Purposeful Living

  • There’s Room At The Table

    When my kids were little and I was just starting out in campus ministry with my husband, God revealed to us the need to have people in our home for a meal and games. I will admit that this was not a calling I had wanted. I was nervous. I had seen the magazine headlines on the covers of home and garden magazines, “How to Wow Your Guests in 3 Easy Steps.” Included with the heading was a picture of a nicely dressed woman, with perfectly styled hair, serving mountains of gourmet food on a crystal platter. The dining room in which she was serving her smiling guests was the size of my kitchen, dining room, and living room combined and was perfectly decorated. 

    After seeing those pictures, I knew having people over to my house for a social gathering was not a good idea. First of all, my hair is never perfectly done. Second, my house was a total of 1,008 square feet. And finally, I am not a gourmet cook. If I try to make something fancy, it never ends up right. Just ask my family. I was overwhelmed and incompetent, or so I thought.

    God continued to nudge me, and I took my first step toward hospitality. I decided the four-person table that barely fit my family of four needed to be replaced with something bigger. I headed to Craigslist to find a used table. If I was lucky, I could find something similar to what the magazine cover showed, but for a reasonable price. My house was not big, but perhaps I could wow my guests with a beautiful table. All the used beautiful hardwood tables still cost thousands of dollars. I simply couldn’t afford them. 

    After a couple of weeks of looking, I finally found a table that was larger than the one I had, and for the price I could afford. It was not solid wood. It was made out of pressboard with a plastic laminate top. I was disappointed. How was I going to do good hospitality in a small house with a pressboard table? It turns out, with the help of God, I could do a lot of good hospitality with unimpressive things. 

    Because you see, God saw what I could not: that there is an epidemic of loneliness in the United States. Harvard University came out with an article recently that discusses this very thing.  They found that one in three Americans frequently feel lonely. For mothers with young children, the percentage goes up to 51%. Then an amazing 61% of people ages 18-25 struggle with extreme loneliness. 

    That means that as we go to work, walk in the stores, and sit in our churches, we are surrounded by people who feel deprived of meaningful relationships with others. Perhaps you even fall into one of these categories. 

    This epidemic of loneliness is heartbreaking and it is a real problem that affects not just our hearts and minds, but our overall health as well. According to the study, “loneliness is linked to early mortality, and a wide array of serious emotional and physical problems.” 

    The fact is that many people just don’t feel loved and valued. They don’t feel they can be open and vulnerable and still be worthy of love and included in relationship. And it’s no wonder when we were created to be in community. We were made to rejoice with one another, and share each other’s burdens. 

    How do we combat this pervasive epidemic of loneliness? God, in His infinite wisdom, tells us the remedy. Hospitality. 

    Romans 12:13 simply states, “Practice hospitality.” A simple command to practice hospitality. But when I ask people if they intentionally invite people into their lives for a game night, a meal, or even a walk around the neighborhood, a majority tell me they couldn’t do it. When I ask why they are hesitant, they say they are afraid of doing it wrong. What if my house is too small? What if I cook the wrong thing? What if I say something wrong? All the what-ifs make them too afraid to ask another person into their life. 

    This fear comes from thinking of hospitality from a worldly view, instead of from a Biblical understanding of hospitality. In America, when we think of hospitality we think of the hospitality industry. Their goal is to make sure customers have every need met and are always comfortable. If we approach personal hospitality with this mindset, it’s so easy to overthink things and let the what-ifs take over. If we think we have to anticipate and cater to our guest’s every possible need to be a good host, it can feel like we’ll never truly be up for the task. But the hospitality industry is trying to make money. Biblical hospitality is about caring for souls. 

    The Greek word for hospitality in the New Testament literally means ‘loving strangers’. It’s not fancy dishes, perfectly decorated homes, or fancy food. If you have these gifts and you love to share them, by all means, do it! But in a country where our physical needs are often met, loving strangers is less about perfecting all the physical details, and more about addressing the emotional needs. It’s about creating an environment where meaningful conversations happen. A place where people can feel loved and valued. 

    This can be done in large, beautiful homes with gourmet food, or over frozen pizza on paper plates in a cluttered house. It doesn’t have to look like a Pinterest-perfect event. The key is being present with those you are with. It is simply loving the person in front of you with your time and attention because they are worth it and loved by God.

    Don’t worry if you don’t feel totally at ease the first couple (or ten) times you practice hospitality. Just like anything else, stepping outside of your comfort zone to try something new takes practice. 

    After placing our “new” table in our dining room, I began my journey into the world of hospitality and I’d love to say I immediately felt at ease. Honestly, for a while, I was a complete wreck every time we had people over. I still stressed over all the details. Was the house clean enough? Did I cook the right thing? I had toddlers, so in my eyes, my house was never as clean as I wanted. I would try to bake or cook fancy things, but they never looked like the magazine picture. After a couple of years, my husband gently told me, “Quit stressing. Nobody cares about those details but you. They are here for the conversation and the company. Not for your fancy punch recipe.” He was right. No one complained about the food or the cleanliness of my house. They always left saying they wanted to do it again sometime.

    And once I got past stressing over details, I realized God had been working in my clumsy attempts of hospitality the whole time. Over my laminate table, I got to listen to people share their joys, fears, and sorrows. 

    God provided the space for a young married couple to share that they were pregnant after only being married for 6 months and their fears of how they were going to pay for a baby while still in college. 

    At my laminate table, I listened to an Iraqi couple share the horrors of Saddam Hussein’s genocide of the Kurdish people. I got to rejoice with a couple who had recently eloped but hadn’t told many people yet. I celebrated job promotions with some and cried with others as they shared family heartaches. 

