Purposeful Living

  • The Gift of Rest & Refreshment

    My oldest son is a long-distance runner for the high school track team. He had a great season his freshman year and was looking forward to achieving more personal records this year. However, it did not turn out to be the year of record-breaking he had hoped it would be. A month before the season started this spring, he developed a foot injury that derailed his pre-season training. Then, a few weeks into the season, he was hit with a nasty virus, which left my normally hyperactive teen, stuck in bed for over a week. Since then, he has struggled to get his energy back.

    The other day he was sharing his frustration and disappointment with the season and made a comment that really stuck out to me:

    “Mom, if I knew it would help, I would go run 10 miles a day on the weekends to make up for the time I lost being sick. But my coaches told me I would be worse off than I am now. They said I need to take a break to allow my muscles to heal from the damage I gave them from the workouts during the week. I am learning how to be okay resting on the weekends and just give the best I can during the week, even if it’s not where I want to be.”

    Hearing this from my son made me stop and think about how often I look at my to-do list and keep pushing through to do it all. Even when I can tell I am exhausted, I push through, causing my attitude to deteriorate and my productivity to wane. 

    Because let’s face it, we are all marathon runners in the race called life. We are called to run the race set before us and that race happens to be a distance race, full of ups and downs along the way. There is no quick sprint to the end. Like marathon runners, it is good for us to work and move forward in the jobs and responsibilities we have in our lives, but there also needs to be a rhythm of rest that helps prevent us from burnout and fatigue. Like my son and his desire to be the best track athlete he can be, it can be hard to find peace in the stillness of rest even when we know we need it.

    Exodus 31:17 tells us that the Lord worked for six days, but on the seventh day, He rested and was refreshed. I have known for a long time that the Lord had commanded a Sabbath rest. That the Lord, in his infinite wisdom knew that if He didn’t command us to take a break we probably wouldn’t. But I had never noticed that the outcome of His rest was that He was refreshed.

    How do we become refreshed from our rest? If all my son did was lay in bed all weekend, but neglected to drink water and eat quality food, his body wouldn’t be healed and refreshed for the coming week’s running. It takes more than just sitting. He also has to pay attention to what he is putting inside his body to help the healing process.

    So it is with our souls. We should be still and give our bodies a break, but we should also be filling our minds and souls with food (fuel) that rejuvenates and heals. 

    The word refresh gives us a clue into what our Sabbath rest should look like. The Hebrew word for “refresh” has its roots in the verb “to breathe” or “to be breathed upon.” In fact, it is very similar to the word breathed found in Genesis 2:7, where God breathed his breath into Adam and he became a living being. 

    When I picture God kneeling over Adam and breathing on him, I am reminded of the times I have stood out in God’s creation, feeling a gentle breeze come along. I would close my eyes and breathe deeply, and feel my lungs eagerly receiving the fresh air, my heart slowing down and my body relaxing in peace. I could feel life being restored to my weary bones. Just as God breathed his life into Adam, God can still breathe his refreshing life into us when we are still long enough to receive it.

    The Sabbath rest that God is calling us to, is to rest in His arms and receive his breath of life and healing. Sabbath rest is a time to catch the life-giving breath of God that is meant to restore and refresh us. It is a time to remember that God is the one who sustains us, strengthens us, and loves us. It is a time for us to truly be still and remind ourselves that He is God and we are not.

    But this calling is so hard. There is work to do, families to care for, houses to clean and ministry to be done. Which leaves us wondering how it will all get done if we take a break. As the to-do list looms, will we have the faith and trust in God to say, “I will be still and know you are God”?  

    When we sit at the feet of God in Sabbath rest, we are trusting Him to work in the daily tasks rather than relying on ourselves to get it all done. We are relinquishing the burden of having to do it all, and instead allowing God to carry it during our time of rest. In return for giving Him control, He gives us his life-giving, restorative breath.

    In Luke 5:16, between performing incredible miracles, we read that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Jesus had an intentional rhythm of stepping back from the constant needs of the crowds and connecting with His Father. In doing this, He gave us a beautiful example of dependence on God and the importance of spending time resting in Him. Even though there were always more people to heal, and more people to minister to, Jesus shows us the importance of allowing his work to be fueled by God. His ministry did not fall apart when He withdrew to pray, nor did the people he was caring for. Instead, Jesus was refreshed and filled in the presence of God, and able to effectively carry out His mission.

    Sabbath rest can look different depending on the person or the day. Sometimes it is sitting in silence and breathing deeply. It can be journaling, or spending time singing worship songs. It can be spending extended time meditating on God’s word. It can be allowing ourselves to be still in the presence of God and receive his breath of life and refreshment. The key is to be intentional about cultivating a consistent rhythm of rest. 

    It would be silly to always wait for our cars to completely run out of fuel and stall on the side of the road before we think about refilling the tank. Without literal “low-fuel” lights to alert us when we are growing weary, it’s all the more important to step back and spend time resting with God. Having a regular rhythm of Sabbath rest (even when we are not busy or stressed) helps prevent burnout before it happens. When we work from a place of rest with our Heavenly Father, we are better equipped to run the race set before us.

