Christian Living

Free to Fly

How was everybody’s Thanksgiving? I really love the idea that we can set ourselves up for success! Like I talked about last week with using Thanksgiving to set up our holidays. I guess it’s because my schedule tends toward the packed side and my health tends towards exhaustion and my stress level tends towards more than I want it to be. There’s so much I can’t control. The idea that I can hook myself into a railroad track that will carry me the direction I want to head is music to my soul.

On our podcast, Epic Every Day, we introduce it by saying it’s designed for busy, overwhelmed Christians who want to move towards freedom, abundance, and peace. Those concepts have been my goals for the past several years.

In Gal. 5:1 Paul says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” It’s easy to forget how amazing that is in the daily grind of life. Unless I’m reminded, I don’t think about freedom when I’m in the middle of school or housekeeping or even writing and podcasting. But we can’t take it for granted. Paul continues by saying, “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (NIV). We’re designed to fly, but so often we hang around on the ground.

I’m reminded of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. They were so used to working 7 days a week that they went out to gather manna, even though God (via Moses) told them not to. He reinstated the Sabbath but their train tracks were to work 7 days.

Our natural tendency is to live in bondage. It might be the bondage of fear/worry. Or maybe it’s bondage to an addiction. Or bondage to stress. Or bondage to jealousy or envy. Or maybe it’s bondage to the past–carrying regret or being unable to forgive yourself. Maybe it’s bondage to people-pleasing or trying to control things in your life. Or, like Paul talks about, maybe it’s bondage to rules–trying to earn salvation. We all lived in bondage before Jesus saved us. For me, I had so much fear wrapped up in my PTSD. Years of therapy and personal work, by God’s grace, have brought freedom that I never thought possible. Sometimes I notice it in little things, like being able to watch my kids chew gum without having a panic attack. Or sometimes it’s in big things like sleeping through the night consistently for the first time in my life.

We all have some kind of bondage. The question is what we’re going to do about it. We can stay trapped. One of the most insidious traps is to be stuck in “someday”–“Someday I’ll address that bondage.” “Someday my life circumstances will be different and my heart issues will go away by themselves.” “Someday I’ll have time to inventory where I’m in bondage.”

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts…” (Heb. 3:7-8)

There’s no time to wait for someday. And, as I’ve talked about before, we can’t apply a circumstance solution to a heart problem. The heart problem will be there until we fix the heart problem. Freedom is internal before it shows up externally. We’re so blessed because we don’t have to earn our salvation! We have a loving heavenly Father who gives us good gifts that are perfectly individualized for each of us (James 1:17). We have the Holy Spirit to work the fruit of the Spirit in us when we surrender–so many of which are the antidote to bondage. We don’t have to live in bondage–we choose to live in it.

So where don’t you have freedom? And what’s stopping you from getting it?

Copy of Blog_ Using Thanksgiving as a springboard

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Christian Living

Taking Breaks Isn’t For Wusses

I love when something happens that highlights how far I’ve come. It doesn’t happen super often, but every once in a while, I’ll realize what a 180 I’ve done. Every time I watch the Descendants movies, it reminds me how hard it is to move from one world into another.

Growing up, I learned that taking breaks is for wusses. Successful people push themselves until they’re running on empty, and if you can’t handle the heat, then get out of the kitchen. Think that’s enough metaphors? But seriously, until I got sick seven and a half years ago, I lived that. And it meant I had loads of shame once I got sick and couldn’t be a “contributing member of society.” To me, contributing meant giving 110% to every task in front of me.

This week we did a podcast on how taking breaks isn’t for wusses. Taking breaks is a tangible way to surrender to God. He’s the one who proscribed weekly Sabbaths and daily sleeping enough (Ps. 127:2) and yearly festivals. It’s not easy to stop doing–it forces us to trust instead, to believe that God can pick up the slack in our families, our jobs, our goals, etc., etc. I’m far more likely to want to keep at it day and night. As I said on our show, I have to re-surrender about every 20 minutes on my Sabbath because I keep thinking of things that need done.

Taking breaks gives us mental and emotional room to be more effective the rest of the time. For example, sleep-deprivation acts like alcohol–it slows our reflexes, lowers our critical thinking, and impairs judgment. As a society, we often tout our lack of sleep as some kind of badge of honor, but all we’re really saying is that we’re careless with our lives. We’re trading staying up late for being effective and efficient for the next day.