    We prayed with all of them and parted a little closer, a little less lonely, and feeling much more loved. In the process, my heart overflowed with the joy of being with each person, and the little details that once felt so huge and important paled in comparison to what God was doing. 

    I share my story because I want you to know the joy God has in store for you when you practice biblical hospitality. Not only will you be battling this national epidemic, but God will walk with you and bless you. You don’t have to invite someone over for a meal and games like my family does. You could invite them on a walk or to a playdate in the park. Maybe you could invite someone to a conversation over a hot beverage at a local coffee shop. Do what fits you and experiment. The goal is to simply love that person by giving your time and attention. Look at your calendar and find a time to ‘love a stranger’ and start transforming loneliness into community.

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  • Jesus & Pancakes

    One of the sweetest and most profound conversations I’ve heard was over pancakes at the breakfast table. 

    My oldest son Sam was about 6 when his good friend Josiah came over for a visit. Pancakes are Sam’s favorite, so I whipped up a batch for breakfast and set them on the table for the two buddies to share.

    They carefully poured the syrup over their respective short-stacks, and their little legs swung back and forth in their chairs as they casually chatted about life and their plans for the afternoon.

    I helped myself to a second cup of coffee and leaned on the kitchen counter, smiling and taking in the sweet scene before me. 

    Sam has always been a quiet kid, and Josiah just seemed to get him. He would never interrupt him like other kids often did unintentionally, in their enthusiasm. Josiah just listened intently and then would reply thoughtfully, often with wisdom beyond his years. Sam would listen in turn, and encourage Josiah right back. 

    At one point in their conversation, Josiah turned his whole body in his chair so he could look Sam square in the eye and asked him if he read his Bible and prayed every day. Sam nodded emphatically, and after chewing a huge mouthful of pancakes, assured him that yes, he did every day. 

    “That’s good!” Josiah cheerfully exclaimed. “It’s really important!” 

    Sam asked the same question of Josiah, who affirmed that he also read his Bible and prayed daily. The two finished their pancakes smiling, pleased that they were both living their best lives. 

    I was so inspired by their gentle encouragement of one another and moved by the sweetness of the Lord unfolding in this friendship between first-graders. Even now, ten years later, it brings a smile to my face. 

    Good friends are like that, aren’t they? They shape us to be more like God and spur us on to grow closer to Him. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” It was that same quality that I saw in my son and his friend, iron sharpening iron, not in competition or judgment, but in a heartfelt and caring desire to see the other thriving in their relationship with Christ. 

    Of course, we all want friendships that make us better and encourage us in all the different facets of life, but I think we can all agree that it’s not quite as easy as it was in first grade. 

    Nowadays, cultivating deep and meaningful friendships takes a whole lot of intentionality with a dash of Holy Spirit-fueled bravery. 

    Godly friendships start first with recognizing your own belovedness. I know at a glance that might feel strange, or challenging, or maybe even totally backward, but stick with me. 😉 

    When we acknowledge that we are God’s beloved children, we are recognizing that we are loved simply because we are His. Not on our own merit, but because He knit us together fearfully and wonderfully. There’s nothing we can say or do to earn it or lose it-He is our Abba, our Good Father and we are precious to Him. We can love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

    It is the love of Christ that frees us from insecurity and fear. Because our value and our worth are ultimately in Christ, we don’t have to worry about what others might think or get stuck in our own heads about where to start. We can boldly step out in faith, knowing that the One whose opinion matters most, loves us. 

    When we spend time with God, we realign our perspective with His. We can’t help but be reminded of who He is and how much He loves us. Jesus himself models this in the Gospels by withdrawing by himself to pray and spend time with the Father. He set a powerful and loving example for us to follow so that we could give from the overflow of the love we ourselves receive. 

    So often we try to operate on our own power and wisdom when it comes to relationships. The problem is that our power and wisdom are limited, and we eventually burn out. 

    But spending time with God and being constantly filled and refilled by His limitless love, empowers us to operate from a place of abundance instead of scarcity. We set healthier boundaries, make wiser choices, and speak more kindly to ourselves (and others) because we are more aware that God knows us fully and loves us wholly. 

    Embracing our belovedness and esteeming ourselves the way God does, also changes how we see and esteem others. Suddenly when you look at your friend, you see them first and foremost as a beloved child of God. They have honor and value in the Kingdom of God and are a reflection of God’s own image, just as you are. What a beautiful foundation for a friendship! 

    In the security of a friendship like that, we are able to rejoice when our friend rejoices, and mourn with them when they mourn. We can more easily speak the truth in love when they need encouragement or gentle correction, or simply to be reminded of who they are in Christ.

    Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us.”

    1 John 4:11-12

    There have definitely been times in my life when even if I’m doing all of these things, good friends seem scarce. It is in those seasons, that I turn back toward God in prayer, asking him to show me someone that can be a friend and someone for whom I can be a friend. He has been so faithful to bring people into my life that have blessed me beyond anything I could have imagined. And He has prompted me to notice people in need of His love that I may have never seen otherwise. Oftentimes, those people turn out to be one and the same. 

    In a world where many friendships are mile-wide and puddle-deep, I want to invite you to be bold in praying for the friends that you have and the friends you have yet to meet. 

    Maybe you have been longing for a true friend to link arms with for what feels like ages. We are praying that God leads you to just the right person at just the right time. May He strengthen you and comfort you and help you feel your full worth in Him. And while you wait, may He show you the people in your path that are also longing to experience God’s love through the friendship that only you can offer. Perhaps you are in their life for such a time as this. 