    I’m thankful that my son listened to the advice of his coaches and learned the value of rest. He learned the value of hydration, quality food, and sleep. In his rest, I watched him pray. I watched him read his Bible. And this past Wednesday, despite illness and injuries, I watched him break his personal record by almost twenty seconds. His faithfulness and intentionality to rest reminded me that I need to value the rest that God has called me to. I know that a regular time set aside for rest will help me run the race better than if I had just pushed through on my own. 

    So my friends, if you are feeling weary and heavy-laden today, if you are limping along in the marathon of life, take some time this week for true Sabbath rest. As you rest, grab your calendar, prayerfully evaluate your schedule, and ask yourself, “When can I refresh and fill my mind and soul with God’s life-giving breath?” Then, pen in times for Sabbath rest with your Heavenly Father. Even if it’s just 15 minutes at first, you can start small and work your way up! 

    The to-do list will still be there, and there will still be demands on your time and energy, but having those regular appointments with God for rest will give you the strength and endurance you need to run the race set before you. And because God never grows tired or weary, you can trust Him to be at work in the details while you rest. He is faithful, strong, and capable of doing more than we can ask or imagine. All you need to do is breathe deeply, be refreshed, and rest in Him! 

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  • Finding True Friendships

    God has a great way of providing “teachable moments” in our lives. Recently, our family seems to have spent many of these moments on friendships. Each of our children’s approaches and perspectives leads them to work through the intricacies of friendships in totally different ways. They are at different stages of identifying the characteristics of a true friend, an acquaintance, and sometimes a friend who is not really a friend at all.

    As we navigate through these hurdles in life with our kids, it has caused me to reflect on the friendships I have had throughout my lifetime. Growing up, my dad worked for I.B.M., which, to families within the company, stands for “I’ve Been Moved.” So, having moved quite often as a child, I attended 3 different high schools in 3 different states. As a kid walking into new schools frequently, I became really good at making friends quickly but never truly developed the tools to continue these relationships long-term. God gave me a natural curiosity about people and things happening around me, so that helped me ask lots of questions and eventually build relationships. From the outside looking in, everyone assumed I was outgoing and an extrovert when I was really more of an introvert and a wallflower.

    Even as an adult, learning how to navigate friendships takes hard work and diligence. Listening and discerning is truly an art at any age. Add into that a culture that relates primarily through technology, and it can be difficult to make true connections with people. Being friendly is never a difficult task for me, but becoming a “friend” is a whole other level of commitment. I can count my closest friends on one hand, but I am confident that those friends are on my team.  So how do we find lifelong friends that always have our back? And how can we pass that skill on to the next generation?

    I decided to delve a little deeper into the art of friendships, how we define them, and how we navigate them in a Godly way. 

    Let’s start with the difference between friends and acquaintances. A friend according to Webster’s Dictionary is one attached to another by affection or esteem. 

    An acquaintance is someone with whom one has a small amount of knowledge or familiarity. Because we “friend” someone on social media does not define them as a friend, especially when we see how hostile some of our “friends” can be when they disagree with a social media post. In a classroom, classmates might seem to be “friends” because of the time we spend with them daily, but most are just acquaintances, and there is not a lot of affection being shared.

    God shares a great example of friendship in 1 Samuel 20-23. In these few chapters, tension grows between King Saul and David because Saul disobeys God and knows that David will replace him as King. At the same time, the friendship between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan, deepens. Jonathan knows he will never sit on the throne, but he seeks to protect and assist David from his father’s murderous plans. 

    Despite the conflict between David and Saul, Jonathan’s affection and love towards David is an amazing example of a true friend. Jonathan purposefully moves himself from being an acquaintance to a true friend. This transformation occurs over hundreds of miles and nearly a decade; ultimately, his efforts result in David’s success. Having a character like Jonathan’s, loyal, dependable, brave, loving, and most importantly, a Christ follower, can be difficult to find. Jonathan’s are rare in life, perhaps because the key to finding a Jonathan is becoming a David. 

    What does it mean though, to become a “David”?  His life was a rollercoaster of success and failure, and we see in the Bible that David was far from perfect. But David is called a man after God’s own heart because he had absolute faith in God. His heart was focused on God, and he deeply desired to follow His will and do what God wanted him to do. He never forgot to thank the Lord for everything that he had. He was truly a man after God’s own heart. In his friendship with Jonathan, David honored him, valued him, listened to his advice, and trusted him.

    Applying these words of wisdom to our lives and choosing to follow God’s will by loving Him wholeheartedly transforms us into being more like God. We grow into more compassionate, trustworthy, faithful, and kind friends. As we work to build healthy friendships, we must also be thankful for all things and all parts of our friends, and we hope they will react equally. 

    To develop that “circle of trust” or “true friendships,” we must do our part to seek out Jonathans in our own lives! Seek out those friendships that lift us all to the next level and help us grow into Davids. Seeking God’s will for our lives helps us to be that person who is lovable, compassionate, trustworthy, faithful, and kind…a “David”!

    As we seek to build true friendships, I wanted to share one of the “Checklists” we are going to use to help guide our family in finding the Jonathan’s in our lives:

    -Choose someone who knows you fully and accepts you completely, even on your worst days.

    -Choose someone with whom you can share your deepest hurts and who keeps your confidence.

    -Choose someone who will listen, comfort, and encourage you.

