Struggling to Rest

charm5While I try not to overpack my schedule, I’d classify my approach to time-management as “focused” and “efficient.” I’m usually fairly accurate about how long something will take. I can look ahead and see small steps I can take in order to prepare for the completion of something, which is also another way of saying I rarely have nothing to do.

But I think I rest well, too. I am intentional about the rest that God says I need, and I’ve come to believe Him. I’m not just talking about a nap (which I don’t do well) or a day off but consistent rest even in the chaos. Rest isn’t just the lack of something. It’s a step into His presence. It’s a pursuit, not a retreat.

A little while back, I looked ahead and determined two weeks that would be “rest” weeks for me. I would still have things to do, but I wasn’t planning any major writing or house projects. I wasn’t going to schedule any lunch dates that weren’t already in my book. I was going to take it easy, get refreshed, and listen for God’s direction.

But first I had to quiet myself, and it was more challenging than I thought. I had given myself such kudos for resting on an ongoing basis, that I hadn’t thought this was going to be a problem. I’d even taken a vacation in the last several months, and I had no trouble relaxing during it. But this was a different kind of relaxing. It was something I couldn’t fit into my schedule. It was the conviction that rest doesn’t always come easily. Sometimes, it’s because we ignore it for too long. But sometimes the struggle to rest is simply to point out that we don’t control rest.

Rest is something God gives us. He longs for us to experience it. Yet we have to struggle to experience it at times. We have to set aside the obvious “to-do” lists, and we have to set aside so much more–our thoughts, comforts, assumptions. When we’re seeking His provision of rest, it has to be all about Him. We step toward Him, into His presence, and willingly leave ourselves behind.

It’s not easy. It’s a process. Don’t try to simply put it on your calendar and expect it to happen on your timetable. Find rest in Him one step at a time in every situation throughout each day.

Begin today. Right now.

Giveaway: You Don’t Have to Be a Superhero to Change the World

UTF-8'en-us'9781470723637Welcome to Day Two of three consecutive days of giveaways. In the past week, I’ve celebrated the release of three books to which I’ve had the honor of contributing. Today’s giveaway is a copy of You Don’t Have to Be a Superhero to Change the World: 52 Devotions for People Who Are Making a Difference. I hope today’s excerpt encourages and challenges you. If you’d like to read more (or give this book as a gift), simply leave a comment on the blog or Facebook. I’ll contact the winners at the end of the week. Remember to check back tomorrow for one more giveaway!

Hot Service

“And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”—Acts 20:35

We put on our “Church Ladies” shirts, loaded the van with bottled water, and headed out to serve. It was a scorching summer day, exactly the kind of day we wanted. We knew there were plenty of people who didn’t have the option to get out of the heat, and if we could help by giving them a refreshing drink and a smile, we were going to do it.

We started in our small town and immediately found two men replacing some tile on a walkway. They wondered why we were out on such a hot day just to hand out water, but once we explained, they welcomed the short break…and even invited us to finish their job and let them deliver water instead!

After sharing water with others working outdoor jobs throughout our town, we decided to take the rest of the water to a nearby city, knowing we’d find more people to serve. We started in a low-income housing project where most everyone was sitting outside trying to escape the rising indoor heat without air conditioning. We made sure to ask parents before sharing with children and gave extra bottles to those willing to deliver to family members who were inside. While some might have warned we weren’t in a safe neighborhood, we were confident we were safe. We had peace as we gave and blessings as we received, hearing “God bless you!” many times. One man blessed us by flagging us down to tell us we were on a one-way street. Oops.

We continued through other areas of the city, watching for anyone sitting or working outside. We had a fun conversation with two boys on bikes who were intrigued by our efforts to help others. It was simple: We just wanted others to know God provides and refreshes. We shared refreshing sips of water with people, but we were soaked in God’s refreshment as we served.

A Prayer for Today: Dear God, thank you for refreshing me. You give me what I need, because you know what I need. I’m sorry I try to define my own needs and get impatient with my circumstances. I get frustrated instead of relying on you. Help me to take my eyes off myself and notice those around me. Give me the courage to serve them in whatever way you lead. Amen.

Excerpted from You Don’t Have to Be a Superhero to Change the World. Copyright © 2015 Group Publishing, Inc.


Real Devotion

WhatIsRealDevoDepend on the Lord in whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3)

Ponder It.
When you authentically look at your spiritual journey, where are you right now?
How will you authentically stay connected with God and others?

