3 Steps

download-1I often consult with teams, and while the idea is for me to help them, I often come away inspired with new ideas or reminders of old ones.

Years ago, I met with a team who shared their approach to meetings.

  • Discuss
  • Discern
  • Dream

Simple, yet effective. The discussion portion was filled with ideas, planning, and evaluating/celebrating recent events and interactions. The discernment portion was filled with prayer and honest reflection of what God was leading them to do: sorting through the yeses and no’s. The dreaming portion invited them to soar, explore the possibilities, and plant seeds for what they’d need to discuss and discern in the future.

They included the practical and the creative. They worked together as a group while allowing individuals to share their passions and concerns. They didn’t get distracted with the nonessentials that often derail our meetings.

I’ve found the same approach works for journalling. Whether you journal prayers or everyday thoughts, the discussion portion helps you get organized. You can journal whatever is going through your mind and heart. Discernment helps you focus on what needs your attention and which decisions are the best to make at that time. Dreaming inspires you to hope toward the future.

Give it a try!

A Sabbath Sigh

I needed rest. Not sleep. Sabbath rest.

It’s something I’ve been more diligent about in the last several years. It’s not about a lazy day. It’s an intentional pursuit of seeking God’s presence and peace. He recharges me. He challenges me. He prepares me for the week ahead. I often read, study, journal, and pray. I reflect and listen as I sit outside or walk.

And I look forward to it. I need it. Because I need Him.

Not long ago, as Sunday approached, I looked forward to it with a longing. It had been a challenging week. God had provided through it, but I needed to soak, steep in His presence for an extended period of time. I worshiped at church, then came home. About two hours into the afternoon, I heard myself sigh, not just a normal sigh but one of those deep, cleansing sighs.

It took me that long to unwind and relax in His presence. It was a sigh of relief and recognition.

It was a sweet, sweet day.

Incorruptible Love

1454516-bigthumbnailGrace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love. (Ephesians 6:24)

We need to love Jesus with incorruptible love—love that is strong, vibrant, hopeful, undying, and life-altering. We’re going to love something with that kind of passion and strength, because we were created to love. God is love, and we’re created in His image, so that pursuit of love is in us. But if we love anything other than God Himself, the love is corruptible. We can actually even love God with corruptible love by skewing the truthfulness of His love when we return it to Him. But at least living His love gives us the potential to love with an incorruptible love.

Whatever we love most sets the trajectory of our lives. We glorify what we love most. We treasure what we love most. Whatever we love most gets the primary focus and goals.

Is it money? Then you’ll focus on decisions that impact how much money you make and what you can do with it.

Is it children? Then you’ll focus on decisions that determine best education, environment, provisions, activities, etc.

Is it career? Then you’ll focus on decisions that lead to the most success, experience, and position.

Is it pleasure? Then you’ll focus on the entertainment and personal enjoyment value of everything you do.

Is it comfort? Then you’ll focus on decisions that minimize risk.

These things aren’t bad things, but they don’t deserve your incorruptible love. That kind of love is reserved for God and God alone. Skewed focus leads to skewed outcomes.

So what can you do if you uncover a misguided weight of love? You can blame whatever it is that you’re trying so hard to love. It’s not measuring up. The results aren’t what you expected. But blaming isn’t going to help. After all, you shouldn’t be surprised. Just because you’re displacing love doesn’t mean God is going to honor your selfish desire to shift it from Him.

Or you can blame yourself. But self-loathing and shame aren’t going to be productive. You’re never beyond the reach of God’s love and correction. You could widen the circle of blame to include the world. “The world is against me this week.” “Do you know what’s wrong with the world?” (Fill in the answer: economics, liberalism, conservatism, world leaders, sports, men, women, and so on.) But you’ll end up cynical and empty.

Or you can reorient and reprioritize your life toward God. We need to be fully yielded and surrendered to God. Only He is intended to be the primary object of our love. Only His love is incorruptible. That means, only in our relationship with Him can we actually live out incorruptible love authentically. Why try anything or anyone else?

Accept.

Dear God, convict me of any area of my life in which I’m not loving well. I want You to be my priority. I know that doesn’t mean ignoring everything else in my life. That’s not Your will. But I don’t want to mis-assign value that is only intended for You. Encourage and challenge me through every situation and relationship today.

Seek.

How does the trajectory of your love reflect God’s love?

How do you need to redirect your love today?

Know.

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:37-39)

Love Without Seeing

The proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:7-9)

Believing in something we see doesn’t require faith. Believing something we don’t see requires faith. As we are faithful, we believe God, who we do not see. Sure, we see evidence of Him. We can know Him without seeing Him. We can have confidence that all His promises will be fulfilled, because who He is includes a faithfulness that cannot be broken.