    -Choose someone who will hold you accountable and help you grow closer to God.

    -Choose someone who will defend you when you are not around and not participate in gossip.

    -Choose someone who cheers you on and celebrates your victories, even when they aren’t in the spotlight.

    – Continue to pray that God brings us friendships that draw us closer to Him.

    Friendships can be costly, demanding sacrifice and sensitivity, but that is what makes them so precious. Learning to develop healthy and loving friendships takes work, dedication, forgiveness, and love. 

    Your healthy friendships start with choosing to keep God’s word close to our hearts. Seeking out the Jonathans in your life who lift you and your family up, who edify you with godly advice, and who seek to follow God, as you also desire to follow God. 

    And if you are in a season of waiting for those deeper friendships, ask God to show someone who needs a Jonathan, and show you how you might love and support them as their friend. You may be surprised how quickly a true friendship can bloom where we least expect it.

    I hope we can all impact the world by being Davids and Jonathans for our own friends, exemplifying God’s framework through the story of David and Jonathan in our friendships. God has given us the tools to choose our friends wisely and to help us create our own “circle of trust” with “kindred spirit” friends, which will reflect the love of Jesus to the world around us.

    “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” —Colossians 3:12-14

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  • Extraordinary Living

    In God’s kingdom, extraordinary living can look a bit old school, especially if we measure it against the world’s standards. It can be hard to recognize the line between loving service and performance. The heroes of our faith are the individuals, the overcomers, who put one foot in front of the next and did only what God was asking of them in the moment. 

    Corrie Ten Boom is one of my heroes. She is quoted as saying, “Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.”

    Our contributions matter to God, whether it’s praying for people, making their meals, cutting the lawn, watching their kids, or looking them in the eye. We must recognize that nothing is too small or ordinary in God’s kingdom. He sees you and values what you bring to Him. You are the contribution. And God tells us that He can do a lot with a little.

    Ephesians 3:20-21 reminds us “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

    I especially love the phrasing in the Message version: 

    “God can do anything, you know-far more than you could ever IMAGINE or guess or request in your WILDEST dreams!” (Eph 3:20 MSG)

    Surrendering to Jesus and living in the power of the Holy Spirit is exciting and empowering, but it also is a learning process that requires a community in which we can learn and grow. I can’t think of a better community of like-minded servants to engage with than my sisters in Christ. To share stories, hardships, and successes. We can engage with one another with no other agenda but to love. We can help each other avoid getting caught up in the whirlwind of panic or dismissal that is common to the world, but take hold of the power and the peace our God has given us. A God who created the universe and then came to his creation as one of us. He is in and around us. He has gone before us. He is behind us. And He is the One on whom we stand – with confidence, resilience, grace, and hope. 

    I love the opening lyrics from Maverick City Music’s song, “Firm Foundation (He’s Gonna Make a Way).”

    Christ is my firm foundation
    The rock on which I stand
    When everything around me is shaken
    I’ve never been more glad
    That I put my faith in Jesus
    ‘Cause He’s never let me down
    He’s faithful through generations
    So why would He fail now?
    He won’t, He won’t

    I’ve still got joy in chaos
    I’ve got peace that makes no sense
    So I won’t be going under
    I’m not held by my own strength
    ‘Cause I’ve built my life on Jesus
    He’s never let me down
    He’s faithful in every season
    So why would He fail now?

    He won’t, He won’t

    So, on those days when you feel weary and have difficulty “seeing” how you are making a difference in the world, take a moment to reflect on how “the ministry of Jesus is flowing out of you.” How Christ is your Firm Foundation. Visualize the smiling faces of those to whom you have given a little “drop” of yourself. Go forth and comfort them and love them. Because of YOU and your HEART to let Jesus flow from you, others will, in turn, be a blessing to someone else!

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  • Helping Others Experience God

    The Emergency Room doctor finally came into our room in the early morning hours to inform us that the children’s hospital a couple of hours away, had room for us. “Go home, pack your bags, and get a few hours of sleep.” They will be ready for you when you get there.”

    Over the past week, our son’s epilepsy had spiraled out of control. The Emergency Room doctor decided it was time to get specialized help for our son. We followed his instructions and headed home for a few hours. As I packed our bags, my heart sank. Our house looked like an EF5 tornado had torn through it. The dishes were piled high. The laundry was overflowing onto the floor. It had taken so much of my physical and emotional energy to try to get Jaron’s seizures under control, I had nothing left to give to maintaining the house. I didn’t want to leave it in such a state of disarray, but there was no time to deal with it. We caught a few hours of sleep, dropped our other son off at a friend’s house, and headed down the highway with the hope the children’s hospital would have answers and a solution to our son’s seizures.

    By the grace of God they did. After five days in the hospital, Jaron was given a diagnosis and a treatment plan. As we were headed back home I had a feeling of dread. How was the house going to smell? How many days was it going to take for me to recover the house from the chaos that reigned before we left? I got out of the car and headed for the door. As I turned the handle and pushed on the door, I braced myself for the stench I knew had been percolating in my home for the last week, but the smell of rotting food didn’t accost me. Instead, a freshly vacuumed and dusted living room greeted me. The dining room table and kitchen counters were no longer stacked with dirty dishes and covered with crumbs. Instead, a spotless, decluttered kitchen glistened back at me. I wandered into the bedrooms. All the laundry had been washed and folded neatly on the dressers. Someone even had the kindness of heart to scrub the toilet clean.

