Sweetness Worth the Wait

winchellsWhen my husband and I visited our friends in Colorado, they told us about a donut place that was a “must have.” But we were only there for a couple days, and we ended up having to rush back home for a family emergency, so we didn’t get to try the amazing donuts. But I returned a few months later for my delayed writing retreat, and I declared, “I’m not leaving this time without trying one of those donuts!”

They gladly obliged. I’m not sure if it was because they wanted to be kind and hospitable or because the donut shop isn’t close to their house, so they don’t get to treat themselves often either. And the husband is definitely more of a donut snob (or should I say donut connoisseur?) than the wife. My last morning in town, they went to the store early to get my donuts. (They came back with a dozen, enough for some snacks after I left!)

There are a lot of things we wait for that don’t live up to the hype. Our expectations are way beyond the reality.

Not so with the donuts. They did not disappoint.

Perhaps part of the problem is our expectations. Maybe if we just savor whatever the experience ends up being, we can find something sweet about it. We don’t simply compare it to the way we want or expect something to be. We savor what it is.

A Slower Pace

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

As we hiked, I couldn’t keep up the pace I could have managed years before. I wasn’t used to the altitude, combined with the slippery upward slope. I toted my camera and paused often, either to take a break or take a photo. Instead of focusing on the pace I couldn’t manage, I focused on the one I could manage. And that pace invited me to see, hear, and experience the hike in a way I would have missed with a quicker pace.

I paused to allow my heart rate to slow. As my heart rate became steady, I savored the quiet that comes along with a snowy day on a lightly-traveled trail high in the mountains. More than my heart rate became steady. It was as if my soul took a deep breath and reset with tranquility. More than the air was crisp, clean, and clear. So was my mind and my heart.

Instead of getting discouraged that I couldn’t do what I once had and might not have again, I took a step back and enjoyed what I had in front of me. As I did, I realized how important being present in the present truly is in the pursuit of God’s peace and provision.

After all, I need to accept what He provides today, or I’ll miss out.

Lesson from Nature: The Invitation to Savor

©PurePurpose.org
©PurePurpose.org

There’s always an empty chair, waiting for you, inviting you to savor God’s presence.

We often settle into our routines and drive right by, perhaps glancing at the view but not seeing the chair with our name on it for that moment. We miss out.

We long for time in that chair, a moment to breathe and look around at the beauty and feel the breeze. Yet, sometimes, we don’t get the time we need…the time God extends to us…because we rush by. We don’t accept the invitation. We either ignore it or reject it. And we miss out.

God misses us, too.

Sure, He is always present, so in a sense, He can’t miss us because He’s with us. But haven’t you ever missed someone while sitting beside or across from him or her? When someone isn’t fully present when you’re together, it’s as if you’re not really together. It’s that way with God. Just because He’s with us doesn’t mean we’re with Him.

Maybe you don’t believe God is calling you to sit and savor right now. But maybe you need to open your ears and eyes. Take a breath. Wait a moment. Listen. Watch. Pay attention. If you’ve gotten used to ignoring or refusing God’s invitation, it’s not quite as easy to hear.

I will listen to what God will say; surely the LORD will declare peace to His people, His godly ones, and not let them go back to foolish ways.  (Psalm 85:8)

 

The Years Fly…and the days drag!

turtlerabbitSometimes we reach the end of the day and exclaim “Where did my day go?” (and I covered that topic yesterday), but many times we wonder if the day will ever end because of what we face throughout it. Yet, the years fly by. I’ve had many conversations with young moms who can’t believe their children are starting to walk, tie their shoes, beginning school, trying out for a sports team, or graduating from high school. However, we all agree there are days that we think will never end. We’re exhausted, overwhelmed, and frustrated, and we just want to go to bed and start again the next day! The years fly, but the days d…r…a…g.

Logically, it makes no sense. If we have days that drag, and those days make up a year, shouldn’t it seem the year drags, too?

How can we slow down the years so we can savor them but speed up the days so we can survive them?

We can’t.

It’s true. We don’t control time. We can’t make more, and we can’t eliminate it. We can waste it or use it well. We can savor it or dread it. We can manage it but can’t control it. We can steward it well…or not.

You don’t have to reflect on the years and wonder where they went, how they slipped by as if they escaped from you. You might not remember every single moment, but when you commit to savoring the moments as you have them right in front of you, it won’t really matter whether time flies or drags. You can choose to live life instead of giving time so much control.