Faith bridges the unseen world with the seen. The one who has faith is in the seen world; the one who is faithful and is the object and provider of faith is in the unseen. Faith gives eyes to the heart. And that’s how love without seeing and faith without seeing are tied together. They can’t be separated.

Although we have not seen God, we love Him. We have faith in Him, including His love, because love is His character. Although we don’t see God, we believe Him. And our faith includes love. Faith isn’t something of our heads; faith involves everything about us, including our hearts.

We don’t draw a straight line between faith and love, determining faith came first and provided access to, trust in, and respond to God’s love. Faith isn’t a requirement for God’s love. It exists whether or not we acknowledge or accept it. God’s love always has been, is, and will be, because God is love, and He always has been, is, and will be.

Also, love doesn’t have to precede faith. Our faith continues to grow and our understanding, acceptance, and expression of God’s love grows alongside each other. They weave in and out and blend together because they are never mutually exclusive. We have faith without seeing, and we accept and give God’s love without seeing. We don’t need to see or understand everything in order to live it out loud.

Consider these Scriptures that refer to sight.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

He said, “Go, and tell this people:

‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;

Keep on looking, but do not understand.’

Render the hearts of this people insensitive,

Their ears dull,

And their eyes dim,

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

Hear with their ears,

Understand with their hearts,

And return and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)

We don’t need sight to believe, and we don’t need sight to love. We love because God gives us His love. We love others because we love Him. We love because He created us in His image, and because He is love, we have His love instilled in us.

Accept.

Dear God, I want to love because You love me and give me the guidance and strength to love, not because I try to love in my own understanding and strength. I believe You. I believe who You are and who You say I am. I believe You can do anything and everything You say You can do—and You will. I will step out in full dependence and trust in You. I will love You with Your love. I will put no conditions on Your love, separating what I see and understand and what I don’t. I am Yours.

Seek.

How have you experienced the interdependency of faith and love?

How have you struggled with love without sight and understanding?

How will you live God’s love our loud today even when you don’t see the reason or completely comprehend the purpose?

Know.

As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging. Now hearing a crowd going by, he began to inquire what this was. They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he called out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He questioned him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And he said, “Lord, I want to regain my sight!” And Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God. (Luke 18:35-43)

Mombarded by Expectations

expectationsToday’s post is excerpted from Mombarded: When Motherhood Bombards Your Heart, Mind, and Life: a devotional journey that gives you 52 devotionals (and space to journal) to encourage and challenge you to help you continually grow as a mom…through the mombardment of responsibilities, emotions, pressures, frustrations, and adventures. Preorder today and receive free shipping.

I sat across the table from another mom, and we shared our struggles. We realized just how similar we are and wondered how similar we are to other moms out there. We look around and see others’ lives and think they’re so much better or worse off than we are, but how can we really know that unless we take the time to get to know them, listen to them, share with them? Even then, we’re not going to be able to get to know everyone. So, the least we can do is not project our expectations onto them or assume they’re projecting their expectations onto us.

It hurts when someone doesn’t respect your choices as a mom, especially when it’s someone whose respect has value to you. Don’t be surprised when someone thinks your choice to be a stay-at-home mom means you don’t have much to do or that you are solely dependent on your husband or others. Maybe people think you’re too child-focused or not smart enough to get a “real job.” Perhaps they think you have it easy because you’re home all day. Also, don’t be surprised when someone things your choice to work full-time is a priority of money over caring for your kids, that you’re more interested in your position than your kids’ security. Maybe people think you’re shirking your parenting duties. Perhaps they think you have it easy, because you can do what you want instead of letting your kids’ schedules influence your choices (as if any parent really believes that’s a real option).

No matter what your choices—and sometimes a lifestyle you didn’t actually choose—people will stereotype. So will you. What do you assume about unmarried moms, divorced moms, older moms, teen moms, working moms, homeschool moms, work-from-home moms, adoptive moms, homeless moms, and the list goes on? In some cases, you might have an immediate positive response, but I imagine you also have some strong negative responses or assumptions. We think someone has it easier than we do, someone is slacking, or someone is doing the whole mom thing wrong.

Why do we do that?

While it might not be true all the time, the main reason is: we’re threatened. We don’t understand why someone would choose the way we didn’t choose. We want to justify ourselves. But it’s not all about choices. And even when a choice was involved, who are we to say that person didn’t choose the best option for herself and her child as they faced their specific situation? Even when she didn’t choose the best option, shouldn’t we be a bit more understanding? After all, I certainly haven’t made the best decisions every step of the way.

Be more compassionate and understanding. You can encourage someone even if you don’t completely understand or agree with how she’s parenting. Maybe a little patience and compassion is just what she needs to take the next best step. Judgment certainly isn’t going to help.

Meanwhile, lighten up on yourself a bit, too. When someone judges you, extend compassion and patience…to her and to yourself. Someone else’s expectations of you don’t define you. Neither do your own.

