You have done amazing things we did not expect. You came down, and the mountains trembled before you. (Isaiah 64:3)
Many times, the difference between expectations and reality causes disappointment, but it can also cause surprise and celebration. Throughout the Bible, God showed up in amazing ways that people didn’t expect. Follow God’s lead.
Be understandable.If people don’t understand what you’re saying, they won’t follow, learn, and grow. They’re not going to understand everything you say – just as you sometimes won’t understand their perspective – but strive to find common ground and start there.
Be passionate.You’re not going to be excited about everything you’re doing all the time, but keep your passion level in check. People around you can sense if you’re going through the motions or if you’re seeking, learning, and growing. Passion is contagious.
Be protective. Avoid being overly protective or developing co-dependent relationships, but pay attention so that people aren’t getting left behind, lost, or hurt. Set healthy boundaries. Invite accountability. Learn lessons of responsibility and consequence.
Be attentive. Get to know the people around you – their interests, quirks, experiences, and dreams. As you get to know and care about people, they’ll trust you more. Listening might seem like it’s a small thing, but it’s one of the most inexpensive, sacrificial, generous gifts you can give.
Bethlehem wasn’t on our itinerary. It’s impossible to do everything in Israel. It might be a small nation, but it’s packed with possibilities. During my first trip to Israel, I had quite an adventure in Bethlehem. It’s a walled city that requires time-consuming procedures to enter, exit, and tour. I decided the time required wasn’t worth the benefits of the visit, especially with the additional options I could add to our itinerary if I removed it, so Bethlehem wasn’t on the schedule for the 2014 trip. Everyone who signed up for the trip knew we weren’t going to Bethlehem. However, one night, a couple women asked if they could fit it in.
We had no touring or serving scheduled for Shabbat. I encouraged everyone to soak in God’s presence and rest as He guided them. Understandably, many women wanted to pack in as much as they could while they were in Israel. We were close to Bethlehem, so some asked, “Can’t we fit it in on our free day?”
I explained the security issues, the necessity for a guide, and so on. I tried to encourage everyone to experience Israel in whatever ways they wanted and felt comfortable doing, but for a variety of reasons, I asked that no one go to Bethlehem on Shabbat. I like adventures, but it wasn’t worth the risk of small groups venturing outside Jerusalem, finding a guide who could tour in Bethlehem, and going through the security without having someone who spoke more than English. Everyone respected the decision, yet I felt there was a little tension about it.
Fast forward a few days, and I brought it up with a couple women I knew had been disappointed. I wanted to make sure they understood why I had said, “no.” They said, “It’s okay. We’re over it.” They assured me they wanted to ask in case it was possible but trusted my decision. They knew they couldn’t do everything in Israel; they knew there were choices to make.
With acceptance and submission often comes blessing.
Only a few hours later, our guide quietly asked me if I’d be interested in adding something to the end of that day: Bethlehem. I nearly laughed aloud, knowing only God would orchestrate such an abundant blessing for the two women who wanted so badly to visit Jesus’ birthplace. Apparently, our guide was certified to lead groups into Bethlehem (with several required arrangements), so he would stay with us. I asked him not to tell the group until later in the day so no one would get distracted.
I watched each of the two women for their reactions when he announced the addition to the itinerary. They were surprised by joy, overwhelmed with the blessing. So, we ventured to Bethlehem as the sun set.
As before, it was a chaotic place. It wasn’t the peaceful place we might imagine it to be. For many, it was unsettling. Yet another surprise. I was surprised, too. Surprised by the blessing of seeing Bethlehem by night, by talking to people I didn’t know and might not meet otherwise because they were “behind the wall,” by watching women process Bethlehem for the first time, and by taking time to reflect as we sat in the long security line to leave Bethlehem.
We can’t know surprises are coming, but we can certainly appreciate them when they come our way.
Have you seen the viral video about the airline that granted passengers’ Christmas wishes?
Inspiring, isn’t it? Does it make you want to take a flight soon? Will you be looking for a special Santa kiosk near your departure gate?
Kudos to WestJet for pulling off such a great surprise. I don’t want to diminish their efforts. I’ve watched the video several times, and it brings a smile (and tears) to my face every time. But, it also got me wondering…
How often do we ask for results from God? When we pray, do we expect God to be like Santa, listening to (and hopefully granting) our wish list?
What about Mark 11:24? So I tell you to believe that you have received the things you ask for in prayer, and God will give them to you.
We need to broaden the scope of what God is teaching us through this verse, which is sandwiched between verses on faith and forgiveness. In simple terms, when your faith is pure, including generous forgiveness as God forgives, sure, you will get what you ask in prayer, because your prayers become about a relationship, not results. It’s not about getting what you want. It’s about getting what God wants. And in order to know what that is, you have to know God.