    As I stared in gratitude at the gift given to me, I began to cry. It was one of those cries that comes from feeling unworthy and so very loved all at the same time. A cry of joy and relief. It was a cry that comes from knowing you have been in the presence of God and received a blessing. In that moment I knew that God was with me–not because I saw His shining face, or heard His voice speak to me, but because I saw Him living and active in His church through those who showed up in our time of need.

    We often think of Immanuel “God with Us” as an experience that only happened to those blessed people who were able to walk alongside Jesus two thousand years ago. But when Jesus’ resurrected body left to prepare a place for us, His presence didn’t leave the earth. It returned as the Holy Spirit working through His church. As 1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “We are the body of Christ.” And Jesus’s body loves, serves, sacrifices, comforts, and heals. When we use the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to us, we continue Jesus’s work on earth. We show the world that God is still with us.

    Think about it for a moment. When you choose to use your gift of listening to encourage the lonely stranger at the store, you are loving like Jesus to that person. When you use the gift of cooking to provide for a new mother, you are serving like Jesus. When you sit with someone going through a season of mourning, you are comforting like Jesus. Whenever you choose to care for someone, that person gets the chance to experience God through the Holy Spirit working through you just like when the members of my church used their gifts to reclaim my house from chaos. They performed a miracle in my life. They showed that God knew exactly what I needed and used His people to provide it.

    What an indescribable privilege it is, that the God of the universe would choose to use us to love His creation. Looking around at our broken world, it isn’t hard to see that it is in desperate need of the presence of God flowing through His people. The world needs us to be God’s hands to hug, comfort, and serve–to be His voice bringing good news of love and hope. The strengths and gifts we have could be used to bring light and encouragement to those who are experiencing darkness and sorrow, if we are boldly willing to use them.

    As we close one year and look ahead to another, I pray that we will have eyes to see the needs of those around us and the courage to follow the Spirit’s guidance, so others too may have the opportunity to experience, Immanuel “God With Us.”

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  • Doing Small Things With Great Love

    Jesus loves you this I know, for the Bible tells me so…

    It was the only song that would calm my youngest foster son down at bedtime when he first came to our family. Going back and forth between homes left him with little consistency, and we were going through a season where he would not go to bed without a fuss. So, I began a routine of rocking him and singing to him, just like I had done with my older children since birth. We would go through the same routine each night, asking him if he would like me to sing to him, and then singing the same four songs. He would look at me intently through the first 3 songs, sniffling and just on the verge of crying. But when I reached the last song, “Jesus Loves You”, his little face would transform into a smile, and by the end of the song, he would say contentedly, “Ready bed now.”

    I had tried all sorts of other things to console him, but he found his true comfort in hearing that someone bigger than all of us loved him. It wasn’t all the stuffies and cozy blankets, a bottle, or rubbing his back, it was hearing that he was loved. A song I have sung thousands of times over the years, sometimes purely as a routine, rang as grandeur in his ears. For the next several nights the same thing would transpire. He would listen, just on the verge of tears, until he heard “Jesus Loves You” and then a peaceful smile would spread across his sweet face and he’d say, “Ready bed now”. 

    I realized that this song, though it seemed small to me, was a BIG thing for him. It made me pause, thanking God for opening my eyes to what my son truly needed to hear, and how this little thing, transformed not only bedtime but ultimately our lives.

    The things we are called to do each day don’t always have to be the grand things; it’s using whatever you have for the sake of the Kingdom, whether big, small, or in between. It’s giving with a joyful heart and having the assurance that what you have to give, at that moment, is enough!

    In today’s world, we have so many hats we must wear and honestly, there are times when I am overwhelmed by the feeling of  “not being enough” for everyone and everything that needs my attention. I want to give 110%, but it can be a struggle to meet my own high expectations. Sometimes it’s exhausting and leaves me feeling drained, alone, and empty, because with every hat I wear, I want to give my all. But it’s in those moments when my little one is crying, seeking comfort, that I see how even a small thing to me can be a BIG thing to someone else. The best part is, that small thing is enough!

    Ultimately, “BIG things” for God are the kingdom purposes we help to promote, not the size or the impressiveness of the jobs we are doing. And it’s not even the number of hats we choose to wear. It’s when we can do the small things with great love, that we are truly following God’s will for our lives!

    Over and over in the Bible, we see examples of the smallest things reflecting Jesus and his Kingdom priorities. In the Parable of the Mustard Seed in Matthew 13:31-31, Jesus makes the point that the beginning of great things can be tiny. Even though they might seem insignificant, their impact can’t be measured by their almost invisible origins.  

    In the parable of the Widow’s Offering in Mark 12:41-44 NIV, Jesus was not impressed with those who made a big show of giving “large sums” into the offering. Instead, he praised the widow who gave “two small copper coins, which make only a few cents”, because it was all she had to give. Our Lord focused not on the amount, but on the sacrifice involved and the heart behind it. 