The time you have is a gift. It might not always feel that way, which might be because (1) you waste so much of it that you create pressures with what remains, or (2) life isn’t always smooth sailing. God gives you time, but He doesn’t promise all the decisions you make about it and all the moments you spend it it will be easy. In fact, He says the opposite: “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:30)

Focus less on the balance sheet of what you’re gaining or losing, remembering or forgetting, acquiring or relinquishing. Instead, focus on what God had planned for you right here, right now. Take the next step. You might feel as if you’ve lost a significant portion of your race or that you’ll never reach the finish line. You might be bored with where you are and just want to know what’s ahead. You might want to start again. And in a sense, you can. Take a step. Go at God’s pace. It’s not about whether the turtle or the hare wins; it’s about finishing well.

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Suffering to Serve

I served at Passion 2014 in Houston, and it takes a small army of door holders—Passion’s phrase for volunteers—who don’t just hold doors. We literally and spiritually open doors for the thousands of college students ushered into the arena and God’s presence for the weekend. I personally served on a resource team, working what seemed to be endless hours, connecting with one student after another.

Why should you care? Well, regardless of whether or not you’ve served at Passion or another large conference, you’ve likely experienced some of the same challenges and thrills I did over the weekend. And there are always lessons we can learn in order to serve better.

Here’s a highlight reel…

  • I talked with young men who came on their own from the Netherlands, Brazil, and Seattle to personally experience an international corporate worship and teaching event. They differed in accents, clothing, and travel times, but each spoke with a sparkle of excitement in his eyes.
  • I heard the word “awesome” more than I think I have ever heard it in my life, and that’s saying a lot, since I grew up in the 80s! It wasn’t an overdramatic description of mundane, daily stuff. It described Jesus and the power of God in and around the lives of thousands of students. And God was (and is) awesome!
  • I had a street corner conversation with a group of girls who can’t wait until they’re old enough to serve as door holders. Well…that’s certainly a new perspective!

choiceI could go on and one, but can’t we all jump up and down about the excitement of events and experiences? Is everything always wonderful?

No.

While I worked with many sacrificial servants who gave up sleep and travel expenses just because they wanted to help provide an environment for students, I also worked among some with different motives. Since serving as a door holder is the only way for adults over 26 to attend, there were some who regularly snuck away or blatantly declared a personal “right” to not miss out on what was going on in the arena. When we signed up to serve, we were told on the front end that we would work long hours with little sleep and few breaks, but because different teams had different schedules, there soon became a stirring of unfairness and entitlement.

I’m not going to point my finger at everyone else without admitting that there were times I thought about trying to slip away unnoticed for an extended break or wondered how I could be sure to get on a less demanding team the next time. But as that attitude began to creep in, God reminded me of the parable of the workers in Matthew 20.

The lesson is that as God’s workers, we’re not entitled to what we think we are. We don’t get to sign up to serve then demand how we serve. Serving is, by definition, selfless. There’s no such thing as selfish serving. If we’re being selfish while serving, we’re not serving.

So, consider…

  • Why do you serve? Why do you do the things you say you do for God? Are they really for God? Have you truly set aside yourself, including convenience and comfort?
  • How do you serve? Do you serve with any reluctance, or do you hold up your hand and jump up and down yelling, “Me, Lord! Pick me!”?
  • Who do you serve? Avoid giving the Sunday school answer. We often deceive ourselves to claim we’re serving God when his name is attached to something like church or missions. In reality, we’re doing what we want and asking him to bless it.

God gives us many opportunities to serve. Sometimes we’ll actually enjoy it, and sometimes we won’t. Sometimes we’ll actually suffer as we serve. I often hear people sarcastically declare they’re “suffering for Jesus,” getting to do something that’s enjoyable while attaching God’s name to it, but let’s be honest. Jesus knows what suffering is. We really have no clue. Until we get a clue, our service isn’t as rich and selfless as it can be.

Let God decide how you’ll serve today. Choose selflessness…with a good attitude.

Fit Faith: Goal: Surprise Hiking Companion

My husband and I were on our first walk together in the Rocky Mountains. A gentle snow began to fall. We were in a canyon, and silence surrounded us. Everything was lightly dusted with snow. We could see the steps we had made. Other than that, the world looked untouched. We said very little to each other. It was too peaceful to disturb with chatter. I had been in the same area several years before, so I didn’t worry about not seeing a defined path. I walked a couple steps ahead of Tim.