    Maybe you have been blessed with more than one good friend! We are doing a happy dance with you! I want to invite you to pray for those friends and also ask God to keep your eyes open for opportunities to share His love through friendship with others. Ask Him how you can bless your community and love as He loves. Make sure to also take time to withdraw and just be with Jesus, being filled with His love and recognizing your belatedness and the belovedness of others. 

    Finally, wherever you are in your friendships old or new, be intentional, be prayerful and be bold. Intentionally lean into the abundant love God offers, allowing it to fill up your soul to overflowing. Pray for God’s wisdom and tune your heart to His, and follow His lead. Boldly point each other toward God, reminding one another of who we are in Christ, and watch the sweetness of the Lord unfold in your friendships. After all, the joys in life are best when shared with a friend–whether you’re inviting them to coffee or to share a big ol’ stack of pancakes.

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  • You Were Made For Community

    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42, NIV

    I grew up in what I refer to as a “Cheers” town, not because everyone was always cheerful, but because everyone knew my name, just like the theme song from the TV show. The town I grew up in was not only small (population 750), it was also the town where my parents grew up. So for me, community wasn’t just about having one or two people in your life, it was about having a whole town of people in your life.

    As a teenager, I didn’t really like this because it just felt like my parents had extra “spies” to keep me from having too much fun. But as an adult I now see how blessed I was. My family had people who we could lean on, like my mom’s best friend who let my mom drop my sister and me off at 6:00 am so that she could get to her job. Or our next-door neighbor, who would come blow snow for us when the snow was piled high on the driveway, asking for nothing in return. Or a whole town of people who surrounded my family with love and support as my dad battled cancer. Friends, family and even some strangers during that time would cook us meals, clean our house and eventually help us celebrate his life.

    Looking back, yes it was a “Cheers” type community, but more than that it was an Acts 2:42 community. Often when we read this scripture, we think of fellowship to mean chatting with someone over coffee on Sunday morning or attending a small group bible study together or hanging out on the weekend to shop deals and share cheesecake. While these are all great ways to be together with your tribe, the type of fellowship that is described in Acts 2:42 is not about social activities, but rather about sharing a spiritual life together– encouraging for one another, helping each other through trials, praying for one another, and reflecting God’s love to one another.

    We were designed for community. In his book, Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy, Paul Tripp writes that “we weren’t created to be independent, autonomous, or self-sufficient. We were made to live in a humble, worshipful, and loving dependency upon God and in a loving and humble interdependency with others. Our lives were designed to be community projects.”

    So much of Scripture clearly reflects that we are created for community. We see Mary and Elizabeth, Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, or Moses, Aaron and Miriam and even Jesus himself lived life by taking along 12 friends. Jesus was completely capable of teaching, healing and traveling by himself and yet he chose to be in a community.

    In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 it is written, “two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

    Being in a community helps us in so many ways. We have friends to encourage us when we are feeling low or doubting ourselves, someone to provide emotional support as we wrestle with a problem, people to help us stay committed to our faith, our goals and our purpose, and a place where we can be ourselves and give of ourselves. C.S. Lewis once said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too?’” Being in community reminds us that we are not alone as we experience different seasons and struggles in life.

    Yet knowing that we are designed for community and that we need community, why are so many of us doing life on our own? What keeps us from engaging in real community? Here are six things that might be stopping you from building community. As you read each one, ask yourself, “Is this what’s keeping me from living in community?”

    Trust: You have been hurt in the past by a friend and so you are skeptical of trusting anyone new. You don’t open up easily anymore and you are really cautious about letting anyone into your life.

    Time: You feel like you don’t have time for community because you work long hours, you devote all your time to your family or you just have no space on your calendar for one more activity.

    Insecurity: You doubt whether anyone will like you or if you are good enough to be a part of the group.

    Introversion: You are more comfortable being by yourself than being around others because hanging out with people for long periods of time drains you. You also are looking for others to take the first step in creating community.

    Rejection: You are afraid that if you put yourself out there, others may judge you negatively or you worry that you will not be accepted as you are.

    Rational: You rationalize to yourself that you just moved, you have health issues or have another challenge that prevents you from building a community.

    I no longer live in my small town “Cheers” community. The past three and half years God has been calling me to new places. Along the way I have been discovering how to build community even in the midst of a pandemic and job changes. I could certainly use my relocation as an excuse for not having community in my life, but what I have learned is that I crave community. We live in a world of instant access, instant meals, but friendships and community are not instant. They take intentionality, time and a whole lot of grace.

    People are not perfect and there will be hurts along the way. Even if you are in an Acts 2:42 type community there will be struggles, challenges and wrongs, but through it all we can lean on God and each other. Being involved in a community has way more benefits than hindrances. If you aren’t connected with a community right now or find that you need to get back into one, I encourage you to spend some time in prayer, reflecting on what is stopping you from living in community.

    As people of God, we have a choice, we can either fall and remain there without anyone to help us up, or we can fall and be surrounded by a community who will help us back up. I pray that you will choose to live in community, letting go of what hinders you, so you can walk alongside, encourage and spur others on in faith. For you were made for community, not isolation.

    Heavenly Father, we thank you for your caring provisions and for creating us for community. You know what has been stopping us from engaging in real community and we ask that you remove any hindrances. Bring into our lives people who we can fellowship with, break bread with, and pray for one another. The truth is we need each other and we need you. Amen. 

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  • Called Into Community

    I used to love getting ready to go places. I’d put on a cute outfit, maybe some booties, jeans and a cardigan with a long necklace. That was my go-to outfit before the pandemic. Now, my new daily outfit consists primarily of sweat pants and a hoodie. I find it harder than I used to to want to get dressed in normal attire and go out into public. I used to actually go into stores or out to eat in restaurants, but I find myself feeling like that is just too much effort. I’d much rather stay in my car, grab take-out and do the drive-up store pick up (I mean, that way I can still wear my sweats and I don’t have to break a sweat!). Anyone else in this boat??