We’re also giving up change in our lives for the pleasure of having a wall-to-wall schedule. I think that fact more than any other has prompted me to prioritize margin in my schedule. It’s like with plants–if you don’t give them enough room to grow, they don’t thrive. We need room in our schedules in order to thrive. Without it, we’ll be miserable and we’ll stay the same miserable people as long as our schedule continues. Without room to process what we’ve learned, to learn new things, to have conversations and relationships, to sit with Jesus, to read, and to think, we can’t grow. One of my worst fears is that I will be the same person 20 years from now as I am today. I can’t imagine carrying the same amount of baggage for decades. It makes me tired just thinking about it!

So! Challenge: Surrendering your time takes actually doing something. It’s not a faith without works deal. For me, surrendering my time means kneeling in the morning and praying over my schedule, taking a Sabbath, and I’m working on going to bed on time. If you already do all those, way to go! If not, pick one and start adding it to your schedule. If you’d like a little public accountability, write which one you’re going to do in a comment.

Taking Breaks Is Not For Wusses-2

 

 

Christian Living

Love lives differently

This week on our podcast, Epic Every Day, we’ve been talking about starting new things. As I was reading through my journal, I was reminded of this great chart Priscilla Shirer has in her Bible study on the Sabbath, Breathe. If you haven’t done it, I highly, highly recommend it!

Priscilla starts her book with a quote from Harriet Tubman: “I freed thousands of slaves. I could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.” Isn’t that the truth? A person has to know they’re in bondage before they can get free. And sometimes, the only way to tell whether you’re in bondage to something is to take a break from it. Can you go without coffee for one day? Can you go without computer games for one day? What about sugar? Or TV? Or [insert your go-to method of dealing with stress]?

So often, we are slaves and we don’t even know it. It’s an excellent strategy for keeping us ineffective and unproductive in our faith.

Anyway! Priscilla has this great chart in Breathe. Take a look (& take the time to read through it slowly and thoughtfully):

Slave hoard–Free people give.
Slaves live fearfully–Free people live lovingly.
Slaves live with closed fists–Free people live with open hands.
Slaves live from a posture of lack–Free people live from a posture of abundance.
Slaves live from a  stance of deficiency–Free people live from a place of holy expectation.
Slaves never think they have enough–Free people believe that whatever they don’t have, God will graciously, miraculously, and abundantly give in His timing.
Slaves keep going–Free people can willingly discipline themselves to stop.

Breathe, p. 76

 

Slaves live out of fear. Fear is one of the big reasons I don’t start new things. It’s scary to do something outside of my comfort zone. Uncomfortable by definition. But that’s not who God has called us to be.

Re-reading through this chart, I found myself wondering what new things I would start now if I was living out of love rather than fear. I mean, I have things on my radar to start if we ever have the finances to do it (for example, a trauma house or a scholarship for natural health). But what about now?

Maybe it would be as simple as being a little more open in my relationships. Or maybe I’d be a little more relaxed about my schedule–that’s definitely something I tend to hang onto with a white-knuckled fist. Or maybe I’d jump into something insane like actually publishing my second book (it’s been languishing on my computer). There are loads of things we could be doing at any given moment. You don’t have to do what you did yesterday–you could quit your job and join a circus. I wonder what we’d learn about ourselves and what God’s called us to do if we were a little more open-minded about how our lives could change.

There’s this great clip of Will Smith talking about fear and skydiving. He points out that so much of our fear is leading up to the thing. We wreck our lives being terrified of things that haven’t even happened–missing meals and sleep and not enjoying time with the people we love out of dread for something that we aren’t doing in that moment. And then, often, we find (if we do the thing we’re scared of) that it wasn’t as scary as we made it out to be ahead of time.

So how about you? Where are you living out of fear? And what would it look like if you were instead living out of love? What new things would you start?

Blog_ Love lives differently-2

Christian Living

How to get a surplus

As a person with chronic fatigue, I am always looking for ways to find more energy, more time, etc., etc. I often feel like I pack my days from one end to the other. I recently made out an ideal schedule and realized that’s simultaneously true and not true. I do pack every minute of my day, but it’s because I make sure to prioritize self-care things too. I spend time with Jesus every day. I run and read my journal every day. The past few weeks I’ve been meditating every day. So my day is really full but it’s full of good things.

So when I reread Leviticus 25:20-22 it caught my eye. It’s in the context of giving the land a year-long Sabbath. It says, “You may ask, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?’ I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in” (NIV)

Can you imagine? You’re a farmer, and your livelihood depends on growing enough food every year to last until the next harvest. And God tells you to take a year off farming. It makes me stressed just thinking about it. But instead of God giving them enough to last for the year they’re taking off, they have enough to last for two more years. The sixth year gives them enough they have a surplus that lasts beyond the seventh year and into the ninth year. How crazy go nuts is that??!