    In Jesus’ parable of the talents, the master didn’t focus on the amounts given to each servant, but on the faithfulness each displayed in using his resources. (Matt 25:21-23 NIV)

    We see God’s Kingdom purposes in these stories and those little things, those matters of the heart, are ultimately the big things to God. What’s even better is that God is inviting you to join Him in the work he is already doing!

    I want to encourage you to not take stock of your value, or the impact you make in this world by measuring what you do, rather measure HOW you do it. Is your heart giving to others? Are you doing everything with great love? Are you planting the seeds to grow God’s Kingdom no matter what hat you are wearing? Remember, on your best day you are a child of God, and on your worst day you are a child of God too! The secret to having it all is knowing you already do in Christ!

    Missionary statesman, Hudson Taylor, said, “A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in little things is a great thing.” My prayer for you this week is that you will find joy in the daily tasks ahead of you and that God will reveal to you how those tasks are blessing others and ultimately blessing you!

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  • Cultivating the Fruits of the Spirit

    I love summertime! There is so much to enjoy in the summer, but one of the things I enjoy the most about living in the Pacific Northwest is the bounty of berries and fruits that we get to enjoy. My kids enjoy snacking on blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and watermelon! We wait all year long to be able to enjoy the harvest of these fruits. I’d like to say that I have something to do with the production of these amazing fruits but to be honest, we just get to enjoy them.

    In Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT), it says “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

    As Christians, we have the amazing privilege of having God’s spirit living within us. But more often than I care to admit, I forget that. I’ll read a passage like this one in Galatians and see it as a to-do list that is somehow up to me. I end up thinking that if I’m a good Christian, then I better make sure I’m loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind all the time, be good and faithful and gentle in all things and of course control myself above all else. That is definitely a high calling! The problem isn’t in striving for these things, it is in the perception that we have to produce these fruits ourselves–that we somehow have to make ourselves be like this all the time, even if we have to fake it to make it.  Have you ever felt like this?

    Trying to produce these fruits of the Spirit of our own will, power, and strength will leave us feeling exhausted before we even get started. The key is to notice who is supposed to produce the fruit in our lives–it is the Holy Spirit. It isn’t up to us because it’s not our job to produce the fruit. Our job is to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work within us. As we yield to the Spirit’s work within us, He produces the beautiful fruits of the Spirit. They are evidence of the Holy Spirit at work within us! The great thing about the fruit the Spirit produces is that it isn’t just for our enjoyment but to bless those around us as well.

    I don’t know about you, but I find some relief in the idea that it’s not all up to me. Because honestly, there are times when I really struggle with some of these, especially when it comes to patience and self-control! Anyone else? 😀

    In the same way fruit doesn’t make itself but is produced by a tree, neither can we be filled with joy and love and peace unless the Spirit produces it. So you may be asking, if it’s not our job to produce the fruit in our lives, how do we let the Spirit lead us and transform us into people who display these fruits of the Spirit in our lives?

    Our job is to be the soil, a place for the Spirit to dwell. Our job is to nurture and allow God’s spirit to do its work within us, making us into people who are full of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In order for this work to happen, we must remain in God, our source of life.

    John 15:4 says, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

    As we spend time with God, in His Word, in times of prayer and time spent with His people in worship, we create the rich soil that allows the Holy Spirit to transform us to look more like God. To display His love, His peace, His joy, His patience, His goodness, His faithfulness, His gentleness and His self-discipline in our lives and to the world around us. 

    So next time you are reaching and striving for a little more peace, or to be filled with joy, or to feel a little more patient, lean into God a little bit more. He has a never-ending supply of these fruits of the Spirit and He withholds no good thing from us. It is always His joy to produce these fruits in our lives if only we ask and allow Him to work within our hearts. Like all good fruit, it sometimes takes time to grow but the more we remain in God, the richer the harvest will be in our lives.

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  • A Divine Invitation

    I squinted and pulled the visor down as I sat in my car, waiting for the car ahead of me to turn onto the highway. My kids and I were on our way to church and I was lost in thought, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel and wondering if we had enough time to get some Starbucks on the way.

    Traffic was pretty heavy and I didn’t think much of it when a few minutes passed and the car ahead of me still hadn’t moved. But when the passenger door suddenly swung open, and an older woman stepped out onto the road, it snapped me out of my daze. 

    She looked around for a moment, turned west, and started walking on the shoulder of the highway toward town. The car she’d been riding in turned east, and left her to continue her journey on foot. 

    I was truly perplexed and turned to follow her for a moment. Her steps were shaky on the uneven gravel and I worried that she might fall, or worse, accidentally step into the steady stream of traffic whizzing by. 

    I’d never picked anyone up from the side of the road before, but as my car idled past, I was overwhelmed with a feeling that I needed to pull over. It felt like a voice inside me was shouting “Stop the car, NOW!” 

    I immediately pulled over and told my kids to stay in the car while I checked on her. As I got closer to her, she was not at all what I expected. She was dressed in her Sunday best and her soft, silvery hair was swept gently back with a barrette. 

    I asked her if she was ok, and her bright eyes met mine and she replied, “Yes, I’m on my way to see my daughter.” She said her name was Hazel* and explained that she had caught a ride up to that point and planned to walk the last few miles to her daughter’s house. 

    I paused briefly to pray and ask God to help me discern my next step. I took a deep breath and told Hazel that we were on our way to church, and offered to give her a ride to her daughter’s house. She smiled and said “Oh, I’d love to go to church! I’ll just go there with you!” 

