A Daily Choice: Dread or Dreams for the Day Ahead [day 25: because]

Whether it’s an overwhelming workload or a dull day ahead, I start a lot of days defeated. Deep sighs and unwarranted resentments fill the crisp morning air. I have found it is near impossible to face these days without first spending time with Jesus. I’m so thankful when He turns my morning around and grants me a good start.

It is most helpful for me to focus on the person of Jesus or the goodness of God before little feet tip-toe in my room to turn my quiet time into angry cries for food. Before the chaos begins, I grasp for Scriptures which inspire me to revel in just how wonderful He is. Eyes on His attributes, I am empowered to face whatever the day holds — not because of who I am or what I can do but because of Who He is and what He can do.

Instead of dread, I wake with hopeful expectation of what the Lord will do in a day’s time. Even more than my morning cup of coffee, I crave His favor and anticipate His intimate involvement in the unfolding of my day whether it proceeds with ticking off to-dos or twiddling my thumbs.

Like the Psalmist David, I can say,

Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.
Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:
When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.
Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.
My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

Psalm 63:3-8

I’ll celebrate small today — not because my health is good or my kids behave — but because His lovingkindness is better than life. Because He is my help in however it hits the fan. Because He holds me above the days I dread and allows me to dream big dreams and live each day for Him — however small it seems.

How do you deal with dread?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

 

The 4 Rs of Resurgence from Rock-Bottom [day 24: revise]

I’ve had one real rock-bottom moment since living on the mission field. I sat in front of a doctor sure I was gravely ill only to be told I was medically fine but mentally falling apart. A stressful first year in our new home — which involved earthquakes, 2 moves, a scary accident, and power and food/gas shortages — culminated in a wound up ball of worry with my name on it.

I had made myself sick with trying to manage all of this mess in the most perfect way possible. I carried so much pressure to make it all OK for my family. The harsh reality I had to face was that everyone was OK but me. I was living in a foggy state of fear that was blinding me to all the blessings at hand.

All of these fears — which I passed off as a natural response to stressful stimuli — actually revealed my deepest fear of them all: fear of failure. When thinking clearly, I am sure God is pleased with me. But when the stakes are high and the stress is higher, my feeble heart needs reminding. In these times of lost focus, it is likely I fall short of God’s standard for me. I forget whose I am or I forget my #1 goal in life.

Sometimes, the temptation to sin is stronger than my resolve to follow Jesus. Sometimes my emotional response to stressful stimuli is downright ugly. Sometimes I treat the people I love most in ways I would be ashamed to admit to you here. Sometimes I am just a stinking, rotten failure. And that’s a hard pill to swallow for a natural perfectionist.

However, when I faithfully practice celebrating small, I can see failure as a starting place. From rock- bottom, I cry out to Jesus in repentance for the ways I fail to reflect the ‘heart surgery’ I’ve undergone. With full confidence He will receive me, I — His broken child — collapse into His loving arms. I embrace the failure that enables me to clearly see His perfect love for me. His gentle reassurance tells me what I already know — I’ve got to get a grip on this pet sin of mine.

Because the stone cold truth is there’s no sin bigger than God’s forgiveness, and I am never too far away for God’s love to find me. He wants to work His will and way in my life and will go to great lengths to show me this. Fallen as I am, I will fail Him. I will mess up a thousand times in a thousand different ways. When I find myself face down in failure, it is imperative to pick myself up enough to run back to Scripture. There I find the truths that set me back on the path of big dreams where I celebrate small and live my life for Jesus alone.

In preparation for another rock-bottom moment, I can rehearse these truths to strengthen my heart and my confidence in the One who will meet me there.

The 4 Rs of Resurgence from Rock-Bottom

Remember

God loves you.
You have been made righteous in His sight.
He will forgive, and you can bear fruit for Him.

Repent

Confess to Jesus your wrongs and turn from the bad habits that don’t serve Him well. If they don’t serve Him well, they won’t serve you or others well either.

