Christian Living

Abundance in the Now

How’re you guys doing? The holidays working out okay so far? We’ve had a full schedule this week–although my body rebelled so I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in bed. I’m so thankful though for our regular schedule!! We’ve organized it so that we’re consistently moving towards our goals rather than treading water. Something that makes me feel better than I can express 🙂

As I shared last week, our podcast, Epic Every Day, is all about aligning with God’s reality so we can find freedom, abundance, and peace. I ran out of space to talk about abundance and peace so I thought I’d tackle abundance this week and peace next week.

Abundance means having enough or more than enough. For instance, I’ve shared on this blog before how my life pre-Sacred Six meant I never completed my to-do list. I never had enough time to consistently do the things that are important to me. I skimped on self-care. I felt like I was always on the verge of drowning. Now, I actually complete my to-do list regularly. My schedule is set up to push me towards my goals.

Our society is so busy that we tend to live in overwhelm–we don’t have enough time/energy/resources to even try to change that reality. We’re just focused on trying to get through each day.

But what if we could have enough? What if we had enough time to do what really matters to us? To do all the good works God’s prepared in advance for us? What if we consistently had time to breathe? Time to just sit and marvel at God’s character? Time to sleep for 8 hours/night?

Or what about emotional resources–what if we had joy that circumstances couldn’t mute? What if we could persevere through difficult circumstances with peace?

Or what if we had enough finances? An emergency fund that could cushion the loss of a job or a sudden expense? A budget that kept us within our financial means? What if we were out of debt?

I’m not talking about a health and wealth gospel–Jesus said we’d have trouble in this world. Suffering is part of living in a broken world. However, by its very nature, aligning with the way God designed life to work pushes us in the direction of growing freedom, abundance, and peace.

For example, Proverbs speaks over and over about money. Proverbs 22:7 says that the borrower is slave to the lender–not a place we want to be if we’re supposed to be slaves only to God. Not having debts gets rid of a huge stressor and frees us up to do other things in God’s kingdom (e.g., giving to the poor). It’s part of freedom, abundance, and peace. God doesn’t keep us from getting into debt. But I believe He does help us get out of debt once we start being faithful with our finances and aligning with His heart towards money.

Abundance is one of my favorite things about the Christian life. I love that God is a God who gives good gifts (Jas 1:17), that He lavished the riches of His grace on us (Eph 1:8), that He gives abundant redemption (Ps. 130:7). He’s not a stingy God. Yes, living in a broken world means our not-yet abundance is paltry compared to the abundance we’ll have when Jesus returns. Having a healthy earthly body can’t really compare to having a healthy heavenly body. But there’s still abundance in the here and now. Like David says, “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps. 27:13, NIV).

We also see this when we look at Jesus’ ministry. The wine He made at Cana was both the highest quality and there was more than they needed. When He healed people, He did it to the point that they were fully functional–not just half-healed.

And that’s why we’re passionate about aligning with God’s design in the here and now. It’s the pathway to true abundance–both now and eternally.

Blog_ Abundance in the Now

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Christian Living

Being the Right Tool for the Job

The past few weeks have been unusual schedule-wise for us. My kids were complaining this morning that they just want a week where we have a normal schedule where we do school in the normal order 🙂 You know it’s bad when the kids are whining because they want to do more school!

I have to admit it’s been stressful for me as well. I love our normal schedule–mostly because we have structured our normal schedule in such a way that it pushes us forward in our goals just by following it. Normally, I get time to work on my writing six days a week. Normally, we work on our podcast. Normally, the house gets cleaner from week to week rather than deteriorating.

Anyway! Talking about being centered on our podcast, Epic Every Day, this week has had me mulling over how I’m doing in that area. Being centered is about living out of the essence of who God has made you (and me) to be. It’s about making sure you know yourself well and the things you do are the things you were designed to do. For instance, if you’re a screwdriver, you shouldn’t be pounding nails into a wall. If you’re an introvert, you’re probably not called to do a job with lots of people.

This idea was such a revelation to me. I was so used to doing what needed to be done regardless of whether it was the best use of my time. God has designed each of us with certain natural talents–for example, not everyone is energized by writing so not everyone takes the time to learn the necessary skills. Writing is something I’m passionate about and, hopefully, getting better at. It would be a waste of time for me (and for the person who received my work) to draw for a living. It’s not something I’m naturally talented at–nor am I willing to put in the time to increase my skills. It would be better for me to do the writing and for someone else to do the illustrations.