A thriving, faith-filled relationship with God requires humility. And if you’re only trying to be humble and obedient to ultimately get what you want, you’re missing the point. Of course, it’s a process. We’re continually setting ourselves aside and inviting God to remind us who we are in him instead of who we want to be.
Good thing God knows us well…better than we know ourselves.
The question is: How well do you know God? Beyond the how and why you’re asking whatever you’re asking, consider the Who you’re asking.
Ask for God. You’ll receive God. Every single time.
Consistency is important, but sometimes it’s the special once-in-a-lifetime experiences that stand out. The very infrequency of something strikes it with a bright highlighter, illuminating it for later attention and recollection.
I rarely asked for anything special on Mother’s Day. I felt as if every day of the year was Mother’s Day, because I got to bask in the joys of being a mother. Yes, there were challenges every day, but in the context of the blessings, I could accept them and appreciate the opportunities I had.
One Mother’s Day, I surprised everyone by announcing there was just one thing I wanted: to load up everyone’s bikes and go for a ride on my favorite hiking path after church. No one was as excited about it as I was, but they entertained me. The girls weren’t very old, and they knew the bike ride would be long and challenging. Tim knew he wouldn’t be able to ride his bike at full speed with the rest of us along. But we packed a lunch and headed to the trail after church.
It was a glorious day for me, and no one else seemed to mind it much at all either. We rode five miles, stopped for a lunch break beside a small lake, and made the return trip. It was a gorgeous day.
Had I experienced bike rides with my family every weekend, I probably would have enjoyed some of the experiences and endured others – when someone would be grumpy or get hurt or the weather wasn’t ideal. As it was, I had one glorious day of memories with my family on our bikes on that path.
Something similar happens when we go on a retreat or attend a conference. We walk away rejuvenated and ready to tackle our lives with renewed energy and purpose. The infrequency makes these experiences impactful. We build time with God into our daily lives: devotions, prayer, accountability. While we benefit greatly from the consistenty, daily also means routine. When we’re at conferences and retreats, we step away from routine. While routine is excellent for discipline, occasional escapes encourage us to listen in fresh ways.
How can you capture renewed energy and purpose on limited time, money, and flexibility?
Here are a few thoughts:
Use your senses. Quietly reading your Bible is wonderful. Experiencing God’s Word through multiple senses helps us put an exclamation point on a verse. Consider how you can see, hear, and touch Scripture.
Use repetition. Carry your quiet time throughout the day with you. We too easy compartmentalize our time with God. Choose one key verse of the day and post sticky notes in places you’ll find them throughout your day. Set your cell phone alarm to vibrate hourly as a reminder to reflect and act on the verse.
Use social networking. De-compartmentalized your faith while engaging others. Tweet a verse each day on Twitter. Post a reflective question or action challenge on Facebook.
Whatever your approach, seek renewed energy and purpose with occasional escapes from routine. Listen to God in fresh ways. Open your ears to hear from God.
Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. (Proverbs 8:34)
These are the stairs of my childhood home. They didn’t look like this when I was growing up – at least not most of the time. When my sisters and I first moved to the upstairs bedrooms, the stairs were uncovered, but it wasn’t long before the green carpet (you know, that popular color from the 70s!) was added. The treacherous stairs needed some padding!
My parents recently recovered the stairs with a neutral carpet, but I enjoyed seeing them briefly uncovered. As I walked up and down them, I reflected on some life lessons I learned on the stairs.
Take each step of life intentionally. You might not know every detail of what’s ahead, but be aware of the direction you’re taking.
Don’t get ahead of yourself. You’re more likely to fall if you’re not aware of where your feet are.
Keep your path clear. The more junk you leave piled in the regular path of everyday life, the more likely you are to trip over it.
Sometimes you’ll fall no matter how careful you are. Get up and continue the journey.
Turn the light on. It’s easier to watch your steps carefully.
Sometimes life surprises us – like when my sister found a mouse on the stairs and picked it up to scare the rest of us.
Don’t take steps for granted. You might think running up and down stairs is inconvenient, but when the stairs aren’t accessible, what are your options?
When injured, stairs are more difficult or impossible to climb. Appreciate your health and abilities over your limitations.
It’s nice to get away sometimes. The stairs led to my room, where I could (sometimes) find a quiet place. Find time and locations to be still.
It’s nice to connect with others. The stairs also led to my family with whom I have many great memories.
Consider what you’ve learned along the steps of your journey. Learn through the positive and negative experiences. Continue to take steps. God wants you to persevere and grow.
