Sabbath Delight

ar8yzdvqIf you keep from desecrating the Sabbath, from doing whatever you want on My holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight, and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, seeking your own pleasure, or talking too much; then you will delight yourself in the Lord. (Isaiah 58:13-14a)

There’s a lot to sift through here. We can easily get stuck in the legalism of what exactly “desecrating the Sabbath” means, or what if my definition of “delight” is different from someone else’s? But there are definitely some guidelines:

  • Keep from doing whatever you want. (Not that you have to do everything you don’t want to do, but just take a step outside yourself and let God guide. That still includes a huge space in which to roam.)
  • Don’t go your own way or seek your own pleasure. (See same note as above. It doesn’t mean you don’t get to have any fun. God is not a prison warden.)
  • Don’t talk too much. (We fill a lot of space and time with unnecessary words. God is consistent with this instruction regardless of the day. He must think it’s a good idea.)

So many people set aside the concept and practice of Sabbath. I’ve heard a litany of excuses that are rooted in misunderstandings. I think we let those misconceptions get in our way. We want an easy out, because Sabbath requires sacrifice, and sacrifice is difficult. We’ve seen people claim some really odd things about Sabbath, and most often those things are a long list of what we can’t do, but it’s time to move beyond that. Look and search and practice beyond that. Because when you set aside the legalism, there is so much freedom and rest and joy in Sabbath.

I lean toward constancy. I generally live life leaning forward. It’s my bend. So to take a deep breath and lean back takes effort. It’s been worth the change. It doesn’t come easy, but it becomes worthwhile.


Turning Yourself Over

2964e5515fa0efc67f3ed7a6a04df9a8So I began to give myself over to despair concerning all my work that I had labored at under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:20)

Despair is something we turn ourselves over to, submitting to it. Sometimes it lasts for a moment, but other times, when we repeat the turn into despair, our choices become a habit. We begin somewhere, but that leads us to somewhere else.

Where are you beginning today? What are you turning yourself over to, submitting to? Has it become a habit? A healthy or unhealthy one?

Community Encouragement

4578cd815ff7c7285250863a1e23cae9.jpgTherefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

How does encouraging others help them?

How does encouraging others help you?

What have you been building through this season of life, or rather, what has God been building?

We often think of encouragement as a personal thing. We send an encouraging note or someone says just the right words when we need to hear them. We think of encouragement as a moment or action, but it’s so much more.

Encouragement can become a habit, a characteristic, not just personally but in a relationship or across a community. Encouragement isn’t an individual task or accomplishment. It is intended to be given and received. Encouragement is shared. It builds community, and it can characterize a community. It’s how we build one another up. With each encouragement, we place one brick on top of another and build a bridge across which we can reach each other and take journeys into new adventures.

Encouragement reaches out to others, whether we are giving or receiving. It opens our hands and hearts. And it’s not always a pat on the back that makes us feel good. Encouragement is also challenging. It’s a dose of courage that speaks the truth in love. It can never be ill-intended or dishonest but it is also never overly sweet and sappy. It is authentic. It is equipping. It is inspiring, and it always spurs change and growth.

Pay attention today and share encouragement as often as you can. Sometimes encouragement happens with a moment, and sometimes it’s an investment over time. Either way, you can be characterized by it. Discern what you are supposed to say and do to whom and when. God will guide you. Refuse to take matters into your own hands, but don’t drag your feet and declare God isn’t encouraging you to encourage others. He always does!

Lesson from Nature: Moving On


“Go across to the ark of the Lord your God in the middle of the Jordan. Each of you lift a stone onto his shoulder, one for each of the Israelite tribes, so that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites…This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.” (Joshua 4:5-7,24)

I don’t know what each person intended by stacking his or her cairn on the beach. Some might have simply thought it looked fun or challenging. Others might have done so in remembrance of something or someone. Each stone, each stack was different. But to me, they meant something. Despite not knowing the motivation behind each and every one, they were a reminder of the lesson God taught me about setting standing stones for Him. Not literal stones, but certainly spiritual stones. As I wrote in Pure Emotion. It started with a painful experience, signified by a large, unavoidable stone…

I dealt with it the best I could (which looking back, seems like not dealing with it at all), and I moved on. A few years later, I could feel it poking at me again. I felt like I was right back at the rock even though time had passed. I felt as if I hadn’t grown or healed with the passing time. So I worked it out again, a little differently, hopefully a little more deeply…and I moved on. Again.

A few years passed and it started sticking out again. I trudged back to the rock. Repeated coping and healing. Fast forward. Trudge back. Repeat. Fast forward. Trudge back. Repeat. It was an exhausting process. I didn’t think about it much in the “in between” times, but each time I trudged back, the effort and pain caught up with me. Each time I thought I was ready to move on. Each time I was caught off guard with the pull back to the rock.