    Hazel hopped in the front seat and down the road we went. As we drove, she was talkative and cheerful but was also struggling to remember what town she was in or where her daughter lived. By the time we arrived at church, it was clear that Hazel suffered from dementia and was lost. A friend from church called the police while I sat with Hazel and within minutes they were able to contact her daughter Susan who lived 30 miles away! 

    Susan arrived with tears in her eyes and hugged us all. Her family had been getting ready to go to church that morning too, when Hazel wandered off from the house, something she had never done before. They had called the police and been frantically looking for her, hoping and praying that she was ok. Susan laughed that not only was Hazel ok, she still had managed to go to church! 

    Our laughter was still hanging in the air when Susan’s countenance suddenly became serious and her voice earnest. She leaned in and quietly asked at what time exactly did I pick up Hazel from the highway. I told her I remembered it was at 9:30 am because that was the moment I had been overwhelmed by the feeling that I needed to stop the car right then. 

    Fresh tears filled Susan’s eyes as she said, “It was at exactly 9:30 this morning that our family knelt together in the living room and prayed that God would find Mom and keep her safe.” 

    I was utterly speechless. I could scarcely wrap my head around what God had done. Not only had He heard their prayer and placed me in the right place at the right time, but God had also invited me to participate in His miraculous work.

    In John 5:17, Jesus says, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” That means that in every moment, God’s love, power, and presence are working all around us. We just have to have to recognize where He is working and have hearts willing to join Him.

    It all begins with our relationship with God. On the Experience Revival Podcast, we have been talking a lot lately about being aware of God’s presence throughout our day and actively directing our thoughts toward Him. We become intentional about inviting God into what we are doing by having an ongoing conversation with Him. Dallas Willard calls it ‘living prayer”, where we talk with God throughout the day about what we are doing together. 

    As we spend time in God’s Word, in prayer, and in community with other believers, we get to know God’s character and better recognize His voice. We are transformed to be more and more like Him and our focus shifts from what God is doing in our own lives, to becoming more aware that God might be inviting us into what He is doing. 

    It’s a shift in our thinking because sometimes we just can’t quite imagine that what we have to offer could be of significance in the Kingdom of God. But God is more interested in our willing hearts than our skill sets. We see time and time again in the Bible that God calls someone to join Him in the work He is doing, and then equips them for the task. He uses ordinary people in ordinary circumstances to do extraordinary things. 

    The word calling comes from the Greek kaleo which means “Divine invitation”. In the Bible, it’s used most to describe a divine invitation to partake of the blessings of redemption. In every moment, with every breath, we are given a divine invitation to join God in the redemptive work He is doing all around us.  

    Henry Blackaby wrote a book many years ago called Experiencing God, where he encourages people to “look for where God is working and join him there.” Practicing the presence of God will help us to see Him working around us, but it’s the Holy Spirit that will help us know how to respond. 

    It is through the Holy Spirit that we can discern what our role in a given situation is, as well as what it isn’t. While God is always working, He doesn’t call us to do everything, everywhere, all the time. Our job is to lean into Him, and prayerfully surrender to His will. 

    And it’s not always the big, obvious things that God is calling us to. A lot of times the Lord is working in the details. The big stuff is often hiding in the little stuff. But in God’s hands, the little things can have a divine purpose and a huge kingdom impact. In fact, there’s a good chance that you have already been joining God in His work and maybe didn’t realize it. 

    Like that time you saw your neighbor and sensed that they could use some encouragement, so you stopped to visit for a moment. 

    Or that woman in the grocery store who was a few dollars short, and you felt the Holy Spirit nudge you, so you added it to your bill.

    Maybe it was a kiddo on your son’s soccer team whose family was going through a hard time, so you invited him over to have dinner and watch a funny movie, just to take his mind off things for a bit.

    Maybe it was that time you simply obeyed the Holy Spirit’s prompting to pull the car over to check on someone. 

    They may seem like small things at first, but in God’s hands, they can have a Kingdom-sized impact on their life, and yours. It also changes how we see the details of our lives. Suddenly, what once seemed trivial or mundane now has a bigger purpose. 

    As you go about your week, I want to encourage you to practice being aware of God’s love, power, and presence throughout your day. Talk with Him about what you are doing together. Then look for where He is working, and join Him. The Holy Spirit will often take you outside of what makes sense or beyond your comfort zone, but God has already gone ahead of you. He is always working and He can’t wait for you to be a part of what He’s doing.

    *Names in the story have been changed to protect privacy.

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  • Can Anyone Be a Mentor?

    I sat down in my chair that Sunday morning feeling like I had just run a marathon. I was weary to my very bones. I was struggling hard to balance life with a 6-month-old and a toddler, a full-time ministry, and all the other responsibilities of life. Just getting out the door to go to church that day felt like an epic battle. In fact, every day I had to fight to make it to bedtime without having an emotional breakdown. 

    The struggle I was feeling inside must have been evident because, at the end of worship, a lady named Pam approached me. “You look like you need to talk. Come with me.” She gently helped me out of my chair and walked me to a quiet room with comfortable couches. I gratefully slumped into one of them as tears began to spring from my eyes. Pam handed me a box of tissue and lovingly asked me what was wrong.

