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!

 

 

Faithfulness to Feed despite Fear of Rejection [day 18: share]

Yesterday, for the very first time, our daughter tried the traditional meal of Nepal, dal bhat which is made up of a lentil soup and rice. It was a big deal because this day has been coming for 2 and 1/2 years! We hooped and hollered and promised her a trip today to go buy some new movies. How many times had a plate of dal bhat been offered to her? Countless times! Her school serves it every day. We always thought peer pressure would be enough to get her to eat it, but after nearly a week of her refusal to eat, her teacher called to request we start packing her lunch.

She’s always been a picky eater — so much so that I wondered if we would ever have peace at our dining table. Per the suggestion of the pediatrician we consulted with, we kept serving her the same food we were eating with one thing on her plate we knew she liked. Whether she refused or dug in was up to her, and we were not to pressure her lest we give her anxiety about mealtimes. We just kept putting the plate in front of her.

So often, I feel a similar struggle in efforts to share Christ with friends and neighbors. Yesterday, I confessed that fear of saying the wrong thing keeps me from sharing the gospel and living as a bold witness for Christ. Another thing that has hindered this work of God in the past is the fear of my message being rejected. “What if they get mad? What if they think — or worse, say — I’m rude and should have kept my big mouth shut?” ‘What if’ is so rarely a good starting point in my thought life.

In the moment, it feels like the worst thing that could happen. And it is absolutely heartbreaking to hear someone reject the work of Christ– especially so if it be someone you love. I have found comfort knowing that it is only my responsibility to present the message in a palatable form. It is God who works in hearts to change lives with the truth of the Gospel.

When I celebrate small, I celebrate the share. I recognize my inability to force my faith upon someone — as I’ve learned with my small children—  and I lean hard on the Lord who declares His desire to win all people into His family. I don’t know who will come along and water the seed I’ve planted with simple words. I don’t know what lies beneath hard exteriors and harsh words. I can’t foresee how a friendship may flourish and what further opportunities He may give to continue to communicate the truths of the Gospel.

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building (1 Cor. 3:5-9).

Like daddy and I are on the same team teaching little people what nourishes their bodies, we are laborers together with God in reaching the world with the Gospel message. We are afforded the amazing opportunity to work alongside the master of the universe to accomplish His will — though we know Who does the heavy lifting. In His glorious grace, He allows us to reap the rewards. We aren’t promised immediate yeses and full embrace of the Gospel when we step out in faith to share Jesus, but we are promised He will be with us. Truly, His presence trumps positive outcomes.

We can positively praise when the Gospel is presented, — not only when it is received. Faithfulness is to practice hospitality in presenting plates loaded with the good stuff of the message. Acceptance or refusal is on the receiver, and we rejoice that the message has been heard. We nourish our relationships by fully sharing our lives with those we love and live with. Sharing Jesus should be a natural outflow of that life sharing. We must only be faithful to keep showing up and placing the plate before them trusting that one day, “Yuck” will turn into “Yum” as they savor the sweetness of what the Savior has done. Our earnest prayer is that they will “Taste and see the Lord is good” as we do each day.

How can you share Jesus in a palatable form today?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

 

It’s OK to Grow as You Go [day 17: grow]

I have fond memories of playing in the park while my brother was on the baseball diamond as a child. There was flower picking, gravel scooping, and begging mom for slushies. It was the magic childhood is made of — at least, that’s what it seems like looking back. Little friends would chat, and sometimes we would get past “what’s your name?” and “what is your favorite color?” No one had ever told me not to talk to other kids about Jesus, so I asked my playmates if they were saved like they had any idea what that meant. I barely did. I just had Jesus in my heart, and everything on my heart came out eventually.

As I got older, fear of not presenting Jesus perfectly or having something in my life that would block the effectual working of the Gospel kept me from exhibiting this type of boldness. I knew I didn’t know everything, and I thought, “If I share my faith, someone is going to ask me a question I can’t answer.” So I just didn’t. I started to hear things like, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” I began to think it was OK, as long as I didn’t live like the lost, to keep my mouth shut about the greatest gift ever given to me. I’ve come to find out I was wrong. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

I needed someone to tell me, “It’s OK to grow as you go.” I needed permission to share my faith without an undergrad in apologetics. I wish someone would have encouraged me to live faithfully as a Christian witness, speaking the truth in love while humbly admitting when I made mistakes. I would have benefited from a reminder that fear is a tool of the enemy which keeps me from fulfilling the will of God laid out in the Great Commission. Maybe someone did tell me, and I just wasn’t listening.

But now I know — when I celebrate small, I thank God that I don’t have all the answers. I find joy in the fact that I will never know everything about Him or truly understand the scale of what Has he has done for me. I relish each opportunity to share Him, and I trust Him to do a good work in spite of me. If I wait to live missionally until I’ve achieved spiritual giant status, I will miss out on great things God wants to do through my life. As I celebrate small, I praise Him for the understanding He gives along the way, and I trust He will polish my witness in his power while covering my flaws in His blood.

I think back and wonder how things would have been different had someone given me permission to be imperfect. I trust God was working even in my silence, but I think I think I’ll speak up from now on. I may have to pretend I’m still the brave little girl picking dandelions and spilling my heart to anyone who would listen.

What keeps you from living missionally?

Talk to me in the comment section below!