In her book on the Sabbath, Breathe, Priscilla Shirer talks about how God does the same thing when we take a weekly Sabbath. I have to confess that’s not often how I approach the Sabbath. I’m the kind of person who chafes at inactivity because I can think of a laundry list of things that I didn’t get done the week before. It feels counterintuitive to not work for a day, especially if the previous week has been rough.

But that’s the kind of God we have–He’s all about creating rest. Rest isn’t the sort of thing that shows up on its own. We have to create it, to carve out time and maintain boundaries around it.

You can see the same principle in Malachi 3:8-12. If you’ve ever heard a sermon preached on this passage, you’ve probably been taught that if you tithe, God will give you extra. It says, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.“You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the LORD of hosts. “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the LORD of hosts” (NIV).

I firmly believe that when we tithe, God blesses us. But there’s a flip side: if we don’t tithe, we don’t get that blessing. Just like if we don’t Sabbath, we don’t get that blessing. Our time, money, etc., etc. goes to other things–broken cars, a hailstorm on your roof, a long line at the grocery store… the list goes on and on. And I’m not trying to say that if you have that stuff, it’s a symptom of God not blessing you. We live in a broken world. Stuff breaks. But we’ve definitely seen that when we tithe, we have enough to tithe and when we don’t tithe, the money isn’t available to tithe. Like Jesus said, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away” (Lk 19:26, NIV).

I was also challenged to reframe how I view Sabbath. Instead of chafing at the bit, what if I saw it as a sort of planting time? Taking a Sabbath is like planting a seed so we can reap God’s blessing. If I really believed that observing the Sabbath would give me extra resources, I would be eager to celebrate it.

My life is way too busy to leave surplus resources laying around. I can’t afford not to align with God’s blessing for Sabbath. Sabbath creates surplus. We can’t wait until we have surplus to do Sabbath.

Christian Living

The Cycle of Burnout

The past week or so has been pretty brutal. I had a busy day on Friday and then, on Saturday, I went to something that was important, but that I knew I didn’t have energy for. The result: a two-day migraine and four nights of insomnia. Good times.

My husband, Evan, and I have been talking a lot about margin lately. And as I was reading through my journal this morning, I was reminded that Sabbath is created rather than attained via circumstances or avoidance of circumstances. It’s proactive rather than reactive.

Burnout is the opposite. If your time, talents, resources, etc. are a garden and boundaries are what make sure you have enough fruit in your garden to feed yourself and your family and to share with others, then burnout begins with a garden of scarcity. From my personal experience, burnout comes when I start from a place of exhaustion and lack in my own life and then try to use my scanty resources on others (my kids, my friends, my Church, etc.) instead of making sure I’m fed.

I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t give sacrificially for others–we should. But there’s a difference between sacrificing and putting yourself in burnout. Sacrificing is when you choose to give something that is a stretch. However, part of that whole loving ourselves as we love others equation means that we shouldn’t give to the point that we’re starving. It’s still sacrificial giving to give away your time, energy, talents, etc. even if you can survive without that particular resource.

I’ve been thinking about 2 Cor. 9:7 which says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (NIV).  It’s impossible to be a cheerful giver when you’re in burnout–just like it’s impossible to think creatively, problem-solve, or any of those other things your brain shuts off when you’re in survival mode. You end up giving reluctantly or because it’s the “right” thing to do instead of something you want to give. It may feel spiritual, but it’s actually not. It doesn’t reflect who God is. It doesn’t make for healthier relationships or a healthier Church.

See, here’s the thing: when we give out of lack, we ourselves then have to be taken care of. When we’re full of the Holy Spirit and all Sabbathed-up, we’re giving from a place of abundance. That doesn’t mean we don’t need God to refill us daily or that we don’t need a weekly Sabbath. Burnout begins with lack and leads to more and more lack. It’s a vicious cycle. True, healthy giving begins with abundance. It starts with being full and then reaches out.

What about you guys? Any helpful tips on avoiding burnout?

Christian Living

Why You’re Too Busy to Skip Your Quiet Time

As I’ve mentioned, I’m working my way through Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study on the Sabbath called Breathe. And I’m really enjoying it–she’s got a LOT packed into the four weeks of homework!