    Do you have some new pandemic habits that have stuck even after you may no longer “need” them?

    Coming out of the pandemic, it seems we are all learning how to re-engage in life and in community after two long years of isolation and a daily rhythm that was anything but normal. After having to be separated from others and careful about keeping our distance, it is understandable that we may be hesitant to jump back in. For some people, there is a real need to continue to be cautious in order to keep their loved ones who are vulnerable safe. But the truth for most of us is that we have simply lost the habits we once had, like getting together with family and friends, volunteering at our kids’ school or going to church in person.

    We are creatures of habit. They say it takes 21 days of doing something to create a new habit. Well, we’ve had 2 years to create a whole new set of habits we’ve all gotten used to!

    It’s pretty normal for most of us to keep doing the things that we are used to doing until something interrupts them and we are forced to do something new. The pandemic forced us to change the way we did things and how we lived our lives. Out of necessity we had to create new ways of doing the things that were once normal, requiring us to stay home more and see people less. Whether we liked it or not, it was the way it was.

    Now as we are coming out of the pandemic, we need to recognize that some of the new ways of living that were once a necessity, may now no longer be helping us but rather hindering us. Some of our “new normals” are keeping us from the life in community that God wants for us.

    At first, online church made it possible to worship together, even though we were apart. But at some point it became easier to just stay home. We didn’t have to get out of our pjs or go anywhere. Working from home became the new norm, which can be great, but we also don’t have the same opportunities to interact meaningfully with others. The drive-up pick up became a thing everywhere and we had even more reasons to never talk to anyone or ever get out of our car. Are you seeing a trend here? 🙂

    The pandemic made it easier to escape into our own holes and ignore the world around us. Our new pandemic habit has been to “do our own thing” and to be honest, it can be so much easier than dealing with others. Relationships can be hard and socializing even harder, especially if you are an introvert. And while there are people we look forward to seeing and spending time with, there are also relationships in our lives that require a little more of our energy and patience.

    The problem with some of the new habits we may have acquired over the last couple of years is that they tend to only further isolate us and keep us from community. You see, community was created by God and for our good. We were always made for community–its God’s plan all along. It is through community that we best see Christ’s love displayed. As we do life together, we get to experience the abundant life Christ wants for us.

    Although we feel like staying home in our sweats because it is easier than being out in the world and in community, is it what we need? It is so much easier to let convenience and comfort become our biggest priorities. What we think we want, isn’t always what is best for us though. We need to be intentional about interrupting unhealthy rhythms and getting back to the abundant living God invites us into.

    Being in community helps us be our best selves because it requires us to give of ourselves, to think outside of our own mind and opinions, to serve others, to experience love and joy, forgiveness and kindness.

    Even God lives in community as the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). God’s plan for us has always been to live out our lives and faith in community.

    “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

    Hebrews 10:24–25

    I know sometimes when we hear this Scripture we can focus on the middle part and hear it in a guilt laden kind of way. Instead, as we look at the context, we see that this Scripture is reminding us what community is for–to spur one another on, to show Christ’s love, to serve one another as Christ would. The church is the body of Christ to the world.

    I believe the author of Hebrews is warning them that it can be easy to focus in our own stuff, especially in the world we live in today where it is super easy to keep to ourselves. But the author of Hebrews goes on to remind them just how important it is to stay in community because that is where the abundant life is. He wants them to remember that we need each other. When we are isolated and on our own too long, self-doubt and false narratives begin to fill our heads. It is when we come together in community that we are reminded of God’s truth and find encouragement to keep going when we want to give up.

    Being in God’s community helps us remember not only who God is, but who we are in Him. It is in the community of believers that we see a fuller, more comprehensive picture of God Himself. As the body of Christ, together we reflect God’s character of love and hope to a lost and lonely world.

    We’re our best selves when we’re experiencing life’s highs and lows with others. Being in community gives us the chance to be around people at different stages of their faith journey—and to bear their burdens alongside them (Galatians 6:2). That’s awesome because everyone has something to teach and to learn.

    Community helps form our character and gives us the opportunity to reflect Christ, offering and receiving love and forgiveness from one another. It smooths out our rough edges and refines our hearts in ways that self-reflection in solitude cannot.

    I know my endurance for socializing and being in community isn’t what it once was. Maybe you feel that way too. It may take some time to build and develop those social muscles all over again, but it begins with getting back out there. It’s going to take a willingness to break free from our “new normals” and step out of our comfort zones. It may even require you to ditch the sweat pants. 😉 But it will be SO worth it!

    So what are some baby steps each of us can take to get back into community?

    The best first step is to begin with prayer. Praying for a willing heart, saying  “Lord help me to want to be willing, even if I’m not right now”. Praying for God to open your eyes to the need for community, and give you a fresh appreciation for His people. Asking God to open your eyes to the fears that may be holding you back and help make your thoughts and actions obedient to Christ.

    As we get back out there, we have a chance to reprioritize the things that we are adding back into our lives, according to God’s Word and His Will. Some things may look different than they did before the pandemic, but that’s ok. Just keep leaning into God and His direction in your life, and He will lead you to where you are supposed to be–straight into His abundant life for you.

    This may look different for different situations (especially if there are special unique situations you are facing), but we all can find ways to connect to the outside world. It’s ok not to jump into it all at once. Just take the one small thing that you feel God is calling you to add back into your life. Maybe it is to call that friend and get together for coffee, or it is to try out that new church, or go back to church, or maybe it is inviting family over for dinner. It could even be as simple as bringing a neighbor some flowers.