    The words all came tumbling out, “I don’t know how other moms do this, but I am struggling to give everyone the attention they need, clean the house, and keep up on the laundry. How did you do it?”

    Pam looked me square in the eyes and said, “When I was in your situation, I had grandparents that lived nearby. They helped me clean. They helped me take care of the kids during worship. They would take the kids to give me a break. Amanda, the reason why you are struggling, is because you have too many unrealistic expectations of yourself. You need to ask for help.”

    Pam was the lead pastor’s wife. She was the same age as my parents. I was drawn to Pam because she had already lived the life that I was living. She had done campus ministry with her husband when they were younger. She knew what it was like to raise a family while dealing with the expectations that are a part of being a pastor’s wife. After 30 years of ministry, she had grown to become a woman sold out to God and confident in who she was. She was a simple and straightforward person. She didn’t try to wow people with fancy food, eloquent words, or perfect makeup. Not because she thought those things were wrong, they just weren’t who she was. It was in this simple woman, that I found one of my greatest mentors.

    While Pam and I didn’t spend a ton of time together, she was always there to talk when I needed to. And she always had words of straightforward, honest wisdom for me, whether she knew that was what she was giving me or not. She was a perfect example of an older woman, loving and caring for a younger woman, speaking God’s word into my life.

    In Titus 2:3-5, Paul tells Titus to encourage the older women of the church to help train the younger women to know what is good. To teach them how to love their children and their husbands well. How to be kind and devoted to the Lord. Throughout the Bible, we see this example of the older mentoring the younger: Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Timothy.

    The church becomes most effective in passing on the faith when different generations are involved. A group of researchers at Effective Ministry did a literature review of studies related to intergenerational relationships within the church. They discovered that youth were less likely to leave the church when they were able to interact with adults during regular church times, AND outside of church meeting times. In other words, the faith of the next generation has a better chance of being passed on, when the older take the time to be a part of the younger’s faith development. Paul was on to something when he told Titus to encourage these types of mentoring relationships within the church. Discipling and mentoring relationships are designed to be a part of the DNA of the church.

    And we don’t have to wait until we are retired to be a mentor! Anyone at almost any age can pour into and help train those younger. My boys are a perfect example of this. 

    When my older two kids were in elementary school, there were middle school and high school-age boys in the church that took them under their wing. They helped show my boys how to act in church and how to appropriately have fun. They set an example for my boys of how to pour into those younger than they were. 

    Now that my older kids are in middle and high school, they naturally have decided to care for the younger boys in our church. They show them how to behave during church and how to follow directions. They teach them how to boldly use their gifts for the glory of God. 

    The influence of their relationship came into full view one Sunday when one of the 3rd-grade boys at church (we’ll call him Kyle) was asked to read scripture during the church service for the first time. He was very nervous and almost didn’t do it. My husband tried to encourage Kyle, but he just stood there, frozen in fear. Finally, my oldest son walked up to encourage him. He calmly pointed to the words in the Bible and told Kyle he had confidence that he could do it. Bolstered by the encouragement of his friend, Kyle began to read! And once he got started, he did a wonderful job! He did it because he knew his high school buddy believed in him. My son was passing on the courage and love God had given him, to the generation below him as he followed in the footsteps of those high schoolers who had poured into him.

    I have heard many people say, they could never be a mentor to someone else. They wouldn’t know what to do. They weren’t smart enough or didn’t know enough to pour wisdom into another person. Is this really true, or do we need to rethink what it means to be a mentor? 

    If I had asked Pam what it takes to be a mentor, she probably would have told me she didn’t know. Even though I could give lots of examples of people Pam had mentored over the years, she would not have given herself that title. She would have simply said, “I’m not your mentor. I’m your friend.” And she would be right. She gave me valuable insight and spoke God’s word to me. Not because she thought she was smarter than me, but because she saw I had a need, and she loved me. The same with my sons and the younger kids at church. They would consider themselves friends to the younger boys in our church, not their mentors.

    Really all it takes to be a mentor and to help pass on the faith to the next generation is a willingness to be a friend to someone younger. To be available to listen and share your life and lessons with them. To tell the story of how God has walked with you. 

    You don’t have to have all the answers, but through relationships, you can model what a godly life can look like. When we choose to befriend women of different ages in the church, the results can be life-changing and soul-saving. 

    As Effective Ministry uncovered, when we take the time to build godly relationships within the church, faith is handed down to the next generation, and souls that might have drifted away, find an anchor within the church family.

    Look around the groups you are a part of. Look in your church, the moms’ group you are a part of, or the book club you attend. Who do you know that you could begin to befriend that is older than you? How could you make some time to listen to their story? Who do you know who is younger than you that you could bless by befriending? By being in relationship with these people, your own faith will be shaped and you’ll pass on life-giving faith to the next generation.

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  • Made For More

    Not too long ago, in a land not so far away, I worked as an on-air radio personality, reporting the local news, weather & traffic every morning on several radio stations. Each night, before I went to bed, I would scan the headlines, and in the morning, I’d check again to catch any of the late-breaking stuff I may have missed while I was sleeping. Sadly, the headlines rarely announced any good news. As the pandemic wore on, and riots rocked many cities, including my own, the majority of the stories I’d find were full of tragedy, crime, or conflict. And after a long day, running in a million directions on too little sleep with no end in sight, my heart and soul would just ache for good news. 