Receive It and Live It. In order to continue to grow in authentic devotion with God, you need to be intentional. Without intention, time will pass, and you’ll someday wonder where all the time went. Opportunities to grow pass as time passes. Make a plan today. Be flexible as God leads, but step out with discipline.

Schedule regular checkups. Just as you have an annual appointment with the doctor or semi-annual appointment with your dentist, you need to schedule spiritual checkups. Get out your appointment book or calendar and mark it in pen. Take it seriously. I recommend setting monthly checkups for the first three months. Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis to get a checkup. This is preventative spiritual healthcare, and the only cost to you is time. Since it’s God’s time anyway, I think He’d agree it’s well worth the sacrifice.

Take notes along the way. As the Holy Spirit leads, watch for opportunities to accept the challenge and grow. Jot notes in your appointment book for later references, or carry a small notebook with you. Occasionally read through your notes as a reminder of God’s presence and provision in your life. Watch for words and concepts the Holy Spirit is highlighting for you as you study God’s Word, listen to messages, attend worship services, and so on. Write them in your appointment book or notebook. Write the full verse that speaks to you, not just the reference. It’s too easy to get lazy and glance at a verse reference but not take the time to look it up later to discover why it was significant to you. Claim God’s Word by writing it with your pen and on your heart.

May God continue to bless and challenge you to live life boldly for Him!

Real Perspective

WhatIsRealDevoTrust the Lord and do good. Live in the land and feed on truth. Enjoy serving the Lord, and He will give you what you want. Depend on the Lord; trust Him, and He will take care of you. Then your goodness will shine like the sun, and your fairness like the noonday sun. (Psalm 37:3-6)

Ponder It.
With what do you struggle to fully accept about God’s perspective, promise, or truth?
What is the next step you want to take in yielding your perspective to God’s?

Receive It. A protagonist is the leading character of a story. I’m the protagonist of my life. Or am I? It’s a logical assumption for me. It’s my life. I see how I affect others and how they affect me. From my perspective, it seems I’m the main character. I’m not self-centered or inflated because of it. I don’t believe the world revolves around me. I’m just saying it seems as if I’m the protagonist in my story. But when I was studying the book of Jonah, my assumption was challenged.

The entire book of the Bible is named after Jonah, and it’s about His journey, but it’s not all about Him. In Jonah’s disobedience, God strategically used His life to draw others close. Jonah’s disobedience had a significant impact on the captain and sailors of the ship on which Jonah was trying to escape God’s plan. Jonah’s story isn’t about Jonah. It’s about God. My story isn’t about me. It’s about God. God is the protagonist of your story. You might think your story is insignificant, confusing, painful, beautiful, inspiring, tragic, or dysfunctional. What about when you realize your story is God’s story? Does it change the way you see it? God is invested in your life. He created you with purpose. That doesn’t mean your life will go smoothly. It doesn’t mean it will be easy. God gives us choices. He weaves our responses throughout the storyline, entwining our lives with others throughout every phase of our lives. We think we’re the source of the ripples radiating from our lives when it’s actually God. The only authentic perspective is God’s perspective. Let His perspective invade yours today.

Live It. Peppermint is an invasive smell. It’s easily absorbed by substances around it. Keep peppermint with you all day: mints, gum, a candle. As peppermint surrounds you, be reminded to let God’s perspective invade and overwhelm yours.

Real Emotions

WhatIsRealDevoThis is the way we know that we belong to the way of truth. When our hearts make us feel guilty, we can still have peace before God. God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. (1 John 3:20)

Ponder It.
How have your emotions guided your behavior in positive ways?
How have your emotions guided your behavior in negative ways?
What confuses you about emotions?

Receive It. We’re emotional beings. God is an emotional God, and we’re created in His image. However, just like anything else in life, we need to cope with our emotions with self-control. We need to let God reveal the truth about our emotions, not let our experiences and preferences determine our response to emotions. Before we decide to let an emotional control or direct our behavior, we need to know whether or not it is leading us in the right direction. Even though God created us in His image, and He guides us through life as our emotions enhance our experiences, we can’t always trust our emotional experiences, because our perspectives can distort emotions, twisting them in ways that no longer are rooted in the truthfulness of God

We also can’t rely on our own definitions of good and bad emotions. We might experience something as bad that God intends us to rely on Him through and grow. We might experience an emotion as good but in reality, it just makes us comfortable, which may not be where God wants us to be. Plus, a single emotion could draw us toward God in one situation, as we rely on Him to guide us through an experience, but separate us from God in another situation because we let the emotion control us. That’s why it’s critical to rely on God for the truthfulness of every situation. As you know God’s character, including His emotions, you’ll rely on Him to define your emotions as He intends.