    Take some time this week to pray about how God might bring you one step deeper into a life of community. There is abundant blessing waiting for you found only in a life lived together!

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  • Living in the Truth of the Resurrection

    I love Easter because it is a reminder of the new life we have in Jesus. I love reflecting on the foundation of our faith and resting in it. Resting in the truth that Jesus lived among us, died for us, and conquered death, paving the way for an eternal life with a loving, merciful Savior. But did you know eternal life with Jesus starts now? It isn’t a far off dream that begins when our life here on earth is done. Eternal life with Jesus started when you decided to be a follower of Jesus. After the resurrection, I believe the disciples understood this and it changed their lives forever.

    Before Jesus’s death, the disciples had walked with Jesus for years. They watched Jesus perform amazing miracles and listened to his teachings. They were some of his closest friends and followers. Yet as close as they were, they all ran in fear when Jesus was arrested. Despite all the evidence of Jesus’s deity, fear in what would happen to their physical bodies was greater than their faith.

    However, after Jesus rose from the dead, their fear was transformed into boldness. Those who had previously run from the soldiers when Jesus was arrested, were now willing to be beaten, imprisoned, and even killed for the good news of Jesus’s resurrection.

    So what changed? What would cause a person who just months before ran in fear for his life so he wouldn’t be associated with Jesus, to now turn around and gladly take a beating for the name of Jesus? The answer: The truth of the resurrection.

    The truth of the resurrection means eternal life with Jesus starts now. We get to live this life and the next with Jesus by our side. And just like the disciples, the truth of the resurrection has a transformational impact on how we live.

    We get to live in confidence. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus commissioned the disciples to continue to make disciples and further the kingdom of God. He ended his commission with these comforting words: “I will be with you always.” Not, “I will be with you after you get all your work done and you come to heaven with me.” He promises to be with us always and that includes now.

    Before the resurrection, the disciples ran in fear because they thought they lost their Lord. Now they could live confidently, because they knew they would never lose him again. He would always be with them–a gift no one could take away. This confidence allowed them to boldly go into the world and preach the good news of Jesus.

    We get to live in power. Right before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his disciples they would receive power when the Holy Spirit would come upon them. They would receive great power to witness about Jesus (Acts 1:8). As you continue to read in the book of Acts, you see evidence of this. Peter boldly proclaimed the message of Jesus on the day of Pentecost and thousands were saved, and despite persecution, the church grew.

    But this promise of power wasn’t just for the disciples who walked with Jesus. It is for us, too! Ephesians 1:18-20 shares a prayer Paul often prayed for the Ephesians. 

    I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…”

    Ephesians 1:18-20

    Wow. Paul said that as Christians, we have the power of the Holy Spirit. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available for our lives. The resurrection made it possible for us to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is Christ living in us. How amazing is that?!

    We get to live in peace. In John 16, Jesus warned the disciples of what was coming for them. He was going to die and ascend into heaven. After his ascension, they would preach the message for him and because of that they would face intense persecution. However, he would send the Holy Spirit as a comforter to help them. As he finishes up his warnings, Jesus tells them, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  

    In this world we will have trouble. You probably know this truth well. But we can have peace in our struggles knowing Jesus has already conquered the world. The end has already been written. We have already won the battle through Jesus’s death and resurrection. The disciples knew, when they were beaten or even killed, it didn’t matter because they were already living eternal life with their Savior now and nothing could take that away. The truth of the resurrection gave them peace to handle life’s hardships with confidence, knowing Jesus had overcome the world and their salvation was secure.

    So what would your life look like if you lived daily in the truth of the resurrection? What would your life look like if you lived in confidence knowing your Savior walks the ups and downs with you every day? What would it look like to live in the power of the Holy Spirit and live into God’s calling in your life? Finally, what would it look like to live in peace knowing Jesus has already overcome the world?

    It would look different for each of us, but one thing I know for sure, your life would be dramatically changed like the disciples’ lives changed. You could walk in boldness and faith, living out the truth of the resurrection, and it would change the world as we allow God to work through each of us to accomplish His work. So my prayer is that we do not leave the truth of the resurrection to one Sunday a year, but we live the truth of the resurrection every day and watch in awe as God changes the world through us!

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  • Sweet Friendships

    “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” – Proverbs 27:9 ESV

    Isn’t that a beautiful idea, that our friendships can be sweet! That our hearts and lives can be filled with joy when a beloved friend provides wise words or encouragement as we celebrate the highs and share the lows with each other.

    I have experienced such sweet friendship that refreshes me in my darkest days and lowest moments. Not long ago I got to spend an afternoon with a friend that absolutely nourished my soul. We sat outside surrounded by God’s beautiful creation and throughout our time together we encouraged each other, we reminded each other how God had moved mountains in the past for us and we affirmed each other through silent listening and words of wisdom. We laughed with each other, cried tears together and prayed for one another.

    Saint Brigid of Kildare once said “a person without a soul friend is like a body without a head.” The truth is we are meant to be in community with each other and there is no doubt that friendships are the foundation on which we build our lives. During these past two years as we have had to socially distance ourselves from each other due to the pandemic, I think it is more important than ever that we take time to cultivate sweet friendships that can refresh our weary souls and that can provide sound guidance as we walk through this journey.

    Let’s take a look at God’s intention for what sweet friendship should be:

    A sweet friend is authentic. In a sweet friendship you can completely be yourself. There is no need to compare or compete with each other, it’s all about showing up as your authentic self. When you are with each other you don’t have to impress one another, rather you can bring the messiness of life and can be vulnerable with one another.

