and others seek adventure. If you enjoy the comfort of safety, God will challenge you with adventure. If you prefer adventure, He will challenge you with stability. God gives us safety when we need it, but He doesn’t give us a place to hide when we need to face a conflict, person, or fear. He knows when we’re depleted or in danger versus when we’re running to hide from something or someone we need to face.

We can trust God to give us security in any situation, whether we need to retreat to His safe haven or advance with the security of His boldness and provision. Ask God to help you fully trust His timing, provision, and guidance today.

Digging Deeper. Climbing Higher.

©2015 PurePurpose.org

©2015 PurePurpose.org

The first time I visited Israel, it was as if I sliced through a tell and looked at the grandness of the cross-section. As tell (or tel) is a layer of civilization. It’s a mound-like structure created by a long series of human occupation and abandonment. As I experienced the cross-section, I savored as many details as I could, but I mainly tried to see the bigger picture so that I didn’t get confused by disconnected pieces.

I connected more pieces when I returned. I recognized roads and oriented one location to another. I steeped in familiar places and discovered new ones. With nearly every step, something “clicked” as if I could identify something familiar with something new. Not all the connections were between the two trips. Many were between places, stories, people and the Bible. Some involved research and reading I had done in preparation for the trip.

If my first trip was like slicing through a tell, my second trip was sitting at various layers and studying details.

Of course, the more I experience, the more I know there is to experience. The more I know, the more I want to know.

Learning is a lifelong adventure. No matter how much you know, there is more to learn.

Faith is no different.

No matter how strong your faith, it is only a fraction of the faith you can have. We can focus on the faith we have and be content. We can also focus on the faith we don’t have and give up on growing. Neither is productive. Instead, we can claim the faith we have, stand firmly on it, but continue to examine, tear down, build up, and take one more step at a time.

Faith is a journey. It is an adventure.

Adventures in Faith: Soaring!

adventures in faithToday is the final post in the Adventures in Faith series. Thanks for joining the journey. Let’s continue together with new adventures, beginning tomorrow!

Children, come and listen to me. I will teach you to worship the Lord. You must do these things to enjoy life and have many happy days. (Psalm 34:11-12)

Ponder It.

What’s one adventure that thrilled you?

What’s an adventure that challenged you?

Consider how you grew through each.

Receive It.

When Mom looked out the kitchen window, she saw us in the second-story barn window. My older sisters held me by my legs and arms, and they swung me back and forth several times before tossing me out the window.

What she couldn’t see was my landing. The garage obscured her view. She charged out the door in a panic, rounded the corner of the garage and…saw the hay truck stacked with straw and me rolling in laughter and delight. What a great day! Mom, on the other hand, didn’t share my joy. She was relieved I was okay, but her initial fright gave her enough momentum to yell at all of us and demand we stop the fun.

Bummer! I was having a blast. It might not have been the safest way to pass the time, but many of the “fun” things we did on the farm weren’t necessarily safe. Some of the most memorable experiences are the adventurous ones. We’re creative through adventures. We learn through adventures. And we often struggle through adventures. Struggling often produces growth.

Adventures often involve risks and usually involve excitement. Approach today with an anticipation of adventure. Learn. Struggle. Be creative. Make some memories.

Live It.

This is it: the launching pad of the next season of your adventures. Your adventures didn’t just begin, and they’re not going to end anytime soon, especially as you commit and yield to God’s will. He has a journey of adventures for you. Embrace every single one. Soar!

For more stories about life growing up on the family farm, check out Farm Days.

Adventures in Faith: Opportunities for Adventure

adventures in faithShout to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with joy; come before Him with singing. Know that the Lord is God. He made us, and we belong to Him; we are His people, the sheep He tends. Come into His city with songs of thanksgiving and into His courtyards with songs of praise. Thank Him and praise His name. The Lord is good. His love is forever, and His loyalty goes on and on. (Psalm 100)

Ponder It.

What’s one opportunity you missed and have regretted?

What’s an opportunity you are very grateful you didn’t miss?

What’s an opportunity you would love to experience?

Receive It.