And then, several years ago, I’d had enough. I felt the sharp poking, and I knew what was coming. The exhaustion set in, and I wasn’t happy about it. I was downright angry and said, “God. Why do you keep pulling me back to that place? I thought we’d dealt with this!” I clearly heard his answer in the depth of my soul: “Susan. I’m not taking you back there. You’re trudging back there on your own.”

What?! Why would I put myself through the agony? Yet I wanted to learn and grow, and I was tired of the weariness, so I listened. And God taught.

Consider the trauma like a burn. I’ve never experienced a severe burn, but I understand it’s excruciating. When someone suffers a severe burn, the focus isn’t on reconstruction. It’s on easing the trauma and stopping the burn. No reconstruction can immediately take place. The swelling has to subside. Tissue has to heal. And then reconstruction can take place…after some time.

From what I understand, the reconstruction can be more painful than the original burn. I’m sure there are some similarities. Just as I felt the pull back to the original pain and trudged back to it, a burn victim might feel that initial trauma. Similar pain, but different. The healing that’s taking place couldn’t have taken place at the time of the trauma. But it feels similar enough – and might even feel more painful – and it brings up all kinds of excruciating pain.

After the reconstruction, time must pass in order for the swelling to subside and tissue to heal…in preparation for yet another reconstructive procedure, at which time the process cycles yet again. Feels like the same pain as the trauma. Perhaps worse. But it’s another stage of healing.

And the process repeats itself. Perhaps a little different each time but part of the same journey.

I thought God was pulling me back to the original trauma. But he was healing me a little more along the way. He knew I needed rest in between. He knew it was best for the healing process – and still is. My journey of healing isn’t over, but now it looks like a series of standing stones. You see, each time God worked on me, there’s a monument to commemorate it. I move on from the stone. If I were to camp under it, I wouldn’t need the monument to remind me of the journey. Instead, the stone reminds me of the relationship I have with God. He works on me, and I set a stone of remembrance. And another and another. I keep journeying. Instead of trudging back to an earlier place along the journey, I can stand right where I am, turn my head, and see a line of standing stones as a testament of the dependability of God. I can see and declare, “God was there for me. And there and there and there. He brought me here. And He is here with me, too. I can depend on Him for everything at every place along the journey.” Praise God!

Emotions are moments, not monuments.

We can be pulled back to monuments we’ve erected when we’re experiencing emotional responses. Current pain reminds us of past pain, and we return to the monument. Current frustration reminds us of a pattern of frustration, and we return to the monument. Current fear reminds us of past fears, and we run to hide behind the monument.

But today’s emotion isn’t yesterday’s emotion. Similar? Yes. But if you’re growing in your relationship with God…if you’re asking him to reveal His godly emotions to you and reveal the discrepancies between Himself and you…if you’re drawing closer to the center of His will, your emotions of today only have hints of yesterday’s emotions – an aftertaste. And today’s emotions are a mere appetizer of tomorrow’s emotions. God has a feast planned for you!

Are you ready to move forward, assured in His presence and provision, and savor what He has for you, right now?

Lesson from Nature: Help or Harm?


The holes were huge. This was no normal woodpecker. It had to be a mammoth woodpecker on steroids. Okay, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. Actually, I did a bit of googling and am pretty sure the holes were created by pileated woodpeckers. Who knew a woodpecker could be so large?! According to Wikipedia, “Adults are 40 to 49 cm (16 to 19 in) long, span 66 to 75 cm (26 to 30 in) across the wings and weigh 250 to 400 g (8.8 to 14.1 oz), with an average weight of 300 g (11 oz). Each wing measures 21.4 to 25.3 cm (8.4 to 10.0 in), the tail measures 14 to 17.4 cm (5.5 to 6.9 in), the bill is 4.1–6 cm (1.6–2.4 in) and the tarsus measures 3.1–3.8 cm (1.2–1.5 in).”

How does a woodpecker that has a beak with a pretty small tip make that kind of a hole?

One peck at a time.

We can do a lot of damage, one peck at a time. We can also make huge strides, one peck at a time. We need to know which we are doing…destroying or constructing…because sometimes it’s difficult to see the difference.

Is the woodpecker harming the tree, or is it creating a place to live? Yes. Both.

What are you doing with the choices you’re making on a daily basis?

Think about the things you do over and over. What is that repetition accomplishing? Is it something helpful or harmful? Is it helpful for you but harmful to others, or vice versa? Don’t convince yourself that you can’t accomplish much, either harm or help, with the small, insignificant choices you’re making. It doesn’t take long for a series of small, insignificant choices to have big, significant results.

Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Being Resolute in Finances

Whoever loves money will never have enough money; Whoever loves wealth will not be satisfied with it. This is also useless. The more wealth people have, the more friends they have to help spend it. So what do people really gain? They gain nothing except to look at their riches. Those who work hard sleep in peace; it is not important if they eat little or much. But rich people worry about their wealth and cannot sleep. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12)

What financial concerns do you currently have?

What are your financial goals?

How have you grown in your financial habits in the past years?

Money isn’t evil in and of itself. It helps us serve one another. It helps us honor God by providing for each other. It gives us the opportunity to be faithful stewards. We can choose to search God’s ways and respond in obedience – or not. God’s Word teaches us sound financial principles, but they conflict with the ways of the world. We’re surrounded by the “get more at any cost” mentality. Accumulating debt to get what you don’t need is widely accepted. Confusing needs and wants is commonplace. The confusion and discouragement becomes so overwhelming that to make changes seems impossible. The debt is too high, the needs are too great, and the income is too low.

God is sufficient for all things. He doesn’t work in the way or timing we want him to work, but he is always moving in our lives. The question is whether we’re being obedient or not. God isn’t going to fix everything we do wrong. He knows the goal, and he knows how to get there from here, but we have to join him in the journey. We don’t invite him to walk our path with us. He invites us to walk his path with him. We’re going to step off the path from time to time when we get distracted by the beautiful window displays of the world. But when we’re committed to God’s ways, our focus more readily returns to his ways. His choice becomes our choice.

What’s one response of trust and faith you can make to honor God in your finances today? Do it.

Guarded Aerobics

I recently blogged about the (dis)comforts of home, the things we don’t necessarily like when we’re at home but we might miss when travelling. Travelling can be an odd experience. When the novelty of it wears off, a quest for balance begins to surface. On the one hand, new experiences and adventure keep travelling interesting. Even when a seasoned traveller is confused as to where he is, as each airport, hotel, and conference center blends into the next, there are intriguing and energizing experiences of watching, meeting, and listening to people that never seem to grow stale. There’s beauty in the changing landscapes and architectures. There are challenges of finding directions and getting orientated to new home-away-from-homes.

On the other hand, there’s a quest for sameness. Finding a favorite coffee shop. Arranging clothes or an office-away-from-office in the hotel room. A schedule of travel rarely reflects the average schedule near home, so finding a few common threads helps maintain some continuity and familiarity. For me, that includes exercise.

It would be easy to avoid exercise when travelling. Finding a suitable place to work out is often a challenge. Finding a suitable time to work out is often more of a challenge, especially during a busy convention schedule. To work out in the morning requires an unreasonably early wake-up call because of the time it takes to work out then shower and get ready for morning sessions. Late night sessions aren’t ideal because there’s little energy at the end of the day, but late night workouts might also spur enough energy to keep me awake. However, I’ve found delayed sleep doesn’t matter much anyway, since I’m usually waiting for complete exhaustion to set it, so I fall to sleep with a dulled realization I’m not falling asleep next to my husband.

So, I often opt for the late night option. And I’m rarely sorry for the sacrifice. No matter how tired I am, I feel better knowing I’ve expended energy other than walking from room to room throughout the event venue.

Another challenge often presents itself with late night workouts: location. Why large hotels don’t keep fitness rooms open late I don’t know, but I’m obviously not going to go outside for a strange-city-in-the-dark tour. And that’s why I’ve gotten into the habit of travelling with an exercise DVD.

So when a group of women were standing around the first evening of the conference, lamenting about not being able to work out when we were done for the night because the fitness room would be closed, I offered my DVD. Next problem: There’s barely room in a hotel room for me to do aerobics, so we needed an alternate location. Because there were several of us, we’d also need a TV, because we wouldn’t be able to see the laptop screen well.

Aha! One of the displays right outside the conference ballroom had a TV and a DVD player. Perfect! Of course, that meant we’d be in a major hallway while working out, but since it was late at night, who would notice?

Um…the security guard!

It was actually quite comical. He was a nice guy and will likely find his way into a future blog or two. He’s probably seen much more interesting things during his late night shifts!

The bottom line is we got to exercise, and we felt much better. Plus, we got to work out side by side each other, which makes it a bit more fun. It’s funny: We set aside the reality of working out in a very public area, because establishing some sort of routine to our day took priority.

We might need to find some adventure among the regularity of daily life, but we also seek regularity among the adventure of life.

Consider what habits bore you and make you long for adventure.

Consider what habits keep you grounded. What will you try to incorporate into your daily life even when you’re outside your norm?

We do not enjoy being disciplined. It is painful at the time, but later, after we have learned from it, we have peace, because we start living in the right way. Hebrews 12:11