Revise

Plan to do right and arm yourself with Scripture.
Rid your life of the things that keep you from walking in the Spirit and serving Christ wholeheartedly.
Establish accountability with a trusted friend, church group, or pastor/pastor’s wife who will support you and encourage you with the truth of God’s word.

Rise

Keep following Jesus and seeking to fulfill the big dreams He has given you.
Grow in your relationship with the Lord and see Him perform a great work in you.
Lead others to Jesus and disciple those that walk the road behind you.
Trust that the Lord does all things well and will continue to perfect you according to His will.

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:16-18

 

Which of these stages do you find yourself in today?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

 

Wowed by God’s Work in Me [day 23: work]

I’m one to stop and smell the roses. It seems I’ve rubbed off on my kids in this case.  My daughter is adept at noticing details of the day like cotton candy sunsets and full moons. She stops to admire a rosebush in the middle of a mess of weeds. My son notices every plane that flies overhead and can pick out a kite stories above as we ride in a crowded car. He stops to greet each dog (true story!) and explodes in joy at the sight of a butterfly in flight.

You don’t have to teach kids to be wowed by the wonderful world we live in. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we are admonished in Scripture to become like little children.

Another reason may also be to encourage our dependence on Jesus. Surely, this child-like awe of our Creator and total dependence on Him are paramount to cultivating and sustaining a life-changing faith. I love how Psalm 104 nods at both of these.

The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever:
The LORD shall rejoice in his works.
He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth:
He toucheth the hills, and they smoke.
I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live:
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
My meditation of him shall be sweet:
I will be glad in the LORD.
Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth,
And let the wicked be no more.
Bless thou the LORD, O my soul.
Praise ye the LORD.

Psalm 104:31-35

Throughout this chapter, the Psalmist celebrates Gods works of both creation and providence. His mighty work didn’t stop when He looked and said, “It is good.” He is intimately involved in lovingly sustaining His creation. And He is intimately involved in lovingly sustaining me. The power that put the world in motion and keeps it spinning precisely according to His divine will is alive and working in me. I can trust that the work He does is good for me even when it doesn’t feel like it.

God doesn’t need me to be wowed by Him, but it benefits me to celebrate small in His work I see in the world and the work He does within me. When I cultivate this daily habit of celebrating small, my meditation of the Lord can be sweet and my heart can be glad. I’ll rejoice in His work, and I’ll totally depend on Him just like a child who paints pictures in the sky and never ceases to be amazed at the puffs of perfection. He is totally helpless but totally happy because the world is just as it should be.

While that babe may not know who created the clouds or keeps his heart beating, I do. I put my life in His hands each day because I know He is only capable of good work in the world — and in me, too.

How can you praise God’s provision in your life?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

 

Looking into the Light during the Darkest Times of Missional Living [day 22: light]

I smell burning incense in the air, hear rhythmic chanting and ringing bells, and step over shrines set out for the goddess of wealth. Our people miss services to visit family and not one visitor darkens the doors of our church plant. We have to have conversations with our oldest about religion and culture — things I truly haven’t wrapped my head all the way around yet. For those who don’t celebrate like Hindus, this festival season can be a very discouraging or depressing time. The darkness is real and overwhelming.

It’s so easy to dwell on the darkness, but God calls me to look into the Light. In the book of John, Jesus is called the Light. When it seems darkness is all around me, I have to remain focused on Jesus and let His light shine into my life.  It shows me all the graces of God and the good that is present among the darkness. Yes, it’s a difficult time in this country for believers. But when I choose to celebrate small, I see how God has changed people from this time last year until this year’s festival. I see boldness and beauty and opportunity. I see a nation lost in darkness but loved by God. When I see the Light, I see all these good things.