In week three, she has this great phrase: “Take care of God’s business. Let Him take care of yours.” The section is on the Israelites in Exodus 16 and how when God instituted the Sabbath they were out in the desert and had been commanded to gather manna. It’s pretty amazing! God tells them to gather 1 omer per person per day and when they go out to gather, they find that no matter how much or how little they gathered, it still ends up to an omer per person in their household. Makes you wonder if the Israelites were all scratching their heads come time to measure the manna.

The other neat thing about this passage is that the Israelites are commanded to gather a double portion the day before the Sabbath. Priscilla argues that the people spent the same amount of time gathering as they did any other day and it just ended up being twice as much. I’m not familiar enough with the passage to agree or disagree, but I do believe that God gives us enough time to accomplish the things He’s called us to do and that He can definitely double our effectiveness.

Anyway! So in this section, she talks about how when we honor God with a Sabbath, He makes sure everything else works out okay time-wise. You see this principle in Matt. 6:33 where Jesus says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (NASB) The idea being that we focus on God and He takes care of our needs.

This is definitely something I’ve seen happen in my own life, particularly with my morning quiet time. Before I had children, I had a very inconsistent quiet time. After my first daughter was born, I was overwhelmed–there never seemed to be enough time in the day. A Bible study I was doing challenged me to start having a daily quiet time and see what God would do. To my shock, I discovered that the days when I did have a quiet time would go so much smoother. I’d get more done. I’d be less stressed about it. I remember one particularly crazy day when we had to get up early to leave for a trip and I told my husband that I had way too many things to do that day to skip my quiet time. 🙂

The reality is we’re all too busy–it’s part of American culture. We’re too busy. And I hear that excuse so often when people explain to me why they don’t actually have a regular quiet time. But I’m here to tell you that when you give God the first part of your day, He works out everything else. Do your quiet time and you won’t be too busy to have a quiet time because God will fill in the gaps with your house, your kids, your job, etc., etc.

The reality of our situation is that we’re all too busy to skip our quiet times.

Christian Living

Sabbath Margin

Providentially, the next Bible study I’m working my way through is Priscilla Shirer’s Breathe. It’s about Sabbath. I’m really loving this study, you guys! If rest and margin are issues you struggle with, it’s definitely worth doing!

I really enjoyed that God put it right after doing the week on self-control in Beth Moore’s study on the fruit of the Spirit. Rest is something I’ve struggled with for most of my life. I’m better at it than I used to be but I still feel like I lack margin. In week one, Priscilla talked about how God created rest on the 7th day after creation. She springboards from there in a few directions.

First, rest is something intentional. My “rest” tends to be a cessation of labor that comes when I’m either overwhelmed or just plain exhausted. I learned though that that’s not actually rest. Rest is proactive rather than reactive. Rest takes self-control and discipline to create.

Second, God rested. We live in a society (and I was raised) that believes rest is a sign of weakness or laziness, that we’re inconsiderate if we say no to ministry opportunities so we can rest instead, or that our worth is dependent on how much we do. The fact that God rests is in direct contradiction to those things. God isn’t weak. He isn’t lazy. And He’s not inconsiderate. Nor can He gain or lose worth–He just is. So, when I rest, I’m not being lazy. I’m not weak for resting. Resting doesn’t make me a bad person who is inconsiderate or worth less than I would be if I was busy all the time. I don’t know about you, but those are all things I know intellectually. Putting God in the equation gave me a different perspective; I’m not about to argue God is lazy/weak/worth less for resting, so why do I believe that about myself?

Third, Priscilla talked about how God gave the Sabbath to the Israelites when they were leaving Egypt and she argues that it’s because the Sabbath can set our hearts free (something the Israelites desperately needed after generations of slavery). Sabbath forces us to uncouple doing and worth, getting rid of performance-oriented worth. It disconnects time and accomplishments. We have to acknowledge that God is the source of our accomplishments because we’re taking breaks. It makes us let go of control. For several years now, I’ve taken a break from writing on my Sabbath and it’s sometimes a little stressful. I can tell when I’m starting to panic over finishing my book because I don’t want to take that break.

Unfortunately, rest doesn’t just happen. As I mentioned, it’s created. It’s about putting walls around various areas of our lives so we have margin. Margin is so key for life! A few weeks ago, I learned that the creative/problem-solving part of your brain shuts down when you don’t have margin. All our busyness is making us less productive–like hamsters who compare how far they’ve run on their wheels instead of hamsters who get off the wheel and actually go somewhere.

So what about you? Are you too busy? Do you have enough margin in your life to work smarter instead of harder? How can you create more margin?