Weeping Isn’t Weakness

d2278391983000372506fe14410f2b22Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b)

When was the last time you wept? Why?

When was the last time you had a season of weeping? What was your reaction to it?

How do you respond to others’ weeping?

In today’s verse, we often focus on the second part more than the first. We want to know joy comes in the morning, that weeping is limited. But it holds a firm place in the seasons of our lives. We notice the joy in the morning more because it is a change from the weeping of the night. Perhaps we appreciate the joy more because of the difference between it and weeping through the night. The joy of the morning seems to be the hopeful part, but the hope is tied between the two.

Weeping can create a path to joy. Sure, we can have joy without weeping. We can have joy simply because God is who He is. But there is still a time and place for weeping. Sometimes it is because we are grieving or hurt or angry or confused or heartbroken at the injustice of the world. The night of weeping might last much longer than we want. And it might come and go, like the pattern of the night and day.

A season of weeping doesn’t mean weeping is constant, then it is done, as if we can turn it off and on like a water hydrant. Weeping reveals a wound that needs some healing, and healing often takes time. Weeping isn’t a weakness. It is an important part of life. Whether we weep inwardly or outwardly, it shows a vulnerability that only God can cover and bind, because only He truly understands. Even our own reasons are often guesses based only on the pieces of the puzzle we understand. We are too close to see it all. God is too close not to.

Sit in the dark in silence for at least three minutes today or tonight. You might have to find a closet or lock the bathroom door or wait until kids go to bed. What do you notice in the darkness and in the silence? What can you experience under those conditions that the light and noise drown out? How can you appreciate the darkness more?

Get to the Root

imagesIf my step has turned from the way, my heart has followed my eyes, or impurity has stained my hands, let someone else eat what I have sown, and let my crops be uprooted. (Job 31:7-8)

Do you see uprooting as more negative or positive?

How have you experienced it in your life?

What do you feel is being uprooted or needs to be uprooted right now?

The planting and harvest process is a constant one, and we often have an overlap of seasons. We might have things we plant at the same time that we need to prune something else and uproot something else. If we try to categorize everything in our lives into nice, tidy rows, we might be surprised to find out we’ve missed some things. If our lives fit into a spreadsheet, we’re missing something. Because life is messy. It has overlaps and overflows.

When we uproot something, we need to get to the base of it. And it’s not just things that we know are unhealthy and negative. Transplanting something so that it remains healthy and can continue to grow requires uprooting, too. If you don’t get the roots, the transplant won’t be successful. We all experience transitions on a regular basis. How healthily we deal with the transitions makes a big difference. Do we leave a big section of our roots behind, or are we willing to uproot and move on? Sure, we might struggle for a bit. Transplants often do. There’s a period of adjustment, and it can be long and difficult. But we only make it more difficult when we’re not willing do the hard work and sacrifice required.

Sometimes we need to get to the root of something in order to check its health. We need to know what’s going on deep within. Maybe the root system is solid, but maybe it’s not. Sometimes, we build root systems out of assumptions and tradition, and we need to question its stability. We need to make sure we’re getting the best flow of the best nutrients into our lives.

Reach out to someone who has helped you establish strong spiritual roots and share your gratitude with him or her. Reach out to someone today and help strengthen his or her spiritual root system with encouragement and truth.

A Pruning Project

48601eb413af5d38a59b6931a3a3d007I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. (John 15:1-2)

When have you experienced the pain of pruning something from your life?

When have you experienced the benefits of pruning something from your life?

Are you more likely to lop something from your life quickly or slowly saw something out of your life?

Anyone who has spent time in any kind of gardening or farming knows the importance of pruning. Unhealthy growth gets in the way. It spoils the healthy growth. But pruning isn’t easy. Sometimes it makes a plant look odd, even ugly for a time. We’d rather see beauty, so we might avoid pruning. Sometimes it’s difficult because the plant is strong. A tree might be nourishing limbs that are taking too much nourishment away from the larger limbs. They are strong as a result, but the limbs that you want to be strong are not. You’ll need something powerful to do the pruning.