Proverbs 17:24 says, “Sensible people keep their eyes glued on wisdom, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth” (NLT). It’s wisdom to do the things God’s made us to do. We know that when we look at a tool. When my computer’s graphics card died (again!) this week, I didn’t go looking for pliers because I needed a mini screwdriver. Tools are not interchangeable, and neither are people. In the Church, we need our eyes to see and our ears to hear–we need everyone to do the job they’re designed for (1 Cor. 12) so we can all thrive. My life is better when you do what you’re called to do, and your life is better when I’m faithful too–whether we see the immediate effects or not.

So what are you called to do? What are you naturally talented at? Or what are you passionate about? I’m naturally talented at gathering information and I’m passionate about natural health, therefore, I know a lot about natural health stuff.

One way we can keep our eyes glued on wisdom is to write down what we’re supposed to be doing and then look at it regularly. I find I do much better when I have a sticky note of goals on my calendar and read through it out loud every day. It’s amazing how keeping my eyes on the finish line can motivate me 🙂 Besides, as my tai chi instructor likes to say, you can’t hit a bullseye if you’re looking at the wall the target is on–you have to focus on the bullseye.

Another way is to look at your schedule: is your normal schedule structured so that it will push you forward towards your goals? Do you have habits that create progress in the areas where you doing what you’re designed to do? If this is a struggle for you, I highly recommend reading JB Glossinger’s book, Sacred 6. It’s definitely helped bring this into focus for me!

Bottom line: Be the right tool for the job, and if you’re not, let someone else do it.

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Christian Living

Failing well

I recently started working through Lysa Terkeurst’s Bible study “The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands.” I’m really enjoying it!! I definitely needed to hear the importance of prioritizing this week.

In session 3, she talks about the difference between an error and an end: “An error is an unintentional mistake; an end is a termination,” (p. 89). She was talking about how fear of stepping out of God’s will can paralyze us. We get stuck in the belief that failure means an end–a mistake from which there’s no recovery, no way to fix the mistake. I have to admit that’s my tendency. I think it comes from having had situations where relationships ended no matter what I tried.

But errors are unintentional mistakes that God redeems. If we’re trying to follow God and we don’t do it perfectly (who does?!), God is able to redeem that error into something beautiful. He can use it to change our lives for the better and to change others’ lives for the better.

I’m reminded of the net under tightrope walkers. If they make a mistake, the net is there to catch them, to keep them safe. And then they can try again. There’s a freedom in knowing one doesn’t have to be perfect.

It’s like Carol Dweck talks about with a “growth mindset.” A growth mindset is one where you believe your brain can become smarter, you can learn new skills. You make mistakes because you know that it creates new neural pathways in your brain, allowing you to come closer to attaining your goal.

We’ve been talking about surrender all week on our podcast, Epic Every Day, and how it takes guts to surrender to God. It’s not easy. Mistakes are a place where surrender comes in handy. It brings God’s redemption into play.

And it aligns us with what’s already true–we can’t make any situation (mistake or not) come out right, regardless of how hard we try. I often hold myself to the standard of making things come out the way I think they should, but it’s a ridiculous standard. I am as incapable of directing circumstances as I am of directing the wind.

Obviously, that isn’t to say that our actions don’t matter. They do–they matter more than we can understand. We don’t have time to waste on getting caught up in inanities, in the busyness of life. We have to do the things God has called us to do. We have to apply the CSC’s (being calm, surrendered, centered, connected, & complete) or we’ll miss out on freedom and abundance and peace. Those things are worth fighting for–at least for me.

Lysa references Proverbs 3:5-6 and argues that the opposite of trusting God is trying to figure everything out on our own. She has three different spectrums as a measure of where one is at with trusting God: what degree thought about the situation, what degree you’ve prayed about the situation, what degree you’ve entrusted the outcome of the situation to God.

As I was placing myself on those spectrums, it was definitely convicting. I often pray because I’m trying to convince God to work in my situation, rather than praying out of trust. Or I’ll get stuck trying to piece together every possible scenario and what the best thing to do about each of them is and forget to pray.

That’s not who I want to be. I want to be someone who makes mistakes well because I am learning and growing and because I believe God can redeem them, rather than someone who avoids acting out of the fear of making mistakes.

So what about you? How do you handle mistakes?

Failing Well

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This Is Not a Detour: Finding Mental Rest

I don’t know about you, but mental rest is something I really struggle with. I am a worrier and a planner–just *slightly* on the control-freakish side. My husband likens my brain to a computer with 100+ windows open at all times.

The past several weeks I’ve had increased pain levels… mostly it’s been exhausting because I haven’t been able to find a position where I have less pain. And in case you’ve somehow forgotten, we just had Easter. This is significant in my life because the day after Easter three years ago was when my joint symptoms began, the day I started exploring this world of auto-immune disease.