    Have you experienced that feeling? That longing for someone to tell you something good? To tell you that there’s more to this life than the constant struggle and striving, that all the hard stuff you’ve been through wasn’t a waste. To tell you that you were made for more than what this world has to offer and you don’t have to wait until you’re on the other side of heaven to live life abundantly.

    If you’re feeling weary and depleted from the day-to-day fight, my friend, I have good news for you: You’re not alone, and you are made for more. 

    In fact, it’s the whole reason Jesus came. He saw us hurting in our mess and broke through the darkness to rescue us and give us something better. The moment Jesus came, everything was changed forever. That was the beginning of Kingdom life unfolding.  

    We get a sneak peek at the Kingdom of God in Isaiah 61:1-3. It’s no coincidence that Jesus directly quotes this passage in the book of Luke when He reveals His identity as the Son of God and the fulfillment of this very prophecy. 

    “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

    I love this entire verse. Talk about the ultimate mic drop moment! I wish I could unpack all of its amazing goodness right here, but we would need more time. So over the next few weeks, we’ll be digging into more it as we lead up to the Revive Conference on February 25th! (You are totally invited, by the way, and can find out all about it here)

    Right now I want to focus on the very first little bit. The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord was on Jesus to bring good news. He himself was and is the ultimate good news. 

    When Jesus walked this earth, He literally did all of the things that we see in Isaiah 61:1-3. And He does them for us still today. He gives good news to the poor and provides for them. When we are at the end of ourselves, He always provides exactly what we need right when we need it. He carries us through the lean times and blesses us in ways we can’t even imagine. 

    He comforts the brokenhearted, holding us when we are weak, and crying with us when we weep. 

    Through His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus releases us from the chokehold of sin and redeems pain and our story, for purpose. Through Him, we have a fresh start as a new creation. 

    He gives hope and justice to those who earnestly ask for it, and one day will come again to set things right once and for all. 

    He takes the ashes of our lives, the messes, and the brokenness and gives us a crown of beauty instead. He takes our despair and mourning, holds and heals our hearts, giving us instead a spirit of praise and joy that transcends our circumstances.

    All we have to do is lean in. Rest in the arms of our Savior and give Him the hurt and broken pieces of our hearts and lives. He does all the rest. You don’t have to earn it and you don’t have to compete for it. You don’t have to run yourself ragged doing all the things. God’s love is not something you can lose, and you don’t have to worry about being perfect. There’s nothing that you can do to mess up His plans. God’s Kingdom does not depend on our ability, strength, perfection, or talent. You just have to say, “Ok, Lord, here I am.” It’s the safest and sweetest surrender you’ll ever know. 

    God could have just stopped there. He could have just rescued and restored us, dusted us off, and set us back on the road. Instead, He invites us to join Him, to be a part of what He is doing to bring about the restoration of His creation. Through the Holy Spirit, we are empowered and mobilized to live out the same kind of Kingdom life we have received, with everyone around us. We get to be bearers of the ultimate Good News about Jesus and invite others to be a part of God’s story unfolding.

    That doesn’t mean the rains and winds won’t blow, or that the hard times won’t come. We will still see heartache and pain in the world because God isn’t finished yet. The Kingdom is unfolding now, but the work is also not complete yet. So we will have our share of trouble, but our identity and security rest in the One who has already overcome the world. God gives us strength, hope, and purpose, and sets us apart to be a light radiating out into the darkness of our world. He commissions us to continue the work that He started through Jesus and to participate through His Spirit in His Kingdom come.

    And even when we feel the full force of the storm, and the sting of the rain on our faces, because of Jesus we can stand firm and steadfast. We can be like a mighty oak tree with our roots planted firmly in the bedrock of faith, as a display of God’s splendor.  And we get to be a safe place of refuge for others searching for solid ground and point them directly to the source of true strength, hope, and peace. 

    We get to work alongside our Heavenly Father binding up the brokenhearted, and reminding them that God is near. 

    We can tell them about freedom in Christ, that they no longer have to be stuck in sin, ruled by circumstances, anxiety or stress. They can be free from the lies that tie them up in knots and lean into the truth of who God says we are and the divine purpose He invites us all to. 

    We can remind them that God sees their suffering and that there is a day coming when God will set things right. A day when His justice will prevail, and their cause will shine like the sun. (Psalm 37:4-6)

    We can point to God at work and help them see beauty rising from the ashes. 

    We can comfort them and help them find their joy. 

    One of the beautiful things about God’s Kingdom is that through the Holy Spirit, we can be both comforted, and offer comfort to others. We can find significance, and divine purpose and know our worth in Christ. And we can help others embrace their significance, purpose, and value as well. There will be seasons when you may not feel like a mighty oak. That’s ok. There will also be seasons where others lean on you because when they look at you, they see Jesus at work. 

    So sweet friend, if you find yourself feeling lost in the darkness, consumed by the bad news of the world, or weary from the stress and strain of life’s hard realities, hold on. God’s not done yet. He has more for you. You are made for more. You are made for Kingdom Life.  

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  • 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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