Live It. Keep a list of emotions you experience through the day. Make a note of the situation. You don’t need to go into depth; just jot enough to remind you of the context. Place the list in a place you’ll see it in one week. Review it and determine how accurate your emotions were. Keep emotions in the context of truth. Determine the truthfulness of emotions and specific situations drawing you closer to God. Allow your emotions to enhance your spiritual experiences in all areas of your life.

Real Moments

WhatIsRealDevoAt that time Jesus came from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan River. Immediately, as Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw heaven open. The Holy Spirit came down on Him like a dove, and a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love, and I am very pleased with you.” Then the Spirit sent Jesus into the desert. He was in the desert forty days and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels came and took care of Him. (Mark 1:9-13)

Ponder It.
When has your schedule been interrupted in a beneficial way?
When has your schedule been interrupted in an annoying way?
Do you usually tend to enjoy the moment in which you are, look forward to future moments, or reflect on past moments?

Receive It. In order to fully grow in the scope of God’s purpose, we must embrace what He has planned for us moment by moment. God doesn’t change, and His will doesn’t change, but the specifics of our lives change. Faith requires constant and ongoing obedience. We can’t assume God will ask us to do what makes sense. Of course, every instruction He gives us will be consistent with His will, but it won’t always be consistent with our personal experiences or preferences.

After Jesus was baptized, He was sent into the desert and tempted by Satan for 40 days. Are peaks and valleys always so close? Sometimes. Other times, the transitions between highs and lows are so gradual we might move from a valley to a mountaintop or vice versa with little notice. What’s consistent isn’t where we find ourselves but that we find and trust God no matter where we are. He knows what we need to prepare for “here” and how our now equips us for “next.” We can’t predict where we’ll be and why, but we can be certain we’ll be required to seek, listen to, and respond in obedience to God is every moment of our lives. When we live in and fully embrace the moments God has for us, we can receive the blessings He purposes for us – through our highs and lows.

Live It. Place a couple dozen coins in your pocket in the morning. Each time you experience God’s presence through your day, move one coin to another pocket. See how many coins you have in the second pocket by the end of the day. You can also take the same approach with paper clips on your appointment book or by using a basic text note on your phone.

Real Prayer

WhatIsRealDevoListen to my prayer; save me as you promised. (Psalm 119:170)

Ponder It.
In what areas do you feel inadequate in your prayer life?
What benefits have you experienced through your prayer life?
What is the difference between an authentic and inauthentic prayer life?

Receive It. The key to knowing anyone, including God, is a relationship. Because relationships grow through communication, an authentic prayer life is essential to a growing relationship with God. Prayer life is an area in which most people feel as if they fall short. Not being satisfied with our prayer lives can spur us in two directions: We can feel hopeless and retreat from God in defeat (not the preferred response), or we can use the discontentedness to motivate us to seek God, learning more about prayer through trial and experience (definitely the preferred response). Building an authentic prayer life isn’t easy, but these tips can help you get started.

Keep it short and simple. You don’t need to use fancy words or talk for hours. It’s okay to speak conversationally, just as you would talk to someone sitting beside you. Of course, it’s important to revere God, but He knows your heart. God wants your willing heart. As conversations deepen and lengthen with people as you get to know them better, so will your prayers.)
Keep it honest. God knows what’s going on in your heart and mind. He doesn’t need your information; He wants your trust. Share more of your life with God than anyone else in your life.
Keep it private. Praying with others is important, but God also instructs us to pray in secret (Matthew 6:6). Foster a vibrant prayer life between just you and God. The more intimate you are with God, the more time you spend talking to God, the more you’ll listen to His voice.

Live It. Identify how you typically communicate with people. When you have something to share, do you talk in person, text, Facebook, call, or another approach? Use that same approach to share with God anytime you have news, a concern, or question through the day. (You might want to create a series of private notes if social networking is your option, text yourself, or leave yourself a message. It might seem silly at first, but when your perspective changes from simple reflection and venting to sharing with God, you’ll reap rewards of a growing relationship.)