After walking a short distance, I suddenly stopped. Tim ran into me and started to say something as I put my hands slightly out to the side to try to communicate I had stopped for a purpose. Without glancing back to make eye contact, I quietly said, “Slowly back up.” I pointed to what looked almost like a furry white blanket meandering across our path less than 20 feet ahead. It was a wolf. I had no interest in becoming a party of three.

As we backed up, we realized he wasn’t interested in us. He seemed to have been as caught off guard by the snow as we were. His coat was nearly completely showered with snow. He blended in well as he silently moved across the snow. He seemed to be looking for a place to bed down to continue an interrupted nap. He had no interest in us.

Tim and I stood still for several minutes after he was out of sight, awed by what we had just seen. Our silence was broken when Tim said, “Grab the camera out of the backpack.” I knew where his line of thinking was going, and there was no way I was going to pursue a wolf who was trying to escape the falling snow. He could nap in peace. The potential adventure was nearly too much for Tim to bear, but he agreed we had seen enough. We walked just far enough ahead to look at the wolf’s trail, but the snow was now falling fast enough to have covered everything but a slight dip in the snow. We turned toward another trail and rerouted our hike.

Sometimes we need to persevere despite obstacles, but sometimes it’s wiser to adjust our goals. Seeking God’s purpose for our lives and letting him reveal his vision to us is important. However, we won’t get it perfectly the first time. We’ll need to make adjustments along the way. We can have our life plan plotted on a timeline and intend to check off each accomplishment, decision and relationship along the way. It won’t be long before something crosses our paths that doesn’t just distract us but reroutes us. We can be just as intentional in our shifted goals as we were with our original goals. Goals are goals.

Think about when you were young. What did you want to be when you grew up? Did your dreams change? Did your interests change? How did your experiences impact your priorities? Who helped you clarify and focus on your goals? Who had little regard for and distracted you from your goals?

“I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason he made me his.” (Philippians 3:12)

God intends to keep you focused on the goal of your life. It won’t usually perfectly align with his goal for your life. You’ll have to constantly tweak your goals to match God’s along the way. It’s okay. He’ll help you. Sometimes he’ll place obstacles in your way, and you’ll need to rely on him to guide you to determine whether it’s an obstacle you need to persevere through or accept rerouting. You’ll get distracted, and you’ll need to rely on God to guide you to determine if the distraction is to call your attention to something God wants you to see or to help hone your focusing skills.

Even in the peaceful times, he might invite a beautiful sight to alter your path. Savor the moment. You’ll likely never duplicate it. Yet the timing and appreciation will affect your next steps and experiences.

This Week’s 7: Get Ready for Growth

Each Sunday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. Spring is almost here! Don’t miss out on the preparation time you have. Spring happens because winter precedes it. Be challenged by these tips to maximize the opportunity you have to prepare for spring.

  1. Take Inventory. In order to identify what areas of your life need special attention, you need to actually look at your life. Be realistic. What needs mending? What needs to be torn apart and rebuilt? What is primed for growth? Prioritize the needs and get started.
  2. Get Rid of the Dead Stuff. New growth won’t incur while it’s entangled among dead stuff. Don’t stunt your growth. Pull aware the dead stuff and clear the path for new shoots of spiritual growth in your life.
  3. Uncover Protected Areas. Trust God to guide you in uncovering the areas of your life you’ve been protecting through the winter months of your life. Covering for a season is purposeful, but it won’t serve the upcoming season well. Invite nourishing light and warmth into your life. Healing leads to growth.
  4. Bring Out the Furniture. It’s time to savor your life. No more sitting inside and letting life pass by the windows. Place the furniture on your front porch and backyard deck and take in the sights, sounds, and scents. Fully experience everything the spring of your life has to offer.
  5. Till the Ground. It’s hard work, but growth isn’t going to happen until you make the effort to turn over the hardened, unattended ground of winter. It’s time to dust off those tools, roll up your sleeves, and get to work, so growth can happen in your life.
  6. Prepare Your Wardrobe. Sort what no longer needs to be worn. Dress appropriately for the season. That means, if you’re leaving your spiritual winter behind, you need to put away those flannel pajamas and fleece jacket no matter how comfortable they are. Set aside the past to enjoy what the future has to offer.
  7. Anticipate Growth. Watch for it! Enjoy every moment of seeing your spiritual life grow. It’s not just about seeing the bloom. Savor the process of green shoots poking through the previously frozen ground, reaching for warmth and nourishment, pruning, and more along the way.