I’ve also been re-reading one of my favorite series’: The Mallorean by David Eddings. And as I’ve been fussing a little to God about how I don’t like where I’m at right now, I happened to read through these passages:

Garion suddenly banged his fist on the rail in frustration. “Supposed to!” he burst out. “I don’t care about what we’re supposed to do. I want my son back. I’m tired of creeping around trying to satisfy all the clever little twists and turns of the Prophecy. What’s wrong with just ignoring it and going right straight to the point?”
Belgarath’s face was calm as he looked out at the rust-colored cliffs half-hidden in the gray drizzle. “I’ve tried that a few times myself,” he admitted, “but it never worked–and usually it put me even further behind. I know you’re impatient, Garion, and sometimes it’s hard to accept the idea that following the Prophecy is really the fastest way to get where you want to go, but that’s the way it always seems to work out.” (Vol. 1, 475)
“Let’s look at things from a practical point of view, though. When we started out, we were half a year behind Zandramas and we were planning a very tedious and time-consuming trek across Cthol Murgos–but we kept getting interrupted.”
“Tell me about it,” Silk said sardonically.
“Isn’t it curious that after all these interruptions, we’ve reached the eastern side of the continent ahead of schedule and cut Zandramas’ lead down to a few weeks?”
Silk blinked, and then his eyes narrowed.
“Gives you something to think about, doesn’t it?” (Vol. 1, 563)

When my plans get re-arranged, it’s easy to huff and puff about how this isn’t what I wanted to be doing, what I planned to be doing. But mental rest means that I can trust God to lead me wherever I’m supposed to go, therefore I can stop worrying and obsessing over the future. I can trust that He knows the way ahead and that my loving Father will provide for whatever is ahead. (See “The Resting Place” in Tales from a Spacious Place for more expounding.) No matter how it looks, whatever I’m going through is not a detour, it’s part of the plan.

Does this mean I should stop planning? Um, no, that would fall into the category of laziness, like the Proverbial sluggard. The ant plans, without obsessing over the future.

And finally, there’s a profound mental rest that comes from knowing things turn out all right in the end. I need that reassurance, especially on days when it feels like nothing is turning out all right.

So what does this look like on a practical level? I’m sure it varies from person to person, but these are three things I try to practice for myself and with my kids whenever I’m worried/scared/giving in to despair.

1) I whip out my verse cards (actually, I try to whip them out preventatively–keeping one set on the kitchen counter and one in the bathroom). I have passages like Matthew 6:25-34 and Isaiah 40:27-31 there. Worry is based on an unreality and takes your mind to places that don’t yet exist (and may never do so). Truth is our ammunition to get rid of those lies.

2) I slow down, take deep breaths, and explore the moment I’m in. Pretend you’re looking at wildlife. Don’t judge what’s there, just examine what’s around. What does this moment look like? What are the good things in this moment? What are the not-so-good things? More often than not, the positive things outweigh the negatives, but I can’t see them when I’m focused on the negative. Slowing down forces me to re-evaluate whether my worries actually match reality.

3) I read through old journals or talk to a friend to remember the ways God has come through for me in the past, whether that’s Him getting rid of the stressor or using it in my life to work something amazing.

What are some practical ways you pursue mental rest?

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A Fat Soul Continued

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m doing a word study on biblical laziness and biblical rest. Over and over Scripture contrasts laziness with diligence, so I decided I should do a little study to see what diligence is and what that teaches us about laziness.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “diligent,” somehow that gets translated into “perfect” in my brain. A lazy person has a messy house (or insert whatever job you want), but a person who’s diligent is has a perfectly clean house and their children are perfectly schooled, etc., etc. A person who is diligent finishes their to-do list or whatever chore they are working on, but a lazy person leaves tasks half-done. When I get to the end of my day and my house looks like a tornado went through it, and my kids didn’t learn what was on the lesson plan, and I’m still in my pajamas, and I haven’t even looked at my author related things, there’s this little speech that begins to play in my head about how obviously I didn’t work hard enough that day–I was lazy somewhere, otherwise the day would have turned out differently. I’d have something to show.

Studying diligence in Scripture has made me realize that it doesn’t necessarily mean perfection or even results–sometimes it just means faithfulness. It also reminded me of how focusing on apparent results can be such a cop-out. For example, look at the Pharisees. Jesus says that they were careful to tithe everything, even going so far as to weigh out their spices, but they neglected the more important things, they neglected justice and mercy and faithfulness (Matt 23:23). It’s so much easier to judge whether I’m being a good wife and mother based on how clean my house is, rather than asking myself the hard questions, like whether I’m diligent in love. This is not to say that you can’t keep a house clean because you love your family, but I find that often, I keep the house clean because I’m a control freak and because I want a clean house. In that respect, spending my day housecleaning can actually hinder my loving…

which brings me to my next point: Diligence is not haphazard. Proverbs 21:5 says “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” (NASB) Diligence plans. Laziness goes with the flow without thinking (e.g., Proverbs 6:6). As Christians, our goal is to grow in relationship with God by obeying Him. Just like the people were commanded to carry out Darius’ decree with “all diligence” (speed and correctness), we’re commanded to carry out God’s degrees with diligence. So, sadly, working hard all day doesn’t count if you’re working on the wrong things (ouch! says my workaholic tendencies). Those days I spend reading to my kids and playing with them may not look like much from the outside, but they’re rich in love.