    A sweet friend is a safe space. A sweet friend doesn’t always tell you what you want to hear, instead they will also speak truth into your life even when the truth may be tough to hear. However, they do so in a loving manner that makes you feel safe rather than harmed.

    A sweet friend is loyal. They will walk with you through the trials of life and will be there for you. You are not alone when you have a sweet friend in your life no matter if you live next door to each other or thousands of miles apart.

    A sweet friend is an encourager. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 it says “therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (ESV) Sweet friends encourage one another when they have good news, scary news or hard news. They share a positive attitude with you and help build you up even in the tough times and fill you with hope.

    A sweet friend is an enjoyer. Sweet friends love to wonder with you, celebrate with you and enjoy moments in life with you. It is true that things are best enjoyed in community and of all the things we enjoy, God is the greatest. Sweet friends help us enjoy God as we talk about how He is showing up and out in our lives or how He is speaking to our hearts.

    Now maybe after reading about sweet friendships you find yourself desiring that type of connection, but you just don’t know where to find one. Don’t be dismayed, a sweet friend is closer than you think.

    “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

    John 15:15 ESV

    Let God be your sweet friend in life. He is right here waiting for you to invite Him into your life and provide you with wise counsel.

    You also can make sure that you are a sweet friend to yourself. How do you talk to or treat yourself? Be your own champion and encourager. Finally, be a sweet friend for someone else. What would this world be like if every morning every single person woke up thinking about how they can be a sweet friend to the people they meet? Pretty awesome, right?!
    This week, take some time to reflect on how you can be the type of friend that you want to find in your life.

    You don’t need lots of friends in this life, but you do need a few sweet ones. A sweet friendship is a true gift from God and He uses it to refresh our souls and guide us. I pray that you have these very friendships in your life and that you are a sweet friend yourself to the people you meet.

    Lord, help us to be friends that refresh each other and provide words of wisdom. Teach us to be vulnerable to those closest to us, especially to the Ultimate Sweet Friend, our Lord and Savior, so that we can experience the community you created us for. Amen. 

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  • Starting Your Day With Open Hands

    I recently took on a challenge by the pastor at my church that has changed the way I approach my day. He challenged us to start the day with open hands to the Lord. For many years now, I have started my day spending some time with my Lord in prayer and in His word, but I never realized how something as simple as physically opening my hands to the Lord can affect the posture of my heart.

    Our pastor invited us to start each day with physically opening our hands to the Lord, ready to receive all that the Lord has for us that day. He explained that when our hands are open, they are ready to receive, and our open hands make it possible to freely give as well.

    So, I decided I wanted to give it a try. Each morning, I started my prayer time by opening my hands and praying, “Lord, I come before you with open hands, ready to receive what you have for me today.” You may be thinking, in my heart I come with open hands already. I know it may sound strange, but actually opening my hands while I prayed changed my whole focus and countenance.

    Each morning as I came to the Lord with open hands, it became a time of prayerful expectation, knowing that God had good things in store for the day. I wanted to be open to receive all that God wanted to give me, such as his love, his joy, his peace and his goodness.

    But sometimes when our hands are full, there is no room to receive. Our burdens can be too heavy to hold. So, I started using this time with my hands open to not only receive, but to give God the burdens I was carrying. I began offering up all my fears, worries, and any bitterness and pride that might have crept in. As I released each of these things to God, it became easier to receive all He wanted for me in return.

    As the weeks went on, my heart became more and more open, as I continued to open my hands to the Lord. My prayers became “I bring you all I have to offer–all that I am and all that I have.” Through this prayer, I realized that part of what God wants to give me each day is an opportunity to be a part of His great work in this world.

    When we start our day with open hands we are expectantly looking toward what God might do throughout our day. We enter the day knowing He has something for us and we are ready to keep our eyes open to the possibility, and to where He is at work around us so we can join Him.

    Coming to God each day with open hands and an expectant heart allows us to see where he is leading us and the divine invitations He gives us each day, so we can be a part of the miraculous work He is about.

    So, will you join me in this challenge? Will you start your day tomorrow lifting open hands to the Lord? You can just start there, simply opening your hands to the Lord–it only takes a moment. But as you do it each day, you will find that your heart leans into the Lord a little more. Increasingly, you’ll find yourself open to receiving all the Lord has for you, and you’ll be ready to give Him all that you have in return. My prayer is that you will experience God in a fresh and new way and grow deeper in your relationship with Him.

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  • Intentionally Building a Firm Foundation

    The other morning, as I shuffled out into the kitchen to make my breakfast, my husband called to me, “Hey! You have to come watch this with me.”

    I peered over his shoulder and saw a picture of the Oregon State University football stadium. Nothing was happening. The camera was focused on an area of seating. No fans. No music. Just empty seats. So far, the video wasn’t very exciting.

    Uncertain of my husband’s sanity I asked, “What are we watching?”

    “The imploding of the seating on the west side of the stadium.”

    “Oh! That does sound exciting. Let’s get the boys up and have them watch, too.”

    So my husband, two older boys, and I sat and stared at the computer screen for 15 minutes waiting for the exciting moment, when the athletic director would push the magic button, and the whole structure would come crashing down.

    At around 8am that morning, he finally pushed the button. Immediately we saw a flash of light cut through the bottom row of bleachers, the foundation of the structure. In 3 seconds, it all toppled over. In 3 seconds, a structure that held thousands of people every football season, was just a pile of rubble. All because they took the foundation right out from underneath it.