Who have you recently judged?
Identify the assumptions you’ve made, then extend an apology, patience, or mercy.

Click on Mombarded and order today.
Click on Mombarded and order today.

Mombarded by Helplessness

pandaToday’s post is excerpted from Mombarded: When Motherhood Bombards Your Heart, Mind, and Life: a devotional journey that gives you 52 devotionals (and space to journal) to encourage and challenge you to help you continually grow as a mom…through the mombardment of responsibilities, emotions, pressures, frustrations, and adventures. Preorder today and receive free shipping.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do.
How can I get my baby to stop crying?
How can I help my baby fall asleep?
How can I help my little one learn?
How can I help my teen get over rejection and judgment?
How can I help my nearly adult child make those important life-guiding decisions?

Every time we face a new problem, we’re reminded that even though we’re older, more experienced, and perhaps wiser than our children, we still go through things for the first time with them. Even as we have younger children go through similar circumstances, we continue to learn, because our children are different. We’re not completely confident in everything we do. Our children sometimes see us as having it all together, and that might give us a boost of confidence, but we know better.

We’re just trying our best.
T

he more humble we get, the more we realize that it’s actually okay to not know it all. It doesn’t let us off the hook. We still have responsibility. But it relieves some pressure. We get to move forward with uncertainty but with determination. We have a confidence, not in what we are capable of doing, but in the assurance that God gives us as we follow Him.

We’re not as helpless as we feel, because we always have God’s help.

It doesn’t mean we are always fully confident we’re following well or that He’s completely invested in what we’re doing—even if we deeply believe that but situationally doubt it. Our confidence doesn’t rely on the outcome as much of the process, the relationship of our dependence on God. It means we trust Him. We know Him. We go to Him.

When God is our help, we are never helpless. We may be incapable at times, but He isn’t. We may not have the wisdom and perspective we know we need, but He does. We may not have the strength to persevere, but

He does.

He doesn’t always give us a specific answer to a problem. Our baby still cries. Our toddler still struggles. Our teen still gets overwhelmed. But we persevere toward God through the variety of situations. We know that our response is important, not just because we need a quick solution but because we have a reliable God. Honoring Him becomes more important than getting the solution we want.

Helpless doesn’t mean hopeless.

How do you need to have hope?
How much do you trust God to help you?

Click on Mombarded and order today.
Click on Mombarded and order today.

 

Mombarded by Limits

fenceToday’s post is excerpted from Mombarded: When Motherhood Bombards Your Heart, Mind, and Life: a devotional journey that gives you 52 devotionals (and space to journal) to encourage and challenge you to help you continually grow as a mom…through the mombardment of responsibilities, emotions, pressures, frustrations, and adventures. Preorder today and receive free shipping.

We can’t do it all.

Our children can’t do it all.

We’re limited.

And you know what? I’m glad! We put enough pressure on ourselves. We fill every nook and cranny of time. We push the limits. Which assumes there are limits.

God didn’t create us to do it all. I don’t even know what “doing it all” entails. Do you? We each have assumptions of what it might entail, but isn’t it just that: our own assumptions? We all know we can’t actually do it all, but we want to be able to do the all that we think is most important.

We really can’t even do that. Even for those moms who are pretty laid back and take things as they come, let go of things easily, and find contentment in everyday reality, there are times when they go to bed with something undone they would have preferred to have done. They have moments of “I probably should have” or “I probably shouldn’t have.” They might be less wracked with guilt than other moms, but limits press in on them just the same.

Then there are the moms who try to live nearly every detail of their lives within limits. They usually set most of those limits by themselves, and if they’re really honest, many of the limits are unrealistic. Instead of looking at the realistic possibilities, they focus on dreams and ideals. They often underestimate the time, money, or organization something is going to take, so they end up feeling pressed for time, money, or organization. Sometimes they rely on organization too heavily, so that if you were to pull one thing out of place, the whole day might cave in…along with the family’s sanity.

But most of us fall somewhere in between. We might teeter toward one end of the spectrum or the other, but we have moments of needing to define and live by limits and moments of tossing them aside to be spontaneous. We can’t live with either extreme, because limits exist, and we are indeed limited. Once we recognize that, life gets (a little) easier.

God puts limits in our lives, not to restrain us as much as to give us boundaries to fully enjoy the freedom of the lives He has given us. Limits give us the boundaries to know that we can step on every single inch of ground within the limits and savor, explore, claim, nourish, and enjoy. There will be enough challenges within those limits. We don’t need to constantly run to the fence and climb it to long and reach for what is on the other side. When we do, we miss out on what’s on our side.

Yes, time, energy, relationships, opportunities, and abilities are all limited. But the possibilities within those limits contain way more opportunities than we’re taking. Focus. Not for busyness sake but for intentional attention’s sake.

What really needs your attention today?

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Click on Mombarded and order today.