Here’s just a few things God commands us to be diligent in:
Hebrews 6:10-12 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (NIV)

2 Peter 1:5-7 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective (*note: the word here is “argos” which can mean “lazy”) and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)

“Faith,” “goodness,” “knowledge,” “self-control,” “perseverance,” “godliness,” “brotherly kindness,” and “love”? Um, so that’s more than enough intangibles to keep me busy for a life-time. Well, and as Hebrews 6 says, we can’t just be diligent for the moment–we’re supposed to diligent to the end. Diligence has overtones of perseverance in it. Keep growing. Keep obeying, day after day after day, regardless of the apparent results.

So in summary, here’s what I’ve learned about laziness so far: it doesn’t plan, it doesn’t work at the right things if it works at all (remember the sluggard who reaches out for food, but won’t even put it in his mouth?), it delays, makes excuses, doesn’t persevere, spends too much time resting and sleeping, and in the end it craves and gets NOTHING.
Diligence on the other hand is a precious possession that leads to a fat soul.
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A Fat Soul

Living with a chronic illness has often forced me face-to-face with my ideas about rest and laziness. My natural tendency is to be an overworking perfectionist and to worry that I’m being lazy. And because of this, I have serious issues trying to tell when it’s appropriate to stop working. I’ve spent the past month fighting something like mono, so I’m even extra tireder than usual, which means it’s more of a struggle to make myself do basic household chores and I’m even more in love with my bed. Hence, I decided it was a good time to do some study on biblical laziness and biblical rest.

I’ve been doing word studies on all the different words translated as “lazy” and this passage came up:

I passed by the field of the sluggard And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense, And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles; Its surface was covered with nettles, And its stone wall was broken down. When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction. “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest,” Then your poverty will come as a robber And your want like an armed man. ~ Proverbs 24:30-34 NASB

“Sluggard” is the word I was looking at. I think this passage has a lot to say about laziness and foolishness.

1) This person’s “field” is overgrown with things that shouldn’t be there–he doesn’t have a crop of grapes or wheat or olives, but instead he’s got a giant crop of thistles and nettles.

2) The things that should be there are broken down or noticeably absent–as I said, his actual crop is gone and his stone wall is broken down. This of course requires us to ask what crops ought to be in our lives. What are the things God has called you to do? For me, I have things like loving my husband and children, teaching my children more about who God is and this amazing world He’s made, doing some kind of housecleaning and cooking every day, working hard at becoming physically healthier, writing whatever projects God has put on my heart… the list goes on and on 🙂 It helped me to think about all my different relationships and what roles I fill and then ask myself what I knew I should be doing–both broadens the list of callings, and yet shrinks down some of the excess “to-do’s.”

3) Why did his field fill up with the wrong things while the right things deteriorated/died? Because he spent all his time sleeping and resting. Proverbs 6:9 says, “How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” (NASB) and Proverbs 26:14 puts it even more pointedly–“As the door turns on its hinges, So does the sluggard on his bed” (NASB). The sluggard loves to sleep. And he hates to work. The sluggard is so lazy, he reaches out for food, but he won’t even put it in his mouth (Proverbs 19:24, 26:15). He’s so averse to work that he makes up all kinds of excuses not to work: “There is a lion outside; I will be killed in the streets!”(Proverbs 22:13, 26:13).

4) Where does all his resting and sleeping get him? In poverty. I love how Proverbs 13:4 puts it: “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat” (NASB). He thinks resting will satisfy some craving, but in the end it leaves him empty. I do that. There are times when I think I just “need” to watch a movie, or read a book, or lie down for a while and then I’ll feel better, but the thing doesn’t help. But then there are times when I do those things and become re-anchored in who God is and who I am, and encouraged to persevere. I think part of that is dependent on the kind of movie or book I read and whether I’m doing it to escape what I should be doing instead.

I’m still in the middle of my study, but reading this passage made me ask myself what my “field” looks like. Is it full of things that are choking out the crop that should be there? Are my walls getting all broken down? Or am I being faithful and diligent in the things God has called me to do? I don’t know about you, but at the end of the day, I want to have a fat soul, rather than being so unwilling to work that I can’t even feed myself.