    While it was fun to watch the destruction of such a massive structure, it was also disconcerting that it was so easy to bring it down. Just take out the foundation and everything comes crashing down. A good foundation is essential. Without it, nothing can stand.

    Jesus talks about the importance of a solid foundation in Matthew 7:24-27. In this parable, the wise man built his house upon the rock and when the storm hit, his house stayed firm. The foolish man built his house upon the sand and when the storm hit, his house went SPLAT.

    This Scripture got me thinking about the importance of having a strong foundation in my life. Recently, I’ve come to realize that I have been the foolish man a lot. I work really hard to balance all the things I think I should do, but wind up basing my actions on everyone else’s expectations of me. Then, all it takes is one criticism, one imperfection in my work, and my world comes crashing down, leaving me too fragile to overcome even the smallest obstacles. Then I begin to doubt my self-worth, wondering why I fall apart so easily. Could it be from building my identity on the shifting sand of what I want everyone else to think of me or on what I think I should be?

    No one wants a fragile foundation, so what does a good foundation look like? What will stand the test of time and the storms of life?

    We need to be constantly reminded of who God is and who we are in him. That’s exactly what Paul does when he writes his letter to the Ephesians. Paul starts out his book, reminding the Ephesians of what they gained when they chose to follow Christ. They were chosen by God. They were adopted into his family. They were redeemed, forgiven, and most importantly, loved. (Eph 1:3-14). Ephesus was a center of trade, and home to the temple of Artemis. Since they were surrounded by pagan culture, they needed to maintain a strong foundation to be able to stand up to the pressures of the world around them. They needed to remember the great lengths that God went to, to show His love for them. Paul reminded them who they are in Christ, and that they needed to stand firm in that reality.

    Knowing who they are in Christ was only part of the puzzle. Paul also knew the Ephesians needed a firm understanding of who God is. In Ephesians 1:15-23 Paul prays for them.  “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” When you know God, like “deep in your heart” know, the hope he has planned for you, your rich inheritance, and the incomparably great power that lives within you, then you will have a firm foundation that Satan cannot destroy. When the storms of life hit, you will survive. You will have the power to be strong.

    How can you and I build this kind of strong foundation in Christ? Here are three practical ways that have helped me:

    1) Spend intentional time with God
    To know God better, we have to spend time with him. I know this sounds cliché, but it is true. You can’t get to know someone without spending time with them. You can’t trust that God’s promises are true if you don’t know what his promises are and how he has fulfilled them in His word. Make it a priority to build an indestructible foundation by spending time with God in His word, and choosing to take that wisdom and apply it in your everyday life.

    2) Statements of affirmation
    As you read through God’s word, find Scripture verses that encourage you. Then take those Scriptures and change them into personal, affirmative statements. For instance, when I am getting in my head and feeling down on myself, I recite that “I am worthy and valuable because I was not redeemed with money, but I was bought with the precious blood of Jesus.” (1 Peter 1:18-21). This statement of affirmation reminds me that I am loved enough for someone to die for me, even though I didn’t deserve the sacrifice.

    3) Memorization of Scripture
    This is similar to the statements of affirmation, except you memorize Scripture word for word. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Psalm 27:13. It says, “I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” When feeling overwhelmed, I recite this verse to myself. Rather than continue in the emotional storm, this verse is a reminder to stop, take a breath, and see how the Lord is working in the situation.

    These are a few of the building blocks for a firm foundation in Christ. They remind us of God’s truth, give us strength when we are weak and help bolster our faith.

    In this new year, there are still many things that are uncertain, but God is the solid rock upon which we build our life. I hope that you will take the time to intentionally build a firm and solid foundation in Jesus, so that whatever 2022 brings, you will be able to stand firm in the unfailing love and confidence God provides.

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  • Setting Our Minds On Things Above

    “New Year, New Me”  You’ve probably seen this phrase in several places already, along with other familiar mantras that circulate every time the calendar switches from December to January. ‘Tis the season for goals and resolutions, and regardless of the details, at the root of all of them is a desire and drive to be more intentional. Whether we’re more intentional about what we eat, how often we exercise, doing a regular quiet time, or finally getting the garage cleaned out, we are setting out to make a purposeful change for the better.

    One of the areas that can feel a little more challenging to be intentional about is our thought-life. We aren’t always aware of the tape that’s running through our minds at any given moment throughout the day. Or how what we consume is affecting us over time. But if we pay attention to it, and closely examine what we are setting our minds on, we might be surprised.

    Colossians 3:2 urges us to “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.” I know for me, on any given day, it’s way too easy to get distracted running a lap around the social media track, or getting sucked into the latest news headlines and forget completely to open my Bible or pause to pray. If I’m not intentional about what I’m setting my mind on, while also inviting God into my daily rhythms and setting my mind on Him, I wind up feeling spread thin and run down, with foggy thinking and no peace in sight.

    It’s even more challenging when life throws us a curveball. We may find ourselves dealing with a flood of negative or anxious thoughts, struggling with insecurity, or feel stuck in a season of loneliness and despair. But when we set our minds on Christ, He is also hard at work within us to renew and transform us so that we can walk in step with Him.

    Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

    Renewing the mind is an intentional choice that we make to align our thoughts and our spiritual perspective with the mind of God. This leads to a transformation that we cannot simply manufacture on our own. It is the love and grace of God at work in us that brings about radical change for the better in our lives.

    James Bryan Smith coined a term that I love: “mind-discipleship”. So often we think of discipleship as doing– learning to follow Jesus, walking and talking as He did. But when it comes to our thought-life, it’s easy to forget that we need to be just as intentional about how we think, process, and respond inwardly to what is happening to and around us. It begins with an intentional exercise of obedience, first our obedience to God, and then making our thoughts obedient to Christ.