When we prune plants, we usually try to use the quickest way possible. We know we need to get a clean cut in order to keep trauma to a minimum. The more invasive we are, the more negatively we impact growth. Yet when it comes to our own pruning, we often choose a slower, gradual approach. We try all kinds of things to minimally prune. “What if I just get rid of this a little bit? What if I still maintain a little contact although the relationship is unhealthy? I can handle the temptation. It’s not as bad as you think.” And if that’s how God is guiding, He will give the strength to deal with ongoing challenges. But sometimes, I wonder if He’s watching, shaking His head, wondering why we don’t just lop something off and get on with our lives so that we can grow. Why would we choose to use a dull saw blade to cut something out of our lives, when He’s given us sharp shears?

Just because we use the sharp shears doesn’t mean we don’t feel the effects. Pruning hurts, if only for a moment. Then we have an adjustment period, when we feel unbalanced with something missing. It’s as if our metabolism is temporarily messed up, and we have to find a new normal. We take new paths. We fill the created gaps, and we can just as easily fill them with unhealthy growth as we can with healthy growth. For that, we have to rely on God. When we let Him do the pruning, we let Him control the growing, too. We work together.

Look for something that needs to be pruned. It might be a plant, or it might be a messy drawer in your house. Take on at least one personal pruning project today.

Plant Well

are-you-still-growingThen God said, “Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds.” And it was so. The earth produced vegetation: seed-bearing plants according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:11-12)

What have you seen grow in your life?

When might the seeds have first been planted and by whom?

What seeds are you planting today? With hopes of what?

Planting is full of promise. You start with a small seed that doesn’t seem to amount to much, but that seed is full of possibility. We often want instant growth, as if we could add a drop of water and instantly get a full-grown plant with perfectly ripened fruit, ready to be picked and enjoyed.

When my husband and I moved to a new house when our girls were small, he began creating a beautiful backyard. There was one type of flowering tree he really wanted, but it would take seven years to bloom. He didn’t want to wait that long, so he chose other options. Seven years later, he realized, “If I had planted that tree, I’d be enjoying it this year.”

He planted the tree, and we enjoyed it for several years when it matured.

My husband didn’t start with a single seed. He transplanted a small tree. However, he had to start somewhere. That’s what a season of planting demands—the choice to begin with something small in anticipation of growth.

Sometimes in our spiritual lives, we put all our plans in one plant. We plant a seed, then wait for it to grow. When it doesn’t become insta-fruit, we get frustrated. We watch time pass instead of using the passing time well. Spiritual life is more like a garden. There are many different things going on at once, and they are at varying stages of development. Some don’t do as well as we’d like, and some surprise us. Some of the things we didn’t think we needed or wanted come in handy, and some of our favorites become overused and worn out.

God is a good gardener—the best, actually. He’s giving you the seeds you need. Plant them.

What was something planted in your life years ago that you can now see the fruit of? What are you excited about planting right now? What are your hopes of growth? Be intentional about the planting process today. Take time to dig a little deeper, get your hands dirty, and water the fresh seed.

The Process of Death

a00d8978bbbaa9bbd45840020f0e4c0bWhoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:33)

How have you experienced death in your life?

What feelings do you associate with death?

What has changed in your life as a result of death?

No matter how sudden and jarring death might seem, it involves a process. There’s a process of preparation we may or may not see, and there is a process of coping, healing, and readjustment that many of us know well but are still confused by it at times. Just like birth, death isn’t as clear cut as we think it may be. It’s not just the biggies of physical death but is a series of smaller deaths. We sometimes inadvertently let things die in our lives because of our inattentiveness. And we sometimes intentionally let things die in our lives because we believe we must in order to move on.

Sometimes we are right and sometimes we are not. We let things die that need to live and keep things alive we need to let die.

As far as God is concerned, we need to give up ourselves so that He can prevail in our lives. We claim that we’ve put Him first when we determine we’ll follow Him, but that one claim is followed by many, many additional choices and opportunities. With each one, we can decide to maintain ourselves, put ourselves and our own interests and perspectives first, or set ourselves aside to yield to Him. We get to choose how thoroughly we become less so that He becomes more in our lives. Death is never easy, but just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it’s not hopeful and productive. When in the context of faith in God, death makes way for life. Sacrifice gives way to hope. Humility gives way to faith.

