The First Time

Some firsts are exciting.

  • 1st day of kindergarten (I really liked my pink pleated skirt!)
  • 1st paycheck (Even if I got sun poisoning lifeguarding that summer.)
  • 1st dorm room (Cleaning the floor with furniture polish was not a great idea.)
  • 1st plane ride (And the grandest view of a sunset in my life.)
  • 1st cell phone (Even if it didn’t fit in my pocket!)

Some firsts aren’t so exciting.

  • 1st speeding ticket
  • 1st overdraft notice
  • 1st surgery
  • 1st perm

My first date was boring. My first kiss was sloppy. My first bridesmaid dress was hideous.

Firsts can be thrilling, frightening, or disastrous. The first is always a beginning. We don’t stay in the first. We grow from it. We shouldn’t steep in it; we should step out of it. It’s a journey.

You experience a first every day of your life. You have a choice to live today in a way that sets the foundation for tomorrow. Hopefully, many of the days leading up to this one have set firm foundations on which you’re now building. The firsts of today set the pace and priorities of tomorrow. You can wait until tomorrow’s today to make changes, but why waste today?

I remember the “today” I decided to live all other todays of my life for God. I appreciate the memory of that day, but I’m not going to reside in it. I don’t want to lose today and the opportunity to choose to live for God in the details of my new today. I haven’t filled every today with great choices. Not even close. But each day sets the pace and priority for the next.

What pace and priority are your setting today?

Challenge: Write a number one on your index finger in ink or permanent marker. Each time it catches your attention through the day, consider what you’re experiencing that can be used a foundation for tomorrow. Be intentional in your choices, responses, and adjustments.

Remember and Forget Well

A newly married woman asked me what I struggled with the most when I was first married.

Um…well…hmmm…probably…I think…

I stammered through my answer. My hesitation wasn’t due to a lack of struggles. I remember struggles, but I don’t remember them well. One reason is simply the passage of time. I’m not sure when I struggled with each thing along the way. But also, I’ve tried to put some things behind me. I don’t want to remember some struggles all the time, because if I live in the past, I miss out on the present.

Yet, as I later reflected on the conversation, I realized how important it is to be able to remember well enough to share with and help others. No two journeys are the same, but we need to be reassured we’re not alone. We can’t just say, “been there, done that, and you’ll survive, honey” and expect the other person to sigh and relax from that point forward. We can’t just say, “Well, I’ve never been through that, but I know what you should do.” We can’t put on rose-colored glasses and diminish someone’s issues because of our optimism. And we shouldn’t pull someone into our muck and mire.

It’s not about us. And we can’t make it all about the other person either. God is the only one who knows what each of us needs to share and receive with each interaction. But this I know for sure:

God brings people in and out of our lives.

We need to steward each interaction well.

We won’t always feel prepared, nor should we. After all, it is in those “caught off guard moments” that we get to most completely rely on God.

Remember well enough to relate to and encourage others. Forget well enough to not get stuck.

Choices Beyond Being Mean or Approving

We don’t have to mean and bully people.

Sounds like a “duh” statement, but if it’s so obvious, why do we keep doing it? As a Christian, quit making the excuse that you’re just standing God’s ground. God has enough authority on His own without you carrying the weight of judging the whole world–or just your neighbor. We can rationalize that we’re simply fighting back, but if we use the same character attacks and passive-aggressiveness that others fight with, what shows that we’re set apart? Are we simply affirming assumptions and stereotypes people already have about Christians being judgmental and narrow-minded? We might claim our motivations are different, but people don’t see motivations. They see actions and words, including what we spew all over social media.

Perhaps we think that if we don’t speak up, we’re affirming the behaviors we know to be against God’s will. But being mean and being affirming are not the only two options. We can listen, ask questions, seek to understand where someone stands and why in order to respect the person as someone created in God’s image, as well as to build rapport that leads to that person listening to us as well. We can return anger and frustration with patience and compassion. We can return disrespect with respect. We can also walk away when engaging with a person is futile, at least for that moment. We can become the exception instead of the stereotypical Christian caricature. We can show selflessness instead of selfishly expressing only our own opinions and facts without patiently investing in others.

It’s not easy to know when to stand up, when to sit down, when to speak up, and when to shut up. It’s a challenge to know when we need to extend abundant, merciful love and when we need to challenge someone with accountability. But God does both of those things. He is loving and He is just. We are made in His image, so I’m confident, in our willingness to follow Him well, He will guide us in His perfect will and timing.


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.