When people’s steps follow the Lord, God is pleased with their ways. (Psalm 37:23)
My husband and I drove as far as we could on the road leading to a point near where we were staying on Oahu. The road stopped short of where we wanted to be. Technically, the road continued, but it was only fit for 4-wheel drive vehicles. We turned around and explored another direction, but our curiousity was piqued and we returned a couple evenings later to walk the road. The sun was setting quickly, so we kept a quick pace. We got as far as we felt was safe, then returned to our parked car. If we wanted to explore further, we’d have to wait until daylight.
We decided to return a couple days later. We wanted to get to the Kaena Point National Reserve. It was only accessible by foot. Since the path was technically a road, it was an easy hike, but we hoped it would be worth it since we could have spent the same time and effort hiking into the mountains. We try to choose our hiking paths strategically to experience as much as we can in an area.
We weren’t disappointed.
We enjoyed views along the road before reaching the national reserve, where we had to enter through a narrow gate, insuring only foot traffic. We continued along the path, savoring natural vegetation, birds and even a monk seal.
The view from the point was breathtaking. We sat and ate lunch on the rocks worn from years of pounding water. We watched the waves crashing into and spraying over the rocks of the coastline. We absorbed the blues of the water meeting the blues of the sky. And while our hike to the location had been quiet with no one around us, others were at the same point. There were only a few, but we hadn’t encountered them before, because they had taken the path from the other side.
Two groups of people travelling from two different areas, meeting at a point for similar purpose for a limited time.
It happens all the time. We come in contact with someone we will never know deeply but have a shared interest or purpose for a brief moment.
The point of our paths is often the interactions God has planned for us. He invites us to enjoy the journey. He exceeds our expectations. He surprises us. He wants us to be attentive, because he knows who is on another path to intersect with us. It’s not all about us. There are people who need us and people we need. We impact each other whether it’s in actions, words, or simple presence. We share experiences with people even when our paths aren’t exactly the same.
God will cross your path with others today. Stay attentive. You will not always understand the significance. You might look for the big moments and ignore the little ones. I assure you God pays attention and is intentional about every detail, large or small.
Serve. Smile. Speak.
There’s a reason you’re at the same place at the same time. Listen to God’s leading.
Jesus said to them, “After you go into the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters…” (Luke 22:10)
Each Monday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. This week’s list includes a challenge for your day. Will you accept? I’m making assumptions about some of the things you’ll do today, so I’m not challenging you to add something to your day. Choose one or accept all the challenges. Let me know how it goes!
Walk. As you take physical steps today, think of the impact your steps have on your spiritual journey. Are you blazing a trail on your own? Are you asking God to bless your steps – after you’ve already taken them? Are you second-guessing yourself to such an extent you’re frozen and don’t move? Be intentional as you walk today. I will walk with the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 116:9)
Talk.Be mindful of the words you say today. Encourage others. Build others up. Are you making excuses for what you say? Are you taking others into consideration? Are you being bold in what God wants you to say but remaining silent when he guides you to silence? Be intentional in your talk today. When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. (Ephesians 4:29)
Rest.Life is busy. How well do you rest? Quiet yourself – even in the middle of a busy time or place. Look around. Take a deep breath. Soak in all God provides. Sink into his blessings. Trust him to refresh you throughout the day. Be intentional in your rest today. Anyone who enters God’s rest will rest from his work as God did. (Hebrews 4:10)
Pay.How are you spending your time, money, and energy? Do you hoard time, money, or energy? Do you overspend time, money, or energy, resulting in emotional, financial, or spiritual debt? God provides. Respond with good stewardship. Be intentional in how you spend your life today. When people work, their pay is not given as a gift, but as something earned. (Romans 4:4)
Read.How are you filling your mind? What sources do you trust? Be discerning in what is worthwhile to read, hear and see. Step beyond the basic choice between what’s good and bad. You’ll more often need to choose between good and good. Choose the best. Consistently soak in God’s Word. Be intentional in what you read today. Until I come, continue to read the Scriptures to the people, strengthen them, and teach them. (1 Timothy 4:13)
Eat.Does your day revolve around food? Do you ignore what your body is telling you? Does the ease of eating override the health of eating, or does the short-term pleasure override the long-term effects when you’re making a decision? What do your habits reflect about your priorities? Make healthy choices – one at a time. Be intentional in how and what you eat today. The answer is, if you eat or drink, or if you do anything, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Tech.You will likely use a variety of technology tools today. How are you using them? Are they helping you connect in healthy ways, or are they pulling you away from relationships? Reflect on your priorities. Choose each click well. Honor and glorify God in all you do. Be intentional in how you use technology today. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it loves its own. But I have chosen you out of the world, so you don’t belong to it. (John 15:19)