What do you need to give up for God? It might be something tangible and measurable, or it might be an attitude, entitlement, position, or pride. Claim what it is. Let God challenge you. Then, make a decision. Maybe you’re uncertain about giving it up altogether, or maybe you simply don’t see how it can be done. Take a step. Just one step. Facing the long road ahead might seem daunting, but taking one step right now is doable. Sometimes you can’t see the next step until you’ve taken a step and are in a new place. Your perspective changes, one step at a time.

The Mentoring Mess

lets-do-life-together-digital-hand-letteringWe all need each other, but it can be difficult to find someone who truly invests in our lives. On the other hand, it can also be difficult to set aside time to authentically invest in someone else’s life.

I wonder sometimes if we make it more difficult than it needs to be.

Are we too particular? Using wisdom in guiding us to the right people is important, but I wonder sometimes if we get too picky. Do we overlook people as possible mentors (or mentees) because of the differences between us? Or perhaps our self-doubt or insecurities get in the way. We don’t want to make the first move in case it’s the wrong move, or the first time we meet doesn’t work out well, and we give up too soon.

Are we too programmed? Do we feel the need for someone to set up mentoring for us? Perhaps we experienced mentoring done really well through a particular program or ministry, and we simply want someone to duplicate the same experience for us. Is that too much to ask? Well, yes, it just might be. Programs and ministries can help with connections, but it takes personal sacrifice and effort to keep them going. That’s up to you.

Are we too unwilling? We can try to justify our unwillingness by claiming we’re super busy, not the right fit, or a myriad of other excuses, but perhaps we’re simply not willing to give what is needed to establish and maintain mentoring relationships.

Mentoring puts us in a vulnerable position, whether we are giving or receiving. We have to expose our lives to others. That’s easy for some of us and incredibly difficult for others. Mentoring seems so elusive for some yet seems to come naturally to others. That’s frustrating or exhilarating, depending on the side you fall.

No matter what, mentoring is not easy. It’s messy, because it involves people sharing life with each other. That includes everyday situations, crises, and celebrations. Sometimes it feels as if we’re coasting down a hill as we ride bikes on a beautiful day. It is almost effortless. Other times, we get worn out as we struggle to make it up a steep hill of challenges. Both are part of the journey.

Both make mentoring worthwhile.

Truth be told, mentoring is really much simpler than we make it. We want it to be well-defined, because that makes sense to us. We think mentoring is a relationship between two women (or men), usually one older and one younger, where the older woman imparts wisdom into the younger woman. It is so much more than that. Often, the women are close in age. They both feel they get benefits out of the relationship; in fact, you will hear many say they get the best end of the relationship, that they feel as if they receive way more than they give.

We all need others. We need to find partners to help us through the relational, spiritual, emotional, and practical ups and downs of life. Of course, Jesus is our ultimate mentor, but God gifts us with community, people who surround us to cheer us on and challenge us. And we surround others. If we’re honest, at all times, we are being mentored and are mentoring. We need to be intentional about both. We need to recognize that others are not perfect, just as we aren’t. Other will let us down, just as we do to them. Relationships require sacrifice of time and energy, but God is the one who gives both, so it’s best to spend them His way anyway.

How can you find and maintain mentoring relationships?

  • Pay attention. Set aside your assumptions and open your eyes and heart to the opportunities God is placing in front of you. Relationships often begin with eye contact and a brief exchange of words. You don’t have to instantly decide how deep the relationship will go or how long it will last.
  • Persevere. Just because you hit a bump in the road doesn’t mean it’s time to quit. Be patient and diligent. Put in effort and be humble through the process.
  • Stay healthy. The best thing you can do for any relationship is to be the healthiest you can be. Determine to grow spiritually each step of the way. You might find you need to move on from a relationship. Yet you might find God sharpens you through one you’d rather set aside. Trust Him to lead the way.
  • Transition through seasons. Just because a relationship works well for a while doesn’t mean it will remain in your life forever. Growth requires changes. Saying goodbye (and saying hello) takes courage. It’s difficult. Yet it’s essential to healthy spiritual growth. Again, let God lead.
  • Accept the mess, but don’t be content to stay in it. Set aside your idealism about relationships. Know they will be messy. Be willing to work through the mess, admitting everything won’t ever be completely neat and tidy, yet as you work through issues, you can choose to rely on and get closer to God.

Mentoring might be more mess than magic, but when you invite others into your life and authentically invest in each other, the experience will help you grow in unrivaled ways. Give it a try!