I think of times as a child when I would deny myself water or a bathroom break because I feared the dark. I thought something would snatch me from under my bed if my feet touched the floor! In the same way, fear of the darkness of the world can render me useless as I hide from it.  I can stock up on our necessities, and shut our doors and windows, and play Christian hymns at eardrum-busting volumes to drown out the happenings outside….

OR I can remember that God is Light, and He lives in me. What good is the light in me if I’m not shining it into dark places? Of course, this doesn’t mean I am joining the Hindus in idol worship, but it does mean I’m not afraid to walk around my neighborhood and enjoy the sight of hanging lights. It means I sit with a friend and eat the traditional meal as she teaches me about the history and customs that make this time of year special for her. It means obedience to share my light.

Now more than ever, my fear of God has to outweigh my fear of darkness. My praise must outdo my pity. My trust must surpass my trepidation. And how can any of this be? Because my Light outshines the darkness.

How can you let your Light shine in the darkness around you?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

 

When Life Demands I Pour from My Empty Cup [day 21:give]

Affection and time-I-don’t-have to my husband.
Sippies and snacks, hugs and kisses to my kids.
Surprise visits, small gifts, and gospel tracts to my unbelieving friends.

 

In marriage, motherhood, and missional living — at times– it can seem like I just give and give and give. If I allow my focus to turn inwardly, I can start to see myself as saintly and others as soul suckers emptying me of my energy and taking advantage of my efforts to serve. This is not a true heart of service nor is it honoring to the God who calls me to give myself to these people each day.

There is no doubt that I will fall short of the big dreams to love and serve others like Jesus would. As I wrote in “31 Days Living the Golden Rule” during Write 31 Days last year,

We will let people down. We won’t be able to fulfill what we promise. We won’t find the strength to love like Jesus. We occupy bodies broken by the Fall and are unable to live perfectly and honorably at all times (or most of the time!). We trust God to work on our behalf, to communicate the words we fail to speak, and to show the love we fail to display.

 

We will strive and struggle. It’s all part of this thing called sanctification. We need heaping spoonfuls of grace and answered prayers for the strength to do more. We make right the things we can make right, and we ask God to take care of the rest. Sometimes that’s all we can do.

Heaping Spoonfuls of Grace for When We Goof it All Up, October 2016

In all of this, sensitivity to the working of the Holy Spirit is of utmost importance. At times, I clearly sense that the Lord is telling me to give myself a break, to rest in His promises, and take time to recover and refuel. A burned-out missionary isn’t of much more use than one who stayed at home, and a checked-out mom and wife does not supply a firm foundation for family. But there are other times, I feel the stirring in my soul to look beyond my own borders and give a little more. Often in these instances, I sit with gaping mouth because I’m certain I have no more to give.

God reminds me then of the widow in 1 Kings 17 who ministered to the needs of Elijah. Even though what she had to offer did not seem to match the need at hand, God honored her willingness to serve others and never let her supply run out. In the same way, I can follow the Spirit’s leading to continue to serve when I feel like my cup is just about empty. I can trust He will give me a little more strength and encourage my heart as the service is carried out for Him — because ultimately my service to literally anyone is service to Him (Matthew 25:40).

Like the last sip of a hot mocha, I savor the emptying cup. When I celebrate small, at the bottom of the frothy glass I see evidence of a life poured out in service to others. I see an opportunity to fill up on the truths of God’s word and sit close to Him in hopes that some of His strength may spill over into me. I pray and trust that He will fill me up again each time I give the last bit to another. I give with a heart wide open, aware of the possibility of my cup going dry but so sure of His care for me when that time comes.

When I celebrate small, I don’t live in fear of an empty cup. I savor service to others and a sweet relationship with the supplier of my every need. When He says “rest,” I rest in Him, knowing He is multiplying the moments I’ve given. When He says, “give,” I surrender my need to know I have what it takes because I know He will do what He does best — He will fill up my cup,

How have you seen God fill your empty cup?

Talk to me in the comment section below!