    “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

    In every situation, we have a chance to stop right in our tracks and choose which way we will allow our thoughts to take us. Will we see everything that is going wrong and let our minds wander to the worst case scenario? Or will we zoom out to an eternal perspective and trust that God will never forsake us and has planned ahead for our every need? Will we allow our thoughts to control us, forcing us into a defensive and reactive posture? Or will we capture our thoughts and measure them against what Jesus says is true about who He is and who we are?

    It is in the light of His truth that we can turn our minds away from the tape playing over and over in our heads and focus on Jesus instead. It takes practice and we have to work at it, but the reward is fresh clarity, unrivaled peace, and incomparable joy.

    Philippians 4:8 says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

    The first word in the list of things to focus on, is whatever is true. When we hold firmly to the truth about who God is and who we are in Christ, we have freedom, peace, and joy. We are transformed to be more like Christ and we are no longer shackled by insecurity or fear. We are free to love ourselves, our families, and our neighbors. We are free to step into our calling when God says go, and free to say no to the things that are not in step with the Holy Spirit’s lead. We are free to live life abundantly in the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

    I want to encourage you to take some time this week to pray about any areas in your thought-life that could use some renewal and transformation. If you like, play this song and sit still in His presence. Remember that God loves you as his daughter right now. You don’t have to be perfect to come to Him. He is your safe space, your protector and friend. Be open and honest with Him and with yourself. Spend time with Him and see if there are any thoughts that look more like the world than like Christ. As you grow in the practice of “setting our minds on things above”, God will renew and restore you, and bring you wholeness and peace.

    We know this isn’t always easy stuff and we’d love to pray for you too. Drop us a line at prayer@experiencerevival.com and our prayer team will link arms with you in prayer. Together, let’s make this a year of intentionally setting our minds on Christ and being renewed in Him.

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  • How To Press On When The Going Gets Tough

    Happy New Year! It is common this time of year to look forward to what a new year may bring and resolutely set out to do and be better. We set out with a vision of who we might become and set goals on how to get there. But so often, by February 1st (if we are lucky), we have already given up because it was too difficult, we got discouraged, something threw us off our game or we just ran out of sheer willpower to keep going.

    Last week, I challenged all of us to consider how we might grow in the Lord in the coming year. Whether it is to start each day looking at your Bible app instead of social media first thing in the morning or getting more involved with your church community or saying “yes” to something you know God is calling you to do, or whatever your next step toward a deeper relationship with God might be, each step we take toward this goal is a worthy one to pursue.

    But just like with other goals, when it comes to growing in our faith and setting out to seek the Lord more in the new year, we must be prepared to face some difficulties and obstacles that will try to discourage us and make us give up on our goals. Even with our best planned efforts, we can get disheartened when the change we want doesn’t happen as fast or in the way we had hoped for.

    This year, I want us all to make it past February 1st and be able to look back at the end of this coming year, seeing how God worked mightily in each of our lives! In order to see growth in our lives and not grow discouraged when challenges or difficulties arise, we must know how to press on.

    In Hebrews 12:1-3, we find a verse that speaks directly to this situation:

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

    The author of the book of Hebrews is encouraging us with these verses in chapter 12 to not give up–the reward of our efforts will be worth it! Growing in our faith and in the Lord is a worthy goal and one that we must continually seek in life as we “run the race with perseverance”.

    In the times when it gets difficult and I start to get discouraged, I try to remember that I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses–people who have gone before me in faith and in whom I can find encouragement. Knowing others have conquered something that I want to conquer helps me stay the course. Their victory over the finish line or through a season of difficulty, helps me remember that there is victory waiting for me too. By our own strength and willpower we can accomplish good things, but when we are being encouraged by a faith community, we can do so much more. Our faith is built upon the faith of those who have gone before us and we are encouraged by those who are alongside us now.

    In addition to the encouragement we receive from those around us, we must also be intentional about reaching our goal to grow deeper in faith. We need a steadfastness that says, “no matter what, I’m committed to making this happen.” Verse one says that we are to throw off everything (not some or just a little, but ev-er-y-thing!) that is hindering our faith and growth in the Lord, especially the sin that can entangle us like a vine and pull us away from God. Part of the “no matter what…” is to be willing to let God take away the things that are not helping us but hindering us in reaching our faith growth.

    Once we have removed what’s hindering our progress, it can feel like smooth sailing until you hit the first obstacle. Things will be going well, and then you or someone in your family gets the flu or you go on vacation and your rhythm gets disrupted and next thing you know you get thrown off the path toward your goal. Has that ever happened to you? I know it has for me! It’s in the face of these challenges that we must rely on God’s strength and the encouragement of others to persevere when the going gets tough. We have to make an intentional decision: Are we going to stay the course or give up? Will we lean into God and allow Him to cultivate perseverance in us?

    You are able to persevere only when you have our eyes on the prize–staying focused on who you want to become and where God is taking you. We must all fix our eyes on Jesus! Not only is He our example but He is our guide. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. He is the only one who can bring the growth we long for in our lives. God not only created us but is the author of life! He probably knows something about how to live that life well. He has gone before us and endured more than we can possibly imagine, but was still the ultimate example of how to complete the race in victory! As we allow Him, by His grace, He will transform us into people of deep and rich faith–people who walk more and more into who He is calling us to be!

    So, while there may be times that you start to grow weary, do not give up. Stay the course and keep running that race to the finish line! You can do it–you got this! And more importantly, God’s got you!

    If you have a faith goal this year, please email us and let us know. We would love to be praying for you!

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