We have a lot of opportunities throughout life and throughout every day. We have the choice not only to take or refuse the opportunity but also to take or give credit for the opportunity. We sometimes feel we’ve “made our way.” We take credit when, in reality, we haven’t gotten where we are on our own. In fact, we don’t achieve in isolation. Even when we think our efforts paved the way to where we are, opened the doors, and made the right choices, we’re surrounded by others. Our lives aren’t lived in isolation. Our paths are paved with relationships. Sometimes, we feel we’ve messed up everything. Taking responsibility is one thing, but thinking we’re powerful enough to mess up everything is the same as thinking we’re powerful enough to achieve anything we want. Whether we think too highly or not highly enough of ourselves, we have pride issues, and just about the time we excuse our pride as necessary confidence, we’ll trip over the stumbling blocks pride puts in the way.

We are never so low that we cannot go higher, and we can never get to a height from which it’s impossible to fall. We have responsibility, but God gets the credit. Obedience is the responsibility; guidance and provision only comes from God. He defines who we are and determines when we’re letting pride slip into our lives. Whether we’re giving ourselves too much credit or not enough credit, our credit is misguided. It’s not about our credit; it’s about God’s glory. So, when you’re faced with an opportunity, give it to God. Let it filter through His fingers and will. Let Him decide how you’re supposed to best respond. When you’re faced with an opportunity, get prayed up and prayed for. Each is indispensable, and neither should be done just when you feel it’s an emergency. God’s presence and will isn’t just the only way when we can’t see another way. It’s the only way when we can see thousands of ways ahead of us. Many ways may look beautiful to us, but only God’s way is undoubtedly, incomparably, the most beautiful ever.

Live It.

Place one of your hands under a faucet and let water run over your palm. Try to hold as water as you can. Turn off the water. As you watch the remainder of the water run down the drain, commit to not wasting a single opportunity God gives you today. Opportunities slip too easily through our hands.

Adventures in Faith: Bench, Floor, or Field?

adventures in faithThere are different kinds of gifts, but they are all from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve but the same Lord to serve. And there are different ways that God works through people but the same God. God works in all of us in everything we do. Something from the Spirit can be seen in each person, for the common good…Together you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of that body. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7,27)

Ponder It.

When have you felt like you had to sit on the sidelines, and what was your response?

When have you been in the middle of an exciting game, part of a healthy team?

Where would you rather be, on the bench or the floor? Why?

Receive It.

There’s a difference between the players on the bench and those on the floor…but they’re all part of the team, and each and every person plays an important part. At least, God intends for them to play an important part. They can choose not to fulfill that important part by pouting or getting defensive. They can feel they were wronged or that they’re under-appreciated. Just as we can in the body of Christ. God gives spiritual gifts to each person who believes in Him. He didn’t leave anyone out, including you. The problem is usually in discerning what our gifts are and how to use them. We get confused about our gifts and respond to how we think we’re supposed to use them or how we’re insufficiently using them when we’re actually misunderstanding or under-appreciating what we have and what we’re doing.

For example, we sometimes assume our spiritual gifts are something we’re passionate about doing. I’m confident God fans the flame of passion in us, but what if we’re not ultra-excited about something: does that mean we’re not gifted for it? What if that just means we’re being stubborn and not accepting God’s will? If I’m gifted to teach, will I be excited about teaching every moment of my life? I may be gifted in advising others, but will I whole-heartedly want to always listen to people whine and complain? Probably not! We’re human, and we need to not base our gifts and the use of our gifts on our emotions and experiences. Whether we’re on the bench or the floor, we need to give teamwork our all. All of our gifts work together, and each of us is essential to the fully-functioning body of Christ. You’re human. You’re going to doubt yourself. But don’t doubt God. When you question your giftedness, you question God’s ability and wisdom. He knows what He’s doing. No exceptions. God expects you to use your gifts for His glory. Your gifts are yours to use, but you’re not the source. God is. He gave you the gifts. He knows exactly where you fit. Let God settle you into your gifts as He settles His gifts into you.

Live It.

Work together today. Invite someone into your life, and serve. Accept someone else’s invitation for you to serve. Don’t insist on doing it your way. Do it God’s way.